Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: "Secrets: Sweet Valley High #2"

Secrets: Sweet Valley High #2 by Francine Pascal
2 out of 5 stars

Before Reading: This is one I got at the library book sale a few weeks ago and got to go back to the beginning to fill in some of the stories I've already read, so I was pretty excited about that. Haven't managed to find #1 yet though. My copy was a reprint from 1991, the original came out in 1983. That's crazy. And the reading level is 12 and up? Okay.

The Main Plot in 50 Words or Less: Jessica wants to be queen of the fall dance so she can win Bruce Patman. She will do anything to win. Anything.

The Second Plot in 20 Words or Less: Jessica finds out a secret about Enid, her competition for the dance. She uses it to win.

Opening Lines: "My very own sister! How could she do such a hideous thing to me?" Jessica Wakefield fumed.

Closing Lines: There was a hint of invitation in his smile, and more than a spark of interest in his sexy blue eyes. Some of her misery faded. Could it be? ...

Best WTF Lines: (George's letter to Enid) "It's like the time we took all those bennies, and before we knew it we were cooking along in the GTO doing eighty or ninety..."

"Well, actually, I've never been dumped by anyone, but I can imagine what it's like. You must feel awful!"

Happenings in SV: Ken Matthews might be having an affair with their French teacher, Ms Dalton. She's 25 years old and completely denies it, of course. Does it come back up again later? Who knows. Lila has another party, because her daddy is ignoring her again. Jessica pretends to help Liz & Enid's friendship, even though she's the one who ruined it. There is a big dance at the end of the book, no real reason or theme given, but they are choosing a King and Queen who will do all the events for the rest of the year together. Odd. Which is why Jess wants her and Bruce to win so badly.

Fashion Icons: [Bruce Patman] was loping toward the staircase, looking impossibly gorgeous, as usual, in a pair of off-white cords and a heather-blue sweater that matched his eyes.

As for Dana [lead singer of The Droids], she was fairly straight underneath the outrageous clothes she wore. Tonight she was decked out in tight black velvet jeans, a pair of sparkly pink leg warmers, and a purple satin blouse.

Jessica twirled before her sister. She looked stunning in a slinky red silk formal with a wide embroidered belt and black sandal heels. Long rhinestone earrings dangled from her ears. She looked as though she'd stepped out of the pages of Cosmopolitan-which was exactly the look she was after.

[At the dance] Elizabeth spotted Caroline Pearce, looking hideously girlish in a ruffled pink organdy dress that clashed with her hair. Ms Dalton had never looked prettier. She wore a long velvet skirt and an old-fashioned blouse with lots of ruffles and tucks. Her hair was perfect, and she had a silk rose pinned over one ear. [Enid] wore a pale mauve off-the shoulder dress that showed off her slender figure to perfection. Her hair was pulled back, anchored by delicate mother-of-pearl combs. The shimmering whiteness of the flower George had given her set off her radiant smile. Liz had never seen her look so beautiful.

Twin Hijinks: None? Odd.

Other Thoughts: Enid's secret? Two years before, she was a party girl with bad boy George Warren. Yep, same one who cheats on her a few books later with former fluffy girl Robyn. Enid and George drank and did drugs and almost killed a little boy. This is like the most unbelievable story ever. Goody, goody Enid doing drugs? Yeah, no. That's like Liz partying. Oh wait, she does later on doesn't she? Anyway, Enid confesses to Liz but is terrified of her domineering boyfriend, Ronnie, finding out. Which he does of course. Jessica finds some letters between Enid and George and decides to tell Ronnie, in an attempt to win the dance title. It works. Enid thinks Liz blabbed about the letters and gets totally mad at her. When Liz finally finds out that it was Jess, she gets even by rigging it so Winston Egbert becomes King and Jess is furious.

The Next Book*: Can Jessica play Bruce Patman's game and win? Find out in Sweet Valley High #3, PLAYING WITH FIRE.

*(not necessarily what I'll be reading)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mid-Year Resolutions Review

It's roughly mid-year and that means it's time to look back at the resolutions I/you/we made at the beginning of the year and see how we're doing. Me? I've lost my focus. Which is not good, since that was my word for the year. Wow, am I not doing well on most of these!

1. Goodreads Goal of 110 Books--this is one of the few things I'm actually succeeding at lol. I've read 84 books so far this year, 76% of my goal. Lots of great ones too and only a few duds.

2. Read 20 BSC Books--nope nope. I've only read 4 so far! womp womp. Maybe I should readjust that to at least 1 a month.

3. To-Read Shelf on 1 Shelf--hahahaaaa...that's funny. As you can see from this Instagram video, I am back up to a shelf plus 3/4 of the one below it again.
4. Vlogging--I haven't worked up the courage to do a video with me in it or just speaking yet. I want to though! Any tips for a first-timer? How do you get past the nerves and the fact that your voice sounds like Minnie Mouse on video? Lol...

5. Classic a Month--Yes!! I'm doing this! Woo! I did get a little behind in March, but I'm all caught up again now. I haven't branched out much yet this year though. I really want to read another play soon.

6. More Non-Review Posts--have I been doing this? Hang on, let me go check. Okay, I started a feature for My Favorite Children's Books, but I've only done 2 so far. I was talking this weekend about how I wanted to start that back up again though. I did a fun post on reading quirks inspired by my lovely sister. Oh!! I started my Summer of Being Cool Chicks silliness and...fizzled out a little. Boo. I suck. This weekend! I'm getting back to it! Pinky swear!

7. Enjoy Blogging--I think I am, for the most part. When I didn't feel like blogging for awhile, I didn't push myself. I have noticed though, that I when I am blogging regularly, I want to. Does that make sense? I've had the feeling of being very sloth-like lately and am trying to get out of that.

8. Use my Library--yes! The one closest to us reopened in February and we've been going several times a month.

So that's where I am right now...I hope you are doing better with your goals/resolutions than me!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Review: "Travels With Charley" Classic a Month #5.2014

Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
4 out of 5 stars

I wasn't sure about this one at first, since it's a travel memoir or a biography of sorts. But I really enjoyed it, just as much as the others. Every time I open a Steinbeck book now, it's like coming home. He's just so comfortable and easy to read. Do you have an author like that? If not, may I suggest Steinbeck? ;) Especially if you've never read him as an are missing out!

Steinbeck travels across America in a custom-made camper truck with just his dog, a blue French poodle called Charley, for company. Charley was the real star of this story. He made a peculiar Ffft sound with his teeth when he wanted attention and engineered many a meeting between Steinbeck and the strangers they met on the road. Steinbeck kind of acts like a curmudgeonly old man, but he's really not. He enjoys talking to the people he meets and soaks up the local culture everywhere he goes. The whole purpose of his trip, so he says, was to get to know his country again. Learn what makes people tick and what they are feeling, see how times have changed and how they have stayed the same, what the heart of America is and why.

For how can one know color in perpetual green, 
and what good is warmth without cold to give it sweetness?

This book will really inspire the wanderlust in you. To just leave and travel the back roads, not the busy highways where you never see anything but speeding cars, and see where the day takes you. "he is going somewhere but doesn't greatly care whether or not he gets there, although he has direction." To head to the coast and dip your toes in the ocean, visit the national parks and the not-so-famous local parks, see the sun rise in Montana and the sun set in California, and feel how the wind and air changes across the country. Seriously, this book and Amy & Roger's Epic Detour will make you want to summer road-trip like nothing else!

I have to end this review with Steinbeck's feelings on Texas. I can't help it, I'm a Texan. And everything he says is true.

Most areas in the world may be placed in latitude and longitude, described chemically in their earth, sky and water, rooted and fuzzed over with identified flora and people with known fauna, and there's an end to it. Then there are others where fable, myth, preconception, love, longing, or prejudice step in and so distort a cool, clear appraisal that a kind of high-colored magical confusion takes permanent hold. Greece is such an area, and those parts of England where King Arthur walked. One quality of such places as I am trying to define is that a very large part of them is personal and subjective. And surely Texas is such a place. It is a mystique closely approximating a religion. And this is true to the extent that people either passionately love Texas or passionately hate it.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (on Wednesday): My 10 Classics

Another great TTT topic that I missed yesterday on The Broke & The Bookish dang it! Oh well, I'm doing it anyway. :) Thanks to my goal/resolution for the past 3 years to read a classic book each month, it was pretty easy to pick my favorites! I have read some amazing books in that time and I am so glad I have continued doing it each year. I'm going to split it up to my top 5 favorites though and then the top 5 I want to read in the coming months. Did I include your favorite classic in my list? What should be on my to-read shelf that isn't already?

My Top 5 Favorites:
1. Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. From my review: By page 11, I was giggling out loud, thanks to this quote: "Matthew dreaded all women except Marilla and Mrs. Rachel; he had an uncomfortable feeling that the mysterious creatures were secretly laughing at him." By like page 33, I was telling my sister it was the best book ever. And when I reached the ending, I was crying and wondering why no one had ever made me read this before.

2. Cannery Row & Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck. How could I not have at least 2 books from my favorite classic writer??? From my review of Cannery Row:  Read it. Enjoy the lyrical ups and downs of the words. Highlight the parts that grab you, the passages you can taste and smell and feel. Although this book is nothing like The Book Thief, it has that same hold on me; its words have been embedded in my heart. And the beauty of Sweet Thursday is its simplicity: it's a story about normal men and women living a normal life. There's nothing special about the town or the time. It's like reading a story about your family. You know that one crazy uncle that always gets drunk and throws raucous parties but has the best of intentions? That's Mack & the boys. Or your grandfather who could go on for days about the intricacies of octopi and how they are highly emotional animals and sometimes they get so mad they collapse and die of something that parallels apoplexy. Well, that's Doc. And that sister that runs the local whorehouse and does astrology on the side? Okay, we don't talk about her (hah!) but that's Fauna.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. My review: Simply put: I loved it. Hands down, my favorite classic so far that I've read.

4. The Outsiders by SE Hinton. My 13 year old sister told me I had to read this one because it was amazing and she was right. The fact that it was written by a 17 year old girl still blows my mind.

5. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. “I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren’t pretty, or smart, or young. They’re still princesses.” (My review)

My 5 To-Reads:
1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I've been hearing a lot about this one lately in different places, so I figured it was time I got around to it. I'll probably read this for July.

2. Emma by Jane Austen. The 3 classics that I've read by Austen so far have all been decent and on the verge of being excellent, maybe after a reread or two. I've seen many people say this was their favorite of her books; I'm looking forward to seeing if it tips the scale for me too.

3. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. This will probably be my October classic but I hope it's a little scarier than Frankenstein.

4. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. This is one of the first books that I remember really making me cry as I read it. I hope it stands up to the memory.

5. Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. Because you need some fun in life. ;)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Review: "Frostbite: Vampire Academy Graphic Novel #2"

Frostbite: Vampire Academy Graphic Novel #2 by Richelle Mead
3 out of 5 stars

After I watched the Vampire Academy movie at the beginning of the month, it made me want to read more VA, so I pulled out the second graphic novel that I've been saving for a while now. Not sure why, guess I just wasn't in the mood for it. Like the first graphic novel, this was a decent companion to the books. I would definitely recommend reading the books first, because there will always be some small details left out for space reasons. This review will assume you've read the book as well, so spoilers! :)

The "previously" pages at the beginning were very helpful. I couldn't really remember what happened in the first book, so that was nice. Also got to see half-naked Dimitri again heh... This story is all about the Strigoi attacks against the royal families and of course, Rose is worried about Lissa. The Academy decides to have winter vacation at a fancy ski resort and extra Guardians show up to protect them, including Rose's mom. Her mom is kind of a rhymes-with-witch to her and even manages to give Rose a black eye during a "workout". Thanks, Mom.

There are lots of "adult situations" in this book, between Lissa & Christian (and Rose vicariously, much to her embarrassment), Rose & Dimitri, Rose & Mason, Rose & Adrian...yeah, Rose really does have a "reputation" lol. There wasn't nearly enough Adrian though. Oh, Adrian. You are so yummy mmm...oh sorry, got a little carried away there. ;)

The big scene when the kids get taken by the Strigoi was done well. But I am just now realizing that maybe I got the movie Strigoi mixed up with the graphic novel Strigoi. Were the movie Strigoi blue? I don't think they were. That's annoying. Anyway, they were overly "Dracula-ish" but the fight scene was good. Poor Mason. :( The last few pictures with Rose holding his body were just really perfect. Overall, I think the artwork in this one is a lot better than the first. Except Lissa. There's just something about her I still don't like. (And didn't like the actress in the movie really either. Maybe I just don't like Lissa lol.)

Thursday, June 19, 2014

TILT: Book Posters #11

Time for another Things I Love Thursday: Book Posters edition!! I found some awesome ones on Pinterest this time. What are you loving this week? Besides books, of course, I'm also loving So You Think You Can Dance. It's one of my favorite summer shows. And also the yummy creamy avocado pasta that I'm about to have for lunch. :) And especially, the fact that it is Thursday and only 1.5 days til the weekend!! I am SO READY lol. Okay, on to the book stuff...

Book Birthday by French Fries & Waffles --this is more of a comic (be sure to go read it up close!), but I still think it'd be cute as a poster. And that sounds like the perfect birthday to me! You can buy some of the artist's prints here.

I don't know if this is available to print anywhere, but how cool is this vintage summer reading poster by Rudi Bass? You can see more of them on Stickers & Stuff's blog.

I love Maurice Sendak so much and this vacation poster is adorable. He did a whole book of reading posters that you can view on and buy on Amazon. Of course, the wild things are my favorite, but I love this sea dragon too.

And finally, this neat book print by Fifth & Hazel. I love the basic drawings of the books and searching to see if you're favorite title is on there. You can buy and print your own black & white version here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Review: "Bittersweet"

Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
3 out of 5 stars

Can a Summer Romance Formula book be set in the dead of winter? Just substitute snow for sunshine, parkas for bikinis, and freeze the large body of water and you've got Bittersweet. :) This book was decent, maybe not quite as good as Twenty Boy Summer (I like that they have similar covers), but I enjoyed it.

Hudson is a 16 year old girl living in upstate New York (I think, very close to the Canada border) with her mom and younger brother, Bug. Her dad left them 4 years before, leading Hudson to quit her promising figure skating career. Now she's working in her mom's diner, baking cupcakes. Oh man, the cupcakes. Each chapter is titled with a new cupcake recipe, such as "vanilla cupcakes topped with whipped peanut butter cream cheese icing, milk chocolate chips, crushed pretzels, and a drizzle of warm caramel." Trust me, you are going to want cupcakes after reading this book! My stomach is actually growling as I'm writing this review lol. If you are lucky enough to have a Sprinkles store nearby, I say go there before starting this book!
(Mini red velvet cupcakes on top of their 
handmade ice cream. Neeeeed!!)

Hudson is great at the cupcake biz, but her real passion (she thinks) is still figure skating. She starts going to a local lake on her breaks and skating again. She has to hide it from her mom though, because skating was her dad's thing with her and she has a lot of guilt over it sort of breaking up her parents' marriage. While skating one day, she (literally) runs into cute hockey player Josh and somehow agrees to help him with his skating, which turns into helping the entire hockey team. There is a bit of a love triangle between Josh and fellow hockey captain, Will. Ockler kind of set it up so that Hudson could fall for either boy, which was a little odd. Almost like she maybe wanted to do a sequel, but didn't/couldn't? I won't spoil it, but there is the appropriate amount of crushing and swooning here. :)

No matter what happens next, I'm not letting this turn into another two weeks of silence, the entire history of us summed up in a series of near misses and almosts just because neither of us had the snowballs to say anything.

Hudson's relationship with her mom was one of my least favorite parts of the book, while the interactions with her brother were some of my favorite parts. Mom's dream was to own a diner and she's doing it, but barely. It's not Hudson's dream though. She seems very oblivious to what's going on in her teenage daughter's life, aside from the impact it has on the diner. She expects Hudson to do the cupcake biz and waitress when they have to cut back on expenses and also basically help raise Bug, all while going to school still. Bug, on the other hand, is adorable. Eight years old and a little precocious, he likes to investigate the mail for suspicious powders and figure out the logistics of how Santa could get to all the houses in one night.

When Hudson gets a chance to reinvent herself in the skating world, she decides to take it. Even though it means lying to her mom, flaking out on her brother and best friend Dani, letting her grades slip, and generally making a mess of things. Honestly, she is not an easy person to like. The whole book kind of reminds me of a younger version of the 90s movie, The Cutting Edge. (Great movie, if you haven't seen it. The toe pick scene is my favorite!) Hudson has to decide if skating is really what she wants to do or if she's maybe just fooling herself. And how is her mom going to react when she finds out? (I'm sure you can guess.) Overall, a decent book that leaves you wanting cupcakes and hot chocolate (even though it's 90 degrees here!)