Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Year of the Flood

My latest Book recommendation is The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood.

This was the second book of Ms. Atwood's that I read cover to cover. Previously, I read The Handmaid's Tale (a previous review covers this) and after speaking with one of my M.F.A professors I picked up this novel at one of my favorite Bay Area used bookstores.

Set after her novel Oryx and Crake the novel is set in a post-apocalyptic universe. Now, I typically do not recommend reading novels out of order but I will say that if you have not read the first novel in the series it is perfectly okay. Here we are introduced to two seemingly unrelated characters Ren and Toby. Ren is a young woman caught up in the world of a high end sex club. Toby is an older woman who lives on her own in an abandoned luxury spa where she survives on her wits and the mostly edible treatments that were devised in the spa.

You eventually learn that Toby is and still considers herself part of an organization known as God's Gardeners. An group that is devoted to the preservation of all plant and animal life and the melding of science and religion. And Ren was once one of the children that was cared for by God's Gardeners. After getting involved with a bad crowd Ren left the organization, led by the mysterious Adam One, and found herself caught up as a trapeze dancer in the club Scales and Tails. When disaster strikes Ren locks herself in one of the rooms that the clubs keeps for quarantine purposes.

While gene spliced animals, strange blue people, and dangerous men roam the world these two women struggle to survive. Eventually they will each realize that they cannot hide forever and eventually will have to brave the new world created by the flood.

This novel is an excellent example of a post apocalyptic setting. With devices both dark and uneasily humorous Ms. Atwood gives us a world that is simultaneously terrifying and fascinating. If you are a fan of On the Road or Blindness then this is a novel that you don't want to miss.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Court of Thorns and Roses

This weeks book recommendation is A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas.

I am sure you have gathered by now that I love a good fairy tale retelling and I love stories that have a little romance to them. I shy away from the full blown romance novel but I just don't think that a novel is very exciting if there isn't some sort of romantic relationship involved. This novel had both.

The story introduces us to a young woman named Feyre (pronounced Fay-ruh) whose family has fallen from financial grace. As the youngest of three daughters Feyre remembers very little of what it was like to not worry about where her next meal was coming from. But while her sisters spend every penny that they can get their hands on and their father spends most of his days sitting by the fire with his crippled leg, Feyre has taught herself to hunt. It is what keeps her family alive. It is also what leads her into a destiny that she never saw coming.

Feyre's family lives close to the wall that separates the Fae lands from the human world. Once the god like fae had ruled humans and kept them as their own personal slaves. But a war of rebellion forced the High Fae Lords to give up much of their territory and sign a treaty that prevents them from ever setting foot outside of their lands. At least that is what it is supposed to do.

One fateful day Feyre is out hunting and she comes upon a doe. The meat of the animal would feed her family for several weeks at least and she knows that she can sell the pelt in town for some extra coin. As she knocks the arrow she senses that she is not the only one that is hunting the doe. Looking into the surrounding forest she sees a large wolf. So large that there is only one possible thing that it can be. Fairie. Like most of her brethren Feyre has grown up hating the Fae. She barely hestitates before drawing the ash arrow, the only weapon against the fae that she possesses, and killing the large creature. Thus setting in motion the rest of the story.

Feyre is claimed by another Fairy. One who can transform into a beast. He comes because according the treaty any human who kills a Fae creature unprovoked must pay with their own life. But the strange fairy has no intention of killing Feyre. Instead he takes her back to his home at the Spring Court and there she will live out the rest of her days. Now Feyre is thrust into a world that she doesn't understand with a High Fae Lord who is both maddening and handsome. And all she can wonder is whether or not she has been taught wrong her whole life.

This novel is a wonderful retelling of the classic Beauty and the Beast tale. Specifically I believe it is the version often called East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Like her other novels, several of which have been reviewed on the blog, Maas gives us a female heroine who is both likable and often times annoying. Now I know that sounds less than appealing but I think it humanizes the character in a way that makes her particularly relatable and extremely real. This is not an easy task in writing and I think that Maas does it wonderfully.

While I will say there are few moments where Feyre and her longing for the High Lord border on annoying Maas eventually realizes that it is time to move on with the story. She thrusts the reader right back into the action of the story and presents us with a great representation of what will one do to save the one that they love?

I recommend this retelling to anyone who is a fairy tale fan and also to anyone who likes a good old fashioned fantasy adventure story. Plus, when you finally meet the villain of the story they are absolutely terrifying. Enjoy my bookworms!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Red Queen

This week's Book Recommendation is Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

In this post apocalyptic world it isn't the color of your skin that determines your place in the world. It is the color of your blood. If you are a Red, meaning your blood is red, you live in slums or worse and live only to serve the elite Silvers, those with silver blood and special powers. The powers range from super human strength, ability to control water and other elements, mind control, and many others.

Mare Barrow is a Red and a thief. She has stolen from the Silvers and the Reds alike to help support her family. But, Mare knows her time is running out. In two weeks she will be eighteen and since she has neither an apprenticeship or a job she faces one thing. Conscription. She will be sent to the front lines that has been waging between her country and the Lakelanders for decades. Her three older brothers are already there and the possibility of seeing them is the only bright spot in an otherwise bleak future.

Until a clandestine meeting with a stranger lands her a job in the Silver Palace. Now she finds herself at the center of everything she is against. Serving the very people that have dictated her life as worthless. It is while serving the Silvers that Mare discovers that she has a special power of her own. One that no one can explain and one that makes her a threat to the rule of the Silvers.

This was a novel that I had a very hard time putting down. Aveyard writes a heroine who despite being seventeen is very self aware and not at all naive about how the world works. The book itself is very cinematic which is not surprising as Aveyard is a USC Film School graduate and the pacing is excellent. There is not a moment of the novel spent on something that one might consider boring or uneccessary. While there are several characters that fit the typical YA Fantasy Novel archetype Aveyard makes up for that by throwing in small twists and creating a world that is simultaneously Hunger Games and X-men. On top of that she doesn't shy away from realism. With a revolution on her hands the author includes the tough choices and the collateral damage that no uprising can avoid.

If you are a fan of the Hunger Games, Partials, Michael Grant, or the post apocalyptic genre I highly recommend this novel. I personally will anxiously be awaiting the sequel and there is already an IMDB page created for a potential movie or television show. Sweet!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Mortal Instruments

First off Happy Mother's Day to Every Mother Out there!

This week's Sunday Series Recommendation is The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.

I first picked up this series while I was working as a stage manager's assistant in Boston and at the Barnes & Noble in Hyannis. One of my coworkers at the bookstore recommended the series to me after we had a discussion about good young adult fiction. This book series easily falls into that category.

The first installment of the series, whose final book came out last spring, is the book City of Bone. The series follows heroine Clary Fray. A seemingly normal teen living in New York. One night she heads out to a club called Pandemonium with her friend Simon and while there she hardly expects to witness three teens covered in strange tattoos commit a murder. Nor does she expect to be unable to call the cops when the body disappears. Shaken Clary leaves the club unsure of what exactly she witnessed. It gets even stranger when she sees one of the teens again outside her staple coffee destination. His name is Jace, a boy who looks like Adonis and acts like Narcissus.

He wants to know how she was able to see him and his fellow Shadowhunters. Within twenty four hours of this meeting Clary returns home to find her mother has disappeared and a demonic creature waiting for her. She manages to fend of the creature until Jace, who had been following her, arrives to dispatch the creature. But Clary has been bitten and she can feel the demon's poison working its way through her body. Jace decides to try something. Taking his stele, a magic weapon named for an angel, he draws a mark on her skin. Clary's world fades to black and when she wakes she find that she has been dragged into the middle of war that she didn't know existed.

While I will say there are a few moments where this novel toes the line of the Twilight series which I will say I am not a fan of, the story is well written. Clary is a heroine who is strong of character for the most part and she certainly embraces the changes thrown at her. As the novels continue she does grow stronger, both physically and mentally, although she does have moments of teen angst that can sometimes be a little hard to swallow. But, for each of those moments Clare balances it with her other characters. There are several relationships that are more adult in nature and handle themselves as such. This is not to say that Clary isn't a mature character. Clare expertly handles the balance between adulthood and adolescence.

One of the major reasons to read this series is also for the world that Clare has built. Its intricacies are fascinating and you'll find yourself wondering about the lore of the Shadowhunters and its real world inspirations. Clare also presents the world in a believable manner by weaving it within the fabric of the real world. There are also lovely book epitaphs at the beginning of each chapter proving that Clare herself is very well read. It actually inspired me to pick up some of the classics that I had neglected in my own reading. Its definitely worth a read! Make sure to read it before the premiere of ABC Family's Shadowhunters t.v series. Oh, and honestly you can skip the movie that they made. There are parts that are fun but its not a very good adaptation. The series however looks promising.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Help for the Haunted

This Week's Book Recomendation is Help for the Haunted by John Searles.

The novel follows Sylvie Mason the youngest daughter of a Sylvester and Rose Mason. The Mason's have a very interesting profession. When they are not traveling giving lectures of the occult this husband and wife team help those who are haunted by malevolent spirits and demonic presences. The story begins on a snowy February evening when Sylvie hears her parents receive a phone call. At first nothing seems amiss as they often receive late night phone calls from prospective clients. But as she listens to the conversation Sylvie senses that there is something different about this call.

When her mother comes to wake her Sylvie climbs into the car with her parents without question. She is told to try and sleep in the back seat of the car while her father drives them to an old church where he was once a deacon. They are to meet Sylvie's older sister Rose, who shares their mother's name, because she wants to talk. Sylvie's father enters the church first leaving his wife and younger daughter in the car. After an hour or so has passed Sylvie's mother decides to venture into the church herself. Now Sylvie is left in the car alone while the snow continues to fall around her. Until her own curiousity gets the better of her and she too ventures into the church. As she enters she sees several indistinct figures near the altar but before she can make them out there is a loud noise and her world goes black. When Sylvie comes to she is in a hospital bed, a detective is waiting to speak with her, and she is now an orphan.

From this point on the novel moves between the present and the past as Sylvie tries to piece together the truth about what her parents did and the circumstances surrounding their deaths. Sylvie recalls details of events prior to her deaths as she moves through the days following their murders. Meeting new people and rekindling old relationships.

One of the things that I really loved about this novel was the writing. It had a cinematic feel to it and I could picture just about everything. From the creepy details of a doll that might be possessed, an item that I found particularly terrifying, and the other items that the parents removed from people's houses. You will find yourself drawn into the mysteries. Who killed the Masons? Did they really save people from demons? Who did Sylvie see in the Church that night?

If you are looking for a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat and have you guessing up until the very end, this is definitely a book that you should check out Bookworms!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Author of the Week: Tamora Pierce

This weeks Author you should know about is one of my personal writing heroines Tamora Pierce.

Pierce was born December 13th, 1954 in South Connellsville, PA. She grew up with two sisters one of who would inspire Pierce's character Alanna. She grew up poor, self admitted on her website, but she always found things to treasure in her life. One of those things were books. While she shared books like Horton Hears a Who and The Cat in the Hat with her sisters, she personally owned copies of the Winner the Pooh books by A.A. Milne and she read those until the book covers fell off. A sentiment that I can relate to.

In 1963 her family made a two week trek across the United States to settle in California where her father had been transfered for work. Here at the suggestion of her Father young Tamora began to write her own stories. She was an avid fan of Star Trek among other science fiction and she wrote stories based off those. She also, after being introduced to The Lord of the Rings wrote stories based off the characters she loved so much there. I guess today we would call that fan fiction but during her youth this was just exercising the writing muscle for your own fun. As she read these novels and others by authors like Ray Bradbury (also a personal favorite) she realized that there was one crucial aspect missing. There were no kick ass female teenage heroines. So she started writing them herself. This is something that Pierce would also come back to later in life.

Like all great writers, in my opinion, Pierce went through a phase where she lost her ability to write stories. During that time she decided to attend the University of Pennsylvania to study psychology. During her time there she received an education to be sure but she was all over the board when it came to classes that her degree simply said Bachelor of Arts. Don't ask her what her major actually was. She never finished the psych degree. However, she did spend a lot of her time and even her post college life working with young woman who were, as she said, "as messed up as my sisters and I were." She even read, an abridged version, of the Alanna stories to her girls at a home that she worked at.

Eventually she wrote her first novel which was apparently terrible but it was novel length and that was all that mattered. At another point someone suggested she write about her childhood but she found that very hard to do. She sold short stories, having beaten her years long writers block, and wrote and acted for a radio broadcasting company in New York. It was here that she met the man who she would one day marry.

All of this eventually led her to write a novel called The Song of the Lioness. Only after an editor read the manuscript and suggested she break it down into a quartet did we get the young adult series we know it as today. In 1983 Alanna: The First Adventure  was published by Antheneum and Pierce's literary career began its slow climb to what it is today.

I began my love affair with Pierce's novels not with her first book series but rather with her second The Immortals which is about a heroine named Daine who can talk to animals. It was no surprise that this was how I discovered her as I was and to this day am an avid animal lover. After Immortals I backtracked and read The Song of the Lioness series but my true love was Kel. There is a previous blog post on that particular series archived here.

One of the things I love about Pierce's novels is the heroines are strong, smart, and resourceful. Alanna challenges the restrictions bestowed on women by the patriarchal society she lives in. Daine proves that compassion and empathy should be extended to all creatures. Kel shows us that you have to put in the hard work to get where you want to go. And these are just a few of Pierce's heroines.

If you are a parent or teacher with young girls I definitely recommend giving this book to them. I will warn you that there is some adult subject matter, her heroines are no strangers to sex, it is handle gracefully and devoid of graphics. But it is there. However, I believe that these heroines are important characters to share with young women. Especially in today's society. They are excellent role models and one of the major reasons I became a bookworm and writer myself.

For more info on Ms. Pierce check out her websitre http://www.tamora-pierce.com/index.htm. And you can also find a complete list of her books there or on goodreads.com.



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Changes

Good Morning Fellow Bookworms!

As you might've noticed there has been a decline in the number of posts that I have done recently. I will not bore you with explanations, especially since that is not what this blog is about, simply put I will say that life happens. Sometimes it gets in the way of things that you enjoy.

So in an effort to continue with the blog I have decided to make some changes to how this is done. I will still be doing Book Series Sunday and then regular book posts will happen every Wednesday beginning next week. Friday is going to be new type of post called Author Day where I will choose an author, either contemporary or classic, that I feel you should know about. In the post I will include a bit of biography, why I personally like them, and a list of some to all of their books.

Keep reading Bookworms!

-Ariel

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Beka Cooper

Today's Sunday Series Recommendation are the Beka Cooper novels by Tamora Pierce.

Set once again in the fantasy realm of Tortall. The novels tell the story of Beka Cooper a policewoman in the capital of Corus. In book one the heroine is a rookie of the Provost's Guard, affectionately known as the "Provost's Dogs." As a rookie she is considered a Puppy and works alongside a pair of veteran Dogs. To everyone's surprise, in the first novel, she requests duty in the Lower City. It is considered a tough beat but for Beka it is comfortable. She was born there.

Paired Matts and Clary, famed among the Dogs, who are none too happy to have been set up with a puppy for the first time in years, Beka and her new mentors begin their beat in the Lower City. Little do they know that Beka brings something new to the table. Information. Whispers brought to her on the backs of a pigeons. Whispers that belong to the dead.

As the first novel continues Beka learns of a power shift in the underworld of the Lower City. Someone new is in play and they are strong arming citizens with fear into silence. But Beka's dead are impervious to fear and know that if something isn't done more whispers will be added to their number. Luckily Beka, while not impervious to fear, is a true Terrier and she won't let fear rule her.

Terrier is the title of the first novel and it is followed by Bloodhound and Mastiff. As the novels continue Beka's talents with magic become more clear and as per usual in a Tamora Pierce novel she is given a cast of animal sidekicks that help her solve the mysteries of her city. The novels are both fantasy adventure and mystery novels. With the interesting premise of a police force within a medieval inspired fantasy world.

Beka also proves to be one of Pierce's most clever heroines. She is resourceful and doesn't back down from a fight. Pierce has a knack for writing strong female characters. Alongside Kel from The Protector of the Small (check out its own blog post) Beka is one of my favorite female characters. Its a good book for middle school age girls but is also fun for us "adults". Definitely worth a read!

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Happiness Project

Today's Book Recommendation is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

Gretchen Rubin begins her year with a realization on a city bus. That she wasn't focusing enough of her energy on things that matter. Armed with this realization Rubin dedicated an entire year to finding what mattered and what she could do to cultivate happiness. She dubbed this year her Happiness Project.

Through simple changes she reinvents how she views and handles her life. From a daily list of things to be thankful for. To how she talks to her husband and her children. Rubin takes a look at what really matters in our day to day lives. Through all of her changes, some she succeeds at easily while others are a struggle, Gretchen Rubin documents her project on her blog/website which can still be viewed today. Ultimately the project sought to change her daily habits.


I read this book during my second year of graduate school. I was struggling with my thesis, a long distance relationship, and the threat of school ending. It was a rough year. On a whim I downloaded The Happiness Project on my Nook and began reading. While I couldn't relate to Rubin on some of the specifics, for instance I have no children, I could relate to the basic principles. How could I find small bits of happiness in my day to day life.

I took notes from the book. I kept my own gratitude book, wrote my goals on categorized sticky notes that I put on a window right over my bed. This made them the first thing that I saw when I woke up and the last thing that I saw when I went to bed. It also gave me some tools to make the separation from my Gentleman a little easier.

This felt like an important book to me. If you are struggling to find those little pieces of happiness in your life this might be a good teacher for you. I highly recommend it. Once you read it, if you desire to start your own year long happiness project you can check out www.gretchenrubin.com.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sabriel

Today's Book Recommendation is Sabriel by Garth Nix.

The novel takes place in a country called Ancelstierre. Where Sabriel was sent to attend boarding school by her father The Abhorsen. Having spent most of her life in the shadow of a wall that separates Ancelstierre from the Old Kingdom Sabriel has little experience with what is known as Free Magic, nor does she have experience with the Dead who tend to not stay where they are supposed to. Everything changes during her final semester when her father mysteriously goes missing.

Concerned that something might have happened to him Sabriel takes it on herself to go and find him. Leaving her school she ventures across the wall into the Old Kingdom. Here she finds that she possesses strange powers. She meets a young Charter Mage who calls himself Touchstone, and Mogget a potentially powerful and malevolent spirit who hides beneath feline form. Together they will travel deep into the Old Kingdom in hopes that they can find the Abhorsen before it is too late.

This is the first installment to the Abhorsen Chronicles. It is at once Game of Thrones meets the Lord of the Rings. If you are a fan of either of those book series you will love this novel by Garth Nix. The second book in the series is one of my favorite books of all time. But, for it to make sense to you, you'll have to begin with Sabriel. She is an excellent heroine who faces every challenge that comes her way with bravery. I love the allusion to Shakespeare by using the name Touchstone for one of the main characters. Especially in a novel that boasts such a strong heroine.

A novel that I would definitely recommend for teens and young women alike. I will warn you that it can sometimes be hard to find the novels independently from each other but the first novel in the series is the easier to find. Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Once Upon a Winter's Night

Today's Book Recommendation is Once Upon A Winter's Night by Dennis L. McKiernan.


Once upon a winter's night a poor ailing man trades his daughter's life for riches that he has never imagined that will last a lifetime. Now his poor daughter Camille is sent to live with the mysterious Prince Alain of the Summerwood. Here in this Kingdom of Summer love blossoms between Camille and the Prince who she never sees behind a mask of sadness. For Alain is under a dreadful curse and he believes that nothing can be done to lift the curse. Camille believes that together they can overcome this obstacle and decides to take matters into her own hands despite the warnings given to her. Now, she must deal with the consequences as everything is swept away from her. Now she must journey through the Faery realm in search of somewhere east of the sun and west of the moon.

If you haven't picked up on it yet, you should know that I love a good fairy tale retelling. This is one of the better ones. It reminded me of a favorite childhood movie, The Polar Bear King, which is retelling of Beauty and the Beast. This also happens to be one of my favorite fairy tales. However McKiernan takes it one step further and also weaves in a retelling that draws from a few other fairy tales and also Greek mythology. This is no easy take and the author does it with a beautiful edge.

Specifically the fairy tale is East of the Sun and West of the Moon whose themes are true love can conquer all. Where it delves into the Beast mythos is with the fact that Alain takes the shape of a bear during the day and he becomes a man only at night. While this might sound cliche it is only because the story is so familiar. What makes this stand out is how gracefully McKiernan writes.

This is a favorite series as well as there are three other books that follow this one and apparently a fifth book that I have yet to come across. I will warn you that these novels are sometimes hard to come by and you might have to venture onto Amazon or Barnes and Noble online to find them. Your best bet might also be to buy them used. Trust me though, it is well worth the leg work.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Panic

Today's Book Recommendation is Panic by Lauren Oliver.

In the town of Carp located in what would easily be considered the middle of nowhere during the summer there is nothing to do. As a result a game was born. The game is high risk but the reward is higher. Played by graduating seniors the game has become the stuff of legends.

Heather never thought that she would be one the play. Nor had she ever considered herself brave. That she would be the type of person that would fight to stand out. Until she finds something to fight for. Or better yet someone. As the game continues she will find that she is braver than she ever thought possible.

Dodge never feared panic and with the armor of his secret he has fuel to get him all the way through the game to be the winner. But what he doesn't know is that he isn't the only one with a secret. That he isn't the only one who has something to play for.

As the game continues Heather and Dodge discover unexpected alliances, revelations, and the chance at first love for both of them. Ultimately they learn that sometimes the thing you fear most is exactly what you need to succeed.

This novel differs from Oliver's other books. First off it is, at this point, a stand alone novel. She has written another book series that I will be sure to review at some point as it is wonderful. The other major difference is that this novel is set not in a dystopian future but rather out world as we know it. Oliver also accurately captures those years at the end of high school when we are trying to figure out who we are and what we fight for. The game provides a backdrop for the changing relationships that we all face as we exit high school. A novel that will have you on the edge of your seat and cheering for both Dodge and Heather. A fun worthwhile read.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Why We Broke Up

Today's Book Recommendation is Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler.

Min is breaking up with her boyfriend. But, before it becomes official Min is giving Ed a box. Inside the box there are two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a protractor, books, and a book of matches just to name a few. The box accompanies a letter in which Min has written to Ed why they broke up. The covers their giddy, intimate, and ultimately heartbreaking romance.

The novel is written with an acute wit and accompanied by wonderful illustrations by artist Maira Kalman. For that reaon alone it should be mentioned that you will not want to read this novel on a tablet, unless it has color, for the illustrations add to the experience of the novel. It should also be mentioned that Daniel Handler is the mastermind behind the Lemony Snicket books.

I found this novel very poignant for anyone who has endured a break up. And for a male author Handler captures the voice of a teenage girl extremely well. She is funny at times in her reactions, melodramatic, and immensely human. I will say that this book will not be for everyone. But, it is definitely worth taking a gander at.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Rebecca

Today's Book Recommendation is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

Our nameless heroine begins her story as a lady's companion. It is a bleak and boring future that doesn't seem to have a shred of hope on the horizon. Then on a trip to the South of France our heroine meets Max De Winter. A dashing gentleman who surprises her with a marriage proposal after only a few days of knowing each other. After a whirlwind wedding and moving from hotel to hotel for a while our heroine is brought home to Manderlay. His rather ominous estate.

Here our heroine finds that her husband is a changed man as the memory of the first Mrs. De Winter is ardently kept alive by the foreboding figure of the head of household Mrs. Danvers. Not only does she keep the memory of her first mistress alive but she also intimidates and frightens her new mistress.

After a while our heroine begins to believe that she can't compete with the former mistress of the house who was beautiful, talented, and brilliant. At least that is what everyone keeps telling her. Slowly, if only to calm her own nerves, our heroine begins to unravel the mystery of Rebecca's death. But, the question is...will she ever really be free of the long shadow that Rebecca casts.

This novel is a classic piece of gothic inspired ghostery (yes, I made that word up). If you liked Jane Eyre but want something with a slighly more sinister air this is a novel that should definitely be checked out. There is a moment at a masquerade that is particularly chilling. Both for the event and for the manipulation behind it.


My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business

Today's Book Recommendation is My Lucky Life in and Out of Show Business by Dick Van Dyke.

It begins with a forward by television writer royalty Carl Reiner who was also the producer of The Dick Van Dyke Show. And then delves into the early days of Mr. Van Dyke's childhood memories. It takes us through his years traveling in a comedy duo. Into his first production on broadway. And finally into his years in film and television. Throughout the whole novel Mr. Van Dyke offers a touching portrait of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

It shows us how a man we admired for his beaming smile, his comedic timing, his ridiculous stunts, and amazing dancing skills got to be where he did. He talks about being on set with Mary Tyler Moore, who played his wife on his tv show, and also about working with Julie Andrews. He unabashely talks about the separation from his first wife and how he fell in love with another woman. He even lets us in on several years where he battled with alcoholism and how it led to a bout with depression in his middle years.

I grew up watching Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I would often dance around the house doing my best impression of Bert the Chimney Sweep. There is a whole generation who grew up with the Petrie family. A generation after that who grew up on his lovely singing and dancing movies. And today people are still discovering this amazing talent who still refers to himself as a "simple song and dance man."

While reading this I felt as though I was sitting with my grandfather and listening to him tell stories about his youth. If you grew up with a love of The Dick Van Dyke Show or if you were born a little later into the world of Mary Poppins. This is a memoir that I highly recommend. I will say that after reading it I bought season one of his show on DVD. Side note, if you are a writer and hope to write for television you should definitely check this show out. The writing is some of the best that I have ever seen and it is jam packed with amazing comedic actors.

Fan Girl

Today's Book Recommendation is Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Let's be honest the whole world is a Simon Snow fan. For Cath and her twin sister Wren they have been encroached in their fandom since they were kids. The fantasy series got them through their Mother leaving. They dressed up to go the the movie premieres. Read. Reread and reread again. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums. Even writing their own fan fiction. All of these facets of Fandom and Cath is good at.

Now headed for college Wren has grown away from her Simon Snow fan days but Cath can't let go. If she is being honest she doesn't want to. But, now Wren has told Cath that she doesn't want to be roommates. Cath is without her twin and out of her comfort zone. She has a surly roommate with an always around albeit charming boyfriend, a fiction professor who believes that fandom is the end of the world as we know it, and a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words. Cath is also very concerned about her father, a loving and fragile man, who has never really been alone.

The Simon Snow characters that are referenced in the novel are reminiscent of the Harry Potter novels. Which for those of us old enough to remember had a world all its own. I can personally remember going to late night book release parties. And there is definitey a world of fan fiction out there. After all Fifty Shades of Grey was supposedly Twilight fan fiction (disclaimer: there is no documented evidence to support this). Ultimately Cath has to decided whether she wants to continue in her Simon Snow fandom or if its time to finally move on.

All of this provides and interesting back drop for a coming of age story that we are all familiar with. That first year of college where we don't know anyone, when we are forced to live with someone that we have never known, and for many of us when some homesickness sets in. It's that weird period of life where you are out on your own for the first time in your life and you have to figure it out. Throughout the novel Rowell provides a very account of how the first year of college can be for the shy creative types. If you were one of them, like myself, you will definitely enjoy this novel.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Handmaid's Tale

Today's Book Recommendation is The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Offred is a handmaid. She lives in the Republic of Gilead. A place where signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. Once a day she may leave the house of the Commander, the man whom she lives with, to go to the market for food on a list given to her by the Commander's wife. Once a month the Commander and her lie together and she must hope that he makes her pregnant. For Offred and the other Handmaids are only valuable so long as their ovaries are viable.

But Offred remembers a time before. A time when she had a husband, Luke, who loved her. When she made love with him not for the sake of a declining population. When she had a daughter that she loved and played with. When she had money of her own. When she had a job. When she had access to knowledge.

This was my first Margaret Atwood novel. I have gone on to read several others but this is one of my two favorites thus far. At once we are given a look at a bleak and declining future. One that doesn't allow women the pursuit of knowledge or to have choices of their own. Even the Commander's wife has restrictions on her life. But Offred seems to face all of this with a quiet courage. A courage that seems born of her ability to remember the past.


Here is a world with a declining population that must also be controlled at the same time. A world where they felt that the threat of knowledge would be the undoing of life as we know it. Yet, Offred finds small moments of resistance. Moments that lie in the memories of her husband and daughter.

There is so much that happens in the novel from the Commander revealing that he has access to forbidden contraband like old Vogue magazines, that another handmaid has become part of a resistance trying to over throw the Gilead government, to secret night clubs where Offred's Commander and his fellows mingle with prostitutes, and an affair with a man that isn't the commander or her husband.

Told in Offred's own words the novel slips between the present and the flashbacks of the world before Gilead. No one can say that Atwood isn't a prolific writer. She writes about our world in a way that it is unrecognizable but also seems to be something that we could be headed for if we made the wrong choices. This novel is also a good jumping off point if you have never read Atwood before.


The Night Circus

Today's Book Recommendation is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

The circus arrives without warning. There is no preamble. No announcement. Within its black and white tents guests find breathtaking amazements that defy the expected. It is called Le Cirque de Reves and it is only open at night.

As guests wander from tent to tent they have no idea that within the circus a fierce battle rages. Two young magicians, Celia and Marco, trained in the magic arts since their childhood compete against one another. They each have a tutor and benefactor who has taught them all that they know. But, what their tutors have failed to tell them is that this is a competition where only one magician can be left standing and the circus is the battlefield on which one of them will fall.

Despite their best intentions Celia and Marco begin to fall in love with one another. Dazzled by each others prowess, imagination, and will they tumble headfirst into it. They have no idea that their fate, the fate of the performers, and even the loyalist of guests rests precariously on their shoulders. As precarious as the acrobats who fly from trapeze to trapeze in the black and white tents.

This was a novel that it took me a while to jump on board with. What is interesting is that the synopsis that I gave you is very similar to the one found on the back of the book or on websites such as Goodreads (which all bookworms should join by the way). But, what the synopsis does not tell you in that there are several other stories within the battle of the magicians that also play a part in the narrative of the circus.

At first this tendency to jump from one character to another both in time and location is a bit disorienting. Especially since you can't always tell where in time you are. Make sure to pay close attention to chapter headings as they often tell you where you are and when. Eventually all these different story lines begin to weave together like pieces of an elaborate puzzle. And while the love story is a major part of the narrative it does not dominate it in a way that it feels like a romance novel.

My favorite part of the novel was ultimately the various descriptions of the circus, the tents, and an elaborate clock that serves as the focal point for the circus performances itself. A clock that I actually wish existed in real life. When the story lines begin to knit themselves together you will develop an appreciation for Morgensterns writing style and over all narrative. It does become a page turner. And I have several well read friends who loved this novel from the very start.

Despite my lukewarm statements I actually really liked this book in the end. It sold me on the imagery and the fantasy. I think this would make a lovely film too. Although because of the complexities I would think that it would be better served as a mini series or television series. A feature length film just wouldn't give it the time that it deserves.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Somewhere in France

Today's Book Recommendation is Somewhere in France by Jennifer Robson.

Set in 1914 British Society the Lady Elizabeth Neville-Ashford wants to travel the world, attend her mind to the pursuit of a career, and marry a man for love not social advancement. But in the stifling aristocratic society and under the thumb of her mother's expectations Lady Elizabeth has not the freedom to do any such thing. She is unable to follow her heart.

Then war breaks out. Here Lily, as she prefers to be called, seizes her chance for freedom. She defies her parents and moves to London. Effectively disowning herself from their name, their money, and their expectations for her. She eventually becomes an ambulance driver in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corp. An exciting but treacherous job that slowly brings her closer and closer to the Western Front.

Eventually she is stationed in France and here she is reunited with her brother's best friends. A young doctor by the name of Robert Fraser. This handsome Scottish Surgeon has always encouraged Lily to pursue her dreams, indeed he was one of the reasons that she chose to enlist. Not caring that he grew up impoverished Lily yearns for their friendship to become something far more. But the constant threat of an enemy attack keeps them at arms bay for Robert is determined to keep her safe even if it means breaking her heart.

This is a novel that is definitely for the ladies. In particular anyone who is a fan of the BBC period drama Downton Abbey. Which happens to be one of my favorite shows so of course you can see the appeal. Robson explores the conscription of class and the threat that each day spent on the front could be your last. It adds a tension to the novel that makes you want things to work out for Lily and Robert even more.

I think what makes this novel different from others, that I have read at least, is that here you are presented with a woman who does something that we don't often hear about. We've heard about the nurses in World War I, amazing women all of them, but I can't think of another novel that places a woman as the ambulance driver. The one making the trek from the front lines to the camp where the soldiers can receive treatment. I can't even imagine what it might be like to transport wounded and often dying soldiers between two points. Especially in this war where injuries were so gruesome. Trench Foot, battlefield amputations, and poisonings from the noxious gases that were used in some of the earliest chemical warfare.

Lily faces all of this with a courage that I can only hope to posses in my day to day life. Not only that but even after she has spent her entire day transporting men she sits by their besides and reads to them. Perhaps we could all take a note from this heroine that Robson has given us. She is an example of kindess and spirit that we all should strive for.


Throne of Glass

This weeks Sunday Series Recommendation is the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas.

For crimes she committed assassin and eighteen year old Celaena has spent a year working in the Salt Mines of Endovier.  She thought the mines would also be her tomb when she is dragged before the crown prince and offered a deal. If she will represent him in his father's competition for a new royal assassin she will be taken out of Endovier and given the chance to earn something she has longed for even before she was a prisoner. Her freedom.

Her competitors are all men. Thieves, Mercenaries, and other assassins sponsored by members of the king's council. If she can beat each of them in a series of tests then she will be conscripted as the royal assassin for three years and then she will be free. Free to leave a land that she holds no allegiance to.

She trains with the captain of the guard, Westfall, which she finds exhilarating and challenging. But she finds life at court tedious and boring. Until she begins to befriend her sponsor the crown prince. For the two of them share a love of books. As she spends her days confined to the palace and training for each test that the contest will throw at her Celaena finds that life becomes more interesting. Especially when her fellow competitors start showing up dead. Now she must figure out who the killer is before she too becomes a victim. And what about the greater destiny that she begins to discover in the process?

One of the reasons that I liked this book series thus far, I have only read two of the novels, is because of the main character. One moment she is incredibly likable and in the next she is almost annoying. There are moments where she reads so cold that I almost felt as though ice was forming on the pages as I read them. Moments where she becomes so materialistic and obsessed with shopping that I found myself rolling my eyes at her. Then there are the moments where she shows such tenderness and regard for the people around her. That I finally realized why I ultimately like her. She reminds me of both myself and countless women in my life that I count as friends. Afterall we aren't all wonderful all of the time, are we?

Maas manages to give us a very flawed heroine who is tangibly human. At eighteen years old it is no wonder that her moods and attitudes would change like the tides. Celaena also posesses an intelligence and love for literature that I think needs to be fostered in today's world.

And it isn't just the heroine that has her strengths and flaws bared to the readers. Westfall, the Crown Prince, a foreign princess named Nehemia who Celaena befriends, and even some of the more nefarious characters have moments of humanity that you don't often find in Young Adult literature these days. Yes, there is the viewpoint of a novel on them but their struggles are ultimately ones that we face everyday in the real world. Even if that struggle is only what should we wear to dinner?

The other titles in order of the series are Crown of Midnight and Heir of Fire. I believe there is a fourth installment coming but I haven't seen what the title of it is yet. Happy reading!


Friday, April 3, 2015

The Caves of Steel

Today's Book Recommendation is The Caves of Steel by Issac Asimov.

Set a in the future, about a millennium later, there are two advancements that have revolutionized the world. The colonization of the galaxy and the creation of a device know as the positronic brain. In this new world we are introduced to an unlikely partnership. A New York City detective and a humanoid robot who must learn to work together to solve the murder of a prominent Spacer (the people who live on the Outer World colonies).

For the majority of people left on earth they have very little love for their Spacer compatriots or the robotic companions that they have created. Its a two way street as the Spacers have little love or trust for the Earthmen. Now Detective Elijah Baley must find the killer while working with his new partner R. Daneel Olivaw. The R stands for Robot. What makes the situation even more complicated is Baley's new partner is made in the image and likeness of a the murder victim.

I am pretty sure that this novel alongside the short story I, Robot was the inspiration for the film of the same name starring Will Smith. While I had certainly read some of Asimov's short stories in my writing and literature classes in college I had never read one of his novels before. The story is compelling and covers all angles of prejudice, environmental worries, and has the typical beats of a good murder mystery. While at times the pacing of the novel can be a little slow the developments of the characters, both Baley and Daneel, keeps you reading.

In terms of the environment its a little scary how in tune Asimov was into future problems. His characters are earth face a lack of resources and the threat of over population. It's a shame that Asimov wasn't able to foresee a solution to such issues beyond leaving earth to colonize other planets. After all this is the only planet with chocolate.

While I would suggest starting with his short stories first this novel is a good selection for Asimov fans and newbies a like. I will have to let you know how the second book is.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mother Night

Today's Book Recommendation is Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut.

In Israel, Howard W. Campbell Jr. is on trial for crimes as a Nazi war criminal. The thing is? He was an American spy who was sending coded messages within his Nazi propaganda war announcements. On top of that there was only ever one man who knew that Campbell was a spy and he is nowhere to be found. It would seem that Campbell will indeed be sentenced for his crimes, but is he really guilty?

The novel covers some of the time that Campbell spent working for the Nazi's, some of his time hiding out in New York city before he was discovered, and then of course his time in the Israeli prison. Told with dark humor and wit this novel will having you seeing shades of gray.

This was my first soiree into Vonnegut territory. It was recommended to me by a good friend and fellow bookworm. I will admit to be slightly apprehensive as I had tentatively tried out Vonnegut before. Picking up his more popular novels in the book store, reading the back cover, and even opening it for a few pages. Something always drove me to put the book back. Let me say that it had nothing to do with his writing. Vonnegut is an amazing writer. But, it just didn't seem like my type of story. I typically like Science Fiction and Fantasy. Or more contemporary titles that would probably be considered chick lit.

I am so glad that I set that assumption aside and tried out this book. While reading it there were moments where I was sure of Campbell's innocence. Then there would be a chapter about his time during the Nazi occupation or about some of his activities in New York and I would find myself wondering if he was actually a good guy. Did he believe what he was saying on the radio or was he really just trying to send coded messages?

I think if you have never read Vonnegut that this is a good book to start with. I know that after reading it I have every intention of checking out his other works. I just haven't decided which one yet.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tell The Wolves I'm Home

Today's Book Recommendation is Tell The Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt.

It's 1987 and there is only one person in the whole world that has ever understood fourteen year old June Elbus. Her uncle Finn, a famous painter who lives in New York city. June visits her god father on a regular basis and he takes her to museums, out for food, and to their favorite places. She is distanced from her sister and feels that she can't be herself with anyone but Finn. He is her best friend and her confidant. Until he dies of a mysterious illness that her mother, Finn's sister, won't even talk to June or her sister about. June feels as though her world has come crashing down around her.

Then at Finn's funeral she spies a strange man lingering just on the edge of the crowd. She is struck by his appearance but doesn't know who he might be. Then a mysterious package arrives at the house addressed to her. Inside is teapot from her Uncle's apartment and a note from the mysterious man, Toby, asking her to meet him. As she tries to decide whether or not to trust this unexpected friend she finds that she is not the only one that misses Finn.

This novel is definitely a coming of age novel. It tells of love lost and then found again. Between the relationship between June and her sister, the flashbacks of the relationship between June and her Uncle, and even the developing relationship between June and Finn we are given several different types of relationships. Each of this relationships faces different trials and morphs with the outcome of the trials. Its a story of grief but it is also a story of healing.

It is also 1987 and its the beginning of AIDS pandemic. Brunt doesn't ignore this fact in her writing and she writes of the perspectives that the world had on the disease when it was something that had never been seen before. The fear and the misunderstanding that go alongside the revelation of the disease.

This was a wonderful and heartbreaking novel that will hit you, for lack of a better description, right in the feels. There are moments where the pacing is a tad slow but the prose is very well written. There are wonderful descriptions of paintings that Finn has done, several that June does, and the descriptions of June herself are wonderful. Sure to strike a chord with those of us who felt a little on the outside, like we were meant to live in another time period, or simply that we couldn't be ourselves around anyone else.

Wild

Today's Book Recommendation is Wild by Cheryl Strayed.

Its begins in the middle of the Pacific Coast Trail with Cheryl taking off her hiking boot only to loose it down the side of the mountain that she has taken respite on. As she watches the boot tumble down the side of the ravine she takes her other one, chucks into the oblivion, and yells a defiant "Fuck You!" to the universe.

Four years prior to this moment Cheryl Strayed lost her mother. The woman who was her best friend and proclaimed love of her life. this sends Cheryl on a destructive course of drugs, sex, and eventually divorce. So, in a moment of bleakness she makes a decision. With no experience, no training, and completely alone she will hike the Pacific Coast Trail from the Mojave desert up into Washington State. Thus begins a beautiful, biting, and reformative journey through the American wilderness.

Told in both the present of the hike and memories of the years after her mother's death you are given a complete look at one woman's grief and eventual salvation. Along the trail she meets men and women who share a passion that she has only begun to tap into. While facing the dangers of wildlife, dehydration, and even some rapid weather changes Cheryl finds that she is stronger than she thought she was. Ultimately this is a story of healing and finding yourself. Proof that even when you have nothing to loose you can find something to gain.

I read this book in one day. While sitting on set I was enthralled by Ms. Strayed's story. It had me wishing that I hadn't been ill when she visited my graduate program. This is a woman that I hope to one day meet. the book it a brutally honest portrait of the hike that she took in her early twenties. the prose that she describes her adventures is beautiful and paints a perfect picture of the experiences. While she simultaneously isn't afraid to delve into the ugly moments of her life.

I had the opportunity to see the film adaptation starring Reese Witherspoon this past spring and I thought the film really did the book justice. Although, I recommend reading the novel before seeing the film. As always.

There is part of me that wants to do this very same hike now. Granted I already have a slight fascination with hiking and a girlfriend who wants to do it as well. I guess we shall see if I have a little Wild in me. I think this a book that all mothers and daughters should read. Perhaps we need a mother daughter book club?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Something Wicked This Ways Comes

Today's Book Recommendation is Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.

It begins with arrival of a mysterious carnival one Autumn night. It arrives at midnight. It's ringmaster promises you your secret wishes. A calliope beckons to you with the promise of restored youth and dreams. Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois. It has come with one goal. To destroy any life touched by its darkness and mystery. Two boys discover the secrets of the carnival and with them the cost of wishes.

A timeless classic of Gothic portents this novel is one of my favorite classic fantasy novels. One review describes Bradbury's prose as dark and hypnotic. It invites you to step inside and experience the carnival right alongside the two boys. I think Bradbury is one of those authors who you might not like everything that they write, but there is such a range of stories in their cannon that there is something for everyone to enjoy. I speak as a reader who loved this novel but didn't care for his iconic Fahrenheit 451. There was something so chilling about this novel. With beats that remind me of some of my favorite Edgar Allen Poe stories.

Bradbury is definitely one of those authors that can control myth, fairy tale, and our own tendency towards nostalgia. This is a must read for any Science Fiction and Fantasy reader.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Lunar Chronicles

Today's Series Sunday Recommendation is The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.

The series is a retelling and adaption of several classic fairy tales. The first installment of the series is the book Cinder. A retelling of, you guessed it, Cinderella. Cinder becomes the focal point for the series but she is joined by several important supporting characters in the following books. While each novel is focused on a particular fairy tale there is an overall plot that threads the tales together. Set in a fictional future the earth faces two problems. A terrible plague called Letutemosis and the threat of invasion from a society of people who live on the moon, a planet now known as Luna.

In Cinder we are introduced to the title character. A talented mechanic and cyborg with no memory of the accident that made her one. In New Beijing she lives with her aunt, two cousins, and also a emotionally competent robot named Iko. Besides the persecution from her aunt for her cyborg parts, such as the fake eyes that prevent her from crying, Cinder also faces the same prejudices from society as whole. Alongside the threat of the cyborg draft which decrees that any cyborg may be drafted to the King's science team who use the cyborgs to study the possibility of a cure for the disease that threats the whole world.

Then one day in the market Cinder meets Kai. A handsome young man who needs his android repaired. He also happens to the be the prince. This puts Cinder on an adventure that will ultimately lead her face to face with the terribly beautiful lunar Queen and change her life forever. Caught up in the threat of an intergalactic war Cinder must delve into the secrets of her past to save her world's future.

Cinder's adventures continue in the two follow up novels Scarlet and Cress. The final installment of the series is called Winter and it is due out in the next couple of months.

One of the things that really impressed me about this series is Meyer's control of the fairy tale elements. She seamlessly weaves in the major details and plot points of the original lore alongside her own story. She updates the heroines so they don't just sit back and let the story unfold around them. Rather they are involved in their own destiny. Each of them is resourceful, intelligent, and brave in their own right.

If you are a fan of fairy tales and perhaps even Star Trek this is definitely a series that you should investigate.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

The 100

Today's Book Recommendation is The 100 by Kass Morgan.

Set in the future, humanity has retreated from a radioactive planet to a space stations orbiting the Earth. The space stations themselves were built as a temporary respite from the toxic planet. No one seems to know when they will be able to return home. But as the population grows and resources dwindle it has come to the attention of the government that they are running out of time.

They have a solution. Send 100 juvenile delinquents to earth on a mission to recolonize. After the ship they are sent in crashes on the planet the teens are left in a world that isn't quite what they read about in their text books. They try to form a tentative community but they are haunted by their pasts and the things they have heard about each other. To survive they have to learn to work together.

This was one of those rare occasions where I actually discovered the book because of a t.v show that was based off of it. The CW has a show of the same name which I watched over the summer. I loved the show and when I reached the end of it I discovered that it was based off a novel. So, went down to the local library (you should all have a library card) and picked it up. If the show was good the book is even better. Told in chapters from different perspectives you get a real sense of the trials that one faces in a society that is dying around itself. While the majority of characters end up on earth the author does give you the perspective of someone who remains on the ship to counteract the two different overall circumstances.

You'll find that there are characters you love and some whose chapters you can't wait to get through. But, within the cast there is someone for everyone to root for. Check it out kids!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Neverwhere

Today's Book Recommendation is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

Underneath the streets of London there is another city. A city full of monsters, saints, murderers, and angels. It is a city of people that we see in our dreams, in our nightmares, and in our wildest imaginations.

For Richard Mayhew it is a world that he never knew existed. A world that he is thrust into through one random act of kindness. A world that is both mind boggling and eerily familiar to him. In the city of Neverwhere he will find that he has a destiny.

At the risk of giving something away I won't say too much beyond what you might find on the back of the book. Half of the fun of Gaiman's stand alone novel is not knowing the rules and the whole story. Like his other novels there are characters that you can trust and characters that you can't. Its up to readers to figure out which is which.

As a lover of London and having lived there for five months on study abroad semester I loved so much of this novel. From the references to places and underground stations that I had actually stood in. To the general english culture therein. This is my favorite Neil Gaiman novel. It is a great intro novel to his writing for new fans and a classic for those who found him years ago.

Soulless

Today's belated Book Recommendation is Soulless by Gail Carriger.

Sorry gents, this one is targeted a bit more to the ladies. A little bit of Jane Austen meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer this novel had me laughing out loud when I first read it. Meet Alexia Tarabotti a woman who is facing several social tribulations. Set in the Victorian era Alexia is a spinster, of italian descent, and oh, she has no soul. And to make matters worse she is rudely attacked by a vampire.

This scene happens in the first few pages of the novel and Alexia's commentary on the matter alone is enough to have readers laughing. Especially when Alexia accidentally kills the vampire and is more concerned about the perfectly good desserts that were ruined rather than the fact that there is a dead supernatural being on her hands. Here we are introduced to a man who our heroine refers to as maddening. The powerful Lord Maccon who also happens to be a werewolf. They soon discover that the vampire population known to them is disappearing and unknown vampires are appearing when they shouldn't. Thus begins an adventurous sherlockian adventure that will keep you turning the pages.

I am a huge fan of this time period. This novel also brings in some slightly steam punk elements. Add in a heroine that is unabashedly herself who refuses to bow to the conformity of present society and I am on board. I believe that we need heroines like Alexia in novels today. While there are moments where she gets a little whiny about her situation but ultimately sticks to her own beliefs in a way that makes those moments all the more human.

Ladies, if you are looking for a fun, romantic, thrilling read then you will definitely want to check this one out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dorothy Must Die

Today's Book Recommendation is Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige.

What if Dorothy Gail really existed? What if she had her adventure in Oz? What if she found her way back and turned into a magic addicted tyrant? What if you were selected to defeat her?

Meet Amy Gumm, the other girl from Kansas. In Paige's novel we are introduced to Amy in present day Kansas. She has a pill popping depressed mother, lives in a trailer park, and no one at school seems to like her. Then when her mother leaves her alone in their trailer with a tornado warning Amy is transported to Oz. But its not the Oz that she remembers seeing in the movies. The residents of Oz are scared, the good witches aren't so good, and the wicked might not be all that wicked. Amy is thrown into a world where she has one mission, Dorothy Must Die.

I have seen a lot of adaptations and continuations of the Oz stories. I grew up reading the original books by L. Frank Baum. This is a world that is very near and dear to my heart. Paige takes an entirely new view on the world by taking the classic heroine and making her into the villain. Her new heroine Amy proves that while she might start out scared, she is willing to step up and do what has to be done. Paige paces the novel extremely well between introducing us to Amy, her arrival in Oz and coping with how magic does exist, her training, and her eventual mission at the Emerald City. There are some very adult themes hidden within the text of the novel too. Death, abandonment, corruption, greed, and vanity are all over the subtext of the novel.

The first installment of what promises to be a very interesting series Dorothy Must Die promises to be a chilling action packed adventure. With characters that you can simultaneously love, hate, trust, and distrust. A heroine that you can root for. And subtle nods to both the Judy Garland film and the original novels. This is not a book to be missed. I plan to pick up its sequel today. Stay tuned for my review on that one as well.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Hero With a Thousdand Faces

Today's Book Recommendation is The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.

This required reading for anyone who wants to write. It examines heroic myths in the light of modern psychology while considering the mythological patterns and stages they evoke. As well as their relevance to our lives today. It breaks down what Campbell calls the Hero's Journey into its stages and the major plot points that those stages tend to revolve around. This examination of mythology was one of the biggest inspirations for the Star Wars trilogy. It was reported that Lucas and Campbell became very good friends. Campbell's tv series The Power of Myth was reportedly filmed at Skywalker Ranch.

I have always been interested in mythology, particularly greek mythology, and this collection was recommended to my by a teacher. As I said it should be required reading for anyone seeking to write any sort of narrative story. While you might not find all the beats of the journey in every story, you will find pieces of them.

Mythology was the first form of story telling and Campbell points out how these stories are still prevalent today. After reading this I even noticed some of the motifs in comic books. Superman would be like a modern Hercules while I would say Batman is our worlds Odysseus.

There are a lot of lessons that we can take from mythology and this book serves as a fountain of study for seasoned mythologists and newbies a like. Check it out!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Protector of the Small

Today begins the first installment of a new Sunday tradition for the blog. Instead of just recommending a book, I will pick a book series that I am familiar with to recommend to fellow bookworms and future bookworms out there.

This Sunday's Series recommendation is a young adult series, The Protector of the Small  by Tamora Pierce.

The first installment of the series is simply call First Test. Now, I should preface this review with a little information about the author. She has written two previous book series set in the world of Protector of the small. Each series is about four books long and contains a strong heroine. This is only important to new readers because these heroines make appearances as supporting characters and the events of the previous novels are alluded to or have caused some of the circumstances for the main character of the series. However, Pierce realizes that there might be new readers of the books set in her fictional world of Tortall and she includes enough information about these characters and events that you don't necessarily have to go back and read them. Although I highly suggest these.

The heroine of these novels is a young woman named Keladry or Kel to her family in friends. Like her own heroine, Alanna (Pierce's first series heroine), Kel dreams of Knighthood. Because of Alanna's deeds the King proclaimed that young women were also elligible to train for Knighthood. In all the time since Alanna no girl has taken advantage of that decree. Kel is the first. She is thrust into a world that does not believe that she has what it takes to keep up with the boys. In particular her training master is against girls becoming knights. He puts her on probation. A obstacle that no first year knight trainee, known as a page, has ever had to endure. At the end of her first year he will decide whether she will get to continue her training or if she will just be sent packing.

Kel rises the challenge. She works just as hard as the boys, she doesn't back down from their challenges, and with the help of the friends that she makes at the school as well as a mysterious benefactor Kel works her way through her first page year and proves that she isn't here to mess around.

In a world of young adult books I believe that Pierce's heroines continue to hold up against their male counterparts. They never try to be anything that they are not. They use their own strengths and develop new ones when the occasion calls for it. Kel is my favorite. She isn't aided by magic like the previous heroines, who are wonderful in their own ways, and proves that you can do anything you put your mind to as long as you work hard and have courage.

This book series might be a little young for most of my blog readers but I hope that you'll consider giving these books to the young readers in your life. Girls in particular.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Reconstructing Amelia

Today's Book Recommendation is Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight.

McCreights novel begins when litigation lawyer and single mother Kate Baron is called by her daughters school. The phone call is to alert her that her daughter, a straight A student and over achiever, has been caught cheating. But, by the time Kate reaches the school she is met with the heart breaking news that her daughter is dead. A death that is pegged as a spontaneous suicide and the result of guilt over what she has done. None of this sits right with Kate and she begins an investigation into piecing the last few days of her daughters life back together in the hopes that she can figure out just what caused her daughters death.

This book can be a tearjerker at times so if you are someone who cries easily (guilty as charged here) then at the very least I recommend reading this with a box of tissues and something to act as a pick me up when you set the book aside for the night. Told from two perspectives, that of Kate post Amelia's death and Amelia's pre death, the novel is an exploration into the lives of mothers and daughters. About secrets that we keep from our parents and parts of children's lives that parents sometimes are never made part of. In this case it comes too late. The novel also tackles the subjects of bullies, how children are often pressured by outside forces to do things that they might not normally do, and about how far a mother will go to figure out the truth of her daughter.

There isn't much that I can say about this novel without giving away some of the major plot points. The joy's of mystery tales. I will say that I enjoyed this novel. I was right there with Kate wondering why her daughter would cheat and then commit suicide. Even from the beginning it just doesn't make sense. You'll be right there with Kate trying to figure out who is really telling the truth and who knows more than they are saying.

Check it out, but remember the tissues.


Friday, March 20, 2015

Ready Player One

Today's Book Recommendation is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Set in the year 2044 the novel centers on the character Wade Watts. A young man who escapes the ugly real world via an online utopia called the OASIS. Within this virtual world lies a treasure that most of the population seeks to discover. Hidden by the creator of the OASIS the hunt promises the ultimate access to the virtual utopia. But, to find this treasure players must solve a series of puzzles to determine where it is located. Things heat up for Wade when he discovers the first puzzle. Now the race is on and there are some powerful players who want the treasure for their own purposes.

If you are a fan of online gaming, old school computer games like Pac-Man, and 80's music a la Devo, then you will enjoy this novel immensely. If you like modern games like Fallout and Skyrim, which are two of my favorite games, you will probably also enjoy this read.

The novel also examines this idea of a virtual world take over. As in our world and our day to day lives being replaced and our virtual ones becoming our main lives. Wade even attends a virtual reality school where he logs in and attends classes via a virtual reality helmet. and if he isn't in school then he hangs out with his online friends in a virtual basement hangout similar to modern day chat rooms.  The author also plays with the idea of having the ability to reinvent yourself online. That if you aren't a fan of your real life persona that you can create an entirely new and sometimes better personality for yourself online. Its a novel that while entertaining makes you stop and think.

Wade quickly proves to be a very likable character who players of the real life games he comes across will appreciate the skill of and those of us who don't can just sit back and enjoy the ride on his adventure. With a cast of other gaming characters that will give everyone someone to root for, this novel will have you turning the pages with the same vigor as a button mashing game. Plus, you might want to read it soon before the movie adaption hits theaters.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Madman's Daughter

Todays Book Recommendation YA Edition is The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd. 

This wonderful young adult novel takes the classic story The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G Wells and imagines it from the point of view of the Doctor's daughter. It begins after Dr. Moreau has been discovered and proclaimed as a madman for his experimentation on animals. While they were unable to truly prove what the doctor was up to, it caused enough of a scandal to disgrace his daughter Lydia. However, she has managed to scrap together some semblance of a normal life working as a maid. All of this changes when Lydia discovers that her father is not only alive but has continued his experiments on a remote tropical island she is determined to seek him out and find out if the rumors are true.

In the first few pages Lydia proves that she is a force to be reckoned with. She isn't afraid to stand up for herself despite the limitations imposed on her by the London society she lives in. When she arrives on the island she is reunited with a childhood companion and also saves a man adrift at sea. This gives Shepherd a love triangle to play with which might sound like typical young adult content. What makes this stand out is the back drop of her father's island which is inhabited by strange half man and half animal servants. Along with the threat of an escaped creature turned violent. Shepherd manages to weave the story of madness along side the love story with such ease that they compliment each other rather than detract.

I was instantly taken with the novel. At one point while reading I was perched on the edge of my seat and hyperventilating. Shepherd's writing had pulled my in so that I felt like I was right there on the island with Lydia and that the danger she was in was right outside my own bedroom door. The only thing more distressing would've been if someone at knocked on my door. Eeep!

It also examines some of the themes that another of my favorite novels, Frankenstein, does. A question of who is really the monster here and who is the man? Who is the mad man and who is the genius? Do good intentions justify the means? Ultimately Lydia realizes that she has to stop her father's experiments but she eventually discovers that his madness may have stretched as far as her own blood.

This chilling and gripping novel might be classified as Young Adult literature but I believe that readers of any age will find this novel engaging and will be up late with the light on reading. Enjoy my fellow book worms!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Welcome Fellow Bookworms!

Hello there!

Welcome to the blog One Book to Another.

My name is Ariel. I will be your bookworm guide on what I hope will be a lovely tour of the books the world has to offer.  The main focus of this blog is to introduce you to all of the fabulous novels and stories that I personally have come across. Now, I know that we all have different tastes. We all have different ideas of what makes a great story. If you read a review, read the book, and find that you don't like it, that's okay! After all this is just a sample of the millions of books out there. So, if you don't find something that you like here I hope that this will at the very least get you to your local library or bookstore to pick up something that you do like.

A little bit about myself. I am an actor and a writer living in Los Angeles. I moved here with my husband to be Tyler, or Ty as I often call him, after graduating from California College of the Arts with an M.F.A in writing. Now, that my credentials are out of the way lets move on. Alongside my love for reading I also enjoy running and I absolutely adore classic movies. My favorite Actress is Audrey Hepburn but I will be honest I have only scraped the surface of her marvelous body of work.

While I intend for this blog to be mostly about books I will also occasionally post about my bookings as an actress. Hence the inspiration for my blogs name. But don't worry there will always be a book recommendation alongside those. If you aren't already follow me on twitter @ACeliaCo. 

I hope you enjoy the books and its nice to meet you all as well! And don't forget "A room without books is like a body without a soul."

-Ariel