In Other News…

So this past weekend, I drove an hour and a half by myself to a town I’d never been to before (HUGE deal for me) in order to FINALLY get to see my favorite artist during college perform live!

marylogoMary Prankster has been on hiatus for 12 whole years. So when I saw the announcement that she was doing “Pranksgiving 2017”, a pair of back-to-back of reunion shows, I HAD TO GO. Thankfully, the shows were near-ish to where I live and one of them was in a small town, Vienna VA. (The other one was in Baltimore and I HATE driving in Baltimore! Yea for small towns!)

The drive down was nerve-wracking, but the show itself more than made up for it! The two opening acts, Rodney Henry & Val Yumm were great. I’d never heard either of their music before, so I was very happy that I enjoyed all of it.

valyumm
Miss Val Yumm

Then Mary came on…and thank goodness my friends & I were standing right in front of the stage because the extremely exuberant crowd did NOT seem to have the same issues with personal space that I do. 😉 It was a blast though: singing at the top of our lungs, bopping in time, sharing jokes, and helping Mary remember her chords (lol).

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Mary Prankster

Mary even came out after the show to sign posters and sat down right in front of me! She was extremely nice and was wonderful with chatting with all of her fans. She seemed astonished that we were all still so excited to see her show, considering the length of time since the last one (and extremely grateful that we were all willing to stand for the whole thing 😉 ).

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We met Mary! 😀

It was a wonderful show and I’m glad I was able to finally experience Mary Prankster in real life.


Any of you ever heard of Mary Prankster? Ever go to a show? Tell me about it! 🙂

Here’s the link to her website if you want to know more: http://www.maryprankster.com/

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T5W – And Now I Can’t Get Natalie Merchant Out of My Head…

Hi all! Wow, it’s been AGES since I did a Top 5 Wednesday! I’m going to do a delayed post from last week, since I really like that topic, so…

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday Topic is: Books For Which You Are Thankful

I have quite a lot of books that I love, but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I think I’ll aim for books that have made a real difference in my life.

Fatso Jean, the Ice Cream Queen (Maryann MacDonald)

6-12-2017 1-27-43 PMDescription from Amazon: A misfit in a neighborhood filled with athletic youngsters, nine-year-old Jean seeks solace in eating ice cream, until the teasing of the “Mean Team” leads Jean to set up her own business making ice cream.

My Review: Strange pick, I know, but this was the very first book I read where I actually empathized with the main character. I myself was a large little girl who just wanted to fit in and have friends. This book taught me that you should love yourself, regardless of how you look, and that confidence in yourself is the key to living the life you want.

The Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon)

The_Tower_TreasureCondensed Description from Wikipedia: The Hardy Boys are fictional teenage brothers and amateur detectives. They live in the city of Bayport on with their father, detective Fenton Hardy, their mother, Laura Hardy, and their Aunt Gertrude. Frank, the older brother, is eighteen (sixteen in earlier versions), and his younger brother Joe is seventeen (fifteen in earlier versions). 

The Hardy Boys are constantly involved in adventure and action. Despite frequent danger, the boys “never lose their nerve … They are hardy boys, luckier and more clever than anyone around them.” They live in an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue: “Never were so many assorted felonies committed in a simple American small town. Murder, drug peddling, race horse kidnapping, diamond smuggling, medical malpractice, big-time auto theft, even (in the 1940s) the hijacking of strategic materials and espionage, all were conducted with Bayport as a nucleus.” 

My Review: This was the series that made me fall in love with reading. The original books are perfect for middle grade kids: easy to read/follow and filled with thrilling adventures and mysteries. Over the years, they’ve transitioned to include books for younger and older kids as well. To this day, I own over 200 of these books and I wouldn’t give them up for the world. 🙂

Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling)

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Condensed Description from Wikipedia: The novels chronicle the life of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The main story arc concerns Harry’s struggle against Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who intends to become immortal, overthrow the wizard governing body known as the Ministry of Magic, and subjugate all wizards and muggles, a reference term that means non-magical people.

My Review: Well, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who wasn’t in SOME way impacted by Harry Potter, but this was such a HUGE part of my life during college that I still to this day read the fanfic, buy all the new books and movies, and receive the merchandise from friends. I’m not QUITE as obsessed as I used to be, but I still really love the HP universe.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (Daniel Quinn)

ishmaelDescription from Goodreads: TEACHER SEEKS PUPIL. Must have an earnest desire to save the world. Apply in person. – It was just a three-line ad in the personals section, but it launched the adventure of a lifetime… 

My Review: There are some books that have to hit you at the right point in your life in order to make an impact. This is one of those books and it hit me at just the right moment: early college days, just learning to think for myself instead of believing what everyone else told me. I don’t remember a lot of what the book discusses, but I DO remember it being one of the first books that I actually thought about in depth (and not just because I was assigned to do so). It made me feel like reading could actually have a meaning besides just having fun or learning information.

Hyperbole & a Half (Allie Brosh)

2D9725260-coverDescription from Goodreads: This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative–like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it–but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly.

So I decided to just make a list of things that are in the book: Pictures, Words, Stories about things that happened to me, Stories about things that happened to other people because of me, Eight billion dollars*, Stories about dogs, The secret to eternal happiness*

*These are lies. Perhaps I have underestimated my sneakiness!

My Review: This is one of my go-to books when I’m feeling blue. I’ve done a full review of it here. This book has gotten me through many a tough day; days when all I wanted to do was sleep, but was disgusted with myself for not doing something with my life instead of sitting around like a lump. I will forever be grateful to Allie for putting herself out there and helping me realize that I wasn’t alone.


What are some of the books YOU are thankful for?

Book Review – A Study in Charlotte

Book: A Study in Charlotte – Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, YA

Description from Goodreads:

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

My Review:

Let me start off with a confession: I totally thought both Charlotte AND Jamie were going to be girls when I started this book. I don’t know why; it specifically states in the description “keep HIS distance”. I must have read it wrong. ::shrugs:: Anyway, that notion was disabused in the very first page, so I quickly realized I was incorrect. And that I was disappointed. (Me = ::giant sigh:: “This is going to turn into a romance book, isn’t it?”)

Not that this book wasn’t awesome. It really was. Once I got over my confusion about genders (and my confusion on how Jamie got a rugby scholarship to a USA school), I found myself enthralled in this homage to the Sherlock Holmes novels. The characters were both familiar and new. Charlotte has a lot of the same issues as Sherlock, though for completely different reasons, and Jaime is (temperamentally at least) extremely similar to Doctor Watson. But they were also completely original characters with their own spirits and issues.

It did seem a bit strange to me that Jaime felt like it was destiny that he become Charlotte’s Watson, even given his family history. His dad was completely obsessed with the Holmes’ too, almost to the point of willingly endangering his child in order to push the two together. It made it feel a TAD creepy at times. But, hey, it’s a Sherlock book, so we’ll overlook that for now. 😉

The mystery was really interesting. I was kept guessing until the very end of the book, which was a nice change from some of the other mystery books I’ve been reading recently. I loved the nod to the Sherlock mysteries; it was a great way to tie the timelines together a bit and pull in the Sherlock lovers. They even included the Moriarty family! But everything was brought into the story in a way that made sense. Nothing felt pushed in just to have a callback to the original stories.

And, yes, it is looking like the series WILL be romancy. But I do think it works for these two characters. Fingers crossed it doesn’t turn into either a “I want to be with you, but circumstances are keeping us apart (over and over an over again)” or a gushy “I love you so much, you are the only thing in the world that matters” kind of romance. Let’s keep up the mysteries! That’s kind of the point of a Sherlock book, right? 😉

I don’t want to spoil things too much, so I won’t say much more. But this was a great leading book for the series, finishing off the current mystery but leaving the reader with just enough hints towards other mysteries that might take place in the future. I’ll likely pick up the second book, “The Last of August”, once my library snags a copy.

Similar Book(s):

The Clockwork Scarab (Colleen Gleason)

Book Review – The Bone Witch

Book: The Bone Witch – Author: Rin Chupeco

Genre: Fiction, Fantasy, Supernatural, YA

Description from Goodreads:

Tea is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy makes her a bone witch, who are feared and ostracized in the kingdom. For theirs is a powerful, elemental magic that can reach beyond the boundaries of the living—and of the human.

Great power comes at a price, forcing Tea to leave her homeland to train under the guidance of an older, wiser bone witch. There, Tea puts all of her energy into becoming an asha, learning to control her elemental magic and those beasts who will submit by no other force. And Tea must be strong—stronger than she even believes possible. Because war is brewing in the eight kingdoms, war that will threaten the sovereignty of her homeland…and threaten the very survival of those she loves.

My Review:

I like Rin Chupeco. The Girl From The Well was one of only a handful of ‘instant love’ books I’ve read all year. That said…this book will not go down in my list of favorites.

I did like the characters in general. I LOVE Tea’s “Sister Ashas”: Mykaela, Polaire, and Althy.  They seem lively and like they can kick some butt. (Can we get a book just about them?) But the others…I dunno. Most of them, including Tea, seemed a little flat. Occasionally Tea would get angry, but other than that everyone just seemed to kind of be there. (Though I did also like Rahim, can we get a book about him too please?)

I also liked the premise: a world where magic is accepted and magic users have a special niche; some for healing, some for fighting, even some for fashion. 😉 The daeva were interesting too; monsters that rise from their graves every few years and have to be reconquered. Sounds like a great setup for a fantasy, right?

I think the main problem I had with this story was the pacing. Each chapter was split between Tea as a young apprentice and Tea now as an outcast Asha. This might have seemed like a great way to keep the reader interested in the final outcome of the novel, but having to go from super-magical, war-starting Tea, back to “now I have to learn to dance and sing” Tea was really annoying. To be fair, apparently this is the first book in a series (which I did NOT know going in), so the author was probably just world-building. Maybe the next book will have more action?

Overall I’d say, if you are looking for a cool fantasy series, go ahead and try this one. The author writes really well and there are some exciting scenes. Who knows, the rest of the series might be completely awesome.

*One quick pet peeve! Look, I know authors like to give their characters quirky names and that’s totally fine. But if you have a weird pronunciation for your character’s name…SAY SO AT THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK! Don’t wait 300 pages to tell me that Tea is pronounced “Tey-uh”, especially when all her sisters are named after flowers and Tea is an actual plant with an actual existing pronunciation. It was Hermione all over again (though that one was my fault, not really the author’s).

Similar Book(s):

I’m not sure what to put here, so I’ll just go for fantasy with a supernatural twist. 😉

Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor

Revenge of the Witch – Joseph Delany

 

Library Haul – Mystery, Fantasy, and Books About Books

Another day, another library haul. 😉

Whose Body? (Dorothy Sayers)

whosebodyDescription from Goodreads: The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder — especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What’s more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

Why I Picked It: Ever since I fell in love with Poirot, I’ve been slowly picking my way through the Golden Age mysteries. Having finished Miss Marple, I decided it was time to give another classic author a try. Dorothy Sayers is really well known and her Lord Peter Wimsey books sound right up my alley, so I decided to snag the start of the series.

A Study in Charlotte (Brittany Cavallaro)

astudyincharlotteDescription from Goodreads: The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar. 

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

Why I Picked It: I love Sherlock in most of his forms, so I’m usually up for ‘descendant’ novels as well. The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason seems like it had a similar vibe, if a bit steampunky, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. This one sounds kind of fun and the reviews were decent, so I figured I’d give it a go.

Odd & True (Cat Winters)

oddandtrueDescription from Goodreads: Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio. 

In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

Why I Picked It: I’ve been wanting to read this one for ages and I’m extremely excited that my library snagged a copy so early! I’m not sure what it is about Cat Winters, but I can’t seem to NOT binge read her books. Fingers crossed that the trend continues!

The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading (Phyllis Rose)

theshelfDescription from Goodreads: Can you have an Extreme Adventure in a library? Phyllis Rose casts herself into the wilds of an Upper East Side lending library in an effort to do just that. Hoping to explore the “real ground of literature,” she reads her way through a somewhat randomly chosen shelf of fiction, from LEQ to LES.

The shelf has everything Rose could wish for—a classic she has not read, a remarkable variety of authors, and a range of literary styles. The early nineteenth-century Russian classic A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov is spine by spine with The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux. Stories of French Canadian farmers sit beside those about aristocratic Austrians. California detective novels abut a picaresque novel from the seventeenth century. There are several novels by a wonderful, funny, contemporary novelist who has turned to raising dogs because of the tepid response to her work.

In The Shelf, Rose investigates the books on her shelf with exuberance, candor, and wit while pondering the many questions her experiment raises and measuring her discoveries against her own inner shelf—those texts that accompany us through life. “Fairly sure that no one in the history of the world has read exactly this series of novels,” she sustains a sense of excitement as she creates a refreshingly original and generous portrait of the literary enterprise.

Why I Picked It: Honestly, I was just checking whether or not my library had finally gotten Jenny Lawson’s last book, Furiously Happy, (spoiler: they didn’t) and I happened to notice that the entire shelf above that spot was books about books! This one sounds kind of fun…and like something I would probably do myself. 😉


So what are you currently reading? 🙂