Pen Pal Received!

Just a quickie update to let you all know that I was paired with my first pen pal this weekend! She is from Australia and we seem to have quite a lot in common. I’m very excited! She’s going to be sending me a letter first, so I’ll be sure to let you all know when it has arrived!

If you would like to try for a pen pal of your very own, I’ve found a couple of websites that seem good (I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones I stumbled across when I was searching out my own pen pal):

International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club (http://geekgirlpenpals.com/) – The title is a bit misleading; this one is for both gals AND guys. Basically anyone who wants to chat about things they are passionate about, like their favorite fandoms, hobbies, etc. The website also has forums and activities, so you can hang out with the crew online as well. 🙂

The Postal Society (http://thepostalsociety.com/) – Are you passionate about mail itself? This website is for people who enjoy the actual act of putting together mail and sending their creations out into the world. Some of the items they’ve posted pictures of are amazing! If you are super into pen palling, this is probably the spot for you. 🙂

Have fun and Happy Pen Palling!

…Is that a word? I’m totally making that a word. 😉

2015 Reading Challenge List

I just realized I never actually posted a list of the books I plan to read for my Reading Challenge! (Suggestions for the unmarked categories would be greatly appreciated!)

Bold = Completed (* = reviewed on this blog), Italics = Not Completed

1) A book with more than 500 pages: The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova)

2) A classic romance: Rebecca* (Daphne Du Maurier)

3) A book that became a movie: Princess Bride (William Goldman)

4) A book published this year: The Darkest Part of the Forest* (Holly Black)

5) A book with a number in the title: Life of Pi* (Yann Martel)

6) A book written by someone under 30: Fairytales for Wilde Girls (Allyse Near)

7) A book with non human characters: Redwall* (Brian Jaques)

8) A funny book: Good Omens* (Neil Gaiman)

9) A book by a female author: In the Shadow of Blackbirds (Cat Winters)

10) A mystery or thriller: The Yard (Alex Grecian)

11) A book with a one word title: Hunters (Aoife Sheridan)

12) A book of short stories: Geektastic (Holly Black & Cecil Castellucci)

13) A book set in a different country: Full Dark House (Christopher Fowler)

14) A nonfiction book: What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions (Randall Munroe)

15) A popular author’s first book: The Silver Pigs (Lindsey Davis)  

16) A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet: The Reluctant Assassin (Eoin Colfer)

17) A book a friend recommended:

18) A Pulitzer Prize winning book: A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)

19) A book based on a true story: Blood Royal (Eric Jager)

20) A book at the bottom of your to-read list: The Magicians (Lev Grossman)

21) A book your mom (or dad) loves: The Moonspinners (Mary Stewart)

22) A book that scares you: Asylum (Madeleine Roux)  

23) A book more than 100 years old:

24) A book chosen based entirely on it’s cover: Astray (Emma Donoghue)

25) A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t:

26) A memoir: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (Jenny Lawson)

27) A book you can finish in a day: The Ocean at the End of the Lane (Neil Gaiman)

28) A book with antonyms in the title: Seriously
I’m Kidding (Ellen Degenres)

29) A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: A Clockwork Scarab (Colleen Gleason)

30) A book that came out the year you were born: Fevre Dream (George RR Martin)

31) A book with bad reviews:

32) A trilogy: Everlost, Everwild, Everfound (Skinjacker Series) – Finished #1 (Neil Shusterman)

33) A book from your childhood: A Wrinkle In Time (Madeline L’Engle)

34) A book with a love triangle: The Raven Boys (Maggie Stiefvater)

35) A book set in the future: Ready Player One (Ernest Cline)

36) A book set in high school: Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky)

37) A book with a color in the title: Black Ice (Andrew Lane)

38) A book that made you cry: Looking For Alaska (John Green)

39) A book with magic: The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett)

40) A graphic novel: Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes (Neil Gaiman)

41) A book by an author you’ve never read before: The Buntline Special (Mike Resnick)

42) A book you own but haven’t read yet: House of Dark Shadows (Robert Liparulo)

43) A book that takes place in your hometown (or surrounding area): Night of the Hunter (Davis Grubb)

44) A book that was originally written in a different language:

45) A book set during Christmas: The Twelve Deaths of Christmas (Marion Babson)

46) A book by an author with your same initials: Dead End in Norvelt (Jack Gantos)

47) A play:

48) A banned book: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café (Fannie Flagg)

49) A book based on or turned into a TV show: Rememberance of the Daleks (Ben Aaronovitch)

50) A book you started but never finished: Adulting: How to Become a Grown-up in 468 Easy(ish) Steps (Kelly Williams Brown)

I’ve completed 24 out of 52 so far; not too shabby. I’m currently reading A Confederacy of Dunces for the Pulitzer Prize category. Wish me luck! 🙂

Book Review – Redwall

Book: Redwall – Author: Brian Jacques

Genre: Childrens, Adventure

Description from Amazon:

What can the peace-loving mice of Redwall Abbey do to defend themselves against Cluny the Scourge and his battle-seasoned army of rats? If only they had the sword of Martin the Warrior, they might have a chance. But the legendary weapon has long been forgotten-except, that is, by the bumbling young apprentice Matthias, who becomes the unlikeliest of heroes.

My Review:

Brian Jacques’s short Castaways series was one of my all time favorites in high school, so it always surprised people that I had never read any of his other work, especially the long-lived Redwall series. After years of recommendations, I decided to finally give it a try for my 2015 Reading Challenge.

Being a children’s book, the pace was a tiny bit slow; though, conversely, some things seem to unbelievably quickly, like Matthias suddenly switching from “bumbling apprentice” to “warrior/leader”. The dialogue was also bit simple, but that’s to be expected. Nonetheless, the ideas weren’t dumbed down, which was a welcome change for this age group; it’s always nice to see an author that realizes that children can understand deep concepts as well as adults.

The story itself was actually very interesting and there were several times I found myself worried about what might happen next to my favorite characters. It can be rare to find a children’s book where the characters are in real life peril. The battles were quick paced and thrilling, and the villains were enjoyably villainous.

Oddly, the most interesting character for me wasn’t really even in this book. I became quite intrigued with the story of Martin the Warrior. Who was he? What battles did he face? Why would they make his tomb so hard to find? I had so many questions about Martin that weren’t answered in this book; I may have to read the book about him as well.

Overall, this is a nice book for a kid who loves reading about adventures, knights, and heroic deeds.

Similar Books:

Castaways of the Flying Dutchman – Brian Jacques

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – Robert C. O’Brien

Book Review – The Darkest Part of the Forest

Book: The Darkest Part of the Forest – Author: Holly Black

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Supernatural

Description from Amazon:

Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointy as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down and a hero is needed to save them all, Hazel tries to remember her years spent pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

My Review:

In a town where the fairy world is never far away, life seems to be very interesting. My favorite thing about the book is that Holly Black was able to so completely entwine the worlds together. Usually, when I read these types of books, there’s at least one point story where I go “well THAT was over the top”, but even during the most monstrous attacks in this book, everything just seemed so plausible.

Perhaps the story was so believable because of the characters in the book. I thought they were all fairly well developed and seemed very realistic for their age level (high-school). They spoke and acted just like normal kids would, and reacted to the events as if they were a problem, but a problem they lived their whole lives expecting to happen, which lent credibility to even the most audacious bits of the storyline. (I also thought all of the characters were likable, which doesn’t happen all that often in YA books, so I was very happy about that.)

Part of the believability must also have come from how well the author understood the world she had created. Black describes everything in detail, from the beings themselves to their woods to their habits. She knows the world so well that she is able to explain everything that is happening in a way that makes you believe that there’s no reason it shouldn’t be happening. But she also knows her audience and doesn’t go into SO much detail that the reader gets bored.

Aside from not having to worry about suspension of disbelief, I also liked the story itself. It was a nice story with some interesting plot twists. And you actually worried about whether the characters would survive. A lot of YA books in this genre try to give their characters a super-power or some secret knowledge that you know will save them in the long run. This one didn’t really do that, at least, not overtly (I will admit, there is at least one super-power, but it doesn’t initially come off as really useful, lol). In this story, you actually cared about the characters and were concerned they might not make it to the end of the book.

It also helped that you weren’t inundated with the characters’ backstories upfront. As the book went along, relevant events in their past popped up and made you understand their reactions to what was happening in the story. This did cause some confusion in the beginning, but I think overall it was a good strategy, since trying to force all the background into the beginning of the book probably would have lost the readers’ interest.

So without giving any of the plot away, I will just say that I really enjoyed this book. There was an air of suspense and mystery through-out the entire story and plenty of action to keep you interested. If you enjoy YA and the fairy realm, you will enjoy this book. 🙂

Similar Books:

Grimm Fairytales (Original) – Brothers Grimm

The Replacement – Brenna Yovanoff

First Pen Pal!

At the beginning of March, I discovered The International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club!

It’s pretty cool site where you can sign up for a pen pal based on your favorite geeky things. There are forums, contests, and all sorts of other things too. Basically it’s a site where you can be overly enthusiastic about whatever geeky things you love and no one will look at you weird for it. I HAVE FOUND MY PEOPLE. 😉

So I decided to go ahead and sign up for a pen pal this month. It will be my very first ever pen pal! I’ve never really corresponded (even with friends and family) via snail mail, so this will be an entirely new experience for me. Let’s hope that I’m better at striking up conversation in writing than I am face to face. 😉

We will be assigned our pen pals in the next couple of days and I am super-excited! I will keep you all in the loop on how it goes. Wish me luck! 😀

Book Review – Rebecca

Book: Rebecca – Author: Daphne Du Maurier

Genre: Fiction, Gothic Romance

Description from Amazon:

“Last Night I Dreamt I Went To Manderley Again.”

With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten—a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house’s current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim’s first wife—the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca.

My Review:

Let me preface this review by saying that I am not a fan of romance novels, so seeing that one of the categories for my Reading Challenge was “a classic romance” made me actually groan in dismay. The “classic” designation made it even worse, because the most obvious “classic” romances are all from the Victorian era, for which I have an unnatural hatred.

This being the case, I searched out a book that was fairly well known (but NOT from the Victorian era) and that seemed like something I could stomach. Knowing my penchant for spooky books, my romance-loving friends were quick to point out this novel to me.

I will be honest, the first 200 or so pages were extremely boring. The main character, who is never actually named, is one of the most self-conscious and neurotic characters I have ever come across (and I read a lot of young adult books). Maxim seemed alright, but distant enough that he wasn’t really in the book as much as it seemed he should have been. Conversely, Maxim’s friends were likable to the point where I actually found myself wishing the book had been about their life instead. And Mrs. Danvers, well…

There was not much to the plot at this point either. The lady marries Maxim, seemingly on a whim, and moves to his house, where she feels out of place. And that’s it. For 200+ pages.

The ending, though…that’s were I got sucked in. After having spent almost a week trying force myself to finish the book, I read the last 100 pages in a single night. I won’t give away the twist, but trust me, it’s worth waiting for. And just when I started to like the main character and was actually excited about reading the book…it ended. Right in the middle of the FINALLY interesting part! Grrr….

So I don’t know about this one. If you like romances or turn-of-the-century books, I’d say give it a try. If you are just in it for the “spookiness”, there are much better ways to spend your time.

Similar Books:

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Welcome to Night Vale Live Tour

Last summer, I discovered a new (to me) podcast called “Welcome to Night Vale”…and I fell in love instantly. For those of you who’ve never heard of it, my all time favorite description is “It’s like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King started a Sim City and left it running on it’s own for a few years”. Seriously, it’s that awesome.

So imagine my excitement when I found out Night Vale was going to be doing a US tour this spring! And they were coming to DC, which is only a couple hours away from me! I managed to con one of my co-workers (who had never listened to it) into going with me as a Girls’ Night Out and we had a blast!

The Gals
The Gals

I won’t give away the plot of the show, since they will be selling a recording of it after the tour is over and they asked us not to spoil it for our fellow fans, but it was really good! The entire cast was there: Cecil (of course), Carlos, John…you know…the farmer?, Tamika Flynn, Steve Carlsburg (yuck), even Joseph Fink showed up (briefly) as a new intern! 🙂 (Sorry about the horrendous pictures, btw. I finally figured out why everyone takes really bad pictures at concerts. 😩 )

Dessa (aka The Weather)
Dessa (aka The Weather)
Carlos! :D
Carlos & Cecil (with Disparition on hand to set the mood)
"Why? Why did you do it?"
“Why? Why did you do it?”
The Cast
The Cast

If you enjoy the podcast and cannot make it to the tour, I would definitely recommend downloading the recording once it is out. Everyone in the cast did an amazing job, the weather was one of the finest I’ve heard on the show (I need to get Dessa’s CD!), and the story line was really good (creepy and hilarious, as all the best episodes are). And if you ARE going to the show…would you snag me the code for the book preview? They ran out of postcards by the time I made it through the line at the merchandise desk. I figure it can’t hurt to ask, right? 😉

And now, I wish you all…

"Goodnight, Night Vale, Goodnight."
“Goodnight, Night Vale, Goodnight.”