Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Easy Breezy Day

This is how today feels for me and it is making me HAPPY!
Book Flowers
How do you feel today?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Most Wonderful Places On Earth

I've been planning my next trip to the book store which takes almost as much care as some people spend on their vacations.  What books do I need, what books do I want, which books will have to wait until next time, what is my back up in case they don't have one on my list, how much time should be devoted to just wandering the stacks until  a book speaks to me?  All of this planning got me thinking about doing a world tour, so to help myself plan I have compiled a list of all the book stores I want to visit in the world, here is the start of that never ending list.
Livraria Lello Bookshop
This absolutely gorgeous bookstore is in Porto, Portugal and yes that is a double red carpet staircase.  This stunning shop also features a stain glass skylight.

File:El Ateneo Bookstore.jpg
El Ateneo
This Brazilian book store combines my two loves, books and theatre.  This shop is actually in a converted theatre, retaining it's dramatic charm while giving me BOOKS!

Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore
Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore
This Holland bookstore is inside of a converted 13th century Gothic church.  History, beauty and books all rolled into one.

The Bookworm
This English language book store in Beijing, China has Whiskey Wednesday's.  That and it's fabulous name make it totally worth the trek.

El Pendulo
This book store in Mexico feature live greenery and trees, not to mention a cafe to load up on caffeine.  The perfect spot to enjoy the outdoor reading experience without all those pesky bugs.

What is the coolest bookstore you have ever been to?  How sad is it that so many of these great places are closing, especially here in the USA?  How many books do you think I have to buy to keep them all in business?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Avian Transformations

Wooohoo, finally getting my reading groove back, after about two months of no time at all or nothing but time I have finally succeeded in returning to my about a book a week rhythm and since I am usually reading multiple books this gives me plenty of variety and fodder for my incessant rambling.  The latest book to fall to my awesome reading powers (I'm feeling a bit loopy this morning) is The Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey which is a retelling of Swan Lake.  I picked this one up because I love retelling's, and I love the original ballet of Swan Lake and so far I have like Ms. Lackeys work so sounded like a pretty good bet to me. Also the cover was awesome.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD
Odile Von Rothbart is the only child of the great sorcerer Baron Von Rothbart and is desperate for his approval. While she herself is becoming an accomplished and talented sorceress, her father relegates her to the role of housekeeper and guardian to his flock of transformed swans.  Von Rothbart has raised his daughter to believe that all women are inherently devious, traitorous wenches, good for only serving a man loyalty.  To this end he finds women who he feels have been unfaithful in some way and transforms them into swans, only allowing them to turn back into humans in the moonlight.  For the most part Odile and the swans live an isolated life in a sumptuous, yet tightly controlled manor far from civilization.  The leader or Queen of the Swans is Odette, a young woman who's father promised her mother on her deathbed that he would never force Odette to marry.  As soon as her mother was dead Odette's father tried to force her to marry an older man who had already gone through several wives.  To avoid this fate, Odette convinced one of her
fathers squires that she was in love with him and persuaded him to help her run away.  As she was on her way to the great Empire to try and plead her case, she was overtaken by Von Rothbart and turned into a swan. All of the other girls we assume have similar stories, but Odette is the one we are most concerned with.  Odile keeps an aloof eye on her charges, never mingling, always keeping herself apart and trying desperately to earn her fathers attention and approval.  Meanwhile in another kingdom the Queen Regent Clothilde schemes with her minstrel to find a way to keep the crown away from her only son the Prince Siegfried when he comes of age in the coming year.  She has tried her best to keep him from becoming a competent ruler by encouraging his interests in drinking, hunting and women.  After an incident with a gypsy girl who kills herself after a carnal encounter with the Prince, he decides to try and change his ways.  He begins by finding places for all of the vulnerable women at court, sleeping only with women who approach him first (yep this is considered better behavior).  He starts drinking less and listening more, earning the respect of many nobles who earlier thought him to wild to make a good ruler.  His mother decides the best way to control him is to marry him off to a young, beautiful, docile, tractable woman, one whom the Queen could control and by proxy control her son.  Back with the swans Odette finally confronts Von Rothbart who then makes a promise that if Odette can make a man love her, knowing everything she did, and keep him from betraying that love for one month, she and the other swans will be free.  To this end Von Rothbart takes the swans and his daughter on a long journey.
 Through out this journey he shows little regard for the well-being or comfort of either his daughter or the flock.  Odile does her best and finds many ways to take care of herself and her little flock of swan maidens.  Every time she starts to feel resentful, her father comes and makes it all seem like a test, giving her the bits of approval she so desperately craves.  Oddly enough though she is left exhausted every time her father comes to visit.  She soon becomes more friendly with the flock and Odette in particular starts to spend time with the pale sorceress.  Odette puts forward the theory that Von Rothbart may be draining Odile of her powers to use for his own purposes.  Odile does not want to believe this, but the suspicion has been planted.  Von Rothbart makes an appearance and informs Odette that the man she needs to woo will be appearing soon.  Back at the castle a hunting party, including six princess hand selected by the Queen who are seeking to become the Prince's bride set out.  The Prince has no delusions about marrying for love and spends his time with the princesses looking for a woman who would make a suitable queen and would not be to upset if he spent time in other beds.  Eventually he and his best friend Benno go off to hunt swans on their own one night, setting up the inevitable meeting between Siegfried and Odette.  Siegfried is instantly struck by the transforming
maidens beauty and wants to know more.  Odette begs him to come back the next night and she will tell him her tale.  Odile listens in on the conversation between the Prince and Odette.  Odette tells him everything, including the reasons she was turned into a swan and the part about him remaining faithful.  Siegfried actually pauses at that one, but decides that it is worth it to be able to marry Odette. They make arrangements to meet at the Prince's birthday party at the castle where he will announce his intentions to marry her.  Odette and all the rest of the swans are overjoyed at this development and Odile is also very happy for her friend.  Von Rothbart appears the day of the party and informs Odile that they will be attending to watch the Prince and Odette.  After fashioning amazing costumes for them the sorcerer leads his daughter into the party, as Soon as the prince sees her he calls her Odette, making her realize that her father has transformed her into Odette's likeness and is now controlling her body.  No matter how hard she tries, she cannot shake her fathers control of her.  Siegfried pledges his love to "the woman at his side", effectively breaking his vow to Odette.  Chaos ensues and Von Rothbart kills the Queen and minstrel, but not before the minstrel confesses everything.  Siegfried and Odette reunite at the lake and confront Von Rothbart who is to strong for either of them.  Rather than be parted the pair plunge of a cliff into the lake.  Odile, finally realizing how evil her father is, kills him and then goes to save the Prince and the Swan Queen.  She is successful and the Prince assumes the crown and marries Odette.  All of the swan maidens are transformed into humans permanently and found places of honor among the Swan Queens court.  Odile is given the lake where the swans were as her own land and the title of Countess in her own right.  She serves as a councilor to the king and Court Magician and they all live happily ever after.

I was excited to read this one because the traditional Swan Lake ballet is one of my favorites and I was interested to see how it would be transformed into a fantasy story.  The author wrote it like it was set in medieval times, in our real world, in real European countries.  She used the actual religious and political ideas of that time period, giving a realistic spin to the whole thing. The story itself was quit lovely, I could actually see scenes of it danced in my head, and up until the end it actually followed the basic story line of the ballet pretty faithfully.  The role of women in this book, while accurate for it's setting, was a little disturbing.  Siegfried relationship with women, and the men's views on their place was definitely archaic to put it nicely.  Von Rothbart's view of women was despicable and we are never really given the real reason for these views other than his wife died when Odile was very young.  I loved watching Odile's transformation from an eager to please puppet to a strong resourceful woman. I also loved that she was already a beautiful intelligent noble who used her own resources to save her friends...who were also intelligent, kind, women.   The six princesses that were selected for the Princes perusal were interesting as well.  I liked the different personalities and the different way they were viewed by the Prince and his mother.  Parts of the book were slow, especially the hunting scenes of which there were many.  I guess if you were interested in medieval hunting techniques this could be interesting, but to me it just added unnecessary pages. Overall it was a good book, it won't be every bodies cup of tea, but lovers of courtly fiction will find much to enjoy, and if like me you like the original ballet, you will not be disappointed. And I personally liked it so much better than the movie.  I give this book 7 out of 10 crowned swans.

What do you think of a ballet being rewritten as a story?  How much leeway do modern writers have when writing books set in different periods of history?  How much do you want to wear Odile's black swan costume?!?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Book Hoarder

Hi everybody, my name is Super Bookworm Girl...and I am a book hoarder...and darn proud of it!  I came to this realization after unloading all of my travel books from my most recent road trip (along with a few additions I picked up on the way...what?!?!  I needed them I swear) and had to make big huge piles by my bed because I am completely out of book shelve space.  After tripping over all my books trying to get in and out of bed every night, my wonderful Hubbin graciously offered up his shelf space, putting his books in boxes...which gave me enough space
for about half of my left over books.  So now I am trying to find ways to cram even more bookshelves into my little apartment, trying to figure out if we really need a shower when there is room for at least two book shelves in there, and I'm pretty sure that the dishwasher could be gutted and refurbished as fantastic book storage...Hmmm ok so maybe I need a wee bit of help :-) Anybody know how to build a bookshelf out of a fishtank?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Big Dragons, Little Dragons

My nephews love dragons, my nephews are also very easily scared so trying to find a dragon book that was about dragons, but not scary, but not cartoonish because those are not "real" dragons was a bit of a challenge.
Lucky for me I already owned the perfect book Discovery of Dragons by Graeme Base.  I love this book as an adult because besides the absolutely amazing illustrations (which is totally worth it all by themselves), it is also hilarious.  It is broken into several sections, each dealing with a "discoverer of dragons" all of whom stumble upon these delightful beasts by some accidental means. The book is written in a research
journal/scrapbook like format with "letters" from the explorers, illustrations (make sure you look closely at the border illustrations, these are the funniest), and "scientific" data on each creature.  The dragons themselves range from the familiar type such as St. Georges Dragon, to the more unusual Livingston's Demon. For the boys I did not read every word since they would have gotten bored, but they LOVED the pictures and would ask a zillion questions about them as we went through the book.  I would recommend this beautiful, funny, intriguing picture book to anybody and everybody.

Will I ever get to old for picture books?  What is your favorite dragon?  How much do you love unexpected humor?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pool Time

One of my favorite things about summer is reading in or around the pool.  The feel of the sun baking my skin (with the appropriate levels of sunblock of course) and then a quick dip in the cool water to refresh you, all while getting absorbed in a great book.  Here are some amazing pools I would like to read by/in.

I love the idea of chairs in the water, best of both worlds, especially with the little tables
 The Sarojin 
Those pool side bed/chairs look so comfy for a day of reading
Marina Bay Sands
A little urban setting to go with some of those urban fantasies I've been enjoying recently
The Most Amazing Pools of the Planet (24 pics)
Hotel Hacienda Na Xamena
How is this for awe inspiring, if you didn't feel like reading, you could probably write a book just based on the scenery
Truck Pool
Of course if you don't have thousands of dollars to spend on a luxury pool vacation, you could always build your self one of these...same thing right? :-)

Where is your favorite summer spot to read?  Are you a strictly indoor air conditioned sort of reader, or do you prefer to sweat sun screen all over your book?  What is your feeling on e-readers and the pool?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Running And Running...Yep Still Running

On my road trip last week I finished a couple of books that have been on my list for a long time.  The book I will be rambling about today is one that is recommended for fans of the Hunger Games trilogy or just the YA dystopian genre in general.  I like me a well set up dystopian society and this series came highly recommended so off I dove into The Mazerunner the first book in a trilogy (plus a prequel).  Overall I have mixed feelings about this book, and hope that finishing the trilogy will fill in some of the gaps and make a better or at least more complete impression.  As always SPOILERS AHEAD
 The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Series #1)
We start the book in a small dark room, where our protagonist wakes up with no memory but his name, Thomas.  The door opens and he is greeted by a bunch of teenage boys who are not very helpful in providing any details of his situation.  He is in what the other boys call the Glade, an area of several acres that contains a farm/slaughter house, gardens, a small forest/graveyard, and a ramshackle house called the Homestead.  The whole thing is contained by massive walls with giant gaps on all four sides.  Thomas is assigned to Chuck who until Thomas's arrival was the newest boy. Chuck informs him that a new boy is brought to the Glade every 30 days without fail.  That night Thomas witnesses the walls closing, completely sealing the boys in the Glade.  He finds out that outside the walls is the Maze, which the boys hope by
solving will provide the key to there release.  Thomas has an extremely difficult time getting information about his situation, but eventually figures out that nobody in the Glade has specific memories of their life before arriving, just general knowledge memories.  He also learns that everybody is assigned a job based on their talents and that the Runners are a group of boys who go run and map the Maze everyday in hopes of solving it.  Oddly enough even though nobody remembers anything about their prior life, a boy named Gally insists that he knows Thomas, that it is his fault that they are all stuck in the Glade. The next day while taking a tour with Newt the second in command, a boy named Ben who has been going through what the boys call the Changing goes crazy, screaming about seeing Thomas and attempting to kill him.  He is stopped by Albie, the leader of the group and condemned to banishment outside of the walls.  Thomas is told that banishment is akin to a death sentence because anybody caught out in the maze after dark is always killed by Grievers.  Grievers are a cyborg type monster that look like giant blobs of slimy pink flesh that are augmented by any number of lethal metal devices.  If you are stung by a Griever you must get back to the Glade as fast as you can so you can receive the Grief serum, which brings on the change, which also gives you back some of the memories of your old life.  You would think this is a good thing, but the process is so horrific that even if you don't go crazy like Ben, the boys still refuse to talk about any memories they might have gained.  As all this is taking place withing a day of Thomas's arrival, the alarm for the metal box goes off again and when it is opened a girl is inside.  This is unusual for many reasons, a girl has never been to the Glade before, she came only one day after Thomas, and she bears a message stating that she is the last one, there will be no more.  She goes comatose and is taken to the Homestead do recover.  Thomas is immediately put under suspicion because even though he has only been there a day, nothing strange happened before he got there.  Thomas thinks this is ridiculous as he has no memories of his own, but oddly does feel a sense of familiarity about the girl.  Albie and the leader of the Runners, Minhoe go out to the maze to investigate other strange things and get stuck when Albie gets stung by a Griever.  Thomas, against orders goes into the Maze to try and help them.  He is able to not only defeat several Grievers, but manages to save Albie and Minhoe as well.  When they get
back to the Glade everybody is astonished and Thomas is made a Runner.  Albie gets the serum and goes through the Change.  When he wakes up he tries to tell Thomas some of his memories but is prevented by some mysterious force.  The girl starts talking telepathically to Thomas while still in a coma, telling him that she has initiated the ending...whatever that means.  She wakes up and tells him her name is Teresa and that she remembers that the Maze is a code.  Everybody is mistrustful of the girl, especially since what ever she triggered caused the doors of the wall to remain open after nightfall, allowing the Grievers to come into the Glade.  Gally comes back and tells everybody that the Grievers are going to kill one person a night until it is all over and then sacrifices himself to the Grievers who then leave until the next night. Knowing that he has the memories of how to end this stuck in his head, Thomas intentionally gets stung by a Griever and goes through the Change.  He comes back and tells everybody that he and Teresa were forced by scientists to help create the Glade and the Maze, that there telepathic link made them very special somehow.  The scientist were then got tired of the experiment after a couple of years and dumped Thomas and Teresa into the Maze to finish it up.  They figure out that the shifting Maze is actually a code that needs to be input into a computer that is hidden in an optical illusion of the edge of a cliff.  The gang fights there way through the Grievers, losing most of the boys and finally make it to the outside.  In a supposed final test Chuck is killed by a zombie Gally?  Maybe?  Not quit sure what happened there, but it did.  The remaining boys and Teresa are rescued by a group claiming that they are against this type of cruel testing and explain the current state of things.  A super sun flare fried a good chunk of Earth the same time a plague, called The Flare started ravaging the remaining humans.  The boys were put into the Glade to see who would not give up looking for a solution, even when there was no solution (yeah doesn't make sense to me either).
 Apparently they were looking for a group of boys who would be able to keep up the search for a cure for the Flare, not because they were smart, or had medical inclinations, or any sort of training, but because they kept looking for an impossible solution...even though there wasn't one. Anyways the scientists got sick of waiting for the boys to not give up on finding a solution, even though they claimed there wasn't one, even though there obviously was one 'cause they found it, but that wasn't the point so they sent Thomas and Teresa in to finish it prove who knows what.  The boys and Teresa are put into separate rooms for the night and told they will be completely filled in the next day.  The book ends with a memo from one scientist to another, stating that the fake rescue went off without a hitch and they are looking forward to the next phase of testing.

If you actually read through that whole long synopsis you may have gotten the vibe that a few things did not work for me :-)  I think the hardest part for me to swallow was the premise of the whole experiment, which was to find boys who would not give up looking for a solution, even though they kept saying there was no solution...but there was a solution because they used it to get out in the end.  There was a lot of contradictory information like that in the book, which to me takes away some of its credibility.  My other big issue was that essentially the whole book was about these two kids (Thomas and Teresa) who get dumped into this
experiment and pretty much give the boys step by step instructions on how to get out of the Maze. It seemed like a huge cop out.  Also for having so many info dumps, I was still left very confused on the whole point of the experiment, why it was only boys who were chosen, what was the point of Teresa and Thomas and well pretty much everything.  I get that finding a cure for the plague was pretty much impossible and they were looking for people who would not give up the search, but I still don't understand how torturing a bunch of teenage boys is going to result in people capable of finding a medical cure for this rampant disease.  If I were any one of those boys who had to watch my fellow mates suffer and be killed and then dumped in this horrible world, I would do everything in my power to NOT help anybody.  All that being said I finished the book in less then two days, the story kept me turning the pages and I still want to know what the heck is going on.  The character development of most of the boys, especially Minhoe and Chuck were really well done and watching a group of young guys who were working together to make a peaceful, productive society instead of a savage, fighting, Alpha male one was very refreshing.  I will be reading the next two books and the prequel because I am hoping that all together they will make a coherent story, but at this point I am a bit disappointed. You all go read it for yourself and tell me what you think Ok?

What is your biggest pet peeve in reading?  Have you ever read a book that is page turning and not so great all at the same time?  Do you love how my ramblings are almost as long as the book?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Back In Action...Finally

The DarkHello all of my wonderful readers, I appreciate your patience while I ran around the countryside with little to no Internet access. Never fear though I am back and ready to ramble on and on and on.  I had a great time with my nephews K-man and R-boy they were awesome.  I am still trying to decide if my favorite part was having K-man read aloud to me, all by himself, sounding out each word and getting so excited and proud when he figured a word out.  Or maybe it was having both boys snuggled up tight with me under a blanket while going through my Graeme Base collection (Discovery of Dragons was there favorite).  Possibly it was when K-man and I tagged team read The Dark by Lemony Snicket to R-boy.  I also got some solid reading time in myself, finishing two books and getting about half way through three others, but more on that in my future ramblings.  I also got to spend some time at Barnes and Nobles with the boys and my sis in law E (who has excellent taste in books) which helped with some of the brutal humidity.  I also acquired
 three new tomes to add to my growing collection of TBR's so overall it was a good break.  Now I have to get back into the habit Hubbin waking me up on time, putting on big girl clothes and getting my hinney to work on time.  On the plus side I also get to go back to my station and start running with my crew again so I am looking forward to that.  I have a couple of things planned to finish of the summer, and am gearing up for a couple of great reading projects for the fall, so stay tuned as we now return back to our regularly scheduled programming.
What have you been doing with yourself this summer?  What books are you getting crossed off your summer reading list?  Do you keep buying books to add to the list?  Is your beach/pool bag packed with more books than swim stuff?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Vacation Time!

Hello my lovely readers, I am on vacation for the next couple weeks so posting will be spotty at best.
I promise that this should be the last hiatus for a while, and by August I have an awesome surprise for everybody that I have been working on all summer!  Leave me your favorite vacation reads.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cough, Hack, Wheeze

Not feeling it at all today folks
Can't even concentrate to read I feel so blechy!
Plus side is that my awesome amazing nephews come in tomorrow night so that is making me feel better already!  Happy Reading and have a great weekend everybody!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Another Night At The Circus

Went and saw Now You See Me the other day and was very pleasantly surprised, I really enjoyed it.  Best part was I honestly did not see the ending coming.  Of course as with all good movies, it makes me want to go read a book on the same I decided to reread The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I was very curious to see how it would read a second time, would the magic still be there, would the ending still annoy me, would I pick up stuff I missed the first time around?  So here we go, my second look (to read my first impressions go here).
The plot stayed the same (shocking right!), but the magic was still there, in fact there were little tidbits I had forgotten about that popped back to surprise me (the amazing simplicity of the Pool of Tears for one). Overall I was pleased at the rereadability of this book.  Most of my original impressions remain unaltered, I still felt like I was walking through an art gallery most of the time, rather then just reading a straight forward story.  This time though I felt like I got more of the story, and more of the characters came through.  I think not being quit so caught up in the descriptions of the circus let me dwell a bit more on the different characters.  I caught a lot more of the foreshadowing this time through as well, which actually helped make the ending feel less abrupt.  Once you know what the ending entails, you realize that the hints, visions, and preparations had been going on for quit some time.  The only downside to rereading a book this magical is that it does lose just a wee bit of that initial WOW factor, and you tend to pick up on some of the more mundane details which ground it into reality a bit more then I wanted to be grounded :-)  All this being said I will definitely be reading this book again on some gray raining day when I need a bit of magic in my dreary day.
What is your second impressions usually like?  Do you usually find yourself liking a book more or less upon second (or third...) reread?  Do you ever feel guilty for rereading a book when your TBR pile is so huge?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Book Adoption

Donating books is awesome, it is a quick and easy way to brighten somebodies day.  There are ample opportunities to donate to all kinds of places, people, and groups.
Is it bad this makes me want to change my name to Charity?
The biggest problem I have with giving away books is a) I love my books and reread them so it is rare I give away books of my own and b) I would want my books to go to a loving home and would have to have a whole adoption process.  I would first need the potential book receivers to fill out an application to answer such questions as
When did you get your first library card?
What is the feeling you get when you first touch/smell/see a book?
How many other books do you have?
Do you have the proper storage/temp/lighting to protect a book?
How often do you actually read books?
Not to mention a full background check to ensure that there is no history of book abuse, book abandonment, or book neglect.
After the potential receiver of the book has been properly vetted a Home Visit would be in order to get a feel for the place.  Are there other books in the house?  Do they look like they have been read? How are they stored/displayed?  Does the potential new book owner light up with sheer joy when talking about his/her books?  
Only after I have made absolutley sure that this book and its new owner are a perfect fit, and that my book would be going to a good home could I possibly donate on of my babies.  All that being said it is usually just easier for me to go buy a new book and donate that before I form an attachment to it :-)  
Happy Reading Everybody