Word Nerd

Apr 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/Top Ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists!

Top Ten Words/Topics That Instantly Make Me Pick Up a Book

1. Movies & TV Shows
Okay, so this doesn't technically apply to books about ALL movies or TV shows. It's really only when the books are about movies and shows that I like already. But still! I'm a total sucker for books that give you the "official" behind-the-scenes look from the creator's perspective and the "unofficial" analyzing of every aspect from a fan's perspective. I have a number books on my shelves that I've bought on a whim because of this, as well as some that I've specifically sought out and ordered.

Some books I've read because of this:

The Making Of Pride & Prejudice / Uncovering Alias / The World Of Downton Abbey / The Gilmore Girls Companion
amazing print from OrganicBird on etsy!
2. L.M. Montgomery & Jane Austen
These two authors are my kryptonite! I basically buy anything that has their name on it - biographies, tributes, literary analyses, spin-offs, prequels, sequels, etc. If it says Austen or Montgomery somewhere on it, chances are that I realllyyyyy want to add it to my personal library. I don't know what it is about these two (lie: it's that they are my favorite authors), but I can't help wanting to read everything about their lives, their impact, their books and their characters.

Some [Austen] books I've read because of this:

Some [Montgomery] books I've read/bought because of this:

3. Horses
I started horseback riding in the first grade, and I only stopped years later after a random series of events derailed my weekly lessons. And I STILL, to this day, wish I'd never given it up! Because y'all, there is just something about a horse. I may not ride that much anymore (other than occasional opportunities, like on the Welsh coast), but I still consider myself a diehard horse girl. If there's a horse on the cover or horses play a major role in the book, you better believe I'm picking it up as fast as I can get it in my hands.

Some books I've read because of this:

Misty Of Chincoteague / Seabiscuit / Black Beauty / The Scorpio Races

4. Books & Reading
This has a few meanings for me. First, I love books about books. I love memoirs or non-fiction that focus on the impact books have had on the author's life or some such thing. I'm SOLD and want to read that book bad. But it also applies to fiction where books play a main role and/or ones in which the main character is a reader. I just can't get enough of reading about the power of books and the joy of reading!

Some books I've read because of this:

Judging A Book By Its Lover / The Book ThiefHow Reading Changed My Life / The Heroine's Bookshelf

5. Georgia
I'm a Georgia girl, born and raised, so I absolutely love reading books set in my home state. While I like reading about the South in general, I obviously have a special place in my heart for books that take place in The Peach State. I can't help it! It adds that extra dose of familiarity to the book and makes me love my home all the more.

Some books I've read because of this:

Fireworks Over Toccoa / Gone With The Wind / Savannah From Savannah / The Swan House

6. Royalty
Yep, I'm one of those girls obsessed with royalty. If I book involves queens/duchesses/princesses/etc. (real or fictional), I'm ALL OVER THAT book. I'm not 100% sure where this love comes from, but I embrace it with all of my reading being.

Some [non-fiction] books I've read because of this:

Queen of Fashion / The Diana Chronicles / We Two / Once Upon A Time

Some [fiction] books I've read because of this:

The Lady Elizabeth / Shadow On The Crown / The Second Duchess / Prisoners In The Palace

7. Travel & Road Trips
I've been fortunate enough to have had the chance to travel to some pretty cool places in my life, and I only hope that I'll be able to continue to explore the world for the rest of my days. So, I really love books involving traveling. Seeing that word in a blurb will definitely make me want to read a book. I'm also a sucker for road trip books, even though I've never been on one and really have no interest. Look, I like the idea, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to be stuck in a car for weeks. It's one of those things that sounds all romantic and bohemian, but I think it'd actually be stressful and unclean.

Some books I've read because of this:

Just One DayAmy and Roger's Epic Detour / The Lost Girls / Wanderlove

8. Sisters
I really love books where sisters play a large role in the novel, even if there is also a love story involved that's the main focus of the book. There's just something about a book that has a good set of sisters - no matter how complicated their relationship - that just draws me in. I just love books that explore this family relationship in particular.

Some books I've read because of this:

Little Women / I Capture The CastleThe Poisonwood Bible / The Penderwicks

9. World War II
As you may already know, I love historical fiction. It's probably my favorite genre - there's just something that I love about getting lost in another time and hopefully learning a little something about history in the process. What you may not know, however, is that World War II is one of the time periods that will absolutely make me want to pick up a book immediately. There's something so heartbreaking about that time in our past that makes for such compelling and heartbreaking stories.

Some books I've read because of this:

Every Man Dies Alone / Between Shades of Gray / The Soldier's Wife / The House at Tyneford

10. Based On Real People
Finally, I love fiction based on real people! This is another kind of historical fiction that I always get crazy excited to read - and it doesn't even matter to me if I know anything about the subjects before diving in. There have been so many books that I've picked up because of this premise, and I always find them fascinating. While I have to remember to take everything in them with a grain of salt (it is still fiction), it usually makes me more interested in learning more about the real people depicted in the book.

Some books I've read/bought because of this:

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald / Girl In A Blue DressThe Paris Wife / Romancing Miss Bronte

I Want To Be A Part of It — New York, New York!

Apr 29, 2013

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Release Date: April 2013
Publisher: Random House | Ballantine Books
Pages: 352 pages
Source: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
It's January 1995, and Franny Banks has just six months left of the three-year deadline she set for herself when she came to New York, dreaming of Broadway and doing "important" work. But all she has to show for her efforts so far is a part in an ad for ugly Christmas sweater, and a gig waiting tables at a comedy club. Her roommates - her best friend Jane, and Dan, an aspiring sci-fi writer - are supportive, yet Franny knows a two-person fan club doesn't exactly count as success. Everyone tells her she  needs a backup plan, and though she can almost picture moving back home and settling down with her perfectly nice ex-boyfriend, she's not ready to give up on her goal of having a career like her idols Diane Keaton and Meryl Steep. Not just yet. But while she dreams of filling their shoes, in the meantime, she'd happily settle for a speaking part in almost anything - and finding a hair product combination that works.

Everything is riding on the upcoming showcase for her acting class, where she'll finally have a chance to perform for people who could actually hire her. And she can't let herself be distracted by James Franklin, a notorious flirt and the most successful actor in her class, even though he's suddenly started paying attention. Meanwhile, her bank account is rapidly dwindling, her father wants her to come home, and her agent doesn't return her calls. But for some reason, she keeps believing that she just might get what she came for.

Thoughts on Someday, Someday, Maybe
I don't even know how to describe the moment that I realized Lauren Graham, as in THE LAUREN GRAHAM, had written a book. It all started with the cover. I saw the pretty little thing calling my name on NetGalley, and I immediately fell in love with the cover. Clicking on it for more information, I think I might have shrieked and done a little dance when I read the author biography section.

One of my very favorite actresses - the woman who played my favorite characters on one of the best TV shows ever, y'all - had written a fiction book. Not a self-indulgent memoir. Oh no, a real live book about a girl living in New York and trying to become an actress in the 90s. There it was - just winking at me, taunting me with its loveliness. I clicked "Request" and sent up a little prayer that I'd get the chance to read this book a little early and be a part of telling everyone else to read (only if it was awesome, obviously). And when I got the email that I'd been approved? Yeah, I basically ran around work and made all my friends there read it and celebrate with me.

I know that's a ton of build up, but I need you to know just how excited I was for this book so you know I had high expectations. It did occur to me at one point that I might be disappointed or only like the book, but I put those thoughts out of my head and dove in. Thankfully, there was nothing disappointing about this book. I loved it so much I wanted to hug it, except it was on my Kindle and that would be weird. But you better believe I'm going to give my hard copy a hug when it arrives (because yeah, I totally pre-ordered this baby the minute I finished reading it).

In Someday, Someday, Maybe, you get to meet Franny Banks. There are so many things to love about Franny - her optimism, the way she follows her dreams, her quirkiness, her relationship with her friends... I could go on. But my favorite thing is that this girl is so inside her own head and overanalyzes EVERYTHING. This may sound like a strange reason to love a character, but I adored that quality about her because I identified with it. I kept thinking, "This is what it's like inside my head!"

Let me give you one of the book's earliest examples of Franny's overactive brain:
"His canvas book bag hit my canvas book bag just as he passed. It's like our shoulder bags kissed. The thought of our shoulder bags kissing and eventually falling in love and moving in together makes me smile a little, which is bad, because finding myself amusing is taking up the space I need in my brain to conjure a way to be charming."
See what I mean? Instead of being annoying, it's totally and completely endearing. I just kept smiling at her antics and her ability to laugh at herself and not take things too seriously. I think it's this quality about her that has led some to say that Franny reminds them of Lorelei Gilmore. While I don't think it's an exact comparison, I do think that the way Franny is kind of an unfiltered narrator is reminiscent of that aspect of Lorelei's character.

Here's another example:
"I'm pretty sure he just told me he's not with [her] any more which would normally be exciting information, but my brain hurts, I'm hungry, and my contacts are dry and itchy. I'm done for the night."
See? Lauren Graham is seriously awesome and has created a character that will have you laughing, cheering and just smiling at the pages. Franny stole my heart, and this book will absolutely be one of my favorite reads of the year. This debut is adorable, quirky and just a little bit meta (in the best kind of way).

I know I haven't said much about the story itself, and that's only because everything fun and memorable about the plot was all tied up in my love for Franny. If you're nervous when a celebrity writes a book, especially a celebrity you love and admire, get over that fear and buy this NOW! It's a celebration of New York, acting and having the courage to follow your dreams. And what's not to love about that?

So Quotable
"Something better could come along tomorrow. You only start out once. If you compromise now, at the very beginning, before you've really given yourself a chance, where do you go from there?"

*I received a copy of this book from Random House in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

A Good Man is Hard to Find

Apr 26, 2013

A Noble Groom by Jody Hedlund

Release Date: April 2013
Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 363 pages
Source: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Recently widowed Annalisa Werner has the feeling her husband was murdered but can't prove it. Alone with her young daughter in 1881 Michigan, she has six months left to finish raising the money needed to pay back the land contract her husband purchased, and the land is difficult to toil by herself. She needs a husband. With unmarried men scarce, her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.

For nobleman Carl von Reichert, the blade of the guillotine is his fate. He's been accused and convicted of a serious crime he didn't commit, and his only escape is to flee to a small German community in Michigan where he'll be safe. He secures a job on Annalisa's farm but bumbles through learning about farming and manual labor.

Annalisa senses that Karl is harboring a secret about his past, yet she finds herself drawn to him anyway. He's gentle, kind, and romantic - unlike any of the men she's ever known. He begins to restore her faith in the ability to love - but her true groom is still on his way. And time is running out on them all.

Thoughts on A Noble Groom
Back in January, I wrote mini-reviews for Hedlund's first three books and noted that fans of Christian historical fiction would certainly want to look into this author. Well, after reading her fourth book, I'm happy to report that Hedlund is still writing "engaging stories with interesting characters," as I previously described her books.

As with her other books, A Noble Groom was very much rooted in Hedlund's historical research. With all of her books, there have been notes at the end detailing the inspiration for her stories and the stories and lives they are based on. While I'm no historian, I have read a ton of historical fiction. One pet peeve I often have is when the story feels modern - overlaid onto a historical setting merely for the appeal of that time period. Thankfully, Hedlund's historical fiction feels realistic, believable, authentic AND focuses on a time period or piece of that time period that I'm often not familiar with.

In A Noble Groom, the main characters are German immigrants living and farming in Michigan. I've honestly never read a book like it. I loved how Hedlund shows you how the people have retained their language, customs, and beliefs from the old home. And she doesn't try to gloss over the hard work required to survive or the harsh attitude many had towards women.

When Annalisa's husband dies, she knows that she must remarry in order to provide for her daughter and child on the way. She also needs to pay off the loan on her farm and protect it from the lumber baron who is intent on having it for himself. It is decided that her new husband will come from Germany, and she must fend for herself until his arrival. She has no say in the decision, no real voice in her own future.

When a man finally arrives from Germany, they learn that he isn't the groom they were all expecting. He is Carl Richards, a man on the run from his past and hiding his true identity. My favorite thing about Carl was that treats Annalisa so differently. He encourages her to have an opinion, and he is gentle and understanding with her daughter. Annalisa is caught off guard, and it's not hard to see where their story is headed.

Was a little predictable? Maybe. But that doesn't mean I didn't fly through the pages! I thought this was such a nice change of pace from what I'd been reading, and it certainly cemented Hedlund as a historical fiction writer that I'll return to again and again. The characters are engaging, the romance is charming, and the story is well-researched. For me, that's an awesome combination and made for a great read!

*I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

"When I Get A Little Money, I Buy Books..."

Apr 25, 2013

I get paid twice a month - on the fifteenth and the thirtieth. In an ideal world, I'd get paid every single day. But, alas, that's not how this whole real world thing works. For some reason, I don't usually remember that I've gotten paid until my husband reminds me. 

Money in the bank? Cue a little bit of this:

And a whole lot of this:

I'm crazy excited until I remember...

I mean, what's a girl to do? I want to stick to the budget, but I also want ALL THE BOOKS. And even though I want to be the Budget Queen, I can't stop thinking:

THUS - payday presents were born! Well, actually, it really all started back in college. To make myself get stuff done, I worked on a reward system. If I studied for X amount of time, that meant I got to read/watch TV/lose myself in the Internets for X amount of time. It formed a habit that I still can't break!

The only hitch in the plan is that I've had to modify my system because I clearly can't do the whole break for X amount of time thing in the working world. I can't be wasting time on the job, yo! So, now I have payday presents. 

Whenever payday rolls around, I go buy myself a little present. That usually involves a stop at the bookstore on the way home or a visit to the Kindle store while on my lunch break. And that's my pat on the back - my little "go you!" gift. That doesn't mean I don't buy other fun things throughout the month or never go shopping. No way, sillies. Who do you think I am? This girl doesn't have THAT much control. However, these two purchases each month are ones that I always plan on and look forward to with anticipation and delight!

Am I the only one who does payday presents? 
Or who is motivated by a reward system?
If not, have I convinced you to join me on the dark side?

P.S. It's also quite rewarding to pretend like Tom Hardy is actually winking at you.

The Good Girl, The Neighbor & The Cyborg

Apr 24, 2013

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Release Date: January 2013
Publisher: Penguin | Dutton Children's Books
Pages: 368 pages
Series: Just One Day #1
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
Amazon Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
When sheltered American good girl Allyson "LuLu" Healey first meets laid-back Dutch actor Willem De Ruiter at an underground performance of Twelfth Night in England, there's an undeniable spark. After just one day together, that spark bursts into a flame, or so it seems to Allyson, until the following morning, when she wakes up after a whirlwind day in Paris to discover that Willem has left. Over the next year, Allyson embarks on a journey to come to terms with the narrow confines of her life, and through Shakespeare, travel, and a quest for her almost-true-love, to break free of those confines.

Thoughts on Just One Day
This was one of those books that was so hyped, I figured there was no way it could live up to my expectations. Well, I'm happy to report that I was wrong! I wanted to write a full review for this, but I don't think I can even find the words to describe what I love about this book. I so identified with Allyson - following the rules, being a good girl - and that made me care all the more about her story. For me, the strength of this book wasn't even the romance. We barely meet Willem before he's whisked off the page! What I truly loved was seeing Allyson grow and come into her own. It felt like such a realistic picture of what happens as you become an adult - that questioning of who you are and what you want to do with your life. But don't get me wrong, I am eagerly anticipating seeing the romance conclude in Just One Year. I just wish it was being released sooner! Don't worry, I've already preordered my copy.

So Quotable
"We are born in one day. We die in one day. We can change in one day. And we can fall in love in one day. Anything can happen in just one day."

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

Release Date: June 2012
Publisher: Penguin | Puffin Books
Pages: 394 pages
Source & Format: Gift; Kindle ebook
Amazon Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them... until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs her terrace and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love, Jase's family makes Samantha one of their own. Then in an instant, the bottom drops out of her world and she is suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

Thoughts on My Life Next Door
I wasn't sure how I'd feel about My Life Next Door. It was one of my most anticipated books last year, mostly because of the way the cover made me feel. Does that even make sense? Probably not, but oh well! I just could not wait to meet the Garretts - I had a feeling I'd be in love from the very first page! But then the reviews started rolling in, and it seemed like people had more lukewarm feelings that I'd hoped for. I wasn't dying to read this one anymore. For Christmas, my sweet friend gave me a copy of the book and I finally got around to reading it a few months later. I'm so glad I did! This was such a lovely book, and it will make you long for a dip in the pool with the boy next door. There are so many things to love about the first 3/4 of the book, and then THE EVENT happens. I wasn't sure what it was before I started reading, and I won't spoil it here, but I noticed many reviewers expressing dissatisfaction with a twist toward the end. Now that I've read the book, I do understand why. The way it's introduced and handled made me a little anxious. My stomach was in knots because I did not like where the story was going. Thankfully, all was right in the end. However, it did leave the book feeling a little off - the pacing is leisurely for most of the book and then races along right at the end. However, this was definitely a fun read. Aside from a few pacing issues, I found much to love about this sweet summer story!

So Quotable
"The Garretts were my bedtime story, long before I ever thought I’d be part of the story myself."

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Release Date: January 2012
Publisher: Macmillan | Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 387 pages
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Source & Format: Bought; Kindle ebook
Amazon Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She's a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister's illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai's, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world's future.

Thoughts on Cinder
Okay, guys. I'm going to be honest here, and it's going to put me in the minority. While I enjoyed the creativity of Cinder, I didn't really love the book. I think this was one of those "too hyped" things for me. I'd included the book in a Top Ten Tuesday post about series I needed to start, and almost every single comment specifically named this book as one I MUST START IMMEDIATELY. Listening to the masses, I knew that I couldn't put off this read any longer. Now, I wonder if my expectations got the best of me. I understand why everyone loves it so much, and I really did love that it was like nothing I'd ever read before. However, I just didn't completely connect to the story or the characters. I kept being pulled out of the story because I was trying to figure out the world, and I didn't really see the relationship developing between Cinder and Kai. I also felt like the "revelation" was more than a little obvious, so the climactic moment didn't really have the impact on me that was probably intended. All of that being said, I have purchased Scarlet and plan to continue with this series. Just because I didn't crazy love book one doesn't mean I won't hit my stride with the next installment!

So Quotable
“I’m sure I’ll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on.”

They Took Me By Surprise!

Apr 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly featured hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/Top Ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists!

So, this week's topic was "Top Ten Books I Thought I'd Like MORE / LESS Than I Did." I didn't really want to focus on books that I thought I'd like more than I actually did (boo disappointment). So, instead, I chose to focus on the ones that I thought I'd like less but took me by surprise!

Top Ten Books I Thought I'd Like Less Than I Did

1. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith - I'd heard of this book and had even seen the movie trailer, but for years I thought this book was about something completely different than what it's actually about. So, when I first started it, I had different expectations and didn't think I'd like this at all. Thankfully, I was pleasantly surprised and fell in love. This was one of my favorite reads last year!

2. Pivot Point by Kasie West - I hadn't heard of this book until I read Asheley's review of it, and I was intrigued. Even though she really enjoyed the book, I figured it wouldn't be anything new or that the concept would come off strangely. Umm, I was totally wrong. This book was so great! I still haven't written anything about it, but it's definitely been one of the best surprises of the year so far!

3. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen - I'd always passed over Dessen's books, despite their popularity, because I was turned off by the juvenile covers. When I checked this one out from the library, I finally saw why everyone loves her so much. I didn't think I'd like her books very much, but I'm so happy that I finally gave them a chance!

4. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater - The summary for this book is really odd, but I was willing to give it a chance when I saw it on sale for Kindle one day. I'm SO GLAD I bought it because what if I'd never read this book? That sale gave me the push I needed to purchase, and I'm really happy that I did. Despite thinking I'd find this weird, I ended up LOVING it and it's now one of my favorite books EVER. Yep. Ever.

5. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling - I'm not a serious watcher of The Office. Instead, I just catch a few episodes here and there or tune in when my brother is having marathon viewing sessions. So, when I saw that Mindy Kaling had published a book, I didn't feel like I HAD to read. But the title made me laugh, as did the first few pages, so I figured I'd give it a read. AND THEN I LOVED IT. I thought it looked good, but I had no idea I'd want to be Mindy's best friend after reading it!

6. The Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead - I thought these covers looked dumb, and the concept sounded weird. And then I read the first book, and all of my skepticism vanished. Now, I recommend these books like a crazy person and promise people that they'll be so addicted they won't be able to put them down. I've been right every time - haven't had a single person not enjoy them!

7. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling - Can you believe that I only read this series for the first time two years ago? I know, I know. I'm so dumb. But I'm sorry - better late than never, right? I thought I'd hate this books, and I was passionate about the fact that I "knew" these were not my kind of books. Then, I finished the first one and was really intrigued. After book two, I was sold. I didn't think I would like them, but of course now I LOVE THEM!

8. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor - I liked the cover and had heard good things, so I knew I wanted to read this one. But I thought I'd be more on the fence about it - that I wouldn't necessarily like it because it was too "out there" for me. However, once I fell into Laini's crazy world, I didn't want to leave! She made me a huge fan with this book, and I'm looking forward to reading book two soon.

9. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund - As an Austen lover, I was a little wary of this book. I went through a phase where I read every Austen retelling/reimagining/sequel that I could get my hands on. And then I realized that most are just poor imitations. So, with that coloring my expectations, I didn't think I'd really like this book. I'm so glad I listened to a few of the rave reviews of it (Jamie and April, holla) because seriously this book is fabulous. Loved it way more than I anticipated!

10. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins - I have to end with this one because 1) I was adamant about the fact that there was no way I'd like this series and 2) it really helped usher me into the world of young adult fiction. I'd read some YA before this, but not a lot of it. After this series, I wanted to read all the YA I could get my hands on! All that from a book I didn't really think I'd like... silly me!

Faith, Hope & Love

Apr 22, 2013

Jennifer by Dee Henderson

Release Date: May 2013
Publisher: Bethany House
Pages: 160 pages
Series: O'Malley Series Prequel
Source: NetGalley; e-ARC
Amazon | Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads)
It's a summer of change for Jennifer O'Malley. The busy physician has a pediatrics practice in Dallas, and meeting Tom Peterson, and falling in love, is adding a rich layer to her life. She's sorting out how to introduce him to her family - she's the youngest of seven - and thinking about marriage.

She's falling in love with Jesus too, and knows God is good. But that faith is about to be tested in a way she didn't expect, and the results will soon transform her entire family.

Thoughts on Jennifer
Back in high school, I discovered a series of books called the O'Malley series and fell in love. It follows a group of adults who meet as children in an orphanage and then adopt a new last name and form their own family. Each sibling has a public service type job - paramedic, hostage negotiator, forensic analyst, counselor, U.S. Marshal, etc.

There were a number of things I really loved about the series. Family was a huge focus, and the romance/relationships that developed were so memorable. Because of the nature of their jobs, each book had a thriller/mystery feel to it that made the books completely addicting. There was typically a key event in the beginning that propelled the investigation and action of the book. The books are Christian fiction, so faith also played a role. None of the siblings were believers, but the series showed them each wrestling with some of the big faith issues. I thought the faith aspect was very well-done (since Christian fiction can sometimes be really clunky when it tries to work issues of faith into a larger story).

Each sibling got their own book with one exception - Jennifer. Dee Henderson's new book, Jennifer, attempts to tell Jennifer's love story in a novella format. If you've already read the O'Malley series, readers will go into Jennifer already knowing what happens in her life and the role she plays in the family's journey to faith. When I first started, I was really interested to see how Henderson would fit Jennifer's story into a novella.

The book bills itself as Jennifer's love story, but I really didn't feel like it was fully fleshed out. Compared to the romance of the other books, this one just falls flat. I just kept coming back to the feeling that the story was hampered by the fact that it's a novella. It could have been so much more, and that's what left me feeling a little underwhelmed with Jennifer. To be honest, it really doesn't give you that much insight her as a character. I feel like I learned more about her from her cameos and interactions with her siblings throughout the series that I did in this short story dedicated to her.

I think what I liked about the novella was mostly based on my love for the series as a whole. Sadly, I don't now that I would be compelled to continue reading the O'Malley series if I picked up this book first. If you haven't read the O'Malley series, I don't feel like it's really necessary to read Jennifer (even though it's considered a prequel). If you've read and loved the O'Malley series, like me, I have a feeling you'll want to read this just for the sake of loving the characters and wanting to know more about this sister.

I'm incredibly torn on my feelings for the book. I loved seeing a little bit more of Jennifer because I love the O'Malleys, not because I actually loved this novella. I think the length really left me ambivalent  about the story because things weren't fully developed. While I love the idea of a short story about a beloved character, the book just didn't have Henderson's typical spark to it.

One final thing that really bothers me - the novella's prince. It's $9 for an ebook, and $13 as a small-sized hardcover. I have to be honest and say that I would not buy this novella for that price because I don't think it's worth it. Why would I pay the exact same price for a novella as I would for a full-length novel? It just doesn't make sense to me, especially since I found the story lacking overall.

I'd highly recommend the O'Malley series, but I think I'd tell most people to pass on this prequel. At the end of the day, I didn't really feel like it brought anything special, necessary or new to the series. And if you've already read and loved the series, I have a feeling you'll want to read this book regardless of what I say about it.

So Quotable
"To me it feels... it feels like being in the sun after you've been stuck in gray, damp shade forever. Just being with you makes me content and so richly happy. I figured out some time ago that it was because you loved me and were pouring it out in my direction.

*I received a copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any way for my review.

Revisiting the Past

Apr 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. Every week they post a new topic/Top Ten list and invite everyone to share their own answers. I'm so obsessed with lists!

This week's topic is "Rewind," which means that bloggers get to choose any past Top Ten Tuesday topic. I decided that I really wanted to do the "Top Ten Books I Want to Reread" list, but I wanted to alter it because that's what I do. So, without further ado:

Top Five Childhood Series I Want to Reread

1. The Betsy-Tacy Series by Maud Hart Lovelace (10 books)

This series was written by Maud Hart Lovelace between 1940 and 1955. The series follows Betsy Ray and her friends from the time she's five through her early twenties. Set in Minnesota in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these are characters that you'll absolutely love.

There is a nostalgic quality to the books because of the time period in which they are written and set, and that's one thing I remember loving when I first read them. I also remember that Betsy wanted to be a writer, and it's something that her family, friends and love interest encouraged and supported. That was something that made the book still feel so modern! Betsy deals with things that are familiar - friends moving away, finding love, seeing more of the world, etc.

I remember loving these books when I first read them, but then I gave them away in high school because I thought I'd never read these "kids books" again. Well, I'd be mad at myself for getting rid of them, but I can't be too mad because I just got to buy these pretty reissued sets. Now, I'm just itching to reread them!

2. The Little House Series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (9 books)

This series was published by Laura Ingalls Wilder between 1933 and 1943, with two published posthumously in 1962 and 1971. The series is based on Laura's memories of her childhood in the Midwest during the late 19th century. Laura's daughter, Rose, assisted her mother in the editing and publishing of this series.

I can't imagine that there are very many people who haven't read at least one Little House books! Seriously, these are like American childhood classics. Was there anyone who didn't read these books and imagine living Laura's life? Who didn't dress up like Laura? Didn't live in fear of a deadly snowstorm (even if they live in the South where it almost never snows)?

I guess what I'm saying is that these books are ones that children, especially little girls, have grown up with over the years. Like the Betsy-Tacy series, I let my mom give these away at some point in the past. I don't even know why, except I think I was in middle school and thought I'd never read these again. Seriously, middle school me DID NOT appreciate my childhood favorites enough. And didn't think about the fact that one day I'd still wish I owned all of these. The only thing that's worked in my favor, like with the Betsy-Tacy series, is that I got to buy these really lovely full-color editions with thick, glossy pages. I just ordered these the other day, and I can't wait for them to arrive. Then it will definitely be time for a reread!

3. The Anne of Green Gables Series by L.M. Montgomery (8 books)

This series was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery between 1908 and 1939. The series follows Anne Shirley, an orphan, from childhood to having children of her own. Set on Prince Edward Island, I cannot even begin to count the ways this series has impacted me as a reader.

Millions of readers worldwide have fallen in love with this feisty redhead with a romantic heart and proclivity for adventure. She has become a classic literary heroine, and she's been featured on many of Top Ten Tuesday lists (as has her true love, Gilbert Blythe). She's loves to dream, talk, write, imagine... This is a girl that readers will identify with, no matter what their age.

I had planned to reread the entire series last summer, calling it the Summer of Lucy Maud, but I only ended up rereading the first three books in the series. I'm excited to revisit that plan this summer, and I hope to spend several warm weeks under the sun reveling in the story of this beloved character.

4. The Emily of New Moon Series by L.M. Montgomery (3 books)

This series was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery between 1923 and 1927. The series follows Emily Starr, also an orphan, from childhood to adulthood. Montgomery returns to the familiar and much-loved Prince Edward Island with this lesser known, but still thoroughly enjoyable, series.

Although there are a number of things about this series that make it similar to the Anne books, I do remember them having a slightly more serious (perhaps even darker) tone. A huge part of these books is Emily's desire to be an author.

I wish I could say even more about these books, but I honestly can't remember that much of what happens! Why? Take a look at the picture above. I'm reading Emily of New Moon on the beach, and I'm pretty sure I was maybe in fifth or sixth grade here (yes, I was always the tallest one in my class). Anyway, that was the first and last time I read this series... so my memory is a little foggy on what actually happened in these books. I'm excited to hopefully experience them again soon!

5. The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis (7 books)

This series was written by C.S. Lewis between 1949 and 1954. It's set in the fictional world of Narnia, where magic and mythical beasts are quite common. The series focuses on the children who play key roles in the history of this world.

I remember loving The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe as a child, but I honestly can't remember if I've even read the rest of the series! I think that I've read a few of them, but I don't have clear memories of what happens in the whole series, and that makes me really sad. These are classics in children's literature, and they've had an impact on the fantasy genre as a whole.

I purchased the Barnes and Noble Leatherbound Classic version of this series recently, which compiles all seven books into one larger tome. The book itself is lovely, and it makes me that much more excited to go back to Narnia and find new adventures that I've never encountered before.

Head Versus Heart

Apr 8, 2013

Bloodlines / The Golden Lily / The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead

Release Date: August 2011 / June 2012 / February 2013
Publisher: Penguin | Razorbill
Pages: 421 pages / 418 pages / 401 pages
Series: Bloodlines #1-3
Source & Format: Bought; Hardcover
Amazon Goodreads

Summary of Bloodlines (from Goodreads)
Sydney is an alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of human and vampires. They protect vampire secrets - and human lives. When Sydney is torn from her bed in the middle of the night, at first she thinks she's still being punished for her complicated alliance with dhampir Rose Hathaway. But what unfolds is far worse. Jill Dragomir - the sister of Moroi Queen Lissa Dragomire - is in mortal danger and the Moroi must send her into hiding. To avoid a civil war, Sydney is called upon to act as Jill's guardian and protector, posing as her roommate in the last place anyone would think to look for vampire royalty - a human boarding school in Palm Springs, California. But instead of finding safety at Amberwood Prep, Sydney discovers the drama is only just beginning...

Thoughts on the Bloodlines Series (Don't worry - no spoilers!)

5 Reasons You Might Think Bloodlines Isn't As Awesome Vampire Academy

1. "Sydney can't be as awesome as Rose."

2. "No relationship will ever compare to Rose and Dimitri's!"

3. What drama can ever come close to what happened in the Vampire Academy books?"

4. "There is no way the secondary characters in these books will be as interesting."

5. "Vampires outside of the Academy AND interacting with Alchemists. Hmm..."

5 Reasons You Would Be SO Wrong

1. Sydney isn't Rose - but she's totally awesome in her own way!
Yes, Sydney and Rose are two very different ladies. However, to be honest, Sydney is really more my cup of tea. She loves learning, studying and being smart. She's cautious and bound by the rules in her life. She is, above all, a rule follower. And while that may not be as fun to read about, it's something with which I can identify. She also really starts to come into her own, take charge and loosen up a little. I absolutely loved seeing her grow because it felt very authentic to me - it seemed like a believable progression for her character. Also, Rose could be really moody and rash. There is none of that business with Miss Syd! I'm only docking her an awesome point for her obsession with her weight. Seriously, Syd, stop mentioning your teeny-tiny size and how it's still not small enough. Otherwise, I love you, lady.

2. The romantic tension in these books is at an ALL-TIME HIGH.
Look I can't say anything at all about the relationship that develops in these books, but you need to trust me when I say that you'll still have all the feelings for this couple. Seriously the train is pulling into SWOON CENTRAL STATION by the end of The Indigo Spell, and I seriously cannot wait to see where this series goes next! There is tension, banter, feelings, misunderstandings, complications, kissing... Do I need to say anything other than kissing?

3. Trust me, once these books get going... there's no end to the things Sydney has to face!
I'll be honest, the first book get off to a slow start. Vampire Academy really sucks you in immediately - I found myself racing through the pages and quickly moving on to the next book. Bloodlines was a little different in that sense. In the first book, most of the action takes place toward the end so the pacing is a little off in that book. However, the pacing is spot-on and the drama is interesting and awesome in the next two books. I think we all know what that means - it's just going to get better from here!

4. It's Richelle Mead. You really think you aren't going to love ALL her characters?
It's ridiculous to even write an argument for this point. Richelle Mead does an awesome job of writing secondary characters that are interesting and keep your attention. You don't spend every minute wishing the leading lady would appear, and I love when I find books where I really love the whole cast of characters. Jill, Adrian, Eddie, Angeline - I really love the people we get to meet in this series (both new and returning characters). Also, seriously, you should read this book for the character growth and general amazingness of Adrian alone. Just trust me.

5. Vampire + Alchemists + Human World = AWESOME
I wasn't sure how the Alchemist and vampire world would translate to the human world. I've got to say, that's become one of my favorite things about these books. I love that we're seeing things from Sydney's human perspective and getting to learn more about how both Alchemists and vampires interact with the world around them. Plus, you're still getting high school drama - now it's just a human school instead of a vampire academy!

So Quotable (Just in case you're still not convinced...)
"The greatest changes in history have come because people were able to shake off what others told them to do." - Bloodlines

"You make me want to become something greater than myself. I want to excel. You inspire me in every act, every word, every glance. I look at you, and you're like... like light made into flesh." - The Golden Lily

"One day she's throwing a book at me. The next, we're making out behind the library." - The Indigo Spell
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