Saturday, March 31, 2012

# 29: Mokingjay - Suzanne Collins


It's always sad when a series we like comes to an end, however it is good for both the author and the reader to end on a high note for the series rather than dragging something out longer than it should just to put off the end. IF a series keeps going for too long the author looses the passion hat made them good and the readers loose the interest as well. So though it is sad the Hunger Games series is over I know it is also a good thing.

Katniss has survived the Quarter Quell but at what cost? A new game awaits Katniss a full out rebellion against the Captiol by the Districts and she has become the face of the rebellion willing or not. A war with the Capitol is not so different from the games themselves, the area is larger, there more people, but in the end the only one you can trust is yourself.

While I enjoyed this book it was my least favorite of the trilogy. Throughout most of the book it kept pace with the first two but at the end I found it dropped significantly. The ending felt rushed, too much information packed into too few pages. It was not the ending I expected for me otherwise well written series Despite the rushed ending I enjoyed the book and would happily read it again (and probably will).

#28: Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins


The biggest challenge is the sequel book, especially when the first book was such a hit. The author has a great expectation from the fans that the second book just as good if not better than the first. A lot of authors feel the pressure of the fans expectations and some fail to meet the expectations, however there are other who exceed the expectations.

Katniss and Peeta have survived the Hunger Games and are about to start their Victory Tour. Katniss finds out her act to save her life as well as Peeta's has been taken as and act of rebellion against the Capitol. Now she must try and convince people it wasn't in order to save her life and the lives of everyone she loves. A new set of challenges awaits Katniss, a new game with a new set of rules.

This sequel was all I wanted and more. The story continued realistically and believably. It had all the excitement and that of the first book and all new challenges and changes. I found myself as equally drawn into this book as I was the first. The words come off the page and come to life. A movie was running in my head the whole time. Truly very well done!

#27: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins


This was a great read! You know when people keep telling you that something is the greatest and naturally you're skeptical and put off finding out if they're right? Or watching something become a huge craze and saying you don't want to be part of that? Well, that's what I did with this book and honestly I'm sad I didn't read it sooner because it was very good.

Katniss Everdeen is a young girl in a future where America no longer exists and trouble is a daily occurrence. When the thirteen districts rose up against the Capitol was angry and as punishment for the uprising the Capitol instituted the Hunger Games where a male and female between the ages of 12 and 18 must compete until only one victor remains. When Katniss' sister is selected to be District 12's representative Katniss volunteers to take her place. Now she will have to negotiate the arena and the other players and try to survive the Capitol's dangerous game.

Like I said I was hesitant to start this book because everyone was telling me how great it was I wasn't eager to jump on the band wagon with everyone else. When the movie was announced and my friends bought tickets and one for me. I was told that before I was allowed to go to the movie I had to read at least the first book. So grudgingly I dove in to the first book. Immediately I was captured and enthralled in the book. It was a fantastic read and I was thrilled throughout the entire thing. Collins created a world that was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. Whatever your age you will enjoy this book. You will be captured by the places, the characters and the threat. And wonderfylly written tale that will make your sking tingle with fear and excitement.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#26: Mystery at the Ski Jump - Carolyn Keene


So yea guess I was feeling a need to retreat to my childhood with all these Nancy Drew books. But it's ok since a quick retreat once in a while is necessary for the mental health of a person.

Nancy's loyal housekeeper Hannah has been taken. A woman claiming to represent a fur company sold her a questionable fur and some equally questionable stock. Nancy determined to help Hannah sets out to investigate. Along the way Nancy finds that someone is going around impersonating her. It's a chase to find the scammers and to figure out who is using Nancy's name.

Another well written story though there isn't as much mystery in this as their typically is. We pretty much know who did it from the get go it's more of a chase to catch them. While not as strong a mystery as others it's still very good and enjoyable.

#25: Raven Calls - C E Murphy


Don't you just love it when you go into a bookstore and when you're browsing the shelves you find a new book by one of the authors you like to read. It's definitely a kid in a candy store kind of moment. Your eyes get wide, your mouth forms an "o", and you start hopping just a little bit because you're so overcome with excitement. Well imagine working in a bookstore and seeing the book come in with a shipment and just waiting, itching to take the book home with you. When I saw this book I was having a conversation with two other employees in the back room and my eyes fell on this book that I didn't even know was being release yet. I cut between the other two women and grabbed the book from the cart it sat on. Neither woman said anything they just shook their heads with amused understanding.

Joanne Walker has been fighting to come to terms with the reality that she is a shaman and that there are powers in the world that she has to heal and others that she needs to stop with her power. Joanne having just finished a werewolf fight in Seattle, quitting her job, and finally able to pursue the feelings she and her boos have for each other now must go to Ireland. She as felt a pull that she must go there and the timing couldn't be better because Joanne has a secret, she's been bitten by a werewolf. In Ireland she will fight a power stronger than any she has dealt with before and hopefully will find a way to heal her bite before the beast takes over.

One of the reasons I like C E Murphy's Walker Paper series so much is because of the seamless blend between the world magic and the world we accept as the normal world. Joanne is a great character, relatable and easy to like. While in all the other books we get to know the  Native American half of Joanne's heritage in Raven Calls we get to learn about the Irish-Celtic portion of it and how it affects her in the way the Native American part doesn't. Murphy brings to life the beauty of Ireland and the light and dark parts of it's mythology. Murphy's style is inviting and exciting. The stories and the characters are so real that it seems like you're there and part of it. Wonderful read for anyone who likes mystery, sci-fi/fantasy, or just a good read (def. start at the beginning with Urban Shaman though). 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

#24: Mystery of the Tolling Bell - Carolyn Keene


Okay so once again I travel back in time to visit Nancy Drew and her friends and follow them as they get involved in another mystery. Nancy and her friends as well as her father head to a client's inn to help her figure out how to get out of the scam she got reeled into as well as catch a little beach time. But trouble starts almost immediately and Nancy's father has gone missing. Worried Nancy desperately works to figure out what has happened to him and how it's connected to the case they are working on.

I've said it before and I'll say it again I like the way theses stories are written. The mystery is suitable for everyone. Despite being considered a kids books and not being very long I am roped in every time and usually kept guessing about the conclusion until the end of the book. Because these books are part of my childhood when I read one of them part of me goes back there and while I'm reading I"m not the 24 year-old woman sitting in her apartment reading while dinner cooks but the 12 year-old girl who is reading on the grass in the park.

#23: The Hidden Window Mystery- Carolyn Keene


So when doing a little bit of research about Carolyn Keene and the Nancy Drew series I learned something I never knew before. Carolyn Keene doesn't exist! Well that is to say that one person with the name Carolyn Keene that wrote the Nancy Drew series isn't real. In fact the series is a collaboration of work by a variety of women authors who all wrote under the same pen name thus keeping the series and it's integrity intact. This has been your interesting factoid of the day.

Nancy's mailman has found something he thinks she might be interested it. A wealthy Englishman is looking for a stained glass window that belonged to his family and sometime ago was brought over to the states. Eager for a chance to find this heirloom (and of course for a mystery) Nancy jumps at the chance. Along with her friends Bess and George, Nancy searches for the window. There may be more to this mystery than she thought.

The thing I love about the Nancy Drew books (aside from the well written mystery) is that for me they are set in another time and another place, neither of which I'm familiar with. I like to read them and be taken back to a place and time that is much different than my own and experience the adventures of Nancy and her friends. They are wonderful mysteries suitable for all ages. Interesting enough to keep older readers engaged and clean enough for young readers to enjoy. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Storytelling: A Family Tradition

Okay from the time I was a kid both of my parents have been telling stories to my brother and I. My dad would come and sit on my water bed with my mom, my brother, and me and start telling us a story. There weren't any story books he would just come up with the stories in his head and tell them to us. Each one started the same way and had the same main characters, a boy and a girl (go figure!). We would sit listening, enthralled by the places, people, and adventures he created. He also helped me start writing some of my earliest stories. I would sit on his lap at the computer and he would type up what I told him on the computer we got from QVC. He also wrote quests for his D&D group that would meet Monday nights at our house when I was little.

My mom is also a creative story teller. Being an Elementary school teacher a lot of her stories are children's stories. She keeps them hidden under her bed (or she did before she moved I'm not sure where they are now). The stories are the kind of stories you hear you're parents reading to you growing up or you beg your teachers to read to you during story time. My mom also is a songwriter. Now before you go getting all excited it's nothing you've ever heard of or are likely to ever hear. She takes the tunes of familiar songs and adds her own words. One of her favorites that she will still occasionally sing is "Riding Home From Mimi's house" which she would sing on drives back from my grandmother's house usually on night's when I had dance class.

My brother is also a story teller of sorts. He seems to make up things from our childhood that most definitely never happened.

My dad's sister also likes to write. Aunt Nancy took me to a writer's group she was part of on one of my visits to Florida to see her. It was wonderful. It was the first writer's group I was ever exposed to and for that I will always be thankful. Aunt Nancy is also one of the first people to read most of my work despite living so far away. She gives me great feedback and advice. Writing is one of the many things we are both passionate about and can talk about.

The rest of my family while not big on writing are definitely readers. It's great I have a group of people that will read my writing and give me feedback. They don't hold back because they're family they tell me what they really think and for that I'm eternally grateful. My grandmother once told me that a piece I had written had a part that was unbelievable and so when I looked at it I found out she was right so I went back and fixed it making my story better (thanks Mimi).

To my friends and family who I subject to reading my pieces and offering their advice I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. To my parents thank you for instilling in my the passion for stories whether writing or reading and encouraging me to follow my dreams.

#22: The Clue of the Black Keys: Carolyn Keene


It's amazing what you find in used book stores and antique stores. One weekend when my mom came to stay the weekend with me we ventured to a new favorite place of mine, the Chicken Barn. Despite what it's name implies there are no chickens present however the building is in fact a barn. A very large barn. The entire first floor of the Chicken barn is full of antiques, antiques of all shapes, sizes, and prices. The second floor of this wonderful establishment is comprise of used books and magazines. Being the avid reader I am I merely stood in amazement and awe on my first visit. Some of the books they have there are old, first editions, or just really cool looking. My mom, my aunt, and I all like Nancy Drew books but we especially like the hardcover ones that don't have the glossy covers that are in stores today but the older ones with original artwork.

Nancy Drew the young detective from River Heights has another mystery on her hands. A young professor comes to Nancy with a bit of a dilemma. He has a missing fellow professor and what they believe the location to a treasure. The young professor asks Nancy to hand on to one half of the three keys they found so as to keep it out of the hands of the people behind the older professor's disappearance. Nancy learns that this mystery must be solved quickly or she could be in trouble herself.

I read a lot of Nancy Drew books when I was younger and haven't picked one up in years until recently. I liked this one particularly because it tied into the archaeology I studied when I was in college. I love it when I connect the things I learned in school with the stories I read. It was a good mystery with lots of adventure and suspense. A perfect read for anyone of any age who enjoys a good mystery!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

#21: Explosive Eighteen- Janet Evanovich


Sometimes when you read an author's books back to back to back they can seem a bit of the same over and over. Not so in the most recent installment in Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. With her unique style Evanovich keeps the characters we all know and love fresh and exciting. Like with all of her other books I was smiling and laughing through the whole thing and left guessing until the end.

Stephanie has just returned from Hawaii and there's a little white tan line on her left ring finger that has people wondering . . . what really happened in Hawaii? Also the two men in her life are both showing signs of a physical confrontation only adding fire to the flame. But Stephanie has a lot more that followed her home than just personal problems. Stephanie finds a photo mixed in with her belongings but throws it away thinking nothing of it. Suddenly people are coming out of the woodwork and they all want the photo they think Stephanie has. Trying to describe the man in the photo to a sketch artist only results in pictures of celebrities. So until she can sort through the jumbled images in her mind she needs to watch her back so doesn't join the man in the photograph.

Friday, March 9, 2012

#20: Smokin' Seventeen - Janet Evanovich


Stephanie Plum has an eclectic group of friends, family, and acquaintances this time however, she's attracted the wrong sort of people. While the empty lot where the Bonds office once stood is getting underway for new construction the project his a snag when the backhoe unearths a body. Slowly more bodies show up and the killer has a special message attached to each one, "For Stephanie". To add even more trouble to the pot Morelli's grandma Bella has put the vordo on Stephanie. This definitely spells trouble for this bounty hunter.

Ripe with Evanovich's typical humor, mystery, and action Smokin' Seventeen is sure to have you reading page after page on the edge of your seat. As always Evanovich has multiple story lines going at once but they never seem to be overwhelming. On the contrary the overlapping and concurrent story lines make the lives of Stephanie and the others more real. Our lives are just one thing at a time and all the rest gets put on hold, no we usually have more than one thing going on at once. Stephanie's unique approach to her problems makes for a nice break from reality and a story you can't wait to finish!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

#19: Sizzlin' Sixteen - Janet Evanovich


Have you ever found that when you get reading a series especially one that is already out that you just read one book after another. That's how it is with this series. They're such quick reads that I get going and as soon as I finish on I'm on to the next one. The characters are so real and so likeable that you just can't help but getting attached to them and wanting to know more about them and their lives.

Vincent Plum, Stephanie's cousin and employer has a nasty habit and wracked up a great deal of debit. Now he's gone missing and his debtors are saying that the bond office has to pay the money he owes or Vinnie's never coming back. Thankfully Stephanie is in the business of tracking people down so she Connie, and Lula should have no trouble tracking him down, besides they have Stephanie's inherited lucky bottle to help them out. The problem then becomes if they can get Vinnie back how are they going to pay off the guys Vinnie owes? Be prepared for an exciting tale of, danger, excitement, and hobbits that will leave you on the edge of your seat until the last page.

Monday, March 5, 2012

#18: Finger Lickin' Fifteen- Janet Evanovich


Sometimes I get so into a book that it seems real. Everything about the book is real, the smells, sights, sounds, everything. So you can imagine my distress at reading a book entitled Finger Licking Fifteen and all it does is talk about food. So while I'm at work reading about all the great food in this book, barbecue, post roast dinner, birthday cake, all I want to do is go home and eat me and my roommate out of house and home. I like when books are so real that I can almost touch and smell them however when they cause me to want to eat to the point where I'll need a new wardrobe it gets dangerous.

Stephanie Plums faithful but eccentric sidekick Lula is in deep trouble. She witnessed a famous chef get his head whacked off and the killers are now after her. The only cop sh will talk to is Stephanie's on-again off-again boyfriend Joe Morelli who is currently in the off again stage. On top off all of this Ranger needs Stephanie's help. There is a leak at RangeMan and several of their properties are getting robbed. Now Stephanie has to figure out what's going on and try to keep Lula from getting her own head chopped off.

As as with Janet Evanovich I laughed continuously while reading this book. As always Evanovich manages to blend humor, action, and mystery into one captivating story that will keep you turning page after page.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

1st vs. 3rd

When starting a story it is important to figure out from what perspective you want the story told and who is going to tell it. Once you have a character or characters in mind it will help you in deciding whether you should write in first or third person. Some will find one style easier to write in than the other which could also be a determining factor.

If your story is going to revolve around multiple characters instead of just one main character third person is really the only way to go since it is the form that makes the most sense. With third person since you are not using the possessive I forms you have the ability to switch from character to character realistically. With this form while you may have one character that is predominant throughout your story you can expand beyond what they are physically present for allowing you to go other places with the story and show other scenes and interactions.

Third person omniscience allows you to go into the mind of other characters and hear what their characters are thinking and how they react to various situations. While Third person limited omniscience restricts the allows all the advantages of having a third person narration but restricts the focus to main characters instead of including minor characters into the mix as well.

If you decide on a story with one main character it can be advantageous to use first person narration. First person allows you to focus on one character and set up a unique connection with the reader and the character. Because we talk in an I, me, my way in our everyday life this form sometimes comes more naturally when writing. The disadvantages to this type of narration are: you are limited to one point of view, the narrator must be present all the time, you can only write about what the narrator can see or sense and no one else.

Personally I tend to write in the first person more than I do in the third person. Part of the reason I do this is because I find it easier to write this way but also because most of my pieces center around one character rather than a group so third person is not necessary. Contrary to what I have read about most authors opting for first person,  friends of mine who write tend to favor the third person narration rather than first. They find it easier to write this way and find it strange that I favor a first person perspective. First person for me is more fun because I get to create a personal relationship with my main character and get inside their head and get to know them. I still get the benefit of connecting with other characters but the added advantage of experiencing the story first hand.

If you decide to write a series of stories or books there is one thing I would suggest to you and that is consistency. If you start a series in first person stick to the first person throughout the series. Your readers are accustomed to the perspective and will likely have some difficulty adjusting to the change.

These are my feelings on the dominant narration types where do you weigh in?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

#17: Fearless Fourteen-Janet Evanovich

The benefit to having a roommate as obsessed with reading as I am is the fact that I can borrow books from her. Sharing books you love with someone is a wonderful feeling, it's one of the reasons I like working in a bookstore so much. Talking, laughing, and just enjoying reading is infectious and a great way to meet people with similar interests.

Stephanie Plum, Trenton's . . . luckiest bounty hunter has some problems. First, Morelli's cousin's son Zook is in her care while his mother is FTA. Second, people think there is the loot from a nine million dollar robbery hidden at Morelli's house and are literally killing to find it. Third, Moonman is Morelli's protection against treasure hunters and his methods are a little out there. And fourth, Ranger needs some help nights working security for an eccentric aging singer. Stephanie has her work cut out for her.

From book one I have enjoyed Janet Evanovich's books because they are entertaining, exciting, and just down right funny. The characters she has created jump right off the page. Stephanie's outrageous group of friends and family will have you in stitches from page one right up until the end. There isn't one of these books that I haven't laughed out loud while reading. If you enjoy mystery, action, humor, or just a good read you'll enjoy the Stephanie Plum series.