Breaking up with WordPress

The time has come: I am breaking up with WordPress. It is not suitable for the type of blogging I would like to do, so I have switched to a new blog. Some of the content will move over to the new blog.

 

I would appreciate it if you updated your links to my new blog:

http://vanillahearts62.blogspot.ca

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Book Chat: Book Spines

This month’s Book Chat is about book spines and which ones we find pretty. It is hosted by Misty at thebookrat.com and so, here are my answers!

For those that like video, here you go:

And for those that would rather read, here you go:

Books I chose:

  • Tiger’s Curse series by Colleen Houck
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  • Purity by Jackson Pearce
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • Godmother by Carolyn Turgeon
  • Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

I realized that I enjoy books that have only a few colours, and one of those colours really has to pop. Robin’s egg blue seems to be the winner of the books I chose. Take a look for yourself:

 

What draws you to book spines? What do you like or dislike on a book spine? Comment below or if you do your own post/video, make sure to link back to Misty so she can see! :)

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Possess by Gretchen McNeil

Possess by Gretchen McNeil
378 pages
2011, Balzer + Bray
My Rating: 4/5

Click the Cover Below to Purchase on Amazon!

Description(From Goodreads.com - shortened):

Rule #1: Do not show fear.
Rule #2: Do not show pity.
Rule #3: Do not engage.
Rule #4: Do not let your guard down.
Rule #5: They lie.

Fifteen-year-old Bridget Liu just wants to be left alone: by her mom, by the cute son of a local police sergeant, and by the eerie voices she can suddenly and inexplicably hear. Unfortunately for Bridget, it turns out the voices are demons – and Bridget has the rare ability to banish them back to whatever hell they came from.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book. I was a bit hesitant at first because of the major Catholic themes in the book, but it all worked out. I am an atheist so I tend to roll my eyes over religious talk and I was worried that there would be a lot in this book that I didn’t care about. I was very pleased to see that there wasn’t much of a religious agenda at all and that the plot was great!

Bridget is our protagonist. She is half Chinese, which is something I haven’t seen in a protagonist before (in books, obviously), and her personality is quite spunky. She has a gay friend so I enjoyed that there were pro LGBTQ themes. The other characters were realistic and likable. I liked the variety of characters.

I was worried about romance, but I liked the direction this book took it. In particular, Bridget’s mom is involved in a love triangle that involves Bridget’s best friend’s dad. I thought that was an interesting touch because it isn’t often that we see a love triangle that involves the parents!

The plot was really well done and I think this was my favourite aspect of the book. Some bits were predictable, but there were so many layers to the story that I couldn’t help but try to anticipate what was going to happen next. The book read like a creepy mystery, and I found I especially loved the creepy scenes. There were several instances where I was creeped out and I really enjoyed that. Alongside the creepy scenes, there was a phrase that jumped out at me a few times for comic relief: “Sweet cartwheeling Jesus!”

This was a really nice read to have right before Halloween. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking to read a YA horror/paranormal story. Plus, look at that cover! It is so beautiful. :)

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2013 Challenges & Goals (Brainstorming)

Is it too early to be thinking about 2013? Possibly, but with my success this year in terms of reading I am excited for what next year brings. There are so many authors and books that I want to check out, so I thought I would use this space tonight to brainstorm. There are definitely some general goals that I would like to accomplish, as well as reading more from a single author. Some of them include:

  • Reading more chic-lit
  • Nicholas Sparks – he is a popular author and I have read one of his books. I want to see what the others are like.
  • Haruki Murakami – I love his books
  • Stephen King (entire collection, will take several years)
  • Terry Pratchett
  • Dean Koontz
  • 100 Books
  • 12 Classics
  • More Horror

I also want to add more structure to my reviews and YouTube videos. I admire what Priscilla does with her monthly themes, and I think that would help keep it interesting for me.

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The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
September, 2012
Little, Brown & Co. 
My Rating: 3/5

 

Description (from Goodreads.com):

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.
Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.
And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

My Review:

I should start this review off by saying my opinion on the book is heavily biased through my experiences. Pagford, the Fields, and the people involved all resonated with me. I could connect with almost all the characters in a way that so-and-so reminded me almost perfectly of someone I know personally and bits of myself were in some characters. However, all these connections are part of a time in my life that I really hated. I hated the people that I was reminded of, and all the bad situations I have either experienced or known someone close to me that had experienced them.

Themes/issues in the book include drugs, poverty, prostitution, LGBTQ issues, spousal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, the different parenting types, self harm, achievement vs failure, power, revenge, love, racism, and many, many more.

So let’s talk about the characters. There are plenty (a whole town’s worth, really), and at times it was very difficult figuring out who was related to who and what shop they worked at and why did all of this matter anyways. That run-on sentence highlights my thinking process while reading this book. Gossip is what brings the characters together (or tears them apart).

Krystal Weedon stood out to me immediately because she has a rocky relationship with her mom, has to look out for her little brother, and shares the same name as me (Crystal). Not to mention, her best friend is Nikki, which is the same name as my childhood best friend. I would argue that Krystal is one of the main protagonists of the story. She really captured the phrase ‘your actions have consequences for others,’ both as the perpetrator and the victim. She was tough, swore constantly, always tried to find a solution, and always was looking out for her little brother. She reminded me of myself, 10 years ago. She built up this defensive wall to protect what was most important to her – her brother.

Parminder was another character that captured my attention. As a woman of colour and a doctor, she was an interesting character. Her husband was also a doctor (heart surgeon) so together one could argue they held a certain amount of power over the community. Despite that, Parminder was constantly criticized and these accusations were further propelled through small town gossip. I was happy to see a family that wasn’t white, but I wish there were more in the story. There were two black families in the small town I grew up in, so I understand there is an element of realism here. I liked her character because she was a very intelligent person that made rational decisions. As pure small town virtue, because she was so smart no one bothered to listen to her. I think we have all been in the same situation – trying to convince someone ignorant that they are wrong is next to impossible.

Moving on, the pacing was very slow. The book is 500 pages and it felt excruciatingly slow up until the last 150-200 pages. The rest of it was just build up, and frankly, I don’t think the end result was all that shocking. I could see the ending coming a mile away, but I don’t think I would have changed anything about it. It is realistic and ties everything together. Although it wasn’t a “wow” moment for the reader, it was in the book and that is all that matters… right?

The writing was not what I was expecting. JK Rowling must have had a thesaurus open next to her because so much of the writing had awkward words that the average person wouldn’t know, and the descriptions were tedious and long. I remember there was a thick paragraph devoted to stating that it was raining outside. Some could argue that this was a literary device used to set the mood of the chapter or whatever, but the same could have been said in much less – i.e. ‘It was raining.’ I have heard people complain that she made the book ‘too adult’ in that the writing contains vulgar language all over the place. I found it realistic from my experiences, so that didn’t bother me. I guess it depends on how you grew up.

I’ve been harsh on JK Rowling, but the truth is there are a lot of redeeming qualities about the book. She managed to create an entire community and its inhabitants. Not to mention, all of these inhabitants felt like real people with real problems. It is understandable that she needed the space to build it all up. The idea behind the book is one that I hadn’t come across before and it made it feel like the same could have happened in my own town. The intricate nature of the plot line must have been extremely difficult to flesh out, and I commend her on her efforts.

All in all, if a different author had written this book I would have probably stopped reading 50 pages in. I kept going until the end because it was JK Rowling and I wanted to believe the end would pay off. In a way, it was satisfying but overall my impressions are a bit bleak. I don’t loathe the book, but I definitely don’t love it. It brings back a lot of bad memories for me, and I suspect that is why I cannot find myself loving it.

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Crystal’s Classics

I started a new feature on YouTube called “Crystal’s Classics.” The idea is that I want to read more classics and since there are so many, why not let others point me in a direction? I have several on my shelf but no idea where to start. I have read some this year (mainly some Jane Austen works) but I’d like to read at least 2 more before the year is up. So I asked people on YouTube which of the following they would like me to read and review. I think I may add a discussion as well, because many of these are books that people study in school and  I want my videos to be helpful. :)

Here are the books I have been thinking about:

  • Mansfield Park – Jane Austen
  • Emma – Jane Austen
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  • Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  • Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  • David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

Feel free to vote on a book if you are interested! I’ll probably tally them up in about two weeks.

Are there any classics that you are wanting or needing to read soon?

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Chasing the Dragon by Nicholas Kaufmann

Chasing the Dragon by Nicholas Kaufmann
133 pages
Chizine Publications, 2010
My Rating: 3/5

Description (From Goodreads.com):

Centuries ago, St. George fought and killed a dragon or so the legend goes. The truth is somewhat different. George failed in his mission, and the Dragon still walks the Earth, protected by an undead army, hiding in the shadows and slaughtering men, women, and children for its prey. Each of George’s descendants through time has been tasked with killing the Dragon, and each has failed. Twenty-five-year-old Georgia Quincey is the last of the line. But Georgia is also an addict, driven to the warm embrace of the needle by the weight of her responsibility and the loss of everything and everyone she has ever loved.

 

My Review:

I picked up the book knowing absolutely nothing about it. It was fairly inexpensive due to a deal the bookstore was having, so I read the back and became intrigued. I love anything that has to do with dragons and this book sounded like an adventure of some sorts that dealt with dragons. In a sense, that was a correct assumption. It should also be noted that I read this book at work, where I was often interrupted. Whether that affects my overall feelings on the book, I cannot say.

The book deals with quite a bit of history and intense moments. We are told of Georgia’s ancestors as Dragonslayers, but also of Georgia’s current issues in her life such as her addiction to drugs and lack of family and friends. In such a short book, it is difficult to fully convey the magnitude of these events, but the author does a great job setting everything up. The perspective on Georgia’s addiction is similar to what an addict would actually feel (as far as I know) of the conflict between what the body and the mind want, but the more intricate details of withdrawal were left out.  There were many action scenes with a great sense of gore; however, referring to the corpses as “meat puppets” took away all the horror for me and made it feel a bit comical at times.

I liked how the book tried to fit in all these different ideas and bring them all together. It was an interesting story, but there were missing pieces. I think that if the book were longer, then we could have gotten more of a grasp of the “how” aspects to both the dragon and Georgia’s back stories. Overall, it was a pretty good read but didn’t stand out to me.

 

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