Friday, October 24, 2014

Bookish and Non-Bookish Thoughts...

You guys, the weekend is almost here and that means sleep!  This week has been a bit of an emotional drain, but now its time to put those feelings aside and dive into a few days of reading, sleeping, and spending time with family.  And, finally getting to watch some good TV or movies - it is Halloween month after all!
  • Since it is October I baked my Halloween sweet treat that I am famous for amongst family and friends.  Monster cake! Talk about delicious!!  Chocolate cake, butterfingers, cream cheese, caramel and whipped cream - need I say more.  Nom. Nom. Nom.
  • The Walking Dead was super good this past Sunday.  It was chock full of intrigue - like, who is Father Gabriel and what secret is he hiding.  Who is driving that black car and where is Beth?  Were the hunters watching Rick and his gang or was it Morgan?  And, did Bob get bit; if so, does that mean the hunters are eating tainted meat?  Oh, and why did Tyrese lie about killing that creep?  Ugh! So many questions!  I loved it!
  • Look what I bought! Hurrah! I saw her interview of CBS This Morning and went out to buy a copy ASAP.  I love this series and am excited to find out what Becky is doing in La La Land.
  • I'm excited to watch The Good Witch's Wonder this Saturday.  I just love this movie series on Hallmark and look forward to the new movies that air each year.  Especially, as they tend to keep the same cast throughout the movie series - I hate when they swap out actors for new ones.  This film centers on Cassie's stepson getting married and I'm sure there will be plenty of drama surrounding that event, along with a bit of magic.  I can't wait!
  • I'm finally reading my copy of O magazine.  So far I've jotted down a few new book titles to add to my TBR list and have thought about using a few of the recipes mentioned for Thanksgiving.  Plus, I loved Gayle's find - the steps to happiness (because who doesn't want to be happy?)  Here goes:  
          • 1. Decide to be happy
          • 2. Make it a priority
          • 3. Let go of judgements
          • 4. Be present
          • 5. Be grateful

And now, I'm ready for the weekend.  Hope you all are enjoying some great new reads.  Happy reading!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Shining and Doctor Sleep both by Stephen King

I was watching Daria on DVD the other day and there was an episode where she mutters, "redrum" as her family drives up to this huge estate. At the time I had no idea what she was talking about, but I knew she was referring to The Shining.  Of course, after reading the book and its sequel, I know very well what "redrum" means.  Alas, Stephen King has once again captured my imagination with his two novels, The Shining and its sequel, Doctor Sleep.

Two more books down for R.I.P. IX means that I am now done with the challenge - hurrah!  I have read my four horror books and must admit that they weren't as gruesome as I had feared.  Of course, they did manage to keep me up late at night - I just couldn't sleep after reading about the horrifying topiary animals in The Shining, or after learning about Pennywise in It (a book that disappointed me in the end, which is why I'm not posting about it).  Luckily, Doctor Sleep didn't really crowd my dreams with nightmares, so I was able to tackle that book rather easily. 

Alright, so lets begin with The Shining.  Jack Torrance is a pretty shitty dad, husband, teacher, provider, and man.  He's just no good.  He likes his alcohol a little too much and doesn't bother to hide it from anyone.  And he's got a bit of a temper - think, beats up a student and breaks his son's arm.  Yeah, he's not a good guy at all.  His wife, Wendy, knows this and for some reason remains with him, in spite of her desire to pack up Danny (their son) and leave Jack behind.  Of course, lack of money and love play huge roles in their lives - like, why Jack decides to accept a job as the caretaker of a huge hotel (the Overlook) in town (well, its actually a bit out of town, up in the mountains).  He's desperate to keep his family together and desperate to write a new book - he needs this job, because its his last shot at trying to convince his wife that he's turned over a new leaf.  The job will mean that Jack, Wendy, and Danny will relocate to the hotel and live there during the off season, when everything gets shut down due to the severe weather - think snow, snow, and more snow.  They will essentially be cut off from civilization for months and have to fend for themselves - thankfully, the larder is stocked and the boiler is working.  They are convinced that living at the hotel will be a breeze.  They don't know about the ghosts and evil that resides deep within the hotel.  Well, Danny knows.  You see, Danny is special.  He's got the shining, which means that he can see things no one else can - like dead people, the future, and he can even communicate with other folks who have the shining without even talking.  Yeah, he's a special kid alright and he knows that this hotel is bad news.  He knows that nothing good will come out of moving there, but he doesn't know how to tell his folks.  So, Jack, Wendy and Danny settle into their new digs and get ready to take on winter.  Suffice it to say, so much bad stuff happens that you can't stop reading about it.  There are bad dreams, bad sightings, bad experiences, and bad ghosts to contend with.  The Torrance family is at the mercy of this hotel and can't seem to find a way out of it.  Except, they don't all want out of it - Jack becomes convinced that his family is preventing him from achieving his goal and decides that they need to be taken care of - no matter what!   Suffice it to say, I loved this book and easily got caught up in all the drama, mystery, suspense, and creepiness that ensued.  I loved little Danny Torrance and his buddy, Dick Hallorann (he's my hero!) - they were the highlight of the story.  King did an awesome job of creating a chilly, spooky atmosphere within this story, along with characters that you couldn't help but care about.  His details were incredible and made reading the story richer and deeper.  I absolutely loved The Shining!  I plan on watching it later this month - yes, I'll finally get to watch Jack Nicholson's take on Jack Torrance. 

As for Doctor Sleep, well, it definitely kept me on my toes at times.  This book was an interesting way to explore Danny as an adult and also to look at another child dealing with the shining.  I didn't love the book as much as I loved The Shining, but I certainly enjoyed it.  In this story, we find that Danny is still traumatized after his experience at the Overlook - seems that the ghosts from that place still haunt him.  His mom calls their old friend, Dick Hallorann, to come and talk with Danny.  He teaches the kid how to create lockboxes in his mind where he can lock up these ghosts from his past (or present).  This is a great trick that will come in handy when he's an adult.  Of course, adult Danny is chock full of problems - a bad temper and an alcoholic.  You could say that he's a chip off the old block.  Anyhow, he winds up working at a hospice and gets the nickname, Doctor Sleep, because he has a knack for helping the dying leave this world with peace of mind.  He even has a cat who helps him by letting him know whose next.  As Danny settles into his new life as Doctor Sleep, he also gives up drinking.  His life is predictable and he likes it.  In a nearby town, a little girl named Abra is born and she's got a touch of the shining.  Her parents don't really understand what is happening to their daughter, so as she gets older she covers up her abilities.  Abra's pretty good at telekinesis and eventually telepathy (a gift she uses to connect with Danny).  The two form an unlikely friendship and wind up banding together when they catch wind of a terrible group called, The True Knot.  This group has a penchant for children (or adults) with the shining - they feed on their "steam".  When the group learns about Abra, they find their next victim.  In true King fashion, we get the small town, dynamic characters, supernatural forces, and a few horrifying scenes - all of which make for quite a good read.  Now, I'm not going to tell you whether or not Danny can help Abra defeat The True Knot, because I'm pretty sure you can guess that answer.  Just know that a trip back to The Overlook takes place and its integral in putting an end to this nightmare that has been haunting Danny for much longer than The True Knot. 

And there you have it, my thoughts on two of King's bestselling novels.  I have his next book Revival on my Books To Buy list and can't wait to sink my teeth into that tome.  King has definitely made a comeback in my reading repertoire lately.  I remember reading The Stand and The Tommyknockers years ago, but hadn't picked up any of his books since then.  Thanks to Ti's love for King's novels, I've developed a bit of an addiction to his stories lately and have to say that I'm really enjoying it.  So, thanks Ti! 

And now I'm off to read my copy of the latest O magazine.  Just looking at the cover, I can't help but want a white suit - Oprah looks amazing in hers! 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Nick and Tesla's Super Cyborg Gadget Glove by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

(Thank you to Quirk Books for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Bright siblings—and amateur inventors—Nick and Tesla Holt are back in this fourth installment of their whiz-bang middle-grade series. This time, the twins are out to save science itself, as they race against the clock to figure out why a robotic assortment of history’s greatest scientists and inventors keeps going haywire. Is this sabotage, robo-geddon…or something more sinister? To unravel the mystery, they’ll have to keep adding all-new gadgets to their cyborg glove as they stay one step ahead of a hidden adversary.

Together with zany scientist Uncle Newt and their friends Silas and DeMarco, Nick and Tesla won’t give up until an answer is found…but can they do it before time runs out? In this book, readers will learn how to construct a super-cyborg gadget glove that has four incredible functions: LED signal light, ultra-loud emergency alarm, handy sound recorder, and UV secret message revealer. Science and electronics have never been so much fun!

my thoughts:

Color me happy.  I've just finished reading another installment in the fantastic Nick and Tesla series by "Science Bob" Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith.  This time round, the brother/sister duo have to battle an unknown saboteur at the local science museum, where their Uncle Newt is currently working a gig.  He's helping fix an exhibit of robots - the only problem is that they keep going haywire on him.  And the museum is having a HUGE gala in mere hours, so time is of the essence.  Of course, its not going to be easy for Nick and Tesla to figure out this mystery, what with security and the museum director keeping an eye on them.  Then again, these two like a good challenge and they are up for the task with the help of their friends.

Except, Nick isn't really into solving another mystery.  He's more concerned with the whereabouts of their parents who seem to be MIA.  Plus, all the crazy things that have happened since their folks left them in their uncle's care have made him feel a bit anxious.  And, then there's the fact that his sister always seems determined to meet danger head on.  So, Nick is rather annoyed when Tesla pushes him to work on this new mystery alongside her and their two friends, Silas and DeMarco.  Of course, once the adventure begins, he's right there by her side.  And what an adventure it is - men dressed as dancing owls, gadget gloves, possible kidnapping, and so much more!

Nick and Tesla's Super Cyborg Gadget Glove is a fantastic read!  Its chock full of science, fun, mystery, and a bit of danger.  I swear these books get better and better with each new addition to the series.  I'm eager to find out where the next book will take Nick and Tesla, and whether or not we will ever find out what his parents are hiding.  And, I'm excited to find out what new gadgets there are to build alongside the book. 

If you are looking for a fun book that will keep your kid entertained and teach them a bit about science, then check out Nick and Tesla's Super Cyborg Gadget Glove.

Thanks to Quirk Books for providing me with a copy of this book!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Us: A novel by David Nicholls

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

David Nicholls brings the wit and intelligence that graced his enormously popular New York Times bestseller, One Day, to a compellingly human, deftly funny new novel about what holds marriages and families together—and what happens, and what we learn about ourselves, when everything threatens to fall apart.

Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date . . . and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen year-old son, Albie. Then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Hoping to encourage her son’s artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world’s greatest works of art as a family, and she can’t bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway? Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage, and might even help him to bond with Albie.

Narrated from Douglas’s endearingly honest, slyly witty, and at times achingly optimistic point of view, Us is the story of a man trying to rescue his relationship with the woman he loves, and learning how to get closer to a son who’s always felt like a stranger. Us is a moving meditation on the demands of marriage and parenthood, the regrets of abandoning youth for middle age, and the intricate relationship between the heart and the head. And in David Nicholls’s gifted hands, Douglas’s odyssey brings Europe—from the streets of Amsterdam to the famed museums of Paris, from the caf├ęs of Venice to the beaches of Barcelona—to vivid life just as he experiences a powerful awakening of his own. Will this summer be his last as a husband, or the moment when he turns his marriage, and maybe even his whole life, around?

my thoughts:

As a huge fan of One Day by David Nicholls, I was eager to read his next book, Us.  I was especially pleased to learn that it had been longlisted for the Man Book Prize 2014, because I knew that meant it was going to be a great read.  Suffice it to say, the Man Booker committee was right to choose Us.  A contemporary novel that explores a twenty-five year old marriage via a family vacation through Europe is certainly not what I expected - its much more. 

Douglas tells us the tale of how he met, married, and reared a child with Connie through flashbacks, as the couple and their seventeen year old son travel through Europe.  You see, Connie decided that they should use the summer before their son, Albie, heads off to university as a way to bond and spend some quality time together.  Of course, Douglas didn't count on Connie informing him that she wanted out of their marriage - and on the eve of departure no less!  Ack!  Douglas is upset, hurt, confused, and doesn't know what to do about Connie's confession.  So, they head off to Paris in the hopes of enjoying their time together (and Douglas hopes that this trip will change Connie's mind).  However, not all family vacations are going to turn out how you envisioned.  In the Petersens case, there are complaints on the first day - too much luggage, not enough alone time, scheduled tour stops, etc.  Seems like no one is too happy to be embarking on a trip that will have the trio spending all their time together - well, except for Douglas who is hoping to rekindle his marriage with Connie and create some father-son memories with Albie. 

This family is unhappy - plain and simple.  Douglas had no idea that his wife was thinking about leaving him - he didn't even realize that their marriage was no longer working.  As for Albie, well, they never really had a strong relationship, as Albie was more of a mama's boy and tended to connect with his mother over their shared interest of art and the bohemian lifestyle she once lived.  Feeling like a bit of an outsider, Douglas' perspective on his relationships are a bit skewed from that vantage point.  He doesn't seem to understand where this dissension is truly coming from - he just thinks that he's tried so hard to love them that he's done enough.  Learning about their marriage and their son, I couldn't help but feel sorry for Douglas at times.  I found Connie to be rather selfish and did think that she preferred to be with her art friends more than Douglas - he was right on that count.  As for Albie, I can't really seem to pick up on when exactly he fell out of love with his dad - what happened to cause this rift?  Of course, I haven't finished the book just yet, so perhaps Nicholls reveals the moment when all the walls came tumbling down in Casa Petersen.  I'm at the point in the story where the trip has unraveled and people have separated and Douglas is now on a mission of redemption (of sorts).  I can't wait to find out what happens in Venice.  I have to admit I'm loving reading about all of the cities they visit in Europe - its a lovely way to travel.

Nicholls has written a wonderful story about a family in disarray.  He's created such flawed and realistic characters, that you can easily relate to.  He's written about their relationships with such authenticity that you can feel the tension in the air when Douglas doesn't side with his son during a fight at the hotel.  And the use of flashbacks to learn about the history of these relationships is fascinating, especially as we get to understand just how delicate these relationships already were before the Grand Tour of Europe.  I love how Nicholls makes you feel such empathy for Douglas and has you questioning Connie's devotion to their marriage.  As for Albie, he's a character unto himself that I just find to be irritating and rather bratty.  I am really enjoying reading this book and can't help but find myself on Douglas' side thus far.  Of course, I still have quite a number of pages to go, so who knows where I'll find myself siding with by the novel's end.  Either way, I am truly enjoying immersing myself in Nisholls' world.  This man really knows how to capture the fragility of family and love so well - its apparent how much thought he's put into these characters and their problems.  I love his writing!

Anyhow, I'm off to finish Us.  The weather is dark and rainy, so its perfect for reading.  All I need is a cuppa and I'm set.  Hope you are enjoying your current read.  And, if you are on the lookout for your next book, check out Us by David Nicholls - its perfect for fans of Nicholls and fans of fiction.  Here's the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Us
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Bookish and Non-Bookish Thoughts...

Its Friday and the weekend is nigh - woo hoo!  I've been ill all week with a horrid cold, so I've been watching too much telly and reading magazines.  I did start reading two new books (Us by David Nicholls and The Red Book of Primrose House by Marty Wingate), which I am really enjoying.  And I've been jotting down recipes ideas for Thanksgiving - yes, I know its early, but I can't help it!  Anyhow, just wanted to share a few musings with you:
  • My mom's 60th birthday party was a success - hurrah!  She enjoyed getting to see her family and friends and dancing the night away.  My sister and I were going crazy all last week and the day of the party trying to sort out last minute details - it was stressful, but well worth it all in the end.  Everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves - lots of eating, drinking, and dancing.  It was such a great night.
  • Murakami didn't win the Nobel, again.  UGH! I'm getting so annoyed by this - why can't they just recognize that his writing is worthy of a Nobel?!?  At least I have his new book to look forward to:
  • I've become obsessed with watching Oprah's Super Soul Sunday shows - they are so good!  I always find myself feeling inspired afterward.  The one with Elizabeth Gilbert was great!  I loved her coffee can story - I've been repeating it to family.  And, I've started my own coffee can.
  • The Walking Dead has begun and I am hooked.  That show just gets better and better. I loved watching the gang get out of Terminus.  I loved watching Carol be such a badass.  I loved watching Daryl and Carol reunite - and Carol and Rick.  And, I really loved seeing Morgan at the end of the episode.  This season is going to be AMAZING!!
  •  Sophie Kinsella and Alexander McCall Smith both have books coming out this month and I am super excited about it.  I love the Shopaholic series and can't wait to find out what Becky Bloomwood is up to now - especially as she is in Hollywood!  As for Precious Ramotswe, I am so eager to learn about what new cases she is solving and how her family and friends are faring in beautiful Botswana.  October is going to be a great reading month!
  • I've been listening to the new James CD, La Petit Mort, for days now and find myself loving it more and more.  I first discovered this band in college and have been listening to them ever since.  I was lucky enough to see them perform at Wembley Arena in London during grad school - they were fantastic live!  Here's one of my favorites by them:

And now, I'm off to tackle the rest of my Friday.  Hope everyone has a great weekend!  Happy reading to all!!