Bout of Books 15.0: Villain Mashup

So today’s B.O.B challenge is so much fun. I encourage you all to leave your answers in the comments below after mine, because I’m sure you will all have an opinion on this.

Cynthia from http://www.bookbinges.blogspot.com/ asked us to:

  • Pick villains from two different books that you would love to see fight each other. It can be from any genre and it doesn’t even have to be a physical fight. It could be a verbal one as well.
  • Give a short reason why you think these villains should fight each other

My Answer:

Ok, so I’m hoping comics can count here but how about Loki vs. Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles?

The reason? Well, they both have powers of illusion and deception. (Also, I’d secretly want Loki to win because, ahem, well, all I can picture is gorgeous Tom Hiddleston and tell me you don’t want to see him take down that annoying and ruthless Levana…)

Now, if we were speaking about protagonists and not antagonists, here are my picks:

Celaena Sardothien vs. Hermione Granger

Yeah, that’s a weird combination, I know. But hey, the classic strength vs. brains match-up is quite interesting, and both characters are bad-ass in their own ways.

So who are YOUR picks? Would you bring popcorn to watch either of my match-ups? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Quick Tip to Read More in the New Year!

Ah, that lovely time of year when we are all so motivated and pure. If you’re like me, you probably have been setting a hefty reading goal for yourself every year. Maybe you lowballed your goal once and read some impossible percentage of books. Good for you. Or maybe, you failed horribly (goal-wise, at least) and read far less than you wanted to.

For those of you who are sticking with the goals this year, here’s a quick little tip for reading a LOT more this year: read before bed. Even if it’s just 10 minutes of reading, do it.

I’d personally recommend you opt for a real, physical book for this method. Yes, those still exist. For one, this is the perfect way to unwind, de-stress, and relax before bed. There are no bright phone or computer screens messing with your brain’s ability to fall asleep; it’s just you and a story. And then plus number two is that this is extra reading time you don’t need to schedule! You have absolutely no excuses! And this extra reading = more books read this year. Score!

Perhaps this tip is fairly obvious to you, but some people just have not given it a try. Do it! You’ll love it! (But maybe stay away from the Stephen King books, at least at night. Just a suggestion.)

While we’re on the topic of resolutions, I’ll let you know what my “hefty reading goal” is for the year: 75 books. I know, breathe in, breathe out. That’s a lot. For the average person, that’s probably a lifetime of books. But I think I’m up for the challenge this year. *suits up for the ultimate reading battle*

So tell me, what are YOUR reading goals this year? Are you setting one on Goodreads, or foregoing that altogether?  Let me know in the comments below!

Review: What the Heart Remembers by Bette Lee Crosby

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this novel for review from the author. All opinions are fully my own, as usual.

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Cover image from Amazon

Hello, world! Today I bring you a review of something a little different. I didn’t participate in the Read Harder challenge that Book Riot ran this year, I did decide that I would start it in 2016. One challenge that I saw was to read a romance novel, and here came Ms. Crosby with a selection for me.

*And of course, I have to mention the beautiful cover!*

Official Plot Synopsis

Max Martinelli spent her junior year of college in Paris, and fell in love. Julien was a wickedly handsome young man who was crazy in love with her, or so she thought. He was a free-spirited artist and she an aspiring architect—impressionable, young, and standing on the brink of womanhood.

That was over three years ago but the memory of him still haunts her. Max’s life is stuck on hold because she can’t stop wondering what would have happened if she had gone back. Was Julien simply part of the magic of Paris? Or was he meant to be her destiny?

After a New Year’s Eve party that ends in disaster and bad dreams, Max decides to find out once and for all. She is going to return to Paris and search for Julien. But will her search bring forever after happiness or a truth so ugly it will change her life forever?

Even though What the Heart Remembers is Book Three in the Memory House Series it is a stand-alone novel and you need not have read the other books to enjoy it.

My Thoughts

What first drew me to the novel was the mention of France. I’ve had a long obsession with all things France, from the language to the cultures of the francophone world. So to hear I was about to read a book that took place in France was all I needed to begin reading.

My issue here though was the use of French in the book. You see, our main character is an American visiting France, so the novel is in English, but street names and shops are in French. The places mentioned in the novel, or at least the ones that I have searched, are all real, which floored me. However, this mixing of English and French got a bit redundant at times.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. Several times in the novel, “Magasin Sennelier” is mentioned. It’s important to the plot. But the problem is the sentence phrasing. It’ll say the “Magasin Sennelier Shop.” This drove me NUTS reading since I understand what this means. Essentially, what I am reading is “The Sennelier Shop Shop” because magasin means shop. Over and over, I heard about this “shop shop” or that “shop shop.”

However, I don’t want to be overly harsh on Ms. Crosby. Maybe she does know French, or some French, and was instead trying to aid her English-speaking readers. If you don’t know French, you would have no idea “Magasin Sennelier” was a shop unless she said shop. (Or, if you had been there. Again, it’s real!) So, I appreciate how she tried to engage her full audience. It’s also fine if she doesn’t know French, but I guess I would’ve wished she at least looked up the words she was using.

Still though, this is a complaint just for grammar-sticklers like me. Ms. Crosby is an excellent storyteller who manages to whisk even the skeptical reader away into her world. There’s just something about the diction of her prose. It’s not ornate or all that descriptive like some other novels I’ve read, but the style of the words somehow captures all that you need. I admire that a lot.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a pure romance fan. I don’t mind a romance plot within a novel, but I don’t usually turn to books that are just romance. Probably due to the setting of the book and the multitude of characters, this plot did eventually manage to grab me. It wasn’t just a straightforward one guy, one girl story. There were other characters, other situations, and even a touch of mystery that kept me compelled to keep reading.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the romance genre looking to get away for a day or two to a romantic (and mysterious) vacation in Paris, What the Heart Remembers is the book for you, at just $4.99 for Kindle. And if you like this one, you can also grab the previous two novels (again, they can be read on their own) and experience even more of her stories!

Personally, I’d give this one 3.5 stars. I don’t think I’ll continue with the series on my own, but I truly enjoyed experiencing my first romance novel from not just any author, but from one of the masters of the genre.

 

 

Third Time’s the Charm (A review of Pride and Prejudice years in the making)

I’ve always been slightly ashamed of never having read a book as well known as Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. Whether you have read it or not, its fame is obvious from the slew of remakes and parodies on the internet and in literature as a whole.

My first attempt to read the novel was at some point in middle school. At this time, my reading taste was limited to girly YA novels with happy-go-lucky endings and whatever my teen librarian recommended we read each month for book club. (Which by the way, I was the only female member of, and then eventually the only member of at all.) So P & P seemed like something I would read, if I had the brain for it.

I got through a few pages and then set it down, thinking to myself how impossibly boring and abstruse the text was. “People read this, how?” was all I could think.

The second time was less than a year ago. I really wanted to try it, and like it, so yet again I sat and attempted to beat my middle school Pride and Prejudice record. Nada. I felt like giving up on it forever. Until I started my current literature course.

A bad literature teacher or professor can make every book seem like generic brand cereal. A good one, however, can make the most banal of details an hour long discussion topic into which the class is fervently engaged. Luckily, I have a great professor. So great, in fact, that I’ve declared myself a literature major.

This professor happened to assign us Pride and Prejudice as our third novel in the semester. My first thoughts were a mix of how the devil was now coming back (You again!?!) and how I would finally finish this novel. I had to. It was for an assignment.

I was so happy upon finishing it I even took it right to Twitter at that moment.

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OK, enough about me and my snail book-finishing pace. Let’s hear what I actually thought of Pride and Prejudice.

Part of what increased my appreciation for this classic novel was context. Having studied it for a literature course, we read novels chronologically, in the order they were published. So prior to reading Austen’s novel, we read The Coquette by Hannah Webster Foster. We discussed how this novel may have been one of the reasons for the soon-to-come women’s suffrage movement, after having been a bestseller for 50 years. (Can you imagine that in modern times? When was the last time a book was a bestseller for 50 years!?) Pride and Prejudice tells a similar story, yes, but with a dramatically different ending that preaches a different, even more empowering message.

Friends, Pride and Prejudice is not the fluffy, junky romance novel my previous, young self thought it was. Pride and Prejudice is the story of a woman who thinks for herself and gets what she wants as a result. Compare Elizabeth to her sisters and their different marriages and you’ll discover marriages based purely on “but darling, he’s rich! Marry him for money!”, marriages based on desire, and marriages based on both, and the various outcomes for them. The happiest marriages were the ones based on more than just someone’s wealth; the ones based on what you actually think and feel for each other.  For the time period, this novel, and especially The Coquette, were incredibly revolutionary.

So for me, I read Pride and Prejudice not for the plot itself, but for the message, for what the novel accomplished. Pride and Prejudice also represents the introduction of the third person narrator (a huge invention!) into literature, rather than using the epistolary form. (Gosh, say Pride and Prejudice ten times fast. Could I say that phrase any more times during this post?!)

And if Pride and Prejudice (!) is still bland for you, you can always check out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, whose movie trailer just debuted this week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAChymiQC-o

So, now that I have officially read Pride and Prejudice, we can have discussions about it! Have you read it? What did you think? Join me in the comments below!

Testing “The Awesome Author Recommender” Tool

I was scrolling through Reddit this morning and discovered a neat little link called “The Awesome Author Recommender.” Similar to sites like WhatShouldIReadNext, it is a site that recommends you authors based on previous ones you have read. The site claims to use real people, not a computer formula, to recommend an author to you.

Excited to try it out, I first put in Marissa Meyer, the author of one of my favorite YA series, The Lunar Chronicles.

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Well, I suppose Marissa Meyer isn’t the most widely read of authors. For the heck of it, I also tried Ernest Cline, whose books are certainly selling quite a bit at the moment.

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Oh well, we’ll keep trying.

How about a YA romance novelist who has been writing and publishing a multitude of books for years now?

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I do like that the site at least gives me a brief description of the author, even if it can’t make any recommendations to me.

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Hold that thought; no recommendations or even a description of J.K Rowling? Perhaps I’m pushing this a little far, but isn’t she British? This is a British website. Yikes.

Figuring I was being a tad unfair by choosing the previous authors, I tried Jane Austen, in honor of my current read, Pride and Prejudice. Surely something will come up.

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Screenshot of Awesome Author Recommender

Oh dear. That’s a problem.

In a desperate attempt to get the website to make any recommendation to me, I just started searching random authors. Classic ones, modern ones, anything. I also tried ones it automatically began to suggest to me as I typed.

Thankfully, I did get some recommendations, including for Karen Thompson Walker, one of my favorite authors, who has only written one book. Why she is in there but not Jane Austen, I am not entirely sure. Nevertheless, I am certainly intrigued by the site’s sole recommendation to me.

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Lauren Oliver. I clicked “View Books”, and this is what it gave me:

Screenshot of LoveReading's Lauren Oliver page.

Screenshot of LoveReading’s Lauren Oliver page.

Below this was more of her featured books, as well as other books by her, which can be sorted by paperback, hardcover and audiobook.

For fun, I tried out the “compare prices” tool that the site offers on her book, Rooms.

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Gotta love loading symbols.

After several minutes of waiting, I decided to try a different book to compare prices with.

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5 minutes later, I was still looking at this picture.

Oh, boy. I really, really wanted to say something good about this site. For the sake of this experiment, I kept the tabs loading, and even tried them in other internet browsers. Nada.

As other reddit users are saying, the idea of this tool is great. It is unique and pretty close to the experience you’d get asking a librarian for recommendations, yet with a wider scope. Ideally, at least. But there are far too many holes in the site’s author database, and too little recommendations given when you even find an author that is in the database. (For example, I was given just one recommendation for Karen Thompson Walker.) Perhaps in a few months, or however long it takes to add more authors to the database, this will be a fun and worthwhile tool for readers. But at this moment in time, I just don’t think it is ready.

Try out the site for yourself and let me know what you think and/or find! If it were more complete, would it be a useful tool to you? Comment below!  http://authormachine.lovereading.co.uk

P.S If you saw my tweet on twitter, I redid my Tumblr page and am now posting on it again! Hooray! Give it a follow for some cute bookspiration!