Thursday, December 30, 2010

Geocaching: A North of Beautiful Experience

We have decided to go on a series of bookish adventures in order to both promote these things and make the best of our free time. And where best to find adventures than in books? :) So, inspired by Justine Chen Headly's North of Beautiful, today SM and I went geocaching!

What is Geocaching?


Our Tools:
  • Two SmartPhones with GPS apps (we used the free iPhone app GPSLite Motion X -- seemed fairly accurate, if finicky at times)
  • Boots, jackets, gloves
  • A pen
  • A trinket to exchange
Our Experience:

It was a cool winter day when we went to the park with some coordinates plugged into our phones. We found the site without trouble in a copse of trees just off the trail, but locating the actual cache, said to be a glass jar, was far more difficult than we had anticipated.

The brush was thick, the ground was covered with a thick blanket of leaves, and there were brambles like you wouldn't believe. After an hour of searching and poking and digging and being attacked by angry thorns...

We gave up on the copse of trees and searched for a different cache. This one was supposed to be a 1.5-star (one is the easiest), located on the rocky underside of a bridge.

However simple it seemed, we could not find it, and, on the verge of giving up, we decided to go urban and find one located not far away in a parking lot, which was probably the easiest geocache in the world, but we are novices. :) So, after much frustration, we finally located an active cache behind a bush.
We took a Parasite Pal...

And left a monkey...

And the owners of the business near it, just recently introduced to geocaching, heard us whooping and celebrating, and came out to congratulate us. Absolutely adorable!

What We Learned/Tips for You:
  • Get a geocaching.com account.
  • Bring friends!
  • Make sure you go in full trekking gear, and be prepared to bushwhack and dig. BEWARE OF THORNS!
  • Bring a trinket that is small enough to fit in a pill bottle, yet cool enough to be desirable to other geocachers.
  • If you live in a place that has lots of trees, beware that fallen leaves may make it more difficult to spot a cache in the fall and wintertime.
  • Don't be discouraged -- start off easy your first time, and try several caches before giving up. There are caches for all levels of adventurousness.
  • Beware of Muggles (non-geocachers) ;)

LINKS:

geocaching.com - official site for the worldwide treasure hunt!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Giveaway- I Don't Want to Kill You

My name is JOHN CLEAVER and I've killed two people.
But I don't want to KILL you.
Honest.
The men I killed were DEMONS: actual, physical MONSTERS, who survive by taking the bodies, identities, and lives of innocent people. They are PREDATORS, and we are their PREY, and I'm the only one who can stop them because I'm a predator too. One by one, I'll kill every KILLER in the world.
My name is John Cleaver, and I don't want to KILL you. But I will if I have to.

LINKS:

Contest Information:
-Entrants must be 13 years or older
-US residents only
-Contest deadline is January 15
-Fill out a form below!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sucking the Marrow Out of Life

I've been pondering lately the little joys of life-- well, of my life anyway-- reading, of course, being one of them. Constantly, my thoughts have brought me back to my childhood.

Childhood is a time of life in which the person is not burdened with responsibility, obligation, work, or worry. It's a time where taking naps is dreaded, for in those couple hours, so much of the day can be missed. Childhood, simply put, is a time of living.

My memories of childhood are so vibrant and bright. I grew up constantly reading books, writing stories, and playing imaginary games with my siblings and friends. When I remember those stories, I don’t remember pages or words; I remember interesting characters, far off places, and daring adventures. When I remember playing imaginary games, I don’t see my backyard or living room; I see a time machine, a pirate ship, my high tech spy gear. I remember the exhilaration of travelling to different places, of becoming a different person, figuring that person out, and of not limiting myself in any way, shape, or form. In my imaginary worlds, anything was possible. I lost this freedom when, like most children, I became too old and grew out of imaginary games.

But I still have reading. I still have writing. I have theatre; I have photography; I have all the other little things that just make me happy. That inspire me to live.

So often I'm swept up in responsibility, in work, in things I'm obligated to do, but don't want to. I get so caught up, so busy, I forget to look at life through the eyes of a child. I forget to see the world colorfully. I can't even allow my swamped mind to escape, just briefly, into a book. I cherish taking naps. My life becomes... boring, stressful, unsatisfying. Days flash by quickly, and nothing truly memorable affects them. Routine. Routine. Routine.

Routine is exactly how I do not want to live. Good old Thoreau will sum up my outlook on this matter perfectly: I want to always "live deep and suck all the marrow out of life".

So for this new year, I will live. I will read more. I will write more. I will create. I will go on spontaneous adventures. I will do whatever the hell I feel like doing! And it will be grand. :)

Speaking of grand... improv everywhere is almost too awesome for me to handle. Observe:


Happy reading, everyone! :)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Drought by Pam Bachorz

Available this January

GRADE: A

Synopsis:

Ruby dreams of escaping the Congregation. Escape from slaver Darwin West and his cruel Overseers. Escape from the backbreaking work of gathering Water. Escape from living as if it is still 1812, the year they were all enslaved.

When Ruby meets Ford--an irresistible, kind, forbidden new Overseer--she longs to run away with him to the modern world, where she could live a normal teenage live. Escape with Ford would be so simple.

But if Ruby leaves, her community is condemned to certain death. She, alone, possess the secret ingredient that makes the Water so special--her blood--and it's the one thing that the Congregation cannot live without.

Drought is the haunting story of one community’s thirst for life, and the dangerous struggle of the only girl who can grant it.

Ratings:

Character Development: 7/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 9/10
Ending: 5/10
Voice: 10/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 56/70

Obtained: From Publisher (Egmont USA)

Age Appropriate? R


Cursing: Some
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: None
Sexual Content: Referenced
Disturbing Images/Violence: Murder, whipping, death, slavery

Review:
Pam Bachorz has a very eloquent, yet gripping writing style and a strong voice. Though the novel was set in a small strip of land, the simple little places in that perimeter were so vividly described and intriguing that the setting became one of the most powerful aspects of the book. Drought was a thought provoking novel about faith, love versus loyalty, and desperation.

The ending, however, left me feeling somewhat... incomplete. I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe it seemed too anti-climactic compared to the building tension. Maybe it seemed like Ruby was acting out of character. Maybe it seemed like so much was still unresolved, unanswered; like the solution Ruby chose was just too simple. Most likely, it was a mix of all of those things. Or maybe I just missed something and need to reread this particular book to somehow figure it out.

Drought was most definitely worth the read, though. The concept is intriguing, the writing is lovely, and the story, so filled with hope, yet so devastatingly brutal, demands the reader's attention.

LINKS:

Monday, December 20, 2010

Un-Reviews

Recently, for some reason, there have been a few books I have encountered that I have been unable to finish for one reason or another. I don't want to review a book I haven't completed, that seems unfair, so for these three books I'm giving "un-reviews", just my initial impressions and why I could not finish them. Enjoy!


Symir: The Drowning City by Amanda Downum
Completed: 173 of 351 pages

Symir -- the Drowning City. Home to exiles and expatriates, pirates and smugglers. And violent revolutionaries who will stop at nothing to overthrow the corrupt Imperial government. For Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and spy, the brewing revolution is a chance to prove herself to her crown. All she has to do is find and finance the revolutionaries, and help topple the palaces of Symir. But she is torn between her new friends and her duties, and the longer she stays in this monsoon-drenched city, the more intrigue she uncovers -- even the dead are plotting. As the waters rise and the dams crack, Isyllt must choose between her mission and the city she came to save.

IMPRESSIONS: This book was fast-paced and written well, but the story and the world were just so complicated, it took a lot of mental effort to figure out what was going on. One day, I hope to return to this book, because it was quality fantasy, but that would require me to be able to focus entirely on this book and nothing else. I would still recommend this, though, to people who enjoy intense, all-consuming reads.

Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst
Completed: 107 out of 309 pages

What Lily Carter wants most in the world is to attend Princeton University just like her grandfather. When she finally visits the campus, Grandpa surprises her: She has been selected to take the top-secret Legacy Test. Passing means automatic acceptance to Princeton. Sweet!

Lily's test is to find the Ivy Key. But what is she looking for? Where does she start? As she searches, Lily is joined by Tye, a cute college boy with orange and black hair who says he's her guard. That's weird. But things get seriously strange when a gargoyle talks to her. He tells her that there are two Princetons—the ordinary one and a magical one—and the Key opens the gate between them. But there are more secrets that surround Lily. Worse secrets.

When Lily enters the magical Princeton, she uncovers old betrayals and new dangers, and a chance at her dream becomes a fight for her life. Soon Lily is caught in a power struggle between two worlds, with her family at its center. In a place where Knights slay monsters, boys are were-tigers, and dragons might be out for blood, Lily will need all of her ingenuity and courage—and a little magic—to unite the worlds and unlock the secrets of her past and her future.

IMPRESSIONS: I adored Sarah Beth Durst's earlier book Ice, and I expected the same kind of story here. Unfortunately, that was not the case. While I give kudos to Durst for variety, I could not stay hooked on Lily's story. The writing itself was as sturdy as ever, but the world (a magical parallel world at Princeton) and the characters did not appeal to me. It was too typical, very modern-fantasy/paranormal/girl discovers she is the key to everything. That sort of thing. And while really this would be an excellent read for a lot of YA readers, it wasn't for me.

 Logic of Demons: The Quest for Nadine's Soul by H. A. Goodman
 Completed: 118 out of 262 pages


What would you do if the love of your life was murdered by a deranged killer? Would you become a vigilante and seek retribution? And would this revenge affect those you care for in the afterlife? Logic of Demons: The Quest for Nadine's Soul takes you on a journey inside the psyches of men and women forced to deal with the spiritual consequences of their decisions. Through the lives of a demon, two Angels, and a mysterious teenage girl, a plethora of politically and socially relevant issues ranging from the roots of genocide and sex trafficking to child conscription and religious fundamentalism are addressed in this fantasy thriller. Life as well as the afterlife converge in this novel to explain certain peculiarities of the human condition.

IMPRESSIONS: The concept of this book is interesting. It seems original and unique, and it is. The plot and the premise are not the problems with this book. For me, it was the pace and the writing style. This is a slow book, very in the characters' minds as they make decisions and such, which is, I suppose, the whole point. But I didn't like it. The writing had its moments, definitely, and was at times quite impressive, but it wasn't very consistent and I felt like it was sometimes trying too hard to connect with the reader.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody

Grade: High A/Low A+


Synopsis:

In a world struggling back from the brink of apocalypse, life is harsh. And for Elspeth Gordie, it is also dangerous. That's because Elspeth has a secret: she is a Misfit with mysterious mental abilities that she must keep secret under threat of death. Burdened by her mutation, she leads the fearful, isolated life of an orphan. And her fears only multiply when she is exiled to the mountain compound known as Obernewtyn, where--for all her talents--Elspeth may finally and truly be out of her depth. For she's not the only one concealing secrets at Obernewtyn. And someone within its walls seeks the most dangerous secret of them all--one that may revive the very forces that nearly destroyed the world.

Ratings:

Character Development: 8/10
Originality: 8/10
Ending: 7/10
Voice: 8/10
Plot: 9/10
Setting: 10/10
Total Score: 60/70

Obtained: Library.

Age Appropriate? PG


Cursing: Limited, if any
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Medical drugs (misuse of...), some reference to alcohol consumption, I think
Sexual Content: None.
Disturbing Images/Violence: Murder, abuse of children, some graphic violence.


Review:


This was an incredibly gripping read from the very beginning. A typical fantasy, Obernewtyn was nonetheless riddled with surprising turns, exciting plot development, and intrigue. The society Carmody has created in these Chronicles is quite impressive and fascinating, along with a captivating cast of mysterious characters that I long to know more about. Like many books of this sort, it is very plot-driven, and therefore very fast-paced and thorough. With such dramatic settings, dark themes, and exciting action, I cannot wait to get my hands on the next installment. A wonderful read for lovers of fantasy and adventure.



LINKS:


Obernewtyn.net

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Shake it Up!

This song is so precious! Yes, it's completely un-book-related, but that don't matter! We're shakin' it up. :)



There's a Story I was told,
and I want to tell the world before I get too old.

Once upon a time in a town like this
A little girl made a great big wish
To fill the world full of happiness
And be on Santa's magic list

At the same time miles away
A little boy made a wish that day
That the world would be okay
And Santa Claus would hear him say
I got dreams and I got love
I got my feet on the ground
And family above
Can you send some happiness?
With my best to the rest
Of the people of the East and the West And
Maybe every once in a while you
Get my grandma a reason to smile
Tis the season of smile
It's cold but we'll be freezing in style
Let me meet a girl one day that
Wants to spread some love this way
We can let our souls run free and
She can open some happiness with me

-Train, Shake up Christmas

Got Holiday Spirit?
Send some happiness into the world.
Smile.
Love.
Shake up some happiness!

And, as always,
Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce

Grade: High A

Synopsis:
Digger thrives as a spy and sneak-thief among the feuding religious factions of Gerse, dodging the Greenmen who have banned all magic. But when a routine job goes horribly wrong and her partner and lover Tegen is killed, she has to get out of the city, fast, and hides herself in a merry group of nobles to do so. Accepted as a lady's maid to shy young Merista Nemair, Digger finds new peace and friendship at the Nemair stronghold--as well as plenty of jewels for the taking. But after the devious Lord Daul catches her in the act of thievery, he blackmails her into becoming his personal spy in the castle, and Digger soon realizes that her noble hosts aren't as apolitical as she thought... that indeed, she may be at the heart of a magical rebellion.

Rating:
Character Development: 9/10
Originality: 7/10
Overall Enjoyment: 8/10
Ending: 8/10
Voice: 8/10
Plot: 8/10
Setting: 9/10
Total Score: 57/70

Obtained: Publisher

Age Appropriate? PG-13

Cursing: Some
Drugs, Alcohol, etc: Drinking
Sexual Content: None
Disturbing Images/Violence: Gruesome injury and death

Review:
Elizabeth C. Bunce creates a vivid and intriguing setting. It is easy to be swept up into the commotion of Digger's life, and difficult to pull yourself out again. Fantasy, mystery, action, magic... Star Crossed is a mixture of them all, combined to create an exponentially enthralling read.

The characters all have secrets.
The plot is beautifully woven.
The protagonist is an absolute bad ass.

Star Crossed is a great read and I can't wait to immerse myself in Digger's world again in Liar's Moon.

LINKS: