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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Monday, August 31, 2015

August Reading Roundup

It was another great month for reading!  I was able to read 16 books (one off from last month)!  I seemed to vacillate between ultra serious books (The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton, A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness) and light-hearted reads (Rebel Belle, by Rachel Hawkins, The Rosie Project, by Simsion Graeme).  I made some headway in my enormous TBR pile, reading The Martian by Andy Weir, The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, and Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.  And I was able to continue to use audiobooks to lessen the monotony of the morning commute, listening to Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming, and Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari.  Overall my favorite book of the month was The Wrath & The Dawn, by Renee Ahdieh.  I loved the writing, romance, and settings.  It showed love as complicated and messy.  With September comes a busier schedule for me, so I shall see if I can maintain this reading pace.

What did you read in August?  What was your favorite of the month?  Please leave a comment and let me know.

Here are all the titles, in no particular order:
                                                                       



 
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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Feature & Follow Friday # 227


I am participating in Feature & Follow Friday!  I am new to all of this so if I explain it awkwardly, please forgive me.  This is like a blog tag!  I will try to follow as many of the blogs on the master list as I can and hope that some of them will follow me back!  This is hosted by Alison of Alison can read and Parajunkee Go to both of their sites and check them out!

Here is the explanation from Alison Can Read's blog:

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you!

What sets this Hop apart from others, is our Feature. Each week we will showcase a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. Who is our Feature today? Find out below. Just remember it is required, if you participate, to follow our Features and ayou must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) as a courtesy. How do you follow someone? Well, if you have a preference, state it in your #FF post. A lot of blogs are transitioning to Wordpress in which they do not have the luxury of GFC, so an RSS subscription is appreciated or if you choose an email subscription. If you don't have GFC please state in your post how you would like to be followed.

There is also a question of the week!

Question of the Week: Share a random quote from the book you are currently reading.  Suggested by Journey Through Fiction


From The Wrath & The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Tariq continued, the silver in his eyes flashing, "But understand this: no matter how many perfect young women you put in my path, there is only one Shahrzad"


If you start to follow me, please leave a comment below and say hello!  I will do my best to follow you back!  You can follow on Bloglovin, Google friends connect or on Networked blogs.


Happy blogging!

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Three 4 Thursday: 3 Modern Fairy Tales

What makes something a modern fairy tale?  I think of it as when a book has that quality of someone telling a bed time story.  What do Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel & Gretel, and Sleeping Beauty all have in common?  There is fantasy, strange doings, a child in danger, but also hope.  These three books, while not for children, offer fairy tales for teens and adults that might make you stay awake, rather than sleep.  But that is what makes them so much fun!

1.  Lips Touch, Three Times by Laini Taylor.

After finishing the Dreams of Gods and Monsters series by Laini Taylor,  I wanted to try another one of her books.  This unique book contains three unrelated short stories, the critical element of each being a kiss.  The reader is invited to guess the meaning of each story through a graphic novel-like opening.  The stunning illustrations do not have words, but that is part of the fun.  These stories read like twisted fairy tales!  The main characters all seem to be teenage girls, but the settings, time periods, and circumstances are all different.  With themes of coming of age, sacrifice, and destiny, each story is creative and whimsical.   I could easily have seen each short story becoming a full length novel.


2.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has a talent for creating eerie settings that seem like a nightmare come to life.  In fact, I think I had a few nightmares over the period when I read it!  A man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral and repressed memories come flooding back to greet him.   The nanny who seemed so kind to the parents, yet when Mom was not around was terrible to the kids.  The neighbors who appeared to be weird, yet were so kind when he really needed a safe haven.   Some of the man's recollections seem so unreal, he must be mixing up fantasy with reality.  Or did these things really happen?  Do we ever remember clearly what actually happened in our childhoods?  Or do we all create the version of recollections we need to be at peace with our past?


3.  A Monster Calls by patrick Ness

I read this after a fellow blogger, Chioma from Blue Books and Butterflies, said it was one of her favorites.  Well, you can add me to the list!  The main character, Conor, is a young teen taking care of his mother who has cancer.  If his mom dies, he will have to live with his cold, distant grandmother, or his geographically distant father.  Conor has a lot of anger and fear over the situation.  One night he is visited by a monster who says that Conor has called on him.  He begins a series of three stories that seem random and confusing to Conor.  After the stories end, the monster says it will be Conor's turn to tell his truth.  But can Conor face it?  Can he control his fear over the events looming in his future?  Could the monster possibly help him by curing his mother?  This a beautiful and heart wrenching story.  Some of the events touched me in a very personal way that left me bawling my eyes out.  But a good cry can actually be very therapeutic.  This story will stay with you for a long time.






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Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review: The Rosie Project


Synopsis from Goodreads:

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. He is a man who can count all his friends on the fingers of one hand, whose lifelong difficulty with social rituals has convinced him that he is simply not wired for romance. So when an acquaintance informs him that he would make a “wonderful” husband, his first reaction is shock. Yet he must concede to the statistical probability that there is someone for everyone, and he embarks upon The Wife Project. In the orderly, evidence-based manner with which he approaches all things, Don sets out to find the perfect partner. She will be punctual and logical—most definitely not a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Yet Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also beguiling, fiery, intelligent—and on a quest of her own. She is looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might be able to help her with. Don's Wife Project takes a back burner to the Father Project and an unlikely relationship blooms, forcing the scientifically minded geneticist to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that love is not always what looks good on paper.

Review:


After reading two very heavy, depressing books, was looking to read something lighter and fun.  That is exactly what I got as I read The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion.  Don Tillman sure doesn't know he has Asperger's, but we do as the author shows Don lecturing at a conference for "Aspies".  All the signs of the condition are laid out for us.  Don fits the criteria (OCD, socially awkward, trouble with empathy).  But Don sees that he would actually like to find a woman to share his like with.  The story tells of Don's search for a  wife.  Since he is a genetics professor and researcher, he decides to to use a questionnaire to weed out obviously incompatible mates (absolutely NO SMOKING).


His friend, Gene, sends over a candidate named Rosie.  But she is everthing that he does not want.  She smokes, drinks, works as a bartender, is unpredictable and...stunningly beautiful.  Slowly Rosie invades Don's orderly world as he helps collect DNA samples to find out the identity of her father.  He lets her, he says, because she is clearly not a part of the "wife project".  As the story progresses, Don and Rosie change each other's perspectives of the world.  Could this be Love?


I really enjoyed this book.  Though somewhat predictable, the love story was touching.  I rooted for these two to be together.  I also found the search for Rosie's Dad to be an unusual twist (it could be anyone of her Mom's Medical school graduating class).  I winced and waited for them to be caught collecting swabs from glasses.  


The one part I found slightly lacking was the assumption that Don, because he  had Asperger's, was incapable of love.  I am very close to several people with this condition, and I can say that "Aspies" are profoundly capable of love, loyalty, humor, and are fun people to be around.  One of the things that is difficult for them is social interactions.   This is due to anxiety.  They are deeply worried they will say or do the wrong thing.  I didn't see much of Don's anxiety.  I think people with Asperger's are acutely aware of how uncomfortable unpredictable situations are.  But in the book, Don's seems to gloss over these things.  It would have been an even better novel had the author shown this aspect of Don's personality.


But overall I loved it and look forward to reading the sequel.   There will be a movie version of this starring Jennifer Lawrence as Rosie.  That should be fun, but who should play Don?  



Rating:  
Source: Public Library
Format:  Hardcover
Recommendation: If you like the Big Bang Theory, or simply a fun romance, you will love this book!
Will I read more from this author:  Yes!
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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Buttons, Buttons, who's got the buttons?



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Where do I begin?  I am still a newby blogger, getting my bearings and trying to create a blog that people will see as a representation of what I like and who I am.  For weeks, I have noticed all the lovely blog buttons people have up with the heading,"Grab my button".  I was intrigued but had no idea how to incorporate the buttons into my blog without overwhelming the site with too many graphics.

So I took a long look at some other blogs I admire.  I saw a cool looking "blog roll" on The Innocent Smiley blog and took a chance.  I wrote to Val, the blogger, and asked her how she did this?  I thought maybe she found a widget and she could direct me where to find one.

Well, may I say that VAL IS A ROCKSTAR!  Not only did she answer me back, but gave me a super detailed explanation of the code, what to look out for, and sample code.  She could not have been more gracious and kind.

Making my own button has been more of a challenge.  First I needed to make a button that gave a feel for my site.  Thankfully my daughter is a wonderful artist (she designed the cat at the top right corner of my blog) and designed a great button.  Next, I needed to create a side bar post that would have the button and a grab code.  This is where things got sticky.

I am NOT a computer person!  I run, screaming, when I see code that I am supposed to manipulate into something useful.  Again, I am so glad for the help of others.  The webiste GEEKALICIOUS  was instrumental in explaining the code needed.  I also had the help of my Husband, Jeff (who just happens to be a programmer) to fine-tune everything so it would work.

The results:  two cool features on the right side of my blog!   So grab the PONDERING THE PROSE Button please!  When you are done, check out some of the other blogs I follow on my super cool Blog Roll!
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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Blogger Recognition Award


I've been nominated by the very kind Mikayla @ Mikayla's Bookshelf  in the Blogger Recognition Award tag!  This is an amazing thing for me.  I made it a goal to really focus on creating content for my blog this summer, and it is starting to pay off with more page views, followers and friendships as my journey progresses.  Thank you for making me feel a part of this amazing community of bloggers!

Rules:

1.  Select 15 other blogs you want to give this award to.  Do some digging if you must!  Find those blogs.  You cannot nominate yourself or the person who has nominated you.

2.  Write a post to show off your award!  Give a brief story of how your blog got started, and give a piece or two of advice to new bloggers.  List who nominated you in your post.  Make sure to attach the award yourself.

3.  Comment on each blog and let them know you've nominated them.  Provide a  link to the award post you created.

4.  Provide a link to the original post on Edge of Night.  That way, anyone can find the original post if needed, and we can keep it from mutating and becoming confusing.

My story:

The past few years have been rough for me.  Caring for my Mom in her last stages of cancer, dealing with my own illnesses, and recognizing my changing role as a mom has made me quite reflective.  My priorities have shifted to try and include making time for myself and doing things that make me happy and connected to others.  One of my great pleasures is reading.  Seeing how much my mom enjoyed books inspired me to focus on seeking out books I could get excited about and share with others.  I started my blog for two reasons.  First off, I wanted a way to practice writing regularly.  Secondly, I wanted to connect with others who enjoy books.  My blog got off to a rocky start, as I began it in the middle of the school year.  I didn't really work on it as much as I wanted to and I was frustrated.  This summer, I have really put my all into this and it is starting to bear fruit!

Advice for new bloggers:

Figure out how much time you have each week to dedicate to your blog.  Establishing a blog is time-consuming, but worth it!  Figure out how to schedule your posts ahead of time so you can dedicate a few days a week to writing and line up your posts.  That way you will get ahead of any deadlines you have set and can relax on some of the days.  If you put too much pressure on yourself, you will burn out and stop enjoying it!  Then it will become a chore.  No one wants that!  Have fun and write about what excites you, even if, at times, it is unrelated to your main blog's theme.  When you are enthusiastic, others will be too.

My Nominees are:

1.  Sofia @ Bookish Wanderess
2.  Kateria @ Kati Bookaholic Rambling Reviews
3.  Alexandra @ Milky Way of Books
4.  Donita @ My Random Book Thoughts
5.  Ashley @ Bookish Realm Reviews
6.  Sinead @ Less Reality, More Books
7.  Jen @ My So-Called Book Reviews
8.  Anna @ Enchanted by YA
9.  Kelly @ Effortlessly Reading
10.  Jen @ Pop! Goes The Reader
11.  Tammy @ Tammy's Book Reviews
12.  Fhina @ Fhina's Lunatic Life
13.  Maria @ Teen YA Book Nerd
14.  Paulina @ The Little Book Pixie
15.  Jade @ Book Muffin

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Sunshine Blogger Award



This is the first award I have been nominated for since really devoting time to this blog over the summer.  I am so happy that I am making connections and new friends along the way!  The person who nominated me was Sofia @ bookishwanderess  Check out her blog; it is well written and fun! I am so glad to have become her book blog buddy!

“The whole idea of the Sunshine Award is that you nominate  bloggers who put a little sunshine in your day, who are positive, creative, and inspiring.”

Rules:

– Answer the 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.

– Nominate some wonderful bloggers and write 11 questions for them to answer.

Sofia's questions:

Do you read graphic novels? Do you have recommendations for someone who wants to start reading them?
I haven't read many graphic novels, but I have read Maus by Art Spiegelman.  It was really moving, but heavy subject matter. 

Do you have a genre that you really don’t like? One you never read?
I am not a big fan of mystery books.  I think it's because I'm not great at solving puzzles, so most of these whodunits are frustrating for me.  That and the one's I can figure out are too simple and obvious.

What is your favorite quote?
"How do you just thrust "I love you" out into the air?  It needs waiting arms to catch it"
- Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

Do you read fantasy? What’s your favorite fantasy book?
I think I love fantasy the most!  I really loved the Dreams of Gods and Monsters series by Laini Taylor.  It incorporated magic, fantastical creatures, romance, and humor into two distinct, believable worlds.

What’s your favorite tv show?
I don't really watch television.  But I used to love Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Who is your favorite author?
That is a tough question!  I really enjoy Maggie Stiefvater, Leigh Bardugo, Erika Johansen, Sarah J. Maas, Nick Hornby, and Jane Austin.  

Do you dislike a ship that everyone else likes?
I'm not overly fond of Harry/Ginny in the Harry Potter series.  I just think it was too convenient for Harry to marry Ginny so he and Ron (and Hermione) could all be related.  But I can see how Harry would want to be a part of the Weasley family, especially since he doesn't have a family of his own.

What book to movie adaptation is your favorite?
I love the 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightly, Matthew Macfadyen and Brenda Blethyn.  This version was touching, funny, and showed the Bennet family  as a loving and happy.  I enjoyed all the performances, particularly the minor characters such as Mrs. Bennet, Mr. Bennet, Charlotte, and Mr. Collins.  Each actor brought so much to these roles an added to my understanding of them.

Do you listen to music while you are reading?
Sometimes I do listen to music while reading, but only instrumental music, as I find the words to songs distracting as I am trying to process the words I am reading.  

What’s your opinion about classics?
I enjoy reading (and re-reading) classics.  I mostly go for British women writers.  This is probably due to the fact that I did a study abroad program during college in England and took a British literature course while there.  Seeing the beautiful parts of England while reading classic novels was such a moving experience.

Who is the author you have read the most books from? 
I've read all of Jane Austin's books, and all but one of Nick Hornby's books.

The Blogs I nominate:
Mikayla @ Mikayla's Bookshelf
Chioma @ Blue Books and Butterflies
Christina @ Books are Life

Here are my questions:

1.  What kind of posts do you like to make on your blog (reviews. opinions, features)?

2.  What are the ways you promote your blog?

3. Why did you start a book blog?

4.   How long have you been blogging?

5. Are you on other social media (Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook)?

6. What is your favorite genre?

7. What is the last book you've read that made you cry?

8.  How many books do you read per week?

9.  Have you met any authors at book signings, conventions, or just randomly?

10.  Which author would you love to meet and what would you say to them?

11.  If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?


If you decided to answer the questions, let me have the link, I would love to see your answers! 
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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Three 4 Thursday: 3 Historical Fiction books with memorable woman characters

Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres.  When I read these stories, I like to imagine how I could live in that time period.  I also think about how I would react to the different historical events and times presented in the book.  Here are three of my favorite Historical Fiction novels:

1.  The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

When I first read this novel, I didn't realize it was based on real people. Some of the characters seemed over the top.  But as the story progressed, I realized many of the plot points were based on historical events.  I believe some of the dates are off, but the story of the Empress of Austria and English Captain Bay Middleton is captivating.  It has some parallels to the saga of Princess Diana.   Sisi, the Empress, was considered the most fashionable and beautiful woman in Europe.  While her husband ruled the Hapsburg empire, Sisi sought excitement through Horses, and handsome men.  She may be royalty, but she is also a prisoner to etiquette and tradition.  When he captures her attention, Bay Middleton is excited, flattered, and also terrified that he will lose the respect of his peers.  He does not want to be a royal plaything, but can't resist Sisi's allure.  This book has many strong female characters besides Sisi, which make for a satisfying story.

2.  The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I really liked the powerful women characters in this book.  Again, I didn't realize the story was based on real people until after I finished reading.  This book is about two sisters, living in the south before the civil war.  One of the girls receives a slave named Handful as a "gift" for her 11th birthday.   The other sister becomes a Quaker and a headstrong abolitionist.  The lives of the two sisters and Handful are fraught with difficult choices as they seek to live in a way that is true to their beliefs .  Handful finds ways to quietly rebel against her oppressors, while the sisters must overcome not only their family's disapproval, but also society's strict codes dictating ladies behavior.  
This book shows how the abolitionist campaign sowed the seeds of the early women's rights movement.  It shows women of that time making meaningful contributions to the greatest issues of the day through countless small acts of bravery.

3.  The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

This book takes place in the early 1920's and follows the young Louise Brooks and her chaperone Cora Carlisle, as they spend the summer in New York, far away from their Kansas home.  From her uninhibited ways, one can see how Louise will soon become one of the most iconic celebrities of the flapper era.  But for now, she is a rebellious teen, trying to ditch her chaperone at every turn.  Cora finds Louise's behavior alarming, yet is quietly rebelling in her own way, seeking to find her own origins in New York.  These two women are only a generation apart, yet one seeks out change while the other is confused by it.  This book reflects the rapidly changing American society of the post WWI era.  It shows the beginnings of the cultural obsession with youth and celebrity that have defined the 20th century.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Go Set a Watchman: A Disturbing Tale


Before I begin, it would be wise of me to explain some of the background of the origins of Go Set a Watchman.  As I understand the facts, this novel is really a draft of Harper Lee's first novel.  After she submitted it, her publisher suggested that she start over and write a book about the main character's (Scout's) childhood.  That became the impetus for the writing of To Kill a Mockingbird, which has sold over 40 million copies worldwide since it's publication in 1960.

There are many questions as to why Harper Lee would choose to release Go Set A Watchman for publication.  Some are even suggesting that people behind the scenes are manipulating her.  I don't know, obviously, but it does seem strange that such a famously private person (who claimed she would never write another book) suddenly agrees to now release this previously unpublished work.

Here are two links to news articles regarding the controversy:

New Republic  The suspicious story behind Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman

The Guardian  Go Set a Watchman: Mystery of Harper Lee manuscript discovery deepens

I pre-ordered this book long before I knew these questions were raised.  It was too late to cancel and so I do own the book.  Yet it took me many weeks to begin reading it.  I finally did so with trepidation.

It is nearly impossible for me to review Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee,  without comparing it with  To Kill a Mockingbird.  But I will give it go.  Both novels share the same setting (Macon, Georgia) and characters but Go set a Watchman is set in the 1950's,  twenty years after the events in To Kill a Mocking Bird.  On it's surface, it is a tale of a young woman finally seeing her father as a whole human being, with many faults, and loving him in spite of it.  As I read it, I could not help but remember the tone of To Kill a Mockingbird.  There was a quality to Scout's childhood that seemed idyllic and innocent in the midst of the terrible events swirling around them.   But in Go Set a Watchman, Jean-Louise's sweet memories of her early life are shattered as she returns home for a visit at the height of the civil rights demonstrations of the late 1950s.

One of the problems with this book is the portrayal of her father, Atticus, as a benevolent racist.  I'm not even going to start comparing his character in both books.  In THIS book, it is problematic.  The main story line of this book is that Jean-Louise can't reconcile how color-blind she thought Atticus was in her youth to the racist he unabashedly is now.  The problem is that she doesn't really give us any strong examples of the kindness and even-handed way she says he treated African-Americans in the past.  There is one reference to the trial that becomes one of the main events in To Kill a Mockingbird.  But Atticus's willingness to defend a black man is dismissed as his interest in upholding the law, not in taking any stand on the injustice of the situation.  The book tries to resolve these conflicts, but is ineffective.

There are long discussions about race between Jean-Louise and her Uncle Jack, as he tries to explain why many in The South were still racist.  I felt extremely uncomfortable with the arguments presented (it's the Federal Government's fault?) and with the premise that if Jean-Louise was upset by the racism in her hometown, that made HER the bigot! What???

Go Set a Watchman wrongly proclaims that racist opinions are of no real consequence.  "Good Grief, baby, people don't agree with the Klan, but they certainly don't try to prevent them from puttin' on sheets and making fools of themselves in public."  her uncle says.

He seems to believe that, as long as no one is overtly beaten up, she should tolerate racism.  He clearly doesn't understand (or care) about the many ways racism can be oppressive to a people without throwing a punch.

The one thing I did enjoy about Go Set a Watchman was when Harper Lee wrote about Jean-Louise's childhood.  She writes in such a way that makes me remember how I role-played and used my own imagination during long summer days playing outside with my siblings.   I could see the seeds of To Kill a Mockingbird from those passages.

Where Go Set a Watchman is bleak regarding the future of The South, To Kill a Mockingbird is hopeful.   It foretold a future where there would be social progress.   Perhaps that was what Harper Lee saw as she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird.   I always loved that Atticus was teaching his children respect for everyone, black or white, rich or poor.  By 1960, some progress was being made with peaceful protests and the removal of some Jim Crow laws.  It was this optimism for the future, with a strong message that there was much progress yet to be made, that caused To kill a Mockingbird to be important to me.  I feel it is a profound work of fiction that will still hold a special place in my heart.
Rating:
Source: Purchased by me
Format:  Hardcover
Recommendation: If you loved To Kill a Mockingbird, you may NOT want to read this book.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Amazing Time at the Taylor Swift Concert!

Okay, I know this is not a book related topic, but I had to share about the wonderful Summer evening my daughter and I had at the Taylor Swift concert recently!

The venue was a long drive from our city, so we knew we would want to get there EARLY!  The gates were to open at 5pm, but I didn't want to fight crowds just to park the darn car.  After a quick run to Target for snacks and a CD copy of the 1989 Album, we hit the road about 1pm.

As I told my Daughter, there would be a lot of "hurry up and wait" situations that day.  Sure enough, we got to the stadium about 3:15, and then waited in line to get to the gates.

We met a great group of teens in line.  Some of them had been at the first night's concert, so they gave us the scoop:  If we wanted to actually get the drawing my daughter made for Taylor to her, we needed to RUN to the back of the stadium to the Taylor Nation booth.  Once you get there, you wait an eternity (we waited about 1.5 hours) to take a photo with a cool background.  You then type in your email, and you get the photo sent to you.


Then, you politely ask if you can get your gift to Taylor.  They will take it (along with lots of other people's gifts) backstage so Taylor can see them.  I really don't know if Taylor Swift actually did see what we left there, but it was a fun thing to do. Hopefully she saw my daughter's drawing (she wrote a very sweet fan letter to Taylor on the back).



After that we got our pre-ordered merchandise (easiest, no waiting), and found our seats, way up in the stadium.

Being that it is a 50,000 seat venue, I opted for the less expensive tickets.  If we had really wanted to actually see Taylor's face, we would have had to have floor seats, which were going for $350 each!  I think we made the right choice.  By being up high we could appreciate the lights and take in the whole scene.  The venue was at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.  This is the home for the 49ers Football team.  It has an easy to navigate layout and even has a stadium app to pay for parking and merchandise, and order food.  For a small fee, you get your food orders delivered straight to your seat!  It sure beat waiting in line.

The opening acts were Shawn Mendes (a 17 year-old singer from Canada) and Vance Joy (who has the hit single "Riptide").   Shawn Mendes played with a simple guitar and then an electric guitar.  Vance Joy had a full band backing him up.  Both had lots of energy and seemed genuinely happy to be performing to such a huge audience.

Then the sun set and the main event started.  Every audience member got a small electronic wristband at their seat.  Once the show began, the wristbands all lit up!  Throughout the show they changed colors in time with the music and also reacted with your hand motions.  It was so beautiful to see 50,000 lights move and react with the music and it instantly made you part of the show.

The crowd was ecstatic as Taylor took the stage with "Welcome to New York"!  Throughout the show, there were lovely costumes, sets, lighting, dancers and surprises.  The girl group Little Mix came out to do a song with Taylor, and during "Style" Julia Roberts and Joan Baez strutted down the catwalk.  Julia seemed rather embarrassed by it all, but Joan got into it and you could tell she was having a great time!

This was a wonderful experience to share with my daughter.  I know some people don't like Taylor, but I think she sends a strong message to girls to cherish friendships and build other people up rather than tearing them down.  I really got a great feeling from the many enthusiastic fans who dressed up in costumes, made art for Taylor, made funny, original signs, and knew all the lyrics to every song (like my kid).  An added bonus was that most were helpful and polite to each other, too!

If you are a Taylor Swift fan, save up your money and go to the show!  you will not regret it.
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Friday, August 14, 2015

Feature & Follow Friday


I am participating in Feature & Follow Friday!  I am new to all of this so if I explain it awkwardly, please forgive me.  This is like a blog tag!  I will try to follow as many of the blogs on the master list as I can and hope that some of them will follow me back!  This is hosted by Alison of Alison can read and Parajunkee.  Go to both of their sites and check them out!

Here is the explanation from Alison Can Read's blog:

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you!

What sets this Hop apart from others, is our Feature. Each week we will showcase a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. Who is our Feature today? Find out below. Just remember it is required, if you participate, to follow our Features and ayou must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) as a courtesy. How do you follow someone? Well, if you have a preference, state it in your #FF post. A lot of blogs are transitioning to Wordpress in which they do not have the luxury of GFC, so an RSS subscription is appreciated or if you choose an email subscription. If you don't have GFC please state in your post how you would like to be followed.

There is also a question of the week!

Question of the Week: If you could have an endless supply of food what would it be? - Suggested byNot Tonight, I'm Reading

My answer would definitely be Ice Cream.  One of my very first jobs was at an Ice Cream shop and I loved trying all the different flavors!  I later majored in Food Science in College and got to take classes in Commercial Ice Cream production!

 If you start to follow me, please leave a comment below and say hello!  I will do my best to follow you back!  You can follow on Bloglovin, Google friends connect or on Networked blogs.



Happy blogging!
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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Three 4 Thursday: 3 Great Audiobooks

I am starting a new feature on my blog:  Three 4 Thursday.  Each week I will spotlight three books with a common theme in the hope that it might inspire you to start reading one (or all) of them over the next weekend.  I am relatively new to blogging.  This is my original idea and I have not seen this feature on other blogs.  However, since there are no new ideas and I haven't seen too many other blogs, there could easily be other Three 4 Thursdays out there.  If so, please politely contact me and I will be happy to spread the word about your awesome blog.  But I am not actively trying to copy anyone.  Three 4 Thursday just sounds like a catchy phrase to me.  Now on to some good things that come in threes...


3 celebrity books that you need to listen to as audiobooks...

1.  Yes, Please by Amy Poehler:


I've always admired Amy Poehler's achievements and confidence.  In her audiobook version of Yes, Please, Amy's positive message of empowerment is enhanced by celebrity voices such as Carol Burnett, Kathleen Turner, Patrick Stewart, and her SNL news partner Seth Myers.  This really brings the stories to life and creates a truly special listening experience.  Amy works hard but you can see (or in this case, hear) how all the connections she has made with others has led to such a successful career.




2.  Not my Father's Son by Alan Cumming:

Alan Cumming's memoir is a searing account of his turbulent childhood and how it shaped the man he is today.  With his Scottish accent setting the scene, we hear the terror of growing up with a violent father and feel the anguish of the aftermath it causes in Alan Cumming's life.  The book follows Alan Cumming's appearance on the BBC television show, Who Do You Think You Are?, the show that researches the ancestry of each episode's guest.   A family mystery begins to transpire as the show moves forward with it's search for Alan's paternal grandfather.  This is a thoughtful, and at times, difficult book to listen to.  I was very touched by how he got past such trauma and learned to move beyond it.


3.  Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari:

When I first downloaded this from the library, I thought this book would be an another amusing comedian's memoir.  But it is actually a real scientific study that Aziz Ansari (with the help of a sociologist) designed to try and understand how romance has changed in the digital age.  It was fascinating listening to him explain why, and how, people use technology to find their soul-mate.  And it was so entertaining, from the very first minute of the book.  This is a great example of how an audiobook can enhance the user experience.  Through music and asides, Aziz Ansari makes us so grateful we were "too lazy to read the book."

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

3 Books That Made an Impact

 I read books for the pleasure of being transported into someone else's world.  Whether it's fantasy, historical fiction, or YA books, I can begin to see someone else's experiences and appreciate how they handle moments I will never have.  Once in a while a book will come along that completely affects how I see the world.  It changes me.   It is obviously something that does not occur frequently, but when it does it is magical.  Please leave a comment below and share the books that have affected you.  Here are a three YA books that made my head spin:

1.  Monster by Walter Dean Myers




This YA book has an unusual format.  It is written and presented as a screenplay penned by an African-American teen who is on trail for murder.  It delves into complex issues of race, the judicial system, and the effects of living in a violent neighborhood.  As with life, the book does not offer easy answers to why some teens make poor choices.  But it does open one's eyes as to how it can happen.  Showing me this part of society is helping me better understand and humanize these issues.  



2.  OCD, the Dude and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn



Based on it's quirky title, I began reading this with the thought that this would be an entertaining little story.  It is so much more.  This is a story of teen who is desperately trying to cope with anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).  Told through a series of emails, letters, and school essays (complete with grades and the teacher's comments), this story had me cheering for the main character.  It was an important book for me because the main character was not defined by her mental issues.

In real life (and often in books), the labels of OCD, ADHD, Anxiety, and Depression are slapped on kids by adults.  It is a convenient way to look at a complex situation.  But it also oversimplifies.  This book is full of humor, heartbreak, and humanity.  It is a tear-jerker.  But when you have a good cry you can also feel refreshed and invigorated.  This book gives me such hope.


3.  Every Day by David Levithan



The premise of this book is pure YA Fantasy:  A person jumps from body to body, assuming a different teen's life each day.  Who is the original person?  Is it a boy or a girl?  Does it matter?  Each chapter shows the main character in a new body, a new situation.  It gives a voice to a multitude of teens and the experiences they have.  As the character jumps from boy body to girl body, there is no conflict or angst about gender or sexuality, only acceptance of who and where this person is at the time.  This book opened my mind to the concept of gender fluidity.  It also helped me understand more deeply about the differences between gender identity and sexual identity.  It is a mind-blower!


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Friday, August 7, 2015

Book Review: Rebel Belle

Description:

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.
 


Buy:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Book Depository

Review:

If you know me, then you'll know that I am a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  I loved that show, even going to a Buffy Convention once to be a complete fangirl and get autographs.  So it will come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed Rebel Belle, by Rachel Hawkins.  No it does not have vampires, but it has all the elements of an affirming girl-power story.   

Harper Price is trying to be all things to all people: perfect daughter, straight-A student, adoring girlfriend, and reliable pillar of the community, at all times with an immaculate fashion sense.  But her life takes a turn and she is now thrust into a world of new responsibilities as a Paladin, protector of the Oracle.

At it's surface, the story seems like a straight forward fantasy of empowerment.  But there is so much more going on.  Harper is more than just a pretty face.  She is smart, loyal to her friends and family, and has a strong sense of right and wrong.  This compels Harper to accept her responsibilities, but she does it on her own terms.

The book is also a commentary on the enormous pressure teens are under to do it all so they are the complete package for college.  There is also the added element of Harper trying to live down the infamy of her sister's tragic mistakes that makes this story compelling.

I loved all the characters, from best friend Bee to the bickering old aunts.  It breathed life into the town Harper lived in and the complicated life she lead.  All in all, Rebel Belle has big heart, which makes me breathless for the next in the series, Miss Mayhem.


Rating:  
Source: Public Library
Format:  Hardcover
Recommendation: YA fantasy fans will enjoy it.


Will I read more from this author:  Yes!
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2017 Reading Challenge

MsArdychan has read 2 books toward her goal of 180 books.
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MsArdychan's bookshelf: read

The Hummingbird's Daughter
Joseph Anton: A Memoir
The Most Beautiful Walk in the World: A Pedestrian in Paris
The Help
The Fry Chronicles
A Clash of Kings
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
A Game of Thrones
The Hunger Games
Catching Fire
Mockingjay
The Giver
Savvy
The Red Pyramid
Anne of Green Gables
The Complete Novels
Slam!
Slam
Hatchet
Scorpions


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