Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Monthly Rewind | September 2014

Sarah Hearts
September was a huge change for me. If you missed my latest If We Were Having Coffee post, I got a new job! Today is actually my third day at my new job. It's been a huge change for me from my serving job. After eight years of waiting tables, this is a totally new sphere for me! 


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Oh So Lovely
Stick around for a new and improved Coffee Date feature that I've been working on! 
Also, new season (hey there, fall!), new series! Stop by this Saturday (October 4th) to see the Canon's new fall challenge. Here's a hint: I spy...

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Hard to Read Books

1. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Don't misunderstand me: I love this book. Reading the brutality in the ring, however, is always hard for me, especially because these are children (children yanked from their homes, more or less) and forced to battle. It just breaks my heart. 

2. The Excorist by William Peter Blatty
I had to read this for my Supernatural Lit class. I didn't sleep for a week.

If you say this doesn't scare you, YOU LIE!

3. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
I'm a scaredy-cat, always have been. The trailers from horror movies scare me. Coraline got to me because the thought of an evil waiting in an alternate universe made me scared to open the closet doors. 

4. Zodiac by Robert Graysmith
My dad lent me this book to start on my day off. I settled in to read the introduction and was halfway through when the doorbell suddenly rang. The summary of the Zodiac's reign of terror was enough to make me grab a cast iron pan on the way to answer the door. 

5. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe
Poe's only full-length novel is enough to scare your socks off. A riveting adventure full of cannibalism, tension and a special barrel of ale was enough to give me the heebie-jeebies.

6. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I didn't read this book until college, and I'm glad my high school decided to wait on this particular text. Lolita goes into the uncomfortable extreme, forcing the reader to see through the eyes of a person typically heavily shunned by society. However, this book is still awkward as all get out, and only for the discerning reader. 

7. Shine by Lauren Myracle
It's hard to read about the hatred in the world, but Myracle gives us to just that. Her Shine tells the story of a young girl setting out to discover who committed a hate crime against her best guy friend wrenches the heartstrings. 

8. Defiant by Alvin Townley
This memoir and historical record of the American POWs in Vietnam is terribly hard to read. Townley leaves no stone unturned in his account of the struggle these valiant men went through, and his portrayal of their wives at home makes this book a tough, but worthy, read. 

9. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
I have a feeling that SO MANY of you will disagree with me, but this book was painful. Let's forget that children are playing war games, but the entire plot was so contrived and awkward. I had no connection with the protagonist, and honestly, I couldn't wait for this book to be over. (Want more of my review?)

10. 1st to Die by James Patterson
Simply? Bad plot, bad characters, and horrible writing. I have yet to read anything of Patterson's that I liked...any suggestions?

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Summer of Sookie | Dead Ever After and Series Roundup

Title: Dead Ever After
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publication Date: May 2012
Publisher: Ace Books
Series: Sookie Stackhouse {Book 13}
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
There are secrets in the town of Bon Temps, ones that threaten those closest to Sookie—and could destroy her heart...

Sookie Stackhouse finds it easy to turn down the request of former barmaid Arlene when she wants her job back at Merlotte’s. After all, Arlene tried to have Sookie killed. But her relationship with Eric Northman is not so clearcut. He and his vampires are keeping their distance…and a cold silence. And when Sookie learns the reason why, she is devastated.

Then a shocking murder rocks Bon Temps, and Sookie is arrested for the crime.

But the evidence against Sookie is weak, and she makes bail. Investigating the killing, she’ll learn that what passes for truth in Bon Temps is only a convenient lie. What passes for justice is more spilled blood. And what passes for love is never enough...

I don't like leaving Sookie's world on such a bad note. Dead Ever After felt wooden and forced, like someone saying "I'm fine," when they're really not. I couldn't wait to put Dead Ever After down and finally end this long-winded series. 

Maybe you've read my original review of Dead Ever After, posted last July. I realized as I reread this particular novel that I had originally felt sentimental that the series was over. This reading, after finishing the entire series, I only wanted it to be done. 

Sookie herself felt wooden in comparison to the heroine I met in Dead Until Dark. She was just going through the motions in Dead Ever After, shown by the constant repetitions of her daily life. This would be okay in setting the scene, but this would last for pages and lead up to...nothing. She only felt alive when she was around Sam, but that romantic element was predictable to the nth degree, so it wasn't enough to keep the story afloat. 

I was disappointed in how Harris left her many characters. She only ties off a few of the characters, but leaves many others just hanging. The vampire plot lacked sufficient closure, considering what a huge role it played in the series. The tying off of the series plots felt like Harris was just done and had no qualms about showing it. 

The main plot, the "shocking murder" from the book blurb, had major potential, and I was actually quiet excited about the prospect. I really loved the opening scenes and how the problem was set up, but Harris drops the plot again. Halfway through the book, I had forgotten what the main plot was, and the lovely promise of strong, suspenseful writing disappeared. 


I LOVED beginning Sookie. She had depth, verve, emotion, and such a personality. The combination of romance and urban fantasy hooked me, but as the series went on, the romance elements fell away, the heroine I loved disappeared and the author's lack of passion showed through in the plots.

 Dead Until Dark {Book 1}
Four Stars

Living Dead in Dallas {Book 2}
Three Stars

Club Dead {Book 3}
Three Stars

Dead to the World {Book 4}
Three Stars

Dead As a Doornail {Book 5}
Three Stars

Definitely Dead {Book 6}
Four Stars

All Together Dead {Book 7}
Four Stars

From Dead to Worse {Book 8}
Four Stars

Dead and Gone {Book 9}
Three Stars

Dead in the Family {Book 10}
Three Stars

Dead Reckoning {Book 11}
Two Stars

Deadlocked {Book 12}
Three Stars

Dead Ever After {Book 13}
Two Stars

Average Rating: 3.15
Favorite Book: Dead Until Dark
Recommend: a point. The first few books are definitely the highlights!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Canon Classics | Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Title: Vanity Fair
Author: William Makepeace Thackeray
Publication Date: 1847
Publisher: Originally published by Punch Magazine in serials
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
"I think I could be a good woman, if I had five thousand a year," observes beautiful and clever Becky Sharp, one of the wickedest—and most appealing—women in all of literature. Becky is just one of the many fascinating figures that populate William Makepeace Thackeray’s novelVanity Fair, a wonderfully satirical panorama of upper-middle-class life and manners in London at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Scorned for her lack of money and breeding, Becky must use all her wit, charm and considerable sex appeal to escape her drab destiny as a governess. From London’s ballrooms to the battlefields of Waterloo, the bewitching Becky works her wiles on a gallery of memorable characters, including her lecherous employer, Sir Pitt, his rich sister, Miss Crawley, and Pitt’s dashing son, Rawdon, the first of Becky’s misguided sexual entanglements.

Filled with hilarious dialogue and superb characterizations, Vanity Fair is a richly entertaining comedy that asks the reader, "Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied?"

Vanity Fair has been on my TBR, well, since before I made a TBR. Reese Witherspoon's photo on the movie poster for the 2004 Vanity Fair caught my eye when the movie premiered, but I held out for the book. Ten years later, I've finally read it.

It was nothing like I expected. 

My own love for Jane Austen's social comedies/romances made me assume that Vanity Fair would be a lighthearted romance and moral lesson about life in 1800s English society. I didn't expect the dark-natured view of humankind's motivations and existence that I found in the main character, Becky. 

Becky Sharp had edges to her (sorry. Couldn't help it), but the drastic changes that take place in her character were astounding. She was a lesson for me in foreshadowing and trusting my instinct; I didn't want to believe what her character was capable of, but Thackeray definitely stayed within the realms of character. I loved how he used each character to the extreme, testing their moral boundaries and pushing them beyond what they (and others) thought they could take. 

To be honest, Becky is unlikable as all get out. She isn't a Sookie, a Katniss, or even an Elizabeth Bennett. She's a sharp (again, sorry), harsh woman who knows what she wants and doesn't mind how she gets it. She is a parody, a satiric symbol, instead of the type of heroine we know and love today. 

I don't know if this extends to Thackeray, but I learned in college that Dickens was paid by the serial as each was published, therefore motivating him to write more words. Since Dickens and Thackeray were contemporaries and Thackeray's Vanity Fair was published originally as a serial, I wouldn't find it to be a stretch to assume he was paid the same way. My point? Vanity Fair is a (bit) long-winded. This is a book that you have to sit down and focus on. I had so much trouble with the first few chapters because my mind was constantly wandering, but once I got the rhythm of the story, I fell in love with Thackeray's parody. 


Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Summer of Sookie | Deadlocked by Charlaine Harris

Title: Deadlocked
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publication Date: May 2012
Publisher: Ace Books

Series: Sookie Stackhouse {Book 12} 
Source & Format: Library; hardcover
Links: GoodReads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Growing up with telepathic abilities, Sookie Stackhouse realized early on that there are things she'd rather not know. An now that she's an adult, she also realizes that some things she knows about, she'd rather not see--like Eric Northman feeding off another woman. A younger one.

There's a thing or two she'd like to say about that, but she has to keep quiet--Felipe de Castro, the vampire king of Louisiana (and Arkansas and Nevada), is in town. It's the worst possible time for a human body to show up in Eric's front yard--especially the body of the woman whose blood he just drank.

Now it's up to Sookie and Bill, the official Area Five investigator, to solve the murder. Sookie thinks that, at least this time, the dead girl's fate has nothing to do with her. But she is wrong. She has an enemy, one far more devious than she would ever suspect, who's set out to make Sookie's world come crashing down.

I don't know quite what to make of this book. 

I fell in love with Sookie in the first books, but her story is done. The majority of Deadlocked was her mundane, every day activities, ones that have already been covered in previous books. In the beginning of the novel, I felt there might be some hope of resurrection for Sookie, but the awkwardness in her relationship with Eric and her vast disinterest in anything going on around her pretty much put the kibash on that one. 

Her relationship with Eric is possibly one of the most painfully awkward situations I've ever read in a book. Neither wants to confront issues and both constantly flee from that confrontation and each other. There were no romantic or sensual elements; instead, it's just flat and boring. 

The murder that the book blurb talks about doesn't even play a main role in the plot. I'm not entirely sure what the plot is, so maybe it's so faint that I can't grasp it. Kym Rowe's murder didn't have the same impact as the other Were-women that Sookie has interacted with throughout the book. I actually forgot all about her until the last scenes. How's that for a mystery?

I feel uncomfortable. Dead Ever After is sitting on the table in front of me, waiting to be read, and I'm eyeing it like we're in a standoff. I had so much love for the first installments, but these have just dropped my expectations (and hopes) to zero. 


Friday, September 26, 2014

Review | Stolen Dreams by Christine Amsden

Title: Stolen Dreams
Author: Christine Amsden {website}
Publication Date: October 2014
Publisher: Twilight Times Books 

Series: Cassie Scot {Book 4}
Source & Format: Author; paperback

Links: GoodReads | Amazon| Barnes & Noble
Edward Scot and Victor Blackwood have despised one another for nearly a quarter of a century, but now their simmering hatred is about to erupt.

When Cassie Scot returns home from her sojourn in Pennsylvania, she finds that her family has taken a hostage. Desperate to end the fighting before someone dies, Cassie seeks help from local seer Abigail Hastings, Evan Blackwood's grandmother. But Abigail has seen her own death, and when it comes at the hand of Cassie's father, Victor Blackwood kills Edward Scot.

But things may not be precisely as they appear.

Evan persuades Cassie to help him learn the truth, teaming them up once again in their darkest hour. New revelations about Evan and his family make it difficult for Cassie to cling to a shield of anger, but can Evan and Cassie stop a feud that has taken on a life of its own?

This book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way altered or influenced my review. Promise!

Check out my reviews of the first, second and third book to see the complete Cassie Scot series! 

I've fallen in love with the characters of the Cassie Scot novels over the series, so I couldn't wait to see what Amsden had in store for the final novel in the series. Cassie has been constantly evolving over the series and in Stolen Dreams, she really comes into her own. There's a new aura of strength and power about her, a confidence in her own person that creates an entirely new element in her character that I loved. 

Cassie isn't the only character to grow. The attention to detail and secondary characters creates an immersive world that forces each character to grow beyond their stereotype. I loved the development of Cassie's two friends, Madison and Kaitlin, the most: their role in their series changed from secondary characters in the plot to major characters by the fourth book. These three women represent completely different aspects in the magical/paranormal world, dealing with the reality of the presence of magic. 

What I truly loved about Stolen Dreams was the plot. It was nearly impossible to pull myself away from this novel; there was simply so much going on, but in the best way possible. Each and every character was involved and influencing the plot in one way or another, which not only kept the main plot moving, but created fascinating secondary plots. I fell in love with Cassie's character development, the family feuds, the battle over magic. The outstanding plot was Cassie and Evan's romance...well, kind of a romance. To call it a traditional romance is completely wrong: instead, it is the struggle of two strong-willed people fighting each other and themselves at every turn. How could you not love that?

Stolen Dreams was the perfect end to the series. Amsden's writing clearly ties off Cassie's world, leaving me feeling satisfied and happy, instead of constantly wondering what if, or even worse, what now. Amsden's writing and plot decisions in the last chapter warmed my heart and made it easy for me to close the book on Cassie. 


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

If We Were Having Coffee...

I haven't written one of these posts in a while, and today felt like a nice day for a catch up! Grab your coffee and join me for a chat. 

If we were having coffee, I would tell you all about my new job. After a year and a half of job hunting, I finally found a new position as a receptionist/travel coordinator with a firm about fifteen minutes from my house. I can't wait! It sounds amazing: a regular schedule, a calm, professional workplace, and benefits. M and I will finally have some regular days to spend together and I'll never have to work another holiday (I can actually go away for Thanksgiving!). 

If we were having coffee, I would tell you how nervous I am. It's a mix of downright nerves and anticipation. I've never had a full-time, regular schedule job, but I can't wait. It's been so fun filling my closet with business casual clothes and planning lunches, but at the same time, I'm a little nervous. I've been with my restaurant for years, so the change is a little scary. I have some mixed feelings about leaving my restaurant, but after this last weekend, I've decided it is definitely time for a change. 

If we were having coffee, I would ask you about what you are doing this fall, if there were any books that you would recommend, and if you've tried the Starbucks fall drinks (you know you love them). If we were having coffee, I would tell you how much I love this time we have to chat and how it always makes me feel good to sit down and talk with you.