Sunday, May 31, 2015

Athena the Brain by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams

I finally finished a book for my Mythology Reading Challenge! It is a middle grades read and is the first book in the Goddess Girls series. The 4th and 5th grade girls at my library love this series and keep recommending it, so I definitely wanted to give it a try.
Athena the Brain (Goddess Girls, #1)

The first book revolves around Athena, who learns she is the daughter of Zeus and that he wants her to attend the Mount Olympus Academy. Athena is sad about leaving her best friend Pallas, but is also excited about attending the school and meeting the famous godboys and goddessgirls. She makes both friends and enemies and takes on a heavy school load, but with her brains and wisdom, she finds a place to fit in with the other students.

I loved the elementary take on the Greek gods and goddesses and some of the more famous mortals of the time. Athena befriends Pandora, Aphrodite, and Artemis, finds an enemy in Medusa, and is annoyed by Poseidon and his trident. I love how the authors use parts of the myths to tell the story, but also give them their own twists, like how when Athena first meets Zeus, he has a headache and she learns the headache is her mother inside Zeus's head as a fly. Some of the more R rated stories are amusingly recreated as G events, like Medusa crushing on Poseidon, and how Athena accidentally gives Medusa her snake hair, instead of Medusa and Poseidon doing naughty things in Athena's temple and Athena cursing her. Even the take on how Athens is named is close to how the actual myth takes place, without the temper of Poseidon and Athena rearing its ugly head. One of the weird things is Zeus is the principal, therefore an adult, but his brothers Poseidon and Hades are just preteen boys. I haven't seen Hera in the series, so I don't know what they will do with that, since we have been introduced to Athena's mother in Zeus's head and this is an elementary audience. Hera may be left out completely.

This is a good series for upper elementary students who are not quite ready for Riordan's novels, but want a bit of Greek mythology. The writing style is modern, so the characters speak in modern slang and a bit juvenile, but this is perfect for the intended audience. It was an interesting read and one that I will probably booktalk. 4 cups of cocoa and I will probably read a couple more of the stories at a later date.

Booking Through Summer Reading Challenge signup post


This is hosted by kimberlyfaye reads and BookNerd Betsy and you can sign up at this link.
The hosts want to make this a bit like the BookIt program that kids used to participate in in the summer. No free pizza, but lots of prizes and mini-challenges to reward you for reading during the summer. Since I will already be reading some this summer, I definitely want to participate in this. I will update this post with books once I finish reading them. Good luck to everyone and thanks to kimberlyfaye reads and BookNerd Betsy for hosting!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

This was my To Be Read book for May and is also my first book finished for the Fairytale Reading Challenge.

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)
Sophie has always read the fairytales written by the Storian each year, when the books magically appear in the bookstore. She dreams one day of being abducted and taken to the School for Good, but in the meantime she does her good deeds, which include befriending Agatha, a girl who lives in a graveyard, who Sophie thinks is destined for the School for Evil. Agatha only wants to stay with her friend Sophie and her cat. When the Schoolmaster comes to still away two children from their town, Agatha tries to protect Sophie and the two are whisked away to the School for Good and Evil. However, Sophie is thrown in Bad, while Agatha is taken to Evil. Both girls believe there is a mistake, Sophie believes she is in the wrong school and Agatha just wants to go home and take Sophie with her. Sophie decides that maybe Agatha is right and they should try to go home, until she sees Tedros, son of King Arthur, and decides he is the prince for her. She wants her happy ending at all costs, but the Schoolmaster and the Storian have other plans for the girls. It is up to Agatha to try and save the day, but when the Storian starts their fairytale, the only way out is to finish the story and the usual way is death for one of the main characters. Can Agatha save the day or will one of the girls pay the ultimate cost?

I ended up really liking the story and the School. The characters at times bothered me, as Sophie seemed too damsel in distress and Agatha seemed too attached to Sophie. I also did not like Tedros at all. He was the typical jerk prince who felt he needed to save "the princess," who could not possibly save herself, even though she had saved him on more than one occasion. I did like the relationship between the two girls and was surprised by the ending. I managed to finish most of the book in one day and even stayed up late finishing it. I like Soman's writing style and world-building and did come to like the two main female characters as well as some of the secondary characters. The School and magical world were well developed and I feel like the characters will be more developed as the series progresses. I definitely want to read the rest of the series and see where he takes the story. The ending is not necessarily a cliff-hanger, but it does kind of leave things open. 4 cups of cocoa and a good twist on the ideas of Good and Evil.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I read this one for the Classics Challenge and it fits the category of 20th Century Classic.
This Side of Paradise

I have read and reread The Great Gatsby, so I decided I wanted to try another of Fitzgerald's books. Since this one is billed as semi-autobiographical I wanted to see what Fitzgerald thought about growing up in the period before the roaring Twenties and then see how much of his perspective changed between this novel and The Great Gatsby. This could be a bit of a spoiler, because I am having trouble summarizing without telling most of the story.

The story follows the life of Amory Blaine, Fitzgerald's counterpart. Blaine is brought up by a frivolous, hypochondriac mother, who abandons him for a couple of years when he becomes ill and she still wants to travel. Due to her upbringing and focus on his education, Amory believes he is better than everyone else and struggles with focusing on his studies. He is fairly smart, but not motivated and this shows in his academy and college years. He lives a carefree lifestyle only influenced by Monsignor Darcy who tries to win him to the faith, but also sees in Blaine, his former youth. Blaine dabbles briefly with the army and this doesn't really seem to have an impact on him, except making him focus more on himself in a more serious manner. Then comes his attraction to Rosalind, a counterpart to Zelda, whom Fitzgerald has loved and lost at the time of the novel. Rosalind is the only creature at the time that Blaine loves more than himself and when she cruelly chooses to marry for money, he drifts for a bit, before truly learning who he is.

This has the same doomed love affair as Gatsby, but Blaine is just not as likable as Gatsby. I think Fitzgerald felt a bit out of sorts with himself, due to his sole focus of winning Zelda back. You can see that this is definitely autobiographical, while still fiction. I now want to read a bit more of Fitzgerald's background to see how closely related to his life this is. I have looked up a bit and have read some about Zelda and Fitzgerald's relationship and this does seem mirrored in Amory and Rosalind.

I did like the book, not as well as the Great Gatsby, but since that is one of my favorite classics, that is not surprising.
I loved some of the quotes including, "The idea, you know, is that the sentimental person thinks things will last-the romantic person has a desperate confidence that they won't."
Also, "to hold a man a woman has to appeal to the worst of him."
"People make money in books and I've found that I can always do the things that people do in books. Really they are the only things I can do."
"They don't think uneducated people should be highly paid, but they won't see that if they don't pay the uneducated people their children are going to be uneducated too, and we're going round and round in a circle."
 My favorite is by far, "'I know, myself,' he cried, 'but that is all.'" Really this is an important thing and really one of the main things that matters. I give this 4 cups of cocoa and was worth the read.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bout of Books 13 Day 6 and 7

 Bout of Books

 Wrapup: I did participate in both Twitter chats and completed the first mini-challenge, so not too bad there. I didn't visit any blogs this time, so I will have to work on that for Bout of Books 14. I finished True Grit, so I completed that goal and overall I read 377 pages. Not bad for a busy week!

Day 6: Participated in the Twitter chat. I didn't read at all. We went out with friends and spent the night, so that we could be ready for the baptism bright and early the next day.

Day 7: I started reading when I got home and managed to read 96 more pages of Suite Francaise

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bout of Books 13 Days 3, 4, 5 Update

Bout of Books

Day 3: Nothing. I had a horrible sinus headache that turned into a migraine and I could not even stand hearing an audiobook. The sounds echoed inside my head.

Day 4: I just did not have anytime at all to read. I worked late and then had a long work phone call when I got home. I did listen to a bit of Harry Potter, but only like a few pages worth of it.

Day 5: Did better today! I had a 2 hour drive to my conference, so I listened to Suite Francaise all the way there and for about an hour of the way back. I then realized I had not finished downloading the next part, so I switched to Harry Potter. Looking in the print copy, I covered about 137 pages in Suite Francaise and about 50 pages in Harry Potter.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Bout of Books 13 Day 2 Update

Bout of Books

Really busy work day! So far I have only managed to read a little bit.
I could not fall asleep last night, so I read and was able to finish True Grit! I can see why it is considered a classic and I loved the narrative style.

Pages read: 78 pages in True Grit and finished!, 12 pages in Suite Francaise

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bout of Books Reading List and Day 1

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog.
Day 1:
Mini-Challenge Bookish Survey hosted by Lori at Writing My Own Fairytale
Participated in the Twitter Chat!
The Questions: 
1. How do you organize your shelves? Well, they are not very organized at the moment, but usually I have books I plan to read next in easy reach on the top or middle shelf. The shelves in our living room have history and series books like Narnia and Harry Potter, so that I don't embarrass my husband with all the YA books on display. :)
2. What is one of your favorite book that’s not in one of your favorite genres? Probably Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I am not that fond of reading classics, although I am trying to make myself read more of them.
3. What is the last 5 star book you read? Jinx's Fire by Sage Blackwood, it was my last month's to be read book.
4. What book are you most excited to read during the read-a-thon? Probably the School for Good and Evil, because I would like to finish it this month since it is my tbr for this month.
5. What book do you recommend the most? Legend by Marie Lu. I love booktalking this to the teens and adult fans of YA. 

Thanks to Lori for hosting!

I decided to just put my reading list on the Day 1 update, since it has been a bit since I did the signup post. I will be reading from the following:

True Grit by Charles Portis
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling reread

I hope to finish True Grit this week and make progress in Suite Francaise and The School for Good and Evil. It is going to be a busy work week, but I am going to try to work in a few challenges and maybe a Twitter chat, since I really like those. Hopefully I will have time to explore a blog or two. I will update tomorrow with my first day progress. Good luck everyone!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

May My To-Be Read List: The Votes are in!

This is hosted by Michelle @ Because Reading.
And the winner is...

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)

I am excited about this one and have already started reading it! So far I love the two main characters and their unique friendship. I just had a few votes total this time, but this one was the clear winner. I feel like I can finish it before the deadline and that is definitely my goal this month. Thanks to everyone who voted!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Peacemaker by Lori Copeland

This is another book club choice and one of our two "Western" choices.
The Peacemaker (Men of the Saddle Series #1)
Tyndale House

This was a very fluffy read. Wynne Elliot wants revenge on Cass Claxton who jilted her at the altar. Wynne lost everything she loved during the Civil War; her mother died of sickness, which also resulted in her father's death, and most of their plantation was destroyed. She loaned Cass some money and expect him to honor his promise of marriage, but he left. Wynne tracks him down to Missouri and is thrown unexpectedly in the path of Beau Claxton, when she and her fellow travelers are robbed. Wynne does not expect to fall in love and only wants to kill Beau's brother, but can she learn forgiveness and real love or will she lose her soul to get vengeance.

This is my second Christian fiction read and it was okay. It was a bit predictable and had a neatly tied up ending, but it was a really easy read. It does make you think about revenge and what you are willing to sacrifice just to get back at someone who hurt you. I didn't really like either of the main characters, but there were a few interesting secondary characters and a few hilarious moments in the story. Overall it is a clean, gentle read. 3 cups of cocoa.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Consequences by Penelope Lively

This was a book club book pick and this particular group is really into WWII books this year.

Consequences revolves around the lives of the three Faraday women and how simple choices shape their lives. It starts with Lorna and Matt and a chance meeting at a lake. Lorna come from wealth and Matt is a talented artist more lower middle class than Lorna's more upper middle. The two fall instantly in love and are willing to face poor living conditions in a small rural cottage just to be together. The war shatters them as Lorna with her baby Molly must pick up the pieces. Lorna rebuilds with a close friend, Lucas, and dies in childbirth, leaving Molly alone to take care of Lucas and her new brother. Molly's life is as eventful as Lorna's, falling in and out of love, and becoming a young unwed mother to Ruth. Ruth's life seems uneventful, until she decides to embrace her family's past and maybe have her own fresh start.

I loved this multi-generational story. At first, I thought it was going to be a bit slow, because Lively is very detailed and she really loves to describe the surroundings of the characters, but you can't help being drawn into the characters' stories. I loved how it all came full circle at the end, by going back to the cottage. I also enjoyed seeing how pivotal events had an effect on the story. WWII shapes Lorna, the period after the war shapes Molly, and Ruth is shaped by the more relaxed 70s and 80s. The story focuses mainly on the women, but Matt, Lucas, and Molly's brother also get their own brief storylines.
I would recommend this for historical fiction fans and those who don't mind a slower story with well described setting and likeable, normal characters. 4 cups of cocoa!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Bout of Books 13 signup

Bout of Books
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

I love Bout of Books! This is my ninth time participating.  However this is one of my busiest weeks of the year at work, so I am not for sure how much I will be able to participate. Between budget proposal and finishing up a grant, spare time will be limited. I hope to visit a few blogs and be able to read a bit. I will update this with goals and a reading list very soon! Thanks to Amanda and Kelly for hosting! 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

2015 Bookish Resolutions Challenge: April Update

Bookish Resolution Challenge

This is hosted by Michelle at Because Reading is Better Than Real Life and Laura at Trips Down Imagination Road and you can sign up at this link
My resolutions:
1. Read at least 6 Classics this year.
2. Finish at least half of the challenges that I signed up for this year.
3. Finish at least 4 series this year, particularly ones where I have only the last book in the series left to read.
4. Try to blog more, like at least 10 posts a month.
5. Get healthy!

Thanks to Michelle and Laura for hosting!

1. I finally finished a classic. I finished This Side of Paradise on the 30th and will be reviewing it soon.
2. I have made a bit of progress, but I still need to start four challenges.
3. I have now finished two series books! If I can finish Clockwork Princess this month I will have three done.
4. I wrote 14 posts last month thanks to Dewey's readathon and Spring into Horror readathon. I would still like to be blogging more, but I did improve.
5. Went downhill fast on being healthy this month. Easter candy and drinking cokes along with little exercise has made me feel pretty miserable. I don't know why I do these things to myself, when it just makes me feel bad both physically and mentally. Hopefully I can get this back under control in May.

Hope you all are doing great on your resolutions!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

May My To-Be Read List


This is hosted by Michelle @ Because Reading. Well, I did finish and review last month's book, but I was a little late. I have a few extra days off this month, so hopefully I can finish this month's in time. I decided to go with twists on fairy tales this month, since I am participating in the fairytale challenge and have yet to finish one.

First choice:
Dearest (Woodcutter Sisters, #3)
HMH Books

I loved the first two books in this series about sisters Saturday and Sunday. This one follows sister Friday who is a seamstress. The books are based on the lives of seven sisters whose brother was the famous Jack of the Jack tales.

Second choice
The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil, #1)

This is a world where a good child and an evil child are kidnapped each year to train at two schools, a school for good and a school for evil. The children are trained for their own fairytales and hope fore either a happy ever after or a happy never after. Agatha and Sophia are friends who are taken to the schools and have their friendship tested by the trials they face.

Third choice
Violet Eyes (Once Upon a Time Fairytales)
Simon Pulse

I have read several books in the Once Upon a Time series, but only one other one by Debbie Viguie. This one is a twist on the Princess and the Pea. You don't see YA twists on this fairytale very often.

I do like fairytale twists, so I have high hopes I will finish this month's winner on time. Be sure to vote for your favorite!