Friday, December 2, 2011

Handbells - An Informational Rant

Perhaps you've seen the couple on Britain's Got Talent who played Titanic's My Heart Will Go On. Perhaps you've just heard ringing now and again at Christmas time.

Or perhaps you've seen the episode of Fox's show, New Girl, which happened to feature the instrument(s) known as handbells. As much as I like the show and appreciate their efforts to include a fairly unknown instrument, I can't say I approved their methods. Most of the sound produced may have been handbells (though it mostly sounded synthetic) but none-to-little of it matched what the actors onscreen were playing.

So, for those interested, here's a little informational rant summary on handbells.

Handbells, as indicated by their name, are a series of bells which are held and played by hand. To play, the ringer has to either hit the bell with an external mallet (like a xylophone or marimba) or swing the bell so that the inner clapper strikes the bell surface. There are other techniques to produce sound, such as plucking or the "Singing Bowl" technique, but these are mostly only in advanced groups. Clanking may occur when two bells bump into each other, so most ringers space them out as far as possible (but still within reach).

As with any percussion instrument, the sound only stops when the surface stops vibrating. Typically handbells are dampened on one's chest, or by laying it down on the padded playing table.

Each bell is sized for a specific pitch, much like a piano's strings. In fact, handbells are often colored off of piano keys, either by their handles or the handguards (disks separating handle from bell) being white or black. Thus, to achieve a full octave of 13 notes (C to C), you need to have 13 bells.

Because of the amount of hardware required, handbells are usually used by groups of ringers, forming a handbell choir. Beginners often start with 1 or 2 notes/bells, and their accidentals (sharps & flats). More advanced ringers may move to 4-in-hand (2 bells per hand) or even 6-in-hand (3 bells per hand) in the upper octaves, but the ringing techniques are much harder because of trying not to 1) clank the bells together or 2) play 2 notes at once.

Some ringers are skilled enough to be able to handle more bells by themselves, such that entire octaves or more are played by 1 or 2 people. This greatly reduces harmonics and undertones, since most bells are being played singly to produce the melody. You will see the majority of groups consisting of at least 4 or more.

Ringing techniques may alter the sound slightly, but really there is very little variation on how the note can be manipulated once struck. Swinging the bell back and forth can create a Doppler effect (a dimming then increasing in volume), or twirling the wrist while ringing creates a slight variation in sound, but the note never truly changes pitch or gets louder after being struck.

Handbells are most traditionally found at churches, but lately they've started moving into schools and outside organizations. Hillsboro, Oregon's Ring of Fire started as a school group, and has performed at events ranging from news shows to NBA games to Boston Pops concerts.

Bells of the Cascades is a non-profit organization that plays everything from Sleigh Ride to Pirates of the Caribbean. There really is a wide range of music available now, and even more can be made available if more music arrangers would get on the ball.

Though I have yet to find any phenomenal videos that really capture the sound of handbells well, below are a few that I've found to be entertaining or at least a proper showcasing of techniques handbell choirs use.

I've played handbells off and on for the past...oh, 10 years or so. They really are a lot of fun, and a great activity for those who've always wanted to learn music but haven't had the aptitude or courage for a solo instrument or voice. I've known people that couldn't even read notes who would play along by highlighting their music for when their left/right hand plays.

If you're interested in joining or forming a handbell group, I'd recommend checking out Handbell Musicians of America or searching for one in your country or local area.

Sleigh Ride performed by Bells of the Cascades at an informal concert.

Disney Music including Mainstreet Electrical Parade, How Do You Get to Wonderland?, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?, Part of Your World & Parade Reprise.

Born This Way by Lady Gaga. Performed as a solo in 4 parts - this has especially great close-ups of technique!

Ring of Fire, an all-teens group, performing for a TV special.

Carol of the Bells similar to Mannheim Steamroller's rendition, played by the Golden Bells of Atlanta.

Beethoven's Joyful Joyful has a slow start, but don't worry, it gets faster

Owl City's Fireflies performed with handchimes - cousins to handbells.

Carol of the Bells Duet performed with a bell-tree & handchimes.

A little fun with the Super Mario Bros. Theme.

The Sabre Dance is typical of carnivals and cartoons, and this group definitely has fun with it.

Flight of the Bumblebee - one of the most difficult pieces for one person to play, let alone a group to be coordinated on!

This group adds some drama to their rendition of Pirates of the Caribbean.

Bells of the Cascades perform Sky-Tinted Waters, an original composition for handbells.

Want to learn a bit more? Check out the How It's Made episode featuring handbells!

Thank you for bearing with me, and I hope you've enjoyed.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Now, Let's See You Dance

Magic Steps
~Magic Steps~
The Circle Opens
Book 1
By Tamora Pierce
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Lady Sandrilene fa Toren knows all about unusual magic - she herself spins and weaves it like thread. But when she witnessed a boy dancing a spell, even she is confounded. To her dismay, Sandry learns that as the mage who discovered the power of the young dancer, she must be his teacher.

Before lessons can begin, however, Sandry and her uncle, Duke Vedris, get news of a mysterious murderer stalking a clan of local merchants. The killer employs the strangest magic of all: the ability to reduce essence to nothingness.

As the murders mount and the killer grows bolder, Sandry's teaching takes on a grave purpose. For it becomes clear to everyone that the killings can only be stopped by the combined workings of two people: the young teacher and her even younger student.

Three years have passed since the events of the last quartet. Briar, Daja and Tris have left with their teachers to study abroad, leaving Sandry alone to attend to the troubles in Summersea. It's pretty obvious from the get-go that Sandry has done some growing these past couple years. Not only is her magic more refined, but so is her attitude. She's still far from the snobbery of most Nobles or wealthy, but she is much more attuned to her status as a Noble and a mage, and what it affords and requires from her.

A Book Birthday Ahead of its Time

Today I'm pleased to announce the (early) birthday of an awesome start to a new series:

The Dig
~The Dig~
Zoe and Zeus
Book 1
By Audrey Hart
~ Official Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~

Out of time and out of her element, teenager Zoe Calder finds herself in ancient Greece, battling against the power of the Olympians and the vengeance of a scorned goddess—all for the strange and mysterious boy she has come to love.

Zoe Calder has always been an outsider. Stashed away in boarding schools since her parents died, Zoe buries herself in the study of ancient worlds. Her greatest thrill is spending her summers with her archeologist aunt and uncle on digs around the world. And one day, while investigating a newly unearthed temple in Crete, Zoe discovers a luminous artifact that transports her to ancient Greece.

As Zoe quickly learns, the Olympian Gods are real, living people—humans with mysterious powers… Powers that Zoe quickly realizes she has come to possess, as well. However, when the people of ancient Greece mistake Zoe for an Olympian, the Gods must restore the balance of the ancient world… No matter what.

Zoe is forced to play a confusing and dangerous game as Hera rallies the gods against her—all except for Zeus, the beautiful, winged young god who risks everything to save her.

Happy Birthday!
And be sure to check back in December for my review!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Healing in the Vine

Briar's Book
~Briar's Book~
Circle of Magic
Book 4
By Tamora Pierce
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Former "street rat" Briar leads a comfortable life at Winding Circle Temple, learning plant magic from Rosethorn. But street kids are still his friends, and when one of them gets sick, she turns to Briar for help. When her disease proves beyond even Rosethorn's power, Briar realizes that all of Summersea is in danger.

As the mysterious illness spreads, Sandry, Daja, and Tris join Briar and their teachers to fight the epidemic. But just as the situation improves, the unthinkable happens.

Will Briar be able to save what he loves the most?

A fascinating look at disease and the steps taken towards finding a cure, Briar's Book serves as a staggering reminder of the mortality of even the strongest among us. Even being the longest story of the quartet, it's amazing how much is packed in. Besides plague and cure-working, there's quarantine, reflections on poverty, man-made diseases, and even a small bit on death and the afterlife.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Fire in the Forging

Daja's Book
~Daja's Book~
Circle of Magic
Book 3
By Tamora Pierce
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Outcast Trader Daja, along with her fellow mages-in-training, journeys from Winding Circle to the Gold Ridge Mountains, where drought threatens widespread famine. There, Daja creates an astonishing object: a living metal vine. A caravan of Traders covets the vine, and Daja's dealings with her former people reawaken a longing for familiar ways.

Daja must choose—should she return to the Traders or remain with the Winding Circle folk who have become her family?

Though the other stories have dimmed in my mind a bit over the years, this story's great feat always stayed with me. There's just something about fire and bending it to your will that fascinates me. It mirrors life without having any. From working to tame a wildfire, or even simply stoking a fire in the hearth, you have to work with the fire instead of against it. I'm awed by its strength and simultaneous weakness.

But enough of my pyromania, back to the story. The jacket summary doesn't even begin to cover everything that happens in the book. Though it is the shortest of the series, there are a lot of fine details, cultural traditions, and magical workings packed in here. Fans of Pierce and her series will recognize and cherish the intricacies she puts into her world-building, language, and ever expanding magic. She knows how to pack a lot of punch in just a few pages, leaving readers more than satisfied.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Power in the Storm

Tris's Book
~Tris's Book~
Circle of Magic
Book 2
By Tamora Pierce
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Earthquake damage leaves Winding Circle vulnerable to pirate attack, so everyone—including the young mages-in-training Tris, Briar, Daja, and Sandry—is working to strengthen the community's defenses. When Tris's cousin Aymery comes to visit, he advises the "weather witch" to return to the family that exiled her, but she doesn't wish to leave her friends to face the threat without her.

As the onslaught begins, two things become terribly clear: the pirates have a powerful new weapon, and they have an accomplice within Winding Circle. But the attackers have failed to reckon with the fury of a young mage betrayed once too often and her very stubborn, very loyal friends...

I've always related to Tris the most out of the quartet (or any of Tammy's characters, for that matter). She's bookish, intelligent, very much a realist, a bit chubby and insecure, but loyal and strong when she needs to be. That she has the most power in terms of destructive properties of the bunch only makes her more inspiring, having such a weight on her shoulders. But her friends are not about to let her carry it alone. And they're all stubborn enough not to take 'no' for an answer.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Magic in the Weaving

Sandry's Book
~Sandry's Book~
Circle of Magic
Book 1
By Tamora Pierce
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

With her gift of weaving silk thread and creating light, Sandry is brought to the Winding Circle community. There she meets Briar, a former thief who has a way with plants; Daja, an outcast gifted with metalcraft; and Tris, whose connection with the weather unsettles everyone, including herself. At Winding Circle, the four misfits are taught how to use their magic—and to trust each other.

But then disaster strikes their new home. Can Sandry weave together four kinds of magical power and save herself, her friends, and the one place they have ever been accepted?

Though the story is titled Sandry's Book in the US, I kinda prefer the UK title, The Magic in the Weaving, because, well, this book isn't just about Sandry. All four of the children star in nearly every chapter, and the story is more about each of them finding acceptance than any one of them. Still, Sandry's skill is the weaving, which does assume an important role in the story, so titling the book after her isn't completely out of place.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Greetings Again!


Phew, it's been a while, hasn't it? Sorry to have left you hanging these past couple months. I've been working out some personal things and have only just gotten back around to reading.

I know, I know - "How could you possibly not have been reading!?" you say. Well, the brain does funny things sometimes, like making you think that enjoyable things are too much trouble...

But I've worked through that and am currently in the process of working up my Tamora Pierce Challenge reviews! Okay, I might be a little behind, but better late than never, right? Look for a steady flow of TP reviews coming throughout the month of November, finishing up with a review of her recently released conclusion to the Provost's Dog (Beka Cooper) Trilogy, Mastiff!

Looking forward to getting back in the swing of things. Hope you've all been well. Signing off for now,


Monday, August 29, 2011

You Might Be A Zombie If...

Zombies Don't Cry
~Zombies Don't Cry~
A Living Dead Love Story
Book 1

By Rusty Fischer
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
Zombies Don't Blog

Maddy Swift is just your average high school junior. Good grades, but not too brainy. Preppy, but not obnoxiously so. And definitely not buying this whole "Cursed Home Ec Class" theory her best friend's pushing on her. Sure, three deaths in three months is tragic, but her dad's the coroner and all of them were ruled accidental. End. Of. Story.

Besides, who can worry about curses when there's a new transfer to drool over? Stamp Crosby is currently the most sought after guy in the school, so Maddy's a little more than surprised when she's able to snag a private conversation twice in one day. And she's downright shocked when he goes so far to ask her out. Hey, she may not believe in curses, but no one said anything about knocking good luck!

Thing is, there may be something to this curse thing. Cause if getting a bolt of lightning to the skull and waking up without a heartbeat is normal... But if coming to terms with her new undead status wasn't enough, Maddy's got a father to fool, a Zombie apocalypse to prevent, and a date to find before the Fall Formal! What's a Zombie to do?

It's a habit of mine to search my library for new authors as soon as I learn of them. When Rusty contacted me to review his latest e-book, Ushers, Inc., I performed my traditional search and was surprised and excited to see a book in the system. Zombies Don't Cry was currently on-order, but after reading and loving his last book, I had to get my hands on this one ASAP. And I'm glad I did.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Demonglass Leaves Quite A Mark

This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, Hex Hall, or don't mind knowing some spoilers for it. Demonglass, however, will remain spoiler-free.

Hex Hall
Book 2
By Rachel Hawkins
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Okay, so last semester at Hex Hall didn't go as well as Sophie had hoped. Between her major crush, Archer trying to kill her, her great-grandmother killing her best frienemy, and finding out she's actually a demon, there's nothing else Sophie can think of that could make her life suck even more. Well, except maybe finding out that she could snap and kill everyone around her without warning. Yeah, that'll just about do it.

The good news is there's a way to remove the danger entirely. The bad news is it would take away her powers and quite possibly probably kill her.

Determined not to be a danger, Sophie travels to England with her father (demon), her best friend (vampire), and her betrothed (warloc—wait, WHAT?!) to go through with the Removal. But once she arrives, she's met with shocking news that puts her plans on hold. With newly-made demons mysteriously appearing, The Eye increasing their attacks against Prodigium, and nearby Archer sightings, who would have thought the Removal would be the least of her worries?

(For an even more tantalizing summary/hook, check out the description from the UK version.)

Before I get started, I've got a quick cover complaint: The cat's still there. Um...why? Didn't we already establish in the last book that there are no cats? Okay, fine, it's cute and sorta points to witches. So maybe a stranger looking at the cover would get clued in that it's about that any reason to keep taunting those who are reading the books? Oh, and don't ask me the significance of the reflection, since I'm pretty certain the only nice dress Sophie ever wears is black. Complaints aside, it's still a gorgeous cover.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tamora Pierce Reading Challenge

Tamora Pierce Reading Challenge 2011 Hosted By The Shady Glade

Yep, I've delved into insanity at last. I've decided to dedicate the next 3 months to one of my all-time favorite authors. Some of you followers will probably remember my various gushings about her in my reviews, Top Ten Tuesdays, or my post about her visit last October. So I think I'll let the challenge host explain what this particular insanity is all about:
So why this challenge? Well, Tamora Pierce is one of my all-time favorite authors, and she has a new book coming out October 25: Mastiff, the last book in the Beka Cooper trilogy. To celebrate, from now until October 31 I'm going to reread all of the Tamora Pierce books!

So I thought it would be fun to have others join me. I know I'm not the only one out there who's a Tamora Pierce fan, after all. So set a goal to finish a set, or re-read your favorite. And if you haven't tried her books yet, maybe you want to give them a try? She has 27 "full" books currently published, not including books that she's edited, contributed a short story to, or her comic book series for adults. So there's a little something for everyone out there.

This reading challenge is totally low pressure. You can set a goal as big or as little as you want. Choose your challenge from the list below. Some of her books are quite small and quick to finish, while others are more hefty. So pick a goal you think you can reach:

Page - A good start for beginners. Complete 1-4 books
Squire - For those ready for the next level, complete 5-8 books
Knight/Lady Knight - A steady challenge at halfway, complete 9-14 books
Duke/Duchess - For serious fans, complete 15-20 books
King/Queen - This level is for serious fans, and comes complete with a royal title, complete 21-26 books
Emperor/Empress - For diehard fans, think you can finish all 27 books?
~ Alyssa @ The Shady Glade

As for myself, I'm insane enough to attempt the Empress Level and will be reviewing all the books from now up until I receive a copy of Mastiff from the library (hopefully one of the first - I'm only 8th in queue!).
Tamora Pierce Series Collection Book Shelf 2011
That's right, I'm tackling my entire shelf of Tamora Pierce, plus little help from the library. Really, I'm only 'missing' 3 books...and by missing, I mean haven't bought because they're not in Mass Market Paperback. Yes, I'm anal like that.

Anyway, here's my planned order for the challenge:

Circle of Magic Quartet
1. Sandry's Book
2. Tris's Book
3. Daja's Book
4. Briar's Book
The Circle Opens Quartet
5. Magic Steps
6. Street Magic
7. Cold Fire
8. Shatterglass
The Circle Reforged Novels
9. The Will of the Empress
10. Melting Stones
Song of the Lioness Quartet (Alanna)
11. Alanna: The First Adventure
12. In the Hand of the Goddess
13. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
14. Lioness Rampant
The Immortals Quartet (Daine)
15. Wild Magic
16. Wolf-Speaker
17. Emperor Mage
18. The Realms of the Gods
Protector of the Small Quartet (Kel)
19. First Test
20. Page
21. Squire
22. Lady Knight
Trickster Duet (Aly)
23. Trickster's Choice
24. Trickster's Queen

Short Story Collection
25. Tortall and Other Lands: A Collection of Tales

Tortall (Past)
Provost's Dog / Beka Cooper Trilogy
26. Terrier
27. Bloodhound
Of course, my insanity wouldn't be complete without me trying to set an impossible challenge for myself BESIDES 27 books in 3 months... So, I'll be trying to clean out my pending-review list before tackling the Pierce challenge. I'm hoping to get everything (10 books) read and reviewed by August 5th.

I suppose I could try pushing it back another week...but that's going to make it tough to take that week off in September for my Flordia vacation. Ah well, we'll see what happens. In any case, be on the lookout for a slew of reviews coming your way!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Most People Just Say Hex

Hex Hall
~Hex Hall~
Hex Hall
Book 1
By Rachel Hawkins

Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Life can be a real Witch sometimes. Well, at least that's what 16 year-old Sophie Mercer thinks after she gets the news about her latest mess-up.

It was supposed to be a simple love spell—nothing should have gone wrong. Of course, that's what Sophie thought all the other times she tried using her powers. You'd think that after three years and umpteen forced re-locations she'd have learned her lesson. Good thing there's a school for that.

Hectate Hall—a reform school for shapeshifter, witch, and faerie kids who don't know how to lay low (you know, since humans tend to be a bit jumpy around magic). And if reform school is as great as it sounds, Sophie's got a lot to look forward to. I mean, who wouldn't want three of the most powerful students as enemies, a creepy ghost as a stalker, or the most hated kid in school (who happens to be a vampire) as a roommate?

Let's hope there's a class on surviving reform school...

If I may, I'd like to start off by asking kind of a strange question... Does anyone else remember that Disney Channel movie series, Halloweentown that aired in the late 90's, early 00's? The main story was about Marnie Piper/Cromwell and her journey towards finding her magical powers while working to save this magical dimension (Halloweentown) and it's monster/mythical creature inhabitants. My favorites of the series were definitely the third and fourth movies:
Halloweentown High was about trying to integrate the Halloweentown teens (werewolves, trolls, fairies, etc.) with regular humans through an exchange student program. When the Knights of the Iron Dagger, a group dedicated to the elimination of monsters, resurfaces and threatens the teens, it's up to Marnie and her family to keep the students safe, or lose their magic.
Return to Halloweentown has Marnie choosing to attend Witch University, which for the first year is allowing non-witches/warlocks to attend. But the new admission policy doesn't exactly have everyone jumping for joy, and Marnie's soon caught up in a conspiracy that could change the inhabitants of Halloweentown forever.
Okay, I know what you're thinking... Why the huge explanation of this movie series in the middle of your Hex Hall review? Well, in reading Hex Hall, I couldn't help but compare it to these Halloweentown movies:
  • Main character is a teenage witch in the process of discovering her powers
  • She has a mysterious, magically powerful family member
  • There is a dangerous Order out to kill non-humans
  • She is attending a school specifically for witches and non-humans
  • Heroine takes it upon herself to solve the problem
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about the similarities at all. I always liked the Halloweentown movies, but I always wanted more. More mystery, more drama, more danger, more character angst—and I was younger than the main character! With Hex Hall, I felt like it was a nostalgic trip back...but this time it was better!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ushers Are Hot!

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Ushers, Inc.

When the streets are full of bloodsuckers, werewolves, zombies and ghouls, where will you turn? The cops don't know how to stop them, the Army's pretty much given up and even the Marines are stumped when their bullets and grenades fail to stop the onslaught.

Have no fear, Ushers, Inc. is here! Four high school movie ushers, who collectively have seen over 42,000 hours of B- and C-horror movies know just what to do.

Did you know copper pennies can stop a zombie in its tracks? Did you know garlic paste is twice as effective on vampires as garlic cloves? Did you know werewolves are absolutely petrified of seeing a Hershey's kiss? Abby Cooper, Head Usher, does.

So, when it's the monsters versus the monster hunters, who you gonna call?  Ushers, Inc., that's who!

First tip: Don't read the prologue if you don't want spoilers! Yes, it offers a cute little preview of the fun and excitement that is to come, but it also reveals the outcome of the final chapter. So, trust me on this one, just start on chapter one and if you're not instantly hooked, just wait until chapter four—that's when the real action starts.

And by action, I mean the most hilarious, cheesy, B-movie antics you ever could have dreamed up. Fans of the SAW franchise should shop somewhere else, because this horror is more akin to that of Fright Night, Big Wolf on Campus, or the original Night of the Living Dead. Not that the stakes aren't just as high for these characters—no one wants to be a werewolf's next snack—but let's say that the suspense, monsters, and gore are kept to a B-movie budget and thus Ushers, Inc. is pretty kid-friendly.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

We’re Referring to this Affected Dimension as Solidity

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Solid Trilogy
Book 1
By Shelley Workinger
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
Series Website

Clio (Calliope) Kaid thought everything was normal. Well, as normal as having a famous writer for a mom could be. But between the moving around the country and changing schools every year, everything else seemed to be pretty clear cut.

That's when the government tells her that she was involved in an unauthorized genetic experiment, and that she's to report to a secure location, along with 99 other teens, so that they can help with any abnormalities caused by this alteration.

So it's off to a new school once again. At least this time she'll be a freak among freaks, right? Nothing like sharing an unknown deformity to bring about teen bonding. And she'll need those bonds if she's going to get to the bottom of a conspiracy on the compound. One that might even date back to before she was born...

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Blogger Hop (15)

Book Blogger Hop

From Sue at Cookie’s Book Club:
What keeps you reading beyond the first few pages of a book, and what makes you want to stop reading a book and put it back on the shelf?

Hmmm... Well, first of all, I have to enjoy the narrative voice. If I'm not connecting to the character(s) or the story at all, I'd definitely be tempted to put it back. So, while I don't need the narrator or character to necessarily be exactly like myself, they at least have to have some similarities, or something inherently interesting that makes me want to read more about them.

Secondly, pacing is a big motivator. If it's been 50-or-so pages and nothing's happening, I'd probably be closer to falling asleep than excited to continue through that book. Of course, that partly depends on the type of book, but on the whole, I need something to have grabbed me by at least page 50 that makes me want to continue.

Thirdly, I have to be able to understand what's happening. Mostly, this means the language has to be at my level (which, I don't think is that hard to accomplish), and I shouldn't be confused by whatever's going on. If I get to chapter 3 and realize everything I thought I knew is wrong, I'm probably going to be frustrated enough to throw the book across the room.

Feel free to post a link to your own blog in the comments,
and be sure to check out other blog-hoppers at Crazy-for-Books!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This Is How It Shall Be Ever After

This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous books in the trilogy, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Dawn of the Dreadfuls, or don't mind knowing some of what happens in them. Dreadfully Ever After, however, will remain spoiler-free.

Disclaimer: This book was provided to me by Eric Smith at Quirk Books in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Dreadfully Ever After
~Dreadfully Ever After~
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Book 3
By Steve Hockensmith
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Elizabeth Darcy has everything a woman could ask for: a large estate, a steady income, a husband she loves and who loves her... Then why is it that lately she can't even bring herself to smile?

Not that there's much to smile about with the zombie menace still vexing England. But the lingering threat is made deadly personal when Darcy is bitten by one of the stricken! Despite knowing it is her duty to behead and burn any soul befallen the plague, Lizzy cannot bring herself to kill her beloved. Not if there could be the slightest chance of a cure.

However, to obtain this supposed cure Elizabeth must place everything on the line. Her honor, her pride, and her family hang in the balance... Love is a strong motivator, but will it be enough to save all she holds dear?

The real question is: If Mr. Darcy became infected, would Elizabeth have the fortitude to behead him in time?— (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)

Apparently, Steve Hockensmith decided that question was well worth answering. In this sequel to the zombie-infested hit, we find Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy four years into their marriage. But while the unmentionables are still roaming the countryside, there's little room for wedded bliss. Especially since, as a married woman, honor and decorum has forced Lizzy to give up the blade.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Zombie In Possession of Brains

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
~Pride and Prejudice and Zombies~
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Book 2
By Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.

So begins Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem.

As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield. Can Elizabeth vanquish the spawn of Satan? And overcome social prejudices of the class-conscious landed gentry?

Complete with romance, heartbreak, swordfights, cannibalism, and thousands of rotting corpses,
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies transforms a masterpiece of world literature into something you'd actually want to read.*

I'll go ahead and say it now: I am an Austen fan. I wasn't always one, though. I first read Pride and Prejudice in preparation for Senior Year IB English. I HATED it! I was bored to tears—I couldn't get over how many words were used to describe NOTHING. However, by re-reading at a slower pace during the class, I was able to have my brain phase over the unnecessary/frivolous/verbose text and actually process the characters and plot. And I LOVED it. I'm really not one to read fluffy romances, but this wasn't fluffy, it was...interesting! Quite the flip-flop, eh?

Then came the sudden surge of Austen-centered movies. I saw Becoming Jane and Jane Austen Book Club (haven't read the book yet) and fell in love with both. I even resolved to do as they did in the latter and read all of Jane's books. Well, that still hasn't happened, but the resolve is still there and I'll do it one of these days. I did, however, read Northanger Abbey and once again fell in love with Austen's humor and wit.

Shortly after returning home from college, I happened upon an author visit at (where else?) my local Powell's bookstore. I'd never heard of the author, but I was there, it was free, so why not? When Seth Grahame-Smith came to the podium it was to a hearty round of applause—some out of politeness, but most out of excited glee. He told his humorous story of how everything had gotten started, how his editor had called him up with only a title and he'd set off from there, how he went about editing the manuscript with red-colored text, and how no one could have foreseen the book's success. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies had been unleashed upon the world, and the world shouted back, "MORE!"

Having been familiar with the original work, I'll admit I was slightly reluctant to try this new adaptation. I'm not the biggest fan of zombies (or gore in general), and I wasn't exactly sure how zombie hordes roaming the countryside would affect the storyline. Was there really a place for zombies in Austen's world? Then a fellow audience member stood up and walked to the front of the crowd. She announced herself as president of the local branch of The Jane Austen Society and said she was there to present Seth with an official invitation to their next national meeting. Um...color me convinced.

It took a week or two, but I managed to finally grab a copy of the book. I read through it, smirking and laughing all the way through. Now, following my second read of the book, I'm ready to offer up my review.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

In My Mailbox (12) Returns!

In My Mailbox
In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren
(Book covers are linked to their Goodreads pages)

In the Past Two Months I've...

Checked Out
River MarkedHex HallDemonglassTortall and Other LandsThe Girl Who Was On Fire
River Marked ~ Patricia Briggs
Hex Hall & Demonglass ~ Rachel Hawkins
Tortall and Other Lands ~ Tamora Pierce
The Girl Who Was On Fire ~ Various Authors
From My Library

A Wizard of Mars
A Wizard of Mars ~ Diane Duane
From Borders

Ushers, INC.SolidMoon SpellMiss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Ushers, Inc. ~ Rusty Fischer
Solid ~ Shelley Workinger
Moon Spell ~ Samantha Young
From Their Respective Authors
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children ~ Ransom Riggs
From Eric Smith at Quirk Books

And Won
Weathercock ~ Melissa Crandall
From Goodreads First Reads

So, tell me, what's in your mailbox?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Why I Love Book Blogging

Top Ten Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

Book Blogging...
I've been a part of this community for approximately 14 months now, and I just can't help but love every minute of it. Okay, there have been some ups and downs associated with it, but overall I wouldn't trade anything for it.

Here are my Top Ten reasons I wouldn't give this up:

10. Sanity
Blogging helps keep me sane. Well, saner, at least. When I took breaks from the blog, I think I actually suffered more than revived. Yes, the blog can get overwhelming (mostly due to my own procrastination) at times, but ultimately it provides an anchor that I can keep coming back to even when everything else is tossed into chaos.

9. Flexibility
As much as I like schedules and having things done "on time", it sure is nice to be able to push things back when life has other plans. There are no rules or regulations when it comes to book blogging, no time limit, no word limit, no speed limit. It's completely flexible with whatever I want and need to happen.

8. No Boss
Somewhat analogous with #9, having no boss means that what I'm doing isn't being judged by anyone. Well, I suppose my follower-count might be somewhat of a judge, but anyone in this business will tell you that subscribers aren't a measurement for anything. With blogging, you're held to a standard that is only your own, which after years of school, competitions, and then low-tier jobs, it's quite liberating.

7. Winning
I'd be lying if I didn't say I loved winning giveaways/contests. I normally don't consider myself very lucky, so on the off-chance that I actually do get my name drawn in a giveaway, it's just exhilarating and brightens my entire day/week. Then there's the second thrill when the package arrives! So much fun!

6. Motivation
Graduating with a degree in "Creative Writing", then moving to the job market where every writing job demands "7 years professional experience" (don't ask me why it's always 7) can certainly get a girl down. But lo and behold: a place where I can practice and improve my trade!
Who could ask for more?

5. Creative Outlet
Not only in writing posts, but also designing layouts, graphics, color schemes, and even post templates, I've got the perfect canvas for all my creative aspects to shine.

4. Recommendations
There are so many books out there, it's nice to get a nudge in the right direction every once in a while. Or even the wrong direction, just to know not to go back.

3. Discussions
I've seen some sites where 'comments' dive straight into the territory of spam and trolls. It's nice to have a place where it's expected to be sincere and cordial but still honest and open with opinions. And where the prompts and responses both are extremely well thought-out, clear, clever,
and 99% typo-free. Please, sir, can I have some more?

2. Doing What I Love
Really, I couldn't ask for anything better than reading a book and writing about it. Even back in 8th grade, I fell in love with writing book reports; I wrote one that was over 10 pages (granted, most of it was the summary of the book, but still). Over the years the 'study' of books became more intense - trying to find themes, comparisons, reasons for, etc, etc. And yet, I still managed to hang on to my initial love of reading, and grew to accept my own opinions on the matter as worthy of statement. I believe that whatever life throws at me, I'll still make time for book blogging.

1. Community
There's so much I could say about the book blogging community, and I still wouldn't even begin to cover it. Reading and writing are both solitary experiences, but having all of us endeavoring to share our experiences with one another... It's more than a book club, or a fan forum... Oh, I don't know how to explain it without sounding completely corny, so I'll just keep it simple. Book blogging has connected me with like-minded people all over the world: whether it be authors I can aspire to, reviewers I can reflect on, or readers I can relate with, I know am not alone. And that's a great feeling.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Dreadfuls Have Returned!

Dawn of the Dreadfuls
~Dawn of the Dreadfuls~
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Book 1
By Steve Hockensmith
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
Book Trailer

In 19th century England, society dictates that a young lady must be prim and proper. She must know proper etiquette, only speak on appropriate topics, maintain perfect posture at all times, and never ever appear at all like the opposite sex in any way shape or form.

By following these steps, your young lady will not only be the perfect target for a young, rich suitor, but for the approaching zombie horde as well.

Fortunately, Oscar Bennet has other plans for his daughters. Despite Lydia and Kitty's incessant gibbering and complaints, Mary's disinterest, and Jane's timidity, he is going to mold his daughters into warriors capable of defending themselves and all of Hertfordshire if necessary.

For Elizabeth Bennet, the second oldest of the sisters, the way of the warrior is coming surprisingly easily. As her deadly skill and the number of re-animated corpses increase, so too does her certainty that she'll never be fit as a bride. Not that she's seen any viable suitors thus far, but still, the dream of love is never too far from a proper lady's heart.

But can she still be considered a proper lady when her dress is stained with blood and her fingers grip a katana? Does she want to be? Will it even matter after the undead menace re-writes what is proper?

Yes, my friends, this is the beginning to the beginning of it all. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was the original "Monster Mash-up", "Reinvented Classic", or simply "Quirk Classic", that sparked the phenomenon. A year later, Stephen Hockensmith decided to tackle the origins of the Bennet family and their experience with the unmentionables in this prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Something To Say

This is a personal post, not a book review. Just going over some things, explaining my current situation, and hopefully setting a tone for the future. If you'd rather stay out of the drama, I understand and assure you that my next review should be coming up later this week. Thank you.

If you're still reading this, I guess I'll just get down to it. I'm sorry for April and May's unannounced/unexplained hiatus. I had a bit of a physical, mental, emotional breakdown in March, and that was taken out on this blog. I'd rather not get into the gory details (and I'm sure no one wants to hear them), but I'll just say that I've started some new treatments that seem to be helping things along.

I'm still depressed. Not really earth-shattering news in this economy, but being jobless really wears you down. Firstly you're depressed because you can't support yourself (or pay back your debt). Then, trying to rectify the situation, you send out job applications only to get absolutely no response or an avalanche of NO's, which only serves to lower your self-esteem. It's gotten to the point that I'm terrified of getting an interview because I feel like the first thing they'll see is a depressed person. And being overly self-conscious and overweight to begin with hasn't helped either. There was a long period of time where I didn't even want to go outside because I was paranoid some future employer would see me and I'd be sabotaging myself.

I still have some of that anxiety, but there have been improvements.

For one thing, my mom (who had also been unemployed for a couple years) finally found a job last week. And while it's not the most ideal pay, the environment is great and she's really enjoyed the work.

Also keeping me busy has been our family's attempts to start up a crafting business. Mom sews, (sister) Kristi knits, and I run all the electronic aspects—taking pictures, photo-editing, website management, research, spreadsheets... I don't plan on inundating this blog with non-bookish stuff, but I might make a post about it once we've got things up and running. In the meantime, you can check out our products on Facebook or DeviantArt.

As far as reading and blogging goes, I'm trying to get back into the swing of things. So far I've only been focusing on reviews—partly clearing out the shelves, partly taking care of promises owed—and I don't know if or when I'll have the time or energy to go back to reading all the blogs I've subscribed to. I'd love to get back in the habit of reading everything you guys are posting, and passing along the great contests and giveaways, but right now I have other things on my plate.

So, for the moment I hope you'll be patient with me. I hope my reviews continue to engage or entertain you. And I hope you all know that I appreciate your continued patience and support. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Heat Will Not Be Denied

Though not absolutely necessary to read first, here is my review of the previous Nikki Heat novel, Heat Wave.

Naked Heat
~Naked Heat~
Nikki Heat
Book 2
By Richard Castle
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

When New York's most vicious gossip columnist, Cassidy Towne, is found dead, Heat uncovers a gallery of high-profile suspects, all with compelling motives for killing the most feared muckraker in Manhattan.

Heat's murder investigation is complicated by her surprise reunion with superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook. In the wake of their recent breakup, Nikki would rather not deal with their raw emotional baggage. But the handsome, wise-cracking, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer's personal involvement in the case forces her to team up with Rook anyway. The residue of their unresolved romantic conflict and crackling sexual tension fills the air as Heat and Rook embark on a search for a killer among celebrities and mobsters, singers and hookers, pro athletes and shamed politicians.

This new, explosive case brings on the heat in the glittery wold of secrets, cover-ups, and scandals.

[One of the few times the jacket summary covers everything I wanted to say and doesn't go farther than exposing the first 50-or-so pages. Bravo, Hyperion.]

In April of 2010 I wrote and posted my first book review on this blog. Now, just over a year later, I've read and reviewed its sequel. It really takes me back to how far I've come, you know? But enough reflection and on to my review.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Ten-Hut Virals! We Have Missions To Complete!

Book 1
By Kathy Reichs
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

Tory Brennan is just your typical high school freshman. You know the type: so smart she skipped two grades; lives on an island with a father she just met; niece of a famous forensic anthropologist; spends most the time boating around with three older geeky guys. Yeah, sure. Typical.

And it's on a typical trip to the neighboring Loggerhead Island, home to a super high-tech biology research lab and off limits to outsiders, that she and her friends discover a clue to a 50-year-old mystery as well as evidence of cruel animal experimentation. Apparently not everything on Loggerhead is as official and clean-cut as it seems.

After rescuing the wolfdog puppy from the labs, Tory and the group start experiencing strange symptoms. But heightened senses, hunger for raw meat, and yellow eyes are the least of their worries when their investigation efforts start attracting the wrong sort of attention. The deadly kind. They'll have to work together if they want to stay alive and put this mystery to rest.

Fortunately, they are now more than friends.
They are a pack.
They are

This book was impossible to put down! I started reading this at midnight, thinking I'd spend an hour or two at the most before turning in. Four and a half hours (347 pages/57 chapters) later I finally found a place I felt I could comfortably leave them and go to sleep. I grant that the pacing isn't the best at times—I found it impossible to tease the book using the first 50 pages because nothing had happened yet—but the absence of action in the beginning was completely covered by the characters. And once the action started, it never let up—especially not at chapter breaks.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Time Is Of The Essence

Time Witch
~Time Witch~
By Jacqueline Corcoran

Amazon ~ Solstice Publishing

For 12-year-old Genevieve, life is made up of knowns and unknowns. For example, she knows that witches, trolls, and winged horses don't exist anywhere but in fairytales. She knows that the map on her wall is the product of her own imagination. And she knows that things like swords and crests went out of style ages ago.

On the other hand, she doesn't know why her mother didn't return home from work last night. Or why her ceiling just now decided to reveal a secret room. Or how it's possible that passing through the gate of Dumbarton Oaks has transported her to a world that has her questioning everything she knows.

You'd think they'd include something about that in the tourist guides.

Now Genevieve's caught in a race against time to find three missing artifacts and save the kingdom. But with monsters chasing her, mazes trapping her, and mysterious new powers popping up, she'll need help from her new friends if she wants to survive the week, let alone find a way back home.

Time Witch is a classic fantasy adventure. You have a hero(ine), a quest, a villain, some self-discovery, and friends to help, all contained in a world where magic reigns and the unexpected happens all the time. Genevieve is your typical unpopular, shy, middle school student. When her mother goes missing, she's devastated but still manages to find the courage to take up the search, and ends up wandering into a magical world she thought she'd only imagined. Dropped in the middle of a quest to stop the end of time, she's got to overcome her own insecurities and discover the power she holds in order to defeat evil and save those she loves.

Written in a similar style to The Chronicles of Narnia, this is a straight-forward, dialog-heavy, plot-powered adventure story. Intricate details are on the scarce side, leaving much of the world to the reader's imagination, and allowing for a faster action-packed read. The plot takes quite a few twists and turns, making for an especially unpredictable and exciting journey. Though there is a bit of romance, it's kept fairly light and is at most a subplot of the story, so I don't think boy readers will be turned off at the get-go.

I especially enjoyed the time-themed quotations at the beginning of each chapter! I only recognized a couple, but I knew absolutely every one of the authors quoted and that in itself made me smile. Also, each quote was a little clue about what was happening in the chapter, so when something strangely familiar showed up, I'd remember the quote at the beginning and grin again. Plus, I'm curious enough to look up all those quotes and see what works they came from. A great teaching tool, I'm sure. *wink*

Unfortunately, there were a few things that didn't work for me in this one.