Books I've Read · Movies I've Seen

Lions and Witches and Birthdays

Today is a very special day. On this date, eight years ago, my little girl was born. To the child who is both the best thing in my life and the bane of my existence, I say “Happy Birthday!”

One thing that inevitably happens when you have kids is that you want to share with them the things that you enjoyed when you were their age. A few weeks ago, my daughter and I started reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe at bedtimes. For anyone who doesn’t know (is there any one who doesn’t know?), this is the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

I remember the first time I heard this story. I was in third grade. My teacher, Mrs. Safier, read it to us in class, usually one or two chapters per day. It soon became the best part of the school day for me. I had a lot of anxiety, even at that young age, so there was something soothing about just sitting and listening to my teacher’s voice telling the story. And what a story it was! Who didn’t want to open a seemingly normal closet door (I had no idea what a wardrobe was at the time) and suddenly end up in a whole new magical world? The animals talked! It was snowy all the time! Of course, it was always winter and never Christmas, and there was an evil witch who had named herself Queen and wanted to kill all the humans. Trifles! Narnia was the first magical world that I wanted to visit. Scratch that – I wanted to live there! I wanted to have tea with Mr. Tumnus and dinner with the Beavers. I wanted to dance among the trees and ride on the back of a Lion! Who wouldn’t?

It’s been fun watching my daughter enjoy this story as much as I did. We usually only had time to read one chapter, but she always kept begging for “just one more.” Sure, there are people who dismiss the Narnia books as nothing but Christian allegory, but so what? They are still really good stories that I will always love, and now my daughter will too.

We started Prince Caspian yesterday. 🙂

Books I've Read · Top Ten Tuesdays

Top Ten Tuesday – Slacker Edition

This week’s topic, hosted at The Broke and the Bookish, is the “Top Ten Series I Have Yet To Finish.” For the most part, I have no excuse. I’ve read at least the first book, and in most cases enjoyed it. I’ve just been a slacker when it came trying to find the other books. So here it goes:

1. The Modern Faerie Tales by Holly Black – I’ve read Tithe and enjoyed it to pieces. It was a bit more gritty than most fairy stories, which I enjoyed. Have I read the next two books? Nope.

2. The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa – The first book, The Iron King, was really good. I read it as a Book Club pick at the Mallorean Tavern. It was also very good and I had every intention to keep reading the next four books. Oh well.

3. Phedre’s Trilogy by Jacqueline Carrey – Again, I’ve read the first book, Kushiel’s Dart. I even bought the second one, Kushiel’s Chosen. It looks very nice on my bookshelf. Which is where it has stayed since I bought it. *sigh*

4. Books of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater – I got Lament from the library, then found it and the next book, Ballad, at the used bookstore for cheap. Luckily, if I can read Ballad, I can count this as finished, since the next book doesn’t come out until sometime next year.

5. The Hex Hall Series by Rachel Hawkins – This one I do have an excuse for. I found the first book at the library, but couldn’t find the next two. Eventually I will probably buy them and read them all. The first book was a lot of fun.

6. The Five Hundred Kingdoms by Mercedes Lackey – There are probably other series by Mercedes Lackey that I’ve started an never finished, only because she’s written so many books!!! It was, once again,  the Book Club pick at the Mallorean Tavern that brought me to The Fairy Godmother, the first book in this series. There are several others (at least five I think?) that I will get around to one day. I promise.

7. The Bartimaeus Series by Jonathan Stroud – Another Tavern Book Club pick! Can you tell that I get a lot of recommendations from them! I read the first book, The Amulet of Samarkand, and really enjoyed it. Now I just need to track down the others.

8. The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare – This one is not my fault! I thought I had finished it! I read the first three books of what I assumed was a trilogy. And then she put out more books. There are two more out now, and another coming out next year.

9. The Infernal Devices Series by Cassandra Clare – No excuse for this one. I read the first one, Clockwork Angel, and never got next one. Like the Maggie Stiefvater books, I only have to read one other book in order to catch up, because the third book won’t be out until next year.

10. The Deepgate Codex Series by Alan Campbell – I bought the first two books in this series, Scar Night and Iron Angel, but never read the third. To be honest, it’s been a while since I read the first two and I don’t remember much about them except they were dark and suspenseful. And that I liked them.

And here’s a bonus:

11. The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffery – This series is so massive and wonderful and, although I’ve read several of them, I am no where near done. When I have some free time (ha ha!), I intend to read through this entire series. Every single one. It will take a long time.

So there you have it. No excuses. I enjoyed the first books very much, but never got around to finishing them. I have a list, though, and I’m going to make it a priority to try and get through them all. What series have you not made it through yet?

Stacking the Shelves

New Books and Announcements

First things first, I have an announcement! I am really excited about this, since it’s a project I’ve wanted to start for a long time now. I am pleased to announce that my friend Jess and I have started a podcast. It’s called Bibliophiles Anonymous and can be found at this website, but also on iTunes. If you hadn’t guessed, we talk about books. A lot. We’ve released two episodes so far and it’s been a lot of fun. Come take a listen!

Now onto my Stacking the Shelves post, courtesy of Tynga’s Reviews. I haven’t actually received this book yet, but I ordered it through Amazon this weekend and should have it within the next few days – In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce. It’s the second book in the Song of the Lioness series. I read the first one with Mark Reads and enjoyed it. Since Mark is planning on going forward in the series, I figured I should follow along.

Did anyone else get some new books this weekend?

Trips I've Taken

Music in Alexandria

This week, Tuesday and Wednesday, I went on a little adventure. My mom, my daughter and I went to Alexandria, Virginia (which is just outside Washington D.C.). Our reason for going: to see Ramin Karimloo performing at the Birchmere Music Hall. This is awesome on many levels, so let’s just list them, shall we?

  • Any reason for going on a road trip with two of my favorite people is a good one.
  • The Birchmere is amazing! It is steeped in music history, with legendary guests like Johnny Cash and Ray Charles. They have a wall with photos of many of the people who have graced their stage and it is impressive. At the same time, it’s not very big, so the performances feel very intimate and personal.
  • I am a huge fan of Ramin Karimloo!!! He’s most known for his work in London’s West End, playing such famous roles as the Phantom in Phantom of the Opera and Love Never Dies, and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. I mentioned him briefly in this post but after seeing him in concert, he deserves a post of his own.

Ramin has been touring the U.S. to promote his new album. He sang several songs from it, along with a few from shows he’s been in (“Music of the Night” and “Bring Him Home” were musts, of course). He also sang a mix of folk, rock, and traditional hymns. In fact, I think this is one of the things I like best about him – his music comes from a wide variety of styles and genres, and he is equally brilliant at all of them. My daughter, who is almost eight years old, is also a big fan and she was really excited that he sang her favorite song from the album (“Broken Home”).

After the show, I was hoping to get an autograph, but wasn’t sure what was going on. I’ve been to stage doors before and usually they are crowded and chaotic. This time, they had a table set up inside where you could go up one at a time to meet Ramin and get him to autograph whatever you wanted. Some people had tons of things and there were a whole bunch of people there waiting. By the time I got up there, it was nearly 11:00 PM. He must have been exhausted after the show, but he was very gracious. I was nervous as can be and my daughter got incredibly shy, but I got my CD booklet signed, which was really cool. 🙂

Here’s a video from the concert. I didn’t record it, but there are several out there from his tour on YouTube. This is one of my favorite songs from his album, called “Cathedrals.”

And now a few pictures, this time from the little meet and greet afterwards.

Here’s my daughter and I, getting to meet Ramin!
The autograph!

It was a great trip and a great concert. Hopefully he will come Stateside again one day. 🙂

Movies I've Seen

Mean Girls and Queen Bees

I’ve been trying to watch more movies lately, especially older ones that I have missed. There were many, many years where I barely went to the movies at all, so when I got my Amazon Prime account, with their streaming videos, I’ve tried to take advantage of it. I also like movies based on books and try to look for the book whenever possible.

So I watched the movie Mean Girls, starring Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, and Tina Fey. I’ve always loved movies about high school – helps me remember my youth. 😉 The story follows Lohan’s character, Cady, who is entering public high school for the first time, after living and being home schooled in Africa with her parents. She is immediately assaulted by all the crazy drama that is the American high school and is adopted by two quirky classmates, Janice and Damien, who give her a run down of how to survive. Rule number one: avoid the Plastics, the most popular clique in the school, led by McAdams’ character, Regina. Cady is surprised when the Plastics reach out to her and invite her into their group. Janice immediately hatches a plan to use Cady to spy on the Plastics and find a way to bring them down. The problem is, Cady pretends so much to be one of the Mean Girls, she accidentally becomes one.

Watching Lindsay Lohan in this was a little sad. It’s a shame she’s had so many problems over the past few years. She was so adorable in this. The whole cast was great.

The movie was based on the book Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. When I went to look for it at the library, I was surprised that it was non-fiction. This is not an adaptation – Wiseman’s book is about teenage girls and how to help them navigate through the trials of adolescence. She goes into the psychology of what’s going through the heads of teen and pre-teen girls. Since I will have a pre-teen girl in four or five years (oh God), this book was really good to read. It gives me some idea of what to expect and reminded me of what my years in school were like.

I definitely recommend both, one for a light hearted good time, and the other for something deeper to really think about.

Top Ten Tuesdays

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted each week by the lovely folks over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Bookish People You Want To Meet (Authors, Bloggers, etc.)

This list was harder to put together than I thought. Some came very easy, but others were much harder to come up with. But here we go:

1. J.K. Rowling – I adore her. She has been my inspiration for wanting to be a writer ever since I first read the Harry Potter books. I love her story, how she started out as a single mom who had basically nothing but a great idea to write about.

2. John Green – Another person I find inspirational. Not only is he the amazing author of such best-selling and award winning books like Looking For Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars, but together with his brother Hank, created one of the most successful YouTube channels, the Vlogbrothers, who have gone on to create a large community of nerds who try to make the world a better place.

3. Mark Oshiro – This guy is a riot. I’ve mentioned his website before – Mark Reads. He chooses books, recommended by his community of readers, and reviews them one chapter at a time. His entries on Harry Potter are hilarious and heartwarming, and his take on Twilight is laugh-out-loud funny. He also does this with television shows. He would just be a blast to hang out with.

4. Sheri Lynch – Half of the popular syndicated radio program, Bob & Sheri, Sheri Lynch is also a novelist. She has two published books, Hello, My Name is Mommy and Be Happy or I’ll Scream. Her books are full of stories about her life and all the obstacles she’s had to overcome. Her advice is always given with humor and humanity.

5. Alfie Boe – I’m cheating on this one, so sue me. Alfie Boe is not really known for his writing, but since he just published his autobiography, I say he counts! He is a classical tenor and has one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard. Just go on YouTube and search for the Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert. He plays Jean Valjean and is absolutely amazing.

6 & 7. Maureen Johnson & Libba Bray – I discovered these two YA authors via the Vlogbrothers. The are both fantastic authors, but after following their blogs and their Tweets, they are both also incredibly fun. It would be fun to hang out in New York with these two.

8. Melissa Anelli – I actually have met Melissa Anelli, although only briefly. She is the webmistress of The Leaky Cauldron and author of Harry, A History, a book about the Harry Potter fandom. I met her at a live podcast when they went on tour and got her to sign the book for me. She was incredibly busy, but very nice. She’s also been on the front lines of all the crazy Harry Potter hype, so I’m sure she has more stories to tell.

9. Dianne Sylvan – If I have to choose a vampire series to read, my first pick would be the Shadow World series by Dianne Sylvan. They are excellent books. The fourth in the series is coming out sometime next year and I cannot wait. Dianne also wrote a couple of non-fiction books, including The Body Sacred, which is about body image and learning to accept your body’s spiritual nature and a fabulous book for someone who has always had body image issues. Plus, her blog is a lot of fun and we have the same sense of humor.

10. Chris Baty – Chris is the author of the book No Plot? No Problem, but he’s even more than that. He is the founder of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. I love NaNo so much! I’ve participated many years, and although I’ve never met the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days, I’ve always enjoyed the experience and excitement. It’s funny how a group of 21 people getting together to write as much as they can for a month has grown into a world wide writing celebration every November.

So that’s my ten people. Who would you like to meet someday?

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves

Another meme I’ve decided to embrace here on my blog is courtesy of Tynga’s Reviews, and it is called “Stacking the Shelves.” Since I obviously have no self-control where books are concerned, here’s where I will share what new books I find and add to my collection.

This week, it’s all about vampires. I managed to score, thanks to my good friend Jess, the first six books of the Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill. While I’ve never completely jumped onto the Twilight/Vampire bandwagon, I do enjoy a good vampire story if it’s done right. Jess recommended these very highly and I can’t wait to read them. Has anyone else read these? If so, what did you think?