Straight to Video: Not a Surprise

     I recently* happened upon an article on titled, “Why Did This Movie Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper Go Straight to VOD?” I knew which movie the author was referring to right away, and I wasn’t the least bit surprised to hear of its fate! While the author of the article mentions several reasons why the movie is a flop, he seems to be missing one important reason: the book the movie was based on wasn’t very good to begin with! 
     Let’s venture back in time a bit. Over a year ago, I posted about my reading wish list and how I was attempting to read books from BuzzFeed’s 14 Books to Read Before They Become Movies list. 
  • Gone Girl. Check.
  • If I Stay. Check.
  • The Maze Runner. Check.
  • Divergent. Check.
     You get the idea. A list of hot books that everyone seemed to be reading. So when I saw Serena, a movie that would be starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, I assumed I was in for another good read. I requested the book digitally through my library’s access to Overdrive. When it arrived, I started reading Ron Rash’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction-winning book and was…bored. Let me give you a summary of the novel: George and Serena Pemberton are ruthless timber barons. It’s constantly dark and dreary in the Carolina woodlands. A bunch of guys work really hard logging timber. There’s a terrible accident and someone dies. Serena Pemberton is intimidating. There’s more logging, another terrible accident, and someone dies. Serena is more intimidating and a little crazy. There’s some more logging, a terrible accident, and someone dies. Serena is upset and sends her lackey to kill someone, because obviously, there haven’t been enough deaths yet.
     When the book’s loan was up, I hadn’t finished the book- strange for me at the time. I contemplated just forgetting about the book, but again, I thought of the future movie. Jennifer Lawrence. Bradley Cooper. Beautiful period costumes set in the late 1920s. A fierce female character. Danger and intrigue in a logging company. Murder. Maybe I didn’t give the book a fair chance, I thought. Maybe I hadn’t gotten to the good part yet. Maybe if I just kept reading…so, I did. I requested the book again and read the rest of the novel. Sadly, it was still boring. The story continued with a lot of misery and destruction. There was no redeeming quality about the characters or the plot. I would not recommend this book to anyone I know. The author of the movie review had similar ideas about the film, stating, “Serena is not an interesting or particularly enjoyable movie, and I cannot in good conscience recommend that you watch it. But it is a useful object lesson in moviemaking in the 21st century — and an improbable tale of how something can go terribly wrong even when everything seems to be going wonderfully right.” That being said, read or watch Serena at your own risk!
           *The article is dated March 11, 2015. I wrote this blog post a long time ago…

Reading Reflections


I may be reading less than before baby arrived, but I’m glad I can still find time to read (what else would I do during a 4am feeding?!). Thanks to my Kindle Fire, I’m able to keep reading. Have I mentioned how much I love my Kindle Fire? Baby occupies one arm while eating, so I can hold my Kindle in the opposite hand. It’s so much easier to scroll rather than having to hold a printed book and turn pages one-handed. My husband bought me a hardcover book for Valentine’s Day- thoughtful- but I haven’t figured out how I’m going to hold the book and baby at the same time! Instead, I’ve been devouring Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels lately.

Back in January, I set a much more reasonable goal for my 2015 Goodreads challenge. I read 50 books last year, and I know there’s no way I can do that this year (unless I count all the little board books and children’s books I read with my sweet baby – but that seems like cheating!). My goal is to read 30 books. We’ll see how that goes! So far, I’m on track, and completing those Outlander books is no small feat.

What I’m Currently Reading:
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #4)

  • I really loved the previous novel in the Outlander series, Voyager, but this one feels a little slower to me. I’m hoping the action and intrigue will pick up soon. The characters in these novels are so wonderfully formed. I love the historical fiction mixed with tastefully-written time travel. I was skeptical when I finally decided to start reading Outlander, but I love the saga of Claire and Jamie and I look forward to reading the entire eight book series.

What Baby is Currently Reading:
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, Illustrations by Guy Parker-Rees

  • We love the sing-song rhythm of Giraffes Can’t Dance and the adorable story about a gawky giraffe named Gerald. Poor Gerald gets laughed at by the other jungle animals because of his inability to dance. A cricket gives him the advice “Sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.” Gerald finds that he can dance in his own way. The illustrations are colorful and lively. We read this book just about every day!

What are you reading right now? Has anyone else read the Outlander novels? What did you think of them?

End of Year Update


Baby has arrived!
My beautiful baby girl was born November 1st at 9:16 pm. She weighed a healthy 8 pounds 7 ounces. My husband and I are smitten by her. For a person so tiny, she sure keeps me busy! It’s an accomplishment to get dressed and eat lunch by 2:00 pm now, so blogging has fallen to the wayside. Before the end of the year, however, I wanted to update you on a few literary things that have happened in my life recently.

1). Remember my post about writing to authors? Well, I got a response! Katherine Neville sent me a signature. I was surprised since I had written to her in September of 2013. The signature is now proudly displayed on my bookshelf in front of her novel, The Eight.

2). I also had a response from another author – but in a different way. Not long ago, I posted about Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s novel Bittersweet. I mentioned how I was confused by the story’s setting. I went on Goodreads and posed the question on the book’s page. I figured I would get a response from a fellow reader. Lo and behold – I received a response from the author herself. It answered my question and it made me appreciate the book more because the author took the time to respond.

3). I was further surprised to hear about the upcoming closure of my favorite bookstore. The Barnes & Noble located inside the historic Chateau Theatre in Rochester, Minnesota, will close at the end of December. I am saddened to hear this news and hope I can sneak in one last visit over the holiday season. It’s a unique space and who knows what will happen to the building once the books move out.

Happy Holidays to all. May your holidays be filled with lots of family, laughter, good food, and great books.

NewBaby = No NaNo


With a new baby set to arrive any day now, I will obviously not be participating in NaNoWriMo this year. Last year was my first experience with National Novel Writing Month, and I absolutely enjoyed the experience. It was so cool to be a part of a writing community where everyone was excited about writing and supportive of one another. It was also cool to accomplish my goal of writing 50,000 words in a single month.

While I won’t be participating, I do want to offer up some helpful links to those of you who will be participating this year.

  1. NaNoWriMo homepage: If you haven’t signed up yet, or if you’re not sure what NaNoWriMo is all about, make sure you start here.
  2. Need a spark to get your imagination going? Try the Writer Igniter at the DIY MFA website. It randomly selects a character, situation, prop, and setting for you to work with.
  3. Want to publish your masterpiece once it’s finished? I’ve had great experiences with Blurb. I’ve created scrapbooks, a wedding album, and a full text novel with the website’s free, downloadable software. It looks like Blurb is amping up for NaNoWriMo too. They’ve recently added new templates for novels.

 Best wishes to all of you future novelists out there! You can do it!

A Trip to Nonfiction Land


A quick search on the library’s card catalog leads me an entire floor away from the Young Adult section I usually select my books from. I follow the book spines until I find 306.874 and pull out The Magic Room: A Story About The Love We Wish For Our Daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow. The book comes as a recommendation, and I’m looking forward to trying something new.

In a small town in Michigan, its 1,100 residents are outnumbered by wedding dresses. That’s right—wedding dresses. The most prominent business is town is Becker’s Bridal. Handed down through several generations of Becker women, the business caters to brides searching for the perfect dress for their wedding day. Since the shop is in an old bank, the vault has been transformed into the Magic Room: a room full of mirrors where brides can envision themselves as beautiful brides. Author Jeffrey Zaslow (best known for co-authoring The Last Lecture with Randy Pausch) explores the inner workings of the business and its history, as well as the lives of the brides who venture into the store. The book shows readers not to judge someone by what they look like on the outside. Someone may appear to be a happy bride on the lookout for a perfect dress, but they may have a back story full of heartache. Death of a parent, divorce, and a terrible car accident are just a few of the tales the brides share with the author. Zaslow also focuses on the love parents and caretakers wish for their daughters. While reality television sometimes only shows an obnoxious view of brides and the bridal industry, Zaslow’s story shares a deeper, more loving side.

After reading the book, I know that nonfiction is still not my favorite genre, but I feel good about stretching my reading limbs. Next, I’m on to Ann Brashares’ The Here and Now…yup, back to Young Adult!

Do you have any nonfiction books to recommend?

A Satisfying Series


The YA section may be flooded with trilogies, but honestly, I sort of love them. It gives readers more of the characters and the world that the author has crafted, yet is still a manageable amount of reading. There’s no need to wait years and years for the series to conclude (like Harry Potter), yet there’s not the let-down of a stand-alone book.

If you’ve enjoyed other dystopian trilogies such as The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Matched, I’ve got another reading recommendation for you: Veronica Rossi’s Under the Never Sky. The books in the series are Under the Never Sky, Through the Ever Night, and Into the Still Blue. I read all three books in under a week and a half. I was caught up in the story and wanted to know what would happen to the characters. One night, I read 100 pages in bed before I decided I should put the book down and get some sleep!

The first book in the series introduces readers to Aria, a teenager living in a pod city called Reverie. She has never been outside because the Aether storms (violent, lightning-like storms) are too dangerous. Instead, she escapes to a virtual world. Her perfect, protected world suddenly collapses one evening when she and her friends venture to a powerless pod. Aria’s disobedience to the rules get her tossed out of Reverie. Luckily, she meets an Outsider named Perry who helps her survive the outer wasteland. Perry is a hunter for his tribe, and his life could not be more different from Aria’s. While Aria has lived with lots of technology and medical advances, Perry lives simply. His tribe has been living off the land, but now the Aether storms are destroying their farmlands and resources. Aria and Perry must find a way to work together to make sure the human race survives.

Why did I enjoy the series so much?

  1. Interesting Characters – The book has two narrators, Perry and Aria. While the dual narrators didn’t work for me in Allegiant, Rossi successfully voices two very different characters. You’ll find yourself caring about each of the narrators, as well as many of the other characters in the book.
  2. Believable World – The Aether storms reminded me a bit of the sun flares in The Maze Runner series, but weren’t quite as extreme. With all the recent weather-related tragedies happening around the world: typhoons, hurricanes, flooding, volcanoes—I can buy the idea that lightning storms could make life difficult for people. I can also buy into the idea that some people would look to technology to keep them safe, and that others would not be as lucky.
  3. Satisfying Ending – I hate it when I finish up a book and the ending feels incomplete, goes off topic, or feels forced. Rossi did a great job of wrapping up the series in a way that felt believable and satisfying.

Have you read the Under the Never Sky trilogy? What did you think of it?

If not, how do you feel about trilogies?