Monday, August 18, 2014

Review of Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

TitleHyperbole and a Half
AuthorAllie Brosh
Publication Date: Oct. 29, 2013
Source: Birthday present (Thanks, Mom!)

Hey book-loving friends! I've got a new review to share about a book recently released by one of my favorite bloggers: Allie Brosh a.k.a. Hyperbole and a Half. As any fan of hers would know, she took a break from blogging to publish a book of her tales of "unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened" as she calls them. She has a very unique style and a beautiful way with words that will leave you laughing hysterically on a public bus all by yourself with nothing but the strange looks from others to keep you company... Yes, I have firsthand knowledge. Her book is made up of short anecdotes from her life coupled with pictures that she creates in Paint on the computer. For using the application Paint, the girl's got talent. Her simplistic characters evoke great emotion and really seem to capture the essence of humanity, while poking fun at it in the process. If you can't tell by the words of praise, I really liked this book. It's a very quick read because there are so many pictures, but Brosh has a singular sense of humor and a way of showing a very realistic side of humanity.

My favorite vignette is actually one of her more serious ones. Yes, it has plenty of comic relief, but the topic itself is more serious than many of her other stories: depression
As someone who has struggled with depression myself, her way of describing the emotions, feelings, thoughts, and motives for her actions were the best I've heard yet. No one I've ever talked to has been able to put depression into words like she has. My husband even said that reading that portion of the book gave him some insight into helping me cope with my own struggles. If this is something you've never experienced, praise the Lord because you're lucky! And then think about reading this section of Brosh's book, even if you read nothing else. People who have never had depression usually don't know how to deal with people who do have it, which Brosh points out. 
I think she puts depression and the thought processes that depressed people experience into words and emotions that are accessible to everyone. Until this book, I had such a hard time verbalizing what it was like to my friends, my husband, my parents, even my counselor. This section of Brosh's book is gold. 
(Check out Depression Part One and Part Two on her blog by clicking the links.) 

My one complaint is that she used a lot of her previous blog posts for sections of the book. Now, I understand that her book is reaching a wider viewership, where many of the people haven't read her blog, and that the stories she repeated were some of her best. However, I was slightly peeved that she took so much time off of blogging when half of the book was already written! I'm sure the publishing process is much more involved than I am giving her credit for, but I know that she lost a lot of her hardcore fans in her time off. I'm hoping that won't hurt her blog and book career overall because I really do love her work! 

My Rating
I loved it! Overall, I give it 5 out of 5 hearts. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Review of GoneReading.Com: Gifts for Readers

Hey everyone! 

Natalie here. Wow. It's really been awhile since I've posted, what with me moving to a new city to pursue my Ph.D! Anyways, I'll save the general life update for later. What I'd like to share with you today are my thoughts on a new site I've been introduced to....GoneReading! 

I was approached by a representative of the site to review a product of my choosing. Normally, I'm not overly fond of reviewing merchandise--even book-related merchandise, on Mindful Musings, but, curiosity being what it is, I clicked through the link anyways to glance at the website. 

Once on the website, I easily spent an hour looking through all of the cool products GoneReading has to offer. If you love books (which you do, or you wouldn't be here), there is probably something on this site that you're going to love. Literature trivia cards, bathtub book caddies, and bookish art prints are only a few of the items you can find on this site. 

I chose the following art print for review (Clicking on the picture will bring you to its page on GoneReading). 

For those of you who don't feel like clicking through to check out this beautiful print yourself, I'll give you a brief overview. The print is 24 x 18 and done in beautiful shades of greens and blues. The scene is from Jane Austen's fan favorite classic Pride and Prejudice--showing the meeting of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. However, as beautiful as this print is, the coolest thing about it is this: 

That's right...the entire print is made up of the words from the book! How COOL is that???

As far as shipping time, the print arrived safely at my apartment in a few days, packed nicely into a poster tube. I wanted to frame it before showing you guys pictures, but with the move, I haven't gotten around to picking one out yet. Here's a picture of what the print looked like when I got it. 

Beautiful, right? I'm thinking I'm going to get a Victorian-style frame and hang it on the wall across from my bookshelves! 

The best part about GoneReading is yet to come. You all have heard me rave about Better World Books before--where you can save money by buying used books and simultaneously help literacy programs all over the world. Well, GoneReading has a similar philanthropic mission. The company donates 100% of their after-tax profits to reading-related charities! You can read more about the GoneReading mission by clicking here. 

Overall, I was very, very impressed with GoneReading. Their products, mission, and communication were excellent. I expect to be making repeat visits to the site, and I encourage you to check them out when you get a chance! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review of The Unwind Dystology, Book Three: UnSouled by Neal Shusterman

Well, my husband and I finally made the move to Ann Arbor for his graduate school. And I have to say, it is beautiful here in the summer! I really like it a lot. Our trailer was packed to the MAX! Seriously, I don't think we could have fit another sock in there if we had wanted to. 

We barely got the door closed. But I was able to keep all of my books! Yay! I think it almost drove my husband crazy trying to get all of the boxes in that trailer, but they look fantastic in our new apartment, if I do say so myself! 

But enough about me. Before we left, I finished the book UnSouled by Neal Shusterman, and below is my review.
Title: UnSouled
AuthorNeal Shusterman
Pages: 404
Publication Date: Oct. 15, 2013
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
Conner, Lev, and Risa live in a futuristic America where unwinding is their entire reality. In their past, there was a war over abortion which left the country torn, broken, and looking for answers. Those answers were provided by Proactive Citizenry, an organization that created the technology that made unwinding possible. Unwinding is taking a person completely apart, piece by piece, and keeping all of their usable tissue "alive" by giving it to other people who need it. The government decided that teens between the age of 13 and 17 were allowed to be unwound as long as their parents consented. This dealt with the country's teenage rebellion problem and was used as a compromise to make abortion illegal. At first, it led to great medical advancements, but then it turned ugly. People began getting unwound parts for vanity's sake or would get neural weaves to learn new skills or information. And teens were hunted and taken to harvest camps to be unwound. 

Connor, Lev, and Risa have been running from the government, parts pirates, and everyone else since their unwind orders were signed. In book three, they begin to look for a way to fight back and take down Proactive Citizenry, who has just created a new technology to "rewind" people. The company created Cam, a person made completely from unwound kids. They gave him life, but he wrestles with his identity. Is he human? Or is he just property, a lab experiment? All of their paths cross as they become unlikely allies in this epic third book in the Unwind Dystology! 

First a few comments...
Okay, the first thing I'd like to say is: Holy crap! That cover is creepy
Now, the cover is not the reason I picked up the book (I generally try to avoid things that might give me nightmares later), but the first two books in this series were SO good that I had to read the third one to find out what happened to the characters. So I mustered up some courage, bought the book, took off the dust jacket, and sunk into the world of the Unwind Dystology. 

You may be asking yourself: What is a dystology? How many books is that? 
Well, the author made it up. It's not a real word. It seems to me to be a play on the words "trilogy" and "dystopia"; however, after having read UnSouled I can definitely tell you a dystology doesn't stop at three books. This was not the end of the story. So maybe Neal Shusterman was leaning on the idea of a disrupted or broken trilogy... meaning not actually a trilogy but a word that sounds more edgy and unique and allows for as many books as he wants. My guess is that he got into writing UnSouled and realized he would need another book to finish the series, hence the made up word. It makes it sound more official and intentional. And has the added bonus of not pissing off all of the fans of the series who were expecting it to be three books in total. Honestly, it's a pretty creative solution to this problem. 

My Thoughts
On to my thoughts about the book itself! I loved it. Absolutely loved it. Admittedly, I haven't read anything by Neal Shusterman outside of this dystology, but based on this series I think the man is a genius. 

My first reason for liking Shusterman is that he brings his characters to life in a way that is often missed in YA lit. They are relatable, but not flat or generic. They are realistic and deal with their problems and backstories in very real and human ways. Connor, Risa, and Lev are the three main characters that we follow throughout the story - each chapter showing pieces from their different points of view. This close third person limited point of view really brings out the personal emotions of the main characters and what they each deal with internally. Knowing their thoughts and the motivations for their actions makes you sympathize with them, even if you don't always agree with what they are doing. This is a hard skill to achieve in literature. 

The second reason that Shusterman stands out in this series is that mixed throughout the novels are chapters and snippets from random side characters' points of view, including the "bad guys", and the media. I love that Shusterman incorporates propaganda and advertising into his story. We forget how much we are taken in by the media and how much of our information and opinions come from what propaganda tells us to think. It adds a whole new dimension to his books and brings the political commentary in the novels to the surface. He questions our society today by looking at one possible, yet fictional, future. He deals with the ideas of abortion, abandonment, abuse, adoption, big businesses in politics, corrupt government, Native American tribes and their roles in society, black market organs, stem cell research, medical advancements and the ethics involved, the public education system, what constitutes human life, leadership, group dynamics, fashion trends, mental disabilities, teenage rebellion and independence, religion, government coverups, and the role that advertising and propaganda play in and amongst all of it. This could be an amazing series to study at a higher level (college, grad school, etc.) because there is so much material to work with. I could go on and on, but I'm trying not to turn this blog post into a dissertation! 

The third reason I am a fan of Shusterman is that this is the third book in the series (with more to come), and I'm still hooked. There are a lot of authors, especially in YA lit, that lose you around book two or three. I love that Unwind, the first book, could have stood alone. I didn't even know it was a series until I randomly found the second one at Barnes and Noble. It is hard to turn a stand alone novel into a series without making it feel forced. But Shusterman pulls it off. This book is intriguing and compelling. It really makes you question and think about what you believe about so many different subjects but doesn't lose you in the political mumbo jumbo. 

Overall, I highly recommend this series and definitely this book, even with its creepy cover! 

Overall, I give this book a 5 out of 5 hearts. 
Absolutely loved it! 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Blind Date With a Book: A Review of Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Hey friends. Sorry that this post has been a long time coming, but it's been a hectic couple of months without much time for blogging. My grandma passed away, and my husband and I are moving to Ann Arbor at the end of this month for his graduate school. Needless to say, we've been a bit busy! I have, however, had some time to read here and there, and I have completed a few books. I will be posting the reviews of those books over the next few weeks as I have time. 
So, without further ado - a review!

Has your local library ever had a Blind Date With a Book event? I'd seen the idea on Pinterest a few times, but hadn't ever seen it put into practice, until recently. Washington Public Library held a Blind Date With a Book month where they had a shelf of books that were all wrapped in construction paper so you couldn't see what the covers looked like. All they said on the outside was what genre or age group the book fell into and one quote or sentence describing the story. As a book geek and a mystery junkie, I was of course intrigued. I looked at every book on the shelf! I could tell from the description that I had already read a few of them, such as The Hunger Games and Unwind (both of which I highly recommend!). But one line stood out to me above the others, so this was the one I picked up.

Is love a disease? A most intriguing idea. 
So I checked out this book and had my first blind date ever!


AuthorLauren Oliver
Publication Date: Feb. 7, 2012

Quick Summary
Lena lives in a futuristic America where love has been declared a disease, amor deliria nervosa, and the society has discovered a cure - brain surgery that takes away emotions. The government regulates everything: when you get the cure, where you go to school, what your job will be, who you will marry, and if/when you will have children. Each city is surrounded by an electrified fence to keep out people from the Wilds where the deliria runs free. What Lena has yet to realize is that the fence is actually meant to keep cured people in. When Lena meets Alex, a boy that only looks like he's cured, she begins to feel the onset of the deliria and starts to see her very structured life in a different light. The question is: if love is a disease, is it one worth dying for?

My Thoughts
Although I had heard of Lauren Oliver and her book, Before I Fall, I hadn't heard of Delirium or either of the other books that follow it in the series. The blind date description was an accurate one, as the book dealt heavily with the idea of love being classified as a disease, an idea I find most interesting. Overall, I liked the book. I thought that the love story was a bit predictable and the idea of an over-regulated society and bit overdone, but I found the amor deliria nervosa to be quite compelling and unique. An entire society based on the idea that love is deadly and destructive... We honestly can't argue the point. People do crazy things for love. We see it over and over again in literature, movies, music, theatre, television, and our own history. It takes us out of our right minds and can occasionally make us violent and, more often, make us stupid. But love has many more facets than romance. What happens when we take away parental love and nurturing? Or the love of siblings and best friends? What happens when an entire society loses its love and thus its passion and compassion? 

Throughout the novel, Lena is a very relatable character. She has had quite a bit of trauma in her young life. Her mother committed suicide instead of receiving the cure, leaving Lena with only the haunting and forbidden words of "I love you" to guide her. She is ruled by fear and is unsure of herself, as many normal teens are today. But in her world, she can count down the days until she will receive the cure and not have to worry about contracting the deliria like her mother did. She is looking for her place in the world, but also trying to keep her head down and not draw too much attention to herself. She just wants a normal life without any more pain or trouble. I think most of us can relate to having this feeling every once in awhile. 

But then her best friend, Hana, begins acting strangely. Hana is popular and beautiful and rich. Lena doesn't understand why she would be dissatisfied with her life. Isn't that what we all want in some capacity? To be popular and beautiful and rich? But Hana sees her life as short. She wants to have as many "real" experiences as she can before she has the cure. She begins listening to forbidden music and going to secret parties with dancing and alcohol and boys. Lena becomes very confused and fears that the worst has happened to her friend. She even joins Hana on more than one occasion to try to keep her out of trouble. Again, relatable. Many of us have probably had (or been) that rebellious friend who needs to be taken care of while experiencing life. 

But Lena's attitude begins to change when she meets Alex (It's always due to a boy, isn't it?). He has all of the markings of the cure, a scar and a job in the society, but the way he talks and looks at Lena is different. He is mysterious and, of course, quite attractive. And Lena can't help but find herself drawn to him (and don't we all?). She finally realizes that she herself is showing signs of the deliria, but by then she is in too deep. Can she even live without Alex? How did she ever think that the cure was a good idea? And will she go to desperate lengths to keep love in her life? You'll have to read it to find out! I don't want to give too much away now. 

Though the love story is pretty predictable in the way it plays out, the ending of the book is very redeeming in that I didn't see it coming. It is shocking and, quite frankly, makes the entire book a whole lot better. I can't wait to read Pandemonium and see what happens next! 

Is love a disease? 
I think the argument could be made for it, 
but it is definitely a disease I want to live with!!

Overall, I give this book a 3 out of 5 hearts. 
But I give my Blind Date With a Book experience a 5 out of 5!
A few flaws, but worth reading. 

On another note...
I also read Supernaturally by Kiersten White during this time and even started writing a review before I noticed that Natalie had already done so! Oops! So I posted a short version of my review as a comment on hers. You can see it here if you're interested. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Review of The Heroes of Olympus, Book Four: The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

TitleThe House of Hades
AuthorRick Riordan
Publication Date: Oct. 8, 2013
Source: Purchased myself

Quick Summary
The House of Hades continues to follow the story of Percy Jackson (and friends) as he tries to stop Gaea, the earth goddess, from rising and destroying the world as we know it. The previous book left Percy and Annabeth falling into Tartarus, home of the monsters, giants, Titans, and pretty much any enemy the heroes have ever faced before. Their friends above ground are trying to reach the Doors of Death to help Percy and Annabeth escape from Tartarus alive. This story is full of new friends, unexpected twists, and great character development. 

My Thoughts
Most of you don't know me well yet, but one of the first things people find out about me is that I'm a total nerd. I geek out about a great many things, one of which is mythology. I LOVE MYTHOLOGY! Needless to say, when Rick Riordan started publishing his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, I was ecstatic! I fell in love his characters, his sense of humor, his modern twist on Greek Mythology, his voice, and the way he made his books accessible to younger kids. Up until now, I've pretty much worshiped the ground Riordan walks on. However, I am very sad to say that I don't think The Heroes of Olympus series has stood up to my (admittedly high) expectations. 

For starters, it is very hard to tell who this story belongs to. In previous books, we followed Percy through his adventures, seeing the story through his point of view. Riordan knows Percy's voice very well and uses it effectively. I would literally laugh out loud in public places reading his first series. (And yes, I got some strange looks!) But in The Heroes of Olympus series, Riordan tells the story from seven different points of view! It makes it hard to tell whose story you are actually reading, and I think Riordan's sense of humor and voice greatly suffered from it. He knows Percy well, but the other characters' voices come across flat, and the humor forced. 

I also had a problem with the length of this series. The original series was five books, but they were only a couple hundred pages each. This helped reach a lot of young adults that weren't big readers. It made the books accessible and kid-friendly. This second series is also five books, but they are over 500 pages each! While Riordan might be counting on his fan base to follow him, I think the length factor alone will cut out a lot of new readers and a lot of younger readers. The House of Hades is book four, and (though it kills me to say it about one of Riordan's books) I am kind of bored. It is so long that I've lost interest in the story. Sure, there are exciting moments that help pull me back in, but they are few and far between. It just has a sense of monotony. This story could have been told in the same amount of pages as his last one. 

Now, don't worry! There are some redeeming qualities about the book. One thing that is gained by lengthening the book and making it from multiple points of view is character development. In The House of Hades especially, there is a depth of character that we didn't see (with the exception of Percy) in the first series. Riordan has added some serious plot twists and hard sacrifices to mold and shape his characters, making them more dynamic. I don't want to spoil the big surprises, so I won't go into too much detail, but even some of the characters from the last series are shown in a new light. This, along with adding some unexpected allies and a small social commentary on some major topics of today, does help to pull this book up to an enjoyable level. And I am curious to see how Riordan will end it all in the fifth and final book of the series: The Blood of Olympus. 

Overall, I give this book a 3 out of 5 hearts. 
A few flaws, but worth reading. 

I geek out about mythology… What's your geek out niche? 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Hello There!

Hey everyone! 

Once again, it's been forever since you all have last seen a post from me. (I do have a big announcement to make in regards to that though, so stay tuned!) Anyways, for those of you who have been keeping tabs on my personal life, I've been working on finishing up the last semester of my MA in Literature while teaching composition. If you checked in last semester or are friends with me on Facebook, you know that I've spent an inordinate amount of time working on my Ph.D. applications over the last few months. The first part of my big news relates to that: I currently have two offers (at least--still waiting on a few schools) on the table for Ph.D. programs!!! Both programs are fully funded teaching assistantships with stipends, so I am beyond completely excited and stoked to have been selected from such a large pool of hardworking, highly qualified applicants. Getting into a Ph.D. program is hard. Getting into one with funding is even worse. For a long time, I didn't think I even had a shot at it (though from what I hear, most students feel similarly). It's such an honor and an absolute joy to have been given this opportunity. 

The second part of my big news deals with Mindful Musings. Because of graduate school and my teaching responsibilites, I haven't been able to be as active as I would have liked to be over the last few years, and I hate to just let my blog "sit" here with no new content and no new readers. So I'm happy to say that Mindful Musings is adding a new contributor! Amber, the gal joining us, is an old friend from high school, and I think you all are going to love her. With Amber joining me, I'll be able to open up book review requests and blog tours again, and I know she'll provide you all with some awesome content! And, of course, you'll still be seeing posts from me sprinkled in here and there as I find the time. 

I'm really excited about this new turn for the blog, and I hope you guys will give Amber as awesome of an experience as I've had! So, without further ado, here's Amber to briefly introduce herself! 


Just a quick intro: my name is Amber Sumner. I graduated from William Jewell College with BAs in English and Education. For the last year and a half, I have been teaching 8th grade English Language Arts. I just recently got married to the love of my life, and Natalie was one of my bridesmaids. Natalie and I have been good friends since we were in high school, sitting in the back of Mrs. Allen's AP Lit and Comp class discussing the finer points of Smallville - namely crazy plots twists, Lana's insane number of concussions, and Tom Welling's abs. It had been a little while since either of us had had any time to chat, so while catching up on life we got talking about her book blog and how much she had missed posting since being in grad school. And I thought to myself: Gee! That sounds like fun! So I casually mentioned that I would LOVE to help her review books, and sure enough, during Spring Break she trucked a massive box of books over to Panera and taught me how to go about blogging. 

I have always loved reading and writing, and Natalie has been gracious enough to grant me an avenue to explore that love through book blogging (thanks so much, friend!). My favorite genres are fantasy, sci-fi,  and mystery, but I also like a wide array of YA lit. 

I am currently reading The House of Hades by Rick Riordan and wondering what others are thinking of the series thus far, especially compared to his Percy Jackson and the Olympians series… Thoughts?

Monday, January 6, 2014

OhMyGod. It's a Post!

Hey guys!

(For those of you who want to skip the life update and go straight to the bookish stuff, check out the last paragraph).

Wow. I bet you'd thought you'd seen the last of me. No posts since July? Crazy. Then again, most of you know I'm currently in my last year of my Master's program, and unfortunately, keeping up with grad school and teaching has pretty much meant no time for book blogging (much less fun reading). Until two or three days ago, I hadn't read a "fun" book since my last blog post, which was six months ago. Yikes. That sounded even worse when I had to type it. Truth is, this semester has easily been the most challenging, stressful semester in my life. With my coursework, teaching two different classes (instead of two sections of the same class), writing my thesis proposal, and putting together my Ph.D. applications, I've averaged about 3-4 hours of sleep a night since August. Not kidding. To make things worse, my semester ended with the unexpected death of a friend, along with Christmas, and me being a bridesmaid in the wedding of another friend, all occurring within a week and a half of each other. 

I'm not trying to turn this into a pity party (though it definitely feels a little bit that way now) . . . I just want you guys to get a feel for what's been going on with me over the last few months. Because I didn't get to blog this semester. Not once.  Not even to check in. And that's okay, because grad school is important, and even though it sometimes feels like I will be in school forever, I won't be, and maybe life will eventually get a little less chaotic. I really do miss book blogging. I miss getting to interact with such a warmhearted community of book lovers on a regular basis. I miss keeping up on all the latest publications. Though, admittedly, blogging can be stressful at times, I miss the relaxation it offered--being able to share things I loved (or didn't) with people who cared. I miss getting up in the morning and getting to sit down with my cup of coffee and read through all of your wonderful posts. 

I realize that my longtime followers and book-loving friends will tell me not to worry about keeping up with the blog, because it's something that will be waiting for me when I finally have the time. And I know that at some point, the book blogging community will welcome me back with all the kindness and support they've shown me over the years. I guess I'm just having a moment of nostalgia and even a little bit of regret, having to give up something I enjoyed so much in order to pursue something else, which is also incredibly important to me.

Anyways, the serious part of this post is over, and now I want to focus on good things! Over the last week, I have gotten the chance to continue Ann Aguirre's fantastic Sirantha Jax series. I just finished the fifth book, Aftermath, last night. I've already ordered the final book in the series, Endgame, and I'm planning on finishing it this week before school starts again on Monday. Getting the chance to read Killbox and Aftermath has been the highlight of my winter break, both because Aguirre really is a kickass author, and because getting to read such thoroughly enjoyable books that I got to pick out to read for fun has given me some relief from the insanity.

This brings me to the question I've been wanting to ask you all: what were YOUR favorite reads of 2013 (or, if you've been on the ball, your favorite read so far of 2014)? They can be books that were published last year or ones that you just read last year, but I'd love to know your recommendations for some awesome reading. If you reviewed the book(s), leave me the links so I can check them out. And most of all, I wish you all the best in 2014. I hope I'll get to check in now and again, but if not, I'll see you when I see you! :)

Friday, July 19, 2013

It's Been Awhile...

Hey everyone! 

Wow! It's been just short of two months since my last post. I bet you're wondering (at least, those of you who care) where the heck I've been ALL SUMMER!!!  What happened to all of that excitement about finally having the chance to blog and read fun books? Wasn't I planning an active return to the book blogosphere this summer? 

Yes, yes, I was. But you know what they say about best-laid plans, and it seems as if I've fallen victim to my own tendency to believe that when I FINALLY get some time off, I can cram absolutely EVERYTHING I WANT TO DO and I mean like ALL THE THINGS into that time off. Oops. 

I know that I don't have to explain things to my regular readers . . . I'm sure you all have already realized by now that as I get deeper and deeper into my graduate studies I've pulled back more and more from blogging, especially as I've taken on more advanced responsibilities as an English instructor in the teaching assistant program as well. Degree papers, lesson planning, comprehensive exams, Ph.D applications, studying for the GRE (again) . . . grad school simply EATS my time, even when my classes aren't in session. 

Anyways, the main purpose of this post was to tell you guys this: I consider many of you in the book blogosphere to be real friends, even though not all of us have met face to face. And I would love to have a better way to keep in touch with you. While me reading your blogs is a great way to find out what's going on in your lives, it can be incredibly time-consuming, and as we've seen, I've not done so hot making everything fit together time-wise so far. I'm on Twitter on my blog handle every once in awhile, and you can always follow me there, but I've found that I don't get on nearly as often as I used to (the reasons behind that are pretty much the same as my lack of blogging). However, I am on (here's that dreaded word) Facebook relatively frequently. I use it personally to keep in touch with long-distance friends and family, but I also have to check it frequently for updates about work and to share information with my colleagues. 

I'm already friends with some of you on Facebook, but for those of you who aren't "friends" with me and would like to be, you can add me by searching for the e-mail n_monzyk_28 (at) hotmail (dot) com. If for some reason you decided to send me an actual e-mail, please use my blog's contact address, and not the one I just listed. The one above I've had since I was sixteen and I keep it as a "spam" catcher and for situations like these, where I want certain people to be able to look me up without having to post my "good" e-mail on the Internet. Crazy, right?

As I said almost a year ago, right before I started grad school, this post isn't a goodbye. Though I've only made a handful of posts on my blog over the last year, I still enjoy it and everything it brings to the table (both the books and the people)! I hope to return to it when I can here and there, and maybe, when I'm FINALLY out of school, I can post more like I used to. In the meantime though, I hope you all are having wonderful lives! Hugs!!!

On a different note, I don't know about you all, but I discovered today that I cannot type the phrase it's been awhile (the title of this post without getting the Staind song of the same name stuck in my head. Crap. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Armchair BEA 2013: Introductions

It's time for this year's Armchair BEA! For those of you who are unfamiliar with this event, you can find out all of the important information by visiting the Armchair BEA website. If you want a quick and dirty overview, I'd recommend checking out the FAQ page

Anyways, today is the day for introductions! If you decide to participate, don't forget to link up on Armchair BEA's website! Below, I've answered a few questions to help you get to know me better. If you're participating in this event as well, make sure to mention it so I can visit yours in return! 


Have you previously participated in Armchair BEA? What brought you back for another year? If you have not previously participated, what drew you to the event?

Yep! I've participated in Armchair BEA for the last couple of years. In fact, if you want to read even more about me, you can take a peek at my introduction post from last year by clicking here. I love this event because 1) it takes place in the summer so I usually have time to participate and 2) it's a fabulous way to interact with a bunch of other bloggers, new and old. The people behind Armchair BEA put a TON of work into this event, and it shows! I always have a lot of fun. 

What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013?

I'm one of those people who can't read just one book at a time. Along with reading the yet-to-be-published textbook that I'll be teaching my Writing II students in the fall, I'm reading the steampunk romance Heart of Iron by Bec McMaster and the final book in the post-apocalyptic zombie Newsflesh Trilogy, Blackout. (Images below are clickable and go to Goodreads). 

Blackout (Newsflesh Trilogy, #3)Heart of Iron (London Steampunk, #2)

Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.

Okay, this is still book-related, but it's not blog-related, so I'm going to go with it. My regular readers already know this, but for those of you who are new here, I'm a graduate student pursuing an MA in literature, specializing in the fields of children's literature and Post-1798 British literature. Some of my other academic interests include gender theory, popular culture, postcolonial theory, and visual rhetoric. As part of my graduate assistantship, I teach first-year composition and, starting next semester, I'll also be teaching Writing II. I've got a year left until graduation, after which, I hope to get my Ph.D!

Which is your favorite post that you have written that you want everyone to read?

Okay, this is a hard one. I'm not sure I personally have a favorite post, but I do have a couple that had really good discussions going on in the comments. The one I can think of off the top of my head is a post I did on blogging and image use about a year ago. There was also a discussion post I did on three star ratings awhile back that got a lot of good responses. As far as posts that I'd like everyone to read, well, since I'm just coming back off of a hiatus due to grad school, I'd love to have you all check out my "comeback" post I published last week and the guest post that steampunk romance author Bec McMaster did on my blog yesterday (where you can also win a copy of her book Kiss of Steel). 

What is your favorite part about the book blogging community?

I always feel like I can't answer this question without sounding cliche, but I still chose it anyways, because I think it's important. I love the book blogging community because it's supportive, it's innovative, it's caring and compassionate. Yes, we have our drama now and again, but the majority of the community is filled with a lot of positive people who are always willing to lend a hand when you need one (and talk books, of course)! I feel that, even though this is an Internet-based community as opposed to one established in "real life," a lot of book bloggers are very concerned with what happens to their friends and colleagues in real life. It's always been a great place for me to spend my free time, or to look for a pick-me-up after a rough day. And no matter how long I've been gone, the people of the book blogosphere always manage to welcome me back with open arms. 

Guest Post and Giveaway: Author Bec McMaster on the Appeal of Steampunk

Hey everyone! I'm happy to have on my blog today Bec McMaster, author of the steampunk romance Kiss of Steel that I read and reviewed last year. She's here to talk about the appeal of the steampunk genre and her new book Heart of Iron. In addition, if you stick around 'til the end of the post, you'll have the opportunity to win a copy of Kiss of Steel, the first book in Bec's London Steampunk series! So, without further ado, here's Bec!

Why does steampunk appeal to so many readers?
Steampunk. The very name conjures up thoughts of foggy, gas-lit streets, explorers snapping their goggles into place as they broach a foreign shore and the shadows of a passing dirigible rippling over the ground. So what is it?
It's a reimagining of the 19th century; instead of following the path history chose, steampunk is changing the course of the past and imagining that science chose a different route. All of the inventions that were only ever dreamed of by Victorian scientists (or even earlier), can be explored as if they existed at different points of time. As if someone, somewhere, managed to create what they could only dream of.
Picture Mary Shelley. For her, Frankenstein was a work where she looked to the future, and what could be possible in science. For us, writing or reading steampunk, is looking back and guessing what could have happened.
I love steampunk as a sub-genre because it takes the impossible and makes it possible. As a writer, the appeal for me is that I get to play in several genres that I like; an improbable mash-up of historical romance with paranormal and steampunk tones. My London Steampunk series is like Dracula meets the latest Sherlock Holmes movies.
For a reader? It's new. It's exciting. Amazing worlds can be created that are like nothing a reader has seen before. And it's so diverse that there is usually something for everyone.
I like to think of my own version of steampunk as historical romance with a paranormal twist and a good dollop of sci-fi. As such, it can appeal to readers of either genre, or those who simply like a rip-roaring adventure.
In Heart of Iron, the second book of my London Steampunk series, the world is still the same: comprised of blue bloods - those stricken by the craving virus and who live off blood - the aristocracy considers humans little better than cattle and hides behind gilded walls, protected from the hordes of humans by an army of metaljacket automatons.
But in Heart of Iron, my hero and heroine are challenging the status quo. For Lena Todd, whose only options are to become a blue blood's thrall - a blood-slave - or to become prey, life isn't fair. She wants to change the place of people like her, she just isn't sure how. And when she gets involved with the humanist cause vowing to take down London's elite, she finds she's in over her head.
For the humanists are plotting against the ruling Prince Consort and his blue blood court, and for them, the only way to fight the blue blood's automaton army is with technology of their own.
Enter Will Carver. The burly verwulfen ruffian is just as bound by his place in the world as Lena. When he realizes the woman he's always desired is in danger, he's not going to let anything stop him from saving her. Mechanical kraken, or not.
So, automatons, clockwork devices and a hero and heroine who put the 'steam' in steampunk... If any of that sounds interesting to you, you might just like steampunk romance.
Want to win a copy of Kiss of Steel, the first in my London Steampunk series? Simply tell me what invention you wish existed that could make your life easier? (US and Canada only)

For a sneak peek at the London Steampunk world, I'm offering an e-novella called Tarnished Knight (set after Kiss of Steel and before Heart of Iron) for free download for the month of May. See here for details.


In the mist-shrouded streets of London’s dreaded Whitechapel district, werewolves, vampires and a clockwork army are one step away from battle…


Lena Todd is the perfect spy. Nobody suspects the flirtatious debutante could be a rebel against London’s vicious elite—not even the ruthless Will Carver, the one man she can’t twist around her little finger.

Will Carver, is more than man, he’s a verwulfen and he wants nothing to do with the dangerous beauty who drives him to the very edge of control. But when he finds Lena in possession of a coded letter, he realizes she’s in a world of trouble. To protect her, he’ll have to seduce the truth from her before it’s too late.

“Deftly blends elements of steampunk and vampire romance with brilliantly successful results…darkly atmospheric and delectably sexy.”Booklist, starred review for KISS OF STEEL


Award-winning author Bec McMaster lives in a small town in Australia and grew up with her nose in a book. A member of RWA, she writes sexy, dark paranormals and steampunk romance. When not writing, reading, or poring over travel brochures, she loves spending time with her very own hero or daydreaming about new worlds. The third book in the London Steampunk series, My Lady Quicksilver will be in stores in October 2013. Read more about her at or follow her on Twitter @BecMcMaster.

To purchase Heart of Iron:

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