The Leaving Season

Image result for the leaving seasonFirst Lines: Nate called it a shade box.  “A shade is a memory,” he once told me.  “What’s left of a person or place after they’re gone.”

This book has been on my radar for years, but it’s only been recently that I decided I finally needed to do something about it.  I always assumed, since it was supposed to be sad, that I needed to be in the right mindset for it.

Middie calls every August the Leaving Season–the season when high school graduates pack up and leave town for college.  But this year, it’s her boyfriend Nate leaving.  Nate, who’s so perfect she can barely believe it.  Nate, who’s strong and hopeful.  Nate, who promises to come back to her after taking a gap year in Central America.  But when tragedy strikes, Middie’s left trying to understand what happened.  And no one else understands what she’s going through–no one but Nate’s best friend Lee.  Middie and Lee have never gotten along.  Different personalities, different outlooks on life.  But with her life looking drastically different now than it did before, Lee might be the only one who can help her find stability once more.

This was really good.

I figured this was going to be a sad, grief story, but that’s only partly right. It’s also about how an ending can be a new beginning and how we can be lost even when everything else feels planned.  The sadness is truly only part of the story.  And while you feel Middie’s loss, this was not the kind of book that left me in a puddle of tears or anything.  So it’s sad, but not depressing.

Middie was a good lead for this because she was so interesting. Before everything hit the fan, she’s a hardworking student with her whole life planned out. She’s Nate’s Girlfriend to basically everything and they know exactly what life will be like for the next 5-10 years. They’ve planned out everything. And then, suddenly, she’s left trying to discover who she is now. And as she begins to change a little at a time, you see her starting to redefine herself. I liked that.

I really enjoyed the themes of this book. There are so many different ways to look at it and take meaning from it. It’s even surprisingly quite a feminist story, though it’s never super overt about that. That took me by surprise, but I liked it. (It comes out more in the themes than anything else and it’s never a focal point necessarily, but I saw a connection.)

The plot was good and I thought the timing was good too, which I don’t always say. The whole story takes place over something like six months as we see some Before and a lot of After. I think it really helped to have all that time because it felt more realistic. For anyone who’s suffered a shocking loss, you know you don’t recover from that overnight. It takes a lot of time, especially when that Loss is tied to who you thought you were. So yeah, we needed to see Middie dealing with the time aspect.

The only thing about it that I didn’t necessarily “like” (and I’m using that term loosely because I still enjoyed it, but I started nitpicking it) was some of the stuff near the end.  I’m definitely not going to spoil anything, but let’s just say some of things that happened felt much less realistic than what happened earlier in the book.

I really did enjoy this. This was emotional and entertaining. (I hesitate to say “fun” when we’re talking about loss, but I had a hard time putting the book down. And there were parts that were funny.)

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases of the 2nd Half of 2019

Hey everyone!  So I used to be really up on all these books that hadn’t come out yet.  I had spreadsheets and I used to do a post every Friday about upcoming releases…but I’ve gotten away from that in the last few years.  So while I still have many of these in mind, I also had to look up others that looked exciting.  I just don’t focus on that as much anymore, you know?  I’m too busy looking at my loaded shelves and the books I already have at my fingertips.

But let’s see what’s coming, alright?  There are some good ones!

Top Ten Most Anticipated Releases of the 2nd Half of 2019

1. The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett (September 3, 2019)

This looks like fun.  I’ve read contemporary romances by Bennett before, so I’m excited to see how she does with this historical fiction/fantasy novel.  Theodora is a treasure-hunter like her father.  But when her father disappears, Theodora and her father’s protege Huck have to travel all through the Carpathian Mountains to try to find him.  Her father was looking for a ring that used to belong to Vlad the Impaler and someone is willing to commit murder to keep secrets hidden.

2. The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones (September 24, 2019)

I loved Lloyd-Jones’s The Hearts We Sold, so I know she can pull off a fantastic fantasy novel.  Ryn’s family works as gravediggers, scraping out a meager existence.  But the problem is the dead don’t always stay dead.  Supposedly, this is because of a decades-old curse.  And when a newcomer arrives in town and the dead rise more often, Ryn and the newcomer Ellis will have to figure out how to stop the curse once and for all.

3. The Toll by Neal Shusterman (November 5, 2019)

Alright, let’s not panic.  This is only the conclusion of the Scythe series that is literally one of the best dystopian/utopian/social commentary novels I’ve read in the last 5 years.  If you haven’t read Scythe or Thunderhead yet, what exactly are you waiting for?

4. Maybe This Time by Kasie West (July 9, 2019)

I literally just found this one, but I love Kasie West and this looks just as adorable as all the others.  Told over the course of a year, it’s about Sophie, a florist, who can be found at all the big events around town.  And so can preppy, annoying Andrew, who shows up every time Sophie turns around.  Sounds cute.

5. The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter (July 22, 2019)

Oh, this looks exciting.  In this dark fantasy, magic exists in Enchantia and fairy tales are prophecies about the future.  Everly has no idea she’s a real-life princess until she discovers her ability to talk to mirrors.  Then she finds out she’s fated to be Snow White’s greatest enemy–the Evil Queen.  This one is going to be fun, I can tell.

6. A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer (January 7, 2020)

Ok, so I’m going to cheat with a few of these next ones since they don’t come out in 2019.  But I’m really excited about them!  This is the sequel to A Curse So Dark and Lonely, which is a Beauty and the Beast retelling that I love so much.  It’s going to get ugly and I can’t wait.

7. The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson (January 21, 2020)

This is (I believe) supposed to be the conclusion of the Truly Devious series and I’m so excited to see how it all ends.  I know I’m going to have trouble sleeping at night once I start reading this because it tends to be really creepy/unsettling, but Johnson can craft a spectacular story and I have no doubt it’ll be amazing.

8. The King of Crows by Libba Bray (February 4, 2020)

And this one is the 4th and last book in the Diviners series.  Talk about not being able to sleep at night, these books are truly freaky. And I love every bit of it.  I may have to reread this whole series before this book comes out though because I know with so many characters, I’m going to forget something major.  But it’ll be worth it.

9. Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland (February 4, 2020)

The sequel to Dread Nation, this promises to be equally interesting.  I don’t really know what it’s going to be about, but I could hazard a few guesses based on how the first book ended.  Zombies, man.  Historical fiction with zombies.  Hard to turn that down.

10. Brazen and the Beast by Sarah MacLean (July 30, 2019)

I don’t talk about them much here, but I have a very strong love of historical romances.  And no one does it better than Sarah MacLean, who manages to make every story feel new and interesting no matter how many of her books you’ve read before.  This is the 2nd in her current series about the underbelly of London.  It’s fun, fascinating, and the characters are fantastic.  (Oooh, alliterations!  It must be good!)  I can’t wait to get my hands on this.

Finding Neverland

Image result for finding neverlandHey!  So I’m definitely late to this party, since this movie came out in 2004, but better late than never, right?  I found this at the library and I decided it was worth a try.  Johnny Depp?  Kate Winslet?  And about J.M. Barrie writing Peter Pan?  Yeah, sounded good.

Basically, this story is about J.M. Barrie, failing playwright, trying to write something that’ll do well.  One day, he meets a widowed mother and her four sons in the park and begins a friendship with them.  With the boys, he plays games of pretend and lets them be children.  But one of the boys, Peter, sees through all of the pretend to the realities of the world around them.  Can Barrie get through to the boy, to make him see that the world can be incredible if you just believe?

I thought this was really cute!  It took me by surprise initially when Depp busted out in a pretty good Scottish accent.  Depp is kind of in his element with this movie because he gets to play all of these different pretend characters, like an Indian chief, a pirate, and more.  The movie plays to his strengths as being an eccentric, so that was fun to see, even as he was a tight-laced playwright at the same time.

I also thought this was really cool how it showed the writing process in so many different ways.  Barrie is struggling to find inspiration for his next play.  This new friendship with the Davies family lets him have some fun and spend time with people who actually make him feel good about himself.  So he starts writing down some of the games they play and slowly that starts morphing into Neverland.  We get to see him stuck, writing random notes, and how the play came together.  I appreciated that they showed how challenging writing can be.  And how it can impact those around you as well.

The plot was cute.  There were definitely a few times I knew what was coming next, but I really enjoyed just sitting back and watching it.  And it threw a sucker-punch to the feels, so there was that too.  Even when I knew it was coming, it hurt.  It’s been a while since a movie made me cry, so I appreciated that it had the ability to do that.

The overall acting was really good.  Kate Winslet plays a devoted mother and she was very good about playing that line between single mother and friend to her boys.  She didn’t always understand them, but she always cared and wanted the best for them.  And a shout-out to Freddie Highmore, the boy who plays Peter Davies.  I was sitting there the whole time going, “God, this kid looks familiar.  What else has he been in?”  E v e r y t h i n g.  That’s what.  The kid’s been everything in everything from Depp’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to The Good Doctor and Bates Motel.  I mean, this kid was awesome at like 10 or whatever he was when this was filmed, so it makes sense his career took off as he got older.

This is cute family fun.  It’s exciting, interesting, and constantly bounces between Reality and Pretend.  I liked that a lot, as someone who frequently lives in her own head.  It’s nice to see that it’s appreciated and not just me.

All Is Fair

Image result for all is fair dee garretsonFirst Lines: I should have heard the creaking of the floorboards outside the old silver pantry, but I was too busy pretending to be a Romanian prince disguised as the school’s gardener.

So this book caught my attention when I went to the library.  I’d never heard of it before, but it was set during World War I, which I almost never see.  It would be accurate to say I was interested.

Lady Mina dreams of adventure, especially as World War I is being waged around her.  Instead, she’s stuck at boarding school trying to learn to be a proper lady.  So when Mina receives a telegram written in code, she knows she can’t let this adventure pass her by.  She turns home to Hallington Manor, where she’s met by her old friend Lord Andrew Graham and the dashing American, Lucas Miller.  The three of them must work together to do something that may just turn the tide of the war.  And they must work quickly–or the war could lead to something much worse.

This was ok. Not that there was anything overtly wrong with it, but like…it could have been better.

First of all, the mystery. Or “mystery” as I like to call it. Because really, there isn’t much of a mystery at all, for all it’s billed as having one. Sure, Mina is going all Scooby Doo on this, but that’s also essentially as deep as the mystery goes. Mina sees some clues, comments on them, and everyone involved is a little too over-the-top. Like everyone goes out of their way to explain away something with an obviously fabricated lie. Or the clues just happen to nearly fall into Mina’s lap. It was kind of ridiculous.  The synopsis makes it out to be some grand, large thing, but it’s really not as amazing as all that.

For all of that, I liked Mina and Lucas. Mina’s stubborn and clever and eager to help the war effort to feel like she’s doing something. Lucas is happy-go-lucky most of the time, which is interesting given the fact that he’s a soldier, but it gives him a sense of humor. Most of the other characters in this story were superficial compared to these two, which was ok and not ok. Everyone else was pretty much a stereotype. Actually, even Mina and Lucas were kind of stereotypes, now that I think about it.

I liked the history aspect of things, so that was good. But I thought the ending was rather abrupt and wasn’t exactly satisfying. So while it may have hit some high notes along the way, it was kind of a let down by the end.

This could have been a lot more interesting, given how much promise I thought it had at the beginning.

ThriftBooks: My Experiences With This Online Used Book Store

Hey everyone!  So I’m always looking for a way to buy cheap books (who isn’t?) and ThriftBooks got my attention on Pinterest one day.  Once I started digging around and placed a couple of orders, I started thinking it’d be good to let you guys know about it.

Image result for thriftbooks

What Is It?

Thriftbooks is an online used book seller, though they even have new books that you can order through them too.  Their used books generally run about $3.99-$4.50, but they also sell boxed sets, books in different languages, and collectibles (obviously, those tend to be a little more expensive).

With each book that you click on, they give you the option of getting the book in different conditions.  All of this depends on their availability, so this is subject to change by book.  First, you have a choice of hardback or paperback.  Then you can choose “like new,” “very good,” “acceptable,” “good,” or “new.”  Most of the books are going to probably fall in the “very good” or “acceptable” category, just from what I’ve seen.

My Experiences

To celebrate the end of the school year, I rewarded myself by buying a few books that I’ve been searching book stores for recently to add to my library.  I bought the following:

  • Soul Screamers Vol. 1 by Rachel Vincent (in “very good” condition)
  • Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay (in “like new” condition)
  • Drink Deep by Chloe Neill (in “very good” condition)
  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (in “very good” condition)
  • Harry Potter a L’Ecole des Sorciers by J.K. Rowing (in “acceptable” condition)

There was a sale running at the time where you could get 15% off of $15 or more, so I got these 5 books for a grand total of $21, including tax.  That’s pretty good, considering these books would have cost me a lot more at my local Half-Price Books.  I was happy with my purchases and I was just waiting for them to arrive.

And then, of course, after the first bunch came, I put in a second order.  Because now I have a “problem.”  That order included:

  • Destined by Jessie Harrell
  • Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
  • Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
  • Shadows in the Silence by Courtney Moulton

This order is currently being shipped, so I haven’t received any of these yet.

The Pros

When it comes to this site, they’re doing a lot of things right.  Here’s what I like.

  • The Wish List.  Once you make an account, anything you see that you might want to buy, you can just throw on your wish list.  If it goes out of stock (which a few of mine did after being put on my list), they will keep you posted about them when they get another one in.
  • Free Shipping.  If you live in the United States, all you have to do is spend $10 to get free shipping.  Seriously, how hard is it to spend $10 on books?  That’s like 2-3 books on their site, so it was pretty darn easy for me to reach that number.
  • Reading Rewards.  While I haven’t hit my reward yet, they give you points for each book you buy and when you reach 500 points (which seems to be surprisingly easy to hit), then you get a free book.  I really like that.
  • Easy To Get What You Want.  I’m trying to build up my library by completing a few of my series (see Soul Screamers above, where I already have volumes 2 and 3, but not 1).  So I was looking specifically for that volume.  Or with a few of them, I for sure want the hardback or paper back versions to fit with what I already have of that series.  This makes it easy to get what I’m looking for to best compliment my library.  I even can pick which covers I want, like if I want the movie tie-in or not.
  • They’re Upfront About Ex-Library Books.  Sometimes it bothers me to have ex-library books, sometimes it doesn’t.  So the fact that they’re so open about it being an ex-library book is nice.  It’s really hard to miss it.  They try to make sure you know all through the check-out process that it’s ex-library.  If that’s a problem, it’s pretty easy to go back and pick a different version.
  • Coupons.  I got both of my orders in during their 15% off coupon and that was really nice.  I don’t know how often they run sales like that (once a season maybe??) but I will definitely take advantage of their site during those times.
  • The Site’s Easy To Use.  There were a few times I’ve had to fight with the site, but mostly it’s really easy to use.  You can search by genre (and they have everything, from YA to romance to nonfiction to popular fiction) or you can search by title or author.  You can also search by language if you’re looking for Spanish or French versions of something.  In fact, it’s been a little too easy to add to my wish list.

The Cons

Ok, so while my ordering process was awesome, my cons come from what happened next.

  • Shipping Takes Forever.  The free shipping comes with 4-8 day shipping through USPS.  I placed my first order on June 2nd, which was a Sunday.  I didn’t get the last of my order until June 12th.  I don’t know why it took so long, though I’m not sure I can lay all of the blame on ThriftBooks for that one.  But basically, if you’re ordering something as a birthday present or whatever, plan a lot of time in advance, just to make sure you get it on time.  4-8 days isn’t a guarantee.
  • Tracking Is Useless.  They allow you to track your package through USPS (and again, this isn’t necessarily Thriftbooks’ fault), but the tracking was pointless.  It wouldn’t give me an arrival date until it was already in my city.  So I could see that it was coming from Nevada or Oregon, but it wouldn’t give me any kind of date until it was already out for delivery.  That’s just stupid.
  • My Order Came In 3 Different Packages.  I haven’t quite figured out where their warehouses are or how this all works, but my order of 5 books came in 3 different packages.  One was shipped from Portland, Oregon, another from Reno, Nevada, and the last from Dallas.  My second order of 4 books is being shipped from 2 different places: Reno and Baltimore, Maryland.  And since they were taking forever to arrive, it wasn’t even exciting when they finally arrived.
  • Your Books Are Shipped in Bags.  This is what irritates me the most.  When I knew my first package was in my mailbox, I was excited.  I opened the box…and my book was in a shipping bag.  The book inside, which was a hardback, looked like it had taken a bit of a beating.  (I don’t know how much of that was prior damage, to be fair.)  But my “like new” Of Beast and Beauty was definitely dinged up from its travels.  Corners were bent from the way it was shipped, I’m sure of it.  Is it a deal-breaker from ever using them again?  No.  But it does make me proceed with caution.  My last package’s bag had holes in it from where it had gotten caught on something else.  My books could have been destroyed if they’d been exposed to rain.  As someone who is very possessive of her books, this really bothers me that they were treated this badly.

Conclusions

As a company, I like them.  I like their selection, their rewards program, their ordering process.  It’s simple, inviting, and fun to just look through their options.  My issues come from their shipping process, which might be somewhat out of their hands.

I thought the books I received were pretty much what I was expecting.  My “acceptable” Harry Potter book was in better shape than I expected; on the flip side, my “very good” The Girl of Fire and Thorns wasn’t in the best shape.  If they had marked it as “acceptable”, then I would be fine with it, but having never used their site before, I’m not sure what each condition actually looks like with them.

But I like them.  Will I be ordering from them again?  Yes.  It’s going to be a while because I can’t keep buying books at this rate, but I like them enough to keep checking on their inventory.

The Last of the Mohicans (1992 movie)

Image result for the last of the mohicansHey everyone!  So last summer I was on a big kick about reading classics and The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper was one that I read.  And during one of my recent library visits, I saw they had this movie.  While I don’t remember a ton about the book anymore beyond the bare bones of it, I thought this would make for an entertaining night.

The basic gist of the story is that two young women, Cora and Alice, are trying to get to their father at a fort during the French and Indian War.  Danger surrounds them all the time, as the Huron and other tribes are constantly hiding in the forest, ready to attack.  With the help of Hawkeye and his Mohawk friends, Cora, Alice, and their British guard Hathaway try to survive the journey.  And not everyone will make it.

I’m going to start by talking about it from a purely movie standpoint, then we’ll compare it to the book.

As a movie, it was incredibly entertaining.  Action, betrayals, backstabbings, danger, romance, sacrifice, it had it all.  Daniel Day-Lewis as Hawkeye was fun to watch because he was (as Day-Lewis typically is) way into the role.  And I thought some of the other roles (Cora, Hathaway) were well-acted, though a bit overly melodramatic at times too.  That goes for Hawkeye as well.

It was full of action and, even though I try to watch things to do with colonial America and its class with native tribes, this is probably the first time I’ve actually seen what a scalping looks like.  That was a little gross, but very effective in showing why people were terrified of it.

And I thought it did a decent job of trying to show–and represent–native cultures.  They used actual Native Americans to play those roles and allowed them to speak their own languages in scenes.  (I saw on IMDb that this usually meant they were speaking to each other in different languages and they couldn’t understand each other.)  But other things, like anger toward the colonists, respect of nature, and even their tribe power structures were represented and I liked that.  I’m not going to say it was groundbreaking or anything–and I’m not Native American myself, so I have no authority here to speak for that.  I’m just saying I appreciated the representation, even if it still had some work to do.  (And part of that is the story’s fault, since the Natives are the aggressors in the story itself.)

Ok, compared to the book, there are a lot of differences.  There were times watching this where I was like, “Huh.  I don’t remember that happening.  Did that happen?”  (Again, I didn’t remember the book well to begin with.)  But again, IMDb helped me out.  Once I read that, I started remembering how certain scenes were supposed to play out.

This movie is kind of billed as a historical romance, which I can assure you the book was not.  That was probably the biggest twist.  The characters still generally fill their same roles, like Cora is the stronger of the girls and Alice is this fainting daisy all the time.

But the movie gave different outcomes to a lot of things.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s just say that just because they survived in the book (if you’ve even read the book) does not necessarily mean they survive in the movie.  Those twists were actually fun because A) they were more unpredictable and B) they were daring.  I mean really daring.

This movie’s been out for 27 years and you can tell where it maybe hasn’t aged well.  Some of the special effects are ridiculous.  (There’s this one, early on, where they’re shooting an elk or something and you can tell it’s basically a plastic model they just threw down a hill.  I laughed out loud.)  Some of the cinematic choices are weird.  Camera angles that change in ways I’m not used to or seem to focus a little too long on something.  But honestly, it was kind of better than I expected.

It’s good to watch once, maybe twice.  It won’t be a favorite of mine by any means, but I’m glad I watched it.