I’m in the midst of orientation for my post-bac and getting ready for my new classes, but I promise I will post soon. I just had to share this graphic really quick. My roommate showed me and said “this reminded me of you.” And it’s exactly how I feel. The girl may as well be me with brown hair. It perfectly captured how I feel.

To Kindle or not to Kindle?

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I am a book fanatic. So it was inevitable that the issue of Kindle/e-book readers vs. traditional paperbacks would eventually come my way. And while it’s not necessarily a huge problem for me, I was curious as to what other people think – aka, you guys! ๐Ÿ™‚

So many bookstores in my small hometown and even in here in the city have gone out of business recently. From Atlantic Books to Borders to little independent bookstores, I always get sad when I hear of another bookstore that has been forced to shut its doors. While it may or may not be entirely due to the rise of e-books can be debated forever. But I’m sure the e-books played some role. I’m guilty of it myself. I swore I would never get an e-reader and remain faithful to my beloved paperbacks – because who doesn’t love turning the pages of a real book? And hello, bookshelves were made to be filled. But two years ago, my dad surprised me with a Kindle for my birthday. And I’m both sad and happy to say I haven’t really looked back since.

I was excited for the Kindle because of the possibilities it brought with it. My favorite thing about the device is not having to wait for a year or more for the paperback version of a book to come out. Countless times, I’ve been in a bookstore and put down a book because it was a hardback, and therefore more expensive. Now, that problem is gone. So far, I have not purchased a new book on the Kindle above $13. And that’s at the very maximum.ย  Most are $10 or under. All of a sudden, new books are at my fingertips, and it is amazing.

Have I still bought a paperback now and then? Of course. How could I not? Sometimes, I can’t resist a particularly enticing paperback. Other times, I’ve borrowed a book from a library and loved it so much that I go find it in the bookstore on purpose, because I have to have a real copy in my hands.

Amazon also has a ridiculous wealth of books available on Kindle. It’s gross, really, how much you can find with the click of a button. Especially when you’re stuck inside because of the weather. Still, I do hold out hope that bookstores do continue, because that’s where I fell in love with books in the first place. Bookstores are wonderful places. And who doesn’t want a library like the one in the Swan Princess? With the ladder that lets you glide from one end to the other? Or the library in Beast’s castle? ๐Ÿ˜›

So I’m curious to hear other thoughts on this topic, just because it’s become really prevalent lately. Kindle? Paperback? Both? Neither?

What a game it is

The current installments of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. 5/7 books.

Authors consistently astound me. They are the reason I continually devour books. I am actually a kid in a candy store. It’s kind of sick. But in the best way possible. Authors have amazing imaginations, but those that know how to share the stories in their imagination on paper are particularly impressive. I have a big imagination. Whenever I read books, it goes wild, continuing on after the book is over, like a neverending fanfiction in my head. But I never write these stories down, simply because I don’t think I could do them justice. I’m also freakishly private about these things, so it feels too personal to write down some of the stories that occur in my head. But I love reading other fanfics and novels and being inspired. It’s just a lot of fun.

So when a series like A Song of Ice and Fire comes along, it’s literally a dream. It’s the most sumptuous, rich type of series a reader can hope for, all created and written on the page by George R.R. Martin. The man is a genius. He is fantastic at creating villains, suspense, heroes, anti-heros, uncertainty, and chaos. He knows how to build characters. And even if you think you hate someone…just wait. He finds a way to make you feel kinda crappy about wanting to see them go down in flames. I mean I was still glad when it happened to some people, but there was a small part of me that went “damn, that sucks.” That is just part of his genius. Writing multiple novels from multiple character viewpoints is no easy task, but Martin switches from character to character effortlessly, like he’s shedding one skin and putting on another. It’s beautiful.

The advantage of having such a huge cast of characters is that of course, people have their favorite stories and people. The crazy thing is that many of these stories tie in to each other somehow, and so even if you think it’s safe to skip a story here or there…it’s not. Also, Martin switches up the names of the chapters in the later books. Instead of just having the character’s name, you get another name – an alias. And often, you don’t find out until multiple viewpoints later, who that actually is (unless you guess it, of course). The reveals are great fun, though, so it’s fun to sit back and let Martin take you where he will.

The fact that the HBO series also exists doesn’t hurt. It helps put faces to names, and I’ve found many of the show’s actors and characters to be very distinct from one another. It helps, in a cast as big as this one- and continually growing. Having the TV show as a sidebar to the books is a lot of fun. We get to see how things work out differently from in our heads, and sometimes, from the books. Also, the show has a pretty clever way of consolidating some storylines with good dialogue to quicken the pace or get a character to a certain point.

It’s easy to pick your favorite character, but it’s also surprising how much you come to care about other people. There have been a few characters who I didn’t think I’d be too invested in that I now follow closely, just because they got so damn interesting. It’s also cool that the people we really hate are pretty complex. It makes it that much harder – but fun – to hate them still, especially with multiple chapters from their POV. It’s a clever way to show just how messed up this game is.

The next two books, the penultimate & final novels in the series, are currently titled The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring. Iย  have my current ideas on who might win, but as Martin has shown time and time again, nobody is safe. Anything is possible. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The power of books

After having an okay but exhausting week, followed by a pretty sucky night of sleep on Friday, I wanted to do absolutely nothing today. Nothing except get lost in a damn good book. Thankfully, Divergent by Vernoica Roth did just that for me. This isn’t just a book review. It’s also a word about books in general, and how glad I am to be a freakish bookworm. I obsess over books. Their characters always stay with me longer than the book’s end (especially when done right), and it’s just a good feeling to get away from things for once. I love getting invested in a completely different world and characters that are flawed and creative and messy. Books are beautiful things.

At the end of this particular book, I literally felt breathless. I looked at my roommates and said, “I feel like I just ran a marathon!” Andย not because I started reading the book this morning. But everything that happened, everything that was built up, just came out in the last few chapters and I felt like I was off and running with the characters in the chaos. This book, like many others, provided a great reprieve from a stress-filled week. While I spent the day reading and not doing much else, I’m entirely okay with that. I think it was a much-needed break that helped me blow off steam by not thinking about my problems today. I’m very much a proponent of knowing when to take a break, if your mind or body (or both) needs it. So I spent my day reading, and it was totally worth it.

I’d been hearing and reading about Divergent for a few months now, and had left it on my Kindle wish list for a while before finally giving in this morning. I’m so glad I did. Veronica Roth is freakishly talented (and apparently, only a year older than me. PRO!) She has built a divided world full of tension and political struggles that are highlighted by a young girl’s confusion and desire to find her true place in a divided society. The five “factions” are well-described, and the people we meet from each both fit into and yet defy the social conventions set by their factions. But Roth excels at showing the differences between these people and the protagonist, Tris. The other thing I love is that the boy, Tris’ love interest (easiest way to describe him), is also well-developed. He is complex, and yes, mysterious, but not in an annoying way. He has a past that has truly shaped who he is, and his story is quite sad. But I love the chemistry and camaraderie that develops between these two. For me, the side love story can make or break a book, if not done correctly. Thankfully, it’s done well here, and contributes to the overall plot really nicely. The last thing I want to say is, it’s never over. This book had me screaming in the last few pages; the build-up to this crazy last few chapters was really well-done. And it was easy to see how things, once set in motion, seriously screwed up the norm. It was also an excellent way to set up the next book, Insurgent (coming out in MAY 2012 HOORAY!). I really look forward to seeing these characters again, and how they deal with new challenges.

I love reading fantastic books like this, because they keep me satisfied for a while (and keep me from going *click* on Amazon and buying more books). Especially after having read Even more so, the characters create vivid images in my head that tend to continue for a while after the book is over. Since I have to wait for the sequel, my mind sort of goes on a tangent about what might happen.

Another book that had a similar effect on me was The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (yep, another YA. I love the genre). That one does not have a sequel (please don’t do it) because it ends so beautifully and perfectly…I can’t even. I really couldn’t have hoped for a better ending. That book, by far, is one of my favorites ever. That book also had wonderfully drawn characters that stayed with me for a while – I didn’t want to read any books for a while after that one. I was just extremely content with reading pieces of that book all over again (especially now that I knew the ending and could breathe again). Divergent had a similar effect on me. I feel like I can attack my work tomorrow, since I gave myself today to get lost for a little while.

Thank goodness for all these wonderful imaginations out there. Without them and the brave authors who actually write down these wonderful thoughts, we’d have nothing. My worn-out brain really appreciates good books. It’s literally food for thought, if the food was always chocolate and ice cream. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Laurie R. King, author extraordinare

I’m a huge bookworm. I love love love books. And I have a lot of favorite authors and characters and trilogies and series that I love and will probably post about another time. This post, though, is all about Laurie R. King, probably one of my Top 5 writers of today.

I love writers who take something or someone familiar and turn it on its head and say, What if…? The brilliant writers are the ones who get it right, and create this whole new side to things and people that you thought you already knew. t’s like seeing an old friend, but in a new light. It’s just fantastic. Laurie King does the same thing with one of the most beloved characters of all time: Sherlock Holmes.

She takes the character we all know so well from Arthur Conan Doyle’s books, and, while keeping the essence of the character, looks at what might have happened had Sherlock Holmes, much later in life, taken on an apprentice. A younger, female apprentice. It’s just such an interesting idea, that someone would challenge Holmes later in his life, when he (and readers) least expected it. Beginning with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, King tells the the story of Mary Russell, who literally stumbles upon Holmes and, to his amazement, displays an keen eye and level of intelligence he has not encountered for some time. Her books take us from the start of their partnership onwards, from Russell’s training to her full participation in Holmes’ cases. King’s website has a list of all her books ๐Ÿ™‚

Watching (and I say watching because when I read, it’s like a movie playing out in my head) these two is like a battle of wits. King writes Holmes wonderfully, keeping him in character as a callous, grumpy old man who nonetheless has not lost any of his remarkable detective skills; if anything, he’s gained some. He takes on the task of teaching Mary about his world, and as she gets sucked into his cases, so does the reader. Their relationship is a beautiful back and forth; Holmes and Russell are well-matched in so many ways and are always entertaining.

Her latest novel, Pirate King, is set for release on September 6. But until then, King released a short story to tide us over. Beekeeping for Beginners tells the story of Holmes and Russell from the beginning, but this time from Holmes’ point of view. All the other novels are from Russell’s witty and often hilarious perspective. With this story, King gives us a glimpse into Holmes himself, and his first impressions of the young lady who would quickly charm him (and us readers). We revisit familiar events through Holmes’ eyes and ears in a delightful and still thrilling journey from the country into and through busy London. I wish this was longer, because I love the characters so much, but I know it’s a short story for a reason. I’m just happy it exists at all.

King’s novels are a wonderful series of stories that I hope will not end anytime soon. I so enjoy following Holmes and Russell on their captivating adventures. King has created a fantastic series of books that make Sherlock Holmes accessible to yet another generation of readers. Her books, and reading itself, heed the third rule of beekeeping: “Never, ever, cease to wonder.”