27 July 2013

Under the Dome... The Final Post


Well, we're done! Now I can finally catch up on the series, which I've heard there are many a change that didn't go over so well with fans, which caused the author to deliver a fairly...snarky response.

For those who missed the Middle of the Road post in June with the other participants' links to their thoughts, click here.

Overall, a great read, although I wouldn't rank it up in the top five, I would definitely put it in the top ten for me of King books I've read. Yet again, King brings the character of a town into the spotlight, where it almost develops its own personality, and the characters within fall to either the good side or the bad. The only difference is that no one can physically leave the town, caught under a dome that can't be penetrated by even a nuclear missile.

Here are my thoughts for the last half of the book:
  • HATED Big Jim, Junior, and Carter the most. Ugh.
  • Loved Barbie, Rusty, Julia, the kids.
  • What is THE DEAL with Stephen King and his oddball, bizarre love/sex scenes? They come out of the blue and never seem to make sense. I'm glad Barbie and Julia got together since I felt they were suited for each other, but really? When they first made out? What smart and feisty woman likes to be sharing one of her most private and sad moments of her life, and then all of a sudden has the guy's hand on their chest? In the middle of the conversation? And that's okay? Huh?
  • Randolph, Randolph, Randolph... Even Big Jim told you to bring the Kevlar.
  • Usually the strong kid character saves the day, and to a certain extent this happened in the story earlier on with Joe and his friends who were important to the story. In the latter half, it felt like Joe, Benny, and Norrie were completely forgotten, which was a disappointment.
  • My heart breaks every time a dog dies in a book. I was heartbroken for each that passed in this one.
  • I loved this story, but I didn't really care for it when sections would be written as though a narrator from a play were giving us the lay of the land.
Passage of Note:
 "... Sorrow for a wrong was better than nothing, Barbie supposed, but no amount of after-the-fact sorrow could ever atone for joy taken in destruction, whether it was burning ants or shooting prisoners." (p.1072)
What did you think? Enter the link to your write-up below, and don't forget to visit other participants and comment on their thoughts. I'm planning to watch Under the Dome sometime this week/weekend and I'm still going to use #DomeAlong on Twitter to post my thoughts, so hopefully I'll see you over there!

THANK YOU for reading with all of us!

10 July 2013

Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta


Don't ever say a book doesn't sound like it's right for you.

I'm going to put it all out there and tell you that this is one of the most poignant, moving, heart-wrenching and beautiful stories I've read in a long time. A very long time.

Taylor's mother left her at a 7-11 when she was eleven and Hannah came to pick her up. Now seventeen, Taylor attends the school on Jellicoe Road and every year the Cadets come to town, causing a battle of territories between the students, the Cadets, and the Townies. Hushed agreements, secret meetings, invasions over boundary lines and battles over rules first established twenty years ago by a group of five kids are a daily event. With an unexplained phone call pulling Hannah out of Taylor's life, it's up to Taylor to find her own strength with new friends and in finding out exactly who she is and where she comes from.

Taylor isn't the most likable person to others yet she's been designated the leader of their group over the battle for territory. It's an unwanted position and while Taylor regrets it, she moves forward to lead her group even though she regularly pushes away any closeness with friends, the students in her own house, and more, but there is an understanding something more is hidden behind this jaded facade. Her friendships with the others in the competing territories are compelling, pushing through her barriers and developing the solid foundation of true and meaningful trust, something she had been lacking in others when her mother dumped her at a convenience store, never to be seen again.

There are two overlapping stories happening and it can get confusing, but ease up on your expectations of what "structure" should be like in this coming-of-age tale. It's momentous and crucial and makes complete sense to the point that when you finally get it, you almost want to read it again as soon as you are done so you can experience an entirely different level of this story.

The writing is intense, lush, bountiful in its imagery of Australia, the school, and the friendships and past secrets. It is a beauty indescribable within these pages and I admit I cried, perhaps even hyperventilated through several scenes in this story. Absolutely brilliant, easy to read within one sitting or in a couple of days, but deeply profound and unshakable with its premise. It's a story I'll be thinking about for quite some time and will easily make my own personal list of the Best Books I've Read in 2013.

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Release Date: 3/9/2010
Pages: 419

About the Author
Melina Marchetta is an Australian author who has been published in over eighteen countries. Her books Looking For Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On the Jellicoe Road (which won the 2009 Michael L. Printz Award from the American Library Association, recognizing that year's best book for young adults), Finnikin of the Rock, The Piper's Son, The Gorgon in the Gully, Froi of the Exiles.
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06 July 2013

Guess Who's Going to be Reading for Two...?



That's right, my friends. What our sweet Roma is trying to communicate to you all is that this chick right here is five months along and will be reading for two very soon. Actually, I'm already reading aloud to the little one (but sometimes I skip the scary parts if it's a Stephen King book). My husband and I will welcome our first baby, A BOY, in November. I cannot tell you how thrilled, nervous, and excited I am!


And here's the baby bump! This is a hockey house, and my husband just finished his game in the local league here in Virginia Beach. I'm sporting the Boston Bruins' maternity shirt he got me which has the hockey sticks shaped into a heart over the belly. Can you tell that we hope our little boy plays hockey when he gets older?

A special thank you to my incredibly talented sister for taking both photos and then doing all of her editing tricks to produce this one-of-a-kind announcement (I love the caption!). You can visit her at any of the below for her photo advice, children's portraiture, artistic shots, and more!

02 July 2013

Viral Nation, by Shaunta Grimes


When the author reached out to review her book, my first inclination was to decline it simply because I have an almost 100% decline record in the past six months (resulting in an almost 100% pressure-free blog site). After all, I like reading books I want to read, old or new. However, what convinced me to accept this new Young Adult book was not the dystopian adventure of a world in which only 20,000 survived a virus in the United States, or that these survivors now live in walled cities within each state. It wasn't that the country was now run by the Company, who provides daily vaccines to keep the virus at bay. It also wasn't because there was time travel and a revolution led by kids. What convinced me to accept this book for review immediately was that the protagonist, a young sixteen-year-old girl named Clover, was autistic.

This uniqueness, rarely ever used in stories, was enough for me to accept immediately. And while I recently picked it up in anticipation for a much later July 30th review date, I ended up flying right through it in time to post today, the release date from The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group.

I was surprised by how swept up I was in the quest of Clover and her brother, West, to exist in this walled city. I was taken by West, who has been many things for Clover over the past few years, a combination of best friend, older brother, and guardian, especially as their mother died when Clover was a baby and their father now works for the Company. The relationship between the two is genuine, and West's ability to understand Clover at all times was a special indication of the protection he feels for her. I then became indignant and outraged by the bullies in the academy and their treatment towards Clover and her service dog, Mango, before she is then "drafted" into the Time Mariner program, destined for a life of time travel two years into the future to secure crucial details that haven't yet occurred. It's the only way to maintain a controlled society, yet also a safe one, as the details brought back provide details on everything to avoid the recurrence of the virus, or to protect a citizen from a violent crime. When Clover's brother is identified as a perpetrator of one of these violent crimes, it becomes up to Clover and a band of misfits, self-titled "freaks," to begin the process of building a revolution. While there were a lot of characters and relationships left unexplained, I trust this will smooth out in the next book.

Each chapter of this thrilling journey is led by a quotation from a former U.S. President sharing a theme of freedom, the foundation to their revolution. This creative story with an unexpected and natural hero is one I'll be looking forward to reading more of as the series continues.

Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group
Release Date: 7/2/2013
Pages: 315

FTC Disclosure: I received a paperback copy via the publisher, by request of the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author
Shaunta Grimes has worked as a substitute teacher, a newspaper reporter, a drug court counselor, and a vintage clothing seller. No matter which direction she strays, however, she always comes back to storytelling. She lives in Reno with her family, where she writes, teaches, and perpetually studies at the University of Nevada.

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01 July 2013

Under the Dome, Middle of the Road Post...


Last Monday was the big day for CBS to premiere Stephen King's Under the Dome. Apparently, this is going to be a series? I have my DVR working overtime to keep updated with it, but I have read the grumblings of fans far and wide that they are disappointed as there are a lot of changes from the book already. Stephen King responded to this via his website. Click here to digest his defense! There aren't any spoilers, really, but I feel like King was a bit miffed at fans who were upset with changes. I almost feel he was... I don't know, sort of condescending? Maybe I'm wrong, but I do know that I'd probably feel inclined to defend changes for my work if I were in his shoes (ha, I should be so lucky!), but there is always that doggone Hollywood-artistic license which gets in the way. As avid readers, we should all just automatically assume anyway any book adapted to film will have gigantic and erroneous changes. It is what it is, no matter how much of a purist we can be. Oh, well.

And yes... I'm late in posting this so that all of you can have a chance to publicize your write-up of the halfway mark. There is a good reason for that, but I'm not announcing that until this weekend...! But my apologies for the delay and please do make sure you add your link to the below.

Here are my thoughts so far:
  • I was hooked into the story so quickly that within the first week, I only had 300 pages left and needed to slow down and eded up taking a break. Slow intro, but once it picked up, it really got going. The usual formula from Uncle Stevie, and I can always count on it.
  • Yet again, the town becomes its own character, one divided from the rest of the world, left to its own devices. Stephen King is the master when doing this, whether it's the scary town of Derry in Maine, Castle Rock, or this quiet township trapped under an invisible dome, it's the same effective method of truly isolating an entire area. Freaky stuff.
  • Not to mention, Stephen King always brings an infuriating injustice into the mix of it all. The fact that Barbie was ganged up on in the Dippers' parking lot and no one except the Chief (who is now dead) can appreciate that Barbie wasn't the antagonizer? I mean, it was four against one, for cryin' out loud.
  • Who doesn't love Dale Barbara, aka Barbie? The strong drifter who has incredible ethics, love him.
  • While I don't know if I'd classify this as strictly horror, there is such an intensity of fear at the idea of a dome falling over a town and imprisoning everyone within it with no indication of why it fell, and how to destroy it, that I can sense the attempt at the same build up of tension felt in The Stand.
  • SICK Characters. Big Jim Rennie?! The image of true evil led by greed and need for power. The guy is a whack job who has the successful snake-like charming abilities to lead those who aren't bright, but mostly who are just downright afraid. Seeking solace in anyone who takes ownership of a bad situation always makes one feel safer, and Big Jim certainly is up to task for it. And his son?? Sick, sick, sick, not to mention the Chef. Twisted.
  • When the kids started to have the same visions, I started to get this goosebump, hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling. It was the first time I felt that it really could be horror. The Great Pumpkin? Who knew that could be so frightening?
  • I'm getting flashbacks of The Stand. Anyone else? Trashcan Man=the Chef? Big Jim Rennie=Randall Flagg?
  • I have decided that this is my new tradition: For the start of summer each year, I will always read Stephen King to kick it off. It's the only way to do it right.
Have you all seen this picture for the CBS show? So sad.

And let's hear it from you! Link your post to Mr. Linky below. Readalong participants, please make sure to visit each other's posts.

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