Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars has recently received LOTS of hype, both for the book and the movie.  Sometimes, this hype can make or break a book for me because of the high expectations that the constant chatter generates.  When my book club chose this book for our next selection, I was very curious how the story would hold up.

Green's novel tackles a difficult subject - cancer in young adults.  We get to meet Hazel, a terminally ill teenager that takes classes at a local college when she is feeling well enough and despite her lack of desire, attends a support group with other teens battling the disease in one form or another.  It is at this support group that she meets Augustus, a teenager in remission.  The two are unique in their attitudes in life and in their battles, and they instantly hit it off, becoming fast friends and beyond.  Much of the story also focuses on Hazel's love for a specific book, a story that essentially encompasses her worst fears and anxieties in a completely empathetic way.  The triangle that the two teens create along with the book and its author captures the struggles, both ordinary for their age and extraordinary for their situations.

Throughout this speed read, I found myself laughing and crying.  It was a truly moving story that shed light on the life of the young ones battling what can be a debilitating and deadly disease.  However, I would be lying if I said that The Fault in Our Stars blew me away.  Don't get me wrong.  I enjoyed it, but felt it fell short of the expectations generated from all the hype surrounding it.  I'm not even sure I want to see the movie.

Do you rant or rave about The Fault in Our Stars?  What books have you found to fall short of the hyped-up expectations?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Maunder: Checking In and Bringing Changes

Wow!  Did you see my last Monday Maunder?  Last week was a rough week!  I started my new job.  It was the first full week of school for my kids.  And, we had evening plans four of the nights, from kids' activities and meetings and hanging out with some old friends.  On top of that, my son got sick and he was so kind to share his germs with me.  UGH!

As I am trying to adjust to my new schedule, I am coming to realize that I need to make some changes for here on the blog as well.  I'm still trying to figure out my schedule, find time for writing, and catch up on a little sleep from having to get up so early these days.  Oh, and tackle that inbox.  My email has exploded!

I am still going to try to post 3-4 times per week.  You can always rely on my ramblings on Mondays.  After this week, I am debating the addition of Wordless Wednesday, something that I thoroughly enjoy on many blogs.  And, of course, at least one review a week.  As time permits, I will throw out an additional review or a discussion post or whatever I feel like writing at the time.  Thankfully, Bloggiesta is coming up and I can work out these details this weekend while I work on cleaning up the blog.  (More details and goals coming in a few days!)

In the meantime, I can tell you that I will STILL be reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  This one is taking me much longer than expected to finish.  I will also be continuing with my audiobook Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld.  Though I will admit that I started and finished Ghosting by Edith Pattou yesterday.  A review of that one will be coming later this week.  Guaranteed.  It is part of a blog tour.

That's all for this week.  Now it's your turn.

How was your week?  What have you been reading lately?  Are you planning on Bloggiesta this weekend?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday Maunder: The First Day

Once upon a time . . . 

I started my new job.

I am now home and plan to crawl into bed and read my book.  We will see if I can get at least five pages read before I fall asleep.

The End.

What stories did you live this week?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Fairy Tale Friday: The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids

Welcome to another edition of Fairy Tale Friday, a monthly feature discussing a variety of fairy tales!

This month, I am continuing to work through my big book of Grimm and picked up the really short tale of The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids.  You can read a version of this tale yourself right here.

A quick summary of the tale . . . a mother goat of seven kids needed to run an errand and leave the children home alone.  She warned them of the wolf, particularly of his rough voice and black feet.  The wolf attempts to break in, but the first time is spoiled because of his rough voice.  He remedies this by eating chalk to smooth out his voice.  (WHAT?!?)  The second attempt was foiled by his black paws, but he enlisted help (unwillingly).  The third attempt was success and he was able to eat the majority of the kids.  When the mother returns home, she finds one child left hidden and the wolf sleeping soundlessly with her remaining kids still alive and moving in his belly.  She carefully cuts the wolf open, removes her children, fills him with stones, and then sews him back up.  He awakes to a very full tummy that results in him falling in a well and drowning.

A number of things come to my mind while I was reading this tale.  Let's take a look at each one . . .

Chalk to smooth his voice?!?  What?!?  I don't even get this!

When the wolf enlisted help to cover his black paws, he threatened the help.  This line appears . . . "Then the miller was afraid, and made his paws white for him.  Truly, this is the way of mankind."  What is the way of mankind?  Is it to fall to peer pressure?  Is it the weakness of not wanting to die?  I'm not exactly sure what this "way of mankind" is truly referring to.  It sounds so cynical to me!  Maybe I shouldn't be surprised because it is Grimm, but that one sentence is so loaded!

How in the world did the mother goat cut her kids out of the wolf's belly, fill it with stones, and then sew him back up without him waking up?  Does this refer to the predator being too confident in his prowess that he cannot be harmed by his prey?  Or, does this refer to something else entirely?

Last, but not least, this story had to have been an inspiration for Little Red Riding Hood.  I see so many parallels between the wolf in this story and the wolf in the classic tale.  It really makes me curious which story came first, or if they are different versions of essentially the same story!  Do both serve as a lesson that evil can be easily disguised?

Lots to ponder for such a short tale!

Have you read The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids?  What are your thoughts on the story?  Any reactions to my initial thoughts that I mentioned above?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

#30Authors Featuring Eleanor Brown

Welcome to another edition of 30 Authors in 30 Days, courtesy of The Book Wheel!  I am so excited to be a part of this monthly feature, and even more excited to be featuring the lovely Eleanor Brown today.  I have been wanting to read her novel, The Weird Sisters ever since it was released, but finally made it a point to pick up a copy of the book when I knew that she was going to be sharing one of her favorite books right here at Tif Talks Books.

For those not familiar with this special event, 30 Authors in 30 Days is a first of its kind event aimed at connecting readers, bloggers, and authors. Hosted by The Book Wheel, this month-long event takes place during September and features 30 authors discussing their favorite recent reads on 30 different blogs. There are also some great prizes provided by GoneReading.com and BookJigs. For the full schedule of participating authors and bloggers, visit The Book Wheel.

Now, without further ado, let us all give Eleanor Brown a warm welcome today as she shares one of her recent favorite reads.


Author Eleanor Brown 
on We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride 

When Laura McBride’s editor asked me to read We Are Called to Rise, I was on deadline, so I promised that while I’d get to it if I could, it wouldn’t be any time soon.

It arrived and as I walked to put it in my To Be Read pile, which some days feels like a To Be Read mountain, I opened it to read the first few pages.

This, as it turns out, was a mistake.

Instead of reading a few pages before getting back to what I was supposed to be doing, I read the whole thing. I couldn’t stop. I had to know what happened to these characters, broken and so human they nearly vibrate off the page.

As a writer, I couldn’t help but be amazed by how Laura McBride created four vivid first-person narrators. And as a reader, I fell in love with each one:

Avis, who is watching her marriage, her idea of herself, and her grown son all fall apart at the same time.

Sgt. Luis Reyes, whose experience serving in Afghanistan has left him angry, grieving, and lost.

Roberta, who carries years of stories from her work with runaways and the foster system.

Heartbreakingly sweet Bashkim, the earnest, loving child of a troubled immigrant family struggling to survive their painful past and difficult present.

Last year I went to Las Vegas for the first time, and like many visitors, I never ventured beyond the Strip. Vegas has branded itself so well as a playground that it’s easy to forget there’s anything beyond the gambling, the shows, and the endless parade of hucksters lining the sidewalks.

But no one lives in that Las Vegas. It’s not real. The folks who work there leave at the end of the day and go to normal homes in normal neighborhoods. They do the grocery shopping and go to church and fall in and out of love and exercise and raise their children and have their oil changed.

This is the world of Laura McBride’s We Are Called to Rise. The story she tells could only happen in Vegas, that particular collision of values and cultures, the city built on tidal waves of boom. And yet it could happen anywhere.

It’s a hard novel to read at times. Any story that tells the truth is. But it’s also a tremendously hopeful story: about how we get lost and the ways we find ourselves again, and our incredible ability to give and heal when we are called to rise.

For more information on Laura McBride and her novel, We Are Called to Rise:

For more information on Eleanor Brown and her novel, The Weird Sisters:


Thank you so much to the fabulous Eleanor Brown for the recommendation of We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride.  I think I need to get my hands on this book and read it right away!  And, another thank you to Allison of The Book Wheel for organizing and hosting this fabulous event.  Last, but not least, thank you to all those participating in and following along for 30 Authors in 30 Days.  Be sure to check out the links listed above for more information on the authors and their books.  

I leave you with a special giveaway in honor of the event.  Scroll on down and complete the giveaway form to enter.  If you cannot view the form below, you can also enter here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Feral by Holly Schindler


According to dictionary.com, this word has three possible meanings:
  1. existing in a natural state, as animals or plants; not domesticated or cultivated; wild. 
  2. having reverted to the wild state, as from domestication.
  3. of or characteristic of wild animals; ferocious, brutal.
It is a word that packs a punch and is loaded with many images or examples.  Without even reading the description, the title alone drew me in for the creepy fall reading.  

Claire Cain is a city girl with a talent for uncovering the truth.  Unfortunately, this talent drew her into a dark, cold alley surrounded by trouble one night and she barely left alive.  Months later, she decides to travel to the small town of Peculiar, Missouri with her father on a sabbatical.  She has healed physically, but the emotional healing is only just beginning.  Getting away from the city where the ferocious attack occurred may just be what she needs . . . or not.  The same day she arrives in town, another girl disappears and is later found dead.  Claire uses her talent once again to get to the bottom of the mystery, but she is likely entering another dark, cold alley.

Feral proves to be a wild ride.  It is a psychological thriller that left me guessing until the end.  It features the brutal turn of events that Claire's life takes.  It adds to the eerie feeling when the pack of feral cats enter the story.  It was a fitting choice to kick off my fall reading to get me in the mood for RIP reading . . . not scary, but definitely mysterious, suspenseful, and thrilling.

ICYMI:  Holly stopped by last week to share a video about her decision to set her story in Peculiar.  Be sure to click on over and check it out!

Thank you to Holly Schindler for providing me an ARC of Feral in exchange for my honest review.

Have you had the pleasure of meeting Schindler's Feral?  What did you think about Claire and the cats?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Readers Imbibing Peril (RIP) IX

Fabulous artwork courtesy of Abigail Larson

It is that time of year again to join in 
Readers Imbibing Peril or RIP IX!  

For those that are unaware of what this little challenge is, let me give you a quick rundown directly from Stainless Steel Droppings himself (click here for the direct link to the original post) . . .
Dark Fantasy.
Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above. 
That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event. 
As time has wound on I’ve honed this event down to two simple rules: 
1. Have fun reading (and watching).                           2. Share that fun with others.

Fabulous artwork courtesy of Abigail Larson

As in past years, there are multiple levels of participation.  And as usual, I will be participating in PERIL THE FIRST.  This means that I will read a minimum of FOUR books during the time that the challenge runs (September 1-October 31).
I cannot decide which books I really want to read over the next couple of months, so I am just going to post pictures of the stacks that I will be grabbing my reads from.  
My stack of random mass market paperbacks.
Another round that tends to be dominated by Joe Hill.
My stack of reads reminiscent of my younger years.
I reserve the right to read any or as many of these as I deem fit!

Fabulous artwork courtesy of Abigail Larson
I will also be participating in PERIL ON THE SCREEN because I absolutely love to watch a good story filled with peril.  I don't have a list of what I will be watching.  I do know that one of them will be the return of The Walking Dead on AMC.  The rest of my selections will be chosen at random and I will post my list of titles, possibly with a few thoughts when I post my wrap-up post.

Fabulous artwork courtesy of Abigail Larson
Last, but not least, I am excited to participating in the PERIL OF THE GROUP READ with The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and hosted by the fabulous Estella Society.  I have been wanting to read this one for ages, so what better chance than now!

It is going to be a great couple of months!  Let's do this!
Are you participating in RIP IX?  What are your plans for my favorite challenge of the year? 

Monday, September 1, 2014

Monday Maunder: August in Review

It's time for another month in review!  Can you believe that another month has passed?!?  Because I cannot!

August started out with a bang when our little car was completely totaled.  Thankfully, the month only got better.  I played in the mountains.  I walked in my first (and probably not my last) Out of the Darkness Walk in honor of my father.  I participated in a photography workshop.  I was finally able to replace the car that was totaled.  I was offered a job.  And, I closed out the month with playing in the mountains some more.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.  As for on the blog . . .

The TOP POST was when I finally spoke very publicly about my father's death in my weekly maundering, Breaking My Silence.  I was overwhelmed (in a very good way) at the response that I received and still cannot thank all my readers enough for the outpouring of empathy and support.  It has only inspired me to continue to speak publicly about my father's death, and attempt to save lives in the process.

The TOP PIC for the month was this beautiful sunny sunflower, posted the same week as my post mentioned above.  After the heartache and pain from all the rough news this past month, I wanted to bring a little sunshine to all my Instagram followers.  It appears to have been received well.

As for the reading log, my list of BOOKS READ was a bit smaller this month, but it was filled with some really good reads (reviews coming soon).  Here's the list . . .
  1. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (re-read)
  2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  3. World War Z by Max Brooks (audio)
  4. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness (re-read)
  5. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
  6. Feral by Holly Schindler

As for what it is to come, I've got lots of plans.  School starts this week for my kids.  I start my new job next week.  And, I am sure that there is much more to come.  As for the reading agenda, here is my minimal stack of reads . . . 

I will also be joining in the RIP IX challenge, but I will be posting more about that (including my stack of possible reads) in the near future.

How was your August?  Do you have any big plans for September (or beyond)?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Future Flash by Kita Helmetag Murdock

Laney is a young girl that knows that she is different.  Her first memory tells her so -- being left on Walt's (the father figure in her life) doorstep as a baby.  She was simply too young for this memory to be planted into her brain.  That first memory is not the only anomaly.  She can also see into the future, what she calls "future flashes."  When Lyle moves into town, she has hope for a new friend, but one of her fiery flashes may just make that impossible.  If Laney can make amends, she may find a savior in the past, present, and future.  Unfortunately, the odds are not in her favor.

Future Flash is a quick read with just enough action to keep me turning the pages.  I instantly liked Laney.  I instantly liked Lyle.  And, their relationship was instantly complicated, just like a number of other bonds throughout the story.  These complications allowed the read to not only be multidimensional, but also realistic - a combination that I enjoyed for the few hours that it took me to read from cover to cover.

Thank you to the author, Kita Murdock for a review copy of this book in exchange for my genuine thoughts on the story.

Have you had the pleasure of meeting Laney and Lyle?  What did you think of their story?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Literary Link Love: August 2014

Where has the summer gone?  I can't believe we are already at the end of August and school will be back in session very soon.  For many of you, it probably already is.  All I can say is  . . . it is crazy how fast time flies, and it only gets faster the older you get!  Before we lose this moment, let's move on to the links I shared this month in the social media stratosphere.

Are you in need of some extra reading time?  Check out this list for great ways to sneak it in.  Since I will be returning to work shortly, I have a feeling that I will be keeping many of these ideas in mind (more than I already do).

Curious what famous authors' sleeping chambers look like?  You can check out 15 of them here (even if you think it is a bit weird or creepy).

In case you are in need of an escape, imagine reading one of your books in these locations.  I tend to imagine myself lounging in the nook featured in #25.


In honor of back to school, check out these five children's books that are turning 50 this year.  Which ones have you read?

This simple summer writing activity is an easy one to expand into the school year.  In our household, we frequently send postcards, and they can be so much fun to read!

An interesting article from NPR examined why teens are not reading like they used to.  I think this one gives us lots to ponder on what we are rewarding and reinforcing both at home and at school.

We no longer need to ponder about where or when the reading should begin.  The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends reading to kids from birth . . . something that I've been saying and doing since my own children were born.

What does your favorite book from high school say about you?  When I took this little quiz, I must admit that I had to cross off books because they simply were not an option when I was in high school.  That left only one option for me ... To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  What about you?

And, in case you missed it, Scholastic has expanded their preschool readiness resources.


Have you seen that Book Riot is bringing us PANELS, a site completely devoted to comics and graphic novels from beginners to experts?  I cannot wait!!

Next month, The Book Wheel is hosting 30 Authors in 30 Days.  I am one of the lucky bloggers participating in her event and I cannot wait to follow along throughout the whole month of September!!

That's it!  Another great month of fun links for your enjoyment and reference.  And, I have a feeling that they will only get better!

Which link(s) did you find to be most interesting?  What news did I miss sharing this last month?