Feature & Follow (September 28): Balderdash!

Welcome to the Feature & Follow Hop, hosted by Parajunkee’s View and Alison Can Read!

If you’re here for the first time, I’d love if you could follow via email, RSS, LinkyFollowers or Networked Blogs. Just let me know your follow method of choice in the comments, and I’ll be happy to return the favor.

And if you’re not new, welcome back! Repeat visitors are better than having a friend show up unexpectedly at your door with a Dr. Pepper float from Sonic, JUST FOR YOU.

Just kidding. That happened a few weeks ago, and it was amazing. I don’t think it’s beatable.

Today’s question is:

What is the BIGGEST word you’ve seen used in a book lately – that made you stop and look it up?

Okay, this may come across as me being a little bit braggy, but honestly I think it’s more of a nerdy thing. When I got together with my friends in high school, we played Scrabble or Boggle (or Alternative Guess Who, which is amazing fun. “Does your person claim their favorite song is Freebird, but in reality, it’s Call Me Maybe? No?” *flips down Bill, Maria, and Richard* That has nothing to do with anything, except that I need to go buy a Guess Who set right now so I can play that with someone). When my family has game night, we play Balderdash (also great fun). I’ve always had a fairly extensive vocabulary. I’m that annoying person that other people tell to “stop using big words,” except that I don’t realize the words I’m using are big.

*sigh* You hate me now, don’t you?

Anyway, I’ve never had to stop and look up a big word. That’s not to say I’ve never come across a new word while reading, but I try to figure out the meaning from context clues (and sometimes I am wrong; I thought for the longest time that “nonplussed” meant “unconcerned,” when in fact it means the opposite). But I honestly can’t ever remember breaking out the dictionary or heading over to Wikipedia to figure out what a word meant.

That said, the book that most recently stumped me, not with vocabulary but with terminology, was The Unnaturalists by Tiffany Trent. I don’t have the book anymore, so I can’t give you an example, but I felt like I needed an advanced degree in the mythologies of several cultures to fully grasp everything in there. I understood enough to grasp what was going on, but some of the little things left me…nonplussed.*

I really want to go raid the Toys & Games section of Target now. Probably not the intended side effect of this topic.

P.S. If you’re going to follow anyway, you should go ahead and enter my Six Months of Blogging Giveaway. You can win your choice of any one of my favorite books I’ve read while blogging. Doesn’t that sound fun?

*Do you see what I did there? (And yes, I realize I used it kind of incorrectly AGAIN, but I couldn’t resist.)

Throwback Thursday (September 27) – The Talisman

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

It’s the nature of book blogging to focus mainly on new releases, but there are thousands of great books out there that haven’t seen the “New Releases” shelf in years. We hope to be able to bring attention to some older titles that may not be at the top of the current bestseller list, but still deserve a spot in your To-Be-Read pile.

You don’t have to be a book blogger to participate! You can put up a Throwback Thursday post on your non-bookish blog; or if you don’t have a blog at all, just use the comments to tell us about a book you remember fondly.

Here’s how it works:
1. Pick any book released more than 5 years ago. Adult, YA, Children’s; doesn’t matter. Any great book will do.
2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it. Make sure to link back to The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books in your post.
3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Feel free to grab the Throwback Thursday button code from the sidebar to use in your posts.

Thanks for participating, and we look forward to seeing which books you choose to remember!

My Throwback this week is…

The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub

Okay, I’m going to be honest here. I don’t remember much about this book, except that I really liked it. I remember why I read it. I was on a plane to Albania (yes, Albania) on a college chorus tour. My fiancé was on a different flight, so I was sitting next to a friend I didn’t know very well, and he had this book. And in talking about books and movies, he determined that I would probably like it. He had finished it, so he loaned it to me. And I read it, and I loved it. I just can’t remember what it’s about anymore. So here’s the Goodreads synopsis:

On a brisk autumn day, a twelve-year-old boy stands on the shores of the gray Atlantic, near a silent amusement park and a fading ocean resort called the Alhambra. The past has driven Jack Sawyer here: his father is gone, his mother is dying, and the world no longer makes sense. But for Jack everything is about to change. For he has been chosen to make a journey back across America–and into another realm.

One of the most influential and heralded works of fantasy ever written,The Talisman is an extraordinary novel of loyalty, awakening, terror, and mystery. Jack Sawyer, on a desperate quest to save his mother’s life, must search for a prize across an epic landscape of innocents and monsters, of incredible dangers and even more incredible truths. The prize is essential, but the journey means even more. Let the quest begin. 

Now, it may seem strange that I’m picking a book I don’t really remember as my Throwback. The main reason I’m picking it is because while I’ve actually read a decent amount of Stephen King’s books that I do remember, I recall liking this one more than all of those.

Because it is a King book (although it is co-authored), it’s probably a safe assumption that there’s a fair amount of violence. King also never shies away from uncomfortable situations and killing important characters, so we can safely assume that’s in there too. But there’s no denying that the man has a way with words and stories. Now I need to go check this one out from the library and remember why I liked it so much.

This is a blog hop! Link up your Throwback Thursday post below!

I’ve been blogging six months! How about a GIVEAWAY?

75% of the reason for this post is because I wanted an excuse to use this gif.

So I glanced down at the date on my computer last week (which is the only way I ever know what month it is, BTW) and realized I was coming up on my six-month blogiversary. How nifty is that? It seems only last week that I was telling my husband, “hey, I think I want to start a book blog so I have a reason to not watch so much TV.”

Yes, that was one of my actual reasons for starting this blog. It kind of succeeded.

And since then, I have discovered many fabulous books and awesome authors. I’ve even met some of them, which rocks. Plus I’ve met some pretty fantastic fellow bloggers, and learned about some incredible events that take place right in my city that I never knew existed. So basically, what I’m saying is, this blog was a good idea.

So to celebrate you putting up with my rambling for six months (or six minutes, depending on when you started following me), I’ve decided to give one of you a present. I’m going to let you pick one book from my top 10 favorite books I have read since I started blogging. (It was hard to narrow down this list. I’ve read a lot of good books in the past six months!)

Here are your options (clicking the book title will take you to my review):

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Defiance by C.J. Redwine

The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Timepiece by Myra McEntire

To enter, just fill out the handy-dandy rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  • US only (sorry, I’m poor)
  • You must be 13 or older
  • Winner will be notified by email and have 48 hours to respond. In the event the first winner does not respond in 48 hours, a new winner will be chosen.
  • I will be checking IP addresses and follow names, so don’t try to cheat. You WILL be disqualified. Plus, cheating is lame. You don’t want to be lame.
  • Good luck!

Thanks to those of your who have been reading my blog since March, and those of you who just found me five minutes ago. It’s been fun!

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman (@gayleforman)

I’ve been hearing great things about If I Stay by Gayle Forman for a long time now, but I didn’t get around to reading it until one of my real-life friends mentioned that it (and its sequel, Where She Went) were among her favorite books. I figured if they’re her favorite books, she probably owns them, and so I asked to borrow them. I read both over the weekend of my brother’s wedding, then needed a few weeks to process them. They’re the kind of books I can’t form coherent thoughts about right off the bat.

But now I think I can (maybe) talk rationally about them. Although, for the purposes of this review, I’ll only be discussing If I Stay, because they are very different books.

The Plot (from Goodreads)

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen ­year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, Mia’s story will stay with you for a long, long time.

My Thoughts

If I Stay alternates between Mia’s flashbacks of her life and her out-of-body experience after the accident, watching her friends and family react to what has happened to her, her parents, and her brother. We get to see snippets of her childhood, her interaction with her parents and brother, and the evolution of relationship with her boyfriend, Adam, and her best friend, Kim. Meanwhile, we’re also in the hospital, seeing how Adam, Kim, Mia’s grandparents and other extended family members are coping. And through it all, Mia has to decide if she’s going to succumb to her injuries or fight for her life; if the experiences she hasn’t yet had are worth the pain of the world she’d be returning to.

This book hurt to read. While Mia is a bit of a detached narrator, it was still devastating to view the scene of the crash through her eyes, and to experience each of her revelations with her throughout the book. But although there is lots of sadness and hardship in this book, there is also joy and humor. Mia had an overall happy life. She had parents who loved her, a boyfriend who was devoted to her, and friends that cared for her. She had a creative outlet in the cello that the people in her life may not have totally understood, but still supported.

In a way, that happiness made what happened to her that much harder to read about. Her losses were large and meaningful, and it made it easy to understand why she would debate whether or not she wanted to return to a life that had been stripped of so much. There was no clear-cut right or wrong answer, and no matter what she chose, it would have made sense. It also makes her ultimate choice a double-edged sword. I simultaneously agreed with her choice and regretted, along with Mia, what she gave up by making it.

The few annoyances I had with this book were actually not problems with the book, just bits of added realism for the characters. While Mia adored her parents, and they loved her fiercely, as she looked back on her life, she would reflect on some occasions with her parents that she thought were awesome and I thought were questionable parenting decisions. But of course, that’s because she’s a teenager and these are her parents, and I’m an adult, and a parent, so our perspectives are going to be very different. (Of course, that also has a lot to do with your personal parenting — and life — philosophy, and we all know there are as many of those in the world as there are people. So other parents may think Mia’s parents are the epitome of parenting, and that’s fine too). There were also a couple instances with Adam in flashback that made me raise an eyebrow or two, but again, I understood why they made sense for the characters.

One of my favorite aspects of the book was the use of music, and how Mia, her parents, and Adam were all musicians, albeit very different kinds. Whenever Mia was talking about how she felt playing the cello, or about how her parents or Adam talked about music, I continually thought, yes. This is how musicians think (while I’m not the virtuoso Mia is, I still have a musician’s brain). It made me want to go watch cello videos on YouTube (because there are some awesome cello videos on YouTube. Like this one. Or this one), or to sing, or to dust off my piano music. I loved how they all related through music, and while they approached it differently, they all understood that the music was the important thing.

If I Stay is a powerful and introspective look at life, love, family, friendship, and how everything we know can change in an instant. It was beautiful and haunting and sweet and sad, all at once. It’s not like any other book I’ve read, and it stuck with me for a long time after I turned the last page.

[Oh, also, I have no idea why the cover blurb says it will appeal to fans of Twilight. While it definitely could appeal to fans of Twilight, it is absolutely nothing like Twilight, except that it features a teen female protagonist with a boyfriend.]

Content guide: Contains graphic description of a devastating car accident, profanity, some sexual activity.


Discussion: Rooting for the Bad Guy

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about villains, and what makes a great one. And although I put a picture of good ol’ Voldy up here, I actually am of the opinion that if the Harry Potter series has a shortcoming (GASP!), it is in the characterization of Voldemort (don’t worry, I will still take Harry Potter’s shortcomings over most other series’ strengths any day). And this is because he spends over half the series as just Super Evil Supervillain Who is Evil for the Sake of Being Evil.

Later on, he got some back story, but it was never really enough to make me feel him as a character. He was simply a foil for Harry (and, you know, the rest of humanity), because having a mega-evil über-wizard as Harry’s nemesis made for some awesome story lines.

So. If Voldemort is not the epitome of all villains, who is?

I’m pretty sure you are not going to be able to predict my answer here. Please bear with me.

Yup, my favorite villain of all time is Inspector Javert from Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.

Don’t worry if you haven’t read the book, seen the movies, or heard the music. Because the reason I love him can translate to something you are familiar with.

Basically, Javert is a police officer who spends the entire story attempting to hunt down an escaped convict and return him to prison. He also tries to serve his country by infiltrating a renegade group of students who are fanning the flames of rebellion among the citizens of France.

And he’s the bad guy.

The reason he’s my favorite is because he’s so well developed, that if Victor Hugo had decided to write a Les Misérables companion novel from Javert’s POV, he could have easily become the protagonist. His motivations are solid, and he honestly believes he is doing the right thing throughout the entirety of the story by thwarting our heroes at every turn. He is the hero in his own story.

Switching from the book to the musical for a minute (which is absolutely not completely accurate to the book, but which I love and have seen live five times, and am immensely excited for the movie), Javert also sings my favorite song in the show. If you didn’t know anything about the story and just heard this song, you could believe that this is a hero’s anthem.

So stepping away from 19th century French literature for a moment, how does this apply to modern villains? To Voldemort and Umbridge, President Snow and Cato, Victoria and the Volturi?

I think there’s a few things that set a great villain apart from a decent villain.

Decent: Has a well-developed origin/back story.

Great: Has a well-developed,  somewhat sympathetic (not necessarily entirely, but at least partially sympathetic) origin/back story.

Decent: Has his/her own reasons for wanting to thwart the hero other than because they are supposed to.

Great: Has his/her own compelling and understandable reasons for wanting to thwart the hero. Note: These do not have to be sane reasons. Some of the best villains are complete loons with no moral center. But even with the craziest villains, we should be able to follow their reasoning, even if we don’t agree with it.

Decent: Is dark and scary and kind of a caricature.

Great: Is dark and scary and real.

Decent: Thinks he/she is the hero of his/her own story.

Great: If the story was told through his/her eyes, we could easily be convinced that he/she is the hero of the story, and that the hero is the villain.

So who are some great villains? Well, none of the ones I listed above, sadly. But here are some I do think are great, taken from movies, TV, and books.

Hannibal Lecter, Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs.

This would be a great example of the character being completely crazy. I don’t think he could ever convince any of us that his disturbing cannibalistic fashion statements were based on sane brain function. But even though he is certifiably nuts, he has a way of always making twisted, shiver-inducing sense. And that, to me, is the scariest part of his story.

Detective Jimmy ShakerRansom.

This isn’t the greatest movie ever, by any means, but I always thought Gary Sinise’s Detective Shaker was an amazingly nuanced and well-developed villain. If you haven’t seen this 1996 flick, I’d recommend it for Shaker alone.

Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

He was never a pure villain or a pure hero. Even when his mission in life was to kill our favorite sassy slayer, it was hard not to root for him. And even when he was trying to turn it around, you could sense the darkness just beneath the surface. Spike is one of my favorite characters of all time, in any medium, because of all these layers.

BoromirThe Fellowship of the Ring.

I have now officially seen the movie so many times that I can’t view Boromir objectively anymore — I can’t see any part of his slow succumbing to the ring without thinking of everything that follows — but I remember hating Boromir the first time I read Fellowship. But at the same time, it was so believable watching this gradual descent from a celebrated hero into a bitter man under the ring’s control. Speaking of which…

Gollum, The Return of the King

Granted, Gollum spends the entire Hobbit/Lord of the Rings series being villainous, but he reaches his most evil — and most sympathetic — in Return of the King. No matter how many times he deceived and sabotaged Frodo, I couldn’t help but feel my heart break for him just a little.

Severus SnapeHarry Potter.

Yes, I know that Snape’s status as a villain is up for serious debate, but I would argue that anyone who makes our hero that miserable for that long can be considered a villain, at least during the time the misery is occurring. But the fact that whether or not he even is a villain, despite the misery, is a testament to how well-developed his character is. Voldemort and Umbridge may not be on my list, but J.K. more than made up for it with Snape.

Darth VaderStar Wars.

I almost forgot one of my favorite nuanced villains, Anakin Skywalker a.k.a. Darth Vader. Ignoring for a second how terrible the prequels were (I used to think their one saving grace was the fight sequences, then I saw this, and now…), he totally embodies my theory that the best villains could actually be the hero if the story was told from their point of view. Anakin is the protagonist of the (awful) Episodes I-III and the villain of the (awesome) Episodes IV-VI. And that is kind of amazing.

Note: A story does not have to have an awesome villain to be successful. Lots of stories aren’t about a sentient antagonist, but are instead about heroes overcoming some other sort of conflict, and those stories can be just as good, if not better, than stories featuring intelligent, nuanced villains.

But if the foil to the hero is The Bad Guy, then I’d certainly hope the bad guy has a good reason for doing what he’s doing.

What do you think? Who are some of your favorite villains, and why do you love to hate them (or hate to love them)?