Thursday, August 26, 2010

This time four years ago......

As I write this it's 4:30pm... which means at this time 4 years ago, I had just become Mrs. Townsend and we were with our family and bridal party having pictures taken between our wedding ceremony and reception. 

I cannot believe have fast time goes by.

Happy Anniversary Mr. Townsend- love you always!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Part I- no spoilers

As evidenced by my recent post, I have been dying to read the conclusion of Suzanne Collins series since I read the final page of Catching Fire last year. Well Tuesday was the day… and I went out first thing in the morning to pick up my copy of Mockingjay and I haven’t really come up for air since. WHAT A GREAT READ.

Just as engaging as the first two, if not more.... and a fantastic conclusion to what is now definitely one of my 3 favorite series of books.


I’m including many of my thoughts from a spoiler filled discussion we were having on my online book forum since they sum up my opinions nicely.

Nothing about the previous books suggested that the story could be wrapped up in a pretty bow by the end and I'm glad that Collins didn't try to do that. She stayed true to the themes and the general feelings of the book from the first page of HG to the last page of MJ. Had it ended "and the revolution was over, Haymitch sobered up and Peeta/Gale and I lived happily ever after while Panem prospered" it would have ruined the whole experience. Don't get me wrong, I love happy endings.... but in this case, the "perfect" ending would never have worked.

The climax (or the major climax since Collins writes what seems like one after another) sort of threw me for a loop. I wasn't expecting Prim to re-enter the story so late in the game. My predictions pre-read were that either Peeta or Gale or BOTH would die along with most of the other main characters (Finnick, Haymitch etc) leaving Katniss as sort of the last one standing. Actually- I wouldn’t have been surprised if she ended up dead too and we got the end of the story through Prim’s eyes or something. I was very saddened when Prim met her sudden end.

My heart literally ached for Katniss. The entire mess had started with Katniss trying to protect her sister, and in the end, she still has to watch her die.  I didn't trust District 13, or at least Coin, right from the very beginning.  There was just something off.  I don't think she was quite as bad as Snow to begin with, but she was power hungry and it changed her.

The lack of closure with Gale bothered me a bit. I was never Team one or the other, but whether everyone wants to admit it or not, the choice between Gale and Peeta was an internal struggle for Katniss right from the first games, conscious or not. Perhaps "choice" is the wrong word... but Katniss is aware that how she acts with one will hurt the other. She's conscious of some kind of feelings for both of them.... it's a struggle. I thought we would get a little more to the end of Gale's story. BUT I also think that what we were given was effective in explaining the lack of closure we get. He couldn’t face Katniss.

Can I just say that I LOVE that she ended up back in District 12? The fact that after everything she's gone through, she gets to go "home". I don't know why that was so important to me, but it made me happy. I’m glad that she and Peeta were able to come back together as well.  Both of them deserved a little happiness and I think they are truly the only ones who could understand what the other went through.

As for what got to me the most? Two things:

-The freakin' cat. When Buttercup made his way back to District 12 I literally got a lump in my throat. I have no idea why that affected me so much but man... it almost had me a blubbering mess on the floor. Especially when he stays up and protects Katniss from the night. Ugh…. almost cried like a baby.

-“Real or no?” OH MY GOD. Those three little words, especially the final time the Peeta uses them in the book, had my stomach in knots. They just about killed me every time.

In short, I LOVED this installment of the series. Did I love it more than the first two? Probably not, but it’s difficult to compare because it’s so different from the first two. It’s heart-wrenching, exciting and packed with patented Collins cliffhangers and I devoured it. I’m only sad that I won’t be reading any further stories from Panem.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Evernight by Claudia Gray

This is, unfortuantely, another one of those books, first in a series, that I thought was just ok.  But, I will continue reading the series because of the way it ended.  I'd really love to know how this story works itself out.

I will say that I was shocked to find out the secret that the teachers and most of the students at Evernight were hiding.... I honestly had no idea, but that was pretty much the only excitement I got out of the first 2/3 of this book. 

I wasn't a fan of the characters at all.  They all seemed to be predictable and the stereotypical YA characters.  There's the super-bitch that hates the MC, the take em' or leave em' roommate with few redeeming qualities, the nasty bad-guy, the sweet "other guy", the tortured new best friend... ugh. They were all there and all very predictable.

almost disliked Bianca.  There was just something about her that rubbed me the wrong way until closer to the end of the book.  Hopefully her character will grow a little with everything she's been through.  And Lucas was likeable... but something didn't quite jive with him for me until later in the story as well.  I had a hard time buying his history when it finally came to light.

The excitement in the story definitely took a while to see but by the end of the book I was intrigued.  Intrigued enough to continue with the series, but not enough that I'm in a rush to pick it up. 

In the end- this book was ok- or just good.  A low 3 star rating. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Update

I realized that I have been blogging almost exclusively about books or book-related topics lately.  I need to do something about that since, well this isn't just a book blog. It's a me blog.  My modern day, adult version of a diary. 

So... I'm going to post a mass update post on what's been going on this summer.  I'll try to do the coles notes version.

May 2-4 Weekend with Friends. 

A last minute change of plans kept us home fromt he cabin for the weekend, but we had an awesome time anyway.

We celebrated a friends Birthday at his place.  The guys got a keg of Steamwhistle.... I treated myself to Guinness.

Who needs a campfire when you have a chiminea in the backyard and a friend with a guitar?

Although I'm quite certain Muskoka would have been great fun as usual... sticking around with friends was none too shabby.

Girls Night

True, this may have been too early in the year to call summer but it was after the sandals and short sleeves came-out (even though we had a freak snow storm on this particular day).

We were celebrating then end of the school year (my BFF is back at school as well) and just wanted to have some drinks and go dancing.

Bestie decided to wear flats so I of course, towered over everyone in my 4 inchers (plus my poof)... but they're fab shoes so it was worth it.

The bestie and I   <3

Canada Day  and Other Weekends in Muskoka

As always, Canada Day weekend took us to the cabin in Muskoka

the weekend included lots of drinking, swimming (floating WITH drinks) and eating

FIL, future BIL and hubs.... loving life in Muskoka

SMIL, myself and SIL (ya- I don't wear makeup or give a sh!t about my hair at the cottage, but perhaps I should if I'm going to post pictures)

Bub and I also decided to sneak up for a weekend when we would have the place to ourselves.  We had a blast with dogs, going for walks, going into town to visit the farmers market, swimming, cracking our first beer at 10:30am, having an epic wash-toss tournament and treating ourselves to ice cream and really expensive steak.

Bub wasn't really sure what to do with himself when we first arrived.  Normally there's a ton of people already half in the bag by the time we get there on Friday nights.

Me and cappy.  We contributed to his beer cap collection quite nicely that weekend (see silver bucket that is meant to hold caps).

I decided to take the old canoe out for a spin.  It didn't goal well beacuse it's old and starting to rot, and the dam was open.  Still fun though.

We've been watching this family of geese grow all summer.  They're getting pretty big now but were so cute and tiny early in the spring.

Summer Vacation- Cottage @ Muldrew Lake

We spent the last week of July at one of my favorite places in the world.... a cottage my Mum rents every year at Muldrew Lake.  It's a week of naps, eating, reading, swimming and more naps.

This was where I spent the week.  A zero gravity chair on the dock with a book and a cold drink

Our brave little Lola fianlly got up the nerve to swim out beyond the beach this year.  Jenny cheated and waited for her sister to bring the stick back in (she's standing on a rock) and then stole it.

Daddy teaching his little buddy (Lola) how to swim

Me and my little buddy (Jenny)... she was a little worried about us while we swam.

Bub re-reading Catching Fire in prep for Mockingjay!

Our sun goddess

It was such a relaxing week and we hated to leave... but definitely look forward to next summer at Muldrew Lake.

Well I guess that's it for now (at least in terms of what I have caught on camera).  The next few weekends are packed with SIL's wedding related activites (bachelorette and shower) so I'll have some more to post... plus a trip back to the cottage is long overdue.  Hopefully before August is over we'll get back up there for a weekend.

I wrote my final exam for the summer term last night which means almost 5 school-free weeks before Fall term starts. Unfortuantely I don't have any vacation from work, but I get my evenings and weekends to enjoy the rest of the summer and can't wait. 

Now if only I could remember to take my camera out more often.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Hunger Games and Catching Fire- Suzanne Collins

As August ticks by, every book nerd I know is buzzing with excitement, bursting at the seams and holding their breath in anticipation of....

Mockingjay of course.  The third and final installment in the incredible Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins.   Everyone is dying to know what happened, who will live/who will die and how it will all end.

In preperation for the release of Mockingjay, I decided a re-read of Hunger Games and Cathing Fire was in order so that the story and details were fresh in my mind.

When I read HG the first time around.... I was absolutely shocked at how much I loved it.  The description of the book was something that, had I picked it up on my own, would have turned me off the book immediately. But.... the buzz from my Nesties and around the blogosphere convinced me to give it a shot.

I LOVE THIS BOOK.  I flew through it in record time and enjoyed every second of the story.  My original review was pre-book blogging days but can be found here.  My re-read was just as enjoyable as my first time through.  The story was just as exciting, the characters were just as awesome and Katniss was even more kickass than I remembered. 

Collins = Queen of the cliffhangers.  Seriously people... the end of almost every chapter is a cliffhanger of some kind.  If your the type of person that reads chapter by chapter, good luck.  Setting it down between is almost impossible. 

Catching Fire ending up being even more enjoyable than the first time around.  In my original review (here) I said that I probably would have loved it just as much, if not more than HG if I had had the same amount of time to devote to it. Unfortunately I had to read it over a longer period of time and of course, that took something away from it.  Well, this time I got to dive into it and I was right initially.  I LOVED it this time around because I could really appreciate it. I still don't think it loved it more than HG, but they are now pretty much equal in my books. 

There is a shocking moment in this installment that, even the second time around, knowing it was coming, had my jaw on the floor.

Re-reading this books did nothing but increase my excitement for Mockingjays release.  I will be in line first thing in the morning and plan to do nothing (short of, well, working) until it's done.

If you haven't picked these books up yet, do yourself the favor.  But I warn you, you'll want to buy both because the waiting between books is killer.

Go.  Read.   Enjoy. And hop on the Mockingjay bandwagon. 

And may the odds be ever in your favor.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Linger- Maggie Stiefvater

So … Linger has the opposite effect on me that Shiver did. I had been dying to read Shiver for months prior to its release, and then I started to hear a ton of hype about it, but one thing or another kept me from reading it until January of this year. I loved it, of course, but I couldn’t help by be a tiny-wee bit disappointed that it didn’t quite live up to all my expectations. If I’m really being honest here, I had built it up for so long in my head that it was probably impossible for it to do so. Then, when a few friends read ARCs of Linger I heard great things immediately, but also that it was “quieter” and a little slower, yet awesome in its own way. So, my expectations were lower. I knew it would be a great read, but I didn’t expect to be totally drawn into it.

Boy was I wrong. I got sucked in from page 1 and flew through it. The writing is gorgeous of course; the old characters and story lines are continued seamlessly and the new characters and their stories are introduced wonderfully. I LOVE the alternating POVs… oh and I love Cole.

The relationship between Sam and Grace is so super intense that I ached with them and really, really believed it. I loved getting to see the flaws each character had and just enjoyed reading about their relationship as they grow-up together. Some of my favorite parts of the book are just of Sam and Grace “being” together.

And Cole. Did I mention that I love him? I did? But seriously… for some reason I really wanted to hate him, but in the end I just loved him too much. And I just felt really, really bad for him the whole way through. Yet again, I fall for the tortured bad guy.

The book did end up in the direction I kind of assumed it would, but it was still great to go along for the ride and see how it ended up there. And I’m definitely looking forward to Forever. I want some closure for all the characters that I’ve grown to love.

All-in-all, a great story that was everything I wanted for this sequal…. and then some.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Summer of Skinny Dipping- Amanda Howells

Goodreads/First Reads Win- June 2010

Wow.     Wow.

I cannot explain how happy I am to have won this book. This isn't something that I would have picked up on my own, but it was a perfect summer read. The story is so heartbreakingly honest and real.... I devoured it.

Never have I identified so strongly with a character. Mia's feelings, insecurities and quirks mirrored my own from my teenage years to a tee... and I know that I would have fallen for Simon if I were in her shoes too. There were moments that I literally found myself thinking "I know exactly how she feels".   I was thinking about this book long after I finished the final pages.

This is not a light read, but it's very real and Amanda Howells has a way with words that just speaks to me. She touches on a lot of tough topics that are a reality for teens as they come into there own, and she does it in a way that would hopefully convey to them that they are not alone. Everyone has struggles, no matter how perfect they seem to be, and everyone deals with life in their own way. Everyone has flaws... no one is untouchable.

I can't say much more because I don't want to spoil this story, but I will be recommending this book to everyone I know... YA fans or not.

Awesome read. I can't wait to see more from Howells.