Monday, December 31, 2012

Introducing 31 Books You Need to Read

Back when I was still in the middle of the Novemberisms event, my mind was already turning...coming up with ideas for another blog event. And here is the result! I decided I needed to feature my favorite books AND my photography. Every day in the month of January, I will spotlight a book that I think you'll love...a book that is one I think you should put on your must-reads-this-year list. They are 31 Books You Need to Read.

Each post will include a picture of the title of the book (taken by me), a book blurb, a link to my original review, a link to Amazon in case you decide to buy the book, and more! I've had so much fun writing these posts up and taking the pictures...I hope you enjoy them a lot. :) Never fear, I'll still be publishing regular book and movie reviews, along with occasional Cover Focuses.

Finally -- the other great thing about the books I'll be mentioning...I own each and every one. Of course, if I'd just done any and every books I like, there's no way I'd be able to narrow it down to just 31! So I limited myself to books I loved that I own. That means there's some books I absolutely love aren't included here because I don't own them (yet).

So, are you ready? Because your to-read list is going to be extended here! And so...on January 1, 2013...we'll start.

This seems a good time to mention that I'm currently at 195 followers from just over two years. I have a book to give away when I hit 200 -- so tell your friends!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cover Focus: Vanished

Vanished by Irene Hannon

Book blurb from : “Reporter Moira Harrisons is lost. In the dark. In a thunderstorm. When a confusing detour places her on a rural, wooded road, she's startled by the sudden appearance of a lone figure caught in the beam of her headlights. Though Moira jams on her brakes, the car careens across the wet pavement--and the solid thump against the side of the vehicle tells her she hit the person before she crashes into a tree on the far side of the road.
A dazed Moira is relieved when a man opens her door, tells her he saw everything, and promises to call 911. Then everything fades to black. When she comes to an hour later, she is alone. No man. No 911. No injured person lying on the side of the road. But she can't forget the look of terror she saw on the person's face in the instant before her headlights swung away. The person she hit had been in trouble. She's sure of it. But she can't get anyone to believe her story--except a handsome former police detective, now a private eye, who agrees to take on the case.
From the very first page, readers will be hooked into this fast-paced story full of shocking secrets from fan-favorite Irene Hannon. "Vanished" is the exciting first book in the Private Justice series: Three justice seekers who got burned playing by the rules now have a second chance to make things right.

Read my review: Well, actually, I have read it. But since it's just barely been published, and I'm on the blog tour, I'm not allowed to publish my review yet. Rest assured -- I liked it, and the review will be published soon!

Why I like this cover: Wow. This cover caught me from the first time I saw it, and once I actually held it in my own two hands, I was even more impressed. It’s just a little bit metallic, resulting in a super cool book! You can tell that it’ll be great. :) The car lights shining through the rain are an amazing effect, combined with the drenching pavement and the yellow lines marking the center of the road. Also, look closely at the word “Vanished.” It’s a little see-through…very awesome! I highly recommend this book for any suspense lovers. It’s…yeah. Very very good.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top Books and Movies for 2012

Excited yet? I sure am! I hope you are too, because you're about to see my Top 12 Books from 2012, and then the Top 6 Movies! We'll start, naturally, with the books. They aren't in any order, but I'm numbering them for convenience. Most were published this year...but not all!

1. Bourne and Tributary by Lisa T. Bergren

2. Loving by Karen Kingsbury
3. Key on the Quilt by Stephanie Grace Whitson

4. Atlas of Middle-Earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad

 5. Claim by Lisa T. Bergren
6. When a Heart Stops by Lynette Eason
7. Following Gandalf by Matthew Dickerson

8. Secret Keeper by Sandra Byrd

9. Harvest of Rubies by Tessa Afshar

10. Sarai by Jill Eileen Smith

11. Torrent by Lisa T. Bergren

12. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

1. Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

2. Italian Job (2008)

3. Emma (1996)


4. Blind Side (2009)

5. Young Victoria (2008)

6. Cranford (TV series, season 1)

There you go, my top books and movies of 2012! If any of these shocked you so bad you can't speak, remember...I am somewhat influenced by how well I remember them IN ADDITION TO how high I rated them. So, I noticed, I'm more likely to choose a book for top favorites if I rated in 9.5 and read it recently than if I read it 10 months ago and gave it a 9.5. There are many other books and movies that I loved, but simply don't have room for in this list -- it's not all comprehensive.

Finally. I have reviewed every single one of these books and movies on this blog. So if you want to read a review, either find it yourself using the tags to the left, or leave a comment, and I'll find it for you. :)

Which books are definitely making your top 12 list?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Movie: Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 9.5
Genre: Fantasy, classic, adventure
Series or set: The official prequel to Lord of the Rings
Primary actors: There are a lot! They include Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Cate Blanchett, and Martin Freeman along with others.
Length: About three hours -- just under.
Based on: The classic and amazing work of literature, The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien.
Time period: Fantasy
Quote(s): Go here for quotes!
Year it came out: 2012 (December 14)
My overall opinion: It lived up to all my hopes and dreams. Before you read any further: this review will have spoilers. Please do not read until you've seen the movie. It'll be so much better then!
Now that we're all clear on what you are or are not doing (and you'd better not be reading this if you haven't seen it -- I'm serious!)...let's go. This is in no order...just as it comes to mind. :) I saw it just a few hours ago, so it's not all in order yet.
Azog -- disgusting. And inaccurate. I knew he wasn't in Hobbit, but wasn't sure about the whole thing with Thorin. On coming home and looking it all up in my Complete Guide to Middle-Earth by Robert Foster, I discovered that sure enough, Thorin had nothing to do with Azog. Yes, Azog killed Thror, Thorin's ancestor. But though Thorin fought in that battle, he didn't apparently have personal contact with Azog. Azog was killed in that battle as well and most certainly did not come back. However, including him certainly added some excitement!
Soundtrack -- amazing. Beautiful. Unebelievable. Never going to stop listening. I love it SO much. Combines Lord of the Rings' music with the theme of the Lonely Mountain song in a beautiful way, blending familiar and new seamlessly. I found a copy on youtube and can't stop listening. I had included it below, but it appears to have stopped working, so I removed it again. It's awesome and I can't wait to get the CD soundtrack!
Panoramic scenes -- Again, beautiful. Simply stunning. Especially in a theater. The landscape is so beautiful! And there's a wide variety too! More on sets and stuff in a bit.
Goblin king -- Wow. That guy was super interesting, my dad's favorite character...for looks, you understand. A huge flap of flesh almost like a unbelievably disgusting and, well, fascinating! Warts everywhere. Puppy dog eyes. He's scary, he's disgustingly fat, he' Definitely a memorable part of the movie!

Sets -- There were so many amazing sets that I had no idea were coming! Or at least, I really had pictured them all wrong when I read the book, and hadn't pictured at all for the movie! For example, the whole goblin kingdom under the Misty Mountains (more on the kidnapping later). Astounding! And Rivendell -- beautiful. Even more so than in LOTR, I think. The waterfalls and all were amazing! I was pretty impressed. Also, the scenes including peeks into Moria (so familiar to me!) and Erebor (pretty cool) were exceptional.
Rivendell -- I loved it. Like I said above, the waterfalls were so pretty. The whole place was beautiful, and apparently also caught in perpetual sunrise. Though the movie spent relatively little time there, it was clear how peaceful and calm it was...I liked it.
Elrond -- My only reason to include him in this particular part was his age. I felt like he looked significantly younger here than in LOTR. Having looked at pictures online, I may have been mistaken. I thought his hair was a bit gray in LOTR...guess not. But he has a lot of lines on his face there, and (if my memory serves me right) not so much in HAUJ. That may be just me. Now, I know it  was 60 years or so between HAUJ and LOTR, but since Elrond's thousands of years old...he shouldn't age.
Gandalf, Elrond, Saruman, Galadriel -- The whole council meeting at Elrond's was all wrong. Saruman and Galadriel never appear in the book. Gandalf does go to visit Saruman, but it's not mentioned except that he's gone...and you only learn where in LOTR (I think...maybe appendices or something?). Galadriel was beautiful, but shouldn't have been there. And Saruman...well, yeah, I talked about him.
Gollum -- Somewhere on the web I saw someone call him cute and say they kind of liked him. At the time, I admit that I laughed at could anyone like Gollum? But now that I've seen him here, I see what they meant. He is pitiable! And almost cute during the riddle game! Which I loved, btw, except that they left out some riddles...very sad. Interesting to see him here.
Bilbo -- One can hardly review HAUJ without mentioning Bilbo. I've seen some reviewers that bashed him, but personally? I though Martin Freeman made a great Bilbo. His face expressions were so neat! I liked those. I think they did a good job with picking Martin for Bilbo...I never did like Elijah Wood as Frodo, so I'm glad that this one's straight on.
Fili and Kili -- Liked them a lot! Especially Kili. They're awesome little guys. :) And I am suddenly not anticipating the third movie if it follows the book. Which I generally strongly advocate, but might make an exception for here. And if you don't know what I'm talking about...go read the book. You should've read it already anyway. :) But yeah, I liked them! Oh also. By my third time through, one thing had become of my all-time favorite scenes is when Kili jumps out from by the rock and shoots an arrow and kills the warg and orc. SO MUCH AWESOMENESS there.

Thorin -- Ah, the other must-review character. Gotta admit, Richard Armitage was great! I had seen him as Mr. Thornton in North and South and knew of his roles in Sherlock Holmes and ...was it Robin Hood? Anyway, I didn't quite know what to expect. But? I loved it. Okay, fine, I loved him. Overall. But it was rather hilarious to see him looking so short by Gandalf! A guy with a personality like he has definitely shouldn't be short. But he was pretty much awesome as a short dwarf with a big sword.
Radagast -- Okay, the whole Radagast thing was weird. I knew that he'd be in here (even though he technically shouldn't be according to the book) but like that? He was just a little ditzy! I didn't like the way he was portrayed. Now, it's true that we have practically no information about Radagast the Brown. But I don't think he was quite this crazy. And that white stuff on his head...what was it, bird doo? No. All wrong. Nests in the hair are one thing, bird doo quite another.  
History -- It wasn't in the book. And I thought it was a great idea and a great addition. All that history at the beginning of the film, and sprinkled throughout? So neat! I loved it! Seeing those things on screen was amazing. Definitely worth adding, and I'm glad they did. So yup, really liked that.
In Relation to the Book -- Overall, HAUJ did a tolerably good job of following the beginning of Tolkien's original book. One difference (not including all that I've already mentioned in passing) would be the orcs and ... wargs? you know, those things who chase the dwarves and Bilbo. Very reminiscent of LOTR TT, but not a great fit here...though they definitely added intensity. Also, the part where they all fall into the goblin realm...again, that's not how it happened in the book. I always though a crack opening at the back of the cave was plenty frightening enough, and I don't know why they had to change it to the floor cracking open. The same goes for Bilbo's fight with a goblin and fall to Gollum's lair. Though there I admit that I can see why they wanted to add a little excitement. Technically, you know, Bilbo was there through the whole goblin battle! But all in all? I'm pretty satisfied.
Stone giants -- Considering that they only have a sentence or two in the book, they were much more played up here! I'd been anticipating seeing how Peter Jackson would interpret disappointment. Very interesting! Again, that section was greatly drawn out (compared to the book -- by no means boring!) but good.
Humor -- The humor was not something I was expecting...and I loved it! Gandalf had a funny comment or two, and there were a few characters who made you laugh too! It was great. :)
Battles -- Like in LOTR, they were amazing. Big scale, lots of people, and a fast camera. Great battles, for being battles!

All around -- A great movie! I can't wait to see it again.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Star

Author: Ace Collins

Genre: Family, life

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8.5

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 214

Time period: 1940s

My overall opinion: This is the heart-warming tale of a boy growing up without his dad, a heroic man who valiantly died in the war (World War II). The story came to life for me, and I grew to know and love each character…each of the good characters, that is. The bad ones were simply detestable! Christmas Star will keep you turning that pages as you follow Jimmy through just four momentous and life-changing days. It’s a beautifully crafted book and you will want to read this every Christmas.

**The publisher sent me a complimentary copy of this book in return for my honest review. I wasn't required to post a positive review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.**


Author: David E. Stevens

Genre: Science fiction, suspense

Series: Resurrect Trilogy

Number in series: 1st

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8 (high)

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 381

Time period: Present or near future

My overall opinion: This book was a fascinating adventure that you’ll have trouble putting down (I guarantee it!). The mesmerizing events around which this book is based will astound and thrill you…in addition to your previous fascination. :) My first thought when I read the last sentence? “When does the next book come out?” Incidentally, next out is Conceive. This book was packed with mystery, adventure, suspense, action, and excitement – so many genres I could put it under! Some of it was a little deep, but I never had trouble following it. Some of it went theological…and even here at the end, I was left wondering where exactly Stevens is headed with the theology. Some seems Christian, but I’m not sure. Either way, it was interesting and I look forward to the next book!
**The author and his publisher were so kind as to send me this book for review. I was not required to publish a positive review. All opinions expressed herein are my own.** 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hobbit Posters

One of my favorite things right now is Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Have you seen it? I'll be publishing a review before the end of the year, probably! Anyway, there's a real wealth of posters for it out there...and since I felt like doing SOMETHING Hobbit you go! I'll look forward to discussing it at length with you in a few days. :)

{{Some of the scenes in the above poster weren't in I assume that they are from the second, despite the release date this year.}}

Artemis Fowl: the Atlantis Complex

Author: Eoin Colfer

Genre: Fantasy, science fiction

Series: Artemis Fowl

Number in series: 7th

My rating on a 1-10 scale: 8

Type: Fiction

Number of pages: 357

Time period: Fantasy

My overall opinion: It was interesting! The third book is still my favorite…but this was almost disturbing (in an almost pleasant way…I know, makes no sense) and was quite interesting.