Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Friday 56 (With Book Beginnings): Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Welcome to The Friday 56, a weekly meme hosted by Freda's Voice.

These are the rules:
1. Grab a book, any book.
2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader.
3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you.
4. Post it.
5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda's most recent Friday 56 post.

I'm also taking part in Book Beginnings, a weekly meme hosted by Rose City Reader.  The rules are pretty simple - you share the first sentence or so and your initial thoughts, impressions, or whatever else it inspires.  Don't forget to link up your post's url with Rose City Reader.

This week I'm spotlighting my current read, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  This will be my second read for YALSA's Backlist Bingo Reading Challenge and fulfilling the Alex Award winner category.  I've been meaning to read this for ages and I'm very excited about it.  I'm not that far along yet, but I'm loving it all the same!  Bring on the '80s references!


Everyone my age remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the contest.  I was sitting in my hideout watching cartoons when the news bulletin broke in on my video feed, announcing that James Halliday had died during the night.


By their thirtieth birthdays, Halliday and Morrow were both multimillionaires.  They purchased mansions on the same street.  Morrow bought a Lamborghini, took several long vacations, and traveled the world.  Halliday bought and restored one of the original DeLoreans used in the Back to the Future films, continued to spend nearly all of his time welded to a computer keyboard, and used his newfound wealth to amass what would eventually become the world's largest private collection of classic videogames, Star Wars action figures, vintage lunch boxes, and comic books.

You (You #1) by Caroline Kepnes - Review

❋ ❋ ❋ ❋ 

When Guinevere Beck, a student working on her MFA in writing, walks into the bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he realizes he needs to get to know her, so he does the same thing any sane person would do and Googles the name on her credit card. She's easy to find and he learns a lot from her public social media profiles. He plans a "chance encounter" with her at a bar he knows she'll be visiting. Joe does all he can to invisibly influence her life and make sure he's there waiting in the wings to swoop in at the perfect time. As he insinuates himself into her life and begins to invisibly take control, going from stalker to Beck's perfect boyfriend. And, he'll do anything to keep remove all obstacles that stand in the way of their happiness, even commit murder.

You by Caroline Kepnes is one of my favorite reads of the 2016! I was thoroughly engrossed in Joe and Beck's story, not to mention the excellent production of the audiobook. It's absolutely addicting that would be perfect for fans of Gone Girl. I don't think I've ever read a book from the perspective of a homicidal maniac with major stalker tendecies, and I didn't expect to like it so much. Joe is a very likable character - he's clever, witty, and quite charming - you know, when he isn't being an absolute psycho. Plus, he gets bonus points for being a book nerd and working in a book store. He totally makes you want to sympathize with him. The further you get into the story, the more twisted you learn Joe is and it is absolutely chilling as you really begin to piece everything together. The novel offers twist after mind bending twist that I didn't see coming and it kept me glued to my earbuds. I didn't want to stop listening at any point.

As I mentioned earlier, the audiobook really adds a worthwhile element to it. Santino Fontana easily earns a full star providing Joe's voice. If you haven't tried this novel yet, you need to listen to it on audio just so you can hear his performance. He convincingly portrays all of the things Joe becomes for Beck and a chillingly vicious villain, and he rarely even has to raise his voice. On a side note, Fontana is also the actor who provided the voice of Hans on Frozen, which in a weird way kind of makes sense.

Overall, You by Caroline Kepnes is a twisty, fast-paced thriller that is an absolute must-read. I highly recommend it in any format, but the audiobook is especially worthwhile due to the strength of the narrator, Santino Fontana. I can't wait to listen to the sequel, Hidden Bodies.

I listened to this audiobook from September 1 - 8, 2016 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Untitled Beauty by C.E. Wilson - Review

❋ ❋ ❋ 

I received Untitled Beauty free from the author as an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

In Grace's world, your entire life hinges on your physical beauty. If you're rated as a Beauty, you live in government sanctioned luxury with every advantage and benefit handed to you. However, if you don't rank as a Beauty, you're not much better than a lowly slave for the ruling Beauty class. You have five chances to be judged as a Beauty - at birth, age five, twelve, eighteen, and twenty-five. During your judgment, you're ranked on a scale of one to twenty with twenty earning you the title of Beauty. Grace, now age seventeen, has fallen from an eighteen down to an eleven, but this has earned her the distinction of being a Potential. A Potential, if they have been sponsored to receive the proper training and surgeries, could be upgraded to a Beauty. Grace just been purchased by a brutal new sponsor who could see her from a Potential to a Beauty, if she follows his every whim she could finally be free.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from C.E. Wilson's newest novel, but I was hooked on Grace's story from page one. It's such a quick read that kept me speeding through those pages and it doesn't shy away from difficult topics like slavery, servitude, othering, and physical, mental, and emotional abuse. If you're interested in diving into a frightening new dystopian world, you'll have to begin this brand new series. Grace, aka Eleven, is a very-well developed character. In the toughest of times, she never loses her hope that one day she'll be able to improve upon and rise above her current status as Potential, a non-person in the eyes of the ruling Beauties. I also grew to like Reese quite a bit, although it is difficult to truly begin to trust his character - just as it's difficult for Grace to do the same. I'm especially interested in the possible conspiracy that he may have stumbled across regarding the rankings. I can only say that I wish that we got to know a little more of the wider world than we did. I suppose that means I'll have to continue with book two to learn more of Grace's future.

Overall, I think C.E. Wilson is consistently becoming a better writer, and I'm glad that I took a chance on Untitled Beauty. Her characters are her strong suit, but it was also interesting to see her take on difficult issues and see the characters she has created begin to overcome what's systematically being done to them. I'll definitely be reading the second book in her new Somewhere-in-Between after that ending. I need to know more!

I read this eARC from September 25 - 26, 2016 and my review is also on Goodreads.

Music Monday: Iron Horse

Happy Monday everyone and welcome back to Music Monday! Let's share some songs we've been enjoying lately!  If you would like to play and I really hope you do, please see the rules and link up below.


Every Monday share one or two of songs you've been enjoying lately.  It doesn't have to be a specific genre, new, or one of your favorites - just something you'd like to share with others.  If possible, share a music or lyric video of the song and your thoughts on the song(s), artist(s), and/or music video(s).

If you would like to participate in Music Monday, please join the link up by sharing your post's url.

This week I'm spotlighting the bluegrass band called Iron Horse.  This band, formed in 2000, consists of Tony Robertson, Vance Henry, Anthony Richardson, Ricky Rogers and they primarily cover classic rock and metal into bluegrass.  I really like hearing popular songs covered in totally different genres, and Iron Horse is really fantastic in that regard.  Before I started listening to them, I never would have expected these kind of covers to work, but as it turns out Iron Horse makes it work!  Below I'm sharing two of my favorites:

"Enter Sandman" (2013) - To refresh your memory here's Metallica's version of the song.  Iron Horse's cover, in my opinion, is much more eerie and creepy!  This is the first song that I heard by them, and I think it's still my favorite.

"Crazy Train" with Orchestra Sul Ponticello. Conductor, Viljar Puu Weimann in Decatur, AL (May 16, 2015) -  Here's Ozzy's original.  Turns out that this song really suits the bluegrass genre - it makes me wonder why this type cover hasn't been done before!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Starting Sparks: September Edition

Welcome back to the April edition of Starting Sparks, a monthly writing link-up hosted by Emily @ Ink, Inc. and Ashley G. @ [insert title here].  The idea behind it is to spark your creativity and write on a theme posted at the first of the month by the co-hosts.  You can write whatever you like be it a short story, a scene, a poem, a piece of dialogue, or simply an exploration of an idea.  This month the selected theme is the following:

As you may know, I'm a librarian, but I also work in the paint/ home decor department of a home improvement store.  Let's just say that I have a ton of stories that fit this month's topic.  I have interesting stories from the library, but they really pale in comparison to those from the world of retail.  

In honor of this month's prompt, I'm going to share a few interesting snippets from the last year, and most of these also appear on (for the most part as they are here) Facebook.  The first one I'm going to share is a bit longer and a little more involved, but it's one of the funniest customer stories I've had in a while:

My Favorite Customer Moments

A customer was interested in a resin for wood that his brother had recommended to him after seeing it used on a tv show. Unfortunately, the customer had no idea what it was called or what it would be used to do, aside from the fact that it could be used on wood. I showed him all of the relevant products, but he was pretty sure that none of them were what his brother told him about. As we walked by the Flex Seal and Flex Shot, the thought of Phil Swift's commercials involving boats, screen doors, and cannons totally reminded him of a completely unrelated story he had to share with me (and his wife and middle school aged son, much to their chagrin).

Thirty years ago, a friend of his lived near Harlan, Kentucky and had a huge feud with the neighbor who lived on the other side of the lake. One day the customer's friend swam across the lake to steal the neighbors docked rowboat. He jumped in the boat and managed to paddle it halfway back before the neighbor ran out of his house screaming, "YOU STOLE MY BOAT!", and proceed to blast away at him with a shotgun. Now, the customer's friend had a spud bar with him (I don't know if he swam across the lake with it, or if it was in the boat when he stole it) and before he jumped overboard to escape the gunfire, he punched several holes in the bottom of the boat with it. He safely swam back to shore without getting shot, the boat sank, and the feud continued.  I expect there was probably copious amounts alcohol involved on both sides. It sounds to me like the neighbor on the other side of the lake, owner of the now worthless boat, really could have used some Flex Shot! By the way, the customer decided to try some Flex Seal (although it's definitely not a resin).


A customer accosts me at the desk while I'm filling the machines: "Hey, Paint Lady! Bet you get tired of hearing that don't you? [Yes, you can say that again.]  How about Lauren? I bet you're going to ask how I know, but you already know how I know." [We wear name tags.]

I politely acknowledge the customer and ask how I can help him. He explains the issue - he needs paint stripper. I walk him down the correct aisle to show him the options. By the way, his wife walked to the area while he was telling me what kind of product he was looking for.

As he sees his wife already there he says, "What's a girl like you doing in a place like this? [His wife gives me an exasperated look-at-what-I-have-to-deal-with face.] You're hot! That's right. You came in with me - you're my wife. [He looks at me and winks.] She's my wife." After a couple beats, I point out the product he's looking for and talk about how to use it. In hindsight that could have been risky - strippers can provoke all kinds of interesting conversation!  Like, I've heard plenty of times before from the entertainers, we're the only department in the store that has both [paint] strippers and [paint roller extension] poles.  On a similar note, talking about paint strippers on the phone with customer can be awkward if there are many unsuspecting customers within earshot.

These next two excerpts of a conversation with customers really made me shake my head.  They really threw me for a loop and made me wonder how the customer traveled safely to the store in the first place.
Customer: "Do you carry paint like insulation?"

Me: "--'paint like insulation'??"

Customer: "Yes, a paint that creates a good seal."

Me: [Thinking fast] "Do you mean a paint plus primer all in one? It will create a decent seal..."

Customer: "No, I want paint like what's on a space shuttle."

Me: [-]

Just so you know I haven't been asked a question quite like this one since...and I'm very glad because I don't know if I could keep a straight face.

I was helping a customer who wanted a gallon of purple paint, but he knew little to nothing about paint. Let me also add that a coworker had been assisting him for about half an hour before he decided to go home and think about placing his order.

Me: What finish would you like this purple in? Flat, eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss?

Customer: [Looks extremely confused.]

Me: I can show you the differences between these finishes, if that would--

Customer: [Interrupting me]: Eggshell?! Are there eggshells CRUSHED UP IN THE PAINT?!

Me: [ -- ]

He wasn't joking. He was fully convinced that that's what eggshell finish meant. If I was really thinking, I should have said, "Of course there are eggshells in the paint, why else do you think we shake it! Would you like brown eggs or white?"


When it comes to this gentleman, I could have saved his marriage.

Customer: "My wife paints - on canvas - and would like a clear sealer to spray over top of it. Will this work?" [He shows me a can of Rustoleum gloss white spray paint.]

Me: "--Sir, it's a good thing you asked. That's a can of white spray paint. Let me show you our clear sealers..." ]

I dread to think what could have happened if he had attempted to "seal" her painting with white spray paint. But, in the back of my mind, I wonder if he was inadvertently telling me he that he hated it her art.]

Now to wrap up this post I'm going to share with you some great mispronounced colors and a couple of odd product requests, and there are some doozies.

At our store, we carry three different brands of paint that can be tinted.  One of those is Sherwin Williams, and  I hear Shermin Williams often enough where I momentarily forget what it's really called.  A couple of times, there have been customers who'll take it to the next level with Shermin Wilson.  Sometimes you just want to say, I'm sorry we only carry his cousin's, Sherwin's, paint.  

One of my all-time favorite mispronounced colors (or more likely just plain misread in this case) is for a popular Sherwin Williams color called Silver Salvia which became "Silver Saliva"!  I managed to repeat it back to the customer that way and gesturing to the color on the chip with a serious expression to verify that's what they said.  It was - they said it again without blinking an eye!  They probably wondered why I was grinning like a lunatic while I was preparing their order.

Another favorite is for the Sherwin color called Kilim Beige ("Kill 'im"), which every now and again will be pronounced "KAHL-eem".

Since our department also includes home decor, we also deal with things like wallpaper, curtains, and blinds.  One of my favorite wallpaper requests was when a woman came up and asked if we carried outhouse themed wallpaper border in stock - with a dead serious expression on her face.  She looked extremely disappointed and let down when I told her we didn't actually have that pattern in stock.  There's actually not much a demand for that patter, at least not at our location!


Lastly, I want to share with you my favorite encounter with a little kid at the store.  Sometimes, the kids can cause a bit of commotion or general destruction that we have to clean up because either their parents encourage them, aren't paying any attention to them at all, or expect us to do something about it.

For example, once they're was a little boy, around two years old or so, and he was just tall enough to reach the lowest rack of color chips on a display.  He proudly went down the entire row and grabbed handfuls of them and threw them up in the air like it was confetti and he was in a parade.  His young mother didn't tell him to stop it, or help pick them up and put them back, instead she quickly reached for her phone, took a few photos and said, "These are going on Instagram!"  Of course, at the time, I'm with another customer on the other side of the department desk from them.  The most I could do was listen politely and assist my customer while pointedly staring daggers at the young mother.  It took far too long to clean that mess of chips up and get them sorted back into the right slots on the display.  Another day, a young father was going to buy a sample quart of a color, and while pursing the color chip racks, he handed that quart to his three year old daughter who promptly unscrewed the lid and spilled it all over her t-shirt, shorts, legs, and plastic-flowered flipflops.  She was, obviously, really freaked out and upset by seeing this cold gray stuff all over herself and her favorite pair of flip flops, and feet of course.  At least I can say that the father felt bad enough about the whole situation to help me clean the pooling mass spreading across the floor while also taking care of his daughter as much as he could.  She felt quite a bit better when she realized that stuff wouldn't be on her forever.

Anyway, the favorite little kid that I've noticed was just really excited and happy to be there. His family was perusing the color swatches while their young three year-old son, from the cart seat, was keeping himself busy by alternatively shouting "CHOO-CHOO!" and excitedly whispering "chinchilla!" He kept it up for a solid ten minutes.  The boy looked really entertained, but his mother looked completely exasperated!

Sunday Funday: Library Sale Book Haul

Yesterday, I found out a nearby library was having a Friends of the Library book sale.  If you went bright and early, you could load up a big paper bag for only five dollars.  Or, you waited and went at noon or after, you could fill that bag for only one dollar.  Guess when I went?  Yeah, I got there exactly at twelve noon so I could get the best deal!  I ended up walking out of that sale with 14 books - 12 hardbacks and 2 paperbacks.  It was so heavy I could barely carry it back outside to my car - it was very close to ripping out!  Let's check out my spoils:

Momo by Michael Ende, illus. Marcel Dzama - This is by the same author of one of my favorites, The Neverending Story.  This was released six years earlier and won him critical acclaim.

Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine - This is supposed to be a Phantom of the Opera retelling - I've seen all sorts of reviews on this from glowingly positive to absolutely terrible, but I still want to give it a shot.

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds - I remember seeing this all over the place early last year when it was released, but I haven't seen much in the way of reviews for it lately.  Either way, it sounds like this might just feature a favorite new YA male protagonist.

Battle Lines (Department 19 #3) by Will Hill - I know it's book three, but I loved the first book so much that I needed to pick this up while I had the chance!  Now, I just need to get myself a copy of book two...  Thanks again for introducing me to this series, Emily @ Ink, Inc.!

The Winner's Kiss (The Winner's Trilogy #3) by Marie Rutkoski - Like the book listed above, I've only read the first book in this trilogy, but I enjoyed it enough to go ahead and pick up the last book.  I was surprised to see two other copies also being sold - they probably had purchased several copies, but since it's been nearly six months since it's release they must have decided to clear out some of the extras.

Pastworld by Ian Beck - I had never heard of this 2009 release before I picked it up, but it sounds like it could be really cool.  It sounds something like Westworld, but no robots and Victorian London instead of the Old West.

Ancestor by Scott Sigler - I enjoyed Sigler's Infected, and as I soon as I noticed this I decided to give this 2010 release a shot, too.

The Singer's Gun by Emily St. John Mandel - After Station Eleven, of course I want to try other books by Mandel.

Bringing Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell #2) by Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall was stunning and I can't wait to see how everything plays out in Mantel's sequel.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman - Gaiman is one of my all time favorite authors, so I needed to get my hands on this book of short stories.  It even includes "The Monarch of the Glen", which is American Gods #1.5!

The Art of Medieval Manuscripts by Krystyna Weinstein - This is just absolutely beautiful!

Promise of Blood (Powder Mage #1) by Brian McClellan - I've been considering starting up this epic fantasy series for awhile now, so I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy this afternoon.

On Stranger Tides by Tim Powers - I still haven't seen the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie yet, but I heard it was based on this book.  I really like both pirates and Tim Powers, so I'm hoping that this is going to be great.

The Age of Dreaming by Nina Revoyr - This sounds like it could be a wonderful piece of historical fiction mystery set both in the silent film era and the 1960s.  It will be very interesting to see how the main character's Japanese (and American) cultural identities will be woven into the story.

Have you read any of these books?  If so, what would you recommend I read first (not counting Battle Lines and The Winner's Kiss, at least until I've read book two in both series)?  What books have you bought lately?  Thanks for visiting my blog, and I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Zombie Apocalypse Book Tag

I was tagged by Yvonne @ A World Between Folded Pages - Thanks, Yvonne!  This sounds like an awesome tag, so let's get to it.


1. Pick 5 books (favorites or random but know the characters).
2. Write the name of the books on strips of paper.
3. Draw one piece randomly for it to be your book/choice.
4. Open to a random page and use the first name you see to answer question 1.
5. Use the same book for question 2, but turn to a different page.
6. Repeat the steps 2-5 till you answered all the questions.

My Books:

1. 11/22/63 by Stephen King

2. The Prestige by Christopher Priest

3. Vicious by V.E. Schwab

4. Full Blooded Amanda Carlson

5. Nightlife by Rob Thurman

Book 1: 

1. The first person to die: 

The Yellow Card Man (p. 99) - Darn.

2. The person you trip to get away from the zombies:

Lee Harvey Oswald (p. 702) - I'm not even a little sorry.

Book 2:

3. The first person to turn into a zombie:

Angier (p. 108) - Not Hugh Jackman!

4. The person that trips you to get away from the zombies:

Borden (p. 309) - Oh, no you don't!

Book 3:

5. The idiot of the team:

Eli Ever (p. 214) - Not technically an idiot, but makes some really horrible decisions.

6. The brains of the team:

Victor Vale (p. 128) - Of course!

Book 4:

7. The team's medic: 

Nick (p. 98) - Sounds good to me!

8. The weapon's expert:

Danny (p. 314) - Not bad!

Book 5:

9. The brawler:

Cal (p. 134) - I can see this!

10. The team captain:

Niko (p. 217) - A very logical choice - he could whip them all into shape (in the picture above he is the one on the left, with Cal on the right).

That was fun!  I think I came up with a pretty good group considering I just randomly grabbed these five favorites!  If anyone wants to tag themselves, just link back to me, please, so I can see your responses.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Summer Reader Tag

Thanks to Lys @ The Mad Reader for tagging me to take part in the Summer Reader Book Tag!  Yes, I know this is actually the second day of Fall, but it's still hot enough outside to call it on that note, let's get to the tag:

1. Lemonade: Pick a book that started off bitter but got better.

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel - It took a little while to get into the swing of the story and writing, but it was really addicting once I got going.

2. Golden Sun: Pick a book that made you smile beyond compare.

Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

This was my reaction to be sure!

3. Tropical Sun: Pick a book set in a foreign country.

The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye - I'm currently listening to this one on audio - it's set in 1825 Russia.

4. Tree Shade: Pick a book in which a mysterious or shady character was first introduced.

I'm going to agree with Lys and say A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin - no shortage of shady characters are introduced here!

5. Beach Sand: Pick a book that was grainy and the plot barely developed.

The Cletus P. Reese Story... Murder Ridge by Jayne Call Imler - I knew this was a fictionalized account of a true crime story, but the story we got needed a lot of work, to say the least.

6. Green Grass: Pick a character that was full of life, making you smile.

Locke Lamora

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

7. Watermelon: Pick a book that had some juicy secrets.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - Plus, all sorts of twist and turns!

8. Sun Hat: Pick a book that had a vast universe/ setting.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab - I'm counting all four Londons.

9. BBQ: Pick a book in which a character was portrayed as a hunk.

Thief of Lies by Brenda Drake - Arik and Bastien are both described as hot and sexy a ridiculous number of times.

10. Summer Fun: Pass the tag on!

Since it isn't technically summer anymore, I won't tag anyone specifically, but if you'd like to take part in this tag, please feel free.