Waiting on Wednesday (8): The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Expected publication: August 6th 2013 by William Morrow
Genre: Historical FictionThe Ghost Bride
368 pages

Synopsis:

“One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride…”

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy–including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets–and the truth about her own family–before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

In case you haven’t realized, I have a soft spot for historical fiction. This book covers an area in history that I very rarely dip my toes in. I would love to see what I think of this time and the mystery is definitely intriguing!

What are you waiting for?

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FYI: Local Celebration of Harry Potter Birthday

When I went to the Young Adult author panel at Hooray for Books in Old Town Alexandria a few weeks ago, I picked up an awesome flyer. It was for an event celebrating Harry Potter’s birthday. It is an event put together by the Stabler-Leadbetter Apothecary Museum. Starting at 6:00 p.m. tomorrow, July 31, people can take a tour of the museum and uncover the real magic behind Harry Potter. I am excited for it; I know it is meant for kids, but I want to go for a couple of reasons:

  1. I am a huge Harry Potter nerd. Potter-head, as it seems to be called these days. I’m quite proud of the fact that Pottermore sorted me into Gryffindor and generally lament that its universe is not real.
  2. Apothecaries are awesome. Herbology is awesome. History is awesome.

For these reasons, I plan on celebrating tomorrow by learning some things about some of the various herbs used in Harry Potter and what they can be used for in the real world.

To learn more about this event, I found this article.

Turning the Page: Lovin’ Bloglovin’

turningthepageLovin’ Bloglovin’

So with the planning influence of my magical agenda, I have managed to (on occasion) be ahead of posts. Which is awesome. (In fact, I’m going to brag a little here: so far for July, I’ve basically posted everyday, almost all original content!) This ‘extra’ time has allowed me to then connect with bloggers more easily than before. Typically, if I have two hours to spend on the computer and I have blog posts to write and I know I need to visit other blogs and comment, the writing for my own blog will win out. But by planning better, I can now spend some time on other things, which involves more actively following blogs.

When I first started delving into the deep, deep world of book blogging, I tried Networked Blogs. It worked fine but I didn’t like that when I commented on posts there, it didn’t actually link to the post. Additionally, I like looking at people’s layouts and Networked Blogs didn’t allow that very easily.

With the demise of some Google products, bloggers have begun to push BlogLovin’. I claimed my blog on there and created an account, but had generally not even used it until this month. And boy…what a difference!

I really enjoy the ability to click the next button, to view a myriad of blogs with ease and keep track of what I’ve seen and haven’t seen. I like being able to mark an entire blog as read, and easily sort through what is definitely a growing number of blogs.

My only complaint is that sometimes when commenting on Blogger blogs, it throws you out of the Bloglovin’ frame. It’s easy enough to go back to BlogLovin’ refresh, and pull up the next unread post to continue moving through all the posts, but it can get a little annoying if you’re doing a lot of commenting. Also, sometimes it’s a little overwhelming if you haven’t logged in for a while to see hundreds of unread posts, but that’s on me and not on the service.

I would definitely recommend people try out BlogLovin’. And remember to follow Playing Jokers on there! The button to follow is in the side frame. 🙂

Sunday’s Scribble: YouTube Inspiration

note“Sunday’s Scribble” is a feature here at Playing Jokers where Michelle tries to motivate herself to not just read, but to write creatively. If you are interested in playing along, please contact Michelle! ”Sunday’s Scribble” in its infancy and open to feedback to help evolve it.

So I still fail at actually writing anything. I’m beginning to wonder if I should refocus and re-evaluate what my desires are for all my hobbies. Since following the local yarn shop on Facebook, I’ve been struck by the strong desire to knit, crochet and cross-stitch pretty things. It really didn’t help when they started posting cool Harry Potter themed patterns…

But one thing that I follow that definitely steers me more in the writing direction is a new vlog on the Geek and Sundry Vlogs channel on YouTube. I don’t think I’ve yet raved about Geek and Sundry on this blog, but I generally rave about it whenever I can. This summer, they launched a Vlogs channel, where a myriad of geeks vlog about their passions. One of the original vloggers is Nika Harper, a young woman who works in the video game industry, and vlogs about creative writing. Each week, she tackles a new genre or form with the input of viewers. People are encouraged to share their writing in the Geek and Sundry forums. I haven’t yet really participated, but I do enjoy watching the vlogs and they make me feel a little bit more motivated to write (at least until the next influence strikes).

Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Published: September 13th 2011 by Doubleday
Format/Source: Audio CDs from the libraryThe Night Circus
Genre: Magical Realism

Synopsis:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Review:

The story begins vague. An illusionist who has to pretend that his tricks are faked is left with a daughter in his custody. A man with no real name talks to the illusionist, binding the daughter into a competition that has happened before. And so the wheel has begun to spin, sending the characters down a strange path of magic, love, and intrigue.

The story alternates between Bennett in 1902, living in the U.S. and seemingly having a normal childhood, Celia and Marco, the two competitors in the late 1800s, and a ‘you’…you who is experiencing the circus and stumbling across its innumerable attractions. I had a hard time keeping up with these changes while listening to the story in the beginning. Things were just so disjointed and vague that I had a hard time understanding where each piece was going to fit together. I actually had to read a summary of the plot to get a better idea of what was going on.

After those initial road bumps, i could more easily follow and engage in the story. I wanted to know what would happen, and I found myself particularly enjoying the Celia and Marco storyline above any of the other chapters. I liked that it seemed like it were those chapters that propelled the story closer to being more clear.

Sometimes, it felt like the story was trying too hard to fit with the aesthetic of a cool, mysterious and dream-like circus. It is what the book is about sure, but there were times when I felt like it was becoming too artificial and removed from the reality of the story. In that same regard, there are a lot of unanswered questions and ways for the events to be interpreted because of some of the vagueness in the language.

I did enjoy the story nonetheless. I felt satisfied with the ending. And as always, wish that such a circus really did exist.

My rating: 4/5

Book Club: July’s Recap

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Just a few Reveurs of Le Cirque des Reves

My lovely Virginia Wine and Book Club met at a member’s house for a lovely home-cooked meal, wine, and a discussion about our July’s book: The Night Circus.

First, I’d like to happily announce that this month marked our SIXTH month as a book club! I am very excited that so far we have managed to meet once a month, have read 6 great books, and have nurtured great friendships. It’s definitely one of my favorite things to go to each month. It’s like once a month, I know I will be with great company and will have a blast. It’s guaranteed fun-time.

The Night CircusSo we read The Night Circus, a book we selected from a list of nominated books from our members. We decided to dress up like fans of the circus, dressing in black and white with a splash of red. It was funny how excited we all were to dress up. It made us think that perhaps we need themed meetings more often.

From past tastings, we discovered that one of the more popular type of wines is Viogniers. So we each brought a different winery’s take on this type of wine for us to taste and explore. I found out once again that I am not a fan of the sweeter wines, but the dryer ones. I liked Horton’s The Tower Series Viognier better than the White Hall Winery one, though the latter was definitely enjoyed by others.

The Night Circus sparked tons of discussion and questions. In fact, I think we had more questions for this book than we have had with past ones. i think a lot of that comes from some confusion as to what actually happened in may parts of the book. There was a lot of points where the book was either intentionally or unintentionally vague and we all interpreted things a bit differently. I don’t think that we came across any one answer to any of our questions that we were all satisfied with. It was great to discover that many of the same questions plagued the others as they had me.

So for next month, we held another poll to figure out which book will be our pick. The winner is: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It’s quite the popular book these days, winning awards and being a popular book club pick. I’m excited to see what all the buzz is about, though I have to admit I’m a bit apprehensive about whether I will like it as much as the buzz says. But that is a problem with any ‘big’ book. But I look forward to our next meeting!

Book Blogging Challenge Day 15: Blogging Mentors

I discovered April’s 15 Day Book Blogger Challenge at Good Books and Good Wine. Each day has a different prompt, though anyone can jump in at any time. It’s a great way to get to know each other as well as explore different topics that I might not have touched on. The 15 different challenges are:

15 Day Book Blogger Challenge | Good Books And Good Wine

So…the challenge has basically ended a week ago, and while I was doing fairly good at posting every day, I of course dropped the ball on the last day. It’s been another crazy week for me. And I have to admit, I was little stumped on how to answer this last question:

Who are your book blogging mentors?

So, I mentioned in the blogging BFF post, that Stephanie from Cover2CoverBlog fills that role. In many ways, she was the inspiration for this whole blogging endeavor as well as a bit of a mentor. But I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to just copy the same answer from one challenge day for another one. But is the honest answer!

I look at everyone’s blogs in two ways: as a user and as a student. I enjoy the content of many blogs as a user, as the friendly reader who occasionally comments (but really probably should comment more often). At the same time, I look at people’s blogs for elements that I find particularly cool. I do not copy anyone. Instead, I am sometimes inspired by others, coming up with ideas of how I want my blog to be different from said blog or work on similar elements. In many ways, I am trying to find my blogging voice, though I’d wager that it’s always an evolving one.

I guess, in a way to answer this question in a different way, everyone is my blogging role model.  So thank you!

Review: The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny

The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O’Melveny

Published: June 18th 2013 by Back Bay Book
Format/Source: Paperback from Goodreads’ giveaways
Genre: Historical FictionThe Book of Madness and Cures

Synopsis:

A brilliant debut about a woman doctor in Renaissance Venice, forced to cross Europe in search of her father.

Gabriella Mondini is a rarity in 16th century Venice: a woman who practices medicine. Her father, a renowned physician, has provided her entrée to this all-male profession, and inspired her at every turn. Then her father disappears and Gabriella faces a crisis: she is no longer permitted to treat her patients without her father’s patronage. She sets out across Europe to find where-and why-he has gone. Following clues from his occasional enigmatic letters, Gabriella crosses border after border, probing the mystery of her father’s flight, and opening new mysteries of her own. Not just mysteries of ailments and treatments, but ultimate mysteries of mortality, love, and the timeless human spirit.

Filled with medical lore and sensuous, vivid details of Renaissance life, THE BOOK OF MADNESS AND CURES is an intoxicating and unforgettable debut.

Review:

I think what best encapsulates how this reading experience is this little anecdote:

My boyfriend and I are on vacation and I pull out the book. “You’re still reading that?” he asks. “It feels like you’ve been reading that book forever. I know you haven’t, but it really feels like you’ve been reading it forever.”

Yes, for some unknown reason, the journey Gabriella goes on felt just as long to me as a reader. But let me be a bit clearer.

The book definitely has its merits. It came as absolutely no surprise after reading it for a little bit to learn that the author is a poet. The story is definitely written with very poetic language and sometimes is structured in a way that would definitely make sense for a poem, if not for prose. It is a beautiful story in its language. And it’s also beautiful in Gabriella’s love for her father despite his abandonment so many years ago.

And yet…the story seemed to be lacking something to me. Perhaps Gabriella is too clinical in her narration. I don’t feel like I ever really experienced any of her emotions. Yes, there were times when she cried or felt frustrated, but I just didn’t feel connected enough to experience it too.

I enjoyed seeing the mystery of what happened to her father unfold, but Gabriella’s own personal journey into adulthood simply wasn’t quite as compelling as I would have liked it to be. But, it was truly fascinating to see how backwards medicine was back then. The excerpts from her medicinal writings really were bizarre. This book would be perfect for someone looking for a literary read with flowery language. It just was a little off from my cup of tea.

My rating: 2/5

Waiting on Wednesday (7): Earthbound by Aprilynne Pike

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Earthbound by Aprilynne Pike

Expected publication: July 30th 2013 by Razorbill
Genre: Young adult fantasy
352 pages

Earthbound (Earthbound, #1)Synopsis:

Tavia Michaels is the sole survivor of the plane crash that killed her parents. When she starts to see strange visions of a boy she’s never spoken with in real life, she begins to suspect that there’s much about her past that she isn’t being told.

Tavia immediately searches for answers, desperate to determine why she feels so drawn to a boy she hardly knows. But when Tavia discovers that the aunt and uncle who took her in after her parents’ death may have actually been responsible for the plane crash that killed them–and that she may have been the true intended victim–she flees for the safety of Camden, Maine, where the boy she sees in her visions instructs her to go.

Now, Tavia is on the run with no one to trust. No one, that is, except for her best friend and longtime crush, Benson.

Tavia feels torn between the boy who mysteriously comes to her at night and the boy who has been by her side every step of the way. But what Tavia doesn’t know is that the world is literally falling apart and that to save it she will have to unite with the boy in her visions. Only problem? To do so would mean rejecting Benson’s love. And that’s the one thing Tavia Michaels swore she’d never do.

I’m looking forward to this book because I have seen quite a few of early reviews of this book and they seem to really like it. It’s actually a little bit surprising that it isn’t exactly published yet.

What are you waiting for?