Mini-reviews: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett and Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

darkedenTitle: Dark Eden
Author: Chris Beckett
Genre: Science fiction
Publisher: Broadway Books
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
Number of pages: 448
First line: Thud, thud, thud. Old Roger was banging a stick on our group log to get us up and out of our shelters.

Goodreads blurb: On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it.

The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say—and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return.

But young John Redlantern will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. He will abandon the old ways, venture into the Dark…and discover the truth about their world.

This is a truly unique book. In fact, the language is so unusual and different that I wasn’t sure I could even read it. It only took a few pages, however, for me to get sucked into the world. The fact that the world of Eden and the Family has its own vocabulary makes it seem even more real, and pulled me into the story. The civilization on Eden is intriguing, in that it more like a native population – very primitive. Their ancestors were technologically-advanced humans, but because they were stranded on Eden without resources, the civilization that sprung up from their descendants is like you would expect in an indigenous population. They are hunter/gatherers, and have not developed technologically or intellectually at all. John wants to change that, and change is frowned upon by the elders, who think that the Family must stay in their area, waiting to be rescued by people from Earth. John’s actions are sometimes – often – rash, but he is motivated by a drive to explore, to expand, to leave the borders of Circle Forest behind. His actions, and the events that follow, show how human nature is essentially the same, no matter the world. While this is the first book in an expected series, the ending was satisfying. This is a must-read for science fiction fans.

tinstarTitle: Tin Star
Author: Cecil Castellucci
Genre: YA science fiction
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the publisher
Number of pages: 240
First line: There are few things colder than the blackness of space.

Goodreads blurb: On their way to start a new life, Tula and her family travel on the Prairie Rose, a colony ship headed to a planet in the outer reaches of the galaxy. All is going well until the ship makes a stop at a remote space station, the Yertina Feray, and the colonist’s leader, Brother Blue, beats Tula within an inch of her life. An alien, Heckleck, saves her and teaches her the ways of life on the space station.

When three humans crash land onto the station, Tula’s desire for escape becomes irresistible, and her desire for companionship becomes unavoidable. But just as Tula begins to concoct a plan to get off the space station and kill Brother Blue, everything goes awry, and suddenly romance is the farthest thing from her mind.

It has been a great month for science fiction! This is a completely different book than Dark Eden, and yet was very enjoyable in its own right. Tula’s story isn’t a horror story, but I found the idea of being left behind on a space station, the only human for light years around, truly terrifying. She shows her ingenuity and resilience, though, and creates a niche for herself. She is working hard, saving money in order to someday get off the station and seek her revenge on the man who left her there, when some other human teens show up. She is suddenly left questioning everything she was told about Earth Government and the colonies, one of which her family was supposed to be heading for. Tin Star deals with ideas of revenge, loneliness, relationships, and betrayal. There is a bit of a love triangle, but one that has a completely unique – and unexpected – twist. I am looking forward to the second book in the series.

Posted in science fiction, YA fiction | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Winner of Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

Congratulations to Carol M., who has won a copy of Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates.

Posted in giveaways | Tagged | 1 Comment

The Sunday Salon – April 20, 2014

sundaysalon2First of all, Happy Easter! I hope you are enjoying your day, celebrating with family and friends. :)

Time: 8:33 p.m., Saturday evening. I just got done dying Easter eggs with the kids. I’m so glad that they haven’t grown out of doing that with me!

Thankful for: Doctors and antibiotics. I don’t know why I am surprised every year when we all get sick at the beginning of spring. Every year, we get sick when the weather changes. This year, we were very fortunate to have a mostly healthy winter, and so I guess I was in a state of complacency. Then the weather warms up, and BOOM! All sorts of stuff. Poor Noah ended up with a raging case of bacterial tonsillitis this week, one that didn’t respond to the first antibiotic, caused his tonsils to swell so badly they were touching and causing breathing concerns, necessitated a rapid mono test (which was negative), required him to get a very painful prednisone shot in the butt, and knocked him out of commission for several days. He is my healthiest kid, the one who gets sick the least, and the one who has the highest tolerance for not feeling well. I should have had him to the doctor sooner, I think, but when he got sick on Monday I assumed it was the same upper respiratory virus the rest of the kids were getting over. Poor guy. He is finally starting to be able to eat more than just soft food and is starting to get his energy back. I am so grateful that he is getting better – nothing worries me like one of my kids being really sick.

Looking forward to: Our Easter celebration! We will spend the morning worshiping with our church family, and then will have a nice dinner afterward. We were supposed to have three friends over, but one couple canceled due to illness in their family. We will probably eat too much, the kids will gorge on chocolate bunnies, and we might play some cards. It should be fun. :)

Reading: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood; The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp; and Always Emily by Michaela MacColl

Just finished reading: Dark Eden by Chris Beckett and Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci

Listening to: Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry and Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon

Watching: Last Sunday was Mom’s pick, and we watched The Terminal. I’d forgotten how good it was. The kids all enjoyed it, especially the funny parts. We will probably skip movie night tonight, but Josiah will be choosing our movie for next week. I have also been enjoying Grey’s Anatomy lately, savoring all of these final episodes with Christina. I’m very curious as to how they are going to write her character out of the show.

Blogging recently: Summer movies I’m looking forward to

What are you doing today? Do you celebrate Easter? Are there any special traditions you adhere to? Will you be reading or watching anything special today?

Posted in sunday salon | Tagged | 14 Comments

Summer movies I’m looking forward to


Posted in movies | Tagged | 19 Comments

The Sunday Salon – April 13, 2014

sundaysalon2Time: 5:43 p.m., Saturday evening. Just finished eating meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and broccoli. Getting ready to watch Grey’s Anatomy while my folks are out taking a walk.

Thankful for: Responsible children. A lovely home to live in. A best friend who I can share anything with.

Looking forward to: Summer break. Just kidding – sort of. I spent most of spring break not feeling well, so it wasn’t exactly the break I envisioned. Plus three out of the four kids came down with nasty colds, so we didn’t do a whole heck of a lot. What did sick people do before Netflix and binge watching? I kicked out several episodes of Burn Notice this week.

Reflecting on: Five years of blogging. Thursday, the 17th, marks my five-year anniversary here at Books and Movies. I thought about doing a big bloggiversary post, but didn’t really know what to say. Although my attitude toward blogging – and my blogging habits – have changed, I’m glad you are all still reading. I have found a comfortable routine, and blogging has become something I enjoy, but not something I’m obsessed with or feel driven to do.

Reading: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood – I’m finally engaged in this one. Still slow, but at least I want to keep reading. It took until the halfway point, though, which isn’t great, considering it is over 500 pages. Dark Eden by Chris Beckett – Ooooo, so good! The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp – Hoping to start this one today.

Recently finished reading: Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom and Sailor Twain: Or, The Mermaid in the Hudson by Mark Siegel

Listening to: A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon and Fire and Ash by Jonathan Maberry

Watching: Last week’s movie night pick was 47 Ronin. I liked the movie but hated the ending. Also, on Thursday, Noah and his girlfriend and I went with Mom and Dad to see Divergent, which I absolutely loved. I actually think I liked it better than the book – is that blasphemy? Tonight is Mom’s pick for movie night, and I’m not sure yet what we’re watching – I’ll have to fill you in next week.

Blogging recently:
~ Bookish links for Saturday, April 12, 2014
~ Book Review: Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom
~ Adding to my TBR List – Bookmarks Magazine March/April 2014
~ Book Review: Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Posted in sunday salon | Tagged | 31 Comments

Bookish links for Saturday, April 12, 2014

Reviews and blog posts that have me adding to my to-read list:

~ Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt, reviewed by Wendy at Caribousmom

~ At Home by Bill Bryson, reviewed by Melissa at Avid Reader’s Musings

~ Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein, reviewed by Kathy at Bermudaonion

~ Chasing Utopia by Nikki Giovanni, also reviewed by Kathy

~ The Here and Now by Ann Brashares, reviewed by Amy at My Friend Amy

~ Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke, reviewed by Michelle at That’s What She Read

~ This House is Haunted by John Boyne, reviewed by Heather at Book Addiction

Book lists:

~ Buzzfeed: 22 Books You Should Read Now, Based on Your Childhood Favorites

~ Parade: The Most Popular Book in Each of the 50 States

~ EW: 10 Most Criminally Underrated Books

Book to movie news:

~ John Green’s novel Paper Towns will be a movie.

Other bookish links:

~ Mental Floss: Which Country Reads the Most?

~ Huffington Post: 9 Quotes Every Book Lover Should Read

~ SYNC has posted their schedule of free audiobook downloads for this summer.

I will leave you with this absolutely adorable video of a three-year-old reciting Billy Collins’ poem “Litany:”

Posted in audiobooks, books, movies, poetry, reading | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Book Review: Steal the North by Heather Brittain Bergstrom

stealthenorthTitle: Steal the North
Author: Heather Brittain Bergstrom
Genre: Contemporary fiction, literary fiction
Publisher: Viking
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Number of pages: 315
First line: Until the summer I was sixteen and my mom sent me away, I lived with her in a Sacramento apartment located above a shop that sold seaweed powders, mood mists, Buddha statues, even menstruation journals.

Goodreads blurb: Emmy is a shy, sheltered sixteen-year-old when her mom, Kate, sends her to eastern Washington to an aunt and uncle she never knew she had. Fifteen years earlier, Kate had abandoned her sister, Beth, when she fled her painful past and their fundamentalist church. And now, Beth believes Emmy’s participation in a faith healing is her last hope for having a child.

Emmy goes reluctantly, but before long she knows she has come home. She feels tied to the rugged landscape of coulees and scablands. And she meets Reuben, the Native American boy next door.

In a part of the country where the age-old tensions of cowboys versus Indians still play out, theirs is the kind of magical, fraught love that can only survive with the passion and resilience of youth. Their story is mirrored by the generation before them, who fears that their mistakes are doomed to repeat themselves in Emmy and Reuben.

I am so glad I accepted a review copy of this book! When I received the pitch e-mail, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the number of review copies waiting on my shelf. I was sold, though, when I realized that Steal the North is set in my neck of the woods. Locations like Moses Lake, Spokane, the Colville Indian Reservation, and even the tiny town of Kettle Falls, where we used to live, feature prominently in the storyline. That was one of the biggest delights when reading – recognizing the places mentioned, having that feeling of “Hey! I’ve been there!” She definitely sees the beauty in Eastern Washington, which isn’t always easy. I live in one of the prettier parts of this side of the state, in my opinion, but that’s because I’m not a big fan of the desert. But the desert and scablands of Eastern Washington have their own majesty, as does the mighty Columbia River, and Bergstrom’s love of this part of the world is evident in her writing.

But familiar settings are not enough to make me love a book, and fortunately, there is plenty more to adore about Bergstrom’s story. It can be difficult to pull off a “multiple points of view” novel, but she does it, and does it well. The reader is given the advantage of more information than if the story only focused on one or two narrators. Bergstrom’s characters are unique, each with their own voice, and so it was always immediately evident whose story I was reading – I wouldn’t have needed the character name indicators at the beginning of the chapters, because the writing was completely individual in each case.

Each of the characters pulled me into their storyline quickly. You know how sometimes it takes getting quite far into a book before you feel an emotional connection to the characters? Well, that wasn’t the case here. Even Kate, Emmy’s mom, who wasn’t the most sympathetic character, was a character I could understand and empathize with. Reuben was by far my favorite character, though. I live very close to the Colville Indian Reservation. Before we moved down to Chewelah to live with my folks, we lived in the town of Colville, which is named for the tribe though not part of the reservation. It was extremely interesting to hear Reuben’s perspective on being caught between two worlds. When he tried to raise himself above the poverty and teenage parenthood and drug use that is rampant on the reservation, he was accused of being too “white.” But when off the reservation, even though he is a smart, responsible young man, he is discriminated against, simply because he is Native American. He is treated even worse, unfortunately, when people mistake him for a Mexican. His story made me sad, but gives the reader so much insight into a world that most of us do not understand.

There are multiple love stories in this book. The most obvious, of course, is Reuben and Emmy’s, which is a beautiful narrative. But Bergstrom also deals with the love between sisters, the complicated love between a mother and daughter, and also learning to trust love after being so devastatingly hurt, like in Kate’s situation.

I so wanted to give this book a five-star rating, but my own rating scale wouldn’t let me. My five-star ratings are reserved for books that I think everyone should read, and unfortunately, the sexual content of this book was a bit too much for me to give that unreserved recommendation. I still absolutely loved this book, though, and I know many of you will, too.

Posted in contemporary fiction, literary fiction | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Adding to my TBR list – Bookmarks Magazine March/April 2014

bookmarks march april 2014
Here are the books that made it onto my TBR from the latest issue of Bookmarks Magazine. Have you read any of these?

keeperoflostcausesdevotionofsuspectxNatural Beauty Portrait

Posted in bookmarks magazine | Tagged , | 12 Comments