An Ordinary World

books, blabberings, and a life semi-common


Hello dear readers!

Once again, I have moved to a different place on the Internet, hopefully for good this time. A lovely friend bought me a domain for my birthday and offered to host my sites. Yes, sites.

I will keep posts up and running on this blog but please know that all updates will appear on either of the two new sites – one is a general blog and the other is a book review site.

Click on the screenshot below to be taken to the main page where you can choose which site you’d like to check out.

Thanks for reading and I hope I see you on the other side!


A Golden Snitch is Private!

I love this interview! I don’t watch Conan on a regular basis (mostly because by that time at night, I’m either sleeping or stuck on Food Network) so when Tom Felton tweeted this interview, I had to watch it.

And I’m so glad I did.

His reactions to the online HP world and descriptions of dirty innuendos is fantastic.

Let’s watch more interviews with this fella.

A Mixed Debut of a Series

Elisa isn’t the type of girl people think about when they hear the word Princess nor is she the type of girl people think about when they hear the word greatness. She seems, in a way, to be an absolutely normal girl, perhaps even the girl that, in modern times, gets teased for her weight and looks.

But Elisa is a princess – one that has been used to barter a deal with King Alejandro. And she is supposed to be great as she is the bearer of a Godstone, a jewel that resides in her navel. It is a mark of God, one appears every century, that means its bearer is set to do a type of Service to help the people.

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS follows Elisa from a dispassionate, seemingly frumpy girl to the way she blossoms into a powerful, brave, and strong young woman. In light of this blog, it is a perfect example of ordinary people becoming extraordinary.

The only problem is the way it’s done or, at least, the way in which I read it.

Rae Carson is a brilliant storyteller. She engages the reader from the very beginning, with a passage that makes readers wonder about the narrator:

Prayer candles flicker in my bedroom. The Scriptura Sancta lies discarded, pages crumpled, on my bed. Bruises mark my knees from kneeling on the tiles, and the Godstone in my navel throbs.

Perhaps it is the mere fact that I could personally relate to Elisa but I found her personality sorrowful for the beginning of the book. She is lost and confused and feels as though she’ll never have the means to do what she is supposed to. While much of her thoughts are focused on her weight and of food, as well as her thoughts on her new husband, I felt it was done in a way that while a touch bothersome, did justice to a girl of her age and mindset. There are moments when her inner strength and her smart thinking came through, especially in royal meetings. In those times, it is easy to see that Elisa does have the ability to shine.

What follows, however, is the part that I have mixed emotions about. Her journey from lost girl to Godstone bearer is punctuated by a massive weight loss. While I am, first and foremost, appalled at the reason for the weight loss, its use to show a character’s transformation from ‘ordinary’ to ‘extraordinary’ left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Another problem I had was the seemingly easy way certain events were brushed to the side – events that, in my mind, should have been important to the growth of Elisa and the journey throughout the novel.

All of that being said, THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS is actually an incredible fantasy read. Though a lot happens in this first book, readers will easily follow the events and incidents that Elisa goes through. Also, while there is potential for a very intriguing series, this particular novel has a beginning, middle, and end – it will satisfy those who dislike the cliffhangers that often appear in trilogies.

A Conundrum of YA

I love Young Adult fiction. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I may not fit the correct age bracket for the group but I’m not alone in my readings.

What I sometimes have a problem with, however, are the covers that grace YA novels. There seems to be a formula that works in the genre – pretty girl, lovely background. Occasionally, only the pretty girl makes it onto the cover.

It works.

But it’s sometimes annoying or aggravating that there isn’t more variety within the genre. I realize that it appeals to the younger audience in a way but I’m always waffling between liking them and hating them. The major problem for me is that I enjoy picturing the main characters in my head. I love being able to piece together the scattered details given (the eye color, the build, the hairstyle) and visualizing this amazing character in my head.

As an example, I’ll put up a few covers that I’ve seen recently (or remember). Keep in mind – I really love some of these covers. I think they are a beautiful representation of the words that are found within. Others, I could do without. In either case, the similarities between them are somewhat eerie and potentially lacking of creativity.

Of course, not all YA covers are similar but it must say something that the ones I did remember off the top of my head were ones that looked alike. So what does this mean? Is it more bothersome to have covers focused on the same details or should there be more differences to break free from the rest of the pack?

I realize that it’s not always the author who chooses their covers. Yes, he or she or they can say they may not like something but, in the end, a big portion of a book cover is whether or not it has selling capabilities. Unfortunately for those who enjoy the creativeness of covers, these covers – the single female focus – are the most popular in the bookstores. I don’t know if I agree with every title showcasing the same thing – only because I feel like even the slightest variation has the ability to stand out.

An example of this would probably be Ally Condie’s MATCHED series.

Even though a girl is still features, I personally don’t find her to be the main focus. My eyes are instead drawn to the fact that she’s in a bubble. I haven’t read the series yet though I have MATCHED on my ‘to-read’ list, so I can’t say for certain whether or not the cover matches the plot but I find these covers more interesting than some other ones that are on the shelves of bookstores right now.

What do you think? Do you think the slew of similar covers helps bind all the different novels in a genre? Are you sick of seeing the same thing over and over and over again?

Tell me your thoughts… Or tell me to shut up and just read.

Don’t Forget to Remember Me

I just wanted to take a moment to let any of my readers out there know about this beautiful non-profit organization I’ve recently joined. I heard about it through a, well, let’s just say a friend of a friend of a friend – a bit like six degrees, perhaps. Anyway, it intrigued me when I first heard about it and I went to the website but didn’t sign up. I didn’t have the time during those moments.

But I do now.

Soldiers’ Angels‘ motto (so to speak) is “May no soldier go unloved.” It is exactly what it sounds like. Volunteers are given the basic information of a man or woman in the military. Weekly letters are sent, as are monthly care packages. It’s a bit like having a pen pal but not always with the “satisfaction” of getting a response. And that’s fine because I know that sending the letters and packages is satisfaction enough for me.

I only just signed up about three days ago but already, I feel… content? I don’t know if that’s the right word. All I know is that after I signed up, I felt good. And when I wrote my first letter – just an introduction of myself, probably a page in all – I felt, in a way, accomplished. I was proud of writing that letter. For now, I sent a package through the organization’s store because I wanted to send something quickly before I worked on some care packages on my own. I’m excited. Sure, it’s a bit daunting, but I think this is really something I can get behind.

It does seem like a “project” that takes time and money but I feel like it’s something helpful and well worth what (in my case) may be lunch in midtown for a week. I know of at least one friend who signed up a few days after I did because I was telling her about it and a few others who started looking at the site to see if it was something they might be able to do.


If you have a moment, take a peek at their website and see if it’s something you might be interested in.

In the meantime, I’ll wait for my free USPS flat-rate boxes to arrive so I can start my first care package.


Side note – I haven’t used this one yet but there is also an organization called Any Soldier. Various members of the different military branches write in with requests for care packages. If you’re interested in sending a one-time package, check out the website. I’m browsing through it right now, actually, in case I have a sudden influx of funds or just in case I find a unit that needs some basic things that I can put together quickly and easily.

Truth in YA

In a time where the majority of young adult fiction focuses on the supernatural, the fantastical, and the dystopian, Jennifer Castle walks down another, more familiar path in her debut novel, THE BEGINNING OF AFTER – one that every teenager has either experienced or worries about experiencing.

At 16, Laurel is just another teenage girl. She has parents who love her in their own quirky ways, a brother who annoys her, a best friend who is there for her through thick and thin, and a high school life that is, simply stated, average. Everything changes after a Passover dinner when Laurel decides homework and prepping for the SATs are more important than getting ice cream for dessert. A neighbor drives his wife, Laurel’s parents, and Laurel’s brother to the ice cream shop but only Mr. Kaufman returns in a comatose state.

What follows is Laurel’s attempt at returning to life – what seems like her success only for a roller coaster ride to begin with as many ups and downs as it can handle. Through it all, people arrive in her life, though Laurel’s never entirely sure of their agendas – if there even is one. As she says at one point,

That was it. The end of Before, and the beginning of After.

Castle writes poignant scenes that have the ability to reach out to each reader and make him or her understand the depth of emotions Laurel feels. There are no vampires or faeries, only the in-crowd and guidance counselors and boys. There are Regent exams and college applications and part-time jobs instead of fights and death and superpowers. THE BEGINNING OF AFTER is real. It is the life of a high school junior and senior. There is a steady pulse that beats throughout the book, one that makes a reader connect to the circumstances.

Just as real are the characters who are imperfect like any person living in the “real world.” Laurel thinks she’s okay but sometimes questions her motives. Nana, who moves to live with Laurel in her son’s house, seems like a no-nonsense lady but her hidden emotions strike quickly at the heart. David, Mr. Kaufman’s son, is the only one who can truly understand what Laurel is going through, but the relationship between the two teenagers is tumultuous and, sometimes, barely even present. There are outbursts and hurt feelings. There are secrets to be kept and growth to be done.

The one (minor) issue I had with the novel was that it left me wanting a bit more. There is closure to everything in the novel, however, so perhaps it is a testament to Castle’s storytelling that I crave to know what happens after Laurel’s After. Everything else – the highs, the lows, the setting, the characters, the relationships – is almost too good to be true but the novel is there for readers to breathe in and enjoy.

Already, Castle’s debut is being compared to Gayle Forman’s IF I STAY and while it is a brilliant comparison, I find myself appreciating the writing of THE BEGINNING OF AFTER more if only because it is told completely in the present tense. And while I didn’t cry during my reading of this novel, I felt the tightness of emotion throughout the entire book. THE BEGINNING OF AFTER, to me, is what young adult novels should strive to be. It is a steady thrum of life that doesn’t rely on fads and fantasy (though I love those as well as can be seen in this blog). Castle uses words to captivate her audience in a way only few authors are able to do.

An Okay Eye-Opening Experience

Every year, an outrageous amount of child abuse happens, but only so many make headline news or even into a newspaper to begin with. It’s there but few people want to talk about it or bring it to light. In IT’S OK TO TELL, 25 year old Lauren Book goes back over a decade to recall the moment she was first abused – mentally, sexually, and physically – by a person who she was supposed to trust and who lived with her family 24/7. It’s a harrowing tale in which Book recalls the pain and confusion that crested throughout her life. The abuse doesn’t just start when Waldina Flores comes into her life but that’s when it culminates and overruns what Book has come to know about right and wrong.

The memoir is painful to read, as one can assume regarding the subject matter. Book is candid in her recounts of days and nights spent in the bedroom where Flores resided in her home, of the bruises created by everyday household items, and of the emotional turmoil caused by clever tactics from Flores. Book is quick to note that much of her distress came from the fact that she was already looking for someone to give her love and approval, due to a busy father and a slightly unstable mother – both who loved their children but weren’t always available.

With abuse of a minor the obvious forefront of this memoir, it’s a bit daunting to give it anything less than five stars. For telling her story and opening her situation to more than just her state, Book deserves the highest recognition for bravery¬† and also for doing all she can to make changes for others in her situation. The problem I had with IT’S OK TO TELL was the way the story was told. There are moments that are, for lack of a better word, riveting. However, those moments were broken up by a present-day woman discussing political matters and remembering her moments in the hot seat for the trial. The latter moments are meant to begin a particular memory and it works – sometimes. I believe there would have been more impact if Book had told her story as she knew it and then went into what she did afterwards. Her writing is fluid when it comes to “storytelling” her childhood and for me, the jumps between her memories and a political agenda were jarring.

Despite the almost quick-cuts that occur in this memoir, Book manages to write a real account of what a child goes through during these types of abuse. She is honest and determined to help others, which is the main reason I believe her story needs to be heard.

Begging for More

Megan Flynn was in love. Everything in her relationship with Cole Williams seemed perfect – perhaps maybe too perfect – but they seemed destined for each other. That is, until a phone call interrupted their night and Cole was called into work – to arrest Megan’s brother. It doesn’t take long for Sean Flynn to end up in a jail cell on death row for a murder he’s not sure he committed. Luckily, Megan knows he didn’t do it. How could he?


I admit to having my doubts as I began reading Jami Alden’s BEG FOR MERCY. While the opening was very attention-grabbing, the sudden shift three years into the future was enough to make me question whether I’d like it or not. After the brief introduction to Megan and Cole’s relationship, readers are thrust into the middle of what has been Megan’s life for years – trying to prove her brother’s innocence. Despite losing friends and being labeled a bit crazy by investigators, police, and the media, Megan is determined and strong-willed, even when her brother begins to lose all hope.

Then another murder happens – the latest in a string of them in Seattle – and Megan falls into a world she never really thought she’d find herself in, one of drugs, prostitutes, and murder. The writing is sharp, and the plot is dark, intense, and chilling. While there are scenes of a sexual nature, they are placed appropriately and serve to enhance the characters and story. Never did I think, “This is here just to be here,” which is a thought I tend to have while reading anything in the romance genre.

Though there were moments when I felt like slapping Megan to make her wake up and see what was happening around her, her focus is one of her best attributes and is the catalyst for the unfolding of the mystery and suspense. Cole, while seemingly stoic and unperturbed by most things, is a man with layers that need to be peeled back. Each of Alden’s characters have a purpose though it may not be understood upon his or her first appearance. It’s pleasantly surprising, however, that even with the different characteristics and agendas of each person, the underlying electricity of a relationship is sacrifice and love. Megan’s relationship with her brother is at the forefront of the novel but it’s not the only one. They’re not all “in your face,” but they are instead subtle, almost under-the-radar, which makes their purpose more powerful, from the bond forged between those in a Special Forces unit to Cole’s method of coping with losing Megan due to the situation and the media.

I don’t often read novels marked as suspense romance – only because I never really know about them – but if all of them are like BEG FOR MERCY, it will soon become a favorite genre of mine. As it is, this novel is the first in a trilogy and the second comes out in November; it can’t get here soon enough!