The Liebster Award

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s not a Tony Award, but it’s something!

Thanks to Everyone Has a Story for nominating me for the Liebster Award! I’m sure that grasping at straws to find 11 book bloggers was not how you wanted to spend your afternoon, but please know that I am quite flattered!

If you have found your blog on my coveted list of Liebster Award nominees, please follow the steps below (that do not require handwriting this letter and sending it to 11 other people in the hopes that one day your wish may be granted). But it will be fun.

1. Link & Thank the blogger who nominated you (that would be me, Reading Up with the Joneses)
2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator gives you (these questions are at the bottom of the post. They’re not the same ones I received from my nominator!)
3. Tag 11 other bloggers who have 200 or less followers, or thereabouts.
4. Ask the 11 bloggers you nominated 11 questions and let them know you nominated them!

Everyone Has a Story gave me these questions:

1. What is your favorite genre to read? 

I read a broad range of books, so it’s hard to pick a favorite. I would probably go with middle grades to young adult fantasy fiction to be my chart topper, though. The Winterling Series, The Chronicles of Narnia, His Dark Materials, etc. Apparently, I really like the idea of other dimensions and worlds.

2. Least favorite genre?

Historical Biographies. I’m sure they’re interesting. I just like make-believe better.

3. How old were you when you discovered your love for books?

I was having speed-reading contests with my bff in 3rd grade (she always beat me because I preferred to actually ‘read’ the story), so sometime before then. My older brother loved books, so he always took me to the library. Actually, I think we just went to the library because it was cheaper than childcare. I remember being there for what seemed like hours…hmmm…

4. Where is your favorite place to read?

On my back porch either during a breezy Fall day or drizzly grey Spring day. Any other time of the year it’s either sweltering or freezing. 

5. Have you ever tried writing a book of your own?

I did. When I was in sixth grade. About a girl who went to horse camp during the summer and discovered that her horse could talk. Together they saved the barn from…something. I don’t remember. I still have the manuscript, though. I worked on it forever.

6. Do you have a favorite bookstore?

Yes! The Bookshelf, Downtown Thomasville, Georgia! 

7. Who are your favorite authors?

C.S. Lewis, Maggie Stiefvater, Rainbow Rowell, Abbi Glines, Rick Riordan

8. How did you come up with the name for your blog?

I thought long and hard. 

9. Do you always read reviews before beginning a new book or do you just take your chances?

No, not always. If it’s for an author that I pretty much know I’m going to enjoy, I dive right in. Many times, I’m reading Advanced Reading Copies where there aren’t a lot of reviews available. Which is where I come in.

10. Do you prefer to read on electronic devices or from a hard copy of a book?

I ‘prefer’ a hard copy. To be more specific, I prefer an actual hardbound copy over a paperback. But I still read many, many books on Kindle, Nook, Mobi and BlueFire just because it’s cheaper for authors and publishers to send ARC’s in digital formats.

11. Favorite quote from a book?

“It is the first day of November, and so, today, someone will die.”

from The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I know, it’s terrifying, but I love it! This book is SO good.

I actually have another favorite quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle, but I can’t put my hands on it right now!

I now nominate 11 people:

The Books Reader
Trusty Page Turners
Readers + Writers Journal
Books with Loz
Let Books Bee
Sweet Tea and Spurs
The Quintessential Bibliophile
Laura’s Little Book Blog
Too Clever
Cute Peach
The Bookshelf

These are the questions for you to answer:

If you had to choose by the cover, would you choose a white or black book?

Favorite book cover?

Favorite book to read and gossip about to your other book nerd friends?

Book that took you the longest to plow through?

What’s the average length of the books you read?

Do you read more or less now that you also blog?

Favorite childhood book?

Which fictional character would be your best friend?

Which fictional character would you like to punch in the nose?

Do you ever mix up reality with the books you’re reading/have read?

Why do half of us use the Hemingway theme? Make up your own question if you’re not even sure what that is. 

 

Read Up!

Book Review: I’m Nobody, The Lost Pages by Alex Marestaing

I'm Nobody: The Lost Pages Cover Art

Alex Marestaing is one of the many, many (very many) authors that contact me daily through the blog. I may not have hundreds of followers, but I have hundreds of authors, publishers, agents, etc. contact me about reviewing their books. This, obviously, is an awesome thing and a not-so-awesome thing. You see…I love books. I love reading. I especially love reading good books. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to read every single book that is offered to me, but I try to let every author/publisher/agent/etc. know up front whether or not I’ll be able to read their book.

This little green book arrived in the mail a few weeks ago (like…June) and it’s been riding around with me ever since, just waiting for me to get around to it. The cover was intriguing, so it was going to get read…eventually.

The green book, being an actual book and not a digital copy (props to the author for sending that to me) got pushed to the top of the list.

I finished it in one day and it was PHENOMENAL. Here it goes:

Targeted to middle grades and possible early high school grades, I’m Nobody: The Lost Pages is about a teenage boy, Caleb, who hasn’t stepped outside his house for seven years. He’s haunted by the house across the street. A seemingly magical event occurs (or rather, course of events); Caleb makes a friend, Iris, who is a teen indie-filmmaker. Parents try to institutionalize him; back-story is revealed; Emily Dickinson is still writing; magic is real. The End.

Emily Dickenson's House was the inspiration for the "house across the street"...Now, imagine a basket coming down from the window ; )

Emily Dickinson’s House was the inspiration for the “house across the street”…Now, imagine a basket coming down from the window ; )

Did I love it? YES!

I’m Nobody: The Lost Pages was such a refreshing read. It covered topics that most middle grades books don’t touch, including mental illness in youth, open-mindedness, and bravery. I cheered for Caleb throughout his story, celebrating every little step and each small achievement as he built up the courage to rebound to normalcy, despite his parents absent support. This, actually, was the most sad part of Caleb’s story: he didn’t know anything was “wrong” with him until his parents started trying to make him “better.”

The characters, Caleb and Iris, are teenagers, but young enough that a crush is a new experience for both of them. I was very happy that a romance was not the center of this story, but instead, a budding friendship. Both sides must overcome adversity to see each other as friends, and it’s written in a charming and beautiful way.

Emily Dickinson and her poetry play a pivotal role in this story; one that is more original than anything else you’ve read recently, I’m sure. The history of Dickinson and her writings were incorporated in a wondrous way, such that they were as inspiring to me as they were to Caleb.

An example of Dickenson's writing, this is what Caleb found as each of his notes arrived. The descriptions of her writing, even down to the stationary, are phenomenal.

An example of Dickinson’s writing, this is what Caleb found as each of his notes arrived. The descriptions of her writing, even down to the stationary, are phenomenal.

As many of you know, I have a knack for figuring out story lines, but I was pleasantly surprised with this book. I had a general idea, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the revelation of the basis of Caleb’s mental illness and the unhappiness inside his home. Overall, the story was heartbreaking. I was really hoping for a happy ending…I’ll let you read it to find out if I got it or not ; )

This book was published in December, 2013, so it’s available for you to pick up now. A copy of the book was sent to me for review, and, being a wonderfully honest person, I provided an honest review at no charge (because who wants to charge authors to send them books?!).

Have you read any good middle grades books lately? Let me know in the comment box what you thought.

Read Up!

 

 

Book Review: Zac & Mia by A.J. Betts

It’s The Fault in our Stars for those of us who don’t want to read (right now) The Fault in our Stars.

It’s Eleanor and Park for those of you who haven’t been introduced to the fabness (I totally made that word up) that is Rainbow Rowell.

It’s cancer, teenage angst, and a friendship that would’ve never happened otherwise and it’s pretty great.

Set in Australia (bonus points for letting me read with an accent!) and flitting between the cancer ward, where Zac and Mia meet with a very unwelcome 18 repeats of Lady Gaga, to the family olive farm and petting zoo (think Sweet Grass Dairy or anywhere else on the Farm Tour for New Leaf Market), this novel is one of friendship and caring under terrible circumstances. It isn’t romantic, in the common sense of the word, but rather a deep, caring relationship between characters who have an understanding of what each other is going through.

I really enjoyed the book. I’ve also already cast the movie:

 

Dena Kaplan (played Abigail on Dance Academy) for Mia and

Tom Green (played Sammy Lieberman on Dance Academy) for Zac

Obviously, Dance Academy is the only Australian show I’ve ever watched, but I think they’d be perfect for the roles.

So, there it is! Go out and pre-order today (comes out September 2nd) and grab this book from The Bookshelf  downtown Tville or pre-order online, preferably through our Amazon Book Store (link on the right) so I get a little kickback : )

Do you like reading books with themes of terminal illness or terrible circumstances? It’s kind of new to me…what are your favorites?

Read Up!

 

Bookish Fashion: Summer Reading “Everything Leads To You”

Bookish Fashion: Summer Reading "Everything Leads To You"
A favorite of mine from this summer, this look is all vintage, romantic Hollywood. T-strap flats for a nod to the stage, a turquoise ring to the great Westerns, lovely flutters and tones, and green and gold to finish the look. Of course, we can’t forget the pivotal green velvet couch. This book has inspired quite a few looks for me this summer! What’s been your favorite book this summer?

Seascape Statement Ring
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Fangirling over the Wilis or Why I Need to go to Seattle

PNB's 'Giselle' Opens this Friday, May 30th in Seattle

It’s Spring, which means that ballet season is in full swing. In fact, I’m actually writing this post while sitting in the theatre, prepping tech for a ballet production of The Wizard of Oz.

Oh, you didn’t know there was a ballet season? Why yes, there is. Companies usually take a break over the summer so that professional dancers can take a little time to rest (from performances, but not class) and pre-professional dancers can be whisked away to exotic destinations (read: NYC/Seattle/LA/Paris/Canada) to study with the very best and hope and pray for an audition with a company.

In full disclosure, I never went to these camps. I spent my summers at horse camp, usually. I do, however, remember enviously spying over other (read: much better) dancers’ 3-ring binders that were filled with applications (pre-online application) and watching the photo shoots every year as they all took photos at the barre in various positions and poses so the applicant judges could see their potential in a few photographs.

I don’t perform anymore (you’re welcome), but I still work for a ballet company and I have a healthy appreciation for the art. Currently, I’m lusting over Pacific Northwest Ballet’s new staging of the ballet, Giselle.

Here’s a quick synopsis, courtesy of the Seattle Times and from a Nouvelle Gamine post about The Royal Book of Ballet:

At first called “Giselle ou les Wilis” (“Giselle, or The Wilis”), the ballet tells the story of an innocent peasant girl driven mad by romantic deceit. After her death, she is transported to a moonlit glade haunted by Wilis — the vengeful ghosts of young women who died before their wedding night. The story was inspired by two sources: a Victor Hugo poem about a girl whose love for dancing caused her death, and a passage about the Wilis (a Slavic legend) in a Heinrich Heine work. (via ST)

Giselle, falls in love with Duke Albrecht who has disguised himself as a peasant. his secret is betrayed by Hilarion who also loves Giselle. Knowing she can never wed her noble lover, Giselle commits suicide.

The region is haunted by the wilis, vengeful ghostly women who destroy any man unfortunate enough to cross their paths at midnight. sure enough, the queen of the ghostly wilis claims Giselle’s soul and they drown the mournful Hilarion.

When the grieving Albrecht visits Giselle’s grave the wilis appear and attempt to kill him. Giselle tries save him but is under the queen’s power. Only the 4 o’clock morning bell, heralding dawn, saves Albrecht. The wilis return to their graves, except for Giselle. Her love for Albrecht has released her from their control and she is able to rest in peace. (via NG)

Not usually a ballet fan? Picture this: costumes from Pride and Prejudice, Downton Abbey & The Infernal Devices all dancing around on stage. If for nothing else, you should fall in love with this ballet for the costumes. 

The costumes. Oh, the glorious costumes. I’m not one to lust over ball gowns and red carpet designers. But tutus? Oh, I love them. Especially the romantic length tutus of the wilis (the spirits of jilted lovers) in Giselle. This new production features all new costumes, designed by renowned (the ballet world) designer,      Here’s a really awesome Q&A with him about the costumes for this new production.

Giselle’s costume is modeled specifically on the one worn by Carlotta Grisi on that 1841 opening night. It’s two costumes, but one design: The Act II version is the same dress, rendered in all-white. (via Seattle Times article)

Giselle’s costume is modeled specifically on the one worn by Carlotta Grisi on that 1841 opening night. It’s two costumes, but one design: The Act II version is the same dress, rendered in all-white. (via Seattle Times article)

Each performance uses 82 costumes, all of which were constructed at PNB’s costume shop. They include 800 yards of ribbon trim, 900 hand-sewn buttons, 13 top hats, and 550 yards of tulle — the latter only including the Act I women’s skirts. Each Wili in Act II wears a six-layered skirt (four layers of tulle, two of silk), with each layer approximately 14.5 yards in circumference. For 19 Wilis, that’s 1,653 yards of fabric — the equivalent of nearly 14 football fields. (via Seattle Times 10 Fun Facts about PNB’s Giselle; read the entire article here)

 Love, love, love this photo mashup with PNB dancers Jahna Frantziskonis, Elizabeth Murphy & Elle Macy modeling their new Giselle costumes alongside historical Giselle illustrations of the same costume and pose. We opens Friday! Jahna Frantziskonis top and bottom left corners, Elizabeth Murphy top and bottom right corners, Elle Macy middle right.


Love, love, love this photo mashup with PNB dancers Jahna Frantziskonis, Elizabeth Murphy & Elle Macy modeling their new Giselle costumes alongside historical Giselle illustrations of the same costume and pose. 
Jahna Frantziskonis top and bottom left corners, Elizabeth Murphy top and bottom right corners, Elle Macy middle right. (via PNB’s FB page)

Here are my absolute favorite. For professional dancers hating life because they’ve been relegated to the corps, know that I love you dearly. The precision of the corps is my favorite part of watching a ballet. The corps girls make up the cast of the village girls and most beautifully, the Wilis. Dear corps girls, honestly, I could watch just you. Giselle could go somewhere else for all I care. Of course, then I may as well just be watching Le Sylphides…

 

A note about the beautiful white wili costumes, from the Seattle Times article, states:

The wispy, white-clad Wilis are part of a tradition of ballet-blancs, or white ballet, performed by an all-female corps de ballet and popular in the 19th-century romantic era. The first white ballet was a chorus of dead nuns (!) in the opera “Robert le Diable” (1831); other examples are the wood nymphs in “La Sylphide,” the underworld specters of “La Bayadere,” the Wilis and the swans of “Swan Lake.”

These beautiful illustrations of the ballet were found in The Royal Book of Ballet, published in 1962.

Painting of 'The Wilis' from The Royal Book of Ballet, published 1962

 

Here are a few more photographs, from various companies, of the gorgeous and ethereal Wilis:

Another reason I adore the ballet, Giselle, is that pretty much any ballet book you can read mentions Giselle. Especially if it’s a memoir. There must be something about the love story that just speaks to dancers. One of my favorite movies as a kid, Dancers (starring Mikhail Barishnikov, the ‘dancer guy’ that non-dancers would recognize from Sex and the City), was loosely based on art in life as the dancer befell a major meltdown (like Giselle’s character) while rehearsing for…Giselle. Think early version of Black Swan. One of my more recent reads, Astonish Me, by Maggie Shipstead, even mentioned the sad story of Giselle and how it related to her own unrequited love with a male dancer in her company. Here’s a link back to a previous post about that book and some other ballet books worthy of mention.

Now, here’s my big admission…I’ve never seen a professional ballet performance live. I know! I can’t even believe this myself, but it’s true. I’ve seen Tallahassee Ballet and South Georgia Ballet perform dozens upon dozens of productions from The Nutcracker (16 seasons worth) to Copellia, The Sleeping Beauty and many more. I’ve seen professional productions online and in movies. My two-year old son loves to watch the fight scene between the Montagues and Capulets on YouTube from various professional productions of Romeo and Juliet.

I’ll get there one day. It would be amazing if I could make it across the country and all the way to Seattle to see this production in all it’s gloriousness, but it’s very unlikely to happen. For now, I’ll live through their Facebook posts and adore the costumes, sets and dance from afar.

South Georgia Ballet & SGB Conservatory present The Wizard of Oz, this weekend!

If you happen to be in Thomasville, or our area, this weekend, instead of in Seattle, stop by the Municipal Auditorium and catch a performance of The Wizard of Oz by our company, South Georgia Ballet, and school, South Georgia Ballet Conservatory. If for no other reason, our little reviewer, W, is in the Saturday evening performance as a Kansas Daisy and in the Lollipop Guild ; )

Read Up!

 

 

High School Shenanigans or Why I Went Off the Grid for a Week + Book Review: #scandal

I’ve been involved in this little thing called Life that occasionally happens around these parts. Two productions went off without too much of a hitch (well, one where the leads actually got hitched and the other where the leads pretended to get hitched).

Theatre week can bring out so many emotions, especially in the director, which was my lucky title.

I spent this past week deep in the ire of the theatre at Cairo High School, where my students were finishing up their Spring production of Guys and Dolls. On Monday afternoon, we put together Act I (for the first time…I know, scary). By Friday night, the kids did a pretty jam up job. Was it perfect? Nope. Was I proud? Yep. They came a long, long way in 4 days and all I could ask for was improvement at every rehearsal–that’s what they gave me!

I’ve decided that after many years of working with high schoolers, teaching them, and especially trying to mount a production with them, is like taking a trust fall off of a cliff and hoping (read: praying) they catch you at the bottom. It’s really all up to the students. I can give them costumes, sets, props, make-up and mics, but I can’t learn their lines or songs for them. I can share my passion, but I can only hope to inspire theirs.

So of course, while I’ve got 40+ kids packed into dressing rooms, wings & any other nook and cranny of a backstage space, high school shenanigans were bound to happen. Someone’s boyfriend showed up uninvited and a chivalrous guys from the cast made him leave. Someone’s foot got stomped by a character shoe heel (tell me a show where this doesn’t happen) and her friends tried to “jump” (their word, not mine) the girl whose foot was found in the offending shoe. Phones (read: cameras) were everywhere. God only knows what dressing photos were caught. Curse words were slung from here to Broadway. I had to give tear-inducing speeches about making great memories in the dressing room rather than those they’d rather forget. Awesome. Hugs and kisses, ladies and gentlemen of the cast.

All of this got me thinking about #scandal a pretty fab book about modern-day shenanigans (read, those of kids currently in high school, which are probably pretty tame compared to what would’ve happened if we’d had Facebook, SnapChat and FaceTime in high school).

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Written by Sarah Ockler, #scandal is a contemporary YA mystery novel; a cautionary tale about keeping up with your phone lest someone steal it and hack your Facebook account. Also, it has a pretty good message about 1) keeping business to yourself 2) the perils of social networking and 3) labeling is so not meta (read: cool/inducing of good karma points). Also, point 4) if your best friend tells you to go to prom with her “boyfriend,” the same guy you’ve been crushing hard on for 3 years…you probably should say no.

The characters (of which there are many…it is high school, after all…) are well-rounded, though sometimes hard to keep straight. It seems at first that there will be a “token” character to fill every high school stereotype, but once we’re deeper into the pages, we find…well, we find that we, as the reader, are doing exactly what we aren’t supposed to be doing: labeling.

Written from multiple POV’s, we get to see the social networking scandal unfold from different angles. My favorite character, of course, is Miss Demeanor. An alias for a character in the twists and turns of this mystery, Miss Demeanor keeps us up to date on all manners of social scandals and other happenings. Her actual identity and ulterior motive are a complete mystery until the end. Along the way, there are countless pop-culture references from Oprah to Ani Defranco and everything in between. These kept me laughing through the entire book. The downside to these references (and the Facebook postings from Miss D) is that in a few years, it will just be nostalgic to think back on the time of Facebook; surely something else will have taken over and branded us all followers of the anti-christ by then (totally j/k on that, by the way). It may not stand the test of time, or it may come back later and everything will be cool again (think Eleanor and Park and how kids reading it think tape players, mixed tapes and…ah! changing batteries!…is “just so 80’s and cool”….please…make me throw up kids, I LIVED through the 80’s…big bangs, batteries and all). Another downside (I hate that I’m finding these downsides, because honestly, the pop-culture references were my favorite part of the book) is that an older reader may not “get” all of them. Even I (29 Foh evah, ya’ll!) didn’t get one of them until…well, until this week actually (there’s a character nick-named 420…I’m going to let you figure out which slot he fits in). Maybe it’s not age, but the fact that I’m not a stoner…we’ll leave that to dwell on later.

Anyway, back to the book. The scandal is actually pretty crappy for the characters and there were times when I really just wanted to jump through the pages and shake some of those silly high schoolers by the shoulders. Grrrr!!!! GROW UP!!! And then, I remember that they are, in fact, just high schoolers. The book comes out June 17th and before you dismiss it (like SOME people already have) just because there’s a hashtag in the title, let me remind you that this is the very reason to pick it up. Put it on your TBR list NOW!

Here are two more books that I loved to read about high school shenanigans.

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Kiss and Make Up, by Katie D. Anderson, is a hilarious novel about a girl, her lipstick and some really, really awesome, like, my absolute favorite ever, pop-culture reference…

 

Are you following the Joneses? How do you intend to keep up? Follow us on Instagram and Facebook @readingupwiththejoneses

..now tell me that didn’t make you laugh.

It’s actually a really cute read that deals with a younger high schooler, bad boyfriends, tough family history and a little tiny bit of magic. You’ll enjoy it.

The next is probably one you’ve already read, especially if you’re a Lauren Oliver fan, which I am (although I will be the first to admit that the Delirium series was not my favorite).

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Before I Fall is a YA contemporary novel dealing with some pretty heavy issues. I’ll just give you a synopsis and then tell you that you plus anyone over the age of 14 in your inner circle must read it:

Girl goes to party. Girl leaves party. Girl is in car accident. Girl thinks she’s died in said accident. Girl wakes up. Girl realizes it is the same day. Six times.

Now, I know that this isn’t an original theme, but the way Oliver writes this high schoolers revolving door of emotions is pretty awesome. It’s deep and deals with tough issues, but I think it’s an absolute must read, especially if you’ve got a teen nearby.

So there you go! Enjoy these YA contemporary novels and never stop Reading Up with the Joneses! Don’t forget, you can pre-order #scandal or purchase kindle or bound editions of Kiss and Make Up and Before I Fall in the Jones’ Book Store, up there on your right.

 

Little Jones Reads: W’s review of It’s a Firefly Night

The not quite smallest, but certainly not tallest, Jones is learning to read and write. Little W is in Kindergarten and says that her favorite part of the day is writing in her journal in the morning. The only bad part, she says, is that she “always runs out of room to write!” What a problem to have for a budding author.

W reviewed her first book this week. She picked from a selection of digital arc’s (this particular book is a reprint, originally published in 1997). The downside, especially for kiddos, is that she didn’t get the size and tangibility of the book, which I think is an integral part of a learning reader’s relationship with books. This is especially true for W, whose librarian says that she always separates herself from her class in the library for an odd reason: she wants a particular type of book. She has a preference for thickness, shape and size. I am always entertained at his TBA stack on library day. The books stack and shelve perfectly, but their subjects range from horses to historical fiction. She says “it just has to feel right in my arm, mom.” As if that’s an odd thing!

This week, W picked It’s a Firefly Night, by Dianne Ochitree; art by Betsy Snyder.

It's a Firefly Night

Here is W’s handwritten review (with my translation/clarification below):

It’s a Firefly Night

{Written} by Dianne Ochitree; art by Betsy Snyder

{Favorite lines from the book:}

‘…their dancing-light show.’

‘My hand is a cage for one tiny star.’

‘I whisper good-bye, then I let it go.’

‘Soon many fireflies {open their} wings…’

{Synopsis}

It was about a little girl who caught some fireflies, but she said ‘they are not mine,’ so she let some fireflies go.

{Review}

I liked the book because the {pictures} were {nice}. And because at the end, I liked learning about fireflies.

 

W read the book all by herself and mentioned along the way that she liked the color of the sky because it looked like it was getting darker and later at night.

As a parent, I agree! The artwork was beautiful! The variations in the color of the painted skies had a time-lapse quality; the gold and yellow tones surrounding the fireflies glowed and gave life to the page. I also enjoyed the imagery of the words.

My jar’s like a lightbulb that’s just come alive.

Flickering quicker, they sparkle and shine…

Aren’t these fun to read!

The character in the book is a little girl, but both W and S enjoyed it, so it’s certainly appropriate for boys and girls.

W is in Kindergarten and could read the vast majority of the words. She tripped over a few, but for the most part, it was a clean read for her. She could not, however, read the ending section where the facts about fireflies live. To be honest, I usually skip these sections of the book. The lilting rhythm of the writing that captures kiddos attention is gone and we’re into bone dry facts. W said she liked learning about them, but it’s mainly because I used my Awesome-Mom/Actress/Totally-Enthusiastic-Wow-Isn’t-That-Amazing voice. Otherwise, she was done.

The book is also a counting book! One to ten, then back down again as the little girl releases her fireflies into the night. This makes it appropriate for younger children learning counting and sight words.

It’s a book with lovely artwork and a fun story about the wonders of our natural environment and it’s fit for boys and girls, without being about princesses or trucks.

Pick it up in our Book Store and keep Reading Up with the Joneses, big and small!

Review: The Murder Complex

The Murder Complex
The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is author Lindsay Cumming’s debut title. It is vicious. It is bloody. It is fast-paced. It is…a little confusing.
Overall, I liked it and I look forward to reading the prequel book when it’s available and also to reading the next installments to see if my questions are answered.

There is A LOT going on in this book. So much so that for me, the romance, or…I’m really not even sure what to call the relationship…was kind of lost. Or rushed. Or something. It was actually the most shallow part of the storyline for me.

Overall, I felt like The Murder Complex a mash-up of Delirium (Lauren Oliver), Eve (Anna Carey), The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins), Legend (Marie Lu), Divergent (Veronica Roth), and a few others, BUT with a twist at the end that I didn’t see coming!

The characters were well-defined with a wide arc of emotions that we get to experience. The lower characters, I have a feeling, will be important in later installments and we’ll get an expansion on their characters then.

The love story between the two main character, Meadow and Zephyr, felt forced and unbelievable. There was no build up to it, so when they did finally meet, it wasn’t very exciting. I was a little bummed. From the cover, you could probably guess that they have conflicting goals. Zephyr leans in to kiss Meadow and then tries to strangle her. This really isn’t a spoiler. You know it’s going to happen at some point. Also, Meadow gets tattooed by her brother (“Fearless” on her arm, though we never hear anything about the tattoo again…no mention from new people she meets) with ink and a fishhook. It was painful…for me.

I got a little confused by the setting. It was set in such a small area. I’m sure, just like all other dystopian series, we will “go outside the gate!” in future installments. Since a certain character has just been taken that way, it’s most certain to happen.

The plot was original in that the base problem, or reason for the new dystopian system, was a new idea that I hadn’t read before. Basically, The Murder Complex is a system designed to solve the problem of over population. No one was dying, but babies were still being born. Now, I’ll let you read the book to get the nitty gritty on how the system works, but I’ve just got to stop here and say: WTF? What crazy people in the world would EVER go for a system like that?! It was so far off base that it was almost inconceivable. What it was good for was creating an interesting Jekyll & Hyde meets Roman Gladiators scenario. It was also good for a lot of blood and gore. If you’re antsy about blood, guts, corpses, violence, etc….this is not the book for you, though I’m probably guessing you would figure that out based solely on the title.

I’m sad to say that by 1/3 of the way through the book, I had it pretty much figured out. The mother’s role, what I think the father’s role really is, what the system is, etc. What I did not see coming was THE ENDING! I left the book with a smile because it is really, really, REALLY rare that I don’t see a twist coming. I was excited that I got so caught off guard! The happy (not really) family ends in quite a predicament. The plot leaves us with a cliffhanger ending, but not a terrible one. I thought it was a really terrific place to end, actually.

Overall, it was a good book. I look forward to future installments because I generally feel like the first in the series is so devoted to setting, plot, character building. I was left with a few questions that weren’t answered though, including religion (they believe in an afterlife, but there are no references to worshipping anything besides the ruling Initiative, though there are never any “worship” times), love (I’ll say it again…this isn’t love. Meadow hasn’t even met another guy. I felt nothing for their relationship, and I want to! I need a love ladder or something in the next installment so that I can figure it out…maybe after dwelling on it for a while it will come to me), world events (did the Plague cover the world? What happened to everything else? If this turns into a testing site like Divergent, I WILL SCREAM AND NEVER EVER EVER READ DYSTOPIAN AGAIN! I will have completely lost faith in the entire genre). Biggest of all for me, why is everything “Pre-Fall” banned? I couldn’t figure this out. There was never any reason given for the Pre-Fall items to pose a threat to the current form of society).

There were a few things that stood out as painfully annoying that I just need to mention:
1) “my moonlit girl” sounds like something so poetic and werewolfish that it would be more fitting in [b:Shiver|6068551|Shiver (The Wolves of Mercy Falls, #1)|Maggie Stiefvater|https://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1388196030s/6068551.jpg|6244926].
2) “flux” is obviously a stand-in for another word. It’s in this book a bazillion times. Which means that by the third time, I was just throwing the f* bomb every time I read it. It was something so childish of Zephyr’s character that it made no sense. Same for “skitz.” Was the author trying to curb my language? It didn’t work. I just replaced that made-up word with the one it was obviously meant to be. It was annoying.
3) there were more mentions of Zephyr trying to get the word “stars” to catch one (to be used in place of damn) than there were of Meadow’s tattoo.

If you like classic, textbook dystopian, you won’t be disappointed by The Murder Complex. It didn’t bore me and I got through it in a day. If you’re tired of reading the same thing over and over again in dystopian, you should maybe leave this one on the shelf. So many attributes link it to other series that you’ll probably get confused (trains, tattoos, controlled fighters, programming, main character thinks mother is dead–she’s not… the list goes on).

The book comes out June 10th, so add it to your TBR list!

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Quotes from my Current Read: Etiquette and Espionage

I’m currently enjoying Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger, a fun, steampunk-themed series opener appropriate for girls ages 12+. I find myself highlighting every few pages, so I just had to share some of these side-stitching quotes!

Etiquette and Espionage Cover Art

“They’ll suck my blood and make me wear only the very latest fashions.”

-Sophronia, on learning she may be sent to a finishing school to become a vampire drone

Finishing school! There would be lessons. On how to curtsy. On how to dress. On how to eat with one’s finger in the air. Sophronia shuddered. Perhaps a vampire hive was a better option.”

-Sophronia, on not looking forward to learning how to become a lady

“Lady Linette says style is everything; one’s shoes are as important as ones thoughts, and possibly more powerful in the correct context,”

-Preshea, on why accessories are important

“Preshea can’t wait until she gets to poison her first husband. She’s a great admirer of Mary Blandy’s work.”

-Agatha, explaining why her classmate likes Sister Mattie’s medicinal classes best

“Some of the most disagreeable people I know are the most ladylike.”

-Sophronia, explaining to Dimity why ladylikeness is not always a positive character trait

“Breakfast at noon, morning calls around three, tea at five, supper at eight, entertainment all evening, and bed by one or two.”

-Dimity, explaining “London time” to Sophronia

“I’d love to be a London lady. Do you think my parents would be awfully mad if I married a nice politician and gave up on a life of crime? Then I’d get to throw dinner parties all the time.”

-Dimity, on dreaming of the life her parents would hate

“A lady is never disreputable in public, unless intended for manipulation of sympathies.”

-Prof. Lefoux, on how to act and dress in a crisis

“Practive your eyelash-fluttering, ladies. Six rounds of one hundred each before bed.”

-Lady Linette, issuing homework for her fainting class

“Algebra was far more interesting when it was a matter of proportioning out mutton chops so as to poison only half of one’s dinner guests…”

-Sophronia, on being thankful that her professors apply lessons to real-life situations

“No one said learning etiquette and espionage would be easy, my dear.”

-Lady Linette, in response to Sophronia’s demanding schedule of curtsy and poison lessons

“Now, Preshea…it’s no good choosing your first husband from a school for evil geniuses. Much too difficult to kill.”

-Dimity, warning Preshea to not flirt too much at the social with their brother school

“I assure you, I have been sneaking around with impunity for years.”

-Sophronia, not wanting to be underutilized in an operation

I can’t wait to finish! If you’d love to read up with the Joneses, pick up your hardcover copy of Etiquette and Espionage at your local bookstore (check out The Bookshelf if you’re around Tville) or download it for Kindle by visiting The Jones’ Amazon Book Shop.

I’M BACK! or rather: 3 years later, I’m actually ready to blog.

I know, it’s been a while…like a long 3 years of a while. There’s so much to catch up on! I’ve updated all of the old pages to include our new home, my new job title as stay-at-home-mom, and oh…our new kid! I’ve also got quite a few new reader reviews up on Goodreads, so be sure to check out the Me page or the Books page to link over to those reviews that aren’t new and posted here. For now, I’ll leave you with a little image that I love. Since the past few months and the months ahead will be filled with self-discover, here’s a gentle reminder…

Be Yourself

Read up with the Joneses and follow my blog for regular updates and book recs! Much love!

Also, if you know the creator of the image above, please let me know! This image was sent to me by a friend…without a credit!