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The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss

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Bonjour! I’ve got a whole bunch of things to tell you about my Florida trip, and a bunch of pictures to put up. If you don’t care then skip right down to the book stuff labelled BOOK! Deal? Okay.

Before we get to the fun stuff, I’d like to give a quick shout out to my awesome little sister Britt. Her twitter account is hilarious, and you should follow her @brittfingland. Tell her I sent you. And I guess if you’d like to follow me I’m @lfings. But you should really follow Britt. Sometimes she tweets embarrassing things about me, so there’s that. Mostly she’s just hilarious without having to make me look like a doofus. I do that myself.

Alright, let’s start the vacation with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Visiting Harry Potter World was one of my life goals. I realize that sounds ridiculous, but Harry Potter is a big deal for me as well as Britt. My sister took all of the pictures from our trip so photo cred goes to her.

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Britt and I hanging out at Flourish and Blotts just like any other day. It’s not just for spell books, you know. That’s me on the right if you’re curious. This was in the expansion, Diagon Alley. Every store you could imagine was there, including Ollivanders, Madame Malkin’s, and even Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour. They also have Knockturn Alley, a detail that in my sisters words, “took it from 9 and 3/4 to 10!”. Knockturn Alley features Borgin and Burkes, featuring the vanishing cabinet, from within which you can hear a bird chirping.

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That scarf that’s being knit? The needles move by themselves. All of the store windows have moving displays, there were others with cauldrons being stirred and quills writing on parchment. You can also purchase wands (which we did, I got Hermoine’s and Britt got Professor McGonagall’s) which come in either interactive or non-interactive. We got the non-interactive ones, but the interactive ones are really cool. They come with a map that shows where the wands work (pretty much everywhere) and what spells to cast (how to move the wand) in order to make something (like water shooting out of a fountain) happen.

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Just hanging out at Number 12 Grimmauld Place, headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix don’t you know. Britt and I went through a lot of work to get this photo as people were sitting on the front steps of the house eating. Don’t you people know where you are sitting?! There’s a whole row of houses with numbers other than twelve for you to eat in front of. Sheesh.

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Hopping a ride on the Knight Bus.

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The Sorting Hat! I was so excited to see this beauty. He was just hanging out in the castle, waiting for someone to come along and pull a sword out of him. Get your mind out of the gutter, folks. This is a family friendly blog.

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So we were in a store and my dad says “Linds, get over here, quick!” So I run over and who do I see? Captain America! I was too late for his picture that time, but I was first in line the next time he came around. He took the time to talk with me for a while about where we were from and if we had gone to both Harry Potter parks, since I was such a huge Potter fan. Let me tell you, I was more excited about getting a picture with a guy dressed up as Captain America than I would have been at meeting an actual celebrity.As a side note, if you’re wondering why I’m wearing jeans and a sweater in Orlando it’s because it was 9 degrees Celsius. Definitely not shorts weather, no matter how Canadian I am.

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All week I had been making alligator jokes, and then I found this sign at our hotel. Said hotel was beautiful by the way, the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. If you’re looking for a place to stay in Orlando, I’d definitely recommend Rosen Shingle Creek, it’s minutes away from Universal and every thing about it is beautiful. None of us encountered a single staff member that didn’t look genuinely happy to be working there, and the food was fantastic. Oh, and there is a Publix just across the street which, as it turns out, is a pleasure to shop at just like they advertise.

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Looking for the alligators from the above mentioned sign.

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I found one! Not at our hotel though. We went on an airboat ride through a swamp by the Everglades, which was so fun. I love the smell of open water, and the feeling of wind whipping through my hair. After the ride I got to hold an alligator, which I was ecstatic about (almost more excited than when I hung out with Cap). Did you know alligator skin feels rubbery? I always thought it would be scaly.

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Busch Gardens had some super fun roller coasters, and some super majestic cheetahs.

IMG_0971This rhino crossed in front of us so close I could have reached out and touched him. I didn’t, because I happen to value my life and don’t want to be impaled by a rhino horn. But I could have.

Okay BOOK! For those of you that skipped right to here, welcome. For those of you who made it through the vacation photos, congratulations. Fun fact: I originally typed BOOP by accident and now I have images of cute kittens booping each other on the head running through my mind.

I read The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss due to a recommendation from a friend who has an eerily similar reading taste in books. I’m so glad he recommended it, because this was one of the best books I have read in a very long time.

The story is about Kvothe, who throughout the book is telling his life story. The story of how he was raised by parents who were the leaders of a travelling troupe of actors and taught by a private tutor that travelled with them. How he was orphaned at a young age and left homeless. How he was admitted to the University as a young teen, how he made enemies of powerful professors and students alike, how he made friends from every station of life, and how he met what he hopes to be the love of his life. Kvothe’s story is fascinating. But what is even more fascinating is that he tells it in his own voice.

This is the story of a man telling his story. Sure, there are parts where we flash back to the present, and don’t get me wrong those bits are just as fascinating, but the majority of page space is spent on Kvothe’s story telling. And he is one heck of a story-teller.

So much of what makes a story good is in the details. The more I know about a character, a place, an event, the better. I want to know everything from what the character eats for breakfast to what kind of grass grows in their front lawn. Maybe it’s just this problem I have where I can never get enough of a good book, but I need to know. And if I don’t know, I make it up. That’s why world building is so important in fantasy stories. The more intricately described a world is the better. I don’t care if the only thing that makes the fantasy world different from our Earth is that it’s now the future and the moon has been exploded into two unequal halves, I just need to know why. And where. And what, when, who and how. Tell me everything!

Some of the best stories I’ve ever read have been the best because the author puts in the time to give me an intricate image of what their world looks like. Harry Potter, for example, has so much information about the wizarding world. And J.K. Rowling releases more pretty often on Pottermore and in interviews. It’s just never-ending Potterness!

Tolkien is another author that creates the most beautifully intricate worlds. He almost pushes the limit of how much detail you can include and still have a readable story. I mean, I love Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but do I really need to read four pages about what a sword looks like? Yes, yes I do. But that’s because I’m a weirdo and normal people don’t want to deal with that.

Rothfuss has created a world of magic and mystery, of unseen evils you can sense creeping in the night. It’s filled with magical guilds and creatures of all kinds, new crafts and trades out world will never see. Crafts and trades that Kvothe just so happens to learn.

Kvothe is good at everything except romance, which would be annoying if he wasn’t so darn likeable. He is educated in magic, the arts, and pretty much anything else you could think of including music. He uses this education to his benefit, it saves his life more than once. He is apparently a pretty good fighter, having defended himself and another from terrifying spider-like creatures that seem to indicate a greater evil approaching. That happens during non flashback scenes though, so I’m not really sure what’s going on there. I’m also confused as to how Kvothe came to be known as the greatest swordfighter, magician, and musician of all time; how he became known as a hero and kingkiller. And why he has to pretend to be an innkeeper named Kote. Hopefully all my questions will be answered in The Wise Man’s Fear, the second book in the Kingkiller Chronicles (this series). It’s sitting on my bookshelf right now, waiting for me to finish rereading the Gentlemen Bastard’s books so I can get to it. I want the next one to answer all my questions, but I also want more of everything. More magic, more music, not drama, more mystery, more drunken bar nights with Kvothe and his friends.

What do you guys think? Have you been to Universal or Busch Gardens? Is world building important to you when reading?

Okay, that’s all I’ve got for today. Have a great week!

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The Magicians Trilogy – Lev Grossman

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This! This series was so so good. And then it wasn’t. And then it was again. So it all worked out.

The Magicians, the first book in the series, was awesome. It drew me in so fast, I read it in a six hour car ride. My parents got me The Magicians for Christmas three-ish years ago, and I LOVED IT. It’s about supposedly normal teens who are admitted to a school of magic (Muggle borns at Hogwarts, anyone?). The students grew up reading books about a magical land called Fillory, and upon graduation find out that Fillory exists, similar to the Narnia stories. They find a way to Fillory and end up, you guessed it, being named Kings and Queens of FIllory. There’s even a tree that grew from a clock, like the lamppost tree in Narnia. The author is clearly aware of the similarities though, he brings up the Narnia books at least once.

Like the Narnia stories, adventures ensue and the characters have to face danger after danger to save Fillory. **SPOILER ALERT** People fall in love, people die, and the story ends. Honestly, my favourite part of the story was when the teens were in school. The bonding that goes on is just so fun to read about. Don’t get me wrong, the whole story is great, but the first chunk where the students were at school was my favourite. There’s so much (mostly) good-natured teasing and sarcasm going around, it’s entirely entertaining.

The second book in the series, The Magician King, well… it was terrible. I hated it. It let me down completely after the great first book. It’s worth reading, if only to understand what is going on in the third book. Let’s just skip the second one all together and head right into the third book, The Magician’s Land.

I have seen people praise this book as “the best ending to a series ever” and I’m calling major b.s. on that. However, it is a good book. It wraps the story up nicely, tying up any loose ends as well as introducing new characters. The story takes place several years after the first and second stories, the original characters who were teens in the beginning are now in their thirties. It was pretty interesting to see how they grew, their personalities and their relationships with each other developed. It’s hard to explain the third book in a series when I haven’t even told you the characters names, but just trust me when I tell you it’s a good series. The characters are all likeable in their own way, if only because of the absolute unlikeableness they posses. Yes I realize that statement contradicts itself, but that’s life. It’s all about contradictions. Look at me, getting all philosophical.

Take this as you will, really it’s just a bunch of nonsensical rambling about a book series that I enjoyed, but I think you should read it. It being The Magicians trilogy, not this blog post. Clearly you’ve already read the blog post if you’re here. Clearly I stopped making sense a few sentences ago, and am in need of some sleep. Goodnight friends!

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Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris

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Well hello again! Sorry it’s been so long, you know the drill; school was crazy, I had midterms, and then it was reading week and I was in Florida hanging out with Captain America. Yup, you read that correctly. I’ll put up some pictures once I get organized.

I read Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris while in Florida. I’ve heard good things about Me Talk Pretty One Day, also by Sedaris, so I thought I would give this a try. Here’s the best way to sum this one up: it was okay.

From what I understand, this is supposed to be a humour book. Sedaris is supposed to be a humourist. I was supposed to laugh. Preferably out loud. And did I? No. No I did not.

Honestly, I found this more sad than funny. Sedaris’ family doesn’t trust him with stories about their lives because they know he’ll write about them. One of his sisters spent the majority of her teen years in a juvenille detention type school where the people in charge putted golf balls into the teens mouths. All of the stories about his father were about how his dad let his family down in some way or another. His mother, well honestly he makes her sound pretty great.

One of the saddest stories was when David stayed at the home of one of his sisters. She and her husband have two parrots, one belongs to her and one to her husband. Her parrot likes to repeat phrases the sister says, at the time of his visit it was repeating daily affirmation phrases. ***SPOILERS*** The story ends with Sedaris creeping downstairs to where the parrot is kept and repeating “please forgive me” over and over again, feeling bad for publishing stories about his family. That’s just depressing. I realize every family has its problems, and the only information I have about this guys family is from this book, but man are they weird.

There were a few stories that were humourous, most of the stories about Sedaris’ brother and the stories about his time as a house cleaner were quite entertaining.

It boils down to this: if you liked Sedaris’ previous books you’ll probably like this one. I’ve never really read essay style books, and this wasn’t the best introduction to them. It’s not something I would read again, and it didn’t turn me on to the rest of Sedaris’ works. Sayonara, Sedaris.

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The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure and The Kill Order – James Dashner

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Okay so I probably should have just put all of these together including The Maze Runner, which I wrote about here, into one post. But I didn’t. So now you just get to read about the last three books. Yay!

Totally honesty time. I did not enjoy The Scorch Trials or The Death Cure as much as I expected too. The ending was FANTASTIC and I’m so happy I finally found a book series where I completely and totally loved every part of the ending. However, all of my previous critiques of Dashner’s writing stand. He does not describe scenes or people or emotions as well as I would like, and the humour sometimes feels a little forced. Often he tells you how characters feel, once or twice even how you the reader should feel, and I think that’s a mark of poor writing. Instead of telling me how a character feels, show me. Write exactly how they react to the emotion with their body language and their words, tell me exactly what the scene looks like, how the character behaves. These are the little things that take a story from good to great and they were missing. That being said, it’s still a great series. The story is very interesting, if a little reminiscent of some other young adult dystopian novels. The characters are for the most part likable, if a little underdeveloped. The plot progresses at a quick pace, if not a little too quick sometimes.

It seems every bit of praise I have for the series comes with an addendum except for the ending. I’m going to attribute that to the writing and my very non-forgiving attitude towards young adult fiction to the sheer amount of novels and series in the genre. If your book isn’t great it just won’t stand out. I think with this series it was the story line that makes the books stand out, not the quality of writing. Maybe I’m just hating on this poor guy for no reason, I don’t know but I just thought the books could have been much much better.

The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure wrap up Thomas and Teresa’s story so well, I very much enjoyed the end (yeah I know I’ve told you that about twelve times now, it’s just so good!) The last book in the series, The Kill Order, is actually a prequel to the whole series. This might have been my favourite out of all of them. It features a whole new cast of characters, which I actually liked more than the set in the series proper. WARNING! I’m going to rant about another ending. If you’re sick of hearing about endings, or reading about endings, or even reading the word ending(s), step away from your screen.

Okay, so The Kill Order is all about how the Flare began, what happened to make the world into the dystopian society it was in the series and how the Flare was spread. I found this bit really interesting (hello, bio nerd), and I also liked reading about the daring escape made by the characters that was required to escape the solar flares that destroyed the earth. I don’t know, guys. The Kill Order just stuck out to me above and beyond the other three books in the series. If you’re struggling your way through the series and aren’t sure if you’re going to finish, keep plugging along. The ending to the series is fantastic. And The Kill Order is so good. I mean, it still features Dashner’s writing flaws, but the characters show some growth and it isn’t as forcibly written. Plus the ending has a major twist that made the whole series worth it for me. Actually it’s not even a twist as much as a reveal. Or a surprise. Or something, I don’t know it’s just great. I kind of guessed at the ending, but I wasn’t sure until the last few pages. Just take my word for it, okay? Okay. (This is where I picture all of you going off to the library/bookstore/your bookshelf and picking up the book and getting started. In reality you’re not doing that, but in my head you are.)

We’re going to move away from the books for a minute and head into the realm of really bad/hilarious jokes. I’m a huge dork (as many of you know) and I think dad jokes are hysterical. So over the next couple posts I’m going to share a few because even if you don’t think they’re funny I laugh just from telling them, so at least one person will laugh, right?

Okay, here goes: What’s the difference between unlawful and illegal? One’s against the law, and one’s just a sick bird.

…HA! Okay so that one isn’t great, but I’m saving my best (/worst?) material for the end. As one of my friends likes to say, “you know it’s going to be a bad joke when she giggles before telling it.” If you’re wondering, I giggled.

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz

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Let’s start this with a warning: this book does not have a plot. It follows two teen boys, both needing something from the other that they couldn’t get from anyone else. (Yikes, that’s basically the description for every romance novel ever. Fitting, really.) Aristotle (Ari) and Dante don’t know it yet, but they’re going to fall in love by the end of this book. (I would shout SPOILER in my typical all caps fashion, but I mean really, the book is listed under the¬†LGBT and young adult genres. I think you can guess what is going to happen.) The book doesn’t so much follow a plot line as it does a relationship timeline. Everything that happens throughout the book revolves around Ari and Dante’s burgeoning relationship. Dante helps Ari discover poetry, repair his relationship with his family, and come to terms with his brother’s incarceration and his own ethnicity. Ari helps Dante accept himself, he protects Dante from local thugs, and supports Dante when Dante starts to doubt himself.

It’s at this point that I’m going to interject a little personal reading habits information. From the ages of 13-18 I was a huge sucker for romance novels, or at least novels with romance as a major plot line. I loved Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult, Sarah Dessen, Philippa Gregory, Sophie Kinsella, etc. Historical fiction was a big portion of my bookcase, and for some reason I also was into mystery books by one specific author, Rita Mae Brown. Mystery isn’t usually something I enjoy, so that one was kind of weird. Anyway, romance stories were a staple. “Chick lit” was abundant. And then, something wonderful happened. I came to terms with the full extent of my nerdiness, and discovered fantasy, sci fi, and classics. Lately I’ve been trolling the fantasy section of my local Chapters store looking for a new epic adventure story. It’s almost like I skipped the phase in my life where I was supposed to be super into epic quests and adventures and instead went right to what my mom likes to read. Don’t get me wrong, I also loved young adult novels, but my mom and I had a lot of reading interests in common back then. Now though, for me to read a novel that revolves around a love story is pretty rare. I actually picked up Aristotle and Dante because it seemed to be making a huge ruckus on the young adult fiction scene and I wanted to see if it was deserving of all the noise it was making.

It was.

I was sincerely touched by the story, the change Ari and Dante enacted in each others lives. They gave each other hope and love, friendship and courage. Even when they fought, when they weren’t talking, they still cared enough to protect each other. For a book that isn’t in my wheel house, I really loved it. I don’t really want to go into everything that happens because I have no desire to ruin the story for you. Just read it, okay? I know I tell you this a lot, but this book is special. Even if you only read it once, and you don’t enjoy it, and it completely turns you off from young adult fiction completely, I still want you to read it. It’s just an important story.

Now get out there and read!

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