Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Lone Wolf

Written By Jodi Picoult
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 2 Stars

I have really got to stop expecting new and exciting things from Jodi Picoult.  My Sister's Keeper was a one hit wonder, and the rest of her novels are bubblegum or rehashes with very slightly different casts of the same novel.  At least they're easy reads.  Bubblegum isn't terrible, just not good.

Let me sum it up for you:  Life or Death Situation is followed by Awkward Family Moment, usually in a hospital, is followed by an Ethical Dilemma in which there is an Intense Disagreement and Alienation of Certain Family Members.  All this is followed by the Big Courtroom Drama Law and Order SVU style, then a Dramatic Decision is made, which is followed by a Big Reveal of a secret or Big Twist Ending that changes everything.

This book had some serious potential.  There's a family.  Luke, the father, works with wolves.  He has been known to take off and live with packs of wolves.  Cara is his high school daughter.  Edward is the estranged son.  Luke's ex-wife is married to an attorney and has young twins from her second marriage.  There is a car accident, when Luke is picking up Cara from a party that she had attended.  Cara drags him out of the car, but he is non-responsive.  Luke's character could have been so fucking cool.  Instead, the story just sort of petered out into a Jodi Picoult My Sister's Keeper rehash.

Friday, April 12, 2013


Written By R.J. Palacio
Original Publication Date: 2012

Rating: 4 Stars

Favorite Quotes:
"the universe takes care of all its birds."

"Everyone deserves a standing ovation because we all overcometh the world. "

What do you do when you see someone with a deformity, a missing limb, a physical disorder, or really, anything that's considered "not normal"?  Do you stare?  Do you look away?  Do you glance away and then look back, pretending that everything is "normal" and you're not bothered?   Do you tease and mock?  Do you cringe?  Do you feel badly that you're looking at that person differently?  We all do it.  When we're confronted with a person's appearance that is less-than-average, we panic.  We don't know what to do.  We don't know how to approach that person because we can only assume that their less-than-average appearance makes them a less-than-average kind of person that needs to be treated differently.  It's a twisted part of our human nature.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity, though that's an understatement of grand proportions.  He's looked at differently every day.  People treat him like a porcelain doll.  People even scream, when startled by his appearance.  He says he's used to it, but can anyone ever really be used to that sort of treatment?

Up until the fifth grade he's been kept out of school.  His mother has homeschooled him because of the multitude of surgeries that he goes through to make his face more functional, firstly, and slightly more average, secondly.  For the fifth grade, he gets sent to Beecher Prep, a private school in the city.

Remember what it's like being the new kid in a new school?  Remember how you looked at the new kid in your school?  Remember how they were treated?  Now imagine going through that every single day for a year, because every time you meet someone new, you are always considered the freak: always.

Wonder is a remarkable story of growth.  The perspective switches between Auggie, his sister, and various other friends of the kids.  The growth can be seen in all the perspectives, by all the kids.  This is not only the story of how one deformed kid is grown to be accepted by his peers, but the story of how a group of kids grows to accept the strange and different in their worlds.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass

Written By Meg Medina
Original Publication Date: March 26, 2013
Rating: 5 Stars

Book Notes:
I received this ebook for free from the publisher, via Netgalley.
I've been sitting on this review since February 23rd, I wanted to wait until pub. date for it to go live, and it's been truly making me antsy.

"Yaqui Delgado wants to kick your ass," is what Piddy Sanchez is told, in the very first line of this moving novel about bullying.  This is news for Piddy, she doesn't even know who Yaqui is.  Turns out, Yaqui thinks that Piddy's stuck up, because of her good grades, lack of "Latina" attitude, and she shakes her butt when she walks. I love this premise because it shows exactly how inane the reasons are for a particular teen to be singled out of the crowd and bullied to, really, the end of their rope.  Bullying is an inanity, I've seen too many books try to give good reasons to the bully for hating those they bully; that's just not how it works.  More often than not it is a ridiculous non-reason that a student is picked out and picked on by her peers.

What I really loved about this book was that while the characters were Latina (and I know I missed things because of that - I really know very little about the Latina culture), they were people first and foremost.  This was not the story of Piddy Sanchez, a Latina girl who was getting bullied for not being Latina enough.  This was the story of Piddy Sanchez, a girl, who was getting bullied because of some ridiculous non-reason.  Piddy's mother was not only "Piddy's Mother," but a woman with a rich and slightly disturbing past, first and foremost. Even the minor characters were richly written; there wasn't a single character that felt incomplete or flat.  I could relate to almost all of the high school students.  

Okay, now that I think of it, Yaqui's cronies were pretty flat, but they were barely characters, simply extensions of the twisted mind that was Yaqui.

Another wonderful thing about the way this book was written is that it expresses the difficulty and confusion that a bullying victim feels when trying to decide what to do.  Sure, we're told over and over again that telling an adult is the correct thing to do, but as teenagers, all we can see is that if we tell an adult we'd be considered a narc or a tattletale and then the bully would probably hate us more.  In fact, not only would that make the one bully hate us more, but it could possibly make the rest of the school hate us as well.  Being a teenager is hard and this book expresses one facet of that, beautifully.

The chapter when all the threats come to a head, and there is a fight, is painful to read.  I needed to put the book down after reading it.  The humiliation and fear and desperate desire to forget it ever happened were so real.  While, my bullies never made it to actually beating the shit out of me, it was something I lived in fear of for a good portion of my middle school career.  Piddy's thought processes and actions throughout the entire book were so real.  I can't help but wonder if Meg Medina went through something similar in high school, herself.  We all have our horror stories from that part of our lives, in one way or another.

Honestly, I'd love to see this become a required reading book for high school or middle school English classes.  There needs to be an update on some of the novels that we have our children reading about bullying, because some of them are so out-dated that they're down right unrelatable.  This tale is horrific and completely relatable and modern.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The River

Written by Michael Neale
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 3 Stars

Book Notes:
I received this book for free from the publisher, via Netgalley.

I didn't realize until after I requested the book that this is a novel that is considered religious fiction; the summary gave me no such clue.  I guess I wasn't thrilled when I read that, because while religions all fascinate me, "Religious Fiction" tends to mean a books that "Shove Christianity Down Your Throat."  Luckily, this book really didn't give off that vibe.  It's comparable to how I love Flyleaf - yes, they're technically Christian Metal, but they're not overtly so, and I love them anyway.  Now, I didn't love The River, but it was a nice story.

When Gabriel Clarke was five years old, his father took him out to The River.  A risk taker in a kayak didn't know The River well, and he went over the falls; Gabriel's father jumped in after the man.  The man survived, but Gabe's father never resurfaced.

Gabriel moves out of Colorado and to Kansas where his mother lives, where he struggles to overcome the mental issues that The River instilled in him.  He grows up, damaged, in more ways than a "normal" child, until he rediscovers The River and the healing begins.

Bottom Line:  This was a nice story, though the writing style was fairly simple and nothing terribly special.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mini Review: dreamland

Written By Sarah Dessen
Original Publication Date: 2000
Rating: 3 Stars

I decided to go with a mini review for this, as really the book only took me 3 hours to blast through, and I can assume that the review probably won't be terribly long.  Now as I'm reading through some other reviews on Goodreads, I'm seeing that this is one of Sarah Dessen's darker books.  I'm not sure how I feel about that, as I feel like this reads very similarly to a lot of young adult that I've read in the recent past.  I'm not saying it was bad or boring, but I didn't see it as any darker than young adult that I liked a lot more and young adult I liked a lot less.

Caitlin's older sister Cassandra runs away on Caitlin's 16th birthday (what a bitch, right?  She couldn't have waited 24 hours?).  This throws her life into chaos and Caitlin spends the next months trying to both step into her sisters shoes, comfort her mother, and be nothing at all like Cass. The conflicting ideals of what she wants to do throws her into a world that she never thought she would be a part of. 

At times I wanted to shake Caitlin.  Why was she staying with Rogerson through all the emotional and physical abuse!?  However, this is where I give Dessen a lot of credit, Caitlin reads like a real person in an abusive relationship.  Rogerson is spoken of as though he were her meth or cocaine.

Gone Girl

Written By Gillian Flynn
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 2 and a Half Stars

I'm having a really hard time putting into words what I thought of this book.  On one hand it was incredibly easy to read, I've read reviews that said it was slow moving - I disagree - I thought it ebbed and flowed in such a way to make it compulsively readable.  On the other hand, however, all the characters were horrible and evil; I read characters more than I read plots and having such horrible characters just made me crazy.  Anyway, I'll just start writing and see where it leads.

Amy and Nick have been married for 5 years on the day that Amy goes missing.  Their house looks like there has been a struggle: furniture is flipped, their door is left open, etc.  One by one, as the clues come out, the investigation closes in on Nick.

Amy had a charmed life growing up, she was the inspiration for the wildly successful series of children's books, written by her parents, called Amazing Amy.  Nick and Amy met and lived in NYC, writing for various magazines, until they were both laid off.  When Nick's mother was diagnosed with cancer and his father's Alzheimers became much much worse, they move back to Missouri to take care of them.

The problem.  The people in the novel are horrible.  They're all evil.  Even though the books were called Amazing Amy, I was mentally combining Horrible Harry and Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Day to make up 
Horrible Harry Doing Awful Things on the Terrible Horrible No Good Day
Nick is terrible, Amy is terrible, the lawyer is terrible, the cops are terrible.  I hated them all.  I wanted them all to turn up murdered.

And just to make things even worse for me, I didn't have to "figure out" any of the twists of the novel. They were so obvious to me that I just knew them before they happened.  All right, there was one or two that I didn't see coming, but in a novel of that many twists and turns, they should have at least made me think, right? 

I did enjoy the readability factor, I wanted to see how it would wrap up (though the actual ending made me want to kill things), so I read it quickly.  It flowed well, even though it was just unwrapping one terrible thing after another.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mini Review: The Bell Jar

Written By Sylvia Plath
Original Publication Date: 1963
Rating: 4 Stars

Let me see if I can phrase this correctly.  I found The Bell Jar to be both an easy read and a difficult one.  Language-wise, the book was easy to read, it flowed; Plath has this way of giving you an entire picture with just a simple few words.  However, where I found it difficult to read was the bluntness and the truthfulness of the decent into a world inundated with dark thoughts and depression.  To some extent, especially when we're in our late teens, early twenties, I think this is something that everyone struggles with.  Trying to find your place in the world is a hard, scary, thing to do and some of us handle it better than others.  Plath encapsulated this in her vaguely autobiographical novel.  She was really writing about the "Quarter-Life Crisis" 30 or 40 years before the phrase came into vogue, and she did so brilliantly and truthfully.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ten Tiny Breaths

Written By K.A. Tucker
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 1 Star

Book Notes:
I received this ebook for free from the publisher, via Netgalley.

I'm sorry?  He's too beautiful to be a creep?  This is going to end badly, isn't it?  Pull out my hair, bad.

You know, I actually really like this main character.  Unless she's around Trent - then she turns into a simpering moron.

Women can fall in love or lust without turning into simpering morons, truly we can.  I know this is contrary to popular belief in the Romance genre, but it is true.

Why did I request this book?  Oh, right.  I fell victim to the "Oooooh.  Pretty Cover!" disease.  And then I actually read the summary, and felt a sinking in my stomach.  I hadn't read the reviews close enough before requesting it to realize that it was a book considered New Adult.  New Adult has been a genre I've been avoiding like the goddamned plague.  I think it's a bullshit genre made up as a publishing, marketing, gimmick.  "Hi, I'm a sad Twilight reader, I'm growing up.  I think I'm too old for Young Adult, but I can't handle Adult literature.  What do I read?  Oh wait!  This new genre is just for me!  New Adult!  It is easy to read like Young Adult, but it says the characters are between 18 and 25!  Just like me!  I'm a big kid now!"  Bullshit.  Fucking bullshit.  New Adult doesn't exist.  It's the writing style, not the age of the characters that makes a novel Young Adult or Adult.  I've read YA with 25 year old characters before, and I've read Adult literature where the main character is 6.  It's the style, not the age of the character.  The style that seems to make up New Adult is badly written Young Adult Romance.  We already have a genre for that.  It's called Young Adult Romance.

Anyway, I decided to put my preconceptions aside, and try to read this with a blank slate.  I was hoping it would surprise me.  I was wrong.

Kacey Cleary is 20 years old.  Four years ago, on the way home from a high school sports game, the car her father was driving was hit by a drunk driver.  Everyone in the car - her mother, her father, her best friend, her boyfriend - all died, except for Kacey.  Her little sister, Livie, was saved by a cold that had kept her home that afternoon.  Custody was taken by Kacey and Livie's Aunt and Uncle, until the day that their uncle climbs into bed with Livie.  Kacey and Livie run away to Miami, and that is where this novel starts.

The thing is that I actually think I liked Kacey as a character.  She was believably fucked up after the way she watched almost everyone she loved die around her.  She was constantly angry, but competent, could take care of herself.  Yes, she needed to get help, but the character was well built and interesting. 

 My biggest complaint about Kacey, is that authors have got to learn that "watery" is not an attractive sounding adjective for eyes.
Aren't my watery blue eyes beaaaaautiful!?
Cute, right?

And then we met Trent.  And that's where everything in this novel went bad.  Kacey takes one look at this man and decides that all her intellect is going to disappear.  She even says at one point that her instincts tell her that he is dangerous.  And yet, she still wants him?  Dafuq?  He's a goddamned stalker.  He follows her to work, to the gym, and just watches her.  And yet, they still date?


And then there's this twist, that I of course, had figured out way before the author revealed it.  I'm honestly still not sure what I think of this twist.  Of course it makes me hate that stupid romance x1000000 more than I already did.  Story-wise it was interesting, but romance-wise it made me want to pull out my fucking hair at the root.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Eyre Affair

Written By Jasper Fforde
Original Publication Date: 2001
Rating: 2 Stars

Book Notes:
Jasper Fforde is certainly tipping his hat to 1984 with the Goliath Corporation and the Crimean War.

"HyperBookwormDoublePlusGood."  That hat tip to 1984 just became a deep bow.


Your uncle has been kidnapped.  The bad guy just shot the crap out of your unit.  He's probably going to kill Martin Chuzzlewit, and possibly your uncle when he realizes he's been duped.


I had such, amazingly high hopes for this book.  I adored Shades of Grey  (no, not Fifty Shades of Grey, Godfuckingdamnit) and assumed that a novel written by the same brilliant quirky mind in a universe where you can step into novels, especially when stepping into one of my all time favorites, Jane Eyre, would be of the same caliber, if not better.  I was bloody disappointed.

Thursday Next is the stereotypical drop-in Female Agent Character; see The President's Daughter and Sympathetic Sue, from tvtropes, to see what I thought of how her character was built.  She was wanted by various parts of Special Ops because of what her father did in the Chrono Guard.  Her brother was lost at war, and because of something to do with this fact, she also broke up with her fiance of the time.  My real problem with Thursday as a narrator was that her entire focus was on the "pity me" crap from her past.  All she can think of during the climax(es) of the novel is of Landen, her ex-fiance.  I know she's a woman, but come on Fforde, we do think of things other than our men.

It made me want to kick her in the face hole.

Acheron Hades - what an evil name, right?  Okay, so he's kidnapped Thursday's uncle because he built the machine and bred the bookworms that allow one to step into fiction.  Okay, so he's stolen a manuscript or two.  But Gods above, he is taken as such Serious Business, and I don't see him as as evil as his name and his adversaries seem to make him out to be.  It just escalates too damn quickly for me to really see him as a villain, instead all I saw him as was a mostly-invincible dolt who wanted to be evil.  He was a Card Carrying Villain, instead of a truly evil man.

What really, really, disappointed me though, was that even though this novel is called The Eyre Affair, we don't really get to jump into Jane Eyre until two thirds of the way through the book, and it was so random after the first 2/3.  It seemed like two different stories that were really only barely related to one another.

It did earn itself a star because the stuff with Jane, Rochester, and Thursday was pretty fucking cool.  I just wish there'd been more of it.  And the parallels between Jane and Rochester and Thursday and Landen almost made Landen bearable - almost. 

And that ending!?  Dear Gods, we wrapped it up with a neat little bow.  And they rode off into the sunset, Happily Ever After.  

Headdesk.  Please excuse my while I shoot myself.

I am honestly not sure I care enough to read the rest of the series, which is really, really sad because I so loved Shades of Grey (I recommend it to everyone!).  I just fear that while this was Fforde's first novel (obviously) that this lack of editing continues.  He really needed a good editor for this book, but the series has done so well that I'm afraid he's been given free reign.  Though on the flip side of that same coin, I'm sure that in the past 12 years, the man has matured as an author and it'd be interesting to read one of the more modern Thursday Next stories.  Hmm.  We'll see.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Heretic's Daughter

Written By Kathleen Kent
Original Publication Date: 2008
Rating: 2 Stars

Book Notes:
Well, it's been a while.  This book took me quite a while to get through.  I just started a new job and I needed to be focused on that; besides, my new boss has been changing my schedule every 24 hours, so it's been hard to find much time to read.  I think it's finally settling down, so the reviews should come quicker again.  I will not let this job affect my reading.

Page 151
Finally the story's picking up!  Maybe I'll actually finish this sometime in the near future!

As a modern-day Pagan, with roots in modern Wicca, I was incredibly excited to finally find this title used, for cheap (hey, I was unemployed for a long time).  I had been wanting to read it for quite some time, as I have read a fuckload about the Salem Witch Trials, and love to visit the place.  To read a fictional account of real people who were part of the fiasco sounded awesome enough.  Add to that that Kathleen Kent is directly related to Martha Carrier?  Sounded like a gold mine to me.

Unfortunately, I found myself incredibly disappointed.  I guess I was hoping that because Kent is related to these people that she would have had a journal or something that would have added something more to these events that swept the colonies.  Maybe my hopes were simply too high.

I found the first 151 pages fairly boring, they were the day to day life of Sarah Carrier, daughter of Martha Carrier - one of the women hanged for witchcraft.  They were boring, but they did a decent job of exploring the conflicted relationship that every woman/girl has with her mother.  We love her, we hate her, we resent her, we need her, we blame her, we rely on her, we take her for granted.  By the end of the novel, I had actually decided that this relationship building part of the novel was more interesting than the Witch Trails themselves.

I thought it would get more interesting and pick up, once the Witch Trails came to Sarah's front door.  Damn, was I wrong.  I felt very little emotion come up from the page when Sarah's mother was arrested.  I felt very little when her brothers were arrested.  I felt very little when Sarah was arrested.  It plodded.  Somehow the drama of the Witch Trails was made boring.  Seriously, how is that even possible?  I've read completely non-fiction accounts of the events and they were less boring than this fictionalized account.

Some of the absolute best writing came from the last 50 pages or so, when Sarah is describing the prison scene and how the women either came together or pulled away to survive.  That, was the only part of the novel that I didn't label as boring.  The human emotion was truly raw and awesome during this time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mini Review: Deadpool MAX, Nutjob

Written By David Lapham
Illustrated By Kyle Baker
Original Publication Date: 2011
Rating: 2 Stars

I've read a handful of Deadpool comics, and this just didn't stock up against the other ones.  It simply wasn't as funny as it should have been.  In the comic book store where I bought this, I was flipping through the issues of the new story arc and they had me rolling.  Come on, his nemesis this time around is bringing presidents back from the dead to fight him.  There is nothing funnier than Deadpool punching Abe Lincoln in the face.  Sorry man, you know I have the greatest respect for you.  

This Deadpool, because the main perspective was Bob, his handler, lost a lot of the Deadpool charm.  Yes it was vulgar and silly, but seeing Deadpool through the eyes of someone who can't understand him is a little annoying.  Deadpool is wonderful in his self-deprecating randomness that goes on in his brain, and that was simply missing from this book because of the perspective.  Not a Deadpool win, in my opinion.

Mini Review: Wonder Woman, Love and Murder

Written By Jodi Picoult
Illustrated By Drew Johnson, Ray Snyder, Rodney Ramos, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson, & Paco Diaz
Original Publication Date: 2007
Rating: 2 Stars

Note: I decided to start a new kind of review for my graphic novels: Mini Reviews.  Graphic novels are simply hard for me to review as I'm not an artist, and don't have the kind of grasp of what good versus bad art is to give the novels the reviews they deserve.  So, now I've got a tag for those comic books/graphic novels/other books that I don't know how to review.

First of all, this is technically a second story arch in a series.  There is however a "Previously on Wonder Woman" page, where you can read what happened in the first novel.  Basically, Wonder Woman did something that society and the other heroes don't particularly agree with, and she has to go into hiding.  She is working as Diana Prince and is given the assignment to bring Wonder Woman in for her crimes.

It's interesting to see how Wonder Woman handles a "normal" human life.  There is very little that she understands intuitively.  Amazons are obviously an entirely different sort of culture and that was the last time she was "normal."  At one point her mother is brought back, and the kinds of issues she has with her mother are very human.  She's struggling to differentiate herself as well as to learn who she is in this human world.

Unfortunately, the crap that happens after she's in her Wonder Woman gear is simply ridiculous, and poorly done.  It felt like Jodi Picoult gave DC her ideas to make Wonder Woman more relatable, and they said "Gee, Picoult wants to make Wonder Woman more relatable to real women.  I guess we could do that.  Especially since then we can go right back to her being a sex object and never think of her as anything more ever again."  It was bastardized Picoult.

It was interesting, (especially because I am a Picoult fan) but not awesome.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Man in the Empty Suit

Written By Sean Ferrell
Original Publication Date: 2013
Rating: 4 Stars

Book Notes:
I received this ebook for free from the publisher, via NetGalley.
I wish I'd finished it yesterday (the 5th of February), as that was it's publication date, but I'd gone away for the weekend and didn't have any time to read.

"Port Authority Terminal - redundant stairs, inexplicable turns, and filthy dead ends ..."
Yes!  Yes!  and Yes!  Gods, I hate that place.

So many paradoxes.  Brain.  Ouch.

Beautiful last passage, but, wait?  what?  I want more.

Image source: www.reclusland.com
My brain feels something like this after reading this novel: full of explosions.  The Paradox Problem has always been an issue when a good author takes on time travel.  Sean Ferrell not only takes on the Paradox Problem, but throws it in your face.  The book has a little bit of a Doctor Who in Pompeii feel to it.

A time traveler, whose first name is never given (correct?  Unless I missed it somewhere) decides, when he's 19, that every year on his birthday, he is going to travel to 100 years after the date of his birth and get drunk with all past and future versions of himself.  Everything changes on his 39th birthday when he is The Suit, that year, he finds the Body.  The Body appears to be 6 months to a year older than he is.  How could this be?  There are Elders in attendance of the party, and Youngsters that are far younger than the Inventor.  On top of all this, there is a mysterious woman who has been invited by some version of himself and he's never noticed her before.  What has happened!?  Can he possibly save the Body's life and the life of this woman?!

Wait, What?  Yes, it really is just that confusing and terrifyingly awesome and wonderful.  I'm writing this review and still trying to figure out exactly what happened in this novel.  Any book I can finish and then immediately decide it deserves a re-read because everything loops into everything else earns some serious points in my book.  

There are rules that the versions of himself are supposed to follow at the party, to prevent Paradoxes.  Of course, he doesn't always follow these rules, because you can only watch yourself break your nose so many times before you try to stop it.  Every choice The Suit makes that doesn't follow the expected timeline of the Elders, untethers more and more of them, freeing them to make their own choices and to change their own lives.  As is put succinctly quite a few times, "Fuck the rules."  The more I think about it, the more I'm deciding that "Fuck the rules," is really the point of the novel.  Rules are made to be broken, and we can only truly be free when we follow our hearts and own ideals, rather than listening to how other people expect things to go.

My favorite quote of the novel is the last few sentences, and I'll share them with you, because I really don't believe it gives anything of the plot away.
"The future vibrated with uncertainty.  I had failed.  I had ignorance.  I had hope."

I do think this requires a re-read in 6 months, after I've mulled it over for a while.  I need to let my brain soak in it before I start again.  I think I'll take even more away from it, the second time around.

In summary:  Wait, what?!  Oh!  Sweet!  Awesome.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Paper Books versus eBooks

Well, since my Kindle Battery up and died on me in the middle of reading Man in the Empty Suit, I figure right now is a great time to do this particular post.  Damn you, battery life, damn you!

Image source: http://reviews.cnet.com/kindle-paperwhite/
I resisted the ebook revolution for a long time.  In fact my Kindle only turned a month old on the 25th of January.  I wasn't sure how I felt about losing my wall decor and how I felt about losing the charm of my physical books.  On top of that after the George Orwell Debacle of 2009, I was (and honestly still am) well and truly afraid of what would happen to all my precious books if companies went out of business (what did happen to folks who had the Borders ereader?).  So, not sure I was ever going to get over my want versus fear of ebooks, I basically decided to wait to see what happened.  What finally convinced me was that sometime during the past year, my father got a Kindle.  Getting to play with one from time to time and reading a  handful of books on it, decided me: I must have one.  Besides, Kindle just came out with a wonderful upgrade to their basic Kindle, the Kindle Paperwhite: an e-ink kindle with an adjustable light.  Did I mention that I think this should have happened earlier?  It was another feature I was waiting for before getting an ereader of my very own.

Now I have a New Toy.  No, my Kindle still doesn't actually have a name, because I'm still calling it New Toy.  I love it, I do.  However, I have to say, if my folks thought buying me an ereader was going to slow my buying of physical books, they were sorely mistaken.  My boyfriend knows me better than that, telling me that he was under no such illusion.  Now I just have two very large TBR shelves (physical and digital) that are constantly expanding.

Pros of Reading ebooks
  • You only need to bring one, fairly small, book shaped item with you on vacation to have access to your entire library.
  • There are many many many websites for finding free books, onehundredfreebooks being my particular favorite.  Sign up for their newsletter, and they send 15 free book options to your email account every evening.
  • Receiving books from publishers is instantaneous.  I don't need to wait for books to come in the mail from NetGalley - I just need to push a button and a few minutes later the book shows up on my Kindle.  Still need to be approved by the publisher, of course, but it cuts out a hella wait.
  • My Kindle Paperwhite makes it easier to read in bed when my boyfriend's still sleeping, because the light glows.  It's not very bright or harsh.
  • On the easier-to-read-front, those 1000 page books that we all love so much are now the same size as all the other books.  My wrists hurt much less after a couple of books on the Kindle.
  • Your favorite books don't fall apart. I go through copies of Clan of the Cave Bear every couple of years, I just read it a lot, and it'd be nice to have a copy that I could keep in pristine condition as well as one I can read anywhere, anytime.

Pros of Reading Paper Books
  • There is no chance of your book disappearing on you into the magical digital cloud in the sky.  (Yes, I understand how these devices work so well, don't I?)
  • You're more likely to be supporting small businesses.  I love my used bookstores, I could live in one and be totally happy.  Hm.  Retirement plans, mayhaps!
  • House Decoration.  There's nothing quite like walking into a library/study/bedroom that is lined with books.  The first time I walked into my boyfriend's biological mother's house I was transported by the books that lined just about every wall of her living room and kitchen.  My bedroom is lined with shelves, even using a closet as extra shelving, and I love the homey feel that the books invoke.  My dream house has a Beauty and the Beast style library.  I want big comfy chairs and ladders and every inch of every wall lined with books.  Oh!  And a hidden passage behind one shelf, of course.
  • The smell of books.  I find that the smell of a novel lends itself to the escapism that I want so badly from my books.  Especially the smell of used books.  When you crack that book for the first time and you smell perfume from an elderly woman or the dank smell of coffee that was spilled on the first page or even the crisp smell of a new book, the books becomes a portal not only to where the words take you, but to the life of the person who last read the book.
  • Loaning is so much easier with paper novels.  Has anyone else realized how fucking annoying it is that I can only lend certain books from my Kindle and only for 14 days?  Goddamnit, I bought the book, I should be able to let my friends and family read it.  Plus, I should be able to read my parents' books without having to switch Amazon accounts.  It's bullshit.  I have been introduced to some of my favorite authors from books lent to me from friends and family.  It's part of the culture that books bring.  The ereaders cut off some of the social aspect that I love about books.  Fuck you publishers, let me loan out whichever ebook I want to who I want for however long I want.
  • You never have to charge a paper book.

In conclusion: A book is a book is a book is a book is a story.  No matter how you read it, as long as you're reading.  Find a way to read, the way that is best for you.  I don't care if you read on scrolls, paperbacks, hardcovers, ebooks, just read.

Now, Goddamn you, Kindle.
Charge Faster!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

and all the stars

Written By Andrea K. Host
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 3 Stars

Book Notes:
I received this ebook for free from the publisher, via NetGalley.

Toxic ... glitter?

I just spent way too long trying to figure out how these people were flashing their torches.
Torches = Flashlights.  Derp.
Silly Australians.

Firstly, this cover is friggin' gorgeous.  I thought the little thumbnails I'd seen were beautiful, but when I blew it up for this review I realized how much detail I was missing, in the model's eyes, specifically.  and all the stars, obviously refers to the stars under the model's left eye, but honestly the more I look at this cover, the more I like it - it also could have been a reference to the sparkle in her eyes, or even the freckles on her neck.  Basically, the cover art gets a full five stars from me; the photographer in me enjoys all the details.

The books opens on Madeleine, regaining consciousness, in what used to be a train station - used to be.  She's surrounded by rubble, dead bodies, and a bizarre glittery dust is in the air.  All this destruction is caused by giant, featureless towers that seem to have sprouted from the Earth, spraying the strange dust that sparkles.  Finding her way out of the rubble, she is able to call her parents, and make her way to her famous cousin's apartment, where she showers off the glittering dust that she has become coated with.

Watching the news, and her own body, Madeleine discovers that she is turning ... blue.  Some of the population, like her, is turning blue, and some are turning green.  Not everyone is surviving this transformation, however, and soon those that do are seeking each other out to test what other changes this dust has brought to them.

The answer?  Hunger Games for body-hopping aliens!

I must say, I enjoyed quite a lot about this book.  The story was interesting and a bit unique in that it's definitely a post-apocalypse, but cell phones and news networks are still working and running - being taken care of by those that survive.  Usually post-apocalypse stories have a much more pessimistic view of the population, that people would chip in and actually keep things running, even if they're teens?  I don't know if I love it because it's got an optimism to it, or hate it because I'm not sure I can believe that that would happen.  I chose to love it.

I really liked the people that Madeleine teams up with, I find them to be fairly accurate representations of our teenage population.  My problem however, with these people is that they're fairly interchangeable.  They all different skills, but I had a really hard time remembering which one was which person.  It was rather confusing.  

I also found the flow of the writing not quite right.  Personally, I was definitely thrown by the amount of Australian slang, but that wasn't the only reason that I didn't think it flowed well.  Some of the sentences, I read quite a few times and they still didn't make sense, even within the context of the sentences before and after.

My last complaint was the Epilogue.  The book ended in a satisfying way, and then there was this epilogue that felt like someone screaming AND THEY ALL LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER!  THE END!!!  This is a problem I've seen in quite a few YA novels, the authors want to tie everything up, but it doesn't need to be gift wrapped for us.  Nothing wraps up that nice in the real world, and it seems like a cop-out.

In Summary:  Good book, with some problems.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Written By Ellen Hopkins
Original Publication Date: 2008
Rating: One and a Half Stars

I finished this book last night and I'm still not entirely certain what I want to say about it or how I want to rate it.  I wanted to sleep on it, mull it over - I'm still at a loss.  So, I'm just going to start writing and hope that whatever spills out gives me an appropriate star rating.

What the back of the book says: "Kaeleigh and Raeanne are identical down to the dimple.  As daughters of a district-court judge father and a politician mother, they are an all-American family - on the surface.  But behind the facade, each sister has her own dark secret."

First of all, during the entire book, I couldn't remember the girls' names, so I was calling them Twin 1 and Twin 2.  I'm probably just going to continue that into the review, because that'll let me have more of a stream of consciousness, try to get this all out.  

Twin 1 is being raped by Daddy, and Twin 2 wants to be raped by Daddy.  I almost had to stop reading on page 25.  

"...And if Daddy would just stand
still for me, I'd happily tap his core."

I threw the book against the wall at that point and walked away.  I was pissed, and honestly, I still am.  That was a clue that perhaps this book was written for the shock value, and not entirely for tackling the issue.  I know it's a hard issue to tackle, but I've read books with similar subject matters and none of them have left me with a book on the other side of the room and twitching.  Shock value is not synonymous with tackling difficult issues.  One of the reviews I read on Goodreads, that I can't find at the moment - if you find it, let me know and I'll link to it - called this book "trauma porn."  At this point I am inclined to agree.

Thank Gods after that point the I want to fuck Daddy, erotic language was largely dropped, because that's what made it seem like Hopkins was just trying to get a rise out of us.  There were definitely other scenes that I felt were written for their shock, rather than their value, but nothing that got such a disgusted reaction from me.

Twin 1 is the "weak" twin, who can't say no, is the lead in the school play (Grease).  Twin 2 is the "strong" twin, getting stoned daily, sleeping around with her dealers.  Both twins have eating disorders of various types, and deal with their pain in less-than-healthy ways.  Mom is always away, she's running for Congress, only returning for photo-ops.  Daddy's a judge and he's also an alcoholic, control freak.

It was almost a 600 page book, and I had the big twist figured out in the first 150 or so.  I think if I hadn't figured it out, I would have stopped reading.  It made some of the shock value stuff seem less out-and-out shock value.  I'd explain why, but if you still plan to read this, or are reading it and haven't figured out the big twist, I won't give it away for you.

I think that Ellen Hopkins is an incredibly talented author, I actually enjoyed the prose - and I am not a poetry person, not even a little.  What soured this book for me is that I didn't think she was actually tackling the big issue, I think she was writing to get a rise.  And she got one, but not in a good way.

I think that I'd be interested to read Crank, because that was based on her daughter, so it will probably be less shock-value and more actual value.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

I Hope You Find Me

Written By Trish Marie Dawson
Original Publication Date: 2012
Rating: 3 and a Half Stars

Riley survives, she doesn't know how or why, but she survives the Red Death.  The rest of the world has been wiped out by plague, her two children, her ex-husband.  She and Zoey, her faithful dog, set out for the city when they run out of water, though Riley doesn't actually know what she plans to do.  What she does know is that before the phones went out, she called everyone she knew and told them that if they made it to her house that she'd leave them a trail.  She leaves notes everywhere she stops, telling the people who she hopes will find her where she plans to go next.

In the city, she meets Conner, who had been in town on business when the plague closed the airport and wiped out everything he loved, across the pond.  He brings her back to the hotel that he's been living in, that has a generator and therefore the food hasn't gone bad and there's running water.  She finds herself drawn to him and stays with him, until someone does follow Riley's notes to them at the hotel.  The new couple of people leave the hotel in the night, and not on good terms with Conner and Riley.

Riley and Conner decide to move on after having an experience in the city with the dead that they cannot explain.  They go into the mountains to a "green" resort, figuring that it would be more likely to be sustainable and still have power. (Considering the world has been dead a couple months, a lot of these places seem to still have hot water)  There they meet up with various people, and what follows makes the bulk of the story.

The book was pretty enjoyable, on readability and flow it gets five stars.  On the creepy dead ghosts, it gets five stars.  On the journey it gets five stars.  Where it loses stars is that Riley must have a goddamned golden vagina.  At one point in the novel, the romance becomes a love pentagram, for Godssake.  Every male who meets Riley, wants her.  Fucking ridiculous, and the romance ended up taking up a bulk of the story, the dead things were creepy as fuck and I wanted to hear more about them, have more experiences with them, anything to do with them, really.

Conner and Riley were sort of an oddball matchup.  I enjoyed it, even though she kissed everyone else, but what I realized is that they're something like if Frannie and Larry Underwood were the main characters in The Stand, instead of Frannie and Stu.

The Stand, this book was not...  Entertaining, however, this book definitely was.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Anna Karenina

Written By Leo Tolstoy
Original Publication Date: 1873
Rating: 1 Star

Book Notes:
It's interesting that Stiva is described as "liked by all," when the first scenes of him are him defending his cheating ass.

So, do you suppose I'm ever actually going to meet Anna?

"... they ought to find out how to vaccinate for love."  This is such a depressing book: so cynical of love and marriage.  There's not a single happy relationship in this book.  And I'm less than pleased of the characterization of people who are faithful to their spouses as stupid.  I still believe in love, sue me.

This is the book that never ends.  Yes it goes on and on my friends.  Some people started reading it not knowing what it was, and they'll continue reading it forever just because ... 
Keep in mind, this book took me almost three weeks to read!  Fucking ridiculous.

I am not going to torture myself and write a real review of this book, it was painful enough for me to read, much less go back and try to deconstruct what I liked and didn't like.  I didn't hate everything in the book, Anna and Vronsky as well as Kitty and Levin were both interesting story lines.  The problem is that every time it switched couples we had to read chapters and chapters and chapters about farming (Levin) or society and politics (Vronsky).  It was godawful boring for 600 pages, and it didn't end when it should have, it went on for another 30 pages, musing about the existence of God!

After almost three fucking weeks, I was thrilled to finally finish the damn book:

Now back to your regularly scheduled "real" reviews.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Jenny Pox

Written By J.L. Bryan
Original Publication Date: 2010
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Book Notes:
As of this moment (01/06/2013 10:10pm), this book is available for free for the Kindle.

Morton.  That's an appropriate name.

You know, not a single popular girl in my high school was involved in her church, and certainly not in a manipulative sort of way.  I am not pleased by this church-going-manipulative-abstinent-bitch-popular-girl trope, not at all.  I hate it in Glee, I hate it here.  Though I think that's a rant for another day, because I liked this book too damned much to bitch about that ... much.

Jenny Morton is for all the world a normal girl.  Except she's not, not even a little bit.  Jenny can't ever touch another person or living creature without killing them of disease.  The book opens on a very young Jenny having the "don't touch anyone" rule being reiterated by her father.  She had picked up a snake that had erupted in disease and died on contact.  A fairly minor incident with kids on the playground leading in only a breakout of some sort of pox, but no death leads us to where the bulk of the book takes place.  Jenny is now 18 and wears long sleeves, long pants, and gloves at all times in public.  This reduces her risk of touching anyone at all, but has earned her the cruel nickname: Jenny Mittens.

Jenny's biggest enemy is a girl named Ashleigh.  Ashleigh is also 18, she is active in her church, running an abstinence program, is captain of the cheerleaders, is running for class president, and is generally loved by everyone who comes into contact with her.  When it comes to Jenny, however, Ashleigh has a dark and cruel side, which is helped not at all by the fact that Jenny isn't madly in love with her like the rest of the town.

Things get a little better for Jenny when she's going for a run, and meets up with Seth, Ashleigh's boyfriend, over the broken body of her dog - which had been hit by a car.  Jenny discovers that she can touch Seth and they strike up a friendship.  The obvious happens, and they fall in love, leading Ashleigh to hate Jenny even more.  This "school girl rivalry" is brought to an epic height in the ending of the novel, but you'll just have to read it to find out what that is.

One of the best parts of this novel?  People actually die.  We're not talking tame-ass young adult, "oh no they died, we're so sad," kind of death.  We're talking people melting and exploding and bleeding profusely.  They die horribly, and it is wonderful.  It's a story about a girl who brings death with her touch, it's nice that the author doesn't shy away from the kind of reality that it would bring.  It's actually one of the only times in the novel that the gender of the author shines.  It's strange to find a male author that does YA  fantasy like this well.  Fuck, it's strange to find a female author that does YA fantasy of this sort well.  There's something about the "Paranormal" genre (which I think was made up for marketing piss-poor fantasy romances, but that's a whole different rant) that usually drives me crazy.  It was really, really, nice to read one that was not only a good novel, but a good novel where the romance is secondary to the meat of the mythology created for the series.  I love a good Fantasy YA novel, and I think this was it.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Brightest Kind of Darkness

Written By P.T. Michelle
Original Publication Date: 2011
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Book Notes:
As of right now, 7:54pm on 01/03/2013 this book is free for Kindle.

I feel a YA love-interest rant.  I don't think P.T. Michelle deserves it any more than most YA authors, but I've had it up to here with this kind of love interest.

This asshole had better not be a vampire or a werewolf.  I was enjoying this book.

Okay, that's less annoying than being a vampire, but I still don't understand the 'leaping fences in a single bound,' thing.  It's a bit baffling.

Nara (legally Inara) has had a gift for most of her life.  Well, she seems to consider it a gift, I'm not sure I would - it sounds terribly boring.  Every night she dreams how her day will unfold in the coming hours, from beginning to end.  Due to an event from when she was a child, she doesn't like to change the timeline because she can't see (or always understand) the fallout.  That all changes when she dreams of her high school getting bombed; she cannot just sit back and watch, so she makes an anonymous tip to the police from a Wal-Mart.  This good deed throws her life into chaos.  Her powers seem to have mostly disappeared (except sporadically), and she doesn't know how to live her life in the real world without the precognition that's known for so long.  Even though that was boring to her, this is terrifying.

I think watching Nara trying to adjust to her powers being gone could have been a novel in and of itself.  It's fascinating.  It is really like she lost one of the major senses that she had used to understand her world.  With it gone, she's thrown into utter confusion.  Of course, she'd get used to it, but it's tantamount to someone losing their hearing or their sight; she's at a total loss when it disappears.

While all of this is going on, Nara is also navigating high school.  Her soccer team-mates are less than understanding when she stops blocking every single goal that comes her way.  Her best friend starts dating a douchenozzle and pulls away from her.  On top of this, she's falling for the new kid who is considered dangerous by almost everyone she knows.

Here is my love interest rant:  Ethan is taller than her, muscular, with long dark bangs and blue eyes.  He has a mysterious past.  He's been expelled from his last school.  He doesn't have any friends in this new school.  Her friends warn her about him continuously.  He draws dark things in his notebook and is tattooed.  Of course, you know he's just misunderstood.  He had a reason to do whatever he did at his last school.  And of course he falls madly and quickly for the heroine, doing whatever it takes to protect her.  Because all heroines need protecting, obviously.

Young Adult authors need to come up with a new love interest.  Fucking pronto.  You could transplant Ethan into any number of YA novels and nothing would need to be changed.  He's the generic "bad boy."  The problem is he's not a bad boy.  He's a troubled kid with no distinguishing characteristics from other troubled kids written into YA in the history of the genre.  I'd blame Twilight but really this problem preceded that piece of garbage.  However, I must say that Ethan was so much like every love interest since Twilight that I really was afraid that the guy was a vampire.  I would have stopped reading.

Please, please, please, I beg of you, please start thinking of new male love interests for female heroines in Young Adult Literature!  I'm on my hands and knees here.  I like YA, but I'm sick of reading the same exact love story over and over again.
/love interest rant

What is most interesting about this book is that even though it started a pretty basic YA fantasy, moved into annoying Twilight-zone, it ended in a very interesting Final Destination type of story-line.  Fate plays into it and is less than pleased with Nara and Ethan.  Everything is a domino effect in this novel, starting from the very beginning and it actually caught me off guard a little.  I probably would have picked up on it sooner if I weren't so focused on how much Ethan better not be a fucking vampire, damnit.

I ended up very much enjoying this novel.  I was pleasantly surprised by how it ended, honestly.  While nothing was really wrapped up (it the first in a trilogy) it was a unique sort of ending.  The personification of Fate was really well done, in my opinion.