Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Review: Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden ★★★★

Annie on My Mind Description:This groundbreaking book, first published in 1982, is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings. (From Goodreads)

My Review:
I picked this book up a while back, but I never actually got around to reading it. I started it, then set it aside, not because it wasn't good, but because it wasn't the right book for me at the given time. I don't remember what I decided to read instead, but I've been meaning to finish this one for a while now. So, I decided to pick this back up again, and I'm glad that I did, because it was lovely and touching.

Annie On My Mind is Liza Winthrop's coming-of-age story of how she met Annie Kenyon, became friends with her, and eventually fell in love with her. Reading the story, it's not hard to understand how these two girls could love one another. They are both lively, fun and imaginative, intuitive and unique. They both are kind of loners who find in each other an understanding that each thought was impossible, or at the very least, improbable. Liza mentions how they feel as if they are two parts of a whole, and refers to Greek literature which claims that the gods made everyone with two halves in all combinations (male/female, male/male, female/female), and then split them apart. Liza claims to have found her other half.

I am fully of the opinion that people should be free to live and love as they choose. I think that the arguments against homosexuality are mainly based in fear and ignorance, not to mention the utterly ridiculous, such as the "If we let gays marry, then what's next, human/animal marriages?" argument. Last I checked, gay people are able to think and communicate their wants and needs, and more importantly, enter into a legally binding, consentual contract, which is to my knowledge, something Gertie the Cow just can't do.

This book generally focuses on the religious aspect, with the characters who are offended by Liza and Annie's relationship indicating that homosexuality is immoral and an abomination, although they don't get too overtly preachy, as much as just nasty in their disgust. I am not a religious person, as most people who know me by know are aware of, and I admit that it baffles me how people who are against homosexuality cherry-pick this one biblical "law" to follow, when so many other tenets of the bible are outdated and abhorrent, like requiring death for working on the Sabbath, as one example.

My least favorite character in the book was definitely Liza's friend Sally. She, more than anyone else, made me angry, because she couldn't even claim to have her own opinions on the matter, and just let herself be herded into the opinion that it was wrong, and just blindly accepted that was the case. She made me all the angrier for having the audacity to compare a life decision to a piddling mistake in judgement, and then condemn Liza, and homosexuality itself, as being a mental illness. This kind of attitude really makes me angry, since we have come so far toward tolerance of different ways of life, and yet still have so very far to go.

I really liked both Annie and Liza, and could identify with their feelings, even though I have never experienced that type of situation before. I thought that Nancy Garden did a fantastic job in portraying the newness and uncertainty of their relationship. It was certainly awkward, and as much as things progressed kind of naturally from Point A to Point B to Point C, as it would in any relationship, it held that extra bit of uncertainty and fear due to the stigma of their being two girls, rather than a traditional boy/girl couple.

I love how they tested the waters together, found that there were waves and a strong current, but still found the courage to keep swimming. This is definitely a book that every young person, or, really every person should read. It is a very personal, and intimate look at the way we can find who we are when we least expect it, and how we must be brave and trust in ourselves once we do.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Review: Naked In Death by J.D. Robb ★★★★

Naked in Death (In Death, #1) Description: It is the year 2058, and technology now completely rules the world. But New York City Detective Eve Dallas knows that the irresistible impulses of the human heart are still ruled by just one thing-passion.

When a senator's daughter is killed, the secret life of prostitution she'd been leading is revealed. The high-profile case takes Lieutenant Eve Dallas into the rarefied circles of Washing-ton politics and society. Further complicating matters is Eve's growing attraction to Roarke, who is one of the wealthiest and most influential men on the planet, devilishly handsome . . . and the leading suspect in the investigation...
(From Goodreads)

My Review: 4 of 5 stars
I grabbed this one from the library yesterday after having it pushed on me by a friend. So I borrowed, I read, and I liked. This was a very quick read, and felt even more so due to the fact that the library only had it in large print, so it seemed like every 19 words, I was turning a page.

I have only read maybe 1 or 2 Nora Roberts books, but I never really found it high on my priority list to read more. But I really enjoyed this one, and it was a quick and fun read, so I think that I will be reading more of this series as time and obligation permits.

I really liked the character of Eve Dallas. She is tough, and smart, and upstanding and courageous and badass. She doesn't shy away from anything but intimacy and trust, simply because those things have hurt her in the past. Sounds pretty cliche, of course. But she's got heart and a soft side that makes her likable and easy to identify with and root for.

Roarke is yumtastic. He's rich, powerful, brilliant, unscrupulous but honest and trustworthy, and unafraid of doing the things that need doing even if the accepted or legal method needs to be detoured. I thought that it was a little unrealistic for him to be so attached to Eve so quickly, but many people believe in love (or at least lust) at first sight, so I can move past it. And I find it sexy, (even more than the sexytime scenes, which had me wiping the steam from the pages just to see what was going on), that he was willing to be there for Eve and support and help her.

I don't read a lot of romance, or romantic suspense or whatever. But a friend of mine is laboring to change that. I think this is the second romantic suspense novel that she's got me to read, and I have to say that I still love Diaz (from Cry No More - Linda Howard) just a smidge more. He's ruthless hardcore badass/sensitive, which is soooo sexy to me. But Roarke has many an opportunity to become more badass and ruthless, as he's in like 47 other books, and Diaz is only in a standalone. Breakin' my heart, Diaz!

I really enjoyed the plot of this one, and the pacing. Roberts/Robb kept everything moving right along, and exciting. I liked that this is set in the future, as it gives a little more wiggle-room with details and story that doesn't require walking the same path that everyone else has walked. I liked the way that she portrayed the not-to-distant future, as a far more free and open society that has moved past a lot of the ugliness that we now have, but she shows that we have still hung on to some of the most insidious ugliness that there is.

I will definitely be reading more of these in the future. I very much enjoyed it, and look forward to the next one. :)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

In My Mailbox (2) & What are you Reading?

"In My Mailbox" is a weekly meme hosted over at The Story Siren in which we can share the books that we've acquired that week with the world -- or at least the little piece of it that reads my blog. :)

"What are you Reading?" is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila from BookJourney where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

Alrighty... My boyfriend has got the camera today, so I can't take any book photos myself (at least not any decent ones, and the camera in my phone is horrid), so we'll be using images from the 'net today.Sorry, no Alfie or Indica cat-pics today. Oh, also...You might notice a little bit of a pattern this week regarding the books that I got. I noticed it last night and had a little bit of a chuckle over it. Let's see, shall we?


First up, we have As Meat Loves Salt by Maria McCann.
Description: Torn in two by a vicious civil war, seventeenth-century England was the scene of extraordinary violence. Among the soldiers traveling the country from one deadly battle to another is Jacob Cullen, a former servant who dreams of baptizing himself with the blood of battle into a new life after the war. Only his brewing erotic obsession with a fellow fighter threatens his plans. (From Goodreads)

I bought this one at my library's booksale. It's the only one that really caught my eye and said "BUY ME!!", and so I made it out surprisingly easily with one book for $1. I'm proud of myself!

Library Books:

Next, we have The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn.
Description: With a modest inheritance and the three gowns that comprise her entire wardrobe, Theodora leaves Edinburgh — and a disappointed suitor — far behind. She is bound for Roumania, where tales of vampires are still whispered, to visit an old friend and write the book that will bring her true independence.
She arrives at a magnificent, decaying castle in the Carpathians replete with eccentric inhabitants: the ailing dowager; the troubled steward; her own fearful friend, Cosmina. But all are outstripped in dark glamour by the castle's master, Count Andrei Dragulescu.
Bewildering and bewitching in equal measure, the brooding nobleman ignites Theodora's imagination and awakens passions in her that she can neither deny nor conceal. His allure is superlative, his dominion over the superstitious town, absolute — Theodora may simply be one more person under his sway.
Before her sojourn is ended — or her novel completed — Theodora will have encountered things as strange and terrible as they are seductive. For obsession can prove fatal...and she is in danger of falling prey to more than desire.
(From Goodreads)

This was something of a whim, as Allison over at The Allure of Books keeps raving about Raybourne's series (the Lady Grey series) and I want to try it, but I couldn't remember anything about the series while I was at the library, of course, so I got this instead. We shall see! :)

I also got Naked In Death by J.D. Robb
Description: It is the year 2058, and technology now completely rules the world. But New York City Detective Eve Dallas knows that the irresistible impulses of the human heart are still ruled by just one thing-passion.

When a senator's daughter is killed, the secret life of prostitution she'd been leading is revealed. The high-profile case takes Lieutenant Eve Dallas into the rarefied circles of Washing-ton politics and society. Further complicating matters is Eve's growing attraction to Roarke, who is one of the wealthiest and most influential men on the planet, devilishly handsome . . . and the leading suspect in the investigation...
(From Goodreads)

This was another recommendation from Allison. She persuaded me to read this one, so I read it last night and really enjoyed it. Steamy and entertaining and fast-paced. Really enjoyable. :)

So, as for what I read this week:

I mentioned that I read Naked In Death by J.D. Robb... Look for my review on Monday!
Also I read Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden... Look for my review on Tuesday!
And Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen for Jane in June. View my review!
I also read a secret book in order to make a bookmark inspired by it... As people who are participating in the bookmark swap also follow my blog, I can't mention the book... but I will say to look for a review of it at a later date. Oooh, don't you just LOVE a mystery?? ;)

Upcoming this week:

I plan to read:
Airman by Eoin Colfer
Sold by Patricia McCormick
If I Stay by Gayle Forman (These three are part of the giveaways that I'm hosting!)
The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn
and The Passage by Justin Cronin (if I have time).

I've had a long standing arrangement with Fiona over at The Book Coop that we'd re-read the Harry Potter series in July, and I hope to be able to do that. But things are a little complicated, because I'll be flying out to San Francisco on July 14th for my brother's wedding, and so my reading plans will probably have to take a backseat to that... *sigh*

So anywho... That's what I got In My Mailbox and What I'm reading this week... What about you? :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Review: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen ★★★★

Northanger Abbey Description: "While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry's mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy?" (Source: Goodreads)

My Review:
I must start this review by saying that I had completely misrepresented this book in my head prior to starting it. After seeing it described as Austen's "Parody of a Gothic Mystery", I thought that it would be just that: that the heroine here would need to solve "The Mystery" (later revised about 30 pages in to "The Mystery of the Missing Mr. Tilney" after he mysteriously disappears), but I could not have been more wrong. (I tend to do that.)

This is a lovely and funny coming-of-age slash romantic comedy slash social parody with essence of a gothic mystery added to the latter half. Catherine Morland is something of a good-intentioned, honest-to-a-fault, persuadable, cup is half-full kind of a girl, who loves exciting romantic mystery novels. She's indulged as far as education goes by her parents not exactly requiring her to have any, but this really allowed her to be something of a blank slate - willing and eager to learn and be taught, and humble to a fault in assuming that the entire world is more knowledgeable than she, so she defers to the informed decisions of her friends... at least until she learns that she's misjudged some of them. I really liked the subtle way in which Austen communicated Catherine's thoughts and feelings to us. She did a great job in showing how naive Catherine is without making her into a simpleton.

The Thorpes are, to put it bluntly, utterly ridiculous. They honestly made this story for the sheer fact of their utter ridiculousness providing conflict and anxiety for poor innocent Catherine, and more than a little comic relief for the reader. Their perception of things, and the way that they interact with the world is quite funny, although it must have been pretty shocking back then.

The Tilneys on the other hand, were proper and true friends to Catherine, never proclaiming it, just doing it. They are the embodiment of actions speaking more loudly than words. They are kind, and sympathetic and good-hearted. I loved Henry Tilney. He is funny, witty, smart and understanding. He may be up there with Darcy and Wentworth among my favorite Austen men. His speeches were very enjoyable, even if they do have a slightly condescending "inferior female" air to them. That was the norm then, and despite that, Henry is certainly more understanding and kind to women than most men are. I loved that he was willing to explain things that Catherine did not understand, instead of patting her on the head and clucking over how precious little Miss Morland is.

I really enjoyed watching Catherine come into her own, and I enjoyed watching her make mistakes and learn from them. She is so innocent and naive and pure, and just generally good that you can't help but like her. It really had me laughing to see how oblivious poor Catherine was to all innuendo and hints, but then pride herself on her cunning suspicions regarding the mysterious death of someone who'd lived at Northanger Abbey previously. When she is proved wrong, she is deeply ashamed and concerned over the way her suspicions may have affected others, which is refreshingly unselfish and honest, and I just loved her for it.

There were two things that dropped this down from a 5 star to a 4 star for me. First was the narration interrupting the story. Granted, sometimes this was useful and moved the story along, but it just seemed strange and out of place to me here. The second was that the ending felt a bit rushed and unfinished. I would have liked to have seen some the the shining wit and understanding that Henry had previously shown come out when he spoke with her at her house. Rather, it was all just narrated and glossed over. I understand the reason for this, but I can still be disappointed by it.

Overall, I really did like this one, although it turned out to be a bit different than I'd been expecting. Very enjoyable!!

View all my reviews >>

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday Flashback Review (3): The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan ★★★★

Created by JG, The Introverted Reader,  "Friday Flashback" is a weekly feature of older review from another source (Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon, whatever) on the blog. As I've just started my blog, and I have quite a few reviews on Goodreads, this is perfect for me.

In honor of the on-going battle between Zombies (defending army commander: Sharon) and Unicorns (defending army commander: April), I thought I would take my own little stand. Current unofficial, totally biased count taken by me has the score at Zombies:1, Unicorns, zilch. I do believe that my review here will have Zombies up 2. What's your play, Unicorn?

So, without further ado... On with the winnage. ;)

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth, #1)Description: In Mary's world there are simple truths.

The Sisterhood always knows best.
The Guardians will protect and serve.
The Unconsecrated will never relent.
And you must always mind the fence that surrounds the village; the fence that protects the village from the Forest of Hands and Teeth.

But, slowly, Mary's truths are failing her. She's learning things she never wanted to know about the Sisterhood and its secrets, and the Guardians and their power, and about the Unconsecrated and their relentlessness. When the fence is breached and her world is thrown into chaos, she must choose between her village and her future-between the one she loves and the one who loves her.

And she must face the truth about the Forest of Hands and Teeth. Could there be life outside a world surrounded in so much death?

My Review:
I ♥ zombies.
I know, I know, big secret. I say so on my profile page. But what I really love are zombie apocalypses. I love the terror of feeling that you're alone and there are legions of the undead swarming around and the only thing between you and certain (but temporary) death is a marginal amount of luck and maybe a little skill.

I love apocalyptic fiction on its own, of course. But there is just something about zombie apocalypses. Now you're not just on your own to fend for yourself in an empty world... Now you have to fight off zombies who want nothing more than to see what you taste like. Gives me a shiver every time.

This book was a really good ZA story. The zombies were exactly the kind that I love. Ruthless, eternally hungry, and persistent. Dead, broken, and hungry, just the way I like them. The zombies, or the Unconsecrated, as they are called in the story, set the tone for the rest of the book, and it's pretty dark.

Set an unspecified number of years after the Return (I'm guessing probably about 100 to 150?), we're shown what the world has narrowed to: a little village surrounded on all sides by teeming undead and run by the fervently religious Sisterhood. We're shown that at this point in time, nobody currently alive in the village has ever been or even seen outside of their village/world, and believe that they are the only remaining island of the living left.

The Sisterhood does well to encourage and teach this line of thinking, with the "For The Good Of All" mentality that's so popular among those who hold power. They don't want a breach in their fences when people go looking for something else, which is understandable. They don't want people to harbor a hope that may never be realized when instead they could simply live their small and semi-sheltered lives within the village. So, to this end, they teach and believe that the world outside is gone, and the village is all that is left. Until everything changes with an outsider showing up.

The story was pretty suspenseful, and I never really knew what was coming. I enjoyed the concept of love vs. duty and commitment, and the confusion that arose from that.

I loved Mary's character and her conflicting desires to follow her heart in two different directions while still trying to do the right thing. She was completely believable in the situation that she was put in. I also loved Travis's character. He stole my heart from the moment he covered for Mary in the Cathedral to prevent her from being caught breaking her vow of silence. I have to say that he was my favorite character, and I loved him for his sadness and devotion to Mary when she wanted to risk everything following her dreams.

I devoured this book... The zombies, the conflicts and confusion and romance and terror and hope. I wish I could give it 5 stars, but unfortunately, I can't. I had a bunch of unanswered questions, and there were quite a few things that just didn't make sense to me. The ending was left pretty ambiguous, but I'm OK with that. I have other issues that I wish were addressed in a more acceptable way.

For instance, Mary talks about how important it is for everyone to marry and have babies so that they can keep the village alive, and how there was an illness that reduced the number of marriageable people her age to a whopping 4: her best friend, her two brothers-in-law (whose sister is married to Mary's brother), and herself. Now, I find it a bit unbelievable that an illness would wipe out all but two intact families and one loner who happens to be Mary's best friend.

Also, Sister Tabitha, who heads up The Sisterhood, has an uncanny knack for knowing exactly what Mary is up to at pretty much all times, yet when Mary makes a big discovery (and a LOT of noise doing it), not a soul shows up to find out what's going on, and it's never mentioned.

In addition to this, I think that the writing was a bit clumsy in some places, and the editing could have been tighter. Sentence structures were such that the line would read differently in my head than it should have, and I'd have to reread it again to understand what was going on. And Ryan used far too many sentence fragments in her writing. I understand that sometimes they work and work well, but they should fit the flow and enhance the story, not detract from it or cause confusion, which they did in a couple cases.

But, overall, I thought that the story was well done and intriguing. It certainly kept me guessing, and didn't pull any punches, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it.

(Unicorn brains are a zombie delicacy! :P)

Do the Blog Hop... Now with Follow Friday! (3)

If you're stopping by from the hop, don't forget to enter to win one of the giveaways I'm currently hosting: Click here for the details and to enter to win!!!

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly event hosted over at Crazy-for-Books where "book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!" It lasts Friday-Monday each week, so if you don't have time to join today, you can still join later. It's easy to participate! All you have to do is go to the post linked at Crazy For Books and enter the following information: the name of your blog, how long you've been blogging, and what genres you primarily review.

Follow Friday is hosted at Parajunkee's Blog. Here's the info:

To join the fun and make now book blogger friends, just follow these simple rules:

   1. Follow the Follow My Book Blog Friday Host { Parajunkee.com } and any one else you want to follow on the list
   2. Follow our Featured Bloggers -  www.fangswandsandfairydust.com
   3. Put your Blog name & URL in the Linky thing.
   4. Grab the button up there and place it in a post, this post is for people to find a place to say hi in your comments
   5. Follow Follow Follow as many as you can
   6. If someone comments and says they are following you, be a dear and follow back. Spread the Love...and the followers
   7. If you want to show the link list, just follow the link below the entries and copy and paste it within your post!

And now, here are ten new blogs that I've found via these hops for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
A big thank you to both Crazy for Books and Parajunkee's View for hosting these hops, and a huge thank you to my followers! :)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Character Connection - Roland Deschain

 Character Connection is a weekly meme hosted by Jen at The Introverted Reader every Thursday. It's where we get to discuss our favorite book characters and what we love about them!

I'm going to surprise absolutely nobody who knows me or has read my blog (or has ever talked to me about books) and do my very first Character Connection post on a Stephen King character, Roland Deschain. Surprise! It's a good bet that if you have read anything King has written, it is connected in some way to Roland's world. He is one of my favorite characters, and if you haven't already met him, I'd like to introduce you.

Roland Deschain's epic journey starts with one of the best opening lines I've ever read: "The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." With this line, we're thrown into Roland's world and follow him as he follows the man in black, whoever he is. Almost before we even know the gunslinger's name, we see his sheer determination, his single-mindedness and his ruthlessness in action in a decision that would end the journey of many a lesser man. Throughout Roland's journey, but especially in the first book of the series, this is the theme that dominates: a complete willingness to do anything, sacrifice anything to reach his goal. It's not clear whether we should be rooting for him or against him at first, and he doesn't let us know until we're already fascinated by him and in awe of him... perhaps against our will.

This is a man who has been trained to be the best at what he is (a wise-beyond-his-years, but ruthless killer who nevertheless seeks to uphold peace). He is descended from an almost mythic King Arthur-like ancestor through an unbroken line of diplomats, known in Roland's world of Gilead as gunslingers, and he has lived through trials and loss and hardship before even reaching the age of 15 that would have had grown men calling for their mommies. But as we follow him, and learn more about this gunslinger, and as he intersects with people who will change his path and his life, we learn that there is a depth to him that is unexpected to say the least.

Learning about his ultimate quest is one of those unexpected depths. One would think, given the lack of information about both the tracked and the tracker, and keeping in mind the doggedness and the grim determination with which the tracker hunts down the man in black, that this would be a revenge quest, or maybe a bounty hunt, or something along those lines, but no. Roland's quest is no selfish or for-profit act - he is willing to go to the ends of the earth and back for nothing less than to save the universe, or rather the universes, because there are many, and all hinged on one central spoke, which of course is the dark tower itself.

Roland's journey almost literally does take him to the ends of the earth, and just about every point in between. On the way, he battles all the forces of evil, with its many incarnations and faces and whispers and tricks, and finds companionship, understanding and help when he is in despair, all to try to save that which matters most. And in return, if he succeeds, he has a chance at salvation... if he's deserving of it.

Roland is one of my all-time favorite characters. He's brilliant and ruthless and harbors secrets and pain that would be impossible for a mere mortal to cope with. But he's Roland, and the road he chose to walk is necessarily one of pain, so he deals with it and pushes on relentlessly. And I admire him for his noble selflessness and sacrifice. His strength, of body, mind, and character, makes him one of the most fascinating characters I've ever met. I thought of Roland and his world when I named my blog, because reading about him and his quest is like slipping into his world and leaving my own.

"Go then... There are other worlds than these."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King ★★★

The Beekeeper's Apprentice (Mary Russell, #1)Description: What would happen if Sherlock Holmes, a perfect man of the Victorian age--pompous, smug, and misogynisitic--were to come face to face with a twentieth-century female? If she grew to be a partner worthy of his great talents? (From Goodreads)

My Review:
This book is one that has been recommended to me by quite a few people... I probably would have never picked it up, having practically no interest in beekeeping myself (although I certainly do think that bees are important... SAVE THE BEES!), but people kept telling me to read this, read this, read this now! So, I finally got around to reading it, only to find that the expectations that I'd set for it actually hampered my enjoyment of this book.

I've only read one Sherlock Holmes story, the first one, "A Study in Scarlet", and I enjoyed it. Holmes is different than I'd ever really thought of him, since we always see him represented in that awful cape and earsie-hat with a pipe in his mouth and a magnifying glass in his hand, and a handlebar mustache, practically with a speech bubble over his head that says "Elementary, my dear Watson!". This old-fashioned fogey sleuth of a Sherlock Holmes is nothing like how he's actually represented- as an eccentric, misogynistic, drug-using genius who deep down has an intense and unshakeable love for humanity. He's quite the character.

As is young Mary Russell, who contains a similarly working mind to Holmes's and who has an eye for detail and a loneliness that Holmes endeavors to fill, and in the course of this friendship, he begins to shape and mold her into his assistant. They become very close, and have a very complex relationship: part equal partnership-slash-father/daughter-slash-mentor/pupil. They respect one another, but do not shy away from saying what needs to be said.

The relationship between Russell and Holmes takes center stage here. That's what the book is focused on. Russell narrates for us, and gives us more of an understanding of things from her side, and shows us not only the Holmes that people see, but the Holmes as he is. This is what the book is about, and that is made abundantly clear by the sheer amount of time dedicated to this facet of the story. Russell takes us from meeting, to meeting of the minds, to friendship, respect and then love... all the way through to the dedication and sacrifices that they are willing to endure to retain their bond.

The writing style here was gorgeous and appropriate for the early 20th century language and formality that would have been in use then. The French variations of words are used to lend both an air of formality and authenticity to the time, locale and education of the characters, for instance, words like "rôle" and "débris".

The writing was also very, very descriptive. Almost too much, I have to say. I know that it makes sense, and adds a believability to Russell's character to have done this - I mean, who is going to believe a 19 year old who on par with Sherlock Holmes just on her word? She's got to prove her eye for detail and retention. I get that, but here, the language, while still beautiful, hindered the story, because while I'm impatiently waiting for the action, the narration is moving along at a leisurely Sunday drive through the country pace.

Add to that that the story proper didn't even get started until halfway through the book, and I have to admit I got a little impatient. I was expecting a kind of fast-paced exciting ride, with unpredictable Holmes at the wheel taking us careening through seedy London underground life, recklessly charging in and saving the day, but that wasn't what I got at all. To be honest, the mystery plot, the one that involves someone trying to kill Holmes and Russell and everyone Holmes loves, felt very much like an afterthought. Almost as if the author wanted to write about a plucky young orphan being mentored by Sherlock Holmes, forgot about the conflict until midway through, and then just edged it in where possible.

I'm not saying this to fault the author -- the story was good, and the writing was great, but this is definitely one case where expectation worked against me. This is a book for a lazy rainy weekend, not one for someone looking for a vicarious thrill-ride.

I may pick up the next in the series one of these days, but if I do, I think I will pick up the audio version... by all accounts it is very good, and I think that this story would lend itself to audio quite well. :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

50 Follower Celebration Giveaway!

It seems kind of crazy that in less than a month of blogging, I've already made it to 50 followers... I started this blog because Allison, who had recently started hers over at The Allure of Books made it sound so fun. I thought it would be fun to foist my opinions on others review and talk about books in a more open format than just on Goodreads, which is where I'd found my bookish home until recently. I didn't expect followers, really, so needless to say I'm very appreciative and grateful to everyone who has enjoyed my blog enough to follow it, and I am so excited that I just feel the need to show my appreciation by giving stuff away.

To wit: I will be holding a giveaway... or well, three, actually. :) Hey, why not go all out for the celebration, right? And, just to be weird, these giveaways will not have anything to do with the number of followers I have now. This will be something of a 1,2,3 giveaway.

Here are the details... *melodramatic drumroll*

I will be offering the following giveaways:
1st Winner's choice of one (1) of three (3) Amazon pre-orders. (Options below.)
2nd Winner will receive one (1) book and one (1) $10 B&N Gift Certificate.
3rd Winner will receive a YA prize pack of three (3) books.
See my theme? ;)

Winner's Choice of ONE of the following books:
1) Clockwork Angel (Infernal Devices #1) Pre-order (Available August 31, 2010)
2) Linger (Sequel to Shiver) (Available July 20, 2010)
3) Mockingjay (Book 3 in the Hunger Games trilogy) (Available August 24, 2010)

Book ("If I Stay" by Gayle Forman) + 1 $10 B&N Gift Certificate/Card*:

and a $10
(*Please note: B&N Gift may be in the form of an online certificate or an actual gift card depending on if I have a chance to get to a B&N.)

A YA Prize Pack containing:
1) Airman by Eoin Colfer
2) Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden
3) Sold by Patricia McCormick

-You must be a follower of this blog to be eligible to win.
-If you advertise this giveaway (Twitter, Facebook, Sidebar, etc) you'll get +1 entry. (Leave a comment if you've advertised!)
-This is open to US Addresses ONLY. (Sorry international peeps, my funds are tight!)
-All contests end on July 3, 2010!

ONE WINNER will be chosen for each giveaway. You may enter all three, but can win only ONE prize... Meaning if your name comes up for a second giveaway, I will try again, so that I have three separate winners. It's only fair - three giveaways, three winners. :)

Click Here To Enter 1ST GIVEAWAY!

Click Here To Enter 2ND GIVEAWAY!

Click Here To Enter 3RD GIVEAWAY!

Good luck!! :)


PS. Don't forget to check out Allison's blog over at The Allure of Books! She is offering a pre-order of PARANORMALCY by Kiersten White!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox" is a weekly meme hosted over at The Story Siren in which we can share the books that we've acquired that week with the world -- or at least the little piece of it that reads my blog. :)

This is my first "official" In My Mailbox post. This should be short but sweet, since I didn't get all that much, but who cares about that? Look what I DID get!! :)

This is my "eldest child" Alfie, reading by osmosis. He's been hearing me talk about The Passage so much that he just had to see what all the fuss was about. You can tell it's good because of the slight glaze in his eyes... Reading good books does that to him.

In the pic we have:
  • The Passage by Justin Cronin - Need I say more? This is THE "IT" book right now, and all the cool people are reading it. I would totally be out of the "In" crowd if I don't read it. O_o (But really though - it's post-apocalyptic and I LOVE me some post-apocalyptic fiction!)
  • If I Stay by Gayle Forman - This was a spur of the moment decision in addition to The Passage. I grabbed it because I love me some "achingly beautiful" stories. I hope it lives up to that quote!!

I forgot to get a picture of this one, which is Boomsday by Christopher Buckley, so a regular google image will have to do. I picked this one up on a whim a while back from the bargain bin at B&N. I LOVE the movie "Thank You For Smoking", which is based on a Christopher Buckley book, so I decided to pick this one up. Looks intriguing!

So there you have it! That's what was in my mailbox this week, what was in yours?? :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

On this day... June 19th

Today is kind of an important day for me, historically speaking. I mean, it's a Saturday, so no work (which is cause for celebration in itself!), it's beautiful and sunny and there are birds chirping and green everywhere and the river is about 6 blocks from me. I think I'm going to take a walk there this afternoon because it's just one of those days where you kind of want to be out and about and not cooped up in the house. So today is already a good day. But today has two important and special meanings to me as well, and that, rather than the pretty weather and my afternoon plan, is what I wanted to actually write about.

First up, is Juneteenth. I have to say that this holiday is one of my favorites, even though it's not one that is traditionally celebrated or marketed or anything. You'll usually see a 45 second story on the 6pm local news, or if you live in an area where slavery was once a staple, or in an area where a Civil War battle was held, you might get a bit more, like a feature story highlighting the history and the evolution of the day. Juneteenth is generally not remembered by people in the same way that Christmas, or Thanksgiving or Halloween are, for example. There's no Juneteenth Specials! at the local car dealership or furniture store, there isn't a lot full of Juneteenth trees, etc. But this day is one that I always remember, every year since I first learned about Juneteenth, even if it's only remembered and celebrated in my own head.

This day makes me immensely proud and happy to be an American, more than Memorial Day or Flag Day or even Independence Day, shocking as some may find that statement. I know that those other holidays are important, and I celebrate them, but Juneteenth is special to me. I'm not black, nobody in my family history was a slave, or a slave owner, to my knowledge, but I just consider a day honoring freedom for ALL, and equality and opportunity and the end of slavery as being special, and something that we should all honor and be proud of in our history and culture.

"Juneteenth" (the word) is the amalgamation of "June" and "Nineteenth", and commemorates June 19, 1865, when slaves were finally freed from Galveston, Texas. On June 18, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger and 2,000 troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take possession of the state and enforce the emancipation of its slaves. On June 19, 1865, legend has it while standing on the balcony of Galveston’s Ashton Villa, Granger read the contents of “General Order No. 3”:
"The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."
(Cited: Wikipedia)

To me, Juneteenth and the Civil Rights movement go hand in hand, and are both to be celebrated and honored. In my Historical Fictionistas group on Goodreads I dedicated one of the tasks in our current reading challenge to Juneteenth and the Civil Rights movement in order to honor and bring awareness to these points in history. Civil rights are of course an ongoing issue, and all the more reason to constantly keep them in the forefront of our minds.

There are many many manymanymany great books out there about slavery and Civil Rights. I personally love reading about these, because not only does it allow me to understand the way that we treat each other, and how we respond, as well as to commiserate with people who have been treated awfully, but that empathy has taught me to try to be a better person in my own life. Here is a short-list of books that I've loved that deal with slavery or the Civil Rights movement:

1) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee Brilliant book - I used to wish Atticus was my father... I loved his bravery and sense of right and wrong, and owe him my gratitude for my outlook on life. (I ♥ you, Atticus!)

2) Roots by Alex Haley I don't even have words to explain how amazing this book is. Not only is it a book about the trials of slavery and the horrible way that we are willing to delude ourselves into looking at other people as "lesser creatures" in order to exploit and abuse them, but it transcends all of that and holds its head up high with a sense of pride for the people who have gone through that and still know who they are and where they came from. I can't recommend this book enough. If you have not read this, please don't be daunted by the page count - just read it.

3) The Help by Kathryn Stockett This book is just amazing, and honest, and personal. I highly recommend the audiobook. Beautiful and brave.

4) The Color Purple by Alice Walker Another book that should not be missed. This is sad and heartbreaking and still hopeful. A definite read.

5) A Time To Kill by John Grisham This book takes place after the Civil Rights movement, but it is an amazing look at The South, and shows that no matter how far we've come toward equality and respect for each other, we still have a long way to go. This book will break your heart and make you incredibly angry, but it is a favorite of mine.

There we go. If you haven't read any of these books, please please do.

Alrighty, so on to the second reason why today is special to me... This is the 11th anniversary of the day that Stephen King was struck by a vehicle and almost killed. *shudder*

As you probably know by now, seeing as how I've mentioned it at least a dozen times, Stephen King is my favorite author. Of all time. I grew up reading his books, he shaped me into the reader I am today, and molded my love for characters over plot. This is not to say that he doesn't write an amazing plot, because that's absolutely not true, but he fills those plots with characters who are so real that they fairly step off the page -- or pull me into them.

So imagine my horror when, at the ripe age of 16 1/2, I learn that my favorite author has been in an accident and that he could die. I was heartbroken, not only for the loss that this would leave me with personally, but for the loss to the readers of the world, and to the literary world. Many people don't consider Stephen King to be anything more than a pulp fiction author, but I don't associate with them. :P He is an icon, his books are classics in the horror genre, and he practically raised me through his books. So his loss would be a tragedy to me.

I won't keep harping on... I'm sure you all get how much I adore him. :) So here's a list of the books that the world would have missed out on had he not, thankfully, recovered:
  • Blood & Smoke [1999]
  • Riding the Bullet [1999]
  • Plant: The Zenith Rising [1999]
  • Dreamcatcher [2001]
  • Black House [2001]
  • From a Buick 8 [2001]
  • Everything's Eventual [2002]
  • Wolves of the Calla (Dark Tower 5) [2002]
  • Faithful [2003]
  • Song of Susannah (Dark Tower 6) [2003]
  • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon [2003]
  • The Dark Tower (Dark Tower 7) [2004]
  • The Colorado Kid [2005]
  • Secretary of Dreams Vol 1 [2005]
  • Cell [2006]
  • Lisey's Story [2006]
  • Blaze (As Richard Bachman) [2006]
  • Duma Key [2007]
  • Just After Sunset (collection) [2008]
  • Under the Dome [2009]
  • Blockade Billy [2009]
  • Full Dark, No Stars [2010]

This is just a list of novels and short story collections. There are tons of short stories published in anthologies, many essays, interviews, re-edits, re-releases, etc, not to mention his weekly column in Entertainment Weekly.

Yeah, it'd be a huge loss. Long live the King. ♥

Friday, June 18, 2010

Friend Review: The Shining (Audiobook) by Stephen King ★★★★★

As promised, here is Kandice's review of "The Shining" to accompany my own Friday Flashback review. Enjoy!! :)

Kandice's Review:

"I audio-ed the book this read. I have to say, although I am very, very familiar with the story because I've read it so many times, I felt differently hearing it as oppossed to reading. I don't know how much of that was King that I just missed before, or Campbell Scott, the reader.

Jack Torrence, head of his little family of three, wife Wendy, son Danny. He's a recovering alcoholic with quite a past of unacceptable behaviour. His family is in pretty dire straits because of his actions, and he's given, what he feels is his last best chance to pull himself up by his bootstraps. He has the caretaker job of a Colorado hotel so far in the mountains as to be snowed in most of four months each year. Not only can he earn a living, spend quality time with his family and get back on his feet, but he can finish the play he's been working on for years. Perfect opportunity. Or is it? This is King, remember?

Danny, Jack's five year old son has abilities. Hidden, un-talked about, only glimpsed abilities. He gets feelings and has a knack for knowing mommy and daddy's moods, and occasionally, their thoughts. The basic premise of the story is what the hotel, (perhaps haunted?) does to, and wants from Danny because of these abilities, and just how far it will go to get him. Jack is a tool the hotel uses, and this is just too much for the poor guy's psyche. He falls apart.

Every other time I've read this book my focus has been on Jack. Not everyone agrees with me, but I've always felt the hotel sped up his decline, but that he was headed that for it anyway. I like Jack. I get why his friend gets him the job and wants to help him. He's a nice guy, but he's also an alcoholic, and not a happy, slappy, fall down laughing drunk, but a mean drunk. You have to watch out for those. This time I was more fascinated with Wendy. The love she feels for Jack and Danny is so real you can almost feel it. She knows her husband is in bad shape, but she sticks by him. She's loyal. Jack questions her loyalty, but as the reader, I never do. When Wendy makes a decision Jack feels is against him, it's always, and only, for Danny's sake. Never her own. It's obvious she is the sort of person who will put her loved ones ahead of herself. Every. Single. Time.

Everything that happens, everything the hotel convinces Jack and Wendy of, is only possible because of their pasts. Neither one has had an easy row to hoe growing up. It's a credit to them as parents that they want their boy to have more, and of better quality than they did. It seems that should be a given, but it's not. They are sincere in this wish, and that's part of what makes them the perfect targets. Much in the beginning of their downfall is based on decisions they feel will better Danny's life. Being a parent myself, I understand that.

Danny is a pretty interesting character himself. I almost wish King would re-visit him, a la Jack Sawyer from The Talisman in Black House. I bet Danny is an interesting (to say the least!) adult. Will he be able to put what happens in The Shining behind him? Will he live a life of guilt? I hope he moves on, but I wish King would let us know for sure."

Friday Flashback Review (2): The Shining by Stephen King ★★★★★

Created by JG, The Introverted Reader,  "Friday Flashback" is a weekly feature of older review from another source (Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon, whatever) on the blog. As I've just started my blog, and I have quite a few reviews on Goodreads, this is perfect for me.

This week's review is on another all time favorite book, an icon of the horror genre, really. If you haven't heard of this, well chances are you're not reading this blog either, because you live under a rock and haven't seen the light of day for 30 years. Give or take.

This is a book I've read countless times. I've gone through multiple copies and have read them each ragged. This book helped to make me the reader I am today, by introducing me as a young girl to my very favorite author and hooking me for life to his fiction and his genius. Of course I'm talking about "The Shining" by Stephen King (if you didn't figure that out by the post title, haha!!) And, as an added bonus, my very next post will be an awesome review of this book written by a friend, so you lucky followers will get a double helping of fawning King subjects. :) Here we go!

PS. I've reviewed this book as the horror classic it is, and have assumed that the people reading it know the plot, and are generally familiar with King's work. I discuss a lot of background in this review, so if you have NOT read this book, be forewarned that this review may, if not ruin the book for you, at least alter your experience when or if you read it -- and that is something that I avoid like the plague when it comes to my own reading experiences.

My Review:

This has always been one of my favorite books. I have read it more times than I can count since the first time, when I was about 9 or 10 I think. I've gone through at least three copies, and I am sure that I will go through at least that many, if not more, in the future. The Shining is one of those books that I can re-read over and over. I'm sure that it must bug Stephen King that his older books are the ones that people always feel this way about... but the money I spend in new copies will, I hope, offset that annoyance. ;)

I must say that my reading this time was a bit different from all of the other times that I've read this book. Before, I would read it, and just immerse myself in the story and live it vicariously through the characters. But this time, knowing that I would be reviewing it, it's like I saw the story with new eyes. I saw some things that struck me as false, or strange, but those things pale in comparison to the things that I love about this book. Number one, I just love the FEEL of this book... the dread, the slow collapse of normality and the build-up of sinister homicidal mania. It might make people look at me funny, but when I crack the cover and read the first line, "Officious little prick." I just fall in love with Jack Torrance all over again.

You might say to yourself, "What? LOVE? That guy is a psychopath!" but I disagree. I don't mean that I'm really IN LOVE with him, but I love Jack's character, and I always have. It's not the roque mallet-wielding monster stalking his wife and child through an abandoned hotel that I love, it's JACK that I love. But I do love the Overlook too. It's just a different kind, more of an awe.

Jack has always been one of my favorite characters. He is seriously, seriously flawed, and his flaws are real, and make him a person more than a character to me. He is the product of an abusive home life, with an alcoholic father and a mentally and emotionally checked-out mother. This story is almost as much about the cycle of abuse and dependence as it is about the Overlook. As a child, Jack adored his father, but was wary of his temper, and before that adoration could be ruined forever, his father died. In a way, this adoration cemented itself in his sub-conscious, so that even as he grew and realized how terrible his father really had been, the adoration he had felt for him as a child remained, and gave the Overlook a crack to begin working on.

Jack had a lot of "cracks" for the Overlook to choose from. He followed in his father's alcoholic footsteps, had anger and impulse control issues, felt a misguided sense of entitlement and that life and luck and the world was against him. He failed to realize that his choices define who he is, and instead let things happen to him. The Overlook took all of these small intimate feelings and shoved them right under the microscope and legitimized them, in order to mold Jack to the Hotel's will.

When I've discussed this book with people before, they seem to think that Jack would have gone down the same self-destructive path with or without the hotel's influence. But again, I disagree. Jack is a generally good person, who absolutely needed help, but was the type who couldn't bring himself to seek it. That being said, he had been sober for over a year, and after the incident with George Hatfield, I think that he had hit rock bottom. He knew that from there, he could either give up, or he could improve. His going to the Overlook was his way of trying to give life a second chance, to do things right for himself and his family. Unfortunately, the Overlook had other plans and used his insecurities to manipulate and control him.

It fascinated me, reading this again, just HOW quickly the Overlook asserted it's influence on Jack. He'd barely even stepped in the door with his wife and child, hadn't even done the grand tour, yet he's described as staring out the window looking "rapt and dreamy". And even before that, using King's method of what I like to call "underthoughts", he inserted a thought into Jack's mind (Come out, you little shit!) when Jack was explaining the game of roque to Danny.

Danny himself is fascinating, but not nearly as fascinating to me as Jack is. Danny has a sort of second sight that allows him to see and know things, things that are going to happen, things that have happened, what people are thinking and feeling, etc. Other than this ability, he is a bright and intuitive 5 year old. He understands that this is Jack's way of picking himself up by his bootstraps and trying to dust himself off. He fears the Overlook, because of his ability, both because it allows him to understand the Overlook and because it why it wants him in the first place.

Part of Danny's ability is a friend who appears as a vision, Tony, who shows him things that Danny needs to know. Tony, who is described as being around 11 years old, is Danny's mind's way of interpreting the things that his mind shows him - and older kid mentoring the younger, perhaps. Danny doesn't yet know how to read, so he isn't able to understand a lot of the images he sees, and Tony acts as a screen to filter and clarify the images for Danny's young mind to understand. Tony is a part of Danny, literally, as he is an older version of Danny himself. I am not sure whether Tony existing in Danny's mind means that on some level, Danny is always meant to survive, but it seems a little paradoxical to me. Can Danny see a future with him in it if he dies between now and then? Or is Tony simply conjured by his mind?

Dick Hallorann, the Overlook's cook, explains Danny's ability to him, as he has a bit of it himself. He is the one Danny mentally calls when things get bad. I loved Dick's character, although sometimes I think that the run of his thoughts (and they way they sound, specifically)doesn't strictly coincide with the way I see him. That's ok though.

Dick reminds me quite a lot of Speedy Parker from another King story (The Talisman), and I wonder if The Shining isn't more related to King's other books than not. I've always seen it as a standalone, kind of off from King's Universe books that have clear links to each other, but on this reading I saw some things that I think do link to other books.
- The Overlook itself is like Rose Red (which came much later, so Rose Red is probably more like the Overlook than vice versa.)
- Several of the Overlook's permanent inhabitants are described as "silvery". Silver eyes, silver costume, etc. This reminds me of IT.
- Speedy Parker, whom I mentioned before, is a Gunslinger, and Dick is a little bit of a gunslinger too, in a way.
- Danny's "Shining" is quite a lot like "the touch" from King's Dark Tower series.

I could really go on and on about this book. There is so much to love, and so much to see in it, that even reading it over and over, I find new things in it. Speaking of which, I should mention the two main things that stuck out.

The first is Danny's inability to read. He's 5 going on 6, and should technically have been in kindergarten already. But even if school started with first grade, Danny, whose parents are both avid readers and college educated adults, one of whom IS an educator, should have at least started learning how to read before hitting almost-six. That just seemed strange to me. I know that it is probably because his not knowing how to read in order to recognize the danger around him is a big point, but King could have easily made him a 4 going on 5 year old, and then it would have seemed ok to me.

The other thing is that when Jack (or the Overlook using Jack) finally finds Danny at the end, and Dick tells Wendy they should go help him, Wendy, Danny's MOTHER, say's "It's too late. He can only help himself." Granted, logically, she may be right, but I can't see how a MOTHER who prior to this swore to fight for her son's life before her own, would not go anyway and do whatever it took, even if it was too late.

Aside from those two things, I love every aspect of this story. I plan on reading it many, many more times in the future. :)

Let's Go To The Hop (2)

The Book Blogger Hop is a weekly event hosted over at Crazy-for-Books where "book bloggers and readers can connect to find new blogs to read, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!" It lasts Friday-Monday each week, so if you don't have time to join today, you can still join later. It's easy to participate! All you have to do is go to the post I linked above and enter the following information: the name of your blog, how long you've been blogging, and what genres you primarily review.

Then take some time to visit blogs listed on the Hop. If you start following someone through the Book Blogger Hop, leave them a comment and let them know!

I'll be hopping this weekend, and looking for great new blogs to follow! :D

Friday Book Beginnings

Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read.

Currently Reading:
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

Description: What would happen if Sherlock Homles, a perfect man of the Victorian age--pompous, smug, and misogynisitic--were to come face to face with a twentieth-century female? If she grew to be a partner worthy of his great talents?

Opening sentence:

"Dear Reader,
As both I and the century approach the beginnings of our ninth decades, I have been forced to admit that age is not always a desirable state. The physical, of course, contributes its own flavour to life, but the most vexing problem I have found is that my past, intensely real to me, has begun to fade into the mists of history in the eyes of those around me."

I must admit that the first sentence did not really draw me in. Only the very young, the too-young-to-do-the-fun-stuff-legally crowd, wish for age, I think, so I don't really identify with someone who claims that only at 90ish is she forced to admit that age isn't desirable.

However, the second sentence is more interesting... (which is why I've included it even though the feature is only for the first line. Yeah, I'm a rulebreaker.) The second line is something that I think that most people can understand and identify with... their lives passing into the realm of history. It's rather sad, when you think about it. We like to think that we're immortal, in a way, and yet every minute that passes is a minute now relegated to the sands of time, hopefully not to be forgotten, but who can say?

I do like the writing, and the tone is lovely, if a little sedate in the pacing, so I have continued reading. I believe that at the point where I am now, page 90 (coincidence!), the story is about to begin picking up and will hopefully get good enough to explain the various recommendations for this book. We shall see where it goes...

Readers, how much does a book's opening line affect you? Does it color your whole reading experience, good or bad, or does it not matter as much as the general opening of the book, or does it not matter at all? Will you trudge through a tedious beginning in the hopes of a good middle and end, or does a bad beginning turn you off completely?

Leave a comment and let me know what you think! :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jane in June: "Dear Jane" Letter

The following letter is my contribution to Jane in June, hosted on Bookrat Misty's blog. Enjoy. :)

To: My dearest Miss Austen,

Oh my, I recall the first occasion of my having read one of your novels. I must admit to feeling quite overcome by the volume of immediate introductions imposed upon this most humble reader’s acquaintance regarding the inhabitants of “Mansfield Park”, and I nearly, quite nearly in fact, found myself disinclined to carry forward in the endeavor of reading this novel. Persevere I did, however, and to my delight, I found myself enamored with the strength of character and morality of the lovely Miss Fanny Price. What a sweet and humble young lady Miss Price is, to have had the entire Bertram family- save one-peer down upon her as if she were no better than a servant, withstand the immense pressures of her peers so as to avoid straying down the path of the wicked flirt or carouser, and yet continue to hold her head high with pride when all but the very greatest of burdens were upon her shoulders.

I daresay I hardly need tell you, but this reader found Miss Fanny Price to be an inspiration, despite my modern feminist sensibilities, and quite refreshing, too! I was so pleased that Miss Price found her way to happiness, and the joy of this experience left me quite enchanted, so I made up my mind right at that exact moment to read all of your gracious gifts to the world of literature, and leave no page unturned in this quest.

To this end I have read your “Pride and Prejudice” and have fallen in love with the prideful Miss Lizzie Bennet and the prejudiced Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy and the beautiful estate at Pemberley! Oh how I pitied poor, poor Miss Bennet trials with her flighty and nervous (and, to be honest, nerve-wracking!) family. I simply adored Miss Bennet for the patience and strength that her pride afforded her when it comes to that silly group!

My further ventures into your world, into that of “Sense and Sensibility,” allowed for the acquaintance of another sweet and humble young lady in Miss Elinor Dashwood. Miss Dashwood simply epitomizes the completely unselfish actt of putting all others before oneself, and she is to be commended for this rare and admirable trait. I also found myself completely in awe and drawn to Miss Dashwood’s impetuous and immensely passionate sister, Miss Marianne Dashwood. She both inspires a desire to live life to the utmost and breaks one’s heart at the same time. I do love her!

Following these exceptional works, I had the pleasure of reading “Persuasion”, which, in feel and style is more mature and solemn than any of the previous stories mentioned. This story is intimate and wistful and communicates to the reader a sense of longing and regret. Yet, the letter –oh that letter!- from Captain Wentworth! “Be still my heart!” as the great poet once said, though with different meaning! That letter, notwithstanding the lovely and heartfelt story that preceded it, is enough to stay in this reader’s memory for a very, very long time to come.

After this brush with love and longing, I perused the epistolary novella “Lady Susan”, and must express, my dear Miss Austen, that Lady Susan is no Lady with regards to her bearing and behavior! Quite deplorable and shameless manipulation and narcissism! I found the writing to be admirable, as per the usual grace and skill of your own dear self, but the subject matter was altogether a departure from your normal standards!

Finally, I had the opportunity to meet a lovely, albeit naïve, young Miss Emma Woodhouse. My, my, she did have some growing up to do! I can proudly say that I did see that maturity develop in her, but only after many attempts at playing Cupid with locution as her arrow!

This reader still has some few stories and novellas to read, some of which are sadly left unfinished, but I’m writing now to communicate my excitement over an opportunity which has arisen to read the last heretofore unread novel which comprises your body of work, by which I mean “Northanger Abbey”. This occasion, known as “Jane in June”, is a veritable celebration of your legacy to literature! And, I must admit, as an admirer of the gothic style, I simply cannot wait to experience this story. I am waiting with bated breath! Look for my next letter to let you know just precisely how much I enjoyed it—as I am fully certain I will!
Yours in literature appreciation,
Miss Becky R---

Giveaway Winner Announced!

...And Random.org has spoken! The winner of one of my favorite books is...

Congrats, Ashley! I'll be mailing the book out to you this weekend. I hope you love it. :D

Thank you to everyone who entered. If you didn't win, please keep an eye out for future giveaways and contests!

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's Monday... What are you reading? (3)

As seen on Book Journey. In Sheila's words:

What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

Just a quick post before bed... Formatting isn't being my friend, so I apologize, but I'm not really up to fiddling with it all night long. Boo!! >:(

I'm Currently Reading...

Star Wars: Tales of the Mos Eisley Cantina

Still working on this one... although it would help if I actually picked it up now and then. *sigh*

Black House
And still working on this one, and I also haven't picked it up in a while. Shame, shame! But it IS a re-read for me, so I guess it's forgivable, right?

And I've just started...

 The Beekeeper's Apprentice

I've just started this one today... I've read about 15 pages and it's quite good, but different than I expected. We'll see where this one goes! :)

Last week I finished...

The Poison Diaries (The Poison Diaries)
The Poison Diaries
Very nicely written YA story... I wished for a little bit more from the ending though.

The Curse of the Pharaohs (Amelia Peabody #2)
This was a fun mystery, but the writing seemed... not up to the standards of the first book. :(

My Very First Blog Award!

Wow! My very first blog award! I feel so honored... Thank you so much to Alison at Alison Can Read for giving me this award!

Here's how the Versatile Blogger Award works:
  • Thank and link back to the award giver.
  • List 7 things about yourself.
  • Pass the award on to 15 other bloggers you've recently discovered, and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason.
  • Notify the bloggers and let them know they've been awarded!
So here are 7 random facts about me you oughtta know:
  1. Stephen King is my all-time, incomparable, never-to-be-dethroned favorite author.
  2. I have dislocated my right thumb twice in my life. The first time was after playing catch with a bowling ball when I was 4. But I have never broken a bone.
  3. I have a fascination with gut-wrenching books, as long as they are honest. I love stepping into another's life, even if it's painful, and a good cry is cleansing and refreshing to me.
  4. I own 3 TVs and only turn any of them on to watch 'So You Think You Can Dance'.
  5. I have 9 tattoos - 2 of which are related to Stephen King books.
  6. I have a too-sarcastic sense of humor, and I tend to end up saying the exact wrong thing in a serious situation. =\
  7. And finally, I'm the most anti-social, homebody, nose-in-a-book Libra I know.
Whew... I feel like we really, really know each other now. If that was awkward, I'm sorry, and see #6. *blush* So! On to my choice of 15 bloggers to award. This was difficult for me, because there are so many blogs out there that are deserving, and so many blogs that I have recently discovered, as a new blogger, that aren't new at all in the blogosphere. Nerve-wracking! (I should probably add a #8 to my list above and say that I have a kind of naturally pessimistic side, and tend to make things harder on myself than necessary. =\ Oopsie...) In the end, I picked a majority of new blogs that are great and deserve some recognition, and a few more established blogs that I think people would do well to read. Anyway, here are my choices, in no particular order, and without further blabbing from me. Maybe. :)
  1. Books & Marriage Go Ill Together
  2. Basically Amazing Blog
  3. This Miss Loves To Read
  4. BLKosiner's Blog
  5. KDK Book Love
  6. Stuff and Nonsense
  7. Literary Magic
  8. Book Nazi Blog
  9. Fallen For Books
  10. TNBBC Blog
  11. The Book Coop
  12. Good Books and Wine
  13. A Trillian Books
  14. The Introverted Reader
  15. The Allure of Books

There you have it. Thanks again to Alison for recognizing my blog! I really appreciate it! :D

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood ★★★

The Poison Diaries (The Poison Diaries)Description: Jessamine Luxson lives with her father, Thomas, an apothecary, in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle. Thomas’s pride and obsession is his locked garden full of dangerous plants, which Jessamine is forbidden to enter.

When a traveler brings an orphan to their cottage, he claims the boy has special gifts that Thomas might value. Jessamine is drawn to the strange but intriguing boy, called Weed. Soon their friendship deepens into love. Finally, Weed shares his secret: He can communicate with plants. For him they have distinct personalities—and some are even murderous. From the locked garden the poisonous plants call to Weed, luring him with promises of deadly power.

When Jessamine falls inexplicably ill, only Weed’s relationship with the Poisons can save her. But Thomas is determined to exploit Weed’s abilities, even if it risks Jessamine’s life—or drives Weed to the brink of madness...

My Review:
I read this pre-release ebook on HarperTeen.com. I must admit that I'm not generally a fan of reading ebooks on the computer - I like to be able to travel while reading: the bed, the couch, the floor, at the table while I eat, etc. So I don't read a lot of books at the computer, but a lot depends on if the book is worth it. If it engages me and keeps me interested, then I don't notice that I'm tethered as much.

This one definitely kept me interested, and engaged. I really enjoyed it, and in fact up until the last quarter of the book, I'd have given it 4 stars rather than the 3 it got. But I'll explain that later.

This is the story of Jessamine, her apothecary father, and a strange orphan teen who comes into their lives, Weed. After her mother's illness and subsequent death, Jessamine has lived secluded from the world with only her father for company, when he's not off trying to cure the sick and dying, that is. Even when he is home, much of his time is spent in the pursuit of knowledge regarding the plants that he's collected from all over the globe, trying to resurrect methods and recipes for tinctures and the like that have been lost to time. Needless to say, Jessamine leads a solitary life, and is lonely... until Weed comes.

Weed is something of a blank slate when we meet him. He doesn't speak, he doesn't eat, will only drink water. He's a bit of a mystery - he doesn't know how old he is, where he comes from, except that he was raised by a Friar until the Friar's death and then passed along to an asylum as a ward afterward. Due to an uncanny, and not very good for business ability to heal and sooth the sick inhabitants of the asylum, he was packed off to the apothecary to see if there was use for him there. He has a profound knack for recognizing the uses of a plant and how they will work together - a skill that Jessamine's father covets.

This book reminded me of a few other books that I've read not too long ago, or rather little pieces of it did... Usually, I'm not a fan of that, but this book was unique enough that it wasn't really an issue. And it was more of a kind of undertone than anything pointedly borrowed or reminiscent of those books. I won't mention the books here as I don't want to influence anyone's opinion of this book incorrectly - and really there aren't real comparisons between them at all. Just the same kind of feeling that I had reading them as this... which probably makes no sense at all. ;)

The writing in this book was lovely... The book is written in a kind of journovel style, with chapter headers that are like journal entries, and then it shifts to regular first-person narration, until the last quarter of the book, where everything goes a little... wonky. But take this quote, from one of the chapter headers:
The air is perfumed with spring. The sun warms the skin and melts the heart, and everything grows with abandon. Roots stretch deep in the earth to satisfy their thirst. Stalks race upward, propelled by joy. Leaves flutter and dance, buds swell and shameless blossoms unfurl and offer themselves freely to the sky.
I can scarcely sleep at night; I am too restless with excitment. In the long green history of the world, there has never been a season such as this. If this is what love does to the world, how could anyone plant a garden without it?
You can just tell that Jessamine is in love writing that. She doesn't even need to say it.

And I must say that this book gives whole new meaning to "flowery" writing. Rather than just anthropomorphism (giving human characteristics to inanimate objects, or here, plants etc), there's also a reversal with botanomorphism (giving plantlike qualities to human characteristics). I very much liked this aspect of the book. I thought it was unique and it lent a authenticity to the story being told. I also liked that the plants were, without giving too much away, powerful and intelligent.

Sticking to the writing for a little bit longer, I have to mention that towards the end, the narration and the story veered off in an unexpected and kind of disappointing manner. In order to explain, I'll have to give a little background, and I'll try not to spoil anything. Jessamine, our principle narrator and journal keeper, falls ill - too ill to keep writing after a certain point - so Weed takes up her journal for her. Yet, from this point on, the story alternates between Weed's narration and Jessamine's dreamlike visions. These seemed unnecessary, and out of place to me, and could have been handled in a much better way. Not only because the information in these sections isn't needed to follow or progress the storyline, but also because who the heck is writing them? It's not Jessamine, she's far too sick, and it's not Weed because unless he's a mind-reader, he'd have no way to know she was even having them.

Aside from this, I quite liked the story, although I had hoped for a different outcome... but maybe a sequel is in the works...?

This was definitely an enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to people who enjoy YA as something different from the usual girl-meets-mysterious-boy fare... just take the ending with a grain of salt.

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