Friday, December 24, 2010


Just a quick post here to vent about how ridiculously sucky December has been on the whole!

Between work stress and family stress and most recently finding out that my boyfriend's mother was hospitalized due to a brain aneurysm (she's through surgery and doctors are optimistic that she'll recover - thank goodness), I feel like everything December has touched this year has gone terribly, horribly wrong, and I for one will be very thankful once 2010 is over!

I don't know what you have against me, December, but the feeling is mutual at this point. I say we go our separate ways, and soon. 

So, once again my well-intentioned blog plans have been thwarted *shakes fist at December* and I'm a little behind. I will try to do a catch-up triplicate Top 10 post tomorrow if I can.

Here's to hoping that 2011 is better! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

10 Days to 2011: Top 10 - New To Me in 2010

Today is December 21, 2010 (well, for 36 more minutes on the East Coast anyway), and I realized that 2010 will be over in 10 days. And because I like numbers in triplicate (I don't know why, just go with it), I thought I would do ten Top-10 lists to end out 2010.

And hopefully this one goes better than my Thanksgiving flop. Let's just brush that under the rug, shall we? *sweep* There. All better. Nothing to see here... Move along. Thank you!

Anyway... Here we go...

Day 10: Top Ten "New To Me" Books of 2010

The Passage (The Passage, #1)
10. The Passage by Justin Cronin - I really enjoyed this book, although it is quite different than I had expected it to be. I love post-apocalyptic fiction, and this definitely delivered on that! It's the first in a series, and ends on a cliffhanger, but the this is definitely not one to miss if you're a fan of post-apocalyptic literature with a touch of the surreal.

Little Brother   
9. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow - Another favorite genre here, dystopian fiction. This book was brilliant, and relevant, and a definite must read. If you worry at the lengths that those in power will go to in order to keep us safe border on intrusive (and one needs only look to our airports to see this in action) - read this book.

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism8. Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein - Semi-related to Little Brother, in that "disaster capitalism" takes advantage of legitimate (and staged) catastrophes for profit and control of the people. This is only part of it, of course, but this is one of the best books I've read this year. Highly recommended.
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer
7. Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride - I loved this book! It was unique, witty, awesome and fun. I could not put it down - not that I wanted to. I loved all of the characters, and the story, and the freshness of it - it definitely stood out as a favorite of mine this year. I can't wait for the next book! 

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)6. If I Stay by Gayle Forman - This was another standout YA book this year, but for a very different reason. This book, far from being light-hearted and fun with an edge, like Necromancer, was all serious issues and pain and loss and grief, and addressed the struggle of continuing on in a life where we've lost everything we love. There's a sequel coming out soon, and while I thought that If I Stay was perfect as a standalone, I can't resist pining for Where She Went coming out in 2011. Read this with tissues at the ready.
Hurt Go Happy
5. Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby - Another soul-crusher! This book broke my heart into a thousand little pieces for so many reasons. But it was a good pain, because I felt so much... clearer and receptive afterward. This is one of those rare books that hollow you out and let you see things from a new perspective - but the process can be hard. I absolutely recommend this book. Trust me on this one. I'd never lead you astray.

The Help4. The Help by Kathryn Stockett - I. Loved. This. Book.
This is a beautiful story about 3 women living in the South during the 60s, during a very turbulent time in America's history due to racial tension, gender roles, social roles and ignorance and hate all meshing together... I definitely recommend the audio for this one, if you can get it. Lovely and touching.

Losing Julia 3. Losing Julia by Jonathan Hull - Allison from The Allure of Books sent this one to me on a whim for Christmas last year, and I read it in early 2010 and it became an instant favorite which has stuck with me all year. This book is fantastic on so many different levels. I didn't want it to end, but of course it had to. If you spot it out there in the world, pick it up. It's worth it.

The Gun Seller 2. The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie - I loved this book so much that when I finished it, I wrote in my review that I wanted to hump Hugh Laurie's leg for writing it. It was witty, hilarious, relevant, and awesome. I loved it so much that I had to own a copy - this is definite re-read material.

Horns1. Horns by Joe Hill - It's hard to say that this is my favorite book of the year, since I read so many great ones in 2010, but this gets the number one spot. For one thing, this book absolutely deserves it. Joe Hill poops gold, I swear it. Everything he writes is better than the last, and Horns is flippin' awesome. Like The Gun Seller, I finished this and wanted to hump Joe's leg too. Amazing and touching and made of awesome.

(Offer still stands, gentlemen, if you see this. Email me!)

So there you have it. If you haven't read any of these books, you're missing out. I loved each and every one of them, and wouldn't talk them up if they weren't worth it. Grab one and give it a try!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins ★★

I am probably one of the last people on Earth to read Mockingjay. It was one of the most highly anticipated series ending books ever. Everywhere I looked someone was talking about it - counting down the days till release. There was ARC craziness and spoiler worries and giveaways offering the book sprouted up like weeds (including one of my own!), but I just now got around to reading it myself, and I was more than a little disappointed by it.

Without further ado... My Mockingjay review.

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)I'm really torn on what to rate this book. I went back and forth between 2 and 3 stars a few times, but I ended up going with 2 stars for a variety of reasons that I hope I'll be able to convey. I don't think that it was terrible, I was disappointed and irritated by quite a lot of it.

I will try not to spoil the plot, but if you haven't read the book, read the following at your own risk:

First things first... In The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, I cared about Katniss and Gale and Peeta. They were just these kids who were unlucky enough to live in this society that puts on this horrific event every year. They were born into hard lives of hunger and uncertainty and fear and control, and then victimized and picked off annually for the entertainment of the nation. I felt like I understood Katniss in HG (Hunger Games) and CF (Catching Fire). She didn't have a choice how to live, but she did her best to make a place for herself and do what she could to survive and not become a monster. The same went for Gale and Peeta - they did what they could do and tried to be decent.

But in Mockingjay (hereafter called MJ), I didn't feel like I knew the characters at all! I know that there had been a lot of changes and a lot of hard choices and pain and all of that, but in a matter of 6 weeks from the end of the Quarter Quell that ended CF to the beginning of MJ, it's like ALL of the characters that I loved and knew had changed into cruel, angry and unrecognizable goblin versions of themselves. I was really hard pressed to find anything redeeming in any of them quite a lot of the time.

Katniss is aloof, angry, consumed by self-loathing and guilt, and just shuts down and shuts everyone out. Gale has become this cold, calculating tactician who has none of the warmth that he had before - not even when it comes to his best friend who is clearly struggling. They argue and fight all the time, even when Gale is supporting Katniss - and even during these times (because he DOES stand by her), she is horrible to him and everyone else. Selfishly acting like she's the only one to have suffered or feared anything.

And that's not even to mention Peeta. He is nothing, NOTHING, like the Peeta we knew in HG & CF. Granted, he has valid reasons (more valid than Katniss's selfish ones) for this change, but it was frustrating all the same - and even more so because of the way that Katniss reacted to him.

Again I will stress that I understand the pressure that they were all under, and the atmosphere of fear and uncertainty and impending war and all that. I understand it, and even appreciate it, but I felt like the way Collins handled it stripped Katniss, Peeta and Gale of their humanity. These are teens who have had to live through situations that most adults have never lived with - the pressure is intense. But I couldn't really care about any of that because these characters seemed so robotic and cold and unreachable. All of them. And that's incredibly disappointing to me. Even when Katniss and Gale were allowed special privileges to go hunting together as they used to, there was not really any closeness or friendship or support between them, no vulnerability. You'd think that they would rely on each other for support, but the relationship was completely one-sided, with Gale supporting Katniss and Katniss acting like the world is on her shoulders alone. I wanted her to rely on him - ANYONE - and let go a little... to not hold everything inside. To be human. But even when she did break down, it was so clinical and sterile I just couldn't care.

Buttercup the cat, who had, at best, bit parts throughout the series, evoked much more emotion from me than any of the major players. Yes... A cat. And Prim is her usual, wise-beyond-her-years, caring, bundle of goodness and strength. I loved her. She is really the only human character next to Finnick, who I came to really like in this one. He was vulnerable and human.

So, yeah. My main complaints were regarding the characters themselves. Many times they would act completely out of character, Katniss especially, and I found it frustrating.


For instance... After wallowing for the entire book and keeping a running list of all the people who have died or been hurt by her actions, Katniss votes YES to hold one last Hunger Games with the Capitol's children, so that they know how it feels. WHAT??? After going through two of them herself, trying to save as many as she could, after becoming the Mockingjay to END the regime that forces the Hunger Games on the people of Panem, she would vote yes to send more innocent kids to slaughter? That makes no sense to me at all.

=====================END SPOILER====================

And then I have to say that the way the end was resolved didn't make sense to me. The twists, yes, they made sense and weren't unexpected. But I didn't really feel that Katniss was A) given enough information to lead her to the conclusion she came up with or B) clever or shrewd enough to get there on her own. And if she was, which again would be out of character, then why was this not conveyed? Katniss is telling this story - we get her every thought - even when all that entails is a refusal to think of something.

I wasn't disappointed by the relationship aspect - or lack thereof - in this story. Considering that I didn't really like or care about any of the characters, I wasn't exactly sitting on the edge of my seat with fingers crossed hoping for a certain outcome. It was not what I'd expected, but I was OK with it.

Regarding everything else, I thought that the dystopian themes and the events in the story (almost all of them) were good, and the pacing was great. Not everything was wrapped up how I would have liked, but it is a definite end, and for that I'm glad, because I don't see how another book in this series would be an improvement for me. I can see why some would really like this, but all in all, I was not thrilled with it.
View all my reviews

Since writing that review earlier, I've thought of more stuff that I should have included in it, like (Spoilers!) how the situation regarding Prim's death felt like it was manipulated by Collins to point at Gale being responsible, which felt like a ploy to shift all of the shippers to Peeta's team and make Katniss hate him, and subsequently Gale moving to District 2 and ending all communication with Katniss. This is so out of character for him - the guy who stood by Katniss through thick and thin and never wavered, I just can't imagine him giving up on her, or her casting him completely out of her life. (End spoilers.)

There's just so much that I felt was out of character and misrepresented. It seems silly to use that word since the story is Collins', but it feels true. It's like Mockingjay forgot who it was really about. I felt like the characters that I loved were gone, and there were angry, sullen, vicious strangers in their places. Very disappointing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In My Mailbox (9)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren.

It's been a little while since my last IMM post - and I've been slacking a bit lately on posting anything at all on ze blog. Work and family issues and just general life have prevented me from doing so. Booo!

Anyway, I'm back now, and have IMM goodness to share!

From Goodreads Swap:

Un Lun Dun by China Mieville

From B&N Bargain Books: 
The Ruins of Gorlan (Ranger's Apprentice #1) by John Flanagan
The Terror by Dan Simmons
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

For Review: 
 Across the Universe by Beth Revis (Received from Publisher)

And (Holy Crap YES!) this:
Oh man! Early Christmas present NOOOOOOK! :D So freaking exciting! The handsome fellow shown on the screensaver is Homer. I've loaded a bunch of free books on it already including the Vampire Academy 1-5 and a bunch of classics. 

Sorry about the angle of the last two pics - had glare issues. :( 

Anywho... that's my IMM this week - what's in yours?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Review: The Anatomy of Ghosts by Andrew Taylor ★★★★

The Anatomy of GhostsA good friend of mine raves about Andrew Taylor, and now I know why. I'd never read anything by him before, so when I saw The Anatomy of Ghosts available to advanced reviewers, I jumped on the chance to read it - and I very much enjoyed it. I will definitely be on the lookout for more of his books.

The story takes place mainly at Cambridge University, where a young student claims to have seen a ghost and is taken to a nearby sanitarium for treatment. His mother, Lady Anne, who is connected with the University and is concerned for her son, hires a down-on-his-luck man to investigate the matter and restore her son to his right mind.

This story is chock full of interesting characters, all of whom step right off the page and into living color. Jerusalem college (a college within the larger University), is almost a character in itself with secrets and habits and its own lifestyle. The young men who go there to learn come away with much, much more than the degree they studied for. It was quite intriguing, and put me in mind of rumors and whispers that one hears about old campuses like that.

I particularly loved the writing, though. The story takes place in the late 18th century, and the writing set the tone, character, and pace perfectly, without venturing off into wordy exposition, all the while keeping the suspense and the intrigue going. Quite a feat! Too often historical fiction forgets itself and strays into modernity in order to ramp up the tension and suspense, but Taylor did not lapse at all.

I also really enjoyed the slight social commentary running throughout the novel, with regards to rank and position and power. Of course this is a popular theme throughout history, as people have always been obsessed with rank and position and power, but I felt that here it was put on display, in a way. It's hard to say just what I mean, because I don't mean that the writing was Austen-esque in terms of satirical social commentary, but rather that it was so gritty and real feeling that a modern reader would see it as such. It was not glorified or glamorous, but rather what I think was an accurate representation of the lengths that some will go to to attain power and the lengths some will go to to keep it. Fascinating stuff.

I would have given this book 5 stars, except that I feel that one portion of the plot was not resolved at all in the end, and I was left a little disappointed. The ending itself was satisfying, and I could not guess any of the twists and turns that the story would take (and there were quite a few!), but this one little detail was irksome for not being resolved, and so I had to drop down the rating a bit. Otherwise, I was drawn in and engaged in the story, and felt as if I was watching from the sidelines rather than reading, and I love the feeling of falling through the pages of a book.

I definitely recommend this one to historical fiction, mystery and thriller fans.