Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake ★★★

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)Wow. I just realized that I added this book to Mount To-Read exactly one year ago today. That's pretty strange, isn't it? I mean, I picked the book up yesterday on a whim, thinking that it would be light, quick reading to squeeze in before the new year. I wasn't looking for any weird cosmic alignments or anything... but it is kind of cool.

As was this book. I really enjoyed it. It was different, very different, than what I expected, but not in a bad way. Well, maybe not ALL bad, because I do have a few *cough* teensy weensy gripes about it.

But first, the things I DID like.

- I really liked the realistic teenager tone of the story. I liked how there were some f-bombs, and how Cas skipped school (albeit for really selfish reasons like "work" and stuff), and how the characters were all relateable. I liked how the usual student tropes both did and did not fall into their usual lines of "Big Dumb Jock" type, or "Most Popular Homecoming Queen Bitch" type, or "Outcast" type. I liked reading about these characters, even the ones I didn't like, and I am excited that this is the beginning of a series. I want to see more of them.

- I really liked that it was a bit horrifying. To be honest, I had kind of pegged this book, pre-read, as that "light, quick" read (as I mentioned before). I thought it would be a little cartoony, may be a little funny at times, but not something I expected to be in any way horrifying. And I don't mean it was scary, although there were some bits that could have been, but I mean more of a "Oh crap, that's not good" kind of horrifying. I liked that it wasn't cartoony or funny (though again there were moments of levity), and I liked that the method of the deaths we're privy to aren't glossed over. We see them as Cas sees them... or as he'd rather not.

- I liked the way that the "Ghost Whisperer" concept was made into something that didn't make me fall asleep and drool all over my nook. I mean, no offense to Jennifer Love Hewitt or anything. I know she's got a lot of loyal (male) fans (fanatics) who watch every episode of her show (hoping for cleavage... COME ON!), but I just can't. I think I've seen one episode and I was bored. BORED. This book though, was not boring. This is no Ghost Whisperer, though Cas does help restless, violent spirits go... somewhere... by murdering them... again. SLICED AND DICED! I like it.

It was gritty and interesting and different. I liked how the practitioners that Cas gets to help him (witches), were portrayed and the way that the rituals and spells were done was different from what I've seen before, though admittedly, that's not all that much. I liked the twist near the end, though the resolution did kind of do a little "fade to black" thing. We're left to assume the outcome based on the set of details, but still hope...

So now we come to the stuff that had me griping. Two things, mainly. OK three things. Tops. Two gripes and a rant.

#1 - The action scenes were a little sketchy and hard to follow for my taste. I like to visualize fight scenes in my mind, and these were hard to see, as they didn't always make sense linearly.

#2 - I don't understand how normal people don't believe in ghosts if they are apparently able to see them all the time without trouble. I can understand Cas's ability to see them, and I can understand the witches being able to, but the Normals, the students with no special abilities at all can also see them (at least 3 different ghosts). Maybe they've all "manifested" as visible to everyone, but I would have liked some sort of explanation here. Either that they HAVE to have manifested even for Cas to see them (which seems likely since Tybalt was a kind of ghost detector), or that proximity to Cas or witches allows others to see ghosts too, or something.

#3 - The Insta-Connection. I was hoping that the connection that drew Cas to Anna would be explained, and it may still be later on in the series, but as of right now, I don't get it. And honestly, that cheapens the story to me.

It would have been a better, stronger story, in my opinion, if Cas was less emotional about Anna, and rather than falling in love with her, he freed her and used her as an ally... maybe working up to something more later, after we get to know them and their characters and situations better. Or not, even. But falling in love with a ghost is hard to believe, despite my suspension of disbelief with the rest of the story, and given that I don't like insta-love (under any euphemism) in the first place is just... kind of disappointing.

I really don't understand why books written for teens and young adults rely so heavily on instant connections and immediate love. I was a teen once, and yeah, I had crushes, and boyfriends, doodled sickening little hearts with initials in them on the margins of my papers (don't tell anyone), and thought that THIS GUY was THE ONE, but I never once felt a bone-deep, undeniable, magnetic connection with anyone. Ever. No matter how strong my feelings were. So I don't get why this unrealistic trait is repeated in book after book after book. It's really starting to turn me off of reading YA. I'm so tired of it. I cannot wait for this trend to be ooooovvvveeeerrrrr.

Please, authors, PLEASE. Stop this. Write realistic relationships!!! I want to read them. Not soulmates or instant love that requires no effort except against outside influences trying to break it up. That's incredibly boring to me, and I'm more than ready for something different!

But still... I DID enjoy the story overall, and I WILL continue the series to see where things go. I'd be interested in the character development of some of the characters, and in seeing more of Cas's world... and possibly others.

Happy New Year!

So we all made it through the latest apocalypse. Woo!

Of course that means that now it's time for New Years Resolutions, which are inevitable and awful in their failure stats. I'm like 0 for 30. That's pretty abysmal.

And so, it's time for my obligatory quarterly promise to blog more. Wait for it...


New Years Resolution: I'm going to try to blog more in 2013.

There. Wasn't that nice?

See you in April! :P 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Review: Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson ★★★★

Before I Go To Sleep(Read 09/09/12)
This morning I woke up and remembered who I am, who the man I live with is, what happened yesterday, and the day before, and the day before, and so on. There are things I can't remember, of course, things that maddeningly get stuck right out of reach when I try to think of them, and surely there are things I don't even realize I've forgotten, and maybe I never will. But I can remember the landmarks of my life, leading up to this morning when I woke up, and after reading this book, I realize that I take all this for granted. As almost everyone does.

When I started this book, and realized just what it would mean to have no memory of anything upon waking, every single day, I admit that the thought terrified me.

I am an empathetic reader; I put myself into the shoes of the characters in the stories I read and live their lives by the proxy of the book. Which, if you ask me, is the way it should be done. I WANT to be able to identify with characters and feel as though the events of their lives are real. I want to care about them, and fear for them, and hope for them. I don't want there to be distance between a story and myself. If there is, it's a problem, and I'm likely to not enjoy the book.

So, coming back to my point: This story terrified me. I thought of it in terms of my own life, and how much I rely on my sense of self to propel me through my life. I am me. The thought of losing "me" is terrifying. But it's more than that. Being only able to retain the memories of the events of a single day is a frightening, claustrophobic thought.

In a 16 hour day, between periods of sleep, how much time would it take to relearn your life? How much would you need or want to know? And what would you - or COULD you - do with the rest of your day, knowing that as soon as you go to sleep, it'll all be gone and the next day would start again just as the last had. The limitations of such a life are staggering. There's no way to LIVE in such a short time, when you have to relearn everything that came before just to get a base upon which to build. Could you trust the people around you to tell you the truth about yourself? The potential for manipulation and control would be so huge, even if it was done the with best possible intent.

It struck me that people who have lost the ability to retain new memories are stuck in a continuous loop of living hell, even if there's nothing overtly bad day to day. The amount of trust required to depend on others in a life like that is more than I could manage. It would drive me insane - never knowing whether the things I was being told were the truth, or if I was being told the things that would hurt or upset me the least. It would drive me insane to feel that I have a right to my own life and history, but not the means to it.

So... Just on that level, the empathetic way I put my feet into the shoes of the character, this book affected me quite a bit. I realize that most of this is what I brought to the table, but the story presented the day to day experience of a life lived on these terms in a way that made it easy to identify with, and so I count that as a success.

There were a few issues that I had with the book, though. The writing overall was great - easy to read, expressive and filled with imagery, but not overwritten. There were some sections that felt a little disjointed, such as this section:
"I am shaking, can barely breathe. I feel that I have not only lived an entire life in the last few hours, but I have changed. I am not the same person who met Dr Nash this morning, who sat down to read the journal. I have a past now. A sense of myself. I know what I have, and what I have lost. I realize I am crying.
I look at the clock next to me and there is a little jolt of shock. Only now do I realize that it is the same clock as the one in the journal that I have been reading, that I am in the same living room, am the same person. Only now do I fully understand that the story I have been reading is mine."
Besides the lapse into passive voice there, what jumps out at me is this: How can she feel that she has a sense of herself, that she has a history in one paragraph, but then just a few sentences later state that she hadn't attributed those things to herself before, and now finally understood that it was HER life? Perhaps if these paragraphs were reversed, then it would be less of a contradiction: 'I realize with a jolt the journal I've been reading is about my life. I feel like I've lived an entire life time in the last few hours. I now have a history, a sense of myself.'

Continuing on regarding the writing, the dialogue was a little wooden, I thought. A lot of name-comma-statements or name-comma-questions - but mostly the writing worked for me otherwise.

I enjoyed the pacing of the story, the slow unraveling of the mystery, and the shocks when Christine would realize something that she'd lost along with her memory, and they'd shock me too. How could someone forget about this, or that, or some other thing that others take completely for granted and don't bother even thinking of?

I also enjoyed the variances of Christine's personality. The different ways she thought about, and reacted to sex, especially. There were times when I felt clearly that she was in her 20-something memory zone, but trying to think about sex as a 47 year old who'd been married for two decades, despite the sex itself. Or when she thought of sex as a 20-something who hadn't yet settled down would. I thought that this was well done, and illustrated to me how much our personalities are defined by our memory. It was mentioned in the story as well that neither she nor her husband knew who she would "wake up as", but to me, the little details showed this more than the overt mentions did.

I felt that the mystery aspect was a little predictable, but at the same time, I feel like the reader is supposed to understand before Christine does. I had quite a few theories in the first half of the book, including (view spoiler)[the husband using his knowledge of chemistry to keep her from forming new memories, as a form of manipulation and control. She'd never even realize, and would be the perfect victim. But as I read, there was no daily pattern that would support this, evening tea, or a nightcap, or "medication" or mashed potatoes with dinner every night, or anything, so I let it go (hide spoiler)], and around the mid-point formulated the winning theory. But the fact that I was right doesn't bother me, as it usually does, because the reader has more info than Christine did, and the details were more intriguing to me than the event itself.

I did think that the ending was just a bit too rushed, and that the resolution was somewhat pat, too perfectly open ended, in a way.

Overall, this is a great book, and as it's Watson's first, it's impressive. I very much enjoyed it, and I look forward to reading more from him in the future.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Review: Guns, Booze & Zombies by G. Joseph ★★★

Guns, Booze & Zombies(Received E-copy from the author for review)

Once upon a time there was a girl who read a zombie book she didn't like (What?! I know!!), and wrote a frustration-filled rant review about it.

This review was then seen by another author working on his own zombie story, and he contacted the girl to thank her for writing her review because he said it helped him in shaping his own story. She was all pleased as punch about this, and offered to read his book to see how it came out.

This is the review of that book.

(Also, surprise! I'm the girl. :D)

(In case you didn't know.)

So, what did I think of "Guns, Booze & Zombies"? Overall, I thought it was on the high end of OK to good scale, but a little spit and elbow-grease would make it really shine.

I really enjoyed the concept and setting of this story: A zombie outbreak in Prohibition Era New York. It sounded intriguing - I don't think I've seen a 30s era zombie story before. (I mean, I've seen Nazi Zombies, but that's a whole different set of entrails there.) I was interested to see how Prohibition was worked into the story, and to get the feel for 30s NYC. But as much as I liked the concept, I did have some issues with the execution.

See what I did there?

Storywise, it was a little too skewed toward the "tell" side of the spectrum, and I wanted more "show". The Prohibition aspect felt sadly lacking, as was the Depression. They were mentioned, of course, but I never truly felt the impact of either one. They never felt like hardships. Benson is evicted, but since the story moves almost right into Escape From Zombie New York, the impact is dulled and I felt as if it was almost unimportant. For another example, we're told that Benson Doss and Emma have rekindled their romance, but this doesn't quite mean anything because 1) we didn't know they had one in the first place, and 2) randomly meeting up in a speakeasy and having a few drinks doesn't exactly scream "rekindled romance" to me. That says, "They're friends, and she's a forward thinking kind of gal that will buy a down-on-his-luck guy a drink." For me to believe the romantic aspect, I wanted to see them react to each other, be attracted to each other, to maybe talk things through and discuss where attempt #1 went sour, commit to trying again, that sort of thing. All of which I missed.

I wanted to really know the characters, and care about them, but I didn't really get that as much as I'd have liked. In fairness, this is a novella - it's only 117 pgs on my Nook. But there's a lot of stuff packed in those pages, and I feel like a little more focus on the characters would have brought a bigger impact when bad things happen to them. For example, when we find out about a character's softer side, which leads into a side plot, I was able to sympathize with him more and wanted things to work out for him. But I didn't really feel anything close to that connection with any of the other characters.

Two other big story issues affected my enjoyment of this one. First, the side plot I mentioned was never resolved. Maybe there's a 2nd book in the works, which wouldn't be a bad idea, since the second issue I have is the twist at the end which came out of left field. It was just... OK, maybe not as unbelievable as one aspect towards the end was... (view spoiler)[The group of remaining survivors meet up with the Army, and the commander instantly knows who Benson Doss is, and turns over command to him...? My suspension of disbelief turned into a lead weight on that one. (hide spoiler)]... but still out of left field.

Finally, my last issue is with the lack of editing. This book is badly in need of an editor. I mention this because, to my knowledge, I was sent a copy of the final, for-sale version. There were quite a lot of misused words, missing commas, unnecessary semi-colons, misspellings, and awkward syntax all over the place. Every instance of the word "quiet" was misspelled "quite", "site" and "sight" were used interchangeably, among other misuses. Also, it seemed that words were switched out in favor of "better" ones that made the sentence awkward in many cases. Often, the simpler word will fit more naturally into the sentence than a less commonly used one. Example: "We allow the team to gather some excess sleep." This just feels clunky to me. It would feel much more natural as "We allow the team to get some additional sleep."

I actually did enjoy the story, though, despite my complaints above - I was interested in seeing where it went and what happened, and if there was an explanation for everything. I really enjoyed the goriness of the fighting, and liked, oddly enough, the sentimentality some held toward their loved ones turned flesh-eating-corpses. I would be interested in reading the sequel, if there should be one. I definitely think that G. Joseph has potential. He's one to watch.

Also, as a side note, I would like to say that G. Joseph has been beyond courteous and professional in all of his messages to me. I thanked him privately for this, but, especially in light of the recent author/reader drama 'round the interwebs recently, I would like to publicly do so as well. 

So thank you G. Joseph, for remaining professional and pleasant. This is exactly the right way to go about the author/reader interaction. Best wishes for a successful and long career! :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver ★★★★★

We Need to Talk About KevinI started this review 6 times, and each time, I deleted it because it didn't quite convey the right thing. I think the problem is that I'm not sure just what that thing is. But one thing I do know is that I love books that make me feel like this... that "I don't know what I need to say but I need to say something, to talk about this with someone because this book won't keep quiet in my mind" feeling.

I guess it's lucky that this was chosen for our latest group read then, because I filibustered there with every jumbled, messy, half-formed thought that my tired-because-I-stayed-up-until-nearly-2am-with-this-book-then-worked-a-full-8-hours mind could think of... Because this book won't keep quiet in my mind. I finished it last night around 1:30am, tears streaming down my face, hurting for everyone and furiously heartbroken over something so unnecessary and so seemingly unavoidable as what was depicted. Then I slept, and I dreamed about this book, with hazy, distant figures without names or faces, but bigger than life aspects.

It's rare that I dream about books. It doesn't matter if I read it up until the minute I drop off; I only dream about a book I'm reading, or have read if it pulled me into its world first. I dream about the books that touch my soul. *cue dramatic music*

This book was just... wow. If I were to nitpick anything, it would be that Eva's pen wandered a tiny bit too much into the outside world. I wanted to see her world, the world of her family, or her lack thereof. It took a little bit to get there, and for a while, there were hints but the narrative meandered along in its own time. But oh my, once it got going, it really got going. I don't think it was just my last minute mad dash to read this the day before my bookclub meeting that helped me to read 75% of this book in one night after work... it was unputdownable. Once I glimpsed this family's world, I couldn't look away.

There is... so much to talk about in this book. And I don't think that I could even attempt to do the topics or themes any justice (as I didn't in my bookclub, not for lack of trying). This is a book that begs to be turned around to the beginning again and immediately re-read. It's like one of those optical illusions. At first, the picture is simple, but then once you see the hidden picture within it, you gain a new appreciation for the whole.

This book was beautifully written, insightful, questioning and heartbreaking. It was nothing at all like I expected, and even guessing the things that I guessed (which turned out to be true), it didn't make the impact any less. This book was so incredible at making me sympathize and empathize with each person's perspective, though we only see these through Eva's brutally honest memory, that it was impossible for me to lay blame anywhere, even though the potential for assigning blame was huge.

This was expertly executed (pun intended), and it is not one that I will forget any time soon.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Review: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks ★★★★

of the BookI've had this book on my to-read list for a long time, 3 years or so, but it was one of those books that I didn't really think that I would ever really get to. A 'lifer'. I'd read Brooks' Year of Wonders back in 2008, and I liked it, but about 4 years has passed now, and the more I read in those intervening years, the more I came to feel like it wasn't really all that impressive, after all. I especially feel that way after finishing People of the Book. The writing in YOW just doesn't even hold a candle to the writing in POTB. It's a beautifully written, moving book, and I'm sorry that I put off reading it for so long.

I will say that there were parts of POTB that felt too modern for the historical sections, and even too "British" (mainly because the 'could/should/would have done' phrase sticks out like a sore thumb to me), and I thought that the romantic interest was awkward and didn't really ever sit right with me, but aside from those two things, I couldn't really find anything to criticize in this book.

I read for pleasure, and this book drew me in. I thought it was a fantastic melding of history, bibliophilia, socio-political issues, and life. I thought the characters were interesting, and even though most of them were only bit-players, I never actually felt like that's what they were while reading. They had history, and depth, and personality, and I very much enjoyed reading their stories, even when they were disturbing or heartbreaking.

But mostly, I loved this book for the story of the haggadah itself. I loved the way that the history of the book unfolded, with each clue to its journey through the years being shown as a story in itself, moving backwards in time until the origin of the book is shown. The historical sections were wonderful - they all felt completely real, although they were all horrifying as well, especially the 1492 Inquisition section.

I remember studying the Inquisition in school, and somehow it never really conveyed just how fucked up that shit was. That's probably why we never learn anything. We sanitize history to the point where it's completely lost all meaning, so we just keep doing the same shit over and over. We're still killing each other over differences in opinion regarding which religion is "right", or because a man dares to love another man and want to share his life with him, or because someone's skin is the wrong color, or because... we're just fucking bored and hate-filled. For fuck's sake. When will we grow up?
"You've got a society where people tolerate difference[...] and everything's humming along: creative, prosperous. Then somehow this fear, this hate, this need to demonize 'the other' --it just sort of rears up and smashes the whole society."

Fantastic book. I highly recommend it.

Blah Blah Blah...

Yeah, so... No updates here in like... 3 weeks. Shameful I know. I've been in this horrible reading funk that I'm only just now emerging from. I didn't finish a single book from June 8th through June 21st.
It were terrible.

So, now that I think I'm finally over it (YAY!) I might just go ahead and post a review or something.

I know, I know... Try to contain your excitement, though.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review: Tastes Like Human by The Shark Guys ★★

Tastes Like Human: The Shark Guys' Book of Bitingly Funny Lists2.5 Stars
I really wanted to love this book. Really I did. When I received the email asking me to review it, I thought it sounded hilarious, and pretty much jumped on that. I love clever, irreverent humor, and I was really excited to read this book - but it just didn't deliver enough for me, sadly, and I've got pretty mixed feelings about it.

This book contains some great examples of witty observations and wordplay, non sequiturs, and paraprosdokians -- fans of Mitch Hedberg will know this last one. For those who aren't, let me explain: It's the kind of joke where the back half of a sentence or phrase is an unexpected punchline for the beginning half. Such as: "I haven't slept for ten days, because that would be too long." or "I ordered a club sandwich. And I'm not even a member!" Your brain has to kind of work in reverse to see the joke. Great stuff. I love it. One such in this book was this one, from "Top 13 Fighting Tips": "8. Never Hit a Guy with Glasses; use full bottles instead." It made me chuckle, and I like that.

Chuckling is good, but I was expecting "bitingly funny" humor that would keep me giggling for the duration, and in that I was disappointed. This ebook is only 144 pages long. I can read that easily in one day after work, but this book took me 3 days to finish, and the last bit was something of an endurance test - it felt like it was trying too hard to live up to that "bitingly funny" title, with irreverence that should be funny but towards the end here was just over the top and edged on being silly (Example: all of the "Top 20 First Date Suggestions"). In and around the funnies I've mentioned before, there was just too much that didn't do it for me. List entries that left me wondering what the point was in including them, how it related to the topic at hand, how the sub-title for the list item related to the list item, etc. There were some which would have benefited quite a bit from just another line or so of detail or backstory... or relevance.

Two examples:
First, from "Top 8 Great Achievements in Sitting", number 7 is "Giving a Sit For Charity":
"Most people change seats after making quick judgment calls - should I get up for this elderly person who might not really be all that old but has just let himself go, or do I really want to wake up to a face like that should I decide to doze off on the bus.
Briton Terry Twining made the mundane marvelous when he changed seats 40,040 times in 48 hours at a soccer stadium in Belgium. It should be said that the stadium was completely empty - free from lager-swilling hooligans who'd likely not take kindly to those making the mundane marvelous in the middle of a game, so points off for deception. (Daily Telegraph, December 2008)
Wake up to a face like what? Do they mean they don't want the first thing they see when they wake up to be the see a face of an elderly person? I'm not sure what they are trying to say here...?
But my main question is: How exactly does charity fit in here? Was this guy seat-hopping for charity or were they just going for a clever list title pun? I wouldn't have ever thought anything about charity except for the title. I'd likely have thought he was trying to set a Guinness World Record (and "Giving A Sit For Guinness" would have worked just as well), or was really, really bored that weekend. But since charity WAS mentioned, and this is "Great Achievements in Sitting" - where's the relevance to the charity? Did he raise $1 for every seat his ass touched and donate it to cancer research, or anything? I don't feel like seat-swapping 40,000 times is much of an "achievement" unless there WAS a point to it. Maybe if he was doing it to call awareness to the true horror of hemorrhoids for sitters everywhere I'd see the relevance, the achievement, but as it is, I'm just left feeling like "Hoookay then..."

...19,999... 20,000! Only 20,040 more to go... Why was I doing this again?

Second, from "Top 5 Out of Control College Parties", number 5 is "Operation Storm the Dorm":
"Return to your freshmen dorm" seems like a terrible theme for a seniors' party. Why would anybody need to revisit such recent history, especially when the rashes from irregularly washed bedding have yet to fully disappear? Presumably the only benefit is that you would now be a senior and could lord over freshmen the minor achievement of having satisfied minimum academic requirements for three years as you attempt to cajole them into your old bed.
Regardless, that was the theme for a soiree at Bates College in Maine, recently found to be the most expensive non-profit college in the US, a year there costing more than someone earning a liberal arts degree would earn in five years of intensive interning. Parents forking out that kind of cake would probably not be thrilled to see the apples of their eyes bruised in a brawl with police. But that's what happened when police tussled with some 200 "return to your dorm" partiers, pepper-spraying several who the officers said refused to get out of the way of an incoming ambulance.
With his elbow on ice and face rearranged according to the preferences of law enforcement, one of the protesters called the cops' use of force "absurdly excessive". While we would be inclined to believe exactly that in most cases, one policeman did have his leg broken in the melee. (No word if it was his opening night.) (Associated Press, May 2010; WMTW-TV, May 2010)

Now, this list is about out of control college parties. But this entry doesn't actually say what the party was or why it was out of control. They hypothesize about the theme of the party, but that sounds more like a hazing scene from Dazed and Confused than an actual party. I just wanted a little more. Rather than just compiling newsclips, I was hoping for that extra step - get in touch with someone who was there and find out what the party was about and how it got wild enough to need riot police. That's what I want to know if you're going to tell me about "out of control parties", not just the outcome like it's filler on the 10pm news. Make it interesting enough so that any of the wild people reading your book will say "Pish tosh! They call that a party? Amateurs. Lemme show 'em how it's done! Jeeves, ready Party Cave." (Or, you know, whatever they named their party planning lair.)

Moving on, I want to talk about the readability. On the whole, the book was easy to read and interesting, but occasionally -- not all the time, or even most of the time, but frequently enough to allow for quite a few highlights on my nook -- I'd run into a sentence or passage that just didn't make sense to me. I'd read it again, and on one specific occasion I read the line a total of five times, even sharing it with friends to see if I was missing something. I tried coming back to it later - sometimes that helps if I just can't wrap my brain around something, but I'm still baffled by it. The sentence is the first one in the "6 Creative Drug Smuggling Operations" introduction paragraph. For clarity, I'll quote the entire paragraph:
Drug traffickers can no longer rely only on backpackers looking to turn a quick buck for a shower back home to get their products to market. While the domestic auto industry can stamp its feet and plead for government bailouts every time foreign competition threatens its innovation-free way of doing business, drug traffickers are forced to deal directly with increasingly sophisticated police methods of detection and stiffer penalties in countries that serve as transit points.
Second sentence, a little long, but that's OK. I got that one. But that first one... It's like it's two sentences in one or something. Or if it was trying to be funny, like throwing a little dig in there at backpackers for being dirty, broke, or stranded in a foreign country, or all of the above, I think it missed the mark, at least with my test subjects friends and I. It's the "for a shower back home" that grinds the sentence to a halt for me. Take that out, and "Drug traffickers can no longer rely only on backpackers looking to turn a quick buck to get their products to market." makes sense.

This example is the most baffling one, for me, but there were others where multiple hyphenated words and long sentences contributed to that feeling I mentioned before of just trying too hard, and not always hitting the mark. Often less is more with humor.

So, overall, this book was just OK for me. Would I recommend it? Yes. Everyone's sense of humor is different, and what may not have worked for me might be exactly someone else's style. I do think that it would benefit from another edit run-through to clean up some of the long sentences and make things more concise, but that's just my preference. Not terrible, but I think my expectations let me down a bit here.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

May Reading Wrap Up

Cumulative Books Read in 2012: 66
Books Read This Month: 13
Difference from previous month: +4
Avg Rating: 3.07 Stars
Difference from previous month: -0.13 stars
Pages Read: 4,076
Difference from previous month: +1,089 pages

OK- So May wasn't terrible... It really wasn't the BEST reading month I've had, there were some real clunkers, but overall, I've read more so that's a plus. :)

For the Real Life Bookclub:

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was amazing. I don't think I would have ever picked up this book, if not for my bookclub, but I was blown away by it. I thought it was well-written, and intriguing, and immensely thought-provoking. It was surprisingly sympathetic as well, and brutally honest, which is exactly what it should have been. Definitely one for the re-read pile.

The Awesome:

Summer Knight by Jim Butcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great book. I loved Butcher's take on fairies, and his books never fail to entertain. I've just started the 7th book in the series (Summer Knight was the 4th) so I'm definitely hooked! Highly recommend this series. :D

The Good:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book once I got into it. I thought that the epistolary format worked pretty well, and I liked the characters and the feeling of the time. It wasn't really as emotional as I'd have expected it to be, but still very enjoyable and worth reading.

The Bad:

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This was really one of the worst written books I've ever read. 3rd graders have better command of punctuation and grammar than this guy. Oy. This was really bad, to the point where it was almost funny, but still. Just... Just bad. Save yourself the red ink and read something else. You're not missing anything with this one.

Did Not Finish:

Ghost Story by Peter Straub. I just... could not... continue reading. It was like wading through quicksand. Blah. I'm not even taking the time to link and whatnot.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Reading Plan: Week of May 28

Goal: Read 3 books a week to meet my goal of 160 books for 2012.
Whoops - forgot to do this yesterday. I blame So You Think You Can Dance. I have been marathoning seasons online this weekend... and it is sooooo addictive. Love that show. Anyway, while the next episode loads, I thought I would do something semi-productive with my time and do some bloggin'.

Here's what I read since finishing the Read-A-Thon:
  • We Need To Talk About Kevin
Yeah, that's it. One book. It was my bookclub book, and it totally invaded my head and ruined me for all other reading. And then SYTYCD... and now I think I've forgotten how to read. Seriously though... I started Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse FOUR DAYS AGO and I've read 3 stories. That's like... 40 pages.

40 pages... IN. FOUR. DAYS.

So, yeah. Reading. Will definitely try to do some of that this week...

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich
Dead Beat by Jim Butcher

What is on the agenda for your reading list this week?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle ★★★★

Planet of the ApesOriginally Reviewed: August 1, 2009

Caution: Vague Spoilers Ahead

I don't really think that I can do this book justice in my review. I thought that it was brilliant. I know that I have seen the movie long ago, and remember the big reveal at the end and Charlton yelling about damning everyone all to hell, but I don't remember much more than that. I'll have to watch the movie again.

I really loved the subtle cautionary tale running throughout the story. Maybe it's just my feminist liberal bleeding heart whispering to me, but I feel that Boulle just plain hated live-animal experiments and was determined to show people that the tables could be turned one day. Easily. But more than that, the book cautions us not to be complacent and lazy about our place in life and in the food chain and to keep striving and learning and bettering ourselves, but NOT at the cost of other life-forms. We're on top now, but only time will tell if we stay there.

And do we actually deserve to be? We, the "Lords of Creation," seem to think that we can do anything and everything we want to do. We're so filled with pride that we never think that OUR civilization could fall. Those kind of things are for history books, not real life. Yet we consume resources like they're going out of style, and pollute the earth like we have a spare, and just generally act like there's a "Reset" button somewhere that we can just press when we've reached the point of no return. Why shouldn't another species give running things a try? If they can do it better...

But that's the thing. They imitate us, so WOULD they do it better? At one point in the story, when Merou was being shown the experiments, I thought to myself, "They are proud of the fact that they are keeping the "animals" down... Taking any vestiges of humanity or rational thought away as soon as it is displayed in order to protect themselves. They are so fearful of the possibility of human uprising that they commit atrocities to prevent them." And then I thought to myself, "Oh, snap! So do we." We can justify anything. And so can Apes, who apparently learned from the best. In examining the Apes, we're looking at ourselves. Can we really pass judgment?

But, I was happy to see that the three "races" of Apes could cohabitate and cooperate in peace, which is more than we've accomplished so far. Our differences divide us, but the Apes recognize and relish their differences and use them well. But Apes still seem to rival Man in the fear department: the unknown is scary, so just destroy it and move on.

I do have to say that I was kind of annoyed with Merou's assumption that life forms in a far, far away galaxy would automatically be human to be intelligent. It just goes to show that our pride will be our downfall. But it reminded me of a quote from another science-fiction book that I enjoyed, Solaris by Stanislaw Lem (which you should remember if you keep up with my reviews):
"...We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death. Modesty forbids us to say so, but there are times when we think pretty well of ourselves. And yet, if we examine it more closely, our enthusiasm turns out to be all sham. We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos. For us, such and such a planet is as arid as the Sahara, another as frozen as the North Pole, yet another as lush as the Amazon basin. We are humanitarian and chivalrous; we don't want to enslave other races, we simply want to bequeath them our values and take over their heritage in exchange. We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don't know what to do with other worlds. [...] We arrive here as we are in reality, and when the page is turned and that reality is revealed to us--that part of our reality which we would prefer to pass over in silence--then we don't like it anymore."
Oh, it's so apt. We inherently assume that anyone of any worth or intelligence will be just like us. Even the "Little Green Men" type aliens that pop up in the Weekly World News magazines are still modeled after humans, and hell, they are nicknamed "men"! I just hope that one day we'll be able to see the bigger picture.

I do want to mention two things that I wish were clarified a little more in the book. I'd been told that the twist in the book was different than the twist in the movie. I had had a theory that somehow during the journey from Earth, something got mixed up and the planet they landed on WAS Earth, only far in the future. Since it seems that was not correct, I'm confused as to how two planets so distant actually would be so very similar. The two main races (Apes and humans) are the same genetically (or so it seems as Merou was able to successfully mate with an "alien" human), and there are several other animals that are similar. Not to mention the society and transportation etc. It just seems so unlikely that Soror would be so similar to Earth without knowing of its existence.

And speaking of which, that brings me to the second thing. Merou named the planet Soror prior to meeting any sentient beings. Didn't they have their own name for the planet? I cannot believe that throughout ANY of the discussions they had regarding the origins of their species, or space travel, or anything, that they did not once say, "Oh, and by the way, we call our planet Apex." (Haha, get it?) But really, that point bothered me in the story.

Anyway, Aside from those two points, I thought that this was a really great book. I hope that everyone gets a chance to read it one day.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bout of Books Final Update: Mission Accomplished!

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon
Yay! I did it! :D I read my 5 books and reached my goal. Awesome. This was a great read-a-thon and definitely helped to keep me motivated! 

Books Completed During Read-A-Thon: 5

Love and Freindship by Jane Austen
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4) by Brandon Sanderson
Blood Rites (Dresden Files #6) by Jim Butcher
The Woman In Black by Susan Hill

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Bout of Books Day 6 Update: 5/19 Progress

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon
Book #4 complete! Yay! One left to go. I can do it! :D

Currently Reading:
Just starting... hope it's good! :D 

Books Completed During Read-A-Thon: 4

Love and Freindship by Jane Austen
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4) by Brandon Sanderson
Blood Rites (Dresden Files #6) by Jim Butcher

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Bout of Books Day 5 Update: 5/18 Progress

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon
Woohoo! I finished The Alloy of Law (as you can surely tell by the fact that I posted my review for it already.) Starting book #4 for the Read-A-Thon and I'm still hoping to hit my goal of 5! Wish me luck!

Currently Reading:
This is different, and so far I'm just kinda hanging in there, waiting to see where it will go. I really loved the last book, so I'm hoping this one ends up being as good, at least. 

Books Completed During Read-A-Thon: 3

Love and Freindship by Jane Austen
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4) by Brandon Sanderson

Friday, May 18, 2012

Review: The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson ★★★★

The Alloy of Law (Mistborn, #4)The Mistborn trilogy was the first experience I had with Brandon Sanderson, and I loved it. I loved the world, the magic system, the characters, the concept, everything. Loved it.

Now, revisiting the world after 300 in-story years and about 3 real-life years, during which time I read The Way of Kings (fantastic) and Elantris (pretty good), I find myself having something like mixed feelings about Alloy.

First, a little about the world itself. I was surprised how much I missed this system of magic! It took a little bit to get used to the rules again, but it was like riding a bike. I loved the kind of Gunslingeresque feel to this book as well, and thought that the technological advancement to the age of guns, newfound electricity, trains, and motorcars was well handled and fit perfectly. The old gang are legends, the Church of the Survivor is still around, and surely parents threaten naughty children with Ironeyes when they misbehave. I would.

It was a little hard coming back to this world but not coming back to the characters that I loved so much from the original trilogy. It made me nostalgic seeing them referred to as legends. But the characters here were great, so that eased the sting of missing Vin and Elend and Spook and the rest some. I loved Wayne. He's funny, intriguing and my imagination of him fighting was incredibly sexy. (What? I can do that!) I also really liked Wax, although at times I feel like he was a little too good, too perfect, too predictable. But that's something that I can live with. He is a great character, and he Wayne together kept making me giggle - they should go on tour. Wax and Wayne. Geddit?

I also really liked the dichotomy between Wax and Miles. Miles especially was intriguing to me, but both he and Wax had me thinking WWKD? I thought Miles was a very understandable position, and while I don't really agree with him regarding the way he's helping, I can see why he feels that is the best path to achieve his goals.

But then, and here comes the mixedish feelings, when it comes to the female characters, I just felt that they were too familiar. Maybe this is due to the fact that the last BSands book I read was Elantris, but I kept thinking of Sarene as I read this. Her traits seem to be split up between Steris (I had to stop to think about her name just then) and Marasi. Also, in Marasi, there were shades of Shallan from The Way of Kings.

These aren't BAD things, because, aside from Steris, who was kind of blahsome, I really liked all of the characters I just mentioned. I just kind of want more individuality between them. I like that BSands writes intelligent, independent women into his books, and that they aren't the standard "Whore With A Heart Of Gold" or "Well Connected Madame" or "Naive Maiden/Damsel In Distress" tropes, they are better than that. But they seem to all be intelligent and independent in too similar ways to each other between books. And truly honest, this recycling tendency isn't limited to the ladies. The menfolk are similar to each other as well... but it's just the women that really stood out to me here.

Still, that's a small nitpick. I DID enjoy these characters, and I would be more than happy to read quite a bit more about them. And I hope I do, because the ending was definitely left open for some sort of follow up. I really loved the concept of "Twinborn" Allomancer Feruchemists. The way it was handled was impressive, while still leaving a lot of room to grow. I know that this is not the start of a new trilogy, but it's also not quite a standalone either. We'll see where BSands is going with this, and what the official start to the next Mistborn trilogy brings.

I am excited just thinking about it. :D

Review: The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson ★

The Amityville HorrorSpoiler Warning: If you actually do intend to read this book at some point, you may want to skip this. 

No? OK then. :)

This "true" story is about as scary as a Ke$ha/Charlie Sheen lovechild. It's terrifying... but it's not the baby's fault. It was created out of a union of glitter-vomit and Tiger Blood. Mama SLutz is an attention whore just in it for the money and notoriety, and Daddy  is a talentless hack who just spouts random words emphatically and claims they make sense. It's like it was written by a 12 year old with ADD and then edited by someone who speaks English as a 2nd language... and started taking the classes just yesterday! Exclamation point! But hey, they did something right, because I just read this pile of steaming poo! Exclamation point!

So let me tell you about the book, m'kay? There's this family called the sLutzes. They moved into this house on the 18th of December - no the 23rd of December - no the 18th of December because when they moved out on January 14th that was 28 days and Jay Anson can count, yayyyy! Exclamation point!

So the Putzes SLutzes - Wait. Did we meet Father Frank yet? Father Frank has a BAD FEELING. And then he gets sick with the flu a lot and that makes him feel bad! So then the SLutzes move in on the 18th-23rd-18th of December and then weird stuff starts happening in their house like the windows opening and it being cold. They have money problems and can't afford their boat or their wardrobe but never go to work. Also Officer Gionfriddo is the most badass ninja policeman! Exclamation point! He can drive down the street and totally not see that guy going into the WITCHES' BREW until 50 feet after he passes him, and then recognize his beard, the way he walks, and the shape of his body! Crouching Gionfriddo, Hidden Ninja! Multiple Exclamation Points!! HIGH SCORE!

Father Frank had blisters on his hands.

Then there was a lion.

Then George was all like "LET MY PEOPLE GO!" and then Gionfriddo sat quietly in his police car with the lights off watching in a non-creeper way while George acted all "like a lunatic" but later Gionfriddo said it was OK because they were closing the windows so he drove away with his lights off... totally not like a creeper, I said!


Jodie says he's an angel but he's really a BEAST! RUN! Then there is a storm and they are TRAPPED IN THE HOUSE except for when they got in the car to go to the doctor's office for some band-aids and baby tylenol. Also, call Father Frank.

Then they moved out and then the story was over except when they levitated some more and then moved to California where levitation is illegal.

Congratulations. You've now read The Amityville Horror.

I'm sorry.

Bout of Books Day 4 Update: 5/17 Progress

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon
Well then. I finished Amity... Stayed strong right to the end, that one did. *snort* Who am I kidding? That book was awful. My review is kinda meangirl style... but it makes me giggle. 

Currently Reading:

Alloy: Not really anything new here. I mostly focused on Amityville so I could get it out of the way. Looking forward to finishing Alloy today though! :D

Books Completed During Read-A-Thon: YAY 2!!

Love and Freindship by Jane Austen
The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bout of Books Day 3 Update: 5/16 Progress

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon
Not much to report here... Nook charged, I picked back up where I left off with The Alloy of Law... but still didn't get very much reading done. I got about 100 pages of Alloy, and another 50 of Amityville. 

Currently Reading:
Amityville: Exclamation points! Exclamation points EVERYWHERE! 

Alloy: Stop me if you've heard this one... "Wax and Wayne walk into a bar..." Hehe... Come on... Wax and Wayne? That had to be intentional. ;)

I'm really enjoying this one, although I feel like it's not QUITE living up to the trilogy. I think the conclusion that was just reached where I am in the book (no spoiler) was a bit obvious, but I'm curious to see where it goes. I love Wayne. He is hilarious and awesome. I miss Spook. I also miss the Steel Inquisitors. Yeah. Really. 

Finally, I love how Sanderson gives us intelligent and independent female characters, but I'll be honest and say that I wish that they were better defined individuals. 

I mean this in the leg-humpingest way possible, BSands (you know I love you) but your female characters all kind of remind me of each other... with the exception of Vin, who stands apart in my mind. 

Books Completed During Read-A-Thon: 1 (still...)

Love and Freindship by Jane Austen 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bout Of Books Day 2 Update: 5/15 Progress

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon
So, I started The Alloy of Law... and then my Nook battery died. :( 
*Note to self: The glowlight uses more juice... check charge more often. O_o

So anyway, I picked up The Amityville Horror, and probably would have read more than the 133 pages I got in if the book wasn't so atrociously bad that I had to keep quoting it on Goodreads. I mean... REALLY. This book seems to have been written by a 4th grader and edited by someone in a coma. It's that bad. Scary? Only the fact that I must finish.

Because of that... I have no real progress to update here. I went to bed early last night with a migraine, cutting my reading time short. I hope today is better!

Number of books read on 5/15: 0.5
The only thing worse than having to read this last night was the pain of not being able to read The Alloy of Law. :(

I will share with you some of my Goodreads comments on this book:
"Haha... it's like a cheesy melodrama!

Father Mancuso turned sadly away from the doctor, his eyes staring out the window at the snow. "I think so. Something...". The priest brought his gaze back to the doctor "...or somebody."

"As he rode by, Gionfriddo didn't really notice the figure going into The Witches' Brew. The detective was a good fifty feet beyond before he swerved his police car and braked to a stop. He looked back, but the man was gone. The shape of the body, the beard, and the swaggering walk were the same as Ronnie DeFeo's!"

Ugh... First, I hate exclamation points in the narrative! Secondly... did he "not really notice" or did he "notice enough for positive identification"?Yeah... can't say I recommend this one - but it was chosen for a group read so I'm reading it. 

Books Completed During Read-A-Thon: 1

Love and Freindship by Jane Austen