Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review: The Concubine by Jade Lee ★★

The ConcubineI feel like I've been reading this book forrrreeeeevvvveeeerrrrr. It's short. On my Nook it was less than 200 pages. But I just really could not work up any interest in the romance aspect of this book. I just find romances, at least those I've read (which is admittedly few) to be predictable in the worst way. I knew from the moment I learned who the dude in the palanquin was what would happen - it was just a matter of the details. I probably would have known before then if I'd read the book description... but I don't read those, usually.

Anyway. I actually thought that the Chinese political situation and process of finding an empress were the most interesting parts of the story, and I wish that these aspects comprised a bigger portion of the book. For all Ji Yue's abilities in observation and "being a political wife" - the political stuff was extremely limited. Saves room for talk of "jade stalks" and "dragon organs" I guess. You know, the important stuff. (Psst... Those are euphemisms for "penis".) *wink*

I also was bothered by the whole OMG-it's-so-amazing deflowering scene. These girls have guarded their virginity like their lives depended on it (which, I guess, in a way, was the case), haven't even SEEN a penis, let alone know what to do with it, and then Ji Yue, after having learned to give a blowie just the day before... "sits" on Bo Tao's Dragon rod or whatever like it ain't no thang. No pain, not even discomfort, and she just goes to town. I mean, it just rubs me the wrong way (geddit?) when fiction portrays the first time as this wonderful, amazing experience, especially for the girl. It's not. It is not a rainbow sunshine daisy unicorn experience. Usually it's painful, then uncomfortable, then messy, and then it's just over. And then there's the second time, which isn't much better. It takes time and repetition and practice to get to the OMGYES sex. It don't just happen when that hymen breaks.

Anyway. This was OK. Predictable, cliche, unintentionally humorous at times, but nothing special. I wish the history and politics were fleshed out more, as well as the characters' personalities. Their euphemistic sexy times parts were fleshed out quite enough.

NetGalley Review: Helium by Jaspreet Singh

HeliumDisclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book for review from NetGalley.

I was recently browsing around on NetGalley after, oh... Two years of inactivity there, or so. I saw this book, and it looked really intriguing to me. I loved the cover, and the book description sounded fantastic - a story about India's turbulent recent history, the assassination of Indira Gandhi... Intriguing stuff.

I really wanted to love this book. I was hoping that it would speak to me and allow me to learn something of what it was like to live through such things. I was hoping for this book to be beautifully written and expertly told. But unfortunately, almost immediately, I struggled with this book.

I ended up giving up on this at 20%. I just couldn't get into the story. I couldn't follow the narration - it jumped around, not only in time and memory, but between random, unconnected thoughts and observations. There are sentence fragments, sentences that seem out of order, and jumbled phrases that just don't make sense to me.

The writing and the style just didn't work for me. It's told in first person narrative, and I found it extremely hard to get into the main character and narrator's head. In fact, I didn't even know his name until around the 19% mark. (It's Raj.) Not that that's a requirement for me, but it does help to get to know the person I'm supposed to be closest to in the story. It also felt distant and cold, as though Raj's own history meant nothing to him. He describes witnessing a mob of men throw a tire over his teacher - his friend - and set him on fire as though it was nothing. He tells the story as though he's describing paint drying.

And intermixed in all of this is information about Raj's work in rheology - the science of flow.

But there seems to be no flow to this story. It's not fluid or smooth - it's choppy and jumps around seemingly without rhyme or reason. There are many words, and it's possible, even likely, that they'd come together in the end and form a cohesive whole, but even getting to 20% was a struggle for me.

Here's a quote to illustrate, from 8%:
"I shall never forget my last visit to his office. The 19th of October, a faultless day like any other. The laburnum quivered in the sun, I recall, so bright they hurt my eyes. I placed the borrowed item on his heavily cluttered desk; sheets and memos spilling over, glacial mountains and ice fields of exam papers and clogged lava flows of lab reports. Still weak, recovering from jaundice, I was in a way rediscovering the world; everything around me felt new and alien. Even the smells I took for granted in the past, and the dewy brilliance of objects. Without wasting words he checked if I had the energy to walk back to the hostel. I nodded. But he insisted on driving me in his white Fiat, which he drove slowly for my sake. On the way we talked about Maxwell's demons, he was also curious about my recently formed opinions and thoughts on Levi. I was unable to express myself properly. I said something about Levi's dark sense of humour. How he made use of snake droppings once to manufacture lipstick! Then we discussed briefly the chapter that left a huge impression on me. How the author had dealt with hunger. What really happened inside the 'concentration' camp. Up until that day the words 'dilute' and 'concentrated' were simply connected to the density of molecules in solutions (and not human beings). The writing had disturbed me, pushed me out of my comfort level. Those pages were set in a world I did not know."
This paragraph is just all over the place. It's random, and vague. It left me confused and didn't add anything to the story.

I'm sure that this book is amazing, or could be amazing, for the right reader. I don't think that I'm that reader. I no longer have the patience to wade through jungles of words to try to piece them into a story. I need more cohesion.

It's also possible that this is not the final copy as well. I am not able to find anything saying for sure whether this has been corrected yet, so it is likely it has not. If that's the case, further editing may resolve some of the things I struggled with. But as it stands, I just don't think this book is for me.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Library Sale... AKA: I DON'T Have A Problem!

So, yesterday, after breakfast, The Boy spotted a library sale. And then told me about it, which was his first mistake. He then had to wander around after me, bored, for not nearly as long as I would have liked, but out of consideration for him I cut it short to just an hour. 

It was $3/bag day. I got all of the above books in that bag. I would have gotten more, obviously, but almost all of the paperbacks were romances or Dean Koontz, or... Ones I already owned. *cough cough*

Here's my haul: 

The Thief of Always by Clive Barker
An ARC edition of Vurt by Jeff Noon (on of The Boy's favorites! Imagine that- he CAN read!)
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
*A Van Vogt Omnibus, containing Planets for Sale, The Beast, and The Book of Ptath
Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
The Sweet In-Between by Sheri Reynolds
Beware of the Dog by E.X. Ferrars
The Gravedigger's Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates
Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote
Tinkers by Paul Harding

* I picked this up purely on a whim. I never heard of any of these stories, but it looked well read, and I always think that I should read more science fiction, and for about $.14, you can't beat the price. ;) 

These Is My Words by Nancy E. Turner
The Rainy Season by James P. Blaylock
The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
Dixie City Jam by James Lee Burke
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
The Crisis by Winston Churchill
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton
After the First Death by Lawrence Block
Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow

Obviously, a lot of these books are ones that I wouldn't have likely ever read, or even heard of, otherwise. But getting 21 books for the price of a half off mass market paperback is a good incentive! 

After leaving the sale, we ran a few more errands, and stopped at one of my favorite discount stores, where I bought... yeah, more books. (I SAID I don't have a problem!)
I picked up The Illustrated Sherlock Holmes, which contains 37 short stories and a full novel. I also got The Haunting of Granite Falls by Eva Ibbotson, because a friend loves her, and I've never read anything of hers. And finally, an apparent steampunk book about Jack the Ripper called "Ripper" by Stefan Petrucha... because why not? 

... Now I just have to find a way to fit them onto my shelves. O_o

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Review: Rain And Revelation by Therese Pautz ★★★★

Rain and revelationI received a copy of this book from the author for review.

I haven't been accepting many books for review lately, because I dislike the feeling of obligation that accepting a book for review brings with it, especially the past chunk of time, with my reading so erratic and all.

But Therese emailed me, and I checked out the book and it intrigued me. The cover drew me in, and the description left me wondering, and both are good things. So I accepted a review copy, but then all that erratic reading happened again, and I sat on this one for over a month.

I picked it up last night, and I'll admit that right off the bat, I was a little apprehensive. This is written in 1st person present tense, which is honestly my least favorite narrative style. I thought right away that I was going to be constantly distracted by the narrative. I will admit that there were a few times that repetitive wording or phrasing jumped out at me ("If there's a choice, I don't see it" and "If I have a choice, I don't see it" both showed up within 9 pages of each other, for example), but once I got into the story, I was engrossed, and read the majority of the book in one sitting this afternoon. Which is pretty impressive, since, as I've mentioned, I have Erratic Reading Syndrome (ERS).

I am pleasantly surprised by how much I actually did enjoy this story, considering my first impressions last night. I thought that the characters were all well done, and understandable, if a bit frustrating. I truly felt as though I was trying to figure things out with Eliza as she went along - not just about the mystery, but also who Eliza is, or wants to be.

I got the feeling that Eliza had done a lot of growing up in a short time, even before the start of the book, and didn't yet realize it. Her interactions with Fiona just held that awkwardness of friends who are drifting apart but are unsure why or how. This is one of the things that I liked best about the book. We're not in Eliza's head a lot - just when she's actively questioning or piecing things together - but it never feels like there's any narrative missing. She is understandable and relatable, even if I don't always necessarily agree with her reactions, so it's easy to keep up with her moods and changes.

The story itself is interesting, and kept me reading through to the end to find out the answers to the questions, but also to find out what the repercussions of the answers would be.

I felt for Annie, after learning what she had gone through, and though the subject matter was grim, the writing was never manipulative or overly sentimental. I liked that quite a bit. Let the story speak for itself. If you've written a good one, it will. This one did.

Overall, I really enjoyed it, and I would recommend it to someone looking for a good way to spend a rainy afternoon.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: NOS4A2 by Joe Hill ★★★★★

NOS4A2I have a feeling that this is going to be a rambling kind of review full of leg-humps and drooling.

You've been warned.

But first, I want to get the non-leg-humpy stuff out of the way. Technically, I'm giving this 4 1/2 stars, because there were a couple things that just... didn't feel right to me. Forced, one might say. They were little things, in the grand scheme of the book, but they just didn't really work for me, and took me out of the story. I know why they were there, but knowing why someone painted their house fluorescent orange doesn't make it easier to look at. Appreciating a style of art doesn't necessarily mean one has to LIKE it.

So my first issue is with the carryover sentences from the end of one chapter, to the header of the next. These are abrupt cut-off sentences hanging in the middle of a page, and the header of the next chapter finishes them.

It took me quite a while to get used to this, and it had a tendency not to stick. I don't read chapter headings. This hinders me a lot at times, because, in a book like this, the chapter headings are vital to keeping up with the story. They tell the reader where, and when, we're at in the story. But I find that chapter headers are often times spoilery, or hinty, and this annoys me. I don't want the chapter saying "Hey, watch out for this thing to happen... it's gonna be good!" I just want to read the story and get to the thing when I get to it, and be surprised. I especially dislike the cutesy ones like "Chapter 7, In Which Character A Has Things Happen To Him And Then Learns A Valuable Lesson". Ugh.

So I stopped reading them quite a while back. Sometimes it means that I get a little lost in the story and backtrack, and sometimes it means nothing because the only thing I've skipped is "Chapter 3".

Back on point - As I mentioned, it took me a long time to get used to the end of the sentence being the beginning of a chapter thing here, but I also said it didn't really "stick". What I mean by this is that there would be gaps of several chapters that ended normally, no carryover, and so the next time I'd see it (usually when it was supposed to be suspenseful) I'd have to pause and remind myself to read the next header. And not only read it, but read it as part of the previous chapter's last sentence.

Anyway... Needless to say, it took me out of the story. I've now written more about this carryover thing than some of my full reviews, and I feel like I'm starting to sound like I disliked it a lot more than I did. I actually didn't really mind it so much except that I just had to take that moment and remind myself how to continue. But it DID serve the purpose it was intended to serve, which was to make the reader pause, to wonder where things would go... to create some suspense. And it worked well in my case, for all the reasons mentioned already. Probably better than intended, actually. I tend to... skim. Especially if I'm anxious for characters and need to know what happens.

I know that this seems to go against everything that I hate about spoilers and hints, but I don't see this as spoiling myself, because technically I am reading the page - twice. One quick skim to find out what happens, and then a rescan to pick up anything I might have missed on the first pass. I don't do this with every page, or even every book. But the ones that grab me, that have hooked me and know it, they are the ones that I'm likely to skim because I just have to know what happens. It seems contrary - you'd think that the ones that I don't like would be the ones I'm most likely to skim... but no. Those my cause my interest and desire to read to fizzle out and die, and they eventually are just abandoned. Or abandoned quickly depending on how hard I hated it.

Moving on... The second thing that took me out of the story was the unlikely relationship at the end. I'm not going to give anything away here, but it just didn't seem realistic to me. I feel like I understand it, but it felt forced and... wrong, somehow. Tacked on, perhaps. And that's all I'm going to say about that. (See, I can be brief!)

Moving on to the things I loved about this book... Oh, there are so many. It will be much, much harder to specify these, and much harder to explain just why I loved it... at least without giving anything away.

First, I'll just say that this book was not at ALL what I expected. One expects, with a title like NOS4A2 (Nosferatu, if you don't speak license platenese) that it's a vampire story. And it is, but it isn't. It's so much more than that. That sounds trite, but I don't know how else to describe it. It's a book about the mind, and the power of belief, and in belief in oneself, and parenthood, and the nature of innocence... It's really so much more than I expected, though I feel like I should have known better, considering how much I loved Joe's last novel, and the reasons I loved it.

To date, I've read everything that Joe Hill has published, with the exception of his Locke & Key series, which I'll be getting to very soon. I started reading him, obviously, because he's Stephen King's son, but I've KEPT reading him because he's an amazing author in his own right. His voice is unique from his father's, he has his own style, his own way of using words and images and music to bring a story to life, and I love that about him.

But in this book, there's a distinct shift. Joe's no longer striving to separate himself, it seems, but is now incorporating... There's a kind of linking of the universes. I absolutely LOVED stumbling across the references to other books (The knife Maggie mentions was one that I thought fit perfectly into this story, though not very subtle. :P), but especially from Stephen King's. I highlighted a lot of passages - ones that Constant Readers will recognize immediately. There were a surprising number of them.

In addition to that, I felt like this book felt more like one King would write, especially post-2000 King. Don't get me wrong, Joe Hill's hand is alllll over this book, and it's incredible, but I can see an influence here, that's all. One of the major contributors to this is how Joe writes children. Stephen King is known for writing children with perfection, and it's abundantly clear that the apple did not fall far from the tree in this aspect.

I want to say a little something about the characters... but I'm not sure what I could say without giving anything away. I'll go vague then. I thought all of the characters were perfectly done. Their lives and their hopes and fears were all handled perfectly and I felt like I'd known many of them for a long, long time. Vic especially. I felt like I knew her better than she knew herself. Or maybe I just had more faith in her. I'm not sure there's a difference. I loved her, her strength, her refusal to give in... she's one to admire, if only for her determination. Goodness knows there's not much else to admire there. She's flawed, hugely flawed, and that's what makes her beautiful.

Lou was another one of my favorite characters. I was surprised at how important he became to the story, and by the way it happened, but I almost immediately came to love him. He's the perfect guy to have your back, no matter what it might mean for himself.

Anyway, I'm not saying anymore. To say more will be to spoil. I highly recommend this one, as I do with all of Hill's books. They are all amazing, and should be read and loved forever. The end.

Saturday, May 4, 2013


I'm not sure if anyone's noticed, but I've been having a bit of trouble finishing books lately. Or, I will finish them, but it's either:

A) Ridiculously short - lookin' at you, WeGiveBooks books & free Tor novellas...
B) Ridiculously slow - lookin' now at you, every other book...

So apparently, my logic is, "If you can't read 'em, buy 'em!"

I've pre-ordered and/or otherwise acquired these signed editions*:

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Double Feature by Owen King
The Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
We're All In This Together by Owen King

Special thanks to Kathy for getting Locke & Key, Heart-Shaped Box, and We're All In This Together signed for me! :D

In addition to the above awesomeness, I bought some other books:

G.I. Joe: Hearts & Minds by Max Brooks
Roses by Leila Meacham
One-Act Plays by George A. Goldstone
Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
Psycho by Robert Bloch
The Descent by Jeff Long

*No author legs were humped in the acquisition of these titles... But not for lack of trying... *sigh* ;)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia by Rachel Swirsky ★★★★

Portrait of Lisane de PatagniaThis is the second short story that I picked up from Tor for free - again, I was drawn in by accolades - this was a Nebula Award nominee - but mostly I was hooked by the cover. I LOVE the cover... it's almost vampiric, like the taller woman is breathing the life right out of her victim. I love the haunted quality the woman in white has, and the way she seems to be basking in the theft of her. I love the kind of greedy sensuality of the cover.

These are the things that I thought when I picked this up. I didn't notice the paintbrushes, and despite the title, I didn't really think of this book being about art. I don't really read book descriptions much, and I didn't read this one. I read it while I was reading the story though, and I almost wish I hadn't, because even the one sentence teaser of a description caused me to assume things about the story. Which is why I don't like to read them in the first place.

I was not thrilled with the other free Tor story I picked up. It told everything and showed nothing, it lacked substance and meaning and just did nothing but disappoint me. In comparison, Portait of Lisane de Patagnia had all of that. The writing was evocative and descriptive, and the story was interesting and compelling. I wanted to know where it was going.

It seems like I've been reading a lot of stories about art as a method of creation, but not very many stories about art as a method of destruction. But really it wasn't so much about the art, this story. It was more about the relationship between this particular artist and her subject, between teacher and student, lovers. It was about the bitterness that can be created when hopes and expectations aren't met, and how that bitterness can create something new and powerful in its own image.

I really enjoyed this little story, though there were times when I was a little confused, because the narrative jumped around from present day to scenes from the past, and there wasn't always a clear delineation between them. But it wasn't difficult to keep up with the story, I just had to backtrack a couple times.

I can't say that I really liked the characters, but I could identify with them and I had no trouble understanding them. I am always a little impressed by this in short stories, because it seems to me that identifiable characters are hard for many to write even in full length novels, so to do so in only 32 pages makes me happy. There are only a few authors that I've seen write stories this short (or shorter) that have well-written characters, and they are among my favorite authors. I take this as a sign that I may need to search out more of Swirsky's books.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: Swift, Brutal Retaliation by Meghan McCarron ★

Swift, Brutal RetaliationI picked this ebook up when Tor was offering it for free a while back. Apparently this story was nominated for an award, and based on that, and the title, I thought that it would be the kind of story I'd like. Sadly, I am disappointed instead.

I really don't know why this story would have been nominated for anything other than a re-write. It had potential to be really great, but everything that it could and should have been was missing, which is a shame. Everything in the story is just told to the reader: Ian died. Sinead did this to Brigid. Brigid did that to Sinead. Their mother cried. Their father stomped upstairs. Everyone was angry at everyone else, and most of it was misplaced. This last was literally told to the reader just like that. Cold. Distant. There's no reader investment in the characters, or the story, no emotional content at all, despite this being what could have been a really emotionally charged story of two sisters' relationship changing in the wake of their brother's death. There was no growth, no change, nothing was learned, there was no ending... this story just contained a bunch of things that happened and then ended as more things were happening.

I don't even know what the point of this story was. I thought I knew, while I was reading, but it was like a square peg being jammed into a round hole. It just didn't fit.

The more I think about it, the more disappointed I get. It's a shame, really. This honestly could have been a great story if there was just some spark of life in it somewhere. Some growth, something in the characters that made me feel for them. Instead it was just sad in a I-feel-sorry-for-this-book way, not in an emotionally sad way.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review: The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons ★★★★

The House Next DoorThis was not really what I was expecting, but I liked it quite a lot. I was expecting something along the lines of a traditional ghost story, but, instead, I got something similar to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House... but better, in my opinion. The two books share quite a bit of ambiguity, in that we're never truly sure if there is something going on, or if it's all just in their heads, but I felt like this story just worked a bit better for me.

Almost from the start, I was kind of drawn into this book. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it. Well, thinking about the house, anyway. I really liked the slow build-up of tension, the slow escalation of the situation to a breaking point. I liked the surrounding normality - the breaks in the narrative when Colquitt talks about going to the grocery store, or meeting with friends, or taking a trip. These things were described with a detail that really allows the reader to see the scene, so when the next house related issue is brought to light, it seems all the more troublesome.

I loved the writing for that. The descriptions were perfect at walking that line right between showing the reader everything and allowing the reader to fill in some of the blanks on their own. We have a description of the house as being modern and beautiful, two stories at least, with a basement, a wall of windows in the back... but otherwise, we can imagine it for ourselves.

Part of what I loved about the description of the house is how it seems so light, so bright and inviting. I kept seeing the house in an anthropomorphic way, at times with an innocent expression, and then others a kind of sly calculation and spitefulness.

I know that a lot of this feeling is due to the story being related by Colquitt Kennedy. She seems so sure of herself, so sane and reassuring and honest - but her reliability is definitely in question. She hated the thought of the house from the very start. She wanted her lot, her privacy, her green-lit bathroom... and then when she sees the plans, she supposedly falls a little in love with the house, or at least stops hating it as much. (This can kind of be believed, given the epilogue.) But who's to say that she wasn't truly crazy as a shit-house rat and creating all of this in her head to justify the awful things that she did to sabotage those living in the house she never wanted to be there in the first place?

Colquitt may be a clever liar, even lying to herself, or maybe not all there. Walter, her husband, seems to be so in tune with her that it wouldn't be all that hard to get him on board, as indeed it wasn't. Or maybe it was Walter who was the doting husband and caretaker - a model for Buck, perhaps?

OK... I don't really believe that's the case - well, not ENTIRELY - I'm just making a point that events may not necessarily be as Colquitt relates them. There could be a rational explanation for the things that happened there.

I did a quick search online to see if I could find info on the name Colquitt, because it's unusual. I found this description of the type of person who bears that name. It's probably complete bunk, but parts of it fit this Colquitt to a T:

  COLQUITT: You can be a writer, painter, musician, promoter, great salesperson, a lover of beauty, socially in demand, and sometimes extravagant spender. Your energy might be scattered, but you have the ability to bring an idea to completion. You might be psychic, but not know it.
You desire to inspire and lead, to control other's affairs. You are giving, courageous and bold, action oriented, energetic and strong willed. You want to make a difference in the world, and this attitude often attracts you to cultural interests, politics, social issues, and the cultivation of your creative talents.

Anyway, regardless - the story was unsettling either way. And I liked it for that.

The end was a nice twist, one that I wish was just a bit better explained, honestly. So much detail went into some of the more mundane aspects of the story, and then the end was just glossed over. (I'll admit though, that rushed quality does help my Crazy Colquitt theory!)

If I have any complaints about this one, it would be the dialogue at some points. It sometimes read like one of those therapy exercises where you have to verbalize your feelings and reactions: "When you do ____, it makes me feel _____." It was just a little bit stilted and awkward, and I don't think that people really talk like that. Even well-to-do upper middle classers.

I did enjoy this book quite a lot though, and I think it's one that I'll read again at some point. I feel like there are things that I'd understand better a second time around.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: The Devil You Know by Mike Carey ★★★★

The Devil You Know (Felix Castor, #1)Despite like 20 people I know having read (or wanting to read this), I'd never heard of it until discussing the best Urban Fantasy books and series... And then, because I'm half-demon myself, this one stood out from the crowd and sounded like it'd be something I'd really enjoy. To be quite honest, I'm a little tired of the vampires and the werewolves and whatnot, so demons and ghosts seemed like a nice change.

And it was.

I really enjoyed this book. I've been in a bit of a slump lately, and so it seemed like it took me forever to read this, but I got there in the end and I liked it a lot. I loved the kind of... gritty realism the book had. It felt less like fantasy than real life - if real life had ghosts and demons and those who were capable of seeing and dealing with them.

This book seems to come with an intertwined recommendation: If you like The Dresden Files, read Felix Castor. And vice versa. (Again, odd, because last year I read EVERY SINGLE HARRY DRESDEN BOOK THERE IS and Felix was mentioned not one time to me... HMPH!) Anyway, I can kind of see why, because Felix and Harry both kind of have that snarky, just-a-guy-who-can-do-stuff thing going on. But, they were quite different, too. I've been thinking about it this morning, and it's taken me a little bit of time to realize it, but in SOME ways, I liked Felix more than Harry. (What? Like it's WEIRD to brood over fictional characters or something. Pfft.)

I don't want this to be come off sounding like a criticism of Harry, because it's not. Some of the things that I'm going to mention are parts of WHY I love his character so much. But they work in HIS world - not so much the one that Felix lives in.

First, Harry has this kind of (to use Hermione's words from The Order of the Phoenix) "saving people thing". He's chivalrous and kind-hearted with a dirty mouth and a quick temper. He has a lot of internal doubts about his ability to be the man -or the wizard- that he needs to be. Which is, of course, what makes him that man/wizard. Harry Dresden knows who he is and what his powers can do, and he has a kind of feeling of responsibility to use them to help people. I love these things about Harry, because the man that it makes him (without giving anything away) is one that I love and pity in equal measures.

But Felix was... just a guy. And I liked that. OK - maybe just a guy who was slightly more in tune with the no-longer-alive than most other people. He didn't have the hero thing going on. He didn't really head out into the fray to protect "his" city or to do good deeds... he just got caught up in a mess. He has his own doubts, his own dark history, his own fears. I really hope to see more of this in the remaining books in the series.

I liked the plot as well, and I think that it lent a good deal to the realism of the story. This was an already fucked up situation that went completely FUBAR, and then some. There are books (like The Dresden Files) where the fantasy is so entwined that to remove it would be impossible - and I wouldn't want to. But then there are books like this one, where the fantasy aspect is more... like an addition. Take away the ghosts and demons and whatnot, and you STILL have a really good story. With them, and you have a really good urban fantasy story. And I really liked that. But the fantasy aspects never felt tacked on or like an afterthought. They meshed perfectly with the story and the world, especially old city London with all its history, and I loved it.

I will definitely be reading more of this series.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare ★★★

Romeo & Juliet; Or: How Verona High Society Was Devastated Due To Two Kids Who Couldn't Keep It In Their Pants for 24 Hours.

This story is only a tragedy in the sense that, through their stupidity and selfishness, Romeo & Juliet caused others to suffer.

When we meet Romeo, he's in the throes of grief over Rosalind, who he is "in love" with, but who is not interested in him. Oh, he's in a right tizzy over her. The sun shines out her ass and all that, and the world is just a pit of despair without her in his arms, yada yada yada.

Then, OH HAPPY COINCIDENCE, he learns that she'll be at the Capulets' place for a party, so he can go stare creepily at her for a while, and just be in her presence. (Wonder if they had restraining orders back then?) Anyway, while at the party, Romeo blinks and forgets Rosalind completely, because pretty girl! And... is that...? Why yes. That IS the sun shining out of her ass. Someone must have just misplaced their flashlight at Rosalind's rear, because now that he's seen the true sun, there is OBVIOUSLY no comparison in the brilliance of the light.

We're told in the beginning of the story that Montague and Capulet have this feud thing going on. I dunno why, they just do. Makes for a convenient conflict. Tybalt, of Clan Capulet, recognizes Romeo, and thinks he's there to start shit. Remember - feud. So, he makes to fight him, but is shouted down... so he just files it away for future reference. AIN'T NO MONTAGUE GON' COME UP IN DIS CRIB, YO!

Romeo gets all kissy with Juliet. Juliet gets all swoony (it was her first kiss, being all of almost-14 and all), and within a few hours they are engaged. The next day they are married.

Taking things slow. As a lovely wedding gift, Romeo kills Juliet's cousin Tybalt. Well, I mean, Tybalt started it! *stamps foot* He TOTALLY killed Mercutio FIRST! DANG! And so he's banished from Verona.

Verona Death Count: 2

Juliet loses her shit.
Romeo loses her shit. (That's not a typo. Even Friar Lawrence calls Romeo out for crying like a little bitch.)

I would like to take a moment right now to talk about Juliet's moment of losing her shit. Because it is just a moment. Her nurse, who goodness knows needs to be slapped at the best of times, can't be trusted to relay a message accurately, and essentially mindfucks Juliet into thinking for a goodish chunk of time that it's Romeo who is dead. Understandably, Juliet is distraught at the thought that her boyfriend of 12 hours/husband of 3 hours is dead, and she didn't even give up her maidenhead yet (not making this up... she literally laments the fact that he'd not taken her to bed yet)... So, when Nurse FINALLY sets her straight that her boyfriend isn't the murdered but the murderer... Juliet is relieved, happy, and sees this as a comfort.

She sees the murder of her lifelong cousin at the hands of a dude she's known for 12 hours and who previously was a sworn enemy... a comfort.

And she didn't even know if the sex was good yet. O_o

Anyway... So, like... They meet up that night, Juliet finally finds out how the sex is (apparently good enough - WHEW!) and in the morning, Romeo leaves town (banished), and Juliet's kindhearted father promises her to Paris (who I am sure is a nice man, but apparently he ain't no Romeo) and when Juliet refuses, he casts her out. Well, he leaves the option for her to be uncast her out if she agrees to marry Paris. He's a good dad. So accommodating and caring.

She demands Friar Lawrence to help her, so he gives her a potion to allow her to fake her death. She lies to Mummy and Daddy that she'll marry Paris, and then fake-offs herself. Much sadness ensues. The Friar tries to tell Romeo of this plan, but his letter was waylaid, and he found out about Juliet's death through another messenger who didn't know it wasn't real, and he makes haste back to Fair Verona to real-off himself to spend eternity with his wife. Of two days, if my count is right at this point.

Apparently Paris also had the thought of going to visit Juliet, and he meets Romeo, they fight, and Paris dies.

Verona Death Count: 3

Romeo offs himself.
Juliet offs herself.

Verona Death Count: 4 & 5

The parents show up with the prince, who after about 5 minutes' investigation into the events, basically says "See what this stupid feud did? Everyone loses."

So, unless I missed someone in my accounting, Romeo and Juliet caused 2 1/2 deaths per day of their marriage. Could you imagine the state of Verona had they NOT both killed themselves out of angst-ridden lust?

The moral of this story: Just have sex and get it out of your system.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Review: Closure, Limited by Max Brooks ★★★★

I really enjoy Max Brooks' stories. I love his insightful way of looking at the zombie culture, what it represents, what it means for us, what we would, or could, do about it if it were to occur.

I recently recommended Max's World War Z to a friend, and loaned him my copy so he could read it. (Don't worry, it's back in my possession now, and unharmed. :D) He returned it with the comment that it was probably one of the best stories about society in crisis he'd ever read, and that the realism was incredible. I completely agree, which is why I recommended it to him in the first place. ;)

So anyway, my point in mentioning this is that Max Brooks' books have been on my mind recently, and so when I was browsing Audible last night looking for something to listen to so I could clean the kitchen (What? Like you don't...), I discovered Closure Limited. I'd never heard of it before, so I was kinda excited by the thought of new material.

So, I downloaded, listened, and cleaned... in that order. Priorities, people. O_o

Overall, I liked this - maybe not AS much as Zombie Survival Guide or World War Z, but close. I think part of what detracted from this a bit was the format and the reading. For one thing, the reader sounded a lot like Max Brooks himself to me. I have heard Max read on the WWZ audiobook (the abridged one - I've yet to listen to the newer unabridged version), and I've seen him on that one zombie documentary show that I can't think of the name of... *IMDBs* "Zombies: A Living History". So for the intro, the reader's voice worked fine for me... but in the stories themselves... it wasn't the best match.

That's not to say that the performance wasn't good... It was good, but I am kinda picky when it comes to audiobook readers, and I wouldn't say that Christopher Ragland is among my favorites. The male voices were OK - but the females were... not. And three times he had to do accents: one from The Netherlands (if I remember right?), another from Vietnam, and then a woman from China. Oddly, the Chinese woman's voice distracted me the least, which was kind of contradictory to how I felt about how he read other women - maybe it was the more staccato way in which he read her that helped. Not sure.

Before I talk about the individual stories, I'll just mention one other thing that detracted from this book for me, with regards to the audio version. That issue is that each story is headed by a chapter. "Chapter One: Closure, Limited". I didn't actually NOTICE this, though, until midway through the 2nd story, when I was wondering what the hell the events I was listening to had to do with where I thought the story was going. I'm used to stories jumping around at chapter breaks. It gives a different perspective, and progresses the story, etc, so I heard, "Chapter Two: Steve & Fred" and didn't think anything of it being a NEW story, but a 2nd chapter in the story I was listening to already.

It was a little distracting, the be honest. Probably in print form, this wouldn't be an issue, because I'd know, getting to the next story, that it's not really "Chapter Two". Anyway, so when I eventually realized that it was a different story, it made a LOT more sense.

Moving on to the stories themselves, I really enjoyed them.

Closure, Limited:
Think about a zombie apocalypse... You know that the undead are everywhere, and that they are relentless killing, and turning, machines. Think about your loved ones, the ones that are now out of contact with you in your safehouse, or compound, or whatever. You don't know whether they are alive or dead or undead. You hope that they are alive, but the odds are... slim. After a while, the wondering starts to get to you... it starts to be harder to live with NOT knowing than it would be to just mourn. That's where Closure, Limited comes in - they allow you to end that uncertainty. They provide a service that gives just what their name says: closure. Granted, there's a certain amount of self-deception that's required, because, after all, you HIRED this company to give you closure... but if you just need the symbolic aspect, you're all set.

This one really made me think... It is kind of awful in its way, and extremely risky, but could I really say that I wouldn't want something like this to exist if I was in the situation of needing it? At the very least, it would be cathartic to destroy the hope that just stubbornly hangs on and insists on tormenting us...

Steve & Fred:
When I listened to this one last night, I was... not impressed. It didn't help that I didn't realize it was a new story (as I mentioned above), but to add to that the story also has a shift of its own. So, to be fair, I listened to this one again this morning, and I've changed my initial opinion. This is a GOOD story. It's like a little polaroid of a story, one that is still working on developing toward the middle. There's not much to this one - it's 22 minutes long, so, maybe I'd estimate a similar number of pages if the reader goes through 1 per minute. Maybe double if he reads slower. I dunno. But either way, the way it expands to show the whole situation is impressive, and enormous in its capacity for dread. And the irony of the story-within-a-story aspect is not lost on me. This is good stuff. 

The Extinction Parade:
This one is probably my least favorite of the lot, and oddly enough for the "unreality" of this zombie story containing vampires. Yes. Really. 

I mean, it's not that I'm against vampires and zombies in the same story; in fact, usually I'm good with that. But in Max Brooks' universe, zombies invade the normal, everyday world due to a virus. There's nothing paranormal about them. So the insertion of the paranormal here just felt... out of place. 

That being said, if I put that aside, the story is still a good one. It brings to light the concept of resources - that if suddenly a previously thought continually renewable resource suddenly starts to dwindle, would those who rely on the resource notice in time to stop it... COULD they stop it even if they did? 

The Great Wall: 
This story, previous to my re-listen to Steve & Fred, was my favorite of the four. Now, I'd say they are tied. I loved this story for everything that it represented in terms of human resilience and stoicism and courage. It brought tears to my eyes, both of pride and sadness, and I loved every second of it. 

This one is definitely a keeper for anyone who enjoys zombie lit, or who is a fan of Max Brooks, or both. I definitely recommend it. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Review: The Biggest and Brightest Light by Marilyn Perlyn ★

Another random WeGiveBooks read.

This one was a little better than the last one, I think, but only in that it actually had a story. But honestly, I think it could have been much better.

I know that this is for kids (the age range is 4-7), but I felt like there were a lot of issues with this one. Not only were there missing commas all over the place, but this was nothing but tell, tell, tell, and the story jumped around quite a lot.

For example: The book starts out on the last day of summer, with 6 year old Amanda receiving a letter with her new teacher's name in it. The teacher's name is Dr. Malko (I just had to look it up, actually. And it was probably mentioned once a page for all 56 pages), and Amanda is worried that she might have to get a shot. Cut to the first day of school, when Amanda meets Dr. Malko and is immediately reassured that she's not that kind of doctor. She then asks the students to tell something about themselves, and Amanda immediately yells out about her iguana, her puppy, her family, etc.

Nobody else gets a word in (not in dialogue anyway - it's said that they all wanted to hear more about Amanda's stuff though), and then Dr. Teacher is shutting down intro time to hand out schoolbooks.

Then suddenly it's story time, Amanda's favorite book is read. Amanda guesses the hat from the hints given. And then suddenly it's Halloween... and Amanda is going to be a witch! Amanda Amanda Amanda. I know that this is supposed to be some sort of memoir about one little girl's caring when her teacher was in need... But that's not really the vibe I got from this. I kept feeling like she just needed to be the center of attention, the "It" girl in her class, teacher's pet.

Anyway, so then when Dr. Malko's daughter got sick around Thanksgiving (because suddenly Thanksgiving!), Amanda decided to do something to help. "She thought and she thought... and then she thought some more... until a great idea came to her." She'd make Christmas decorations, sell them at $10 each, and raise money for her teacher. (Because suddenly Christmas now!  There's literally no progression in time. It's just BLINK and it's a new holiday.) And just like that it was done. These cycles of Amanda thinking and thinking and thinking some more and then just great ideas coming to her happened two more times, and each time the great idea was over and done with in less than 2 sentences. Because, you know, the focus is AMANDA, not the kindness itself. We need to remember how selfless and caring Amanda is... it's not really all that important WHAT she did, or how she did it. She just did, OK!?

This is all the more annoying since this is apparently based on true events. I didn't get anything out of this book. I wasn't moved, I wasn't impressed or inspired. I was kind of irritated. Not really the reaction they were going for, I bet.

Review: Good Luck Bear by Greg Foley ★★

Another disappointing children's book. I'm beginning to wonder: Are books for children more about the pictures than the story?

Let's consider:
This book is about a bear who randomly comes across a three-leaf clover one day. His friend, Mouse, says "Hey, I heard that if you find one with FOUR leaves, you'll be lucky!" So, Bear goes in search of a four-leafer. He encounters a couple other unhelpful anthropomorphs: A monkey who says they don't exist, a turtle who says it'll take forever to find one if they do, an elephant who says he found one once, but doesn't remember where, a gopher who wonders aloud whether Bear will be unlucky if he never finds one...

And then Bear gives up.

But never fear! Mouse has stuck through the search with him, and while Mouse didn't find what Bear was looking for, exactly, he found something better: a FIVE leaf clover. I'm extrapolating here in the assumption that was in fact better, because that is literally the end of the story.

So, the moral to this story is that if you give up on something, someone will just... give it to you.

The artwork again is the saving grace for this one. It was adorably cute. Story? Not so much.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review: You Can't Go To School Naked by Dianne Billstrom ★★

I've set myself a goal of reading 150 books this year. I am not even close to being on target. I'm like 12 books behind.

It's quite sad, really.

So, when I remembered, I was like "Oooh! I can feel as though I've accomplished something almost like reading!" AND, even better, I have done something to tip the Karmic scales a little more toward the positive, since my spending 5 minutes to read this book has resulted in a book being donated to the Overbrook School for the Blind, in Philadelphia.

I picked this book almost at random. I am not much of a children's book reader, to be honest. I don't have kids, so I don't really have much reason to, other than to do a good deed. I have come across some cute ones, though, really enjoyable books with fantastic artwork and a really fun reading experience.

Unfortunately, this one wasn't one of those.

I think it tried to be, but my first, and lingering, thought as I read this was that it reminded me of Dr. Seuss's rhyming structure. The first few lines in the book were:
"I must wear clothes? That's what you say?
I don't LIKE clothes! I say -- NO WAY!"

Sounds like Green Eggs & Ham, doesn't it?

So the actual story is about a couple parents telling their little boy about all these horrible things that could happen if he went to school in ze buff. He could get dirty, or sunburned, he could freeze, he could get slime all over him in Show & Tell when he has to hold the frogs and snails, he wouldn't have any pockets for cool things that little boys pick up off the ground, etc.

But the whole time I was reading this, (I mean, when I wasn't also repeating "I do not like them, Sam I Am") I was thinking:  "That's not really a good way to get a little boy to want to wear clothes. Boys like to get dirty, they like gross things, they don't really care about sunburns or cold as long as they are having fun. These things sound like Little Boy Adventures, not 'consequences'."

In the end, spoiler alert, the little boy doesn't go to school naked, because his parents traumatized him with all of their dire warnings of awful consequences of doing so.

Me, I'd have just said, "If you go to school naked, all the little boys and girls will be able to see your noodle, and they won't want to play with you!  *cough* ...Until they're older anyway.

*distraction technique, engage!*
Cookie? "

I'm gonna be a great mom. :D

Anyway, it was OK, if a little wishfully idealistic. The drawings were cute, but I think the story could have been better.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I Done Got Me A New 'Do!

I was a little tired of the old look of the blog, and it was really starting to get on my nerves with some of the column width issues I was having. Adjusting the widths wasn't really doing much to improve matters either, so I said to myself, "Self, let's just do something different!"

I agreed, naturally, and so... yeah. Here we are.

What'cha think?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Review: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera ★

The Unbearable Lightness of Being13% and I'm done.

I have had a run of books that have bored me, or annoyed me, or just did nothing for me. This one is... You know, I don't even know how to describe this one.

I pretty much hated it from the first page. I do not understand the high rating on Goodreads for this book. I can barely stand the thought of picking it up again and reading more of the words telling me things about characters that I could not possibly care less about.

We have Tomas, whom we meet standing on his balcony and vacillating between whether he should ask a woman that he's "in love with" (read: met in a chance encounter and became infatuated with) to move in with him. He's saved from making any kind of fucking decision by her showing up on his doorstep (literally) with her bags packed and ready to move in. Which she does. And then she clings to him (literally) every night - to the point that he controls her sleep patterns. He even, charmer that he is, fucks with her partially-asleep mind and tells her that he's leaving her forever, so that she'll chase him and drag him back home.

Tereza (that's the woman - I had to look up her name) begins to have nightmares that he's cheating on her and forcing her to watch after finding a letter from a woman in Tomas's drawer describing that very thing. So then, in the course of a sentence, we learn that Tomas has never stopped womanizing, then that he lied to Tereza about it, then tried to justify it, and now just tries to hide it from her, but won't stop.

And she stays. He gets her a dog, because the dog will hopefully "develop lesbian tendencies" and love Tereza, because Tomas can't cope with her and needs help.

So yes, Tereza not only stays, but marries him.

Why? *shrug* The book said so.

So then war comes, and they relocate... but after a while Tereza leaves Tomas (taking the female dog that they named Karenin and now refer to using male pronouns... Maybe to make Tomas feel as though Tereza has a lover as well? Who knows. This book is so stupid...).

She leaves him, and I think, "About frigging time." There's no reason for her having decided to leave him NOW, as opposed to any day of the 7 previous years of dreading him coming home smelling of another woman, of fearing that every single woman she sees will be her husband's next conquest. She decided to leave now... because the book said so.

And then he realizes that he can't be without her, and goes to her, and she takes him back, and then he realizes he feels nothing for her but mild indigestion and "pressure in his stomach and the despair of having returned".

I am a character reader. I need characters that I can identify with, that I can understand, maybe like... but these were none of those things. I don't know them, I don't understand them, I don't identify with them in any way... and I don't want to.

I just want to stop reading about them.

And so I did.

Obligatory Lamentation; or "WHY GOODREADS, WHY?!"

By now, I'm sure you've heard. It's old news, for the interwebz, anyway. Amazon bought Goodreads.

*sigh* It's not that I have anything against Amazon... other than their predatory market practices, censorship policies, review approval requirements, proprietary attitudes, user content ownership claims... I mean, I use Amazon-owned Audible and love it, even more now that they'll refund me a credit if I dislike an audiobook, no questions asked. I was a member of Audible when Amazon took it over, and to be honest, the transition was virtually seamless for me. One day there was an Amazon sign-in, which I used (because I do have an Amazon account), and that was it. I can't say I noticed anything at all otherwise. Is the refund process their doing? Perhaps. If so, credit where it's due and all that: I love it. Thanks.

But I don't review books for, or on, or Amazon, except in the rarest of cases where I was asked specifically to do so. I've only ever reviewed consistently on Goodreads. Much more consistently there than even here - my very own blog.

Because I consider Goodreads my online Book Home. It's where I go for everything book related. I find and discuss books there, I review books there, I catalog books there. But more than that, I made many book-loving friends there, people who are more than just "online friends" to me, but real friends that I love and would hate to lose.

I love Goodreads. I love the community, the friends I've made, the groups I've created and moderate and helped to grow. I feel like I contribute to a whole there, as a participating member and a librarian. I loved their independence, and how Goodreads was neutral among booklovers - anyone was welcome, there was no bias, no perception of preference for a particular bookseller... And in fact, as little as a year ago, there was a distinctly anti-Amazon attitude there. Goodreads would not be dictated to by Amazon; they'll get their data elsewhere, thank you very much.

I saved quite a few books during that time, and now it was all for nothing, it seems. But I'm not actually upset about that. I volunteered to help save books after Goodreads banned Amazon data sourcing because I wanted to, because I'm part of the community, and because the time I put in benefited everyone, not because I'm anti-Amazon. I can't say that, because I'm not. I buy from them (though generally not books), and technically I am an Amazon affiliate, though I've done exactly zero with that since signing up. I just don't think that Amazon is right for Goodreads, and I'm worried that Goodreads will lose everything that makes it... Good.

I'm worried that the independence I loved about Goodreads is now gone, and that reviews and site content will now be perceived as biased toward Amazon because of this alliance. I'm just concerned about what this will actually mean for Goodreads reviewers. I am concerned how data will be used now that Amazon has access to it. I'm concerned with how policy may change. I'm concerned with how the site may change. Goodreads founder Otis Chandler has said that they have no plans to make significant changes to review policy or ownership rights, etc. And, probably naively, I want to trust that that's true, but Amazon didn't get to be the megacorp it is by letting the little guy run the show. So time will tell.

I'm in Wait & See mode right now, and I have exported all of my books and reviews as a back up. Until I know more about how my reviews will be used by Amazon, I won't be posting them on Goodreads - I'll be posting them here.

That's right, Goodreads and Amazon have teamed up in a conspiracy to ensure I start living up to my New Years Resolution to update this blog more frequently.

It's quite devious, really.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green ★★★

The Fault in Our Stars3.5 stars
Ok, so a little background, just to get a base point for some of my reactions to this book. In late 2010, I read Green's "Looking For Alaska". I ended up liking it more than I thought that I would, but for a long time I'd avoided it based on incorrect preconceived notions regarding what the book was about. It wasn't until I'd watched some of John and Hank Green's Vlogbrothers videos that I decided to go for it. And that made a difference. I could see John in the story - in the quirky intelligent teen characters, in the irreverence, and I liked it. After that, I bought "An Abundance of Katherines" & "Paper Towns", but I haven't read anything but their synopses yet.

So, flash-forward to present day. "The Fault In Our Stars" is chosen to be read among friends, and so I read it. And immediately, I'm struck again by the quirky intelligent teen characters, and the irreverence... But now, it's not so different, because now it seems like a pattern. A style. And that makes it less meaningful. When everyone is profoundly quirky and intelligent, it begins to seem a little trite.

So here again we have quirky intelligent characters, including a host of 16 year olds with ridiculously sophisticated vocabularies, and including an "extremely sophisticated twenty-five-year-old British socialite stuck inside a sixteen-year-old body in Indianapolis". These are midwest teenagers who sound like they're members of the Intelligentsia. Everything is profound and has "metaphorical resonance". It just didn't feel realistic to me.

Case in point: At one point there's correspondence with an author of a book that the main characters found profound, and I had a hard time differentiating between the voice of the Profound Author and the teens.

That shouldn't be the case. Ever. When one of the teens mentioned rhetorically whether the other thought they'd made up the Profound Author's letter, whether it sounded like something they'd come up with, I thought, "Yes!"

It's just too much for EVERYONE in these stories to be so quirky. Where are the average teens who just hang out with each other and don't use $10 words to say hi to each other? It was just unrealistic for me, especially in a book trying desperately to show that kids with cancer are just normal kids who shouldn't be treated deferentially just because they are sick. The problem here is that these weren't normal kids. These were extraordinary ones. Like everyone else. *sigh*

It took about half the book for this annoyance to peter out. It was like, at this point, the quirkiness and $10 conversations took a backseat to the story, finally. And that's when I really started to love it. Coincidence? I think not. Extraordinary characters are great and all, when, as a friend put it, they have "an ordinary background to shine against". I couldn't agree more.

I was far more affected and heartbroken by the simple, no-nonsense way that Hazel talked about her parents and how they were coping (or failing to cope) with her cancer prognosis than by her constant multi-syllabic conversations about the metaphorically resonant quality of... whatever.

There was a line near the end of the book that kind of summed this up perfectly:
"He wasn't perfect or anything. He wasn't your fairy-tale Prince Charming or whatever. He tried to be like that sometimes, but I liked him best when that stuff fell away."
I loved all the bits of this book that were in between all of the uber-profound stuff. The bits about loving and losing in terms of how much both hurt in stark terms of pure aching. Fancy words are fancy, but sometimes the beauty is in simplicity. When all the pretense fell away, and it was just two people wanting to spend as much time as they had left together, it became the story it always should have been.

This ended up being a moving and heartbreaking book, but I think it would have been a much better one had it been written more simply.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn ★★★★★

Gone Girl

That was my immediate reaction after finishing this book. Pretty clearly that's not how it ends. It doesn't END that way. Yet, when I tapped Shadow's screen to turn the page (Shadow's my Nook's name, FYI) - there were only acknowledgements.

And then I thought about it... I gave it just a few minutes' thought, and I decided that I thought the ending was appropriate. Fucked up? Oh my, yes. But fitting too, in a way. We do dig our own graves, don't we?

This book kind of reminded of Lemarchand's Box. Every time you try to figure it out, it draws you deeper in, and in the end, reveals the kind of depravity that seemingly knows no bounds. Ineffable.

And I kind of loved it.

I thought I had this book figured out so early. I even thought I was being clever, despite knowing, KNOWING, that I was being carefully, artfully led to these conclusions. I was creative though. I had it all figured out. All I was waiting for was the vindication when the book caught up with me.

And then WHATTHEFUCK?! The twist. Oh my. I never, never saw it coming. Despite having accidentally seen the table of contents, which kind of give it away. But, then if you know me, you know that I don't want to know anything - so I put it out of my mind. And I'm glad that I did.

The first line of the Chapter of the Twist floored me. I read it four times, and still felt sluggishly stupid. I couldn't wrap my mind around it. I had never read Gillian Flynn before, only knew that her stories were dark, thriller types. But in that one sentence, I wondered if all along I've been reading a haunting story and not even realizing it. In a way that was right, but it's just haunting in the wrong sense. Or the right one, depending on your point of view.

This book kind of... resonated. It's easy to get caught up in it - or it was for me. I could see myself, my boyfriend, my friends and their significant others, pretty much ANY relationship, in this book. And that's disturbing. Everyone changes in a relationship. Everyone. I thought, early on, "Oh, this is a story of how relationships go bad when expectations aren't met - when people change, and grow lax in their status quo relationship..."

And it was, in a way. If the When-Relationships-Go-Bad-O-Meter goes to 11. Why not just make 10 more intense? Because this one kind of situation requires it go to ELEVEN.

The thriller aspect of this book was fantastic. It's not one of those non-stop rollercoaster thrill-ride books, where every page turn is another exciting development. This was like watching the water drain out of a tub, slowly, allowing you to see, little by little,what lies under the surface. And you realize that it's recognizable but stunted and deformed, horrifying, and clearly dead inside. But you can't quite stop looking. I loved every second of it. Learning about Nick and Amy's relationship, both how it was so right, and how it went so very wrong. The characters were real, disturbingly real. Every word was expertly placed to take the reader along on this journey, and it was brilliantly done. Loved it.

The moral of this story: Make an effort. It won't kill you... ;)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hermione Hat Pt.2 & What I'm Reading...

The hat turned out WAY too small (think child size), so I ended up giving it to my small-headed friend. Hopefully it won't be too small for her, but she's got a daughter she could give it to, if so. ;)

I've started another attempt, this time I went with a slightly thicker yarn and went a size up on my needles, and so far so good regarding the size. Maybe this will be the keeper! I like this yarn I'm using too. It's a pretty cream color, and it's got just the slightest hint of a sparkle to it, so it's a little magical, which is appropriate for a hat named after Hermione. ;)

Speaking of magical... I've also started listening to The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern while I knit. But... I'm only about 17% into the story, and I'm less than impressed.

I didn't really have high expectations for this book to start with, because I'm not interested in circuses, or carnivals, or fairs or other "entertainment" stuff like that... and especially not "whimsical" "magical" versions of those things. And I don't really care for unruly magic, either. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that magic constrained only by imagination and skill, without rules or boundaries, is boring to me... I've already seen several examples of this in the book so far. *sigh*
PLUS, the audio is read by Jim Dale, and I am not a fan of him. I don't like the way he reads at all, especially Harry Potter. This isn't so bad, at least he's not mangling voices I've loved for years inside my head, but I just can't bring myself to like his style. So... Yeah. Three strikes against this already, and two were there before I'd even started. =\

It's not really all that fair, but that's life sometimes, eh? LOL

That being said, I'm not HATING it. I'm just not really all that impressed by it. Maybe it'll get better... who knows? It's for my bookclub, so I'll finish it either way, and I'm sticking with the audio so I can multi-task and knit me up a hat! I'm a glutton for punishment that way. ;)

Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

'Hermione Hearts Ron' Hat

For a while now, I've been itching to make this adorable cable and eyelet hat that I found on Ravelry, Hermione Hearts Ron, and now that I'm re-reading the Harry Potter series, and it's still cold, I've decided to just do it.

So far, I'm loving the pattern, though it is taking what seems like forever because there are so many stitches and the needles are so small that it seems like after doing all 132 of them to complete a round, I've added only about a centimeter of length. And to be honest, I am starting to get concerned that this adorable hat will be too small for my big head.

This pattern is very stretchy, but it still might not fit how I'd like, so if that's the case, I plan on gifting it to a fellow Harry Potter fan who has a smaller head than I do...

Here's a picture of the hat in progress (and sorry for the crappy quality - ipod pictures are TOTALLY the best... /sarcasm)... The yarn is actually pure white, not pee yellow. :P : 

Also, this past Christmas, a Secret Santa got me a copy of  Literary Knits: 30 Patterns Inspired By Favorite Books by Nikol Lohr. There are some gorgeous patterns in there, though I think that they are a bit above my skill level at this point. Anyone else knit or crochet, or quilt or craft or fabricate or make? And if so, have you made anything inspired by a book you've read or a movie you've seen?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Years Resolutions and Goals

2013 is going to be a great reading year!

Last year, I banned myself from re-reading anything for the entire year. Nothing but new-to-me books for an entire year. I made it, but it was incredibly hard, and is probably the reason I did not make my goal of reading 160 books.  I ended up lowering my goal several times, and in the end I made it to 128. 80% is a passing score, but it was still disappointing to me. I feel like I'd have done better if I could occasionally re-read a book I knew I'd love.

So this year, all that "no re-reading" garbage is out the window. I'll be doing a LOT of re-reading this year.

I have plans to read through as much of Stephen King's work as possible, in publication order, for the most part. I'll be skipping the Bachman books (except Thinner, The Regulators, and Blaze), and reading the Dark Tower series at the end of the year, rather than the beginning, which was originally the plan before I decided to go crazy with the Stephen King re-reads.

I'll also be re-reading Harry Potter. Duh. And some other favorites, like The Lord of the Rings trilogy and some Jane Austen.

Basically anything I want! MWAHAHAHAHA!

We're also continuing with the real life bookclub, which is exciting. I'm really glad that people seem to enjoy it, and it's even growing! We lost one of our members when he moved away, but we've gained a few others, so it's working out. I really enjoy it, and it's caused me to read some books that I really had no intention of ever reading. Some of those I didn't even end up hating! Surprises abound.

January's book is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, which is another one that I really had zero intention of ever reading. It was THE "It" book for a while a few months ago, and while I don't really have anything against super-hyped books, I have read a few reviews and it doesn't seem like it will be my cup of tea. But I'm going to read it and give it a chance... who knows, maybe I'll end up liking it. Stranger things have happened, right?

So anyway, this year, my goal is to read 150 books. With all the re-reads that I know I'll enjoy, I don't think I'll have to "OMG I-DUN-WANNA!" reading slumps that I had last year, where nothing at all interested me enough to read it... for weeks at a time. Reading should be enjoyable, dang it!

This year it will be. Or ELSE.

Anywho... if anyone is still reading this defunct blog, do you have any reading goals or plans you would like to share?