Tuesday, November 1, 2011

life interrupted...

Due to a death in the family I won't be blogging much (if at all) this November. This month has been rough and it seems to just be snowballing into emotionally overwhelming as the holidays are near. 

So for La Toussaint & Dia de los Muertos I leave a chrysanthemum and a marigold in honor of loved ones gone from this life. Hopefully I really can once again beguile my sorrow with books in the future, but until then...well, that's all for now.

Friday, October 7, 2011

eBook Freebies =)

(Previously published as Skulduggery Pleasant) FREE for both Nook and Kindle!

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant
Ace Detective
Snappy Dresser
Razor-tongued Wit
Walking, Talking, Fire-throwing Skeleton -— as well as ally, protector, and mentor of Stephanie Edgley, a very unusual and darkly talented twelve-year-old.
These two alone must defeat an all-consuming ancient evil.
The end of the world?
Over his dead body.
summary via goodreads.com

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Author(s): Stephanie Perkins
Reading Level/Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Hardcover:372 pages
ISBN: 0525423273 
Publisher: Dutton Books (December 2, 2010)

Well, I don't even know what to say about this one because it I rarely talk about books that I didn't enjoy. However, so many people loved Anna and the French Kiss while I had such a strong dislike that I feel like I should explain why it didn't work for me.
But be warned, this has spoilers so do not read on if you don't like spoilers of any kind
*spoiler alert!!
Basically I didn't like the cheating that the two main characters do and how it was handled. And before someone tries to say "but wait, they didn't cheat!" read the book again. Because Etienne even admits to cheating on page 363 (in hardcover edition). 

Etienne: "I'm saying I'm in love with you! I've been in love with you this whole bleeding year!"

Anna: My mind spins. "But Ellie-"

Etienne: "I cheated on her every day. In my mind, I thought of you in ways I shouldn't have, again and again. She was nothing compared to you. I've never felt this way about anybody before-"

And although he only admits to the emotional cheating and denies "actual cheating" in that same conversation, he does pursue Anna, flirtatiously touch her, and even spent several nights sleeping in same bed with her (though they do not have sexual contact) while still in the relationship with his long-term girlfriend Ellie. This kind of intimacy and emotional cheating just threw me completely! I didn't like that the storyline seemed to try and make all of it okay, or that major distress in life like a family member with cancer made Etienne's indiscretions logical or understandable. 
I was kind of okay with the character of Anna because she at least tries to do the right thing, but even so it wasn't enough for me to be okay with the story. I hated Etienne for his leading on of girls! He leads on not only Anna, but also his long term girlfriend who he cheats on emotionally and physically (kissing Anna, sleeping in her room, flirty touches in movie theater etc), and also leads on a friend named Meredith with a crush on him!
As pointed out in excerpt below by Rashmi(page 315 hardcover) :

Anna: "I wasn't thinking, it just happened. I've ruined everything.
She hates me. Etienne hates me!"

Josh: "St. Clair definitely doesn't hate you," Josh says.

Rashmi: "Though if I were Mer, I'd hate him." Rashmi scowls. "He's been leading her on for way too long."

Josh is indignant. "He's never once given her the impression that he liked her more than a friend."

Rashmi: "Yeah but he's never discouraged her!"

Josh: "He's been dating Ellie for a year and a half. You'd think that'd be discouragement enough-oh. Sorry, Anna."

Anna: I sob harder.

I just could not get past all of these infidelities that happen repeatedly because of Etienne. And in my opinion, cheating is cheating no matter if it's emotional or physical in form. So yeah, I think he's a douche LOL
But I do also want to share what I did like about the book: I loved the details of Paris and SOAP, which is the school they attend there. The atmosphere and little details of French life for an American were fun to read about, and I enjoyed Anna's descriptions of how she navigated the new school and then a new and foreign city. And I liked that she was self-aware enough to know that her problems (of having to go to boarding school in Paris and liking an unavailable boy) were not on the same scale as others but also was still able to recognize and feel her feelings of loneliness and deal with them. 
Overall, while I didn't like the book, I know a lot of others will and I hope that you'll check it out and decide for yourself if you think Etienne is swoon-worthy or not. And I'm actually looking forward to giving Lola and the Boy Next Door a try. I'm curious to see what happens there and if Stephanie is one of those hit and miss authors for me.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

To Steve:

The first personal computer I ever touched was a Mac. I used to love playing Oregon Trail, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, and Kid Pix on it. When I got to college I bought myself a Mac of my very own, one that I had coveted and saved up for over a year. It was a Mac G4 and I still have it because when everyone else seemed to continually need to replace their PCs after just a couple years to keep up with technology my trusty G4 updated on it's own and didn't need an OS update till after 7 years! My only other computer purchase is this Macbook Pro that I'm now typing on. 

Steve Jobs was one of the most innovative visionaries of our time. He made Apple, Pixar, and the iPhone/iPod possible, and completely changed the way we interact in the world. His contributions to computers and technology have been and no doubt continue to be a major influence. In his commencement address to a graduating class at Stanford University he said, "Your time is limited..don’t waste it living someone else’s life" and "death is life's change agent..."

It's true. Death and the circle of life are the strongest and most constant agents of change that we all face. Life is short but if we find our passion, follow our hearts, and keep true to ourselves we can have an impact on the world.
Rest in Peace Steve Jobs. What a difference you made.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

We're smack in the middle of Banned Books Week Sept 24 - Oct 1 2011, and I'm thrilled that one of my all-time favorite YA novels (which often gets challenged for sexuality and profane language) is being made into a film.

Title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Author(s): Stephen Chbosky

Reading Level/Genre: Young Adult
Paperback:213 pages
ISBN: 9780671027346
Publisher: MTV Books (February 1, 1999)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is probably one of the few books I read that was actually in the YA genre when I was a teen. It's in the format of letters written to a friend from the main character Charlie. As he deals with high school & life in general, he touches you to the bone with his descriptions and explanations of his innermost thoughts and feelings. There are perks to being a wallflower, as Charlie most certainly is, but participation has its infinite possibilities too. I loved it even though its intimacy made me freak out a little, withdrawal, and fear. I "feel infinite" when i think about it:) What "banned books" have made an impact on you?

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Fascinating Oral History: Jacqueline Kennedy In Her Own Words

Today on Hulu I watched the ABC Special with Diane Sawyer about the oral history and subsequent book, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy
It was completely fascinating to me! I never had any real impression of her at all before, other than as a fashionable first lady. But this interview is so revealing about her personality, her feelings, and how smart she really was...you've gotta watch it if you like history and biographies.
Her understanding of history and what it would take to preserve those moments in time that she witnessed just blows me away. Especially when you consider the fact that she does these interviews just months after the tragic assassination of her husband. I can't imagine what it took for her to be able to do that under such incomprehensible hardship and loss. I always admired her presence of mind to look back to history and take note of Lincoln's funeral and proceedings for President Kennedy's own arrangements. And now after seeing the tv special I look forward to reading the book of the full interviews and learning more about her. I never realized how much of a reader she was, and how her translations and readings of various history books were so primary to her relationship with Jack, nor did I ever know how shy and private a person she had been. It's making her a very easy historical figure to relate to, and now I'm curious to learn more.  
The documentary and book The Fog of War were awesome looks into the period as well, so I highly recommend them if you're interested.

At the very least watch the doc, because Robert McNamara is completely engaging and the Errol Morris film actually won the 2003 Academy Award for Best Feature-Length documentary.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin (and Giveaway!)

Title: All These Things I've Done
Author(s): Gabrielle Zevin
Reading Level/Genre: Young Adult
Hardcover:368 pages
ISBN: 9780374302108
Publisher: Farrar,Straus and Giroux (September 6, 2011)

This is an AMAZING book! At first it was simply very strange, and when I read Anya’s words as she narrates her story I thought to myself, “hmmmm....I don’t know if I can believe these are the thoughts of a 16 year old”. Then you realize she has internalized everything her deceased father ever told her and that she draws comfort from his adages and parrots them even if she doesn't fully understand them yet. It's her trust in her father's love and past guidance that she leans on for support. We see her repeatedly quote him and return again and again to his words to her, no matter how small the advice. The problem is her father was a crime boss and his death has left Anya and her siblings in a precarious situation because of illegal chocolate connections. Chocolate is an illegal substance in 2083! (It's not so crazy/impossible if you think about it lol)

Being so astute and practical, Anya thinks she has little use for typical teen luxuries like romance, dances, or even hobbies. Her free time is instead spent looking after her dying grandmother, her handicapped older brother and her younger sister. She puts all her effort and energy into making sure they are able to stay a family and not separated by child services. What’s interesting is how the book takes place in a future time of 2083 and yet its problems are both contemporary and reminiscent of our history at the same time;the illegal status and bootlegging of chocolate have the vintage feel of the 20s and Prohibition era times. 

Anya does well keeping her head above water and in keeping her family’s survival stable until the most unexpected happens: she falls in love. And not just with any boy, but with the D.A.'s son. He makes her feel what she never let herself feel before and this scares her like nothing else. Why? Because Anya needs always to have a clear head if she is to survive. But love is not logical and that is how her story turns even more interesting.

I didn't know what this book was about when I started it but I loved it and very much looking forward to next in the series! So to spread the word I'm giving away my ARC. All you have to do to enter is click the link and fill out the form.

Contest ends October 1st, 2011. Winner will be notified by email and posted here on blog, and must respond within 48 hours or new winner will be chosen. Open to everyone. Winner will be picked randomly.

Special Thanks to Macmillan Children's Publishing Group at ALA for the opportunity to receive and read the ARC, and even had fresh coffee and chocolate for us:)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Eddie Vedder's Ukulele Songs

I recently heard Eddie Vedder's performance of Without You on Letterman and the sweet sound of it prompted me to download Ukulele Songs
I'm smitten with the lullaby feel this album has!  
I never did really listen to Pearl Jam but this is completely different sound; his voice is soothing and lyrical in this, and its hauntingly beautiful melodies are what's sticking with me lately. Especially the little duet You Belong to Me :)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Rogue by Rachel Vincent (Shifters #2)

 Title: Rogue (Shifters, book 2)

Author(s): Rachel Vincent
Reading Level/Genre: Fiction -Paranormal
Paperback:400 pages
ISBN: 9780778329145
Publisher: Mira (February 1, 2010)

Ms Vincent, I am an idiot! LOL I almost didn't see how fantastic and awesome your Shifters series is and that would have sucKed!! Thank goodness there are other readers and bloggers out there that saved me from doing that because I am well and truly hooked on your books now:D I just finished reading Rogue and by the time I was on chapter 5 I was wondering how I ever felt so "meh" about Faythe, Marc, and all the other Pride peeps. 

Faythe has won me over and I guess because I started out as not a fan, I love her that much more now that her story has drawn me in so deep. I find her relationship with her father and mother so interesting to watch as she works at building autonomy while balancing it with interdependance necessary for a shifter in a pack. It's something that definitely affects her fear of commitment to Marc too. I love Marc but just when I feel like Faythe is being dumb for not committing to him he does something over-the-top that makes me say, "well damn Faythe, you are right". 

Then there's the details of the series itself: when I read book 1 I didn't expect some of the smallest details to turn into important leads in this book. I've been so used to the routine of reading series that I thought I pretty much knew exactly what was coming but Rogue did a great job of surprising me with a couple things and I liked that. Now I can't wait to read book 3 but since I'm short on cash I have to suffer and wait my turn for it through the library! lol  

Saturday, August 20, 2011

•¸¸.•*¨*•☆ •¸¸.•*¨*•☆wishlist 08•20•2011

On My Wishlist is a fun weekly event hosted by Book Chick City and runs every Saturday. It's where we list all the books we desperately want but haven't actually bought yet. They can be old, new or forthcoming. It's also an event that you can join in with too - Mr Linky is always at the ready for you to link your own 'On My Wishlist' post. If you want to know more click here.

Reading level/Genre: Biography-Humor

Hardcover: 277 pages 

Publisher: Reagan Arthur/Little, Brown and Company; 

(April 5, 2011)

Summary (via goodreads):
In her acceptance speech for Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Tina Fey announced that she was proud to make her home in "the 'not-real America'." It is perhaps that healthy sense of incongruity that makes the head writer, executive producer, and star of NBC's Emmy Award-winning 30 Rock such a cogent observer of the contemporary scene. Bossypants, her entertaining new memoir, shows that strangeness has been her constant companion. Fey's stories about her childhood in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania are only appetizers for LOL forays into her college disasters, honeymoon catastrophes, and Saturday Night Live shenanigans. Most funny read of the month; the best possible weekend update.

I think Tina Fey is one genius of a comedian and I've been meaning to get her book, Bossypants. I love her SNL skits and even her interviews are funny. I especially like when she collaborates with Amy Poehler:)

 Reading level/Genre: YA - Horror
Hardcover: 277 pages 

Publisher: Quirk Publishing - June 7, 2011

Summary (via goodreads):
A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

Author Danny Marks sold me on this one, after talking about how creepy and awesome weird this book by Ransom Riggs is. Ransom Riggs is the same guy who posted this popular Youtube short and also the guy that did the book trailer for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (which I loved!) a couple years ago. Here's the vid for Miss Peregrine's: http://youtu.be/XWrNyVhSJUU

Gah! no matter what I do I cant friggin' get this thing to embed so it's just the link, sorry.
Blogger has been weird ever since it changed a couple weeks ago :-/

Friday, August 19, 2011

Stray by Rachel Vincent

Author(s): Rachel Vincent
Reading Level/Genre: Fiction -Paranormal
Paperback:400 pages
ISBN: 9780778329077
Publisher: Mira (April 1, 2010)

When I started this book it took me quite a while to really get into it. A lot of that had to do with the main character, Faythe Sanders. Faythe is a grad student in a Texas college with no desire to deal with her werecat family. 
Tired of familial obligations and lack of privacy, she does everything she can think of to put off the inevitable issues having such a background entails. But in trying to do so she can be really immature, spoiled, and in many scenes downright unlikeable. I found Faythe's attitude to be a turnoff in the beginning but other characters (like her brothers and extended family) kept me fascinated. 
I also didn't want to stop reading because so many people have sworn this series gets so much better as it goes on. Once I got toward the end of this book I started to believe them too. I began to really enjoy the journey and understand the trials Faythe endures, and how they change her. There's some good action, interesting plot twists, and a romantic lead that really grabbed my interest enough to make me want to continue the series and grab book 2.  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Monster Review-a-thon Mini Challenges #4

Mini Challenge #4:
Well challenge numero quattro is to work on updating review lists.
Um...how bout I didn't even know what a review list is! LOL ::blushes::
If I've got it right though it's basically a page listing all the reviews you've done. Usually they seem to be organized by titles in alphabetical order. I've gotta be honest, I'm not too keen on creating one. It's a lot of work to do and there's no way I'd get it done within the week that this challenge consists of since I'd be creating it completely seeing as I've never had one:P So this is a "skip" for me right now.

Monster Review-a-thon Mini Challenges #3

Mini Challenge #3:
So I thought about how I could work on setting up future review posts and realized I had a ton of picture books that I read recently and really liked but hadn't even so much as "starred" them on goodreads. I used one to try out a basic review here yesterday, and figure it might be nice to post about the others too. I've set those up and they will be coming soon here and there between other posts.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton

Title: Shark vs. Train
Author(s): Chris Barton, Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Reading Level/Genre: Children's Picturebook
Hardcover:40 pages
ISBN: 9780316007627
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers(April 1, 2010)

A while back I was lucky enough to attend an event here in town where the author read the book, talked about the creation process, and even shared some of the rejected illustrations. It was a funny story and I have to say I loved it! It's totally the kind of book I would have begged to have read to me over and over as a small child. For some reason I've always loved trains and to read about one that competes with a shark just makes good kid sense,LOL. 

Basically two boys pick toys to play with: one picks a shark and one picks a train. And of course, being little boys, the ordinary act becomes a competition to see who is better. Is it Shark or is it Train? 

Train can win a lemonade sale. But Shark can get the most Halloween candy. Both can do some things the other can't, and both can't do some things very well that the other can. But the fun is the challenge, and in imagining all the silly ways a shark and a train can compete with each other. They learn that while everybody has their strengths and their weaknesses, it matters what you make of it. It's a great book, especially for boys!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Monster Review-a-thon Mini Challenge #2

Cross-posting Your Reviews
Thanks to Kristen and Kate at The Book Monsters for hosting this Review-a-thon Challenge! You can participate even if you don't blog but review books on a social network like goodreads, so check it out:) 

Challenge #2 is to catch up on cross-posting your reviews on all the various reader social networks and sites like goodreads, Amazon, LibraryThing, etc.
Luckily this is not something I am behind on. Last summer I made the effort to get all my social book networks synched up and have been on the ball!

Actually there is one exception: Amazon. Unless you received an advance copy of the book through their Amazon Vine™ review program, no one can post a review on the site for a book until after it's release. So for any of the ARCs I've read and reviewed I have yet to post those on Amazon for that reason.

Monster Review-a-thon Mini Challenge #1

Rethinking Your Review Format
Thanks to Kristen and Kate at The Book Monsters for hosting this Review-a-thon Challenge! It came at a good time for me, so I've been inspired to tweak here and there on my blog. You can participate even if you don't blog but review books on a social network like goodreads, so check it out:) 

1. Are you happy with your review format currently?
Pretty much. 
I sometimes wish I could just do a brief opinion post with a quick # rating like I do sometimes on goodreads, but I feel like that would be too flimsy for a blog post...though it's possible I might try something like that with tumbler someday. I find the brevity of tumbler very appealing.

2. Scrutinize it a little more, maybe compare it to other blogs you like, anything you think you might change?
Like you guys mentioned, I've always liked the idea of adding quotes or passages to the reviews too. Many times I've wanted to showcase a favorite part, or hook other readers to a book I adored with a great line from it, but I've been reticent to do so because I'm not sure of the rules. I think I heard somewhere that due to copyright you could only post a certain percentage of the book total or have some kind of permission from the publisher or something? Anyone know?    

3. Implement some basic changes and tell us what you think. Or, you can tell us one or two aspects of your reviews that you like.
The major thing I've always focused on in my reviews is no spoilers. I HATE spoilers. So I try to write the kind of reviews I myself would like to read: brief and to the point, highlighting what it's about without giving away the whole story, and doing it only for books I enjoyed. Or if I didn't really like them but I felt it was still worth reading, or that it was a book that needed discussion by virtue of its theme or something, then I might post something, but otherwise it'd be a waste of my time to give any more focus to something I absolutely disliked. I generally just keep it simple and mark a 1-star rating on goodreads and move on for those.

The main change so far is adding the thank you line when I've received a review copy from NetGalley, GalleyGrab, or the publisher/author directly. I don't know why it didn't occur to me that I could do this before! ::smacks head:: But I like being able to show that simple thanks, because I really appreciate their effort. If I bought it myself or checked it out from the library I don't see any reason to add that so I probably won't. Hmmm....actually, that's how it started that it never occurred to me to include a line of thanks previously because all the books I reviewed when I began blogging were purchases and library books only. Wow, I figured it out lol