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Friday, August 29, 2008

Montana 1948

Montana 1948 by Larry Watson
Reason for Reading (listening): Need to entertain myself on commute to work
Rating: 3.5/5

Montana 1948 is a book that I loved. And I hated. It is a coming of age story, told from the perspective of 12-year-old David Hayden. We have both the benefit of David's perspective as both a child and as an old man, as he reflects back and fills in details of the story that he did not completely comprehend as a child.

This book is about the events that happened one summer, to David and his family. Secrets come to the surface that end up permanently altering David's life, and the structure of his family forever.

This book won a number of awards, and deservedly so, for the writing is very descriptive character study. Larry Watson brings to life vivid characters in a relatively short book.

This book had me from the beginning, but as I was listening, as I got towards the last disk, I kept thinking to myself, boy there is a lot to wrap up and not much time left to wrap it up in. How is the writer going to conclude this one?

Well, this gets to the part I didn't like about the book. The ultimate conclusion to the book ticked me off. It felt sloppy. It felt too convenient, and most importantly, it seemed to contradict the wonderful characterizations that had already been established.

Now that is just my take on the ending, and in a google search, none of the other reviewers I saw felt the same way about the ending, so it could just be me. Because this is a great character study, I would still recommend this book. And maybe you'll feel differently about the ending.

Other reviews:
Trish (Hey lady! Whatcha Readin'?)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


While I do love me a good summer afternoon, a nice crisp fall day with lots of sunshine is quite nice as well. This will be my first time joining the R.I.P challenge, and I am going to embark on Peril the First, which is to read four books of any subgenre of scary stories. I'm opting to just make a list of potential books and pick the ones that interest me.

So how's this for a start:

I Am Legend
Unholy Domain
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Vampyres of Hollywood
We Have Always Lived in the Castle

At the moment I'm too lazy to search my bookshelf any further. Most of the books I've listed so far are within my line of vision. I feel sure there will be many, many more books added as I get the chance to browse other reviews.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Reason for Reading: YA Reading Challenge, Mythopoeic Award Challenge
Rating: 4/5

I really really hate commuting, so I've started checking out audiobooks from the library to make the trip more bearable. Coraline was the first one I picked, and what a great read! After I'd get to work, I would also want to stay in the car for another minute longer so I could listen a little bit longer.

The audiobook is narrated by Neil Gaiman, which suits it just perfectly. Many other reviewers have commented on the creepiness on this book (and warn you, gentle reader, not to read this book at night). I will further that by adding, don't listen to this audiobook late at night. The weird song that the evil little rat creatures sing was stuck in my head the entire week I was listening to this book and I found myself humming it even when I wasn't consciously thinking about the book. Listening late at night would no doubt have given me some decent nightmares.

So the book. It's about a girl named Coraline who has just moved into a flat with her preoccupied parents. One day when she is especially bored, her father sends on a mission to explore the flat in order to get her out of her hair. She counts 14 doors, and one that only opens to a brick wall.

Later Coraline takes the key to the forteenth door and tries opening it again, but this time she discovers, much to her surprise, that it opens to a flat almost identical to her own. She has an "Other Mother" and an "Other Father", who look like her parents but have black buttons for eyes. At first, Coraline rather likes the Other Flat, as the food is better and her Other Parents don't ignore her as much, but when her Other Mother kidnaps her parents, it's up to Coraline to rescue them.

The story is a simple one, but fans of Neil Gaiman will not be disapointed. It contains the twisted sense of humor you'd expect, and don't let the diminuitive size distract you. It still packs a punch.

Other reviews:
Andi (Tripping Towards Lucidity)
Alice Teh
Joy (Thoughts of Joy)
Susan (Bloggin' 'Bout Books)
Stephanie (Confessions of a Bookaholic)
Dewey (The Hidden Side of a Leaf)
Melody (Melody's Reading Corner)
(Did I miss you? Leave me a comment)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Clubbing... BSC style

Raise your hand if you read The Babysitter's Club as a kid. (Yes, you in the back, get your hand up, you know you wanted to dress like Claudia Kishi). I remember getting into them when I was in third grade, maybe? I don't remember exactly when I lost interest in them, but there was a long time in my life when I wanted nothing more than to have a group of BFFs and organize them into a club with our own phone line and a notebook to keep track of all of our babysitting jobs.

Like many things from childhood, I remember the BSC with the hazy glow of nostalgia, even though I am aware that to my adult self, the books would now probably come across as trite, boring, and pointless.

Thanks to BSC Headquarters, a blog dedicated to reviews of the BSC books, I don't have to even read the books again to realize this. Tiff undertook a project to read all of the old BSC books. You understand, there are like 200 or more books in the series. And they all have the same exact formula.

We have a chapter introducing us to the members of the BSC.
Then a dilemma is introduced.
A subplot usually involving the kids they babysit.
The dilemma continues. BSC meetings are held.
The subplot is resolved.
The dilemma is resolved.

And yes, the reviews are hilarious. Everything, from the lovely cover art to the incessant descriptions of Claudia Kishi's outfits as "high fashion" when we all know she dressed like a freak are up for grabs.

Despite the snark, her blog is obviously a labor of love, because to read all 200+ books as an adult is certainly an act of insanity. And then to actually analyze and come up appropriate hilarious commentary for the drabble... wow.

I always thought Claudia Kishi's outfits sounded a little weird even when I read the books, but it is so nice to go back and know I was exactly right. One little sample of Tiff's commentary:

What, you might be wondering, did Claud wear for her test? Glad you asked..."I thought I'd start with my lucky earrings--the ones that look like Princess Di's. They're huge (pretend) emeralds, surrounded by thousands of tiny (phony) diamonds. Then I thought I'd work downward from there, wearing my new green-and-blue-tie-dyed T-shirt dress (the casualness of the dress would be an interesting contrast to those fancy earrings) over green leggings." Um, hawt? [Hey, RNL, if the Painkiller costumes don't come together, I can wear this, and you can dress up as a long-term substitute teacher for Halloween. And you can go around accusing me of cheating. Or we can challenge people to fight as though we were wearing the Painkiller costumes. Suitable backup plan?]

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Write on Wednesday

This Week's Question is a Questionnaire in honor of school starting soon.
  1. Do you write fiction or non-fiction? Or both?
    Does this blog count as nonfiction? Then it's yes to both. For my pleasure writing I only write fiction. I have no real desire to be a non-fiction writer.
  2. Do you keep a journal or a writing notebook?
    I used to keep pretty detailed journals and I haven't in a long time. No clue why, I really think I should have liked to look back at my journals from the past few years if I had kept any.
  3. If you write fiction, do you know your characters’ goals, motivations, and conflicts before you start writing or is that something else you discover only after you start writing? Do you find books on plotting useful or harmful?
    If I'm trying to work out a character, their motivation usually comes to me in fits and starts. I don't know everything to start, but as I write, their attitude develops. And I haven't read any books about plotting, but I plan to as I would like to learn more in that particular area.
  4. Are you a procrastinator or does the itch to write keep at you until you sit down and work?
    Definitely procrastinator. When the itch strikes, though, I can sit for a long time until I run out of ideas or get really tired.
  5. Do you write in short bursts of creative energy, or can you sit down and write for hours at a time?
    Well, I guess I kind of answered that one already. Short bursts of creative energy. I do not sustain well unless I feel inspired. One reason I am still an aspiring writer.
  6. Are you a morning or afternoon writer?
    Night-time. I don't feel creative until later in the day.
  7. Do you write with music/the noise of children/in a cafe or other public setting, or do you need complete silence to concentrate?
    Complete silence, although music sometimes works. Definitely no TVs.
  8. Computer or longhand? (or typewriter?)
    Computer. I can't write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts and I retype things too frequently.
  9. Do you know the ending before you type Chapter One? Or do you let the story evolve as you write?
    I never know how a story is going to end. Which is why I'm going to buy a book about plotting as I don't think that is the best way to write.
  10. Does what’s selling in the market influence how and what you write?
    Nope. I just want to write. I don't want to have to support myself financially by it, leaving me free to write whatever the hell I want to.
  11. Editing/Revision - love it or hate it?
    Love it... how else would I get from the rough outline down into the actual story?
Today I've been playing around with a writing program. So much fun to organize, create characters, scenes, chapters, outlines and the like I may never get down to any actual writing. Although that kind of defeats the purpose.

Thirteen Reasons Why

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
Reason for Reading: YA Reading Challenge
Rating: 4/5

Clay Jensen is surprised to find a package left at his house one evening. Inside, he finds a series of audio tapes, each side numbered, up to 13. When he pops one in to his tape player, he is horrified to ear the voice of Hannah Baker, a classmate who committed suicide a few days ago.

On the tapes, Hannah chronicles her story. What happened to lead up to her making the final decision to end her life. What people did to her, without thinking. How she was got a reputation based on rumors.

This is not an easy book to read. High school can be a cruel place, and this book shows the ugly side of it. Hannah innocently kisses a boy in the park and when he starts bragging about it at school, enlarging the story a bit, a reputation develops around her.

There is an intensity to this story that makes it hard to put down. Even though we've established from the beginning that Hannah is dead, as you race through each chapter, you want desperately to think that the outcome might actually be different.

I felt for Hannah as I was reading this. She had a lot on her plate, and with each story, we see how she felt more and more ostracized and picked on. By the time I was finished with the book, though, I was mad at Hannah for giving up on herself. She had some real sucky stuff happen, but I wanted to give her the lecture that she would graduate from high school eventually and all the petty stuff would get better. Whenever I have a strong emotional reaction like that though, it means that the book got to me somehow. And this one does get under your skin.

I think it is interesting to note what inspired this book. According to the author bio on the inside cover of this book, Asher was inspired to write this book while listening to an audio tour at a museum, struck by "the eeriness of the voice in his ear-a woman who described exactly what he was looking at but wasn't there."

This book is recommended for anyone who survived or is surviving high school.

Other Reviews:
Bottle of Shine
A Striped Armchair
Reading Room
Thoughts of Joy
The Hidden Side of a Leaf

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Reason for Reading: YA Reading Challenge
Rating: 4.5/5

When you peruse this review, you will be asking yourself one question: should I read this book?

The answer is yes. End of review.

Just kidding. I can't give too much more information to you or I'll completely ruin the plot, and this one is worth savoring.

But here's the set up. A girl wakes up from a coma with no memory of anything before the coma.

I used to be someone. Someone named Jenna Fox.

That's what they tell me. But I am more than a name. More than they tell me. More than the facts and statistics they fill me with. More than the video clips they make me watch.

And what is the book about? It's about ethics. It's about what happens when a child is held to impossible standards. It's about how far a parent would go to save a child.

This book is somewhat like a mystery, as the reader follows along with Jenna as she tries to put the pieces together and make sense of her life. I found it pretty much impossible to put down, and I kept wanting to flip back and forth between the different clues we're given along the way.

The book has it's flaws. A cobbled on ending that ties up the ends a little too neatly. A character I expected to play a bigger part fizzled off. But they are minor. This is a great, thought-provoking read.

Other reviews:
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
nothing of importance
Becky's Book Reviews
Did you read this one? What did you think of the ending? Email me (so not to give away spoilers) boldblueadventure AT gmail DOT com

Saturday, August 16, 2008

In defense of YA Fiction

Here's an interesting perspective on YA Fiction. I'm sure its not an uncommon one really. It's the whole concept of whether or not there should even be YA fiction at all, since it further divides readership, and coddles young adults into never reading more challenging books.

I loved YA when I was a YA and I never stopped loving it. I read a pretty wide variety of books when I was younger, but the YA shelf at Barnes and Noble had a special hold over me. I went through a period when I thought I had to stop liking it, because I was an adult (of sorts) now. I stopped visiting my favorite shelf, but I found myself constantly sneaking glances back in it's direction. I wanted to know if Garth Nix had written anything new, what the latest fantasy books were, if I could find a good science fiction.

Honestly, I think book blogging snapped me back to my senses. I was letting my age stop me from reading a genre I loved. Okay. We're talking about a confirmed life long bookworm, the type who Read Books Much Beyond Her Maturity Level as a child. I read all sorts of thick classics like Wuthering Heights in high school. Asimov was pretty much my favorite writer before I even had a driver's license. And I read Lord of the Rings at like some ridiculously young age (3rd grade maybe?).

Why should I be any different now? Really.

All that to say, I like YA. Yes, it is an arbitrary genre at best. Because book companies need a way to get books into certain audiences, they have to market. Yes, sometimes YA books have simpler language, and they tend to be shorter.

But for teenage bookworms, the fact that there is a whole section of the bookstore dedicated to them is a really good thing. Those who are at a higher reading level are going to still going to pick out more challenging reads in other parts of the bookstore. Teenage readers who struggle more with reading are a lot more likely to be interested in a shorter book that features teenage protagonists than they in thick classics with a lot of vocabulary words.

And if an adult feels "slightly distasteful and pedophilic" when reading YA, then here is my final word to you: getoverit.

Little Altars Everywhere

Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells
Reason for Reading: Need for something more mindless
Rating: 4.5/5

A companion novel to the better-known book Divine Secrets of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, this book is best summed up by the old saying: we put the fun in dysfunctional.

Because this book is laugh out loud hilarious. It is also heart-breaking. Not many authors could easily fuse the two emotions so seemlessly.

This book might be easily labeled 'Chick lit', but don't let that throw you off. It is a keen-sighted character study of an entire family. Told in vignettes that alternate narrators, it is the story of the Walker family. It is set mostly as the four Walker children are growing up in the South of the 1960's.

Wells has an impeccable sense of place. The brands, the music, the attitudes of that era... she captures it perfectly. She also knows how to give the reader fascinating characters that won't easily be forgotton. I pretty much gobbled this tasty read in about one sitting. Since it's hard to really explain what this book is about (it's not necesarily about any one particular thing), here are some quotes:

The minute we hit the kitchen door you can hear that dog yipping. You can hear her little toenails tapping against the wood floor while she runs down the hall. Buggy (their grandmother) lets those toenails get so long, it's like Miss Peppy is wearing little poodle high heels.

My Daddy told Buggy once, If you don't trim that dog's toenails, someone is going to report you to the ASPCA.

After that, Buggy keeps that poodle away from my Daddy. She doesn't believe in cutting Miss Peppy's toenails because she says it depresses Miss Peppy. But you better believe she gets scared when my Daddy threatens her with punishment from a big organization. Buggy is terrified of big organizations. She says they're all in cahoots with each other. For instance, she thinks the Communists have infiltrated the NASA space program to ruin the weather so they can destroy the Catholic church.


Before he could marry Mama, they made Daddy sign an official document promising to raise us all in the Catholic faith. He also agreed to go to Catholic Instruction every Thursday night for two whole years. But when push came to shove, Daddy refused to join the Catholic Church. He said, Ya'll are like sheep to the slaughter when it comes to the Penguins (which is what he calls the brides of Christ)....

Now I didn't even know about this before we started at Divine Compassion
(their school), but at school I'm always singled out because I'm the child of a "Mixed Marriage." That means I'm likely to make the Baby Jesus cry a lot more than a kid with two Catholic parents.

I highly recommend this particular book even though my particular review is particularly undescriptive. Because it is particularly good.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Spoilers... Love em, Hate em

I have no one to blame but myself for this one. I am in the middle of season three of Battlestar Galactica and I wanted to know if I could watch the first few episodes of season four online after season three is done, so that I can be all caught up when season four finishes this fall.

So like any normal red-blooded American who doesn't live under a rock, I googled Battlestar Galactica Season 4, and almost immediately ran across a big ole spoiler. As in I am at the point in the series where I don't know who the final five Cylons are and now I learned who at least one of them is.

GRR.... My complete viewing experience is now ruined. My experience henceforth is completely tainted and I can hardly stand to live with the consequences of knowing the surprise. It's like opening all your presents early for Christmas and then realizing immediately afterwards that on Christmas you won't get to be surprised. What do I have to do, never surf the interwebs again???

Oh woe on me, poor, deprived soul. How miserable I am. I will now be unable to ever again watch an episode of my beloved BSG because of this terrible transgression.

Until the next netflix disc comes tomorrow, anyhow. Perhaps I'll hold my knowledge over husband's head and conveniently predict what's going to happen right before it happens so he thinks I'm very smart.

(Note to self: plan may not work so much, as husband has a tendency to read this blog ocassionally. Hmmm... plan B. Ruin surprise for him too so I can have mutual misery.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday Tidbits

My Day Was Fun, How About Yours?

I mean that title sarcastically, not in an actual fun way. I was all set yesterday to head to my IRL bookclub, which I've been looking so forward to, giving my suggestions for next month's book and then take the rest of the day off. Then I checked my email and realized I was signed up for an all-day conference today.

Bleck. So I had to miss book club, I wasn't there in person to give my suggestions and when I got the conference I got the worst shock. No food was provided. I have never been to a conference without food, and this put me off so much I had a hard time concentrating on anything positive the speaker was saying.

At least we're reading Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman for book club next month. And I get to pick the restaurant.

Bloggers Helping Out

Natasha of Maw Books has a very cool thing going on at her blog right now. She has a review of Monique and the Mango Rains, which is a non-fiction book about midwifery in Mali. Not only did Natasha give a glowing review of the book, she is also donated $1 per comment left, up to $50 to a clinic in Mali. I think that is supercool, and ya'll should go leave a comment for her by clicking here.

Keeping Up With Google Reader

I think I hit a nerve the other day when I posted the other day about getting overwhelmed by the sheer number of bloggers I try and keep up with. I had pretty much the most comments I've gotten (except for giveaway posts). Here are a few gems:

Megan said...Hah! What a great post! I do exactly the same thing - starting from the top or from the bottom. I rarely think to start from the middle though, so those poor people are always getting neglected. That's not even factoring in the books that get neglected in my desperate quest to keep up with blog feeds. Bring on the book blogger schedule! ;-)

Seachanges said...Oooh I so know what you mean! I think it is impossible to keep up with people who post every day. Let me know when you have sussed out your 'system'! :)

Rhinoa said...Will await my schedule :)

And my personal favorite:

Debi said...Quick question...will swapping posting days now and then with a fellow blogger be permitted?

Debi, be thankful you weren't there when I was reading your comment or you would have had coffee sprayed all over you.

Okay now I'm going to get back to my sixty posts that popped up TODAY.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Maus I & II

Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman
Reason for Reading: Graphic Novel Challenge, My Year of Reading Dangerously, In Their Shoes Reading Challenge
Rating: 5/5

Also posted at In Their Shoes
Also posted at Graphic Novel Challenge

How does a writer describe horrors that are undescribable? Write a fresh story about a period of history that's been so dissected and analyzed it seems every story that can be told has already been told? And most of all, how to write about the Holocaust without being completely overwhelmed by the telling?

Art Spiegelman chose to write his story in a comic book format. It is unlike any other comics I've read before. The illustrations are all in black and white. Different nationalities are different kinds of animals. The Jews are mice, the Poles, pigs and the Germans, cats. Spiegelman never goes into detail as to why he chose to use animals to represent the characters, but it works visually by letting the reader know immediately what nationality particular character is. On a deeper level, there animals can be taken metaphorically; the Jews have to play a cat and mouse game to survive, or mice are seen as vermin, much as the Jews were.

That Vladek managed to survive the Holocaust at all is nothing short of miraculous. His story is full of brushes with death, incredible luck, and a sixth sense for danger that keeps him alive. While in Auschwitz, he finds ways to be resourceful. When needed, he tutors a guard in English, passes himself off as a tinsmith and then as a shoe mender. He finds a way to pass messages to his wife and keep her close by.

Vladek survives, but along the way he is forced to watch nearly all the members of his family die. Each day, he might talk to someone who the next day will be dead of a guard's bullet, or gassed in the chambers, hanged, or simply disappeared. Finding enough food to live to survive the next day is the only thing on anyone's mind.

(You can click on the image to the left to see an example of one of the pages.)

This book is not just about Vladek's Holocaust experience. Framed around it is the story of how Art set out to record and process his father's story. He finds his father at best difficult and at worst downright impossible to be around. His father's overwhelming stinginess is embarrassing (They sneak into a hotel to play bingo for free because it costs $.25 a card to play at the bingo hall; Art cringes in shame when his father tries to seal up a box of cereal and return it to the grocery store, to name a few examples).

There is a particular scene in Maus II where Spiegelman tries to explain to the reader what it is like to write about the Holocaust, what it cost him to write his father's story.

Vladek started working as a tinman in Auschwitz in the spring of 1944... I started working on this page at the very end of February 1987. In May 1987 Francoise and I are expecting a baby... Between May 16, 1944 and May 24, 1944 over 100,000 Hungarian Jews were gassed in Auschwitz. In September 1986, after 8 years of work, the first part of Maus was published. It was a critical and commercial success. At least fifteen foreign editions are coming out. I've gotten four serious offers to turn my book into a T.V. special or movie. (I don't wanna.) In May 1968 my mother killed herself. (She left no note.) Lately I've been feeling depressed.

Spiegelman always presents the story in an honest manner, never covering up his conflicts with his father, or his father's volatile relationship with his second wife, but this particular passage struck me as particularly honest. His disjointed thoughts, flitting from his own personal life to the cold facts of the Holocaust and back again, could have easily come across as a distraction to the main story, but Spiegelman incorporates them in such a way that they only enhance the story by showing the reader what it means to be the child of a Holocaust survivor.

Since I've just been talking about this author's honesty, I'll be honest with you, the reader. I avoid most Holocaust novels because they just make me so damned depressed. The organized, methodical way that the Nazis invented new ways to torture fellow human beings, how many people bought into the lie that some people are superior to others... it just sickens me to read about it. So even if you are like me and would rather read the entire dictionary than another Holocaust book, let me tell you why this one is worth your time.

The first thing it's got going for it is that it's a quick read. You could breeze through both books in a couple of hours. Secondly, although it describes the familiar horrors of the overcrowded cattle cars, the shower stalls, the death chambers, this retelling brings something new to the table because the format is so different than anything else you've read on the Holocaust.

Have you reviewed this book? Let me know, I'll link you here.

Debi's review (Nothing of Importance)
Aaron's review (That's the Book)
Nymeth's review

Saturday, August 9, 2008

For Those Feeling Neglected...

I switched this week from Bloglines to Google Reader (sorry Bloglines, you didn't fulfill me any longer). This means all of the posts I had marked are goodbye, along with the order I was used to for my blogs. Not the end of the world, but this means more work. Or less, I suppose, if I just completely started over fresh. (Yes, this sounds like a better plan)

Anyhow. I usually pick either the beginning or the end of my bloglist to read, then I get about a quarter of the way through my list and then its too late to write any more coherant comments, so I have to quit. Technically, if I just picked a quadrant and consistently read, I'd get through every blog at least once every four days, right?


I did try this technique, but it ends up I have a hard time remembering where I left off the night before and furthermore there are those particular blogs you like to read more frequently... and suddenly there are 14 unread posts from that blogger because I've been trying to be completely democratic and ignore everyone else until I've gotten through everyone else's blog.

So then I have to go back to playing favorites (shut up you do it too), and I still wind up with 300 unread posts. You may notice I haven't even mentioned when I actually find time to read books, the supposed reason for the existence of my blog.

This is not a complaint. The problem is that there are too many absorbing, fascinating book bloggers out there and I can't seem to keep up with it all.

The moral of this story (and you thought there wasn't one!) apparently is that I've come up with a solution. It's drastic. But necessary. Everyone must rotate postings to better suit my convenience, starting with the "Thoughts of Joy" and ending with You Can Never Have Too Many Books. No more than one or at the most two interesting posts in the given period of time. You'll be recieving your posting schedule shortly, I hope you have other hobbies besides blogging lined up.

Or I can just, you know, learn how to read faster (snort-getting book bloggers to rotate their posts is more likely).

Friday, August 8, 2008

Will Blogs Save Books?

If you haven't read the annoyingly arrogant article by Lissa Warren about book bloggers in The Huffington Post, click here. Read some interesting responses from other bloggers here , here and here. (If you posted too, let me know, I'll link you up here)

Clearly newspapers are on the decline and a big part of the reason is that the world has changed and they can't get with it. These days Average Joe and Average Jane can put their opinions out there for anyone to read along with the big players who have traditionally dominated the field. The big players are suddenly in a much more crowded field and they don't like it much.

I, as a blogger, have no desire to make money off of my blog, it is a hobby which I enjoy and a way to interact with other people. Sometimes I have the time and energy to write full-on, college english-style essays, but other times I just want to put my opinions out there and to do that, I have to make my review brief. Blogging about books is pretty much a selfish thing; I took it up because I wanted a new hobby. I'd still do it even if no one read it (although that would be sad).

And honestly, I put a lot more stock in what other bloggers have to say about books than newspaper reviewers anyhow because I've built a relationship with the blogger. I know what types of books they enjoy, I know what they like to post about, and in most cases I at least know some details about their kids or pets or husband.

How many of Lissa Warren's "rules for blogging" have I broken in my posts? Pretty much every one, in pretty much every post. And you know what? I don't really care. And to answer her question, yes blogging will save books because book blogging will be around long after newspapers have all gone the way of the dinosaur. Not that books really needed saving in the first place.

Mercy Street

Mercy Street by Mariah Stewart
Reason for Reading: ARC I recieved
Rating: 2.5/5

Describe the plot
Four teenagers enter a park to hang out, two are found shot in the head, two are missing. The two missing teenagers are the main suspects, even though they were all friends.

Through a series of connections, former detective Mallory Russo ends up being hired as a private detective to solve the case. She resigned from the force after rumors floated around and the other officers turned their back on her. Now she's teaming up with the new kid on the block, Detective Charlie Wannamaker to find the real killer.

What did you like?
I started to get into the mystery at the beginning of the book, and I thought Mallory was an interesting character with a good eye for picking up details. There was an especially great scene where she plots out a way to get one of the missing teen's younger sister to talk to her that. I liked her friendship with Charlie.

Having worked with people with disabilities, I was a little leery when an autistic character is introduced. I think the concept was handled pretty well, though, with the symptoms described realistically.

Why did you give the rating you gave?
I've read plenty of positive reviews of this book, so I admit openly that I may not have liked this one as much because cop mysteries aren't my genre. I started out really following along with the twists and turns in the plot until I realized that the story wasn't building towards any more plot twists. Everything was revealed early on except how they were going to bring the criminal in. I was annoyed at the abrupt romantic relationship that developed between two characters without any reason. Most of the characters (aside from Mallory) seemed like props to move along the plot, sort of like in an episode of CSI. In a book, I would expect more development, I guess.

If you enjoy the genre, you may find this book extremely enjoyable. If you've reviewed it, let me know, I'll link you here.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

This Week's Question

Suggested by Miko

Are there any particular worlds in books where you’d like to live?

Or where you certainly would NOT want to live?

What about authors? If you were a character, who would you trust to write your life?

I can tell you a couple of worlds I wouldn't want to live in. Off the top of my head, the future predicted by World War Z (my review here). The world of Children of Men. Or The Handmaid's Tale (my review). (They're all science fictiony distopias of one sort or another).

Okay so I've answered the opposite direction. Now for worlds I'd like to live in. First of the top of my head is Hogwarts, I mean c'mon, who's read the books and not wished they were secretly wizards instead of muggles? Really?

I had a long desire growing up to join Starfleet when I grew up... surely by that time, we'd have Starfleet, right? Yeah.

And of course if I had the chance to visit Middle Earth (pre-every-character-dying-or-leaving-Middle-Earth) I'd so jump at the chance. Elves, hobbits, dragons? Although I heard there was something about this one ring...

The last one coming to mind is the Wrinkle in Time books. I'd so love to travel the galaxy by tesseracting, meeting strange bag ladies who happen to be former stars (of the gaseous variety), battle evil across space and time, and make friends with aliens who have wonderful names like Aunt Beast. This wonderful essay/review of A Wrinkle in Time pretty much sums up what's to love in this series. And if you haven't read any of the books, shame on you. You really should, because you'll like them. I guarentee it.

How about you? Which book-created worlds have captivated your imagination?

Eminent Domain

Eminent Domain by Dan O' Brien
Reason for Reading: Short Story Challenge
Rating: 3.5/5

The short stories in this collection could be called modern westerns; themes include nature, cowboys, and the decline of the American farmer.

I read these stories over a series of months, so some stick out in my memory while I hardly remember others. The title story is by far the best. Subtitled "A Love Story", it opens with the following line:

You can say a lot of things to a woman, but don't ever tell her not to let the door hit her in the ass on the way out, because she won't. She'll be gone before that door has a chance to slam and she won't be back until long after the sound of that slam has stopped ringing in your ears.

So says Willy Herbeck, the "meanest, most insensitive son a bitch the world has ever seen" about his wife Shirley. The state has decided to buy his property through eminent domain, and Willy Herbeck being as stubborn as he is insensitive decides to take a stand. Hiding among his junker cars, he waits, shotgun in hand to defend his land. Not even his wife, Shirley, can change his mind, it seems.

This story switches without break between the points of view of Willy, the official trying to get Willy off his land, and Shirley. Its an interesting narrative technique, although it might bug some people. Throughout the stories, O' Brien uses different techniques like that, shifting abruptly between past and present or in one story giving us the perspective of a winter migration from the point of view of a goose and gander.

I've never been one for westerns, but I found myself drawn to some of these stories by the spare writing that in a few words gives you a picture in your mind of the farm or the cowboy or the relationship he's describing. I would recommend this one to anyone who does enjoy westerns or likes short stories.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

What We Did Yesterday

To celebrate the anniversary yesterday, we went to an uber-fancy seafood restaurant. You can read a more detailed review of the restaurant, written by my wonderful husband.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Happy Anniversary to Me!

It's been two years since this day:

Monday, August 4, 2008

What I'm Writing Now

I just have to pause and tell you how cool debi is. As a wanna-be writer, sharing stories you've poured your heart into is one of the scariest things in the world. I have forced myself to write some short things to share on my blog (AKA Weekend Fiction Break) just to get myself used to sharing. Some brave souls have left me wonderful, encouraging comments, and debi is one of them. The other day when I posted a picture from my last vacation, debi asked me what I'm sure she probably thought was just an off-hand comment, but little did she know it got my brain going. After I read her comment, I thought maybe I could use the picture from before as the starting point for a little story for Weekend Fiction Break.

So I sat down to start it last night and suddenly I had one of those moments where the words just came pouring out. My story's grown now behind the point of shareability on my blog. It's taken on a direction of its own.

In the process of writing this particular story, I am reminded of how writing isn't just about me and the computer locked down in a solitary war of the wills. I wanted to add in some authentic details to my story about things I couldn't possible google, so I kept running back and asking my husband questions like, "honey, what kind of dangerous objects do eleven-year-old boys really like?" (knives) "honey, what would have been the coolest type of gun you would want to own that involves a number in the name?" (Parker Brothers double barrel twelve gauge shotgun). His answers to my many questions changed the course of where I thought I was going with my story. And of course, there wouldn't have even been a story without debi sparking the idea for me. So thank you debi, and husband, and all of you lovely quirky people in my life who give me wonderful ideas, inadvertantly or no.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Free Lunch

Disclaimer: this is not about a literal free lunch that I'm giving away. Much as I'd love to.


The Free Lunch, by Spider Robinson
Reason for Reading: Boredom with other books in immediate stack
Rating: 4/5

Imagine a theme park like Disneyworld, but better. It's got rides based on Beatles songs, themed characters from The Princess Bride and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel and better yet, it's literally impossible to have a bad time there. It's called Dreamworld.

If your life was terrible enough, wouldn't you want to move there and never leave? For 12-year-old Mike, it's his entire goal in life. He's tried breaking into Dreamworld three times before, but on the fourth try he meets a remarkable woman named Annie who helps him finally succeed. She's been Underground in Dreamworld for longer than Mike's been alive and with her help, he gets to explore the behind-the-scenes magic of Dreamworld. At first, living underground in Dreamworld is everything he imagines, but when an unknown threat shows up, he and his new friend will be tested to the limit as they do everything in their power to protect the world that they love.

This is a random book I picked up at a recent library sale, so I really had no clue what it was going to be about. The first thing I had to struggle with a bit is getting used to the setting of the book. When I read science fiction, I tend to pick older books which were written before modern computers or the internet. Heinlein, Asimov and all of the other great writers I can't think of right now all imagined similar technologies to what we have, but they used different terms than "internet" "email" and "cell phone". It was different for me to read a more contemporary science fiction novel that actually referred to all of those modern conveniences. Also, when the book opens and we start to learn about Dreamworld, I kept expecting more science fictiony parts to it. For the most part, it's described as a futuristic Disneyworld, and it didn't seem that far removed from the real world.

That's not a criticism, actually. The science fictiony parts came in at a point where you were least expecting it, and going behind the scenes of Dreamworld actually made me wish there was such a place because it just sounds so darn cool. This books shifts into more of an action/adventure novel after Mike and Annie discover something amiss in Dreamland, and the emphasis is less on how cool Dreamworld is (bummer in my opinion) and more on how to save it.

The bad guys are really really bad, and Annie and Mike make an interesting, if somewhat odd pair to face them down. I kept thinking it should bother me that Mike was supposed to be 12 years old but talked and thought like an adult, but somehow, it just didn't. I didn't care. This book was just too much fun. I loved going behind the scenes at Dreamworld with them. I loved the tender relationship that developed when Annie, a cantankerous loner who hasn't been around people in the past thirteen years, impulsively decides to befriend Mike.

This book is written almost at a YA level, but like I said, the baddies are really bad, so this book is not for younger teens. If you like Disneyworld and/or science fiction, this is a combination muy perfecto.

Friday, August 1, 2008

A Photo For Friday

Taken in the four corners area.