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Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Zombies and Vampires and Other Awesomeness

I never used to read books about zombies, nor did I ever watch zombie movies. Same thing with vampires. Books about supernatural creatures that either shuffled around in search of brains or who wanted to bite your neck were just never my cup of tea. Or so I thought. But then I started book blogging and my taste started seriously branching out. I used to just go to the book store and hit up the YA section without venturing out too much further, unless it was maybe the occasional sci fi read.

And you couldn't have gotten me close to the graphic novel section if you tried.

Oh how things have changed.

The first supernatural read I got into back in February of last year was Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire series, which I found definitely okay. Then I read Sunshine last April by Robin McKinley, in which the protag befriends a tormented vampire who doesn't want to eat people, but I didn't quite into it for various reasons. But what really got me interested into zombies was Max Brooks' World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. Besides just being an amazing book, it was an extremely thought-provoking read, and like the best zombie flicks, a social commentary. I guess I had just never realized how awesome zombies/vampires are.

Then there was Vampyres of Hollywood, which was undeniably gory, but also undeniable fun. Vampires might be a blood-sucking menace to humanity, but they could be awfully sexy. I read the classic vampire novel I Am Legend, and was taken away by the story of the end of humanity. I have to of course mention the three Twilight novels I've read so far, but let's just say that sparkly and vampires should not be in the same sentence. Ever.

Let me mention, of course The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter's short story collection. One of her stories, The Lady in the House of Love, is loosely based on Sleeping Beauty, and features, instead of a sleeping princess, a vampiress. A really creepy vampiress who feeds on anyone who wanders into her domain.

My first foray into manga was into a genre that has becoming increasingly enjoyable to me: supernatural creatures. Vampire Knight I and II, while ultimately not my thing, was an interesting introduction to manga, and I found myself really getting lost when I picked up the first two volumes of The Walking Dead. A series about life after the Zombie Apocalypse, it was recommended to me by a few different people. So far I'm really digging it because while it features of course, plenty of action, adventure and brain-munching fun, it is ultimately about a group of people, faced with difficult choices in a harsh world. It's about friendship, survival, and as post-apocalyptic fiction goes, it might be a lot of death and destruction, but hey, compared to The Road, it makes life during the Zompie Apocalypse seem like a day at Disneyworld.

So when I crunch the numbers, in the past 1 1/2 years, 14 out of the 135 books I've read so far have been zombie/vampire novels. Compared to the previous years, when my percentage of zombie/vampire novels read would have been... ummm... zero, 7% is pretty darn high. Anyone got more supernatural recs for me?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Bloggy Survey

I have SO many reviews to get to, but I'm just not in the mood, so I'm stealing this survey from eva instead.

1. How long have you been blogging?
Since January 2008

2. Why did you start blogging?
I decided to start blogging because I wanted a new hobby. I had no clue what I was getting myself into - I had never heard of book blogs or anything like that. I just started a blog and it evolved into what it is today.

3. What have you found to be the benefits of blogging?
A really really long wishlist of books that I've discovered thanks to so many awesome book bloggers. Making new friends. Actually making new friends is really the best part, because when I get recommendations for books, they aren't from some book reviewer for the NY Times, they are from someone who's opinion I've come to trust.

4. How many times a week do you post an entry?
About 3 posts a week.

5. How many different blogs do you read on a regular basis?
I've got about a hundred feeds in my reader, but I check some more than others, depending on which bloggers I've gotten to know better.

6. Do you comment on other people’s blogs?

All the time!

7. Do you keep track of how many visitors you have? Is so, are you satisfied with your numbers?I occasionally check my stats, but I don't really pay tons of attention to it. I don't care very much anymore. I feel that I get a good return on the time I invest in my blog.

8. Do you ever regret a post that you wrote?
Every once in a while when I post some fiction (which has been rare lately), I wonder if I am coming across as a big of an attention whore... look at meeee.... I want to be a writer!!! Lalala!!!

9. Do you think your audience has a true sense of who you are based on your blog?

Yes and no. I don't try to be any different online than I am in real life, but there are of course elements of me that don't come across online. Like the fact in real life I am more reserved than I think I come across online. But I am goofy, random, and I can get ranty/sarcastic, all of which I am on this blog.

10. Do you blog under your real name?
Kim is my real name and L is my last initial, so sure.

11. Are there topics that you would never blog about?
Oh yeah. I don't blog about where I work because hey I just think that's a dumb idea over all. I don't think I've ever blogged on politics, since it is such a polarizing topic and I didn't get into blogging to participate in flame wars (although I have to admit I reeeeally enjoy John Scalzi's brand of sarcasm on political issues).

12. What is the theme/topic of your blog?

Hmmmm.... I'd tell you but then I'd have to kill you.

13. Do you have more than one blog? If so, why?
The thought of trying to maintain more than this single blog makes me so exhausted I have to lie down now.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Few More Thoughts on the FTC Ridiculousness

One thing that kept coming to mind when I was blogging the other day about the new FTC proposal to start requiring bloggers to disclose freebies and other conflicts of interest: Is this some weird kind of joke? I couldn't put it better than eva:
"My first thought was beauty magazines...they don't mention that they're inundated with free products when they're recommending things. *rolls eyes* I think this is some kind of prank."
I swear, I had to google a few different reliable sources and I'm still waiting for someone to tell me I was ranting about an article originated by The Onion.

I really enjoyed some of the other comments and questions that people brought up. As Wendy points out:
"So here's a good question. If I get a "free" book and give it a negative review, how does that factor in? Do I have to disclose it was "free" if I didn't like it??"
Really, that seems to be the problem that the FTC has, is the positive reviews in exchange for free swag. But one solution for bloggers would be, I suppose to just pan everything you receive for free.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Some Ridiculousness from the FTC

I receive the occasional a multitude of emails every day offering me an ARC of almost any type of book under the sun. If I agree, implicit in the agreement is that I will post a review of said book on my blog, and pretty pretty please we hope it's a positive review.

While free books are a pretty nice perk, my time has become too limited lately for me to quickly read and review the books I receive. I don't know if I'll like the book I receive. At the moment, I just don't need any extra obligations to feel I must finish a book I don't like, and since I can't really make any guarantee I'll finish reading the free book someone sent me, it just seems greedy to accept.

I still do have some ARCs in my tbr stack. Under some planned changes by the FTC, if I finish reading Strangers in Death by J.D. Robb and post a rave review on my blog, but fail to mention that hey, it was a freebie, they can go after me for failure to disclose a conflict of interest and making false claims.

The problem, according to the AP article, is that consumers go to the web for independent reviews, and doggone it, they are being deceived by tainted reviews in which the blogger has been given freebies.
"If you walk into a department store, you know the (sales) clerk is a clerk," said Rich Cleland, assistant director in the FTC's division of advertising practices. "Online, if you think that somebody is providing you with independent advice and ... they have an economic motive for what they're saying, that's information a consumer should know."

I feel very, very sorry that there are people who go on the internet for product reviews and think that any old yahoo with a blog is a trustworthy source of information. So really, we are going to get our panties in a bundle because PromQueen78 wrote OMG I found the most amazing dress ever at this awesome website and you find out later that paid PromQueen78 to advertise their website? I mean, there are a lot of other things PromQueen78 probably failed to disclose on her blog, like the fact she's actually a 45-year old man living in his parent's basement, trying to make a living online so he can quit his fast food job. Or the fact he has an extremely embarassing acne problem. Should we go after him for making the false claim she/he is actually an unrepentent nerd and not a hot cheerleader, like her/his profile claims?

OMG, it is the INTERNET people! What do you expect? That people are going to tell you the truth all the time??

There is indeed a place and a time for product reviews, but savvy internet users already know that you don't go to one review of a product and take it as the gospel truth. Let's say I want to know if Old Man's War by John Scalzi is worth a read. I might start by just googling "old man's war review". I come up with several reviews on, Amazon and If I specifically use the Google Blog Search function, I immediately pull up at least five different reviews by bloggers. Between all of these reviews, I discover that the consensus is that Old Man's War is a great read, and I conclude that it would like be a book I would enjoy as well. I buy the book, I read it, I'm happy. Later I find out that one of the bloggers received a free copy of Old Man's War and failed to disclose it. So what? For all I know, her opinion was still completely genuine. Maybe it wasn't. Who cares? I liked the book either way.

What it really comes down to is personal responsibility. I'm sorry but if you took PromQueen78's advice and hated the dress you bought, it isn't PromQueen78's fault. It's your's for buying it. It's the height of ridiculousness that we should be blaming anonymous people on the internet for giving you bad advice.

I don't disagree in theory that bloggers should disclose that they've received freebies. It's something I should and now plan to start doing here. But the way the article frames the issue is just plain silly.

"As blogging rises in importance and sophistication, it has taken on characteristics of community journalism — but without consensus on the types of ethical practices typically found in traditional media.

Journalists who work for newspapers and broadcasters are held accountable by their employers, and they generally cannot receive payments from marketers and must return free products after they finish reviewing them.

The blogosphere is quite different."

No really. The blogosphere is different from newspapers? Okay, let's break it down. Newspapers are held accountable to different standards because it's expected that they will print higher quality news than what they ate for lunch and a picture of their cat. Blogs are around to provide people a chance to network with other people. Some blogs are high in quality. Some are not. There will NEVER be a standard for blogs. That would be like saying there should be a standard for websites. Sorry, there will always be websites that suck.

And so far, I've been avoiding the bigger ridiculousness in the whole equation. What I really really want to know is if anyone told the FTC how many blogs there are on the internet. Because at this moment in time, the U.S. Government can barely handle recalling tainted food products, that you know... actually kill people. And they want to start regulating 50 million plus blogs for failing to disclose freebies? Really?

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Bunch More Reviews

Bring on the mini-reviews!

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli
Reason for Reading: Once Upon a Time Reading Challenge, YA reading challenge
Rating: 4.5/5
One paragraph plot summary: In this retelling of the classic story of Rapuzel, Napoli delves deeply into the psyches of Zel and her mother. Zel, who suffers many years of imprisonment in a lonely tower by herself, teeters close to the brink of madness, while her mother privately justifies to herself why she has taken such extreme measures to hide her daughter away from the world.

One paragraph review: Although this is a fantasy novel, Napoli manages to portray in a very short amount of space the helplessness, the craziness that Zel feels while she is imprisoned in the tower. Zel finds herself making friends with ticks and roaches to pass the time. The character of Mother is slyly written; although unhesitatingly evil, she is the only character who is written in first person, and we sympathize with her just a little, despite ourselves. If the romance between Zel and her suitor seems a bit thin, well, it is a fairy tale after all.

Laika by Nick Abadzis
Reason for Reading: Graphic Novel Challenge
Rating: 5/5

One paragraph summary: With the soviets having recently won the first battle of the space race with their successful launch of Sputnik One, the soviet premier had a new goal in mind: a live space traveler. Based on the true story, this graphic novel is about Laika, a dog who was the first living creature in space.

One paragraph review: Oh my. Where to start. First of all, if you know any history of the space program, you already know Laika's eventual fate. I knew it going in, but I still found myself hoping against hope for Laika to somehow survive the journey. This book is about Laika, but it is also about the true historical people who worked on the mission and the conflict they surely must have felt about sending a small dog on a one-way mission. Laika walked a delicate balance of appealing to the reader's emotions without oversentimentalizing the story, and I think precisely because of that, I was bawling by the end. (Note: I do not cry over books). Highly recommended.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephan Chbosky
Reason for Reading: YA Reading Challenge
Rating: 4/5

One paragraph plot summary: The book is a series of letters written by a teenager who calls himself "Charlie" to an anonymous person who he does not know personally. Each letter is like a diary entry as Charlie, a freshman in high school, talks about what's happening in his life, and reflects on trying to fit in or remaining a wallflower.

One paragraph review: Charlie is a heck of a narrator. He's shy, bookish, and a bit of an outcast, although he begins to find a place with a group of seniors at his high school. Although he feels most comfortable experiencing life from the outside, his new friends and a friendly English teacher help him to step outside his comfort zone. Chbosky takes the reader through all sorts of difficult topics that high schoolers face, and I think everyone will relate, at least a little, to Charlie.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Sunday Salon: Binging on Graphic Novels

Hello fellow Saloners. I'm on a graphic novel binge and I can't seem to get off of it.

I know the first step is admit I have a problem. I do. Lately, I don't feel like reading big long books with lots of words when I can polish off three graphic novels in an afternoon. My library doesn't help. Boy does it ever not help. I have my library card activated at three different libraries to feed my binge.

I just want to feel like I'm accomplishing my reading goals. And maybe I just like looking at lots of really cool artwork too. I finished the Sandman series, I'm nearly done with Fables, so I've started two more series. Actually I'm about halfway through the Emma novels because I read three of them yesterday. The Walking Dead is good so far, although I had a terrifying nightmare last night involving zombies that I completely blame upon reading the first Walking Dead novel late at night.

I'm going to go back to denial and justification now. I just finished an extremely long non-fiction book, which was a lot of reading about an extremely serious topic (the nature of evil), so I can be completely justified in wanting to escape to Fabletown or Victorian England, right? Plus, I just found out that I am for sure going to be going back to school this fall, so I'll have to read lots of serious books then and I need to indulge now when I can, right? Right? Riiiiiight?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday's Random Thoughts

**Why... oh why does Friday drag on for at least three days and Saturday passes so quickly it's over before I've even noticed?
**I don't know why it is, but strawberries taste so good in mid-June
**Wait... how did it get to be mid-June again?
**TGFAC. That's Thank God For Air Conditioning. Ours broke yesterday and was fixed in a rather miraculous fashion. Because it's hot around here.
**Oh graphic novels... how I love to read thee on a hot summer's day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vampire Knight I & II

Vampire Knight Clear FileImage by unforth via Flickr

Vampire Knight Volume I & II by Matsuri Hino
Reason for Reading: Manga Challenge
Rating: 2.5/5

Quick summary: At Cross Academy, there is a Day Class and a Night Class who interact independently... what the Day Class doesn't know is that the Night Class is made up of vampires. For Yuki Cross, adopted daughter of the headmaster, her earliest memory is of being rescued from a vampire attack by one of the vampires who now attends Cross Academy. She shares the duty of being a Guardian of the academy with her brooding friend, Zero, but finds herself unexpectedly drawn towards Kaname, the vampire who rescued her.

Quick review: The first volume kept me intrigued enough that I picked up volume II, but the things that annoyed me slightly in the first book ended up REALLY bugging me by the second book, so I don't think I'll be picking up any more. Yuki is an interesting character. What kept me interested enough to read two of the novels was her conflicted relationship with Zero. He antagonizes her like they are brother and sister, but there is an undertone of sexual tension to their friendship. Plus, there is a lot more to the pretty bad-ass Zero than meets the eye. However, in the end, let's just say that this manga novel reminded me too much of Twilight, with enough plot holes to sail a ship through. (Yuki's the adopted daughter of the headmaster... why do the two of them appear excessively frightened by their Night Class? And don't get me started on the uniforms, expressly designed to reveal the neck for purposes that must be obvious in a vampire novel). The final nail in this coffin, though, was the artwork. I was struggling to tell some of the vampires apart and the action scenes are so frenzied that I literally missed the most important plot point of the second volume because I just couldn't follow the action sequences. I even went back and looked at it later, and I still think it was confusing to follow.

Should I read it? Maybe. It looks to be a relatively popular manga series, and for all I know later volumes might redeem this series.
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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Bunch of Fables Reviews

The second of a bunch of reviews featuring a bunch of books. These reviews feature the Fables series of novels. For previous reviews I've written (and more in-depth analysis) check out this, this and this.

Fables: The Mean Seasons by Bill Willingham

Two sentence plot summary: Bigby actually served in the army back during World War II, but of course, it wasn't like his military service was ordinary or anything. Snow is finally ready to have her baby, but when the mother is a magical princess and the father is The Big Bad Wolf, things are bound to be complicated.

Two sentence review: Loved Bigby's WWII story. Liked could hug it.

Fables: Homelands

Two sentence plot summary: Lovable Jack gets himself a job in Hollywood producing films about... Jack. Boy Blue travels back to the Homelands and discovers the Adversary's true identity.

Two sentence review: Jack, who fades out of the next few novels, gets a last (and very entertaining) big bang in this novel. Blue is even more my hero than before.

Fables: Arabian Nights (and Days)

Two sentence plot summary: When the Arabian delegation of fables arrives in Fabletown for talks about uniting against the Adversary, cultural misunderstandings, skulduggery and other sorts of shenanigans ensue. Anything can happen when there's a Weapon of Magical Destruction on the loose.

Two sentence review: With Bigby off on his own and Snow at the Farm, I thought I would have trouble getting into this novel. Turns out that Beast, Beauty, Prince Charming, Frau Totenkinder and the Arabian delegation make for an interesting enough mix that I barely noticed Bigby and Snow's absence.

Fables: Wolves

Two sentence plot summary: Mowgli, who has been in search of Bigby for quite a while, finds him at last. Will he finally make right with Snow?

Two sentence review: I like Mowgli and all.... but get me back to the Snow/Bigby plotline. And seriously... there are some random politics inserted into this novel (comparing Fabletown to Israel) that I find weird.

Fables: Sons of Empire

Two sentence plot summary: The Adversary plots the downfall of not only Fabletown but our entire planet as well. Bigby spends time with dear ole Dad and they try to put Bigby's seven previous assassination attempts on his life behind them.

Two sentence review: Santa Claus' existence is finally explained... he's a Fable, protecting earth from invaders at the North Pole. And I totally want to live in Wolf Valley.

Fables: The Good Prince

Two sentence plot summary: Being a lowly janitor and all, no one's ever given Flycatcher a second glance. Turns out he's Fabletown's last great hope of winning the war against the Adversary.

Two sentence review: If there was an award for best prominent turn-around from minor character to major big time plot-changing main character, Flycatcher would be the one winning it. I have this sudden urge to go kiss frogs.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Bunch of Sandman Reviews

On account of all the computer annoyingness lately, I'm going to have to speed up my reviews, so here it is: the first of a bunch of reviews of a bunch of books.

Sandman: The Wake by Neil Gaiman
Reason for Reading: Duh, its Neil Gaiman
Rating: 3/5

Two sentence plot summary: The King is Dead, Long Live the King. Lord Morpheus, recently deceased, has a wake, and then a few more characters have some stories.

Two sentence review: The first half of the book, focusing on the wake, is anticlimactic and boring compared to the intensity that was The Kindly Ones, and the short stories afterward don't quite redeem this book. However, I still found myself enjoying the story about Robert Gadling, an immortal man who lived through the Middle Ages experiencing a modern Renaissance Faire.

Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman
Rating: 2/5

Two sentence plot summary: You've always wanted to know more about Dream's dysfunctional family. Here it is.

Two sentence review: I did read this a while ago, but I can't recall a single plotline from any of the short stories about Dream's siblings without the aid of Google. Plus I was annoyed that the things I really wanted to know about his siblings... what happened to the first Despair... what made Delight turn into Delirium... they were only hinted at in the barest of ways.

Monday, June 15, 2009


I'm back online ya'll. The long internet-less nightmare is over at last.

All it took was replacing the RAM, motherboard, and reformatting my hard drive. Piece o' cake, man (insert sarcasm here).

I kept my cool with Dell pretty well if I do say so myself throughout the entire ordeal, but I NEARLY LOST IT when I sat down to FINALLY blog and found out my mouse driver had not been loaded when the tech reformatted my hard drive.

Distract me please from my withering hatred of all devices invented by Dell. How have you been since last we talked? Please tell me you had more exciting adventures than I.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Good luck needed

I need your good luck. Mind sending it my way? The new laptop is DEAD and my hard drive is off for recovery of my files. Cell phone blogging will probably be intermittent. I MISS YA'LL ALREADY!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Bloody Chamber

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Reason for Reading: Once Upon a Time
Rating: 4/5

This is going to be a short review, because I am super-duper behind on reviews. Those of you who were up with me during the wee hours of the most recent Read-a-Thon might recall that the title story of Angela Carter's short story collection, read at 2 am, scared the beejezus out of me. It is a retelling of the Bluebeard tale, wherein a young, innocent girl marries an older gent with money and an unfortunate penchant for murdering his wives.

Other retellings in this collection include Beauty and the Beast, Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, and Beauty and the Beast. Well, not exactly retellings. Some are closer to the original fairy tales, but many of them are only loosely based upon fairy tale. All of the stories are dark, and they all are much more sexualized than your typical sanitized Disney retelling.

I really responded to some of her stories. The title story definitely creeped me out. Other stories made me think in a different way about the original tales. About the dark side of the tale. About who the heroes and the villains were. Other stories left me a little cold though. The language in all of her stories was complex, but for some of the stories, I just couldn't seem to break the surface of her dense vocabulary into the heart of the story.

Should I read it? If you like fairy-tales, you'd be missing out not to pick this one up.