Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a neat weekly feature over at a blog I really enjoy, The Broke and the Bookish.  They read books similar to some that I've been reviewing, and they're fun and they write well.  Totally worth checking out!

Top Ten Twelve Books That Were Hard for Me to Read for Various Reasons
To be honest, I kind of struggled just to write this list.  Going back over all the books that made me uncomfortable made me uncomfortable all over again.  Looking at my list, I notice a trend: I'm quite uneasy with books that discuss sexual activities at any length, or that offend on a religious basis.  Please note that this list is NOT book-bashing; these books just weren't for me.

1. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides.  The main character was born a hermaphrodite, and the condition played a large part in the book and I blushed so much.

2. Lisey's Story and Gerald's Game by Stephen King.  Both of these contain actual or borderline rape, and that's hard to read.

3. Neonomicon by Alan Moore.  Just a personal thing; I am personally not comfortable with quite so much graphic love-times.

4. Push and The Kid by Sapphire.  The stark, honest portrayal of the lives the characters lead were shocking and made me uncomfortable.  As they should.  But still, hard to read.

5. Paddle Your Own Canoe by Nick Offerman.  Nick and I also don't share any political or religious views.  I found some of the statements in the book to be borderline offensive.

6. When Will Jesus Bring the Porkchops? by George Carlin.  Mr. Carlin and I apparently differ greatly on our religious and political views... didn't find this funny at all, and sometimes offensive.

7. Dear Girls Above Me by Charlie McDowell.  This is a series of "letters" that the author has written to the girls who live in the apartment above him.  However, he chose to publish them on social media rather than actually talk to the girls themselves.  He's publishing their conversations and activities to the world without their knowledge, and that made me feel skeevy.

8. The House of Night series by P.C. and Kristen Cast.  Just bad plot with silly, thoughtless teen characters.

9. Balkan Ghosts by Robert D. Kaplan.  I can no longer remember how, when, and why I came to own this book, but I do.  And I try to read every book I own on my shelves.  So I suffered through a very, very, very detailed history of the Balkan region.  This book wasn't terrible except that I'm not actually a student of Balkan history.

10. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.  This is an incredibly lengthy, dense book that takes place during the French Revolution.  I often found myself completely lost.  It took 2 weeks to read.  I'm glad I pushed through, but it was sometimes hard to see the forest for the trees while I was in the middle of it.

11. Anything by Dr. Ken Mufuka.  Self-published, with little or no editing.  I find it difficult to read "published" works with spelling or grammar errors.

12. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.  Not for the reason you'd suspect, but just because I didn't feel it was well-written.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Becoming Clementine by Jennifer Niven | Book Review

(I'm torn on this cover.  I want to love it: it's clean and cool and totally evokes the time period in which the story takes place.  BUT it doesn't match the first two books in the series.  I really like books in a series to coordinate.  Looks like the fourth book, American Blonde, has a cover that coordinates with this one but not with the first two.  Hmm.)

First, a small word of (commonsense) warning: This is the third book in a series.  This review will reveal spoilers for the first two books but will not spoil this one.  What is neat about this book, though, is that I don't think you'd have to read Velva Jean Learns to Drive or Velva Jean Learns to Fly to enjoy Becoming Clementine.  Yes, the story is much richer if you've read the first two, but you won't be lost in the woods if you haven't.

Becoming Clementine opens with Velva Jean and two other WASPs ferrying a B-17 bomber from America to England.  Upon landing in England they are supposed to turn right around and take another plane back to America.  But that evening Gossie, Helen, and Velva Jean have dinner with some RAF pilots who tell them how battered the pilots are.  How dozens and dozens are getting shot down.  How more pilots are needed.  Well, Velva Jean knows how to fly a plane!  She doesn't hesitate; she goes directly to the base commander and offers her service.  A bonus: while flying missions in Europe she'd be able to do some research and see if she can't find her brother, Johnny Clay, who's been MIA for a few months.  Just a few days after arriving in England as a WASP, Velva Jean takes off as copilot in an RAF plane.  She's going to be the first female pilot in WWII!  The story takes a turn when her plane is shot down and nearly the entire crew is killed.  Velva Jean is on her own in Nazi-occupied France with a team of spies. 

And that's just the first 75 pages or so.

I promised no spoilers, but this book is just SO FREAKING EXCITING!  The entire time I was reading it I equal parts wanted to be Velva Jean/Clementine and have adventures in France and also so not be Velva Jean and be in danger so often!  There is intrigue and spies and danger and travels and a hot French gypsy and a prison and a mission and a rescue.  Of course on top of all that Velva Jean still finds time to write songs and sing (in English and in French now) and search for her missing brother.  Velva Jean does SO MUCH that it was hard to remember that she's only 22!  

My advice to readers of the book: set aside an afternoon.  Once you get into the story, you won't want to put it down!

*I received my copy of Becoming Clementine from my public library.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Team Tynga's Reviews.  You can find their blog here:  www.tyngasreviews.com.  This weekly meme, which Tynga's team posts on Saturdays, is all about sharing the books that you received or purchased over the previous week.  Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your own Stack!  This week I only collected library holds.

Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block.  I didn't care for Teen Spirit very much at all, and someone left a comment on my Goodreads review empathizing that Teen Spirit was Block's best work, and suggesting that I try Dangerous Angels.  Why not?  I'm open to persuasion.
I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories From the Stacks by Gina Sheridan.  I'm so ready to laugh at these!
Unwind by Neal Shusterman.  I want to move Unwholly off my stack of ARCs, and I need to start at the beginning.

So that's all for me this week; short and simple.  How about you?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr | Audiobook Review

I was so lost for so much of this book. I read Wicked Lovely last year and I guess it didn't really impact me. I spent much of the book trying to remember these characters, and whether or not I should like them.

I didn't like any of them.

The protagonist is in a HORRIFIC life situation, with an absentee dad who can't even manage to pay the power bill and a recent sexual assault and a drug dealer brother. She makes this great ( <-- sarcasm) life choice to get a big tattoo and it manages to wreck her life further by putting her squarely in the middle of a big faery court battle. The guy who gives her the tattoo doesn't warn her and doesn't help her and never falls under any retribution for what he's done. The protagonist's best friend is a queen of a faery court, but she's very laissez-afire about the whole thing and tries to avoid getting involved and helping her friend.

The whole book is so freaking dark and depressing!

*I received my copy of Ink Exchange from my public library.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr | Book Review

Throwback Thursday Review!

I originally read Wicked Lovely in August 2012, so that means it was probably one of the very first YA books I read when I learned that I got the job in Teen Services.  I gave it one star.  I think I was overwhelmed by how dark it is and the behaviors that the teens (human) and faeries exhibited.  

Here's the Goodreads summary (I think it's pretty good):
Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.
Aislinn has always seen faeries.  Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world.  Aislinn fears their cruelty-especially if they learn of her Sight-and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.
Now faeries are stalking her.  One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.
But it's too late.  Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries.  Without her, summer itself will perish.  He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost-regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything.

Faery intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr's stunning twenty-first-century faery tale.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Drunk Kitchen: A Guide to Eating, Drinking & Going With Your Gut by Hannah Hart | Cookbook (?) Review

So... I think this is a cookbook review?  Maybe?  There are a lot of sorta-recipes in this book.  Also, though, a lot of talk about life in general.  So maybe it's a self-help/motivational review?  Either way, this book was not at all what I expected, but that's often ok.  I kind of enjoy have my preconceptions thrown on the ground and smashed; it opens me up to new things!

As I mentioned, if you're looking for a cookbook, this is probably not the book for you.  The "recipes" are very, very vague and sometimes don't even involve food.  For example, early in the book there's a recipe entitled "Can Bake."  The ingredients list: a can! and something to put on top of the can!  Hannah then goes on to tell the reader to open the can, put something on top of the can, put the can on the top rack of the oven, close the door, and check back in 10 minutes.  No oven temp given.  She does give suggestions for combos, like to put a potato on top of an opened can of chili, or puff pastry on top of a can of fruit.  I'm going to be brave and try one of her "recipes" for PB&J&PC, which is essentially a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with potato chips thrown in for crunch.  I know, I know: weird, right?  But I have heard of people doing this so I think it'll be good.

In between the half-hearted "recipes," Hannah dispenses life advice about kitchen safety while imbibing ("Kitchen Basics"), growing up and getting out on your own for the first time ("Adultolescence"), love and relationships (she specifically talks about her experiences discovering that she is gay and coming out to friends & family in "So This is Love"), and family ("Family and the Holidays").  I thought the first two sections were pretty funny and full of great little quips.  The second two sections didn't really do much for me... I'm straight and I actually enjoy time with my family, on holidays and in between.  

In reading the introduction to the book, I learned that Hannah is already a YouTube star for her vlog "My Drunk Kitchen."  I hadn't known that before ordering the book from the library, or maybe I would've known what to expect.  I like to cook, and I like to try new cocktails.... I thought this would be a cookbook with food/wine/cocktail pairings.

So I give this book 2.5 of 5 stars.  I had a few giggles and I'm going to try a newish sandwich, but I'm not into it enough to subscribe to the YouTube channel or request any future books from Hannah.  Not a terrible book, but I may not be the right audience.

*I checked out my copy of My Drunk Kitchen from my public library.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

This is a neat weekly feature over at a blog I really enjoy, The Broke and the Bookish.  They read books similar to some that I've been reviewing, and they're fun and they write well.  Totally worth checking out!

Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List

This fall I'm working on cleaning up my library check-out stack and my stack of ARCs.  These may not be the newest, shiniest, books, but they're what I'll be reading!

1. Compulsion by Martina Boone, Forbidden by Kimberley Griffiths Little, A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, The Body Electric by Beth Revis, Skylark by Meagan Spooner, Shadowlark by Meagan Spooner, and Lark Ascending by Meagan Spooner.  I will be meeting these authors in November and want to have read their latest beforehand.  I just kind of feel that's the polite thing to do, right?

2. Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck by Amy Alkon.  This is the very next book I'm going to read.  It's actually overdue back to the library...

3. Home to Holly Springs and In the Company of Others by Jan Karon.  I did a big re-read of all nine Mitford books over the summer and then read Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good when it was released this month; now I need to go back and read these two books, which fall in between Mitford #9 and Mitford #10.

4. On Folly Beach by Karen White.  The sister-in-love recommended this to me.  Also, the hubby and I are going on vacay to Charleston this fall, and that's where the book is set.  I plan to read On Folly Beach on Folly Beach.  ;)

5. Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni.  My aunt recommended this to me and I checked it out of the library... then I didn't read it.  Yet.  I promise I'm getting to it!

6. Al Capone Shines My Shoes and Al Capone Does My Homework by Gennifer Choldenko.  I've got these on audiobook and I'm super excited to hang out with Moose again!

7. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson.  I've heard such great things about this one!  Time to move it out of my stack-o-ARCs!

8. Eat, Brains, Love and Undead With Benefits by Jeff Hart.  I just received an ARC of Undead With Benefits, so I need to go back and read Eat, Brains, Love first.  The hubby and I love The Walking Dead and I love humorous books, so I think these will be a winner for me.

9. The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.  I read The Raven Boys when it first came out and loved it!  Then I got distracted and missed reading The Dream Thieves.  I just got an ARC of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, so I need to get caught up with this trilogy!

10. OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn.  I know this is older, but I still really want to read it.  It's one of my impulse check-outs from the library.  The hubby loves loves loves The Big Lebowski and the girl on the cover has curly red hair (like me!) so I think this is a must-read for me!

Yup:  I'm aware that I totally "cheated" and have way more than 10 books on my list!  But it was hard enough to narrow it down this much.

What about you?  What books are on your Fall TBR Stack?  I love seeing what others are reading; please comment and leave a link!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Merlin by Stephen Lawhead | Book Review

(This cover is just as exciting (NOT) as the cover of Taliesin...)

Soooo.... Merlin was not nearly as good as Taliesin.  I gave Taliesin 4 stars; I think Merlin will only get 3.  It's far from being a bad book, but I may not be the right audience.  Like Taliesin, it's epic fantasy and I am just not the biggest epic fantasy fan.  But WOW-the writing!  Lawhead is definitely a talented writer, and I can see why the hubby reads all his books.

Merlin is the second book in the Pendragon books by Stephen Lawhead, so there may be spoilers for Taliesin below.

This is the Goodreads blurb:  It is Roman Britain.  Atlantis has been lost forever, and the reign of Arthur must be dreamed and fought into being.  (Well, that's descriptive of a 400+ page novel, eh?  lol)

So, predictably, Merlin tells the tale of Merlin, Taliesin and Charis' son.  The book covers about 3 generations of normal people time, but Merlin doesn't age like normal people, and the book only covers his young and middle adulthood.  Merlin really comes into his own over the course of this book.  At the beginning we see him as a sometimes emotional, sometime impetuous young king.  Then he has a fugue.  Then he's a kingmaker (politician).  Then he's the "creator" of Arthur.

I really enjoyed and got into the first part of the book and the last part of the book, the parts where he himself is a king and then when he's the kingmaker.  But the middle part.... I was totally, utterly lost.  I wasn't expecting it.  I won't give any spoilers, but events lead to Merlin being alone on a mountaintop living in a cave with a wolf for an unspecified amount of time.  And he's lost it.  He's nuts and he's filthy and Pelleas has to come find him and drag him home.  I think I could have skipped straight from the end of part 1 to the beginning of part 3 and been less lost than I was trying to figure out what the crap was going on in part 2.

However, know that parts 1 & 3 are SO good as to cancel out the confusion of part 2.  I do miss Charis.  In Merlin we only get Merlin's p.o.v.  I'm not a guy, so maybe my sadness at the loss of Charis' p.o.v. influenced my opinion of the whole book.  Don't worry; Charis is still around, but we only see her through Merlin's eyes.  

So ever since Merlin disappeared to go be a hermit up the mountain, Briton has had a bad High King, Vortigern.  When Vortigern is finally killed, two brothers work together to rule Briton.  One takes cares of politics and one takes care of the army.  It totally works.  Until, you know, everything falls apart.  This is when Merlin really steps it up.  He steps in and helps Briton come together and unite against the Scots and for the new High King.  (No spoilers; you'll have to read the book to find out who it is.)  He also orchestrates the naming of a babe, Arthur, and the childrearing and training that he will receive.  This makes me super excited for Arthur, the next book in the series.  I hope it starts right where Merlin leaves off, so that I can see some of Arthur's childhood!  I hope he's spunky.  

Overall, I give this book 3 stars.  I do not begrudge it of the time I spent reading it, and I totally plan to read Arthur.  I was confused in the middle, but that might have been reader error, and I missed Charis' p.o.v., but Merlin did amazing things, and Lawhead is a talented enough author to carry the entire epic on one character's shoulders.

*I own my copy of Merlin.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Team Tynga's Reviews.  You can find their blog here:  www.tyngasreviews.com.  This weekly meme, which Tynga's team posts on Saturdays, is all about sharing the books that you received or purchased over the previous week.  Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your own Stack!  You can definitely tell that I started letting myself buy/request books again, now that my summer re-read project is finished.  And check it out!  An autographed copy of Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good!!!  I'm such a Jan Karon fan.


Top Ten Clues You're Clueless by Liz Czukas
Undead With Benefits by Jeff Hart: the hubby and I have recently gotten into zombies (namely, The Walking Dead) so I'm excited to try this humorous zombie duology.  I need to read Eat, Brains, Love first, though.
Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King: so you're probably going to think I'm so weird, but I was drawn to this book by it's title.  I have a fave movie titled The History of Future Folk and this title is similar.  And I've heard great things about King, but have never read anything of her's.  This might be a good starting point.

I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson: I have heard the Hallelujah Chorus sung over this book so many times!  Can't wait to try it myself!
Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch
Positive by Paige Rawl with Ali Benjamin:  I think this one will break my heart.  True story of a teen girl with HIV who is bullied but comes out of the experience stronger.

Feral by Holly Schindler: I've heard a lot of praise, but I'm not really sure it's my type of book.  Definitely going to give it a try, though.
Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stifvater:  SO EXCITED!!!  I loved The Raven Boys and need to get on The Dream Thieves so that I can read this!
We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sundquist:  no clue what this is about, but it looks like it might be lol funny, which I always love.
Wildlife by Fiona Wood: looks sweet and quick.

Somewhere Safe With Somebody Good by Jan Karon: AUTOGRAPHED!!!
Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child by Maria T. Lennon
Watch Out, Hollywood! More Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child by Maria T. Lennon: I'm going to read these two and then see if my niece wants them.  Yay books to gift!
Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails by Eric Prum with Josh Williams: I've already had this book for about a week and I've already tried 3 cocktails!  Look for a review very soon!

(Who doesn't love free books?  Go use your library!)
Glitterville's Handmade Christmas: A Glittered Guide for Whimsical Crafting by Stephen Brown:  why did I order this?  I'm not usually a fan of glitter.  But I am a fan of crafting... maybe that's it.  Or maybe to preview before gifting to my sis, who loves glitter and Christmas?
Killer Instinct by S.E. Green: I will be meeting S.E. Green in Nov; thought it was a good idea to read her book first!
Home to Holly Springs by Jan Karon: I can't wait to go back and read the two in-between Father Tim books!  But I will probably return this library copy and just buy it for myself.

One + One Wraps, Cowls & Capelets: 29 Projects From Just Two Skeins by Iris Schreier: love crafty books!
Law and Disorder: Absurdly Funny Moments From the Courts by Charles M. Sevilla: I think this will make me equal parts amused and scared...
Will it Waffle? Yes, it Will! 53 Irresistible and Unexpected Recipes to Make in a Waffle Iron by Daniel Shumski: I'm thinking there may be a teen library program in this!

OCD, the Dude, and Me by Lauren Roedy Vaughn: the hubby LOVES The Big Lebowski, and the girl on the cover has curly red hair.  It's like the book needs to be read by me!
On Folly Beach by Karen White: I'm going to read this while on vacation in Charleston next month.  Isn't that fantastic?  A book recommendation from the sister-in-love that matches settings with my vacay!
Retronaut: The Photographic Time Machine by Chris Wild: I've already started looking through this and it's fantastic!