Saturday, December 24, 2011

Another Supernatural YA

And not a particularly good one, is the novel Switched, by Amanda Hocking. It does have a pretty cover, though:

Read me - I'm like the poppy field from the Wizard of Oz
gone demented

The cover is arresting, and the story is an interesting one. The title of the novel refers to the fact that protagonist Wendy is a changeling, having been switched at birth with a human boy to become a parasite living off of a rich & wealthy human family. Aside from the fact that the novel deals with changelings, however, there is another interesting plot device: Wendy is a troll.

As far as supernatural beings go, trolls have not been done to the extreme in fiction - at least, not yet.

I also know hardly anything about troll lore, other than a few fairy tales, the most notable being The Three Billy Goats Gruff. So it's difficult for me to decipher how much of the mythology of this book has already existed and how much is due to the ingenuity of the author. Either way, the ideas espoused are fascinating.

The writing, on the other hand, is pretty horrific. This novel was previously a bestselling self-published e-book, and the author gets my kudos for successful marketing and sales, but not for craftsmanship. As I've previously stated, the ideas are terrific; the writing, however, is simply not good enough to make the ideas shine.

My verdict: pass on this novel, unless you are only interested in the plot of a novel.

(Switched is slated to be released in early January, 2012.)

On Naked People

Not so recently, I finished reading Ellis Avery's forthcoming novel The Last Nude. The cover, not so surprisingly, has a nude on it:

I have no clothes on.
That's what a nude is.

The Last Nude tells the story of two women, the artist Tamara de Lampicka and her model and lover Rafaela Fano.

The majority of the novel is told from Rafaela's point of view during the period in which she met Tamara, modeled for her, and their relationship came to an abrupt halt. This portion of the novel is interesting, and really portrays a naive young woman growing up in an exotic, new place, and falling in love for the first time.

Some of the writing in this section was fabulous, most of it was merely okay, some of it was downright boring. Rafaela is in many ways naive, yet often the writer manages to make her seem stupid, and I don't necessarily think this is on purpose.

Overall, the story sort of has a detached feeling - or perhaps this is simply the impression I received as an uninvested reader, I'm not entirely sure. I did receive a favorable impression of the story, but as longtime readers are aware, I'm more of a character gal, personally, and so did not become invested in this novel in a manner that will lead me to rave about it.

The latter, far shorter portion of the novel deals with the fact that the area in which Rafaela was living was dangerous during the second World War. And Rafaela is a Jew. Many of the characters peopling this novel, in fact, are Jewish.

This latter portion is what makes me feel that Avery was trying to achieve a very personable novel, with characters that the reader will become emotionally invested in, and failed.

It's an okay read. As I mentioned earlier, this novel is not one that I will rave about. I feel more lukewarm towards it - which is, perhaps, more damning praise than any censure.

Recommended for beach reads or display books due to the interesting cover.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Celebrated Birthday & a Contest in Her Honor

Jane Austen, whom I think we all agree was an amazing woman, as well as an amazing writer, is currently the subject of a contest at AustenBlog.

Click on "currently" above to check out the contest yourself, and ponder how (or if) Austen has influenced your life.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Review: The Dressmaker

Don't you love how clever and original my blog titles are? I spend so much time sitting at my desk, chin in hand, pondering ways to amuse my readers.
And today, dear readers, I am going to review Kate Walcott's The Dressmaker. The cover for this novel is eye-arresting, with a beautiful purple dress on the cover, worn by a faceless woman (intrigue! glamour!)...

The Dressmaker is an historical fiction, revolving around that famous boat ride on the Titanic. Protagonist Tess is a feisty lass who doesn't want to demean herself any longer in a position of servitude, and consequently voluntarily agrees to temporarily act as lady's maid to the famed dress designer Lucille Duff Gordon so that she can sail the Titanic to a new world, and a new life.
Now, I don't want to ruin the book for anyone, but I cannot discuss this book without some spoilers. So read on, AT YOUR PERIL.

The Titanic, while a beautiful, luxurious boat, has a tiny flaw - it can't hold its' own against a giant iceberg.
This big boat is not equipped to handle ice -
I bet those were some warm drinks...

Now, don't get me wrong. This book was not complete shit. Just the majority of it was shit. There was this weird love triangle between Tess, a sailor much in the same situation as she - poor, trying to make a life for himself in a new country, [insert cliche here], and an older, rich gentleman whom she was incredibly attracted to who treated her like an e
qual. She liked both of them, for different reasons, and always seemed to have green grass syndrome - she was always thinking of and pining for the other gentleman when she was with one of them. This I found very annoying, despite the fact that it's probably pretty accurate.
Then, this novel dealt with some unpleasant aspects of suffering a catastrophe. The fact is, not everyone is a hero. In fact, most people aren't heroes. And most people probably would not be heroes in a situation like the Titanic. Being on a boat that was thought unsinkable, but is, in fact, sinking, would be extremely frightening. Instinct tends towards self-preservation.

This novel made me think about the people who weren't heroes. The ordinary people, the ones who said: "I'm not against other people living, but I don't want to die." The ones who did not go out of their way to help save other people, the ones who did not selflessly go down with the ship, playing music, or patiently waiting in a tuxedo.

The ones more like me.

Of course, Tess was one of those annoying goody-two-shoes, who is like: "It is my personal responsibility to save every child on this ship -" Very valiant; not necessarily the most interesting of characteristics, however.

Heroes, after all, tend to be most interesting when they're rescuing you. Possibly tend only to be interesting when they're rescuing you, unless they are extremely well written.

I liked the way this novel broadened my thinking. I hated Tess, who frankly can't live up to the name usurped from a Thomas Hardy novel...

Well, except for this BBC miniseries adaptation, which manages to make Tess of the D'urbervilles seem like the most boring story ever...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Response: Regarding the Holidays

So today, Shelf Awareness featured this quote in its' (week)daily newsletter:

"Technology is ruining the holidays. A download is a dud gift (dudload?). When you give a 'real world' book to someone you are saying, 'I am totally in love with this book and think you will be too,' or 'The sentiment in this book reminded me of you,' or 'Here, this is a journey you will never forget.' A book is a personal gift--something uniquely picked out, inscribed, and physically presented to another person. It has emotional and actual weight. I am not saying there are not other good gifts out there (a ukulele comes to mind), but with a book you don't have to: mortgage the home, guess bra size, learn to sing, or find out too late that they are allergic to nuts. That is why I think the book is the best gift you can give. It is economical, beautiful, hours of entertainment, thoughtful, and can last (both physically and in the mind) a lifetime."
--Steven Salardino, manager of Skylight Books, Los Angeles,
Calif.,from the bookstore's latest e-newsletter

& I must say, I do not necessarily agree with the thesis.

To begin with, a gift is a gift. I am one of those people who truly does believe it is the thought that counts. At the moment, I am exceedingly poor. My friends are very poor. For some people, the purchase of a book - hardcover or paperback - is simply more than they can afford. If someone gives me a card, I am grateful that they thought of me.

This is the issue with saying that a download or a gift card or anything else is not a "real" gift - it's ungrateful and it's pretentious.

Receiving anything - electronic, handwritten - is something of which a person should be appreciative. And while it can feel more meaningful to receive something that was hand picked by someone else who is thinking of you, it can feel exceedingly annoying to receive something that has been hand picked by someone else which you already own and/or which shows that person obviously knows nothing about you.

I once received a sweater 2 or 3 sizes too large with a ruffly neck. I was 20. & this was not a cute ruffle - it was too large, of knitted fabric, and the wrong color, to boot. I was glad to receive a gift, but mortified that the giver thought I was that much larger than I actually am, and at the realization that it was, in fact, possible for me to look like a grandmother at 20-years-old. All I had to do was wear that sweater. (I'm shuddering now just thinking about it.)

Receiving a gift is always nice - receiving a gift that has been "hand picked" by someone who did not take the time or make the effort to get to know you kind of defeats the purpose.

So if you're thinking of someone, but it's difficult to figure out the perfect gift for that person in between working 3 jobs, taking 12 credit hours, and raising a couple of kids, is it really so wrong to purchase something that gives the receiver some flexibility? (This is not me, by the way - only two jobs; not in school again yet; no kids... Just a random example.)

If you purchase a gift card, that means that the receiver can purchase whatever they want at the location for which you purchased that card. If you receive a download, that means that there are more options for where to obtain, read, etc. this gift - all you need is a computer. Maybe you can simply carry your gift around at all times, on a Smart Phone. (I can't - I always abuse my phones, and so don't bother to purchase a nice, expensive one - but maybe you can...)

I understand where this bookseller is coming from - he sells books, and he wants to make it sound appealing for other people to sell books, too. But I think it's ridiculous to claim that technology is ruining the holidays. The fact is, some e-books are nearly as expensive as the hard copies, and will not be purchased anyway. Yet there are some very great e-books out there which are less expensive, and therefore more fiscally feasible for some people to obtain.

A gift which results in more variety, as well as encourages literacy should not be looked down upon. Period.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Fake Blog Post

aka, a link to a review I did as a guest for AustenBlog.

The review was for a murder mystery that made numerous allusions to Persuasions entitled Murder Most Persuasive. If you haven't read it yet, you really should.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey Day is Nearly Here!

I'm finishing a book review to post soon, but with work and the massive amounts of turkey I plan to consume tomorrow, it is difficult to pin down exactly when that post will occur.

In the meantime, here's something we can all be thankful for: bad sex in literature.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Use the (expletive deleted) Correct Vocabulary. (expletive deleted)

I was at Briarwood Mall the other day, and as I was leaving, I approached the bank of doors -

Door (n.)

  1. a moveable, usually solid, barrier for opening and closing an entranceway, cupboard, cabinet, or the like, commonly turning on hinges or sliding in grooves
  2. a doorway
  3. the building, house, etc., to which a door belongs
  4. any means of approach, admittance, or access
  5. any gateway marking an entrance or exit from one place or state to another*
On these movable, solid barriers which are supposed to turn on hinges at a light touch and allow passage into the great outdoors** were 8" x 11" sheets of white paper on which were crudely handwritten: "Machine

Machine: (n.)

  1. an apparatus consisting of interrelated parts with separate functions, used in the performance of some kind of work.
  2. a mechanical apparatus or contrivance; mechanism.
Out of Order."

I blithely walked right to the door, my hand extended before me to swing the door open on the aforementioned hinges, and it stuck. A girl dressed entirely in black clothing walked by and said: "It's out of order."

And I, dear reader, was mad. I was angry. I was enraged. (Which is slightly ridiculous, but that's another story...)

When you see "machine out of order," you're generally expecting a credit card machine or an ATM or something with buttons that at least makes blooping sounds, and possibly speaks in a robotic monotone. Not a door.

So please, use the correct vocabulary, lest you turn a normally gentle writer into a vicious little animal who will point out your stupidity on her blog. With twenty followers.

*All definitions are courtesy of & laziness

**Commonly referred to as a "parking lot."

Monday, October 3, 2011

Way to Go, America

Have you ever seen the movie "Meet the Robinsons?" There's this scene where Michael Yagoobian is discussing his descent into becoming a very tall, very thin, very angry villain who will eventually befriend a bowler hat. He walks down the school hallways carrying a binder with a pretty pink pony, his eyes on the floor, and looking back on this time, comments: "They all hated me."

That's pretty much how I feel, because no one voted on my NaNo ideas. Except I don't even have a pretty pink pony binder, and so the depths of despair darkening my heart yawn ever wider in a chasm that might never close, you guys. This abyss might remain agape forever.

For. Ev. Er.

Nothing could better illustrate that my readers are American than this FAILURE TO VOTE.

What you fail to realize, gentle, non-voting readers, is that your decision to behave like an American has taken away my right to do so by being indecisive and letting other people make my decision for me. This is my roundabout way of saying that I decided which idea to write about for NaNoWriMo - option #3: the Jane Austen continuation in the form of a modern re-make. Partially because I think I might actually have the ability to write a great Jane Austen spin-off. Primarily because it gives me an excuse to read about Jane Austen and re-read her works. Be warned: much Austen-related drooling is likely to occur within the forthcoming blog posts.

And I was able to come to a decision this time, but don't expect this to occur too often, guys. I am, after all, very patriotic.


P.S. The above is only meant to be read in a jovial, joking manner. Although I do think it's a good idea to vote for important things - I mean, how ELSE will we know which is better: Coke or Pepsi?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Awesome T-Shirt

Hey guys! Just in case you haven't heard of it yet, author Maureen Johnson is pimpin' a YA Saves t-shirt. There are numerous reasons you should buy this shirt:

1) It is, in fact, a very cute shirt. Dark blue, it will complement most skin tones. & with its' snappy font, you are sure to feel and look sophisticated and elegant as you stroll down the street.*

2) 100% of the proceeds from sale of this shirt are being donated to Reading Is Fundamental. Thus, you are doing your good deed for the day & supporting literacy. This particular charity also seems fitting this week, as it is Banned Books Week.

3) If you fail to purchase the aforementioned t-shirt, I make no promises that Ms. Johnson will not throw a rabid badger down your shirt front, thus ruining the shirt you are wearing now, and making a t-shirt purchase seem even more reasonable than it already does.

4) A t-shirt and jeans are good, all-American lazy fashion sense. Don't you love America?

5) This t-shirt is so cute, you should probably purchase TWO or THREE. One for yourself, one for back-up, and one for a gift. (*cough, cough* My birthday might be coming up in a few weeks *cough*)

Feel free to list EVEN MORE reasons why a purchase of the aforementioned shirt is necessary in the comments below...**

*Sometimes, I talk like a 60-year-old woman. Deal.

**Should you succeed in making me laugh, I will bake you virtual brownies.

Monday, September 26, 2011

"'It's very important to take revenge. In the right way, of course. It doesn't mean you have to hurt anyone. But you act in a way that lets you keep your self-respect.'"

-Maxine Swann. The Foreigners.

As I mentioned previously, I recently finished reading Maxine Swann's The Foreigners. It's a beautiful book, and deals with different cultures and self-identity. This quote, in particular, jumped out at me as I was reading.

What I like about this quote is that it sums up why people like the idea of revenge. Revenge, often petty, is the subject of movies and TV shows, and we've all fantasized about it. There is a reason - it is about self-respect. It is about letting someone else know that they are not allowed to walk all over you. This is why scenes such as Veronica's smug look at the end of the pilot for Veronica Mars are so satisfying - they uphold the idea that revenge is possible, and that it feels great.

Not quite the smug look to which I was referring, but she definitely looks like she's enjoying her revenge.

Moreover, this quote brings up another aspect of "revenge" - that it must be done in "the right way." That it doesn't necessarily mean that you hurt anyone else, because revenge is more for yourself. I really liked this qualification. It's true - revenge is for you, which is why it can result in pettiness and get out of control. So it is important to limit yourself - to allow yourself to keep your self-respect, and feel better, but not to lose control of the situation or yourself in the process. This is why it is okay to verbally cut someone off who is being a complete asshole, but it is not okay to, say, shoot someone in the head for failing to say "Bless you." (I might have watched "Dogma" last night.)

I don't know that I'm advocating vengeance - I just like the manner in which this quote succinctly sums up what revenge should be, and why it is so appealing.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Let Us Talk of Things Foreign & Strange

I was lucky enough to receive an uncorrected proof of Maxine Swann's The Foreigners.

The cover is pretty awesome, and people will think you're FAKING reading it b/c the chick is upside down.

Essentially, this novel is narrated by an American woman, recently divorced, named Daisy. Her name isn't really that important, however, and is really only rarely mentioned, in passing - she is a nameless American, going through a hard time, who has escaped to Buenos Aires to hopefully regain a sense of self. She meets some interesting people, such as Gabriel, the gay prostitute who has dropped out of med school and tells her she should "try everything."

Two people, in particular, are focused on, however - the Argentine native Leonarda, and the Austrian immigrant Isolde.

Isolde is awesome and elegant and lonely and figuring shit out, too. She likes to go to fancy cocktail parties with the elite circle of the rich and elegant, yet her sense of loneliness prevents her from being as successful in this circle as her ambition would like. She also suffers from monetary difficulties - for some reason, pretending to be rich when you're not can get costly and bankrupt you.

As opposed to being a mermaid and pretending to be human, which costs you physically and causes every step you take to feel as though knives are running through your body.

Leonarda, on the other hand, is NOT a foreigner, but wishes to be. She is smart, seductive, and unpredictable. She is wild, she wants to be revolutionary, and is always in the mood for change. Her temperament and appearance are extremely malleable, as well as her social circle. She hangs out with people in a dingy lab doing complicated things on her computer, and she dresses in luscious cocktail dresses and hobnobs with the sophisticated, rich, and famous.

Both Leonarda and Isolde help our heroine/protagonist/American character through providing glimpses into different lives, providing friendship, and expanding Daisy's horizons.

I really enjoyed this novel, despite its' rather aimless feel, and the fact that it doesn't really go anywhere. At the end of the novel, there is no grand epiphany, but the journey of the novel is an interesting, intelligent one.

One of the odd things about this novel is that the author Maxine Swann is from America, herself, yet the novel has the feeling of a novel that has been translated. There is a murkiness to the story. The words are all discernible, but the manner in which they are put together, while coherent, brings forth a slightly fuzzy picture in the readers' mind. I liked this quality, personally, but can see it proving irritating to some readers.

Another quality which did not particularly bother me, but that might bother the reader, is that, overall, I'm not entirely sure the characters are likeable. They're not necessarily unlikeable, but they're also not necessarily people you read about and think to yourself: "This person sounds awesome. I want them to spring forth from these pages because I feel certain we would be great things were this odd, magical happenstance to occur."

Still, as was previously mentioned, the cover, righted, looks like it's upside down. If nothing else, this book will confuse and befuddle fellow bus/train/subway passengers. And really, guys, isn't that what reading is all about?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Secret Circle Pilot Recap

I have a confession to make - as a teenager, there was little I loved more than reading a book by L.J. Smith. I am one of those die-hard fans who has been waiting over ten years for the Night World series to be brought to conclusion by Strange Fate (and since the release date keeps being pushed back, very well could be waiting ten more; admittedly, it is nice to see I am not alone in my frustration). I bought a set of pastels after reading the Dark Visions trilogy, and definitively discovered that my artistic talent is non-existent. I was kind of pissed that Jenny picked Tom over Julian. Repeatedly. (In the Forbidden Games trilogy.) Yet one of my favorite stories was that of shy Cassie Blake, who meets her soulmate, discovers her own inner power, and becomes strong and less shy in the course of The Secret Circle trilogy.

I was a little nervous when I learnt they had decided to make a Secret Circle television show. I mean, look at what they did with The Vampire Diaries. Don't get me wrong - the TV show is addicting -- but it doesn't follow the books.

The Secret Circle, on the other hand, isn't even a good TV show. The only thing they got right is the cliffhanger at the end. Anyway (note the lack of an "s," b/c I try to use proper grammar), I decided to try my hand at this whole recap thing. Here are my impressions of The Secret Circle pilot:

First of all, the beginning pissed me off. I guess it was supposed to be suspenseful and start the show off with a bang of something. I really felt, however, that in trying to make Cassie appear strong and resourceful (rather than the shy, awkward character she is IN THE BOOK), they really more managed to make her mother appear unintelligent and cliched. Her mother is at home, cooking dinner. Cassie called her, and kind of sounded, initially, like she wanted help. But obviously that's wrong. Because CASSIE knows how to change a tire, guys. She didn't get this from her mom, who can only sit on the side of the road, watching her daughter perform miraculous feats on her automobile. Except Cassie doesn't even want her mom to do that. Can't the woman just stay at home & have dinner ready when she's done with this manual labor?

Except Cassie's mother can't even do THAT right, because she gets killed by this guy who uses magic to conjure a fire. I mean, her mom doesn't really seem to try that hard to get out of the kitchen. But whatevs. It's "suspenseful," and she dies like she lived - in the kitchen. (Seriously, that "in the kitchen" shit REALLY bothered me.)

Then, the credits roll. & there's some really bad little girl singing a nonsensical song. I think it's supposed to sound magical and mystical or something, but it actually just seems clunky and overreaching.

OMG - Natasha Henstridge, from "She Spies!" I hope her character on this show is as awesome as Cassie ("She Spies" Cassie, not "Secret Circle" Cassie).

There's something a little disconcerting about all of these teen hangouts on television - like no small town just has a Taco Bell that all of the teens go to, like here in the real world. Taco Bell is awesome, cheap, and has food that is incredibly bad for you, guys. Its' greasy food helps exacerbate your acne, so that your teenage years are miserable and you are a target for ProActive infomercials. THIS IS THE WAY HIGH SCHOOL WORKS.

Where is the soulmate interaction between Adam & Cassie? That's what MAKES an L.J. Smith book. It's an important part of this series, and I wasn't even impressed by the "initial attraction" reaction between Adam & Cassie in this pilot. I mean, seriously, I'll take the ridiculous mooning looks that pass between Bill & Sookie in the "True Blood" pilot over the lackadaisical "I'm semi-attracted to you" bullshit I'm seeing on this show.

The spells on this show - or rather commands spoken in a deadpan manner to nature - seem really lame. There must be a way to make the magic on this show more interesting.

Overall, my impression is that the CW needs to fire the casting director for this show. I mean - ugh. Faye Chamberlain is played by a very pretty girl. But she doesn't seem like a bad girl. She talks way too much like a sweetheart to pull off the "bad girl" persona. Cassie is not shy enough, not sweet enough to be Smith's character. Maybe they gave her edge to make her more likeable, like they did with Fannie Price in "Mansfield Park." If that's the case, it didn't work. At times, Cassie is hard when it makes no sense for her to be. Yet, overall, I am exasperated at the fact that SHE IS NOT SHY. This characteristic is one of the initial definitive ones regarding Cassie Blake. Britt Robertson plays tough and cute very well - but she's not playing Cassie Blake. She's playing the same character I've seen her play before, except that it doesn't work as well with the dialogue for this show.

I DO plan to watch the next few episodes, to see if the show gets better. After all, the pilot is generally the most clunky episode of a television show. At the moment, however, I hold out little hope, and recommend that you read the book instead.

Monday, September 19, 2011

So, I Was Planning on Blogging More Frequently

Seriously. I made a LIST of blog ideas and everything. I began to get ORGANIZED.

And then... um... yeah.

So, anyway, I'm finally blogging again. And this time, it's about NaNo. For those of you who don't know what NaNoWriMo is, let me briefly describe it:

A magical time that lasts for the duration of November, in which numerous writers voluntarily sign up to torture themselves and spur on the self-inflicted torture of others by agreeing to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days.

Now, 50,000 words makes for an awfully short novel. It's really more of a novella when you're finished. It is also, however, a short draft which you can revise and make into something more novel-ly and wonderful. Some great novels that began as NaNo experiments are: Water for Elephants and The Night Circus.

I'm pretty sure you can't sign up for this month of awesome-sauce and sleep deprivation until October, but I recently sat down and did some brainstorming the other day.

You see, I have THREE ideas for NaNo projects this year. I thought brainstorming might help me come to a decision, but I was MISTAKEN. And so, gentle readers, I turn to you. Please, help me decide what to write about by casting a vote. Which of the following ideas sounds more like something you would want to chain yourself to for 30 days?

Option #1: ROAD RAGE
Tokyo Heiress, spoiled rich girl, has a pet peeve regarding proper driving. And when someone doesn't follow the rules of the road, she rams into their car, totaling both vehicles, because her parents can totally afford to buy her a new one, so why not?
Unfortunately, her parents decide to be totally not cool, and after a recent incident, have taken away her driving privileges and hired her a driver.
Unbeknownst to her parents, her driver has worse road rage than SHE does. And he doesn't necessarily follow driving laws himself, nor expect others to - he just wants everyone to recognize that the road is his.
Shenanigans ensue.

Female protag. lives on Ideal Street, but ironically deals with the desperate and despondent working as the front desk receptionist of a temporary agency. She herself is seeking different work because, frankly, working at a temp agency sucks and she doesn't make enough money to deal with this shit on a daily basis.
One day, whilst perusing Craigslist and making phone calls to fill a job order, she overhears a murder.
Except that no one believes her, the police having gone to the residence and ruled it as a suicide.
So female protag. will have to investigate this circumstance, herself.
The recently deceased was one of the few workers she actually enjoyed talking to on the phone and in the office. Plus, no one calls HER a liar...

Option #3: The Jane Austen Spin-off
This one will involve research. In case you haven't heard of it, Jane Austen was a few chapters into a new novel when she passed away. Most people call it Sanditon, because that was the residence at which the majority of the novel was to take place. Austen herself, however, was going to call it The Brothers. Basically, my idea is that a young woman finds herself living a life that draws many parallels to Sanditon/The Brothers - kind of a way to resolve/finish/sequel Austen's unfinished novel without actually poorly pretending to be her.
This one could be fun, and it would give me an excuse to re-read Austen, particularly that last work, as it's been awhile since I read it, and I would want to become familiar with it once more. I know that it had to do with hypochondriacs (of which I am one) and would probably place the new novel at a health resort or spa. Obviously, this one is the least fleshed out so far. Although I DO love Austen.

So - which idea do YOU like best? Please let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"Very Bad Men" Make for a Very Good Read

Today, I am going to review Harry Dolan's novel Very Bad Men. A mystery novel possessing humor and heart, the suspense keeps the reader riveted - yet the most interesting aspects of the novel, rather than plot, are character. And I refrained from adding an "s" to character for a reason, for while the characters in the novel are the medium through which Mr. Dolan explores character, in general, it is the exploration itself which really intrigued me.

Here, have a book cover (& link to purchase the book, or read what some other literary geek had to say about it):

Very Bad Men (David Loogan Series #2) by Harry Dolan: Book Cover

The book opens during the Ann Arbor Art Fair, a huge event that is really more like five art fairs all going on at the same time. The A3F brings a surge of tourists to the town of Ann Arbor, which makes it both a great source of income to local businesses, as well as really freakin' annoying to the people who live in Ann Arbor. Much, if not most, of downtown is closed off for small white tents displaying either art, food, or wares to be hawked. Also, people tend to indulge in a bit of child labor and force their children to sell water on street corners and such.

I love that the book uses this/these fair(s) as the initial setting - the beginning feels very like a horror movie. And there's Michael Myers, hiding in the midst of a throng of people, causing our hero to feel trapped even as he rushes after the villain. Because when I want to feel safe, I totally run straight towards the psychotic asylum escapee wielding a knife.

So there's murder, suspense, more murder, political intrigue, and a semi-solved incident that occurred many years prior.

The most interesting thing, however, is that Dolan pulled off a mystery novel in which the reader is aware the entire time of the identity of the murderer. The question of "Who" committed the murder is of no interest - it is a fact. The question of "Why" the murders are being committed, on the other hand, and of exactly how culpable the murderer is, is fascinating, and is explored in detail.

Another great thing about this novel is that all of the characters were enjoyable. All of them were fairly intelligent, most of them were good-looking, etc.

Something which I found even more interesting than the characters, however, was the setting. I know that I've mentioned the Art Fair, with its' enforced child labor and traffic jams, both vehicular and pedestrian. Yet, this time I'm referring to the setting of the entire book. Most of this book takes place in Ann Arbor. I currently live in Ann Arbor. It's a nice place, and there is something thrilling about reading a description and thinking: "I know that place!" There is something awesome about being able to accurately gauge whether or not the author is portraying the places mentioned, correctly (he did). Nearly every place Dolan mentioned in his novel, in Ann Arbor, is an actual place that I've been to, or walked past, and so reading this novel was comforting. As a resident of Ann Arbor, I almost felt like I was a part of the novel, myself, like I could pass David Loogan walking down the street.

So I am slightly biased, because the town in which I live is the setting. And as a current Ann Arbor resident, and University of Michigan graduate, I am a bit of a snob about Ann Arbor. I think it's a great place, and would, at the least, challenge someone to a duel who dared think otherwise.

Had the book not occurred in Ann Arbor, it still would have been thoroughly enjoyable. It still would have garnered praise. But I would not have liked it, as much.

Do you have any mystery book suggestions? I'm always looking for a good mystery! Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Literary Homage to Science Fiction

Last week, I finished reading Felix de Palma's novel The Map of Time. I really think that this book is perfect for summer - it's long, it's elegantly written, but still an easy read, without being effortless.

Look! I'm the cover & I'm shiny & delicious!

The Map of Time is separated into 3 sections. Each section introduces some new characters, and sections two and three reveal different sides to characters who have already been introduced. There are two characters who play a prominent role in all 3 sections: Gilliam Murray, a fictional character of the author's device, and H. G. Wells, the actual science fiction writer.

This book was interesting, and really looks at the idea of time, and how the concept of time influences society. How would the world be different if it were possible to more properly comprehend the fourth dimension and "travel" through time?

The novel is set in the late 19th century, and is worded and intended to be read with that time period in mind. When reading, one becomes entrenched in a world that is more proper, in a world full of possibilities, despite the fact that this time period has already occurred, and therefore, it shouldn't be full of possibilities, at all.

I really enjoyed this novel. It's technically a translation, from Spanish into English, but the manner in which it is written reads as though it was written in English. The writing flows. I mentioned in a previous blog post that this book is perfect for summer - it's not what I would call "fluffy" writing, but it is enjoyable, and a fairly quick read, while still having enough intellectual meat to chew over.

I did have one problem with this novel: it's obvious infatuation with H.G. Wells. Sometimes, I felt as though the novel's entire structure was fabricated around the premise of paying homage to H.G. Wells. This adoration went so far as to lead to the denigration of other famed writers of the time period, including one of my personal faves, Henry James.

Other than that slight irksome recurrence, this novel is definitely worth reading. It's well written, it's intelligent, it's slightly nerdy, but in a mostly enjoyable way.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Current Reading

So I'm working on the Map of Time right now, written by Felix J. Palma. & so far, I'm loving it. Feel free to go to your local bookstore or library and pick up a copy to begin reading. It's not super heavy reading, but it's heavy enough to not be completely frivolous. It is also already a bestseller, though it was just released in its' English translation last month.

I've got to say, if I didn't pay attention, I might not even know this is a translation. It does not read as though it is lacking anything in character, and the words flow together beautifully. I cannot imagine the story being written in a better manner, though, of course, it is probably better in its' original form in Spanish.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book so far:

"...the passage of time, which transformed the volatile present into that finished, unalterable painting called the past, a canvas man always executed blindly, with erratic brushstrokes that only make sense when one stepped far enough away from it to be able to admire it as a whole."

“He could imagine no greater misery than to drift through life aimlessly, frustrated, knowing nothing could ever satisfy him, building a dull, meaningless existence on the basis of luck and a series of muddled decisions, an existence interchangeable with that of his neighbor, aspiring only to the brief, fragile, and elusive happiness of simple folk.”

“Sometimes she wondered whether she did everything in her power to overcome her gnawing sense of dissatisfaction, or whether, on the contrary, she derived a morbid pleasure from giving in to it.”

Feel free to dissect these quotes I enjoy, or share some of your own!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My First Ellen Hopkins Novel

Today, I am going to review Ellen Hopkins' forthcoming adult novel Triangles. I was lucky enough to receive an Advanced Reading Copy, as the book is not for sale until October, 2011. The cover of my ARC copy is purplish and sexy:

This makes the cover fitting to the book, which is about middle-aged women grappling with family and sexuality issues. As the title suggests, this is the first book written by Ellen Hopkins which I have read.

I was rather surprised, initially, to discover that the book is comprised of poems. I wasn't sure I was going to like it. Yet the poetry reads quickly, and rather like prose, and I grew accustomed to it much faster than I anticipated.

The book chronicles a difficult time in the lives of 3 middle-aged women. Holly seems to have everything a woman could want - a stable home life, a husband who is still completely in love with her, and three good-looking children - but she's not satisfied. The big 4-0 is looming on the horizon, and she is feeling like she has not accomplished anything for herself. Marissa is dealing with a gay son and a sickly daughter who probably won't be alive much longer. Andrea is trying to convince herself that she doesn't need love in her life, but keeps finding herself entangled with men, anyway.

The book is often sad, sometimes uplifting, and often adventurous. The women are all interesting characters, and the reader does get to know them rather well.

It was an interesting book, and if you are a fan of Hopkins' YA work, then I think you will definitely want to check this out. I think it's also a great book, if you're in the mood to read about uncertainty and loss. Or if you're interested to see what a novel comprised of poems is like.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Horror Movie & Character Development

I recently watched "The Roommate," the horror movie with Leighton Meester and Minka Kelly about a horrible roommate. Except that the roommate was the character with whom I sympathized the most, although I'm sure you're supposed to feel bad that the super pretty, super talented, perfect girl Minka Kelly plays, whom everyone likes, is the one you're supposed to connect with, or whatever.

Honestly, Leighton Meester made this movie for me. And it wasn't by scaring me. It was through her vulnerability, and the fact that no one gave her what she needed the most: friendship.

Warning: the rest of this blog post is going to contain spoilers. Read at your own peril.

Suffice it to say, Leighton Meester is the only actor in that movie. Which is surprising, because I'm usually a pretty big Billy Zane fan, and he has a part in this movie - but I just didn't feel that he did a very good job in this movie. Billy Zane gave a lukewarm performance, and Minka Kelly got to play the pretty girl whom everyone adores automatically, b/c that's just the way some girls are received...

So maybe I didn't respond well to this film b/c I wasn't one of those girls. I'm kind of shy, and I've never been the kind of person who people just flock around. I've never been the kind of girl who gets invited to a party the first day she meets someone, and I've never had a good experience at a frat house, and all of the boys I dated in college were losers who didn't go to my school.

I was actually treated a lot more like Rebecca, Leighton Meester's character. There is something in me, a reserve, that sprung up unawares sometime during the period that I was growing up, that convinces people I am stuck up rather than shy. This is the vibe I got from Leighton Meester's character. Even before she said anything, before she had a chance to be mean or rude and deserving of being shunned, she was treated oddly and people whispered that she was scary within hearing range.

The two girls that she obsesses about are the girls whom she wants to be, because they are loved by all. (Who doesn't want to be loved?) And so she struggles to be nice to them, and goes a little bit overboard b/c she has a mental illness, and their response is to tell her she was never their friend.

That's just mean.

Is it really necessary, to shatter whatever normal, human part of her exists by taking all of their interaction that was truly on friendly terms, and making it meaningless?

She has a mental illness, she needs to go to a hospital, not be mocked by "normal" people, who are really just as heartless as they think she is.

For what did Aly Michalka's character Tracy do, that was so worthy of friendship? Invite Sara to a few parties, get too drunk, and abandon her at a nightclub? Oh. Yeah. That sounds like a winner. Like someone who cares.

I don't understand this mentality that a person has to be "cool" all the time. Like, if you're really my friend, you'll be there for me and have my back, but don't tell me that or act like that unless you're drunk.

Leighton Meester's Rebecca did exactly that - whatever she thought her friend needed. She tried to give her friend Sara what she wanted, even when what she wanted was ridiculous. And all she wanted in return was a friend.

For which she was shot and killed.

So who was the real murderer in the movie? The girl with the mental illness who thought she was doing what her friend needed? Or the girl whom everyone adored who didn't do the rational thing and talk to her roommate's parents or, at the least, her hall monitor about any issues she was having?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Delicate, Erotic & Unraveling

The adjectives chosen to title this post refer to the book I just finished reading: Netsuke, by Rikki Ducornet. An interesting novel, that delves into the life of a psychoanalyst particularly interested in seducing his patients, or allowing his patients to seduce him, for therapeutic value.

I am reviewing an uncorrected galley, provided by the publisher. My opinions are my own, uninfluenced, because my brain's a pretty hard one to control. ;)

For the length of time which this book covers, it is clear the the psychoanalyst has been indulging in his studies for some time. He has had several failed marriages previous to the novel's beginning, and admits that he is extremely neglectful towards his current wife in favor of the flavor of the moment.

The psychoanalyst is not merely obsessed with the concept of sex, and how it can destroy or heal another person. He also becomes infatuated several times throughout the course of the novel with a certain client, and makes it clear that, at one time, he was infatuated in such a way with his wife.

It is clear, almost from the beginning, that the psychoanalyst is at least as disturbed as his patients. It is unclear whether or not he is actually affording any of his clients any help. He is trying to save himself through lustful encounters, trying to find the right person who can save him, and convincing himself that what he is doing is naughty, but helpful to the other people in his life.

The writing style in this novel is very interesting. It meanders a bit. There are very short chapters. It is, in fact, a very short novel. Yet it is pleasant to read. While the exact ending was not a foregone conclusion, the entire novel is heading towards an unpleasant ending.

I enjoyed reading this novel, which was released last month. The author has written eight novels, though this was the first of hers that I've read. I'm curious, now, to read some of her other material.

This novel got me thinking, and dealt with some issues which interest me. The concept of an obviously very intelligent individual indulging in self-destructive behavior is one that is come across often in life, and it was interesting to see it in this novel. It was that concept, however, more than the sex which was interesting. This is not erotica - the novel deals with sex, often, but is unlikely to turn you on. This is a book meant to challenge your intellect, rather than stimulate your libido. And it is worth reading.

Monday, June 13, 2011

An Austen-Affiliated Novel I Didn't Hate

Today, I am going to review Karen Joy Fowler's The Jane Austen Book Club.

I was initially worried, upon embarking on the journey of reading this novel. I had heard, from a therapist a few years ago, that this book wasn't very good. I believe her words were, "They just read Jane Austen books. It was boring."

And then the movie came out, and it looked cute, so a friend and I rented it and watched it. I liked it, and this caused me to consider reading the book.

There was one more factor that caused me to be reluctant at the idea of reading this book, however: its affiliation with Jane Austen.

I love Jane Austen's books. Every single one of them is enjoyable - witty, realistic, romantic. Unfortunately, most of the more recent books that have been published by fellow Austen-enthusiasts have been
horrible. I realize that it is difficult to write a book worthy of the great author from the nineteenth century, and authors who try deserve credit for their endeavor, but I don't like being repeatedly disappointed, either.

In this case, I wasn't. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characters are all interesting, and described in a captivating way that makes the reader want to avoid putting the book down at all costs.

The one thing that was kind of weird about the book was the narration style. Primarily told in the third person, the narration tends to focus on one, or only a couple, of the characters. There were times, however, when a plural second person point of view was used. So I, as the reader, felt as though I was being addressed by one person in the group, talking about everyone in the group, but in actuality, it was the narrator, who was not in the reading group. It felt kind of voyeuristic, stalkerish, and wrong.

But the novel, overall, is very good. It's one of those magical books that just makes you feel good, even when it recounts bad things happening. It reminds me of Alice Hoffman's books, which are permeated with fantastical creatures and those realistic magic moments that are in our lives.

Since Jane Austen's novels all involve love and courtship, the characters, through reading and discussing the six books Ms. Austen wrote, realize issues in their own love lives. The reading of Austen's books are healing, and feel like a healing balm to the reader, as well.

This book is great, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who has read Ms. Austen's books, is interested in reading Ms. Austen's books, or who loves love. The book is, perhaps, a bit esoteric - it is definitely easier to follow if you HAVE read Ms. Austen's books. But there are summaries of the Austen books, if you haven't read them.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Respect & Decorum Are a Dead Thing when the Customer is Always Right

The woman's hair was more frizz than curl.

She wore an oversized t-shirt that severely accentuated her thinness, and a pair of baggy jeans that could not have felt good in the eighty degree heat outside.

She walked up to the garish orange counter* with an older, portly, balding, rotting-toothed gentleman and slammed her DVDs on the counter before spouting off the seven digits of her phone number in a steady, monotonous stream of syllables.

This behavior was jarring to Alecia, the 21-year-old fashion school student who thought to herself once more that she really needed to get a job in the retail environment tailored to clothing. She forced her the corners of her lips up and out into a smile. "Hello," she said pleasantly, as she grabbed the movies, and removed the security precautions. "How are you today?"

"All them movies I kin git for five nights, I wan' for five nights," the woman said, her smoke-clogged voice as rough and abrasive as her movements.

"Okay," Alecia responded. "It looks like the only movie that will be due back tomorrow night before we close is 'Drive Angry.' Your total is five dollars even."

The woman handed over a Chase debit card. Alecia flipped it over to behold a darkened, scratched out slip on the back. "May I please see your ID?" she asked.

"I DON' HAVE MY ID!" the woman screamed. Alecia wondered how many times over the past few days the woman had been asked to corroborate that she was herself. "I am waiting for it in the mail."

Isn't it amazing how much more articulate some people become when angry?

"Okay..." Alecia said, thinking to herself that this was exactly the way that someone who was stealing identification or up to something fishy would react. "Do you have any other ID, at all?"

"If this is going to be a big deal," the woman said, digging through her purse, her shoulders jerking with her abrupt movements. She retrieved a crumpled twenty dollar bill from the depths, and flung it at the girl behind the counter.

Alecia returned the debit card. "I'm sorry; it's just difficult to make out your signature."

"Not really," the woman said, in the exasperated tone usually reserved for police officers and IRS agents.

Alecia forced a small breath. In and out. "Maybe your eyesight is better than mine," she said. In and out. "Though, given the way you look, I doubt it."

"What did you just say to me?!"

Fuck breathing. "You know what? You're right. The first thing I thought when I woke up this morning was, I'm going to make Tanya Roberts' life difficult today! Seriously. I don't even know you. You know what? When you're the victim of credit card fraud, remember this incident, and the countless others like it. I don't think you're a criminal; I was trying to protect you from those who are."

"What's your name?"


"Fred." The woman sounded as if she didn't believe Alecia.

"Yup. 'Drive Angry' is due back tomorrow; you have everything else until Monday. Enjoy."

The woman seemed a bit flustered as she left the store. So flustered, she forgot to get her change. Alecia deemed it a tip and stuck it in her pocket.

*You could tell a man chose the color scheme, with its' bright orange and green hues.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Disillusionment with the Alpha-Male Art World

I recently read Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust Without Reason. It was a book which I received free of charge from the publisher. It was fan-freakin'-tastic.

Seriously. I loved it.

Other than having a great title, this book is written with style, and a simple gracefulness. I am usually not a fan of non-fiction, including memoirs. This memoir, however, was one that I didn't want to put down.

For one thing, the subject matter is scintillating. This memoir deals with Roiphe's dedication to, and subsequent disillusion with, the literary art world in the '50s & '60s. This was a time in which men were still drinking with abandon, and striving to become the next literary great. Being this time period, and the art world, there is also a lot of discussion about sex, about love. Roiphe brings this world alive - its' pulse beats steady, and it breathes easily, and the reader slips into this world like a hand into a glove.

It was also my introduction to Roiphe. I am slightly abashed at the fact that I wasn't very aware of Roiphe's prolific-ness until becoming interested in this memoir. Now, I feel like I need to purchase every book she's written, because if they are as good as Art and Madness, I will be a very happy reader while devouring them. Roiphe is extremely intelligent. She grapples with issues on an intellectual and emotional level, and the reader can follow her train wreck of issues while still being awed at the fact that she is so smart. She also writes in a beautiful manner. Her writing in this memoir is slightly stream-of-consciousness - skipping around a bit in time, jumbling close together in run-on sentences, going to the brink of incoherent without ever quite losing that bright silver thread of narrative - and just lovely to read. Reading her memoir reminded me somewhat of Francesca Lia Block. Not because their writing is identical, but because with both women, I feel almost like I'm reading poetry while reading their prose.

I could babble on about this book for much longer, but I'm sure I would start to bore you (if I haven't done so already), so I will simply conclude my review with this recommendation: buy it. If the subject matter interests you at all, buy it. If you like strong, lyrical prose, buy it. If you like Anne Roiphe, buy it. If you are a fan of art, buy it. I seriously doubt you will regret it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Opposition to the Idea of Marriage

A silly institution,
bringing to fruition
the condition
that we are taught on television
is the natural romantic relation.

The perfect white dress
is the start of a mess.
The vow "until death"
just causes stress;
it's cultural duress.

I don't want this cage.
It puts me in a rage
this desire is attributed to young age;
I'll feel the same when a sage.

You see,
getting married
vents women being free.

The man was king,
for he had the money,
and fe-
males re-
sorted to goldigging,
but it was okey
so long as she got a ring.

The continuance
of this nuisance
we succumb to like puissants
is not merely an acceptance,
but also an upholdance,
that past trespasses
on the female race,
while (often) currently in recess,
are our inheritance
because it still holds resonance.

If you think it's right
that women be in the plight
in which they have no rights,
and aren't allowed to fight
for an end to such blight,
then fine.

Get married.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Link to A Contest

Alice Marvels is hosting a contest that gives you the opportunity to win one of 8 signed copies of new Young Adult books or a Kindle. Here's the link:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Quote Analysis

"It wasn't so much desire that led me as my intention not to live like a coward. I was determined to take what life would offer. I didn't want to be the only woman of my generation to hold to standards everyone else had long ago abandoned."

-Anne Roiphe. Art and Madness: A Memoir of Lust without Reason. New York: Nan A. Talese, Doubleday, 2011. 19.

I just began reading this book, and I'm already in love with it. The quote above is something that I know I have felt and thought, and that I have a feeling most people go through.

For how do we want to live life? Do we want to strive for an excellence that might not be achievable? I mean, I'm sorry, but the fact is we can't all be rich and famous. Celebrity depends upon and only means something when there is the mediocre, those yearning, the proletariat with which to compare.

So we can strive for whatever we want, but there's never a guarantee that we will achieve it. I can write until my fingers are knobbed and shaking with arthritis, and my wrists crack from carpel tunnel syndrome, but that doesn't mean I'll strike that lucky vein (or marketing team) that Stephenie Meyer did and be able to make a living from it. In fact, with all of these changes recently in the publishing world, it will probably only become harder for the diamonds to glitter among the rough (I'm not saying my work is any good, just that I think a lot more crap is going to be published with the increase of book piracy).

Do we go with what's safe? Can we trust what our parents tell us? All parents do their best, but the fact is that the world changes. People's attitudes generally don't, but it certainly seems that their morals do. The shy, smart girl is generally just considered a stuck-up bitch who won't put out, rather than chased and admired from afar like some John Hughes movie.

Sometimes, we just have to face our fears. That's the only way we can change, the only way that we can improve. For sometimes, we're not perfect just the way we are. To anyone.

And usually, when we feel the safest, that's when we need to change the most.

Anywho, that's what this quote got me thinking about. What about you? There's a lot of meat there, just begging to be chewed over... (Which is my way of saying, please comment below; I'd love to hear your thoughts!)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Excerpts from an Interview You Should Read

I just read this article on the Writer's Digest website. It's an interview with Harlan Coben, and I found it very inspiring. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

"I want it to be compulsive reading. So on every page, every paragraph, every sentence, every word, I ask myself, 'Is this compelling? Is this gripping? Is this moving the story forward?' And if it's not, I have to find a way to change it... No word should be wasted."

"That's what a good crime novelist - any good novelist - should do with you; play with your perceptions while showing you everything in plain sight."

"...the actual process [of writing], the day-to-day suffering, the day-to-day self-doubt, the day-to-day self-hatred, that's pretty much always the same."

"None of my books are ever just about thrills, or it won't work."

"You can't get lost in your own genius, which is a dangerous place for writers. You don't want to ever get complacent."

"You have a choice: You can either hate yourself, or you can write."

On Borrowing Things

Rebecca Makkai's novel The Borrower comes out in June of this year, and my opinion of this book can be summed up in two words: Buy it.

The tale of a highly intelligent librarian in her mid-twenties, who, though not exactly possessing the degrees requisite to do her job does it far more competently than anyone else there, "borrows" a ten-year-old boy. Technically, narrator Lucy Hull commits kidnapping that crosses several state lines for reasons that are somewhat idealistic.

I love, love, loved the narrator. She was witty, and based on the reactions of several other characters to her, very pretty, but completely misguided. As the reader, I felt as though Lucy could have or do whatever she wanted - but she didn't know what she wanted. & she didn't particularly care that she didn't know what she wanted, or that she wasn't entirely sure of what she was doing. As someone in her mid-twenties whose life goals seem to change somewhat everyday, and who, at times, wishes she was pretty, slutty, & enough of an actress to act stupid enough to become an object of infatuation for Hugh Hefner, I have to say - I could identify with many aspects of Miss Hull's life.

I also loved the young boy whom she took on an unplanned road trip. (Kidnapping is a somewhat harsh term to describe the situation that occupies the majority of the narrative of this book.) An adorable boy named Ian who is a voracious reader and seems inclined towards a sexuality different from heterosexuality, he is the child of two very strict parents who take him to weekly anti-gay classes with a man who claims to have formerly been homosexual and now saved.

It is interesting to see the narrative from the side of the villain - which is how Miss Hull describes herself in the beginning of the narrative. I particularly like that this is one villain you don't want to get caught. I didn't necessarily agree with everything she believed - I just didn't want her to get caught. At the end of the narrative, I wasn't sure that I even agreed with Miss Hull's assessment of herself as a villain.

All-in-all, an extremely entertaining & intelligent read that explores many aspects of the concept of "borrowing." Seriously, buy it. Here's a link so you can pre-order it now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fairy Tales - Literally

I recently finished the novel Don't Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon.

I really enjoyed it. This was another book that skipped around in time - every chapter took place in a different decade. The book chapters also each featured a different protagonist - the more modern ones featured a woman in her thirties named Phoebe, the chapters from 15 years prior feature a young girl named Lisa.

At the crux of the story lies the mystery of what, exactly, happened to a 12-year-old girl named Lisa, who disappeared one summer. The most logical train of thought - 12-year-old girl disappears and has been missing for 15 years - isn't pretty. The flashbacks and the interesting people Phoebe and her boyfriend (who happens to be Lisa's younger brother) Sam encounter when the possibility that Lisa's returned, however, makes the reader question this concept of reality.

Lisa was an interesting little girl - very pretty, very imaginative, and one of those people that other people tend to like. & Lisa believed in fairies.

In fact, the summer that she disappeared, Lisa thought she was contacting fairies, and was going to be brought into the fairyland to become Teilo (the fairy king) 's queen.

So 15 years later, Sam and his cousin Evie begin receiving strange messages and encountering odd situations that seem like the sorts of things that fairies who are complete assholes might be perpetrating, & have to wonder - was Lisa right? Was she in the fairy kingdom for 15 years? & is she now back?

I really, really enjoyed this book. For some reason, the length of the book surprised me (464 pages). The novel still read very quickly, however, while not being insipid or stupid. This isn't really a beach read, but I do recommend reading it.

There was one thing that sometimes irked me about the book - the protagonist changes. Every chapter had that different focus - one for Phoebe, one for Lisa - and sometimes, it was a little jarring. I think, however, that it did actually work in the way that the author intended. When you're discussing subjects such as child kidnapping, possible rape, murder, and not-very-nice fairies, jarring the reader a little bit is a good thing.

So it's a serious book, and it questions the concepts of reality and perception. Really, at the end of the book, I was slightly spooked, though while reading the majority of the book I wouldn't say it was a horror story.

If you're interested in reading some more about the book, other reviews, or pre-ordering, the author's website is here. The book is being released in May of this year.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Popping My Cherry

I had never read a novel by Kristin Hannah before, (that's right, get your minds out of the gutter,) and was lucky enough to receive an advanced reading copy of her new book night road recently.

I think I've found a new great author. A lot of you have probably read her work before (you guys - so smart), but if you haven't, I strongly suggest checking this book out:

I hesitate to summarize this book, because honestly, I feel like a summary would make me less inclined to want to purchase the novel. I'll do my best, but I want to preface the summary with a warning that my words are not very likely to do the novel justice:

The book skips around in time a bit, covering a span of about 8 (9? 10? I'm bad at math) years. It mostly chronicles three teenagers who are friends, lovers, helpers, fighters, etc. Some great things happen; some horrible things happen. Overall, however, (& this is going to sound so corny, but doesn't come across that way in the book at all) this book really reinforces the idea that love is a healing, wonderful thing.

It deals with issues of love, parenthood, abandonment, depression, and martyrdom.

Basically, you really need to read it. Go buy it. Now.

Has anyone else read Kristin Hannah? What are your thoughts (on any of her works)? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A YA Book I Didn't Much Like

I recently received an ARC of brother/sister by Sean Olin.

I didn't much like it.

In fact, I didn't finish it. In general, I try to make a point of finishing a book sent to me for review. At times, however, as a reader, I just know when a book isn't for me. This was one of them. After diligently plowing through more than 50 pages, I decided to follow a Pearl of wisdom & quit.

The novel is narrated by two siblings, a brother & a sister (just like in the title! It must be a coincidence, right?), named Will & Asheley (yes, that's really how her name is spelled). When the book opens, we as readers know that something terrible has happened. As the story keeps unfolding, we realize that someone is dead and that the siblings are in Mexico. They are talking to the police, and it seems that one or both of them is the suspect with regards to the death. The kids are isolated and kind of weird - the result of divorced parents and an alcoholic mother - and a day when both of them accomplish sports feats, they are also shamed by actions by their mother and boyfriend.

Each chapter is narrated by a different sibling, and the story itself isn't that bad. I didn't, however, like the writing style. I didn't like the characters of Will and Asheley, and I didn't like the way that the story was taking for. ev. er. to unfold. It was like it took five chapters to relate an hour time span. Like much of America, I have ADD - I don't have the attention span for this.

So the stuff happening was interesting, but honestly, I don't even care that I don't know exactly who was murdered, or how, by whom, etc. So the interesting stuff was not related in an interesting way, and that makes this a book that I wouldn't recommend.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Another Disappointment

A few weeks ago, I finished reading The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French. With a title like that, I expect it's going to pique the interest of a lot of readers. It's also got an arresting retro cover:

In a nutshell, TROTRL is about an elderly woman who has suffered health issues as well as the death of her daughter because of radioactive cocktails she was given in the fifties. These cocktails were part of an unofficial study, and the women who drank them (all in the lower economic stratus) were told that it was a "vitamin cocktail." Bitter and alone, this particular woman (named Marylou) has decided that she needs to get revenge on the doctor who was in charge of the study. So she buys a house in Tallahassee, begins essentially stalking the doctor and his family, and contemplates the best way to kill him. Sounds like a great, fast, zany read, right?


This novel has all the potential to be crazy & amazing, but instead, wallows in the mundane. Some crazy shit happens, but the manner in which it is related makes it seem almost boring & nondescript, while more time & care is spent on the small and everyday. The marketing, the title, the synopsis all indicate something wacky, along the lines of a Christopher Moore novel or that novel I adore, Fated.

It's not a bad book. It looks through the eyes of a lot of different characters, really giving both sides of the story, and all-in-all, the book and the author have a good heart. It wasn't, however, what I was expecting, and what I was expecting was more interesting than what I read.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hopefully the Movie's Better

The commercials for the Red Riding Hood movie coming out soon intrigued me. I mean, sure, chances are it's as horrible as the Twilight movies. But the possibility that it isn't is exciting. & as you know (or are about to find out), a YA novel was recently released as a "companion" to the movie. So you know I bought it. Here's the cover (which I adore):

I was really hoping to like this book. I like fairy tales. I like new twists on fairy tales.

I also, however, like good writing. This book didn't have that particular characteristic.

I liked the ideas & I could have liked the characters, if they had been fleshed out a bit more. The story is mostly told from Valerie's point of view, in a meandering fashion that makes her seem extremely indecisive and somewhat flaky.

Basically, the writing is very simple. That's not always a bad thing. A lot of great writers write in simple sentences. It's concise, and often beautiful in it's lack of unnecessary complication. So it's not really the simplicity that bothers me - it's that the simplicity is paired with a lack of sophistication. There's no grace to the story. One sentence wobbles along after another, like a toddler learning to walk. It is clumsy and sometimes completely misses the mark and falls on its' butt.

There were two sentences that I liked:

"Valerie was not who she had been. She felt parts of herself softly crumbling off, like a cliff falling into the sea."

That was it. The others sentences revealed too little or revealed too much or just didn't strike my intellect in an appealing way.

Have you read Red Riding Hood? What was your opinion?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Glimpse into a Different Perspective

I just finished reading Minding Ben by Victoria Brown.

I think it's a good thing that I read this book, but I don't know that I would have wanted to pay money for it. Intellectually, it was something interesting for me to read. Based on Brown's own experiences, the book details a girl from a Trinidadian island who comes to America at 16, is abandoned by her own family, and has to find her own way. If she goes back home, she won't ever be able to come back to America, and because America has more opportunities than her life back home would, she's willing to put up with A LOT of shit from the American trademark: the asshole.

Since I am not an illegal immigrant from a warm location where life can seem stagnant and never-changing, I could not really relate. That is why I think that reading this book was a good experience for me. It really opened my eyes a bit. Sometimes, people, at times, have falsely accused me of being a grammar Nazi. I'm totally not - mostly because my comprehension of grammar isn't good enough to reach that level of tyrrany - but I do like for a sentence to be well put together. So initially, a lot of the dialogue kind of irked me. In fact, if anyone who has grown up in America had written this, I would have called it pretentious and overbearing. But the writer didn't put her dialogue together in the manner that she did to make fun of anyone - it's based on her personal experiences. Once I thought about it that way, I realized I was being a bitch and that I deserved the eye-opening.

I felt like the book was realistic, but I also felt that it was slightly meandering. The plot did not seem tightly constructed. Now, those of you who have been reading my blogs for awhile or who know me in person already know I have ADD, so about halfway through the book, I was wishing I was done and anticipating the next novel on my TBR list (which kept changing, by the way, and culminated in Red Riding Hood).

One of my other problems was the strength I previously mentioned: I really didn't understand the protagonist Grace. I haven't lived through her life experiences, of course - but it wasn't just that. I have empathy. I really like to be able to put myself in the character's shoes. And Grace just didn't seem to add up correctly. Smart, adventurous, headstrong - I get that. But I only get that impression from what other characters say to her. I don't see it in her actions. In fact, Grace repeatedly perpetrates actions which give me the exact opposite impression of her. This character ambiguity, in particular, really irked me.

So, like I said earlier, I'm glad that I read the book. I feel like it broadened my horizons. Yet, I don't know that I recommend buying the book.