Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teaser Tuesday

Thank goodness for Teaser Tuesday to get me back on track!!!    Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading and it asks us to...
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
This week, my teaser comes from a book I just got from the library:  The White Queen by Philippa Gregory.  It's a bit different from my usual reads, but I've always enjoyed Antonia Fraser's nonfiction books, so I thought I'd try a bit of historical fiction.

" 'I hope your husband will do it,' my mother says bluntly.  'For the only way to make the English throne safe is to hold a pillow on his face and help him to lasting sleep.' "    p. 180

Monday, August 30, 2010

Other by Karen Kincy

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Seventeen-year-old Gwen hides a dangerous secret: she’s Other. Half-pooka, to be exact, thanks to the father she never met. Most Americans don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat for Others, especially not the small-town folks of Klikamuks, Washington. As if this isn’t bad enough, Gwen’s on the brink of revealing her true identity to her long-time boyfriend, Zack, but she’s scared he’ll lump her with the likes of bloodthirsty vampires and feral werewolves.

When a pack of werewolves chooses the national forest behind Gwen’s home as their new territory, the tensions in Klikamuks escalate-into murder. It soon becomes clear a serial killer is methodically slaying Others. The police turn a blind eye, leaving Gwen to find the killer before the killer finds her. As she hunts for clues, she uncovers more Others living nearby than she ever expected. Like Tavian, a sexy Japanese fox-spirit who rivals Zack and challenges her to embrace her Otherness. Gwen must struggle with her own conflicted identity, learn who she can trust, and-most importantly-stay alive. 

And here's what I thought:  I thought this was the perfect blend of paranormal thriller, mixed with a little bit of romance.   I liked how Kincy gave me character that I really liked, and actually would like to have as a friend (even though I would envy her shapeshifting abilities).  Gwen's sometimes a little impulsive, and sometimes a little conflicted about her Otherness, but she seemed real as a character (meaning, she wasn't flawless).  I appreciated that while she enjoyed her half-Pooka side, she also struggled with how to embrace that part of herself while at the same time, trying to fit in with the people around her.  

Supporting characters weren't bad, either.   Gwen's boyfriend, Zack, seemed at first a little too good to be true.... and then I thought he was a pill.   But, he actually seemed to get a little better towards the end of the book.   Tavian is the real gem here.  He's smart and funny, and doesn't worry about being who he is; he's comfortable with himself --- and that's very attractive.  Plus, the way Kincy writes him, he sounds pretty cute. 

There's some mystery in this book (as evidenced by the mention of murder above), and there's some real danger that Gwen encounters with some really nasty guys in town.   In the last part of the book, I found I was getting really worried for Gwen and Tavian.....     and that's all I'm saying.   You know, I try to avoid spoilers.   What I will say is that this was a fun read, but it had some depth to it.  I liked how Kincy worked things like dryads, and werewolves, into this story, and made all of the Others a realistic part of Gwen's world.  Very cool.  

Where I got this book:  Library!

Friday, August 27, 2010


We have reached Friday, which means it's time for another book blogger hop!!!!!   Jennifer over at Crazy for Books hosts this every week, and it seems to keep getting bigger!  Good thing it runs Friday - Monday, because it gives me a chance to go around and visit -- and discover new blogs!!! 

This week's question is:   Do you use a rating system for your reviews and if so, what is it, and why?

I don't use a rating system.   When I first started this blog, I just wanted to share my thoughts about what I was reading --- I didn't even think about rating the books.   I still don't know if this is something I want to do.   I know it's a little more work to actually read through my posts, instead of just looking for a rating, but I read through reviews even if there's a rating at the end (I don't just skip to the rating).   

Happy Hopping, everyone !!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.  
For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.
Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

And here's what I thought:  I had signed up for the ARC tour for this book on Dark Faerie Tales because the description of the story sounded interesting.    What I found in this book was a wonderful story, with interesting characters, and simple, elegant writing.  Bow gives the reader  a sympathetic main character, Kate, who seems to have the odds stacked against her with every turn.  Lucky for her, she has Taggle, her cat, but even he can bring trouble to her.   However, Kate's smart, and has a good head on her shoulders, and can fend pretty well for herself (despite difficult and inhospitable surroundings).   

This story is complex, and dark at times, kind of like a good folk tale, full of dangerous magic, where things don't always end happily (or do they?).   There are characters who have good hearts, and characters who are just bad to the core.    What I found interesting was how Bow created the cultures in this story.  We have the people in Kate's town, who have their own superstitions and traditions, and we have the Roamers, a gypsy-like group who have some of the same superstitions.   The common thread of the fear of witches runs through everything in this story, and it made me think about how vulnerable a girl or woman would be in a place like this.   Anything different about your appearance, or your mannerisms, any small thing, could be cause for someone to point a finger and cry "witch."  If you are accused, how can you prove you're not a witch?  Think about how in the times of Salem, the best way to tell a witch was to tie stones to a woman and throw her in deep water -- if she floated, she was a witch (and got to be burned at a stake); if she didn't float, she was exonerated --- which meant as a reward, she drowned.  Horrifying.    I liked that Bow incorporated that kind of fear and superstition into this story, because it had a huge impact on Kate, and the decisions she made.   Definitely made me think while I was reading this.

I thought this was a well-written, moving story, and one that would be enjoyable to either read aloud, or listen to on audio.     I'm grateful I had the opportunity to read this ARC on the tour.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Zombies vs. Unicorns!!!

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): It's a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths--for good and evil--of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan.

And here's what I thought:  I had received this ARC through a tour from Dark Faerie Tales (which is so cool).   I was intrigued by this book, not just because of the subjects, but also because of the list of authors who contributed stories.  I mean --- did you see the list?!?   I knew I would find some real gems inside this book, and I wasn't wrong.

I have to admit, some of the stories didn't resonate with me as much as others did.   But, this is such a great compilation of stories.  I mean, where else would you find this kind of face-off?   And what makes it especially fun is that Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier have little comments before each story.   I'm not sure which I enjoy reading about more, zombies or unicorns, but there were a few stories in here that I really liked.  Garth Nix' story had a quote that I loved (see the bottom of this post), the writing was beautifully descriptive, and I really liked the main character.  Carrie Ryan's story made me think of Forest of Hands and Teeth (which I really liked), and I enjoyed the slightly shocking ending.  Naomi Novik's story made me laugh out loud when I was reading --- the unicorn in that story is pretty cool.  Maureen Johnson's zombie story was one that was that wry kind of funny that strikes me sometimes, and I thought Scott Westerfeld's story was pretty interesting, as well.  Cassandra Clare's story was sad, but it really made me think -- and this one has stuck with me for a bit, as well.

These were the ones I really liked, but seriously, all of the stories are good.   And unpredictable.   You might expect zombie stories to be all scary, and unicorn stories to be full of rainbows and light ---- but that's not always what happens here.   Alaya Dawn Johnson's story was kind of funny, and while it wasn't my favorite out of the book, made me smile (it's a Joy Division kind of thing, I suppose).   I don't really think a reader can go wrong with this book, because the stories are so varied.   Definitely a recommended reading!!!

And, oh yeah --- here's that quote I mentioned:  "Looked at sideways, she was a fiercer thing, of less familiar shape, made of storm clouds and darkness...."   p. 4  (first story in the book, by Garth Nix)


One Lovely Blog, eh?

Well, someone thinks so, apparently!  :)    I saw in my Blog Hop comments that Books Glorious Books had given me this award ...  and I'm just getting around to posting about it now.   But since I had a somewhat awful evening yesterday, this was just what I needed to get my spirits up today!   Here's how it works:

  1. Accept the award, post in on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.   Definitely visit this blog --- the teaser from this Tuesday is especially fun!
  2. Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you've newly discovered.    I'm actually choosing 10, if that's ok.....
  3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know that they have been chosen for this award.
Here's my list of some very cool blogs that I've discovered recently --   Enjoy!!!

What Red Read

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Serious bunny.   Seriously cute, that is.
Suffering from a serious case of......  too many books, too little time.     I was determined to gulp down Hunger Games and Catching Fire (in anticipation of Mockingjay), and then I got 2 ARCs in the mail for blog tours.   Working yesterday, and having a family birthday party today definitely ate into my reading time.

So I am planning on hunkering down and doing some serious reading (ah yes, such a sacrifice...... ).    I'm anticipating no Teaser this Tuesday, but hope to be back soon........       so have a great couple of days, everyone!!!!

A Charmed Life: The Spirituality of Potterworld by Frances Bridger

This book was also one I picked up from the library to try to get moving on my Hogwarts Challenge.  I thought it might be interesting because the author is a pastor and a theologian (as well as Principal of Trinity Theological College in Bristol, England), taking on his views of the Harry Potter books.  Because this looked liked a rather scholarly book, I had expected there to be in-depth, dry analysis of everything Harry Potter --  I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was actually very interesting, and very well-written.  Bridger begins by stating that while this book is not necessarily written in praise of Harry Potter, it does contain praise, and that "I write as a theologian, a Cristian, a pastor, and a grandparent, and find myself engaging with Potterworld on all four levels."  (p. 5)  He is quite familiar with the writings of C.S. Lewis, and makes comparisons throughout this book to Lewis' books of Narnia, as well as other writings by Lewis.  As I read through the book, I found myself stopping a few times, just because I was really agreeing with Bridger and what he was saying.   For example, he makes the point that these books had a strong appeal to both adults and children, simply because the same things appeal to both groups of readers (a good story, great descriptions, etc).  When I was reading, I think, the third book, someone I knew was always saying, "But it's a child's book.  Why bother reading it?"  Bridger makes the excellent point (on page 41), "It isn't the child in us that responds to Potterworld -- it's the person."   He states that the stories are what appeal to people of all ages, and are similar to how Tolkien or Lewis can appeal to readers of all ages. 
Now that the Potter series has finished, I don't know how many people will be reading Bridger's book, but I think it's a fascinating companion to the Harry Potter books.   There are still some people who might believe that these books should be banned, or that they contain evil in them that can contaminate children.  However, to anyone who thinks that the books are a bad influence should be handed a copy of this book (which, I know, they would probably find fault with, as well -- *sigh*).   I'll leave you with a quote from Chapter Five (p. 113-114): "To read Harry Potter requires a huge act of faith.  It requires us to suspend our cherished belief that the world around us is the only possible kind of reality there could be and to accept that, in the imagination at least, there could be another.  What is more, by its very nature, Potterworld asks us to switch off our rational circuits - those parts of our brains that tell us that what we're reading simply can't be happening - and to enter a universe in which the normal laws of nature are overtaken by an alternate reality which is somehow capable of impossible feats."    Sounds good to me!   Reading this book made me want to go back to my shelves and start reading this series all over again (and I just might pick up a copy of Bridger's book for myself, to keep handy). 

Please note: it is stated right on the cover that this book "has not been authorized by J.K. Rowling or Warner Bros."  -- Just so you know.  :)

Where I got this book:  Library!

Category for Challenge
- read any book that has charm in its title, any book that deals with gives something or someone a new aspect (for example the nerdy guy become a handsome doctor) 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hopping along......

Finally made it to Friday!!!   And you know that means it's time for another Book Blogger Hop!     Jennifer over at Crazy for Books hosts this every Friday, and I'm always so glad that she does.  What I love about it that it actually lasts Friday through Monday, which lets me keep checking the list, and discovering more new blogs!  Very cool.

And, to keep things interesting, there's a question --- this week, the question comes from LibraryCatsBooks, and is: "How many blogs do you follow?"     Well, I looked at my list in my Google Reader, and the list stands at 108 (I could have sworn it was more!!!)Um, yeah -- just checked my Reader, and there are 350+ feeds for that all by itself.   However, I admit that I don't always read every single thing that comes into my reader (although I try really hard to), and I don't leave comments all the time.  It really depends on what else I have going on that day -- some days are hectic all on their own and I'm lucky if I can get more than halfway through what's in my Reader that day.   With comments,   I'd rather go for quality, over quantity.   I'm trying to get better about commenting more often, and when I comment, I'm trying to make it more than "nice review."

Looking forward to discovering some new blogs during the Hop!   Happy Friday, everyone! 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Colors and Numbers by Louise Hay

I picked this book to fulfill one of my challenge categories, and because it looked kinda fun!   It's a step-by-step instruction book on how to use colors and numbers to gives you "positive vibrations in daily life."  This usually isn't the kind of thing I go for, but I thought it sounded interesting.  There are a lot of books that focus on numbers, or astrology, etc, but this was the first one I had seen that used colors.  The author states in the beginning that, "All colors are good, and we feel more comfortable with certain colors at certain times."  (p. 4).   Well, since I tend to wear a lot of black (and I like wearing black), I was curious to see what the book had to say.

And then, I got to page 19, which said "In numerology, black is seldom used... Black is the absence of color, and in many years of counseling, I found that people who wore a lot of black, or who wore black all the time, were seldom happy people."  Um.... okay.  The author goes on to say, "Black has a tendency to confine and repress the spirit."    At this point, I actually got a little irritated.  Yes, I wear a lot of black and while I don't consider myself to be a super-happy all the time, constantly smiling person, I'm not an unhappy person.  In fact, I have certain black outfits that when I wear them, I feel more confident, and even a little sexy

But I kept reading.  I found the instructions on how to calculate the personal numbers pretty easy to follow, so I did a quick calculation and started to find out what the book had to say.   First one, the personal year, told me to add my birth month and birth day to the current universal year, which gave me the number 7.  Seven told me that my colors were purple/violet, and my gem was amethyst.  Interestingly, I actually do like purple (although I don't wear it all the time), and I like amethysts a lot.  Seven is also supposed to be a "spiritual year," making it an idea time to learn more about yourself.  Interesting.   Now that I had read about my personal year, I moved on to the next item:  the personal day.  My day revealed colors of "beige/brown/pink" and that day's gem to be a diamond.   I actually don't mind the colors -- I have some outfits that combine earth colors with a little pink.  However, I don't care for diamonds.  At all.  No gold, no diamonds.   When I got engaged to my husband, he didn't propose with  ring because he wanted us to choose together.  The first 4 stores we went to, the majority of what they had were --- diamonds in gold.   As soon as I told a salesperson that I didn't like diamonds, and didn't like gold, it was like they had no idea what to do with me.   We actually did find a beautiful ring, however, that's sterling with a blue topaz, and which I love.

So, I don't know if this book is really something that I would use on a daily basis to guide my clothing choices.  However, it was fun to try it, and see what kind of results I got.  And, I wouldn't have picked it up if I hadn't had the book challenge --- so a little book from the library got some attention!  :)

Where I got this book:  Library!

This book fulfilled one of the categories for my Hogwarts challengeDivination - read any book that has divine in its title, any book about psychics or psychic abilities, tarot reading etc 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

By The Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Daelyn Rice is broken beyond repair, and after a string of botched suicide attempts, she's determined to get her death right. She starts visiting a website for "completers"- www.through-the-light.com.   While she's on the site, Daelyn blogs about her life, uncovering a history of bullying that goes back to kindergarten. When she's not on the Web, Daelyn's at her private school, where she's known as the freak who doesn't talk.  Then, a boy named Santana begins to sit with her after school while she's waiting to for her parents to pick her up. Even though she's made it clear that she wants to be left alone, Santana won't give up. And it's too late for Daelyn to be letting people into her life. Isn't it?

And here's what I thought:  Seems like I'm on a roll lately with suicide books (although I didn't really plan it that way).  In this story, we experience everything through Daelyn, in first person.   It's clear from the beginning that Daelyn has attempted suicide before, and right now, she's wearing a neck brace and everything she eats has to be put through a blender first.  And, she doesn't speak.   So, of course, I was wondering why -- did she try hanging herself?  Or was it something else?   And no, I'm not telling; you discover what she did about 3/4 of the way through the book.

What I found interesting in this story was that even though Daelyn seems set on making a final suicide attempt (a successful one), there's a lot of back-and forth once she meets Santana.  He's determined to become her friend, even though she's at first completely non-responsive to him, and then actually rude to him.  He actually wears her down with his persistence, even though it's really hard for Daelyn to trust anyone.   And there's another girl who seems interested in being her friend, too.   This, of course, makes it difficult for Daelyn to maintain her complete insistence to sticking to her final plan.  She does have an interactive website, Through the Light, to help her keep on track, counting down to her "DOD."  However, she's not the only person posting on the site about experiences with bullying, etc.  I found it interesting that at times, Daelyn was really impatient with some of the people who were posting, and seemed annoyed when people would post responses to what she was writing.   She makes for an interesting character; she seems really self-absorbed, but at the same time, she's an unreliable narrator.  As a reader, we're getting everything from her viewpoint only; what if she's not really being truthful?  Or telling the whole story?  Sometimes, I felt bad for her, and sometimes, I just wanted to shake her!!  By the end of the book, there was a real will-she-or won't-she feel to the story, and I wasn't sure what really happened to her when I finished the book.   I didn't mind that I was left wondering -- I don't always need everything wrapped up nicely at the finish.

This book was a little unsettling, and it's about a serious topic.  There's a discussion guide and resource list at the end that gives a lot of good information about bullying and suicide.  I don't think this is a book for everyone, but I think it would resonate with some readers.  I was glad I read it, although I plan to move on to some happier books for a while!

Where I got this book:  Library!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Such a tease.........

It's Tuesday, which means it's time to tease.......

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading and it asks us to...
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
I look forward to this every week, and today have a teaser from a book that I'm actually going to finish and post about (unlike last week).....      I love seeing what everyone else is reading ---- just makes my TBR list all kinds of happy!
"Ariel deadpans me.  'I suggest you dump him right now.  Unless you want a lifetime of his sassy mouth.'"  p. 158

from By the Time You Read This, I'll be Dead by Julie Anne Peters

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier.    On tape, Hannah explains that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out how he made the list.
And here's what I thought:  This was one of those books that I started reading, expecting a good story, and wound up by the end feeling like I got way, way more from it.   I really loved the way that the story alternated between Clay and Hannah.  Basically, he's listening to her on the tapes, so we get Clay's thoughts and reactions, and his present-time story, and we get Hannah's story, told directly in her voice.   
So, let's focus on Clay first, since he's the first character we encounter.  It's hard to know much about who he is, but it's obvious that he cared a lot about Hannah.  As the story continues, his reactions to what he's hearing tell us more about him and he seems like a pretty good guy.   He's obviously bothered by some of what Hannah's revealing as he listens to her tapes, and it seems like while he's learning more about Hannah, he's also learning more about himself.  Definitely an interesting way to develop a character.  I liked how he seemed like a nice, normal guy (not perfect), the kind of quiet guy people might not notice, but who's got a great personality, and a good heart.    But here's the thing you find yourself wondering as you're reading: if these tapes are being passed to certain people, and each one of them is mentioned on a tape (individually), then how is Clay involved?  Is he not as nice as he seems?  He's not sure, himself, if he did something to Hannah to wind up on a tape.

And here's one of the things that made the book so interesting to me.  The way that Hannah reveals her reasons, from one person to the next, leaves you wondering how they're all related.  It's a slow reveal, and I just couldn't stop reading -- I needed to know who was next, and why.  I also really liked the idea of having Hannah make these tapes, to let us know just how she was affected by what certain people did.   For any of us who have known someone who has committed suicide, we're left wondering: why?   In this story, we're told why.   I know that in these tapes, Hannah's telling us how she was feeling, and what led her to consider taking her own life.  And, we're getting it in her voice (literally), not in someone else's interpretation of clues she may have left behind.

I have to admit, I like that Hannah made these tapes.  The idea of just putting it out there, and saying these things to someone who has hurt you, is something I think a lot of us dream about doing.   Not committing suicide.  But, the idea of somehow telling someone: You did this, and it hurt me.  When I was growing up, I wasn't popular, and a lot of kids were pretty mean.  While I have worked hard over the years to not hold grudges (and believe me, it was work), and I don't think I really do, I do still remember some of those kids.  I think about how it would be to write someone a letter and say, "You know that time you said ____________?  It really hurt my feelings and it made me hate who I was.  And I really hated you for saying it, too."   Not that it would accomplish anything.  But, it might be interesting to just put it out there (and let go of it).   Hannah makes some pretty good points in her tapes, especially about how rumors can really be hurtful.   Right in the beginning, we learn about a rumor that started just because she had a first kiss.   What then happens is a nasty, viral rumor that makes it seem like Hannah's a slut.  And then, more little rumors get tacked on to that.   My first reaction to reading this was to hope that in these tapes, that Hannah was going to exact a little revenge, and make people think twice about not believing everything they hear.

I suppose I loved this book because I identified with Hannah.   I think there are a lot of us who have experienced mean, thoughtless people, and there are some of us who have experienced how hurtful it can be to be the subject of a rumor.  I know I definitely understand how that feels.  When I was in my first year of college (at a small-ish school), my own RA (resident advisor) spread rumors about me to the point where, when I walked in the dining hall, conversations would stop, and people would turn and stare at me.  Not nice.  I wound up transferring to another school after that year, to a place where some of my classes were 200+ people, and no one would notice me.  It was heaven.   But I know that some people never have that option.  And so, I was angry on Hannah's behalf.  Each time she felt like she made progress, or found something safe, that would get taken away from her, leaving her without a lot of options.   There was one statement that really struck me: "If you hear a song that makes you cry and you don't want to cry anymore, you don't listen to that song anymore.  But you can't get away from yourself.  You can't decide not to see yourself anymore.  You can't decide to turn off the noise in your head."  (p. 178).   

This was a powerful book, and one I think is important for people to read.  It's not only a good story if you can identify with Hannah, but it's also an important story to read if you can't identify with her (because it really can make you think about how your words and actions can really affect someone else). 

Where I got this book:  Library (although I'm adding it to my "want" list for my own library at home).    

Friday, August 13, 2010

Midnight Blue: A Sonja Blue Collection by Nancy Collins

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): Enter the nightmare world of Sonja Blue: an independent, strong, and beautiful woman who also happens to be a murderous vampire - and vampire slayer.  To avenge herself on the monster who turned her, against her will, into one of the undead, Sonja Blue hunts the vampires who prey on unsuspecting humans. Wearing a leather jacket and mirrored sunglasses, armed with a silver switchblade, she haunts the shadows of the world's greatest cities, continually searching for her prey. Sonja's greatest enemy, however, is the Other - the demon that has shared her mind since her resurrection twenty years ago.

And here's what I thought:  I originally posted a really short review of this book on Goodreads, saying, "I have worn out one copy already (damn that glued binding!). How many times have I read this? 8? 10? Never gets old. There's something about Collins' writing here that always draws me back to the story. Blue's character is fascinating, and Collins really tells some good stories. A perfect book to read when you're feeling like giving a sharp smile to someone.   Recently, I felt like reading from my own collection at home, so I grabbed this the other day for a re-read.  I suppose it might seem odd that I consider this a comfort read, but every time I read it, I enjoy it (and I know what to expect).   I was introduced to this author a number of years ago by an ex-boyfriend of mine ("Himself"), and I've been hooked ever since.   I've always liked the character of Sonja Blue.   Maybe it's because she has this double-life, or double-personality.   Maybe it's because I actually really enjoy the Other, who shares Sonja's mind and is a real ass-kicking, scary, make-no-excuses character (you could say the Other is an amped-up version of Sonja).  I suppose part of why I like the Other is that even though she's really not very nice, I appreciate that she's completely true to herself.  While Sonja sometimes struggles with the fact that she's not always comfortable with who, and what, she is, the Other completely embraces herself as a monster.  She doesn't need anyone's approval.  

I also like that Nancy Collins uses real settings for some of the stories.  New Orleans, for example, is a backdrop sometimes, and while the exact locations (bars, etc) may not be real, they certainly have a real feel to them.  I enjoy reading this book and imaging what it's like to see it as Sonja does, to see the Real World (monsters as they really appear: vampires, succubi, etc.).  I also appreciate that there really is nothing romantic about the vampires in the stories.  Sonja's pretty cool, but she's a sort of hybrid.  The real vampires are pretty horrifying (which means, not romantic, and definitely not sparkly.  Not that sparkling is a bad thing, but it's not happening here).  Collins weaves in different kinds of elements, as well, balancing human stories against things you might recognize from folk tales.   For me, it's the perfect combination of interesting characters and great storytelling that makes this a book I read again from time to time.   Might not be everybody's bag, but if you're looking for a different type of vampire story, this might be just what you need.

Where I got this book: Personal collection.

And... this book fulfills some of my reading challenges:  Flashback Challenge (book I re-read as an adult), Chunkster Challenge (book that is 450+ pages).

Time to Hop!!!

So, not only is it Friday, which means it's time for another Hop, but it's also Friday the 13th!!!   Usually one of my luckier days, although I'm not sure yet about today.......

But let's hop, shall we?   I'm always grateful to Jennifer over at Crazy for Books for hosting the weekly hop!!   This week's question is:  "How many books do you have on your To Be Read shelf?"

Great question!  And..... I have to admit.... I have way too many to keep up with.  I keep an Excel spreadsheet with the list of books I read reviews about, hear about, etc. to keep my eye out for - and that's at about 150.   That list doesn't include all the shiny new books that I hear about on "Waiting for Wednesday" posts, the books other bloggers mention, or the new books I spy on the displays at my library.    So if I include all of those, I'm probably past 200.  Way more than necessary.   But, that means I never run out of things to read! Like that was ever a problem for me.....      

I know I'm not alone in my vast TBR list, however, and that gives me some comfort!!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Slights by Kaaron Warren

Summary:  (from AngryRobot.comStephanie is a killer. After an accident in which her mother dies, she has a near-death experience and finds herself in a room full of people – everyone she’s ever pissed off. They clutch at her, scratch and tear at her. But she finds herself drawn back to this place, again and again, determined to unlock its secrets. Which means she has to die, again and again.
And she starts to wonder whether other people see the same room… when they die.

And here's what I thought:   I had first seen this book on Angry Robot's website, and my eye was caught by the cover art (disturbing, yes?).  And then, I read what it was about and I was intrigued.   So, I asked Angry Robot for a review copy (if one was available).   And then I read an interesting review of the book on The Book Smugglers .   I would really encourage anyone reading my post to go over and see what the Book Smugglers wrote, because it's different from how I reacted to this book.  And, they always write kick-ass reviews.

Overall, I liked the idea of the story, but I just didn't fall in love with this book.  And maybe that's a good thing, because it's pretty disturbing.  It's not that it's badly written; on the contrary, I thought the writing was brilliant.   The main character is very dark, and this story is horrifying and sad, all at the same time.  Despite the fact that I was repulsed, I found that I just had to keep reading and reading, sort of like when you see something awful right in front of you, and you can't look away.   But I sometimes felt like I was off kilter in this story, not really sure what was going on.  Stevie's a complicated character, and maybe that was why: when you read this story, you're in Stevie's head, and it's a nasty place to be.  The reader's forced to experience things through Stevie at an unrelenting pace, and maybe that's also why this story didn't resonate with me --- I needed a break!    I didn't care much for Stevie, and at times, didn't care about her, either, which is probably why I didn't love the story.   However, as I mentioned, just because I didn't love this book doesn't mean it's not a good book; it's just personal preference.   I'm still very glad that Angry Robot sent me the book, and plan to revisit it at some other point in the future, just to see if my reaction to it is any different. 

If you'd like to read an interesting interview with this author, click on this link 

Where I got this book:  Courtesy of Angry Robot, in response to my request for a review copy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Teaser Tuesday!!

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should be Reading and it asks us to...
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
This week's teaser comes from Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.  It includes stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Rachel Vincent, and more.  "Jo wanted to turn around and run.  She could feel Nick calling to her, the feel and smell and chill of him tugging at her, wanted more than anything to feel him against her whole body, pressing into her like the thorns in her dreams."   p. 208

Hmmmm.... definitely curious about the rest of this story.    :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Versatility ---- and how a little thing made a big difference in my Friday

So there I was, having a kinda crappy Friday  (you know, one of those that doesn't begin well, and it just keeps coming...), but I was hopping through the list of Book Blog Hoppers ---- and discovered that Lisa over at Pages of My Life had been extremely sweet and gave me an award!!!  Made my day!!!     She's got a lovely blog --- check it out!

So now, I'm getting around to actually posting a little something.   :)        I actually received this award in June, but I have more people I can pass it along to, so I'll be doing that now!    How the award works:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...) 

4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.
7 seems to be a good number for me, because I have 7 blogs I'm passing this award on to, as well!    Tricky thing is thinking of 7 things to share about myself (I don't really like talking about myself).   Here goes.....

1.   I am not a summer person.  I basically endure heat and humidity and then get all kinds of happy once fall (finally) arrives.
2.  I like taking photographs of old cemeteries, and have visited many in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Maine.
3.  I like pens, especially fountain pens.  I have a few, and I like to use them at work -- makes my handwriting a little nicer because I slow down.
4.   I really love going to the local arboretum in the Spring every week to see what new little green things are growing, and poking up out of the soil.   I think it's so cool to be able to see how much can change and grow in just a few days.
5.  I do not like eggplant.  Or zucchini.   
6.  My sister loves both of the above mentioned vegetables and will sometimes try to sneak them into what she makes for dinner if I'm coming over.
7.  I have five tattoos.

Ok -- and now, on to the fun part --- passing this along!!!!    All of these are very cool blogs, so if you get a chance, please stop on over and check them out!    And thanks again, Lisa --- you made my day!!!

Graced with Books                               Joy's Blog                           Lucy Was Robbed
          Musings of a Bookshop Girl                  The Crescive Library              The Prairie Library     

Friday, August 6, 2010

Leaping and Hopping !!!

This hasn't been the best week, so I am SO GLAD that it's Friday and time for the Book Blogger Hop!!!!
Hosted by Jennifer over at Crazy for Books, this is a great opportunity to spend time on Friday and over the weekend discovering blogs!  Loads of people sign up on the site, so I always check a few times so I can go through and visit as many blogs as I can.   :)

And, every week, there's a little question --- this week, it's: Do you listen to music when you read?  If so, what are your favorite reading tunes?     I actually listen to music a lot, but the music I choose for my background noise when I'm reading tends to be a little mellower (especially if I'm reading something and taking notes for a review).    Classical music goes well with reading, but sometimes, it'll be a CD by Mary Chapin Carpenter, or Roseanne Cash.  I also like a little Peggy Lee or Bonnie Koloc.   I just like whatever I listen to to be background, not distraction.

I really liked this question because it made me think a little about how I choose different music for different things.   I usually put on more upbeat stuff for when I'm baking and high-energy stuff for when I'm cleaning.   And today, because I wasn't having a good morning, it was Everlast in the car.  Loud.     I'm looking forward to visiting other people on the Hop and seeing what they listen to!!!     Have a great Friday, everyone! 

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss. Yet amidst the shadows of degradation, hope lies ahead.

And here's what I thought:   One in word -- Wow.  Yes, it's that good.   This story hooked me from the start, pulling me into Nailer's world and keeping me reading (and way up past my bedtime one night).    The book begins with Nailer climbing through a service duct in an old tanker ship, pulling as much copper wire as he can.   The way Bacigalupi writes, I felt like I was right there in the duct with Nailer, seeing what he was seeing.  The fact that I'm claustrophobic didn't deter me from turning the pages.   And it just kept getting better.    The characters here are all vividly written, and I found I really cared about what was going to happen to them, even the more minor characters (which is something I don't find in many stories).   The pace was also quick in this story, so combined with the great characters, this was a story I found hard to put down.

And now, a few words about the setting.  The world in this story felt like a character unto itself.   It's hard to tell exactly when this book is set, but it's definitely a future where the environment has been taking revenge on us for all of our abuse.   Storms wreak havoc on coasts, forcing people to adapt quickly (if they can).    Where Nailer lives, people are used to scavenging for everything, cobbling together shelters on the oil-stained beach.   When the first storm hits, it's obvious that this is a level of storm we can only imagine --- and it's a common occurrence in this world (in fact, they're referred to as "city killers").   When Nailer later travels to the city of Orleans, we can really see what Nature has created here; a place built upon the remains of a drowned city.   I really liked this dark vision of the future that the author creates in this book.   The idea of the environment producing storms like this doesn't seem too far-fetched, and that made what happens in this book creepily realistic.

I found this book to be dark, but very compelling.      Between the poetic writing, and the exciting pace, there were a lot of thought-provoking elements here.   This world isn't for the meek.   If the environment doesn't kill you, your fellow man just might.     Frankly, I didn't mind that -- it just kept me guessing as to what was going to happen next.    Wonderful, wonderful book.

And one more little addition ---- just when I had finished this book, I saw that Presenting Lenore had a very well-written review, and then had an interview with the author.   Check it out!

And where did I get this book?  Library!

Monday, August 2, 2010

How to be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads because LibraryThing's site was down):   How to Be an American Housewife is a novel about mothers and daughters, and the pull of tradition. It tells the story of Shoko, a Japanese woman who married an American GI, and her grown daughter, Sue, a divorced mother whose life as an American housewife hasn't been what she'd expected. When illness prevents Shoko from traveling to Japan, she asks Sue to go in her place. The trip reveals family secrets that change their lives in dramatic and unforeseen ways. Offering an entertaining glimpse into American and Japanese family lives and their potent aspirations, this is a warm and engaging novel full of unexpected insight.

And this is what I thought:  I really enjoyed how Margaret Dilloway wrote this book in such a way that I felt like I really got into the heads of the two main characters, Shoko and Sue.   Shoko's story of growing up in Japan and then marrying an American serviceman gave me insight not only into Japanese culture at that time, but also made me think about how difficult it would be to marry (and move) into a completely different culture.   The way that Dilloway writes, I felt like Shoko really came alive as I was reading, and I felt sympathetic as she experienced love, and loss.   She's one of those kinds of luminous characters -- sometimes, she was a little feisty, and sometimes she gave in to a situation, but I always felt like there was a bit of a glow around her. 

I also really liked how Dilloway contrasted the story of Sue, Shoko's daughter, against the first part of the book (which was Shoko's story).  The relationship between mother and daughter was written in a very realistic way, with communication and misunderstanding between the two sometimes causing stress.  I found Sue to be a somewhat frustrating character, until I read more of her story, and then found her to be interesting and sympathetic, as well.   Just the beginnings of both of their stories illustrates how similar or different the two are.  When we start the book, Shoko begins by saying, "I had always been a disobedient child."   When we start Sue's story in the second part of the book, Sue begins by saying, "I had always been an obedient girl."   This contrast really made me think about their relationship, and then reflect on mother-daughter relationships in general.   It also broke the story into the two halves, with a nice resolution bringing both sides together. 

One other thought-provoking part of this book were the little paragraphs from the "How to be an American Housewife" book that preceded each chapter. The idea such a book, giving advice in both Japanese and English to a woman who would be marrying into the American culture, made me think about how different cultures view each other.   The advice sometimes was wryly amusing, but at other times, struck me as a little sad.   But, having these paragraphs precede each chapter lent an interesting flavor to what was going to follow next.

Overall, a good book.  I have seen other reviews that compared this book to some of Amy Tan's books (Kitchen God's Wife, etc).  I think that might be partly because of the Asian-American cultures in both stories, but also because both of these authors write realistically about the way that mother-daughter relationships can develop.  This book had great pacing, well-written characters, and a great story that pulled me in and kept me reading just because I cared about the characters so much.     The author did base the book on her own mother's experiences, so if you'd like to know more about Margaret Dilloway, I've included this link.

Where I got this book:  ARC received via the publisher -- from LibraryThing early reviewers. 
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