Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday -- a bit of an explanation......

I know it's Sunday, but I had a bit of time, and thought I'd post a bit of an explanation ...... since my Wordless Wednesday posts get a lot of "what is it?" comments.     :)

The last photo I posted was looking through something, to something else ..... and it's a sculpture.  Actually, one of a bunch of sculptures that have been at The Morton Arboretum in IL for several months.  The last day they're supposed to be up is tomorrow, and although I was hoping to get over there and take some wintry pictures, I don't think it's going to happen.....   but then again, I'm not sure if all of them will be removed after tomorrow, considering how hard the ground must be (and because some of these things are HUGE).   At any rate, I have taken a number of photos of these sculptures, and plan to keep posting them on Wednesdays --- so I felt a bit of explanation was in order.

Happy Sunday, everyone!  Steelroots spiky CorTen

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hoppin, Hoppin, Hoppin........

We've reached another Friday!  Sometimes, it feels like the week is more than 5 days from Monday-Friday.......    but as I said, it is finally Friday -- and time for the Book Blogger Hop!  Thanks to Jennifer at Crazy for Books, the Hop allows me to go around visiting blogs, discovering new blogs, and having some fun from Friday-Monday.  This week's question comes from Aliyah, who asks: "What book are you most looking forward to seeing published in 2011?  Why are you anticipating that book?"

Um....  I can't believe I'm supposed to choose only one book.  !!!   But I will say, the one on my mind right now is China Mieville's newest book, Embassytown, which is coming out in May, 2011.  I've already pre-ordered my copy from because I am a huge fan of China Mieville.   This is the summary from Library Journal: "On a distant planet in the distant future, humans and aliens regard each other suspiciously but manage to coexist. Then a new group of humans drop in."   Sounds like something completely different from this author, but I know I won't be disappointed.    As I said, this is just one book in 2011 I'm looking forward to ....   and I'll be interested to see what everyone else is putting down as their answer for this Hop's question. Happy Friday, everyone!!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell - ARC tour

  Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

And here's what I thought:   The cover has a quote from Aprilynne Pike, "A rich historical novel of otherworldly power and forbidden romance."  That does sum it up pretty nicely.  Mitchell's writing is rich, the story is imaginative and well-done, and the historical details are accurate.   I did appreciate that the details in this story were completely appropriate to the time period, although I think there are some things that will make more sense if you know a bit about the social customs of the time, the fashions, etc.  

Amelia's voice is quite clear in this book, and the way that she thinks and speaks is appropriate for the time period.  I sometimes needed to remind myself of that (since I don't read many historical novels), and would occasionally come across a phrase that gave me pause.  Example: "Rocking until the floor kept time, I drew a breath elongated." (p. 4) It's lovely, but different from the way most of us speak now.    I didn't mind her as a character, although I was more drawn to her cousin, Zora, who was a bit more outspoken (she seemed like a fun person to be around).  Amelia's love interest, Nathanial, is a rogue, full of mystery and charm, and as the story goes on, he becomes more intriguing.   I found that I wasn't as charmed by Amelia as I was by the story, and what was going to happen to her and the people around her.  

The definition of Vespertine is "...something of, relating to, or occurring in the evening."  This is completely true of Amelia, who experiences visions at sunset, and whose dalliances with Nathanial also occur in the evening.  It's an interesting idea, and I enjoyed how her visions were sparse at first, and then it seemed she could summon them at will.  Of course, with visions, and truth, come consequences, and this story is no different.  I was curious to see how the author would end the story, as the pace built up slowly, and I had a sense of foreboding.  This was a good story, and a good read, and although it's not the kind of story I read very often, I read it quickly because I was enjoying myself.   The writing was very fluid, and seemed carefully written -- I didn't doubt that these would be the words of Amelia.  Example: "When the storms came to Baltimore, they painted it with a laden, gray brush.  Though thunder rippled across the sky, it was no furious peal; it had no lightning to decorate it.  It was the sort of storm that wrapped a day in cotton, blunting mind and mood to a singular, dreary state."   Lovely.   

First sentences: "I woke in Oakhaven, entirely ruined.  The ballad notes of a quadrille lingered on my skin, remnants of a chaine anglaise danced only in slumber.  I heard a velvet voice against my cheek, and I burned in the dark and dreaming light of his eyes."

Thoughts on the cover:  Interestingly, the book I received had one cover, and a sticker over part of it saying "All new cover - coming soon!".  The cover that will be on the book is the one I've shown here, and it's very eye-catching and pretty. 

Please note: I received this book are part of the Book it Forward ARC Tours from Dark Faerie Tales.  Thus, any quotes/pages may differ upon final publication.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Darkness Becomes Her by Kelly Keaton (Gods and Monsters, #1) - ARC tour review

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):   Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.   Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued. She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very...different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her. Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

And here's what I thought:   This was a book where my reading speed was set on "Whip."*   The fast was pace, but the story had me completely hooked from the start, and I just needed to keep reading to see what was going to happen next.   I'm not sure how much I can say about this book without revealing too much, but I'll do my best.

Ari is an interesting main character.  Growing up in foster care has made her self-sufficient and street-smart, so I never worried too much about her ability to handle herself (she's a bit Buffy-esque in that respect).   When she arrives in New 2, she discovers that there are other people there who don't seem quite ... normal.  So maybe she's in the right place to learn about her family?   Yes.  And, she'll discover more than she bargained for.   Supporting characters were interesting, as well.  Sebastian is tall, dark and mysterious .... but not necessarily predictable.  I really liked Violet, a tiny girl who loves to dress up in costumes and masks, and who supports Ari, even when her true nature is revealed (and everyone else is somewhat repelled).   Overall, the characters were written well, and written creatively.  Throughout this story, I was constantly wondering who was what, and what would happen next. 

I loved that this was set in New Orleans (which has been rebuilt after more huge hurricanes have hit).  Keaton's descriptions of places and people were so evocative, that I felt like I was there.   I also liked how Keaton worked in details of New Orleans culture, like the old, established families, and some voodoo traditions.   It was fascinating how she wove these details together, along with myths.   Several times, I would come across something while reading and think "oh, cool!"   Definitely looking forward to the next book in the series.

*ok. explanation: when I'm in my car, the windshield wipers have several setting, which I call slow, medium, fast, and Whip.   Thus, I was gulping down this book at top speed, or "whip."

First sentences:  "Under the cafeteria table, my right knee bounced like a jackhammer possessed.  Adrenaline snaked through my limbs, urging me to bolt, to hightail it out of Rocquemore House and never look back." 

Thoughts on the cover:
  Beautiful font for the title!!  I like how it looks like an iron gate on the cover, and as you keep looking at it, the details emerge.  Definitely a good match for the story.

Please note: I received this book as part of an ARC tour fromDark Faerie Tales.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Modern Ruins; Portraits of Place in the Mid-Atlantic Region by Shaun O'Boyle

Summary (courtesy of   Shaun O Boyle has been photographing ruined landscapes and buildings, primarily in the Mid-Atlantic region, for more than twenty-five years. This collection of photographs represents some of his best work. The book is divided into four sections, each representing a type of site now abandoned—prisons and mental health institutions, steel production facilities, coal mining and processing facilities, and a weapons arsenal. These photographs are hauntingly beautiful; they are also instructive, both historically and culturally.
                Modern Ruins begins with an introduction by architectural essayist Geoff Manaugh, who offers insight into why people are so drawn to ruins and what they might mean to us in a larger psychological sense. Brief essays by noted historians Curt Miner, Kenneth Warren, Kenneth Wolensky, and Thomas Lewis offer social and historical contexts for the sites documented in the book. These sites include Eastern State Penitentiary, Bethlehem Steel, and the Bannerman Island Arsenal, among others. The book concludes with an interview with the photographer that touches on his fascination with ruins and explores some of the processes and procedures he uses to document them. Modern Ruins is a compelling collection of stunning and melancholy photographs, one that helps us hear these abandoned places speak.

And here's what I thought:  I received this book for the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program, and was really excited when it arrived (because, of course, I had completely forgotten about being notified that it would be coming).  I have always had a fascination with old buildings, decaying factories, asylums.... something about them always makes me want to poke around, find hidden things ... and take photographs.  So when I saw this book listed on LibraryThing, I jumped at the chance to take a look.   Beginning with the section of institutions, such as state hospitals and penitentiaries, filled with peeling paint, and iron bedsteads, and progressing to steel and coal factories, O'Boyle progresses through remnants and shells, documenting places that have been left behind.   I loved that most of these photos were black and white, letting me focus on all of the details.  Really my kind of book.

I was intrigued by this book, so I looked for more from Mr. O'Boyle and found his site, which is filled with amazing photographs.   I also found myself thinking about photos I had taken back in the late 1980s, of an abandoned factory in the town I was living in.   I'm completely tempted to find that album and scan in a few of those photos (maybe for a future Wordless Wednesday?).    These kinds of subjects, of abandoned places, and ruined buildings, might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I found myself completely inspired. 

Beyond the photographs in this book, there is some thoughtful writing. Geoff Manaugh's introduction was interesting, and there are accompanying short essays by historians that offer some social context to what O'Boyle is showing us in his photographs.  These were a nice addition to the photos, lending depth and explanation.    

First sentence (from the introduction by Geoff Manaugh): "It's often hard to tell when we are surrounded by ruins."

Thoughts on the cover:  Perfect black and white shot that sets the mood for what's inside the book.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Those That Wake by Jesse Karp (ARC review)

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  
New York City’s spirit has been crushed. People walk the streets with their heads down, withdrawing from one another and into the cold comfort of technology. Teenagers Mal and Laura have grown up in this reality. They’ve never met. Seemingly, they never will. 
But on the same day Mal learns his brother has disappeared, Laura discovers her parents have forgotten her. Both begin a search for their families that leads them to the same truth: someone or something has wiped the teens from the memories of every person they have ever known. Thrown together, Mal and Laura must find common ground as they attempt to reclaim their pasts.

And here's what I thought:   Interesting concept, although the writing style didn't particularly resonate for me.   Definitely some interesting stuff here, and it gets progressively creepier as the story continues, which I liked.   What I would compare this book to are certain episodes of The Twilight Zone (the original series).   It's really hard to tell what's going on, so your imagination starts kicking in and thinking up all kinds of scenarios.

Mal and Laura are interesting characters, coming from completely different backgrounds, and then being thrown into a situation together.  However, they aren't the only characters that the book focuses on; there's Mike, a teacher (who, despite being a teacher, and an adult, is really immature), and Remak, another adult.  The way that the four personalities play off of each other is engrossing, and I kept wondering if, at some point, something really awful was going to happen to one of them.  And no, I'm not telling.   However, I will say that the author gets bonus points for including a librarian.

I found the writing to be descriptive, but spare, and quite terse at times.  However, this really enhanced the story, and kept the tension throughout the relatively quick pace of the book.   Here's an example of a sentence I liked: "He looked, in fact, like his brain were being eaten by a dream." (p. 125)   What I found most interesting about the story was the point the author seems to be making about society.  This book is set in a near-future New York City, after a catastophic blackout, and people are, for the most part, completely tuned into their cell phones, and computer devices.   Because of the fear that has resulted after the blackout, people seem to prefer to be immersed in their digital worlds, completely tuning each other out, and having little human contact at all.   Hmmm......

First sentence:  "Mal looked in the mirror and saw a road map of mistakes."

Thoughts on the cover: Ominous-looking clouds over a city skyline
.  Not the most eye-catching of cover art, but well-suited to the storyline.

I reviewed an ARC of this book, received as part of a Book it Forward ARC Tour from Dark Faerie Tales. Thus, any quotes or page numbers may change upon final publication.

Monday, January 17, 2011

XVI by Julia Karr

  Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council-ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world—even the most predatory of men—that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina's worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina's mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past—one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer.

And here's what I thought:  Good,  creepy, thought-provoking.  Julia Karr has created a world that's really bleak, and scary.   There's a lot of tension in this story, between Nina and Sandy, between Nina and Sal (a boy she meets), and between Nina and the fact that she's about to turn sixteen.  I know that sounds a bit odd, but the whole "turn sixteen, get tattooed, and be ready for sex" thing is scary, and the fact that Nina is completely dreading turning sixteen drives a lot of the story.  The mystery of who killed Nina's mother, and the additional mystery surrounding Nina's father is a big part of the story, but the whole "sex-teen" concept is always lurking in the background.

As far as characters go, Nina seems pretty believable.  She comes off as pretty mature for her age, but as we learn more about her parents, and her situation growing up, that makes sense.   Sandy's completely annoying, and for the most part, is really the complete opposite of Nina, so she's an interesting counterpoint to Nina.  Sandy can't wait to turn sixteen, and in anticipation, is already dressing provocatively, and acting out.   I couldn't stand Sandy, but she was realistic (which is probably why I couldn't stand her).   In the society that Karr has created, I believe there would be girls like Sandy, who can't wait to get older, and who can't wait to start having sex.  Heck, there are girls in our society now who are like that.  I found it disturbing that in this book, girls turn sixteen and then they are "ready for sex."  It's not clear why, and it's never questioned why boys aren't labeled as ready for sex at sixteen.  Maybe it's because of a population issue?  Maybe it's so that girls will focus more on sex, and less on being smart?  Maybe it's because in this society, things are run by men who want it to be completely okay and legal to assault girls?   No matter how I looked at it, it was disturbing.   And while I could say that Karr has taken things a little too far, and that this would be completely implausible in the future .....  well, when I look at ads in magazines and on tv, I have to say that I can see where she would get some of her ideas.  Advertisements that shout at you when you walk past?  Already happening!  Girls being over-sexualized at an early age?  Already happening!  Things are disturbing enough in the here and now.   And I'll stop with that.

I enjoyed this story because while it creeped me out, and it made me think.   Was it perfect?  No, I don't think so --- but it was fast-paced, and kept me guessing (and kept me tensely reading).   I thought the author did a nice job of making the world in this book bleak, and explaining why certain things existed.   Extra bonus points to Karr for setting this in a future version of Chicago (I live outside of Chicago now, but I had apartments in a few city neighborhoods).  

First sentences:  "Nina, look."  Sandy jabbed me in the ribs.
I glanced up at the AV screen expecting to see the latest vert of back-to-school fashion for sixteens.
 "No, there." Sandy jerked my arm, bring my attention to the doorway.

Thoughts on the cover:  Eye-catching, with the somewhat blurred image of a girl behind the strong cut-outs of the "XVI" - almost like looking at someone behind bars.  Fits the story perfectly.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Is it Friday already? Good thing I'm ready to Hop!

I feel like I'm already a little late for the Hop!  But, off from work today, and it was so nice to sleep in a little.....   but I'm ready now!  

Hosted by Jennifer over at Crazy for Books, the Hop is a great way to meet other bloggers, visit new blogs, and have some fun from Friday-Monday.   This Hop's question comes from Barb, who asks: "Why do you read the genre that you do?  What draws you to it?"

I don't really read just one genre.  I read just about everything, from YA fiction to general fiction, science fiction and fantasy, mystery, and nonfiction.   The genres I don't tend to read as much are romance and westerns, but once in a while, one of those really hits the spot.   I like books where I can just lose myself in them, and step into another place, or someone else's shoes.   This applies to nonfiction, as well, especially with books that read like fiction (pacing, etc).    

Happy Hopping, everyone!!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - poppet picture

Poppet with Moss & Mushroom
this is a poppet... she is about 2 inches tall... 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

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 a book I just got in the mail yesterday as part of an ARC Tour --- 
"Mike shouted, groaned, then stopped making any noise at all.  The figures kept coming, washing over them like a silent, irresistible tidal wave, until Remak and Mike were swept away by darkness and into oblivion."   
p. 120

from Those That Wake by Jesse Karp  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Solid by Shelley Workinger

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads)Teens who discover they were secretly genetically altered before birth are brought together at a classified site where they forge new friendships, find love, develop "super-abilities," and even unearth a conspiracy.

And here's what I thought:   My first impressions of this book were:  simple style, somewhat odd inner dialogue.  The first character we encounter seems to be a military doctor, whose inner dialogue seemed a little ...strange.  "He then turned from the cocked-headed creature..."  (p. 5).  Um, dude? It's a mouse.    But, he doesn't last long -- he's just a prologue.  The real story begins with Clio, who takes us through the book, and she's much more relatable.

It took me a bit to warm up to the writing style of this book.  Compared to other books I've recently read, it was heavy on dialogue, and the writing was somewhat sparse.  However, as I kept reading, I became more comfortable with the style, and the pace also picked up.   The dialogue was the one thing that I kept stumbling on.   At times, Clio just didn't seem to speak like a teen.  Or, her inner dialogue would trip me up.  Here's an example -- Clio is dancing with Jack, and of course, she's all kinds of happy ... and this is what she says to herself as they kiss: "His kiss was powerful, confident with feelings and want, but without the intent to capture my mouth, to claim it.  All I felt was the pull of him -- a call to my heart to come out and join him at a mutual center ..... a fierce desire surged up through my being - my tide cresting to his moon."  (p. 123).  I feel like I have now left a YA novel and stepped into an adult romance book.   As an adult, my inner dialogue is nothing like this -- as a teen, probably less so (even though I remember some pretty good makeout sessions......).   However, aside from my occasional stumble on the way she speaks, Clio's obviously intelligent, and I liked her sense of humor -- she's a fun character. 

What I did enjoy was the story, itself; the idea that there is a group of teens whose DNA has been fiddled with, with interesting results.  While it seemed a little unbelievable at times, I liked the idea, and I thought this might be the perfect book to introduce a reader to the genre of science fiction.  I think a lot of times, readers might shy away from sci-fi, thinking it's all about robots, or heavy science stuff -- but this book takes the sci-fi idea of genetic manipulation and makes it accessible.  I also thought it was an inventive way to throw a group of kids together, and to see what happened --- and to not use a setting like boarding school to take the parents out of the equation.   By the time I reached the end of the book, I was pretty hooked on the story, and wondering what was going to happen next.   This book did a lot of setup work to introduce Clio, and the other kids, and get the story going.   Clio's friends reminded me of the Scoobies (Buffy the Vampire Slayer's group of friends).   
Garrett definitely made me think of Xander.   If I went through the book thinking of them in a Buffyverse, things started to make a lot more sense, and I didn't snag myself on the dialogue.  They're an engaging group of kids, and a good accompaniment to Clio.   This was a fast read, and I'm looking forward to what the next book in the series brings, especially now that this first book has done all of the set-up work.  

  First sentence:  "As per his nighttime routine, he checked the security panel to ensure that the system would alert him of any intrusions on the perimeter he'd set around the lab." 

Thoughts on the cover:  Every time I glance at it, I keep thinking it's fairy wings (probably because of the shape).  It is eye-catching, especially when you notice the double-helix shape.

I received this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review (no monetary compensation).

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rage by Jackie Morse Kessler (Horsemen of the Apocalypse, #2)

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  
Missy didn’t mean to cut so deep. But after the party where she was humiliated in front of practically everyone in school, who could blame her for wanting some comfort? Sure, most people don’t find comfort in the touch of a razor blade, but Missy always was . . . different.
That’s why she was chosen to become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: War. Now Missy wields a different kind of blade—a big, brutal sword that can cut down anyone and anything in her path. But it’s with this weapon in her hand that Missy learns something that could help her triumph over her own pain: control.
A unique approach to the topic of self-mutilation, Rage is the story of a young woman who discovers her own power and refuses to be defeated by the world.

And here's what I thought:  I had been looking forward to this, especially after enjoying the first book in the series, Hunger.  As I expected, this book was filled with wonderfully descriptive writing, great dialogue, and an interesting story.    As you might be able to tell from the summary, as in Hunger, our protagonist has a big issue: she's a cutter.    If that completely turns you off, you might be tempted to pass this one up ---- but for me, it didn't detract from the story, because I thought Kessler handled the issue well.  She doesn't shy away from the discomfort of it all, but she does a good job of explaining why some cutters make that choice.    While that kind of outlet doesn't make sense to everyone, it makes sense to some people.  And that it what Kessler explores here.

Missy was an interesting character to read --- I liked the dry humor she exhibited, even if at other times, I felt her reactions to things were a bit over the top.   In real life, as a teen, I don't know if I would have tried to be her friend (mostly because she's really into soccer and I never .. excelled... at sports.  Ok.  I actually sucked at sports).   And actually, I thought it was interesting that she was into soccer -- I originally wondered how she hid her scars, getting dressed in the locker room and all that.  Most of the time, if there's a character who has an issue like this, she's described as a writer, or a musician, or something more in the arts field, instead of playing sports.  However, as I kept reading, and saw how Missy's feelings about soccer translated into her feelings about other things, it all started to come together. 

It's very cool how Jackie Kessler has decided to tie the mythos of the Horsemen into teen social issues.  I also like that so far, the Horsemen are girls.  Up until these books, I had envisioned them as male (not sure why), and a lot like the Nazgul.   It's an interesting take on War, in particular, in this story.   You might expect War to be all about aggression, and vengeance... but there's a lot more to it than that.    I'm looking forward to what this series offers next. 

Some of my favorite quotes: "...the woman smiled, a thing of teeth and appetite."  (p. 24)   and another.... "There was the peppery smell of irritation, and the mustard spice of slow fury."  (p. 74).  Delicious. 

First sentence:  "The day Melissa Miller killed her cat, she met the Angel of Death."

Thoughts on the cover:  Simple, with the focus on the sword -- perfect for the story (and Missy's focus on the sword). 

I received this book as part of the Book it Forward ARC Tours, and thus, any quotes/page numbers may differ slightly from the finalized publication, due out in April, 2011.

Friday, January 7, 2011

First Hop of the new year!!!

ready to hop!!
  Always nice to start the first Hop of the year!!!   Hosted by Jennifer over at Crazy for Books, this is a great way to spend tons of time online  visit blogs, discover blogs, and have a lot of fun!!   And there's a weekly question, as well --- this week's comes from Ivan:  "What book influenced or changed your life?  How did it influence/change you?"

Oooh --- good question!!!  And I had to think about what book I'd choose.  It's hard!  I mean, I could talk about Jane Yolen's book of stories, The Moon Ribbon, which I read as a kid and still love.  Or, I could talk about some classic book I read in school -- Twain, Shakespeare, etc.   But, the one that comes to my mind is a book of poetry by nikki giovanni called Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day, which I posted about a while ago.  I first found this book when I was a freshman in high school, writing in a journal (which was an English class assignment).  I had been reading poetry for a long time, but something about her poems, in this book, really struck me.  And it made me realize that poetry didn't have to be difficult to understand, or full of hidden meanings -- it could be powerful things that were simply stated.  This particular book of hers influenced not only the way that I read poetry, but also in how I wrote my own poems.  This is from the poem "Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day."   

Happy Hopping, everyone!!

I strangle my words as easily as I do my tears
I stifle my screams as frequently as I flash my smie
    it means nothing
I am cotton candy on a rainy day
    the unrealized dream of an idea unborn

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Winner of India Black book from Carol Carr!!

Congratulations to Commenter #6, Aisle B!   I used the random number generator over at Random.Org (still haven't figured out how to get the little thingie to show up in a post....).

I'll be sending you an email, and forwarding your info on so that you can get your copy of India Black by Carol Carr.   Thanks to everyone who commented!!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

First Teaser of the year!

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 Solid by Shelley Workinger --- "Experience told me that when someone tells you not to worry, it's because they're already doing it enough for both of you.  Though I wanted her words to be true, it seemed to me that if it were, we wouldn't have all needed to be secretly delivered to this secret government facility."  p. 54

Monday, January 3, 2011

Kindred by Tammar Stein

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads):  Miriam is an unassuming college freshman stuck on campus after her spring break plans fall through. She's not a religious girl--when pressed she admits reluctantly to believing in a higher power. Truth be told, she's about as comfortable speaking about her faith as she is about her love life, which is to say, not at all. And then the archangel Raphael pays Miriam a visit, and she finds herself on a desperate mission to save two of her contemporaries. To top it all off, her twin brother, Mo, has also had a visitation, but from the opposite end of the good-evil spectrum, which leaves Miriam to wonder--has she been blessed and her brother cursed or vice versa? And what is the real purpose behind her mission?

And here's what I thought:  Interesting story, but it just didn't resonate with me.   I never really warmed up to Miriam very much, and at times, just didn't understand her.  I mean, I got that she's completely unsettled by having an encounter with an angel, and that she's burdened by a mission she doesn't completely understand.  But, I never found her completely likable.   When she's interacting with her twin brother, Mo, she seems pretty normal, but in her interactions with other people, she sometimes comes across as being a bit abrasive.   I found one of the supporting characters, a tattoo artist named Emmett, to be pretty intriguing --- but Miriam's interactions with him seemed forced at times. 

I guess what I also didn't really enjoy a whole lot was what I felt was the somewhat heavy-handed religious aspect of the story.  It was interesting to learn about bits of the Jewish faith, but sometimes, it seemed a little odd, considering that Miriam states up front to the reader, "I am not a religious girl."   It seemed that in this story, she perhaps comes to terms with her faith, and that she becomes more religious.  However, by the end of the story, it all felt a bit .... weighty.   And this is a completely personal thing; I know that some readers might really feel that this aspect of the story is something they enjoy (which is perfectly okay, of course).   Personally, I just didn't get it, and found it distracting.   And, I'll state up front that her whole body-health reaction to the whole thing was a bit overdone for me, as well.   I think I can avoid a spoiler if I just say that the whole "mission from an angel" responsibility wreaks havoc on her personal health.  Graphically. 

So, summing up --- okay book, but just not my cup of tea.  The writing was a little sparse, which completely worked with the story and main character, and the pace was pretty even.  However, I never quite liked the main character, or felt completely interested in what was going to happen to her (maybe because I kind of predicted a lot of what turned out to happen in the book).    However -- please don't let my review keep you from trying this book.  Just because I wasn't wild about a book doesn't mean another reader won't love it.  :)

First sentence: "The first time I meet an angel, it is Raphael and I am eighteen."

Thoughts on the cover:  Interesting, the way the girl's face is somewhat obscured by her flowing hair, and the hint of wings behind her.  Didn't really reflect the way I felt Miriam described herself in the story ..... but it's an eye-catching cover.

I received this book as part of Book it Forward ARC Tours, so any pages/quotes may change upon final publication of this book, which is due out in February, 2011

Interview with Carol Carr, the author of India Black -- and giveaway!

As you may recall, I had posted my review of India Black, the new book by Carol Carr.   She had very nicely agreed to let me interview her, and also let me know that she would provide a copy of her book for a giveaway, as well --- how cool is that?   So without further adieu...  I present Carol Carr!!    

 What was your favorite part of writing this book?  I love the character of India.  I had such fun writing her.  She has felt like a real person to me from the moment I conceived the idea of her.  Someone asked if she is my alter ego, and to a certain extent she is.  We're both opinonated and oppositional, prone to be a little cynical and a bit mouthy.  She is more amusing than I am, though, and a lot more adventurous.
How did you first come up with the idea for the story?  India appeared in my head before the story.  I was toying with several ideas for a plot that would feature her, and I found the genesis of the story in a joint biography of Gladstone and Disraeli that I was reading.  Disraeli had committed publicly to fighting the Russians if they made good on their threat to attack the Ottoman Empire, and he'd done so without realizing that the British army was severely undermanned.  I starting thinking about how valuable that information would have been to the Russians, and then what might have happened if a man carrying a memo with that information had died while visiting India's brothel.

What did you find most helpful in researching the Victorian Era?  I relied on old fashioned books for a lot of the background-military and political histories and biographies and such that I've read over the years.  By far the most useful tool was the Internet.  There are so many questions that pop up while you're writing - what would India's Webley Bulldog revolver look like?  What kind of derringer would someone carry in 1876?  Do Russian aristocratic names differ from ordinary Russian names?  What's the difference between a landau and a brougham?  And you can find the answers on the internet without ordering a dozen reference books.  I shudder to think what it would be like writing historical fiction without the Internet. 

What's the best part about being an author?  It's going to be awhile before I feel that I've earned that title.  But I can say that by far the most satisfying feeling is connecting with people who enjoy the book.  It really exceeds the euphoria of finding an agent and a publisher.  I thought that was as good as it gets, but hearing from people who like India is fantastic!

What are you working on now?  Can we expect another India book?  Yes, you can.  I've delivered the second in the series to my editor, and I'd expect it will be published sometime in 2012.

What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?  That's a hard one!  I might like to be asked if there was anyone in particular who had sparked my interest in reading.  Then I could answer that my mother and grandmother were both avid readers, and they passed on their love of books to me.  It would be nice to give them some recognition for introducing me to one of the joys of life-reading.

And here's a random one --- what's your favorite dessert?  Warm blueberry pie and vanilla bean ice cream.  Mmmm.

Thank you, Carol!!!   If you'd like to learn even more about Carol, and her book, please visit her website.  The official publication date for India Black is tomorrow, January 4th  ---- and one lucky commenter will receive a copy of the book!    All you need to do is leave a comment, please, along with your email address (so I can contact you and get your full mailing address).    The giveaway is limited to the U.S. and Canada (sorry!) -- and ends on Wednesday, January 5th at Midnight.   

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Iron Thorn (Iron Codex, #1) by Caitlin Kittredge

Summary (courtesy of GoodReads): In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.  Aoife Grayson's family is unique, in the worst way—every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.

And here's what I thought:  Two words:  Completely captivated.  I know that's not much of a review, so I'll tell you a bit more.  As you can tell from the summary above, this sounds like a dark book (I mean, setting it in a city called Lovecraft tells you something already).   It's got a completely steampunk feel to it, which I love, and it's dark, which I also like.  There are wondrous and frightening things that hide in the shadows, although none more frightening than the unknown -- and which might await Aoife, whose 16th birthday is coming soon.  She's driven by her search for her brother, but also by her need to understand herself.  And once she begins to grasp just what kind of talents she has, things become really interesting.

Aoife's a captivating sort of character; she's off balance at times, and faced with uncertainty, she sometimes stumbles.  I liked that she wasn't an overtly sentimental or emotional character -- she's logical and smart, puzzling out answers when things don't make sense.   She's got her friends Cal and Dean to help her, but really, she's on her own most of the time, especially in her battle to stave off what she fears is impending madness.   And speaking of Cal and Dean, they're interesting, too.  I'm not going to say too much, but these are two boys where first impressions don't tell you everything.  I initially was more drawn to Dean's rakish, street-smart personality, and was a bit impatient with Cal ..... and as I kept reading, I actually started to be more impressed with Cal.  While this is Aoife's story, Cal and Dean are well-written and developed characters, as well.  I didn't feel like either of them were completely predictable, which was nice.

The world this story is set in is a character unto itself.  There are certainly elements in it that are recognizable to our own world -- mention of San Francisco and Seattle, for example.  However, things are skewed -- this is not our world.  It's not really like this is completely set in the future.  Rather, it's a bit like the alternate world in Fringe (see the link if you've no idea what this is) --- it's like our world, but there are differences, such as the technology, or the buildings.  They have zeppelins, for example, which we knew once in our world, but don't have any more.  This lent a really interesting feel to the book, as I'd come across something I would recognize.   Things in this world can be powered by clockwork or aether (something which made me reflect back to some of China Mieville's works), but there's more going on than first meets the eye; there is some magic.  And, of course, this is dangerous, because in Aoife's world, anything magical is forbidden.  However, just because something is forbidden doesn't mean it ceases to exist....

What really made this an enjoyable read for me was the writing.  I'm somewhat familiar with some of Kittredge's other books, so I was expecting something along those lines --- and I wasn't let down.   She's an incredibly descriptive and evocative writer.  I made a lot of notes about certain paragraphs, or sentences, that I just savored when I was reading.  I also liked how the author worked a mix of real details (such as Charles Babbage, who invented the "difference engine") and folklore into the book - resulting in something not unlike the complex workings of a watch --- many small things moving together, creating a whole.  She gives us a shoggoth, completely expected in a city called Lovecraft, as it hails from cthulhu mythos.  She also works in Miskatonic University, which is a fictional university in the fictitious town of Arkham --- but it exists in this world.   Completely cool.   Here's an example of some of the writing I enjoyed: "Like one of Conrad's hidden picture puzzles, the Night Bridge revealed itself to me by degrees.  I saw the struts, the dark iron towers reaching for the bleak velvet sky, piercing it with sharp finials." (p. 77-78)    Or how about this:  "The raven's feathers gleamed liquid black in the cold starlight.  Their eyes blazed with yellow aether, burning up the night sky like a flock of sparks.  Their beaks were glass and their talons were sets of tiny gears and rods that clacked and grasped as they swooped in a low V over the river.  Their feathers were hammered aluminum, painted black, and their innards were marvels of clockwork that printed everything their burning eyes saw onto tiny lanternreels."  (p. 90)

This was a story that I became completely immersed in.  The quote on the cover, from Richelle Mead, calls this "A stunning, breathtaking novel."  Yes.  If you pick this up, I believe you're in for a wonderful read.   I will admit that at first, when it seemed like magic started creeping into the story, I was like, "Magic?  Really?  Is that completely necessary?"   But it's actually very cool --- it's kind of like one of those salted caramels -- sounds a little weird, but turns out to be completely tasty.

First sentences:  "There are seventeen madhouses in the city of Lovecraft.  I've visited all of them."

Thoughts on the cover: Dark and completely suited to the story. 

Please note:  This book is due out in February, 2011.  I received this book as part of the Book it Forward Arc Tours from Dark Faerie Tales.  Thus, any quotes/page numbers may be changed by the time the book is published in final format.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 Challenges decided upon ......

Hopefully, I won't get in over my head this time.....

Have decided to do:  2011 Stephen King Challenge, hosted by Book Chick City ; 2011 Debut Author Challenge, hosted by the Story Siren; and the Bucket List Challenge hosted by Steampunkery & Book Reviews

This means I will be reading, over the course of 2011 ---- 6 books by Stephen King, 12 books from new YA authors, and read as many books as I want for the other (there are plenty of categories to choose from).    

Wish me luck!!!!!
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