Friday, December 31, 2010

Literary Christmas Gifts (ok and some puppies and a baby)

A white Christmas in Georgia, can you believe it?  This was the view off our back porch on Christmas morning.

I've been meaning to post this since Christmas Day and, of course, I'm just now getting around to it.  I was very blessed this year by my husband and family and got way too many gifts, as usual.  Before I show you the books, want to see my favorite gift?

Sweet Luke got me the sewing machine I've had my eye on for a while (with monogramming feature!) and you can see the sewing kit my parents got me behind it.  So cute!
On to the books:

Luke also got me Compendium One of The Walking Dead, which I am LOVING, but will not be reviewing until Zombie Awareness Month in May.  But trust me, it's awesome.

The Hour I First Believed from my in-laws - Wally Lamb is one of my favorites!  AND the third volume of the CS Lewis' collected letters, which completes my set!

My parents gave me this beautiful Beth Moore Bible study on Jesus, which you can see has a prominent place in my bed, where I can study at night before I go to bed.

Generation Dead, another Zombie Awareness Month book, from Sugar Bear.

The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty from my big brother and his wife.  And Baby George of course.  I hear George is the one who picked it out.

Ok, now for the good stuff.  The puppies got a sweet present from Luke's boss's children, who were Chief's original owners:

They were extremely excited to not only be in the forbidden upstairs (where they immediately knocked half the ornaments off the tree with their tails) but also to be opening their first Christmas present.

 Puppy treats!

Merry Christmas!  I'll be back tomorrow with my New Year's Resolutions!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Hooked's Best Non-Fiction of 2010

My favorite Non-Fiction of 2010

The Cost of Choice edited by Erika Bachiochi

Stuff Christians Like by Jonathan Acuff

Proust's Overcoat by Lorenza Foschini

Used and Rare by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone

Honorable Mention:
Between The Covers by Margo Hammond
Stiff by Nancy Roach
A Grief Observed by CS Lewis
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
We Thought You Would Be Prettier by Laurie Notaro

Book Hooked's Best "Other Stuff" of 2010

All of these books fit into a category other than fiction or non-fiction, such as poetry, drama, photography, jokes, and, well, other stuff.

Acolytes by Nikki Giovanni (poetry)

Mountain Man Dance Moves by the Editors of McSweeneys (lists from McSweeneys website)

The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation (graphic version of the findings of the 9/11 Commission Report)

The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefevre, and Frederic Lemercier (combination of photographic and graphic journalism)

The Word Made Flesh by Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor (photos and essays on literary tattoos)

Book Hooked's Best Fiction of 2010

I don't think I'll finish anything else before the year is over (other than what I'm currently reading), so I want to go ahead and share my Best Reads of 2010 with my Reader Friends.  Enjoy!

Room by Emma Donoghue

The entire Hunger Games series, but especially Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

It by Stephen King

World War Z by Max Brooks

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

Honorable Mention:
The Great Divorce by CS Lewis
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostava
The Girl Who Chased The Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
Perelandra by CS Lewis
Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Book Review: The Profiler

After some excellent experiences jumping back into a wider genre of books (My Reading Life and Lost On Planet China, which will be reviewed later on) I decided to keep with non-fiction for a while and read one that I've been looking forward to since I received it for review from the publisher.  The Profiler is a book about, you guessed it, a criminal profiler. 

Fun fact, in high school I wanted to be a profiler.  My plan was to get a degree in psychology, then a graduate degree in criminal pathology.  Anyway, I'm obviously interested in the topic and I love reading about psychopathology and what makes criminals tick and all that stuff.  I can watch 20/20 and 48 Hours forever.  I was excited to read this one, especially when I learned in the opening section that the titular profiler was, at one time, a homeschool mom.  I love homeschool!  But then the book happened.

The writing wasn't great.  It's non-fiction and written by a profiler (and Bob Andelman, who is presumably her ghost writer) so I wasn't expecting a great work of creative, literary writing.  After all, she's a profiler, not an author.  But Bob should have known better in a lot of places.  I have nothing against ghost writing in non-fiction.  I've helped to ghost write a book.  The author provides the expert analysis and the writer is the one who should know how to make the author's story sound well-written.  The fact is that this book was just not well-written.  Sentence structure, use of dialogue, grammar, it all needed editing.

I really thought that despite the writing, I would enjoy this book.  I'm really not that picky in non-fiction.  Really.  It doesn't have to be perfect as long as I can tell that the author is an expert in his or her field.  But that really did not come across in this book.  The author became interested in profiling when she suspected a boarder at her house committed a murder.  The police did not accept her evidence and never arrested the man.  But she went on to get a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice.  And declared herself a profiler.  Which kind of disturbed me - she actually talks about how she just got her degree and made up some business cards and a website and started doing interviews on the news. 

Had she demonstrated in the book what an awesome profiler she was, I might have decided that this is a legitimate way to become a profiler.  However, all of her case studies described cases where no arrests were ever made.  She presents evidence for why she thought a specific person committed the crime, but her assistance never leads to an arrest, much less a conviction.  It certainly didn't make me feel confident in her abilities, because I figure she'd want to show the reader her most successful cases.  Instead we get a set of stories about how she knew the killer, but the police wouldn't believe her or she just couldn't prove it. 

I also wondered why police all over the country seemed to have such a problem with her.  It wasn't just police in one city - in every story, all across the country, the police or the DA has an issue with her and refuses to accept her expertise.  It made me wonder if ALL the police are wrong or if this woman may be wrong.  Also, a LOT of the families she worked for, who originally hired her to assist in the cases, are no longer speaking to her.  Hmmmm....

Ok, so to sum up, I didn't like it and I don't really recommend it.  I hate to feel like I'm tearing a book apart, but in this case I just couldn't get past the fact that the author seems to never close cases and is only a self-proclaimed profiler with a Master's degree in Criminal Justice.  Not that I'm knocking Criminal Justice, but I work at a school with a Master's program in CJ so I'm familiar with the curriculum and just having that degree doesn't make you qualified to be a profiler, in my opinion.  When a lack of faith in the expertise of the author is combined with sloppy writing, I just can't get into it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review: My Reading Life

I started this one pretty much the minute I finished all of my grad school finals and papers.  After living on a diet of "junk food" reading, it was time for something meatier, and this little book hit the spot.  I know it's hard to believe, but as much as I love Southern fiction, I've never read Pat Conroy before.  And now I'm aware of what a shame that is, because Conroy is amazing.  This book is his reading memoir - it tells various stories of his experiences with great books and great figures in literature.  Not the famous authors, but the teachers and lovers of fiction who inspired him.  I don't think I made it through a single chapter without crying. 

What can I say?  It's Conroy.  It's Southern writing at its peak - so don't expect any Hemingway sentences.  It's flowery and effusive and beautiful and breath-taking.  I can't rave about it enough - and I can't wait to get into his fiction.

Yes, yes, yes on the entertainment value.  Like I mentioned above, I didn't make it through a single chapter without crying.  Especially the chapter on his English teacher.  It was touching and inspiring and, at the same time, mirrored many of my thoughts on books, reading, and education.  And can I just say that Conroy writes about Daufuskie Island?  I am the proud winner of a Daufuskie Island crab race with my prize crab, Lassie.  Ok, so I was only four or five at the time, but still. 

While Conroy's Southern voice clearly comes through, the book is mainly about the literary life and what it means to be a reader and a writer.  I highly recommend it.

Book Review: Choker by Elizabeth Woods

I think we're close enough to the release of Choker that I can go ahead and review it.  It was the last in my string of YA reads while I finished up grad school (more on that in a later post!) and it was an excellent one to read before taking a break from the genre for a few weeks.  It was a great story and didn't have the same themes I feel like I've really just overloaded on (namely dystopia and love triangles).  It is the story of a teenage girl who is severely bullied at school.  Just when she feels she cannot take anymore, her childhood friend Zoe returns to town.  But Zoe is a little bit...ok maybe a lot bit...creepy.  And then people start dying.

Well-written, although the plot "twist" isn't much of a secret.  If you've ever read a similar book, you'll probably pick up on what the ending will be.  To give the author credit, however, she added several elements that had me wondering if I had accurately predicted the ending while I was reading. 

Entertainment value is great.  Even though the ending wasn't a complete surprise, I really enjoyed the time I spent reading it and trying to figure out if I was right (which, of course, I was).  I read it all in one sitting over the course of a few hours.  It was interesting enough that I was willing to stay up later than normal to finish it, which hasn't happened in a while.  Definitely recommend to those who are interested in YA contemporary or suspense.

Thanks to Simon and Schuster for a review copy of this title!

Some quick updates

I thought I'd just quickly lay out for my reader friends what you can expect from me in the next week or so because it will be a little different than usual. 
  • I want to start 2011 caught up on reviews, so expect more than one post a day with book reviews
  • Once the rest of our Christmas presents come (some were shipped late) I'll be posting my literary Christmas gifts
  • Late in the week I'll be reviewing the goals I posted from last year and whether or not I accomplished them, as well as my goals for next year
  • My top books of 2010 in fiction, non-fiction, and other (poetry, photography, drama, etc) categories.
There you have it!  I hope you guys don't mind having your reader flooded with reviews because I have about 7 to post this week.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Remember Why We Celebrate

Oh the glory of it all is that He came here
For the rescue of our souls so that we may live
Oh the glory of it all!

Wonderful, Merciful Savior
Precious Redeemer and Friend
Who would have thought that a Lamb could
Rescue the souls of men?

Merry Christmas, Dear Reading Friends!
He came for us!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top Issues in Books and Publishing 2010

I run The Book Bio, which is a website for my online book club to keep track of our book club reads, recommended books, etc.  Each year we do a poll about the top books and issues of the year and as I was writing the list and finding the links today I decided my blog readers may be interested as well.  I've also included a link to the page, which includes links to news stories and blog posts on each topic.
1.  E-Readers - both popularity and comparison of main features
2.  YA: Quality and quantity as well as popularity among adults
3.  Censorship: Ellen Hopkins, SpeakLoudly campaign, Amazon's various fiascos
4.  Opening of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
5.  Weiner and Picoult vs. Franzen
6.  Closing of indie bookstores
7.  "Death" of picture books

What do you think?  Did I leave anything major out?  And how do you feel about the issues faced in book-related events and publishing this year?  Did you blog about any of these issues - I'd love to list links to people's blogs on these topics on here and on the Book Bio!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Book Hooked Christmas List Part 2

Ok, well no one else seems to be having issue finding books to give, which is excellent.  Books make the best gifts.  Since I'm out of categories of people to buy for, I'll post what's on my Christmas list this year, starting with non-fiction:

Essays on things that we need to bring back: cuckoo clocks, the word "acquaintance", hot toddies, calling cards, and pretty much anything that would appeal to the steampunk set.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Book Review: Flirtin' With The Monster

Before I actually review the book, I have to say that while the idea of a collection of essays about Crank and Glass written by other YA authors and experts really excited me, I hate hate hate when authors use dialect, especially the " -in' " ending to show us that they are talking like everyday people who may be urban or southern or poor.  And dialect in a title?  Annoying.  But I didn't let an annoying title dissuade me because I liked the Crank series and I love books about books.

Although the authors who wrote essays for this book were mostly authors I hadn't heard of, each one provided an unique look at the issues brought up by the first two books in the series (it was published before the third book came out).  These essays examined the themes of the book, the use of poetry and visual design, and the response from readers.  There are also essays from prominent psychologists, doctors, and even a judge who specialize in addiction, particularly to methamphetamines.  These provided a look at where Kristina would be headed in the future.  They covered topics like the success rate for addiction recovery, the legal aspects of meth use, and insight into the impact of drug addiction on a family.

My favorite part of the book, however, were the essays written by Hopkins' family.  Not only does Hopkins write about her experiences as "Kristina"'s mother, she also includes what it has been like to have her private family life exposed to readers, and how she has used the book to help troubled teens.  There are also essays from Kristina's siblings, step-father, and even one from her son.  These were amazing to read and provided so much more depth to the story told through the series.

I would definitely recommend reading this to accompany the Crank series, and I think parents who are struggling with whether or not to let their child read the series due to the maturity of the content would be well served by this book as well.  It's written on a simple level, ideal for teens, and provides a great look at the truth behind the story.  It would be an excellent book to read and discuss with your teen after reading the Crank series and would also be great for classroom use.  It provides a serious academic (although teen-reading-level) backdrop to the story that takes away any potential for sensationalism or glamorization of a terrible addiction.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Blog Hop

Time again for the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Crazy-For-Books!  This week's question is: 
"What do you consider the most important in a story: the plot or the characters?"

This is a hard one to answer, because really I need both in a story.  It's a boring answer, I know, but I really need both of them in a balanced amount to enjoy the story.  I don't want so much plot and so little character that I don't care about or identify with the characters.  But at the same time, I'm not a huge fan of books that have no plot and are all about a character's development.  So, my wishy-washy (typical) answer is both are equally important to me.

Also, while you're hopping, hop over to Deepali's blog, E-volving Books, where I'm a featured guest today!  Bonus pictures of me in my pjs included!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Book Hooked Christmas List

I realise that I'm way behind on writing reviews and posts due to the end of grad school and spending time with my family and friends for the holiday.  So obviously the thing to do is post a book buying guide rather than reviews or updates!  Also, I am willing to do your Christmas shopping for you!  So if you have a hard to buy for friend or relative who isn't represented in my guide, tell me a little bit about them and I'll recommend a list of books in my next post (with a link to your blog of course)  And now, the official 2010 Book Hooked Blog Buying Guide:

For the man in your life who "doesn't read":
The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher (beginning with Storm Front)

For the sports-minded:

For The Outdoorsman:

Into The Wild and Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

For the Princess:

For the Feminist:

For the lover of literature:

Ok so there is my start on the gift guide.  Now you tell me who you are having a hard time buying for and I'll come up with some more suggestions!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Review: Matched by Allie Condie

I know I promised a second In My Mailbox post, but you'll have to keep being patient.  My plans to make another vlog just didn't work out yesterday, but I'm still hopeful for tonight.  I'm also trying to catch up with reviews that I need to be posting, and I want to start with Matched by Ally Condie.

This was a surprise review since I didn't request the book, but I was beyond excited to get a copy.  The cover is gorgeous (the picture on here cannot do it justice) and there was a lot of buildup about how awesome it would be, not just on book blogs, but in several magazines I read as well. 

If you haven't heard about it, the basic story is a young girl in a futuristic/dystopian society where the government chooses your spouse for you at age 18.  Cassia, our protagonist, is thrilled when she is matched with her childhood best friend.  However, when she briefly catches a glimpse of another boy-man (it's hard to correctly label an 18 year old as a boy - but man doesn't seem quite right either) on her match screen (or whatever it's called), she begins to question the foundations of her society and has to choose between her match and the boy-man she is falling in love with.

Excellent.  I have absolutely no complaints on style, editing, dialogue, etc.  I appreciated the characters, found them believable, and enjoyed the detailed world-building.  If you're looking for a well-written YA book, look no further.  It's not very often that I have absolutely no issues with the writing in a YA book, but I have no complaints for this one.

This is yet another book I think I would have enjoyed more had I not been on a steady diet of YA for the past three months.  I still have finals left to take, but I've already jumped into some more substantial reading and it's so refreshing.  I wish I hadn't read Matched right after Delirium, because it really caused the plots to blend together.  Had I read Matched before Delirium, I may have preferred it.  As it was, however, I would have to say I enjoyed Delirium more.  I found myself getting confused about what the "rules" were in the Society of Matched because I was thinking of the "rules" for the world of Delirium.  Again, had I read Matched first, I may be saying the opposite.

I highly recommend Matched.  The story was unique and interesting and I liked the characters, but I was somewhat disappointed that I didn't just fall in love with it.  I'm passing it on to Bestie next to get her take, and I can guarantee that I"ll finish the series.  I'll probably re-read it when the sequel comes out and see if I have a different take on it when my brain has not been completely innundated with YA dystopias.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Book Review: The Lying Game

Sutton and Emma are twins who were separated at birth.  Emma has grown up being shuffled from foster home to foster home, while Sutton grew up in a luxurious home and attended a fancy school.  Emma stumbles across the existence of her sister on the internet and the two make a plan to meet.  But when Emma runs away from her foster home and gets to Sutton's home, she finds out that Sutton has been murdered.  Emma is commanded by a mysterious note to take Sutton's place to keep the murder a secret.  As she takes over Sutton's life, she learns that Sutton had some dangerous secrets.

Good.  Nothing that really just flew off the page as extraordinary, but definitely above average.  I was expecting less depth and more Gossip Girl and I was pleasantly surprised to find that I appreciated the author's voice and characters.

Love!  It was narrated by the dead sister, so that was kind of fun - as Emma is trying to find out who murdered Sutton, Sutton is learning about herself and her friends as well.  I liked the contrast between Emma and Sutton (who is pretty nasty before she's murdered).  And the drama.  Oh the drama.  One of my guilty pleasures is high school dramas (One Tree Hill, Dawson's Creek, The OC) and this certainly fulfilled my need for the dramz.  I'm looking forward to the release of the next in the series!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hunger Games Christmas Tree Ornaments

Yes, you read that right.  I own exclusive, one of a kind Hunger Games Christmas tree ornaments.  Last night I was working late, trying to get some work accomplished for my final projects that are due, and it hit me.  I have no Hunger Games-related Christmas decorations.  It was sad.  But then!  Best.idea.ever.  Remember that time Bestie and I went to Hot Topic and I posted about my cultural experience and also got some HG buttons and pins?  Well, I realized that since I've never even opened them because I wasn't sure what to use them for...they would make perfect ornaments.  So instead of finishing my projects last night, I raced home from work, got out my handy dandy glue gun and made these little puppies!  (Sorry for the sad iphone pictures - my genius couldn't wait to be displayed long enough to find my real camera)


And here they are on my tree


Now that I've realized this miracle is possible, think of all the nerdery that I can make into ornaments now!  Dr. Who Christmas tree ornaments!  It's for realsies and you know I'll be making some of those next.  Maybe by next year, I could have a smaller tree dedicated to nerddom.  With zombie ornaments!  Dr. Who!  What else?