Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Review: The Miracle of Mercy Land

Waterbrook Multnomah is one of my favorite publishers to work with.  They're awesome about sending reminders and I've enjoyed reviewing the vast majority of books they've sent me.  So when I was asked to be on the blog your for The Miracle of Mercy Land, I jumped at the chance.  It's the story of a woman who works at a small town newspaper who, along with her mentor, Doc, finds a mysterious book that tells the secrets of everyone in the town.  It's listed as inspirational fiction, but honestly if I hadn't known the publisher I would have had no idea.  I would classify it as magic realism, except that makes it sound good.  Sadly, this one did not live up to my expectations.

The Writing:
No.  Just no.  We are talking plot holes as big as the Grand Canyon.  One of my huge issues with the writing was that I felt like the author had done no research.  The book is set in the 1930's in rural Alabama.  From the beginning the narrator tells us that she was born in a tiny community called Bittersweet Creek.  She moves to a larger city, but we are told over and over how small this town is.  Everyone knows everyone, rural, etc, etc.  But then the narrator tells us she has a car.  And she goes to a dance hall and knows how to waltz. 

From my five minutes of research on the rural South during this time period, neither of those things would be a possibility.  Where did she get the money for a car?  We hear all about how humble her family is and how she just makes enough money for a boarding house (remember we are talking a single woman in the 1930's) - but she has her own car?  And she learned to dance?  Don't tell me about how she grew up running wild on the banks of a creek in rural Alabama and then have her ballroom dancing a few paragraphs away.

Another issue was the multiple narrators.  Multiple narrators are typically not a problem for me, but I think it's weird to tell half the story in alternating voices and then to randomly insert two chapters in a third voice.  It was just obviously used as a device to show us what was happening in the third character's head or let us know what he was doing when he was "off stage".  I think there are better ways to do that then the sudden and random addition of a third voice for two chapters.

Finally, the dialects.  There is nothing worse than poorly written Southern dialect.  At the very least try to keep it consistent.  If a character is going to have to use country phrases to show us how backwoods she is, then use them all the time. Don't have her occasionally throw out a "ya'll" or a "down in the holler" and then on the next page have her speaking perfectly grammatical English with no accent. 

So yeah, the writing gets a big time no from me.

MST3K Review:
Again, this is a no go.  Not entertaining.  The entire book is this huge buildup about the secret book.  Why do they have it?  What is its purpose?  Where did it come from?  Then we have the big finale with a showdown between the good guys and the bad guy (who only appears at all in the last 50 pages).  And the showdown ends, the good guy and the good girl live happily ever after, and the book?  Nah, who cares about that.  The girl fell in love!  She found a man to complete her!  Who needs to know why we just read 354 pages all about this mysterious book - what really matters is that a man loves the female main character.  Isn't that what we should be concerned about?  We get our happy ending?

My apologies to the author and the publishing company.  I really wanted to like this one.  But I didn't.  At all.  It's a do not recommend.

Blog Hop!

I'm participating in the hop again this week!  Head over to Crazy-For-Books to join in!  This week's question is:

"What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?"

I'd have to say more book shelves.  We already have four in the study, three in the office, and one in the guest room, but I've still run out of space for my books.  We've got them stacked on the floor and in dresser drawers.  A huge portion of my closet has been taken over by stacks and stacks of books.  I would love to have built-ins one day as well, but for now I'd settle for a place to put what I've got!

What about you?  What would you buy?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Review Method: What do you think?

Several times lately I've found myself bringing up Mystery Science Theater 3000 on my blog.  My nerd-dom is not a secret, and my love for MST3K is part of that.  If you haven't seen MST3K I suggest you get on Netflix immediately and watch it.  I'm not even going to try to explain it, you just need to see it.  Anyway, the reason I've mentioned it in several posts recently is that part of the theme song is "if you're wondering how he eats and breathes and other science facts, repeat to yourself: 'it's just a show, I should really just relax'".

I apply this to my book reviews a lot.  I am pretty good at suspending my disbelief and just enjoying the entertainment value of a book without having to have the author scientifically prove everything, especially in science fiction/fantasy/speculative fiction.  And I've read several lately that are great on entertainment value if you can get past a few minor details.  BUT, I'm hesitant to recommend a book on here that is poorly written, even if I was completely entertained because a lot of my readers are serious readers, and others are writers.  I don't recommend that writers read poorly written books.  If you want to write good fiction, you need to read good fiction.  Luckily for me, I don't write any fiction, so I can enjoy total crap. 

All of that to say, I think I'm going to start having two review sections: one to review the writing, and the other (my MST3K review) for the entertainment value.  That way I can distinguish between a book that is completely entertaining but full of plot holes or ridiculously unbelievable (like the Shopaholic series) and books that have beautiful writing but bore me to tears (Proust anyone?).  Not that good writing will necessarily bore me (See my review of Room).  Or that crap will necessarily entertain me (see my upcoming review of The Miracle of Mercy Land).  But it happens and I like the idea of separating the art from the entertainment value.  What do you think?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Book Review: Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler

Hunger is the first book I read on my Nook and I really enjoyed the experience.  The Nook is still not replacing my print books (I've read about four print books in the time it took me to read Hunger and about half of two other books on the Nook), but it's perfect for reading at my desk or at the dog park. 

Back to the book...Hunger is the story of an anorexic teenage girl who becomes Famine, one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.  Basically the story is about the eating disorder and the inner struggle the girl faces when she encounters Famine around the world. 

I really appreciated the way the author addresses eating disorders and contrasts Lisa's anorexia with those who are experiencing famine.  It really highlighted some issues that I haven't seen addressed before in YA fiction dealing with anorexia.  You understand Lisa and sympathize with her, but you are also able to see how her behavior is selfish and self-centered, when it's placed in the context of people who are starving because they have nothing to eat, rather than choosing not to eat.  Rather than portraying Lisa as a victim, she becomes empowered and makes the decision to ask for help.  I thought the author did a great job of portraying anorexia.  

My only issue with the book is that it wasn't quite what I expected from reading the summaries.  There is no Apocalypse, which I kind of expected from a book about the Four Horsemen.  I think having a pretty thorough knowledge of the book of Revelation and having had the opportunity to study the Apocalypse under the amazing Dr. Richard Land, I was expecting the book to be more true to the idea of the horsemen.  It was like reading a vampire book where the vampires don't need to drink blood.  Also, I just have to point out that the author didn't quite get the riders right - Pestilence is not a rider in the Bible, but is commonly associated with Death.  In the books they are two separate riders. 

Although the book doesn't really stick with the details found in the Bible, I was still able to enjoy it (MST3K review policy, remember?)  I was totally fine with the artistic license the author took, but from the summary I did expect that the book would have something to do with a coming Apocalypse.  It's only the first book in the series, though, and I'm definitely goign to read the next one, Rage, which deals with another horseman, War, a teenage girl who self-mutilates.  I'm hoping it will go into more detail about the horsemen and how the author is using them in the story. 

I definitely recommend, especially to people who typically enjoy YA.  I'm really getting tired of the typical YA with a love triangle and two 15 year olds who live happily ever after.  I think having a brother that age has taken away the romance for me.  I think "ok, so you end up together - and a year from now you're going to go to separate colleges and break up or move across the country".  I just can't enjoy the books as much when they're all about a teen romance.  So I LOVED that this one doesn't focus on that aspect.  Lisa has a boyfriend, but there is no "will they break up or live happily ever after" tension.  So if you're tired of the typical YA with love triangle story, this is a good one to read.

Monday, October 25, 2010

In My Mailbox (8) + puppy videos!

Welcome to this week's IMM post! We spent a ton of time at the dog park this weekend, but none of my pictures turned out, so we made a few videos of the puppies and their tricks. Those are below the IMM posts if you want to check them out!

This is Chief - he's the younger puppy (almost 6 months old) and is the snuggle bug.

And this is Dexter - he's a few weeks older and is the trouble maker.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blog Hop!

I'm hopping today over at Crazy-For-Books!  This week's question is:
"Where is your favorite place to read? Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden?"

I'm definitely an in bed reader.  I like to be as comfortable as possible, so I set myself up in bed with a glass of milk and my Sly.  Once I've got my milk, my cat, and my book I can spend the entire day there!

What about you?  Where do you like to read?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Book Review: Everything Is Going To Be Great

I have to start this review by letting you all know that I am a complete and total prude.  Luke likes to tell me that if I were a super hero, my name would be Super Prude.  I would have ice cold lazer beams of disapproval that I shoot from my eyes.  It's shocking but true, I am prim and proper.  I make responsible life decisions and like to plan in advance.

Given my complete and total prudery, you might not think I'd enjoy this book, which is all about the author's experience with alcohol, men, and lots and lots and lots of sex.  Sex with old men, young men, men with girlfriends, men who almost rape goes on and on.  If this were a friend of mine, I'd be seriously concerned.  If it were Honey Bear, I would jerk a knot in her before some crazy pervert got her. 

I'm kind of ashamed to tell you that I thought the book was hilarious.  The author really reminds me of Laurie Notaro and Jen Lancaster.  Her sense of humor is completely off the wall and her writing had me rolling on the floor.  As I was reading it, I loved it.  But now that I've had a day or so to think about my review, I'm becoming more ambivalent.  The writing was hilarious - no ambivalency there. 

But I can't help thinking about how this stuff supposedly really happened.  If a friend of mine told me a "hilarious" story about being sexually assaulted by two men on a date, I would be horrified.  That's the kind of thing people go to therapy for.  I also wouldn't think it were funny for a friend to be in a long-term relationship with a man who has a live-in girlfriend.  Or for her to get so drunk she passed out and got hit by a car but couldn't remember any of it.  Or had sex in exchange for things like dental care. 

So on one hand, I feel like the book was so funny.  It had me laughing the entire time.  On the other hand, I feel completely guilty about enjoying and being entertained by these experiences in the life of a stranger.  Somehow she makes them seem so funny, but when you really think about it, there's not much humor in date rape, drunken blackouts, or potential sex trafficking.  The more I think about it, the more Super Prude starts to disapprove. 

Consensus: The book is really, really funny.  But Super Prude does not recommend this book and thinks it is exploitative of women.  Also, there is a lot of cursing and drug consumption. 

What do you guys think?  Can you get past a person's self-destructive behavior in a memoir?  Can you still get past it if the author makes light of serious and dangerous situations/issues?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Book Review: The Word Made Flesh

Literary tattoos absolutely fascinate me - I am secretly very tempted to get a book-related tattoo.  Don't worry it's not actually going to happen.  I'm way too scared of needles and saggy old lady skin to get inked.  But I can now live vicariously through this awesome book!  The Word Made Flesh is a compilation of book/author/writing/publishing/librarianship tattoos along with the stories behind the tattoos and why each person chose to get one.  They range from the highbrow (Whitman, cummings, etc) to the more...popular (a Twilight sleeve).  My favorite were the library-related tattoos (dewey decimal number for poetry) and the ones relating to children's books.  My favorite story was about a woman who met Eric Carle at an event and had him draw the Very Hungry Caterpillar on her arm in sharpie.  Then she ran to the tattoo shop and got it permanently inked!  How awesome to have an original Eric Carle illustration on your arm?? 

I can't recommend this book enough.  It was hilarious and charming and perfect for book lovers!  Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy ASAP.  And a HUGE thank you to HarperCollins for sending the book.  It made my day!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book/Food Review: Cooking For Geeks (1)

Confession: I can't cook. In two and a half years of marriage I have probably cooked less than a few dozen times.  There are two main reasons I don't like to cook.
1) I don't know how to do it and it seems really hard to learn - that's time that could be spent reading!

2) I am incredibly picky - it's easier just to order what I want cooked exactly the way I want it from a restaurant than to figure out how to modify a recipe to suit me

When I saw Cooking For Geeks by Jeff Potter I knew it was the perfect way for me to learn.  I'm a geek!  I love geek things!  I have Dr. Who artwork hanging on the wall in my house!  I contacted the author for a review copy and he was gracious enough to not only send me a PDF for my Nook, but also to answer interview questions as I go through his book and test out my new cooking knowledge.  Along for the ride are my expert tasters: Bestie, Bestie's husband, and my husband.

This week was the first chapter of the book, which deals with the need for preparedness.  The reader learns how important it is to read the entire recipe first, make sure you have all your ingredients and tools, and then start.  But let's be real - this is me we are talking about.  I thought, "Self you are way too awesome for advance preparations.  Send Luke to the store and wing it!"  So that's exactly what I did.  It turns out, Jeff is definitely on to something with this idea about thinking ahead when you cook.  Here's what happened when I made steak tips and rosemary mashed potatoes.

Step One: Take the dogs to the park.  Tell husband you must leave no later than 4.  Stay until 5.

Step Two: Rush home and shower.  Send husband to the store with a grocery list.

Step Three: Get out recipe and realize it calls for vacuum-sealed food bags and a thermometer.  Panic.  Lay on the couch and read blogs until husband gets home and whine that you can't make dinner after all.

Step Four: Sudden burst of inspiration!  You can make your own vacuum sealed bag with ziploc!  Find thermometer in pile of unused wedding gifts stashed in back drawer.

Step Five: Use fancy spoons from same pile of unused wedding gifts to rig your not-quite vacuum sealed bag so that it doesn't float.

Step Six: Peel some potatoes.  Pout about how your genius is being wasted on insignificant and menial tasks such as potato peeling.

Step Seven: Company arrives - panic.  Make insecure self-deprecating jokes to cover feelings of intense inadequacy.  Serving a meal you cooked (as a non-cooker) is somewhat like those dreams where you are standing in front of your middle school peers in your underwear. 

Step Seven: Serve dinner.

And that, friends, is how it's done.  Now for the food reviews.

From Bestie:
Out of 10 possible stars for a homecooked meal, I give it a 7. The beef tips were very good, especially dipped in the gravy. I really really liked adding rosemary to the mashed potatoes, it gave it a different flavor that was delicious. I think that overall, the meal was a success. My only suggestion is to add a third side to the meal, perhaps a green like asparagus or broccoli.

From Bestie's husband:
The meal was delicious. I think the gravy pulled everything together and tasted great. The meat tasted perfect. I think the only thing that would have made it better was a little more planning and confidence in your cooking. You were able to make a great meal, but you were slightly stressed about it, when you didn't need to be. No worries, it was great!

So, what did I learn?  When an expert writes an entire chapter on the importance of reading directions - you might want to consider reading the directions.  Next week I'll be reading the recipes ahead of time, buying the ingredients myself, and giving myself more time to prepare.  I'll also have the answers to the questions I asked Jeff about this week's meal.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

In My Mailbox (7)

I know in the video I said I was going to include titles and publisher info and all, but it's late, so I'll add it in the morning!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Survey Results!

Thank you so much to everyone who answered the questions in the survey I posted earlier this week!  It has helped me refocus on the blog is in several ways.  I'm going to post today about each result (some of them provide good information for all bloggers) and how it will affect my blogging.  Feel free to keep adding to the survey - I'm not going to take it down and will continue to check for any more answers in the coming days.

  • Everyone seems to enjoy my book-related crafts - those will be sticking around.  I've got some coming up that I think are going to be fun book-lover Christmas decorations!

  • It was pretty evenly split on my other crafts.  A little under half said I should keep the blog book-related only, which I think is probably best.  I still haven't decided if I want to keep Golden Girl Does It Herself and just try to do a better job of updating it or if I'll put another page on Book Hooked for all my crafts, but I won't be posting them on the main page.

  • Almost everyone said they liked to read personal posts, so I'm going to try to have those once a week.  I don't want the blog to become all about me and my life, but maybe on Saturdays I'll do a life-related post with pictures of the puppies and my handsome hubbers and whatever we've been up to lately.

  • One thing that really surprised me was how many people said my reviews are their favorite part of the blog.  I was thrilled because that's my whole purpose for the blog, but I've always felt like people didn't really like them all that much.  I was judging based on comments, which I usually get more of when I discuss a book-related current issue.  I don't blog for comments, let me make that clear.  If you want to lurk on my blog forever and never leave a comment, you are more than welcome to do so.  I am thrilled that anyone in the world thinks what I have to say is interesting enough for a few minutes of their time.  But I assumed that people commented more on posts they liked and less on posts they didn't like.  I'm starting to think that this may not be true.  The results from that one really encouraged me on my book reviews, so expect to see more of those.

  • The least favorite part of my blog was, not surprisingly, memes.  I don't participate in many memes (usually just the Blog Hop and In My Mailbox) but I'm going to cut back on those as well.  I'll keep doing the Hop and IMM occasionally, but not every week.  I don't plan on participating in any other memes.  The only other comments were that some readers have different taste in books.  It's to be expected and there's not much to do about it.  Obviously they still like me enough to visit occasionally, and I'm going to try to keep expanding my reading horizons.  Coming up: cookbooks!  steampunk! 

  • I loved one reader's suggestion that I add the puppies to my family section.  Luke and I are planning a trip to the dog park again on Saturday and he has promised to do a puppy photo shoot with me and the pups before we leave!  Look for pictures this weekend!

  • Everyone seemed to like my format, which I can't take any credit for - that's all my husband and his amazing web developer skills.  And yes, he does freelance as a matter of fact...just in case you were wondering

  • Finally, I had a comment regarding original posts such as the ones I did leading up to the Hunger Games.  I enjoyed that so much and I think everyone else did too (or at least one responder did).  I've got some more features coming up that I think are pretty creative. 
My next big featurestarts this weekend.  I'll be cooking a meal (panic!), serving it to a panel of friends, taking their reviews, and interviewing the author of the cookbook each week for the next few months.  I'm kind of freaking out over my first meal, tomorrow night, of rosemary mashed potatoes and beef steak tips.  I'm going to have to use a knife.  To CHOP THINGS.  Knives are like coffee - for old people!  I'm not old enough to chop things!!  That's what adults do!! (yes, I am aware that being 26 and married and a homeowner might make me an adult, but you're only as old as you feel right?  I feel too young to chop things)  Just last night I tried to use a knife to open a plastic bag and cut my finger.  I should probably look into getting some chain mail gloves or something.

Thank you again for participating in my poll and if you still want to, feel free to scroll down and add your answers!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Review: Girl, Stolen


I've written before that my taste in books isn't always what most people would consider academic.  I read for pleasure and many times that means well-written books...sometimes it means books that are just mind candy.  They aren't well-written and they have no intellectual value, but I enjoy the story.  The problem is that I enjoy them while I'm reading them, but the more I think about them afterward, the harder it is to like them.

Girl, Stolen was unfortunately one of those books.  I tried not to be too hard on the writing, but honestly, it was pretty bad.  The premise (A blind girl, waiting for her step mother to get a prescription, is kidnapped when a car thief doesn't realize she's in the car.  She forms an unlikely friendship with her kidnapper) is interesting, other than the unlikely friendship part, which seriously, I'm getting a little tired of.  I feel like I've read that before a few times this year... (Stolen?)

The story itself was good.  I was intrigued, I liked the characters, and I wanted to know what happened.  I even hurried home from work to finish it on my lunch break.  The problem I had with the writing was that it was completely unbelievable.  I'm very good at suspending my disbelief, if that's what a book calls for.  You don't have to scientifically prove time travel is possible for me to enjoy your book.  I have what I like to think of as the MST3K motto for my viewing and reading entertainment: "If you're wondering how he eats and breathes and other science facts, repeat to yourself, 'it's just a show; I should really just relax'". 

But when you're writing a contemporary novel set in the real world, I need to be able to believe that the characters could actually exist.  And I just couldn't in this one.  For example: one "character" is a dog that has been terribly abused and mistreated for its entire life.  It has been trained to be mean and guard the home.  In a matter of seconds a character is able to befriend the dog by giving it a treat.I know this doesn't sound major, but I don't want to be guilty of spoiling.  The other examples are all pretty central to the story.

All of that negativity to say that I actually liked this book as I was reading it.  I recommend it for younger teens and for anyone looking for a short, entertaining story.  Given that the recommended age is 12+, I can see this being a good middle grade read (although honestly, who am I to say that because I definitely don't read MG).  I don't recommend it for someone who is reading with writing as a craft in mind.  This book just doesn't demonstrate that.  It's a great idea and a decent effort, but I wouldn't suggest it as an example of a well-written YA novel.  I'd compare it to very generic YA fiction from my teen days like The Face on the Milk Carton or anything by Lurlene McDaniel.  That said, I would probably give her another try, based on the originality of most of the plot (seriously, the unlikely "friendship" theme is done). 

Thank you to the publisher, Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano Books, and to the author, April Henry, for sending me a review copy!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Can I Get Some Feedback?

I created a survey about the blog today (it's very short - 8 questions, multiple choice).  I'd love to get some feedback from other bloggers about what I'm doing well and what I could be doing better.  I'm also considering moving all my craft/personal stuff to my other blog, but I'm not sure which readers would prefer.  I'll embed the survey here and all replies are welcome (and anonymous), so feel free to tell me exactly what you think!  I'm tough and can handle a critique!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book Review: Health Scare + a health-related announcement

It's embarassing, but I know very very little about the whole health care debate.  To be completely honest, what I know about health care in general is depressing.  I feel like I'm losing a lot of my feminist credibility by saying this, but my husband takes care of all of that.  So when I had an opportunity to review this book, I jumped at the chance.  It took me a while to get through it, even though it's relatively short, but I'm glad I did.

First of all, this is a non-partial look at health care.  It isn't from the perspective of "Obama-care is socialism and we're all goign to die" or from "Obama's plan will save us all from certain destruction".  The author rarely even mentions names and doesn't refer to political parties at all.  He starts by explaining the basic principles of health care as it is in America and as it is in other countries.  He then explains ways that America is over-spending on health care, such as lack of preventive care and too many unnecessary tests and medications.  In the final chapters of the book, he provides his solution to cutting these unncessary costs.

If you are like me and know next to nothing about health care, but want an unbiased look at what is the current situation, this is an excellent choice.  My favorite thing about it was that I really didn't feel like the author was approaching the issue from a conservative or liberal political position.  He was just defining the problem and explaining his idea for a solution.  I do have to admit that I didn't really like his ideas for solving the problem, mainly because I feel like he ignored some big issues.  Despite not agreeing with his solutions, I feel like I'm coming away knowing much more about health care and the problems our country is facing.  I still need to learn more about Obama's plan, because that was not the focus of this book, but I feel like I really understand the basics now and can better form my own opinions.

And now for my announcement.  I occasionally mention on here that I have health issues.  I have a nerve and muscle disorder, as well as some just genetic things that have led to chronic pain.  I've had surgery, which helped some, and physical therapy also helped some.  Last week I saw the doctor and found out that while I'm not in need of any more surgeries or PT (yay!!!), there isn't much else to do for the pain.  It's obviously not fun to be in pain at least 50% of always, and I won't lie and say that hearing it will always be this way didn't really get me down. 

But I believe in a Great Physician and I know that no weapon formed against me will prosper.  Even if I'm never healed, I know I'll be taken care of and that all things will work together for my good, as I am called according to God's purpose (end of sermon).  So I've decided to take charge of the things I can control and get in shape  by eating right and exercising.  Luke and I have been walking the dogs daily which is good for all of us, and now I'm getting am amazing chance to work on the food part. 

I'm starting a new weekly (sometimes bi-weekly) feature focusing on the book Cooking for Geeks by Jeff Potter.  It's a sort-of cookbook that goes into the geeky-sciencey part of cooking.  I'm learning all about the chemical reactions that take place in food, the way that flavors interact, and how our bodies detect those flavors.  He also has tons of awesome cooking hacks.  I'm seriously geeking out over it. 

So after talking to the author, I've decided to feature a recipe from the book each week.  I'll choose a recipe, cook it completely on my own, take pictures, and then feed it to a panel of friends (Luke, Bestie, and Bestie's hubs).  After they review the cooking, I'll have a short email conversation with Jeff about how I could change things.  Then I'll post the interview, reviews from my panel, and pictures on the blog.  Sound like fun?  What do you think?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekend Update

I promised puppy pictures, so this entire post is going to be basically nothing but.  We went to a cookout today at Crystal's, where I got to see Heather and Leah and Natalie, which was awesome, as always- but I forgot my camera, so no pictures from that.  I also did some yard work and finished painting the quatrefoil design on my cabinet doors.  Hopefully they will go up this week and I'll post those pictures next weekend. I was too busy to get my IMM post again, but maybe next weekend?

For tonight, enjoy some puppy pictures (no costumes though, these are just the regular dog park - I waited too late and couldn't find a jersey, so we gave up on that whole thing).

Look at that sweet face.  Could you say no to him?  I can't either.

Typical Dexter picture - lips flapping in the wind as we drive to the dog park.

Typical Chief picture - just wants to snuggle

The big boys with a min pin and (miniature?) boxer they made friends with at the dog park.  The min pin scared my boys to death.  They are such big babies!

A poodle/australian shepher mix that I fell in love with while we were there.  Such a sweet dog - and so cute!
Just not quite as cute as the two I got to take home.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Blog Hop

I've finally caught up with life enough to be able to participate in the Blog Hop again!  Yay!  Today's question is:   What's your favorite beverage while reading or blogging, if any? Is it tea, coffee, water, a glass of wine, or something else?
The same as my favorite beverage any other time: 2% milk.  I have the strongest bones ever.  On my own, I go through at least two gallons of milk each week.  We generally end up drinking around 3.5-4 gallons together.  And neither of us have ever broken a bone.  When I'm feeling particularly wild, I'll drink chocolate milk.  I know.  It's out of control book craziness when that happens.

I've got some more reviews coming up, an announcement about a new weekly/bi-weekly feature, and hopefully some pictures of the puppies at Bark In The Park coming up.  Luke doesn't know it yet, but I'm having the dogs glitter painted while we are there.  And they are getting pedicures.  It will be SO cute.  We're also going to try to get them costumes tonight - a GA jersey for Dexter (born in GA) and a TN jersey for Chief (born in TN).  Aren't we clever?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Book Reviews: Crank, Glass, and Fallout (and a rant on BBW)

I didn't really participate in Banned Books Week, for several reasons, the main one being that I was way too busy.  Also, I really don't like the way ALA promotes Banned Books Week, or even the label Banned Books Week (See my bottom paragraphs for the reasons why).  But I do want to write my reviews for all three of the books in Ellen Hopkins' Crank series.

Fallout was definitely my favorite, but I loved all three.  I burned through them in about four days and they're all several hundred pages long.  Because they're written in verse the text takes up less of the page.  When you combine that with the engrossing story, it makes for a quick read. 

I think some people may be scared of trying this because they're "poetry" and for a lot of people that's a scary word.  For a lot of people the word poetry = confusing, boring, hard to understand, way too deep, etc.  I actually enjoy poetry, but I would also recommend these books to people who don't.  It reads very much like prose, and all of the author's poetic devices are so easy to understand (See the next to the last paragraph for my note on poetic devices). 

I don't really want to summarize these books too much because there are a million other blog posts where you can read that.  Basically, the story follows a teenage girl who becomes addicted to meth, her descent into addiction, and the lives of her children.  I particularly appreciated the author's emphasis in Fallout on the genetic predisposition toward addiction.  People typicall assume that I don't drink because I'm a Christian, when actually my decision not to drink has nothing to do with my faith and everything to do with a family history of alcoholism.  Like some of the teens shown in the book, I choose to stay away from it because I'm not sure how much it would take for me to become addicted.  It's one of those things that I don't see acknowledged much, and appreciated seeing in these books.

Thank you so much to the publisher for sending me a copy of Fallout!

*Note on the poetry:  Lots of the symbolism in the text revolves around words formed into shapes, or last words of each line making their own phrase.  Nothing terribly hard to do.  And it's not that I'm tearing down the author's work, but it doesn't take much skill to type your words in the shape of a tear drop or a heart.  It's cool, but doesn't necessarily mean the writing is good. Just something to note.

**Note on Banned Books Week: It's not that I disagree with the sentiment behind any of it.  I am 110% opposed to censorship.  But I kind of feel about book "banning" the same way I do about American Christians who claim that we face religious "persecution" in this country.  Making things sound more dramatic than they really are only makes your arguments hold less weight.  Books in America are challenged, removed, and censored but not banned.  That would be what happens in countries like North Korea and China where certain materials are actually illegal to publish, print, or own.  I recently read a blog where a girl wrote that she was glad for BBW because she never knew before that there were books that are illegal in America.  FYI: there aren't.  And confusing people by trying to make the issue sound more important doesn't help.  The issue is important enough on its own without the use of inflammatory language.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

September Wrap-Up

September was a pretty huge month for me.  I went to both the Decatur and National Book Festivals, Luke's parents came to visit, Luke's best friend came to visit, I planned and executed my school's third graduation, and I am still working on my bathroom cabinets.  Every time I think I'm finished, I have another brilliant inspiration of how I can make them better.

I also received the Versatile Blogger Award from Book Loving Mommy.  I don't typically pass these on because I know some people don't like to receive them, but I love them!  I appreciate it so much, and I think it's a great opportunity to highlight the blogger who gave it.  So definitely check out Book Loving Mommy's site. She obviously has excellent taste!

And now for the monthly stats:

Books Read:
The Replacement
Think of a Number
A Grief Observed
Used and Rare
Dracula In Love

Pages Read in September: 3383

Total Pages Read This Year: 30, 953

Books Read This Year: 102

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Yummy Dinner of Crow, Please!

You're probably confused by this picture, right?  You're probably thinking, "But Jules, that looks like an e-reader and in this post right here you wrote all about how you don't want an e-reader."

Yes, readers, I did.  I admit it, I am a big fat hypocritical e-reader owner.  When I wrote that post I forgot to mention that at one point I also claimed that mp3 players and DVD players would never replace CDs or VHS.  My skills as an oracle are somewhat less than perfect, I suppose.

But before you start to think that I'm fully on the e-reader wagon, let me explain.  I've been dying to use NetGalley  Seriously, forever kids.  But I could only read on my computer screen and my eyes get tired and holding a laptop isn't comfy and all those other reasons.  So I started to think about getting a used e-reader off of e-bay or Craigslist just for NetGalley.  I figured I could wait and find one for under $50 and it would be perfect.  I even mentioned it to Luke who has heard my rantings and ravings about e-readers and of course he laughed at me.

But then.  I was given a very nice gift card to Barnes and Noble as a thank you gift.  In fact, the amount on the gift card was the perfect amount for buying a Nook.  It didn't even occur to me until Luke brought it up on the way home from church - so let's all blame him for this.  He really wanted a new toy to play with.  And being the awesome wife that I am, I took a nap and let him go to Barnes and Noble to buy me a Nook.  How sweet am I?

This doesn't mean that I'm a complete convert though, ok?  I'm serious.  Please do not ever sell your reference books, first editions, etc and replace them with an e-reader for all of the reasons I listed in my previous post.  I will never, ever in a million years stop buying books and treasuring my print collection.  But now I can use NetGalley AND not have to carry a 20 lb bag of books through the airport when I go to Lubbock for Thanksgiving! 

Enjoy a few more pictures of my night:

We love us some e-books.  And snuggles in the bed.  Doesn't Sly look like he's loving it?
Have I ever mentioned on here that my husband is awesome?  I've been having a lot of pain lately, enough today that I stayed home in bed (which is why I look so awesome in these pictures).  Being the sweetie that he is, Lucas stopped by my favorite ice cream store and brought me home a cup of Half Baked. 

Books, ice cream, a kitty, and open windows.  Seriously, what more could I ask for?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Book Review: Dracula In Love

It's been a week or so since I read this one, and I've been looking forward to posting about it, but life kept getting in the way.  I'm typically not a fan of paranormal romance.  Romance in general is just not my thing.  But something about this cover, combined with the success of some of my recent forays into paranormal romance, just completely drew me in.

I have to say that I'm getting closer with my RIP books.  This one still didn't scare me, but there were definitely some scenes that came very close, especially in the asylum.  The first half of the book was definitely better than the last half.  It reminded me a lot of The Historian, which is one of my favorites.  Very little paranormal, more just creepy and historical and less paranormal and weird.  I also LOVED Van Helsing as a twisted sicko and the way that plays out in the end. 

My one real issue was in the last half of the book, where she is with Dracula and they're in love and she starts to realize her past.  The mish-mash of cultural and religious symbols and tradition kind of did me in.  It's like every vampire reference ever form every country and every culture plus reincarnation times satan/fallen angels.  Too much of the paranomal part all showed into a few pages at the end.  On the one hand it's an interesting way to get background on a wide variety of vampire legends, lore, myth, etc.  On the other hand, it was just way too much all at once that didnt go with the story very well at all.

I liked the book overall, but it felt pretty disjointed for me.  I love the first part of the story where Mina is unsure of who this mysterious man is and the more suspenseful aspects of who he is and why he keeps appearing.  It's only once Mina chooses Dracula and starts to learn about her past that things get weird.  To say more would give it away, but her past is just weird.  Too many stories from too many cultures all mixed up together. 

Also, I have to give fair warning that this is not like my typical read because there are some pretty steamy sex scenes.  If you're bothered by that kind of thing, this is definitely not your book.  I didn't find it to be raunchy enough to merit not reading the book though and I'm definitely a proud and loud prude.  Anyone else read this one?  I'd love to add links to your review!

This makes 3/4 books read for RIPV!  I'm going to need something really scary for my last one.  Any suggestions?