Sunday, April 29, 2012

Book Haul

It's been a while since I've done one of these, so I've got quite a few books to show you this week.

One of the best parts of having Reader Friends all over the country is that they frequently pick up books for you at signings you can't make it to!  Crystal was able to go to a Jennifer Echols signing that I wasn't at and picked up signed copies of Forget You and Love Story for me.

Thanks Crystal!

And Jacki somehow wound up with a signed copy of The Prince of Frogtown by Rick Bragg that she didn't need (what?) and sent to me!!!

Squeeeeee!  I love Rick Bragg!

I also got some borrowed books this week - Purity by Jackson Pearce, which I borrowed from Crystal, and Drop Dead Healthy by A.J. Jacobs from Jennie.  I am one lucky girl to have such generous friends, right?

These next few are for review, mostly for TLC Tours I'm participating in, but a few also from random sources.
Bloom by Kelle Hampton from William Morrow - a story about a baby born with Down Syndrome and guaranteed to make me cry.
In The Bag by Kate Klise for a TLC tour - chick-lit-ish story about two people who connect on an airplane flight through their teenagers and some lost luggage.

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay for a TLC tour - the story of a young girl growing up in poverty in Manhattan in the 1700's, a time during which men believed that sleeping with a virgin could cure disease.  
The Book Lover by Maryann McFadden from the author - about a woman devoted to books, who loses her bookstore and becomes an author.  I'm also guessing there is lots of book loving throughout.

The rest were all picked up on a recent trip to McKays, the used book store in town.  I trade books there and haven't spent actual money in ages.  It's brilliant!  I trade in what I've finished and usually somehow manage to come out with more books than I dropped off.
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Man Booker winner in 2008, I've had my eye out for it ever since)
The Mighty Queens of Freeville by Amy Dickinson (possibly I already own this one, but it was only 75 cents so I figured I'd take that risk)

Moments of Being: A Collection of Autobiographic Writings by Virginia Woolf
Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern (I kind of thing I may have this one too, but it was cheap?  I am an addict)

Naked Came the Manatee by a whole bunch of Floridian authors, but especially Carl Hiassen who I think is hilarious.
My Pet Virus by Shawn Decker (an AIDS memoir)

Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century's Biggest Best Sellers by James W. Hall
The Western Canon by Harold Bloom (who is kind of my boyfriend - don't ask how, it's a complicated relationship that mostly involves him having no idea who I am and me worshiping from afar - and have I mentioned my thing for older men?  Because I'm fairly sure Harold - Hal to his friends, like me - is like 500 years old.  Or maybe dead.  Doesn't matter.).

Friday, April 27, 2012

Two Books With Problematic Content

So, as I mentioned yesterday, I've got some negative reviews to post today.  Regardless of how important I think it is for me to be honest, I promise you guys I don't get a rush out of tearing a book to pieces.  It's just that the content of these was such an issue for me that I have nothing nice to say about either book.  Which is why I'm not giving them my typical Writing/Entertainment Value review.  I'm going to just go ahead and bullet point my issues with the content.  Don't take that to mean that the books are well written, because they aren't.  Beautiful Disaster is somewhat better in terms of writing than Thirsty but neither are quality anything.  Let's get started.

Thirsty is a Christian vampire novel by Tracey Bateman that I've seen quite a few good reviews of (click the title to go to the GR page and read those if you're interested).  I actually bought this one (sigh) based on those reviews and on the idea that maybe a Christian fiction author was going to do something creative.  And I wanted to see how an author would weave together Christianity and vampire lore.  Unfortunately, it's a failure on all counts.  The writing is bad, the story is uninteresting, there is nothing new or creative to be seen, and the combination of Christianity and vampires was weak.  Very weak.  

But my real issue with this book happened around page 50.  I don't think I would have enjoyed the book either way, but this ruined any hope of me caring about the main characters or giving the book any kind of decent review.  The author has a main character use the word "retarded" in a derogatory way.  I cannot even begin to tell you guys how completely offensive I find that word.  There was absolutely no reason for the author to choose the word in the context she used it.  I just can't accept that.  Growing up, that word was one of the few that would earn us soap in our mouths.  I'd rather read a book full of cursing than a book that uses that word, or any other word that targets a person's un-chosen identity as an insult (I'm sure you can guess what other words I'm referring to without me having to type them out).  

I have higher standards for authors than to accept that as a casually tossed out substitute for actual writing.  I'm so disappointed to see that from any author, especially one who claims Christianity.  It's insulting to the reader.  Not cool, Tracy Bateman.  There's no reason to have a character use that word in the way it was used in this book.  It's not good writing and it's offensive.  Come up with another way to get your point across.  

Oh dear.  This one should just be titled Cops: Before the Arrest.  There was so very much wrong with this book that I don't know where to begin.  It's another one that I actually paid money for (regrettably) because I heard it was like Anna and the French Kiss but a little darker.  If by "a little darker" you mean full of abuse in the guise of romance, then I guess yeah it was "a little darker".  If the book had a plot, I'd describe it, but we're out of luck on that front.  Here are just a few of the "romantic" tips you can glean from the main characters:
  • Cigarettes smell so yummy to girls - smoke them all the time
  • Binge drinking for college students is SO COOL- girls who can do 15 shots in a single night are HOT
  • Stalking - if your girlfriend breaks up with, the best way to get her back is to go into a rage so violent that even your friends are afraid of you, then stalk her until she gives in and takes you back.
  • Hit people.  Lots of people.  Especially if they do things like look at your girlfriend or, even worse, dare to touch her arm.  They should be left in an unconscious stupor on the floor.  And kissing your girlfriend with their blood still on your face?  That'll really seal the deal.
  • When you're 19 and in love for the first time, getting a tattoo of that person's name on your body is a great way to show you care.  And you're going to be together FOREVER right?  So no worries, most people marry their first teen love.
  • Finally, ladies, when a guy makes you afraid for your life, by all means continue to see him, especially if he just has that "something" about him that mysteriously draws you to him.  When he asks (forces) you to do things you're uncomfortable with or afraid of, go ahead and give in.  If he tells you what to wear, who to talk to, what to say, and how to say it, that's totally normal, not abuse.  

This book was a train wreck.  I couldn't stop reading it, but it just kept getting worse.  It is basically everything a woman should run away from in a relationship, portrayed as sexy and mysterious.  Also, regardless of the fact that the "abuse" is depicted as romance, there's the fact that these are the trashiest, most unsympathetic characters I think I have ever read.  I pictured the girl with about six inches of roots showing in her yellow-dyed hair, wearing club gear to the grocery store.  I pictured the guy wearing a lot of muscle shirts and wife beaters and maybe missing a few teeth.  And despite the fact that it was set in what I think was supposed to be an upscale apartment, I pictured a pay by the week motel or low-rent trailer park.  These are people I'd call the police on if they were my neighbors.  I felt bad for the characters in the book that were supposed to be their friends.  

So there you have it, Reader Friends.  Two books I absolutely cannot recommend and am sad to say I spent money on.  Avoid at all costs.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Unpopular Opinions Day

Today's post is just two quick housekeeping type notices regarding some blogging issues I've encountered and been thinking on recently.

The first is negative reviews.  A few weeks ago, I posted a negative review on Goodreads and got some pretty angry responses from people who felt like those who don't like a book shouldn't post a review, or should only post a review saying "this wasn't for me".  I see that on  blogs from time to time as well and it kind of annoys me.  I would much rather see a post detailing explicit reasons, backed up with evidence from the text, for why a reader thinks a book is bad than a post that says "it just wasn't for me". 

So to help explain why I write negative reviews, I thought I'd give you an idea about why and how I write my blog.  I am not trying to break into the publishing industry as an author, editor, copywriter, anything.  So this blog is not about bolstering relationships with authors, publishers, publicists, etc.  My blog is really about my Reader Friends.  One of the greatest joys in my life is telling people what to read.  So this blog is about what I'm reading and whether or not I'd recommend it to a friend.  I have several ideal Reader Friends in mind when I write this (mainly my bloggy besties Jacki and Jenny).  When I write a review, I write it as if one of them had asked me, "What did you think of X book?"  If I hated a book and didn't think they would enjoy it, I would tell them, right?  I wouldn't give a bunch of nonsense about "every book has it's reader and I can find something positive to say about anything". 

Honestly a lot of the "find something positive in every review" to me seems like posturing for ARCs.  When I read that someone wants to be professional by refusing to criticize a book, unless that person is involved in the publishing industry (which is a totally different situation), I read it as "I don't want to mess up my chance to get more free books."  All of that to say, you will find strongly worded criticisms of books on this blog.  I don't personally attack authors, but I do write my honest opinions, even if those opinions aren't always nice and happy.  I am not opposed to tearing apart a bad book and you can look forward to two such reviews tomorrow.  So be warned.

My second thing is actually related to ARCs.  My review policy is about to undergo some serious changes.  I've worked with TLC Tours a lot and I'm definitely not going to give that up, but I am going to be giving up most other ARC submissions.  One, I'm tired of feeling pressured to read something on a deadline.  A few books a month for TLC is one thing, but I hate having every book I read dictated by deadline. 

The other thing is that I am SO SICK of the book blogging obsession with ARCs.  People are constantly talking about the issues relating to people requesting ARCs, ARC envy, who got what, etc, etc.  I see it most on YA blogs, but, what is ironic is that on YA blogs I see it mostly from adult bloggers rather than teen bloggers (way to stay cool teens!).  And it drives me nuts.  If you don't get an ARC, wait three months and buy the book.  I promise there are bigger issues in the world to fret over.  And of course the assumed obligation to the author and publisher to write a nice review ("I didn't love it, but I'm sure it's great for other people"), even if the book is terrible.  I'm just over it.  So I'll still be doing TLC Tours and I'll still be talking to publicists that I already have relationships with and respect, but I'm not going to be using Shelf Awareness to request anything and I'm not going to be accepting other requests.  I'm just gonna read what I want to read. 

Feel free to react to my very unpopular opinions below.  And if you're offended by the trashing of books (even if they deserve it), you should probably avoid my blog tomorrow.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Book Review: The Night She Disappeared by April Henry

April Henry and I seem to share an interest in kidnapping stories.  I reviewed her first book, Girl Stolen, on here a year and a half ago, and, while I wasn't blown away, I was interested in seeing what the author would write next and thrilled to get a review copy of this one.  It's about a teen girl, Gabie, who works at a pizza shop.  She switches shifts with another girl, Kayla, who is abducted while delivering pizzas.  It turns out that the man who abducted Kayla had called earlier to ask if Gabie was working - she was the one he wanted all along.  The police refuse to follow the lead, so it's up to Gabie and a fellow co-worker, Drew, to find out what happened to Kayla and if the kidnapper is still looking for Gabie.

I think the writing in this one was marginally better than Girl, Stolen.  My main beef with Girl, Stolen was that I didn't think it was believable as contemporary fiction.  And honestly I had the same issue with this one.  There's nothing specifically wrong with the writing, but it's got a very Scooby-Doo, kids solving crimes while adult experts bumble around feeling to it.  I liked the characters more in this one and felt a little bit more invested in the romance aspect, although I still found it to be somewhat less than authentic. 

Entertainment Value
The Night She Disappeared definitely kept my interest, despite the fact that I found it fairly improbable and I'm glad I read it.  It's pretty short and a very fast read.  I probably spent two hours on it tops.  I think as far as suspense goes, it will be more appealing to younger readers.  I was interested in the story, but I wasn't on the edge of my seat or concerned about how the book would end.  I probably would have been as a younger reader though. 

It's a decent book, but it reads young.  I wouldn't expect older teens, or those used to reading more serious thrillers to be impressed by it.  I don't regret the time I spended on it, but it's also not one I'd miss having read.  So, basically, straight up middle of the road for me. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: The Child Who by Simon Lelic

The Child Who is a novel about a small-time defense attorney who answers a chance phone call and winds up with a case that gathers national media attention.  Leo Curtice is assigned the defense of twelve year old Daniel Blake, who is accused of killing a young girl.  But the media frenzy leads to a community who wants blood for the horrible crime and soon Curtice finds his family threatened.

I was impressed with the writing right up until the end of the book, when the final plot twist just killed it for me.  The ending ruined everything about the writing for me - the suspense of the novel, the reason for caring about the characters, everything.  Because the book is told in flashbacks, we know from the beginning that Curtice's family has been torn apart by the case - his daughter has been abducted and never found.  The entire book hinges on this, and then (highlight to see spoilers): at the end there is a miraculous discovery that magically fixes everything so the family can be a family again.I was not pleased.

But other than that, I found the writing to really be nice and lean towards the literary side of things, which is always nice in a thriller.

Entertainment Value
It's not a thriller, but I was definitely in suspense over the ending until I actually reached the ending.  I won't say that I hated the book, I was just really let down.  While I was reading, I was loving the story.  I liked the twelve year old boy as a character (I have thing for evil children) and I really liked Leo Curtice and the position he was put in where he had to choose between his duty as a lawyer/the largest case of his career and his responsibility to protect his family.  I just really disliked the neat ending.  The book was real and gritty and harsh, but the ending took away from that and made it really trite.

It's a good suspense book.  And I loved that it leaned more towards an introspective, literary plot than a chop 'em up, gory, murder fest that many thrillers become.  It left me tense and anxious to see what would happen.  But then when it wrapped up and the secrets were revealed, I was greatly underwhelmed.  I feel like readers who enjoy a neatly tied up ending will be put off by the literary aspects of this book and those who are attracted to the literary aspects will be put off my the very simple ending.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Four Years Ago

Reader Friends, I married him.  Awful, I know, but I had to say it.  Today Luke and I have been married for four years - which is crazy.  Everyone feels this way I know, but it's that whole "it feels longer, but also so much shorter" thing.

In honor of how amazing the past four years have been, here are four reasons I wouldn't trade Luke for the world (and you should be jealous I got him first):

#1: Luke fixes me.  I have quite a bit of crazy and Luke fixes me when I'm losing it. 
Exhibit A: I cried hysterically the day of our wedding.  We had planned not to see each other before the wedding but I was crying so much, they finally went and got Luke, who fixed it.  I can't help but be happy when I'm with him.  

#2: He indulges my geekery.  Luke puts up with a LOT of geekery at our house (not that he doesn't have his own fair share), but the man has done what many men would not, including:

Being Cato in our Hunger Games re-enactment and letting Dexter pretend to eat him.

Going to see Hunger Games at midnight with me and taking tons of pictures of me and my friends in costume.

And have I mentioned the Dr. Who art hanging in the basement?  Cause we have that.

#3: Luke knows me better than I know myself.  My love language is totally gifts and Luke always delivers in the gifts department.  I don't even tell him what to get - he just somehow knows what I want and gets it.  He's thoughtful that way.

Valentine's Day gift: book bag with Shakespeare tearing apart Cliff's Notes.

Random, just because gift of a SIGNED copy of The Adventure of the Princess of Mr. Whiffle by Patrick Rothfuss
Flowers sent to my office when I reached 100 miles of walking this year.

#4: Luke supports (and largely finances) my book habit.

Not a single word of complaint that the books have totally taken over every corner of our house.  You guys have seen my other posts about the book situation right?  And not a single word of complaint from Luke, ever.  He never suggests I buy less books and he always acts excited for me and listens when I show off new piles of books that I'm bringing in.  Every once in a while, he even asks if I need more bookcases and where I'd like them and what color he should get them in.  AND THEN HE DOES IT. 

So, all of that to say, be jealous.  Be very jealous.  And remember, he's mine.
Love you, Luker!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

I don't usually review books immediately after finishing them.  I typically take a day or two to think about what I've read and digest it and wrap my mind around it.  Also, I'm kind of lazy that way.  So the digesting thing is mostly just an excuse for why I don't jump to review books.  BUT.  This book has seriously blown me away.  I finished it like an hour ago and it is just BEGGING me to review it.

I had a baby shower to attend near Atlanta last weekend, which is what prompted me to download the book from my library.  I've had it in print forever, but hadn't picked it up yet.  I knew I'd need something exciting to keep me awake while I drove to Atlanta and back late at night after a long work day, so I decided on impulse to check out this one.  Best.decision.ever.  When I pulled into my garage after midnight on Friday night, I didn't want to get out of the car.  And I've spent every spare second since then listening.

I really appreciated the writing in this one.  I want to go back at some point and reread it in print because there were several passages that jumped out at me as particularly beautiful, usually descriptions of Thisby, the island where the book is set.  There are several places I would normally have marked in a book, but couldn't mark on audio. 

I also think Stiefvater did an amazing job of describing the relationship between Puck, our female main character and one of two narrators, and her brothers.  I love positive, yet conflicted, sibling relationships in books because I can SO identify with them.  Puck's very close relationship with her younger brother Finn and her complex relationship with her older brother Gabe so perfectly captured my own sibling relationships that it was amazing.

Finally, I appreciated that Puck's relationship with her brothers and the island itself as well as Sean (the other narrator and male main character)'s relationship with his water horse, Corr, took precedence over the developing romance between Puck and Sean.  Don't worry, the romance is there, but it's just not the main focus of the story.  I'm a fan of romance but I think too often the romance in both YA and fantasy, as genres, overshadows the story itself.  I don't like books where the only relationship we get a glimpse of is between the two young lovers.  And this book is certainly the exception. 

Entertainment Value
Like I said earlier, I couldn't stop listening.  I listened in my car, I listened while I did the dishes, I listened at work (shhh), I listened while I did my hair...etc, etc, etc.  I was SO into this book and the characters it's silly.  It's one of those books that just grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go.  Obsessed would be a good word to describe how I felt/feel about this one. 

The narrators for this one are perfect.  I think had I read the book in print, I would have preferred Sean as a character, but Puck's narrator made her impossible not to love.  Both narrators do an amazing job of bringing the book and the characters to life.

Read this one.  Immediately.  My only (very small) word of caution is that the book is violent.  Animals and people are hurt in terrible ways.  It is not overly graphic or intense, but it's there.  For me, it enhanced the story and the emotions of the characters, but some may be bothered by it.  Unless you are sensitive to violence, I cannot recommend this one highly enough.  It may just be my favorite of the year.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Review: Cruising Attitude by Heather Poole

Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crewe Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet is exactly what it sounds like - an insider's look at what it's like to work for an airline.  Heather Poole is a veteran flight attendant who started by posted her stories on a blog, and has now collected them into a book.

I was actually really pleased with the author's writing.  She is incredibly funny and her stories were collected well and written in an engaging way.  I felt like I got to know her as a person through her stories about life as a flight attendant and I saw the job in a way I hadn't seen it before.  Like customer service, but in a place where you're stuck with the customer for hours on end!  What a nightmare...

Entertainment Value
Like I said, the book was hilarious.  Most of the stories predate 9/11, so customers had a lot more leeway then than they do now - and it sounds like many of them took serious advantage of that.  I hate travelling, so being a flight attendant has never appealed to me, but I was really impressed by what a good glimpse of the life I got from the book.  The author did a really good job of showcasing the positives and negatives and showing the reader what the job really entails.  I have a lot of respect for what flight attendants do!

Yeah it's a good read.  I definitely recommend it, even if non-fiction isn't usually your thing.  This is light and funny and reads more like a novel or a memoir than like serious non-fiction. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Something Special for My Reader Friends

Have you guys seen the bookish t-shirts and gifts on  I've seen them profiled on several other blogs and have been meaning to buy one of their t-shirts for a long time.  A few weeks ago they got in touch with me to offer me a coupon code that I could share with my readers.  They aren't providing me with swag or anything, but I truly think they're worth the mention - and you guys are definitely worth the coupon code.

Gone Reading is totally devoted to readers and the love of books.  All of their post-tax profits go towards library funding and book-related charities.  So not only are they selling a unique reading-related product, but everything you spend goes towards helping libraries and those who love books.  Read more about their organization on their Mission page.

They are offering a 25% off coupon to my readers through April 30th, so now is the time to contribute to a great cause and get some fun bookish things.  Just enter coupon code BOOKHOOKED25 when you check out.  If you end up ordering something, let me know what you get!

Ok, so I know you guys want to see the goods - here are some of the tees I'm trying to pick from:

And they have some awesome bookmarks, journals, decals, etc:

Edgar Allen Poe inspired candle set 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Behold the Man upon the cross
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Really all you need to know about The Night Circus is that it's a magical book set around a traveling circus which sets the stage for two dueling magicians, Celia and Marco.  What Celia and Marco do not know is that only one of them can survive the duel.  As they compete, they begin to fall in love and collaborate in their magic, not knowing that only one can win.

I think the writing is what makes this book the success it is.  The author's style is beautiful and unique and the descriptions of the magic created by Celia and Marco are breathtaking.  I don't have a single criticism to make of the writing.  It's amazing and beautiful and deserves to be read.  I was concerned about the hype over the writing and the author's talent, but trust me, it wasn't just hype.  She deserves every wonderful thing that has been said about her talent.

Entertainment Value
I think it takes a certain type of person to be entertained by this book, despite the amazing writing.  If you like description, if you are into magic, if you want to be transported to another world, this is going to appeal to you.  However, if you are expecting lots of action, a fast-moving plot, or a focus on the story itself, you are going to be disappointed.  I completely enjoyed myself while reading this one, but that didn't make it a fast read.  Large portions of the book are devoted to descriptions of the circus, the characters, and the magic created by Celia and Marco.  I didn't feel like their relationship or even the plot of the duel were central focuses of the book.  Both of those things provided an excellent showcase for the author's talent in writing, but that was how I felt about both plot lines - they were vehicles for the writing, not the real reason for reading the book.  For me, that was fine.  It took me longer to read than usual, but I fully enjoyed it.  For those who aren't fans of description and want a plot-driven novel, this may not work as well.

I highly recommend the book, but with the caveat that the reader appreciate good writing for its own sake as well as the feeling of being completely transported to a magical world that comes with well-done description.  If you're just looking for a Harry Potter read-alike, I'm not sure this is the one.  I will also say that many of my book club girls who listened to this one on audio had a really hard time following it.  The narration jumps around over the course of many years, and I can see how it would be difficult to know which timeline you're in without the benefit of seeing the opening of each new chapter, where the year and place are listed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Losing Clementine Winner!

Losing Clementine (in her choice of ARC or finished copy) goes to Jess who found her way here from The Nest Book Club!  Congratulations Jess!  If I don't hear from her within 48 hours, I'll draw again.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Don't forget to enter!

Just a reminder that today is the last day to enter my giveaway for a free copy of Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream.  It's a fantastic book and I can't wait to pass it on for someone else to enjoy!  Scroll down or click here to see the post and leave a comment to enter.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

What I Read In March

Reader Friends this has been a shameful reading month.  There were several books that I just seemed to get stuck on and couldn't get through quickly.  It's not that I hated everything I read - several were quite good - but I just couldn't get through them very quickly.  I'm still reading two that are taking me a long time because of how hard I am having to concentrate to fully understand them (in case you're wondering they are Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain and An Emotionally Healthy Spirituality).

Honestly, I have just been exhausted this entire month.  I think the time change really affected me this time, as did spending like three weekends preparing for the HG premier and then staying out all night for the movie.  I'm apparently older than I feel.  Anyway, here's what I accomplished reading-wise this month:

Hystera by Leora Skolkin-Smith
Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd
More Beauty, Less Beast by Deborah M. Coty
Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream
Whatever You Love by Louise Doughty
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Books Read In March: 6
Books Read This Year: 28
Total Pages Read This Year: 7683
Total Saved Through Reviews, Library, Books I Own, and Buying Used: $327.52

How was your March?  I'd love to hear what you read this month!