Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Favorite Reads: Guilty Pleasures

My Favorite Reads

My Favorite Reads is a meme hosted by Alyce from At Home With Books.  You simply discuss a book you enjoyed before you started blogging!  In my last post, I mentioned that Laura Lee Guhrke has written at least two of my favorite romances.  Here's the earlier of those two:

Guilty Pleasures by LLG

Guilty Pleasures by Laura Lee Guhrke

This has got to be one of best romance novels I've ever read.  You know how you come to expect certain things in genre books, so you're anticipating all the plot points before they happen?  Well, in Guilty Pleasures, LLG defied all my expectations and gave me a practically perfect romance.  It's full of great characters, true love, adventure, and mystery that add to the story.  (I know you're thinking the cover sucks, but it actually makes sense once you read the book.)

The shy and bookish Daphne Wade has been in love with the Duke of Tremore for years.  Of course she's in love with him--he's intelligent, handsome, dashing, and rich.  What's not to love?  Daphne, meanwhile, is a "spinster" and so poor she's actually employed--as a restorer for some of Tremore's ancient artifacts.  This part at the very beginning of the book was, in all honesty, somewhat annoying.  But fear not!  Daphne soon overhears Tremore declare she's completely unattractive, and then she's pissed.  Naturally, it's immediately after she decides she never wants anything to do with him that he starts to notice her.

Guilty Pleasures has a sort of Cinderella-esque charm to it, although I wouldn't call it a Cinderella story exactly.  The romance between Daphne and Anthony (Tremore) is so wonderful because they're likeable, believable characters; and I loved the secondary characters as well.  If you like historical romance and you haven't read it yet, get thee to a bookstore and buy Guilty Pleasures.  NOW.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fall into Romance

fall leaf Image by Clearly Ambiguous

With the changing of the seasons, a lot of people change their reading habits. Several people have blogged about this before, like MJMBecky from One Literature Nut and Amy from My Friend Amy. Going back to school means you have a whole different set of books to read, and a change in pace at work or in school often affects the time people can devote to reading.

I don't really change my reading habits that much based on the seasons except for one thing--I start to read a lot more romance. I guess I just need the warm fuzzies or something. Here are a few romances I'm really excited to read this fall:

tempt me at twilight by kleypas

Tempt Me at Twilight by Lisa Kleypas

Book 300 in the Hathaway series. Haha, not really--it's not that bad yet. But it's getting there. Kleypas is one of my favorite writers, so I'm excited about this new book. I wish there was going to be another Rom hero in it, though.

written on your skin by duran

Written on Your Skin by Meredith Duran

Duran might be my new favorite romance writer. After Bound By Your Touch, I'm very excited to read this book, which features James' best friend, Phin.

with seduction in mind by LLG

With Seduction in Mind by Laura Lee Guhrke

Okay, seriously, this is the crappiest cover I've seen in a while. Even by romance novel standards it's pretty bad. Now if there was a guy on cover....

Anywhooo, LLG (don't ask me to type her name because I'm constantly misspelling it) is another one of my favorite writers and has written two of my favoritest romance novels evarrr, so I'm certifiably excited about this book. What is it about? I haz no idea. It doth not matter, my lovelies--I am buying it.

storm of visions by dodd

Storm of Visions: The Chosen Ones by Christina Dodd

I really liked Dodd's first paranormal series, so the new one should be just as good (should be). The last series was about a group of men who shifted into animals because of a deal with the devil. This one appears to be about people with extrasensory perception.

The strangely beautiful tale of miss percy parker

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber

I first heard about this book from Katiebabs at Babling About Books & More, and it sounded totally cool. It's a Victorian Gothic ghost story and romance. So I gave in and bought it. I think it's going to be a great book to read during the fall--I mean, who doesn't love Victorian Gothic ghost stories with romance, right? And according to the lovely Mandi at Smexy Books, the hero is modeled off of Alan Rickman! Rawrrrrrrr.

What books are you looking forward to reading this fall?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why I Don't Rate My Reviews--A Manifesto

many books to review From the cover of The New Yorker Magazine, Nov. 6, 2006

Recently Shannon Hale at Squeetus Blog posted a very interesting and complicated question to people who review books on their blogs. I'm not going to adress all the of issues she brought up, but the part about rating reviews really caught my attention:

If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?

When I first started reviewing books--seriously reviewing them, not just saying, "Hey, I read this book and I liked it"--I didn't even consider doing ratings. The reason was simply that I wanted people to read my review, not jump immediately to the rating. Also, the way I feel about a book can't be summed up in a rating--not consistently, at any rate. Ratings carry the weight of being objective, and the fact is I'm rarely objective when it comes to books. I'm not even sure I want to be objective: reading books is a completely personal experience for me. Yes, I could say that, objectively, such-and-such book was good, but please. Bor-ing! I'm forced to be objective when I write papers for work; I don't want to do that for my fun writing.

But then Sarah at Monkey Bear Reviews did a blog on grading books, and I started to think about changing my anti-rating practice. It definitely seems that people like the convenience of a rating when perusing blogs (I admit even I find that convenient), and really what could it hurt?

There's still the problem of consistency, however. If I reviewed the same type of books over and over, I might feel more comfortable doing a ratings system, because then I would know at least all of the books would be relatively comparable. But how can a romance novel and a book about Egyptian Art stand against one another in a ratings system? I have totally different expectations for either book. Furthermore, I kind of pride myself on writing reviews in different styles for every book I read--not sure if I succeed, but that's the goal. To my mind, this makes a rating system rather pointless.

I admit I use ratings on other sites like Goodreads and Amazon, but they've turned into a personal code for me that wouldn't be useful to anyone else. For example, one star means I didn't finish the book; two stars means I skimmed it. They really have nothing to do with how good the book might be.

So I think Shannon is definitely correct when she suggests that a lack of ratings is a reflection of what I feel my role as a reviewer is. I want to capture the ephemeral experience of a book when I write about it. Ratings simply don't fit in with that goal.

Do you use ratings when you review books? Why or why not?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Summer Finales

I saw the finales of two summer series this week, and both of them disappointed me to a certain certain extent.

michael westin saves the girl

The first was Burn Notice (yes, I know this show ended a while ago, but I'm only now caught up). For those of you who haven't been keeping up, Michael got dropped by some super-secret spy organization because he said he wanted out. So then all his old spy frenemies started popping up out of the woodwork. That was kind of entertaining, but also dangerous; so Michael decided he wanted back in. Again. Fiona and Sam were both totally against this, and Fi declared she was going to move back to Ireland. Sadly, her moving alerted Harry Dresden to her wherabouts and he kidnapped her, thus forcing Michael to chose between saving Fi or re-enterting the intelligence community.

Now, I love the character of Fiona on this show. In fact, if the show was all about Fi, I'd be down with that. But I've never liked Fiona and Michael as a romantic couple. I think it's just the fact that Michael is never attracted to, involved, or even seen flirting with another woman--it just seems waaaayyyy too convenient. Like she's there and she's obviously attracted to him, so when he wants a little action he can just ring her up. And when he wants to get back into his spy thing, he just says adios and leaves. That's fine if it's part of the show; I just don't view it as a romantic subplot. And I want my romantic subplots, dammit!

Nevertheless, the writers have been forcing a Michael/Fiona romance down our throats for the entire season, and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be until the finale, which had a totally lame wrap up. Fiona finally admits she's still in love with Michael (she's obviously a glutton for punishment), and blah blah blah, he saves the girl. But instead of admitting anything (feelings-wise), he just says, "We're not any good at this." Really?!?!? I hadn't noticed.

Let's face it, Fi and Michael's relationship has nooo future right now. They either need to break up and see other people, or get married. And think we all know the get married part isn't going to happen.

The second show was Merlin. I still love this show, but WTF was the deal with the season finale? Arthur acts like a prat (as usual), and gets bitten by a poisonous monster. Merlin finds out the only way to save his life is to go to a magical island and ask the sorcerers there for intervene. But Arthur's life comes with a price: someone else's life. Illogically, Merlin decides to trade Nimueh (yep, she's there too, and apparently she only owns one dress) his life for Arthur's. But Nimueh twicks him and takes Merlin's mother's life instead. Why I don't know. So Merlin decides to try to trade his life again, because it worked so well the first time (is this summary making any sense? I thought not). Fast forward fast forward, Gaius decides to trade his life for Merlin's mum's, Merlin puts the hurt on Nimueh, and Gaius comes back to life.

What the hell?

Okay, we still have the problem of who traded who's life for Arthur's and then Merlin's mom, so is she still going to die? I'm totally confused. And why did Gaius come back to life again?

Also, there was no denoumet, just Merlin screaming to heavens because old guy Gaius was dead; and then, poof! He's alive again and the show is over. Is this supposed to make me want to watch next season??? Not that I won't watch, mind you, but that's a pretty lame ending to the season.

What summer series have you been watching?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

TSS-The Sunday Sun

The Sunday

A song for you this Sunday:

This last week has been pretty stressful for me, what with starting a new job.  Because we're going through training, our hours have been very irregular--one day we'll working 4-11 PM, the next day we'll work 9-4 AM.  As a result, I've been very tired and haven't been able to blog or even read that much, which makes me sad.  It has become clear, though, that with my new job I'm going to have to prioritize more about when it comes to blogging.  I think reading obviously has to be my number one priority.  I'm still reading--and not even halfway through--the book I started the week before last, The Oracles of Delphi Keep, just because I leave it until late at night to read, and then I'm so tired I can only get through a page.  Same thing with writing, another activity I traditionally leave until after midnight--I'm just too tired after working to put together sentences, it seems like.  So I think I'm going to start flipping my activities so I can devote more free time to read and writing, and leave going through other people's blogs and commenting for my days off.

The good news is, after September, I think things at my job are going to slow down considerably.  I'll likely be able to read a lot at work then.  So that's something to look forward to... I guess.  Boring jobs, yay.

In other news, I've been nominated for five categories for Book Blogger Appreciation Week! *blush*  Thank you so much for nominating me, everyone--I really appreciate it.  I was nominated for best romance blog, most eclectic blog, best special topic blog, best commentator (that's nice!), and best series or feature on Mondays.  Hooray!  I'm honored that you guys thought of me when submitting your nominations.

Arthurian Challenge

I also joined yet another challenge.  I must needs stop myself, no?  But since I've been watching Merlin lately, I've really been wanting to read Arthurian-related books.  Irish on twitter let me know about Becky's Arthurian Challenge, so I signed up right away!  I've already decided I'm going to read The Once and Future King by TH White, Taliesin by Stephen Lawhead, Twilight of Avalon by Anna Elliott, and re-read the Merlin books by Mary Stewart and The Broken Sword.  I might read something else if I come across anything interesting (I am open to suggestions). 

Lastly, Nymeth mentioned on Things Mean a Lot that she is also trying to reduce the size of her TBR pile, and gave herself some rules to follow for doing so.  I've decided to follow her lead and set up some personal guidelines, too.  So here we go:
  • Once library books reach their renewal limit, I will not order them again until my TBR pile is down to one shelf.  If I'm not going to read them in a month, it's just not going to happen.  They need to go.
  • I'm not going to join any more challenges (after the Arthurian Challenge, of course ^_^).
  • No more buying books (not that I've been buying that many books lately anyway... except for that one book I just bought.  Ooops).
  • I will not let myself be pressured into reading books other people loan me, no matter how much they pout and pester me about it (yes, I'm talking to you, Mom).
So there you go.  My three rules.  With these, I should have my TBR pile whittled down by, oh, never.  Haha.  Oh well--you really can't have too many books, right?

What are you reading this week?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week Meme

1)  What has been one of the highlights of blogging for you?

Recommending a book I love to someone else and having them love it, too.  That's always great--spreadin' the love.  Also the opportunity to talk to authors who write the books I love.  And (it should go without saying) I love the wonderful book blogging community that makes writing and talking about books so much fun.

2)  What blogger has helped you out with your blog by answering questions, linking to you, or inspiring you?

There have been so many!  Rebecca from Lost In Books definitely inspired me to set up my Art History Challenge, and mjmbecky from One Literature Nut has also convinced me to join several challenges and helped me out with my blog on occassion.  As for inspiration, Bookish Ruth was the first blog I visited where I thought, "Hmm, it might be fun to have a blog just for books and whatnot." ^_^

3)  What one question do you have about BBAW that someone who participated last year could answer?

On a scale of one to a zillion, how much fun is it?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Favorite Reads: The Wind Singer

the wind singer

My Favorite Reads is a meme hosted by Alyce from At Home with Books.  You just talk about one of your favorite books from before you started blogging!  Today I'm talking about The Wind Singer, a YA novel by William Nicholson.

The Wind Singer takes place in a dystopian city called Aramanth.  Aramanth is organized by an extremely strict caste system, where what family you're born into determines practically everything in your life.  The main character is the precocious Kestrel, who stages a rebellion against the caste system in her school that sends her entire family to the lowest rung of the social ladder.  But Kestrel doesn't let that stop her from her vision of righting what she sees as the wrongs in Aramanth!  When she hears about The Wind Singer--a person who will restore harmony to Aramanth through the power of his/her voice--she sets out on a dangerous adventure outside the walls of Aramanth and into the desert territory of the evil Zars to find him or her.  Tagging along are Kestrel's brother, Pinpin, and their classmate and friend, Mumpo (who was my favorite character in the book).

Before writing novels, Nicholson was a screenwriter and wrote several blockbuster films, like Gladiator.  This is definitely reflected in The Wind Singer; you're plunged immediately into the world of Kestrel and Pinpin, and the action is pretty much non-stop until the end.  Although this is a long book, it goes by really fast.  I think I read all 500-ish pages in a day.  I literally could not put it down.  Plus, I loved all of the main charaters and was fascinated by the world of Aramanth. 

Essentially this is a great, fun, easily digested novel with a strong female lead that deals with themes of justice, equality, magic, and courage.  I can't recommend it enough!

my favorite reads

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Mom's Favorite Books

my mom's favorite books

I saw this on Sandy's blog, You've GOTTA Read This, last month and thought it would be a great way to annoy my mom pick up post material while I was on vacation. Basically, Sandy asked her mom what her favorite books were and then blogged about it. Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

I have one favorite book. There are other books that I absolutely love, but I only have one favorite. Apparently, my mom is not like that. She seems to equate every book she's ever liked to "favorite." Let's take a look at what she listed and you'll see what I mean:

The Fairy Tale Book

Why my mom likes it: "It has nice stories." No elaboration.

My opinion: It has gorgeous illustrations, but the stories are weird. I've never made it through a single story in this book. The illustrations are kick-ass, though, so I can understand why she likes it.

Prayer Book

My mom didn't really explain why she likes this book, but I know this is one of the first books she got as a kid.

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle

My mom said she likes this book about a woman who lives in an upside-down house because the woman "knew everything." Ah-ha! Apparently even in childhood my mom was a know-it-all. :P (Kidding... although she does like to know everything. Just saying.) Mrs. Piggle Wiggle gives children strange cures to make them stop their bad habits. I remember one cure very clearly--a little girl refused to take baths, so Mrs. Piggle Wiggle just left her alone until she was so caked in dirt she had radishes growing on her! That was kinda cool. Basically Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is like Super Nanny but with magic. And she was married to a pirate.

Lord of the Rings

Mom described these books as "the perfect story."

Mrs. Polifax by Dorothy Gilman

Mrs. Polifax is about a retired woman who decides she wants to join the FBI or CIA or something like that. Then she has a bunch of adventures with young, handsome men. :D My mom described Mrs. Polifax as a "strong, independent woman." I think she basically wants to be Mrs. Polifax. But then, who wouldn't?

Blue Deer books by Jamie Harrison

This is a series of mystery books that take place in Blue Deer, Montana. Mom says she likes the pathos of the main character. Don't ask me what that means.

Patriot's Dream by Barbara Michaels

She refuses to explain this one. But Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters is one of her favorite authors.

Harry Dresden Series

"Well, again you have the pathos of Harry, laced with humor, and it just draws you in." Uh-huh.

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

This book is about a musician who has an affair with a fae prince, goes into faerie for some reason neither of us can remember, and then winds up with a phouka. My mom says she likes the book because it's a well-written story. No oaks were actually harmed during the course of the narrative.

So there you have it! Trying to get my mom to explain why she likes her favorite books was actually pretty fun, even if she didn't explain it in book blogger format. I would definitely recommend asking your mom what her favorite books are if your mom's a reader.

Do you know what your mom's favorite books are?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Lessons from Top Chef

top chef masters

We've been watching Top Chef Masters, and my mom likes it a lot more than regular Top Chef because there's not so much infighting among the chefs.  The question is, why?

Obviously, the stakes for the Top Chef Masters are lower than for the amateur Top Cheftestants.  They're winning money for charity, not themselves; and if they don't win the contest, they're still great chefs.

But I think there might be more to it than that.  Does the behavoir of the Top Chef Masters have anything to do with their success?  In general, they treat other people with respect, learn whenever they can, teach whenever they're asked, and for the most part don't seem to be ass holes (with some notable exceptions).  Whereas in regular Top Chef, at least half of the people are usually ass holes.

So the question I've been wondering about is, are the Top Chef Masters so calm because they're already successful in their field, or are they successful in their field because of their attitude?  Obviously, there's a level of talent there; but what good is talent if you can't execute your craft?  Especially in a kitchen where people have to work together?  One of the first things I learned in my various jobs is that the job itself doesn't always matter; it's who you work with that really makes a job enjoyable or sucky.  Clearly many of the chefs in Top Chef Masters can get along very well with personalities in the kitchen--whereas with the regular cheftestants, that ability can be hit-or-miss.

In a way, this also reminds me of blogger jealousy.  Recently, there's been some bad behavoir from bloggers directed at others who get more visitors, more "perks" (re: free stuff), and more comments than they do (for a few examples, see these posts from Katiebabs, J Kaye, and Pam).  Aside from rolling my eyes in disgust, I would point out one thing to those who issued these attacks:  do you see the more popular bloggers throwing accusations at people and whining?  No.  Do you see them acting professionally and trying to be inclusive to other bloggers, instead of insulting them?  Yes.  No matter how good someone is at writing reviews--or cooking--the response people have to them and their work is partially dependent upon how they present themselves and interact with other people. 

So some advice to those bloggers who feel like they should have more attention paid to them than they're getting:  try treating people with respect.  You might earn some in return.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The New Biographical Dictionary of Film

new biographical dictionary of film

I read this book as part of My Friend Amy's "Fifty Books for Our Times" Challenge.  You see, Newsweek recently published a very odd list called Fifty Books for Our Times, and Amy wound up challenging book bloggers to read one book from the list and ask--is this a book for our times?  And why?

The book I chose was the last on the list.  What was Newsweek's justification for picking this tome?

If you don't argue with Thomson on just about every other page, then you aren't paying attention. In a world where film criticism is dying, Thomson make a case for it-eloquently and adamantly.

Film criticism is dying?!  OMG!  Has Newsweek heard of the intranets? 

Based on Newsweek's two sentences, I was expecting this book to be a collection of critical film essays.  But then the book arrived and I was like, "Ohhhh, it's a biographical dictionary."  Art historians use biographical encylopedias (or dictionaries) as resources all the time when trying to trace works by obscure artists.  They usually have place and year of birth/death, major works, and where the artist studied. 

After realizing that, I revised my expectations and thought the book might be very facty and dry.  Not to mention that it's a huge tome--over 1000 pages of entries on actors, actresses, and directors (that's as long as the health care bill!), all listed alphabetically.  I'm sure you're wondering if I read this entire book cover-to-cover.  Uhm, yeah, sure I did.  And while I was at it, I read the dictionary and banged my head against a wall, too.

No, I didn't read the entire book.  But I did read entries on my favorite actors and directors and read some randomly-picked entries.  And what I discovered was that this book isn't dry reading, or a traditional biographical dictionary, but a collection of critical essays organized in an alphabetical format.

Thomson is a great writer, and stylistically his words are beautiful.  That being said, I'm not entirely sure what they mean.  Take, for example, this part of the entry on Luis Buñuel:

And long before Warhol's cinema, the lovers in L'Age d'Or engage us in the epic awkwardness that afflicts love.  Could a film have been banned so long if its power was not in the explosive mixture of style and sense?  Could Buñuel have kept himself from directing for so long if he did not view the medium serenely?  Could assigned projects make so little difference to the art of a director if that art was not within his images?  Could anyone so sustain an inquiry into imaginative life and an unaffected account of externals if he was not a great filmmaker?

Could you get to the freaking point?!?! 

Fortunately, Thomson does have a point, which he gets to eventually, that Buñuel's movies can only be interpreted as a response to bourgeois tradition.  Not exactly a brilliant point, but he did have one.

One of the things that really bothered me about this book is that Thomson is critical of everyone.  I know that as a film critic this is his job (maybe?), but can the guy ever be happy?  With John Cusak, he says, "... when is he going to be emphatically grown up?" and, "Can he look forty?"  With Meryl Streep, he calls her dour and too serious.  The list goes on.  Take, for example, this section from Sir Alfred Hitchcock's entry:  "I do not see how a man so fearful, and so chronically adept at conveying fear, can be judged as a profound artist....  There is an artistic timidity in Hitchcock that, having put the audience through it, must allow them to come to terms with the experience.  But his own personality is withdrawn, cold, insecure, and uncharitable."  He also calls North by Northwest "a brilliant view of a frivolous Cary Grant being sobered by feelings" which an interesting summary.  Yet when he criticizes Hitchcock's later films, mentioning that something like Frenzy is almost a parody of a Hitchcock movie, Thomson never even touches upon the fact that the illness of Hitchcock's beloved wife, Alma, undoubtedly has a strong affect on his later work.

More enjoyably, Thomson fills his entries with gossip, such as Angelica Huston's relationship with Jack Nicholson.  But then he spoils it by asking if she was intimidated by his and her father's, John Huston's, acting skills.  Like what the hell?  I think Thomson might be just a bit of a sexist.

So is this a book for "our times"?  I would say emphatically no.  Thomson's writing style is reminiscent of art criticism of the 1950's--if I had to guess, I would say he's probably a big fan of André Bazin.  His essays sound great, but they don't say much.  Not that they don't say anything, but his criticism isn't precise and clear.  A lot of times it also feels as if he's only criticizing actors or films just to have something interesting to say--Newsweek is definitely right that it's impossible not to mentally argue with him every other page, and the reason for this is because his criticisms do not feel entirely justified, or seem to come out of nowhere.

Furthermore, Thomson's essays on film reflect a very singular viewpoint:  that of a white male.  While reading this book, it feels like the theory and criticism of the 1970's and onward has completely passed Thomson by without much acknowledgement by the latter.

Don't get me wrong--this is probably the most entertaining dictionary ever written.  It's a good book, and one every film buff should definitely take a look at; because if you don't enjoy it, at the very least it'll give you something to think about.  But does it reflect our times, and do I think it will hold influence over future film criticism?  I don't think so.  If this is modern film criticism, then yeah, it is dead.  This book doens't reflect the work of Laura Mulvey's article on visual pleasure, Mary Ann Doane, or Slavoj Žižek, and it doesn't reflect the current theories and practices of film criticism.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Children's Books That Freaked Me the Hell Out

Rebecca from Lost In Books interviewed me for her blog last night (check it out here--yes, that's an order), and one of her questions started me thinking about books that scared me.  A book hasn't really scared me since I was a kid.  And this started me on children's books that fightened me when I was really little.

Harold and the purple Crayon cover

Harold and the Purple Crayon

As an adult, I can see why this book might be considered cute and entertaining; as a child, however, I thought it was wrong on soooo many levels.  Harold lives on a blank page with no friends or family.  To create a home, he has to draw all these things with a purple crayon--even a bed and a window to look out of his prison-like existence.  Then one of his friends drawn friends turns on him and attacks him, so he has to erase him!  (Note:  I may be mixing up all the Harold books, since my parents insisted on buying more of them despite the fact that I would run and hide every time I saw them--the books, not my parents.  Well, not usually my parents.)  To me this book was horrifying.  A child out alone in the world, without even a house and only a purple crayon?!  What in the name of god is the world coming to??  And what sort of twisted powers does this crayon have, anyway?  Everything Harold creates turns to ruin!  To this day I avoid purple crayons.

good night, fred cover

Good Night, Fred

Fred is being baby-sat by his older brother, and he wants to call his grandma.  But the phone is broked.  So Fred's older brother tries to fix the phone and Fred eats cake (OM NOM NOM NOM).  It finally gets late, and Fred has to go up to bed without calling his grandma because the phone isn't fixed... this is where it starts getting freaky.

Fred wakes up from a deep sleep and decides he wants some moar cake.  As he's walking to the kitchen, the broken phone rings!  It also glows with an eerie yellow light.  Like a fool, Fred picks up the phone, but he doesn't talk to anyone because a miniature leprechaun version of his grandma leaps out of the phone!!!!  OH MY FREAKING GAWD.  Is she dead?!?!?  How she can travel through the phone??? O_o  Is that even really his grandma?  What if it's some evil spirit disguised to look like his grandma?  Grandmas don't just pop out of the phone everyday, you know, Fred!

Whenever I see this book, I'm always surprised at how tiny and slim it is.  In my mind's eye, I see it as really large and shrouded in darkness.  I also blame this book for my aversion to phones.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Take A Chance Challenge: The Firemaker

Firemaker cover by May

The Firemaker by Peter May

I read this book for the Random Book Selection portion of the Take A Chance Challenge hosted by Jenners at Find Your Next Book Here.  Here's the challenge:

Take a Chance Challenge

Go to the library. Position yourself in a section such as Fiction, Non-Fiction, Mystery, Children (whatever section you want). Then write down random directions for yourself (for example, third row, second shelf, fifth book from right). Follow your directions and see what book you find. Check that book out of the library, read it and then write about it. (If you prefer, you can do the same at a bookstore and buy the book!)

Before I left for the library, I wrote down, "4th row from entrance, 3rd shelf on right, 2nd shelf from top, 28th book from left."  My library has all the fiction books grouped together, so I didn't know if I was going to get a fantasy or mystery or whatever.  Except I accidentally picked the book 28th from the right instead of the left, so... clearly I need a t-shirt that says "I follow directions well."

Anyway, the book I wound up with was The Firemaker by Peter May.  It takes place in modern-day Beijing, where Margaret Campbell, a forensic pathologist, has come to teach at the police academy.  As she's being driven to the academy, her car hits a bicyclist with a "square-jawed high-cheek-boned face."  He's really tall and has big hands, too.  Turns out the guy is Deputy Chief Inspector of Section One (or something like that) Li Yan, and Margaret has mortally offended his manly sensibilities by giving him a dressing-down for not looking where he's going.

Li Yan writes Margaret off as a stupid foreigner; but after she assists on an autopsy of a burn victim, he can't help thinking, over the scent of burnt flesh, that she's awfully cute.  Before you know it he's taking her out to lunch, then ice cream; and then she's "assisting in the investigation," and meeting his uncle.  After a date that runs about 20 hours, involves many drinks, karaoke, nightclubs, teahouses, restaurants, street food, and hanging with Li Yan's BFF, Margaret spends the night in Li's apartment.  But will their love be able to last???  When Margaret returns to work the next morning, she's informed that everyone in Beijing knows she slept at Yan's place, and that she broke the law by doing so and is on the verge of being fired.  Pissed off, Margaret quits and books the next flight to the US; but Li Yan doesn't want her to goooo!  Will Margaret leave China & Yan?  Will Yan quit his job and move to Chicago to be with her??? 

Oh, yeah, and in the middle of all that there's a murder mystery.  But I skimmed through that part.

This is a mystery novel, but the mystery is laaaaaaaame.  It starts off promising:  three dead bodies discovered in Beijing, all with a Marlboro cigarette nearby.  But as the mystery goes on, it involves rice genetics (yes, rice genetics--sexy, no?) and a huge conspiracy in the Chinese government.  Now, I don't know that much about the Chinese government, but the author spends considerable time telling us that everything everyone does is seen and observed in China by everyone else.  So then I'm supposed to be convinced a conspiracy is possible in that sort of environment?  Okaaaay. 

Not only is the mystery itself unconvincing, but the sleuthing skills of our noble detectives are just sad.  There's a scene at the beginning of the book where Margaret identifies one of the dead guys; it's supposed to be amazing and impressive, but I could have figured it out.  In fact, practically all the "clues" Margaret and Li Yan suss out are pretty obvious.

There is one fun part of this book:  the descriptions of Beijing and culture there.  I loved hearing about how the schools in China were organized, how people greeted one another, and how cooperative Chinese society is in general.  Not to mention the food, parks, and entertainment scene of Beijing.

Other than that, though, this book wasn't very good.  The mystery was not mysterious, the romance was pretty predictable and full of tropes, and the ending was unnecessarily dramatic and completely unbelievable.  I loved sexy Li Yan, but Margaret was annoying.  Oh!  Annnnnd all the American characters talked and acted as if they were British.  Shocker, the author is from the UK.  So why didn't he just make Margaret be from the UK if he obviously can't write a believable American character????  Lordy lordy lordy, that was annoying.

So, yeah, the novel had good points, but I really can't recommend it.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mystery Read-a-Thon Wrap-Up

mystery head Image by | spoon |

The Mystery Read-A-Thon is concluded!  I read for about 11 hours and got through 400-ish pages.  Not very much, but that's the way it rolls.  The two books I read during the readathon were The Firemaker by Peter May (review to be written post-haste) and Oracles of Delphi Keep by Victoria Laurie.  So far Oracles of Delphi is better than The Firemaker, although I'm just at the beginning of the former.

While I didn't accomplish everything I wanted to during the readathon, I did really enjoy spending the weekend devoting a huge chunk of my time to reading.  I wish every weekend was a readathon!  I also learned how little time I actually spend reading these days, in between everything going on at home, the internets, etc.  No wonder I've been depressed lately!  I really do think I need to resolve to read more, because even though The Firemaker was not the greatest book in the world (to say the least), I still enjoyed just sitting and reading it and being transported to another place.  So I'm definitely going to make an effort to read without interruptions from now on.

There isn't much I would change about this readathon, except maybe make it easier for each of the marathoners to keep tabs on one another.  I definitely hope I get a chance to participate in it next time.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

TSS-The Junk Drawer

The Sunday

The corner of my room where I keep my books looks like it has explodeded.

Since I'm participating in The Mystery Read-a-thon, I decided I would pull out all mystery books I have so they're all together.  Naturally they were spread out all over my bookshelf (if you had some idea that I organize my books in any way, shape, or form... no), so now the books on my bookshelf are collapsing on top of themselves, and I have piles of mystery books all over the floor in addition to all my other piles of books all over the place.

How did I become such a book glutton?  I'm seriously not acquiring any more books until my shelf is down to a manageable size.  Seriously!  Will you stop laughing, please?

Anyway, yes, the Mystery Read-a-thon.  Yesterday I read less than six hours (-ish; I lost track of time for a bit) and I'm not even half-way through my first book, which is kind of disheartening.  I am enjoying just taking time to read and not do anything else, though.  I'll do more updates when the Read-a-thon concludes.

I got back from vacation on Monday night.  If you recall, I listed a few books I was planning to take with me.  Well, here's what I actually brought:

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Don't Tempt Me by Loretta Chase (DNF)
  • Flat-Out Sexy by Erin McCarthy (I think that's her name)
  • Ophelia by Lisa M. Klein
  • The Warrior Hier by Cinda Williams Chima
  • Emma (Vols. 1-7) by Kaoru Mori
  • What Happens in London by Julia Quinn
  • Landsman by Peter Melman
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee
  • Laura Rider's Masterpiece by Jane Hamilton
  • Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
  • Kathryn by Anya Seton
  • Need by Carrie Jones (DNF)
  • The Ruthless Italian's Inexperience Wife by Christina Hollis (DNF)
Aaaack!  It grew!

Predictably, I did not read all of these books.  Also predictably, I bought more books.  Well, the Portland Art Museum was having this super-killer sale on their exhibition catalogs--$2-5 for every one, and they usually cost between $40-60--so I really HAD to buy more books in that case.  And then we went to Powell's....

new books

I also joined several challenges when I came back.  The first was The Harry Potter Reading Challenge.  Well, I was already reading The Chamber of Secrets, so why not?!  Then there's the Japanese Literature Challenge; I was going to use Emma for that, but then I decided I would read Battle Royale for it, instead.  And I of course had to join Amy's L. J. Smith Reading Challenge.  I might have joined another challenge, too... hmm, can't remember.  Not a good sign.  I need a secretary or something.

But it's good to be home and foolishly joining new challenges again.  Plus, I actually got a job!  I haven't started it yet, but I'm happy because obviously my little problem with the books needs some sort of funding.

Now back to the readathon.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Mystery Read-A-Thon!

Stole this image from caribousmom

So I'm about to start this weekend's Mystery Read-A-Thon. It's reading books and mysteries for twelve hours this Saturday and Sunday. I have a huge pile of mysteries built up on my TBR shelf, so hopefully this will let me get through... um, one of them. At the very least.

Now, I know what you're thinking: Tasha, isn't every day a read-a-thon for you? Umm, nooooo. And especially not a mystery one. I love mysteries, but they usually get passed over for the romances. Poor little mysteries.

Here are all mysteries I have to choose from for the Read-a-thon:

If you've read any of these and have an opinion on them, let me know! I'm going to start out with Firemaker by Peter May because that's also on my list for the Take-A-Chance Challenge, so I'll be able to kill two birds with one stone by reading it. I'll have to see what sort of mood I'm in after that before I decide on the next book.

So the plan is to start around 2 pm today and read as much as I can until bedtime, then make up the rest of the hours on Sunday afternoon. I'll be checking in here and on twitter occassionally to update my progress.

Want to participate in the Mystery Read-a-Thon? I'm pretty sure you can still sign up through the end of Saturday. Just go to their website. Caribousmom is also giving away prizes for the read-a-thon here!

Powered by ScribeFire.

Manga Review: EMMA by Kaoru Mori (Vols. 1-7)

Emma cover vol 1Emma cover vol 2Emma cover vol 3
Emma cover vol 4Emma cover vol 5Emma cover vol 6
Emma cover vol 7

Emma by Kaoru Mori, Volumes 1-7

Emma was the only book I managed to finish on vacation (if you consider all the books in a series to be one book, which I sometimes do--especially when I read them all at once).  I love manga, but I usually stick to vampire romances.  However, I'd heard such good things about this series; and my library managed to get the entire set in literally hours before I left, so I decided I to give it a try.

Emma is about a maid named Emma and her adventures.  One would be tempted to call it a historical romance, but it's really more in the style of penny dreadful novel or a Dickens story.  There are lots of characters and different sub-plots running through all of class-conscious, nineteenth-century English society; not to mention abductions, runaways, secret engagements, parental twists, dancing girls, and random nudity (that last one must be for the menz).

The central plot, though, is a love story between Emma and the wealthy bourgeois, William Jones.  They meet when he goes to visit his old governess.  William is immediately attracted to our bespectacled heroine, who serves him tea, and he maneuvers to meet her in public.  Meeeeanwhile, his super-serious dad wants him to mingle with the debutantes and choose a wealthy society girl to be his wife.  Not to mention Emma is being chased after by every male between Covent Garden and Brighton.

The first volume was okay, but I didn't start getting into the series until the second volume.  In that book, William takes Emma to the Crystal Palace, and it's awesome.  And they kiss!  And is sooooo well done and romantic and different the way Kaoru Mori depicts it.  It was during volume the second that I started to get a feel for the characters, who I loved.  William lives with his father, two younger sisters, and younger brother; plus his unforgettable guest and BFF, Hakim the Indian prince, who magically travels (+ elephants and dancing girls) between England and India in the blink of an eye!  At first Will seems a little bland, but his character starts to come out when he's surrounded by his family and friend and interacts with them.

Emma is mainly a passive character all through the series.  I like the girl, but she loves to clean, which makes me question her sanity; and she seems mainly content to let the status quo remain intact.  The major tension in the books comes from wondering whether or not Emma will take a chance a break the class barriers that separate her and William so they can be together.

Mori obviously put a lot research into the historical setting, and I loved the clothes, food, and architecture she treats us with as the story goes on.  Although that's not always consistent.  There was one scene in the first volume where William is playing with a model airplane--hellooooo, nineteenth century!  But overall I was impressed with the sense of historical time and place that the books had.  The clothing especially was fabulous.

Not that this series is all about the tortured love affair between Emma and Will--c'mon, this is manga!  These things can go on indefinitely.  There are plenty of sub-plots and other affairs winding their way through the books, from Will's fiance (not Emma), to his fiance's sister, a little girl who finds his hat, his parents' stories, his siblings, and all the servants in the house Emma works in. 

Basically these books are just fun and entertaining, on occassion completely ridiculous, and totally addictive.  I dragged through volume seven because I didn't want the series to end!  And then the ending resolved nothing, and I was all, "What the hell?!"  But fortunately, a quick search on Amazon revealed that, even though volume seven is supposed to be the last issue, there are actually two more available and a third to be published.  Hooray!

I would heartily recommend Emma, especially if you love anything related to the nineteenth century.  And now back to vampire romances.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Awards--Spreading the Love

Some very lovely people have given me awards, but I haven't had a chance to post about it before now.  Also, I was a little unclear about the blogging etiquette (bloggiquette?) for awards and I wasn't sure if I should be passing them on or not.  But I've decided to just do it anyway.

Lovely Blog

I got the One Lovely Blog Award from Rebecca at Lost In Books.  This was my first award!  Rebecca is so sweet.  Sarah from Monkey Bear Reviews also gave me this award, which was very nice of her.  Since Sarah passed this award on to five blogs she'd recently discovered, I'm going to do the same:
  1. Alberti's Window--A blog all about art history.  Very very interesting with lots of great, fun information!  Also, M is a Lost fanatic, so there are a lot of posts about art in Lost, too.
  2. The Biblio Brat--Very well-written (and well-designed) blog with great posts concerning literary issues.
  3. Life at the Narrow End of the Bell-Shaped Curve--I actually heard about this blog on Sarah's site.  It's not updated very often, but it does have great posts.
  4. books i done read--I'm not sure why it took me so long to find Raych's blog, but it's pretty freaking hilarious.  Her post on VC Andrews' Dawn had me rotflmaoing for nearly an hour after I read it.  I am easily amused, though.
  5. Books and Movies--Books and movies, two of my favorite things!
humane award

Rebecca from Lost In Books also gave me the Humane Award.  Here's what the award's about:

The Humane Award is to honor certain bloggers that I feel are kindhearted individuals. They regularly take part in my blog and always leave the sweetest comments. If it wasn't for them, my site would just be an ordinary book review blog. Their blogs are also amazing and are tastefully done on a daily basis. I thank them and look forward to our growing friendships through the blog world.

Thank you so much, Rebecca!  I'd like to pass this award on to:
heartfelt award

Rebecca from Lost In Books also gave me the Heartfelt Award.  In case you are wondering, Rebecca is a very generous blogger and passes awards on to lots of people, not just me (haha).  This award is about...

Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you're relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and freinds? You know the feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea, or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt Award is all about, feeling warm inside. Rules: Put the logo on your blog/post. Nominate up to to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside. Be sure to link your nominees within your post. Let them know that they have been nominated by commenting on their blog. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

I would love to pass this award along.  Here are blogs I'm giving it to:
  • Caspette from The Narrative Casualty--Has wonderful, fun reviews of YA books that I love to read.
  • Meghan from Medieval Bookworm--I always read and usually comment on her posts, even if the book is something that I would never read.  I just enjoy reading her reviews so much!
  • I Heart Monster--I heart her style of reviewing, which is really fun.  She's way more forgiving with books than I am, too. ;)
  • Evangelineh from Edwardian Promenade--Y'all know what a geek I am about the nineteenth century.  Evangelineh has great posts on the Edwardian Era (late 19th Cent.) that I always learn something from.
  • Nymeth from Things Mean a Lot--Things do mean a lot.  I love the title and look of this blog, and I love Nymeth's always-thoughtful posts and reviews.  
  • Ayce from At Home With Books--Alyce hosts one of my favorite memes, My Favorite Reads.  What could be more comforting that sharing your favorite reads from the past with other people?

let's be friends award

Colette, whose name I am always mispelling (sorry), and who writes the blog A Buckeye Girl Reads, gave me the Let's Be Friends Award.  This award is for...

Blogs that receive the Let’s Be Friends Award are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers.

What a great award!  Thank, you Colette!  You're the kewlest. ^_^  I am definitely passing this award back to you and to:
  • Rebecca from Lost in Books, of course!  As I mentioned before, she gave me my first blog award, is a very generous blogger, and encouraged me to start my first blogging challenge (to be revealed soon... ooooh!). 
  • Rebekkah from One Literature Nut--Becky is my official blogging buddy (I should make her a badge or something for that ~_^) and is a great and supportive blogger.  She's also really fun to chat with on twitter.
  • Ruth from Booktalk & More--Ruth and I share a love of Mystery!, Primeval, and The Slipper and the Rose.  I love reading her reviews and she's always adding books to my TBR pile.
  • Sarah from Monkey Bear Reviews!  Her blog is honestly one of my favorites, with really well-written posts all about books and publishing.  Plus we both disliked Don't Tempt Me. :D

kreativ blogger

Finally, this week I received the Kreativ Blogger Award from Sarah at Monkey Bear Reviews, Orannia at Walkabout, and Stacy from Stacy's Place On Earth.  Wow, thank you guys!  The Kreativ Rules state that:

Once you receive this award you are to list seven of your favorite things and then nominate seven other blogs.

Seven of my favorite things are:
  1. Reading in my backyard
  2. Cake (om nom nom nom nom)
  3. Playing with my my mom's dog
  4. Miso soup
  5. The smell of turpentine and ink (printing)
  6. Being sick so I can lay on the couch and watch movies all day without feeling lazy.
  7. The Colbert Report (uh, yeah, I was having trouble thinking of a seventh thing)
The seven blogs I would like to pass this award on to are:
  1. Vasilly from 1330v
  2. Robyn from This is me...
  3. Pam at Bookalicious (great title for a book blog, btw)
  4. Jessica from Racy Romance Reviews
  5. Violet from Violet Crush
  6. Drea at Book Blather
  7. And last but definitely not least, Mandi at Smexy Books!

Thank you for the awards, everyone.  It's so nice to know people enjoy reading what I type up in the wee hours of the morning.  I love talking about books, movies, and TV shows with you all.  The book blogging community is so amazingly generous and fun to be a part of, so thank you to everyone who visits my blog or who I chat with on twitter for being so welcoming.

If you haven't checked out any of these blogs yet (all 27 of them), I definitely recommend them!

Powered by ScribeFire.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...