Saturday, March 31, 2012

March 2012 Wrap-Up

Here's a summary of my book-related activity for March.

Books I read (linked to the reviews)

The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry (NetGalley)
Cinder by Marissa Meyer (review copy)
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (new(ish) book)
John Dies at the End by David Wong (TBR pile)

Books I bought

Leaning Into the Corner: On Becoming a Different
Kind of Woman by Shelley Whitney
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Books I've been approved for on NetGalley

Bandwidth by Angus Morrison

Progress on challenges

John Dies at the End was my March book for the Read Your OWN Library! Challenge. It was also my March Random Read.

I completed the following letters for the 2012 A-Z Book Challenge: J and W

I read 2 books for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

I read 0 books for the 2012 Anne Rice Challenge. You can still sign up!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Piling Up on Friday - March 30

Piling Up on Friday is a weekly meme from Finding Your Gibbee. All you have to do is list the books you've added to your to read shelf in the last week.

It's been a while since I've had anything to put in this meme! I was managing to not acquire any new books for most of March, up until this week...

I requested Bandwidth by Angus Morrison on NetGalley. It's those featured title emails that keep me from exercising any kind of restraint... without me even visiting the site, it tells me what the best books are! I can't resist that!

Leaning Into the Corner: On Becoming a Different Kind of Woman by Shelley Whitney is the memoir of a trans* woman, talking about her experience with sex reassignment surgery and other aspects of changing her gender in society. I ordered this e-book because a friend of mine (who I think knows the author) sent out a Facebook message to all her friends recommending it.

And last but certainly not least, Catching Fire and Mockingjay! I read The Hunger Games last weekend, and I couldn't wait to get the rest of the trilogy!! (Also: Publishers who keep books in hardcover only for a very long time because they're selling well and you'll make gajillions of dollars by ripping off people who desperately want the books but would normally buy paperback: you are jerks. There, I said it.)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publication Date:
Length: 387 pages

Cinder is a retelling of the classic Cinderella story; it took an old fairy tale and made it brilliant. Linh Cinder is a talented mechanic, and a cyborg. She lives in New Beijing, where a deadly plague runs rampant, and cyborgs are drafted to be used as test subjects in the search for a cure. At the same time, Lunars, the cruel race of people who live on the moon, constantly threaten the Earth with war. When Cinder meets Prince Kai at the marketplace, her life suddenly gets a lot more interesting.

First let's look at Cinder's family. I found it interesting that one of the stepsisters, Peony, is actually nice to Cinder. The other sister, and the stepmother, however, are just as you'd expect in a Cinderella tale, only worse. I swear, my heart rate would actually rise when I read scenes with Adri, Cinder's guardian. She was just so AWFUL. Like, painfully so.

I love how this book added so much more to the classic tale. The fact that Cinder is a cyborg in a society that treats cyborgs as sub-human, provide a great framework for Cinder's horrible mistreatment by her "family". The plague and the threat of war with the Lunars provides the opportunity for Kai to have some nice character development, taking him way beyond the nameless Prince Charming. But don't worry, he's still totally charming. :)

The one sub-plot that I found weird was the whole thing with the car. I guess it was supposed to be a kind of pumpkin coach metaphor? It just seemed weird to me that Cinder has all these important things to be doing, yet she still spends time trying to fix a car in hopes of escaping. I mean, I get that she wanted to escape, but seriously, can't you wait a little longer and deal with the immediate crisises first?! But in the end I was for the most part pleased with the decisions everyone made, so it's all good.

Speaking of the ending (don't worry, no spoilers!), oh my goodness why would you write this ending and then make me wait for the second book?! No fair. And the expected publication date of book 2, Scarlet, is 2013 (what month? That makes a big difference!). This is why I hate starting brand new series!! I have zero patience.

5 stars.

Full disclosure: Free copy received from the publisher.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

WWW Wednesday - March 28

WWW Wednesdays is a meme hosted by Should Be Reading. To participate, simply answer these questions three:

1. What are you currently reading?
2. What did you recently finish reading?
3. What do you think you'll read next?

1. I am currently reading John Dies at the End by David Wong.

2. I recently read Cinder by Marissa Meyers and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (just in time to see the movie! Yay!).

3. Books I'm planning to read soon include Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers, Xoc by Matt Dembicki, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Mount TBR Challenge Checkpoint

It's time for the first Mount TBR Reading Challenge checkpoint! I'm almost embarassed to share my progress so far, because there hasn't been a whole lot of it. I set out to climb Mount Ararat, which means I plan to read 40 books from my TBR pile in 2012. So, ideally, I would be at about 10 by now. Alas...

  1. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  2. The Grimoire Chronicles: Veil Between Worlds by Sally Dubats
  3. The Hollow Tree by Janet Lunn
  4. Stolen by Kelley Armstrong
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  6. John Dies at the End by David Wong (in progress)
I'm at almost 6. I've been reading so many library books, NetGalleys, and new books! I don't know how this happened! So I guess it's a good thing we have these checkpoints, because this is a good reminder that I need to step it up a notch. Onward and upward! Make for the summit!

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice

Title: The Queen of the Damned
Author: Anne Rice
Narrator: Frank Muller
Publication Date: 1988 (audiobook: 1994)
Length: approx. 23 hours and 45 minutes (audiobook)

I've read this book once before, but this was my first time listening to the audiobook. Something to note about that is that I don't seem to have overall very positive feelings about this whole audiobook thing. Sometimes I like it but often I really don't, and it makes me take forever to get through a book, as you may have noticed. So I fear that that might be impacting my reviews of these books, since I've been rating them lower this time than when I originally read the books.

The Queen of the Damned more or less picks up where The Vampire Lestat left off, with a little overlap, but like the first two books a good chunk of it is stories being told about the past. The overarching story is that people all over the world, both mortals and vampires, are having mysterious dreams about a pair of red-haired twins, who eat a heart and a brain and then are viciously attacked, one having her tongue cut out, and the other having her eyes plucked out. Meanwhile, Lestat has his rock concert, waking up the ancient vampire Akasha, who goes on a murderous rampage trying to "save" the world. These two threads intertwine to bring together a group of vampires, ranging from the oldest vampires in existence to ones only just made immortal.

I definitely preferred The Queen of the Damned over The Vampire Lestat. There were still lots of philosophical discussions, but they were of the "Men are nothing but trouble so why don't we just kill them all? Well, that's a good point, but it's still wrong." type rather than the "I'm so evil! But what IS evil?" type that made me want to punch Lestat during his autobiography. This book also has more of a variety of stories in it. You get a bit of background from a whole bunch of characters. I LOVE all the parts about the twins. I think their story is just so interesting, and of course I love the whole Great Family thing (I am a genealogist, after all).

This is slightly off-topic, but I actually love the Queen of the Damned movie. I know, it's blasphemous! It does not even remotely follow the book. Rereading the book, I realised I'd forgotten just how much it does not follow the book. But it's an entertaining movie, Aaliyah is amazing as Akasha, and the soundtrack rocks. Just don't watch it expecting to see Anne Rice's vision. :)

The audiobook was narrated by Frank Muller, just like the last two, so see my review of Interview With the Vampire for more about how awesome he is.

4 stars.

This book counts for the 2012 A-Z Book Challenge and the 2012 Anne Rice Challenge.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry

Title: The Whipping Club
Author: Deborah Henry
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
Length: 334 pages

The main character in the Whipping Club, Marian, is a Catholic woman in 1950s Ireland, who gets pregnant before she's married. Her uncle, a priest, convinces her to go to a home where she will carry the baby to term in secrecy, give birth, and give the child away for adoption, hopefully to a nice American home. She agrees to this, even though she's engaged to the Jewish man who impregnated her. After this horrific time in her life, she marries Ben, they have another child, and life goes on, but she never gets over the pain of losing her son, Adrian. When it comes to light that he was not sent to America because he was half-Jewish, and was instead sent to an orphanage in Ireland, Marian and Ben try to get back custody of Adrian. Much pain and suffering ensues.

I really wanted to like this book. It sounded so good, and the reviews I read of it were stellar. Everyone talked about how powerful the story is, and how moving. So, I'm not going to say objectively that this is a bad book, because obviously a lot of people loved it. But I did not like this book.

Through pretty much the whole thing, I had no clue where the plot was going. It meanders about, changing points of view, having the occasional flashback (with no change in voice or anything to let you know that you're now reading about the past). You don't actually see the "whipping club" until approximately 2/3 of the way through the book. I assumed the orphanage was the whipping club, but nope. Just a huge pile of lead up to the actual plot. And some of the points of view didn't really seem to add a whole lot to the story. Take Nurse, for example. First of all, I feel like I don't know this character at all, despite the fact that she does a decent amount of narrating. She might be mentally ill, or maybe just disturbed from working in a horrible orphanage. Some of the things she says and does make no sense, but not even really in a consistent way, and while her story is interesting, it's not really fleshed out, so it's pretty much just a tangent.

As for the horrific subject matter: I already knew that there was abuse in Catholic orphanages. So just telling me that doesn't really impress me. I didn't feel like there was much oomph put into it. Just telling me that a boy has a swollen face from being beaten doesn't make me feel anything more than I would just reading an article on the subject. So I don't really know where people are getting this impression that the book is hard to read because of how powerful it is.

The writing is all right. Like I said, my main complaint was the lack of signal that we're changing times of points of view, which made reading confusing at times. But there's also the occasional line that makes me groan. I kid you not, an angry man was described as being "filled with poisonous venom". Umm, ok. By definition, a poison is something you ingest, and a venom is something that's injected into you, often by a bite. Venom cannot be poisonous. I know this is, like, metaphorical and stuff, but still. Even if venom and poison were the same thing, this phrase would be redundant, so I still wouldn't like it.

1 star. Obviously, judging by other reviews, your mileage may vary.

Full disclosure: Free e-book copy received from the publisher through NetGalley.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

I'm finally caught up!

Not on my TBR pile, obviously. :) But on my reviews and Google Reader!

So here's what happened. I read a book, and it took me like 2 weeks. Which book? It's a secret! (Unless you look at my Goodreads profile, in which case it will be obvious.) You'll find out when the review goes up tomorrow morning. Anywho, I did not enjoy this book. Hence the 2 weeks. I read slower when I don't like what I'm reading, which is a very unfortunate pattern. I also felt uninspired, so I didn't write anything else on the blog, and for whatever reason I also ignored Google Reader.

But I finished the book! And, I reviewed the previous book I'd read, Stolen, as well as the book I didn't like. AND, I got caught up on Google Reader! So, I can now return to my normal schedule of reading books, reviewing them, posting other stuff, and actually reading other people's blog posts and commenting on them. Yay!

Sneak preview: I'm now reading Cinder, and really liking it so far!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stolen by Kelley Armstrong

Title: Stolen
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Publication Date: 2002
Length: 557 pages

Note: This book is the second in the series and so probably contains some spoilers from the first book, Bitten. You have been warned!

Stolen is the second book in the Women of the Otherworld series, and, like the first one, is narrated by Elena, the only known female werewolf. She has grown to accept her werewolf nature, and her love for Clay, and now lives with the Pack. (Yay!) Being back on duty as the werewolf responsible for keeping an eye on mutts and other risks of exposure, she meets up with a woman who claims to have proof of the existence of werewolves. Before she knows it, Elena has learned the hard way that werewolves aren't the only supernatural creatures around: witches, vampires, and half-demons all exist, and all their races are under attack from what seems to be a disturbing scientific experiment backed by military-type guards.

I waited too long after reading this book to write the review, so I'm already having trouble telling you exactly what I liked about it, but seriously, this book is SO GOOD. If you liked the first book, you will like the second book, because it shares the same narrator, most of the same characters, and of course Kelley Armstrong's flawless writing.

Think season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Actually, Elena even makes a reference to that, which made me squee with inter-series joy. Supernatural beings are being kidnapped and studied in an environment I found very disturbing for its combination of friendly "we want you to be comfortable while you're our guest" type behaviour and total disregard for the basic rights of the people imprisoned there. There's lots of wondering who can be trusted, and several delightfully shocking twists (though I totally figured one out before Elena; haha I'm so smart!).

Some of the new characters annoyed me, especially Paige, though she grew on me after a while. The characters that I already knew from the first book were just as awesome. Clay is still just as sexy, even though he's not my type at all, and I don't even usually like Southern accents. (Side note: I think it's so funny how everyone lists Clay in lists of sexy alpha males, when Clay is quite literally not the alpha male; he's a beta male. But maybe I'm thinking too literally. :P ) I also love Jeremy, and I really wish he had bigger roles; maybe in a later book!

5 stars, and I'm pretty sure Kelley Armstrong could publish her shopping lists and I would love them.

This book counts towards the Read Your OWN Library! Challenge (hosted by The Beauty of Eclecticism) for February (it took me awhile to get around to reviewing!). For March, my book for the challenge will be John Dies at the End by David Wong. This book also counts for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Read-a-thon is coming!!

The next Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon has been scheduled for April 21, 2012!!!

I'm so excited! There's so much planning to do! Food to prepare! Books to pile up!

The last read-a-thon, in October 2011, was my first one. I didn't even have a book blog yet at the time, so I participated on my genealogy blog. I stayed up for the whole 24 hours, read 7 whole books, and participated in 4 mini-challenges.

Speaking of challenges, I'm thinking of hosting a mini-challenge this year. I don't really understand the whole process with hosting mini-challenges and giving away prizes... can I just host a challenge and then send out the prize myself, I wonder?

Let me know if you'll be participating in the read-a-thon so I can keep an eye on your blog and cheer you on! I don't really spend much time on Twitter or anything since I prefer to read pretty much non-stop, but I do pick out blogs to follow beforehand, and I keep a browser open with a tab for each one so I can easily check on them each time I take a break to give my blogging updates.

Now, on a totally separate topic: I'm sorry I haven't been around so much! I'm reading a book right now which I am not enjoying, and it has been taking me forever, and keeping me from doing any blogging because I'm just not feeling inspired. I know I should have given up, but by the time I realised how little I was liking the book I was more than halfway through so I HAD to finish! Anywho, hopefully I'll be done tonight and then things will get back to normal. :) So bear with me!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

RCC Challenge: Cuddle Up With a Book

Whoops, almost missed this one! I'm a bit behind on both my blogging and my Google Reader reading! Sorry, things have been a bit hectic lately, but I'm still here!

The purpose of this challenge is to share our favourite reading spots. I have two. First, my bed! Most of my reading is done at bed time. I go to bed, and then read for often an hour or more before going to sleep. Meaning I usually go to bed at a good time but still don't get nearly enough sleep. :)
My bed!
I also often read in my chair in the living room. This is where I spend most of the read-a-thons! An important feature of this spot is that blanket there, which is soooo comfy! It's one of those ones they've had on sale at Chapters, where you get it for $30 if you buy $50 worth of books (come on, gimme a challenge, Chapters!). The picture's not great; the only light in the living room is that lamp beside the chair, and I took this picture in the evening, so all the light's behind the chair.
My chair!
Where do you like to read?

Friday, March 2, 2012

RCC Challenge: Show Off Your Pile!

It's time for the first challenge in the March 2012 Review Copy Cleanup! All you have to do is show off your pile of review copies that you plan to read this month.

I don't have too many, so I'm hopeful that I'll get through them all this month! I've only got one other book planned for March, so most of my time will be devoted to these.

I've already started The Whipping Club. That and Cinder are my priorities, since they've already been published! I try to get review copies read and reviewed before the publishing date (though in my defense, Cinder had already been published when I got it in the mail). Wish me luck getting through my pile! :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Random Reads selection

It's time to select my Random Read for March! Yay! Last month, my Random Read was The Hollow Tree by Janet Lunn, and I did read it in February, so I'm succeeding in this challenge so far!

So it's off to the random number generator. I have 668 books on my TBR shelf at the moment (up from last month thanks to a huge shopping spree at the Children's Hospital Book Sale!), so I enter 1 as the min and 668 as the max, and hit Generate.

Drum roll, please!

It took me a couple tries to get one that wasn't in the middle of a series. I kept getting Goosebumps and Fear Street books, which make up a pretty big chunk of my TBR shelf, but which I'm planning on reading in order at some point in the future. Then, finally, I got:

For March's Random Read I'll be reading John Dies at the End by David Wong. It's been on my TBR shelf on Goodreads since February 2011, so not too long, relatively speaking. It's one of those books I just picked up randomly because it looked interesting, and then never got around to. Time to give it a shot! I'm also going to double this one up as March's Read Your OWN Library! Challenge book, because I'm doing the Review Copy Cleanup this month, and will therefore be short on reading time for old books.