Friday, November 30, 2012

November 2012 Wrap-Up

Here's a summary of my book-related activity for November. You'd think I'd have bought less books, seeing as how I'm unemployed at the moment, but nope. I had gift cards.

Books I read (linked to the reviews)

Uglies: Shay's Story by Scott Westerfeld (library book)
Rick & Wylie's Fantastical, Magical Adventures by Andi Katsina (review copy) (DNF)
The Andalite's Gift (Megamorphs #1) by K.A. Applegate (TBR pile)
Cat or Dog for President by Julia Dweck (review copy)
We're All Different but We're All Kitty Cats: First Day of School by Peter J. Goodman (review copy)
Skin Again by bell hooks (library book)
The Mine by John A. Heldt (review copy)
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (library book)
"Who Could That Be at This Hour?" by Lemony Snicket (new book)
Twelve Months by Steven Manchester (review copy)
S is for Space by Ray Bradbury (TBR pile)
Shifted Perspective by J. Bridger (review copy)

Books I bought

Ash by Malinda Lo
This is Not a Test
by Courtney Summers
The Knife of Never
Letting Go
by Patrick Ness
The Iron King by
Julie Kagawa

Serenity: Those Left Behind
by Joss Whedon
"Who Could That Be at This
Hour?" by Lemony Snicket

For the Win by
Cory Doctorow
The Magicians by
Lev Grossman

Books I've been approved for on NetGalley

The Uninvited
by Liz Jensen

Other e-books I received for review

North Pole High: A Rebel
Without a Clause by
Candace Jane Kringle

Cat or Dog for President
by Julia Dweck
The Tree With No Branches
by Johnny Knew

The Journey by John A. Heldt
Bright Star
by Nickie Anderson
The Living Room
by Bill Rolfe

Shadows of Kings
by Jack Whitsel

Progress on challenges

Dime Store Magic was supposed to be my November book for the Read Your OWN Library! Challenge, but I didn't get to it! This is the first time in the year I've been doing this challenge that I've failed to read the book I'd planned! :( I did read some other older books though, so I could have done it if I'd just chosen a different book.

S is for Space was my November Random Read.

I completed the following letters for the 2012 A-Z Book Challenge: U

I read 2 books for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

I read 0 books for the 2012 Anne Rice Challenge.

Operation: TBR Reduction: I added 16 books to my to read list and removed 12 (the ones I read, plus 3 NetGalleys that had expired), so my pile increased by 4 this month.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

2012 Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

It is once again time for the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge! This year I only have one Christmasy book to read (and I have way too much to read to be able to get others from the library!), so I'll be participating at a lower level than last year.

So, I hereby sign up for the challenge at the level of Candy Cane (read 1 book), and also Fa La La La Films (watch Christmas movies).

I'll post the Christmas books I read and Christmas movies I watch below.

Books read:
North Pole High: Rebel Without a Claus by Candace Jane Kringle
Krampus: The Yule Lord by Brom

Movies watched:
Home Alone

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Animorphs #6 - The Capture by K.A. Applegate

Title: The Capture (Animorphs #6)
Author: K.A. Applegate
Publication Date: February 1997
Length: 154 pages

When the Animorphs discover a Yeerk plot being run out of a local hospital, they make a plan to get in there and destroy a Yeerk pool. But, as always, something goes wrong, and while the plan overall goes pretty well, Jake comes out of it with a Yeerk in his head!

A lot of the rest of the book is just Jake listening to the Yeerk in his head, while the other Animorphs guard him in an attempt to starve out the Yeerk. Since this one is told from Jake's perspective, it gives a really interesting insight into the Yeerks. This is the first time we've seen anything from the perspective of a Controller.

This is my favourite of the Animorphs books so far. It's fast-paced, suspenseful, and has more Star Trek references than I've seen so far in the series. :-)

5 stars!

This book counts towards the Read Your OWN Library! Challenge (hosted by The Beauty of Eclecticism) for October. For November, my book for the challenge will be Dime Store Magic by Kelley Armstrong. This book also counts for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

We're All Different But We're All Kitty Cats: First Day of School

Title: We're All Different But We're All Kitty Cats: First Day of School
Author: Peter J. Goodman
Publication Date: July 1, 2012
Length: 52 pages

When Carlos goes to school for the first time, the other kitty cats laugh at him because he has no fur. After school, a couple of other kitties stand up for him against the school bully, but Carlos still cries when he gets home from school. His mom comforts him, telling him that he's special, and soon his classmates also realise that Carlos is special.

The first thing I noticed about this book was the illustrations. I absolutely love the art. It's so different from what I've seen in other children's books. One thing I really like about it is how it almost seems 3D. The way the picture focuses on one character, with everything else appearing to be further back, is really cool.

This book has a great message. I think it would be a good book for any kid that's been bullied, but I also think it would be good for kids who are the bullies. At that age, I like to think that it's not too late, and a bad kid could still become a good person. This story would put that kid in the position of the outcast, and could teach a good lesson in empathy.

This book is definitely going into my bin of books for my one-day child, along with my Dr. Seuss and Berenstain Bears books.

5 stars!

Full disclosure: Free copy received from the publisher.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cat or Dog for President by Julia Dweck

Title: Cat or Dog for President
Author: Julia Dweck
Publication Date: October 29, 2012
Length: 17 pages

Cat or Dog for President is a children's story, told from the point of view of a kid who wonders who would win if their dog and cat ran for president. We see the various qualities of each of them, and how they would run their campaigns. Even when they fight a little dirty, they're a lot better than real life politicians!

I don't know if it's intended, or if this is just me, but I definitely felt like the dog was the Democrat and the cat was the Republican. While the cat was setting traps to catch rats and stop crime, the dog was making sure everyone got treats. (I'm a left-wing dog lover, so that may have coloured my reading!)

I think this story would be great for any little kid (especially American ones, obviously). It's a cute story that can be understood even by kids too young to understand the real election. And it has a nicer message than the real election, too: that things will be best if we all get along and work together!

Also, the illustrations, done by Bill Bruning, are great. The pictures are bright and colourful, with lots going on. The cat and dog are cartoonish, with large features, and really jump off the page.

4 stars.

Full disclosure: Free copy received from the author.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Hermitage House Miracle by Malcolm Ater

Title: The Hermitage House Miracle
Author: Malcolm Ater
Publication Date: May 26, 2012
Length: 178 pages

The story begins with Jamie trying to convince his mother not to go out, because she's too drunk to drive. She says strange things, like how she's given 6 years of his life to him (he's 12), and then she leaves. She dies in an accident, and Jamie is sent to an orphanage called Hermitage House. Once there, he starts to have dreams, about a small boy with a mother and father, and a dog. He feels like he is the little boy, but the mother in the dream is not the mother he knew, and he never knew his father.

The Hermitage House Miracle has fantastical aspects, but it's not a fantasy. It's delightful to read, because it's like it takes place in a slightly more magical version of the real world.

As the story unfolded, and Jamie learned more through his dreams (and a magical arcade game) about the little boy and his dog, I was hooked. The mystery really sucked me in and I was completely invested in Jamie and how things would turn out for him.

And the end totally made me cry. That earns a book points from me. :)

My only complaint is that there's a bit of shifting perspective going on that could have used some polishing. The perspective sometimes changes within a paragraph, which can disrupt the flow at times.

4 stars.

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

Thursday, November 8, 2012


This post will contain mostly personal stuff and not a lot of stuff really relevant to the blog. Feel free to skip it if that doesn't appeal to you. I'll have another review posted tomorrow morning! :)

So, last Thursday was the first blogiversary of The Towering Pile! I meant to celebrate. I really did. As I've mentioned, I've been suffering some writer's block for the last month or two, though I feel that's finally coming to an end. As a result, on my blogiversary, I didn't have anything written, and was planning to write something on my lunch break, just a quick post, maybe giving some stats from my first year of blogging. Well, that day I got laid off from my job. So needless to say I was a bit thrown off.

Sidenote: It would probably seem silly to a non-blogger (but you all understand, right?), but getting laid off on my blogiversary felt a lot like getting laid off on my birthday or something. Like, somehow worse than if it were just a normal day. I guess that shows what a big part of my life this blog has become!

Anywho, so that's my excuse for not celebrating. Maybe around year end I'll celebrate my first full year of blogging, instead. :) But I wanted to post this update just because it felt wrong to let it go by unrecognised. The past year has been awesome. I've discovered so many great books (which, by the way, totally goes against this blog's purpose, which is getting through Mount TBR), read so many great blogs, and had a tonne of fun participating in read-a-thons, challenges, etc. This blog's not popular, but that just means I'm more aware of those of you who do follow me, and every time you comment on one of my posts, it really makes my day. So thank you! You all basically rock!

Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite by Lianne Simon

Title: Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite
Author: Lianne Simon
Publication Date: September 18, 2012
Length: 234 pages

Confessions of a Teenage Hermaphrodite is the story of an intersex person named Jamie (Jameson), whose parents didn't get her gender right. When she was young, a doctor told her parents she should have been raised a boy, so that's what her parents tried to do. But Jamie was just pretending to be a boy, knowing all along that she was a girl (or, as she says, an elfin princess).

The story takes place in the 60s, which was actually the one thing I didn't like about it. I feel like setting it in the 60s makes it too easy to think this story couldn't happen now. All the characters are extremely sexist and homophobic, because it's the 60s, so someone reading this might think that nowadays things aren't so bad, when in reality there are still many obstacles for intersex children, including parents who refuse to respect the child's gender identity. I'm sure the author knows this is still a problem; I just worry that readers might not. So I feel like setting it in the present would have given the story a bit more power.

That being said, this is one powerful story. I spent half the time I was reading it in tears. Mostly angry tears. Jamie's father, in particular, made me really mad. Every time he broke Jamie's heart by being disappointed with her, I just wanted to slap him. He actually gives Jamie a list of "things boys do", saying that once she's done the things on the list, if she still thinks she's a girl, he'll consider bringing her to see another doctor.

Thankfully, Jamie also encounters supportive, accepting people, who encourage her to embrace her true gender rather than trying to please her parents. (Sidenote: I don't know if this is just how people were in the 60s, but Jamie cares WAY too much about what her parents think. If they were my parents, I would have been long gone.)

I'm not sure I've done it justice, but trust me when I say that you should read this book. It's a moving, powerful story, and you might just learn a thing or two while you're reading it.

4 stars.

Full disclosure: Free copy received from the author.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November Random Reads selection

It's time to select my Random Read for November! Last month, my Random Read was The Art of Egypt: The Time of the Pharaohs.

So it's off to the random number generator. I have 746 books on my TBR shelf at the moment, so I enter 1 as the min and 746 as the max, and hit Generate.

Drum roll, please!

For November’s Random Read I'll be reading S Is For Space by Ray Bradbury. It's been on my TBR shelf since June 2009, which is while I was still adding my collection to Goodreads, so it's probably been in my pile for much longer. (Side note: A huge number of my books were added to Goodreads in May and June 2009, and those are currently a priority of mine. I'm hoping to have read them all in 5 years. That sounds really far away but it's actually a fairly aggressive goal! I spend too much time making reading goals...)