Friday, March 30, 2012

Follow Friday - Multiple Books?

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: Do you read one book at a time or do you switch back and forth between two or more?
Multiple books.  I always have an audiobook and another book going at the same time.  Sometimes when the genres are different enough I have an audiobook, e-book and hardback going at the same time.  And that's not even counting my nonfiction books.

Keys to reading multiple books
  1. Different genres
  2. Different POVs or distinct voices
  3. No characters with similar names
  4. Different settings
That means I can read a contemporary book, say Melina Marchetta's Saving Francesca for example, and Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan at the same time.  There is no way I'm going to confuse Marchetta's character driven prose with Leviathan's steampunk storyline.  However, I wouldn't read Going Bovine by Libba Bray and The Fault in Your Stars by John Green at the same time.  Sick kids and funny sense of humor, too easy to confuse.  Do you see how that works?  If you have any other advice for reading multiple books PLEASE share. I find that I want to read ALL THE BOOKs, time be darned.

Sometimes I'll also stop reading one book when something I want to read more is released.  It's not fair to be reading one book when I really want to read another.  It's like lusting, but with books.  Date the book you really want to date not the book that's convenient.  When that's over with you can spend time with the other book.

Currently I am reading:

Letter To My Daughter by Maya Angelou
Very short book with true stories from Angelou's life.
Poignant and touching.

The Academie by Susanne Dunlap

Alternative history where Eliza Monroe goes to school in
Paris with Napoleon's sister and stepdaughter.

HTML & CSS: Design and Build Website
Trying to refresh some of what I learned in college. 
Very easy to use & graphically pleasing book

Writing Great Books for Young Adults
I'm only semi-reading this.  I got mad at it awhile ago.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sisters of Glass (review)

3/5 stars

Sisters of Glass was an impulse request over at Netgalley.  The cover is beautiful and whimsical.  That combined with the fact it's set in Venice, one of my favorite places, convinced me to request a book that did not sound like me.  After seeing a couple of low reviews I felt even more duped.

However, even though Sisters of Glass is not a great book it was a pleasant read.  It felt more like a novella in length.  It was written in verse but the verse didn't really feel like poetry.  It felt like quite lovely prose with unnecessary line breaks.  Also I wasn't sure why the book was written in verse.  (Part of me suspects this is a ploy to make it seem longer but I am a conspiracy theorist).

But the writing was quite pretty and artistic.
For the past several months
I have been treated
more delicately
than the Doge's chandelier
I cannot go near
the furnace lest my skin
be burnt or browned.
It's a story of two sisters, the eldest and the youngest, who's lives are disrupted by their father's unconventional will.  He bestows the rights of the eldest daughter, a large dowry and marriage to a senator, on his younger daughter.  It creates a rift between the sisters.  When their father passes away his wishes become unchangeable in the form of a legal will.

Even though there's some sisterly competition and pettiness, eventually the sisters united and work towards a common goal.  That made me happy because I get frustrated with all the girl-on-girl hatred that you see in books, television and movies.

The climax is rather anti-climatic.  There's a dilemma! Anger! Then a very simple and easy solution which makes everybody happy.  Don't you wish real life was like that? The book is fairly predictable and simple love story.  The book felt unnecessary, but it was sweet and harmless.  If you're looking for a simple story with a happy ending and really like books in verse, it's worth giving a chance.  I expect there are some people who will really like this book.

When I was in Switzerland volunteering at Our Chalet (A Girl Scout/Girl Guide World Center). I took 4 days off to go to Venice (by myself).  I really enjoyed the Venice references in this book.  My biggest regret is not making it to the island of Murano, but since I was only in Venice for 2 days (traveling for the other 2) there just wasn't time.  Here are few of pictures from Venice.

This is me in Venice.

Doge's Palace

An artist working with glass

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Final Four

3.5/5 stars

This year The Final Four is my March Madness book.  It's a tradition that I started last year (shush that's long enough to be a tradition) because I couldn't get enough basketball during March and decided to read Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Pena.  I loved the book and it pushed me to read more sports-centric YA.

The Final Four is an enjoyable fast-pace quick read.  It's not as brilliant as Ball Don't Lie (which for the record is on my favorite list) but it was a fun read.  It's a book about a basketball game, but not just about the game but all the stories leading up to the game.

With friends (okay mainly one friend and my dad...) I talk a lot about the narrative of sports.  I truly love sports, not because I'm particularly athletic but I love the stories.  For every game played on television, every player has a story of how they arrived at that place.  Competitive sports can be tough and cut throat, but their also empowering and unifying.  The Final Four explored the narrative of one game, a team from a traditional powerhouse basketball school (Michigan State University) and the little school that could (think Butler or VCU last year.  If you don't watch basketball think small college down the street) facing off in the final four.

Something I liked about this story is that nobody was the bad guy.  Malcolm, Mr. One-And-Done (meaning one year of college then the NBA draft), was not particularly likable.  But the book delved into his story, exploring why he was a bad teammate and selfish player.  This book was not a Big Bad School versus Tiny Good Guy School.  It was two teams, both with their own backstory, playing a basketball game.

As someone who roots for one of the big basketball programs (University of Kentucky, Go Big Blue!!) I've often seen fans, writers and random observers make the big school the "bad guy".  But that's not really an accurate portrayal.  Sometimes One-And-Done players have a very heartbreaking story and basketball is their only way out of poverty (supposedly Eric Bledsoe's family lived in a car) and sometimes big schools have the surprise player come out of mediocrity at just the right time (read about Josh Harrellson).

The point is most every basketball team has a story.  It's fun to root for the underdog, just don't make the big school the bad guy.  (Unless it's Duke, but only because they made me cry when I was six).

I like the fact this book explored both teams and various stories, everything from future NBA stars to seniors planning to do something else after basketball.  Because basketball is the combination of all these stories, and this one moment where 10,000 things are happening on court, plus a ball occasionally flying at your head.

Where this story lost points with me was the believability.  If you didn't pick up from my ramble above, I watch a lot of basketball.  Mainly I watch the SEC, but sometimes I find myself watching a game that I don't even care about just because it's basketball.  March is pretty much all basketball all the time.  So I know how games are shown on TV and I know what announcers say (unfortunately).

This story was told in different POVs--the color commentators, the players experiences leading up to the game, the radio announcers and some one-on-one interviews that they showed during the game.  If you've ever watched basketball you'll probably be like "one-on-one interviews???!?!" because that's something that's just not done, at least not during the game (pre or post game).  During the game, especially a final four game, time equals money.  Every spare second is sold to the highest buyer for advertising purposes.  They would never break away from the action or heaven forbid advertising to show pre-taped interviews with the players.  They do stuff like that during the Olympics, or during slower sports, but not during basketball.

Yes I know I sound picky.  But I read this book because I am a basketball fan.  I can't be the only sports fan reading this book!  I understand what they were using the interview portions to explore. However I just cannot suspend my disbelief that the NCAA (who the book happily criticizes for greed) would squander valuable advertising time on heart-tugging one-on-ones.

I also felt the story was a little clunky and obvious with the Trojans versus Spartans metaphor, especially the Hope of Troy sections.  But the book was fun and fast-paced.  It's a good March Madness read.  Non-sport fan readers probably won't mind the interviews and won't get caught up on believability issues.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Follow Friday - Fave 600+ word book

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: What is the longest book you've read? What are your favorite 600+ page reads?
I don't keep up with page count very often.  I read the books I want to read regardless of length.  Mostly I read young adult, which is normally shorter (though there are plenty of exceptions).

Probably the longest book I've read is Gone With the Wind.  Which despite not normally being a romance reader I absolutely love.  There's the excellent backdrop of the civil war, Scarlett O'Hara's Irish sensibility about land (which I relate to, being Appalachian and partially Irish) but mostly there is Rhett Butler (and thankfully Clark Gable as Rhett Butler).  Clark Gable is my old Hollywood crush.  Gone with the Wind is a romance, but it's not a happy story or a contrived story.  It's one of the few books that pulls off an unlikable main character.  There are times that I hate Scarlett.  But you have to admire her courage and savvy, especially considering the time period she lived it.  (But you don't have to like her using men or motherhood skills)

Because one Clark Cable picture isn't enough

Another long book favorite is East of Eden.  I can't pretend to remember it very well because it's been years since I've read it.  But mainly I remember thinking it was brilliant and thought provoking.  It delved into whether you can choose to be good or whether someone can be born evil.   It also gave us, in my opinion, James Deans best performance. This is a must read and must see combo.

Unnecessary but don't pretend you aren't happy it's included.

I've read some other long books.  Harry Potter, which I love, comes to mind.  Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell also pops into mind.  It took me two tries to read that book.  Even though I found the world building fascinating, the actual reading felt tedious to me.  I studied journalism in college so I often find myself frustrated with unnecessary words.  Sometimes it feels like a book overstays its welcome, length-wise and I find myself looking for a red pen.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Anna and the French Kiss (review)

3/5 stars
Anna and the French Kiss is not a bad book.  Loads of people like it and there plenty of people that I can recommend it to.  But I'm just too jaded (or something) for a book this sugary. Loving a romance book is a very rare thing thing for me.

This book felt too repetitive and a little contrived.  It's exactly like a romantic comedy, only in book form.  It cycled through Anna liking St. Clair, her having the epiphany that he likes her, he really likes her, then awkward passive aggressiveness, rinse and repeat.  It happened at least three, maybe four times.

I couldn't deal with the repetitiveness.  She'd already realized St. Clair liked her, like a grand epiphany, then she keeps realizing it again and again. How many times can she be surprised to learn that?

But Anna is relatable.  When she talks about old movies I could've been best friends with her in high school.  The book mentions one of my favorite movies, It Happened One Night. But Anna cries way too much, whined about her parents (who weren't that bad) and complained about being sent to Paris. PARIS!!!! I would've given ANYTHING for that experience in high school. Heck send me now!

St. Clair was charming, short (a plus as a fellow shortie), British and intelligent.  I loved his passion for history.  But his indecisiveness drove me crazy.  There's only so much I can forgive for the sake of a British accent before wanting to yell at him.  I liked him well enough, but I think I'll like him more when he quits letting his father emasculate him all the time.

But I will admit that this book is sweet, the characters are likable and The School of America, Paris is an excellent backdrop for a YA novel.  For me it's a tolerable romance, which means for others it will be excellent.  For those romantically inclined, this book is great. For a tomboy like me? Probably not.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Follow Friday - The best & worst books (this month)

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.

Question: What is the best book you've read in the last month? What is the worst book you've read in the last month? 

The best book that I've read in the last month is actually 3 books...a series!  It's official folks, I absolutely LOVE the Ruby Oliver books. I've listened to all three on audiobook.  Today when the 3rd one ended I was completely disappointed because I wasn't ready to stop hanging out with Ruby.

I love all Ruby's neurotics about boys and navigating the treacherous world of girl friendships. She's smart, funny and PERFECT to listen to when driving.  The books are kinda fluffy, but kinda deep because the friendship issues addressed are really spot on.  Also I have to say I love Ruby's parents.  In YA parents are either absentee or the bad guys. But Ruby's, though a little crazy themselves, are so lovable and loving.

The worst book I read was The Uninvited, also on audiobook.  I actually did not finish it, only the 2nd DNF of my life.  It was offensive, creepy and had sibling lust (even if they didn't know they were siblings!) that I could just not handle any longer.  I fully plan to review this book soon.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Street Dreams (review)

3.5/5 stars

Rating Street Dreams is giving me fits.  It's not a bad book.  It's an fairly ambitious book with flaws, but a book that's heart is in the right place.

I'm honestly not sure how I ended up requesting this book from Netgalley.  The story is centered around a boy who is struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality.  It's not that I have an issue with that, but I don't typically read issue books or any kind of romance. So it's like a double whammy of not my normal.

But this book made me think.  It showed the life of a young Maori in New Zealand trying not just to deal with homosexuality, but how that conflicts with his cultural identity.  He's into the hip-hop culture, both music and graffiti, but when he looks around he wonders if there's anybody else like him, both brown and gay (his word).  His struggles with his limited options (such as crushing on straight people) was pretty eye opening because it's something so far out of my own experience.

This book had a slight "everything and the kitchen sink" plot problem where they kept throwing a crapload of trouble at the main character. To me it seemed a little bit too much and broke the realism the author was trying to achieve.  At times the writing was a bit awkward.  The author also spent way too much time deep in Tyson heads, where he struggled with his problems.  Tyson hit a few of my pet peeves such as crying a lot (crying main characters drive me a little nuts) and basing too much of his happiness on a guy.

But this book tried really hard and it's heart was always in the right place.  I'm glad that I read it.  I think other people will also find it interesting.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Books to movies: Why so stuck on appearances?

Recently I was hanging out on Tumblr (I am an expert at wasting time online) looking through Hunger Game gifs.  I kept seeing pictures of Josh Hutcherson with his natural dark hair, then pictures of him with his blonde hair.  Honestly, the brunette suits him.

Then I started thinking. Why in the world does his hair color matter?  Then I started feeling guilty and little bit shallow.  When I tried to mentally cast Peeta I kept looking for blue eyed, blonde haired boys.  I was stuck on the books description of his physical appearance, not the description of his personality.

Why do looks matter so much to us as readers?  Of course when we read a boy like Peeta Mellark we translate the description into whatever we find most of attractive.  Then we get mad when the casting does not live up to our impossibly high standards. Shouldn't the acting ability and the audition matter more than the physical features?  Does Peeta's beautiful blonde hair have any relevance to the plot?  No. Even though it's  not the "seam" look, his blonde hair is just that, hair.  It shouldn't matter when compared to his charisma and wit.

Us readers like to think that the follies of caring about physical appearance belong more to the TV and movie watchers.  But whenever a book becomes a movie, fans are up in arms over the casting decisions, normally based on physical appearance alone (because it's not like we've seen the auditions).  This is not me trying to be preachy, more a confession.  Its something I just realized I was guilty of.

I'm honestly not complaining about how he looks as Peeta.

He's a good looking kid both blonde and brunette.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Follow Friday - Misleading (bad) covers

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Have you ever looked at a book's cover and thought, This is going to be horrible? But was instead pleasantly surprised? Show us the cover and tell us about the book.
Raging Quiet is one of the most horrible juvenile covers I've ever seen.  The hideous piece of art is hiding one of my favorite books that I read last year.  It's a sweet and thoughtful story that I recommend to everyone. Here is my Raging Quiet Review.

There are also books that occasionally have an acceptable cover and then also a bad cover. Take Dairy Queen for example (a lovely series, highly recommended)


The first version of Dairy Queen (thank goodness not the one at my library) is horrible.  She's wearing a cow print tanktop and grinning at nothing.  The picture tells you nothing about the book. The second cover is cute, cheeky and befitting the story.  DJ is a tomboy farm girl who worries that she's just going through the motions of life, kind of like a cow.  That's where the cow with the crown comes into the picture.

Another book that I would've never read based on cover alone is Anna Dressed in Blood.  Nothing is wrong with the cover, I just don't really read horror books.  But my friends recommended it and I trust their taste.  Speaking of poor graphic design choices (cough the above covers) the text in this novel is a reddish brown (like blood). Seriously almost put the book back down because the color hurt my eyes.  If I'd been buying (not getting from the library) I would've never read it.  My review of Anna Dressed in Blood

There are actually A LOT of covers that I hate but turns out I haven't read most of those books.  I just can't do it.  I'm also a bit of a font snob and I occasionally stumble across covers using comic sans or papyrus and cringe.  Right now my pet peeve is the "Girls in Pretty Dresses" covers and I'm intentionally avoiding buying those.  In YA there's too much of a tendency to repeat the same type of covers over and over without really making intelligent graphic design choices. I'm pretty fed up with the recycled covers and am drawn to unique designs.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Eye of the Storm (review)

4/5 stars

Eye of the Storm is an older middle grade dystopian novel.  It follows in the recent trend of dystopian novels with a basis in science.  Which makes me smile happily every time.

In the not so distance future due to climate change, tornados have become the greatest threat to mankind.  Formerly regulated tornado alley in the Midwest, they're everywhere now.  The storms have gotten so bad that their are roadside shelters along every Interstate, students are homeschooled via computers and playing outside has ceased to exist (okay that might be the present).  The day after I finished this book we had tornado warnings in Kentucky. Let's just say this book did not help my weather-panic.

This book is near flawless.  The characters, even the bad guys, have believable motivations.  The pacing was spot-on, the first half of the book slowly building then the second half everything coming to fruition. Once the rising action and main plotline started rolling I had trouble stopping reading.

Probably the only real flaw in this book, in my opinion, was that I had trouble believing the characters were only 13.  They were the brightest minds of their generation, but they were trying to solve scientific concepts that I had trouble grasping (storm dissipation using satellites and focused microwave energy).  But honestly, in the grand scope of flaws that's something I can live with.  I'd rather read a novel with smart kids than a novel that treats kids like they are stupid.

Great dystopian for the younger sect.  With science, the tingles of first crushes and the terror or tornados where can you really go wrong?

On the Friday after I finished this book  Kentucky had a massive tornado outbreak.  Just 20 miles up the interstate East Bernstadt was hit with an F2 tornado. Five people died, many were injured and lots of families lost their homes.  If you are interested in helping the people of East Bernstadt check out this link: Many of the injured lived in trailers so they lost everything in the storm. However I'm so proud to be a Kentuckian.  People from all over the region are pitching in because we believe in taking care of our own. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

Wanderlove (review)

4/5 books

Wanderlove is the type of book that makes you dream.  I've always wanted to backpack. ALWAYS.  And it was always something I intended to get around to eventually.  But I still haven't and am beginning to realize that it may never happen.  The good news is I can read books like Wanderlove that make me yearn for a do-over, yet doesn't make me miserable with regret.  This book is an enjoyable, happy reading experience.

This is the type of book I want to give to a teenager.  Not because the characters are excellent role models or make all the right choices.  I want to give them this book because I want them to learn to dream big dreams.  Life isn't always about what your job is or how much money you make, it's about the little excursions and diversions along the way.

Wanderlove is not a perfect book.  The main character took awhile to grow on me.  She's a little meek and way too wrapped up in her ex-boyfriend for my liking.  But here's the thing; Bria grows up over the course of the novel, not entirely and not unrealistically, but enough that I like her character development.  The Bria at the end is smarter and more aware than the Bria at the end of the book.  That's something I really like to see.

My favorite part of the books might be Bria's lists and travel tips.  That's where the voice really shines and I find myself chuckling.  Bria writes everything that she's too meek and bashful to say and her insights are sometimes deep and sometimes hilarious.
Global Vagabonds Rules for Third World Travel
-Don't shake hands with the locals 
-Don't drink the water
-Don't touch your face after touching the water
-Don't eat street cart tamales or buy street car tamales, or approach street cards or even make eye contact with street cart vendors...
A lot of people are going to swoon over Rowan, the nice guy with a dark past, scuba instructor backpacking guy, it's just inevitable.  He's a well-rounded character, believably non-perfect and surprisingly swoonworthy despite his questionable ponytail and occasional hygiene woes. (To be fair, all backpackers have hygiene problems)

This book is pleasant read, with enough depth that you'll find yourself thinking but not so heavy that you can't enjoy it poolside.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Follow Friday (4) - Casting a book! (Soulless)

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.

Q: What book would you love to see made into a movie or television show and do you have actors/actresses in mind to play the main characters.

Lately I've been trying to imagine what roles the cast of Downton Abbey could play in books.  So yes that's going at this question completely backwards but I have an answer.  Soulless by Gail Carriger.

I'm still having trouble mentally casting Alexia and Lord Maccon.  But I've been casting the smaller roles in my head using all my favorite Downton Abbey and Harry Potter actors.

Ivy - Lavinia from Downton.  It's just how I pictured her.  Hopefully she can do the goofiness that is key to Ivy.  I can't pretend that this hat/headband didn't inspire me.

Dan Stevens - Downton Abbey - Lyall the prettier of the werewolves.  

I'm still not sure who can pull off Alexia.  I just don't know many Italian British actresses.  As a placeholder person I'm putting up Jessica Brown Findley though I worry she's probably too pretty for the role.  But she looks so good in period attire and is the curvier of the Crawley girls. 

I also find Lord Maccon challenging because he's just SO FREAKING ATTRACTIVE.  He's the sexiest werewolf EVER.  He's Scottish, brash and entirely swoon worthy.  I pictured him as larger, with more reddish hair.  But I've seen a few people cast Jamie Dornan as Lord Maccon and while I'm unconvinced that he could pull off that I'm comletely convinced he needs to be a werewolf in this movie.

Now for people who must be in this movie I just don't know which role:

-Sean Biggerstaff

-Helena Bonham Carter
(Maybe as the vampire hive queen)

I could do this ALL DAY but I have to head to work. Just a heads-up I'll be popping around to visit blogs late Saturday evening because I'm working in the woods all weekend. But I will be visiting so leave a comment, follow, do whatever and I'll come say hello Saturday.