Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bourbon Trail - vacation part 2

On the last day of my mini-vacation I decided to drive up to Bardstown and visit a couple of bourbon distilleries.  I'm not much of a drinker. I've found a particular wine that I like which I continue to buy because it's predictably good and you can buy in small one-person sized bottles. That's pretty much where my knowledge of alcohol starts and stops.  But I love anything Kentucky--the history, the culture, the local products, etc. And what are we known for? Bourbon.

Heaven Hills Distillery. The scent of this place was AMAZING.
I want my house to smell like a bourbon rick house.
Except apparently it's illegal to make bourbon scent sprays. Drats!

Bourbon Barrels at Heaven Hill.

My town just recently came out of prohibition.
So the Bourbon tour information (biased or not) on prohibition was interesting.
It made me think of aspects I hadn't such as how prohibition proceeded the Great Depression. 

Covered Bridge over Whisky Creek at Maker's Mark. This place was absolutely adorable. 

Maker's Mark cuteness

They really do hand dip every single bottle of Maker's Mark in the signature red wax.

Bourbon tasting. The samples are really small but it's nice.
Then you get a bourbon ball afterwards (my favorite part) 

This is a highly recommended trip. It's cultural, fun and best of all free!  I learned a little bit of a history, a bit more about Kentucky and a lot about bourbon.  Normally I find tour groups frustrating but distillery tours were a pleasant surprise.  The groups were relaxed and festive.  Even by myself it was really nice. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Follow Friday - Character I broke up with

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: Have you had a character that disappointed you? One that you fell in love with and then "broke up" with later on in either the series or a stand-alone book? Tell us about him or her.

For me, it's going to have to be Eon/Eona.  I loved the idea of this book.  Girl masquerading as a boy (I have a weakness for these stories).  Eona is chosen to be a dragon-eye, a powerful position in society where she is linked to a dragon's energy.  But women are forbidden to practice dragon magic, so she must hide her femininity or lose her newfound position.  The Oriental setting is rich and wonderful.  Beginning Eon is crippled and compassionate, just the type of character you want to cheer for.

But by the end I felt frustrated with Eona's stupidity.  There was a dilemma that any normal person would've QUICKLY SOLVE.   But Eona stumbles along blindly ignoring the very obvious truth that's staring her in the face. So I spent a lot of time shouting "ITS SO OBVIOUS!!!!!!!!!" at the main character.  Even though cross-dressing heroines carrying swords is something I love, I haven't had the heart to pick up the sequel yet.

One of my friends on goodreads summarized my frustrated perfectly in the form of a bar graph. Check it out. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Immortal Rules (review)

3.5/5 stars

I never thought that I would actually like a vampire book.  The only vampires I have liked are funny sidekick type vampires (and for some reason they tend to be gay).  Most vampire books have this mopey girl and this impossibly perfect guy and YAWN...what was I talking about again?

The Immortal Rules wasn't that.  I liked the reversal.  For a change the girl is the tough kick-ass vampire and the boys get to cope with their feelings.  Allie is tough as nails, streetsmart and has lived too much life in too few years.  She lives in the Fringes of a vampire city, as an unregistered human with no rights to food, a home or anything else.  She's just scraping by scavenging for food and trying to keep her friends alive.  Then one day, while protecting her weaker friend, she dies.

Except there's a vampire, and Allie choose immortality over death.  Thus begins Allie's second life.  She has to learn how to be a vampire and how to cope with being a vampire.  She becomes everything she hated, but learns maybe there's more to being a vampire than the soulless killers she imaged.  It's up to Allie to "decide what kind of monster she wants to be"

I like the beginning of this book.  I like the genre mishmashes.  It's vampires with a dose of zombies and post-apocalyptical.  The society that Kagawa creates is interesting.  She creates a unique vampire lore without ever forgetting that vampires are bloodthirsty monsters.

For me the middle was pretty blah.  It turned into another YA camping trip from hell.  It seems like almost every heroine roams around in the wilderness for awhile.  I understand the purpose that the roaming serves.  The problem here is that there's a massive chunk of the book spent roaming around the waste land pretending not to be a vampire.  I also found that she stumbled upon a group of travelers who only traveled at night a little too convenient.  Yes there was an explanation but it seemed pretty weak to me.

Then the end was action-packed.  Kagawa certainly knows how to write fights.  Once the story started moving again it moved quickly--life threatening danger, crazy vampires, fighting and tough choices.  The beginning and ending were strong in this book.  It just felt like the middle dragged.

But I did like it.  I liked Allie--she's not a wishy-washy heroine but a fighter with a strong moral compass. Vampire or not, she knows the difference between right and wrong.  I like the new spin on vampires and I plan to continue this series.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Bloomability (review)

4/5 stars
Bloomability is the story of 13-year-old Dinnie who's "kidnapped" by her Uncle Max and Aunt Sandy after her older sister unexpectedly has a baby.  You see, Dinnie hasn't led a normal life.  Her family travels whenever and where ever her father finds another "opportunity."  They live a nomadic lifestyle, never staying in the same town for very long.

For Dinnie that changes when Uncle Max and Aunt Sandy, who Dinnie barely knows, whisks her away to boarding school in Switzerland.  Uncle Max has just taken the job as the headmister of a small boarding school in Lugano.

Beneath the alps, Dinnie finally begins to bloom.  This book is a sweet coming of age story about a girl who doesn't quite know who she is.  She's "adaptable" because she's moved so much.  In each new town she has to figure out the school, the town and the social structure.  But she's never really taken time to discover Dinnie.  In Switzerland, the first place where she'll actually complete a whole school year, she finally has the opportunity to figure out herself.

There are just so many delightful touches in this book.  From Dinnie's misspelled Italian signs claiming she's been kidnapped, to the dreams of Domenica Santolina Doone, to Dinnie's obsession with "suffering" to make her a better person, it's just a fun book to read.

For girls just bridging from middle grade to young adult, this book is perfect.  It brushes against some real issues--from first crush, to friendships, to poverty--not really tackling them, just bringing them into the story in a tactful but meaningful way.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by the delightful Mandy Siegfried (my current narrator obsession). Of course I must admit that I'm pretty much automatically biased for this book because I spent 3 months in Switzerland.  But aside from my love of all things Swiss, this book is endearing in it's own right and worth reading.

Spietz in Switzerland

View from my bathroom window in Switzerland

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Follow Friday - Fictional Fight

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.
Fight! Fight! If you could have two fictional characters battle it out (preferably from books), who would they be and who do you think would win? 
I'm not a very violent person. Watching fights makes me cringe. So I'm apt to choose characters that I don't actually care that much for and then choose someone who can beat them up.

My first thought was: Who do I really want to see beat up?
So I scanned through the books that I've read this year.  There are some main characters that I really didn't like.  But being obnoxious does not really merit a beatdown.  The first character that deserves to be smacked around is Kim from The Boyfriend List (review here).  Then I remember that she did apologize, sort of. Then it dawned on me.  I know what fight I want to see! Jackson Clark (also from The Boyfriend List) and whoever can kick his ass.

Because Jackson treated Ruby like crap.  Unfortunately Ruby doesn't have an older brother, and her new main squeeze would absolutely lose that fight.  So we need an expert.

In comes Ismae from Grave Mercy (review here).  She hates men more than almost any heroine I've met (sort of) and seems like the type to do some justice for woman kind. All I'd have to explain is that Jackson mistreated Ruby and she'd flashback to her own mistreatment.  I don't actually want her to kill Jackson, and being an assassin that might be a difficult request.  But I believe that Ismae can dole out some justice on the heart-breaking, cheating, bad-boyfriend that is Jackson Clark.

Along for the Ride (review)

2/5 stars

Along for the Ride is a book about Auden, an obnoxious intellectual elitist, who decides to spend the summer with her father, step mother and new baby sister at the beach.  It's a story about how Auden learns to accept the uneducated masses and have a little bit of fun, sometimes.

So it's obvious I don't like Auden.  I called her inappropriate names that will not be repeated in this review.  At the beginning of the book Auden thinks she's better than everyone.  The moment she meets someone she puts them down.  She writes off everyone as unintelligent, air-headed, too pink, etc.  She's survived 18 whole years without ever meeting anyone that surprises her.

Aside from disliking the main character, what bothered me most about this book is that it wanted to give everything extra meaning.  Let's say there's a rock on the ground.  Auden would somehow have this whole internal dialogue about what the rock meant, how it was an obstacle in her path, but how she had to overcome it.  (The rock didn't actually happen I'm just trying to give you an example of the Auden shoved symbolism).

Sometimes a rock is just a rock.  Not everything has to MEAN something more.  Auden also mentally rambled a lot about how things seemed to be fate or destiny in this book.  Sometimes a cute boy is just a cute boy that you met.  The book tells me that Auden is a cold intellectual (and mostly she is) but then she rambles about fate like most girly girl you would ever meet.  For me this did not add up to a character that made sense.

For awhile things are swimming in a logical direction.  Auden is hanging out with Eli, going on a quest to make up for everything she missed in high school.  Then suddenly everything just stop.  It's illogical, annoying and I almost stopped reading right there.  It felt like "Oh we need to add another obstacle and prolong where this book is obviously going."  And I reacted by yelling at my car radio (audiobook) AUDEN BAD WORD BAD WORD BAD WORD.  Neither of the main characters understood why Auden was behaving like she was.  As the reader I most certainly didn't understand.

Overall this book felt contrived to me.  Auden is going on a quest to make-up everything she missed in high school.  Completely coincidentally (or should I say fate? I'm fairly certain Auden does) her step-mother decides that prom is the perfect theme for the end of summer beach party.  Never mind that it's an absolutely stupid theme.  Heidi, Auden's stepmom, is an intelligent businesswoman smart enough to realize that summer heat + prom dresses + sand = dumb.  What 30 year old woman wants to throw a prom?  But because everything is fated in Auden's favor, she gets the opportunity to repeat prom anyways.

All of the stars (2, pretty sad I know) given to this book, are earned by the supporting cast.  I love Heidi--stepmother with a heart of gold.  She's originally portrayed as a ditz, but she's a better parent to Auden that either her real mother or father.  Then there's Maggie, girly-girl shopkeeper by day and bike-riding tomboy by night.  For me Maggie was the highlight of the book though for the life of me I can't understand why she befriended Auden.

Note about narration: I listened to this on audiobook.  The narrator was quite good and I'll look for her books in the future. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mammoth Cave - vacation part 1

So last month I took a little mini-vacation.  Sometimes I go on solo vacations and I always keep them fairly short and unplanned.  I do so much planning for my job that I want vacations to be spontaneous and a little bit weird.  This time I went to Mammoth Cave then drove up towards the Kentucky Bourbon trail.

I stayed at Wigwam Village #2 built in 1937.  The price is so cheap and it could use a little updating but it's worth it.  I've concluded that whimsy is something we lack nowadays.  Also it's great staying in a motel/hotel and not sharing walls with anyone.

The River Styx emerges from underground.  Mammoth Cave is known for it's cool geological features.

I took the New Entrance Tour at Mammoth Cave.  The cave tours at Mammoth Cave are interesting and this one took us to the Drapery Room which has some beautiful flowstone formations. However I'm going to be honest with you.  I like to go caving, you know wild crawl through the mud caving.  For me the Mammoth Cave tour was dreadfully slow.  It's not even the tourist aspect (because I can live without all the adventure occasionally) but I struggle with the stop and go movement.  (For the record this isn't just a cave thing. I hate standing in lines at amusement part or getting stuck behind people at the grocery store).

My favorite part of Mammoth Cave (okay ANY vacation usually) was the hiking.  Everywhere else the park was crowded. When I started off on a hiking trail the crowd disappeared.  My favorite was the hike down to Cedar Sinks where absolutely everything was in bloom. It was like a hidden magical valley.

This is one of those tourist trap antique/junk stores. I absolutely love places like this. Lots of little places like this around Mammoth Cave.

Coming soon: Bourbon Trail vacation pictures.  I wanted to put the whole vacation in one post but that was a ridiculous amount of photos. So you'll just have to stay tuned.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lions of Little Rock (review)

5/5 stars

Normally I go to the library with a plan.  However sometimes, when I'm doing a lot of driving for work, I just dash in and grab a book quickly.  Normally I have pretty low expectations for these books.  Something has caught my eye, the description or the cover-art, but I have no idea what to expect.

The Lions of Little Rock is a book I just happened to encounter.  It's set in 1958 Little Rock.  Not tumultuous 1957, known for the Little Rock 9 but 1958.  I've always enjoyed history classes but I had no idea that anything interesting happen in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1958.

But boy did it.  In 1958 in an effort to avoid integration, ALL the public high schools in Little Rock were closed.  There were special elections, recall elections and lots of fascinating complaining.  I loved the history, especially since it was history that I never learned in school.  But this isn't a history book, it's a novel with a historical backdrop.

This is the story of how 12 year old Marlee found her voice.  Marlee doesn't talk.  It's not because she can't, she talks to her sister and her father, but because she's afraid to.  She's an exceptionally gift student, especially when it comes to math.  But talking doesn't nearly as easily as her multiplication table.

Until Liz, a new girl comes to school.  She befriends Marlee.  As they understake a history assignment together, Liz teaches Marlee to speak up.  It's the first time Marlee has had a true friend.  Then one day Liz disappears.  Even though the teacher's claim she's sick, word quickly spreads that Liz wasn't what she appeared.  She was black "passing" as white.

Marlee struggles to understand what that means.  How could Liz be white one day and colored the next?  Yet eventually Marlee decides that it doesn't matter.  The girls attempt to be friends, despite the dangers, parental disapproval and many mishaps along the way.  This feels surprisingly believable in the context of the story.

The story touched on a lot of issues without getting preachy, integration, racism and even touches upon sexism when Marlee notes that all the NASA scientists are men.

The story also doesn't oversimplify characters.  I like the fact that characters who seem bad in the beginning, aren't all bad by the end.  They're struggling to unlearn what they've been taught and re-learn how to think for themselves.  Racism isn't something that just dies one day, but something that children are taught and must come to terms with.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Follow Friday - Nerve-wracking book to movie adaptions

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 one book that you would be nervous to see a movie adaption of because you think the movie could never live up to the book?
Actually 2 books immediately popped into mind.  The first is The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness.  This dystopian is set on another planet far away in the future.  It's a brilliant story.  But it's a science fiction story, which is always risky when translating to screen.  There's lots of gore, violence and aliens but that's not what the book is about.  It's deep-- tackling topics like what makes a person evil, gender roles, racism and growing up.  The more you look at the book the more you see.

However my biggest concern and I have no idea how they could translate to screen: noise.  In this book everything becomes infected with a disease where you can hear EVERYONE's thoughts (including the animals).  The book had noise written in different fonts and sizes.  It's fascinating and terrifying. But how do you capture something like that on film?  How do you tell a story in a world where there's no such thing as silence?  Lionsgate has acquired the rights to the whole Chaos Walking trilogy. So there's a chance we might find out.

I'm also nervous about the Ender's Game movie.  And it's not because this story is so unusual or can't be told, but because the story has become so iconic.  It's a science fiction classic and it's hard to imagine anything living up to the book.  With a story his beloved there are a lot of potential pitfalls.

However I am not unhappy that both of these books may become movies.  I know a lot of readers are fussier than I am about adaptions.  At the end of the day movies = money for author ands publicity for the books.  When books I love get made into movies, even horrible movies, I'm generally happy because I know the authors will get paid and hopefully the money will allow them more time to write more books.

Note: I had trouble describing Noise without spoilers.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Last Song (review)

2/5 stars
The Last Song is one of those interesting ideas that doesn't live up to it's premise.  I LOVE the idea of following a family secretly practicing Judaism during the Spanish Inquisition.  I find it fascinating.  The fear of the Inquisition, the conflict between loyalty to friends and church. But this book didn't really tackle any of those issues, at least not in a way that I found satisfactory.

The characters were all one note.  Every Jewish person was wonderful, generous and good.  On the other hand the Catholics were judgmental and cruel. (There was maybe one exception).  Simplifying it like that is an injustice to everyone.  No religious or people group deserves to be boiled down for convenient storytelling. I wanted this book to deal with the conflicted emotion on both the Jewish and the Catholic side of the Inquisition.  I know it had to be more complicated than this book makes it.

I feel like when your dealing with a heavy topic like religion you have to write better then if you're writing, for example, about a high school prom.  The characters have to shine and you have to be sensitive in your storytelling.  The writing was unspectacular, at times even cheesy, which I would be more apt to forgive if it we're for the ambitious subject matter.

Isabel is not a believable main character.  She goes from early in the book being like "Ewww Jewish people gross" to two pages later "Sure I'll dress as a boy and follow you to a Torah study session."  There was no real struggle.  She's spent her entire life as a faithful Catholic, praying to the Virgin Mary, going to mass, taking communion.  Then someone tells her that her family is really Jewish.  After one token "Oh no" she throws herself into Judaism without much question.

As a reader, her sudden change was hard to accept. I wanted the struggle, the questioning and the decision between two faiths.  The questions are what makes religion interesting to read about.  This book had a real opportunity to delve into the subject of faith. But it didn't deal with that all.  Even though Judaism was a potential death sentence, Isabel just tagged along blindly.  She didn't really make a choice, she just followed a cute boy to Torah lessons. (Yes really. Obviously that made me angry).

We need to have intelligent conversations about religion.  Children need to be introduced to acceptance at a young age.  We live in religiously hostile society.  It's not just Christian versus Jews or Jews versus Muslim.  In America, it's often denomination versus denomination.  In my experience many parents fight these battles through their children.

That's why I want books like this to be better.  Because discovering who you are and what you believe is important.  Learning to accept people who are different is important.  If you're going to go there you have to really go there.  Telling a one sided surface-surfing story does a disservice to everyone.  If the book isn't going to help it's probably going to hurt.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Académie (review)

3/5 stars
The Académie is a historical novel set in Paris right after the French Revolution.  It's a re-imagined history, intentionally fudging dates and ages, to put Hortense de Beauharnais (daughter of Josephine), Carolyn Bonaparte (sister of Napoleon) and Eliza Monroe (daughter of James Monroe) at L'Académie Nationale a SaintGermain at the same time.  It's a fun little book set against the backdrop of a struggling France.

Eliza is naive and young, but it's more endearing than obnoxious.  Carolyn is cunning and bold, much like her famous brother,  Hortense is caring and careful.  They make quite the trio.

Their mischievous adventures takes them from school to Malmaison to Saint Cloud where they disguise themselves as soldiers to obverse some of the biggest moments in the history of France.

For me this book felt a little more juvenile than I expected.  All of the romance was underdeveloped (with Eliza it actually made sense given her age).  It hit on some of my romantic pet peeves, such as characters being able to read LOTS into other characters eyes.  I know sometimes in the past conversations between boys and girls was not easy, but having eye conversations seems like a cheaters way to create romantic tension.  Despite the dash of insta-love, the book later addressed that in an unusually self-aware move.

While I do not enthusiastically love this book, I did enjoy reading it.  I think this is best for the younger spectrum of the YA audience or people particularly enthusiastic for French history.  What I liked most about this novel was the historical backdrop, even if the ages of the main characters were modified, because I found the schoolgirls perspective on changing France to be interesting.

The authors note might be my favorite part because I had no idea that a real friendship between Hortense and Eliza Monroe existed.  I love the fact that the author took that little snippet of history and wrote an entire book based up on it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Follow Friday - Buying books because bad reviews?

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: Have you ever bought a book BECAUSE of a bad review?
Not that I can think of.  Most of the reviews I read are from my blogging or goodreads friends.  So it's people who's taste I know and respect.  That's something I like about following reviews and having friends on goodreads.  I get to know their reviewing style and what they like.  I can normally predict where our tastes diverge.

The real crux of this question is what constitutes a bad review.  I know some people consider 3 stars a bad review. I've read a TON of books that had 3 star reviews.  I've recommended books that I gave 3 stars to friends (friends who, as expected, loved them more than me).

To me a 1 or 2 star is a bad review.  I have never read a book based solely on a 1 or 2 star review.  There are so many books in the world. Why would I read a bad one?  Sometimes I have read books after reading a bad review, but those are always books I intended to read anyways.  And I never read books just for the lulz.  I've thought about it.  Then I think about the 250+ books on my to be read shelf.  Every time the potentially good books win.

I've read books after reading mediocre reviews.  Sometimes a friend will not like a book but as they describe it it sounds like a book that I would like.

What about everyone else? Have you read a book because of a bad review? 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Ruby Oliver - my new fictional BFF

4/5 stars (Note this is a review for the first 3 books. Yes I know that's a lazy cop-out but I've read too many books to properly review lately. Also I'm not really sure why I took away a star and I'm considering giving it back)

When I first met Ruby Oliver at the local library, I thought the books looked pretty darned girly. Also it sounded a little bit too boy-crazy.  Sometimes I get frustrated with all those true-love YA stories.  I want to scream THERES MORE TO LIFE THAN BOYS! Besides, who finds true love in high school?

Oh how judgmental I am sometimes.  This series is one of the best that I've read this year.  This is not a mushy true love story.  It's girly, but the right kind of girly.  Ruby is witty, intelligent, neurotic, boy crazy and completely awesome.

I'm very impressed how these books touch upon some serious topics without taking themselves too seriously.  Sometimes girls treat each other like competition rather than friends.  The Ruby Oliver books navigates tough girl friendship situations with humor unlike anything I've seen.  But at the same time they acknowledge that sometimes girls suck, especially where boys are concerned.

The story starts with Ruby in social exile because she kissed her (former) best friends boyfriend.  Never mind that Jackson was Ruby's boyfriend first, or that Jackson kissed Ruby back. None of that matters because the school mob has deemed Ruby a boyfriend stealing slut.  (Sidenote: Why is it that the boys are never to blame in these situations?)

Ruby's new found social leprosy leads to panic attacks, shrink visits and an unfortunate Xerox of her "Boyfriend list" created for her psychiatrist.

It's hard to list every reason I love these books.  There's just so much to like.  But you know I have to try!
  1. Ruby's insightful and witty commentary about life
  2. Neurotic hippie parents who live on a houseboat but clearly love their daughter very much
  3. Misadventures and confusion with boys
  4. Noel's fruit roll ups (the second and third book)
  5. Hooter Protection Agency
  6. The Boyfriend Book--insightful scientific observations of the male species
  7. Non-preachy but important commentary on girl friendship and always blaming the girl
  8. A main character who isn't perfect but is likable
  9. Silly poems written by boys
  10. Frogs laden with meaning
  11. A goat named Robespierre 
  12. Ruby's addiction to making lists
Who cares about stars! This book gets a whole box of fruit roll-ups, value sized folks. (I am currently on a fruit roll-up binge so this is a high compliment).  It's so much fun, but it's not mindless fun it's SMART fun.  I cannot recommend this series enough.  Just ask my friend Catie at the Readventurer who is plowing through the books. (She wrote a much more coherent review than me) Or even better, spend some time with Ruby yourself!

If you like audio, these books are excellent.  Please note that the narrator changes after book 1.  They're still good, but the original narrator is amazing.  After a few minutes I didn't really mind the new narrator.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kentucky basketball and me

(Picture found on Tumblr, I do not take credit for it)

For the most part I am a book blogger.  However recently anyone who follows me on twitter or is my friend on goodreads has realized that I have another passion.  College basketball, particularly University of Kentucky basketball.

Some may wonder why a short, fairly un-athletic girl who hasn't played team sports since elementary school lives and breathes college basketball.  Once, I thought there were sports fan then there were bookworms.  But I've discovered that sports is about more than boys throwing balls and that people are rarely just one thing.  I did not go to the University of Kentucky.  I never even thought to apply there. But I cheer them on in every sport.

So why do I love UK basketball?  Here in Kentucky we are raised to bleed blue.  Anything else is an aberration.  There's a tradition of greatness that dates back to the days of Adolph Rupp, a name that every Kentucky child recognizes.

Sports somehow transcend the players and the game that is being played.  Sports is about connecting--to your family, to your community and to something great than yourself. In Kentucky when you walk down the street odds are you'll see a lot of people wearing Kentucky blue.  Here in Eastern Kentucky we don't have much.  We have our beautiful mountains, we have a oft maligned coal industry, we have a lot of poverty, but do you know what unites everyone? UK basketball. You have an immediate connection with 90% of the people you meet here.

If you start talking basketball you'll hear stories, from the glory days of Rupp, to the great Joe B. Hall, to the dark days of probation and Eddie Sutton, to the Camelot of Pitino then his betrayal, to the horrible mistake of Billy Clyde Gillespie.  Finally we have re-entered the basketball promised land under Coach Calipari. After a long 14 year drought we've brought the championship trophy back to Kentucky.

I love Kentucky basketball because generations of my family have loved Kentucky basketball.  Last year when we reached the Final Four, an unexpected glorious ride, my only regret was that my Papaw had not lived to see UK return to glory.  As I celebrate winning a championship, I remember my Papaw.  I remember how he couldn't watch close games, how he'd pace and walk out of the room.  Loving UK was something we shared.

Today I went to Orange Leaf in Lexington KY (for free yogurt, the store was celebrating too).  It was filled with families.  Almost everyone I saw had a Kentucky t-shirt, the mood was joyful and celebratory.  I drove home listening to the celebration at Rupp Arena on the radio--a broadcast I know my dad and friends were also experiencing.  Then I stopped at the local Wildcat Warehouse, yes we have a UK apparel store 1.5 hrs away from campus in my small town, and couldn't find a parking spot.  The tiny store was packed.

How often do you get to celebrate a victory with your whole state?  How often can you walk in a room of strangers and know that you shared the same magical experience?  Today the joy is tangible, floating from Lexington to Corbin to Hazard to Harlan.  Every time the radio mentions the 2012 NCAA champions the UK Wildcats I get chills.  When I saw a picture of the banner hanging in the rafters of Rupp I almost cried.

Last night a team of 13 young men, 6 freshmen 5 sophomores, 2 seniors, won a basketball game.  But it was so much more than that.  It's hard to find the words to describe what winning that games means to the state of Kentucky.  As much as I love words, love writing, I find that words are inadequate.  It's a magic that I can't capture with my keyboard, that I can't explain to people who aren't part of Big Blue Nation, to people who aren't sports fans, but it's a magical feeling that I hope everyone experiences someday.

Last night something great happened. It happened in New Orleans. It happened in Lexington Kentucky. It happen in Harlan, in Ashland, in Corbin and in the home of every wayward Kentuckian around the world.  It happened to all of us and wherever we found ourselves.  Together we hoped, dreamed, won and celebrated.  Today we are the National Champions and I hope this feeling never goes away.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Uninvited (review) - a rare DNF

1/5 stars
Rarely do I actually write a review for a 1 star book.  However I found The Univited so frustrating and borderline offense that I feel the need to explain my feelings.

I was iffy about this book when they introduced the main character driving down the road just wearing a bra. Not a sports bra, but a bra and not for any real reason.  When a male writer creates a female character who's beautiful, sexy and often not wearing many clothes, I'm a little leery.  Sometimes it feels like male writers create heroines who are merely their fantasies, not real well-devolved characters.  It's like "look I'm a sassy free woman comfortable with my sexuality" but it's done in a way that doesn't feels genuine.

My discomfort grew with an unnamed character (you later find out who) is spying on Mimi, refers to one of her friends as "faggy."  I'm not saying it's not okay to have homophobic characters. Homophobes exist. But it was used casually without any purpose to illustrate that a guy was effeminate.  I know most authors would argue "but that's what the character says" but when it's not necessary it should be edited out.  I'm not comfortable reading books with hate speech unless it is addressing the issue of hate.

This book had a plot that seemed to amble without going anywhere.  Someone is spying on Mimi and Jay (the second main character), being a creeper.  The story has numerous POVs, which is not that well executed.  The POVS eliminate all the drama of who's spying.  The reader knows who's spying and why they are spying.  Now that I've had a couple weeks away from this book I'm wondering where the story was even going.  Mimi was trying to write a screenplay.  Jay was trying to write a song.  They were building a friendship.  Creeper dude was spying and lusting.  But what was the real point?

This book also had a creepy case of sibling lust.  It started when Mimi showed up and met Jay who (SPOILER ALERT) is her half brother.  Even after she realizes that she still finds him attractive. However that was minor and quickly went away.  But there's another half-sibling lurking in this book.  And he lusts after Mimi, admiring everything about her, imagining a life with her.  He doesn't know that she's his sister.  But the reader knows and that makes it creepy enough.  This goes on for chapters and chapters. And honestly I'm not sure where the sibling-lust ends because I did not finish this book.

I've only ever DNFed one book.  Normally I stubbornly force myself through a book, even if it's a miserable reading experience, because I don't want the book to beat me.  I couldn't fight this book.  The plot seemed to be going nowhere, the main character felt flat and every time the sibling-lust came up I cringed.  To me it was pretty obvious the author was trying to be edgy.  But sometimes less is more.  Where this book is concerned, I recommend avoiding it altogether.

In case you are wondering I listened to this on audiobook.  I listened to 5/7 CDs before stopping.  The narrator was unremarkable but not bad either. The problem was the story itself.