Friday, August 30, 2013

Follow Friday - Only One 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.
If you could only have ONE – one book – for the rest of your life. Don’t cheat…what would it be?
To be honest I'm not sure I could survive in a world with just one book.  AND most of my regular re-reads are series so HUFF ON THE NO CHEATING RULE.

So because I have no better answer I too will say Pride and Prejudice because I do read it almost annually.

HOWEVER, if it can be a series I say the Alanna Quartet by Tamora Pierce because that too is a regular re-read.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Half-Moon Investigations (review)

4/5 stars

Half Moon Investigations (Goodreads | Amazon) is everything I'd expect from an Eoin Colfer middle-grade book.  It's witty, fun, clever and a great adventure. Fletcher Moon is the youngest certified detective in the world, after taking an online class to follow his dream of solving crime. Around the schoolyard he's the go-to guy if you're missing a notebook or MP3 player but aside from a friendly detective, none of the adult's take Fletchers detective work seriously.
“When you've come face-to-face with the dark side of the school yard, life doesn't hold many surprises.”
When what seems like a simple investigation, some girls from his class hire him to find a missing lock of a pop star hair, leads Fletcher down a rabbit hole of small seemingly petty crimes that add up to something larger.  The investigation leads him into the town's biggest crime family, the Sharkey's where he finds a surprising ally in Red Sharkey.

This book is full of mishaps and the mystery itself is absolutely hilarious at times.  But the book isn't all silly, it hits the right notes emotionally especially where Red is concerned.  For a book that made me laugh (A LOT), it also tugged on my heartstrings in that storyline. Really this book does it all and does it well.

This is an audiobook that I think the whole family will enjoy.  Adults will love the humor (child appropriate but I think adults will appreciate the irony more) and kids will love the adventure.  The narration is spot on, just a slight accent to add atmosphere, and captures the too-smart-for-his-own-good Fletcher Moon perfectly.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Draw the Dark (review)

4/5 stars

Draw the Dark (Goodreads | Amazon) is gritty, original and unnerving.  I'm going to be honest with you.  It's been a couple of months since I've listened to the audiobook.  I hate myself for procrastinating this review.  However I really liked this book and want other people to read it so I'm reviewing it anyways.

Christian Cage is a bit of an outcast.  After both his parents disappear, he turns to art as a coping mechanism.  He draws obsessively, painting and re-painting the walls of his bedroom, continuing to draw the mother who left him behind.  However, his drawings seem to be something more than just pictures, especially when he starts drawing memories and feelings that aren't his own. While working in a nursing home, Christian discovers the last remaining Jew in Winter, Wisconsin and begins to draw a dark history that the town has tried to forget.

As a reader you're never sure what's real or what's imagined.  Christian is a questionably reliable narrator who doesn't even trust his own memories or judgement. The book is set very much in the real world, with interesting World War II history.  In all the books I've read or movies I've watched I've never encountered this slice of WWII history (and for me that alone is enough to recommend the book).  The book reads like a dark contemporary, yet there's fantasy underlying the story.  This blending of the real and the unreal is what makes this book for me.  The book is creepy and unpredictable, and you're never quite sure what's going to happen next.

This story is weird, Draw the Dark is a very good book that's probably hard to place, genre-wise, because it has a foot in so many different worlds (I'd probably call it magical realism if I was forced to choose). The only real problem I had with this book was the ending, which was very open-ended.  In some ways it feels like there should be a sequel, but at the same time the choose-your-own-interpretation ending kind of fits the book even if it leaves you wanting answers. If you're looking for something original then Draw the Dark should fit the bill.

Remember how I said it'd been a couple months since I'd read the book?  Well please forgive me for not remembering specifics.  I liked the narration, it suited the book and I looked forward to long drives where I could spend time with the story.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Facebook page!

Hey friends and followers.  I just wanted to let you know that I've made a facebook page for Galavanting Girl Books.  I'll post fun and random stuff as well as e-book deals I find and links to the blog.  If you haven't liked the page I'd really appreciate it if you'd go say hello there too.

Hope to see you on facebook!  If you have a blog facebook page that you'd like to recommend leave it in the comments and I'll try to return the favor.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Follow Friday - Selfie

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.
 Activity: Book Selfie! Take a pic with your current read.

TECHNICALLY I finished this book yesterday (FYI it was good) but I'm currently reading an e-book on my Kindle which just isn't nearly as fun for photographs. I'm currently reading Thin Space from Netgalley.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Vlog: Expose on the Truth of Goodreads

So today I read a twitter conversation between John Green, Maureen Johnson, Barry Goldblatt and Shannon Hale.  Blog followers will know that I quite like these people (okay you know that I like 3 of the 4 but I follow them all on twitter and quite like them all) about the evils of goodreads.

Here is the rest of the twitter conversation. 

This made me angry because that's not Goodreads.  Yes we have drama, but last time I checked the internet is full of drama-lamas.  So being the intrepid journalist I am I decided to go on Goodreads and just read down my updates feed to see how true the accusations of "author hate" and "negativity" were.  To be completely honest I was kinda surprised by the results.

Aside from the one current author/book drama EVERYTHING was pretty much positive.  This is not to bash the above authors, who I respect and enjoy, but to point out sometimes you see what you expect to see. They see hatred and negativity because that's when they end up on Goodreads.  They aren't seeing our typical interactions or partaking in the groups, challenges or friendships that are formed there.  They are looking at a narrow sliver of the experience and condemning the whole, which isn't fair, accurate or right.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

If You Could Be Mine (review)

3/5 stars

If You Could Be Mine (Goodreads | Amazon) is one of those books that I'm glad I read.  It tackles and interesting topic, two girls who are in love with each other in Iran where they have to hide their affection or risk death.

What makes this book interesting is the sliver of Middle Eastern culture that it shows, especially regarding transexuals.  Apparently in Iran being born in the wrong body is considered a disease, not a sin, and you can change sexes with government aid.  Whereas homosexuals might be killed, transexuals will likely be judged but allowed to exist.

This book was more of a love story than I expected.  I knew that was central to the plot, but I had trouble buying into the relationship.  Part of problem, for me, was that apparently the Sahar has wanted to marry her friend Nasrin since she was six.  Rather than see their relationship developed, as readers we're thrown into the middle of Sahar's lovesick devotion.

Because we're following Sahar, the love story almost always feels one sided and unhealthy.  Even though Nasrin is attracted to Sahar, it's clear that she never intended for the relationship to continue into adulthood.  Nasrin comes across as selfish and spoiled whereas Sahar comes across as a devoted little puppy, following Nasrin around.  The unbalance in the relationship was difficult for me to swallow, especially when Sahar is considering a sex change to be with Nasrin.

This book is a bit of a mixed bag.  I'd say it's worth reading if you're interested in homosexuality in an oppressive culture, but it's also quite flawed.  It focuses too much on the unhealthy unbalanced high school relationship, which takes away from the potential important discussion on transsexuality and homosexuality.  It's hard to root for Sahar when you feel like she's better off without Nasrin, especially when the book is so centered on Sahar trying to keep the relationship going.

As a reviewer I know I should give you a neat wrapped up conclusion summarizing this book.  But I can't.  I find the topic interesting but the execution sloppy, but it's such a unique subject it's hard not to recommend for the little interesting tidbits immersed in the overly romanticized plot.

I received an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Escape from Eden (review)

3.5/5 stars

Escape From Eden (Goodreads | Amazon), while imperfect, was compulsively readable.  Logically I could go through a list of things that bothered me but whenever I put down the book I found myself worried about the characters and wanting to keep reading.

Edenton is a small "utopia" (well according to them) in the middle of the Amazon jungle.  The Flock are kept from the outside world and most of them are happy. But Mia isn't.  She remembers just enough of life before Edenton to be skeptical of the pastor.  She wants out, but her mother won't agree to leave.

Then Gabriel, a ridiculously good-looking troubled young man arrives with his family.  If you can't guess where this is going, then well bless your heart because you're less jaded than me.  The attraction escalates quickly.  For her whole life Mia is kept away from boys, not allowed to court or hold hands until after she's been invited to the mysterious Prayer Circle.  Even though her attraction to Gabriel is almost instantaneous, at least it's more understandable than most insta-love situations.  They both want out of Edenton, and surrounded by happy little Flock members it's understandable why they bond.  Even though I don't like the romance, I must say I'm glad that the book acknowledges the strangeness of Mia's feelings and captures the heart-pounding feeling of a first crush.  If you're going to go there, at least capture the sensation well.

There are a couple of BIG suspension of disbelief issues later in this book.  To say more would be spoilerific, but there were a few times I had trouble believing the decisions of adults pertaining to putting children in dangers. But at that point there was no other way to move the book forward, so alas suspend the disbelief.

This book was fast-paced and pretty action packed.  Where the romance could have bogged it down, the plot kept moving forward.  I found that I cared despite myself.  Escape from Eden is a fun, witty, fast-paced read that I was unable to stop reading.  While it may have flaws that didn't hinder my enjoyment.  If you're scared of cults and brainwashing (TERRIFIED) and want something that's fast paced this book will probably do the trick!

I received an advance reading ebook in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Sexism and Feminism in Geekery 8

I can't skip a post (by accident. Oops) without the internet being full of sexism and feminism conversation.  It's like the internet never stops, not even when I go home to visit my family and the iguana escapes.

Felicia Day!

This article is little old but I love Felicia Day too much to skip it. 
"I think that there is definitely some growing pains in the gamer community where a lot more women are more vocal, they’re more participating; almost half of gamers now are women, and even if you discount casual games and things like that, just because you play casual games does not mean you can’t call yourself a gamer. So I think there are certainly growing pains, there is a cultural sort of backlash..."
Read more here

Twitter Silence

This one was drama-rama all over the internet.  Maureen Johnson and Justine Larbalestier were on different sides and I felt like I needed to go into hiding because I love them both on twitter, which is where the debate was centered.  Except I didn't disappear because I was on the "twitter silence is a bad idea" side of the fence.  Shutting up feels like the opposite of taking a stand.  Honestly twitter really didn't seem that different (except no updates about Maureen's puppy) during the silent protest.

Read more here

Fake Gamer Girl Myth

There was so much conversation going around on this topic on tumblr that it's impossible to link everything.  Here is a Seanan-McGuire blog about her experience a Comic Con this year which is just the tip of the iceberg for this topic.

Inequality in Feminism

As I write (a few days before this will be posted) this #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen is trending which is trying to bring to light to inequality within feminism.  Some people seem to react by saying "You're making a problem where there isn't one" which seems to be how most sexists react to feminism.  Right now I'm not certain what started this trending topic but someone did create a nice storify with the tweets.

Read more here

Straight Male Gamer

This is actually good news.  "Straight Male Gamer" complains about a game that appeals to women and LGBT, thus apparently isolating it's typical audience by giving equal treatment to everyone. The companies reaction? They don't give a damn what Straight Male Gamer thinks.
"And if there is any doubt why such an opinion might be met with hostility, it has to do with privilege. You can write it off as “political correctness” if you wish, but the truth is that privilege always lies with the majority. They’re so used to being catered to that they see the lack of catering as an imbalance."
Read more here

Friday, August 16, 2013

Follow Friday - Lessons Learned

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: Share something you’ve learned about book blogging or just blogging in general in the last month.
I can't say this has been my most educational month blog-wise.  May/June I spent a lot of time gathering publisher contacts and sending out emails (previously I'd been pretty much a Netgalley girl). But July/August I've just been blogging and trying to do a good job of it.

One thing I've realized this month is that just because a post isn't getting comments doesn't mean it's not getting read. My most popular post this month is a "Sexism and Feminism in Geekery" post (I do these bi-weekly) that has zero comments but somehow people are still finding it and reading it quietly. It's from early June and continues to get traffic.  It's an interesting observation and encouraging since I don't get a ton of comments.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

London Calling, Liesl & Po, Let the Circle Be Unbroken - Quick Reviews

London Calling by Edward Bloor

3/5 stars (Goodreads | Amazon)

For a book that had time-travel and London during the Blitz it was pretty meh.  Not only that, but the narration was uninspired especially when the actor did female voices.  Though I wouldn't attribute the meh-experience to narration, more the experience was not improved upon by it.  I do like the history and time travel, but overall this book just felt middle of the road.  I'd say if you're stuck for a library audiobook this will do but if you have better options, take them.

Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver

4/5 stars (Gooreads | Amazon)

This is a delightful middle grade novel about a girl trapped in an attic and the ghost that befriends her.  It's delightful, sweet and just a little bit dark.
"People need other people to feel things for them," she said. "It gets lonely to feel things all by yourself." 
This book has just enough whimsy, a very playful writing style and an adventure filled with mishaps, life-lessons and new friendship.  If you're a middle-grade fan, you need to read this quirky little book pronto.

Let the Circle Be Unbroken by Mildred D. Taylor

4/5 stars (Goodreads | Amazon)

I cannot get enough of this series on audiobook.  This is my third book about the Logan family and Let the Circle Be Unbroken does not disappoint.  As far as series about black children growing up in the post civil-war south, I'm not sure there are any better (and if there are please recommend them).  Cassie is just as sassy and intelligent as the little girl we first met in Roll of Thunder Here My Cry.  During this book she is not entirely likable, but realistically flawed and more believable.  This is a book about family, growing up in the segregated South and learning what is right in the face of prejudice.  Honestly if you're library has this series on audiobook request it now.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Weight of Souls (review)

2/5 stars

Weight of Souls (Goodreads | Amazon ) didn't impress me.

Taylor Oh is cursed.  Like a long line of her maternal line, not only can Taylor see ghosts, she must avenge them.  A long-ago relative made a deal with Anubis, his life in exchange for his family's service.  Little did he know that would mean centuries of children who avenge murder victims (and all the emotional and social consequences that go with that fate).

Sounds like an exciting premise, no?  Unfortunately Weight of Souls doesn't deliver.  The main character is not particularly likable and not fleshed out.  Partially that's because she spends her life serving ghosts but there doesn't seem to be much more to Taylor than that.  As if that isn't a big enough problem, she treats her friends like crap -- not trusting them enough to tell them about her family curse, yet continually ditching them because of it.

Actually nothing was very fleshed out in this book.  The school was pretty much your typical popular versus unpopular kids cliques with nobody really developed as a full character.  The popular kids are all members of a secret club called the "V Club" which is like a game of truth or dare with much higher consequences (such as potential death).  Apparently administrators ands adults in the community know about this club but nobody seems phased when a kid from the club turns up dead.  Regardless of old loyalties, dead kids are a pretty big trump card in my opinion.

It's just very hard to connect to a book where everything feels so shallowly developed and none of the characters feel real.  They read like names with hairstyles walking around without any individual personality aside from "pushover" or "bitchy" to speak of.  Simplistic and a bit dull, this book didn't really do anything for me.

I received an advance reading e-book in exchange for an honest review.   

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Follow Friday - If I taught English

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.
Back to school. Create a reading list for the imaginary English Lit class you’ll be teaching this semester.
Can my class have a theme? It would be young adult, with a focus on female writers/characters with a dash of feminism thrown in. (This is a class for high schoolers because I want it to be and in my dreams we're introducing high school girls to feminism).
  1. Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
  2. Alanna by Tamora Pierce
    For these two books I would want to compare and contrast the differences between two different types of female characters and why it's important to have both.   
  3. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
  4. Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
    This book would be excellent for discussion about how we value virginity in girls more than boys and the concept of "slut-shaming." 
  5. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
    I want to include a book by a male author with a female protagonist.  I'm torn between this and Leviathan, which is my favorite Westerfeld series but I think Uglies would lead to more interesting discussion.
  6. Book of your choice and be prepared to discuss the female main character. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

If I Ever Get Out Of Here (review)

4/5 stars

When I first started If I Ever Get Out of Here (Goodreads | Amazon) I immediately wanted to compare it to Sherman Alexie's amazing The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian.  Which is absolutely terrible of me.  If I Ever Get Out of Here is a good book in it's own right. It doesn't need to be compared to Alexie's work.  There is room for more than one YA book about the American Indian experience growing up on a reservation.

First I want to address the similarities because I know everyone's curious. Yes the books have a few things in common. The main characters are students of above-average intelligence that are surrounded by white classmates who don't always understand them.  They're poor and live on a reservations.  That's pretty much it.  Let's not talk about how many white YA main characters are written as smart misunderstood kids because I'm pretty sure that's a commonality among most heroes and heroines.  As for the rest, I think that's just a realistic portrayal of the American Indian experience. (Being white and from Kentucky it's hard to actually know that though).

So now that I've gotten that out of the way let's talk about the book (And FYI that was not to criticize anyone else. That was 100% to criticize the way I originally approached reading this book). Lewis is a poor boy, like pretty much everyone on the rez, but unlike all of his Indian friends he was placed in a higher level class by the guidance counselor.  Intelligence-wise, Lewis belongs in that class but socially he has trouble fitting in.  He doesn't have the money to buy nice clothes, doesn't know how to dress and doesn't hang out where all of the white kids do.

When Lewis finds out there's going to be a new kid in his class he hopes for another Indian.  What he gets instead is George, a military brat  who's just moved to rural New York from Guam.  Against the odds, George and Lewis become best friends.  They're both big fans of the Beatles, Wings and Queen.  Even though they are friends, it's painfully obvious at times that they don't understand each other's lives.

While on one-hand this book is about growing up on a reservation, it's also about growing up in poverty.  To me that's where this book really struck a chord.  After seeing George's nice clean house, Lewis's makes up lie after lie to avoid inviting George to his home.  It's not because he doesn't like George or doesn't trust him.  It's because he's ashamed.  Lewis lives with his single-mother and disabled uncle and it's hard to keep the house clean and pay the bills.  His house is falling apart and he doesn't want George to see how he really lives.  Reading the sections about poverty and Lewis's shame was painful, but in absolutely the best way because those sections rang heartbreakingly true.

This book deals with friendship realistically, with all it's embarrassments, pitfalls and awkward moments but also how friends overcome obstacles, arguments and ultimately forgive.  In some ways this book is very sad and bittersweet, but mostly because it chooses to be realistic.  And I like that.  It doesn't beat around the bush or give you a neatly-wrapped-box ending.  Instead it just tells you a story, gives you a window into someone else's life experience and hopefully increases your understanding and empathy because of it.

I received an advance reading e-book in exchange for an honest review.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Under the Empyrean Sky (review)

4/5 stars

Just when I thought there would never be a good dystopian again Under the Empyrean Sky (Goodreads | Amazon) comes along. This is a solid book - well written, perfectly paced with real life-or-death consequences.  While it doesn't do anything groundbreaking with the genre, everything it does it does very well.
The thing about survival, Pop always says, is that it's not about who's fastest or strongest but who can adapt to changing situations. 
Under the Empyrean Sky is set in the midwest in the aftermath of a forced agricultural monoculture (something I'm absolutely terrified of).  Everybody down on earth is forced to grow an inedible variety of corn that's used for fuel and other products by the overlords living on flotillas in the sky.  Golden Prolific is the most aggressive, invasive, scientifically enhances vegetable to ever exist.  This kudzu vines on miracle grow times a thousand.  (If you don't know about the kudzu vine get googling!).

The book drops you right into the middle of the action with Cael and his crew of scavengers, setting a breakneck pace that carries the novel.  The book has a great voice, slightly uneducated with it's own slang but without being full dialect or difficult to read.  It's just enough to give it atmosphere.  

For me, the main flaw with this book was when it started jumping between characters point of views.  The book was over halfway finished before it jumped heads and it was so jarring that I went back and had to re-read that section.  I hadn't even realized it was in the 3rd person because it had followed the main character so closely.  Suddenly we were in other people's heads and I was confused.  I understand how this might become a necessity for the next book but I feel it should've started earlier or followed Cael less closely.

Overall, this book is good.  It's been awhile since I've been able to actually say that about a dystopian.  It deals with a realistic problem (invasive/monocultural plants), a controlling government, actually has family members who are involved in the story and a whole lot more pluses than minuses.  It's nice to see that as a genre dystopian still has something to offer.

I received a free advance reading e-book in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Follow Friday - DNFs

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.
How do you handle a book you don’t like? Do you DNF or do you power through?
A lot of times it depends on the book.  I rarely DNF though it does happen.  I'm a very hopeful reader and it has to be pretty terrible before I DNF because I am a stubborn.  I have this great need to not let the terrible book win.  Recently I finished a book I would've otherwise DNFed because I wanted to be able to discuss the very problematic way it dealt with race (Vigilante Nights review).  Technically my policy is to DNF at about 33%.

So in theory I DNF and sometimes I actually do but often my stubbornness wins out.