Thursday, August 29, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday!

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  Each week you answer a question, with the goal of gaining followers and making friends!

This week's question:

Ella Enchanted

If you could only have ONE – one book – for the rest of your life. Don’t cheat…what would it be?

Definitely Ella Enchanted.  It's been my favorite books for years, and I could read it over and over again and not get tired of it.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book review: Poor Little Dead Girls by Lizzie Friend

Is it a game? Or is it murder?

The first time she's blindfolded and "kidnapped," Sadie, a brand-new star athlete at a posh boarding school, is terrified. Luckily, it's all a prank designed to induct her into a powerful secret society that her mom belonged to at Keating Hall. The circle has it all - incredible connections; fabulous parties; and, of course, an in with the brother society's gorgeous pledges. The instant popularity is enough to make Sadie forget about the little marks on her arm, creepy black robes, and an unfortunate incident that befell a girl on the team years ago. So the next time Sadie is gagged and kidnapped, she's only slightly annoyed - even though she should be extremely terrified of what's to come.

This e-book was given to me through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

There were ups and downs in Poor Little Dead Girls.  The story itself, I think, is pretty solid, and there were a lot of things about it that I liked.  For instance, I loved that Sadie and her roommates, Trix and Gwen, got along so well.  Trix and Gwen are daughters of nobility and were sent to school in America to try to prevent the press from getting wind of their crazy shenanigans (and other things).  It was entirely possible for them to end up as mild antagonists, girls who do nothing but make fun of Sadie and laugh at her when she’s in trouble.  Instead, they end up being people Sadie relies on, first to help her out in getting used to high society life (they lend her a LOT of clothes) and then when she’s trying to find out what’s going on with the Sullas.

The author also seems to have put a lot of thought into the secret society, with more than one scene dedicated to Sadie learning about the rituals, what they do, who’s been a part etc.  When an entire book centers around it, it really does help to know what she’s getting into, even if in the end, it turns out that it was completely wrong.  The Sullas seemed sketchy at first but not overly-evil, which helped lend a layer of reality to it.

Now for the minuses.  The writing is only average, in my opinion; there was really no time where I found myself thinking “Wow, I really like that passage/conversation/bit of description.”  The other thing is that when things came to a head and everything was revealed, I found myself sitting back and thinking “Really?  She went with that?” There was no build-up, in my opinion, for what was actually going on; the deaths had nothing to do with the Sullas’ true goals, and it was kind of a let-down, actually.  For a scene that was supposed to have a huge impact, it fell pretty flat.

Still, I did enjoy the book for what it was, so I’d say it’s more than worth a quick read.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Sandman and the War of Dreams

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Sandman and the War of Dreams (The Guardians #4)
By William Joyce

Publication Date: October 1st

From Amazon:

When the Man in the Moon brought together the Guardians, he warned them that they would face some terrible evils as they strove to protect the children of earth. But nothing could have prepared them for this: Pitch has disappeared and taken Katherine with him. And now the Guardians are not only down one member, but a young girl is missing.

Fortunately, MiM knows just the man to join the team. Sanderson ManSnoozy—known in most circles as the Sandman—may be sleepy, but he’s also stalwart and clever and has a precocious ability to utilize sand in myriad ways. If the other Guardians can just convince Sandy that good can triumph evil, that good dreams can banish nightmares, they’ll have themselves quite a squad. But if they can’t…they might never see Katherine again.

I am, of course, eagerly waiting for this for a reason that's obvious to people who have seen my reviews: I've read the entire series so far and I absolutely love it.  My sister and I are both huge fans, in fact, and I'll be snatching up her copy as soon as she finishes reading it.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday!

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  Each week you answer a question, with the goal of gaining followers and making friends!

This week's question:

Book Selfie! Take a pic with your current read.

My current read is actually an e-book, and I don't have a Kindle or whatever that I could take a picture of myself with sooooo you get a book I'm constantly thumbing through at random:

An entire play-by-play of the Legend of Zelda series, including a history of Hyrule and lots and lots of concept sketches for each game.  I love it.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: Poor Little Dead Girls

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
 Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My excerpt:

"I know what you did." Her hands shook again as she pressed send, but she was angry now, and with it came a new sense of calm.
- Poor Little Dead Girls by Lizzie Friend

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Book review: Letters to Nowhere by Julie Cross

I've gotten used to the dead parents face. I've gotten used to living with my gymnastics coach. I've even adjusted to sharing a bathroom with his way-too-hot son. Dealing with boys is not something that's made it onto my list of experiences as of yet. But here I am, doing it. And something about Jordan--being around him, talking to him, thinking about him--makes me feel like I can finally breathe again. That's something I haven't been able to do lately. He knows what it feels like to be me right now. He knows what it's like to wonder--what now? I think about it constantly. I need answers. I need to know how to get through this. In the gym, if you're struggling, you train harder, you do drills and conditioning. How do I work hard at moving on? At being on my own? And what happens if I might be...maybe...probably falling for Jordan? I mean we live together now. That can't happen, can it? But kissing him...well, let's just say it's not an easy activity to forget.

This book was given to me in return for a review.

Letters to Nowhere is exactly the kind of book I’ve been looking for. Well, I won’t say exactly because it’s not as if it’s completely cookie-cutter within its genre and sub-genres, but I mean in terms of what the main character is going through: grief.  Karen is a griever, and a very passionate one; she doesn’t just accept that her parents are dead and move on.  She fights between what she wants and what her parents wanted for her, trying to decide if she should honor a plan they had worked out for her or just go full-tilt on her elite gymnast career now that she’s living with her coach and there’s no one to stop her or tell her that she should keep her options open.

At its core, it is a pretty good book.  It does get rather heavy on the gymnastics language and it isn’t always easy to get through or visualize, speaking as someone who knows absolutely nothing about gymnastics.  Of course fans of reading who also like gymnastics will pick this up so I can’t say it’s an entirely bad thing that the author doesn’t water-down the language; do it too much and it makes it look more like you simply threw it in as a gimmick and didn’t bother to do much more than a Wikipedia search about some names and moves.

The book is, however, a little scattered; some details don’t match up with what was said earlier, or kept consistent.  When Karen is worried about her period, for instance, she seems to flop between thinking it’s normal for girls to not have their period until seventeen, casually saying that probably only Stevie has it and then only for a few years (at nineteen) and saying she knew it was abnormal but that her parents had told her there was nothing to worry about.  Considering excessive exercise is something that can delay a girl’s period, Karen’s parents and coach probably should’ve been worried about it a long time ago (she spends hours a day in the gym, to the point where she’s there more during her waking hours than she is anywhere else).  Yet when Jordan shows her the records his father has on her, all it says is that they should start giving her a calcium supplement, which they apparently never did because she doesn’t say something like “Oh so that’s why.” And then she does finally get her period and it’s never mentioned again.  Cross was clearly going somewhere with it both as part of Karen’s character and probably as what might be a common experience for young gymnasts, but there just wasn’t enough there to make it worth it in the long run.  The book also seems to flip-flop between whether it wants Stevie as an antagonist or not, but that might be more a mix between Karen’s own thought processes and undecided characterization that wasn’t quite resolved in edits.  I realize that a good character has layers to them and they don’t always react to everything the same way, but Stevie does seem inconsistent to me to the point where I wonder if Cross had several ideas for her during the process and couldn’t decide in the end.

Still, it’s a clever and sometime heartbreaking book, and I’d definitely recommend it.  So happy reading!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday!

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, with the aim to gain followers and friends!

This week's question:

Share something you’ve learned about book blogging or just blogging in general in the last month.

I'm forever learning and relearning that I need to go back and make sure the formatting on my posts is exactly how I want it to be.  Other than that, I've been learning mostly about how to direct traffic to my blog so I can increase the readership, and about alternate follow methods like Blogluvin.  Oh how behind I am!  I'll get a hang of the readership aspect of this someday, this I swear.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Book review: Seven Minutes in Heaven (The Lying Game #6) by Sara Shepard

My sister wants the truth.

But sometimes the truth hurts.

For months, my long-lost twin, Emma, has been living my life and trying to solve my murder. She's unearthed dark secrets about my friends, my family, and my tangled past. But when it comes to finding my killer, she keeps running into dead ends.

Until my body shows up in Sabino Canyon. Suddenly everyone knows there are two girls who look like Sutton Mercer—and that one of them is dead. At first the police assume the body is Emma's. But as questions and accusations start flying, it's harder than ever for Emma to keep playing me. The truth is bound to come out eventually. And when it does, Emma will be suspect number one in my murder investigation. If she can't find my killer before time runs out, she'll end up behind bars . . . or worse.

Alright!  This is the last book in the Lying Games series.  I can say that with about 98% certainty.  The other two percent is because Shepard’s other series, Pretty Little Liars, has been extended twice already when it seemed like everything had been solved and squared away.  So you never know with this woman.  I will say that for all their faults, her books are addictive as hell; they’re hard to put down, even when you think you probably should.  I found myself staying up way later than I should to finish this one.

I won’t put in spoilers, as usual, but I got teary-eyed at the end when they finally had Sutton’s funeral and everyone did their tributes and had their thoughts about her.  Shepard certainly got that part right, because it tugged at my heart strings just as a funeral of a major character should.

That said, I saw the real identity of the killer coming from two books away, not even gonna lie.  As far as the mystery plot goes, it was rather redundant and will probably have you rolling your eyes at Emma when she finally puts everything together and realizes who the murderer is, because you probably already did it yourself if not as soon as I did, at least last book.  Well, let’s just say Emma probably won’t be much of an investigative reporter if she still wants to pursue that career.

Still, as I said, there’s a very addictive quality to Shepard’s book, so I’d still recommend the book and series even with its faults.  Happy reading!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday!

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly blog hop designed to help people gain both followers and friends by answering a question so we can get to know a little about each other.

This week's question:

Back to school. Create a reading list for the imaginary English Lit class you’ll be teaching this semester.

I likely wouldn't pick the "old" classics.  I remember enjoying Something Wicked This Way Comes my freshman year of high school so I'd probably include it.  I'd also include My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, because it would be a good book to get some actual debate about serious issues going on, ones that are relevant today rather than a hundred or two-hundred years ago.  The last one on my list of ones I know I'd do would be The Descent of Alette.  I read it in one of my many literary analysis classes in college and it's... bizarre.  Just for something to throw them off!

Employment Woes

I recently became employed, only for it to be taken away from me less than a day later.  I'm a freelance copyeditor, you see, with no physical job because the economy is just as bad in my area as it is in any area.  No one wants to hire a newbie in the fields you fit in, but no one wants to hire someone with a college degree in retail because they think you'll drop the job as soon as you find a better one.

Well anyway.  I was hired by Express Writers to be a copyeditor, mostly on the weekends and on-call in the afternoon.  It wouldn't have been a ton of money, but at the time, I thought it'd be a good credit on my resume to work at an actual content-creating company.  If I could stay with them long enough, I'd be able to say I had experience, and perhaps get that job at a publisher I'd love to have.

But it all went downhill.

The first warning was that the person tried to pay me outside of eLance.  It's against the site's guidelines to accept payment for a job on eLance outside, simply to protect the customer and to maintain records of the job.  She wanted to do it through PayPal, which I wouldn't have been able to accept anyway since my PayPal account is frozen and unusable because, you know, PayPal tends to hate its customers.  But in the end she decided to hire me and pay me through eLance, so I thought I'd be able to work with them and it was just a minor slip-up.

Then I was fired.  I was given one job, made a few minor mistakes (naming the file wrong when there weren't any guidelines for naming files), and was canned.  Apparently my biggest one came when I had to upload the file to the job within their work system and was unable to comment.  The system continually thought I didn't put anything into the text box even though I did, and I told this to the project coordinator and another editor, who said she was having trouble commenting as well.  Then the editor and coordinator go silent in the Skype chat, and the boss of the company IMs me to tell me I'm being fired for wasting their time and "spoke assertively to the staff to fix it" when I described the commenting troubles.

I did no such thing.  I described the problem exactly as it was and at one point said "hopefully it fixes itself or you can figure out the problem so I don't have to keep sending you stuff for jobs over Skype."  She didn't even let me defend myself or explain my point of view, she just removed me from Skype.  Rude, right?

Well I was pretty peeved, but I felt better after finding this article on Ripoff Report.  Even if it is a few years old, that's probably just the tip of the iceberg for how she treats her customers.  I'd rather be fired by a scam artist than have to explain away her actions time and time again.

So watch out for Express Writers, is what I'm trying to say.  They're a nightmare to work for and, apparently, with.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Book review: James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra by Colm McElwain

Alongside his friends Ben and Mary Forester, James Clyde must protect a powerful diamond from falling into the wrong hands. A strange and sinister man dressed in black is also pursuing the diamond and will stop at nothing to obtain it. James and his friends set off on a perilous journey to return the diamond to its rightful place. But they are being hunted every step of the way by the relentless man in black and his blood-thirsty army. Outnumbered, James finds he must use the power of the diamond to escape their clutches - or become another victim of their murderous quest. So begins a journey that will transport them to an alternative world where they must confront the mysterious man in black for a final, winner-takes-all battle.

This book was provided to me free in exchange for a review.

James Clyde and the Diamonds of Orchestra seems to have everything its genre needs: it's part modern middle-grade novel, part high-fantasy.  The world of Orchestra is vast, and it’s obvious that McElwain put thought into it rather than going with the standard creatures of myth; rather than having them hunted down by werewolves or some other malevolent creature, James and his friends are chased relentlessly by creatures known as Dakotas, for instance.  It also has magical artifacts, and the whole “chosen one” angle that is par for the course in any fantasy, not just middle-grade.

I will also give it credit for having a very clever ending, which of course I won’t reveal in this review as that would be spoiling, and I try to avoid spoilers unless it’s something I have a problem with and need to discuss in order to give context for my opinion.

I did have a few problems with it, though.  Some small details were wrong, such as saying Porky Pig is a Disney character when he is, in fact, an Acme character.  My biggest problem with this, though, is that I don’t think the voice really fits that of a middle-grade novel.  While I’m aware that fantasy would probably sound different from a completely modern book, it just seemed too… I guess high-brow for the target age group.  I don’t think it would necessarily throw off someone in the age group who wanted to read it, but even I found myself having to pause and take a breather after so many pages, which isn’t generally a good sign.

Still, it’s certainly worth a read if you’re a fan of the genre, or even if you aren’t; it provides interesting characters and plot points that help set it aside from stock middle-grade fantasy these days.
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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Feature and Follow Friday!

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  The point of the meme is to give blogs more exposure and followers, while helping us get to know each other!

This week's question:

 How do you handle a book you don’t like? Do you DNF or do you power through?

I personally power through unless I really, really don't like it.  I don't like to leave a book unread, and I do try avoid books that I obviously won't like so there is some filter for my reading list.  But, my reviews don't remain completely positive so it's not like my reputation as a reader or book reviewer will suffer if I have to say some things about a book I didn't like.

Happy Yaoi Day!

In Japan there's a pun on the date 8/01. The '8' is 'ya,' the 0 is pronounced 'oh' and the 1 is pronounced 'ee.' So, it becomes yaoi, the name for gay romantic manga aimed at women.

Yeah, like this one

On the one hand, there's a lot of controversy around yaoi.  A lot of people seem to think that it's mysoginistic, they decry the art as horrible, and in the depths of places like 4chan, they just don't understand why a woman would want to read about two guys falling in love.

Because there's something wrong with women just enjoying something, right?  We're all required to be pure little ladies and only enjoy things with Puritanical values.  Never mind that those raunchy, paperback Harlequin romances are pretty much an accepted part of society.

This cover image brought to you by Objectified Scotsman Thursday

I've been a fan of yaoi manga since I was fifteen, when my sister had the titles FAKE and Eerie Queerie in her manga collection, probably not expecting me to want to read them.  While I seem like I'm putting down those paperback Harlequins, though, they're essentially the same in many ways: a lot of them are about sex, they often have rather provocative covers that you wouldn't necessarily want to be seen in public,

The day I picked up this gem in Books-a-Million, I hightailed it right to the register

And women like them because they like them.  They might not be high-brow literature, but if men are allowed to read Playboy for the articles, I say women are allowed to read yaoi for the story development.

And the cute guys.

Seriously look at these cuties
Happy 801!