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Dk_Phoenix Peruses the Shelves in 2012, Part 2

This is a continuation of the topic Dk_Phoenix Peruses the Shelves in 2012.

This topic was continued by Dk_Phoenix Peruses the Shelves in 2012, Part 3.

75 Books Challenge for 2012

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Edited: May 12, 2012, 10:13pm Top

My first thread for 2012 is HERE.

Welcome to thread #2!

Same silliness and random book choices as per usual... you can also pop in to visit me at my blog, Literary Coldcuts on Toasty Buns or bother me on Twitter where you're welcome to tell me to get back to work.

***Books Read in 2012***


1) Ender's Game -- Orson Scott Card (5/5)
2) Love on the Line -- Deeanne Gist (4/5)
3) The Hound of the Baskervilles -- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (5/5)
4) The Lost City of Z -- David Grann (4.5/5)
5) The Spider Stone (Rogue Angel #3) -- Alex Archer (3/5)
6) Rat: How the World's Most Notorious Rodent Clawed Its Way to the Top -- Jerry Langton (3.5/5)
7) A Game of Thrones -- George R. R. Martin (4/5)
8) Stalker in the Shadows -- Camy Tang (3/5)
9) Naked Heat -- Richard Castle (4/5)
10) The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating -- Elizabeth Tova Bailey (5/5)
11) Kosher Chinese -- Michael Levy (4.5/5)
12) Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings -- Helene Boudreau (3/5)
13) Sunset Val -- Rob St. Martin (3/5)


14) Shatter Me -- Tahereh Mafi (2.5/5)
15) Chasing Mona Lisa -- Mike Yorkey & Tricia Goyer (3/5)
16) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) -- Mindy Kaling (3/5)
17) The Last Little Blue Envelope -- Maureen Johnson (4/5)
18) The Espressologist -- Kristina Springer (3.5/5)
19) Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother -- Amy Chua (4/5)
20) Green Heart -- Alice Hoffman (3.5/5)
21) Unlikely Friendships -- Jennifer Holland (5/5)
22) Packing for Mars -- Mary Roach (4/5)
23) Girl, Stolen -- April Henry (3/5)
24) Cradle of Gold -- Hiram Bingham (4/5)
25) Why We Broke Up -- Daniel Handler (4.5/5)
26) The Chosen (Rogue Angel #4) -- Alex Archer (4/5)


27) Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator: The Ladies of the Lake (audiobook) -- Jennifer Allison (4.5/5)
28) No Opportunity Wasted -- Phil Keoghan (3.5/5)
29) Ape House -- Sara Gruen (4/5)
30) The Unconquered -- Scott Wallace (4/5)
31) Still Life -- Louise Penny (3.5/5)
32) Across the Universe (audiobook) -- Beth Revis (2/5)
33) XVI -- Julia Kerr (1.5/5)
34) The Future of Us -- Jay Asher (4/5)
35) Cahills vs. Vespers #3: The Dead of Night -- Peter Lerangis (3/5)
36) Dirty Little Secrets -- C.J. Omololu (3.5/5)
37) Garden Spells (audiobook) -- Sarah Addison Allen (4/5)
38) The Heirloom Life Gardener -- Emilee & Jere Gettle (5/5)
39) Chime -- Franny Billingsley (4.5/5)


40) Gilda Joyce: The Ghost Sonata (audiobook) -- Jennifer Allison (*TBD/5)
41) Wayfarer -- R.J. Anderson (*TBD/5)
42) Anna Dressed in Blood -- Kendare Blake (*TBD/5)
43) A Hero Rising (A New Dawn, #3) -- Aubrie Dionne (*TBD/5)
44) The Darkening Dream -- Andy Gavin (*TBD/5)
45) Tundra 37 (A New Dawn, #2) -- Aubrie Dionne (*TBD/5)
46) Black Blade Blues -- J.A. Pitts (*TBD/5)
47) Where She Went -- Gayle Forman (*TBD/5)
48) Erebos -- Ursula Poznanski (*TBD/5)
49) The Calling -- Kelley Armstrong (*TBD/5)


50) The Cupcake Queen -- Heather Hepler (*TBD/5)
51) Witchblade: Vol. 1 Graphic Novel (*TBD/5)
52) Close to Famous -- Joan Bauer (*TBD/5)
53) ...

Edited: May 4, 2012, 7:12pm Top

Read More Than You Buy Challenge


READ: 13

STATUS: ...currently failing by 9...


READ: 13

STATUS: -5 (ooh, progress!)


READ: 13

STATUS: Broke even this month!!! That was faster than I'd expected...


READ: 10





Feb 7, 2012, 2:17pm Top

Hey! New thread! Smells fresh and clean! LOL!

Sandy K

Feb 7, 2012, 2:37pm Top

14) Shatter Me -- Tahereh Mafi

I wanted to love this book.

I wanted to love this book so much. I'd had it on my wishlist since before its release date, and the premise -- a girl whose touch is fatal -- sounded fantastic. Super-hero-esque. I was a little nervous about it being dystopian (why not just have it in a contemporary setting?) but figured that maybe the strong premise would bring it around somehow and make it work.

Oh, for goodness' sake. I, in this case, was the one who was shattered (see what I did there?). My expectations were shattered and swept down the drain of disappointment, only to bubble back up for the final 50 pages when the heroine finally, finally uses that backbone of hers and does something about her situation. Not that she did it necessarily willingly, mind you -- only out of desperation -- but at least she did something.

She spends most of the book being sad and thinking she's a terrible person and pining over a boy who was nice to her. She refuses to help "the bad guy" (for no real reason that we understand other than "it's wrong"), and for someone whose touch kills people, she's awfully black & white in her morality. Honestly, the reasoning and logic in this book left something to be desired, because -- and let me emphasize this again -- her touch kills people and the people who have her want her ALIVE.

That means, at any time, she could kill her captors and escape because they desperately want her alive. Yes, she cares for someone and wants to make sure he's safe, but when touching people means death, I'm fairly certain a little brain-work would get that part all figured out. Yes, the bad guys have a way of subduing her but again, a few hours of those brain juices flowing and she could have got herself AND her friend out of there without issue (and if she couldn't, that would have provided excellent tension).

I also have a serious problem with books where the female heroine is The Most Beautiful Person On the Planet (see my article "Your Heroine is Too Beautiful" on Fantasy-Faction), and where she's supposed to be wonderful and amazing and perfect and yet she spends all her time on internal reflection instead of using her talents and supposed amazingness to escape/change the crappy situation she's in.

For me, there was nothing that made this book special or different than all the typical teenage dystopian romances out there. I wanted it to be different -- I really, really wanted it to be amazing -- but in the end I felt let down, frustrated, and angry at the main character.

I would have given the book 2 stars, but for the premise, the cover & tagline, the "crossed out journal entry" style of writing, and the fact that in the final 10 pages it seems like Juliette has finally found her spine. I may give the second book a chance, simply because I feel that this entire book was a set-up for book 2. I'm not even joking. Talk about withholding!

Should you read it? *shrug* At this point? I'd wait for book 2, read the synopsis of book 1, and then give the second one a go and hope the heroine hasn't forgotten that she does, in fact, have a brain.

Rating: 2.5/5
Source: Birthday gift

Feb 7, 2012, 2:40pm Top

>3 sandykaypax:: Whoo-hoo! Thanks for popping by! Good thing you got here before the dirt and crumbs pile up... LOL.

Feb 7, 2012, 2:49pm Top

Aw. Sorry to hear about the dud. I have this vague feeling FYA reviewed that one and didn't have good things to say either, so I'll probably skip it. Hope the next read is better!

P.S. Nice, new thread, Faith! :)

Feb 7, 2012, 3:12pm Top

Just dropping by!

Feb 7, 2012, 3:13pm Top

Better luck with your next book Faith. Looks like you are reading quite a few books already this year.

And, thank you very much for your outreach posted on my thread about the loss of my dear dog Simon. I appreciate it very much.

Feb 7, 2012, 3:18pm Top

Dropping by. Sorry the book was a dissapointment

Feb 7, 2012, 3:54pm Top

Uhoh - I've got Shatter Me sitting on my shelf at home ready to be read. I didn't read your review except for the first 2 sentences, and I'm reading no further until I read the book myself...

Edited: Feb 7, 2012, 4:03pm Top

Well I certainly won't bother to find a copy of Shatter Me! I hope your next book is better.

Feb 7, 2012, 4:03pm Top

HIya, Just dropped in. Um, that line in your stats "acquired by other means" ... I'm intrigued. Dragons with large pockets? Transportation devices? Book gnomes?

Or is it too secret to share ...

Feb 7, 2012, 5:26pm Top

Just dropping a line so I can keep track of this thread.

Feb 7, 2012, 6:12pm Top

I've decided that dystopia and romance are just not a good combination. I love dystopias (or at least, I did before reading too many bad dystopian romances), but it seems like they're getting merged into standard YA romances just to take advantage of the Hunger Games buzz, even when the dystopian aspect is just an add-on and not a properly-thought-out world.

Basically, "combining random elements that happen to be popular in themselves" doesn't seem like a good model for a book.

Feb 7, 2012, 6:20pm Top


Feb 7, 2012, 6:46pm Top

Hi Faith! Just catching up. Did you ever get your hedgehog? My niece asked for one for Christmas. (she didn't get one). I hadn't realized, prior to that, that they were available to have as pets.
I've been considering The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. All the reviews make it sound so interesting.
I'm glad to see you enjoyed A Game of Thrones. I'm impatiently waiting for the DVDs to come out. Yesterday at B&N they had DVDs of the pilot episode. You were supposed to buy an HBO DVD set to get it, but the clerk gave it to me for free just because I expressed an interest (also, I was buying the Princess Mononoke DVD).

Feb 7, 2012, 10:39pm Top

You breezed through the first thread. Looks like you are on roll with your reading.

Feb 8, 2012, 8:32am Top

4: Though the book ended up being a disappointment, your review of it wasn't! Sometimes I think that reviews of unloved books make the best reviews because they end up being so funny.

Feb 8, 2012, 9:41am Top

>6 MickyFine:: I know, I should have listened to my friend (who works in a bookstore, and reads everything as it's put on the shelves) when she told me not to bother. But oh, the premise and the cover!!! Resist, resist...

>7 ronincats:: Thanks for stopping in! :D

>8 Whisper1:: Thanks, Linda. I hope your grieving period allows you and Will to heal as you recall all the good times with Simon. If I could hug you across the distance of space, I would. :)

>9 Kassilem:: *waves as you pass by*

>10 tapestry100:: Yes, read it yourself first!!! There aren't really any specific spoilers in the review, but if you've got it on your shelf to read, best to make your own impressions on first read rather than start with a bias... I'm interested to see what you think once you get around to it.

>11 Dejah_Thoris:: Thanks, it was! I just have to find the time to review it now...

>12 jenthepen:: Dragons with large pockets!!! I wish... no, what I actually meant was "ARCs through the mail" or "received as a gift". Essentially, books I didn't pay for. Not nearly as exciting. Now I'm slightly disappointed that I'm NOT getting books from dragons with large pockets...

>13 leahbird:: *grabs hold of the line* ...I'll be right here when you need to find me! :D

>14 _Zoe_:: That's exactly it... and I didn't even mention much about the actual dysoptian society in the review... that's another complaint altogether. My biggest pet peeve with dystopians is the believability aspect. If the author doesn't bother thinking it through, I can't buy it. I can only suspend disbelief so far. Then plopping a romance onto a half-built world and making it the focus? Lazy. Part of me wonders if some of these books are a result of the publishers wanting to get behind this "popular" genre and pushing the romance aspect onto the authors, taking away from the worldbuilding and, uh, plot.

>15 Crazymamie:: :D

>16 VioletBramble:: I didn't! But I'm still hopeful. We ran into a few setbacks (ie. I got insanely busy) and I need things to calm down so I can care for an extra creature properly. But hopefully soon!!! It's nearly spring, so I'm getting "baby fever" (ie. baby animals) again, as I do every year... spending time on SPCA adoption pages, breeder websites, etc... LOL. Also, YAY for getting a free DVD!!! The pilot is the only episode I've watched, but I liked it and plan to continue with the series.

>17 JulieC0802:: Thanks, Julie, it sure feels that way!

>18 RosyLibrarian:: Thanks, I feel that way too sometimes... they're often more fun to write, as well!

Feb 8, 2012, 9:58am Top

Why can't we go back to dystopias where everything is terrible and there is no fluffy romance?? Or at least where there is a genuine, agonising struggle.

I'm bored of fluffy. Give me dark and twisted!

Feb 8, 2012, 11:16am Top

Hmm, sounds like Shatter Me is one that I don't need to hunt down. I'd end up needing to throw it across the room if the heroine really never figures out that her touch is lethal and her captors, er, won't be killing her. That would annoy me too much to get over a last chapter improvement :-(

Feb 8, 2012, 1:48pm Top

>20 lunacat:: More 1984! More Fahrenheit 451! More Brave New World! ...oddly enough, I've never actually read any of those... o_O

>21 archerygirl:: Oh, but the thing is, she does know that her touch is lethal. And they expressly tell her to her face that they don't want her dead. Which makes her behavior even more maddening!!!

Feb 8, 2012, 2:01pm Top

One day late to the new thread! LOVED LOVED LOVED your acquired vs read list! I may have to do something similar just to get some kind of reality check! I have only bought two books since the beginning of the year, both for group reads, but somehow I think by various means, PBS, freebies from the library, etc. I have acquired another ten to fifteen. Hopeless!

Feb 8, 2012, 2:16pm Top

15) Chasing Mona Lisa -- Mike Yorkey & Tricia Goyer

I received this book for the purpose of a review, otherwise it's unlikely I would have picked it up. I don't typically read books set during either World War (I'm not sure why, but I just don't find them enjoyable), but I thought this one sounded interesting. It's a story about the liberation of art from the Germans after the occupation of Paris, specifically the flight of the Mona Lisa ("La Joconde") from Paris to Amsterdam and back to Paris as a team of individuals struggled to keep it out of the hands of a German officer.

The story focuses on two couples -- a pair of Swiss spies who get wrapped up into the drama on a medical-supply delivery mission -- and a Resistance fighter and a museum curator. They're likable enough characters, but I can't say I particularly connected with either couple. I found the Swiss couple much more realistic in their motives and actions, and if I remember correctly, there's another book by this writing team that continues their story.

The other couple -- Bernard and Colette -- don't have quite the expected ending, and things are left a little unresolved (but if I say why, I'll give away some crucial information, so I'll let you read that for yourself). As a result, I found the book less compelling than I'd hoped.

Because I don't have a lot of experience with WWII novels, I don't have much to compare it to in terms of quality or storytelling. It was a fast read with decent plot & characters, and plenty of historical detail. I think people who look for historical detail in this kind of fiction will be pleased, but I wish the authors had included a note at the end (as some authors do) explaining which parts were based on true events and which were creative license. I know that there were problems with precious pieces of art falling to the Germans (and efforts to keep other pieces out of their hands), but was this book based on a true story? I have no idea.

Either way, not bad. Not wonderful, but probably a fair read for someone interested in the period and the subject matter.

Rating: 3/5
Source: Received ARC for review

16) Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) -- Mindy Kaling

I picked this one up at the library on a whim, because I remembered that someone else in the group had read it and said it wasn't half bad. I agree, it's not half bad, and for a "celebrity memoir", I'm sure it could have been much worse.

Half the book is written in memoir style, and the other half is written more as general commentary on various random things (life, love, showbiz, fashion, etc.). The chapters alternate in their focus, making the whole thing seem a little bit disorganized, but the linear storytelling of the memoir portions help to bring the book together as a cohesive whole.

I greatly preferred the memoir chapters, if only because I found Kaling's story of growing up (as a super awkward child with a tight-knit family) highly relatable, and the tale of how she ended up as a writer/actor/producer/director on The Office quite inspiring -- the whole thing came out of a series of failures, minor successes, subsequent setbacks, and a drive to keep pushing forward despite the times she failed. She seems like a very driven woman, sure of what she wants in life -- full of spunk, spice, and determination.

It wasn't great, but it was a good read for the sake of curiosity. After all, everyone has a story to tell, and Kaling's is just as interesting as anyone else's.

Rating: 3/5
Source: Library book

Feb 8, 2012, 2:32pm Top

#22> I phrased my comment badly :-) I meant, the connection between lethal touch and captors who want her alive never even passing her brain would make me stabbity towards the book.

Feb 8, 2012, 2:46pm Top

>23 sibyx:: Haha, thanks! I thought having a public chart would, uh, make me feel more accountable. However, I just made a physical list of the titles, and realized that I forgot two books on the "purchased" side of things... my goodness... it's like they just jump in my bag and follow me home!!! I can't believe you've held out with only two books so far... I say, ones that just "appear" without a currency exchange don't count! Really! (...and yet, they do add to the piles around the house... o_O )

>25 archerygirl:: Oh, yes! Exactly. SO STABBY. I understand!!!!

Feb 8, 2012, 9:54pm Top

Faith catching up on my return. Congrats on the new thread and sorry your recent reading has left you a bit bereft of excitement!

Feb 9, 2012, 8:52am Top

Thanks, Paul. I know it'll pick up soon, thankfully -- I've just finished one other (which was good, *phew*) and am in the middle of a few more. Thank goodness for that! I much prefer being excited over books than ending up with a "take it or leave it" feeling toward things.

Feb 9, 2012, 10:02am Top

Nice new thread here, Faith. I feel your pain about wanting to love a book and being let down by it. It happens. As do those books who follow us home. As long as they are they are the right books, I don't complain.

Feb 9, 2012, 10:36am Top

24: Both of those look interesting to me, wishlisted!

Feb 9, 2012, 10:50pm Top

Faith! Was so excited that I had only missed a few posts... and then found the new thread.

Oh well. Great reviews, though. Hooray for books that do not end up on my wishlist! Thanks for taking those for the team. :)

Feb 10, 2012, 10:24pm Top

>29 Donna828:: Haha, Donna... I had three follow me home this afternoon... oops!!!

>30 RosyLibrarian:: Well then, Marie... my work here is done. ;)

>31 beserene:: Thanks, Sarah... umm, anytime? LOL

Feb 11, 2012, 9:39am Top

17) The Last Little Blue Envelope -- Maureen Johnson

If you haven't read 13 Little Blue Envelopes, you'll want to start there first. Unfortunately, the title of the sequel is a mild spoiler for the first book, so if you do plan to read the first one, step away from this review now so you don't learn even more. M'kay?

All right. I will continue. This book, which Johnson wrote at the behest of fans across the world, is the story of what happened to that final little blue envelope after the theft of Ginny's backpack in Greece at the end of the first book. Ginny receives an email from someone who claims to have the envelopes, and wants to meet her to talk it over and give them back. Torn about her future and looking for a distraction, Ginny returns to England, meets the guy who has them, and... learns there is a final piece of artwork to find. And the guy with the envelopes? He's demanding half the profits once the piece is found and sold--and he's holding the full contents of the final envelope hostage in the meantime. Ginny needs what he knows about the letter, and he needs what she knows about her late aunt.

In typical Maureen Johnson style, the story unfolds almost casually as the characters interact with each other so realistically it's like watching a bit of reality television, or being there in person with your friends. Her writing style is so true to life and fluid that I often don't feel entirely impressed by her books while I'm reading them, but when I'm finished with the story, I find myself thinking about it and the people and certain moments along the way as they play like memories through my imagination. That's when I know I've truly enjoyed the book, even without realizing it.

There's plenty of typical teenage drama in this book--angst, anger, joy, and complicated teen romance--but it works without coming across as overdone. The ending makes sense, and felt right. Certain things aren't entirely resolved, but taken just to the point that one might expect in real life, where sugar-happy endings aren't always guaranteed and healing takes time. Johnson really has keen insight into the emotional lives & brains of teens, and I'm fairly certain that with the contents of this final little blue envelope finally revealed, the end to Ginny's story will give fans of the first book the resolution they craved.

Rating: 4/5
Source: Library

18) The Espressologist -- Kristina Springer

What a cute little story! Jane, who works at a Starbucks-esque cafe, is bored one day and decides to start writing down her observations of what customers are like based on the kinds of drinks they order. Out of the blue, she gets the idea that maybe certain types of people (based on their drink orders) would be perfect matches for other people, and starts playing cupid with her customers. In an interesting turn of events, suddenly Jane is matchmaking by the hundreds, while doing her best to juggle school, her own crushes, and her best friend's unexpected happiness over a new boyfriend.

The premise is simple, the plot predictable, and the characters not as entirely well-rounded as one might find in a longer contemporary YA. But that doesn't make it any less sweet, fun, or delightful to read. You can see the twists coming a mile away, but because this is a simple romantic comedy of sorts, we know exactly who to root for, and exactly who needs their comeuppance--and it's still worth it when it happens!

It's certainly an HEA type of story, but one that provides plenty of smiles and "feel-good" moments along the way. A quick read, but worth it.

Rating: 3.5/5
Source: Library

Feb 12, 2012, 1:31am Top

Just dropping by to say hi and see what you've been up to lately. The Espressologist sounds like a fun book. I've never heard of the blue envelope series. You've piqued my interest so I didn't read your review just in case I decide to read the first one. *sigh* Two more on the wishlist, which is growing by leaps and bounds!

Feb 12, 2012, 5:26pm Top

>34 Storeetllr:: Thanks for stopping in!!! I can't say I'm sorry to add more books to your wishlist... I'm sure the moment I stop back into your thread, the same will happen to me... haha. Sounds like we've both seen an explosion in our TBR lists this year! ...which is a little worrisome, considering we're only halfway through the second month of the year... LOL.

Feb 12, 2012, 9:52pm Top

Popping in and seeing a full swing of books. After working in a coffee shop for two years I can certainly buy the premise of The Espressologist

Feb 13, 2012, 5:19pm Top

Skipped the review of The Last Little Blue Envelope as I do plan to read it at some point, but it looks like you enjoyed it (based on your rating). Hope you've got some more great reads lined up, Faith. :)

Feb 14, 2012, 8:33am Top

>36 Luxx:: Haha, I wondered if there was any truth to her method!

>37 MickyFine:: I think I do... a few more library books coming up that I'm really looking forward to. Thank goodness after those duds at the beginning of the month!

Feb 14, 2012, 10:19am Top

Glad you are having more fun now!

Feb 14, 2012, 7:51pm Top

Wow, I got way behind with you! But I'm here now. Whew. :)

Feb 16, 2012, 10:18am Top

Hi there!! The Espressologist seemed like such a cute book, especially for coffe-loving singletons! ;)

Have a wonderful day!!

Feb 16, 2012, 12:15pm Top

Mmm. Coffee. I've just had my cup for the day, so I am feeling gooood.

I'll have to add The Espressologist to my wishlist. It's a cute idea and it sounds like a fun read. Besides, anything about coffee must be good!

Feb 16, 2012, 1:20pm Top

Given my mixed track record with YA, I've been trying to ignore your review of The Espressologist - but there - now I've done it. I've requested it from the library. You really shouldn't reading such appealing books!

Feb 17, 2012, 10:20am Top

>39 sibyx:: Me too!

>40 scaifea:: Phew is right! Sit down, have a cup of tea, catch your breath... :)

>41 Apolline:: It's true, it really is! :D

>42 ErisofDiscord:: I just had mine too... I was such a zombie this morning, I stumbled out of the bedroom mumbling "coffeeeeee???" Thankfully El Husbando knows exactly what to do, so it was only a few minutes before I was able to drug myself, I mean wake up.

>43 Dejah_Thoris:: Oh, well, I'll try to read more crap in the... no, who am I kidding! MORE BOOKS FOR EVERYONE!!!

In other news, yesterday I realized I haven't finished a book in 5 or 6 days, and I started to feel a little empty and sad... but that's probably because I'm reading four non-fiction books at the moment and bouncing between them all. It's not that I'm not enjoying them all, but a few are a little heavier reads so I can only manage a chapter or two before my brain shuts down and I fall asleep on the couch (no joke). I'm in the midst of:

Packing for Mars - Mary Roach
Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All - Oran B. Hesterman
God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science - James Hannam (group read)
Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Macchu Picchu - Christopher Heaney

...so I imagine in a week or so I'll have a slew of non-fiction reviews go up, but in the meantime, it's relatively slow going...

Feb 17, 2012, 10:35am Top

I feel the same way when I haven't finished a book in a while. I try to focus on the long term, but sometimes I just need to sneak in a quick YA for consolation.

Feb 17, 2012, 5:37pm Top

I can relate to the slow-going nonfiction. I am currently reading A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War. It is very interesting, but 1 or 2 chapters at a sitting is all I can manage. Sadly I am only about a third of the way through this thousand-page behemoth, and the ebook turns into Cinderella and runs away from the ball (or in this case, my kobo) at midnight tonight. By the time I get it back, I will probably have forgotten everything I've read so far!

Feb 17, 2012, 5:51pm Top

I'm working a slow going non fiction book myself: Plague of Sheep: Environmental Consequences of the Conquest of Mexico. It's a great book, but there's only so much I can absorb at one sitting.

I really enjoyed Cradle of Gold last year - I hope you like it as well.

Feb 17, 2012, 6:36pm Top

Hi, Faith. Both The Last Envelope and The Espressologist sound like good YAs. I'm going to mention them to seasonsoflove, too.

Feb 19, 2012, 4:58am Top

Well, I do like Espresso...a romantic comedy however may not be my cup of tea
By the way, I don't know what HEA means, would anyone here care to enlighten me?

Feb 19, 2012, 8:49am Top

HEA = Happily Ever After

Feb 19, 2012, 11:04am Top

Oh, I'm a fan of Mary Roach - I really enjoy her life, and, well, her choice of subjects (corpses, sex, and space travel? Sure!).

Feb 20, 2012, 11:27am Top

>45 _Zoe_:: Good idea! I actually ended up doing that this weekend, just to make myself feel a little better... haha.

>46 rosalita:: Oh no! You can't renew?

>47 Dejah_Thoris:: I'm enjoying it so far! Not as fast a read as The Lost City of Z, but entertaining nonetheless.

>48 jnwelch:: Yay, hope you like them!

>49 PiyushC:: I'm not sure it would be up your alley either, but you can have yourself a cup of espresso nonetheless!

>51 Luxx:: I like Packing for Mars so far! I wanted to read Stiff first, but it doesn't look like my library has it, so I'll look for it elsewhere once I'm done this one. She's quite the woman, that's for sure!

Feb 20, 2012, 11:48am Top

19) Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother -- Amy Chua

Umm... wow. If you've ever wanted to feel grateful for your parents, read this book. It's a fascinating read -- which surprised me a little bit, considering it's a parenting memoir -- but I learned a lot about Chinese parenting, getting children to succeed, and a different perspective on the child/parent relationship. In some ways, I see Chua's point and empathize with her sentiments -- Western parents are often too permissive, too easily cowed by their children, and too eager to be their best friends and make junior "happy", rather than give the child tools to succeed in the world -- but at the same time, some of her methods were extreme, occasionally disturbing, and doomed to backfire (as they did with one of her children in particular). I appreciated her honesty, and I really liked how in the final chapter, she mentioned how she allowed her family to influence the draft of her book, adding & vetoing certain parts and ensuring that both parent & child perspectives were given throughout (and her daughters have their own say on the book's contents in the final chapter as well).

What I think is most evident, despite the controversy surrounding Chua and her methods (and those she reveals about Chinese parenting), is that she loves her children and desperately wants them to live up to their potential -- and in so doing, wants to do everything she can to help them succeed, even to the point of sacrificing her own time, dreams, desires, and external relationships. And while I'm glad I wasn't raised with this kind of extreme discipline, I can appreciate the merits of the system, and I think Western parents would certainly benefit from a balance of Western & Eastern approaches to raising children.

Rating: 4/5
Source: Library

20) Green Heart -- Alice Hoffman

Poetic, vivid, and timely -- this volume is a 2-book anthology of Hoffman's books about Green (Green Angel and Green Witch), a young girl who finds herself all alone after a devastating tragedy rocks the world, and her journey of self-discovery in the midst of disaster.

It's a quick read, but moving --Green Angel more than the second -- and while at times the narrative seemed to become mildly soapbox-y, there is some truth behind the fiction (think terrorism, oppressive regimes, and women's rights) and to that end I was still able to enjoy the story.

Alice Hoffman, to her credit, has a beautiful way with words throughout the stories, and presents a tale of hope & self-discovery and the human heart's ability to live and thrive even in darkest moments of life.

Rating: 3.5/5
Source: Scholastic book order purchase

Feb 20, 2012, 12:19pm Top

I'm glad you liked Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother; that was one of my favourite books last year because the ideas were just so interesting. I think it's gotten a bad rap from people who hate her whole approach to parenting and can't just read it as a memoir.

Feb 20, 2012, 12:57pm Top

I would be very interested in reading Chua's book as a memoir as opposed to a parenting guide. I've heard of her text and her parenting philosophy, but only anecdotally. Based on that, I can certainly agree with this: Western parents are often too permissive, too easily cowed by their children, and too eager to be their best friends and make junior "happy", rather than give the child tools to succeed in the world -- but at the same time, some of her methods were extreme, occasionally disturbing, and doomed to backfire.

I've seen the consequences of this kind of coddling in my own classes - a sense of entitlement that just does not apply once one reaches maturity and is required to actually function. I've seen students with no respect for guidelines or due dates, and those who believe they (or their parents) can argue and bully for the grades they want, versus what they've earned. Yes, I've had parents contact me regarding grades and progress in college courses. I fear what this same inflated sense of self may do in the workplace, and I hope that I can teach my own children to be responsible for their achievements and their failures.

Feb 20, 2012, 5:17pm Top

#55 by Luxx> Apparently there is a very real growing trend of parents coming to job interviews with their post-college children and/or calling bosses to argue for a raise for their kid. Being a 20-something in the midst of this terrible economy, I can understand the appeal of having someone fight for you, but if my parents even thought of contacting someone on my behalf I would freak out. What must these 20-somethings be thinking? How in the world do they expect to survive in the world if they rely on their parents to hold their hand during job interviews? This is the end result of the opposite of tiger parenting, all these kids who have been raised to expect that their parents will take care of everything. It's just so weird.

Feb 20, 2012, 9:21pm Top

56 - but if my parents even thought of contacting someone on my behalf I would freak out. Oh my, I can agree with you there. It would never cross my mind that having my parents speak to someone on my behalf would make something like this (college, job interviews, raises) better.

Feb 21, 2012, 12:12am Top

>55 Luxx:-57: I too have occasionally been contacted by parents regarding their (adult) student's progress in college courses. I always find it really strange and ALWAYS want to ask what the parent is thinking -- what message do you think this interference is sending to your child-who-is-not-a-child? -- but of course one doesn't ask, one just sends a standard message about FERPA non-disclosure.

I agree, though, that this kind of "helicopter parenting" simply trains children to expect all things to be done for them. Mummy and Daddy have always been there to provide, to fix, to settle any problems... and so the newly adult student expects that the rest of life will be equally careful and accommodating. It is a dangerous way to grow up, but seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. No parent says "yes, I want my child to grow up to be spoiled, entitled, and unwilling to work for achievement" and yet people can't seem to stop hovering around their children and catering to them.

In some ways it stems from the mentality of previous generations -- the "I want my kids to have it better than I did" concept, which is not new -- but I think it has pushed farther. And the reciprocal relationship with the school system -- especially the public school system here in the US -- has not helped. Teachers know that if they flunk students, the wrath of the parents will be upon them; administration think of parents as taxpayers first, therefore bow to them and other outside interests rather than supporting teachers; and suddenly we have whole generations of students graduating from public school with only a minimally functional education.

But they still expect that 4.0 when they get to college.

Messed up.

Feb 21, 2012, 4:18pm Top

Excellent review on the Chua book, my sister enjoyed it as much as you did and I am definitely intrigued. I'm surprised by the meddling parents re. job interviews. Don't they see that that is a major con for the employer when they come to sum up the positives and negatives for the potential candidate. Do people whose parents go to the interviews then get the job I wonder?

Feb 21, 2012, 6:09pm Top

Hi Faith! Just stopping by to say hello! :)

Feb 21, 2012, 6:28pm Top

one just sends a standard message about FERPA non-disclosure.

And then the inevitable follow-up email explaining that, yes, this applies even if you (the parent) are the one paying tuition.

Feb 21, 2012, 8:01pm Top

Ha! So true! :)

Because "if I paid for it" naturally translates to "I control it". Oy.

Feb 21, 2012, 11:07pm Top

>54 _Zoe_:: I can see how people who'd read it as a parenting manual would (in some cases) be turned off... but as a memoir it's so fascinating!

>55 Luxx:-58/61-62: Even in my one-semester stint as a prof, I saw this sense of entitlement in a number of my students... and a distinct inability to understand that there are real consequences for one's actions. Yes, dear student, if I tell you in every single class that citing sources matters and neglecting to do so constitutes plagiarism (and that ignorance is no excuse), I really do mean that it matters and I will fail you. I had a LOT of student one-on-one meetings that semester... thankfully, no parents got involved, but I imagine that was simply the luck of the draw. Some of the students didn't even bother to hand in their papers, for absolutely no reason. Or they'd write whiny emails demanding I give them an extension on their assignments because they "had too much work." Uh, that's called BEING IN COLLEGE...

>59 KiwiNyx:: Thank you! You'd definitely think so, eh? If I was an employer and had a parent come in to the prospective employee's interview, I'd probably make a point of "hiring" the parent to try and give them some perspective. No doubt it'd go right over their head, however... *sigh*

>60 ChelleBearss:: Yay, thanks for stopping in! :D

Feb 21, 2012, 11:23pm Top

"What we're looking for here is a person capable of working independently and standing on their own two feet."

{Long silence, while parent and child wrinkle their brows and stare at interviewer blankly.}

Feb 22, 2012, 2:44pm Top

>64 lyzard:: Heehee...

Feb 22, 2012, 3:11pm Top

21) Unlikely Friendships - Jennifer Holland

Anyone who loves animal stories, animal photography, and being awed by animal behavior will love, love, love this book. Some of the stories have sad moments, but all are hopeful. Others are beyond incredible. It's unconscionable that scientists might still suggest animals can't make emotional bonds or don't have emotions -- there's more than enough in these stories to melt the heart of even the most stoic nonbeliever. Amazing, remarkable, and utterly beautiful. I borrowed this book from the library, but I will definitely be purchasing my own copy.

Rating: 5/5
Source: Library

22) Packing for Mars - Mary Roach

What fun! Not to mention highly readable, and educational. Also, I'm now fairly certain that astronauts are slightly loopy, to be willing to endure all that they do, for years on end, just for the potential experience of going into space for a matter of days. With all the risks involved, not to mention training, uncertainty, and discomfort... it's a wonder that anyone is willing to go! Ah, but humans are endlessly curious, and it's a shame that there have been so many cuts to the space program recently.

But back to the book... if you're interested in space, NASA, or curious about astronauts and what they go through on the road to the stars, this is definitely a worthwhile read.

Rating: 4/5
Source: Library

Feb 22, 2012, 4:28pm Top

66: Bam, bam! Two book bullets in one post.

Feb 22, 2012, 4:34pm Top

Hi Faith

Two book bullets for me as well.

Feb 22, 2012, 4:50pm Top

63 - Oh dear, I could have written your responses to plagiarism and workload.

"I didn't have time to write my paper because I had to work."

That's funny - I managed to grade 100 essays this week while raising three children under five, preparing lectures, and keeping my house in order.

Edited: Feb 23, 2012, 5:28am Top

You must have your book-recommendations gun set on full automatic, because I also got hit with two bullets in one post. Ah, the carnage! It's so nice to know that thanks to people like you I will never have to suffer the pain of running out of interesting books to read.

On the helicopter parent front, I've seen it first hand. I work in the study abroad office at the state university, and we have parents who come in to the office with their student to look at program information, and they do all the talking! Our advisors try the trick of speaking directly to the student and not engaging with the parent, but often that has absolutely no effect. And we won't even get into all the parents who call constantly throughout the application/acceptance process, and then call less than 24 hours after the plane takes off because they haven't heard from their precious little snowflake yet. Nevermind that they may have gone to a country where their cell phone doesn't work and there isn't instant Internet access in their dorm room or homestay (the horror!) Sheesh.

Feb 23, 2012, 6:50am Top

Faith- I'm so glad you loved Packing for Mars. It's my favorite Roach book to date.

Feb 23, 2012, 7:28am Top

>69 Luxx:: *snork!* Sing it, sister!

Feb 23, 2012, 7:54am Top

Faith, I confess I'm jumping in here having missed a no-doubt fascinating full thread! Sorry about that!

Feb 23, 2012, 9:31am Top

Occasionally, there's a bright side to communicating with an overinvolved parent, at least from a librarian's perspective. We spend a lot of time and effort informing students about library services, but late-adolescent brains seem to give low priority to library orientation. Go figure.

So often students "learn" about some resource or service a few semesters after they most needed it. Then they cry: "I could have used that last year in my Widget Studies class! Why don't you tell people you have that?" (You mean other than at freshman orientation, class presentations, the library website, the campus newsletter, the library catalog, and the handouts right here at the reference desk? Dunno, we're just lazy I guess.)

We offer parents library orientation during campus visit days. Because when the overparented student has a research crisis, he/she is more likely to call mom or dad than the library. Then mom or dad can say, "The library has resources for that."

On the other hand, when a parent comes to the reference desk and leads with, "I'm working on my son's research paper ..." you can't help thinking things have gone a bit further than too far.

Feb 23, 2012, 10:09am Top

I really have to bump Packing For Mars up the line!

The parenting thing is very tricky -- like everything else today there are so many conflicting messages coming in that it can be very difficult to navigate a middle path. Of late I have begun using the phrase, "When you go to college I won't be there the way I am now, so listen up.......!" and this does seem to occasionally penetrate. I think attitudes about children have also changed so much - mostly for the better - that it's hard to know when and how to start 'weaning'. Parents could use a lot more help and guidance with this than they get although there are some excellent and helpful books out there. My dau is 15 presently and I was more or less on my own at 15 - and so not ready - some of it was good, some truly terrible. People tend to overcompensate for whatever they think was bad about their own childhoods so I am very watchful. But I certainly don't plan to ever communicate with a college prof!!!! Not ever. And since I am a librarian she is a lucky girl! I love it that you offer parents a library orientation. Very wise!

Feb 23, 2012, 10:42am Top

//Then they cry: "I could have used that last year in my Widget Studies class! Why don't you tell people you have that?" (You mean other than at freshman orientation, class presentations, the library website, the campus newsletter, the library catalog, and the handouts right here at the reference desk? Dunno, we're just lazy I guess.)//

I work at a school. Yes. Though in our case I would say "other than in Prayers, your Teacher Advisor groups, announcements, hallway posters, the Parent Update, and the Student News message board? Yeah, I can see how you failed to locate that. Shame on us."

Feb 23, 2012, 5:30pm Top

>66 dk_phoenix: You mean all astronauts aren't like Major Nelson and don't have a Jeannie to help them through all the hoops NASA has? ;) The Roach books is already on the TBR list, but I'm glad you enjoyed it, Faith. :)

Feb 23, 2012, 9:11pm Top

Oh goody! I was able to obtain a copy of Packing For Mars. My local library had it!

Feb 23, 2012, 10:10pm Top

>67 RosyLibrarian:: *waves finger guns in your general direction* Whoo-hoo! Bullseye!!!

>68 Whisper1:/78: Yay, and glad you were able to find a copy of Roach's book!!!

>69 Luxx:: Oh man... you would have loved my conversation with the SENIOR student who plagiarized 90% of the paper and then had the audacity to claim it was "an accident" because he'd had "so much other work to do"... *facepalm*

>70 rosalita:: *rubs knuckles on lapels* ... *blows on them* ... yeah, I do what I can... ;)

>71 msf59:: I can't wait to read her other ones too!

>73 suslyn:: Hah, it's okay, Susan! You've got plenty going on right now, I'm just happy to see you stop by. :)

>74 swynn:: Oh dear... "I'm working on my son's research paper"??? ...oh dear, dear... o_O I do like the idea of offering a library orientation for parents, though. That sounds very wise!

>75 sibyx:: It must be terribly difficult as a parent to know when to start "weaning", as you say. You want to ensure they're independent when they need to be, but also want to protect them from the hardship for the world for as long as humanly possible. I don't envy you of this task at all!

>76 Cynara:: Oy vey!

>77 MickyFine:: Haha! If only!!!

Feb 24, 2012, 8:13am Top

79- Wha huh wha?

I did have a student who turned in a 100% plagiarized essay, and then claim she didn't know "how that happened," adding that she "had friends help with proofreading."

Oh, that must be it! One of your friends must have put your essay online!

I wish now I had gone back and checked the date of publication on the website.

But these cases can be useful in a small way - I share stories (minus names or even references to semesters) with students as a way to stress that a) I do catch it and hold students accountable and b) just how ridiculous it is. I've found it's more effective to get the class laughing over a ridiculous case of plagiarism from three years ago than it is to put on my Draconian pants and preach about it.

I try to stress to my students that they need to treat college (all of it, not just my classes) as a kind of job; attendance and satisfactory efforts are required for success in either.

'You mean other than at freshman orientation, class presentations, the library website, the campus newsletter, the library catalog, and the handouts right here at the reference desk? Dunno, we're just lazy I guess.

Oh my, I love this.

If I were to give up teaching I'd want to be a research librarian.

Feb 27, 2012, 9:33am Top

23) Girl, Stolen -- April Henry

The premise of the book is straightforward: Cheyanne, a teenager who's been blind since a tragic car accident three years ago, is sleeping in her step-mother's SUV while her step-mother picks up Cheyanne's medication for pneumonia, when the SUV is stolen -- with Cheyanne in the back seat. Kidnapped, sick, and seemingly helpless, Cheyanne will have to use all of her other senses to escape from her kidnappers and save herself.

Although the unintentional kidnappers underestimate her due to her blindness, they still take precautions like tying her up, not using names around her, and so on. When it's discovered she's the daughter of a wealthy businessman, things take a turn for the worse.

As exciting as the book could have been, I felt that it never really took off the way it could have. Cheyanne spends a great deal of the book tied up, though she does take action when the opportunities present themselves. That said, I found that on an emotional level, something was lacking. I didn't feel terrified for Cheyanne's safety, and considering the circumstances, I should have been on the edge of my seat the whole time. That visceral element of fear, horror, and terror simply never came, and I'm not sure why.

That said, because it doesn't dig as far as it could into the severity of what's happening, this is a YA novel that could be given to younger readers on the YA spectrum (I'm thinking 12+) and provoke good discussion between parent and child without traumatizing the young teen.

Decent, but I wish there'd been more to it.

Rating: 3/5
Source: Scholastic book order purchase

Feb 27, 2012, 1:56pm Top

A bit late to the party, but I've been book bulleted too, by the Amy Chua.
Also finding the conversation about "helicopter" parents fascinating. I encounter children with that sense of entitlement all the time, but then I do work with much younger kids than most of you folks (3-12 mostly). Interestingly, it is mainly something I've noticed with children from more affluent backgrounds - when I work with kids from more deprived backgrounds, they may have lots of other stuff going on with them behaviour wise, but this snotty attitude of "the world revolves around what I want" isn't one of them. I was having a conversation with a couple of female friends the other day about parenting. They are both parents and I'm not, though we all work with children. I can appreciate just how hard it is to be a good parent these days, and I'm sure I'll make lots of mistakes when it's my turn. If, like me, the challenges of bringing up children in our modern world is a subject you find interesting, I heartily recommend Toxic Childhood: How The Modern World Is Damaging Our Children And What We Can Do About It. This book is written from the perspective of children and parents in the UK (recently found to be the place with the most unhappy children in Europe!), but I'm sure it's 99.5% relevent to children in the US too.

Feb 27, 2012, 2:20pm Top

Just trying to catch up on some threads today... Looks like you've had some great read so far this year, Faith! I'm quite glad you liked The Last Little Blue Envelope. I've had it on my Kindle since practically the day it came out, but haven't read it yet for whatever reason, probably because I enjoyed the first one so much.

Feb 28, 2012, 1:14am Top

I read Girl, Stolen a while ago, and I agree with your summary. It could've been a terse, scary read where we fear for the characters, but I remember being very blase about the whole book.

Feb 28, 2012, 1:37am Top

Faith the premise of Girl, Stolen is an interesting one and it is a shame you feel it wasn't carried off quite well enough.

Feb 29, 2012, 4:48pm Top

>82 HanGerg:: My brother did a teaching stint in the UK last year, and was horrified at how awful the children were that he was trying to teach. The only "discipline" they responded to was being screamed at as loud as humanly possible and then calling their parents. One kid stabbed another with a pencil and didn't understand that he'd done anything wrong. Before going, he'd thought the inner city Toronto kids were tough, but he came back thinking they were angels compared to the kids in the UK. Then again, he did believe a lot of it was a result of other social issues in the country, ie. immigrants and social identity. I suspect some came as a result of the entitlement problem as well.

>83 allthesedarnbooks:: I understand that! I was worried it wouldn't be any good too, but Maureen Johnson has yet to disappoint. :)

>84 ErisofDiscord:: Glad I'm not the only one...!

>85 PaulCranswick:: I know, there really could have been so much more to it... it's as if the author took the easy way out because of the audience, but considering what constitutes YA these days, I think she missed the mark.

Feb 29, 2012, 4:57pm Top

24) Cradle of Gold: The Story of Hiram Bingham, a Real-Life Indiana Jones, and the Search for Machu Picchu -- Christopher Heaney

If you're interested in Amazon exploration, this is yet another book you don't want to miss! While it's a little drier than Lost City of Z, there's still plenty of history, adventure, and real-world wonder to satisfy anyone looking for a jaunt into South American history and archaeology.

I should also mention that a good portion of the book is given to the issue of who artifacts belong to: the country of origin, or the group/person who found it? In Bingham's case, he saw the artifacts as belonging to Yale (who he dug for), and spent a great deal of his career fighting to keep the artifacts out of the hands of the Peruvian government... even if it meant smuggling the artifacts out and lying about what he'd found. It's a fascinating discussion, and one that's still relevant to archaeologists, museums, and governments around the world today.

Rating: 4/5
Source: Library

Feb 29, 2012, 5:06pm Top

Adding that to the list - sounds interesting. Nice review!

Feb 29, 2012, 5:18pm Top

>87 dk_phoenix: Oh man. I'd love to hear his opinion on the Elgin Marbles... Glad you liked it, Faith. :)

Mar 2, 2012, 8:43am Top

>88 Crazymamie:: Thanks!

>89 MickyFine:: Oh, I know... I think this whole thing set a bit of a precedent and got the arguments going. I believe it was the first time a country had made a claim on its own artifacts, so I'm wondering if that's what spurred everything else. Even in my archaeology program, students were divided as to what should happen with the marbles, etc. Makes for fascinating discussion!

Mar 2, 2012, 9:08am Top

25) Why We Broke Up -- Daniel Handler

You may or may not know that Daniel Handler is the real-life name of Lemony Snicket, who wrote the Series of Unfortunate Events books some time ago. If you're at all familiar with this, do not read this book expecting another quirky children's tale. I've seen a review or two that complains about this very thing, which leads me to believe that some readers don't understand that using a pseudonym for the silly books was the whole point. His other work isn't silly, isn't bizarre, and isn't anything like the SoUE books. But that doesn't make it any less wonderful.

This is probably a "love it or hate it" kind of book. The story itself is written in the form of a "Dear John" letter (that's a breakup letter, for you young'uns) by the protagonist, and the writing style shifts between journal/letter/stream-of-consciousness depending on just how angry Min (the main character) is about whatever she's writing about. Her letter to Ed lists all the reasons why they broke up, recounting events and conversations and snippets of memory that led to this moment in time where her pen hits the paper to tell him they're done.

The writing is vivid, rough, and raw at times. There's nothing overly sweet or sentimental here, and the dialogue is stilted but not faked, awkward but not forced, and true to life. This is how teenagers talk: Full of uncertainties, playing to the moment, and highly reactionary.

Min's own insecurities come through very clearly in her letter. Throughout the story, she recounts how Ed and others always call her "different" and "strange" (but in a good way), but she doesn't see it that way, and fights against this label because she believes herself to be truly average if not a little bit worse. It's heartbreaking at times, but also more telling than some of us might like to admit -- I think most of us struggled with teenage insecurities, and Min's anger and frustration (and moments of joy, memories now tainted with the heartache of knowing what was to come) will, undoubtedly, strike a chord with many readers, even those who are long past their teenage years.

Rating: 4.5/5
Source: Library

26) The Chosen (Rogue Angel, #4) -- Alex Archer

Annja Creed is at it again! And this time, she's investigating sightings of The Holy Child, an apparition that seems to appear to travelers, prophesy some moment of immediate doom, and then disappear. Oh, and she's also trying to figure out what the deal is with these huge, glowing-eyed creatures that keep killing people.

I thought the book was fun, and a decent installment to the series. I may rate it a little higher than it should be simply because of the "fun" factor, because there were several rather gaping plot holes and a convenient, unsatisfying explanation for one of the phenomena (and, uh, maybe I'm remembering wrong, but I think the other one doesn't even get resolved???). But, there's plenty of action, a good deal of Annja being vulnerable and investigating the way a real researcher would (minus the "someone's trying to kill me" moments), and we meet someone who I assume will be showing up regularly as the series continues.

There wasn't quite enough "archaeology" in this one for me (but hey, we can't read about soil sampling and Munsell color classifying in every book), but it still made for a good evening of reading.

Rating: 4/5
Source: My bookshelves

Mar 2, 2012, 2:10pm Top

Faith, the Daniel Handler book sounds awfully good. Onto the wishlist it goes!

Mar 2, 2012, 2:53pm Top

Why We Broke Up is already residing on the TBR list. I really do need to get around to it sooner rather than later.

Mar 2, 2012, 2:56pm Top

92/3 Agreed.
I've never read SoUE, but that one sounds like good fun.

Mar 3, 2012, 8:26am Top

The Handler sounds amazing, great review. I've also wishlisted the book about Bingham.

Mar 3, 2012, 11:02am Top

I keep seeing things about the Rogue Angel series - I may have to break down and give it a try!

Also, while I doubt I'll ever pick it up, your review of Why We Broke Up was excellent. You got a thumbs up from me.

Mar 6, 2012, 7:59am Top

>92 rosalita:/93/94: It's definitely worth the time spent... hope you all like it!

>95 sibyx:: Thank you! Enjoy :)

>96 Dejah_Thoris:: Well, if you like books that are just plain fun, the Rogue Angel series is certainly that! Thanks for the thumbs up. :D

Mar 6, 2012, 8:03am Top

Just dropping by to catch up! Why We Broke Up looks very intriguing!

Mar 6, 2012, 8:51am Top

>98 RosyLibrarian:: *waves* It is!

...in other news, my seed packets & seed catalogue came last week! I can't remember whose thread I learned of Baker Creek in (I really should keep a chart), but I'm very excited... last year I planted flowers for the first time, and this year I'll try a little garden. I have no idea what will happen -- I don't even know where to start. But, I have an area in the yard where my MIL dug up some bushes last year so I know the soil can grow things there... just have to double check on sun/shade. I ordered Japanese cucumbers, fingerling carrots, kale, and snow peas, and they sent a thank-you packet of romaine seeds. I'm going to order the Baker Creek book... The Heirloom Life Gardener... and see if that helps me figure out what to do.

Hopefully this means that, in time, we'll have our own little selection of non-GMO, "organic" (in the sense that the seeds aren't contaminated) veggies to eat. I'm thinking I might try shopping at the farmer's market this year too, once it warms up a bit (I know I won't leave the house while it's still cold out in the mornings!). After watching the documentary Food, Inc., doing a bit of research, and reading Fair Food, I feel challenged to do what I can to change the food system. Monsanto is so evil, it makes me cry just talking about what they've done to the lives of farmers across the world (I actually broke down in front of my parents telling them about it... that was a bit embarassing...). I don't even live on a farm, and I don't know any farmers, but our food system right now is so completely broken and destroys lives, families, and our own bodies in the process through what we're consuming (pesticides, herbicides, etc.).

Anyway, I want to change my habits one step at a time, and kindly tell others about it (trying really hard to stay off a soapbox, but there are still people who don't know about Monsanto... honestly I just want to send everyone the news article about the 100,000+ farmers in India who committed suicide because of what Monsanto did to them), and hope to inspire change through my own change. I don't want to be hypocritical about it, so I guess that means I'm planting this garden no matter what! Hah.

...I really hope I don't kill all the plants in the first month... o_O

Mar 6, 2012, 9:46am Top

If I can keep plants alive then so can you! I'm really excited for you. I don't have enough space to really produce a crop of any kind, but I love experimenting with what I can grow. I've found that tomatoes actually produce better when you forget to water them. ;)

Mar 6, 2012, 12:43pm Top

YAY for Baker's Creek Seeds and YAY for home gardening! Isn't that the most beautiful seed catalog you've EVER seen?! Oh and The Heirloom Life Gardener is a great little intro and reference book.

I feel your dilemma about wanting to share your food knowledge with everyone but not wanting to beat them about the head with it. It's a hard balance to find. But it is important, for so many reasons. There are plenty of people I know who just won't take me seriously about it, but a fair share of people have started really thinking about their food. Which makes me feel great.

The strangest thing for me are the number of people who give me crap for raising and killing my own animals. I try to explain to them that my animals are all raised naturally, on pasture, and that they spend their lives running around and chasing things and being animals. And when the time comes for them to go in the freezer, I thank them for their lives and, with the utmost tenderness and respect, quickly send them on their way. It NEVER stops being hard to do. But I do this because I can't stand to support companies that don't respect the lives of food animals. And 90% of companies don't. But SOOOOOO many people just think I'm horrible and heartless for eating an animal that I raised. Those same people happily buy Tyson chicken no matter how many times I try to tell them about the horrible condition those chickens are raised in and how they are bred to grow so fast that their hearts often explode and their legs shatter. And they buy Smithfield ham (and every other pork product) even after I tell them about how those pigs spend their entire lives in crates so small that they can't even turn around... For some reason, they are able to play "out of sight, out of mind" with those things but label me heartless for what I do. It just never makes sense to me.

Anyway, diatribe over. Good luck with your garden! You'll love those Fingerling Carrots!

PS: You know a farmer now. ;)

Mar 6, 2012, 2:28pm Top

The Baker Creek catalog is fabulous, isn't it? If you really get into this, you ought to consider a membership in the Seed Savers Exchange (you can by many types of seeds without being a member). Another retail company is Seeds of Change.

I'm waiting for The Heirloom Life Gardener to become available from one of the other library systems in the state. Each small regional library system gets to keep their books 'in house' so to speak for six months after they get them.. It shouldn't be too much longer!

I hope you post some pictures of your garden and produce.

Mar 6, 2012, 2:33pm Top

And I recommend All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew for gardening in small spaces--my gardens are based on his methods.

Mar 6, 2012, 2:42pm Top

And when the time comes for them to go in the freezer, I thank them for their lives and, with the utmost tenderness and respect, quickly send them on their way.

That sounds to me like the best form of meat production. It's certainly more humane than factory farming.

Mar 7, 2012, 9:04am Top

Drat you people and your gardens. I make do with my wind-lashed windowboxes. :-)

Mar 12, 2012, 9:48am Top

>101 leahbird: Nicely put!!! Some of my growing up was on a farm, totally with you on it.

Mar 15, 2012, 3:21pm Top

>100 Luxx:: Haha... my parents grow tomatoes and also say it's very easy. Unfortunately, I can't eat tomatoes anymore... if I could, that'd be the first thing I'd plant so I could gain some gardening confidence!

>101 leahbird:: How could I forget about you! Of course I know a farmer. :) I think what you're doing with your animals is the most respectful, humane way to raise creatures for food. I remember in Food, Inc., the one organic cattle/poultry farmer they talked to said something similar -- his animals are allowed to be animals, to live happy and healthy lives as animals, not a "product"... the way it's supposed to be! Too many people are willfully ignorant about food production -- like you say, it's absolutely mystifying how someone could berate you for raising & killing your own animals for food, and then turn around and buy meat from a chicken who spent its whole life suffering in pain from birth to slaughter.

>102 Dejah_Thoris:: Thanks for the suggestions! I'll definitely look into those. For sure if (I mean, when!) anything actually comes up, I'll post pictures of my success!

>103 ronincats:: Thanks for the recommendation, I'll see if I can find a copy! Sounds interesting!

>104 Luxx:: After seeing footage of pigs being crushed for slaughter... it makes me want to vomit every time I walk past the freezers in the grocery store. I just wish I knew how to tell people about this kind of thing without coming across as self-righteous or soapbox-y. But... crushed to death?!?! How can this kind of thing happen in our society??? But as my husband likes to say, "people hurt other people all the time too, so it's not unconscionable that they could do the same to animals." Sigh.

>105 Cynara:: Windowboxes sound good too! My first time growing / planting anything was a small flowerbox on the porch last year. Do you grow herbs in your windowboxes?

Edited: Mar 15, 2012, 5:38pm Top

I think you mean Joel Salatin. He's an amazing farmer, but I don't always agree with all his personal principles (he's a religious conservative Libertarian and can get a bit... preachy about some things). Even though people have farmed as he does before him, he's really been the one to bring a lot of things to the public's attention. He is the poster boy for pastured poultry. He practices what's basically called mob-stocking along with management intensive rotational grazing.

Here's his infographic from Lexicon of Sustainability.

Mar 16, 2012, 9:24am Top

//Do you grow herbs in your windowboxes?//

I do. And come back as proud as if I'd just harvested the back 40 acres.

Edited: Mar 16, 2012, 10:47am Top

27) Gilda Joyce: Ladies of the Lake -- Jennifer Allison

This was a lot of fun! How unexpected! When I was at the library, I wanted to grab a couple of audiobooks since I spend a lot of time driving during the week, but didn't have a lot of time, and saw this sitting on the top of the display case and figured "what the heck, it looks cute". Turns out it's the second book in a series about a middle-school girl named Gilda Joyce, who considers herself a psychic investigator. In this book, she transfers to a private academy called Our Lady of Sorrows, partly because it's a "better school with better opportunities" (says her mother), but mostly because a girl died there a few years ago, and there are rumors of her haunting the school. Naturally, it sounds like a job for a psychic investigator, so Gilda jumps at the opportunity... but gets more than she bargained for when she begins to uncover the truth behind the girl's death.

There were only a few concerns I had with the book, mostly to do with the main character. Gilda can get somewhat annoying and repetitive at times, and she lies far too easily without remorse. I realize that's often the case with young teens, but I didn't feel comfortable that there were no repercussions for her lies and that she didn't apologize. She also has a tendency to act rather egotistical, and sometimes treats others with surprising contempt, even while bemoaning her own plight among the school's social scene. That said, the adults in the book sound like adults, act like adults, and react like sensible adults, even when Gilda thinks they're wrong. In that sense, I think the author has an excellent grasp on teen / adult relationships and how they're perceived from both sides.

I listened to this as an audiobook, and the narrator did an excellent job. She pulled off the young teen voice and vibe, without delving into sounding too annoying or whiny. Her voices for the other characters were also very well done and consistent all the way through.

I'm definitely planning to pick up more Gilda Joyce, and hopefully in audio format!

Rating: 4.5/5
Source: Library audiobook

Mar 16, 2012, 12:48pm Top

I love the whole series, and I'm glad that you enjoyed the book! Gilda isn't a perfect character, which I don't mind seeing, because sometimes a lot of YA book protagonists are too good to be true.

Mar 16, 2012, 1:01pm Top

Oh, that does sound cute. I'll have to check my own library.

Mar 16, 2012, 2:29pm Top

>111 ErisofDiscord:: Yes, that's true -- I do love it when main characters have real, evident flaws! It just bothered me a little how she lied so easily without consequences most of the time. But I'm definitely going to read/listen to the rest of them!

>112 Luxx:: Fingers crossed they have them!

Edited: Mar 16, 2012, 2:41pm Top

28) No Opportunity Wasted -- Phil Keoghan

Like a lot of people, I only knew Phil from watching the Amazing Race for so many years... I had no idea how much of an "extreme" adventure/sports/food/etc. person he is! It was a little shocking, but also really interesting... I'd now like to see if I can find episodes of the "No Opportunity Wasted" TV show, as it sounded like a fascinating concept that made a real difference in peoples' lives. That said, this book (aside from the anecdotes from Phil's personal experiences) is a challenge to everyone who lives in complacency, stagnation, and fear, or is full of regrets and "I always wanted to" wishes. Phil challenges you to make a list for your life: Things you want to accomplish, fears you want to overcome, ways you want to help others... basically how to step out of your boring, comfortable existence, and really live life. There's a whole, wide, beautiful world out there, and how sad would it be to come to the end of one's life and regret not making the most of it!

What I really appreciated was Phil's inclusion of non-extreme challenges for those who may have other obstacles to overcome: Public speaking, or learning how to swim, or even finally sitting down and writing that book you've always wanted to write. With calm, reasoned logic, he refutes the most common excuses people give for not traveling or not following their dream, and offers simple explanations for breaking down those barriers (which are mostly mental) in order to move forward.

While I didn't end up making a list of my own, I talked about this book with my husband and we agreed that we do follow many of Phil's principles and therefore maybe don't need quite as specific a list for guidance. If one of us has a goal or a challenge, we try to do what we can to make it happen, and we're willing to try new things. But it was a good reminder that we only get one life to live, so if there's something we really want to do, it's up to us to make it happen. I think this book would be a good wake-up call and source of encouragement for someone who wants to get out there and do things or face one's fears, but isn't sure where to start or how to even think about doing it.

And you know what? I really do think that this kind of thing is easier than ever now, with the preponderance of GroupOn and WagJag and other group buying sites. There are plenty of great opportunities that come up as "deals" on these sites -- things that otherwise might have been too expensive -- that make them more accessible than they were before.

Overall? A good "get off your butt and live" challenge for all of us!

Rating: 3.5/5
Source: Library

Mar 16, 2012, 11:04pm Top

>108 leahbird:: Yes, that's the guy! I don't know a thing about him other than what I saw in the film. I guess there are many sides to everyone. :) Interesting poster though, thank you for sharing it!

>109 Cynara:: I'd be proud too! Nothing wrong with that! Heck, growing anything is worth celebrating. I have a hibiscus that flowers just once (if I'm lucky, twice) a year with ONE bloom which will open for about 5 hours and then *BAM* close up and die. During those 5 hours, I feel like I've performed some kind of miracle...

Mar 18, 2012, 9:34am Top

The Keoghan sounds intriguing......

Mar 18, 2012, 9:45am Top

So many good books here to wishlist, Faith! There's one problem with No Opportunity Wasted, if I got off my butt I wouldn't be reading. But I'll check out the book anyway, because, I'm at that age where I need not waste opportunities.
The Alice Hoffman looks like a good one and Machu Pinchu as well.
So thanks for swelling my already obesse wishlist :0)

Mar 19, 2012, 1:41pm Top

>116 sibyx:: It is... ;) ...and it'll make you yearn to get out and see the world, or maybe discover treasures or unique experiences in your own neighborhood. You never know!

>117 Carmenere:: Can't say I'm sorry... ;) Haha! And the good thing is, if you're out in the world, there's bound to be waiting here or there, so as long as you have a book along in your purse, you're set!

Mar 19, 2012, 1:53pm Top

29) Ape House -- Sara Gruen

I wasn't sure about this book when I picked it up, but after seeing several strong reviews for it here in the 75ers group, I figured, why not?

The story centers around a journalist, a scientist (animal behavior specialist), and a family of bonobos. When the bonobo project center is bombed, the animals are sold without the scientist's consent as she recovers from serious injuries sustained from the blast. When the bonobos appear on-air in a reality television show that no one seems to know anything about, the race is on to find and recover the animals before they become sick, injured, or worse... because one of the bonobos is pregnant, and the show producers don't know about it.

My favorite parts of the book were the segments showcasing the relationship & communication between the scientist and the bonobos. At the back of the book, Gruen describes her own experience at a bonobo language project, where she did research for the book and had a chance to talk face-to-face with a family of bonobos. Many of her experiences went directly into the novel, with names and minor details changed. It's absolutely astounding the level of complexity these creatures can grasp and communicate with ASL -- the grammar may be simple, but the ideas conveyed are not. We really can, in reality, communicate with primates just as if we were talking to another human being. It's so incredible, I don't even have the words to describe how utterly awe-inspiring this is to me.

As for the actual plot and character development within the novel, it was good and kept me interested. I would have loved even more about the animals, but for that, I know, I should read a science/nature non-fiction book. There were several good twists in terms of discovering who the real villain was and who sold out the bonobos, and the subplot featuring the journalist and his wife seemed to develop realistically, and I really didn't know how it was going to turn out in the end.

I'd say that if you enjoy books about animals (but don't want to cry at the end) and are interested in the real subject matter the story was based on, you'll enjoy the book. The tension is sustained well but isn't over-the-top, making this a good low-key read that people with varying tastes in fiction can enjoy.

Rating: 4/5
Source: Library

Mar 19, 2012, 2:39pm Top

Faith, very nice review of Ape House. I loved that book, and I'm glad to see that you liked it as well.

Mar 19, 2012, 3:15pm Top

#119 " if you enjoy books about animals (but don't want to cry at the end)" - that's me! Wishlisted, although I still haven't read Water for Elephants.

Mar 20, 2012, 12:01am Top

>119 dk_phoenix:: Great review! I like Water for Elephants and was hoping that this one was equally good or better. Looks like I'll have to move it up the list. :)

Mar 20, 2012, 9:39am Top

Have you read Water for Elephants? That book was one I resisted for so long and once I read it I couldn't believe I resisted. It's excellent. I highly recommend it.

I don't really like Apes/Gorillas/Monkeys so I am staying away from this one.

Mar 20, 2012, 9:55am Top

Hi Faith
You are reading such great books. I'd like to add them all to the tbr pile. For now, I'm adding Why We Broke Up. Ape House is already on the list, but your great review prompts me to move it up some notches.

Mar 20, 2012, 10:00am Top

Faith - agree with all the positive remarks about the excellent review of Ape House which also gets added immediately to my overworked hitlist.

Mar 21, 2012, 9:57am Top

>120 rosalita:: Thank you! It was definitely worth the read. I can't remember who exactly recommended it in their thread, so maybe it was you? Let's give you credit anyway, just for fun... :D

>121 souloftherose:: I haven't read Water for Elephants either, but I really should. Sara Gruen is the poster child for NaNoWriMo with that book, since it was a NaNo book to start, so I should read it since I keep recommending it to aspiring authors... haha.

>122 beserene:: Thanks! I'll put Water for Elephants back on the TBR list... it's been awhile since I thought about reading it, but since I liked Ape House so much I should give it a shot.

>123 JulieC0802:: Nope, not yet! But I will now for sure. :) I didn't think it would be up my alley but I'm certainly rethinking that after Ape House.

>124 Whisper1:: Thanks for stopping in, Linda! I can't say I'm sorry for adding more books to your TBR pile. ;) I hope you enjoy Why We Broke Up once you get around to it.

>125 PaulCranswick:: Hi Paul, thanks! Ahh yes, the overworked reading list... story of all our lives, I think... haha.

Mar 22, 2012, 8:31am Top

30) The Unconquered: In Search of the Amazon's Last Uncontacted Tribes -- Scott Wallace

The premise of this piece of narrative non-fiction is a journalist from National Geographic goes on a journey down the Amazon with a renowned advocate for indigenous rights—they’re looking for a tribe of uncontacted people known as the Arrow People, but they’re looking for them to make sure that they aren’t seen and that they remain uncontacted through Brazil’s protection of their land.

The narrative starts slowly, and it took me two weeks to make it through the first two hundred pages. There’s a lot of political discussion in terms of preservation, Amazon exploration & development, and native rights / clashes / integration and protection. It’s interesting, but doesn’t really clip along the way I’d hoped... until the second half of the book. When the exploration team is off the boats and traveling on foot, getting closer and closer to Arrow People territory, the tension rises, the pace of the narrative increases, and for whatever reason, I zipped through those final 200 pages like water. There’s still plenty of political discussion, but it integrates well with the action and makes for a great story.

After reading a several books on historical exploration in the Amazon, it was fascinating to read this modern tale of exploration, preservation, and self-discovery. I was glad for the current perspective on the situation, and for an entertaining read to boot.

Rating: 4/5
Source: Library

31) Still Life – Louise Penny

After hearing so much about this series in the 75ers group, I decided to give it a shot. I can’t remember the last time I read a contemporary mystery, but I’m glad I picked this one up... if only for the Canadiana! I didn’t realize it was set in Quebec, and there were so many fantastic little comments and references to various Canadian icons or quirks that I found myself grinning or gigging knowingly throughout the majority of the book.

I didn’t connect with the characters quite as much as I’d hoped to, but knowing that there are additional books to the series and this is the first one, I can forgive that in hopes of getting more character development in the next book or two. I also found the plot a little bit dry at times, and the “whodunit” twist wasn’t as shocking as one might hope. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it!

It was a fun, calm, mild atmosphere sort of book, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for book two. I’m glad I finally gave into the seemingly endless recommendations!

Rating: 3.5/5
Source: Purchased

Mar 22, 2012, 8:47am Top

I recently read Still Life also, and I agree with everything you said! I did really like the lead inspector and felt that the interaction between the characters, the details about the setting, and the writing made it worth continuing with the series.

I have not read Ape House, but absolutely loved Water for Elephants.

Mar 22, 2012, 8:55am Top

>126 dk_phoenix: I believe The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was also a NaNoWriMo project as well. Two books with a lot of buzz!

Mar 22, 2012, 9:08am Top

I saw The Unconquered in the bookstore recently and couldn't decide what I thought of the premise. It seemed a bit strange to go in search of these people while wanting them to be left alone, but I guess it does make sense.

Mar 22, 2012, 12:52pm Top

Nice review of The Unconquered, Faith. Thumb from me! I'm also glad to see another fan of Louise Penny's series. You do indeed learn more about all the characters as you go along in reading the rest.

Mar 22, 2012, 6:32pm Top

Thumbs up on The Unconquered review form me, too, Roni! I'm afraid I'm in the minority group that wasn't all that crazy about Still Life, though.

Mar 24, 2012, 2:30am Top

A thumb for you and a book bullet for me on The Unconquered!

Mar 24, 2012, 2:52pm Top

The Unconquered sounds super interesting. And I do own a copy of Still Life... One of these days.

Mar 24, 2012, 2:59pm Top

I loved Ape House. I was so intrigued by the bonobos! Just loved them. And I thought it was an interesting parallel to societies infatuation with reality TV. I really enjoyed that book. Although I can hardly recall any of the human characters

However, Still Life was a complete drag for me. I didn't enjoy it at all.

Mar 24, 2012, 6:34pm Top

>128 Crazymamie:: Yes, I thought the inspector was a character with a lot of potential. I assume he's around in the rest of the books, too?

>129 rosalita:: Oh, really?! I had no idea! Just another notch in the hat for the program. :) Good to know!

>130 _Zoe_:: I thought the same thing when I picked up the book to see what it was about. But it made sense once I read a little more -- the idea was to find the boundaries of the Arrow People's territory so that the Brazilian government could declare that area protected native land, and impose severe penalties on loggers, poachers, etc. Basically, making it illegal for anyone to enter the area without strict authorization so that the people's way of life isn't disturbed. From that perspective, it makes sense. I truly hope that these people who wish to remain uncontacted are able to do so, but it seems to be getting more and more difficult with each year.

>131 jnwelch:: Thank you! That's good to know. :) I was a little worried about starting a new series (I'm in the midst of too many already!) but since it's quite different from what I usually read, I figure I'll save them for when I need a change of page.

>132 Dejah_Thoris:: Thanks for the thumbs! And this is Faith... ;) ...too bad about Still Life for you, but I can see how it wouldn't work for some people. I think the Canadiana is what kept me hooked until the story picked up.

>133 beserene:: Thanks! Enjoy, once you get around to reading it!

>134 RosyLibrarian:: "One of these days" seems to be my motto for most of the books I've been adding to the TBR list lately... I have so many "one of these days" books on my shelves that I swear my house is going to collapse under the weight! Lol.

>135 kittenfish:: That's true to, it definitely was an interesting commentary on reality television and society. The bonobos were definitely the highlight of the book. I understand about Still Life though -- it was fairly slow to start and quite a low-key story in terms of pacing and tone throughout. Do you typically read those kind of mysteries? I don't, and I probably would have set it down much earlier if it hadn't been for the Canadian content that made me smile. Oh well!

Mar 24, 2012, 6:45pm Top

Great review of The Unconquered!

Mar 24, 2012, 6:53pm Top

I don't normally read those types of mysteries and if it wasn't on audio I would have abandoned it completely. I found it to be very old fashioned and dull. If it had been set in a time frame that fit it, I may have enjoyed it more. When they mentioned Googling I was all.....really??? I thought the investigator was a moron. Just didn't do it for me.

Mar 25, 2012, 12:47pm Top

Hi Faith!
Glad to see you enjoyed Ape House as I have that packed away in a book waiting to be read!

I hope you stick with the Louise Penny series as the first one is the weakest IMHO. I really enjoyed them all

Mar 25, 2012, 6:09pm Top

>132 Dejah_Thoris:, 136

Whoops! Sorry Faith, I don't know where my brain was when I typed that message. You get the thumbs up no matter what your name is!

Mar 27, 2012, 3:37pm Top

>137 Whisper1:: Thanks, Linda!

>138 kittenfish:: I see, now, tell us how you really feel about it... ;) ...that's okay, not every book is for everyone!

>139 ChelleBearss:: That's good to know! Gives me something to look forward to in the rest of the series.

>140 Dejah_Thoris:: Haha. No worries! :D

Mar 27, 2012, 4:04pm Top

Hey there! Haven't been here for a bit. The Phil Keoghan book sounds good. I may look for that one at the library. I like the idea of writing down the things that one wants to accomplish.

Sandy K

Mar 28, 2012, 10:52am Top

32) Across the Universe -- Beth Revis

First, a few comments about the audiobook version, which was how I "read" this book: It felt rushed and cheaply put together, and I won't be picking up any more audiobooks from this producer. At the end of each disc, there was no indication that the disc was over (like the typical "end of disc one" voice that tells you it's time to change the CD) and instead the disc would simply start over again, without any break of any kind. More than once, I listened to a few minutes of the beginning of the disc again before realizing I'd already heard it (and that might tell you something about the story, too...). I also thought that the chosen readers, while I'm sure they're good at what they do in their own right, were wrong for an audiobook.

The reader for Amy, the female main character, kept her voice soft and low for the majority of her chapters, which doesn't work well when you're listening to an audiobook, simply due to the ambient noise in a house or car. She also trailed her voice at the end of sentences with alarming frequency, which made it nearly impossible to understand what she was saying at the end of a sentence without blasting the volume to uncomfortable levels. The reader for Elder was okay, but the way he said certain words really grated my nerves (emphasizing certain syllables). Doesn't anyone listen to these things before releasing them?!?! Ugh.

But on to the story itself. And I'll give this warning:Yes, there will be minor ***spoilers*** ahead, so you may want to skip this review and come back if you're hoping to read it sometime in the future.

I'd heard so much hype about this book -- and I read the author's blog, and I think she's a fun, intelligent woman -- that I had big expectations for it. Unfortunately, I don't think it lived up to the hype, and I was more disappointed than satisfied. But, I'm hoping that it's a reflection of "first novel" syndrome, and I'm sure the author will come into her own with each following novel. Plus, it's hard to say how much of a hand the publisher had in changing certain aspects of the novel in the editing phase... I always wonder that with first novels...

The premise is more or less solid, if not thoroughly explained. A ship is sent across the universe on a 300-year journey to a new planet, where a new Earth will be colonized. Various military personnel and people with vital skill sets are cryogenically frozen on the ship, to be revived upon landing. Exactly why this is happening isn't as thoroughly explained as I'd liked (there was some kind of war, or financial crisis, or something, but if the situation is as dire as it sounds, sending one ship on a 300-year journey seems a little lacking in terms of viable solutions to a worldwide problem), but I can overlook that for the sake of setting up a sci-fi atmosphere.

Amy, the main character, comes along with her parents on the journey, but someone wakes her up 50 years too soon. I found it a little annoying that we make it nearly a third of the way through the book before Amy is woken up, because we already know it's going to happen -- it's on the back cover blurb -- so I found that ruined the anticipation and made me impatient to get to the point of the story. I blame the publisher for that one.

Once she awakes on the ship, she meets Elder (stupid, stupid name) who is "next in line" to be in charge of the ship. He's the pupil of Eldest, the current leader, and Elder and the rest of the ship blindly follow Eldest's leadership. It's immediately obvious that Eldest is going to be made out as the primary villain of the story, even though we don't get much information about his motivations or reasons for doing what he's doing -- beyond the very clear indication that all of his actions and "changes" to the lifestyle of the ship's people (not the frozen people, but colonists who keep the ship running and moving to reach their destination) are for the good of the people aboard. He honestly believes that everything he's doing is for them. For their sake, and to keep them alive.

Amy, who convinces Elder that the way things are done is "not natural" (of course not, you've been asleep for 250 years on a spaceship, obviously things are going to run differently because of confined nature of a spaceship), begins doing whatever she can to subvert Eldest's power and, in the meantime, try to solve the mystery of who is unplugging the "frozens" (and the murderer is obvious from the very beginning, FYI). Now, I have piles and piles more to say about how this plays out -- about the gratuitous "almost rape" scene that serves no purpose, about the unbelievable way Amy still calls her father "Daddy" when she's 17-years-old and never ever mentions her also-frozen mother, about the frustrating end to the most interesting character in the story who actually ISN'T a main character, the forced / lack of romance, and so forth -- but I'm going to move to what bothered me the most.

Eldest, who is made out to be a horrible human being by the main characters, does everything he does for the sake of the people he leads. He does everything he can to keep them alive, and we're told that each Eldest passes on how to do this to the Elder below him. That means Eldest is simply doing what he was taught to do, which has been done for generations now, and that it's all he knows HOW to do. He believes it's right. That's the ship's morality. That's the way it's always been done, and he honestly believes he's doing the right thing. So how does that make him a villain??? In fact, when I heard how the ship and the people sustained themselves and why things are done that way, you know what? I agreed with it. It made sense. So when Amy and Elder started messing with the way things are done, I wanted to grab them by the shoulders and shake some sense into them, and demand "How are YOU going to keep the ship running without people going crazy and killing themselves, or starving, or becoming weak due to inbreeding, or running out of other resources???"

Yep, that's right. That's why the ship ran the way it did: Because prior to the establishment of the Eldest/Elder system, people started going crazy and committing suicide (for another reason that I won't mention here, but damned if it doesn't make perfect sense the way the first Eldest dealt with the problem), and resources were starting to become a problem, and there were serious issues arising because of the limited gene pool for reproduction. I'm sorry, but I can't see Eldest as a villain. Yes, things worked differently and seemingly "unnaturally" to a person from present-day Earth, but on a spaceship, on a centuries-long journey, things HAVE to be different. It's a whole different situation, with limited resources and nowhere to get more. So when the main characters started screwing around with what worked, I couldn't cheer them on. It just made me angry.

And you know what? I realize there's a second book so presumably some of these issues get addressed, but all I can think is that, realistically, they've just provided the catalyst for the slow death of everyone aboard. And I almost hope it happens, but of course, it won't.

It's weird cheering for the "bad guy"... but when the teenagers are so self-involved and illogical (changing things just because they're "different" from the way one 17-year-old from generations past thinks the way life should be... hmm, wonder what she'd think if she time traveled back to Victorian England? Or Ancient Rome?) and can't think through anything like cause / reaction or determine viable solutions to the problems beyond stopping what they think is wrong, I can't help but feel very, very sorry for the one person who spent his entire life devoted to the people aboard the ship, only to have it ended by the closed mind of a selfish little girl.

Rating: 2/5
Source: Library

Mar 28, 2012, 11:01am Top

I won't be rushing out for this book, Faith. Thanks for the warning!

Mar 28, 2012, 11:21am Top


Mar 28, 2012, 11:41am Top

A very thorough and enlightening review. I certainly won't be going for that one any time soon...

Mar 28, 2012, 12:06pm Top

Good review, Faith. I remember seeing this book at the library, but the premise just struck me as contrived, and not up my alley. Thanks for giving more solid reasons to avoid it!

Mar 28, 2012, 12:27pm Top

That was such a good review of everything that's wrong with that book that I feel weirdly compelled to read it so I can commiserate with you!

Mar 28, 2012, 12:54pm Top

Good review, Faith. I read it last year, and thought it very YA in its overly simplistic approach. Even if you bought into Amy's values, the so-called solution at the end was incredibly weak and unrealistic.

Mar 28, 2012, 1:35pm Top

BTW, you got a big thumbs up from me for your entertaining review!

Mar 28, 2012, 1:45pm Top


Mar 28, 2012, 2:02pm Top

I think I'll just stick to watching Wall-E instead! ;)

Mar 28, 2012, 4:41pm Top

>144 Dejah_Thoris:/145/150/151: No problem and thank you both! There are far better books out there to spend your time on. :)

>146 Luxx:: Thanks, Luxx. It's definitely not for logical, thinking people, that's for sure. I'm honestly perplexed as to how the author didn't see the glaring flaws with how things played out. But as I said, it may have been a creative decision on the part of the publisher... or, maybe in the sequel, these serious issues will be addressed. But I'm not holding my breath -- and I likely won't bother reading it, either.

>147 ErisofDiscord:: Thanks! The plot was okay to start, even though the explanation was flimsy at best, but yeah... definitely don't bother if it's not your kind of thing to begin with!

>148 rosalita:: Haha! I'm tempted to say "NOOO STAY AWAY!" but I'd love to hear your thoughts and rant about it with someone else...

>149 ronincats:: Thanks, Roni. You're right -- I didn't really address the ending in my review, but the way that played out with Eldest, Doc, and Orion was enough to make me snap the audiobook cds in half. Just not believable. And Orion's speech at the end? Simply didn't make sense, and there was absolutely no way Elder or Amy should have even for a moment thought he'd be right. Grrrrrrr!!!

Mar 28, 2012, 9:06pm Top

>152 leahbird:: Good call! Love that movie...

Mar 28, 2012, 9:09pm Top

So, um, maybe not. I gave your very entertaining review a thumb!

Mar 28, 2012, 9:39pm Top

>155 Crazymamie:: Haha. Thank you!

Edited: Mar 28, 2012, 9:40pm Top

33) XVI -- Julia Karr

This is another hyped YA dystopia from 2011, and based on my recent experiences with the genre, I went into this novel with lowered expectations. It was probably for the best.

The setup is a world where teenage girls are considered "ready for sex" once they reach the age of sixteen, and are given a tattoo on their wrist so that men can identify the females who they can have sex with--regardless of whether the women want it or not. Apparently, in this society, men can rape young women without consequences, because the law sees the women as having "asked for it" by the way they ask and dress.

The actual plot is negligible, as it centers around an abusive stepfather (though we never actually see him abuse anyone) who has something to do with the government, and the main character's fear of sex. She doesn't want to have sex once she's sixteen (or "sex-teen" as the kids call it), but her best friend does and is overly eager to do so.

What actually happens? Well, not a whole lot. If there's a moment of action, the characters are back at school the next day doing mundane things and rehashing what just happened. Then there's another moment of action, and we're back to repeating the conversation from the previous day. The writing just didn't work for me because of this--it was lacking in that dark, urgent feel that comes with a dystopian society and trying to subvert the norm. That said, I wasn't entirely sure I bought the premise of "sex-teens" to begin with, because there wasn't enough explanation as to how the world got this way or why.

Perhaps the biggest thing that would convince me not to recommend the book to others is the attitude toward sex in the novel. I've noticed a few other reviewers refer to the content as "slut-shaming", and I have to say I agree with them. There is a distinct sense that women's sexuality is something that's dangerous, corrupting, and something to be ashamed of because it results in a rape society. I particularly took issue with the concept that women who dress "provocatively" are just asking to be raped. I'm not sure the author meant to present this message, but it certainly came across that way.

The ending also left something to be desired, but to be perfectly honest, a week after reading it, I can barely even remember what happened. That ought to tell you something right there.

A sequel was released this past January, but I won't be picking it up.

Rating: 1.5/5
Source: Library

Mar 28, 2012, 9:45pm Top

How repulsive. Yet another one I won't be picking up.

Mar 29, 2012, 12:43am Top

Big thumb on the Across the Universe review -- you fully articulated what I could only gesture at last year when I read an ER copy of it -- predictable and frustratingly simplistic in it's "the young people must be right" attitude, so true. Well said!

As for XVI, I'm with Luxx -- that sounds genuinely repulsive. Thanks for taking one for the team there. Ick.

Here's hoping your reads get better on the next round.

Mar 29, 2012, 6:52am Top

Two great reviews of two books I probably will not be reading. Especially the last one... I don't know that I could get into a book like that.

Mar 29, 2012, 9:24am Top

Jeez, you're in a dry spell..... the reviews are great, the books are clearly not..... hope you get a good one worthy of you soon.

Mar 29, 2012, 9:37am Top

Wow, XVI sounds awful! I'm surprised something like that could get published...or that a woman would write something like that! But I guess a man wouldn't be able to get away with it.

Mar 29, 2012, 9:37am Top

Two duds in a row (the books, not the reviews). I hope your next book is wonderful!

Mar 29, 2012, 10:54pm Top

>158 Luxx:: Yeah... :(

>159 beserene:: Thanks. :) The good news is, my follow-up reads were definitely better. I'll try to post them when I have a moment. Reading two crappy books in a row just plain sucks!

>160 RosyLibrarian:: Thank you! I thought the premise sounded interesting enough... though I should mention that I didn't realize it was about sex when I picked it up. They kinda left that aspect off the back-cover blurb, which I'm a little annoyed with. Not that I'm a prude about book content, but because I think it's misleading to not mention something that's so integral to the plot and world-building. Of course, I would have appreciated it even more if the book was actually any good. Heh.

>161 sibyx:: I'm trying to think positive -- they were the first real "bad" books I've read so far this year, which is a pretty good run for me. I've been fortunate with the books I've chosen so far, so I guess I was bound to hit a few duds sooner or later!

>162 The_Hibernator:: I know, that's what I thought... a woman wrote this?! That's why I wonder whether she realized the way the message was coming across. It could be just plain ignorance and subsequent blindness on the part of the publisher, in the sense that they were too close to the story to see how it could be perceived. But, I don't know... and I realize that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to hurting or oppressing others. So there's that to think about as well.

>163 Dejah_Thoris:: I know!!! And thank goodness, my next book was much better. Review coming soon!

Mar 30, 2012, 11:08am Top

34) The Future of Us -- Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

This was one of those "it sounds interesting, so I'm going to give it a shot but I'm not expecting much" kind of books. Well, I read the whole thing in just about one sitting. And then recommended it to two people.

I haven't read anything from either of these authors before, but they made a great team. The premise of the story is: In 1996, two high-school students are setting up AOL on a new computer, when a little icon pops up for something called 'Facebook.' They quickly realize that the things they do in present-day change the contents of the Facebook page... in the future. Suddenly, life gets a whole lot more interesting, as they start to try to influence their futures through present-day thoughts and actions.

If that sounds like a really intriguing premise, it is. If it also sounds like the book will become dated fairly quickly, that wouldn't surprise me either--but it's definitely worth the read right now, particularly for those of us who were teenagers during the 90s. I related a lot to the characters because of their own experiences during the mid-90s, and I found myself occasionally waxing nostalgic about life fifteen years ago.

I found the characters and their choices both realistic and logical for people of their age and background. The way the two try to deal with the knowledge of their futures differs significantly, and I wondered which of the two approaches I would have taken, if I were in their shoes. I was worried that the book would take a cheesy or sloopy turn at the end--I mean, how DO you end a book about people reading about their futures on Facebook?--but I was glad that my fears were unfounded. The ending is both believable and satisfying, and provides just the right kind of closure for a book with this subject.

My only real complaint is how quickly one of the main characters accepted the "we're reading about our futures" aspect, but at the same time, I wonder if I wouldn't have reacted the same way. I also thought I might have tried to figure out exactly what was happening rather than simply go along with it, but would I have done that fifteen years ago? Hard to say.

Overall, a worthwhile read, an intriguing concept, and a satisfying story that's worth the time spent.

Rating: 4/5
Source: Library

Mar 30, 2012, 11:20am Top

Yeah, Faith - a good read! I wondered about that one myself - we have the audiobook of Thirteen Reasons Why which is by Jay Asher. I have only listened to it half way, but it is really intriguing so far. My daughter loved it - but she is a lot better with audiobooks than I am, I tend to zone out and then have to go back to catch what I missed. Anyway, I am adding The Future of Us to the wishlist.

Mar 30, 2012, 3:34pm Top

Hi, Faith, thanks for dropping by my thread; you have read some great books, I look forward to following your thread this year!

Mar 30, 2012, 5:10pm Top

That's already on the TBR list, but glad to see you liked it, Faith. :)

Mar 31, 2012, 12:28pm Top

165: I really liked that one too, despite also having low expectations. It was fun and a trip down memory lane when dial up was the norm.

Mar 31, 2012, 12:43pm Top

Good review of The Future of Us, Faith. Onto the tbr it goes. If you haven't read Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why, it's worth picking up. My daughter recommended it to me, and I'm glad she did. Interestingly, there's a technology in it, important to the plot, that seems dated now, but in this case it didn't matter. It could've been accomplished some other way.

Mar 31, 2012, 5:15pm Top

you read Ape House glad you liked it!

Apr 2, 2012, 1:55am Top

Hi, Faith! The Future of Us sounds intriguing! About XVI (and YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels in general), I think I've OD'd on that subgenre and will be taking a break for awhile. After I finish the one I'm reading now, that is, which so far is really good! (The Scorpio Races)

Apr 2, 2012, 8:36am Top

>166 Crazymamie:: I find with audiobooks, I can only manage to listen in the car, or else I zone out as well! But sometimes even then I can miss a few minutes thinking about something else... it can be hard to stay focused some days!

>167 karspeak:: Thanks for stopping in! Here's to many great books shared. :)

>168 MickyFine:: w00t! Enjoy!

>169 RosyLibrarian:: Oh, dial-up... those were the days. No, actually, they weren't. I love high-speed. Haha.

>170 jnwelch:: I haven't read Thirteen Reasons Why yet, but only because the library waiting list is long and I'm trying to hold off on buying it. I do hope to get to it sooner or later, as it sounds fascinating. Interesting that a technology in it seems dated already, and the book is only a few years old!

>171 BBGirl55:: I did, it was great! Have you read it?

>172 Storeetllr:: It definitely it! And I know what you mean about OD'ing on YA dystopians. I've heard The Scorpio Races is fantastic so I do want to read it, but many of these other books are actually romances with a hint of dystopia, which means the worldbuilding gets neglected in favor of "romantic" plotlines... which really doesn't work. It turns the books into shallow teen romances that play at being serious works, which is too bad, because I think many of them could have made excellent social statements if the author was able to step away from the romance part of things. I know in many cases, that's the publisher's fault, because they demand more focus on romance during the editing phase. Sigh.

Apr 2, 2012, 1:17pm Top

>173 dk_phoenix: I agree with you about YA dystopias, but The Scorpio Races doesn't go overboard on the romance, in my opinion. The worldbuilding is equally subtle, in a way, but Stiefvater's portrayal of the island is still really well done. :)

Apr 2, 2012, 1:19pm Top

>174 bymerechance:: That's really good to hear! A few other people have also recommended The Scorpio Races to me, so it's definitely one I want to pick up.

Apr 2, 2012, 1:23pm Top

>175 dk_phoenix: I hope it lives up to your expectations, then!

Apr 2, 2012, 1:52pm Top

Also, I wouldn't class The Scorpio Races as a dystopia at all. I'd just say fantasy, or maybe alternate history. (I'm not sure if anyone above was saying that it was a dystopia, but I thought I'd clarify.) I agree that the romance is incidental to the plot in The Scorpio Races, and that it's definitely worth reading -- it was one of my favorite reads last year.

Apr 2, 2012, 1:56pm Top

Foggi is right on! The Scorpio Races is one of my favorite reads from last year (and I'm putting it right up there with C.S. Lewis so it was pretty good), and it is definitely not related to dystopias at all. I consider it a mythological YA read, as the concept is derived from Irish mythology.

Apr 3, 2012, 1:40am Top

I think I had better add The Scorpio Races to my list...

Apr 4, 2012, 8:34am Top

>177 foggidawn:: Ah, okay. Maybe it's just one of those hard-to-classify books? Not that it matters, as long as it's a good story!

>178 ErisofDiscord:: Wow, right up there with Lewis! Maybe I should work a little harder to get a copy... lol...

Apr 4, 2012, 8:50am Top

35) Cahills vs. Vespers #3: The Dead of Night -- Peter Lerangis

The saga of the Cahills continues! This installment seems stronger than Lerangis' offerings in the first 39 Clues series, but I'm wondering if that's because he's more comfortable with the characters now, or perhaps that the areas of history addressed are a little more up his alley. There isn't a lot of history in this book, because a good portion of the plot centers around the kidnapping of Dan's 11-year-old friend Atticus. It's up to Amy and Dan to find Atticus before the Vespers decide he isn't useful anymore...

Unlike the 39 Clues series, this continuing series is more brutal and the threat of death is constantly imminent for Amy & Dan, everyone with them, and their kidnapped family members. As a result, it feels more urgent (this book in particular), which -- while not necessarily a bad thing -- feels a little too urgent at times to the point where it gets a bit exhausting. I understand that kids' attention spans are short and they need action to hold onto, but I miss the slower moments of discovery and talking about history from the previous series. Not that they aren't in this set too, just not quite to the extent as before.

That said, there are plenty of other interesting dynamics in this series that have come up, but I don't want to comment on them just yet, lest I spoil the books for potential readers.

Rating: 3/5
Source: Recent purchase

36) Dirty Little Secrets -- C.J. Omololu

Everyone has a secret, but teenager Lucy's secret is much bigger than most: Her mom is a hoarder, and their house is full of piles and piles of garbage. She's afraid that her friends will find out and shun her, so instead of inviting them over, she does everything in her power to keep people away from the house. But when Lucy returns home one day and discovers something terrible has happened, she starts down a path from which there is no return, even as she desperately tries to save her family and keep their secret.

The book's subject matter is like a train wreck you can't look away from -- that's not to say the book is bad! Rather, the topic of hoarding is both deeply disturbing and fascinating, and as a result, I found myself both uncomfortable and compelled while reading this novel. I didn't necessarily like all of it, but I think that's because my disgust at the description of the family's living conditions make me feel revolted and ill at times. To that end, I think the author did an excellent job portraying the situation of a hoarder's child and what a family has to go through when living with a hoarder.

The only thing that really bothered me was the ending. I can't say I would have made the same choice as the main character, but at the same time, I really couldn't think of another way out of the situation. I'm still thinking about it and wondering if there was any other way to resolve things, which upon reflection, means the author definitely did her job. I'd love to discuss the book with someone else who has read it, and see what they thought about the ending. This is definitely a discussion piece for both children, teens, and adults.

Rating: 3.5/5
Source: Recent purchase

Apr 4, 2012, 12:36pm Top

#180 - Of course, The Scorpio Races doesn't delve into the same realms that Lewis did, but it has a richness and lyrical style of writing that I don't often see in YA literature.

Apr 4, 2012, 4:17pm Top

Rather, the topic of hoarding is both deeply disturbing and fascinating, and as a result, I found myself both uncomfortable and compelled while reading this novel.

This is exactly how I feel when I watch the show "Hoarders." Plus, I immediately want to empty my (not very full) attic and clean out under beds. Oh man. I may need to pick that up for spring cleaning motivation.

Apr 4, 2012, 6:54pm Top

Dealing with a hoarder on a near daily basis, I think that book could be quite interesting but I'll probably give it a pass: I think I have enough of that to deal with without spending precious reading time on it.

Sometimes I watch hoarding shows because they usually make me a feel a bit better about my grandfather's hoarding- he's not living in mountains of junk or crawling with bugs, he just stores things all over the place- but then it's a double edged sword because those people are at least seeking help, which my grandfather will never do. He deals with me cleaning stuff out but he doesn't like it. The thought of admitting there is something wrong and seeking help for it is something he will NEVER consent to, regardless of how many times I try.

Edited: Apr 5, 2012, 9:38am Top

Okay folks, I'm AFK for the next four days... I'll reply to you all when I get back... I'm off to Boston this morning for PAX East!!! One of these days I'll be in town long enough to meet up with Boston LT'ers, but I'm at the mercy of my husband, brother, sister-in-law, and a tight convention schedule. Going to be a long drive today... but three days of non-stop gaming, panels, and this year possibly meeting Margaret Weis (!!!!!) will make it all worth it!!!

Happy Easter, everyone!!! :)

Apr 5, 2012, 11:33am Top

Happy Easter, Faith, and I hope you have a safe and satisfying vacation! Have a good time!

Apr 5, 2012, 11:34am Top

Aw, I think I very nearly decided to go to PAX East! At least, one of my friends is going to some gaming event in Boston this weekend, and I considered it because I'm already going to be visiting family in MA for Easter. But it didn't end up happening.

I still think there should be an Ontario meetup at some point, though.

Apr 5, 2012, 9:55pm Top

Have a wonderful time - Boston is a great town, although I doubt you'll get to see much! Happy Easter!

Apr 5, 2012, 11:01pm Top

Have a Happy Easter and a great time on your vacation!

Apr 6, 2012, 10:24am Top

I have never been to Boston - hope you have a great time.

Apr 7, 2012, 8:07am Top

Have a fabulous time.

Apr 8, 2012, 8:53pm Top

Hope you are having a great time!

Apr 10, 2012, 12:38am Top

Hope you had a great time in Boston and a lovely Easter Faith.

Apr 15, 2012, 8:39pm Top

Hope your convention lived up to expectations.
I saw Luxx's review of Dirty little secrets and have just got the book from the library. Such an unusual sounding plot.
Sorry you had to take the book bullet for us on XVI, I had that out from the library last year but never got round to picking it up, so very pleased now after reading your comments.

Apr 16, 2012, 8:52am Top

Thanks, everyone! It was a great weekend, a lot of fun, and we even managed to find a church to get to in Boston for Easter Sunday. Played lots of games, met lots of interesting people, made a potential business contact, and didn't really read at all as I was too busy playing Mario Kart 7 during the drives. Haha!

>187 _Zoe_:: Boo! Come next year. :) And we definitely should still have an Ontario meetup. I keep forgetting to start that thread...

>194 avatiakh:: Well, if I saved someone else from that piece of trash, all the better! LOL. I didn't realize Luxx had read Dirty Little Secrets already, I'll have to head over there and read her review! I'll definitely be interested in hearing your thoughts once you're finished.

Apr 16, 2012, 2:43pm Top

Yes! Ontario meetup.

Apr 16, 2012, 5:49pm Top

#173 I read Ape House last year!

Apr 17, 2012, 9:18am Top

37) Garden Spells -- Sarah Addison Allen (audiobook)

What a surprisingly enjoyable book! I listened to this one on my evening commute, and was hooked in much faster than I'd expected. I hadn't read anything else by this author before, so I wasn't quite sure what to expect... and I find magical realism so hit-or-miss that I was a bit nervous about whether it would be worth the time. Well, it was, and I plan on picking up more from this author in the near future.

The story is a family drama with a hint of magic, which actually sounds really boring when I think about it... when the main character's long-lost sister returns to their hometown, Claire has to deal with her past wounds and closed heart, and a curious town full of interfering busybodies. The sisters are the last in their family line, who are endowed with a special gift (in fact, it seems many of the town's residents have "special gifts") -- and as cheesy as that sounds, the talents/gifts possessed by the characters are subtle and seamlessly woven into the narrative.

My favorite character of the whole thing was, however, the apple tree. There were moments when the tree's antics threatened to throw the story out of proportion, but I Allen was able to rein it in just enough to keep the storyline believable and consistent.

While I empathized with Claire throughout many parts of the story, my only complaint is with the two (three?) sex scenes in the story. They weren't bad or anything, just... a little bizarre, considering the ethereal nature of the rest of the story. They jarred me out of the narrative, and I think they could have been completed with a lighter touch or perhaps a fade to black a bit sooner than they did.

But on the whole, a lovely and satisfying read.

Rating: 4/5
Source: Library audiobook

Apr 17, 2012, 9:25am Top

That review is right on the money, Faith. I love that book, and have read two of her others (the third is in my TBR). Garden Spells was my favorite, followed by The Sugar Queen. I didn't care as much for The Peach Keeper, but the writing was lovely. I felt like that story could have been better if she had taken a bit more time with it. The Girl Who Chased the Moon is in my TBR, so need to get to that.

Apr 17, 2012, 12:37pm Top

The apple tree was my favorite character, too!!

Apr 17, 2012, 12:48pm Top

Loved the apple tree! Garden Spells made me a Sarah Addison Allen fan, Faith. It's not easy to find well-written, upbeat novels. She's got a knack for them.

Apr 17, 2012, 4:38pm Top

*waving* at Faith

Apr 17, 2012, 9:22pm Top

Great review! I liked Garden Spells too, for many of the reasons you did, but I was a little disappointed in The Sugar Queen. Even so, I keep reading her books because they are charming.

Apr 18, 2012, 12:19pm Top

Nice review of Garden Spells. I am so taken with Allen's books. I've read them all except The Sugar Queen. Just waiting for it to be returned to the library.

I loved the apple tree, too! It had so much personality, for a tree, that is.

Sandy K

Apr 18, 2012, 7:39pm Top

The apple tree is certainly a hit! I was a little disappointed in The Sugar Queen, too.

Apr 19, 2012, 6:02am Top

#203/205: I am just the opposite: I enjoyed The Sugar Queen more than I did Garden Spells. Oh well, to each her own :)

Apr 19, 2012, 6:56am Top

I'm definitely going to check these out!

Apr 19, 2012, 7:21am Top

>206 alcottacre: Which one did you read first? I didn't like The Sugar Queen as much because I thought it was too much like Garden Spells which I read first.

Apr 19, 2012, 8:48am Top

>199 Crazymamie:-206: Wow, I was at first going to say that was quite the vote against The Sugar Queen from most of you, but sounds like maybe I should just read a few of her other books first before giving it a try. I really didn't realize just how popular an author she is! Well, I'm glad to have joined the fold... :D

>202 alcottacre:: *waves back* Great to see you around this week!!!

>207 sibyx:: Yes, do! Something that generates a lot of discussion like this is at least worth the curiosity read. :)

Apr 19, 2012, 9:01am Top

38) The Heirloom Life Gardener -- Emilee & Jere Gettle

Once again, this was recommended by someone in this group and I can't remember who it was. But I'm SO glad they mentioned it!

After reading the recommendation, I immediately visited their website, ordered seeds & a seed catalogue, and then this book. When the book arrived, I read it cover to cover in an afternoon, and I'm very excited to get outside and start my first vegetable garden. Got my shovel and gloves and I've picked the location in my yard. Is anything going to actually grow this year? Well, probably not, but that'll be my own fault, not the book's.

The Gettles have put together a wonderful volume for novice and experienced gardeners alike. The book starts with a discussion of heirloom plants, the Gettles' own farming philosophies, what GMO / organic means for you and for the food supply, and plenty of basics and tips for absolute beginners (but many additional tips and tricks for the more experienced greenthumbs). The second half of the book is like a gardening encyclopedia, with an A-Z of the plants Baker Creek offers, plant histories and origins, notes on their varieties, growing information, and even how best to eat some of the plants!

The whole prospect of heirloom gardening is, to be honest, extremely daunting for me, but the methods outlined in this book are clear and helpful, and make for interesting reading to boot. I'd certainly recommend the book to anyone who has a vegetable garden or plans to, and would urge them to read the book to become better informed on what using heirloom seeds vs. traditional (and potentially GMO) seeds means for you, your family, and the rest of the world.

Rating: 5/5
Source: Recent purchase

Apr 19, 2012, 10:19am Top

A very nice review - I will have to check that out.

I think what everyone is trying to say about Sarah Addison Allen's books are that they are wonderful - unfortunately she wrote her very best one first and so the others just don't quite reach that level of magic where all the elements of the book come together to create a special reading experience. The other books are still quite good and well worth reading.

Apr 19, 2012, 10:23am Top

>211 Crazymamie: What she said. :)

Apr 19, 2012, 10:28am Top

#210 by dk_phoenix> I'm totally going to take credit for that recommendation even if it wasn't me! So glad you liked it too!

Apr 19, 2012, 11:07am Top

>211 Crazymamie:: Ah, yes, I was kind of getting that impression! Well, that's okay. I'll still give a few more of them a shot. :)

>212 Morphidae:: LOL!

>213 leahbird:: It probably was you! Go ahead and take the credit! I just have a terrible habit of not writing down who I get recommendations from. It's too easy to just click that "wishlist" button and then I forget to tag it afterward.

Apr 19, 2012, 11:27am Top

Recently read Heirloom Life Gardener too! Loved it and it's definitely on my to-be-purchased list!!

Apr 19, 2012, 2:25pm Top

>215 DFED:: Whoo-hoo!!!

Okay, so...I just got in from double-digging the plot where I want to plant... *phew*... please excuse me for a bit, I need to convalesce for awhile...

*pulls out ice pack and heating pack and Rub A535 and Tylenol* ...lol...

Apr 19, 2012, 5:45pm Top

I'm another one who liked Sugar Queen just fine.

Apr 22, 2012, 12:36pm Top

I've only read Garden Spells and The Peach Keeper, in that order, and also liked the first best---just light little entertainment but charming.

Glad you are getting into gardening! Sounds like an interesting book. I'm sure that gardening in Canada is very different from my gardening in San Diego or even in Kansas. Good luck!

Apr 22, 2012, 6:38pm Top

Garden Spells is my ultimate of hers but I really did love The Peach Keeper as well. I can read her books in 24 hours and often do. I wait and wait for them devour them and then wait again. :)

Apr 23, 2012, 5:52pm Top

>217 jnwelch:: Well, that's another vote in the book's favor! I guess I'll have to read it after all.

>218 ronincats:: I imagine the gardening IS different... but I'd have no idea how! All this talk of "zones" just confuses me. I'm just going to go with what I hope is common sense (ie. not trying to grow oranges in Southern Ontario) and hope for the best! Haha.

>219 JulieC0802:: That's the only thing I hate about books sometimes... you wait and wait and wait and then it's there to read and it's over so quickly!

Apr 24, 2012, 11:01am Top

Hi Faith! *wanders through, waves hello, catches up*

Apr 27, 2012, 3:39pm Top

Hey Faith!

I actually own a copy of Garden Spells (it's in a box, somewhere) and I still haven't read it. Obviously I need to get my act together on this one.

Hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on The Heirloom Life Gardener - I really like Baker Creek Seeds. I'm looking forward to photos of your vegetable garden!

Apr 30, 2012, 10:41pm Top

>221 catherinestead:: *waves back*

>222 Dejah_Thoris:: Ooh, what have you grown from Baker Creek so far? They have SO MUCH to choose from... I wish I lived in a warmer climate, though. I'd love to try some of their melon varieties...

Apr 30, 2012, 10:48pm Top

#218: I have not read The Peach Keeper yet. I read Allen's third book, The Girl Who Chased the Moon, but did not enjoy it nearly as much as I liked her first two.

May 2, 2012, 8:47am Top

39) Chime -- Franny Billingsley

Chime is a difficult novel to describe... it's lyrical and vague, but also deep and disturbing, with a plot that runs the gamut from being violent to meandering to surprisingly psychological. This can be mostly chalked up to the point of view, which is deep inside the main character's head -- and, like anyone, her thoughts wander from past to present, from immediate observations to memories. The result of this is a plot that takes some time getting off the ground, and which sometimes has difficulty getting where it needs to be, so if you're fully set on a linear story, you may get frustrated at times. I tend to dislike books written in a poetic, lyrical style, but I found the main character oddly compelling, and so I didn't mind the wandering plot.

Billingsley also ensures that her POV character isn't completely reliable -- Briony believes that she's responsible for something terrible that has happened, and carries a terrible guilt that weighs heavily on her soul... to the point where she actually believes she should be put to death for what she thinks is her crime. As readers, we're not sure if the main character is actually responsible for this event, but through subtle explorations, details, and hints of magic, the truth is slowly revealed. The magic here is just that -- subtle -- and the reader is often left to wonder whether there really is magic and monsters, or if it's in Briony's head... until that last moment, and even then... is it?

Along with a cast of interesting people -- the flawed, awkward love interest, and the main character's innocent, childlike twin sister -- I believe that the book fully deserved its nomination for the National Book Award.

Rating: 4.5/5
Source: Library

May 2, 2012, 8:49am Top

>224 alcottacre:: Good to know, Stasia! I'll keep that in mind as well. Seems everyone has an opinion on her books, I really didn't realize how popular her work was until I posted my review!

Edited: May 3, 2012, 12:00pm Top

#225 - Wow. That sounds intriguing - from your review, the protagonist sounds reminiscient of Raskolinikov from Crime and Punishment. I've been seeing adds for the book, but I've never considered checking it out. Your review makes me want to read it! Thank you.

May 2, 2012, 7:49pm Top

wow, Chime sounds excellent

May 2, 2012, 9:06pm Top

I have Chime on my tbr pile but never seem to get to it, will be bumping it right up now. Great review. I've read her other books and enjoyed them.

May 2, 2012, 9:13pm Top

Adding Chime to the BlackHole. Thanks for the review and recommendation, Faith!

May 2, 2012, 11:33pm Top

Hi Faith!

I may have to give Chime a try. YA can be iffy for me, but my branch has it....thumbs up from me on your review.

I've grown a number of things from Baker Creek - ironically, mostly melons. I'll check which ones came from them and let you know!

May 3, 2012, 12:25am Top

Faith - nice review! I will have to add that one to my WL. A thumb, btw.

May 3, 2012, 8:25am Top

>227 ErisofDiscord:: Crime and Punishment, interesting!!! It really is worth reading -- it took me a few pages to get used to the style and flow, but it's definitely worth picking up!

>228 beeg:: It is! Read it! :D

>229 avatiakh:: Oh, I didn't realize she had other books! Probably because I haven't looked for them... but I will now!

>230 alcottacre:: More books to the BlackHole? No problem, anytime! Haha.

>231 Dejah_Thoris:: Thank you! It might be one that would work for you, simply because of the unique style of how it's written... but who knows, worth a shot! That's so funny that you grow mostly melons, they'd never grow here. I'd love to know what kinds you've grown when you get a chance!!!

>232 Crazymamie:: Thanks so much! It's worth the read. :)

May 3, 2012, 8:35am Top

Well, we've had quite the last couple of weeks around here!!! My brother and sister-in-law bought a house, my father got a new job after nearly a year, and my sister got engaged!!! I guess they say things come in threes, so it definitely seems that way right now. :)

And if that wasn't enough, there's been a pair of mourning doves sitting on an egg for the past few weeks, right on my front porch (just a few feet from the front door!), and the egg hatched a few days ago! The baby is quite large for only being a few days old, and I can only catch an occasional glimpse, but it's really amazing to see this happening right in front of my eyes. Mind you, I'm more than a little worried, because as soon as it gets old enough to squeak, it's going to attract the attention of many neighborhood outdoor cats... and the hawks that circle around our house all the time. And as much as I'd love to see a hawk up close, I don't want it eating the poor baby dove!!! It's strange, I feel far too emotionally invested in the life of this little bird...

May 3, 2012, 10:15am Top

Faith I completely understand about being invested in little birds. It drives me crazy when they build nests in inappropriate spots where their babies will be at risk in either the nest or when the head out for their first flight. Right now I'm discouraging several set of what I think are some sort of swallows from nestbuilding in my porch eaves - my cats can get up there, for heaven's sake! I keep trying to convince them that the house is no longer empty - and you'd think all the cats staring at them would be a clue. Oh well, I guess the term birdbrained has plenty of basis in reality.

It's great that your family has had so many exciting and happy events recently - enjoy!

May 3, 2012, 11:12am Top

Dejah - in asian cultures, especially chinese and malay it is considered a particularly good omen of coming prosperity and fortune if a bird decides to make his nest on the structures of or surrounding your home. I'm not immensely superstitious but this happened to me in Johor Bahru when I had decided to open my business and I haven't looked back much since.

May 3, 2012, 11:38am Top

At our old house we used to have a robin that every year would build a nest on top of the ceiling fan on our front porch (I know - who puts a ceiling fan on a front porch, especially in INDIANA?!). Anyway, the first year we thought it was so cool until ...um...the poopage escalation occurred. Each year after that we tried to keep her from building a nest up there, but she was always too fast for us. By the time we saw the nest, there were always eggs already in it. Anyway, Paul's comment made me think about our robin... and about that movie Under the Tuscan Sun where the birds poos on her and it is seen as a good omen. EWWWW.

Congrats on all your good fortune, Faith!

May 3, 2012, 12:02pm Top

A few weeks ago I had the maintenance guys from my apartment building evict a bird from my dryer vent. It seems to have relocated to my neighbor's dryer vent (the two vents are only inches apart), so I guess I passed along the prosperity and fortune to my neighbor! (I don't think they have a dryer hooked up to that vent, so hopefully it will be less injurious to the birds.) I do wonder how the birds will teach their nestlings to fly, as it looks like a difficult space to get into and out of, but I guess that's their problem.

May 3, 2012, 12:24pm Top

Your story with the baby dove sounds fun, Faith. Love it when that kind of thing happens. I know what you mean with worrying about predators (cats, hawks). We think raccoons got into a duck nest in my dad's garden, which was too bad.

We have robins who nest every year in an indentation above our front porch rain gutter. We've always liked it, but now Paul (>236 PaulCranswick:) has given us an additional reason to.

May 6, 2012, 8:56am Top

Hi Faith, glad such good things are happening for your family. How is the bird doing now?

May 7, 2012, 8:18am Top

>235 Dejah_Thoris:: Yikes, I think porch eaves would be even more dangerous than a window box -- if you get a heavy rain, there goes the nest! Silly birds...

>236 PaulCranswick:: Well, that's good news! I can't say it's good luck for the bird, in any case, and while I'm not superstitious I'll take what I can get. Haha.

>237 Crazymamie:: Oh wow, on a ceiling fan?! Birds are so weird. Really, they are. Also, being pooped on is no fun... no matter how much of a "good omen" it may be!

>238 foggidawn:: A dryer vent?! Wouldn't that slide downward to connect inside the house? Or upward... regardless, that sounds rather dangerous for the birds. Well, I hope they're all right -- and even better if it's an inconvenient space for them so that they don't return next year.

>239 jnwelch:: Raccoons in a duck nest? Awww... :( ...birds seem to like our porch eaves/gutters as well, but I think it's for the bugs. They don't nest up there, but I hear them pecking about for tasty bits now and then.

>240 RosyLibrarian:: Yesterday the bird was too big to fit under Mama Dove's belly, so it's doing very well as of last night! I haven't checked on it yet this morning... only one more week until it should fledge, so I'm quite nervous for it!

May 7, 2012, 11:51am Top

Some serious drama around the nest today...! Another pair of mourning doves came by, presumably looking for a nest site... and after not being around all morning (the baby has been in the nest by itself), Mama and Papa dove came zooming in from seemingly nowhere, and Papa spent about 10 minutes chasing the other doves all around the area (while Mama snuggled baby bird) until he'd chased them off. Now Mama and Papa are sitting on a powerline across the road, watching the baby and, I assume, making sure the interlopers don't return...

May 7, 2012, 11:58am Top

In college I had to take a one credit science course. I chose birdwatching because it was the only thing left during registration. It was an incredible experience. The woman who taught the course was the director of a local santuary called Hawk Mountain.

I learned a lot.

Isn't it interesting that birds are better parents than some people...

May 9, 2012, 10:20am Top

Fascinating drama with your doves!

May 16, 2012, 9:08am Top

>243 Whisper1:: Birds are so fascinating! Weird, but fascinating. Hawk Mountain sounds amazing... I'd love to visit a wild bird sanctuary. I think there are a few within an hour's drive from here, so I should really just buckle down and go visit. :) After taking a hawk workshop and an owl workshop this past year, I find myself observing raptors more and more these days!

>244 sibyx:: I know!!! So here's the update:

Dove Update

Last week, after the nest-protecting drama, I looked at the nest during the afternoon the next day and the baby was gone... so I went outside, and he was sitting on the ground under the nest. I didn't see Mom and Dad around, but that's normal -- the baby will be one the ground for a few days, learning to fly. I was a little worried, because that's the most dangerous time for a baby bird, and we have many cats in the area. But, I couldn't stay outside and watch over it all day, so I went back inside... and a few hours later went out to check on him, and he was gone!!!

I was very concerned, but I figured it was over... I didn't see the baby under the bushes anywhere, and they're supposed to need a few days to learn how to fly.

So I tried not to think about it, though I admit a tear or two did escape.

But the next morning? It was raining... and out of nowhere... the baby appeared on our porch!!! It just stood there in the rain for a few minutes, looking around, and then dropped suddenly off the front of the porch, down to the bushes.

It must have learned to fly in one day!!!

Talk about raising a hearty, strong little baby dove.

Since then, the baby has been living in the bushes around our house, taking short flights to build strength, with Mom & Dad coming back to feed him occasionally... and I've seen baby & Mom relaxing on the ground every so often.

That means the drama with the doves is over, and I still can't believe the bird made it... I remember when I first saw that egg and spent the morning in tears, certain that it would never make it. It's been such an amazing learning experience to see these birds through laying an egg to sending the baby off on its own, and although mourning doves are stupid as anything, they're incredible parents. Nature is just so incredible, sometimes I can't believe it...!!!

...in other news...

...my hamster died this week, so I've been a little out of sorts. I know she was just a hamster, but she was one of my fur babies, and I miss her already.

May 16, 2012, 10:49am Top

:( sorry for your loss

May 16, 2012, 12:58pm Top

I'm so sorry for your little hamster baby. :( I hate it when pets die.

At least the dove is all right. I've had so many sad endings for the birds in my backyard, that it always makes me thankful for when some turn out fine.

May 16, 2012, 1:02pm Top

Oh Faith, sorry to hear about your hamster. Delighted that your baby dove made it.

May 16, 2012, 3:55pm Top

So sorry about your hamster. A fur baby is a fur baby, no matter how small. :(

May 16, 2012, 4:05pm Top

Like Sarah says, it doesn't matter how big or small, our little furry kids are our kids. I'm sorry to hear about your hamster and am sending you happy thoughts. I myself just lost my black Lab this past weekend, so I know how that can hurt. ((hugs))

May 16, 2012, 4:31pm Top

Sorry about the hamster, but that is great news about the baby bird.

May 16, 2012, 9:38pm Top

We have a whole horde of pigeons living in the barn. I like them- I think they are beautiful- but they poop ALL OVER the hay, which ruins it. My cousins have been slowly eradicating them but I don't want to loose them altogether so I've been thinking of building a dovecote for some to live in. That way I can enjoy them all the time without having to cut the entire top off every bale of hay before I can feed it.

May 17, 2012, 7:22pm Top

What Roni said.

May 18, 2012, 7:59am Top

>246 beeg:: Thanks. :)

>247 ErisofDiscord:: I know... I mean, I knew it would probably happen soon, considering her age, but it still doesn't soften the blow when it actually happens. The bird's survival is at least a bright spot, something good to focus on when I can!

>248 Crazymamie:: Thank you -- that little bird was so much stronger than I anticipated, and I hope he lives a long and happy dove-life!

>249 beserene:: Thanks... I think so too. :)

>250 tapestry100:: Oh David, I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your black lab. Thanks for your kind words, and I'll send waves of empathy and happy thoughts right back to you. ((return hug))

>251 ronincats:: Thanks -- good news tempers the bad. :)

>252 leahbird:: They are quite beautiful! Completely brainless, but really quite lovely to look at. A dovecote sounds like a great idea! I like the idea of making it possible for creatures to live peacefully wherever they take up... we're the ones living in their space most of the time, all things considered, and peaceful co-existence seems like the better option for the longevity and health of most ecosystems. And if it means you don't have to waste hay, even better!

>253 sibyx:: Thank you. :)

May 18, 2012, 7:59am Top

Hmm... well, I guess it's that time again... onward to a new thread!

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2012

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