Thursday, December 31, 2015

December Currently . . .

Here’s what I’ve been up to in December.

I’m Currently . . .

Reading: Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

Watching: I haven’t had much time for TV because I’ve been busy with the Giant Essay From Hell and other projects. I did watch season 1 of The Great Holiday Baking Show. I don’t think I’ve watched anything else recently.

Stalking: I’ve been terrible about leaving comments on blogs in the past few weeks, but lately I’ve been stalking Lunar Rainbows Reviews. Micheline seems to love Harry Potter as much as I do, and she reviews a lot of fantasy. Fantasy is a genre that I want to know more about because it’s outside of my reading comfort zone. 

Planning: Bookish New Year’s resolutions. I’ll be talking about these in next week’s blog posts. Basically, I want to expand my bookish comfort zone and read a larger variety of genres, especially nonfiction and translations. I’d love recommendations for books in those genres if you have any.

Making: Does the Giant Essay From Hell fit into the “Making” category? I can’t think of anything else I’ve been making lately. Oh, I’ve been making excuses to not work on the Giant Essay From Hell. Do excuses go in this category?

Stocking up on: Dog toys. My dogs destroy their toys, so they get new ones when toys go on sale during the holidays.

Wishing for: 2016 to go smoothly. I really want to finish my master’s degree next year.

Enjoying: Writing my 2015 wrap-up posts. It’s interesting to analyze my own reading habits and decide what I want to change.

Trying: I tried turmeric tea. I don’t recommend it.

Eating: Christmas cookies. I have to go on a diet in January, so I’m trying to eat as many as possible. I don’t want cookies sitting around the house, tempting me to eat them.

Goal setting: Well, eating fewer cookies would probably be a good goal. I also need to finish reading all of the Printz Award winners before the next winner is announced. The Giant Essay From Hell needs to be completed. Those are my main goals.

Learning: To be proactive. Some things won’t change unless I change them. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review: Feed – M.T. Anderson

Feed – M.T. Anderson

For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon—a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires. Following in the footsteps of George Orwell, Anthony Burgess, and Kurt Vonnegut Jr., M. T. Anderson has created a not-so-brave new world—and a smart, savage satire that has captivated readers with its view of an imagined future that veers unnervingly close to the here and now.

Review: I wasn’t sure if I’d like this book when I started reading it. It’s written in a futuristic dialect that’s slightly difficult to get used to, and the characters aren’t the brightest crayons in the box.

In a futuristic world, almost everyone has a “feed” in their brain. The feed controls their bodies, provides entertainment, allows them to chat telepathically, and tells them which products to buy. Like almost everybody else on Earth, Titus only cares about having fun and being cool. Then, he meets Violet, an unusual girl whose malfunctioning feed is slowly paralyzing her.

I struggled with this book at first, but then I started loving it. It’s a very clever satire about our culture’s obsession with advertising, technology, and owning the next great product. Titus’s characterization is brilliant because he’s the result of his environment. He wants to go to clubs and drive around in expensive hover cars. He doesn’t care about his education or think about his future. When the fun suddenly stops and life gets serious, he has no clue what to do.

I love Violet and Titus’s relationship. It starts off cute and playful, but both of the characters are flawed. Their relationship is far from perfect. Violet is intense, and Titus is immature. Violet is an intellectual, and Titus barely knows how to read. They come from different socioeconomic backgrounds, and Titus’s friends don’t like Violet.  The struggles that their different lifestyles cause are realistic. I liked watching them try to work out their problems.

I also started to like Titus more and more as the book went on. He has lived such a sheltered life that he doesn’t know how to cope with Violet’s illness or her unrealistic expectations of their relationship. It’s hard to watch him struggle. It’s also hard to watch his parents shelter him from life. When he asks them about the hacker who messed with his and Violet’s feeds, his parents buy him expensive gifts instead of telling him the unpleasant truth.

My biggest issue with this book is that it’s predictable. To me, it was obvious early-on how the story would end. There are some surprises along the way, but the book ends exactly how I thought it would.

Even with the slow start and the predictability, this is a great science fiction story. It’s funny, creative, and full of realistic characters. Also, Titus and Violet go on a date to a filet mignon farm that has a maze made out of raw steak. Who doesn’t want to read a book that has a steak maze?

Monday, December 28, 2015

Review: The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am - Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold

The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am - Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold

Mathea Martinsen has never been good at dealing with other people. After a lifetime, her only real accomplishment is her longevity: everyone she reads about in the obituaries has died younger than she is now. Afraid that her life will be over before anyone knows that she lived, Mathea digs out her old wedding dress, bakes some sweet cakes, and heads out into the world to make her mark. She buries a time capsule out in the yard. (It gets dug up to make room for a flagpole.) She wears her late husband’s watch and hopes people will ask her for the time. (They never do.) Is it really possible for a woman to disappear so completely that the world won’t notice her passing? The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am is a macabre twist on the notion that life “must be lived to the fullest.”

Review: This is a review of the English translation of a Norwegian novel.

I’m not really sure what to make of this book. I got it because it’s short (147 pages) and the main character sounded intriguing. When I finished it, I just stared at it for a few minutes. I knew that I liked the book, but I didn’t know what I was supposed to think about it. This is an odd little story.

There isn’t really a plot. The book is more like a string of strange events that happen in the life of an anxious woman. The story focuses on Mathea, an elderly widow who is terrified of both life and death. Her husband was the only person she ever felt comfortable around. She spends most of her time in her apartment, avoiding the outside world. Even though Mathea is afraid of people, she doesn’t want to die without anyone knowing that she lived. She leaves her apartment and tries to connect with others, but it doesn’t really work out.

This book is beautifully written. The writing style is somewhat minimalistic and distant, but it does a good job of showing Mathea’s odd, fearful personality. The story is fragmented and jumps around in time. It’s also a tragicomedy, so it’s full of dark humor. The book seems funny on the surface, but it’s depressing underneath.

I think Mathea’s situation is relatable. Everyone wants to make connections with others and leave their mark on the world. Figuring out how to do that is challenging.

My issue with the book is that Mathea is too bizarre for me. She’s one of those characters who are weird just for the sake of being weird. She does random, quirky things (like obsessing over whether or not her words rhyme and feeding her dog meringue) that real people probably wouldn’t do. Her behavior just seems too illogical to be realistic. Even if she had a mental illness or something, wouldn’t her strange behavior make sense to her and therefore make sense to the reader? She spends a lot of the book doing strange things that I couldn’t see the logic behind. (Or maybe I’m just not smart enough for this story?) Also, I’ve encountered too many of these “weird for the sake of being weird” characters in adult literary fiction. I think they’ve become cliché.

I enjoyed this book because it’s well-written and entertaining (in a depressing way), but it didn’t blow my mind. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Sunday Post #30

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am by Kjersti Skomsvold.
  • On Wednesday I review Feed by M.T. Anderson.
  • On Thursday I tell you what I’ve been up to in December.
  • On Friday I wrap-up December.
  • On Saturday I show you the final part of my winter book haul.

In My Reading Life

Last week, I read Feed by M.T. Anderson, Blankets by Craig Thompson, and Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. Up next is Going Bovine by Libba Bray.

In My Blogging Life

I’m planning to celebrate 2016 by posting every day for the first 16 days of the year. Prepare for an onslaught of posts. I’m working on a giant 5-part wrap-up of 2015, and some other stuff. I usually only post 3-5 times a week, so this should be challenging. I hope I can do it.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. It snowed on Christmas.
  2. I ate so much junk food.
  3. I got a Barnes & Noble gift card. I already have plans for it.
  4. The massive essay I’ve been working on doesn’t require as much rewriting as I expected.
  5. My sister set up my mom’s new computer so I didn’t have to do it. I hate setting up new computers.

I hope you had a great Christmas. See you around the blogosphere!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Winter Book Haul (Part 3)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. I get to show off all the books I’ve gotten recently.

The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am - Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold

Mathea Martinsen has never been good at dealing with other people. After a lifetime, her only real accomplishment is her longevity: everyone she reads about in the obituaries has died younger than she is now. Afraid that her life will be over before anyone knows that she lived, Mathea digs out her old wedding dress, bakes some sweet cakes, and heads out into the world—to make her mark. She buries a time capsule out in the yard. (It gets dug up to make room for a flagpole.) She wears her late husband’s watch and hopes people will ask her for the time. (They never do.) Is it really possible for a woman to disappear so completely that the world won’t notice her passing?

The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don't know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art. 
As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love—and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Thing About Jellyfish – Ali Benjamin

After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy must have been a rare jellyfish sting—things don't just happen for no reason. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory—even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe . . . and the potential for love and hope right next door.

Nimona – Noelle Stevenson

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are. 
But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: The Lord of Opium – Nancy Farmer

The Lord of Opium – Nancy Farmer

This new book continues the story of Matt, the boy who was cloned from evil drug lord El Patrón in The House of the Scorpion. Now 14 years old, Matt rules his own country, the Land of Opium, the only thriving place in a world ravaged by ecological disaster. Though he knows that the cure for ending the suffering is hidden in Opium, Matt faces obstacles and enemies at every turn when he tries to use his power to help.

This is a review of book #2 in a duology. It’s spoiler-free, but you might want to check out my review of The House of the Scorpion.

Review: I loved The House of the Scorpion and was really excited to find out that it has a sequel.

The Lord of Opium is about Matt, a 14-year-old clone who has just inherited the largest drug empire in the world. Matt wants to make a few changes to the country he now rules. He wants to stop growing opium and grow food crops instead. He also wants to free the eejits—the mindless slaves who have microchips in their brains and work in the opium fields. Matt has lofty goals, but not everybody is supportive of his leadership. There are a lot of other drug lords who would love to overthrow Matt and take control of Opium.

Like I said, I loved The House of the Scorpion, but I have mixed feelings about this book. I didn’t love it as much as the first one.

I still really like the world, the characters, and the themes in this duology. The characters have Hispanic ancestry, and the country of Opium sits along what used to be the US/Mexico border. It’s a unique dystopian society that I haven’t seen before. I like the culture of the characters, and the books spend a lot of time on worldbuilding, which I appreciate (for the most part. The worldbuilding does make the books a little slow.)

Like the first book, the characters are the best part of this one. Matt is so complex. He wants to be his own person, but he’s a clone, so everybody expects him to be an exact copy of El Patrón. Matt also has to fight against his instincts because he wants to be good, but he’s the clone of an evil man. He doesn’t always make the best decisions.

The themes are interesting. I know that some people might get irritated because the book brings up current hot-button political issues. The book isn’t preachy about the issues, so it didn’t bother me. The story makes the reader wonder when a person starts and stops being a person. What is the definition of a “person”? It’s an interesting question that real-life people are still trying to figure out.

I enjoyed this book overall, but I had some problems with it.

First, it’s painfully slow. The House of the Scorpion is also on the slower side, but the characters and world were compelling enough to keep me reading. The Lord of Opium is just slow. All of the action happens at the end. Matt spends most of the book sulking, flying around Opium in a hovercraft, and telling people to “Shut up.” I understand that a 14-year-old drug lord will be busy and have a lot to mope about, but it doesn’t make for interesting reading. I wanted something to happen.

I also have issues with the romances. It’s hard to talk about this without wandering into spoiler territory, but I’m going to try. In the first book, Matt is romantically interested in his friend, María. In the second book, Matt and María are separated, and Matt develops romantic-ish feelings for an eejit he names Marisol. This relationship is creepy because Marisol has a microchip in her brain and can’t consent to anything that’s happening, but the relationship doesn’t bother me too much because it doesn’t go very far.

What bothers me is that when Matt and María are reunited, their relationship suddenly gets really serious. I didn’t believe it. Matt and María’s love is innocent and childlike in the first book, then Matt has his romantic-ish thing with Marisol, and then Matt and María suddenly want to spend the rest of their lives together. The author says that they’re in love, but I didn’t see the love. The relationship isn’t developed enough for me. This made the book’s ending fall flat, which is disappointing.

I didn’t like the sequel as much as I liked the first book, but I’m glad I read it. I love these characters and needed to know what happened to them.   


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Wish Santa Would Bring Me

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is top ten books I wish Santa would leave under my tree. I know that Santa won’t be bringing any books this Christmas, but I can dream, right?

Crow: From the Life and Songs of Crow – Ted Hughes

Crow was Ted Hughes's fourth book of poems for adults and a pivotal moment in his writing career. In it, he found both a structure and a persona that gave his vision a new power and coherence. The hero of Ted Hughes's Crow is a creature of mythic proportions. Ferocious, bleak, full of anarchic energy and violent comedy, Crow's story is one of the literary landmarks of our time.

Dispatches from Dystopia: Histories of Places Not Yet Forgotten – Kate Brown

In Dispatches from Dystopia, Brown wanders the Chernobyl Zone of Alienation, first on the Internet and then in person, to figure out which version—the real or the virtual—is the actual forgery. She also takes us to the basement of a hotel in Seattle to examine the personal possessions left in storage by Japanese-Americans on their way to internment camps in 1942. In Uman, Ukraine, we hide with Brown in a tree in order to witness the annual male-only Rosh Hashanah celebration of Hasidic Jews. In the Russian southern Urals, she speaks with the citizens of the small city of Kyshtym, where invisible radioactive pollutants have mysteriously blighted lives. Finally, Brown returns home to Elgin, Illinois, in the midwestern industrial rust belt to investigate the rise of “rustalgia” and the ways her formative experiences have inspired her obsession with modernist wastelands. Dispatches from Dystopia powerfully and movingly narrates the histories of locales that have been silenced, broken, or contaminated. In telling these previously unknown stories, Brown examines the making and unmaking of place, and the lives of the people who remain in the fragile landscapes that are left behind.

The Dumb House – John Burnside

In Persian myth, it is said that Akbar the Great once built a palace which he filled with newborn children, attended only by mutes, in order to learn whether language is innate or acquired. As the year passed and the children grew into their silent and difficult world, this palace became known as the Gang Mahal, or Dumb House. In his first novel, John Burnside explores the possibilities inherent in a modern-day repetition of Akbar’s investigations. Following the death of his mother, the unnamed narrator creates a twisted variant of the Dumb House, finally using his own children as subjects in a bizarre experiment. When the children develop a musical language of their own, however, their jailer is the one who is excluded, and he extracts an appalling revenge.

Geek Love – Katherine Dunn

Geek Love is the story of the Binewskis, a carny family who set out–with the help of amphetamine, arsenic, and radioisotopes–to breed their own exhibit of human oddities. There’s Arturo the Aquaboy, who has flippers for limbs and a megalomaniac ambition worthy of Genghis Khan . . . Iphy and Elly, the lissome Siamese twins . . . albino hunchback Oly, and the outwardly normal Chick, whose mysterious gifts make him the family’s most precious–and dangerous–asset. As the Binewskis take their act across the backwaters of the U.S., inspiring fanatical devotion and murderous revulsion; as its members conduct their own Machiavellian version of sibling rivalry, Geek Love throws its sulfurous light on our notions of the freakish and the normal, the beautiful and the ugly, the holy and the obscene. Family values will never be the same.

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil – Stephen Collins

On the buttoned-down island of Here, all is well. By which we mean: orderly, neat, contained and, moreover, beardless. 
Or at least it is until one famous day, when Dave, bald but for a single hair, finds himself assailed by a terrifying, unstoppable . . . monster*! 
Where did it come from? How should the islanders deal with it? And what, most importantly, are they going to do with Dave?  
The first book from a new leading light of UK comics, The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil is an off-beat fable worthy of Roald Dahl. It is about life, death, and the meaning of beards. 
(*We mean a gigantic beard, basically.)

All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel. 
In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.

Brown Girl Dreaming – Jacqueline Woodson

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

The Black Project – Gareth Brookes

Getting yourself a girlfriend is easy, according to Richard. All you need is papier mache, string, soft material, a balloon, some old fashioned bellows, and a good pair of scissors. The difficult bit is keeping her secret. Set in an English suburb in the early 1990s, this is the story of Richard's all-consuming passion for creating 'girls' from household objects. But as his hobby begins to flourish, his real life friendships and family relationships deteriorate.

Horrorstör: A Novel – Grady HendriX

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.  
To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

In a Handful of Dust – Mindy McGinnis

Lucy’s life by the pond has always been full. She has water and friends, laughter and the love of her adoptive mother, Lynn, who has made sure that Lucy’s childhood was very different from her own. Yet it seems Lucy’s future is settled already—a house, a man, children, and a water source—and anything beyond their life by the pond is beyond reach. 
When disease burns through their community, the once life-saving water of the pond might be the source of what’s killing them now. Rumors of desalinization plants in California have lingered in Lynn’s mind, and the prospect of a “normal” life for Lucy sets the two of them on an epic journey west to face new dangers: hunger, mountains, deserts, betrayal, and the perils of a world so vast that Lucy fears she could be lost forever, only to disappear in a handful of dust.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Review: Peter Pan (Novelization) – J.M. Barrie

Peter Pan (Novelization) – J.M. Barrie

The character of Peter Pan first came to life in the stories J. M. Barrie told to five brothers— three of whom were named Peter, John, and Michael. Peter Pan is considered one of the greatest children's stories of all time and continues to charm readers one hundred years after its first appearance as a play in 1904.

Review: You guys all know the story of Peter Pan, right? A boy who refuses to grow up flies through the window of Wendy, John, and Michael’s nursery and leads them to Neverland, where they meet the lost boys and battle pirates.

Peter Pan was originally a play that was first performed in 1904. In 1911, the author turned his play in to a novel. I have read (and watched) a few modernized versions of the Peter Pan story, but I didn’t know how they compared to the original, so I decided to read the 1911 novel.

The original story is much darker, weirder, and sadder than the modern versions. At times, it reminded me more of Alice in Wonderland than the modern versions of Peter Pan. Neverland is sometimes a strange, sinister place. There is death and danger around every corner.

Even though the story is a bit creepy, I think the author perfectly captures the spirit of childhood. The adventures that the children have in Neverland are a lot like the games that children play in real life. I also really like that the children sometimes can’t tell the difference between real and pretend. At one point, Peter has to ask Wendy if they are “just pretending” because he isn’t sure. The small details like that make the characters feel very childlike.

The characters in the original story are also slightly different from their modern counterparts. Honestly, Peter got on my nerves a little. He often came across as a manipulative, self-centered, violent bully. The original Peter Pan is a complex character, but he’s not very likeable.

My favorite character is Tinker Bell. She’s bad-tempered and fond of the word “ass.” I found her amusing.

I’m not sure what modern children would think of this story. The plot is entertaining, but the language and gender roles are outdated. I think a lot of younger children would struggle to understand the story without help from an adult. Older children and teens could probably read it without too many problems.

I’m glad I read this book. It’s interesting to compare the original to the modern versions and see how stories change over time. I now want to read the play.  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Sunday Post #29

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.

On the blog last week

On the blog this week

  • On Monday I review Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.
  • On Tuesday I list the books I wish Santa would bring me.
  • On Wednesday I review The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer.
  • On Saturday I show you more new books (I got a lot of new books).

In my reading life

I’ve been experimenting with book polygamy. I usually only read one book at a time, but I’ve been reading several at once for all of December. I’m not sure if I like book polygamy, but I did read a lot this week, so maybe it’s helping me read faster. I finished Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie and Burning Down the House: Essays on Fiction by Charles Baxter. I also read The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer and The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am by Kjersti Annesdatter Skomsvold. Up next is Feed by M.T. Anderson.

In my blogging life

I’m somehow way behind on answering comments again. If you left a comment on my blog last week, I promise I’m not ignoring you.

Also, I’m planning my 2016 reading challenges. I’ve decided to participate in the 2016 Horror Reading Challenge. When I was a teenager, horror was pretty much the only genre I read. I guess I’m going back to my roots next year. I want to read at least 5 horror books, and I want to focus on classic horror. I want to read all the old stuff that influences the modern stuff.

In the rest of my life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. Planning blog posts for January.
  2. The first draft of The Giant Essay From Hell has been turned in. Now I’m waiting for it to come back so I can do revisions.
  3. I finally got around to seeing Mockingjay Part 2.
  4. So many new books. The mailman probably thinks I’m insane because I get abnormally excited about Amazon packages.
  5. It’s almost Christmas.

Happy holidays, and see you around the blogosphere!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Winter Book Haul (Part 2)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga’s Reviews. I get to show off all the books I’ve gotten recently.

Challenger Deep – Neal Shusterman

Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench. 
Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior. 
Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence, to document the journey with images. 
Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head. 
Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny. 
Caden Bosch is torn. 
A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today's most admired writers for teens.

 Attachments – Rainbow Rowell

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives. 
Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now—reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers—not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke. 
When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained—and captivated—by their stories. 
By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

Feed – M.T. Anderson

Identity crises, consumerism, and star-crossed teenage love in a futuristic society where people connect to the Internet via feeds implanted in their brains. 
For Titus and his friends, it started out like any ordinary trip to the moon—a chance to party during spring break and play with some stupid low-grav at the Ricochet Lounge. But that was before the crazy hacker caused all their feeds to malfunction, sending them to the hospital to lie around with nothing inside their heads for days. And it was before Titus met Violet, a beautiful, brainy teenage girl who has decided to fight the feed and its omnipresent ability to categorize human thoughts and desires.

Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America – Susan Campbell Bartoletti

What happens when a person's reputation has been forever damaged? 
With archival photographs and text among other primary sources, this riveting biography of Mary Mallon by the Sibert medalist and Newbery Honor winner Susan Bartoletti looks beyond the tabloid scandal of Mary's controversial life. 
How she was treated by medical and legal officials reveals a lesser-known story of human and constitutional rights, entangled with the science of pathology and enduring questions about who Mary Mallon really was. 
How did her name become synonymous with deadly disease? And who is really responsible for the lasting legacy of Typhoid Mary?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Discussion: Stop the Hype Train—I Want to Get Off!

I’m linking back to Feed Your Fiction Addiction and It Starts At Midnight. They host the 2015 Discussion Challenge.

Stop the Hype Train—I Want to Get Off!

Lately I’ve been thinking about how my reading has changed since I started blogging. Before I got involved with the bookish community, I used to walk into Barnes & Nobel without a shopping list. I would just wander the aisles until I found something that interested me. As a result, I used to read a lot of obscure, older books that very few people had heard of.

Now, I rarely go to a bookstore without a shopping list. Reading blogs and watching BookTube has given me a massive TBR list. This definitely isn’t a bad thing because it means that there’s always a new book that I’m excited about reading, but it’s different from how I used to choose my books. I’m relying on other bloggers to tell me about books rather than discovering them on my own in a bookstore.

Since I now get so many book recommendations from bloggers, I feel like I’ve been reading more hyped new releases than I used to. I’ve never read a book just because of the hype, but when everybody is talking about something, it makes me curious. Reading hyped new releases isn’t a bad thing, but most of the books that I used to read were several years (or decades) old. I know for a fact that there are some amazing older books in the world. I just need to find them.

Last time I went to Barnes & Noble, I made sure to pick out some older books that I had never heard of before. One book I discovered was The House of the Scorpion. This book was originally published in 2002. I have never seen it mentioned on a blog. I ended up liking it so much that I bought the sequel, and I rarely read sequels or series. Wandering the shelves and finding that book by myself was somehow more rewarding than seeing it on a blog and adding it to my shopping list.

Next year, I want to concentrate on finding and reviewing more under-hyped books. However, I’ve noticed that obscure books aren’t really good for blogs. My reviews of hyped new releases get way, way, way more pageviews than my reviews of little-known books. But, I think trading pageviews for the fun of discovering obscure books on my own is a trade that I’m willing to make.

Hopefully I’ll find a way to balance my reading list so that there’s more room for old books. Maybe I’ll come across a new favorite.

How do you find books to read? Has your reading changed since you started blogging? Do you review little-known books on your blog? Do you mostly read older books or new releases? 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Review: The Collector – John Fowles

The Collector – John Fowles

Withdrawn, uneducated, and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, the art student Miranda. When he wins the pools he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time. Alone and desperate, Miranda must struggle to overcome her own prejudices and contempt if she is to understand her captor, and so gain her freedom. 
This brilliant tale of obsessive love was John Fowles's debut novel, and it immediately established him as a major contemporary novelist.

Review: I loved half of this book and disliked the other half.

The Collector is a classic horror story that has influenced many modern-day horror novels. In this book, a shy butterfly collector wins a bunch of money. He uses it to buy a house in the English countryside. He then turns the house’s cellar into a dungeon and kidnaps a beautiful young art student. The first half of the book is told from the kidnapper’s point-of-view, and the second half is told from the point-of-view of the kidnap victim, Miranda.

The first half of the book is fast-paced and unpredictable. The narrator—Frederick—is interesting in a psychopathic sort of way. He badly wants to be loved, but he’s so uncomfortable around women that he can’t interact with them. He resorts to kidnapping to get what he wants, but Miranda isn’t what he expected. Frederick can’t make her love him, even though he gives her everything she wants (except freedom).

I like the way that the first part of the book is written. The reader can see Fredrick’s lack of education and his low self-esteem. Frederick doesn’t completely understand that kidnapping Miranda is wrong. He sees her as a “guest” in his house. It’s creepy.

The first half of the book is great, but the second half was a slog for me. The second half is a retelling of the first half from Miranda’s point-of-view. Since I already knew everything that was going to happen, there was no suspense or unpredictability. Miranda also isn’t a very interesting character. She’s pretentious. Most of her section is about her pre-kidnapped life, which I found a little tedious. She talks a lot about art and a much-older artist who she had an obsessive relationship with. I understand how this ties into the themes of the book, but it just didn’t interest me at all.

I highly recommend reading Frederick’s sections if you like classic horror. You can probably skim Miranda’s section without missing much. Make sure you read the very end of the book, though. It gets disturbing in the last few pages.