Sunday, October 19, 2014

Spread the Love 2.0: Week Thirty Six



Howdy howdy! Did everyone have a great week?! I can't wait to see what you guys have for me! 


Last week the most clicked on link was: 



Becca from I'm Lost in Books announcement on Nonfiction November!

Go get your button!

Your turn! Showcase your favorite post this week!
Would you like a friendly reminder on when 
The Spread the Love Linky Party is going live? Wanna grab some buttons? 


Guidelines
  • Link up your greatest book review, bookish post, or anything tangentially related to books, reading, writing, or blogging that is fabulous this week (or before!) that you want to show to the world!
  • Additionally, please avoid linking up other parties, directly to Etsy shops, and posts that are just to a giveaway. If you have a book review or an author feature or... anything else that happens to have a giveaway as well, that's A-OK.
  • Spread even more love - Click on at least one other link that interests you (and others!) and say something nice! It's a fantastic way to learn about a new blog and see an amazing post that someone is really proud of! We all love nice comments, so this part is important, take a minute and spread the love!
  • By linking up, you are granting the party hosts permission to promote you and and image from your site in a featured post or on social media. Meaning, if I or anyone else thinks that your post is super fabulous, it might get promoted! This is totally a win-win, don't you agree?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Six Degrees of Separation: 1984


Six Degrees of Separation time, y'all! Hosted by the indomitable Annabel and Emma

1984 has been one of my favorite books since I read it... in high school? Middle school? Anyway, it's been forever since I first read it - and I've read it a million (okay maybe five or six) times since. If you're a dystopian writer and haven't read both 1984 and

Brave New World by: A. Huxley (I can never spell his first name right and I'm too lazy to check my spelling right now...) then you're doing it wrong. I love Brave New World (also a dystopia for the woefully unknowing) almost as much as I love 1984. I first read Brave New World my senior year of high school, it was challenging because some chapters were told in an unconventional format. Which leads me to...

Solomon the Peacemaker by: Hunter Welles - also a dystopian novel, but with such a fascinating premise I ABSOLUTELY MUST INSIST THAT YOU READ IT RIGHT NOW. It's also told with an unconventional narrative structure. A 'terrorist' is in police custody and being interrogated, but all the interrogation questions are redacted. The reader must pay careful attention to the answers, in order to glean the questions. It's successful in slowing down speed readers like myself and also leads to more questions. It's a brilliant book, but unfortunately (like many brilliant books) largely ignored. SO! Brilliant books (somewhat) ignored in unconventional formats leads me to...

Dear Committee Members by: Julie Schumacher - an epistolary novel written in the form of correspondence and letters of recommendation from (and a few to) a delightfully curmudgeonly tenured English professor in a completely dysfunctional university. I want to be Jay. Speaking of epistolary novels...

The Divorce Papers by: Susan Rieger - another unique epistolary novel - except that instead of just correspondance from/to the main character we also get statutes and legal memoranda from the same state. As an unemployed attorney I really enjoyed it. There were also legal issues between the divorcing couple in the novel about their kids which brings us to...

The Children Act by: Ian McEwan - (god, how behind on reviews am I?) a family law judge in England is confronted with a suit on whether or not a 17 year old Jehovah's Witness has the right to refuse lifesaving treatment. It's an excellent character driven novel on law, relationships, and hammers home the fact that lawyers and judges are real people too. With feelings. I connect this with...

Steal the North by: Heather Brittain Bergstrom - a coming of age novel set in the background of religious extremism and the need to understand and appreciate other cultures and religions. In this novel it's extreme fundamentalist Christianity needing to understand the Native American 'religion'. This is a beautiful and emotionally difficult book, it's satisfying to see the protagonist shed multiple layers of herself. The beauty of acceptance and diversity in this novel really shine through.


So! From 1984 (also set in 'England' [my favorite country - the real England, not the dystopian one...]) to Steal the North in six easy steps. Do you want to play? I know you do. Here's how:


So, Reader, where do you go from 1984 ? Don't dare tell me you haven't read it! But, it's okay if you haven't... as long as you're not writing dystopian fiction. Check out the other chains. So wildly different and creative! 


Monday, October 13, 2014

Must Read Monday: Station Eleven

Station Eleven by: Emily St. John Mandel

Source: Purchased
Synopsis: (Goodreads)
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. 



I picked up this book after reading Catherine's review (The Gilmore Guide to Books). I have been a long time enthusiast of apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian novels... dare I say it, before they were cool. So while I find myself a little bored with the massive number of YA books in this genre that carry all too familiar tropes, I always jump on adult novels in the genre (maybe with the noted exception of zombie apocalypse novels). 

This book is beautifully written. It's character driven, which may sound like an odd combination with the apocalyptic setting but St. John Mandel pulls it off beautifully. It's elegant and literary. There are points with action, but it never overtakes the characters or dumbs the book down. I especially enjoyed the shifting perspectives in time, people, and places. It's like a beautifully crafted jigsaw puzzle that you put together in your head, seeing where each character fits.

The characters are well fleshed out and believable (I kept seeing Arthur as Richard Gere, no idea why). There were a few times where a character had been gone for so long from the narrative I had to check myself with a 'wait, who?'. Other than that, this is a fantastic book. 

I highly recommend it to literary fiction lovers, even if they feel 'done' with this particular genre. This book is everything I wanted Lighthouse Island to be, and more. This is not just a genre novel, it's incredibly literary with deeper themes, symbolism and plot devices that could be great for a book club discussion.

For a more spoiler-y professional review that I agree with, pointing out some of the weaknesses of the novel, I direct you to none other than the New York Times.

So, Reader, have you been 'done' with this genre for awhile? Do you have any suggestions for literary novels within this genre for me? I will eat them up.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Spread the Love 2.0: Week Thirty Five




I'm sorry about my absence last week, Readers. There's been a lot going on, personally and I just was unable to even do the minor work necessary to set up the party. But I'm back and hopefully will avoid future hiccoughs in the party for the near future.

Two weeks ago, the most clicked on link was: 


Quirky Bookworm's 31 Days of Book Pics!

Go get your button!

Your turn! Showcase your favorite post this week!
Would you like a friendly reminder on when 
The Spread the Love Linky Party is going live? Wanna grab some buttons? 


Guidelines
  • Link up your greatest book review, bookish post, or anything tangentially related to books, reading, writing, or blogging that is fabulous this week (or before!) that you want to show to the world!
  • Additionally, please avoid linking up other parties, directly to Etsy shops, and posts that are just to a giveaway. If you have a book review or an author feature or... anything else that happens to have a giveaway as well, that's A-OK.
  • Spread even more love - Click on at least one other link that interests you (and others!) and say something nice! It's a fantastic way to learn about a new blog and see an amazing post that someone is really proud of! We all love nice comments, so this part is important, take a minute and spread the love!
  • By linking up, you are granting the party hosts permission to promote you and and image from your site in a featured post or on social media. Meaning, if I or anyone else thinks that your post is super fabulous, it might get promoted! This is totally a win-win, don't you agree?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fiend: ...and the meth-heads shall inherit the Earth.

Fiend by: Peter Stenson

Source: Publisher. I received this book for honest review consideration.
Synopsis: When Chase Daniels first sees the little girl in umbrella socks tearing open the Rottweiler, he's not too concerned. As a longtime meth addict, he’s no stranger to horrifying, drug-fueled hallucinations.  
   
But as he and his fellow junkies soon discover, the little girl is no illusion. The end of the world really has arrived. 
   
The funny thing is, Chase’s life was over long before the apocalypse got here, his existence already reduced to a stinking basement apartment and a filthy mattress and an endless grind of buying and selling and using. He’s lied and cheated and stolen and broken his parents’ hearts a thousand times. And he threw away his only shot at sobriety a long time ago, when he chose the embrace of the drug over the woman he still loves. 
   
And if your life’s already shattered beyond any normal hopes of redemption…well, maybe the end of the world is an opportunity. Maybe it’s a last chance for Chase to hit restart and become the man he once dreamed of being. Soon he’s fighting to reconnect with his lost love and dreaming of becoming her hero among civilization’s ruins. 
  
I want to use all the puns here. I'll just stick with 'fiendishly funny'.  I'm not generally compelled by action driven novels, which is why I've only read a handful of zombie apocalypse novels, but this one definitely stands apart from the pack. There seems to be a touch of Chuck Palahunik's style in Stenson's writing - which of course I love. 

There's nothing too deep and important to be found in this novel, so it's great fun as a Halloween read. and I love the twist that Stenson puts on the whole zombie genre - he just makes it his thing, the zombies giggle. Which is totally creepy, but also a little funny. ...and I couldn't help myself from thinking the whole time, "...and the meth-heads shall inherit the earth." Honestly, I can't think of another zombie apocalypse story that's anything like it.

The characters are fleshed out enough and believable (under the circumstances). I particularly enjoyed THE Albino - the cook that Chase and Typewriter first run to.  The A and B love stories with KK/Jared and KK/Chase were relevant enough to the action that they didn't get in the way - in other words, they weren't extraneous. You know how much I hate a love story just for the sake of a love story.

All the characters and flawed and tragic in their own way, but scrappy survivalists as well. Despite the fact that my knowledge of meth is completely compiled of watching Breaking Bad, I still felt that these characters were incredibly relatable and I found myself rooting for them.

So glad I chose to pick up this book. Highly recommended to anyone who likes zombie novels and dark humor, but probably not recovering meth-addicts. 

Whatcha think, Reader? Are you looking for a new twist on the zombie genre? What's the weirdest twist on a 'settled' monster (vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc.) genre you've seen lately? 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Terrific Tuesday: How to Build a Girl

How to Build a Girl by: Caitlin Moran

Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours. I received a copy for honest review consideration
Synopsis: (Goodreads)
What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn't enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself.

It's 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there's no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Bront√ęs—but without the dying-young bit.

By sixteen, she's smoking cigarettes, getting drunk, and working for a music paper. She's writing pornographic letters to rock stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realizes she's built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks enough to build a girl after all?


I read this book as part of a read-along with a number of other bloggers a few months back. I adored it. This book is going to piss some people off, lots of people are going to be put off by the opening scene, fourteen year old Johanna Morrigan masturbating in bed.

But what's great about How to Build a Girl is, for the most part it's an incredibly real book. It's a book that finally gives a narrative voice to teenage girls about growing up as teenage girls. Sex, drugs, poverty, and welfare are all explored by Moran in such an expert way that I have half of the book highlighted. Moran shies away from none of these things. There is no misty lighting when describing Johanna's sexual experiences - it's done very matter-of-factly, there is nothing titillating or pornographic about it. I would love to see this book in high school libraries. I'd love to see it taught to high school students (but it's never ever going to happen). There's plenty of laughter and places to feel the feels.

I know other readers are bothered by some tense shifting within the novel. Most of the time we're hearing the voice of 14 - 17 year old Johanna, but every now and then the tense shifts and the words seem to be coming from an older, wiser narrator. This didn't bother me in the least, but there are plenty of readers I know who it drove crazy. Which is a bit weird to me, because I've read plenty of books since (which some of these same bloggers have also read) that had the same tense shifting and no one said boo about it... 

Moran has written a novel here, that, for the first time since Judy Blume, has given teenage girls a voice. But for all the good it could do for teenagers to read this book, it's not really a YA novel. The best way I can think of to describe it is that it's a highly relatable coming of age novel that women and girls have needed for a long time now. I applaud Moran for writing this and her publishers for not shying away from the hard topics.

How to Build a Girl is the perfect balance of levity, heart-break, and reality. I highly recommend this to well... everyone. But those most likely to enjoy it will be people with an open mind and understanding of feminism who are willing to stretch just a tiny bit outside of what they perceive their comfort zone to be. It's worth it.

What do you think, Reader? Could you venture just a little (or a lot) outside of your comfort zone to read this revolutionary book? Or does this sound completely out of bounds for you? I can't help but shout it from the rooftops. It's so good.







P.S. If you've already read the book, or have no intentions of reading it I might highly recommend my read-along posts:
Part One
Chapters 5 - 10
Chapters 11 - 15
Chapters 16 - 20
Endings



I'm excited to be participating in the tour for Caitlin Moran's How to Build a Girl, be sure to check out the entire tour schedule here, it runs through 22 October. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Music Monday: Beatles with an A: Birth of a Band

Beatles with an A: The Birth of a Band by: Mauri Kunnas

Source: Publisher. I received a copy of this book for review consideration.
Synopsis: (Publisher)
These are the first beats of the Beatles' career as only legendary rock cartoonist Mauri Kunnas could tell them. Hilarious moments and details that even 
dedicated fans won't remember having heard before are all told with Kunnas's characteristically raucous humour and virtuosic drawing skills. 

The riotous tale, from rocking-horse to the recording studio in Abbey Road, where the first singles were laid down. It is a story told thousands of times over, but never in quite such a wacky screwball manner. 


I wanted to really love this book. I adore The Beatles and will snatch up all the reading material I can find on them, so this graphic novel looked like it would be a perfect fit for me.

The storytelling and the writing was well done, quirky and funny, most tales I had heard (as those of us that would call ourselves 'Beatlemaniacs' even forty years later, must). But Kunnas reworked the tales so that they were fresh and funny and still delightful. 

My problem came with the art. Most of the time, even with graphic novels the art is a secondary concern for me. To be sure, all of the panels are done in full color and there's a lot of intricacy in the backgrounds for the most part it's very impressive. But the people... I don't know, you see the cover photo above, I felt it was stylistically a little distracting for me.

Please note this is coming from someone with little-to-no talent in the visual arts with only a passing understanding of art history as a whole and even less so on the history of comics and graphic novels.

I suspect this would be a highly enjoyable read for those that have a fascination with The Beatles, especially if you don't know much about their early years. It's a fun read and despite my problems with the art I did enjoy it quite a lot.

So, Readers, anyone else out there with a fascination with The Beatles? What do you think about the cover? Do you have any must-read Beatles titles for me?