Bloggiesta Mini Challenge: Making Goodreads Werk!

Posted 21 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging

Although I’ve been using Goodreads years before I ever considered starting a blog, there’s always room for improvement so I thought I’d take up the Bloggiesta Mini-Challenge hosted by Brittany at The Book Addict’s Guide.

Really, it’s an organizational task for me.

1. I’ve tagged all of my reviews that I’ve posted here on a new shelf (blogged), that way in many moons I won’t start re-blogging past reviews.

2. I’ve gone through and cleaned out my friends list, it’s the only personal site where I accept friend requests from anyone and certain author’s self-promotions were starting to get on my nerves. I also cleaned out some groups that I belong to that are no longer relevant for me, mostly local book clubs.

3. Added a shelf specifically for picture books.

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Stephen King Saturday: ‘It’

Posted 21 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Stephen King Saturday: ‘It’It by Stephen King
Published by New English Library on 1987
Pages: 1116
Goodreads
five-stars

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they were grown-up men and women who had gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But none of them could withstand the force that drew them back to Derry, Maine to face the nightmare without an end, and the evil without a name. What was it? Read It and find out...if you dare!

“They all float down here.”

Another win for Stephen King! I know I’m twenty-odd years late in saying that, but hey, there’s a time and a place for every book, and It‘s time was now. It is now rightfully a classic in the genre. 

Great rendering of childhood nostalgia and although I  didn’t grow up in the late 50’s, there were still echoes of my own childhood. This is the first time in a long time that a book has actually frightened me a little bit. I like to read in the bath, but after the scene in Beverly’s bathroom — I actually had second thoughts.


King takes every frightening archetype and slams them into one brilliant novel. Clowns, spiders, mental patients, sewers…

Fantastic fantastic. Long, but completely worth it.

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Bloggiesta To Do List

Posted 20 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging

Bloggiesta To Do List!

So this is my very first year participating in Bloggiesta and my to do list is vast. So LET’S GET TO WORK! 
 write two reviews
 create link lists and archive lists
 create a better header image 
 do two mini challenges
 add a page (link list page & start ‘bookish bucket list’)
 add ‘search blog’ widget to sidebar
 comment on other Bloggiesta partipants blogs
 participate in at least one Twitter chat
 build relationships in book blog community
read up on building a Twitter presence – then implement. 
set up ‘Bloglovin’ account/widgets
remove CAPTCHA

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Fabulous Friday: A Visit from the Goon Squad

Posted 20 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Fabulous Friday: A Visit from the Goon SquadA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on June 8th 2010
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 288
Goodreads
five-stars

Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

This book is fantastic and deserves all the praise and awards (Pulitzer for Lit.) that has rained down upon it. My sole issue with this book is the title. It’s awful. I almost didn’t read it because the title was so bad. Blargh!

Anyway, A Visit From the Goon Squad is fabulous. Disappointment, demise, desperation, and ultimately – in some cases – redemption. All tied together ala Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. (Hm. We’re all connected in our desperation somehow and glean whatever small amounts of redemption we can from one another??) Another book I would love to read with a group of people led by a trained literari (is that a word? You get my point.) 

Read it. All of you.

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Triple Threat Thursday: ‘The MaddAddam Trilogy’

Posted 19 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in

The third book in Margaret Atwood’s ‘MaddAddam’ trilogy, which begins with Oryx and Crake was published earlier this month. Because of my love of all things Atwood and especially ‘The MaddAddam Trilogy’, I’ve decided to post all three of my reviews concurrently. I’ve read both Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood multiple times and my reviews will reflect that. 

Enjoy! 

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam #1)

This book is still amazing. I re-read it for the release of MaddAddam

The story of Snowman is woven through flashbacks to life before the apocalypse and now how Snowman survives day to day in his ‘solitary’ existence. Beautifully crafted, this book touches on the dangers of man’s intellectual hubris and the beauty and importance of art. 

Snowman is the keeper of archaic words, the first time I was lazy and didn’t look up the meanings of those I didn’t know, but take my advice and look them up. Their selection is quite intentional and makes for even more powerful story-telling.
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23 Sep. 2008

This book is amazing. I can’t believe that it took me so long to find it. A brilliant apocalyptic novel, in the running with Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World. Quite possibly replaces The Handmaid’s Tale as my favorite Atwood novel

The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam #2)

I think that I enjoyed this book better the second time around. Maybe because I had read it in such close proximity to re-reading Oryx and Crake. While I found Oryx and Crake disturbing, this was really much scarier – probably because of Atwood’s ability to personalize a large scale apocalyptic event. 
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6 Oct 2009
This book is fabulous.  I wouldn’t classify this book so much as a sequel than as a parallel telling. I would highly recommend this to anyone. It’s a frightening vision of what our future may become if we do not become more careful with science and our environment. It frightens me in much the same way The Handmaid’s Tale does… but for different reasons. This book is much more potent than Oryx and Crake.

MaddAddam (MaddAddam #3)

MaddAddam lacks the power of The Year of the Flood and the horror of Oryx and Crake, still it’s a fine Margaret Atwood novel and 100% enjoyable.

It’s a great commentary on technology, capitalism, religion, and of course, the environment and how we as humans commune with it. There’s also an exploration on what it means to be human, is it specifically our DNA? Is it possible organisms that share less than 100% of human genetic make-up still be human? 

Atwood gives her standard chilling warning at the end of the book, all technologies that cause the fall of ‘civilized society’ in this fictional dystopia are already available now or are in development in some way or another. 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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World War II Wednesday: The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

Posted 18 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

World War II Wednesday: The Rise and Fall of the Third ReichThe Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer
Published by RosettaBooks Genres: Europe, Germany, History, Holocaust
Pages: 1280
Goodreads
five-stars

When the Third Reich fell, it fell swiftly. The Nazis had little time to cover up their memos, their letters, or their diaries. William L. Shirer’s definitive book on the Third Reich uses these unique sources. Combined with his personal experience with the Nazis, living through the war as an international correspondent, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich not only earned Shirer a National Book Award but is recognized as one of the most important and authoritative books about the Third Reich and Nazi Germany ever written. The diaries of propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels as well as evidence and other testimony gained at the Nuremberg Trials could not have found more artful hands. Shirer gives a clear, detailed and well-documented account of how it was that Adolf Hitler almost succeeded in conquering the world. With millions of copies in print, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich has become one of the most authoritative books on one of mankind’s darkest hours. Shirer focuses on 1933 to 1945 in clear detail. Here is a worldwide bestseller that also tells the true story of the Holocaust, often in the words of the men who helped plan and conduct it. It is a classic by any measure. The book has been translated into twelve languages and was adapted as a television miniseries, broadcast by ABC in 1968.

This is an amazing read. Epic. It’s probably the most comprehensive history of Nazi Germany ever published. The author uses his own first hand experience along with actual captured Nazi documents to tell the story. The first 700-800 pages flew by for me, then I got bogged down in the remaining 400. I think because up until that point the narrative focuses mainly on Hitler’s childhood and rise to power along with what every aspect of life was like in Nazi Germany. The reading became a little more difficult for me when it started to focus more on the military actions and maneuvers, which I have little to no interest in. It’s fantastic and timely even today. An important moment in history that everyone should consider.

Historically, it seems that everything, from the obscure Prussian militaristic state, to Hitler’s bastard grandfather being recognized by his father at the zero hour (when he was 84), to Hitler’s rejection from art school, to the Treaty of Versailles – all the stars aligned for the coming of Hitler… it’s spooky really. 
 
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is absolutely a must read for anyone with an interest in history or politics. 

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Trashy Tuesday: Life After Dane

Posted 17 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Trashy Tuesday: Life After DaneLife After Dane by Edward Lorn
Published by Red Adept Publishing, LLC on July 10th 2013
Genres: Fiction, Horror
Pages: 226
three-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A mother’s love is undying… and so is Dane.After the state of
Arkansas executes serial killer Dane Peters, the Rest Stop Dentist, his
mother discovers that life is darker and more dangerous than she ever
expected.The driving force behind his ghostly return lies buried
in his family’s dark past. As Ella desperately seeks a way to lay her
son’s troubled soul to rest, she comes face to face with her own
failings.If Ella cannot learn why her son has returned and what
he seeks, then the reach of his power will destroy the innocent, and not
even his mother will be able to stop him.

Delightful!


I picked up this book completely on a whim, largely because I love serial killer stories.

While Life After Dane will never show up on a list of modern classics, it’s fun, fast paced, and entertaining enough to keep the reader engaged to the very end. I would definitely recommend picking this one up if you have a day at the beach or a long flight.

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Advance Review: The Fifth Beatle

Posted 16 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Advance Review: The Fifth BeatleThe Fifth Beatle: The Brian Epstein Story by Vivek J. Tiwary
Published by Dark Horse Comics on October 29th 2013
Genres: Comics & Graphic Novels, General
Pages: 144
Goodreads
three-half-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Fifth Beatle is the untold true story of Brian Epstein, the visionary manager who discovered and guided The Beatles-from their gigs in a tiny cellar in Liverpool to unprecedented international stardom. Yet more than merely the story of "The Man Who Made The Beatles," The Fifth Beatle is an uplifting, tragic, and ultimately inspirational human story about the struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Brian himself died painfully lonely at the young age of thirty-two, having helped The Beatles prove through "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" that pop music could be an inspirational art form. He was homosexual when it was a felony to be so in the United Kingdom, Jewish at a time of anti-Semitism, and from Liverpool when it was considered just a dingy port town.

First, I don’t normally read graphic novels, but I adore The Beatles. While I knew some of Brian Epstein’s history, I had hoped that this would be more comprehensive. Had I not known most of the Epstein story already I might have been lost. For that reason I would only recommend this to Beatlemaniacs who have at least a basic understanding of who Brian Epstein was and his role with The Beatles.

 

That being said, Epstein’s story is powerful. Young and wealthy, but still driven by his passions, he experiences victory and overcomes enormous odds. His story also highlights the pain and isolation that many LGTB youths in England experienced at the time, and to some extent, even today, worldwide.

 

Also, I had always thought that the fifth Beatle was considered to be Stuart Sutcliffe. But a cursory search of the highly credible source Wikipedia leads me to a Paul McCartney quote that states:

 

“If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was [Beatles’ manager] Brian Epstein.”

 

The illustrations are lovely and keep with the standard Japanese Manga style with a hint of 60’s realness.
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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Monday Madness: The Center Cannot Hold

Posted 16 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Monday Madness: The Center Cannot HoldThe Center Cannot Hold by Elyn R. Saks
Published by Hyperion on August 12th 2008
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, General, Personal Memoirs, Psychology, Psychopathology, Schizophrenia, Social Scientists & Psychologists, Women
Pages: 351
Goodreads
five-stars

Elyn Saks is a success by any measure: she's an endowed professor at the prestigious University of Southern California Gould School of Law. She has managed to achieve this in spite of being diagnosed as schizophrenic and given a "grave" prognosis -- and suffering the effects of her illness throughout her life.Saks was only eight, and living an otherwise idyllic childhood in sunny 1960s Miami, when her first symptoms appeared in the form of obsessions and night terrors. But it was not until she reached Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar that her first full-blown episode, complete with voices in her head and terrifying suicidal fantasies, forced her into a psychiatric hospital.Saks would later attend Yale Law School where one night, during her first term, she had a breakdown that left her singing on the roof of the law school library at midnight. She was taken to the emergency room, force-fed antipsychotic medication, and tied hand-and-foot to the cold metal of a hospital bed. She spent the next five months in a psychiatric ward.So began Saks's long war with her own internal demons and the equally powerful forces of stigma. Today she is a chaired professor of law who researches and writes about the rights of the mentally ill. She is married to a wonderful man.In The Center Cannot Hold, Elyn Saks discusses frankly and movingly the paranoia, the inability to tell imaginary fears from real ones, and the voices in her head insisting she do terrible things, as well as the many obstacles she overcame to become the woman she is today. It is destined to become a classic in the genre.

This book is inspiring and fabulous. It’s a 30+ year journey of a woman eventually diagnosed as a schizophrenic who defeated the odds to achieve a graduate degree at Oxford, a J.D. from Yale Law, and eventually a tenured professor-ship (is that a word?) at USC Gould School of Law.


Through it all, she fights her diagnosis and the need for meds. Eventually, she finds peace only in the acceptance of her diagnosis and acceptance in the fact that she needed the meds. Still, she struggles to maintain her inner “self”. 

The Center Cannot Hold is truly an amazing story and a fantastic read.

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April @ The Steadfast Reader

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Classic Fail: Les Misérables

Posted 15 September, 2013 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Classic Fail: Les MisérablesLes Misérables by Victor Hugo
Published by Signet Classic Genres: Classics, Fiction
Pages: 1463
Goodreads
two-stars

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

It has been said that Victor Hugo has a street named after him in virtually every town in France. A major reason for the singular celebrity of this most popular and versatile of the great French writers is "Les Misérables "(1862). In this story of the trials of the peasant Jean Valjean--a man unjustly imprisoned, baffled by destiny, and hounded by his nemesis, the magnificently realized, ambiguously malevolent police detective Javert--Hugo achieves the sort of rare imaginative resonance that allows a work of art to transcend its genre. "Les Miserables "is at once a tense thriller that contains one of the most compelling chase scenes in all literature, an epic portrayal of the nineteenth-century French citizenry, and a vital drama--highly particularized and poetic in its rendition but universal in its implications--of the redemption of one human being.

Les Misérables may be the hardest book I’ve ever read. 12% of this book is equivalent to a short novel and very – very – little has happened. I continued to march on.

When I was 1/3 of the way through the book I came to the part where Jean val Jean rescues Cosette from the Thenardier’s and the heartbreaking way in which they treat her. I think that the reaction would have been different had I read this before becoming a mother. It was simply painful.

I pushed my way through this beast and now it’s done. Another book checked off the bucket list. I hated most of this book. The only interesting characters were Jean val Jean and Eponine. 

It goes on and on and on. Hugo forever pontificates on undoubtedly important and interesting subjects — but he goes on so long and gets so abstract that it renders his points moot.

Tedious and awful. I’d recommend the film adaptation with Liam Neeson in it, though they totally remove the character of Eponine- which is lame, but other than that it’s quite good. The musical version with Hugh Jackman in it is fantastic as well – except you have to listen to Russell Crowe ‘sing’. 
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#877: 1001 Books to Read Before You Die (2010 list)

April @ The Steadfast Reader

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