Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Or maybe just moving on over.... I've decided to move over to a new blog space. While I love all of the things this blog is about, I feel a little limited by it. So, I've created a new blog. There will still be lots of reading, writing, and knitting, and lots of other things too. I hope you'll join me over there!

Come on over to Little Miss Lovesit and say hi!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

In Which Dana Reads Romance

I'm sure I won't surprise any of you if I say that I've never read a romance novel before this week. Now, that's not to say that I have anything against romance novels; it's more that they've never caught my eye in the store, nor have they been recommended to me. (Guess my friends don't think I'm romantic. ;) ) That being said, I follow romance author Tawna Fenske's blog. I don't remember how I landed on Tawna's blog, but I am glad that I did. She is funny, smart and all around adorable, so when she recommended some books a while back, I thought I would take her recommendation for one of her favorites Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgans, and do a swan dive into the world of romance. I guess I'm saying all of this to tell you: take my review here with a grain of salt. I've never read romance before, and it really could just not be my thing.

Just One of The Guys- Kristan Higgans

Summary: Chastity (yes, in fact Chastity Virginia) O'Neill returns to her hometown in search of a simpler life, a man and a family. She's struggled in love, partially because she's 5'11" and built like an Amazon, partially because of her four firefighter older brothers and captain father, and partially because she's never gotten over her first love (and honorary O'Neill brother) Trevor. So when she meets Dr. Perfect, Chastity has to decide whether she'll take the safe route, or hedge her bets on true love.

Review: Oh boy....oh boy. I thought this book was all kinds of terrible. Now, this is why I put in my "I don't read romance" disclaimer at the top, because it could be an excellent romance novel (as is evidenced by the Amazon reviews), and I could just not like romance novels, but I thought this book was awful. The plot was so predictable (I knew who Chastity would end up with on page 3 or so). I took a bit of personal offense to Chastity's "woe is me, I'm 30 and I should have had 16 children by now" personality. The sub plots were boring (EMT class and a divorce). The writing was not great. Too many adjectives, adverbs and unnecessary and repetitive explanation.  I kept reading it because I hoped that there might be a serious twist at the end, hoped that it would get better. It didn't.

Now, before I write off the genre as a whole, I've downloaded a couple of other romance novels, one by Higgins and one by another author. We'll see if I like those any better. My guess is that romance is just not my genre, but who knows. Overall, I can't say this book wasn't worth the time and money I spent on it. It was kind of entertaining. If you like romance, you'll have to check it out and let me know what you think. I'd love to know if I'm way off base in my distaste or not.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Book Review Catch Up

Life... as it always seems to be, has been insane the last few weeks. We adopted a new cat (Luna, she's super cute) and had a death in the family (the hubs's grandfather), so it's felt a little crazier than usual. I'm WAY behind in my book reviewing, and even my super short reviews have been taking too long and not getting posted. So, I'm going to do one giant marathon post of the entire back log of books I've read, with what will hopefully be ridiculously short reviews. :) BTW- anything labeled Adult is merely market to that audience, not necessarily "adult" content. I think most of the books here would be great for teens as well; just as I think adults would enjoy a lot of the Young Adult books. :) Here we go!

Anthem- Ayn Rand    Fiction- Adult

 Summary- the classic novella about one man's struggle against an oppressive Utopian regime.

 Review- I thought it was decent. Nothing earth shattering for me, but a quick read.

The Glass Castle-Jeanette Walls      Memoir- Adult

Summary- One woman's memoir of a dysfunctional childhood and her crazy, yet loving parents.

Review- Loved it. Made me feel like my own family is normal. Beautiful writing and a very unique story.

Water for Elephants- Sara Gruen      Historical Fiction- Adult

Summary- Love story set in a circus during the Great Depression

Review- Loved it. I thought the writing was great, and loved the back and forth between present day and past. Seemed well researched and was all around great.

The Trophy Hunter- J.M. Zambrano      Suspense- Adult (actually adult)

Summary- Thriller about a lawyer who gets in way over her head with a case of missing women and children. The culprit is up to far more than she'd imagine.

Review- I'm not a huge fan of thrillers, but this book was written by a friend and I think it's pretty good. Definitely worth a read.

Illyria- Elizabeth Hand      Fiction- Young Adult (technically, reads older)

Summary- Two kissing (literally) cousins are the descendants of a famed actress. They create their own world for their talents and odd relationship.

Review- I have to admit, I'm not sure I 'got' this book. It was beautifully written, but there really wasn't much to the story, and I didn't feel like I understood the message. Meh.

Unwind- Neil Shusterman      Dystopian Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- In the near future, abortion is illegal, but parents are given the choice to have their children "unwound" at age 13. Three unwinds escape their immediate fate and go on the run.

Review- Awesome book. It's a really, really interesting take on abortion and the right to life. Well written and quickly paced. Great read!

The Trylle Trilogy: Switched, Torn & Ascend- Amanda Hocking      Paranormal Romance- YA

Summary- Girl finds out she was switched at birth and is a troll princess. She must learn the rules of her new society and help protect against a rival troll faction.

Review- Pretty good overall. Definitely well paced, the characters are interesting and I liked the love story as well. Good, easy reads.

Shiver- Maggie Stiefvater      Paranormal Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- Girl lives next to woods where there is a strange pack of wolves. When a student is believed killed by them, she tries to save the pack and finds out they aren't ordinary wolves.

Review: Good book. The story line is interesting as are the characters. I like the tension that was built and the initial romance.

Linger- Maggie Stiefvater      Paranormal Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- Follow up to Shiver. Follows Grace and Sam as they try to learn more about his condition and have a normal life.

Review- Again, good book. I liked that the love problem wasn't a love triangle like in every other teen book out there, but a fight against Sam's werewolf problem.

Illusions- Aprilynne Pike      Paranormal Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- The third book in this series. Laurel is still torn between Avalon and the real world. She and David are struggling, there's a weird new girl at school. Tamani's at school with her too, and of course, there are still trolls after her. 

Review- Decent book, though it felt a bit like Harry Potter 5, a placeholder that's setting up action for later, which was a bit of a bummer. I still think the series overall is good, but this one was kind of lame.

Paranormalcy- Kiersten White      Paranormal Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- Evie's always worked for an international organization dedicated to tagging and bagging paranormals to keep the general population safe. But, when a cute boy paranormal shows up at the compound, her world completely changes.

Review- I really liked this book. The voice was great. The concept was interesting. The characters were relate-able, and while there was a love interest, it wasn't the tried and true love triangle. A quick read that kept me guessing.

13 Little Blue Envelopes- Maureen Johnson      Fiction- Young Adult

Summary: After her crazy aunt dies, Ginny receives a package from her with 13 blue envelopes in them. These envelopes lead her on a wild adventure through Europe finding out about her aunt, and herself.

Review: I liked this book. I love the idea of some crazy unplanned adventure. Ginny was great, just the right amount of nervous and adventurous. Great read!

The Last Little Blue Envelope- Maureen Johnson   Fiction- Young Adult

Summary- Ginny finds out there is one last blue envelope, which directs her on an even stranger mission than before.

Review- I like this book as much, if not more than the first. I really loved the strained love triangle (quadrangle?) and the fun last mission. Great book!

Curly Girl: The Handbook- Lorraine Massey  Non Fiction- all ages

Summary- All about caring for and styling curly hair, with lots of interviews and personal anecdotes thrown in

Review- Well, I'm revealing my cards here a bit aren't I? I do have naturally curly hair, and for years denied that and straightened it daily. I'm finally ready to embrace my curly self, and this book has been a vital help in that quest. I only recently started their regime, so I can't tell you is it's 100% effective, but, thus far, I'm pleased with my results. I think it's a must read for anyone with curly hair.

On Writing- Stephen King     Non-fiction- Adult

Summary- A witty short autobiography and King's thoughts and advice for writers

Review- I loved this book. King's life story was interesting and humbling without being too full of itself. His writing advice was clear, to the point and very interesting. I felt like I was sitting at coffee with him throughout the book, just chatting with a friend. A must read for any aspiring writer, and an interesting read for everyone else.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Reader, Reader

The internet is a definite time suck. I keep up with a lot of blogs, or at least try to, and I use Google Reader to do it. It takes a decent amount of time to get through all of the posts each day, and they're an easy distraction when the writing gets hard. :)

I've had a reader feed for years, and yesterday, decided it was time for some housekeeping. I go through my list of feeds occasionally and unsubscribe to blogs that I find myself just skipping most days. This time it made me think a little bit about how much the blogs I subscribe to have changed over the years and how they have reflected what is important in my life at the time. Four years ago my reader was full of wedding and bridal blogs as I planned my wedding. After that, lots of design and knitting blogs. Recently it's been full of celebrity gossip and writing and a large dose of cute animals. I was talking with my critique partner, Cari, this week about eliminating stress from my life and not taking taking on things that aren't my problem. So, I decided to cull the blogs I follow. I was spending a lot of time being distracted by things that don't really matter to my life. I wanted to eliminate as many useless distractions as possible, and make sure that I might be able to eek out a bit more time for writing. I am a bit bummed that I might miss out on some interesting things, but, hopefully I'll survive. 

Not that I've cleared some space from my reader feed, I'm looking to fill it (at least a little bit) with some more useful blogs. I want more writing and reading blogs, and especially ones that may provide some inspiration. So, dear readers, any suggestions? Any blogs out there that you refuse to miss? I'd love to hear about them in the comments. Shameless self promotion is totally cool too. :) If we don't support each other who will?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Matched- Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie

Again, my librarian gave this book to me. She is normally a wonderful source for all things good and new in Young Adult fiction. She hadn't read this one, but it had been recommended by several students. Now, as those of you who are regular readers of this blog know (what like 5 of you? ;)), I read a lot of YA fiction. I try to keep on on new books so I always have something to recommend when my students whine at me that there's nothing good to read. That being said, I guess I can see why kids would like this book, but I really didn't feel it.

Cassia lives in a utopian world where the society is in charge of everything. You get specially prepackaged meals designed to maintain your ideal health and body weight. You only have two sets of clothes, very utilitarian, and at the age of 17 you are matched with your ideal mate in terms of genetics, personality, preferences, everything. After a few years of dating, you can chose to marry that person, or stay single for the rest of your life. The book opens with Cassia being matched with her best friend from childhood, Xander. Great right? She thinks so, until she goes to open Xander's info the next morning and sees a brief flash of another boy she knows, Ky. Now there are lots of questions and she's doesn't trust the answers she's being given.

Here's the rub. I get why teens would like this book. Kids of this age are always wanting to push against the status quo, test their limits and see where they can break or bend rules. So, of course they're going to feel for Cassia's plight against the oppressive regime. Me? I couldn't get into it. The world sounded sort of awesome. Prepackage meals specially designed for me? A job picked especially for my preferences and strengths? A mate who is perfect for me in every way? Sounds fine. Now, maybe I feel this way because I was reading this book at a particularly tumultuous time when everything around me was up in the air, but I just couldn't garner any sympathy for Cassia. She felt unnecessarily whiny and I just wasn't having it. Granted, we do start to see the dark side of all of this perfection, but I feel like it comes too late in the novel for me to care.

So, overall, I didn't like it. That bums me out because Condie used to be an high school English teacher and I felt like I should lend a fellow teacher some support, but I just didn't like it. Teenagers may well love it, especially the angst-y teens if your life, but I wouldn't recommend it for adults.

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Which I do Terrible Things...

Hey ya'll, first terrible think I have done is not updating this blog for a month. Oy, sorry about that! The last month of school got to be super crazy. Probably the most insane end of year I've had in eight years of teaching. It was generally nutso. So, that coupled with my little sister's graduation from high school, and the hubs buying a car, made for a particularly busy May. But, trust me, you weren't the only ones getting ignored. :)

At any rate, I'm officially on summer vacation now and thoroughly excited. It already feels like I won't be able to fit it all in, but I'm sure going to try.

So, without further ado, the second terrible thing that I've done, recently that is. I was mean to one of my characters. I know, after all that build up it sounds a little lame, but dang ya'll it was super hard. My first novel was much more autobiographical, so things that went bad in it, had actually gone bad at some point, so it wasn't hard to deal with. This new book though... it is super hard to be mean to my characters. I know that it makes for a better novel; heck just look at Harry Potter. What doesn't go wrong for that poor kid? So what did I do to my poor character? It wasn't even really that bad. She doesn't stand up for herself and a guy starts a terrible rumor about it. See? Not that bad. Now I feel super lame for even thinking it was hard, but honestly it was. Which brings up an interesting point.

When I write I always think that I want this perfect world where everything is sunshine and kittens eating ice cream. Cute right? But that's not what I read, and that's certainly not what other people read, so why am I compelled to write it? Do I get some kind of God-complex where I feel if I'm going to create a world it had better be nice? I'm not entirely sure, but serious conflict is always hard for me.

Does anyone else have this problem? Or are you all meaner than I am? :) How to you create conflict in your writing?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Shine, Coconut Moon- Neesha Meminger

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

This is another book that really deserves a longer review, but it's going to have be a super short one for now.

Sam has never known much about her heritage because her mom cut off all family ties. Shortly after 9/11, a man wearing a turban shows up at her doorstep and introduces himself as her uncle. He wanted to reconnect with family after the tragedy of 9/11 and rapidly introduces her to both her heritage and the sad intolerance of people.

Like Meminger's other novel, Jazz in Love, I really loved this book. She deftly captures both Sam's voice, and her struggle to find her place in the world. I think that any teenage could relate to Sam's struggles to accept her family and mesh her present with her past. It also dealt quite well with the racism that immediately followed 9/11. Meminger's plots and characters are engaging and believable. I can't wait for her next novel!


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