Tuesday, October 28, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Okay, I've been meaning to post my reviews on both Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight for awhile.  As most of you know, I didn't enjoy either and am currently reading Heir of Fire.   I reviewed this book back in 2013, but I'm tweaking it a bit to make it more appropriate/verbalize my thoughts better.

One sentence summary: Throne of Glass is about an assassin named Celaena - who is now in a slave labor mine due to a betrayal - that is propositioned by the Prince of her Kingdom to fight in a tournament that will determine who the next King's Champion will be.

When I initially began reading Throne of Glass, I slogged through about 20% of it and was so unimpressed that I thought it would be a very rare DNF.  But I was determined.  So many people were raving about this that I kept convincing myself to read more.  When I realized there were novellas, I thought that I would try to read them in order to establish the universe more.  (This is already very telling of how weak I find the world building to be.  You should never have to read a novella because you can't make it through the novel.)

 After my four star review of The Assassin and the Empire, I was really hoping that returning to the actual book would be a more positive experience. The novellas cemented the world that Maas had created for me and I felt prepared to tackle the novel itself again; they also proved that she is a very capable storyteller. Unfortunately, I think the novel just can't compare to the atmosphere created by her shorter works.

The first thing that bothered me was the fact that the world worships a Goddess who has gods as her consorts, yet treats women as inferior. I cannot wrap my mind around this. Technically, women should be more powerful than they are because cultures and religion are almost one in the same: one always mimics the other. I started trying to justify it, thinking maybe it was one of those things where the gods were more important and the Goddess was more how we consider Mother Earth to be, but no, it's more important.  She seems to be the most important deity.  They have a High Priestess who runs church services... church services.  As I mentioned before, religion and culture are so intertwined that to have a woman be the leader of a religious aspect of the world, but not in a secular aspect truly makes no sense (and is normally the other way around). Also, the fact that she has consorts, which means that the gods are inferior to her... I see no reflection of this whatsoever in the cultural attitudes of the people.  This is a world-building mistake that I think most people will be able to get over, but it really bothered me. 


(An example of well-done inclusion of culture and religion is A Game of Thrones.  The religion changes the culture - or the culture changes the religion - depending on what the person believes in: the Great After, The Old Gods, R'hllor, The Seven, etc.)

The second thing to bother me was this: the lack of mention of Sam. After reading the novellas and learning about this character named Sam who played a very important role, this didn't make sense to me. I also had a problem with Dorian, the main love interest.  


Warning: There is a bit of a love triangle in this story.  
 Disclaimer: I didn't find it to be annoying. 

Even though I didn't find the love triangle itself annoying, I did find the interest in Dorian to be distracting from the story and an unnecessary story arc.  She immediately pounces on the opportunity to be in a relationship with him because he likes books and is handsome.  I expect a bit more caution from someone who is an assassin.

Speaking of being an assassin... why was there so little murder or assassinations in this novel?  There were so many passages telling me about how perfect Celaena was: she could play piano, she was beautiful, she was intelligent, she was witty, she was the best assassin ever... which makes me wonder what kind of second-rate assassins she must have been running with because, seriously, why the hell wasn't there any assassinations happening?  Show.  Don't tell.  I don't care how much you hit me over the head with Celaena's bad assery, if I never see it, it doesn't exist. 

I also had some trouble figuring out who was narrating. There were many times when it was a close third person narration of Dorian or Chaol, the other main male character, but then something would happen and the narration would say that the narrator didn't see it. If the narrator didn't see it, then how could the reader see it? I can think of a particular moment when it is Dorian who is narrating the chapter, but something happens behind his back that Chaol sees.  If Dorian didn't see it, how did I learn about it in that chapter?  Who is narrating that scene? I think part of the reasons Maas' novellas were so strong in their narration was that they were solely through Celaena's eyes. Switching between narrators can be done and I tend to like books more when there is more than one narrator, however the multiple narrations in this novel were executed poorly.
 

Creating an entirely new world is a struggle and I congratulate Maas for being able to come up with some really creative plot points and details.  I like that she includes other races, which is a rarity in YA books. I like that two girls can talk to each other and be friends without all the cliche girl-hate.  Thank you, Maas, for that!  It's very needed in the YA world.

I originally ended this on a different note, but I have deleted the ending of my original review because I'm not sure who I would recommend this to anymore.  I suppose all I can say is that most people seem to enjoy it, but I just can't bring myself to overlook what I find to be glaring holes in her world building and narration.

And now you know what I dislike about Throne of Glass.  I'll upload my Crown of Midnight review tomorrow, but that one will take a bit more re-working than this one did.  I was pretty angry after I finished that one...

Monday, October 27, 2014

SEVEN DEADLY SINS BOOK TAG


I was tagged by the lovely Morrighan from Elysian Fields to do the Seven Deadly Sins Book Tag.  First off, thank you for the tag and to all of you reading, if you haven't seen her lovely blog, please be sure to do so.  This tag was created by the lovely Booktuber BookishlyMalyza and the gist is that you must answer seven questions about the Biblical seven deadly sins.

1. GREED: What is the most expensive book in your library and what is the most inexpensive?

Most expensive is technically my World Atlas because Atlas' cost an insane amount of money, but mine was a gift. I guess most expensive that I personally purchased might be... The Collected Works of Edgar Allan Poe, I think.  The least expensive would be all of the books given to me as gifts because they were FREE!

2. WRATH: Which author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

I actually, weirdly enough, can't really think of one!   Maybe John Milton?  I think he wrote some pretty radical and influential stuff, but sometimes I wonder if he was just arguing for more rights and privileges for white males and ignoring anyone else.  I also have an issue with James Joyce because I just love his work, but I don't understand why he had to make himself so inaccessible.

3. GLUTTONY: What book have you deliciously devoured over and over again with no remorse whatsoever?

Oh, easy.  The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley.  I don't know how many times I've read that bad boy. Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is another one I read a lot in my younger years.

4. SLOTH: What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.  Although, to be fair, I'm not neglecting them out of laziness, but more because I'm bombarded with reading for university at the moment.

5. PRIDE: What book do you most talk about in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

I don't feel like I ever consciously talk about a book to make me sound like an intellectual reader?  I don't put much stock in that.

6. LUST: What attributes do you find most attractive in male or female characters?

In male characters: kindness, radical thinking, and a critical eye. 
In female characters: logic, passion, and a willingness to act.

7. ENVY: What books would you most like to receive as a gift?

You know those Penguin Clothbound Editions?  I would love to have all of them and I would proudly display them on my shelves and take them with me everywhere I go because perfection.

I think everyone has already done this tag- probably because I'm so crazy behind on tags- but I'm going to tag anyone who has the word "love" or "lover" in their username! (And anyone else who wants to do it, too.)

Sunday, October 26, 2014

#BeCritical From a Blogger's Perspective

Note to my blogger babes: A lot of my you may not keep up with the "BookTube World," which consists of people talking about books rather than writing about them, but I do and have for years.  Bear with me, blogger buddies, because this is a note to them.

I'm not a part of BookTube, which means you can take my opinion as you want.  I have no influence over BookTube and very rarely have an opinion on the workings of it, but I thought that because I am a blogger, I might be able to add an outside opinion to the discussion that might be of some worth.

The recent debacle regarding "critical" vs. "non-critical" reviews has, in my opinion, blown itself out of proportion.  Both sides of #BeCritical have made blanketed statements that I honestly find erroneous and I think there is a middle ground that both could also agree about, but seem to be missing due to some mistaken word choices and anger/defensiveness.

I watch a variety of BookTubers.  I watch people like TheBookTuber, JessetheReader, MaureenKeavy, VincentVanStop, LittleBookOwl, Elizziebooks, and CharleyReads - all of whom talk about YA most of the time.  I also watch RonLit, JVPurcell, BazPierce, LizLovesLit, ReadSusieRead, Katrina E, and Books and Pieces - all of whom primarily talk about literary texts.  (I also watch Ariel Bissett, but I don't know where to place her. [I watch a lot of other BookTubers as well, but I don't want this list to be astronomical.])

All of the above, however, are well worth checking out.

Before I start, there are two great videos for you to check out regarding both sides: Barry's Liveshow and CharleyReads' response video.  

I want to condense what I think to be the main point of both sides: 

#BeCritical's Side: If you want to be taken academically serious as a reviewer, then you need to write critical reviews.  If you do not, then you can't expect a review that hasn't thought critically about a book to be taken seriously by academics.  If you write reviews for fun or as a hobby, then you can write them however you like.  If you are being paid to talk about and review a book, then you need to take it seriously because it is not longer a hobby, it is a job.

Where I think they went wrong: The usage of the word "worthless" and saying that unless a reader can produce a critical or negative review then they have no place on BookTube was a bit too extreme.  They also failed to mention the difference between a paid reader and a reader who is reviewing for fun, at first, so it did come off as a blanketed statement and, of course, a lot of people took offense to that.

#DontBeADick's Side: (This is the hashtag I've seen floating around so I'm using it, ha.)  All opinion has merit and every opinion is valid because it is the voice of the consumer.  There will be different audiences for different types of reviewers.

Where I think they went wrong:  They failed to realize that #BeCritical's main argument is for those who are wanting to reach a specific kind of audience and for those who are being paid to review. Also, the conflating of the words "critical" and "negative."  There are fantastic critical reviews that are positive, and I recommend anyone check out Wendy Darling on Goodreads for an example of this.

The truth is, both sides are agreeing on the same thing: that if you review as a hobby and for fun, then you can review however you want.  #BeCritical went on to establish their point that if a person is reviewing as a hobby then they do not have to write critical reviews or be a critical reader.  However, if that person is being paid, then that changes everything.

The truth is that it was revealed that the BOOKSPLOSION members get paid a lot of money to showcase the books that they read each month.  Now, some of these members, like JessetheReader, I have to applaud - because he has been very transparent.  Whenever I watch a video of his, he always mentions whether or not it's being sponsored and I have to say that I really admire him for doing that, especially in light of recent revelations.  I cannot say the same for other BOOKSPLOSION members who have never (at least that I've seen) mentioned that their videos are being sponsored and that they're being paid to review.

The truth is that as soon as you accept money to do something, it is no longer a hobby, it is a job.  As a job, it should be treated more seriously.  You have a responsibility to your viewers to be as honest and open as possible.  You should say that your videos are being sponsored and the opinion that you give on a book should be thought about before saying anything because it is now your job.  BookTubers were never meant to be simple booksellers, which is what seems to be happening with this lack of transparency in sponsorship. 

Personally, I feel a bit offended that there are these big BookTubers who are being paid to mention a certain book in at least two of their videos and then never mention that they're being paid.  I find it offensive that they seem to be quite flippant about the responsibility that they have towards their work.  As a viewer, it feels dishonest and, dare I say, a little disgusting when I compare it to the Book Blogging Community.

When a book blogger receives an ARC from a publisher or something like Netgalley, they always say that they received the copy for free.  Our number one goal is honesty, both in how we receive something and in how we state our views on it.  I can't even imagine a book blogger being paid to review something.  And, as a whole, we tend to take our reviews seriously because we want to really explain why we liked or disliked a book. 

By attacking each other over the idea of critical reviews and misunderstanding each other's points, I think that the BookTube community is missing the vital issue at hand: that there are people being paid to review and receiving free books that are not mentioning it and are not being transparent.  That is very problematic. 

There does not need to be a schism in your community.  You do not all need to get along, but I think you agree on more than you think.

As I said, I'm a blogger, so you can take this with a grain of salt.  Just thought I'd throw my two cents in as an observer.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

What #HaleNo and #BloggerBlackout Really Mean

I feel the need to have a space where these two hashtags can be explained in as an accessible way as possible.  I'm not perfect and my explanation of them may not be everyone's explanation of them, but I ask you to please take a moment to read my subjective interpretation.  If you've anything to add, please do so in the comments and I will be happy to include them in this post.  I'd love for this to be a community explanation.

#HaleNo is a hashtag that represents blogger's taking a stance against the recent insanity to do with Kathleen Hale stalking a blogger to her home, and now also has to do with Richard Brittain, an author who stalked a reviewer and committed physical harm against her.  It is a peaceful protest against that sort of behavior in the community.  Also, this needs to be made clear: We also do not support the recent doxxing of Kathleen Hale and many bloggers reported that incident.  I just wanted that to be heard.

#Bloggerblackout is a movement that has been ignited due to the recent events.  In short, it's a movement where bloggers are choosing not to review until October 27th (although I have heard that some are prolonging their blackout) in order to get back in touch with their roots.  The truth is, blogging is for the bloggers and the reviews are for the readers.  I think it's great when bloggers and authors and publishers form beautiful relationships.  I really think that's a wonderful aspect of blogging, but I don't think it's ever been intended to be the main aspect.  Please respect that bloggers are trying to remember why they began blogging in the first place and to rekindle their love for it.

The reason why I didn't participate in the #Bloggerblackout is because I do not do ARC reviews in general.  At least, not yet.  I've been reviewing much older books.  However, I do 100% support the #Bloggerblackout for however long the bloggers want to maintain it.

I hope this explains a few things.

Friday, October 24, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins

To summarize this book in one sentence: The Yellow Wallpaper is about a woman's descent into the harrowing grasp of Post Partum Depression while her husband and sister-in-law ignore her growing issues out of ignorance, blind righteousness and fear.

This story starts out seemingly harmless enough. A woman and her husband move to the countryside so that she can recover from a mysterious ailment. Her husband seems to be careful, even overprotective - "He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction."- but with good intentions. The narrator wants to stay in the downstairs bedroom, but her husband insists on her staying in the ex-nursey with the horrendous yellow wallpaper.

As the story progresses, she becomes more and more fascinated, and frightened, by the wallpaper: "There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will." As she continues her narration, the reader quickly discovers that there is something, very, very wrong. However, it is only the reader who notices this. All those around her seem to casually overlook her issues and they continue to grow and consume her.

Being trapped inside the head of a woman who is spiraling out of control is a terrifying experience. Her obsession with the wallpaper grows, she begins to see in it a woman who "wanted to get out", she becomes an insomniac, falls into paranoia and yet nobody does anything about it. The frustration I felt towards everyone around her, everyone who was seeing the effects of her PPD firsthand was something unlike I've ever felt while reading.

 Towards the end, she conflates herself with the woman she sees in the wallpaper, signaling her final break:  

"I've got out at least," said I, "in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!"

 I was honestly surprised by how chilling this was. I knew, going into it, that it was about PPD and I knew that it was a disturbing read, but I didn't expect it to affect me as strongly as it did. The honest truth is that PPD is still a very ignored problem among new and older mothers. We still live in a world where a woman suffering from PPD is forced to have more and more children and never get any help - which ultimately leads to her being jailed for trying to drown them, but her husband getting off with a simple slap on the wrist for ignoring her mental issues. The Yellow Wallpaper while written over a hundred years ago, holds a message that is still very relevant and important today.

Highly recommended. 82 accessible pages and maybe an hour of your time that will be well spent.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

An Open Letter to The Guardian


Dear The Guardian writers and editors,

Maybe, considering I'm writing in regards to Kathleen Hale's recent piece on catfishes and negative book reviews, you think I should turn my attention to her.  But I don't think I can add much to what some other fantastic bloggers have already said in their Twitter feed and in their letters.  Instead, I want to talk to you.  

When you post an article like Ms. Hale's and allow a woman who stalked and harassed a book blogger to be painted in a heroic light, it's a problem.  When you sugarcoat the word "stalk" and replace it with "confront," it's a problem.  When you allow this woman to place herself on a pedestal, to gather sympathy for her wrongdoings, and ignore the fact that what she did was dangerous and illegal, it's a serious problem.

In 2006, over 3.4 million people reported incidents of being stalked.  And in these cases, over 130,000 people were fired or asked to leave their work place due to said stalking.  (Source.) Perhaps you can argue that this isn't the case between the blogger and Ms. Hale because the blogger hasn't been fired, but this blogger was called at her work place.  She was harassed on her work phone.  Ms. Hale brought her work place into this as soon as she made that first phone call.  

But wait, you'll argue, nothing bad came of it.  The blogger was not injured.  There were no threats made, no guns drawn.  Not all stalking starts off violent.  In fact, 70-80% of stalkers are just "obsessive stalkers" and do nothing violent at all... at first.  However, by giving her your approval, you have basically just given the green light to Ms. Hale that her behavior is okay.  And many stalkers do become violent after a time. (Source.)

You gave Kathleen Hale a platform. You allowed her to say what the blogger's real occupation is.  You allowed her to reveal personal information about this blogger that should have never been on the internet to begin with.  This blogger used a fake identity, but so what?  After this article, do you wonder why?  Can you blame her for being careful about her safety?  Can you blame her for using an alias?  But here's the kicker: after going to such lengths to portray herself as someone else, she was still stalked and harassed.  

The issue of this piece isn't the blogger's online alias, it's Ms. Hale's chilling and deeply disturbing behavior.

Kathleen Hale invaded that blogger's privacy in a way that is unforgivable.  She showed up at her house and placed herself into the blogger's personal life when she should have never had that information to begin with.  

Shame on you for allowing an article to be published.  Shame on you for defending a woman who is a predator.  Shame on you for allowing this predator to paint herself as the victim, and the perpetuate the myth that she was somehow actually victimized.

Ms. Hale is not a hero.  She is not a victim.  She is a predator.  

I am just so entirely disappointed in you.

Sincerely,

Julia

BOOK REVIEW | The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


"The circus arrives without warning..."

It is a place of dreams, all in black and white, with spots of red on certain customers.  In this circus, you can watch a trapeze act that defies gravity, enter into a tent of stories, witness kittens jump through hoops, make wishes on wells, have your fortune read and more.  It is opened from sunset to sunrise and only stays a few weeks before packing and changing location.  Maybe it will come back to your town, but maybe it won't.

The Night Circus is a beautiful book about a whole cast of characters.  We have Celia, the magical protege; Marco, the studious student; Tsukiko, the contortionist; Bailey, the dreamer; Herr, the clockmaker; Poppet and Widget, the eccentric twins; Chandresh, the master; Tara, the one who saw too much; and many more.  They all work in a magical circus doing various activities, from performing to creating tents to handing out food.

What makes this circus so magical is that inside, unbeknownst to anyone except for the players, lies a game.  The rules are vague, the boundaries are flimsy and not even the participants really understand what's going on.

"I have never fully grasped the rules of the game, so I am following my instincts instead."

I would say how the game works is exactly how this book was written.  The language Morgenstern uses is beautiful and poetic, but very often it was hard to imagine exactly what she meant because she constantly keeps her reader in mystery.  This is done on purpose to create an atmosphere that could perfectly mimic the circus.  Although I loved how atmospheric this book was, sometimes not understanding the game and the temporal displacement of the novel were a bit too much.  There desperation of the characters was never properly conveyed to the reader, but we were told often of how one of the players was exhausted/on the brink of a meltdown, etc.  I never saw these meltdowns or complaints.  I never felt them.

As the game progresses and more and more lives are at stake, I could never really feel how on edge everything was.  There were very few moments when the circus would have a ripple that would cause something drastic, and when these drastic things happened I felt the panic in the moment, but never the build up.  Because the rules and stakes of the game were so vague, it was hard to feel any crescendo towards a climax.

The novel is full of beautiful imagery that gives a new name to originality:

"When she opens her eyes, they are standing on the quarterdeck of a ship in the middle of the ocean.  Only the ship is made of books, its sails thousands of overlapping pages, and the sea it floats upon is dark black ink."

"Inside, the train is opulent, gilded, and warm.  Most of the passenger cars are lined with thick patterned carpets, upholstered in velvets in burgundies and violets and creams, as though they have been dipped in a sunset, hovering at twilight and holding on to the colors before they fade to midnight and stars."

 In a way, a lot of the creativity of this story reminded me of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.  Beautiful images, exciting prospects, interesting concepts.  The writing is what really propelled the book from being a nice read to being an amazing one.

Overall, I would recommend this book for fans of beautiful writing, for fans of experimental writing and for those that like fairy tales.  If you're the kind of reader who needs proper foreshadowing and likes to have concepts and situations thoroughly explained to them, this might not be a book for you.  For me, however, this book was beautiful and possibly the type of book you could read and re-read, finding more and more hidden secrets within.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories by Sandra Cisneros

Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories contains 22 short stories about the female experience, from one paged drabbles, like "My Lucy Friend Who Smells Like Corn," to short stories that are so long they could be considered novellas, like "Eyes of Zapata."

This collection is less than 200 pages yet packs more of a punch than 500 paged novels I've read. Sandra Cisneros is extremely readable an accessible. I read that her goal was that anyone could pick up her books and understand them, and I believe she accomplished that desire. That's not to say that there aren't layers to this, because there are, but at the same time her meanings aren't shrouded or concealed. The more you read and re-read the stories, more aspects are revealed.

For this review, I wanted to focus specifically on her story, and the namesake of this collection, "Woman Hollering Creek." This short story follows Cleofilas, a young woman who moves from Mexico to Texas for marriage. In a very short time, her dreams of living in America happily are destroyed when her husband turns out to be abusive and a cheater.

Close to where Cleofilas lives is a river called Woman Hollering. Because of her experiences, she believes that the only time a woman hollers is when they're angry or sad. As her life gets darker and more abusive, she begins to relate to the sorrow that she sees in the river.

Two women end up liberating Cleofilas from her situation and on her way out of Texas, one of them lets out a whoop of triumph.  She hollers in joy, and suddenly everything Cleofilas has thought about herself, about women and about the creek are challenged: "Then Felice began laughing again, but it wasn't Felice laughing.  It was gurgling out of her own throat, a long ribbon of laughter, like water."

There are more aspects to this story, like feminine displacement, oppression, La Llorona, motherhood, etc. And each time I read the story, a new part jumps out at me. This is just one story, and not even my favorite one! (My favorite is "Eyes of Zapata.") I love that Cisneros is easy to read, but not afraid to portray a powerful, even controversial, message. Highly recommended.

Monday, October 13, 2014

THE RANDOM QUESTION TAG

(I'm so terribly behind on tags and what not.  Sorry!  Midterms are insane at the moment.  I'm going to try and catch up with everything this week.)




I was tagged by the lovely Gloria over at GloriaTheViolinist who has also answered these questions here. Be sure to check her out!  Thank you for the tag!  In this tag, I will be answering 18 random questions.

1. Have you ever thrown a book?
Yep.  And not only have I thrown a book, I've thrown my Kindle, too! (Onto my bed, but still.)

2. Do you like lengthy books or short books?
Depends on how engaging a story is, but in general succinct and straight-to-the-point books are great for me in literary fictions and longer, more descriptive books are better in fantasy.

3. If you don't like a book, do you stop reading it or finish it?
In general, I finish it because I'm probably going to deconstruct the heck out of it and have so much fun.  But there have been a few times where I just couldn't finish a book.  Most of the time, if I can't finish it, it's because there's no deeper meaning to be found that I could agree or disagree with.

4. Do you stop reading when you're tired or when a chapter finishes?
I stop reading when I pass out. I don't even close the book, I legit just pass out mid-sentence.
  
5. How do you organize your shelf?
By genre.

6. Paperback or Hardcover?
Paperback.  Cheaper, easier to read and I love writing in the margins.

7. What book can you not wait to read?
Anything for fun.  Uni is sucking out my soul.

8. A book you wish could be turned into a graphic novel?
Not sure I want any of them to be... unless it's done by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  Maybe Good Omens.  Does that already exist? 

9. A book that disappointed you?
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas and Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas.  Literally for the exact same reason.

10. What book made you cry recently?
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs.  It's her account of being a slave and there's a part where she teaches another slave to read so that he could read the Bible.  I'm not even a Christian, but his will to learn and devotion to God were so beautiful to read about that I just started tearing up.  To love something so strongly is beautiful.

11. Do you prefer buying books online or going to the bookstore?
Going to the bookstore.  It's like coming home.

12. Do you prefer to listen to music while reading or to read in silence?
Read in silence.  I wish I could listen to music while I read, but I'm too easily distracted.

13. What is the weirdest thing you've ever experienced while reading a book?
Not sure I've ever experienced anything weird... but I did read in the Louvre, right outside the Mona Lisa.  -toots horn-

14. What was your first fandom?
Kingdom Hearts!

15. What fictional character do you relate to the most?
Lizzie Bennett and Lydia Bennett.  Lizzie because I'm bold (maybe too bold), enjoy talking with people and being witty and can handle myself.  Lydia because I can be quite silly and ridiculous, but I have the advantage of having good parents.  Honestly, if Lydia had had parents that actually cared about her and took care of her, she would not have turned out as she did.  I really think Mr. Bennett is one of the worst literary parents of all time.

16. What fictional character do you wish you were more like?
I like myself as I am, to be honest, lol.  I do wish I had Tyrion Lannister's eye for strategy, though.  I bet he's good at math.  I wish I were good at math. *sighs deeply*

17. If you could spend a whole day with five characters, who would you pick?
Tyrion Lannister,  Frederick Douglass (he counts because he wrote a book about himself so he made himself a character), Harriet Jacobs, Keenan and Seth from Wicked Lovely.

18. What is a book that exceeded all of your expectations?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  Wow, what a seriously beautiful book!


I'm not sure who has done this tag, so I'm hesitantly tagging:

Morrighan @ Elysian Fields
The Misses @ Fangirling Misses



Saturday, October 11, 2014

BOOK BLAST: Strangers for the Night by C.J. Fallowfield

 Tour: Strangers for the Night

 Strangers for the Night

~About the Book~
Title and Author: Strangers for the Night by C.J. Fallowfield
Publication Date: 17th October 2014
Genre: Erotic Romance, Adult Romance

Blurb:
The steaming novella ‘Strangers for the Night’ is part of the ‘For the Night’ series of eight standalone short reads, which fall into Amazon’s new quick hot erotic reads category. The series contains adult themes~ Suitable only for the over 18’s.

My name is Logan Steele. I’m devilishly handsome, seriously ripped, well hung, charismatic and highly sexed. Women just can’t resist me. So when I lost my job in the construction industry and was struggling for cash, I decided to put my assets to good use.

By day I’m a private personal fitness trainer. By night I’m a high class gigolo.

I don’t my advertise my sexual services anymore, I have a long client list that come to me through word of mouth. I’m that good I’m booked months in advance. Scores of women pay me extortionately high fees to fulfil their fantasies. And for the most part I do. I have a strict set of rules that I abide by, which are provided in the full contract that you’ll receive along with the booking form, if accepted. I’ve bullet pointed an abridged version below, just so you’re clear before you send me an email request:

Rules my clients must comply with are:
I must see a picture in advance.
I can decline the booking request without explanation.
I can only be booked for the night.
All sexual acts must be consensual.
I will provide you with a report to complete, then I will choose the setting for our meeting based on your scenario.
I am flown first class or by private jet if I am required to work abroad.
In the event of the above, I will provide my dietary requirements in advance.
I will perform a full background check.
I base my variable charge on the scenario being requested.

“No” rules that I stipulate are:
No bareback.
No minors.
No physical violence.
Nothing illegal.
No form of emotional attachment during or after the event. I am merely performing a sexual or companion service.
No contact after the event, unless it is for a new booking.

And my absolute no rule, without exception is:
Full payment up front which, is non- refundable.

There is no requirement for a refund clause, I never fail to perform.


So, now you are aware of my rules for the night and are about to contact me, all that remains to be asked is “Who do you want me to be?”


~Add to Goodreads~


~Buying Links~
Amazon {Pre-order deal at only $0.99}

~Excerpt~
 I put my hand in the small of her back and steered her out of the bar, aware that many eyes were on us. ‘You live dangerously,’ I observed as we made our way across the cavernous lobby.
‘For accepting the offer of a stranger?’
‘That and the fact that you’re brazen enough to do it in this hotel.’ I wasn’t supposed to bring up the fact that I knew who she was. ‘You’re not worried people will think you’re a prostitute, dressed like that?’
‘How dare you!’ she hissed as she glared up at me.
‘A high class prostitute, one I’d happily pay good money to f**k,’ I shrugged. ‘Lucky me to get you for free.’
‘I’m paying you arsehole,’ she snapped, breaking cover, as we stood in front of the lift door and she rummaged for her key.
‘Did you never question why the price was so high?’ I asked as I trailed a finger up and down the inside of her wrist making her swallow again. ‘You’ve never been f**ked by a real man Camilla, a man so large he could split you in half with one thrust, who can make you come multiple times in seconds just with his fingers, let alone his tongue and thick c**k. I’m so large, I’ll stretch you so wide that you’ll have to resort to dual penetration in your c**t to feel half of what you felt with me when you f**k anyone else. I’ve even made a woman come just by telling her what I was going to do to her. Tell me you’re not dripping down your thighs right now at the thought of it? That your little clit isn’t screaming for me to touch it properly without that lace in the way?’
‘Logan,’ she mewled as she swayed on her feet and dropped the private lift key card. I dropped to one knee next to her and stooped to pick it up, pretending to steady myself by clasping the back of her right leg, taking the opportunity to press my thumb against the little known erogenous zone at the back of her knee. I smiled as I heard her pant as my thumb worked while I picked up the key card with the other hand. I released her leg just before she had to reach out to palm the lift door to keep upright. I placed my hand back in the small of her back as I swiped the card then leaned closer to her and breathed on her neck, making all of her hair stand on end.
‘I’ll take that as a yes,’ I whispered as the doors opened.


~Meet the Author~
I write contemporary erotic romance, with humour, which are full of emotion and plenty of drama. I am a 44 year old female from the United Kingdom and live in the wonderful countryside of Wales, surrounded by rolling hills, trees and fields full of sheep and cows. Writing aids include chocolate, Ben & Jerry’s and copious amounts of coffee, wine or cider.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

I feel like I was deceived before even opening this book.

I was reassured that this book is dark, very dark, and I was excited to read a YA novel that isn't afraid to test the boundaries of creepy, scary and evil. It's one of the reasons I can really appreciate Kresley Cole's YA novels. I like dark things because they show the nature of reality. I've been told often that I'm an idealist, but that's only partly true. I like to consider myself an idealistic realist which I am positively, kind of sure, might be a real thing.

That being said, this book really isn't very dark at all. Part of my disappointing reading experience lies with me: I was just too excited for this dark and disturbing world that Bracken created. But I didn't find it dark. I didn't find it disturbing. I found her world to be implausible and riddled with inaccuracies.

I'm not a psychologist by any means, but I am reasonably sure that if you separate children from each other based on their sex then when they finally live co-ed again there is going to be a decent amount of sexual awakening, awkwardness and inappropriate come-ons. There was none of this. I really think that Bracken missed out by not exploring the sexual side more. She could have made that part really dark and disturbing, but, other than a brief moment of intimidation in the beginning, the kids get over their meeting very fast... and fall in love even faster.

I was trying to let Ruby and Liam's relationship slide because they had been barred from the opposite sex for so long, but the more I thought about it, the more the relationship seemed impossible. I could easily believe Liam capable of falling in love with someone in two weeks. He's a perfect setup: positive, idealistic, good natured, laid-back... But Ruby is a different story. She is reserved and wary. Of course, these traits are due to her traumatic past, but they are still traits she possesses and I did not believe that she lost her inherent wariness of people in two weeks over a boy.

There was a big problem with the government in this novel. People protect their young. It is an instinctual trait that we all share. No "normal" and "sane" person wants to see a child get hurt. I cannot fathom an entire world turning on their children because they have turned into "monsters". I can believe the rehab part of it, but not the torture chamber aspects. It just doesn't make any sense and the more I think about it, the more I feel like it was just a hodgepodge of "what-if" scenarios thrown together to create another YA dystopia.  This would've been more believable if only a section of the children had "problems," but basically all children were there.  So, we're going to torture an entire generation?

I gave this two stars because the ending flew by for me, which means there is a lot of good-storytelling abilities. Personally, I will not be picking up the sequel, but I hope that others have a better reading experience than I did. You may enjoy this if: you're looking for a quick read, you love sensitive and kind heroes, and/or you love reading about road trips.

Friday, October 3, 2014

BOOK REVIEW | Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery.  With a slave owning father - who was presumably his first master - and a slave mother, all Douglass ever knew was slavery.  However, even though he was a slave, he knew he was being denied his basic human rights without anyone telling him: "The white children could tell their ages.  I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege." 

Douglass also offers an interesting insight into the emotions of slaves:

"Slave sing most when they are most unhappy.  The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart; and he is relieved by them, only as an aching heart is relieved by its tears.  To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery." 

This is before Douglass has learned how to read or write.  There is something innate in people that tells them when they are being wronged and Douglass knew that his condition as a slave - and the entire enterprise of slavery - was wrong.  But it wasn't just wrong for himself.  When describing his owner's wife, he describes her as angelic, as one of the first people who ever looked upon him with kindness and sincerely smiled at him.  However, "The cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon." (Emphasis is mine.)   He goes on to explain that when it came to Sophia Auld, the aforementioned woman, "Slavery proved as injurious to her as it did to me."  Douglass explains that she wasn't a born slave owner and that in the power of owning another being she became as corrupted as the worst of them.  The slaving system is detrimental not only to the slaves, but also to their masters.

Douglass also sheds a light on the hypocritical nature of the slave holder.  How the most pious of Christians turn out to be the worst of slave breakers, using the example of Mr. Covey: "Added to the natural good qualities of Mr. Covey, he was a professor of religion - a pious soul - a member and a class-leader in the Methodist church.  All of this added weight to his reputation as a "nigger-breaker."*  He then goes on to compare Mr. Covey to God, in what I can only imagine was meant to be a sardonic and ironic comparison by saying "His comings were like a thief in the night" when he went to go check on the slaves and make sure they were doing their work.

Throughout the narrative, Douglass is trying to establish his identity.  He is forming himself from nothing.  He has nothing to remember except a mother who used to sneak in to his plantation even though it was miles from his own to visit him, a grandmother who was left to rot by her slave owners and a father who may or may not have been his actual master.  When it comes time for him to find a name, he changes his surname a few times, from Bailey to Johnson and then eventually to the last name Douglass, which was actually given to him.  But when Mr. Johnson, the man who named him, gave him his name, Douglass told him that "he must not take from me the name of 'Frederick.' I must hold on to that, to preserve a sense of my identity."  At this point Douglass is a free man in the North, and his identity is that of an ex-slave, now married, and living a life where he can be his own master.  But there is power in that first name, as I believe it reminds him of where he came from and how hard it took for him to get to where he is.  There is power is names. 

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is a narrative that is well worth the read, and I understand why it is required reading in high schools and colleges.   It offers an in-depth and personal look into slavery from an ex-slave's point of view while also being incredibly accessible and readable.  This review is a brief overview of the amount of subjects offered up, the themes involved and more.  To properly explain this book it would require multiple dissertations, but I hope it gave you interest in wanting to read it.  Highly recommended.

* I'm sorry to have had to use the "n" word in a review.  Please understand it was in the quotation and does not reflect my own speech.

OCTOBER TBR


October is going to be an insane reading month. 
 I have a few books I need to finish this October, and then a few I'll be reading.  Of the books listed, 7 are for fun. but I'm nearly done with 3 of them and another is an audiobook. The rest are entirely for university.    Things are getting real in uni, so a lot of what you see below is actually assigned reading.  I'm not complaining.  I love assigned reading!  It's just... a lot this month.

FOR SCHOOL:

 



Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood by Judith Ortiz Colfer.  This is a memoir of Ms. Colfer's life growing up and is only 158 pages.  I'm excited because I haven't read a biography/memoir in a long time.

 
 




The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  I really like Cisneros now.  She's poetic, but accessible and I really like that.  A lot of "high nose" writers take a lot of context to understand - which limits their audience - but Cisneros doesn't do this. 


 



Paradise Lost by John Milton.  I'm totally loving this.  My presentation is on Book III of this (there's XII books, I believe).  Milton is still the sassiest.



 
 





A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce.  Nearly done with this one.  Once I figured out what Joyce was trying to say and what he was trying to transcend, I was completely on board.  Although modernism still isn't my favorite.


 





Translations by Brial Friel.  It's 91 pages and a play, thank God.  So this is one of my shorter reads.  This is for my Irish Literature class.  No idea what it's about, but I'm kind of excited.  I've never read a contemporary Irish play.


 





Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane.  I'm really hoping that this isn't a modernist one, but I know Deane was a huge nationalist in Ireland.  He also wrote an intro into Joyce's "Portrait" trying to find nationalist ties.  Fun fact!


 






Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs.  I am super excited for this one.  The first slave narrative I've ever read about a woman and it also has one of the only homosexual interactions between a slave and master - which is a concept I'm extremely interested in.




12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup.  Really excited for this one, too, although I believe this was actually dictated to a white man and then he wrote it... so I'm sure there will be some embellishment.




 



Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave by William W. Brown.  I know nothing about this one, to be honest.  I didn't even realize we were reading it in my Slave Narratives class until just now.







Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb: An American Slave by Henry Bibb.  Same deal as above.  I only just realized I was reading this.  Both books are only a little over 100 pages, but I have no idea how readable they'll be.






The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende.  I don't know much about this, but I'm really excited.  It's also on the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge (which I'll do a post on soon) so two birds and one stone.









Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juarez by Marjorie Agosin. I believe this is a book of poetry about the women who were abducted and murdered in Juarez, Mexico.  There were over 350 women and their remains are still being found.  Tragic.







The Miltonic Movement by J. Martin Evans.  A study of Milton's early works.  This is supplemental reading, but the professor wants us to use outside sources on our Midterm and this is a book he mentions a lot.






Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages by Carolina Walker Bynum.  Another supplemental reading request and another book he mentions constantly.  Really interested about this one, though.




FOR FUN: 





Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.  I will be reading this for a book club.  Reading this for the book club Sassy Reads.  If you join, we'll also be using the hashtag #sassyreads on Twitter, too.  My Halloween-y read!









Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas. I  haven't even looked at this since early September, so I'm still on chapter 3.  I will finish it this month.  (I hope.)








The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  I'm almost done with this one.  It's really great, but this is a book that should be read slowly.  So beautiful, though, and I really recommend it.




 



Stag's Leap: Poems by Sharon Olds.  I this won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2013. (I'm trying to read more Pulitzers.)  It's just gorgeous.  I've already cried a few times.  A collection of poetry about a marriage that fell apart after 30 years.







Wicked as They Come by Delilah S. Dawson.  This is the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club read.  I didn't get to read last month's, so I'd really like to take part this month.  Also... it's got crazy good reviews for such a cheesy cover.







Commanded to His Bed by Denise Lynn.  My bathroom book!  I still haven't done a post about bathroom books, but I will... I will, lol.  This one is ridiculously corny.








True to the Highlander by Barbara Longley.  My audiobook that I've yet to finish, ha.  The narrator is just... not my style and also, Thomas Bergerson's new album has come out so I've been a little sidetracked because he is my favorite composer ever. 



What are you reading this October?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

SEPTEMBER WRAP UP

I cannot believe that October, my favorite month, is finally here!  I had an okay reading month. I think I didn't realize how much time school would suck out of me, haha.  So, my OCTOBER TBR will be a little more modest. ;)

 


Lilus Kikus and Other Stories by Elena Poniatowska.  Loved this so so so so crazy much.  I have a review HERE if you'd like to read more about it.






 

In the End by Demitria Lunetta.  Not as impressed by this one as I was by the first. There were a lot of parts that just didn't really make sense... I didn't post a review here, but I have a mini-review on Goodreads that you can check out HERE.





 


Rumble by Ellen Hopkins.  This book and I did not get along.  This was my only one-star read this month... and for a very long time, actually.  Find out why I didn't like this book HERE.




 


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass.  Perfect.  A book that absolutely everyone should read.  I'm working on a review of this one and should hopefully have it up by the weekend.







Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.  A very weird and magical book.  When I finished it I wasn't sure if I loved it or hated it. Turns out, I kind of loved it.  But I'm warning you that things get a little strange.  It's called magical realism for a reason.
 


Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom by William and Ellen Craft.  This was my favorite book I read this month.  Only around 50 pages, full of information about the complexity of using race as a reason for slavery as well as a compelling and amazing story of how to people became free.  Really, really, really recommended. 



 


Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros.  This was a collection of short stories written by Cisneros, who has a very declarative, staccato style.  But she also can weave a sentence so beautiful it's like watching someone paint.  Put those two contrasting styles together and you have the very interesting work of Sandra Cisneros.  Her Eyes of Zapata story was my favorite. 


What did you read this month?
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