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"I may not know how to fly but I know how to read and that's almost the same thing."-- Gregory Maguire, Out of Oz

"...while finding true love was one of the most splendid things that could happen to you in life, finding a friend was equally splendid." -- Felix J Palma, The Map of the Sky

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

GoodReads Bullying Controversy

GoodReads is my favorite social network/ book blogging website at the moment...And as someone who enjoys and fully supports the freedom of speech, I'd like to weigh in on an issue that's been pissing me off. Bullying on GoodReads. I see people making mountains out of molehills; author's claiming readers are bullies, readers claiming authors a bullies, and readers at each others' throats in general.

One complaint on GR, is that people are marking books they've never read with negative ratings... Often these are books that haven't been released, only the cover and summary to tell people the story's coming, and occasionally while the ARCs are floating around. People call this bullying. My problem with this claim is that there are other readers, marking books they haven't read, marking books that haven't been released, with 5 star ratings! So here we have two groups of people who think they can predict the future, but only one of these groups of people is actually in the wrong? How does that work? Why is it okay to predict you'll love a book and not okay to predict you'll hate a book?

I've never marked books I haven't read, because I use GR to keep track of what I am reading and what I have actually read, but let's be serious... We've all been to the bookstore, picked up a book, looked at the cover, read the summary, and thought, "That doesn't sound like something I'm going to enjoy..." And put the book down. How is this really any different? Is it that these people are more public about it? Sites like Twitter, FB, and even GR, have made it mainstream to take private thoughts and make them public...Just because we disagree with an opinion doesn't make it bullying.

A second complaint, is that someone took the time to read a book, then left a negative review... Again, why are we surprised? In this digital age, no one keeps opinions to themselves anymore. Personally, if I spend money on a book, I reserve the right to review it anyway I damn well want... I don't often leave books negative reviews, but when I do, they're pretty specific as to what I did like, what I didn't like and why. Just because a review is negative, doesn't make the review a bullying attempt...That's what GR is for, leaving opinions on books. Some opinions are going to be favorable and some are not. Why does everyone need to be in agreement that all books, everywhere, are fantastic? The reality is, some of them aren't fantastic, some of them are drivel that weren't worth the time of life spent. And if people have a right to leave positive reviews they also have the right to leave negative ones.

That isn't to say, there are no bullies on GoodReads. I'm just saying that the ability to predict a books rating, or comments voicing a readers distaste for a certain book aren't enough to qualify.

Bully -- A person who is habitually cruel or overbearing, especially to smaller or weaker people.
Bullying -- To treat in an overbearing or intimidating manner. To force one's way aggressively or by intimidation.

Does the reviewer get personal? Does this person insult the author by name calling, making insinuations/accusations of a personal nature, does this person threaten the author? Does this person have a history of going out of their way to leave ridiculously hateful reviews? Then yes, that person probably is a bully, and it is indeed a travesty that their IP Addy, hasn't been banned, and their hurtful comments scrubbed off of GR.

But don't just attack someone because they have an opinion you'd don't like. Don't intimidate them into leaving more pleasant reviews, or chase them off the site. The moment you accuse someone of being a bully who isn't a bully, you make yourself into the thing you hate. And really, isn't there enough drama in the world already?

(Feel free to give your opinion on the topic)

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss


The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1) by Patrick Rothfuss


I feel like an idiot for being so hesitant to start this story. This story is just... clever beyond belief.

The story of Kvothe is story within story formatting but the jump between present and past is as smooth as the transition between dark and light. There is no confusion in that area. The present time, Kvothe is a dark, mysterious inn-keeper. In the past he's the bright eyed school boy surrounded by tragedy.

I see a lot of comparisons to "Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings" and I don't really understand comparing apples and oranges. Yes, Kvothe is surrounded by tragedy, but unlike Harry Potter he isn't sitting around waiting for the villain to come and get him, he's being proactive about it. Kvothe doesn't feel the need to prove himself, he knows he's a genius destined for greatness and dares anyone to challenge him in this. As far as Lord of the Rings goes, this story qualifies as an epic fantasy... That's about it.

I love the balance of dark and light. The inn is under attack by demons, faeling, so it shouldn't be the right time to tell a story, which makes it a perfect time to tell a story. A troupe of traveling entertainers, mysterious and murderous living legends, a university for the best and the brightest, the Archives-- a library so vast the answers of the universe might be inside it...if the main character could ever gain access. Its an adventure in fantastic form. Despite the power inside our hero, he is unable to prevent tragedy and pain. Proof that magic and prayer can only go so far: a touch of reality imbedded in fiction. The dialogue can border on lyrical in some places and poetic repetition is used in the narration to drive certain solemn points home.

There is a touch of romance, and I admit I find the romance a tad confusing. Not that its unexpected (typically the hero gets the girl, lol) but Kvothe and Denna seem to be two separate candlewicks burning at opposite ends of a long table. With a book so richly detailed, and over 700 pages, I admit I don't see the necessity for love at first sight. I understand with young adult novels and children's fairy-tales, there isn't a lot of time and it is easier to say they love each other "just because"... But a book of this magnitude, not specifically catered to young minds, should have given our mysterious female-lead reasons to love Kvothe beyond the fact that he's the hero. There are others in his life that are equally enchanting with more depth...Fela, librarian and artist. Auri, president of the lute-fanclub with her imagination. Devi, tough as nails loan shark, who knows books and magic... But he wants the unobtainable; the woman with a barely there back-story, who is looking for a rich suitor to support her. I like Denna, don't get me wrong, the sexual chemistry is obvious and the mystery of who she is is enough to make you want more of her...Its just odd, Patrick Rothfuss seems to have thought out every detail except for why Kvothe and Denna should love.

I give this story a five because good adult fantasy is hard to find and all in all I thought this was a great story. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to get lost in a slow burning adventure, filled with magic and mystery.

Rating 5/5
Review's original post date:
Jun 24, 12  

Friday, August 16, 2013

Horse Of A Different Color...by Jim Squires

Horse Of A Different Color: A Tale of Breeding Geniuses, Dominant Females, and the Fastest Derby Winner Since Secretariat by Jim Squires


Jim Squires, retired journalist, writes his story of low budget "breeding genius" that produced Monarchos, the 2001 Kentucky Derby winner.

There were parts of this story I liked. First, getting a look at some dirty statistics. Meaning plenty of horse stories are more than willing to show the thrill of the gamble that is the horse industry, and the pageantry that circles racetracks, but it was nice to see something I didn't necessarily know before; how auctions work, the favoritisms, the scams. The reality of most horses don't race and those that race don't win...The dangers in breeding; the monetary risk should a broodmare not produce, and the heartbreaks and hopes attached to foals... The competitive foreigners trying to win the Derby even if it means spending millions on untested horses...

But there were things in the storyline that made the book feel unfocused. Moments where Jim Squires would compare himself to "so-and-so and this happened and then that happened..." and when he comes back to present times, he forgets to underline why his current predicament is similar to so-and-so. I didn't mind him calling his wife the dominant female; having been around horses for years, I know what he means. I did find the overuse of the word "Kenturkey" annoying, it was only funny the first time. I also think in the beginning he refers to himself as "the breeding genius" in a sarcastic way, but later he believes it...And I'm not saying having a Derby winner isn't something to brag home about, of course it is, but let's be realistic...Even if you bred one champion to another champion there is no guarantee that their foal would also be a champion...So breeding is almost a bigger gamble than having a horse in the Kentucky Derby.

Which technically: they didn't. Don't get confused; Jim Squires may have bred Monarchos, but he sold the horse to another farm. This is not a story about a racehorse; Monarchos doesn't get the honor of being referred to by name until over the halfway point. This is a story about the man who bred a racehorse... At times the story meanders off course and the most exciting moments come when he's describing a race in progress; at least he had the good sense to end the story on Monarchos's victory, and sadly, the horse's only claim to fame as he won little else.

Overall, its a decent read; you learn a little and get a little entertainment, despite the narrator's mood swings which are about as exhausting as a dominant mare in heat.

Rating 3/5
Review's original post date:
Apr 7, 2013

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling


The book blurb just begins to describe what this book is about. Barry Fairbrother, parish council member dies of an aneurysm, his death acting as a catalyst for a war between the inhabitants of Pagford. The small town can first be fit into two groups. Pro-Fields and Anti-Fields. The Fields is a ghetto, for lack of better word, and its addition to Pagford district was unwelcome from the get, and the council been trying to get it rezoned ever since. The deceased was from Fields, and now his seat needs to be filled. As the campaign run begins, you get to see the lives affected by this war: wives who resent husbands, girlfriends who cling desperately to failing relationships, parents who don't understand their kids, teenagers who hate their parents...All of them harboring rich fantasies of who they think they are, conflicting with who they actually are.

The biggest virtue of this book is the characters. There is no shortage of characters in this town, each with distinct personalities, flaws, problems, and goals. Every character has a relatable feature; either you feel the way they do or you know someone who does. Seeing each of the characters from varying viewpoints helps solidify the emotional ties to them; the first look scratches the surface, the second offers depths, and as the story goes on, you see more and more to each person, who they are, how they live, how they struggle... Not only is this town, this book, full of personalities, but its easy to get emotionally involved in each character's life.

I would say the biggest flaw in this book is the first 50 or so pages. The introduction to the town and characters is painstakingly slow; so slow that the first time you read curse words it seems like Rowling's making a dirty joke rather than a serious commitment to adult text. But if you can power through, the book picks up speed and intensity.

Every character revelation made me gasp with shock and every act of petty revenge or retaliation made me laugh and the ending sent me running for a box of tissues. There was plenty of dark humor to lighten the emotional overload, but there was no hiding the heartbreak. This was an amazing story, that made me feel.

As a Harry Potter fan, I might be biased, but I'm giving this story five stars: JK Rowling, you complete me.

Rating 5/5
Review's original post date:
Mar 6, 2013

Friday, August 9, 2013

About Reviews Marked Original Post Date

I don't have any official followers yet, but in case I have any unofficial followers popping in from time to time, quiet and anonymous, I decided to clarify. I'm sure you noticed that some of my reviews are marked at the bottom with the phrase "original post date" followed by a different date than the one the blog gives you. This is because I'm posting reviews from previously read books on my GoodReads challenge... And some of those books were part of a series, that were started before I challenged myself to read a minimum of 30 books this year, so you'll most likely receive those  reviews in the order they were read/reviewed.

I usually read 2-3 books at a time, depending what kind of story I'm in the mood for, click my Currently Reading tab to find out what I'm reading right now and my initial thoughts on those books--->I'll always post a full review when I'm finished.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Grind Show by Phil Tucker


The Grind Show, is about a demon-hunter named Jason, who absorbs a bit of extra power during a hunt gone bad. Now every demon appears to be after him and he's having trouble finding anyone brave or suicidal enough to stand beside him.

The phrase that best describes this book is "action-packed". There is a demon attack, car chase, shoot-out, and/or disembowelment per chapter. And with an adventure that spans 40 chapters, the story only takes place over the course of 3 days. This book reads a little like an episode of Supernatural, gore followed by welcomed - despite being a little cliched- wit, a must read for Winchester fans.

Things I love: Finally! A female counterpart who is up to the role she's been given. Twain, a musician, victim turned demon hunter, who knows how to aim the business end of a gun. She's strong AND emotional. I'm thrilled Phil Tucker didn't feel the need to make it one or the other. I like that Jason isn't all pure and good, he's got a little demon in him, he's willing to do what it takes to save himself and his friends. I like the little bit of betrayal; his friends turning against him. Its not some crazed-demon-hunter-Utopia. They don't all get along.

Things I wasn't crazy about: mainly grammar, I admit I noticed a lot of run on sentences...But then the character opened his mouth and spoke in run-ons and I decided to attribute the mistakes to Jason the ramble-y narrator. Misplaced commas, but the story moved so fast its easy to stop grammar checking and just read. I really think this was a bit of an evolution of writing for the author...The descriptions in the beginning were a little wishy-washy, but by the end I could see everything as if I were there.

Rating-wise, I was torn; I felt it was better than 3 not enough to be 4 and I rounded up since it was a story I had fun reading.

Rated 4/5
Review originally posted:
Feb 10,13

Monday, August 5, 2013

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen


Main character Jacob Jankowski narrates this story, blending past and present life into brilliantly paced tale. I loved the idea of the narrator in a nursing home; the sad reality is, an old man who can't remember his age, isn't guaranteed a happy ending...So every page turned is a page closer to an ending I wasn't sure I wanted to see. When he reveals his past, it isn't much better; Jacob suddenly orphaned, broke, and homeless, hops onto a train in the middle of the night.

The setting was pretty amazing; a Depression era traveling circus complete with freaks and sideshows, but it was the characters that really sell it. Jacob is relatable in both old age and young; as an old man he reveals his frustration at being the one left standing, at being taken care of like a child. The horror of having a mind fairly intact, and being surrounded by people a few decades younger who are barely living. Pointing out, that even though we all age differently, we're all going to age eventually. In his younger years, he just wants to do right by his family; left without a family he winds up finding a new one. Obligations keep him standing in place even when instinct tells him its time to run. He's street-dumb and booksmart, he's a fighter and a survivor. His friends include a belligerent dwarf, a drunk and ailing roustabout, a stubborn elephant, a clingy chimp... His enemies include the cheapskate ringmaster who will do anything to put his circus in the history books, and a psychotic equestrian director who'll stop at nothing to keep the girl... And let's not forget the girl.

After all these bright, colorful characters, I admit the character of Marlena was a bit of a let down. It was your typical love at first sight set up, which didn't bother me as badly as her just being a pretty girl in sequins. She works with horses, but appears to know very little about them, and she doesn't know what she wants until she's already made a mess of everything. I think she starts out really weak and flat and then transforms into superwoman by the end and I don't get it.

Luckily the story isn't about Marlena. Its about Jacob, and Jacob's adventure is the kind I'd read multiple times over. Colorful heroes, scheming villains, a dramatic backdrop of circus tents, train cars, and exotic animals, and a strangely exciting adventure.

I'd recommend this book for anyone who ever wanted to run away with the circus...Or anyone who ever needed a reason not to...Either way its worth the read.

Rated 4/5
Review's original post date:
Jan 22, 13

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Devil's Lair by David Wisehart


A friar, a poet, an epileptic psychic, camping on a battlefield. Searching for a knight to guide them through the gates of Hell... The book starts dark and mysterious and quickly pulls the reader in. Pestilence is ravaging the countryside and three friends on a mission from God, are looking to descend into Hell... But here the book loses steam.

The prose is decent, dark and to the point; but David Wisehart makes a couple story-structure errors. First the Latin; no translation is offered with the Latin, and the sentences don't necessarily arrive at "Those Moments". You know those moments, the ones where the characters could speak any language they want and the meaning would be perfectly obvious. So if the book had been written without the Latin it would be almost exactly the same as the book with the Latin, except maybe a few sentences shorter. Second complaint about structure is in the poetry. Its cheesy. I skimmed the first few lines of each poem before moving on. Poetry adds nothing more than the Latin.

I did like the characters. I did like the first half of the book. There were things that were more shocking because of the author's quick, to the dark heart of matters, way of writing. Nadja's attacks, the bodies, the sickness and the suicides. But his writing style neglects to outline a decent reason for the going to Hell.

In the start, it's implied by the friar that they plan to stop the Fourth Horseman and spare humanity the end of the world. But then all this stuff with the Templar Knights and then the Holy Grail gets name dropped. Then when they're in Hell, the Monsters as are suspiciously easy to defeat, and there are a lot of famous dead people down there...And we stop. to talk. to each of them. Why? What purpose does it serve? Is it just to distract the reader from the fact the characters are speed walking through Dante's Inferno? I mean, I can see how the four, reuniting with people they knew could prove to be a trial; the temptation to reclaim those we love or something along those lines. But why did we need to converse with everyone's whose name we ever heard in Ancient Pop Culture?

And then, the character proceed to commit some odd acts in Hell, that might actually get them sent to Hell if they weren't already there. Peeing on, stoning, cursing, the already damned. Which doesn't quite fit with: "God is love. Hell is the absence of God. The torments you see are born of fear. But love drives out fear. We must carry love with us, like water to a desert, for we go to a place where there is no love." It doesn't sound like they entered Hell with love, it sounds like they entered with vengeance.

And then end was rushed; the author figuring out with only a few pages to go, that he needed to tie all these odd elements together and answer the dangling questions. This story started strong, with intriguing concepts and characters, but fizzled out when the story lost direction.

Rating: 2/5
Review's original post date:
Feb 23, 13

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Mongoliad (Book 3) by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo...

The Mongoliad: Book Three (Foreworld #3) by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo, Mike Grell


The final installment was very exciting. Cnan and her group of Shield-Brethren finally arrive at the Khagan's camp...to complete their mission of assassinating the Khan of Khan's or die trying. The Shield Brethren, the Rats, and the Livonian knights, finally rise up in an effort to take back Hunern from the Mongols and kill Onghwe Khan. Lian and Gansukh must decide where they stand. In Rome, the Cardinals must decide on a new pope, while Ocyrhoe must find her kin-sisters and Ferenc has to decide where his path lies...

POSSIBLE SPOILERS BELOW.
SKIP TO NEXT BOLD PRINT TO AVOID.

There are lots of characters and lots of battles in this one; a violent end to a grand adventure. For the most part, I loved every rebellious, bloody, and occasionally heartbreaking moment. The ending is where I struggle. It was left really open; the surviving knights are escaping, and the surviving Mongols are pursuing, so in theory the adventure continues past the end. Feronantus, Ocryrhoe, and Lian were set up to look like traitors; and while I understand why that may have been necessary for Lian's character...How would she be free of the Mongols if she wound up married to one? Also she had no way of knowing whether or not Gansuhk was going to come back to her. She took the only chance she had... But what is up with Ocryrhoe "going rogue"? How did she go rogue exactly? Did Lena and Frederick set her up and forget to tell us? Feronantus led the shield brethren for 3 books then just up and ditches? And what was the final significance of the spirit banner and the living sprout cut from it? Such an important item left unexplained. I feel I've been left wanting to know more, and there is no more to know. So I've got the satisfaction of knowing how the story ends without the closure of an actual ending.

END OF SPOILER ALERT.

It was an interesting storyline, but I admit I'm not that interested in reading the prequels or sidequests...I might have interest in a sequel, if the authors ever decide to clarify the end events, but that's probably me being greedy. I do think book 3 was better than 2, but not as good as 1.

Rating: 4/5
Review's original post date:
Apr 25, 13