Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Legend by Marie Lu - a video review

Legend by Marie Lu

Note: Yeah, I got the publication date wrong. Amazon strikes again. It's November of 2011. But I shouldn't have to mention the publication date since it's out. Actually, I think I'll start skipping that part. Apologies for jumping up and down again.

Tune in Tuesday (7)

Tune in Tuesday is hosted by Ginger at GReads.

For those of you who remember me breaking out into song during Anna and the French Kiss here it is:

And since this blog has been getting so many hits recently, and has had more people join it, and more people follow me on Twitter now (it was like a blog explosion last week), here is a song that made me think of you guys (and this blog):

So basically, welcomes all newcomers.

Monday, February 27, 2012

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox is hosted by The Story Siren.

Stuff/people I mention: Elizabeth Fama, President Obama, Futurama, My Vocabulary Did This to Me by Jack Spicer, City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare, Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Lola and the Boy Next Door* by Stephanie Perkins, The Queen's Thief by  Megan Whalen Turner

(This title has been removed from sale by Penguin Group, USA.
--This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.)
I hate you, Penguin.

Friday, February 24, 2012

TGIF: Required Reading (1)

Today's TGIF question from GReads is:

Which book from your school days do you remember reading and enjoying? Is there a book published today that you'd like to see in today's curriculum for kids?

In order to understand why I'm picking The Stranger (Albert Camus) and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) and The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) we have to go all the way back to high school.

In high school I had one of those really cool teachers for a humanities class. You know the type: goes by his own rules, seems like a made for TV movie about street thugs getting an education but isn't as cliche as them. He gave me the above books to read even though they weren't on his required reading list. He is the man who got me seriously into reading. He was also a Buddhist and heavily into NASCAR, which is retrospect is an odd combination even by today's standards.

It didn't stop me from loving those books. I still have the copy of The Stranger he gave to me the day before I graduated. He didn't write an inscription on it. He just told me to keep and enjoy it and to learn from it. I haven't learned that lesson yet (the book is about murder). So I guess his lesson has been DON'T MURDER PEOPLE, ADAM.

It's paid off... so far...

Is there a book that I wish were on the curriculum today? Yeah. There is. Some people might disagree but I think Harry Potter should be required reading. Harry Potter has created a generation of readers and there's a reason for that: kids can connect to Harry.  He goes from a kid to a young adult. Making that transition isn't easy but JK Rowling nails it perfectly, even if it does involve flying cars and wizards.

Oh and the stories are funner than Jane Eyre or the other thousand boring required reading books.

So basically, hook em' young with Harry Potter and then pull them to the dark side with other stuff. If the tobacco companies can do it so can Scholastic. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Anna and the French Kiss - a video review

Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins - 400 pages

I tried my hand at editing a little. I didn't go crazy with it, and I also read from my notes this time instead of doing it all willy nilly like how I have been. Of course, some of it is spontaneous because I really do just jump sometimes.

Once again: I love book recommendations. I also appreciate feedback about the videos and how to improve them. And any and all comments are welcome. Also, if anyone has advice on what Paris is really like... don't tell me. I'll smell a French person on my own when I get there.

Warning: There are three curse words in this video. Also, for the Divergent fans, I knock it. Again. But only slightly this time.

Sidenote: If anyone can offer advice on a good FREE easy to use version of video editing software that is not Windows Movie Maker; I would appreciate it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Top Five Trends in Young Adult Literature That Are Pissing Me Off

Special thanks to Jenn Ladd from Booksessed for this video idea. If anyone else has a top five video idea, or an idea for a video in general, let me know and I'll do it. Warning: this video contains a few curse words. Also, wahoo for one take and no editing.

Tune in Tuesday (6)

I've been in the mood for Camera Obscura all week. Here's my favorite song (Razzle Dazzle Rose) by them:.

Also, The Cab.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

That Wall Art... and other stuff.

For those of you wondering what the heck was behind me in my first and second videos, and how the heck to make it, my sister has put a how-to on her blog:

The Magic of Electrical Tape.

Here's a link to the super duper fancy copy of His Dark Materials that I own that was shown in my last video.

Some of you asked how I changed the default wallpaper on my Kindle. This is the guide I used to change it. I suck at technology and I was able to do it. I think the action voids your warranty, but I don't really care because Amazon should've given me the option to make my Kindle look cool. Because reading is cool and those unchangeable default screensavers scream "THIS IS BORING AS FUCK."

Seriously, Amazon, what the heck were you thinking? That Picture of Emily Dickinson is freakin' creepy.

And while I am at it: things might slow down here for the rest of the week (along with Twitter). I am currently entering into a new position and am not working my normal hours. Things should return back to normal next week. And by normal next week I mean completely insane as usual.

Also, the Christmas tree has been taken down. It is officially the post-Christmas season.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Top Five Favorite Young Adult Novels

Elizabeth Fama has asked me to list my top five favorite young adult novels. Challenge accepted! You can visit Elizabeth Fama's website here, and here's a link to her book Monstrous Beauty on Amazon (available in September). And here's a review of her book.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tune in Tuesday (5)

Tune in Tuesday is hosted by Ginger at GReads. 

Presented without comment (except this one). Oh and happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Across the Universe - a review (kind of)

Across the Universe - Beth Revis - 416 pages

I apologize for my non-shaven hat wearing appearance. Today is not a personal grooming day. Also, booyah for doing this whole video only once and not editing it. And as stated: advice on how to do this better is welcome.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

About My Tattoos

I've decided to put together a video to answer a few questions that you guys had for me after my In My Mailbox post. It's not really book related. This is about me and my tattoos.

A Story That Could Be True by William Stafford. Here's the quote:

They miss the whisper that runs
any day in your mind,
"Who are you really, wanderer?"--
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:
"Maybe I'm a king."

Also, here are some close ups of my arm:

Friday, February 10, 2012

In My Mailbox (1)

Hey it's my first ever video! And my first ever In My Mailbox post! Try not to make fun of my accent.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2) - a review

The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking #2) - Patrick Ness - 536 pages

I'm keeping this short so as to avoid spoilers.

Screw you, Patrick Ness. This was the last book I read before my birthday and I still don't feel as manly or as bad ass as Todd effing Hewitt. I'm still reeling over The Knife of Never Letting Go. I still can't get over Manchee. I still can't get over certain acts committed in the last half of the first book.

I'm not getting over this one any time soon either.

We join Todd and Viola exactly where we left off in the first book: in Haven with the mayor standing over them. Except it ain't Haven anymore. It's New Prentisstown and the Mayor has a plan. This time we see things from both Viola's perspective and Todd's. And they both have differing ideas as to what's going on.

This time things are different. It's more than an army marching towards world conquest. It's now an occupying force in the only city left on New World. It's now turned into... dare I use the words sectarian violence? I do. There are terrorists freedom fighters rebels dictators leaders opposing forces within New Prentisstown that are slugging it out for control. There are no good guys or bad guys here. There's just Todd and Viola stuck in the middle trying to determine the lesser of two evils.

There's Patrick Ness toying with our emotions every step of the way as we realize that he's in control; he doesn't mind killing characters. He keeps things real; he makes the violence and the evil believable. He doesn't split people into unrealistic factions based on personality types, he splits people up like how they already are: by ideology. He does all this and includes telepathic powers and keeps it real. That's talent.

There came a point in Ask when I realized New World wasn't a civilization anymore. It's when the former Mayor of New Prentisstown is about to be executed. I wanted him to die because he was a smug coward who surrendered; Todd wishes the same thing on him. That's when it hit me: justice on New World is getting killed for what you believe. If you don't stand up for your beliefs and die in the process then no one is going to like you very much. You're better off dead. That's a brigand. Not a civilization.

I'm half-inclined to hope that when Viola's people do arrive on the planet they wipeout everyone there. None of them are very much worth saving. But who am I to make that judgement call?

I've already got the next book lined up in my TBR pile. That's high praise from me as I never zip through trilogies this fast. I hope the next book ends with a silence and not a ka-BOOM, though. I can't take anymore "exploshuns".

Full Disclosure: I read this on my Kindle. I needed to read it right away. I could not wait a week.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fuzzy Nation - a review

Fuzzy Nation - John Scalzi - 304 pages

For regular readers of my blog you know that when I read a book--or watch a movie or TV show--I automatically compare it to Star Wars. I try not to do that. I really, really try not to. It is really hard for me to not compare Four from Divergent to Luke from Empire.

Speaking of Empire, or in this case, Return of the Jedi this book has talking cats in it that are similar to Ewoks. I was going to completely avoid my Star Wars inspired review by not bringing it up but John Scalzi wrote in a scene where the Fuzzys watch Jedi. This book is even based on an earlier book that has now entered public domain: H. Piper Beam's Little Fuzzy.

So the whole upright talking cat thing has been around for a while and to compare them to Ewoks is a bit asinine, because I should be comparing Ewoks to Fuzzys because the Fuzzys got here first.* So take that, George Lucas.

Freakin' Ewoks, man.
Fuzzy Nation takes place on a planet called Zarathustra 23. Zarathustra Corporation has been strip mining the planet for several years. Jack Holloway has just made a big discovery; a huge deposit of minerals that could make him a billionaire. Jack also discovers the Fuzzys and soon realizes that they could be sentient. But if the Fuzzys turn out to be sentient then Jack is out of money and Zara Corp will be forced to leave the planet.

We know how this goes. Jack has his doubts upon discovering the Fuzzys, the corporation puts a hit out on him, and they end up in court discussing whether or not the Fuzzys are sentient?  Really? Court? Had this been modern times we would've just bombed the local population, took their resources anyways, and called them savages. Forget the courtroom.

Fuzzy Nation is half Law & Order and half Jedi. There's action but there's also courtroom drama. There's little furry critters but there's also Smart Ass Extraordinaire Jack Holloway. There's an evil, ominous corporation, but there's also justice. (There's also a dangerous jungle planet that in no way reminded me of Dagobah.)

John Scalzi can write a good story. Fuzzy Nation isn't great. It's good. The writing is good. This is an all around good book. If you're a fan of the science fiction genre: go read it. If you're not? Don't. I can see why it made a few top of 2011 lists last year, though.

After I finish a book I normally ask myself what I've walked away with. In this case I did not walk away with higher ideals about how people should be treated. I didn't miss the point, I just didn't want to be reminded of it.

Full Disclosure: I read this on my Kindle.

*I edited out a part here that I still want to include but couldn't get it to fit. "I need to stop reading books with talking animals in them. I only read them because I myself want my pets to be able to communicate with me. Actually, I just want to feel less like a nutball when I talk to my cat."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tune in Tuesday (4)

I have two songs that I want to share this week. The first is Divergent related. I didn't like Divergent that much. But This Providence's Beautiful Rescue came to mind. I mean, Four and Tris jumping off of buildings? Falling for one another (pardon the pun).Wait. Four and Tris. FourTris. Fortress? Nevermind, that probably doesn't mean anything.

I also saw an Irish band perform this weekend. Which involved a lot of fiddle playing and a lot of banging on an empty keg of beer (very interesting, but very good). That immediately made me go home to enjoy Mumford & Sons. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Divergent - a review (kind of)

Divergent - Veronica Roth - 496 pages

I don't want to be one of those bloggers who outright bashes a book, so hopefully I don't go into that territory with this "review" of Divergent. I thought there were good elements here and bad ones; I know that some people really enjoyed this one as it has appeared on numerous top ten lists for 2011. With that being said...

Warning: This might contain mild spoilers.

Divergent is about a teenage girl who switches factions; from Abnegation to Dauntless. Dauntless is full of fearless warriors who live to fight; Abnegation is full of selfless individuals who only live to serve. So when an Abnegation girl (Beatrice) switches to Dauntless everyone is a bit shocked. See, it's weird for people to switch factions from the one they grew up in, and it's even weirder for someone to switch from Abnegation to Dauntless.
Can't sense a conspiracy
involving the ENTIRE empire.

Here's the kicker, though: Beatrice is Divergent. She doesn't know what that is but if you own a dictionary you can look up the word and find out right away. Beatrice is a little slow on the uptake, obviously (number one problem with the book right here). She can't figure out the obvious conspiracy around her. Kind of like how Yoda in Revenge of the Sith never notices that every Stormtrooper is about to turn on the Jedi despite his abilities to see the future.

I'm guessing that being Abnegation kind of makes Beatrice blind to what's going on around her, because she leads a plain boring life and is new to the life of Dauntless. But she questions everything and gets all shocked when it turns out she's right even though the reader has already figured it out.*

There's also the issue that this first part in Roth's trilogy is 80% setup. She's introducing characters and the world of Divergent (it's dystopian Chicago and everyone is sorted by personality type). The rest is breakneck action.

There are several things I liked about Divergent: Beatrice's transformation from meek to bad ass, Veronica Roth's ability to kill more characters in 50 pages than Suzanne Collins, and characters getting what they deserve (like getting shot).

There's this part in Kill Bill Vol. 2 where Uma Thurman's character is trained. She's beaten and taught karate and weapons training and how to rip out a guys heart (ladies, you can do that with the words "You're like a brother to me.") It was neat to watch Beatrice go through her training, but not when it's a majority of the book. The last 20% really saved Divergent for me. I look forward to the second installment since it might contain more action and less setup.

Full Disclosure: I bought this.

*Here's a spoiler. And the part that bothered me the most. Beatrice's mother shows up at Dauntless headquarters and knows her way around, and about how initiation for Dauntless works (which is supposed to be a secret). Beatrice wonders how her mother knows so much about life at Dauntless. Then later--about 100 pages later--Beatrice realizes that her mother switched from Dauntless to Abnegation. I facepalmed at this point.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars - a review (kind of)

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green - 336 pages

Note: I am not discussing the plot details of this book.

If we ever need a robot detector to detect evil robots that look like us and walk among us then The Fault in Our Stars would be our test. Forget Gaius Balter and his magic Cylon detector. No. We take those mechanical bastards, we strap them into chairs, and we force them to read a book about cancer patients to provoke an emotional response.

Clearly, I am not a robot because I experienced several emotions while reading TFiOS. One of them was crying. This wasn't a heavy sob, or a snotty cry or red puffy eyed cry: this was The Brave Little Toaster just sacrificed himself crying.* Or Marley & Me the dog just died crying.**

Don't be a Dwight. Read the book.
Crying is not the only emotional response present in this book. I really want to stress that because I know people have come forward saying that they don't want to cry. Well, you won't if you don't want to. But here's the deal: you will laugh, you will have your awww moments. Just give yourself over to Mr. Green and trust him to guide you through it safely.

I had one problem with TFiOS. It being that this novel contains John Green's standard book formula. The Quirky Unrealistic Teenage Girl meets a Quirky Unrealistic Teenage Boy and go on a Quirky Adventure in which there is self-discovery and ocean deep conversations and witty dialogue. They even discuss poetry.

I'm giving John Green a pass on using his Standard Formula for two reasons: 1) this is book is superior to anything else he has written and 2) I've never had such an emotional response to a book before.

I want to get into the spirit of discussing the plot but I don't want to. You'll have to read the damn book to find out what it's about.  Don't be afraid to read this book. You will not cry the entire time. You will walk away satisfied with a lighthearted feeling that will last all day. I think that makes it worth a few sniffles.

Full Disclosure: I purchased this book from Amazon.com. 
*Also, Bamibi's mom, WALL-E, and the very last episode of Battlestar Galactica.
**I realized today that there's about 50 different Levels of Crying.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Knife of Never Letting Go - a review

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking Trilogy #1) - Patrick Ness - 496 pages

I've written about five different openers for this post. One in which I compare Knife to Firefly. Another one in which I compare it to A Boy and His Dog. In another I'm just relieved to be reading a book with a male lead character who isn't talking about his ooey gooey feelings for a member of the opposite sex.

In all honesty, though: I'm just trying to get around to the part where I tell everyone that this book has a talking dog in it. So here we go: THIS BOOK HAS A TALKING DOG IN IT.

There. Now that that is out of the way...

Here's how it is: Earth is used up. Everyone is moving from Old World to the New World. The settlers who have founded New World are primarily religious fundamentalists.* Our main protagonists are a boy named Todd Hewitt and his talking dog Manchee (and later a little surprise that I won't mention here).

One day Young Todd is rushed out of his home by his uncles a few weeks before his 13th birthday. The rest of his all-male town chases him across New World in an effort to kill him and... wait for it... take over the world! It's up to Manchee the Talking Dog and Todd to figure out how to stop them.

But. Yep. A. Talkin. Effing. Dog. I'm not getting over this anytime soon.

The world of Knife is a bit different than our own; every person and animal can hear the thoughts of everyone else. Everyone can hear the "noise" your brain makes. For some odd reason men cannot hear the thoughts of women. This kind of makes women a target in some instances.

I'm a sucker for western type stories that take place on other planets. As mentioned before: Firefly. A million times Firefly. Ness' story telling is on the same level of a Joss Whedon episode of the show and just as good, with just as many twists and turns and revelations and ideas all thrown onto a page and executed with precision.

Right now I'm going to let my inner 13-year-old boy come out to describe how I felt while reading Knife:

"There was this one point where I was like 'Holy crap!' and then at another point I realized that the dog wasn't so bad even though I thought he was kind of annoying to begin with. I kept putting it down but picking it back up and laughing at Manchee."

This is a novel that was written with a sequel in mind; it's clear by the mid-point that the ending is going to be left wide open. It didn't bother me when it happened. Patrick Ness has created a little world that is Huck Finn meets Firefly meets the Florida swamplands. I think I want to spend a little bit more time there.

*If you haven't seen the movie Red State you really should.
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