thistlechaser: (Book with cat 1)
I suspect I'm not going to get my current book done by tomorrow night, so I'm going to post this now.

Total books read in 2013: 53. Goal was 50/[livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge, so yay!
"Read" counts as reaching at least the 50% mark (ebook readers usually display a percent instead of a page number, so it's easy to judge that).

Of the 53 I finished:
Loved: 21
Liked: 5
Okay: 6
Disliked: 7
Hated: 14
(For 2014 I want to post a rating, 1-5, when I do the review. For this year, I had to reread my review and make my best guess as to liked/loved/etc.)

New this year:
1) "Book 30" a catch-all "book" for all books I didn't finish, all books too short to count as a real one (like graphic novels), children's books, etc, so I'd get credit but not too much credit for them. 26 books fall into book #30.

List of 26 partial/short books and links to my reviews back here. )

2) "Challenge books". On [livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge, someone posted a challenge her library was doing. The challenge is to read six books that meet requirements from this list. )

I did:
Read a book published in 1913: The Iron Trail: An Alaskan Romance
Read a memoir by someone you've never heard of: Letters of a Woman Homesteader
Read a book where one of the main characters is an animal: Call of the Wild/White Fang
Read an award-winner: A number of this year's books won or were nominated for something.
Read a debut novel: The Narrowing Path
Try a new format (listen to an audiobook, read a graphic novel) : Read a few graphic novels.

So I succeeded at the challenge, but only by chance. After the first two books, I decided my reading time was too short to read books I didn't really want to. I'm not going to do this sort of thing again.

So! Now, the big part of the post. All 53 books I read, a quote from my review of each, and a link to the full review.

Click to see list. )

I think that covers everything! There are a ton of links, so if something is broken, let me know and I'll track down the right one.

2014 goals:
1) 50 books. I had quit WoW and RPing for a while early in 2013, so I had a lot of reading time for a couple months, which gave me a big leg up on hitting 50 for the year. I suspect it will be more of a challenge in 2014.
2) Accept fewer books for review. Often they come with deadlines to get reviews in, which makes reading them less fun and more like work.

I hope everyone read some great books in 2013 and will get to read even more in 2014!
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: Scared)
The Hunger Gays by Nathan Alexander
(Book supplied free for review by Riverdale Avenue Books.)

There's no way for me to talk about this book without using NWS language, so I'm going to put it behind a cut just to be safe.

Warning for adult language and images.



There were so many amusingly bad quotes, I'm going to add them in in italics every few paragraphs.

"A sure way to lose the MvM is to have a limp dick," he explains to me. "So what we're going to do now is wrap [your ass] in seaweed that has been genetically laced with B vitamins and zinc."

If someone had said "I want to rewrite Hunger Games in the worst possible way, while adding in a bunch of very bad, totally unbelievable gay sex", the result would be this book. Another reviewer called it "some of the worst fanfic ever written". I'm wondering if it's something else. Could it have been written this badly on purpose? So badly that people want to read it just to see how very bad it is? (I don't recommend doing that, by the way.)

The first two-thirds of the book was a boring, really really really bad retelling of the Hunger Games plot, with genders reversed. Event by event, interaction by interaction, Gay brought nothing new to the story. There were a few typos, punctuation issues, and formatting issues (chapter titles were just another sentence in a paragraph).

[Two boys are going at it.] I had pierced him just as my arrow had pierced the turkey.

There were many, many inconsistencies in the story. At first there were only normal animals in the world ([A previous offering refused to take part in an orgy] and the MvM organizers sent a swarm of killer bees after him.), then in the last couple chapters mechanical animals started showing up:

There are black spider bots in [a nest]. We were told if we ever found their nest to leave it alone unless it was an emergency. The nest is extremely fragile and any little hit can wake the sleeping mechanical spiders within, which are trained to go for our bums and stimulate our prostate.

Everyone knows the Hunger Games plot, so let me cover how Gays differs. Or heck, we can let the book do it:

Each of us will engage in some sort of sexual activity with another offering before we murder them. "Erotic killing" is how it's usually billed for the media.

Basically it's the Hunger Games, but only males play. Each person has to register as a top or bottom before the drawing, and they can only play that role in the games. However, even though they choose by checking a box on a paper, and they stated outright that someone can switch their role from year to year, the book had lines like this:

But top and bottom, these positions are essential. They let you know where you stand in the world...

And:

"Bottoms," Ky says. "You're all so passive and weak. It's men like you that give our sex a bad name."

Hunger Gays was really big on saying top/bottom says everything about a man, and if a man bottoms once, he's suddenly a bottom.

The writing was just plain bad, too:

The machine that ventilates the air creates a humming noise that sounds more like the howls of tormented souls pleading for justice than the outside air being filtered.

Humming, howling of tormented souls, what's the difference!

A walrus-sized sex drive.

Our penises throb only for sex.

And dialogue:

"He's a virginity-robber, that one."

"You quick-ass bottom!"

"My P-spot!" Hyacinth shouts. "Oh my gods! You're hitting it!"

And oh the amusing sexual information:

And we all know the prostate is the number one source for all manly pleasures.

Our P-spot is the source of instant gratification.

Gotta love the tech of the world though?

"we'll also get your cock rings strapped on. They aren't like traditional cock rings; these will allow us to monitor your bodies and help with blood circulation to your penis."

Unsurprisingly, there was nothing subtle about this book. It was the 69th games, the main character came from the G spot zone.

A couple amusing characters names: Ky, and the interview host was named Brutus Sparkleman.

In the book bag there is also a bottle of lubricant, a black dildo and some beads, items they think make up a good bottom warrior.

The inconsistencies were big and small. The main character's family was so poor that the only thing they could ever eat was mint soup (mint leaves tossed into water). Yet at the end of the book they had Internet access (Internet! After the entire world had been destroyed and rebuilt, the Internet survived!) and "social medial devices". There were SUVs, too...



So, even with all that, I can't say I hated the book. The last third was so bad it amused me, and I just can't believe this is a serious attempt at writing a good book.

That being said, I fully understand why Hunger Gays makes so many people so angry. It's full of misinformation about sexuality and gender roles, hateful and harmful if the author actually believes it (or if a reader stumbles onto Gays and believes it).
thistlechaser: (Book with cat 1)
Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat/[livejournal.com profile] freece.

It's nice when a great fanwriter is picked up by a big name publisher.

Captive Prince is a story about relationships -- relationships between nations, between a leader and his people, between two men, and between many people and power. After a war, a power struggle in the country that won resulted in a younger brother successfully plotting to overthrow his older brother, after their father the king was killed. The older brother was sent off as a slave to the country that lost the war.

The older brother/prince had to hide who he is, since that country hates his, while trying to deal with a culture that's polar opposite the one he grew up in (his country is straight forward, value privacy for personal things, and generally say what they mean; the other country everyone is plotting, words have multiple meanings, and power shifts endlessly).

This story wouldn't have worked nearly as well if the author hadn't been such a great writer. Every character felt real, every one had a unique voice, and it was great fun keeping track of all of the motives.

I was very happy to see that Penguin has picked up this book series. It had originally been offered as free fanfic online (I think I must have read it that way years back, it was vaguely familiar now). It looks like the ebook version I linked above is the self-published one, so you might snag it for $4 before Penguin raises it to $10. (It's worth the $10 price, but who can resist a discount!)

Next up: The Hunger Gays. (They finally sent me a copy, yay!) I suspect it's going to be amusingly bad.

Ellie New Cat: I've created a monster. One of the first tricks I taught her was High-5 (she taps my hand with her paw to get the treat). That was fine, but with the introduction of the bird laser pointer? Some kind of connection has been made in her kitty brain. She now thinks tapping is the solution to her every want and need. Hungry? She endlessly taps my mouse hand. Bored? Taps my foot/leg. It's not just one tap, she taps again and again (because hey, one tap sometimes doesn't make the bird laser work, right?). So far she hasn't been waking me up in the morning, but I worry that soon will come a tap...tap...tap to my cheek because she wants breakfast.

Edit: Know those videos where they take a normal looking woman and photoshop her into a supermodel? There's a new one out for this year:




Video is 100% work safe, but the display image is a woman in bikini bottoms and what looks like no top (nothing shown), so I'm putting it behind a cut just in case.

I wish there were a longer version, I'd like to see more of the details of how they did that (especially the part where the grid was over the whole body).
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: space)
A Darkling Sea by James Cambias.
(Book given free for review by Tor Books.)

First: I love the title so much. I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw it!
The description sealed the deal:
On the planet Ilmatar, under a roof of ice a kilometer thick, a team of deep-sea diving scientists investigates the blind alien race that lives below. The Terran explorers have made an uneasy truce with the Sholen, their first extraterrestrial contact: so long as they don’t disturb the Ilmataran habitat, they're free to conduct their missions in peace.

But when Henri Kerlerec, media personality and reckless adventurer, ends up sliced open by curious Ilmatarans, tensions between Terran and Sholen erupt, leading to a diplomatic disaster that threatens to escalate to war.


Let's cover the good parts first:
I loved the aliens. The Ilmataran (think lobster-ish folk) were so interesting. I bought them as a race, I loved their culture and language. The whole world-building about them worked.

The Sholen (think giant otter-people with an extra set of limbs) were interesting in their own way. Again, I fully believed them as a people, and I wanted to know more about them.

Those two races made up two-thirds of the book (until the end of it).

What I didn't like:
The humans. I didn't buy them as people. I didn't enjoy reading about them at all. I did not believe that characters like that would be sent to a tiny research station on another planet. (Look at the testing that goes into checking people who go to the Antarctic station. There's no way that high school-ish loose cannons would be sent off to a station with a couple dozen people on another planet, let alone someone like the media star!)

The only female character with any more characterization than a name fell in love with the male lead for no reason that I could see. One day they don't know each other. Next day the male lead goes off with the media star and breaks every rule set out for the humans, the star getting killed. Then four days later the woman is in love with him, when they had no more interaction than her leaving him paper dolls to cheer him up.

The humans just acted so badly. I didn't buy that adult humans would act that way at all, let alone ones that should have been hand-picked to go to this other planet.

I loved the beginning of the book, when it was mostly about the Ilmataran. I enjoyed the middle, since it was two-thirds about the aliens and only one third about the humans, but unfortunately the end was very human-centric and I enjoyed it least of all.

It's possible I wasn't the right audience for A Darkling Sea. The men were Macho Men and the women swooned before them (okay, maybe not swooned, but fell in love for no reason). The Macho Men tried to protect their swooning women from all dangers. There was plenty of action and adventure, fighting and bandits and battles, so if that's your thing, pick up A Darkling Sea!
thistlechaser: (Moon)
I'm sad to report that I gave up on Lord of the Flies. I reached the 60% mark, so it still counts as the 50th book of the year, but that doesn't make me any less disappointed. I had decided to go check the wiki page about it, because I thought finding out more of the background and symbolism might help me enjoy it, only to be majorly spoiled. (Can I get a big "Duh!" to that?) I knew how the book ended, so I thought spoiling wouldn't be an issue, but I had forgotten there were character deaths.

Still, I enjoyed reading the wiki page a lot more than the 60% of the book that I got through, so I suppose it's for the best.

I'm currently reading The Darkling Sea, which I'm loving! I accepted it free to review, which I had intended to not do anymore, but it sounded interesting so I made an exception.

I've mentioned it in comments a couple times, but I haven't written about it in a post, so I'll explain that now. While my reviews have been 100% honest, when someone gives me a free book for my review, I feel like I owe them something. I know that's silly and wrong, but it's how I feel. Add on to that that I have to link them my review -- I have a really hard time being critical to someone's face! So, while I was honest, I focused on the good parts as much as I could, and that felt dishonest.

I'll still accept books to review when I know I'll like them (I'm really hoping the next Narrowing Path/Cruel Path book will be offered!) or when they sound interesting (Darkling Sea), but otherwise I'm going to cutting way back. My number of books read/reviewed won't change, I'll just acquire them myself.

Birthday/Christmas: In general, I don't waste money. I don't buy toys. I don't buy things I don't really need. So once a year I try to "waste" money on something I don't need but might just be fun to have. One year I spent $90 on popcorn (a special kettle, special kernels, "movie theater" salt and oil -- enough of the last two to last for decades, it's only too bad they both sucked). This year I decided to buy a Soda Stream, a little machine that will carbonate drinks/make soda. I've been wanting one for a long time, but couldn't really justify buying one. $80 at Amazon, with $25 off -- Happy birthday/merry Christmas to me!

It should arrive on Monday, I'll review it in more detail then.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat 4)
Lots of folks on my friends list are commenting about LJ working less than smoothly the past couple days. I was leaving individual comments, but that became challenging (ironic!), so I'm going to put the information here. Hopefully everyone will see it this way!

As many folks know, LJ is now owned by Russians. It's a much, much more popular social site there than it is here. (It's Russia's #1 social networking site, over Facebook, Tumblr, and all the other ones popular here.) So it's not surprising that political figures have an account here. It's also not surprising that there are some people who don't like those politicians. Some of the people who don't like them are hackers.

In an effort to force LJ to close those accounts, the hackers launch DoS attacks against the LJ site. That's why we're seeing the issues now. I hate the site problems, but I'm glad LJ isn't giving in to the hackers.

---

Book #49: The Cruel Path by David Normoyle.
(Book given free for review by publisher.)

Oh how I loved this story. I thought it was a sequel to the first book (The Narrowing Path, reviewed by me back in June), but turns out it was a prequel. Also turns out it was much shorter than the original (Cruel is a novella).

It's set on the same world as Narrowing: A planet with an unstable orbit. Once every few (six?) years, the planet gets too close to the sun and all life on the surface is killed off. The only way to survive is to be below the surface, within the cave structures deep under it. The caves can only hold a limited number of people, so every six years all teenage boys need to "walk the path". Basically go out into the world and kill off all the other boys or prove themselves in some other way (trade/business, etc). Only eight kids will be permitted to enter the cave. (And adults sure as heck aren't safe either. You have to have a lot of power and influence to earn a safe place.)

Cruel Path follows three brothers. Right from the beginning you know there's going to be a problem: Of the eight kids who can enter, four are picked by the four houses, and each one of those four can pick one person to bring in with them. So there's no way all three brothers can win a place -- at the very best, only two will survive, and even that is a very long shot.

My only disappointment with the book was how short it was. I hadn't realized it wasn't a full book (e-book version), so it ended way, way, way before I was ready for it to.

It's only .99 cents on Amazon, so it would be a great way to stick your toe in the water and see if you want to jump into the series. Narrow Path is the only full book out right now, but the second one is due in 2014! Highly recommended!

---

One Woman Farm by Jenna Woginrich. I've been poking at this book on and off for months now, but I just can't get through it. The writing doesn't work at all for me. (As I didn't get to at least 50% into it, it doesn't count towards my 50 book goal.)
thistlechaser: (Book with cat 5)
More Than This by Patrick Ness.

After finishing Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy, I wanted to read more by him. More Than This is his latest book (released last month), so I bought a copy.

Based on the prologue, I thought I'd love it even more than I did Walking. You can go to the Amazon page and click the "Click to look inside!" cover image on the left to read it. (Warning: Character death. It's a description of the main character dying.) It was so intense and realistic, and the main character died! How exciting!

Unfortunately the rest of the book in no way held up to that start. It seemed like such a good idea for a story (what happens to the boy after he dies? Or did he really die? Or what was happening just his memories as he died?). The first 50% was so slow and pointless. It could have all been told in one chapter, maybe stretched to two. Nothing came out in it other than some backstory for the main character. Nothing plottish at all.

Then suddenly at the 60% point there was a major twist. Out of the blue, with no warning or build up, it came out that in fact there was no world, everyone basically retreated online and lived their whole life there, their bodies left in giant coffins. I say 'out of the blue', but in fact one of the other characters somehow figured it out. No rhyme or reason to her knowing, she just did even though no one could have known about it.

There was also a subplot about a character chasing the kids, popping up out of the blue nearly on top of them over and over. Kind of ironic, since there was an Amazon comment criticizing that happening in the Chaos Walking trilogy. Since it was done in this book, maybe it was done in those books as well and I just missed it.

I got to the 75% point before I gave up. The "twist" felt so cheap and annoying, no lead up to it, no possible way to guess it, it felt dishonest. I didn't like the characters and didn't buy any of them as real. I even less bought the world as real. The whole book just didn't work for me, no matter how much I wanted to like it.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: space)
Book #47 of 2013: Three short stories set in the Chaos Walking world, by Patrick Ness. Technically not a book, and probably shorter than a real book, but I'm going to count it in the year's count anyway. All stories are free to download once you register with the publisher (and optionally opt in to Ness's newsletter).

After each of the three Chaos Walking books (the final one reviewed by me yesterday), Ness wrote a short story. Each story was meant to be read after each book, but I ended up reading them all at once at the end of the trilogy.

The New World: A story about how the female main character of the series came to arrive on the new planet. I was surprised at how much I disliked this. The character was younger and a typical teenage girl. I've said before how little I enjoy reading about typical teenagers. All she did was whine and not appreciate what her parents and others were doing for her, let alone not appreciating that she was going to be one of the first people on the new world. Whine whine whine, woe is me, whine whine whine.

The Wide, Wide Sea: I liked this story the best, by leaps and bounds. Even when humans go to a new planet to live, they don't leave their prejudices and hatreds behind. A friendship or love story (depending on how you read it -- it was a love story, but younger readers would probably miss the clues and see it as friendship), between one of the planet's aliens and one of the newly arrived humans.

This story also illustrated something I really like about Ness's writing: He can be subtle. He writes adult themes (same sex relationships, physical sexual relationships), that could be missed by younger folks but that adults can see.

Snowscape: I didn't like this one much for two reasons. 1) It showed the aliens could be human too (mean, cruel, heartless), but did it in a heavy-handed way. 2) It wrapped up something in the ending of the last book. I like open endings so much better. I was really, really disappointed to read the more tidy conclusion.

So, counting this as a book, that means I have three more to read to make 50 for the year. It's possible I'll make it, though unlikely. (Though for the hundredth time, I remind myself that I'm not officially in [livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge and I'm not really trying to hit 50. Even if I totally am.)
thistlechaser: (Book with cat 4)
Three reviews, from least review-y to most:

#1: I got my third Graze box, yay! I haven't tried any of the four snacks yet. (Still no dippers! Arg!)

For new people on my friends list, Graze is a healthy "snack of the month" company. Once every two weeks or four weeks (your choice) they send you out a box of four snacks to try. $6 per box total (shipping included). Unfortunately I'm out of friends codes for it at the moment.

My box:
1) Summer berry flapjack (rustic rolled oat flapjack with berry-infused cranberries) -- the only repeat so far, but I loved it so yay! Will likely save it to eat last.
2) Raspberry and coconut muffin (amaretti drops, raspberry infused cranberries, almond slices and coconut flakes) -- I don't like coconut (or at least I didn't as a kid and haven't tried it since), but I'll give it a chance this time.
3) Hot cross yum (sponge pieces, cinnamon and honey almonds and orange infused raisins) -- Mmmm sounds really good!
4) Herby bread basket (garlic crostini, mini basil breadsticks and oregano rice crackers) -- I suspect I might like this one the least, but looking forward to trying it.

#2: Someone on a food comm mentioned jerky bacon. He said it tasted just like regular bacon, only not hot. How could I not want to try that? When I went to Target today, I saw a bag. It's sitting here next to me right now. I'm going to open it up and try it real time!


(Not my picture, I'm lazy tonight.)

Disclaimer: I've only had jerky once before. I didn't like it, but I know there are tons of different kinds out there, I just never got around to trying another one.

Opening the bag, it smells like bacon (good sign). Not really strongly, but maybe half as strong as I would expect from real, just-cooked bacon. Also has a bit of a chemical smell.

It's rubbery and floppy, sort of like real bacon. Trying it... It tastes like it smells. Like bacon, but really, really weak flavor. Also, I don't think this could be called jerky at all, it's like the pre-cooked bacon you get in the store. (Though I'm no expert on jerky, as I said. But I thought it would have to be thicker and take a while to chew to be jerky. Maybe it's just the drying process?)

This little bag (2.5 ounces) cost $5. The flavor is okay (even bad bacon is still bacon). The calories aren't bad (130 for about half the package), so I'll probably finish the bag, but I won't buy it again. (On second thought, I'm going to toss it in the fridge. Maybe I can microwave it a bit to heat it, then use it in sandwiches.)

#3) Book #46 of 2013: Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking book 3) by Patrick Ness.

Oh what can I say about this book. The first book of the trilogy (The Knife of Never Letting Go, my review) was easily the best book I've read this year. It's one of the best books I've ever read, period. The second and third books were a little less to my taste, through no fault of the books. (Edit: I should note that that's going from "OMG BEST BOOK EVER WONDERFUL LOVED-LOVED EVERY PAGE OF IT BEST THING I EVER READ" to "OMG BEST BOOK EVER WONDERFUL LOVED EVERY PAGE OF IT BEST THING I EVER READ". The sentence before the edit does not properly convey how much I still loved the books.) I enjoy world building, learning new things about a new world slowly, piece by piece, character by character a lot more than I enjoy the plotty parts. In a trilogy, most of the first book is often world building, then the plot kicks in in the last third and through the next two books. I like that first part best, when you know so little and everything is new.

While this book is marketed as a YA book, there is no way in hell that I would describe it that way. Such serious, violent, dark (sort of -- the kind of dark normal humans in bad situations might do), human things happened! I loved morals/theme of the book: That people have a hard time changing. If you live a violent life, you'll likely die a violent death. That the older you get, the harder change is. That anyone, adults included, can make bad decisions. (I almost didn't want to mention the moral of the story, because it wasn't in your face at all, it's just impossible for me not to think about it now as I look back on the story.)

I wish I could describe the plot. I wish I could describe even just the setting! But everything is a spoiler. (I'd highly suggest you don't even read the summary on Amazon. Going into it totally blind is the best way to experience this book!)

I'm so depressed I'm done with it. Even the aliens were so human! I swear, I've never met such realistically human characters in a book before. So perfectly flawed. So grey (non-black/white). When a "good" character did a bad act, his resulting behavior was so painful and believable.

I'm dying to see how they'll make it into a movie. If the Hunger Games books weren't being handled so well, I'd be afraid of how they'd ruin this trilogy. I really, really hope it gets a similar treatment!

If you buy one book based on my reviews, I'd suggest it be this one (er, the first one of this series). I know it's hard to buy a book without knowing anything about it, but I bet you'll love it. :) And if you do pick it up? Please let me know what you think!
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: Scared)
Or maybe my subject line should be "Dammit Me...". Even when I'm really, really curious about something in the middle of a book, I try not to google it because there's too much chance of spoiling something later in the story. Whenever I make an exception to that, I always end up spoiled.

I'm reading a really great book now, and I got to a spot that made me go "buh? Wait, does the author mean... he can't... but earlier in the book..." in a good way, so I googled to see what other people thought. And of course on the google result page I saw the biggest spoiler possible.

Sigh.

It did confirm the ending I hoped for the book (but I hadn't thought the author would be bold enough to use), so... I know I'll like the book's ending, but dammit, all the impact will be gone now.

I knew better. Usually I can resist. But this was such a great, subtle nod to a same-sex relationship, I just had to find out if it was really there or if I was just seeing what I wanted to. (Others found more clues than I did, it really was there!)

Related: The book is the last book of Patrick Ness's Chaos Walking trilogy, which is in production to become a movie! I hope they do well by it. The books are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, I can't wait to see it on screen.
thistlechaser: (Moon)
1) I got heat in my apartment. After a cold weekend, this afternoon they got it working. Darned good thing I live in California and not somewhere really cold.

2) The change in gyms was lest costly than I thought it would be! Turns out the Y has a 30 day money back guarantee! So I got a $70 refund for the month of membership (though I still had to pay the initial $160 membership fee). Plus the new gym gave me three free weeks to make up for the Y, which comes out to about... $30-something dollars.

I'm going to go swimming there tomorrow. I really hope it works out. It's going to be a wonderful thing to be able to go anytime or day I want, instead of having to go during a brief window a couple times a week. (The place is open 24/7, so really, anytime I want.)

Oddly there's no life guard for the pool. I can swim just fine, but still, that's a little worrying.

3) I finished book #45 for the year. The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking, book two) by Patrick Ness. A good book, but not as good as the first one. Two POV characters instead of one is really dampening my enjoyment of it. The POV changes between them as frequently as every paragraph (with a header over each paragraph). Having two POVs in the same room/scene looking at the same thing just doesn't work for me.

I'll post a better review after the third and final book, which I'm reading now.

4) Bonus item! Had doctor appointment today, she was very happy with my bloodwork numbers. One day soon I will post a write-up of medical stuff, but I keep dragging my feet on it...
thistlechaser: (Moon)
Extinct by Ike Hamill.

This was a new one for me. The characters in the book ruined what might have otherwise been an interesting story. (But, after reading the one-star reviews on Amazon, I suspect the story ended up being as bad as the characters.)

The blurb of the book was what hooked me. It was something like: "When most of the human race goes extinct, how will the rest survive?" That's one of my favorite plotlines, and the cover image was spiffy (I know, I know), so I decided to give the book a try.

eBook readers like to start you on the first page of the story, but I like starting at the cover. I enjoy seeing the dedications (if any), notes, and the all-important copyright page. Why important? Because that's where the publisher is listed and I can make guesses as to if it's self-published or not. The copyright page of Extinct almost made me stop reading. I'll reproduce it in whole:

This is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and events have been fabricated only to entertain. If they resemble any facts in any way, I'd be completely shocked. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the consent of Ike Hamill. Unless, of course, you intend to quote a section of the book in order to illustrate how awesome it is. In that case, go ahead. Copyright 2013 by Ike Hamill. All rights reserved.

That's it. That's all that was on the copyright page. No mention of even a fake or self publisher. Nothing. Just that bogglingly unprofessional paragraph. Not even an isbn! Gah!

But since I had the book, I gave it a try. Turns out the story started much earlier than I expected, before all the people vanished. (Which is too bad, as fewer characters would have made the book slightly better.)

We're introduced to Brad. Brad lives alone in the woods. He does something with computers, thus can work remotely. One day Brad goes for a walk in the woods. He finds a vine that moves. A spiked vine. It wraps around his ankle. He goes home, his leg swells up like hell, and so he takes a nap. He wakes up days later.

Does this worry Brad? Nope. He goes back to his normal life. A week or so later he walks out into the woods again. The vines have grown like wildfire. They actively reach for him. They give off a scent that sends him deep into daydreams, long enough that the vines can cross half the distance to him. He wakes up enough to notice that, then back to daydreaming. He wakes up again, describes this as a game of Red Light, Green Light with the vines sneaking up on him. Telling himself he's no botanist, he figures this is fine plant behavior and goes back home and to his life.

A week later he returns again. The vines have taken over a giant field. Some kind of massive rock/animal is living in the middle of them. The vines go crazy trying to get him. The scent is there. They make some kind of sound that draws him in. The vines have flowers, one of every color in a row, so a red flower with an orange next to it and a yellow next to it, down the rainbow. Finally Brad wonders if this isn't normal.

Who does Brad call?
A) The FBI
B) The police
C) His old college roommate from 20 years ago who once took a botany class

C. Gods above, the characters (all of them!) were just so stupid. Except the kid. The other main character was a kid who was smarter than anyone else (not really that hard, I guess...). Worst of all, whenever he was in the same scene with adults, the adults got even more stupid just so the kid could look smarter!

With much struggle, I made it to 50% of the book before I started skimming. Sadly, the writer did have some skill -- the scary scenes were actually scary, and there were a couple of them. I really wanted to know how he'd wrap the plot up. Based on the Amazon reviews, it's good that I stopped reading, because the book actually went downhill from there and apparently the plot made no sense at all and was never explained.

The book may be on sale at Amazon right now ($2), but I couldn't recommend it if it were free.

Further proof that Amazon reviews mean nothing anymore: It has 27 five star reviews, 28 four stars, and 15 three stars. I'd give it one.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: space)
Two books: One I only got a chapter or two into, so it doesn't count towards the 50/year. The second I reached the halfway point, so that one counts.

It feels like I'm in a downward spiral with my books. I can't remember the last one I liked or finished. With each of the books below, I picked it because I thought it would break that trend.

Survivors by Erin Hunter.

A couple years ago I read books by this same "author" (pen name for a collection of writers). The Warrior Cats books. Very simple plots, but they were about talking cats and the characters/worldbuilding was interesting enough, so I read maybe 20 of them. Eventually the plots started going in a cycle (the same exact plot happened with each new generation of cats), so I gave up on the series. When I saw the author-group came out with a new series about talking dogs, I thought it would be just the thing to break my series of bad books. I knew it wouldn't be wonderful writing or challenging at all, but I thought it would be entertaining enough.

Unfortunately I hated it. I didn't buy the dogs as dogs. I didn't like the worldbuilding. The plot made no sense: the world ended in a giant earthquake (a "big growl"), and all humans ("longpaws") were now dead. But there was only one single body in a whole entire city... I understand it's a book for young people, but let's be reasonable here. The dogs should NOT be starving in the city, they should be feasting on the dead bodies. (The dogs were all previously feral, so had no emotional ties to people.)

The writing felt lazy. "Longpaws" for humans was the best term they used (and I use "best" loosely). The Sun Dog lived in the sky, the Earth Dog lived in the ground, every name was -Dog. Yes they're dogs, but it would have been easy to be more creative.

I forced myself through a couple chapters before giving up.

A string of young adult books had failed me, so I decided to go as far in the opposite direction as I could for my next one:

The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke.
Book #43.

I had not read anything by him before, but I knew he wrote very sciencey science fiction. Great! I love learning things while I read! And I keep meaning to get back to reading more scifi and less fantasy! Plus it seemed like I really should read something from him, since he's such a Big Name.

I did like Songs a lot at first. The first quarter of the book was nicely science-heavy, but soon enough that fell away and was replaced by nothing but characters I felt nothing for and relationships I didn't care about.

I did something I've never done before: I went to wiki to see if the plot would change again. I usually hate spoilers, but I didn't want to force myself through reading the second half of the book if I wouldn't enjoy it. It sounded like it would be more of the same, so I gave up on it.

I had been doing so well in the beginning of the year -- I was certain I'd reach 50 well before the end of it, but now it's not looking so good. I keep telling myself my count really isn't important; I'm posting here instead of in [livejournal.com profile] 50bookchallenge because I'm not officially taking the challenge. Two months left to read seven books, so basically a book a week. That's very unlikely to happen. :/
thistlechaser: (Book with cat 5)
Mind Bond by Julie Haydon.
(Book received for free for review from Feather In Cap Publishing Pty Ltd.)

I think this book was incorrectly labeled a young adult book.

Going into it, I knew it was a YA sci fi/fantasy book about humans who had a mental connection with an animal ("Interspecies Telepaths"). Based on that, I expected a couple things: 1) YA books tend to be quickly paced 2) the main thrust of the plot would be the mental connection with animals.

Both of those things were wrong.

At the 10% mark of this book, there was neither hide nor hair of any animal. I suspect the author likes to hike and camp -- the whole book thus far was about that. It felt more like an adult fiction instead of the "Sci Fi & Fantasy, Teens & YA" label. Very, very slow, but I was learning a lot about hiking and such. Interesting enough, but it felt like I was reading the wrong book.

At about the 15% mark, we met an animal. Once. The main character made the mental connection with the animal (wolf pup) somewhere around the 20% mark. The only "fantasy" in the book thus far was a Native American grandmother who could talk to spirits, see into the future, etc.

By the 30% mark, I was losing interest. The bond with the wolf seemed like the least important part of the story, barely getting a mention. Also, at this point the book became more preachy (save the Earth, save the animals -- nothing I disagree with, but again, this felt like I was reading a different book than expected). Also, I skipped a whole chapter because the "spirituality of Native Americans" was so heavy.

Somewhere around 40% in, things started getting unrealistic. There was a subplot about a scam artist pretending to be the main character's adult brother who was kidnapped at age 5. He scammed the family and then robbed them. Upon crossing paths with him later, the main character sat down and had lunch with him. He literally robbed their house, stole money and goods, pretended to be their missing son for a week, caused them a great deal of pain. Why in the world not call the cops? Instead the main character seemed charmed by him.

I gave up at the 50% mark. Yeah, I pressed on longer than I would have, because I was hoping the plot about the animal mental bond would pick up.

While it wasn't a good match to my tastes, it wasn't a badly written book technical writing-wise, or if you're looking for a book about hiking and camping. I really think it must have been mislabeled though -- I've never encountered a YA book that had no child/teen characters. The vocabulary didn't seem teen-level, either. I enjoyed it at first, until it was clear the mental bond wouldn't be the main plot. And I sure did learn a lot about camping, hiking, and national parks...

Rereading my post, I feel more frustrated than anything. I still want to read the book I thought this was!
thistlechaser: (MY BONE!)
In the continuing list of unexpected things halted by the US government shutdown: Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch TV series. The ships are stuck in dock because quotas are set by furloughed workers. The ship captains are paying $1,000 per day (for insurance, food, etc) while waiting for this to end. The show isn't being filmed and one of the captains went to Washington to testify about how the shutdown is harming the industry.

In general movie news: For a long time I thought I wasn't going to movies because they were too expensive. Which they are, but then I discovered a cheap theater nearby, and I still didn't go. A movie I really wanted to see (Pacific Rim) was played there and I still didn't go.

Today I watched it in the comfort of my home, and realized I'm just not a going-to-the-movies person. I really, really liked Pacific Rim, but man I can't sit and watch something for two hours straight. I got up multiple times to do other things, including a hot shower in the middle of it (I was freezing!) and a load of laundry. The idea of seeing a movie in the theater, where you'll miss part of it (and likely disturb everyone around you) if you have to get up to go to the bathroom... I'm just happier at home where I can pause it at will. I think it would have been an amazing movie on a giant screen, but I enjoyed it on the small one, too.

One of the reasons I wanted to see it was that people said it was really slashy. I didn't really see that at all. The framework of the story could be used for it (and has, there's a fun Pacific Rim/Avengers fic out there). But the story as-is? Maybe the scientist dudes, at the very most.

And speaking of science dudes, I hate to say this, but I'm getting bored with Agents of SHIELD. Oh I like Coulson, but I wish the rest of the team would get sucked out of the plane. I hate Skye more every time I see her (and she's in every damned scene). I hate the male lead character whatever the hell his name is. The two science geeks are meh. The pilot lady seems fine, but she doesn't have that much of a personality yet. It's sad because I really, really want to like the show. What's sadder: I hear the ratings aren't that good. I don't want it to be canceled! Just fixed!

And lastly, I got offered an interesting sounding book to review, so I'm going to give up on stupid vampire name book for a while. (Or forever. I rarely get back to a book if I move on to something else.) Mind Bond. In it a very few people become "Interspecies Telepaths" and bond with an animal. Sounds like just the kind of story I'd like.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: Scared)
Never have I been so happy to dislike a book.

I'm not sure how it's possible, but the writing in the second book of this series is actually worse than the first book.

1) It's not just the Black Dagger Brotherhood vampires who have stupid names (Rhage, Zsadist, Dhestroyer, Vishous, Phury, etc), ALL vampires do. Or all of the male ones. In this book we're introduced to Thorment and Thorture. These god awful names still are not explained. Worse yet, dialogue goes like this:

Vampire, "Hi! I'm Thorment!"
Human, "Hi Thorment!"

If I were writing, I'd shoot myself before using those names have the human say "Hi Torment!" and later learn that the name is spelled differently and then change the spelling in the dialogue. If someone introduced themselves to you as "Johnny", would you assume it's spelled Johnny or know it's really Zhonny?

1a) There's a main character vampire named Bella. Making me think of Twilight is NOT a good thing, author.

2) For lord knows what reason, the vampires use only males/females when speaking of men/women.

Vampire, speaking to human. "I've been a single male for a long time, I'm looking for that special female."
Human, never once even wondering at the use of male/female, "Hope you find her soon!"

Even when the human is the POV character, she never wonders why the heck this guy is using male/female. Is it just me? I would certainly take notice of someone called me a "female". I'd have at least a change of expression over it and be questioning it in my thoughts, even if I didn't out loud.

3) The author seems to not know how time works. Paraphrasing the scene I just read:

Woman arrives at TGI Fridays.
Male vampire arrives.
Woman, "Hello."
Waitress arrives, places menus down for them, leaves.
Male, "Hello."
Waitress returns, takes their orders.
Woman, "How was work today?"
Waitress returns with their meals.
Male, "Good, yours?"
Waitress returns, takes their now empty plates...

The waitress had a major action in the serving process for each line of dialogue! Just a casual line, not a Shakespearean speech.

4) The author has a fixation on brand names. Anywhere a brand name can be used, she uses them. Clothing brands especially, followed closely by cars and drinks. It's really distracting.

5) Thus far (about a quarter into the book) things are well into sexual assault territory, and it's not hot at all. All of the male vampires are "wide as a doorway" (all muscle), 6'5" or taller, and sexual gods. The main vampire character forced an unwilling human woman to kiss him and is outright stalking her (she's his love interest, I'm certain they'll be a happy couple by the end of the book). While I feel for the vampire's problems and issues, I can't get behind sexual assault.

I haven't given up on the book yet, but if I make it to the end of it, I'll be surprised. For all of the author's many, many issues, she can still somehow make me care about the characters, so that's what's keeping me from giving up on it right now.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat 4)
Sekret by Lindsay Smith.
(Book received for free for review from Macmillan Publishing Group.)

This may sound looking gift horse in the mouth-ish, but when a publisher offers a book for review, I wish they'd include what format it's in.

Sekret sounded like a really interesting book. The summary:

Yulia's father always taught her to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive the harsh realities of Soviet Russia. But when she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power. Yulia quickly realizes she can trust no one--not her KGB superiors or the other operatives vying for her attention--and must rely on her own wits and skills to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

I've become more and more interested in Russian things (100% of the thanks/blame for that goes to [livejournal.com profile] loupnoir :) ). Set in Russia, and lack of trust should have made for interesting character interactions. The psychic element could be hit or miss, but I was interested enough to give this book a try.

Unfortunately it came in .acsm format. .acsm is Adobe Digital Edition, which means you can only open it in a controlled Adobe program -- only on your computer, not on your ereader. That's a problem for me as I do not read books on my computer. I sit at my computer all day at work, I sit at it all evening doing other stuff. Reading is my time to get away from my desk. If I had known its format, I would have respectfully turned the book down.

But, like I said, it sounded like an interesting plot and I did agree to review it, so I tried. I massaged it as best I could, then moved it onto my iPad. The results were basically unreadable.

A bad page and a "good" page:


What I could read of it seemed good; I'll happily buy it once it's available as an ebook. I had to give up in the second chapter, it was just too hard to read, so it'll be new-to-me when I purchase it.

Book #41: Dark Lover by J.R. Ward

This book. Oh this book. So bad, yet so very good. There was so much wrong with the book (most of it mentioned in my previous post about it), but I loved it. I have no idea how that works. I'm ashamed of myself for enjoying it as much as I did.

The problems were so many. Names were perhaps the biggest one. The vampire names were awful (Rhage, Zsadist, Dhestroyer, Vishous, and Phury), but the bad guy's name was worse. Mr. X. Okay, so all the bad guys get letter names, and the main character JUST HAPPENS to get X, the best "Mr. (letter)" name to be. (Edit: Wait, no, Mr. T would be even better!) I would have respected the author so much more if he had been Mr. I, Mr. B, Mr. Y, Mr. U -- any not-so-cool letter.

There were other big issues, like that it was the men (or "males" as the book annoyingly called them) who did everything, and the women ("females") just cowered in hidden away places and wore nice dresses and were there for their males to feed off of (literally, the males sucked their blood to live) and/or have sex with them. When the males weren't having sex with human females.

So how in the world did I enjoy it? I have no idea. I think the author stumbled upon some secret formula, because somehow she made me love these characters. I even got used to the god awful stupid names.

I just can't explain it. I thought of the story all the time. At work, driving, all I wanted to do was get home so I could read. And I swear, I grinned nonstop as I read, from cover to cover I grinned, interspaced with giggles and toe-curlings. I think something must be wrong with me. Send help! Just don't send it too soon, I'm about to start the second book...
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: Scared)
Thumbprint, by Joe Hill, Jason Ciaramella, and Vic Malhotra.
(Book received for free for review from Diamond Book Distributors/IDW Publishing.)

Thumbprint is told from the point of view of a female Army soldier who worked at Abu Ghraib prison. I liked the art style a lot (felt like it was straight out of an 80s comic book -- felt very familiar to me). The writing was good, the art really helped tell the story.

Unfortunately I had to stop reading less than a quarter into the book. Seeing the physical, emotional, and psychological torture that went on at Abu Ghraib was just not something I wanted. (I wish I had stopped reading sooner, but I pressed on because I really do want to try to finish books I'm being asked to review.) I learned nothing new about the torture, but I still did not want to read about it, let alone see it in black and white drawings.

Don't get me wrong, it was not graphic, but just the fact that it was real made it worse to me.

If you'd like to learn what American soldiers did to real people, then you should pick up this book. If seeing it doesn't bother you, then you might enjoy Thumbprint. It's on sale for only 99 cents at Amazon (link above -- as usual, I get nothing if you click the link).
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: Scared)
Other than a short period in high school, I've never read romance books. In truth, I now mentally scoffed at them. As it's been decades since I last read one, I'm aware I could be off-base in looking down on them, but I've never been curious enough to read one and see if I needed to revise my opinion.

A while back my To Read pile was getting small, so I was looking at recommendations and reviews. Someone posted a review of Dark Lover (Black Dagger Brotherhood, Book 1), and there were a lot more comments left than usual, so I read through them. Seemed everyone either LOVED that series or hated it endlessly. It sounded interesting though, so warily I bought a copy.

Why warily? It's about vampires. While I haven't read Twilight, I've read enough reviews and live readings of it to feel burned on the whole vampire genre.

And so the book sat in my To Read pile, getting further and further buried. Sometimes I have to just randomly pick a book from the bottom, otherwise I'll never get around to the oldest ones. Over the weekend, I did that, and came up with Dark Lover.

I almost gave up on the book before it began. I've mentioned before how much I enjoy it when an author trusts their readers enough to not lay out every detail of the world and plot right from the start. This book did the polar opposite of that: Before the story it had a many-paged glossary of terms, words, and phrases used in that world. ARG! No! Bad author! No cookie! If you must use other words for things, use them in a way that explains the meaning as part of the story! If I wrote:

I know most people don't like mossroot, but it's good for you, so I have it with dinner a couple times a week. Plus, it grows like weeds around here.

You may not know exactly what mossroot is, but you know enough for the story! You can get plenty of details out that way! /froth /froth

Anyway. Surprisingly I'm liking the story. A lot. The glossary isn't the author's only sin (her characters are named things like Rhage, Zsadist, Dhestroyer, Vishous, and Phury, which makes me froth at the mouth ARG THERE BETTER BE A GOOD IN-WORLD REASON FOR THEM USING STUPIDLY MISSPELLED NAMES*!), but still. It's one of those books I think about during the times I'm not able to read, wishing I could get back to it.

Her writing style is very familiar. It reminds me a lot of fanfic (which is ironic, since she's one of those anti-fanfic writers). Her writing feels like it comes from LJ or some other blog site. It surprises me how comfortable and familiar a style can seem -- the author feels like she's one of us. (Which, again, ironic that she's anti-fanfic.)

In googling to find if she had previously written fanfic, I found out Dark Lover was classified as a paranormal romance. Ack! I would never have guessed! There's been no romance at all so far... (One sex scene, but no romance at all, the two were strangers. Oh, and one attempted rape scene, but that of course is the other end of the spectrum from romance.)

I'm only about a third of the way into it, but if it keeps up as it's going, it's going to get quite the positive review from me.

* I skipped reading the glossary, so if the reason for the misspelled names is in there, I'm going to laugh at myself. Also, dear author, I'm reading your book just fine having skipped it, so please leave it out from now on? Trust your readers, we're not stupid!
thistlechaser: (Book with cat 3)
The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition by Quark (with help from Ira Steven Behr).

If I had paid for this book, I would feel cheated. (Ironic, huh?) I thought this would be a fun, lighthearted read -- something I was looking forward to after the last couple books I slogged through. Turned out it was a 96 page book, 90 of them containing one sentence each.

Each of the rules had a page. The page contained the rule and nothing else. I had expected a write-up about each one, an example of when it might have been used, some character's opinion on it, something.

It takes some balls lobes to put out a full-priced book with so few words in it.

I've never tried to get my money back for a book*, but if I had paid for this one, it would have been the first.

* Once I ordered two copies of the same ebook by double-clicking by mistake. Amazon refunded me for one. I don't count that as really returning a book.

---

By chance I'm watching Lost. Something I was watching ended, and the first ep of the first season came on, and it hooked me. They're only showing three eps today, but I really should rewatch/watch the series. (I stopped a few seasons before it ended and never went back to it.) I had forgotten how good the early seasons were. I've forgotten so much, too! It would be like new to me.

---

Swimming: It's going to be a long, cold winter. I went to the Y to sign up to use their pool, only to find it's an outdoor pool. Eek. I swam today (high of 72), and I didn't make it the whole hour because I got cold. Part of the problem is I have to go underwater to get to a free lane, so my hair gets wet and that makes me colder. (Wonder if a hair cap thingie would keep me warmer? I bet it would help keep the heat in...)

They gave me a free three-day pass to try things out, and once that ends I'll buy membership. The charges aren't too bad, other than the extra fees they tack on. $45 fee to buy membership (which costs $55/month), that's a one-time fee... if you never let your membership run out. Want to buy visits day by day? Then there's a $55 charge per year for the right to do that.

The Y is a lot nicer than I thought it would be. My image of it is dated by decades: A flophouse for homeless men. It's so different they really should rename it. ("Flophouse" sounds insulting, doesn't it? I wonder if it's non-PC? Maybe it would be if it were a more common word? Anyway, I mean a very cheap place to stay that isn't a shelter.)

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