Friday, March 15, 2013

Review of Divergent, by Veronica Roth

Divergent, by Veronica Roth, is the story of Beatrice, a sixteen year old girl from the faction Abnegation in dystopian Chicago. In her sixteenth year, she will take an aptitude test that will show her which faction she belongs in, and she will have to make a choice of which faction to give her life to. It seems simple, but it's not. Changing her faction means leaving her family behind, because the factions teach "Faction over Family." 

The choice that she makes now will influence the rest of her life, but with unusual aptitude test results, she has the choice between choosing safety with her family or making the choice that will make her the happiest in the long run.

I loved this book. I went into this without the highest of expectations, particularly considering that I was approaching it from the point of view of being a Hunger Games Trilogy knockoff. After all, what Dystopian Teen novel doesn't want to be THE trilogy these days? Being such a huge Hunger Games fan, I figured that there wasn't a chance that this book could even come close to touching its wonderfulness. 

But I was wrong. I was very, very wrong. 

In some ways, I think that I like Divergent even better.

Let me begin by saying that I like Tris. This is a big deal, considering that I didn't find Katniss all that likable. Tris is amazingly strong female lead, who has her own decisions to make. Each decision that she makes has the power to change her life for better or for worse and she doesn't always know what the results of her choices are going to be before she makes them. One of the things that makes her divergence so special is that it means that she has multiple strong personality traits, including courage, intelligence, and selflessness, all of which lead to her being an amazing heroine who is able to get the job done.

But Tris is far from perfect; she is violent, she is sometimes arrogant, and she is driven by the opinions of others. In short, she is very typically sixteen. Which is something else I loved about this book; the characters are believable and they are neither perfect nor perfectly imperfect. One has to love Young Adult fiction that diverges (pardon the pun!) from the stereotypical Mary Sue or Gary Stu hero(ine). 

All of these things make me favor this novel over The Hunger Games. I may one day go into a comparison of the two so that I can be as clear as possible, but that's not the purpose of this review. There are some problems with the book as well, and I wouldn't be fair to readers if I didn't tell you what problems I found.

The story is written in a very juvenile way. It reads like it could have been written for the mid-grade reading class, but it is utterly violent. Those who have discussed the violence of the aforementioned dystopian trilogy need to have a read of Divergent to see real violence. This book is violent and it's cruel, but it isn't written at the same level as other Young Adult novels. I surely wouldn't let a young child read this novel, and I'm not sure that I would let my young teenage step-children read this book either -- at least not for another year or so.

As always, I want to point out what parents might want to think about when considering giving this book to their teenage children.

  • It's violent. There is a lot of fighting in this book. While there isn't necessarily as much killing as there is in some Teen novels, there is a lot of fighting in this book and the descriptions of the aftermath and injuries is very graphic. I personally found it somewhat distasteful, even if it did illustrate the Dauntless faction relatively well.
  • It's sexy. While there are no explicit sex scenes, the book does describe a near-rape and some heavy petting. The characters are somewhat more sexual than I would anticipate for a young adult novel that I would be comfortable giving to my teenagers. I recommend that parents read this book before giving it to their children to read.
  • It's political. Most Dystopian novels are. However, some reviewers have missed the connection to the Soviet Union and the workings of the political and economic systems of the Soviet Russia and Berlin while the Wall was up. This book has serious educational potential, if you're willing to explore it with your children/students. This is something to consider if you want to read the book ahead of your children.
I personally believe that parents should read this book before they give it to their children.

As far as my recommendations, I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys dystopian fiction, provided that he or she is able to get around the fact that the writing is somewhat juvenile. It is a fast-paced novel and there is something happening at every turn. You will be consistently entertained and I believe that most fans of dystopian fiction will tear through this book very rapidly.

Yes! I will definitely be reading Insurgent!

What are your thoughts on Divergent? Do you think it is comparable to The Hunger Games?  What did you enjoy about it?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review of Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, is the story of Ethan Wate and Lena Duchannes, two teenagers living in Gatlin, South Carolina. Ethan has lived in Gatlin his entire life. His father's family has always been rom Gatlin and he knows that for hi, there is no chance of escaping the Southern lifestyle in which he lives. The town is boring and Ethan can't wait until he has the chance to get out. Until Lena Duchannes enters town, that is.

Lena lives with her eccentric uncle, a member of the oldest family in Gatlin, the Ravenwoods. It becomes clear almost immediately that Gatlin hates Lena, and that Macon Ravenwood and Amma (who takes care of Ethan since his mother died and his father went crazy) don't want the two of them together. There's something different about Lena, and in spite of the fact that Ethan would rather not know what exactly that means, he soon finds out that being friends with Lena is going to involve a battle for both of them.

First of all, I need to tell you that I didn't like this book. I feel the need to be as clear about this as possible because as times goes on, I'm hoping that people will respect my views on books enough that I'm considered a reliable source for recommendations.

From the very beginning, I tried to tell myself that I was enjoying this book. I wanted so very much to like Beautiful Creatures that I lied to myself for the first two weeks that it took me to get through this. If you've been reading, you know that this has been very irritating to me. I tried hard to blame anything but the book. I've had several runs of bad luck with books that I haven't enjoyed (such as Atonement -- which I finally loved -- and Wicked -- which I never did come to love), but here lately this problem seems to be exacerbated to the extreme. I really didn't like Safe Haven, and I only gave it two stars on Amazon because I couldn't quite bring myself to rate it lower than that. I probably should have.

The truth is that I'm getting angry and frustrated with this turn in teen fiction. Why does everything have to be like Twilight and why are authors following in Suzanne Collins' footsteps just because The Hunger Games was so popular? I get that there isn't a lot of originality in the world any more. I understand that. Believe me, I get it by now. But I'd also like to see some kind of originality in fiction. Hook me, one way or another, and reel me in.

Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl didn't do that. This book starts out slow. It reminds me, in fact, of my initial frustration with Safe Haven, which centered around my problems with the entire first third of the book being almost entirely devoted to nothing but character development. There was no action, no indication of anything happening at all in the story (and in Safe Haven, nothing ever really did happen). The problem with this kind of focus on character development is that most authors who do this can't pull it off, and it leaves the reader feeling frustrated and empty. In many cases, this results in the reader putting the book down and not picking it back up. And I have to ask Garcia and Stohl why they thought that this was a good idea.

In order to come to an acceptance of that, you're going to have to first understand that Ethan is not, in fact, a sixteen year old female. Or at least, that's the way that he comes across to anybody who has a basic understanding of male psychology and endocrinology (hormones). His emotional system is so basically female that it is frustrating to read him, and his feelings for Lena have nothing to do with the typical rush of teen male hormones that boys experience at that age. He doesn't interact the way that most teen males do, but he's part of the popular crowd. A boy who acts that feminine is alienated in most schools. 

Just a suggestion for these two authors: First person perspective from male point of view might not be wise when you are, yourself, female. Just saying.

It's worse that both Ethan and Lena act like people in their twenties or thirties. Their personalities are too fully developed for teenagers, their reactions to their situation too mature. Neither of them are believable teenagers. Emily and Savannah seem as though they're nothing but carbon copies of their DAR mothers, with all of the maturity that goes along with it. Albeit, we're seeing them from the external perspective rather than the insides of their minds, so we have to give them some credit.

I'm not going to touch how quickly these two fell in love. Imagining them as realistic teenagers is difficult, but five weeks isn't unusual for people their age, especially considering their emotional connection and their ability to feel one another's feelings and hear their thoughts. This isn't insta-love. But it is very like Twilight.

A few things that I think that potential readers need to be aware of, especially those screening books their teenagers may read:

  • There is some bad language in the book. It's not horrific and it's not real swearing. 
  • Casters are witches. There is some very realistic spell-casting in this book. If you don't want your child involved in ritual magic, you might want to avoid letting them read the Caster Chronicles generally. This isn't Harry Potter and the style of Craft isn't unrealistic in terms of modern Wicca. Your children, your right to decide (I personally don't have a problem with my children reading Harry Potter or similar).
  • The sexuality, once it arrives in the book, is big. While Ethan doesn't over sexualize anyone in his thoughts, there is a theme here, Ridley with her red lollypop, and the way that Ethan and Lena wind their bodies together is almost disgusting to read if you aren't looking for sexual practice and activity in the books that you read.
That's pretty much it for what I would want to know if I was reading reviews for my children. 

As for people who might like this book (and the rest of the series), I want to say fans of Twilight. The problem with that is that I am a fan o Twilight and I didn't like this book. I'm hesitant, because this book seemed to have borrowed from Stephenie Meyer and from Suzanne Collins at intervals. There are whole lines that could have been taken verbatim from Twilight (and I use the word correctly, in that there are lines that are identical to lines from Twilight).

I probably will not be reading the rest of the Caster Chronicles unless my best friend picks them up.

I'm curious to know your thoughts on this book. Did you enjoy Beautiful Creatures? Did you feel the same way about Ethan's character? Did you find this to be an easy read? Let me know what you thought!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Why My Ratings Differ by Platform

It occurred to me last night, as I worked on a book review on Goodreads, that my rating system might be a bit confusing for people who don't understand the way that my mind works, or the way that I review books. My full policy isn't up yet (I'll get to it soonish), but I wanted to cover this ground with you because I think that it's important to understand and important for reviewers to understand the way that their review affects such things as the author's sales.

I generally review books on several sites, but always make sure to post a review on Hubpages, Amazon, and Goodreads. Soon I'll be adding reviews to my blog as well. This is a lot of work, but I do each of these reviews for different reasons. 

The reviews on Hubpages are written as a message to the author and to potential readers. These are very detailed reviews, the purpose of which is to analyze the novels that I read and break down what I liked, what I didn't like, and why I liked or didn't like these different things. They are usually written from the point of view of the person I'm recommending the book for, so that I can instruct other people that even though x didn't bother me, it might bother you. I review on Hubpages on a generous 1-5 star scale, meaning that if I liked a book, I generally give it five stars. It takes a lot for me to give a low review on Hubpages.

On Amazon, I review books in order to help the buyer decide whether or not the book is worth buying. I review on Amazon in order to help out the author, and I review on a 1-3 star scale (using one, three and five stars in order to make my point). If I think that a book is worth someone buying, I rate it five stars. If it's iffy, I rate it three stars. If I think that it should be avoided or is really bad, I rate it one star. (Note that this is a new policy that I am implementing for my reviews, so if you're looking at my older reviews on Amazon, you're not going to see this as a trend).

And on Goodreads? That's where I'm honest. It's on Goodreads that I really lay it all on the line, what I liked about a book, what I didn't like about a book, and whether or not I want to risk recommending it to my friends when they might not like the book that I enjoyed. I rate on a brutal 1-5 scale, where only the best books get my five star rating and only the worst get a one star. These are the books that I recommend to my friends, the people I really know and care about.

(By the way, is Goodreads down for anybody else?)

So since it's Monday, I figured that I'd do the It's Monday, What are You Reading? thing. 

It's pathetic this week. I'm still reading Beautiful Creatures. I ought to be finished with it this week though (like, tonight) so Divergent is up next on my list. If I manage to finish that, the next one up is Before I Fall. Are you noticing a book-to-movies theme here? Well there isn't one, at least not exactly. I got these books through recommendations, then found out they were being made into movies!

Image is credit to Andrew Xu on Flickr..

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why I Can't Define a Niche

I've been thinking a lot over the past few days about niche. That is to say, about how much I can narrow down the singular topic about which I write here on my blog. In the past I've created niches on other sites, including Hubpages, Zujava, Squidoo and Wizzley. While I write about several different topics, I've carefully cultivated niches on these platforms in order to boost my traffic and function. 

I'm actually pretty good at this. It's easy enough to do when you're using mind-mapping to work through ideas and to establish what goes where in terms of niches. 

This blog is something different. I want it to thrive. I want it to have followers. I want to be able to build a community here where people can discuss their favorite books, book crafts, reading habits, book reviews and book blogging. I want those things for this blog and for myself. And to do that, there's no way that I can make this a niche blog.

While I read a lot of young adult fiction (for example), that's not all that I read. In fact, I read pretty much everything with great liberty. I just love books. I hate to restrict myself and I don't want to make a promise that I mostly review Teen Dystopian fiction, because what good does that do me? When I run out of Teen Dystopian novels, then what becomes of the blog?

For that reason, I'm not comfortable niching this blog. I'll write what comes to mind. I'll post the articles and reviews that I fancy posting. And this will be my blog.

In the next few days, I'm going to create new accounts on Hubpages and Squidoo so that I can niche better than I was. And I'll be moving my reviews back here to my blog, for the most part. Hopefully this will do the most good for me and my readers!

Photo courtesy of dailyinvention.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

7 Books I'm Really Looking Forward to Reading

Before I say anything else, I want you to know that I'm really terrible about pictures. I'm terrible with a camera (and I have a very nice Nikon, too), and my pictures always wind up blurry and with lousy composition. So I use Flickr to find creative commons images for my blog posts. When it comes to things like this (specifically being my announcements about additions to my "to be read" stack), these images don't necessarily represent what's on my list, but they do usually represent, at least in part, my taste in books. A couple of these are even on my wish list.

So anyway, now that we've established that, I wanted to talk to you about my to-be-read stack and what it looks like right now. 

I'm bad at these, by the way. I'm terrible at keeping a list of books that I want to read because I almost always get distracted, break the order I'm reading books in, and then get discouraged and give up before I can really get into the books in that stack. This has happened to me before when I've been buying or downloading books in high volumes, because ultimately there's so much that it becomes overwhelming. So I've decided to never plan more than ten books ahead. Sound fair? I think it sounds fair.

I've just added all of the books in question to Shelfari, but something went wrong with the blog post and Blogger isn't accepting my HTML insertions, instead making the post look randomly strange. I thought my best bet would be to add the covers as a photoset to Tumblr and then link to that, since there are only seven of them.

Please forgive me; I'm embarrassed and feel like I'm shortchanging readers, but unfortunately that was hours of work that I can't get back.

My Visual TBR. So what's on your list?

Top photo credit Emily Carlin on Flickr.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Thank Goodness it's Friday!

Well, I'm glad that it's Friday. For me, that means that I'm rapidly approaching my first full week of daily blogging. This is an accomplishment for me, and one which has taken a lot of courage and dedication, not because I don't want to write but because there's a lot of additional work involved (social networking, promoting posts, etc). I'm exhausted! But I'm also very satisfied with the work that I've done.

I'd like to start by showing you what I've gotten done, writing-wise, this week.

And on Hubpages. . .

I'm pretty satisfied with the work, and have more posts planned for the weekend and for next week.

But it's Friday, and that means two things. As for the first, I want to introduce you to some really great people who have supported me over the past few days by leaving comments and letting me know that they're visiting me while I work on making this thing happen for me.

This week it's Natali over at Book Cupid, who has taken the time to comment on my posts this week even when I've been behind on my own commenting. It's this kind of support that makes me want to keep going because I feel like somebody is paying attention to my absurdities. So thank you Natali for all of your encouragement!

Everybody should go over and check out Book Cupid, where she reviews young adult and some mid-grade fiction! Make sure to leave her a comment and let her know that Becki sent you.

Alright, the other thing that Friday means is that it's Book Blogger Hop time. Billy over at Coffee Addicted Writer appears to have taken this over since the last time that I did it, so here goes nothing!

This week he's asking us what's our favorite book set in a different country. Since I read mostly dystopian fiction, I'm counting Panem and saying The Hunger Games or perhaps Catching Fire since most of these books are set out of place and time anyway.

Do you have any blogs that I absolutely must follow? Drop me a line and let me know about them!

Photo credit: rittyrats on Flickr

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Finding Time to Read

The last few days have been really difficult for me. My reading time has been cut down to almost nothing, and I'm really eager to get to reading Divergent and several of the other new novels that I've picked up the last two weeks. My To-Be-Read stack is growing at an astronomical rate and I can't seem to stop buying books (since I'm a very naughty library user and tend to forget to take them back, therefore forcing me to purchase everything I want to read). 

Every time I pick up a book in the last week, somebody starts to talk to me. I don't get alone time almost at all; there are three adults and a child living in my home and finding time to be alone is nearly impossible. Not that I want to be alone when I'm reading. I enjoy the company just fine, but I am inclined not to want to be interrupted by the constant chatter of the family around me.

It's worse because I'm reading Beautiful Creatures, which is a novel that I'm enjoying, but because it is so atmospheric (not quite like reading Anne Rice, but atmospheric enough that the setting is a key component in the book) it's difficult to become immersed in the world of Gatlin, South Carolina, when there are people trying to carry on a conversation with me. For this reason, I've been reading the book in short bursts, and have been finding it very difficult to "get into" the book.

This is a new problem for me. It's very rare that I enjoy a book that I can't get into. Usually if I enjoy a book I can't put it down and I read nearly constantly until I've finished it. I carry my Kindle with me all over the place because I read in the moments that I have available, devouring fiction like it's the bread I need to survive. I'm not getting that with this book, and I can't help but to wonder why.

I'm curious; How many of my readers have had this kind of problem before? Do you find that you enjoy a book that you can't get into, for whatever reason? Leave me a comment!

Photo is courtesy of Simon Cocks on Flickr.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Comparing Warm Bodies to Twilight

Last night I finally finished my review of Warm Bodies (by Isaac Marion). I've read the entire novel as well as seen the movie at this point, and I feel that it's fair for me to jump on the comparison bandwagon. Fair warning: I'm going to be doing quite a bit of comparing books to Twilight in the next little while, in large part because I'm ticked off by the treatment that the Twilight Saga gets from the people who dislike it, and the way that people tend to compare everything to the Stephenie Meyer series and the series to everything.

Before I say anything else, let me tell you this: I think that these comparisons are stupid. Stephenie Meyer didn't "rip off" Anne Rice or J.K. Rowling. And Isaac Marion didn't "rip off" Stephenie Meyer. Stories often get retold with a new spin on them. Stephen King gets a lot from Ray Bradbury, for example. I'm sick of comparisons. I'm growing increasingly tired of being told what I can and cannot like because such and such is too much like such and such. In a perfect world, people would just get over it. And eventually they probably will; Twenty years from now, nobody's going to care about whether or not Twilight is terrible for teenage girls. In fact, people probably won't still be reading it. All this hate is a passing fad.

Ranting aside, I did want to make a couple of my own comparisons here, because I am finding some of these allegations incredibly interesting, and I honestly have a few of my own. So here's what I know about the comparisons of Warm Bodies to Twilight. Please do feel free to add your own findings to the comments on this entry, and I will do my best to add them into the post as they filter in.

The Movie Posters are Very Similar

As you can see in my side-by-side image at the top of this page, the two movie posters are incredibly similar to one another. This is the number one complaint that I've heard about Warm Bodies in its comparison to the other movies. And it's ridiculous.

Here's why: Both movies were produced by Summit Entertainment. Period. The posters are similar because that's a style that Summit obviously favors. That being said, this isn't even the main movie poster. This is only one in a long series of movie posters for this movie. For a good look at the different posters available for the Warm Bodies movie, click here.

I think that it bears mentioning that none of these posters even remotely resemble the Twilight character posters.

It's unfair to the writers to compare the two books based on the movie posters. 

Both Stories Involve (Un)Dead Heroes

I have to confess that I'm aware of the absurdity of this fact. The comparison is not, itself, absurd. The fact that these two stories involve leading men who are dead (and cold) isn't exactly appealing. If you've ever kissed somebody who has been sucking on ice, you know why this isn't an appealing concept. I never did understand why Bella would keep kissing Edward when she had Jacob available (and I prefer Edward over Jacob -- in the books anyway).

Admittedly, I don't find either vampires or zombies to be particularly romantic in and of themselves. The first really romantic vampire in fiction (as far as I've read, anyway) is Lestat, from Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles. Since then there has been an explosion of romantic vampire characters, and in particular in teen fiction. There's nothing really wrong with that. Nor is there anything wrong with a romantic zombie.

Except for the fact that neither of these creatures should have the mortal ability to love, according to the myths associated with these two stories.

Both Stories Change the Myth

In both cases, the stories change the established myth of the creatures they feature. Vampires need human blood to survive. This is part of the traditional vampire myth. Others made the change before she did, however; Charlaine Harris, in her Southern Vampire Mysteries had the vampires drinking True Blood (a synthetic human blood substitute), for example.

Some people don't like this tremendous change to the vampire myth. They like it even less that the vampires sparkle instead of combusting in the sunlight. This is all understandable, and if you're viewing Twilight through the lens of vampire myth instead of from the point of view of the story that it tells, it's obvious why people may be disgruntled. 

Warm Bodies takes zombies, and changes them dramatically. In this story, the zombies can think (or at least R can). They can move more fluidly than classical zombies. And they can live without eating brains, under the right circumstances. For zombie fans, this is ridiculous and annoying. That's also understandable. 

This is a solid connection between the two stories. And a disconcerting one, since one could venture to say that Meyer opened this door to other authors. 

My Conclusions

Interestingly, my opinion in this matter changed while writing this post. I had originally rejected the notion that there was a connection between the two novels, since the stories are so vastly different and since Marion's writing is clearly superior to Meyer's. However, now that I've written it out, I have to say that I can understand why people have some of the objections about these books. 

That being said, while I loved both stories (and series, as Warm Bodies is becoming a series now), I have to say that Warm Bodies is easily the superior novel. I can't recommend it for people who enjoy the traditional Zombie myth, because I think that it will disturb zombie lovers too much.

The only easy way to understand how different these two stories are is to read both and to compare. Or to find somebody who hated Twilight but loved Warm Bodies (or vice versa!).

What do you think about the comparison? Do you see similarities, or not? Have you read either (or both!) books/series? 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Choosing a Favorite Fiction

I'm sitting here tonight drinking (something that I almost never do, so the rum is a rare treat) and contemplating books, wishing that I had more time to read them, and finding myself a bit lost and sad that there cannot possibly be enough hours in a day in which to read. And, truth be told, I'm also contemplating why it is that Beautiful Creatures just isn't doing it for me. 

By rights, I ought to be very interested in this book. If horror was the genre that I enjoyed growing up, and the paranormal genre seems to have grown out of that (thanks to Anne Rice and others), then I ought to be devouring paranormal romance. After all, I read a Nora Roberts paranormal or fantasy romance novel in just a few short hours of rapid reading. So what's my problem with this, and other novels like it?

Alright, so I don't hate paranormal fiction, and I'm certainly a fan of romance. After all, I recently admitted on Tumblr to being a Twilight fan (I know, I know. . . But it's still my right to enjoy the Saga without being picked on about it!).

One thing that I've figured out is that we're all different as readers. I have a terrible time recommending books for my best friend, who has a terrible time recommending books for me. She enjoys paranormal and fantasy, whereas I'm more of a fan of dystopian fiction. I want to be able to hand her books that I know she'll enjoy, but we only really cross where it comes to romance, which we both enjoy, but in different ways. No matter how much somebody pressures me to read Nicholas Sparks, I will not after my ill-fated reading of Safe Haven, and I will always do my best to put Nicholas Evans and Nora Roberts into the hands of as many people as will possibly pay attention to me. 

So I wanted to talk to you today about the types of fiction that I enjoy reading, and to give you, the reader, the chance to talk about what types of fiction are your favorites. I think that this is an interesting subject to cover because it has a lot to do with whether or not a person's recommendation of books is going to match the reading style of the person on the receiving end of the recommendation.

I'll start, since I'm the one writing this blog post!

My favorite type of fiction is dystopian. Hands-down, I am more likely to pick up a novel if I know that it has futuristic (or fantasy) dystopian themes. Hands down, this is my favorite type of story. At the moment, I'm especially enjoying Teen (Young Adult) Dystopian Fiction, but I've also enjoyed Stephen King's Bachman books along with other adult authors of dystopian fiction. I think that this is always going to have a special place in my heart.

I also enjoy horror novels. I've been reading Stephen King since I was eleven years old and have always had a (sick) fascination with his stories. My favorite is The Shining, although It and Needful Things come in a close second. Inasmuchas she can be considered to be "horror," I also love Anne Rice's work, though I think that she would be considered "paranormal" now.

Finally, I like romantic fantasy and specifically Nora Roberts. There are some other types of romance that tickle my fancy from time to time, but Nora Roberts is especially dear to my heart, and I really enjoy her trilogies. 

While I do not exclusively read young adult fiction, that's what I've been reading the most over the past year or so, and what dominates my TBR (to be read) stack of books that is available for me to enjoy. I try to read and review a little bit of everything, but lately I've been reading more of what I enjoy than what is simply recommended, or "smart."

What about you? What's your favorite genre of fiction to read?

(Photo thanks to Enokson on Flickr under Creative Commons).

Monday, March 4, 2013

Happy Monday Bloggy Buddies

Welcome to another week, bloggy buddies! It's been kind of a hectic week, and I have to admit that I haven't done nearly as much reading as I wish that I'd done. It started out well, with finishing off Warm Bodies, and I got a good start on Beautiful Creatures, but it was kind of downhill from there.

Part of my problem, which is probably obvious to anybody who actually knows me, is that my obsession with teen fiction is only slightly less embarrassing than the fact that I'm enjoying all of this paranormal fantasy that I've been reading lately. This is not my reading style really at all, and I'm having to convince myself, going forward, that Young Adult is probably the fiction genre that I read the most, and the one that I most ought to be blogging about.

So let's face it; I guess that in a way, I'm still trying to figure out what my actual niche is here. Books is much, much too broad a topic on its own, so I need to come up with something narrower. An example would be "Young Adult Fiction." Which is what I'm currently reading.

Since it's Monday, I thought that I'd participate in It's Monday: What are You Reading? from Book Journey. I like these Memes since they give me something to blog about when I can't come up with anything better to write about. Regardless, I'll try to keep my posts substantive. 

This week I'm still reading Beautiful Creatures, which I started last week. I've had a slow start with it because there is such a huge part of my mind that resists the very notion of paranormal fantasy of any sort. And then, just when I started to really enjoy the book (which is quite good, to be honest with you), I suddenly got so busy that I couldn't find a single moment to read. Don't you hate it when people talk over your book, demanding your attention just when you're getting to the best parts? Yes, that's the story of my life, I'm afraid to say!

My plan is to finish up this book within the next week. I should be done with it about Friday, at which point I hope to pick up Divergent. I'm actually very hopeful about it because I've heard really great things, and aside from my life of Young Adult (Teen) fiction, I also love dystopian fiction, which means that I get a double-hit with books like this. I'm a little bit nervous because I'm such a huge fan of The Hunger Games, but I'm willing to give it a shot to see how this one goes. If I love it, I'll be purchasing the other books in the trilogy as well!

Have you read either of these two books? If you did, what did you think of them? What are you reading this week?

Don't forget to participate in the meme over on Book Journey!

Everything I Don't Know About Blogging Could Fill a Book

I've been blogging for about four years now, and I am bad at it. For four years, I've been trying to make extra money writing online on Hubpages, Squidoo, Zujava and other sites.

To put it really bluntly, I suck at this. I've been thinking about it and thinking about it and thinking about it, and I've finally come to the conclusion that I need to really set some blogging goals and start sticking to them instead of slacking off and writing just whenever the mood strikes me. I mean, I'm really bad at this

My problem is that I don't know what readers want from me. I write book reviews, which I share on Hubpages. I list the books that I've read (for sale, with quotes) on Squidoo. I update my Tumblr several times a day with news about what I'm reading, quotes, thoughts on the book, movie stills (if there's a movie based on the book, or if the book is based on a movie). I tweet about what I'm reading, I post to Facebook about what I'm reading, and I generally talk books

Have you noticed the real issue here? None of this actually involves sitting down to write a blog post. And when you factor in the time that I actually spend reading the books that I talk about, I'm a busy beaver. 

I want to reach out to you. Right now there isn't much of a following for this blog, but my previous book blog did pretty well, overall. Obviously I have some potential here and there are people out there paying attention to the RSS feeds I've provided in relevant locations. So tell me, please: What do you want to read about here in my blog? 

Bear in mind that I don't want to post reviews here. I have better platforms for that and I know that as a blog reader I tend to skip over the reviews because they aren't conversational enough; I'd rather talk to you, my readers, like a human being, a friend, somebody who you can be actively involved with. Reviews are too static to make that work, which is why I've put mine on a different platform. 

So, I'm putting this out there for discussion; What do you want from me, as a blogger? What can I give you that will keep you coming back for more? Whatever it is, I'll do my best to provide it. In the meantime, I'm making it a goal to post daily!     

Photo Courtesy of Sue Richards.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

WWW Wednesday (1)

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…


• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

What are you currently reading? I picked up Beautiful Creatures yesterday. My best friend wants to see the movie and I have a distinct policy of finishing the book before I see the movie for these book-to-movie films. So far I'm not especially enjoying this book. The story seems fantastic, the writing mediocre. I think that more than anything it's just a letdown after my most recent finish.

What did you recently finish reading? My most recent finish (the phenomenal book mentioned above) is Warm Bodies. I haven't reviewed it yet, but to put it mildly, this is one of the best books that I've read in a very long time, and it's highly recommended. It couldn't last long enough for me! I watched the movie last night and thought that the movie was so-so by comparison. Definitely a must-read, even if you don't enjoy zombie fiction!

What do you think you’ll read next?
I'm really not sure. There are several options on my shelf right now. I'm thinking about reading Catching Fire (for the third time) or The Horse Whisperer (for the second). I feel like I ought to get through Catching Fire to be honest with you, since that gives me the chance to get through reviews of all three books in the trilogy.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Teaser Tuesday (2)

I just finished reading Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. It was an absolutely fantastic book, and I have several quotes from the book on my Tumblr blog, but none of them have page numbers associated with them and since I was reading in paperback and not on my Kindle, it's terribly difficult to dig them out of the book.

For that reason, I'm going to leave you with a quote from the book I'm currently reading, which is Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

Here is my quote for this week. It's right at the beginning due to the fact that I only just started reading, and I'd hate to read ahead too far. This is from page 15.

"Because I was smart, I got good grades on my papers; because Link was stupid, he got bad ones. I guess nobody bothered to read them. Sometimes I wrote random stuff in essays, just to see if my teachers would say anything. No one ever did."

While I'm in here writing, I wanted to say that I did go to see Warm Bodies at the theater tonight. I was terribly disappointed with the telling of the story. It had all the humor but absolutely none of the poignancy that the book had. Good movie, but it has nothing on the book!

Monday, February 25, 2013

It's Monday: What Are You Reading (2)

Alrighty, so I haven't been doing as much blogging here as I should be, since I've been doing a lot of my stuff over on Tumblr. I don't do much writing there though and I feel like I ought to be putting some kind of effort into talking about the books that I read. I'm reviewing most of them on Hubpages, so before I do anything else, let me update you on my status since the last time that I posted here.

I read and reviewed Safe Haven and The Hunger Games. I've tried to review both books with a critical eye, even though I've read The Hunger Games three times now and I've loved it every single time that I've read it.

If you've been following, I hated Save Haven. You can see my review on Hubpages by clicking the link above and seeing what I think.

So anyway, all of that being said, I finished reading Warm Bodies, by Isaac Marion. I haven't had a chance to review it yet (I'm actually quite sick and am having a hard time just putting my fingers to the keyboard to write this blog post) but I wanted to leave you with my favorite quote from the book.

“I want to change my punctuation. I long for exclamation marks, but I’m drowning in ellipses."

I rate it five stars and highly recommend this book. I'll have more to say about it when I've had a chance to rest up and feel better.

Onward! I'm reading Beautiful Creatures next!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: Safe Haven Page 50

Still working my way through Safe Haven. I keep wondering what it's like to be able to read through one of these in a day or two the way that reviews seem to promise should be the case with Nicholas Sparks books, but I'm going to finish it because, honestly, I want to see the movie, and I hate to watch a movie when I haven't finished reading the book first. 

A little hard to do this on a Kindle, but I managed! My quote for this week is from Safe Haven, by Nicholas Sparks. You can purchase Safe Haven on Amazon.

- "Katie reached for it, brightening as she examined the picture. Alex noted how -- at least for an instant -- everything else in the world seemed to be forgotten."

I actually feel like this quote illustrates everything that is wrong with this book, from the all-too-commonplace names to the fact that this is on page 50 and the romantic vein seems to be moving a bit too quickly for the novel. It feels like Sparks is in a rush and not really thinking through his characters or the story that he's trying to tell and it's very frustrating to feel left behind as the story progresses. 

But it's getting better. And I still think that I want to see more of Nicholas Sparks. I just hope that the next book I read gets to be horror of some sort or another. I'm just itching for horror or suspense!

Monday, January 28, 2013

It's Monday! I'm Reading Safe Haven, by Nicholas Sparks

It's a Monday, and this week, that means a few things for me. My husband is currently unemployed, and since my primary income comes from writing (mostly online), I've spent quite a bit of my time for this week working on writing projects that are currently underway. Trust me when I tell you that it's a lot less exciting than what it sounds like, considering that most of my writing is what I would consider "web writing." It's not the great American novel that's coming out of my computer, but just a few articles here and there, some book, video game and product reviews, and a few pennies in return. Nothing even remotely excited. 

I am getting excited about the new Switched at Birth episode that's on tonight on ABC Family. This is one of the bright spots in my week, when every new Monday also counts down another week that there's no income coming into the house. It's pretty scary stuff, but I enjoy sitting down with the show, then curling up with my Kindle and a good book.

Lately I haven't been reading as much as I should, which is rather disappointing. I've spent so much time writing that it's hard to squeeze in a moment or two to read a good book, and it doesn't help that the majority of the books I've been picking up lately just aren't all that good. I wish that I could just find one book that captivated me enough to draw me back into reading as a habit, without having to re-read another novel for the third time (can anybody say "Hunger Games?"). Reading should be relaxing and enjoyable, a break from writing, but instead lately I'm finding it quite a chore.

It's possible that I'm looking at it wrong. I mean, for heaven's sake, it's hard to read when you're a writer trying to dissect what works and what doesn't. Given that I write romance and smut, most of what I read is romance and smut. The smut's terrible, with very little variation. There's not much out there that I enjoy enough to keep reading and I'm quite certain of my ability to do better than the books that I'm reading. The romance is another story. Most of it's pretty good, but I can't connect with the characters and the stories are repetitive.

For years I've been avoiding Nicholas Sparks because he was over-rated. I've said that about a lot of really terrific authors whose work I enjoy (such as Ian McEwan, Nora Roberts, Stephen King, and others) and I figured that it was time for me to take the plunge. I meant to purchase Dear John but somehow made a mistake and wound up with Safe Haven instead. I knew the general storyline due to the fact that I've seen the trailers for the movie, and while it's not particularly my cup of tea story-wise, I figured that it would be an interesting introduction to Nicholas Sparks.

Ugh. That's about all I have to say about this book. It's getting better as I get through the first fifth of the book or so, but I'm utterly disappointed with what I'm reading. The characters all run into one another, and I don't find any of them sufficiently unique to keep me interested in what I'm reading. The story is, so far, rather bland, and I'm really working hard on making myself like this book.

But I'm going to finish it, because I'm reading it. Let's challenge me to be finished by Friday, shall we? I think I need book goals to get me reading again, right? Right. Support is encouraged, of course.

In the meantime, I'd love to know what you think of Nicholas Sparks. If you could speak in general terms so as not to spoil Safe Haven or any other books of his that I might pick up, that would be pretty great. I'm really curious. I don't particularly like what I'm reading but he's ridiculously popular. Why?