February 3rd, 2012

book 1

How to win free books and other goodies

Mods, please delete this post if it's considered inappropriate.

I run a book blog here on lj, and since we just hit our four-year bloggiversary, figured it was a good time to celebrate by giving stuff away. As such, we have an awesome prize pack filled with goodies, including four of our favourite books (that's four books towards your yearly goal of 50):

More prizes get added to the pile with more entries.

How do you enter? Well, you could click here to find out more details, or if you just wanted to see what else is in the prize pack of awesome.

January Reading

I made it to 170 books last year, so here is the beginning of my new 200 books in a year challenge! There's 15 for January, 5 off my goal of 20 per month, but eh, what can you do?

American Vampire #22 by Scott Snyder
A Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay
Aphrodite the Beauty, Artemis the Brave, and Aphrodite the Diva by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
Loki by Mike Vasich
Nicholas, Raine, and Lyon by Elizabeth Amber
Dance in the Vampire Bund 1 by Nozomu Tamaki
The Children of Odin by Padraic Colum
The Listeners & Other Poems by Walter de la Mare
Two Sighted by Annmarie McKenna
Wise Child by Monica Furlong
The Seer and the Sword by Victoria Hanley

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Kels reading candle

Books 1-5 of 2012: Machine of Death, Wonderstruck, Going Bovine, and Sandman

"There was one time out in Asia, though, when I thought that all the emphysema in the world wasn't going to save me." (Firing Squad, 107)
"It's hard to decide what you want to do with your life until you know how it's going to end." (Not Waving But Drowning, 161)
"My death. And yes, it does bring me comfort--but not as much as you'd think. Like just knowing a story has a happy ending alone doesn't make it a good story." (After Many Years, 249)
"What good is knowing the future if you can't do anything with the knowledge?" (Friendly Fire, 267)
"The speck of my soul floating in all this meat." (Loss of Blood, 319)
"It's just words. It's just the end of the story." (Heat Death of the Universe, 404)
"You can't just say what's going to happen ahead of time. That's not how physical law works. That's narrative. And when reality is twisted to fit narrative, that's not natural. That's someone making stories happen." (?, 422)

1. Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki! (454 pages)

Based on an idea proposed by that dinosaur comic (that there is a machine that, like the Oracle at Delphi, will cryptically and enigmatically tell you how you will die, vaguely), this is a brilliant collection of short stories that approach such a basic idea from every possible angle. And, in doing so, explores the very nature of mortality, humanity, destiny, tragedy, triumph, love, joy, hatred, fear, and ecstasy. I don't think I've ever read such a strong collection of stories, nor one that was so very thought-provoking on so many levels.

The big question, of course, is, would you use the Machine of Death? Logically, as a literature major, I know that it is never a good idea to know the future, much less how you die. It always ends badly. On the other hand, how could you possibly, as a human being, restrain yourself from obtaining that kind of information? To be human is to open Pandora's Box, to climb Mount Everest, to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. The maddening thing is that, even as such information could totally ruin the rest of our life, it could very possibly be the best thing to happen to our life. It could be as freeing as it could be constricting. It could cripple us with fear, or release us completely from it.

Even worse, could the knowledge of how we die, like with every Greek hero ever, cause that death? In running from fate, would we run right into it? Would this be self-fulfilling prophecy? Would we be like Sleeping Beauty, in being protected from the spinning wheel, run to prick our fingers on it? 

Would the very existence of the Machine, the very ability to have this knowledge ruin life, mortality, and death?

If you were the one to invent the Machine, could you release it on the world? Would you feel responsible for the outcome? For the deaths? Would you be a savior, or a monster?

Would knowing affect everything? Is this a question of fate and destiny, or of human psychology, the self-fulfilling prophecy? Do we fight against the dying of the light or do we accept fate and die with a whimper?

Furthermore, is the Machine accurate? If it spits out "JOY" or "SUICIDE" or "ALMOND", is the truth in the fate what the Machine meant, or does the human psyche make it so?                                                          

Then we get into the meta part of this. Isn't modern medical technology essentially Machines of Death? Do we have any ability to try to face or change fate? Can we?

Moreover (and here we get literary), does the manner in which we die reflect the way we live? Does the end of our story reflect the beginning and middle? Is our death, the end of our story, random or determined? Is it a reflection of who we are as people? Does our manner of death reflect our manner of life?

Furthermore, could humanity ever possibly live with such divine (or meta) knowledge as the ending of our own stories? Would is save our lives or destroy them? Make us worse or make us better? Could humanity ever cope with certitude? Is hope a curse or a blessing? Can humans ever be human without hope? Would we ever strive to know or fight or do without hope?

If we (both as a human character in this alternative world and as the reader of these stories) know the ending of the story (the death), how does it affect the reader, the writer, the characters? Oh, fuck, do I love that double layer!

Because, death gives life. Death affects life.

My favorite stories: Suicide by David Michael Wharton, Almond by John Chernega, Starvation by M. Bennardo, Killed By Daniel by Julia Wainwright, Cocaine and Painkillers by Daivd Malki!, Loss of Blood by Jeff Stautz, and Miscarriage by James L. Sutter.

This collection is highly addicting, incredibly absorbing, comprehensive, clever, imaginative, thought-provoking, and utterly brilliant. Grade: A+


2. The Sandman Volume 2: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman (228 pages)

I'm pretty sure that Neil Gaiman is going to ruin me for all other comic books/graphic novels. Holy crap.

As Dream/The Sandman regains control of his realm, he realizes some of his minions are missing, that there is a living Vortex named Rose Walker, and that his little sister, Desire, is up to no good. The story is deeply engaging, but transcends being "just" an exciting, brilliant, and imaginative story due to Gaiman's trademark brilliant storytelling style and his ability to flawlessly and enchantingly weave mythology and fairy tale into creating his own brilliant story. He is a master storyteller, the likes of Poe, Hawthorne, and Melville, authors who also could blur the worlds of dream, reality, and literature. Grade: A+


"We're in English class, which for most of us is an excruciating exercise in staying awake through the great classics of literature."
"If there's anything I'm starting to learn about people it's (a) that they are fundamentally suspicious and afraid of anyone who is "different" and (b) that fear makes them do and say asinine things."

3. Going Bovine by Libba Bray (480 pages) Part Norse mythology, part The Odyssey, part Dante's Divine Comedy, Going Bovine is the epic journey of Cameron Smith, apathetic 16-year-old, who is diagnosed with terminal mad cow disease. With his best friend, a hypochondriac dwarf named Gonzo, and a garden gnome that is the Norse god Balder, Cameron is charged with saving the world from the dimension-hopping Doctor X by a punk angel, which sends him on a picaresque journey across the United States. Hilarious, full of character, unabashedly accurate in its portrayal of high school and teenage life (i.e., contains sex, drugs, and alcohol), packed with intelligent literary references, this young adult book is so very refreshing, original, and thought-provoking. Cameron is a likeable, disingenuous, irreverent and observant character who subtly and perfectly changes throughout the book as he faces life and death. If the book has a fault, it is its picaresque nature, which is disjointed and moves too quickly, with little detail. But smart, clever, and witty readers of all ages should adore this refreshingly brilliant tale. Grade: A


4. Wonderstuck by Brian Selznick (637 pages)
Rose, living in 1927 and deaf, runs away from home to New York City. Her story is told through illustrations. Ben, orphaned and living in 1977, is struck deaf by lightning and runs away to New York City in search of his missing father. His story is told in narrative. The two stories intertwine sweetly, though predictably. Selznick may not be the most gifted storyteller, but he pushes the boundaries creatively and refreshingly. Form brilliantly follows substance (a tale of two, lonely, lost people who cannot hear, told in pictures and words, constricting and simultaneously widening the senses of the reader), packed with enchanting details (the Natural History Museum, Cabinets of Wonder, silent film, etc.). Quick, beautiful, charming tale. Grade: A-


"All love that which they destroy."
"Weak people believe what is forced on them. Strong people what they wish to believe, forcing that to be real."

5. The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe (276 pages) Neil Gaiman called this book the greatest fantasy of the past century, and I'm sort of wondering what he was thinking. Particularly because, as Neil Gaiman, he must have read his own books.

A Torturer is expelled from his order because he mercy killed a woman he fell in love with. And that's pretty much it. The book is beautifully written, creates a fascinatingly bizarre, original, complex, and dark world, but it is confusingly written with awkward vocabulary and the details bog the story down, never allowing the characters to become real or interesting. The worst thing is that it's just plain boring. Potential is there, but it's just not worth it. Very disappointing. Grade: C

2012 Page Count: 2075


Book #6: From the City, From the Plough by Alexander Baron

Genre: War
Number of Pages: 196

This book is written as fiction, but it based on the real life experiences of writer Alexander Baron during World War II, and is quite unflinching in its portrayal of some of the horrors of war, including a scene in which a character is flattened by a tank and a character who is blinded in action.

The way the characters behaved, both off and on the battlefield was quite realistic, and I noticed that character got killed off quite ruthlessly, and usually very quickly, and the narrative would quickly move on to the next event, rather than lingering over it. Indeed, the book does comment at one point that the men in the war were losing so many close friends that they had to force themselves to forget about them, as though they had died many years ago.

Once again, I definitely recommend this book – just don’t expect a happy ending, because in war there never is one.

Next book: Moby Dick (Herman Melville)
Hufflepuff pride

Books 1 - 4

This is my first time doing a reading challenge and my first post here. My goal this year is to read 60 books and hopefully I'll pass it! So far I've read 4 books, so I'm a little behind, but I should be picking it up soon.

1. The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney - This is the first book in the Mockingbirds series and it was a really good debut novel. Themis Academy is just like any high stakes boarding prep school with an excellent student body, but a school administration that does nothing to protect its students. When Alex Patrick is date raped by a fellow student and she feels that Themis will do nothing, she turns to student vigilante force, The Mockingbirds, to take her case on. Alex must battle through what really happened that night and deal with the students reactions on top of a possible new romance. I really liked this book. This started my current trend of reading boarding school books and it did not disappoint. But I what I liked about the book was that it seemed realistic. The past few years has seen this huge rise in the media focusing on student bullying and the effects that it has on students. Seeing a novel about a group of students deciding to stand up for themselves when their administration does nothing, was refreshing. I would recommend it simply because the sequel just gets better. Favorite Quote: "That's the Themis way." Rating: 4/5

2. The Rivals by Daisy Whitney - This is the new sequel to The Mockingbirds and it was really good. To me, it was better than the first one. Picking up right at the start of the new school year for Alex, it doesn’t take long for Alex and the rest of the Mockingbird board to get involved in a new case. Only this time, the case isn’t so simple. It’s about an alleged cheating ring that supposedly has a large group of students drawn in. As the newly elected leader, Alex has to figure out who exactly is telling the truth. And she still has to deal with the aftermath of her date-rape case, a new romance, and the regular senior year of high school drama. This book had more mystery and suspense and that definitely kept me interested. Also a recommended book. Favorite Quote: "I can take my past and declare it mine... I can make a choice to be stronger for it." Rating: 4.5/5

3. I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter - First book in the Gallagher Girls series. Cammie Morgan goes to the Gallagher Academy that has a few differences from a regular boarding school. The main difference being that it's a school that trains young women to amazing spies. The only thing missing from this semi-regular school experience are boys. One day, when Cammie is out on a practice field mission, she is spotted by a boy from town, Josh. This is completely unheard of for Cammie since she is known as the Chameleon - no one ever notices her because she just blends in. And because she's never been noticed before - much less by a boy - Cammie decides with the help of her friends to take a chance and see out this budding relationship. Overall, I think the book was just ok. Nothing too memorable but nothing overly horrible. One review that I read was that the book seemed like a screenplay and that it would translate well on screen because nothing important would be left out and the humor is situational. Good point. I still want to read the next book, so it did keep my attention. Favorite Quote: "The time for crying with your girlfriends about a broken heart is over chocolate ice cream and chick flicks—not stun guns and bulletproof vests.”
Rating: 3.5/5

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - My 4th boarding school book! It doesn't look like this trend is ending any time soon. But if they can be as good as this one, it's worth it. Anna Oliphant is a senior sent away in her senior year of high school to Paris by her dad to study. As a new student in a new country, Anna simply wants to get back home where things are comfortable with her best friend Bridgette and kind-of-maybe-boyfriend Toph. Luckily, she meets next door neighbor Meredith and becomes friends right away. With Meredith, Anna also gains a new set of friends and things are starting to look up! There's St. Clair, the new friend with the amazing hair and adorable English accent who could just be something more. If only he didn't have a girlfriend already. And if Meredith didn't like him. And if Toph wasn't waiting. Just a few things standing in the way of that relationship! But as the year goes on, maybe something can actually happen between them. I really liked this book! I'm not really sure what it was, but all around, I just enjoyed it. Totally worth the read!  Favorite Quote: “Is it possible for home to be a person and not a place?” Rating: 4/5

Happy Reading!

Grave Witch

Grave Witch
by Kalayna Price

I checked this book out from the library because Felicia Day advertised a Vaginal Fantasy book club on google plus. I love Felicia Day and I do enjoy paramortal romance novels so I figured I would give it a shot. The book was actually really good and for being "vaginal fantasy" I thought the sex was kept to a minimum which I personally appreciated. This is probably the review I am taking the most time writing but that is only because I have the bookclub video on in the background and its hard to type when I am laughing so hard. http://thisfeliciaday.tumblr.com/ is where I had to go to find the video after the fact Its pretty funny. I don't know that I will read all of the books and keep up with Felicia Day since I have a bunch of other books I want to read but its a good place to get some ideas.

OK back to the book!

Typical plot line. Female lead character, flat broke, magic user/private investigator, ends up in mortal danger in the line of duty, falls in love/into bed with man that id different species, often multiple men not always at the same time....

Alex is a good female lead and while the plot is predictible its a formula that works for a reason. It was a VERY fast read for me tonight and I just couldn't put it down. I might read more in this series but I don't need to devour the whole series right now.