Friday, February 28, 2014

February - This Month in Reading

At the end of January, I wrote that I wanted to read four books in total in February - and I managed to exceed that. I read 6 books total, and 3 of those were for challenges - hooray! I did get "off-challenge" a bit, which was unintended, but what can I say, it's the nature of being a bookworm. :)

For March, I would like to read at least 6 books, and I would very much like at least 2 of these books to be specifically for the TBR Pile Challenge. I have a couple books already in the queue that aren't specifically challenge related, but with 31 days, I should be able to manage some challenge reading as well.

What do you have planned for your March reading?

Book Blogger Hop

Hello everyone, welcome to my blog!

This week's question:

Have you stopped accepting books from either authors or publishers to try to catch up? If not, do you think you would ever do that?

My response:

This hasn't actually happened to me yet! Since I started this blog (in 2011, obviously) I've only been contacted by authors to review books twice, and I can't say I have ever been contacted specifically by publishers to request reviews. Both times I was contacted by authors I happily accepted - that was very exciting for me. 

If this did become an issue, I would definitely stop accepting books. As it is now, my physical TBR pile can cause me a lot of guilt if I look at it too much, but no one is specifically waiting for any of the reviews. If I had a box of books or a queue of ebooks that an author and/or a publisher had sent me, and I knew they were waiting for my reviews to be published, I'd feel awful if I wasn't able to review them promptly.

I would probably also stop accepting books if I were getting a lot of books in genres I am not overly interested in, so that other people who might have more of an interest would have a better chance of being able to review them. I realize I'm not the target market for many genres, and I would rather read books I have an interest in than give a stilted review of a book I wouldn't normally read on my own. 

Have you had to stop accepting books for review?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

In the tradition of wonderfully lengthy subtitles occasionally found in literature, I'd like to subtitle this review "OR How A Lazy English Major Finally Finished One Of The Most Cherished Works Of British Literature."

Now I can finally stop feeling like a literary poseur for seeing multiple film versions of this book but never reading the book. I confess that the middle third of this book kind of dragged for me; and frankly Mrs. Bennet drove me crazy. I can't figure out why Mr. Bennet, who seems so much more sensible, married such a ditz. But the last third really kicked into gear and had me turning pages, even though I knew how the story turned out. So ultimately I closed the book feeling satisfied, and partially understanding why people reread this book multiple times.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Drowning Barbie - Frederick Ramsay

This is the latest Ike Schwartz mystery, and I enjoyed the return in setting to Picketsville. The first page of the first chapter had me laughing and it contained a fantastically accurate description of Las Vegas. After all these books ( I believe this is number 9) I feel like I know the main characters as people, and I really like them. So much so that one of the events in chapter one had me grinning from ear to ear while I was reading.

This lighthearted beginning was a welcome change from the more serious, sad subject matter of the book's main story, which of course is to be expected of a murder mystery. I think the author does a nice job of moving between a very disturbing subject and some lighthearted material, so that overall the book's darker portions are balanced well. There was some ground laid in this book that I am sure will pay off in future books, and I look forward to seeing how that happens. The creepy cover is great, and the title works on many levels. Another enjoyable book in one of my favorite book series. If you're a mystery fan, you'll love Ike Schwartz and the entire cast, so be sure to check these books out! Highly recommended.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that I noticed very few typos in this book - this is unfortunately not the norm these days, so kudos to Poisoned Pen Press for doing such a great job!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blood Orange Soda - James Michael Larranaga

This book caught my eye on NetGalley for many reasons, but one major reason was that it's set in St. Cloud, Minnesota. I've actually visited St. Cloud, a long time ago when I knew someone who lived there at the time, and although I don't remember it well it makes an interesting setting for this book, as in my mind it's jarring to contrast the normal smallish town world of St. Cloud with a larger vampire story. I liked the way the author set up the story, grounding it in reality so that it didn't seem ridiculously far-fetched. The author set up an altered reality and I felt like he supported it with details so that it felt very real.

Yes, there are a lot of YA vampire novels out there these days, but this one was surprisingly realistic - if that makes sense. I'm not a teenager and I haven't been one for a while, but I thought the author really captured a teenager's voice. This is hard to do; many authors seem to "dumb down" or go too far into ridiculous slang and that type of thing, but this author never did. It helped me relate to and like the main character quite a bit, and it ensured the story didn't fall into predictability. Another thing I liked was that everything wasn't set up as a black/white good guys/bad guys simple story; many of the characters had complex motivations for their actions.

One thing I have to mention is that even for an uncorrected proof ARC, this was chockablock typos and other errors. One typo I've been seeing more and more lately is having quotation marks inside a quote where they don't belong. This one also had a lot of spelling errors, and the dates it cited were off. I'm sure this will all come out in the wash once it's corrected, but man it makes me want to try to get hired as a proofreader.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Scone Island - Frederick Ramsay

Somehow I managed to miss this Ike Schwartz mystery when it was released in 2012 - I thought I was checking for new releases regularly, but apparently not. Luckily I figured it all out and now I'm only one book behind (I think a new one was released last week). Longtime readers know that I have a deep affection for Ike Schwartz since I first stumbled on him in a serendipitous library catalog coincidence back in 2011. This book didn't sway my affection at all; I'm still a big fan and I'm still eager to see what happens next to Ike and the whole Picketsville crew. Each book is different enough that it's not like reading the same story over and over in a repeated formula; this book had elements of a murder mystery, a spy novel, and generally thriller-like moments for good measure, with a healthy dose of a classic bickering couple. Ike is a great character and I enjoy the supporting cast. I'm looking forward to reading the next book too, although it might have to wait until I clear a few more books from the pile.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Stray - Monica Hesse

You know how a lot of book blogs talk about all the books showing up in their mailboxes on a regular basis? I haven't had that "problem," since for the past couple years my main source of books has been the Library Sale shelves and the remains of my crazy Borders last days haul, which make up the bulk of my physical TBR pile. As I have so many books on hand, I rarely order books online outside of Yuletide gift giving, and therefore rarely receive books by mail.

This changed at the end of 2013, when Monica Hesse, who writes for the Washington Post and also hosts fun weekly live chats each Thursday afternoon on the Post website, had a giveaway contest for copies of her first book, and I won a copy! Very exciting!! It was doubly exciting because this book is (inexplicably) published only in the UK right now, so I can't just nip out to the shops* and pick up a copy. So it was really fun to have this book show up in my mailbox.

I really enjoyed Stray. I started it late yesterday afternoon and would have finished it in one sitting if life hadn't intervened, as it kept me turning pages. Some of the philosophical questions raised are things I have often thought about, both for reasons having to do with my own life/childhood circumstances and more general sociological musings. The characters' motivations weren't always completely clear, which was a good thing; it seemed like everyone had complicated reasons for their actions. One character scared me in an existential way. The sequel, Burn, was released in the UK this week, and I just ordered it on - can't wait to see what happens next!

Whether or not you've read the book yet, check out the publisher's website, where you can read more about the book and create your own Path name - mine's Adhc.

*Please imagine this being said in a crummy fake British accent for maximum entertainment purposes

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Tin Drum - Günter Grass

This book slithered off the TBR pile and infected my thoughts. Infected is kind of a negative word, but all the alternatives I come up with have a negative connotation as well - invaded, infested, insinuated, infiltrated. This shouldn't suggest that I disliked the book; while parts of it were very difficult to read, the context in which the book takes place makes it all make more sense than it probably should. I guess what I mean by infected is that I find myself seeing things around me and comparing them to places and situations in the book, which is ridiculous considering my daily life is nothing like the world of this book. The voice of the narrator is one that is going to live in my mind in an active way for a while.

This is another book I wish I had read in a classroom setting, as it would be interesting to discuss so many aspects of this book. I suspect I could write hundreds of papers about this book, and I'm sure if I went Googling I could find quite a bit of analysis, as the world has had 50 years to digest it. A difficult book to be sure, but recommended.

I must note that this book is yet another I picked up for a song at the Borders Last Days sales. It has a new translation, and although I hadn't read the original translation and therefore can't compare them, I must say that the translation flowed smoothly and made for wonderful reading.