Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is an event brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

Note: I very rarely do not finish a book once I’ve started it. This list is more things that will keep me from picking up a book in the first place, lessen my enjoyment of it, and/or result in me giving the story a lower rating.

(in no particular order)

1. Violence/Gore

I tend to be a rather sensitive/squeamish person, and don’t do well with violence or blood and gore. This keeps me from reading darker mysteries or books with more traditional portrayals or vampires, werewolves, etc.

2. Instant Love

As this trend grew, so did my dislike for it. While sometimes I can still stand it, especially when the relationship does not last for one reason or another, for the most part I stay away from these books.

3. Terminal Illness/Death Centric

More often than not, reading is a way for me to escape from the real world, and sad reads, especially those featuring terminal illnesses or death, are not what I’m looking for. It doesn’t mean I never read them, just that I have to be in the right mood when I do.

4. My Fears are Featured

Feel free to call me a scaredy-cat, but if one (or more) of my three biggest fears (sharks, snakes, and/or spiders) is featured in a book, I have a hard time getting through it. Oh, and don’t ask me how I ever made it through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – book or movie – because I do not know. Much less how I did it multiple times.

5. Preachy Under/Overtones

I believe what I believe based on personal experiences and knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years. I do not need anyone, especially not the a fiction writer, telling me what to believe. I don’t care what characters believe, so long as the writer does not try to push the characters’ and/or their own beliefs on me.

6. Unhealthy Relationships

I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, but all relationships. Guys stalking their love interest and it being called romantic, girls who go on about how they’ll die if their love interest breaks up with them because that’s the most important thing in their life, best friends who are never shown being and acting like friends but for some reason are said to be friends, abusive and/or negligent parents that never feature in the story, etc. All of it bugs me. If it has a reason to be in a story (ie a story about child abuse), okay, I can deal with it, but when it’s because the writer puts it in there as though it’s ‘normal’ and other characters are okay with it, no thank you.

7. Pop Culture/Celebrity Influences

This isn’t that big of a deal, but I’m including it on this list because a)I feel like it can really date a book, and b)sometimes I have no idea what the writer is talking about and I feel so out of the loop. I like it a lot better when they make up and include references to made up bands, celebrities, etc.

8. Nearly Pornographic Sex Scenes

Let me preface this by saying that I do not mind sex scenes in books. But when the writer starts recounting every single thing the characters do in bed, including when it’s non-essential to the story and it just keeps going and going and I feel like I’m reading porn, that is not okay. It is okay to ‘fade to black’ or whatever you want to call it, I don’t need to know all the characters’ fetishes, pleasure spots, etc.

9. “And they all lived happily ever after…” Endings

While I said above that I like to read to escape from reality, that does not mean I want everyone to be living happy, perfect lives when I close the book. You can kill off a character if you want, you can even leave the main character single and still looking for love at the end, and we don’t need an epilogue that explains everyone’s happy life ten years down the line. As long as there’s some sort of conclusion that’s not tied up neatly in a bow with everyone alive, happy, and/or unchanged, I’m usually happy.

10. Misleading Summaries

I choose the books I do because of interesting titles and summaries, not one or the other, and most certainly not the cover. If a summary says the story is going to be about a depressed teenager, I expect to read about a depressed teenager. If it says there are going to be pirates, I expect to see pirates. If it says the story is about a normal girl trying to juggle college, being there for a distressed best friend, and starting a new relationship, I don’t expect it to turn into a war between vampires and werewolves. And while that’s an extreme example, I’m also talking about the less extreme.

And I feel like I may have been a bit harsher in my explanations than I intended, but writing about all these at once kinda got my blood going a little bit.

Also, If I included anything that’s included/happens in your favorite books, please don’t feel offended! This just has to do with my personal preferences, and a lot of the time I make exceptions – just see #4 😉

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy by Tao Lin
Published by Melville House Genres: Poetry
Source: Purchased
five-stars

Book: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
Author: Tao Lin
Publisher: Melville House
Type: Poetry
Rating: 5 stars

Acquired: Purchased

Official Synopsis: In Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy a twenty–three–year–old person attempts to explain to himself the possible origins, ends, and cures of anger, worry, despair, obsession, and confusion, while concurrently experiencing those things in various contexts including a romantic relationship, a book of poetry, and the arbitrary nature of the universe.

My Thoughts: I picked up a copy of this book at the Brooklyn Book Festival after hearing my friend Hannah talking about Tao Lin’s work both to me and a few people at the Melville House booth. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect; I’ve never been much of a poetry fan, although there are a few exceptions. Tao Lin’s Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is now one of them.

I have read this book, Lin’s second published collection of poetry (I have yet to read the first), twice now. The first time I read it through, I took my time, trying to let myself absorb each poem and really let them sink in. This was incredibly difficult, because I was hooked from the very first poem (i will learn how to love a person and then i will teach you and then we will know), and wanted to read the rest right then and there. I managed to stop myself, though, and allowed myself to take my time in reading them so that it took me a week to finish the collection. I didn’t bother taking my time with the second reading, and it gave me a different experience, but the end result was the same: I want to read more of Lin’s work.

The very first thought I had, before I even started reading the poems, was to wonder why nothing was capitalized. Later on, I saw that there were some instances where there was proper capitalization and use of punctuation, but for the most part, there wasn’t any. By the time I was less than halfway through the first poem, I realized the lack of capitalization and punctuation helped to give something more to his poems.

Lin’s poems, for the most part, are written as stream of consciousness, and it can sometimes seem like he’s going off in a different direction, but he still makes it work so well together. There are other poems in this collection about hamsters, but even without a Literature teacher standing in the front of the room, telling you that a tree is not always a tree, or whatever example they want to give you, you know the poems are about more than just hamsters. So while you’re remembering that, also remember not to judge this book by it’s pink cover and drawing of a hamster.

Final Words: I recommend this collection of poems to anyone who has ever thought poetry is not for them because of the more traditional poems read for school assignments, or the stuffiness associated with this form of writing. Lin’s writing is nothing like that, and it makes me feel more people would realize they can have an appreciation for poetry if they can just find the right poets. For helping me with that, I wish I could give this book 10 stars.

five-stars
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Published by Random House Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Middle Grade, Steampunk
Source: Purchased
five-stars

A note before I begin this review: I started reading the His Dark Materials trilogy before I started this blog, and read six books I had been waiting for in between The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife, so I did not write down many notes or thoughts along the way like I plan on doing with the books I review in the future, which is why I’m making this one review rather than three.

His Dark Materials trilogy

Series: His Dark Materials
Books: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass
Author: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Random House
Type: Fiction
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure, Steampunk
Rating: 5 stars

Acquired: Purchased

My Synopsis: His Dark Materials is a trilogy that starts out being about a girl named Lyra Belacqua who lives in a world somewhat like our own, but where every person has a creature known as a daemon connected to them. It hurts to go too far from one’s daemon, and one’s fate is linked to that of their daemon. At the beginning of The Golden Compass, Lyra is an orphan living in Oxford’s Jordan College whose only known relative is her uncle, Lord Asriel, and her best friend a servant boy named Roger. As the story progresses, she is thrust into a world of mystery and intrigue thanks to the stories of a group of kidnappers known as the ‘Gobblers,’ something called Dust, and a device called an alethiometer.

The second installment, The Subtle Knife, introduces Will Parry, a young boy who lives with his mentally ill mother in our world, dreaming of the day he’ll find his father who disappeared when Will was a baby. His life has just undergone a drastic change, there are scary men looking for something his mother has, and he does everything he can to protect his mother and disappear with the leather writing case. His need to hide leads him to finding a window into another seemingly empty world where he meets Lyra and together they try to find out more about Dust (known in our world as Shadows) and search for Will’s father.

The Amber Spyglass finds Lyra and Will separated – Lyra being held hostage and kept in a poisoned sleep by the formidable Mrs. Coulter, and Will in the company of angels telling him to go help Lord Asriel with his plans, but all Will wants to do is find Lyra. But there are others who want to find Lyra too. Dr. Mary Malone, a physicist specializing in Dark Matter whom Lyra met in our world, has found her way through the same window Will did when he was on the run thanks to the Shadows which have told her she must find both Lyra and Will. Lord Asriel, knowing she is important to the war he is waging, wants to find Lyra to have her on his side, and a sect of his enemies, the Consistorial Court of Discipline, is doing the same. Also looking for Lyra is her friend Iorek Byrnison who has reclaimed his rightful place as king of the armored bears.

My Thoughts: I first heard about His Dark Materials back in the early 2000’s and unfortunately never read it. Back then I was looking for more fantasy books that could hold my interest and were somewhat similar to Harry Potter. What held me back, however, was the backlash it received from religious critics. At the time I was a good little Catholic school girl, and already felt guilty for reading Harry Potter even though I knew they were wrong about Harry Potter being linked to Satanism, and I ultimately couldn’t get past it. Even when the movie adaptation of The Golden Compass was released in 2007 and I had read even more books that had religious critics circling them (including Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code), I still could not pick up the books. Thankfully, at the encouragement of a friend who reads similar books to myself, and has introduced me to some incredible books, I finally decided to start reading them.

Before going any further, I would like to say that there only three things that bothered me about this series, and they didn’t have anything to do with the way religion was portrayed, though I do understand why it ruffled some people’s feathers. For me, the most upsetting parts of the series as a whole were when a)one of the main characters was injured in a fight and would not stop bleeding for chapters on end, b)a rabbit was seemingly killed – both of which happened in The Subtle Knife – and c)when two characters were having an intense fight in The Golden Compass. I tend to be rather sensitive to things like that, more so when I’m reading or someone is describing things to me, and those scenes really got to me where I had to stop reading for a bit and catch my breath each time. There were other moments of violence and death, but none as bothersome as those in regards to my comfort.

With that said, what drew me in right from the start was introductory page to The Golden Compass wherein it states, “The first volume is set in a universe like ours, but different in many ways. The second volume is set in the universe we know. The third volume will move between the universes.” Maybe I’m easy to impress or please, but there was just something about being told straight up, and in such a simple way, ‘this is what’s going to happen’ that made me that more eager to turn the pages.

Read more…

five-stars

Musing Mondays is an event brought to you by Should Be Reading.

This week’s musing asks…

What do you do when life gets in the way, and you just don’t have much time to read? Do you complain? Do you accept it? Do you do everything in your power to make time to read? Share your thoughts!

My Musing

It actually depends on what is going on in my life at the time. Sometimes I’ll complain, sometimes I won’t even realize until the next time I do finally pick up a book, and other times I read as much as I can – even if it’s not even an entire page a day.

This year, based on the amount of books I’ve read (I think I’m at 218 now including rereads…), it wouldn’t really seem like life has gotten in the way of my reading to other people, but it has. And it will again soon – NaNoWriMo, I’m looking at you! I’m trying to prepare for it in advance, but it hasn’t ever really worked out in the past. Hopefully, though, things will be different this year now that I have this blog and am very into reading others’ reviews and posting my own content. We shall see!

Picture Me by Lori Weber
Published by James Lorimer & Company Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Source: NetGalley
two-stars

Picture Me

Book: Picture Me
Author: Lori Weber
Publisher: James Lorimer & Company
Type: Fiction
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 2 stars

Acquired: from NetGalley

Official Synopsis: When a well-meaning English teacher has overweight student Krista read aloud a poem about body image titled “Barbie Doll” in class, she ignites a simmering bullying event based on Krista’s appearance. Krista’s best friend, and witness to the event, Tessa, is suspended for fighting to defend her friend. The girl who bullies Krista seems unaffected by the incident at school and more concerned with what an older guy thinks of her. But as the three characters’ paths intersect, their inner lives are revealed. Each emerges as a much more complicated individual than their simple bully, target, and witness labels.

My Thoughts: As a victim of bullying (though thankfully not as severe as it could have been and is/was for many people), and someone who has been overweight most of her life, stories about bullying and body image are very important to me. Reading the description, I wanted to know more about Krista, Tessa, and even the bully (Chelsea). Unfortunately, this story was nothing like what I expected to read.

The story opens up well enough, establishing Tessa as Krista’s best friend and how she’s worried about Krista because of a poem’s (Barbie Girl, found here) final stanza, which their teacher, Ms. Bane, has asked her to read in front of the entire class – a stanza which sums up how a woman changes her looks based on others’ opinions and the only ‘happy ending’ for any woman is death. From there we see students laughing and mocking Krista. In the fourth chapter, things get worse for Krista when she finds a Photoshopped picture of herself looking like a monster taped to her locker with the words “Krista, the Goodyear Barbie” written underneath. From there, things go downhill. Some moments prior to that, even, served as a warning.

Read more…

two-stars

Banned Books WeekBanned Books Week is such an important topic, especially in today’s day and age, that I feel like it should have at least a whole month dedicated to it, not just a week. It also looks like some people agree with me seeing as I’ve seen disagreements in terms of the dates. When I was at the Brooklyn Book Festival last Sunday, a few people said it was the beginning of Banned Books Week, and yet Epic Reads is holding a Banned Books Week challenge from September 30-October 6.

This morning I started looking through a bunch of different lists of banned/challenged books to see just how many of them I’ve read, and it turns out I’ve read a fair amount. Although I wish my ‘read’ list is longer, I’ve also realized how lucky I’ve been when it comes to reading compared to others.

My parents never told me ‘no’ when it came to books growing up. They simply wanted me, and my brother, to read, because they knew how important it was and were sorry that they didn’t like it more when they young. My mom, in fact, doesn’t read. She hated it so much when she was in school, that the only books she looks at now are cookbooks. Yet she made sure to read to me every night before bed, and took me to my local library for story time when I couldn’t read on my own. My dad doesn’t read much either (and when he does, he reads very slowly), but there were some books he recommended to me when I was younger that he had enjoyed, and in fact I’ve only managed to read a few of them within the last few years. That isn’t to say they weren’t concerned with some of the books I picked out, because they were, but they trusted my judgement.

I think that is so important, trusting your children enough to let them know you’re concerned, but still let them read the books they want.

All right, enough talking. Here’s my (assuredly incomplete) ‘read’ list.

Read more…

Friday Finds

Friday Finds is an event brought to you by Should Be Reading.

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

I actually found quite a bit of books this week thanks to the Brooklyn Book Festival (as I’ve said before), a book sale at my local library, and my usual ways of finding books. So while today’s post will be something of a long one, future Friday Finds posts won’t be – except on special occasions.

Read more…

Katie, Kit, and Cousin TomThe first book I “learned” to read was Katie, Kit & Cousin Tom from Tomie dePaola’s Kitten Kids series. I have to put the word learned in quotes because I didn’t so much learn to read it as I did memorize it and quote it back to my parents – while holding the book in my hands. My parents, of course, knew I was only quoting it, and yet they didn’t say anything until much later – for which I am very grateful.

For many years, Katie, Kit & Cousin Tom was one of the books I made my parents read to me every night before bed, sometimes even more than once. Most likely because it reminded me of my relationship with my older brother at the time. He was nowhere near as bad as Cousin Tom, acting like a typical playground bully, and we did get along fairly well for siblings, but there were times when he either didn’t want me doing things with him, or wanted me to stop playing with whatever it was I was playing with so that he could have a turn before I was finished. *sigh* The joys of youth when problems that seemed so big back then can now be looked on with a smile and shake of the head.

Now, as for the reason why I’m still (and most likely always will be) grateful to my parents for not pointing out that they knew I had only memorized Katie, Kit & Cousin Tom when I told them I could read it: to look at me now and see how much I enjoy reading, and how quickly and totally I devour books, you would think it was always that way. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. When my kindergarten class started learning how to read, I was absolutely horrible at it and would get so flustered when it was my turn to read – not to mention the terrible report cards I brought home – that at times it seemed like reading would never be anything more to me than a chore. But I was lucky. My parents worked at it with me outside of school, always being patient, and within the first couple of weeks of first grade, I was moved up into the faster reading group – and thus began my love of reading!

WWW Wednesdays is an event brought to you by Should Be Reading.

Whew, I found this with less than two hours to go before it’s Thursday!

What are you currently reading? Right now I am about halfway done with the second installment of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials: The Subtle Knife. I am also working my way through Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, a collection of Tao Lin’s poetry – albeit rather slowly so as to really absorb his poems.

What did you recently finish reading? Early Sunday morning I finished reading Peter Pan and Wendy by J.M. Barrie for the very first time.

What do you think you’ll read next? I’m really enjoying the His Dark Materials trilogy and can’t wait to see how it will end, so my next read will definitely be the conclusion, The Amber Spyglass. After that I’m debating between Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld or The Crowded Kingdom by Louella Dizon San Juan, a fantasy novel I picked up Sunday at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

What is there to say about the 2013 Lit Crawl Manhattan and Brooklyn Book Festival? For a reader like me, a lot. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum, though!

Let’s start with the Lit Crawl. I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a drinker, so the idea of a pub crawl ordinarily wouldn’t cross my radar. But when you make it about reading and writing? I’m in!

I went with my friend Hannah (who, coincidentally, inspired me to start this blog) and two of her friends to both events, but for the Lit Crawl, we had to do some planning first. There were at least seven options for each of the night’s three phases, but even so it went really well.

For the first phase of the night, we went to “Electric Literature and the Texas Book Festival present Literary Taboo,” where everyone was divided into two teams. Hearing people shout out names of books and authors based on some not-so-easy clues was amazing. Though I didn’t get up there to call out clues myself, I was surprised at the number of books and authors I recognized – as well as the ones I didn’t! For me it only strengthened the fact that I know I have a lot more reading to do, which is part of what I’m hoping this blog will help me accomplish.

After the game of taboo came to an end, we went onto the second phase which wasn’t for the readers inside us but the writers – “Prompt. Write. Share. Rinse. Repeat. Write-In with Gotham Writers’ Workshop.”

The third phase we chose, unfortunately, didn’t have as much to do with reading (or writing) as it was us standing around with complimentary cups of beers and talking amongst ourselves. However, “Beer and Banned Books with Out of Print” did introduce this reader to their online store of banned book inspired products. I may just have to set aside some of my book money for one of their t-shirts. Or maybe a pouch….

Now, on to the Brooklyn Book Festival! Tents with 210 stands of book vendors… are you kidding me? For real? I honestly could not get over that, even when I was there. So many books, so little time!

Hannah and I, however, were lucky and got there early enough to not only attend a panel of interest to the two of us- “Celebrate Banned Books Week!” with authors Francesca Lia Block, Lauren Myracle, and David Levithan (pictured above) – but also meet and get autographs from some of our favorite authors including two of the aforementioned, Meg Cabot, and Tao Lin, AND stop by almost every single one of the book vendors. There were a few we skipped because they weren’t of interest to us, but, come on, I still came home with eighteen books for myself, and a few more I bought as gifts!

The “Celebrate Banned Books Week!” panel was particularly interesting in and of itself. Even without the promise of meeting the authors after the fact, it was well worth it. We got to hear advice the authors had for other writers, how they handle knowing their books are banned, and what they do about it. Lauren Myracle shared a story of a scared father asking her for help on how to talk to and connect with his daughter, David Levithan told us how parents use his book Boy Meets Boy to let their children know it’s okay to talk to them about their sexuality, and Francesca Lia Block brought up that some of her older works are only now being banned after being on the shelves for decades. It gave this particular reader a lot to think about as I start this blog with very little previous experience reviewing books.

Now I’m off, but not before I make a mental note to attend both events again next year!

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