New Year’s Eve Read-a-Thon

Last night I was feeling kind of down because I didn’t have any plans for New Year’s. I got on Twitter to check out my fellow bloggers tweets and found out that Jenn from The Picky Girl was doing a New Year’s Eve Read-a-Thon with a few other fellow bloggers. I believe that Becky from One Literature Nut is hosting the event and Heidenkind from Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books is the other organizer.

Anyhow, I asked Jenn if I could join in and she welcomed me into the event. There are a few books that I wanted to hit on today now that I DO have New Year’s plans with these lovely people.

Here they are:
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
--I actually finished this book earlier today. I had only 5% left to go on my Kindle and I was determined to hit ,*sigh*, 20 books read this year.

The Disappearing Spoon and other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the Periodic Table of Elements by Sam Kean
--I am currently reading this and just by the introduction know I’m going to enjoy it. It starts off talking about laxatives containing mercury! Fantastic! I’m in!

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files, Book #3)
--I need to work on my TBR shelf. It sits at 237 right now and this has been sitting on my shelf for some time. The Dresden Files are fun and quick reads, and I’m definitely in need of a little fun in my reading life right now.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
--Oh yes, this poorly neglected book on my shelf has been sitting there for a year without me picking it up. Lydia from The Literary Lollipop started a read-a-long last year and guess what….we all put it down for an entire year. We’re trying to get back into it right now. We’ll see how it goes. It’s a fantastic book so far. I plan to pick it up at some point this evening.

In all, 2011 was an abysmal reading year for me. I didn’t like most of what I read, and felt pretty unsatisfied every time I finished a book. In fact, it sounds like a lot of people had mediocre reading years and a mediocre 2011, too.

My favorite book of the year was probably On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan. He is simply an amazing author. My least favorite books of the year were probably Tinkers by Paul Harding and The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie. City & the City by China Mieville is probably third in this Year of Blah. Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to read these books at the time I read them. I can’t really say what it was that made me dislike them as much as I did.

As for goals for 2012? Well, I was just talking to Fiona from The Book Coop and I decided that I would try to finish some other poor, neglected books that I started and haven’t finished:

  • Finding Chief Kamiakin by Richard D. Scheuerman – I was enjoying this book when my life very suddenly and drastically changed. I put it down and never picked it back up.
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks – I was also enjoying this book and all of a sudden didn’t feel like reading it anymore so I put it down.
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell – OK…I don’t know why I put this book down. I was enjoying it immensely. Mr. Thornton, I love you. I actually think I put it down because I was ruining my copy in my bag that I carry on the train. I can’t stand books that don’t look pristine!
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis – I’ve read two of the books. I felt “meh” about them, but I want to finish the series to see if they get better. Maybe I’ll just try for one or two of the books in 2012.
I hope that everyone has a wonderful 2012. This past year has seemed to be a challenging one for a lot of people. I feel your pain if this has been a challenging year for you. It’s definitely been one for me, but I am better for it and happier. I still have days where I struggle, but overall I think my life has changed for the better and brighter days are ahead. I hope that all of you feel that way too. Without struggle, we don’t grow so I hope to keep that in mind for the upcoming year.

I also hope that everyone has a fantastic 2012 reading year! Good luck and keep me updated on what you’re reading! I love to know about new (and old) books!

Being Bookish…

During the last year, I’m not sure I could say that I’ve actually been bookish, but I’ve been realizing over the past few weeks how much I enjoy my bookish friends. There are several bloggers I’ve kept in touch with since I’ve more or less put blogging on the back burner, and it’s these people that keep me going.

Let’s face it. New Mexico is not a book-loving state. There are a few bookish people I know here, but the fact that the state capital has only a few small independent bookstores reinforces that people in this state don’t really read. So what has kept me going? For one, my blogging friends that I keep in touch with either over email, Google+, or Google Talk. None of them act like I’m crazy for loving books and wanting to delve into a story or character. It’s been my outlet during a rather abysmal year of reading for me. I’ve been through some really big life changes this year (new job, moving back to the state where I grew up, etc.), and in the process I lost the book club that I used to go to. I really miss it. I miss sitting around the table with my friends and talking about how filthy Jack Reacher is and how despite that, women still love him. I miss being an active blogger where I made many bookish friends and no longer can keep up with them.

However, things have not been all bad. I still talk to some of my blogging friends like I’ve mentioned above, but I’ve also made some new bookish friends at work. My work, *gasp*, even has a book club! It has been a life saver. They are the only people I talk face to face with about books and without them I think my life would be less full. I like that we can complain about some of the books we’ve read together and laugh about some of the situations characters we’ve read about have been in. I like the deep discussions we’ve gotten in about some of the books we’ve read, and I like ribbing them for ruining my TBR list (just today my coworker from the UK introduced me to the Folio Society—I am still shaking my fist at him for mentioning those beautiful books).

Even though I don’t have as much time to read now, I still have friends that view me as bookish and don’t make me feel bad about how little I’ve read this year (I don’t even think I’m going to break 21 books for the year). I feel so thankful for these people who understand a part of me that most people don’t understand. It makes me feel a little bit normal and a lot bit loved. I love all these people’s passion for reading and books, and I hope that I continue to find people that are that passionate about reading but without being book snobs (just today my coworker told me he bought Cicero and I told him I wanted to get back to The Dresden Files. He didn’t blink an eye. I loved that).

I am thankful for all my bookish friends and I just wanted everyone to know that even though this has been a year of ups and downs, you all have made it so much easier to get through with our little escapist conversations about kava juice drinking, Mr. Thornton (*sigh*), and book sniffing. I love you all, and I hope to continue to keep in touch with the blogging community (and get back to blogging). Thank you all so much for sending me cards and little presents over this year to show me that you have thought about me. You guys are all amazing and I feel lucky to have all these great bookish friends.

Soulless–Gail Carriger

Book: Soulless
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Hachette Book Group
Kindle Format (no pages)
My Rating:
3 stars

Alexia Tarabotti is a preternatural—that is, she is soulless and has the effect of taking away supernatural powers from beings like vampires and werewolves. When a newly turned vampire attacks her, Alexia accidentally kills him with her silver tipped parasol. The newly turned vampire turns out to be part of a trend, and Alexia decides to figure out just why new werewolves and vampires have been running rampant throughout the city and turning up dead shortly thereafter.

Somehow, I got the itch to start blogging again while reading Soulless. It’s been about six months since I posted my last review, but here I am posting about a book I felt lukewarm about. Soulless is definitely a fun read, but there is not much to it. I purchased it as a Kindle Deal of the Day and while I think it was worth the $1.99, I wasn’t wowed by it. Alexia is an extremely likeable character which made the book worth reading, but it took about 2/3 of the way through the book for me to really begin enjoy reading it.

The beginning of the book focused too much on the obvious love interest between Alexia and Lord Maccon. There was a huge buildup between them and I felt like a lot of the scenes in the book focused on the two of them interacting. It wasn’t until about halfway through the book that the plot really started to get interesting when more information was given about the disappearances of some vampires and werewolves. I especially enjoyed the older vampire, Lord Akeldama, whose appearance in the book got the plot moving. It wasn’t until Alexia went to visit him after several strange occurrences in London that I was hooked on what was happening in the book.

I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of romance so I think the relationship between Alexia and Lord Maccon was overdone. I was more interested in the main plot of the book and how the disappearances unfolded. I also really liked that Gail Carriger wrote Alexia to be a strong woman that was smart and capable despite her interest in Lord Maccon.

Overall, I enjoyed the book as a something I could read on the commuter train I take to work. It was a simple enough read that I could read through the distraction of my fellow commuters conversations and not miss any of what I was reading (I typically need absolute quiet to read with any efficiency). However, I think the book is also kind of typical of my “blah” reading year. I felt lukewarm about this one. It is definitely a fun book, but not necessarily a series that I will run out and read the next one right away. If you are looking for something quick and escapist and enjoy a little supernatural steampunk, this could definitely be the book for you. If you prefer more heady fare, you might save this book for a time when you are needing something quick and easy.

A Game of Thrones–George R.R. Martin

Book: A Game of Thrones
Author: George R.R. Martin
Publisher:  Bantam
720 pages
My Rating:
5 stars3

Winter is coming. Those foreboding words are something the Stark family lives by. As Lord of Winterfell, Ned Stark rules over much of the north and the cold is very much a part of their blood. When King Robert Baratheon comes to Winterfell and enlists Ned to become the King’s Hand after the previous Hand dies mysteriously, Ned feels obligated to accept his old friend’s offer. After arriving in King’s Landing, Ned finds out just how complicated the job of the Hand is and how corrupt men can be. Numerous families are vying for power, among them the Lannisters who are a force to be reckoned with. The Targaryens are also making a play for power and trying to reclaim the throne by joining with the nomadic warrior Dothrakis. The story that unfolds is nuanced and a true page turner.

This is the second time I’ve read A Game of Thrones. I desperately wanted to finish it before the HBO series came out, but I ended up finishing it about five episodes in to the series. I still loved the book the second time around. The story is so rich with nuanced characters. Almost all of them are neither truly good or evil. Most of them have traits that make you alternately like them and hate them. For instance, Tyrion Lannister is the brother of Cersei and Jamie Lannister. He is not necessarily a likeable person at first. He’s brash, arrogant, and seems to be completely out for himself. However, the reader finds out that his life is difficult because he was born a dwarf and therefore is less desirable to his family so a lot of his behavior is shaped by his life experiences of being treated poorly. There are also characters that in my mind were truly just good or evil. A few favorites of mine included some of the Stark children—Jon Snow and Arya Stark among them. Jon Snow is the bastard son of Ned Stark, but exhibits great character and courage despite growing up with no hope of land of title to inherit. Arya is a fiery young girl who wants nothing more than be able to play and fight like a boy which is very atypical of the time. Both characters were among my favorites and I found them to be in essence, good.

The story itself is also quite complicated. Because there are numerous families vying for power, strategy plays a major part in the book. To me, it was reminiscent of Shogun by James Clavell—there is so much plot and the characters can be so cunning that it leaves the reader guessing what is going to happen most of the time.  Despite the large number of characters/major players in the novel, I didn’t find it difficult to keep them straight. I think this is something that George R.R. Martin does quite well. He makes each character unique enough that you don’t really get confused. The story is also written so well that each story blends fairly seamlessly. There is a lot of history in the books and I do admit to kind of glazing over those parts. I know it’s important to some degree, but I just didn’t take the time to learn the family history of each character. To me, it was enough to know the immediate family members of each of the families and not worry about the lords and ladies of yesteryear.

What I may like most about the book is the world building. Each area has a unique setting, whether it’s King’s Landing, Winterfell, or Vaes Dothrak, the story is written with such detail that I felt immersed in the world and could imagine pretty much everything that I read. The one part of the book I found a little shocking the second time I read it was the way women were portrayed. There are a few strong women—Catelyn and Arya Stark are among these females. For the most part though, women were “furniture” in the book. There were numerous scenes where their only purpose was to be brutalized, fondled, or were for the express pleasure of men. I think I didn’t notice this the first time because I enjoyed the strong females that were in the book. The time period of the book while fantasy, also had a sort of Middle Ages feel to it and women of that time did not have much standing in society. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it misogynistic, but I definitely felt the book was a little lacking in the case of female characters.

Overall, I think the book was fantastic. Even though it’s a brick, I would read it again. Martin weaves an amazing story in with characters that have true depth which has become more rare in recent years. I will continue to reread the series in preparation for the July release of A Dance with Dragons, the fifth book in the series. I also will continue to watch the HBO series which just got renewed for a second season. I highly recommend this book to any reader that enjoys epic fantasy or just likes a really in depth, well-thought out, and well-written story.

A Game of Thrones – HBO series

When I heard that HBO was making a series out of A Game of Thrones, I was ecstatic. I think that only HBO could pull off such an epic series (they did after all produce Band of Brothers and The Pacific which I have gushed over on my blog before). So far, five episodes have aired and they have been fantastic. The casting is perfect for the most part. The only issues that I have with it are that Jon Snow and Robb Stark are both far older than they were in the book as is Danaerys Targaryen. I understand why they did this though. There are some themes in the book that are far too adult in nature for them to cast teenagers to play the characters so I am forgiving on this point.

The cinematography and sets are also top notch. The Wall was simply amazing looking. It was far more impressive on the show than it was even in my head. King’s Landing also looked incredible as did the Eyrie where Lysa Arryn lived. I wondered what the Eyrie would look like because it was one of the more rugged and scary places in the book. The episode that takes place there still hasn’t aired, but they did show a far off view of it, and it was very cool!

The show itself has gotten better and better with each episode. I admit that it started out slower, but as some of the supporting characters like Littlefinger and Varys have come out, I’ve begun to enjoy the show more. I will admit that for people who haven’t read the books, it might be a little frustrating to follow the story at times. There are a lot of characters in the books and it doesn’t always necessarily translate well to the television. Still, I have several friends that are watching the show and they seem to be able to follow it. Two of my friends are loving the show and neither of them have read the series.

I will definitely be buying the series when it comes out on DVD. It’s something that I know I would enjoy watching again and would probably be even better watching them as a marathon. It’s definitely something that will become a staple in my collection. It has also been renewed for a second season which I am definitely looking forward to!

The Girl Who Played With Fire–Stieg Larsson

Book: The Girl Who Played with Fire
Author: Stieg Larsson
Publisher: Vintage Crime
630 pages (Trade Paperback)
My Rating:
4h stars

Lisbeth Salander has vanished into thin air leaving Mikael Blomkvist wondering what happened in The Girl Who Played with Fire, the second installment of The Millennium Trilogy. Blomkvist has returned to his position at Millennium and is working on a new story involving human trafficking with researchers Dag Svensson and Mia Johanssen. The sex trade is an insidious but thriving business in Sweden and the researchers are about to blow it wide open and name key players in the trade. When Svensson and Johanssen are found murdered, Lisbeth Salander is the prime suspect. Not believing that Lisbeth would commit murder, Blomkvist decides to investigate what happened to his friends and try to clear Lisbeth’s name.

It’s been quite awhile since I picked up the Millennium Trilogy partially because I have sort of been waiting for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest to come out in trade paperback so my set will be complete (yes, I am one of those people that doesn’t like mismatched books). I broke down because several people I knew were reading The Girl Who Played with Fire and I thought it would be fun to talk with them about it. It turned out to be a good book for discussion as we talked about Mikael and Lisbeth as characters as well as some of the supporting characters in the book. There is definitely a need to suspend disbelief in this book just as there was in the first book. One of the main issues people have had with books that I’ve spoken to don’t believe that Lisbeth has Asperger’s Syndrome. I think The Girl Who Played with Fire explores Lisbeth’s behavior much more and makes her less of an enigma than she was in the first book.

The sex trafficking was also a really interesting topic for Larsson to write about since it is such a taboo subject but is so pervasive in society. While it was written in a fictional/thriller style, I think it did bring light to a very serious topic that needs to receive more attention. The book reminded me a little of certain scenes from the movie Taken starring Liam Neeson. I also like how he wove the story together to bring Lisbeth and Mikael onto the investigation together despite Lisbeth being pursued by the authorities. The book also kept with the theme of “men hating women” which makes the books fit together like a puzzle and continually sheds new light on Lisbeth.

I should also note that Lisbeth’s guardian, Bjurman, makes an appearance in The Girl Who Played with Fire. I was hoping that Larsson wouldn’t let that story go by the wayside since it was one of the most memorable storylines in the The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. A mild spoiler alert here: I thought the storyline between Lisbeth and Bjurman came to a really satisfying conclusion in this book.

The only problem I had with the book was the end. One of the final scenes left me scratching my head. For the sake of not spoiling the book for those of you that haven’t read it, I will withhold the specifics, but I will say that I found the end really unbelievable and had to really suspend disbelief to not completely groan at the end. Even with this part, I really enjoyed the book overall and definitely recommend it to those of you that enjoy thrillers.

After I read this book, I watched the Swedish film of the same name. While I didn’t like it quite as much as the first film, it was still really well done. Mikael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace are amazing actors, and I still can’t quite wrap my finger around the idea of an American film. For one, the books are SO Swedish that I really enjoy listening to the Swedish language in the film even if I can’t understand more than a few words of Swedish! I also think the actors embodied the characters so well in the film that there was no need to make a new version of the film. Yes, it does give Sweden more publicity which I am happy about because for the few days I visited Stockholm some years ago, I fell in love with the city. I would love to go back someday and see more of Sweden. Hopefully a blockbuster American film will show people that Sweden has some excellent writers and amazing culture and beauty. Other than that, I recommend that people see the Swedish version of the film. It’s good to branch out and see how other countries make their films. They usually have such different flavor that I tend to really enjoy them. The major complaint I have about the film in general is that while the book tied Mikael and Lisbeth together quite well, it definitely worked better on paper than it did in the movie. There was a disconnect between Lisbeth and Mikael because they had almost no scenes together in the entire film—the book ties  them together through written word much more effectively than a film ever could. Other than that, it was really well done and I enjoyed it quite a bit. I highly recommend The Girl Who Played with Fire as a great read and a good movie.

1 / 5 books. 20% done!
This is my first book for Zee’s Nordic Challenge

**I am a Book Depository and IndieBound afilliate so If you purchase any of the books I have featured through the links I posted or from the banners in my left hand sidebar, I get a small commission from them. I am in no way compensated for the reviews I post of my books.

Friday Coffee Chat (23)–To Blog or Not to Blog?

To Blog or Not to Blog?

This week on Friday Coffee Chat, I’m going personal, and I’m going to talk about blogging which I had never planned to do. I like that all of the chats I’ve hosted before are reader based rather than blogger based. I have friends that read my blog that are not bloggers, and I like them to be able to feel like they can chime in on any chat. I hope that they will feel like they can comment on this chat as well.

Some of you may know that I am looking for a job. It’s been a frantic search because I find myself in a situation where I need a job and sooner than later is almost a requirement for me. In the last few weeks I felt like I would have to give up blogging for fear of a company that I applied to Google searching my name and finding my blog. I don’t think that I post anything objectionable on my blog, but that is in the eye of the beholder. I do review some books in the fantasy genre that some people may find objectionable just because they are fantasy books.

I did read someone’s blog who posted about her sister moving to New York and needing to find a job. This was one of the instances where blogging was an asset to a person who was looking for work. It seems like it’s the exception to the rule though. In the last week, I read several articles about people getting fired for the content on their personal blogs. I want to give myself the best chance possible to find a job, and with all these stories coming out I feel conflicted about whether or not to continue blogging.

My search has roughly gone on for two months. I set an internal goal for myself to apply for ten jobs per week. So far, I have applied for 91 jobs since starting to keep track on my nifty spreadsheet. Of those, I have definitively been turned down by roughly a third the companies. I still have faith that by remaining optimistic and showing that if I continue to plug away, search, and apply for jobs my tenaciousness will pay off and an employer will take a chance on me. I just need that one chance.

On one hand, I feel like my blog is an asset. It shows that I have taken the initiative to do something for the last year and a half that I enjoy immensely and requires some thought and work. On the other hand, I don’t tell most of the employers that I apply for jobs with that I have a blog. It’s up to their HR department to find me through web searches. I am hesitant because someone may look at my choices of books to read and decide that I am not the person they are looking to hire. Maybe this is just me overreacting and feeling overstressed to find a job, but in reality I feel like this does happen to people who run personal blogs.

I am not in a position where I can stay unemployed for very long. I feel that I have a lot to offer a prospective employer if given the chance. For so many years I have settled in my life, and now I feel uncompromising about what I want in life. I have these goals and I am pursuing them like The Goonies pursued One Eyed Willie’s booty (yes, that is one of my favorite movies of all-time)! My question is, will blogging hurt my pursuit of my dream job?

I love blogging. I love the community. I miss posting reviews. I miss talking to people about books. I miss having regular Friday Coffee Chats. It is hurting my blog and me to not be as active in posting as I once was. Not as many people are commenting on my posts, and not as many people answer my Tweets on Twitter when I talk bookish things. I know that I am taking a risk even posting about my job search and my questioning whether or not I should continue blogging, but here it is. Life is all about taking a few risks here and there. I want to know what you all think about blogging while job hunting.

  • Do you think there is a risk of being turned down for a job interview if you have a blog?
  • Thinking with your head and not your heart, what would you do if you were faced with the absolute need to have a job? Would you continue blogging?
  • Do you think that blogging can be an asset even if you are not searching for work in marketing or the publishing industry?

Guest Post #9–Sabrina from Germany Shares Her Book Read ‘Round the World Experience

World Map 6 (LoPC)

Lost on Planet China = Purple Pin
Journeying from Dresden, Germany to Alice Springs, NT, Australia
Distance Travelling = 8,768 mi / 14,110 km
Total Distance Traveled to Date = 29,917 mi / 354,111 km

Guest Post #9
Sabrina from Germany

Lost on Planet China is on the last third of its journey around the world. I can’t believe that its traveled 350,000+ km! That just seems crazy!

Sabrina from Thinking About Loud in Germany has sent her package to Amanda from Desert Book Chick in Australia so it’s time to post Sabrina’s guest post. Sabrina posts some amazing book reviews and also had a short series of posts about her green thumb that were really fun to read. She also occasionally posts recipes on her blog. Make sure you head over to visit Thinking About Loud after you read her guest post!


What did you get in the package you were sent?

I got very many, very amazing things from Julie. First of all I got a surprise, because Julie sent me a book via the Book Depository which arrived before her own package. The day I found it in the mail my first thoughts were. “But I did not order it!” When I found out who and why sent me this I was very pleased. I got Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen by Susan Gregg Gilmore. Julie told me in her letter that it was set in Ringgold, GA, which is the town she lives in. I already heard good things about this book and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.


Julie also sent me some yummy moon pies, which are a very Southern snack invented in Chattanooga, TN, which is a railroad town and that is why she sent me the Chattanooga Choo-Choo tag, to give me an idea of Southern America. I also got a reusable shopping bag and a bookmark with a quote from Lincoln. Both items are in constant use now.



What were the questions you were asked?

1. Who would you consider to be your favorite German authors?

To be honest, I have not read very many contemporary German authors lately which actually is a shame. But book blogging and Shelfari both provide very many great book suggestions of American or English authors, which I enjoy to read. Still I have a few recommendations. First of all I love Leonie Swann. Her book Glennkill has been translated into English and can now be found under the title Three Bags Full. Other than that I’d like to recommend Blindness of the Heart by Julia Franck.

2. I’m a HUGE fan of German food. What is your favorite German meal?

This is a tough one. I love food and to narrow it down to one meal is nearly impossible. ;-) But as it is very typical for Saxony, the state I come from, I would go with Saxon potato soup. Typically all the ingredients like potatoes, carrots, leek and celery are cooked together. When this is done the vegetables are mashed/pureed and some wieners or other sausages are added. The mashed soup and sausages are served with bread. Delicious, especially when it is cold outside.  

What was your experience shopping for the next person on the list? Did you fret about what to get? Were you uncertain as to what you thought would be an interesting gift from your country?

I was pretty sure that I wanted to send Amanda things that had either got to do with Germany or books or better both. On the other hand of course I was very unsure about what Amanda would like. So I strolled around town eyes open for bookish German things, in the end picking what I thought to be pretty, useful or representative.

Write a one to two sentence review of the book -- just for fun. I want to see if you can do it!

Next to being entertaining the book was very informative as I learned about China’s people, history, economy and environment. If you ever wondered why Mao had let the Chinese kill sparrows during Cultural Revolution or what happened to the Baiji, the Yangtze River dolphin or which color the air pollution in different Chinese cities has, you should read this book.

I loved participating in this event. I enjoy reading the posts of all the other participants and especially which treats they received from the person who sent them the book. I think it is a great idea to get to know fellow book bloggers. 

Guest Post #8–Julie from the USA shares her Book Read ‘Round the World Experience

World Map 5 (LoPC)

Lost on Planet China = Purple Pin
Journeying from Ringgold, GA, USA to Dresden, Germany
Distance Travelling = 4,733 mi / 7617 km
Total Distance Traveled to Date = 21,133 mi / 34,010 km

Guest Post #8
Julie from the USA

Julie from Book Hooked Blog in Georgia, USA sent her package onto Sabrina from Thinking About Loud in Dresden, Germany so it is time to share Julie’s guest post about her experience in Book Read ‘Round the World. Julie has some of the funniest pictures of her love of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series and also has some super cute and HUGE Great Dane puppies that she features on her blog now and then. She also features bookish crafts from time to time. Make sure you check out her awesome blog after you finish reading her guest post.


What did you get in the package you were sent?

Judith (Leeswammes’ Blog) sent me the most amazing package of items from the Netherlands! She sent a reusable shopping bag, cocktail sticks with her country’s flag, a booklet of bookmarks, a map, beautiful napkins, and decals that I can use in my crafting, and a copy of Girl with a Pearl Earring, which is set in the Netherlands.

What were the questions you were asked?
1. What is the thing that makes you most proud of Georgia?
  • How we’re known for being friendly. It could apply to most of the Deep South, but I love that people talk to strangers, leave their doors unlocked, and wave at their neighbors.

2. It seems that houses near you don’t have gardens. Is that quite standard? Do you have a fence to demarcate your plot?
  • In my neighborhood, not many people have large gardens.  We live fairly close to town, so most people just do a few small flower beds in front of their houses.  My parents also live in GA, but further out in the country.  A lot of their neighbors have vegetable gardens.  I don’t know anyone who has a large flower garden though.  We don’t have a fence to mark our property line.  We want to put one up, but just to contain the dogs; we won’t fence in the entire yard.  Only one of our neighbors has a fence, and they’ve only got a small one for their dogs and children.
What was your experience shopping for the next person on the list.  Did you fret about what to get? Were you uncertain as to what you thought would be an interesting gift from your country?
I wanted to make sure I got something for Sabrina that represents not just the USA, but also the American South. I’m ridiculously proud of being Southern, so I wanted to make sure that my package gave Sabrina a good idea of what it means to live in the American South. I had a blast deciding what to send!

Write a one to two sentence review of the book -- just for fun. I want to see if you can do it!
I loved the book.  When I was growing up my parents were missionaries and my dad spent quite a bit of time travelling to China.  I loved reading in the book about Xi’an and other places he visited, but I also enjoyed learning some of the history of China that I didn’t know.  It really highlighted to me how much I need to learn about the country, particularly the Cultural Revolution.

Thanks to Julie from Book Hooked Blog for participating in Book Read ‘Round the World! You can read Julie’s full review of Lost on Planet China on her blog. Make sure you check back soon for Sabrina from Thinking About Loud’s guest post (Secret: She has already sent the book onto Amanda from Desert Book Chick in Australia so her post should be up sooner rather than later).

Friday Coffee Chat (22)–Big Box Blunders

Is Big Box Reading in Danger?

Last week on Friday Coffee Chat I asked readers whether or not they were in book clubs. Most of you said that you would do a book club or were already in one (or even two). I thought that was a pretty interesting conversation because I expected more people to be solitary readers. Make sure you check to see if Jennifer from Girls Gone Reading put up a chat this week. If not, check out one of her awesome book reviews!

Chachic from Chachic’s Book Nook is also posting a discussion called “A Writer Only Begins a Book. A Reader Finishes It.” Make sure you head over to her blog as well after you finish here. Should be a great discussion!


This week I wanted to explore the bookish news. By now everyone knows that Borders is on the verge of filing Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. For those of you that don’t know, Chapter 11 is the bankruptcy filing for reorganization. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is a liquidation filing (like Circuit City and Linens n’ Things filed several years ago and are no longer in business). So, Borders is looking at reorganizing the company in hopes to save itself and pay off its creditors. To do this, they are thinking of closing between 150-200 stores to lessen its debt load. Barnes & Noble is also having its own financial troubles (though it is currently much better off than Borders) as is Waterstones in the UK. I won’t bore you with all the details. If you are interested in reading some articles, here are a few:

Most bloggers I know prefer buying from indie stores and might be applauding the demise of big box reading. I myself try to buy from independent bookstores as well, but I also admit that I do buy from Borders and Amazon as well. When this story broke that Borders was likely to file Chapter 11 this week, I have to say that I got a little sad. While big box stores have been the bane of existence for many passionate readers, I couldn’t help but think that if more bookstores close, there is less opportunity for people to become readers. I admit that I even like browsing the big box stores because they have SO many books (There….I said it! I like going into big box stores!). Also, many smaller towns may only have a Barnes & Noble or a Borders and without it, their browsing would either be confined to the internet or driving to another town/city to be able to browse physical books.

People may say that if it weren’t for the big box stores that there would be more choice of independent bookstores to go to. That may be true, but at this point it’s sort of water under the bridge. It’s already happened so the only thing that we can do as a society is to change our policies to limit oligarchical business practices. We as a society may also need to rethink how much we are willing to pay for books to keep bookstores running. I know, I know…I am asking people to fight the Law of Supply and Demand. However, if we want more options with independent bookstores, we should be willing to pay higher prices. I am guilty of not buying books unless on sale or if I have a coupon. Only recently was I more loyal to independent bookstores. I even utilize the library quite a bit now to save money. I think most of us are guilty of doing those things because it is in fact The Law of Supply and Demand. That’s why it’s a “Law” and not a “Hypothesis”. People are willing (and able for that matter) to buy more goods and services if they are offered at lower prices. That’s just a cold, hard fact.

I will admit that a huge reason why this problem of failing business is as bad as it is, is because of the extended recession that is occurring worldwide. People aren’t purchasing luxury items like books (*gasp* I know…I just called books a luxury item) because they are trying to keep a roof over their head and put food on the table. When they do seek out their luxury items, they look for them at a discount and end up at places like or (or .uk) because it’s so much cheaper than buying from an independent store. I have to say that I don’t judge those people for making those choices since I myself have made these choices. Our choices have had the unfortunate side effect of reducing our choices of places to shop—but it’s been out of necessity for many, and the big box stores are to blame as well. Poor business practices by Borders and B&N let gain a huge market share in the book industry which I believe is the majority reason why both stores are struggling as much as they are (I can’t speak for Waterstones as I just heard about them for the first time several months ago).

So what is the solution to help failing bookstores? Should we be happy that big box stores aren't doing as well as they have in previous years and hope that this will mean a resurgence of independent bookstores? Do you think the book industry as a whole will suffer as a result of lagging sales or is it bound to make a comeback? I am not sure about the answers to these questions, but I do feel a little bit sad that it's possible that there will be less bookstores in my area to choose from in the very near future. I love reading and feel a sense of camaraderie when I see another person with a book. Even though some may hate the big box bookstore, I ultimately just want to see people reading and hope that we will still have a choice to go to brick-and-mortar stores in the future.

So, the questions for this week are:
  • Are you a big box buyer or a bargain shopper (used, library, discounted books, etc.) or a champion of independent bookstores?
  • What do you feel about the likely closure of 150-200 Borders bookstores across the U.S., or if you are from another country, how would you feel if that happened with your local big box bookstore?
  • What would you like to see happen in the retail book industry when the economy recovers? Be utopian or realistic…just tell me what you think!
  • Do you think the closure of big box stores will hurt future readers? Will we be less likely to read as a society or are we just moving toward newer technology like e-books?

Bayou Moon–Ilona Andrews

Book:  Bayou Moon (Book 2: The Edge)
Author: Ilona Andrews
Publisher: Ace Fantasy
447 pages
My Rating:
4 stars

Cerise Mar lives with her family in an area of The Edge called The Mire. The family owns a lot of land but doesn’t have any money to their name. They also have an ongoing feud with a rival family, The Sheeriles. When Cerise’s mother and father are kidnapped and the Sheeriles family takes over a chunk of the Mars land, Cerise is thrust into the unenviable position of head of the family. She must figure out how to find and get her parents back from whoever kidnapped them, and also take her family’s land back from the Sheeriles. William, a soldier from The Weird who is a changeling enters the picture and decides to help Cerise on her quest to find her parents and get revenge on whomever kidnapped them. His reasons for helping Cerise are not entirely what they seem. A tangled web of adventure and cunning enemies ensues and leaves the entire Mars clan and William in danger.

A few months ago I reviewed On the Edge, Book 1 of the The Edge series. In it I said I thought it was ok, but did not live up to the awesome Kate Daniels series also written by Ilona Andrews. Well, hold on to your seats because Bayou Moon was SO much better! I kind of knew it was going to be as soon as I realized that William was one of the main characters in the book because he was by far my favorite from On the Edge. There was a roughness and sense of honesty about him that made him a very sympathetic character in the first book. I was not let down in this book at all. William brought all his awesomeness to the table, and Cerise is just as tough as Kate Daniels. Between the two of them they made this book an extremely fun read.

Cerise is such a no-nonsense character. She is tough as nails and has a mouth to match. She’s a very strong woman which I really enjoy in books. I don’t think there is enough of them in novels (although I do recognize the need for all kinds of characters in fiction). She and William exchange some witty banter and Cerise shows that she’s no slouch in fights. She is smart, tenacious, and a good leader for her family as well. What’s not to like?!

The plot of Bayou Moon was also more engaging than the first book. There was much more action and less fairytale romance. Both Cerise and William are shaped by their pasts and both are less than perfect. I like flawed characters because they are usually inevitably more likable. There is also a very insidious antagonist named Spider who kept me turning the pages. Spider and William have a storied history so the entire book builds up the suspense and climax fairly well.  There is more fighting, more witty banter, and good depth to the characters. All of these things combined to form a really fun and engaging read. The fun and fast pace was exactly what I needed! It was definitely worth reading On the Edge just to get to Bayou Moon, and I’m looking forward to the next installment of the series.

*Notice of Disclosure: I received this book for review from Penguin Books.

**I am a Book Depository and IndieBound afilliate so If you purchase any of the books I have featured through the links I posted or from the banners in my left hand sidebar, I get a small commission from them. I am in no way compensated for the reviews I post of my books.

Friday Coffee Chat (21)–To book club, or not to book club?

To Book Club or Not to Book Club? That Is the Question!

I took last week off of Friday Coffee Chat because of Bloggiesta, but the week before that we talked about whether we should be serious readers, fun readers, or both. Make sure you check out Jennifer from Girls Gone Reading’s Friday Coffee Chats as well. She does some great ones!


This week on Friday Coffee Chat I want to explore book clubs. So many readers are in them and since Oprah started her book club, it seems like they popped up everywhere. I myself have been in two book clubs over the years, and just tried a new one last week. Each book club seemed to have its own personality, and I definitely enjoyed some more than others.

For me personally, the book club I enjoyed most was the purely fun reading one. It was a group called Thrill Me! that I went to in Austin. I initially went to this book club because I was trying to expand the genres that I read. I miss this group of people because they were SO fun. We read things like Lee Child, Janet Evanovich, John Connolly, Tami Hoag, and others. Probably one of the funniest moments in the group was when someone pointed out that Jack Reacher (from the books by Lee Child) never bathed but he was super popular with the ladies. I loved that someone thought of that because I honestly hadn’t thought of it while reading it. This group usually sat around and talked about the book for 20-40 minutes or so and then we would just shoot the breeze at the cafĂ© for a LONG time afterwards. I loved that because we really enjoyed each other’s company outside of just talking about books.

My other book club tended to be much more cerebral. It was fun for sure and my brain usually got a workout from it. The company was good and we usually had some good food too as well as pretty in depth discussions about the book that would go on for quite awhile. While I thought this group was great in its own way, I have to admit that I enjoyed the thriller book club more just because it was crazier.

Last week, I tried a new book club. Everyone was really nice and welcoming, but they tended to pick literary fiction (or so it seems) and while I enjoy literary fiction from time to time, I have found that I more like the company in book clubs than just talking about the books we read. When I get together with readers, I do love talking about books, but I also really want to know them as people too. I also admit that I get a little intimidated by those literary books because I read more for the story than the technical aspects of books. When people in the group talk about the technical aspects I admit that sometimes I get bored and sometimes I feel stupid! Should I be admitting this? Maybe. Maybe not, but I am owning that this is something that I actually feel during book clubs.

Thinking about what type of book club I look for, I realized that not all people even like book clubs. Some people prefer to read on their own while others enjoy chatting about books with friends. It made me wonder what people’s motivations were when they either chose not to do a book club or sought one out. Are people just shy when they choose not to join a book club? Is reading a private thing? These are some questions that have come up in my mind now that I’m searching for new readers with which to connect.

This week’s Friday Coffee Chat questions are:
  • Are you a member of a book club?
  • If so, what are your motivations for joining a book club?
  • What do you look for when you join a book club? Do you seek out strangers to talk about books with (like on or do you only do book clubs with friends you know and are comfortable with?
  • What kind of books do you prefer to read with a book club?
  • Do you like themed book clubs like romance, thriller, literary, chick lit, etc.?
  • If you don’t like book clubs, tell us all why you prefer to read alone? Is it because you are shy or because reading is just private to you? Is there some other reason?

The Shadow of the Wind–Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Book: The Shadow of the Wind
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher: Penguin
487 pages (Paperback)
My Rating:
4h stars

Daniel Sempere is the son of a bookstore owner. When he turns 10, his father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books to pass on a legacy. He must choose a book from the stacks that he will take care of for the rest of his days. For hours Daniel searches the stacks to choose the book that is calling his name. What he finally finds is The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax. It’s as if the book chose him and Daniel devours it and is determined to find out more about the author. What follows is a mystery that is not only captivating, but also dangerous.

Let me start off by saying that literary fiction is not something that is calling my name right now. I’ve been more in the mood for fun, fast reads. When The Shadow of the Wind came up for a new book club I was trying out, I was excited because I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long time and it would further expand my loose goal of reading more fiction in translation. However, I knew it was literary so I was a little dubious about reading it right now since I have really wanted to read quick and easy books lately.

Well, I did struggle some, but the struggle was well worth it because this book was beautifully written. At book club I called it a “crock pot novel". It’s one of those books that takes a long time to get into, but once you get to the meaty part of the book, you just savor every moment of it. For about 2/3 of the book, I really didn’t connect with the plot of the book because it was more of a character study. Every character was written in detail—I felt like I knew them all by the end. Their joy and their pain was tangible because Zafon is just a great storyteller. I cared deeply for every single character in the novel. However, because the characters were so well-written, the plot was a little slower in developing. When everything started coming together, it was well worth the wait because I couldn’t put the book down.

Daniel is a captivating young man. His pursuit of information about Julian Carax was unfaltering and he developed a deep friendship with an eccentric bookshop employee named Fermin who I adored. Fermin was like a father figure to Daniel and also a good friend. Where Daniel’s relationships with friends and his father was lacking, Fermin really saw Daniel and understood his motivations. It was such a nice part of the book because I think that is what people most want in life—for someone to really get them and encourage them to be who they are. Their relationship was really something special to behold and was possibly my favorite part of the book.

The mystery of the book was also amazing even though I had an inkling from the beginning of how it would turn out. The characters were so well woven into this complex mystery that I was never in disbelief that any of this could have actually happened. Zafon’s writing is vivid and Barcelona really came alive in this book. It is my first foray in a Spanish novel (translated into English of course) and I wasn’t disappointed. I will definitely be picking up Zafon’s other novels and hopefully reading more about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books in The Angel’s Game.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon also has a really great website that includes music inspired by The Shadow of the Wind and a map of Barcelona.

Friday Coffee Chat (20)–Why so serious?

Why so serious?

Last week on Friday Coffee Chat we talked about quotes from books that really moved us. If you have any quotes that you’ve thought of since last week, make sure you go back to the chat and let me know. I LOVE wonderful quotes! After you comment on this week’s Friday Coffee Chat, head over to Jennifer’s blog, Girls Gone Reading and comment on her Friday Coffee Chat topic, Comfort Reads.


This week on Friday Coffee Chat I want to talk about serious reading v. reading for fun. I know this has been a topic of conversation on Twitter and all over the blogosphere off and on and the topic may be beaten to death, but let’s visit it just one more time, shall we?

There are serious readers. You know, those readers who only read literary fiction or complicated non-fiction and they tell you that any other books are meaningless and therefore not worth the paper they are written on. I had someone in college tell me that all fiction was ridiculous because people should focus on what is real rather than made up situations that people went through. Even historical fiction didn’t count for this person. He felt that non-fiction was the only worthwhile thing out there.

Then there are the literary fiction readers who wouldn’t be caught dead with a trashy romance novel or paranormal fantasy book. They like to read all the award winners and classics. It may just be what they enjoy, or they may feel like those grocery store reads aren’t worth their time. Who knows?!!

On the other end of the spectrum are those readers who spend all their time reading “for fun”. They don’t want to delve into some psychological exposition on human nature like Dostoevsky writes. They want something they can blaze through like Dean Koontz or Charlaine Harris. Literary fiction and non-fiction are sure to send them into a coma for three months and should be avoided at all costs.

So what is the big deal about this? Well, as we all know people take their reading seriously no matter if you are a serious reader or an escapist reader. It’s part of what makes talking to other readers so interesting. We are all different and enjoy different things. Every once in awhile people will get offended when someone turns their nose up at the newest vampire novel or when someone calls another person a book snob for reading Tolkien over Rowling. We all love our favorites and never want to hear that someone else doesn’t like what we hold dear.

My questions for this week are:
  • Is there a happy medium? Is it possible to enjoy both serious AND fun books, or do people tend to choose one or the other?
  • Do you think books should be enriching all the time and must have redeeming qualities, or is it ok to read a trashy fun novel at any time you feel like it?
  • Do you ever turn your nose up at a literary reader or an escapist reader? (Come on now…be honest…you know you want to—we’ll be respectful of what you say)
  • If you are a one or the other reader, tell us all why you feel the way you do and if you think it’s ok that people read whatever they feel like reading.

My Bucket List

My Bucket List

So, I’ve been thinking about doing a bucket list for some time and I have a mental list in my head, but I’ve never actually written it down. Now I’m not dying or anything. This is just for fun! I may never get to do some of these things, but they are all things that I would really like to do someday!

1. See the All Blacks perform the Haka at a rugby match
2. See the Southern Cross in the sky
3. Go to Manitoba and do the polar bear tour at Cape Churchill
4. Learn a foreign language fluently
5. Live overseas for at least one to two years
6. Go hang gliding
7. Visit Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island
8. Visit Australia and New Zealand
9. Get my master’s degree
10. Dance with a stranger
11. Go on a sleigh ride that is pulled by reindeer
12. Color my hair a weird color like purple or maroon (maybe just partially)
13. Have children
14. Own a rescue greyhound
15. Own a Peel P50
16. Do a full twist on a trampoline
17. Have someone tell me they like me “just as I am” (yes, I am channeling Bridget Jones and Mark Darcy)
18. Learn to hula dance
19. Send a secret to Postsecret
20. Go to an NBA game
21. Go out on a lobster boat and catch some lobster
22. Swim with dolphins
23. Give a stranger a hug and buy them a cup of coffee when they are having a bad day
24. See the Northern Lights
25. Be a cartoon voice
26. Take a hot air balloon ride
27. Go to Easter Island
28. Hold a baby chimpanzee or baby gorilla
29. Write my name in a giant lawn with a riding lawn mower
30. Have a spa day with a facial, back massage, and foot massage
31. Hold a wombat (I know…they are nature’s speed humps, but they are so cute)
32. Learn to play the violin
33. Take a solo trip somewhere (maybe Ireland...that's my current first choice!)

I will probably keep adding to this list, but this is what I have so far.

What would you put on your bucket list? If you are interested in sharing a list of your own, feel free to sign the linky here!

Friday Coffee Chat (19)–Notable Quotables

Book Quotes That Have Moved You

It’s been awhile since I last did a Friday Coffee Chat because I took a blogging break for about four to six weeks. I know a lot of you have said you missed the chats so I’m going to do my best to bring them back. They are quite a bit of fun and help all of us get to know each other better so I hope that I can continue blogging for the long term and continue learning about all my blogging friends. After you comment here, make sure you check out Jennifer at Girls Gone Reading’s Friday Coffee Chat topic on graphic novels.


Most of the time, when I think of quotes I think of quotes from movies that move me. There are always some memorable scenes or memorable quotes from movies that even if we haven’t seen the movie, we know the quote. Lately, I’ve been noticing that that has been happening more and more with almost every book I read.

Don’t get me wrong. Not all of these books are deep and profound. Some of them are quite simple, but just have this moment of conviction for me. There are these quotes that just stand out to me and speak to me. Some of you know that 2010 was not the best year of my life and a few quotes from books I’ve read really hit me hard in a few ways. Maybe it’s a mid-life crisis of sorts, but some of these quotes are helping me to reevaluate my life and look at the way I’ve been living.

Other quotes are just really thought provoking and don’t necessarily have anything to do with my life at all. Sometimes they remind me of other people in my life and sometimes they are just good quotes. No matter how they get into my brain, they usually stay with me and I’ve started writing them down to keep them with me forever.

Here’s a few that have had a huge impact on me in recent months:

“’But what if I don’t win?’ he asked. ‘There is no dishonor in losing the race,’ Don said. ‘There is only dishonor in not racing because you are afraid to lose.’” –The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

I’m going to admit. I actually cried when I read this quote. I have lived my life so daunted for years and when I read this I realized how much I wanted to “race” but was too afraid to actually do it. This is something that is a process for me. I’m still daunted, but I don’t want to be and I hope that someday I will be racing.

“I think that perhaps too many people want things to be simple when they are not and cannot be. Encouraging that desire is seductive and rewarding, but also dangerous.” –Ysul Demri (Sharrow) in Against a Dark Background by Iain M. Banks

This one also hit me like a brick. I think that so often we look for life to be simple and want to take the easy way out. I’ve lived my life this way and have seen other people do it too. Really, life should be about persevering and embracing the things that are difficult. It’s adversity that builds character. I read this at a really critical point in my life this past Summer and changed how I looked at the world.

“…The things you do when you’re desperate aren’t who you are.” –Niall to Leslie in Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

This is another quote that kind of goes with the taking the easy way out. Sometimes we do things that are just out of character or when life is out of control we do things that we are not always proud of. I think the challenge is in working on changing ourselves to be who we really are and without resorting to that behavior in desperate times.

These are just a few of the quotes that have given me pause in the last few months. They are insightful and really meaningful to me. They won’t necessarily hit other people the way they’ve impacted me. I’m entering a truly introspective time in my life I think and I’m really enjoying finding quotes that make me think more about life than I previously have. I hope that over the next few years I’ll be come a more complete and stronger person.

  • What are some quotes from books that have had an impact on your life?
  • Do you think that meaningful quotes can come from books that aren’t super philosophical reads?
  • Do you ever write down quotes from books?

I hope you guys will all share some of your favorites with me. I would love to read some of them!

Ink Exchange–Melissa Marr

Book: Ink Exchange
Author: Melissa Marr
Publisher: Harper Teen
325 pages (Hardcover)
My Rating:
4 stars

Leslie is a young woman who lives a troubled life. Her mother is gone, her father is absent, and her brother is a drug dealer. She has had to endure many hardships that cause her to seek out a different life for herself. She finds friends in the local tattoo shop and she longs to get a tattoo. Little does she know that the tattoo she picks out is about to change her life dramatically. Irial is a faerie who is King of the Dark Court. He longs to have Leslie for himself and plans to deceive her into becoming just that.

Ink Exchange is the second book in the Wicked Lovely series. I typically do not read a whole lot of YA, but I am actually enjoying this series. This book was better than the first book, Wicked Lovely. The story is told fairly simply—by that I mean it is a quick, easy reading. However, the story itself has quite a few really intense and complicated subjects in it including rape, drug addiction, and neglect. There were some incredibly profound moments in the book, and some of Leslie’s suffering was tangible while I was reading it. Melissa Marr did an excellent job describing what emotions people go through when abuse is occurring in and outside the home—the confusion and the pain. Leslie is an infinitely sympathetic character. She was not a perfect person by any means, but she did persevere and hold on to who she really was. She was a strong character even though she had moments of weakness and I liked that very human quality in her.

There is also a romance of sorts between her and another faery, Niall. He knows that he is forbidden to be with her, but he wants so badly to be a part of her life. It’s a story of unrequited love which was very touching in a lot of ways. Niall was also a pretty likeable character, but there was something a little lacking for me with him. There was a distance in his demeanor which surely was intentional, but it kept me from connecting with him entirely. Still, I did enjoy who he was and his desire to keep Leslie safe and stop her suffering at the hands of those that wanted to take advantage of her.

I will say that the culture in the book is something that is pretty foreign to me. I know absolutely nothing about tattoos and piercings so I actually enjoy reading about it. It gives me a little peak into how other people think. This culture is very much a part of the series and shows the humanity of people who choose to tattoo and pierce themselves. I like that because a lot of the time people are judged based on the ink and piercings they put on and in their body. People don’t look further than their appearance. This book breaks that stereotype and gives a human face to this culture.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable, quick read. I am definitely enjoying the easiness of YA books now that life is getting busier for me. Because of the nature of the subject matter in Ink Exchange, I did like it better than Wicked Lovely. I think it’s important for people to know that teens are exposed to things like rape, drugs, and abuse/neglect. Ink Exchange did a really good job of showing how it affects people who are exposed to these things and makes the subject matter accessible for younger readers that are in high school or junior high.

Contest–Matthew Reilly

Book: Contest
Author: Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia/St. Martin’s Press
418 pages (Paperback)
My Rating:
3h stars

Dr. Stephen Swain is a radiologist in New York City. He has had some exciting moments in the hospital he works in, but nothing could prepare him for what is about to happen. He is thrust into a gladiator style competition in the labyrinth of the New York City Public Library with no way to get out. His competitors are beings from other planets. They are tough, mean, and are willing to do whatever it takes to be the victor in the competition. To complicate matters, Swain’s daughter Holly has been transported into the library with him so he has to fight for his daughter’s life as well as his own.

I am so thankful for this book and to the friend who loaned it to me. Let me start out by saying that I am needing some fast and fun reads now because I’ve been kind of bogged down with things for awhile. Contest is exactly what I needed. I read this book largely in two sittings because it is pretty exciting. I felt like I was watching a movie like Die Hard the entire time I was reading it. It was pure action from beginning to end. Was there a lot of character development? Not really because the characters were too busy trying to survive the tournament. I have never read a book like this before, and I’m really glad that I picked it up because not only did I expand world in terms of what I’ve read, but I quite enjoyed the experience.

There were moments in the book that I had issues with and was like, “Well that’s not realistic,” but then I realized that the entire book wasn’t realistic because it’s a sci-fi thriller! So, disbelief suspended, I blew through this book and was holding my breath through quite a few parts of it. The aliens were pretty fantastic and in my mind, fairly original. I wasn’t even bothered by the lack of character development because the book was just so much fun to read. There was no time to care about Stephen Swain’s life outside of the library because his experience was so intense that I really didn’t even have time to think about anything else.

Swain’s guide in the library, Selexin, was a really good character as was Swain’s daughter Holly. There was a good balance of her being a child who was afraid of her situation and a survival instinct that was pretty neat for a kid. She reminded me a little of Tim Murphy (the little boy) in Jurassic Park. He was a go for it kid and Holly was for the most part as well. The guide Selexin was supposed to be a passive observer but after observing Swain’s behavior, he became more than that to the group. He put himself in the line of danger to help Swain and Holly and showed himself to be a man-alien of integrity. The characters (even the bad guys) were infinitely likeable in this book. The entire time I was rooting for them to win even if some of their situations seemed a little too easy for them to get out of.

There were a few weak points in the book like I said above.  Some of the moments where I said, “That’s not realistic,” kept me from giving it four to four and a half stars. There were several situations that were a little bit too easy for the characters to get out of, but those same parts made me reluctant to give Contest four stars. Still, this was a great effort for a first novel by Matthew Reilly. I highly recommend it if you are in a reading funk and looking for an action-packed book that is a quick read. I will definitely be reading more Matthew Reilly in the future.

**I am a Book Depository and IndieBound afilliate so If you purchase any of the books I have featured through the links I posted or from the banners in my left hand sidebar, I get a small commission from them. I am in no way compensated for the reviews I post of my books.
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