Monday, November 28, 2011

30 days of book Discussion: Day 8

Most overrated book

Huh boy. I think books that could fall into this category are: any book that someone read and hated but has a lot of hype. So this is probably just a breeding ground for ranting. But I think we should have more respect for books that other people liked and we didn't. I agree that it's really irking to find so much fault in something and then see other people adoring it, and I understand that, but can't we all just be a little nicer and less condescending about something someone loved?

Okay. Rant off. And here's my turn to call out the book I think is overrated, so let's see if I can do it without all the disdain I just mentioned.

The first book I thought of for this category was Mockingjay. I was disappointed with this book. I think Suzanne Collins had two options for this story: 1. She could have made Katniss into a glorious revenge underdog who wreaks havoc on the Capitol's society and ultimately changes the world for the better in a stunning finale, after which she finally recedes from the limelight to a peaceful end. 2. She could have shown that the scenario I just mentioned is hardly ever the actual situation we see in real life, she could have underlined the fact that any kind of rebellion will involve tragedy of some sort, and she will ultimately have written a commentary on the fact that no one is really the winner in that kind of situation, that war has a cost no matter what you're fighting for.

She did the latter.

And... that's okay, I guess. Obviously, I was hoping for the former. Give me glorious vengeance and a happy ending. Your comment on the true nature of war and revolution is okay. But for me, what could have been the most ultimate dystopian series ever turned out to be a pretty good dystopian series in which I like the first two books more than the last.

Didn't I say rant off? Oh well.

BUT! I'm not picking Mockingjay for this category. Because really, it was a cool book. Lots of people like it and I don't really fault them for liking it. The book that I'm picking for this category is A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray.

Because: that cover is just plain false advertising. Lol, okay, the cover doesn't really tell you anything about the story, but it is sumptuous, coupled with a stunning title, and you think you're in for something cool and maybe mysterious. And instead it's just... ugh.

My biggest problem with this book is the relationships. Sometimes I hear that and I think, "But wasn't the story cool, didn't you like that?" Sometimes it seems like a sort of "wet blanket" comment when someone says, "I just didn't believe that a woman would really find that attractive in a man. And that ruined the whole book for me." Or, "I don't think any young person should act like that to their parents. And that ruined the book for me."  Etc.

But I'm about to make that same kind of comment: There are four girls in this story who go on and on about how important and strong their friendship is, and the whole time they lie and back-bite and occasionally out someone from the group only to grudgingly take them back, and they're fake and insincere with each other.  In the end they act like they're fighting for their awesome bond which completely confused me because they were all disingenuous frenemies.  And that ruined the book for me.

Still, this has a decent enough plot, and the ending is exciting.  I'm just one of those people who couldn't see past these relationship problems which were supposed to be motivating the action of the book.  If that didn't bother other people: more power to you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

30 days of book Discussion: Day 7

Most underrated book

Hmm.  I'm going to choose Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine for this category.  It's not that this book gets a bad rap from anyone, I think it's more that it's overshadowed by the movie of the same name.  The movie that was loosely based on this book.  As in: they took the premise and then built a whole new movie around it.

So sometimes when I recommend this book at the library, they're like, "Yeah, I've seen the movie.  It was funny but kinda hokey."  Yes.  The book is neither funny nor hokey.  It's a serious fairy tale, and it has to be my very favorite version of the Cinderella story that's out there.

Basically, the premise is: the fairy Lucinda gives Ella the "gift" of obedience - what really becomes a curse, where Ella MUST do whatever anyone asks of her.  This clears up one of the most confusing points of the traditional Cinderella tale for me - why was Cinderella acting like a slave for her step-family?  Her father was nobility, which means that even though her mother died and her father remarried, she still has the same Dad and there wasn't really ever a clear reason why Cinderella became a servant.  I guess you could argue that after her father died, the cruelty of her step mother and sisters would have forced her to servitude, but that still is a bit weak to me.  I mean, didn't they have neighbors?  People who knew who Cinderella's Dad was?  I don't think society would have accepted what her step family had done.  In reality, I think Cinderella would have become an annoying burden to them, and probably they would have shipped her off to a boarding school to be rid of her.  Think Jane Eyre.

Anyway, that always seemed weak.  So the fact that Ella has this "curse" is something that her unkind step sisters exploit until Ella is practically a servant in this book.  This is so much easier for me to understand.  So now that the premise is more believable, Ella manages to have a few adventures, meet a prince, and the bulk of their relationship takes place before the ball.  That was another thing that I appreciated about this book, it wasn't just she meets the prince and -bam!- love fest.

So this is a great story and my personal favorite version of Cinderella.  I always think it's a shame when I try to recommend it to some Shannon-Hale-loving person, and they pass on it because the movie was kind of silly and weird.  Oh well.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

30 days of book Discussion: Day 6

A book that made you sad

I'd have to say that The Time Traveler's Wife made me pretty sad.  The first half of the book is amazing and exhilarating.  Then the second half of the book takes you slowly down this path of sorrow until you're finally submerged in the depression because things get SO SAD.  The book does take a slight turn for the better by the end, but I think by that point I was so weary with sadness I barely noticed.  I actually think the movie handles things a bit better, I wasn't quite as depressed by all of the sad stuff, and then the happy parts in the ending really left you feeling better.

Still, I really liked this book.  It's hard to recommend to friends, though, because there are quite a few love scenes.  It's actually easier to recommend the movie because of the not-quite-as-bad depression, I liked the way they did the ending better, and the PG-13 rating makes sure that my friends won't be too scandalized.  =)

Friday, November 25, 2011

30 days of Book Discussion: Day 5

A book that makes you happy.

Well, funny you should mention it.  I just finished Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling and I loved it, it just made me walk around with a smile on my face.  You know who Mindy Kaling is, right?  She plays Kelly Kapoor on The Office?  She has also written a bunch of the episodes among other notable accolades.

I listened to the audiobook, which is kind of a win/lose, because her book has a bunch of photos that I missed out on, but her voice is So fun to listen to!  She has kind of an, "Oh my god, right?" voice which is fun and funny and made me feel like I was hanging out with a cool friend rather than listening to an audiobook.  She talks about important episodes from her life, interspersed with funny essays on things she has observed.  Basically, it was kind of like a girl's night out (even though I think guys could enjoy this, too), and I was a little sad to part ways with her when we came to the end.  That's life I guess. =)

Monday, November 21, 2011

30 Days of Book Discussion: Day 4

Favorite book of your favorite series

Well, if we're talking about The Books of Pellinor, I'd have to say that the second book named The Riddle stands out the most to me.

I like all of the books in the series, but this one has a scene toward the end where Maerad (that's our protagonist girl's name) is trapped in this ice palace by this evil ice king.  I remember it because they sort of have a "thing" going on... does he offer her a place with him as his evil ice lady/queen?  I can't remember but I seem to think that happened.

I totally have a thing for the "evil guy offers a chick his hand" scenario, because I am definitely a girl that would say yes to that situation.  Heck yeah.  If it was me in The Labyrinth and David Bowie was saying to me, "Just fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave!"  I'd be like, "Hellz, yeah, David Bowie.  I'll take you and your tight leggings any day of the week, thank you very much."

Anyway, I love that part of The Riddle, even though Maerad turns him down (idiot girl, being all noble).
Oh yeah: And she turns into a wolf.  I know, these books are so badass.

Honestly, I'm not sure I'm remembering all that correctly.  Maybe that ice king guy doesn't even find her remotely attractive.  Maybe it was just me being like, "Take me, evil ice guy."  Isn't it weird that I married one of the most noble, kindest, gentlest guys out there when I obviously have this weird fetish?  I have to go watch some scenes from The Labyrinth now...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

30 Days of Book Discussion: Day 3

Your favorite series

Well that's a tricky one.  There's always Harry Potter, which is kind of like the ultimate series.  There's The Hunger Games which I loved except for the third book (yes, I fell into the 50% that didn't like the finale).  There's the Mistborn series, but I will have more opportunity to talk about that later.

I think the series that has captivated me the most recently is The Books of Pellinor, starting with The Naming, by Alison Croggon.  This is a lesser-known series that I discovered when I randomly pulled The Naming off of the shelf one day, and I ended up giving all four books in the series 5 star reviews on Goodreads.  That is the only series that has gotten 5 star reviews from me on every book.  I loved it.

I've described it as sort of the innocence of Harry Potter meets the epic world and back-story of Lord of the Rings.  Remember how Tolkein wrote whole books on the ancient history of Middle Earth and even invented his own language for the Elves?  I mean, if that's not back-story I don't know what is.  The amount of effort Croggon has put into her world-building reminds me of Tolkein: there are whole societies and cultures and peoples for whom she has back story that may or may not really even come up, but it's there!  You get hints and snatches of it throughout the books but never a full view.

Anyway, Harry Potter (sort of) meets Lord of the Rings.  It's about a young girl who is rescued from a prison and in her subsequent travels realizes that she has vast abilities that could possibly have catastrophic consequences if she doesn't control them well enough.  Yeah, she's badass.

Basically, if you like fantasy for Young Adults, chances are you will love this series.

Has anyone else heard of this series? What's your favorite series?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

30 Days of Book Discussion: Day 2

A book you've read more than 3 times

As a librarian, re-reading books doesn't happen often at all.  You are usually so inundated with new material on a weekly basis that taking time to re-read something means sacrificing something else that you haven't read before and could possibly love.

It's rare.

The last time I re-read a book was when I was on maternity leave last year.  I was feeling happy and nostalgic and so I re-read two books: my Favorite Book (that's day 30), and Bridget Jones's Diary.  BJD was a gift from my best friend several years ago during college (when I read it twice) and reminds me of my friendship with her and is also a guilty indulgence into frivolous, hilarious, irreverent chick lit.

Since then, I've actually checked out the audiobook versions of books that I have read: The Hunger Games and Life As We Knew It.  The audiobook versions were every bit as amazing as the actual books, and kept me sitting in the car long after I had gotten home just to hear what happened next (even though I already knew).  I will probably read both of those again so they also sort of count as 3.

So what about you?  Do you have a favorite book that you like to re-read every now and then?  What times of the year do you find yourself wanting to re-read books?

Friday, November 18, 2011

30 Days of Book Discussion: Day 1

I saw a great idea on a local book blogger's blog about doing a 30 day book discussion.  I'd like to do it because I think a lot of the questions look like fun and to try to be a little more active on my blog this month (I might combine a couple of the days now and then).
The questions are as follows:

  • Day 1: The best book you read last year
  • Day 2: A book that you’ve read more than 3 times
  • Day 3: Your favorite series
  • Day 4: Favorite book of your favorite series
  • Day 5: A book that makes you happy
  • Day 6: A book that makes you sad
  • Day 7: Most underrated book
  • Day 8: Most overrated book
  • Day 9: A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving
  • Day 10: Favorite classic
  • Day 11: A book you hated
  • Day 12: A book you used to love but don’t anymore
  • Day 13: Your favorite writer
  • Day 14: Favorite book of your favorite writer
  • Day 15: Favorite male character
  • Day 16: Favorite female character
  • Day 17: Favorite quote(s) from your favorite book(s)
  • Day 18: A book that disappointed you
  • Day 19: Favorite book turned into a movie
  • Day 20: Favorite romance book
  • Day 21: Favorite book from your childhood
  • Day 22: Favorite book you own
  • Day 23: A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t
  • Day 24: A book that you wish more people would’ve read
  • Day 25: A character who you can relate to the most
  • Day 26: A book that changed your opinion about something
  • Day 27: The most surprising plot twist or ending
  • Day 28: Favorite title(s)
  • Day 29: A book everyone hated but you liked
  • Day 30: Your favorite book of all time

So here we go:
Day 1: The best book I read last year.

Thanks to Goodreads, I actually know what I read last year!  I love sifting through that website and seeing books that I've devoured.  They have really fun stats where you can compare years as far as number of books read, number of pages read, etc.  Right now I'm trying to beat 2008's 46 books (I'm currently at 40 for 2011!).

So my favorite book of 2010?  I think that would have to be Incarceron by Catherine Fisher.  It's about a living prison that's aware of the inmates inside it.  One of the prisoners finds a way to communicate with someone on the outside - the daughter of the Warden.  But not everything is as it seems and this one keeps you guessing until the end.  This is sort of like Hunger Games meets Graceling.  There's a sequel that came out this year that I enjoyed, but not quite as much as the opening novel.  Why does that always happen?

So what about you?  What was your favorite book that you read last year?