Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Broken Bulbs, by Eddie Wright

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Frank Fisher is nothing. He wants to be something. When a mysterious young woman named Bonnie offers assistance by injecting seeds of inspiration directly into his brain, Frank finds himself involved in a twisting mystery full of addiction, desperation and self-discovery. Broken Bulbs, a novella by Eddie Wright, tells the story of the lengths one young man will go in the pursuit of "somethingness."


I have absolutely no idea how to rate this book. I liked it, but it was...different.

What I liked:

  1. The writing. It was descriptive without being flowery and it matched the tone and the pacing of the story. 
  2. The editing. Most Indie books are full of errors. It was a nice change to read something that was well-written. I only caught one instance of a missing word.
  3. The intrigue. I was thoroughly confused about what was going on, but I was sucked in to the story and kept reading. And I want to know more!
  4. The price. I got the Kindle version for free on Amazon. A great way to learn about a new author!

What I didn't like:

  1. I'm still not sure what the point of the story is and I have a lot of unanswered questions.

Given that I liked more than I didn't like, I am giving this novella four stars. I think that this author has a lot of potential and I will definitely read more of his work should he publish anything else.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Love Dreams, by January Valentine

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She's a beautiful wreck who hates men, but loves animals. Beaten and left for dead, she suffers from night terrors. He's handsome. He's wealthy. He's in a wheelchair. His entire life has changed, and the past months have been hell. 

**I won this book from Goodreads as a First Reads giveaway**

Can you give a book less than one star?  I must have read a different book than the five people who originally rated this five stars.  Because OMG: this was a painful read.

Trite.  Banal.  Underwhelming.

I should look up more words in my thesaurus, since I'm pretty sure the author did the same thing throughout the book.  Very high-school-esque.  There are a number of references to the 1980s.  Bolero jacket, anyone?  I'm assuming this was written 20+ years ago and was published without anyone looking at it in the present day.

Glaring mistakes: The price on the back of the book is listed as $!5.00.  There are three pictures on the front cover, the back cover, and within the first few pages, all of which show different women of differing nationalities.  Very confusing.  None of the men are in wheelchairs.  In the middle of the book, the pages are out of order, so you wonder what on earth is going on when you flip from page 180 to 187, then page 192 to 181. 

Those, however, are the least of this book's problems: there are grammatical errors; inconsistencies in timeline; and misplaced punctuation.  To start.  It gets worse.  How?  The lack of plot.  And the two-dimensional characters.  And the cheesy dialog.  And the spineless female lead, Sienna.  And the I-loved-life-until-I-landed-in-a-wheelchair love interest.  And the book's message that you have to be in a relationship in order to be happy.  WTF?  Sienna goes on a European vacation with a guy she can't stand, which her "best" friend pushes her to do.  WHY?  I saw zero motivation in any action performed by any character.

There is a psychic/medium.  A half-dozen car accidents.  Mention of an Incubus.  A "twist" at the end that you can see coming a mile away.  Technically-correct sex scenes which are so dull I wanted to poke my eyes out: palming her buttocks?  Really?

I need to go read some YA dystopian fiction to lift my spirits.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler

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Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South.

Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned across the years to save him. After this first summons, Dana is drawn back, again and again, to the plantation to protect Rufus and ensure that he will grow to manhood and father the daughter who will become Dana's ancestor.

Yet each time Dana's sojourns become longer and more dangerous, until it is uncertain whether or not her life will end, long before it has even begun.

For a book club challenge, I had to read a book by a black author or about a black character. I had not heard of Octavia Butler prior to doing a Goodreads Listopia search to find a good book. I am incredibly glad that I chose this work: the writing flows naturally, even across centuries; the premise is one that I had not encountered before; and it is a story that will stay with me long after I return my copy to the library.

The combination of historical fiction and time travel -- as told through the eyes of a modern* black woman -- presents us with a host of questions! There are the standard time travel questions of whether or not changing the past will change the future. But then there are the deeper questions: How does a strong, well-educated black woman survive in an era when slaves are considered property, not human beings? How do you remember who you are in the present when you're told that you're "too black" and "too white" in the past?

An amazing read that keeps you thinking. I look forward to reading more of Butler's works!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

One For The Money (Stephanie Plum #1), by Janet Evanovich

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Welcome to colorful Trenton, New Jersey, and the wild and wonderful world of Stephanie Plum. In One for the Money, rookie "apprehension agent" Plum may be a bit wet behind the ears, but nobody's gonna take it easy on her; especially her first skip, an ex-cop and murder suspect named Morelli.

2.5 stars, rounded up to 3 because I actually finished it and didn't toss it aside.

I knew going in that this book was published in 1994, so I expected some outdated references. I laughed out loud at the reminder of wireless land-line phones with pull-up antennae and "car" phones. Ah, the good ol' days when you got 20 minutes a month and each additional minute cost $1 (as my father used to constantly remind me). But the Spandex biker shorts? Ugh. How many outfits did she wear in this book? I swear that 60% of them involved Spandex and t-shirts.

:: shudder ::

What I mostly took away from the book was the ridiculous machismo. I really don't get the whole "I know he may be a murderer, but he's really hot, so it's okay to flirt with him" thing. The main character -- Stephanie Plum -- was not nearly as outraged at the violence against women she was seeing and experiencing as she should be. And how on earth does someone who's been a bounty hunter for all of two days keep running into the person she's tracking? Meanwhile, the cops and previous bounty hunters have no idea where to look. Honestly? She's kind of an idiot.

There was too much going on in terms of the "mystery" and the ending was anti-climactic. It was almost as though Evanovich decided that it would be a good time for the book to come to a close, so voila! Here is all of the information on the bad guys. Case closed. Resume flirting.

Thankfully this book was a quick read.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1), by E.L. James

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I am finally writing my review of James' 50 Shades trilogy, after having posted this elsewhere on-line.

I have very strong feelings about this series. Bear with me and take what I say with a grain of salt.

50SG started as Master of the Universe (MotU) in the Twilight fanfiction community. It was a decent fic. Not great, but also not terrible like some of the drivel out there. There wasn't a lot of character development, but it didn't matter because everyone knew who Edward, Bella, and the other characters were. The sex scenes weren't as hot as one of the other popular BDSM fics (tarasueme's The Submissive trilogy), but it was a surprisingly compelling read. And for a Twific, that's fine. It doesn't have to be a well-written story, because a lot is already assumed by the readers.

What I have a problem with, since MotU became 50SG:

  • Twilight fanfic (or any fandom's fic) is written BY people who love the series FOR people who love the series. A series that was written by Stephanie Meyer. She owns the Intellectual Property. Illegal? Maybe not. Ethical? I don't think so. 
  • This whole pull-to-publish phenomenon--while not exclusive to the Twi fandom--has caused a split in the community. While I realize this doesn't matter to people outside of the fandom, it has affected a lot of people. 
  • James made very few changes in a work that was previously posted on-line. For free. Which you can still download today, rather than pay $30.
  • The writing is juvenile. It's fine in fanfic, but as a published book? No. Just no.
  • James portrays BDSM in a negative light, with Bella/Ana talking about how she can change Edward/Christian and bring him out of the darkness. BDSM is about sexual pleasure; it's not this awful, painful experience that's going to drag you down into hell.
  • We are introduced to two Doms: 1) Edward/Christian, who was abused as a child and has mommy issues that cause him to play with subs who LOOK LIKE HIS MOTHER; and 2) Mrs. Robinson, a PEDOPHILE who started a D/s relationship with a FIFTEEN-year-old BOY. A boy who was acting out because he was abused and needed professional help. If it had been a middle-aged man taking on an abused fifteen-year-old girl as a sexual submissive, dude would have been arrested and branded a sex offender. 
  • BDSM is used as an excuse for Edward/Christian to be a domineering, controlling asshole. And Bella/Ana just accepts this.
  • A 21-year-old college graduate without an e-mail address? Really?
  • Edward/Christian buys the company that Bella/Ana goes to work for so he can keep an eye on her. Really? Really?
  • Edward/Christian is a 27-year-old billionaire who never seems to do any actual work. Entrepreneurs and C-level executives work all.the.time in real life.
  • The term "mommy porn" is ridiculous. Porn is porn. You know what I think mommy porn is? A hot guy to watch my kids and clean my house while I go to the spa.

I'll stop. I could go on and on and on.

On a positive note (you didn't think there would be one, did you?), I have to give the book credit for bringing female sexuality to the mainstream. Yay for women embracing their own desires!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer

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In a vase in a closet, a couple of years after his father died in 9/11, nine-year-old Oskar discovers a key...The key belonged to his father, he's sure of that. But which of New York's 162 million locks does it open? So begins a quest that takes Oskar - inventor, letter-writer and amateur detective - across New York's five boroughs and into the jumbled lives of friends, relatives and complete strangers. He gets heavy boots, he gives himself little bruises and he inches ever nearer to the heart of a family mystery that stretches back fifty years. But will it take him any closer to, or even further from, his lost father?

I love this book! It took me a while to get used to the stream-of-consciousness writing, but once I did, I couldn't put it down.

It was heartbreaking, funny, moving, and sentimental.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The True Stella Awards, by Randy Cassingham

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Gathered from the popular website www.StellaAwards.com, The True Stella Awards is an outrageous collection of America's most frivolous lawsuits

Named for Stella Liebeck, the woman who won a multimillion-dollar lawsuit after spilling hot McDonald's coffee on herself, humorist Randy Cassingham's popular website chronicles the hard-to-believe and amusing claims brought before the U.S.courts. The most ridiculous of these lawsuits are given the "honorable" Stella Award.

In The True Stella Awards, Cassingham documents the most outlandish of these real-life cases, including:
  • The man who legally changed his name to Jack Ass, and then sued MTV because their TV show and movie Jackass infringed on his trademark and demeaned his "good name"
  • The songwriter who left a minute's silence on his record only to be sued by the estate of another songwriter who copyrighted his own "silent" song
  • The man who sued an amusement park after being the victim of the ultimate act of God: He was hit by lightning while standing next to his own car in the parking lot

Stunning and hilarious, The True Stella Awards reveals the extremes people will go to in the pursuit of "justice."

The True Stella Awards comprises a series of 2-3 page "chapters" on assorted frivolous lawsuits. I had forgotten all about this book, so when I came across it on my bookshelves, I was excited to re-read it. Just as when I first read the book, I found myself shaking my head and wondering how we -- as a society -- have allowed such lawsuits to continue. And reading about others' poor choices and stupidity is always good schadenfreude. ;)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Secret Holocaust Diaries: The Untold Story of Nonna Bannister

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I got the Kindle version of this book for free.  Thank goodness I didn't pay for it.  There are so many good reviews for this book, and I was very interested in reading this child's diaries about her life before and during World War II.  I was severely disappointed.

This was not written in the form of diary entries, though the chapters were short and it was a quick read.  There was A LOT of repetition.  Had these been a child's writings, I could have accepted and understood how things would be mentioned more than once or twice.  But as a memoir?  The editing was terrible.

If you want to read a well-written work about living through the Holocaust, stick with Night or The Diary of a Young Girl.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson

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“Dead girl walking,” the boys say in the halls.
“Tell us your secret,” the girls whisper, one toilet to another.
I am that girl.
I am the space between my thighs, daylight shining through.
I am the bones they want, wired on a porcelain frame.

Lia and Cassie are best friends, wintergirls frozen in matchstick bodies, competitors in a deadly contest to see who can be the skinniest. But what comes after size zero and size double-zero? When Cassie succumbs to the demons within, Lia feels she is being haunted by her friend’s restless spirit.

In her most emotionally wrenching, lyrically written book since the multiple-award-winning Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson explores Lia’s descent into the powerful vortex of anorexia, and her painful path toward recovery.

I have found a new author to add to my list of favorites. Like Ellen Hopkins, Laurie Halse Anderson tackles tough YA subjects. The prose is beautiful and evokes several emotions at the same time.

Wintergirls had me laughing, crying, cringing, and filled me with heartbreak. Eating disorders are no joke.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

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Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.


This was a quick read filled with tension, angst, and true-to-life scenarios. My heart hurt for Melinda, the main character and narrator. And I totally cried at the end.

A wonderful addition to anyone's YA book collection.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad

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Dark allegory describes the narrator’s journey up the Congo River and his meeting with, and fascination by, Mr. Kurtz, a mysterious personage who dominates the unruly inhabitants of the region. Masterly blend of adventure, character development, psychological penetration. Considered by many Conrad’s finest, most enigmatic story.

I wish I had read this book in high school so I would have been forced to take the time to really delve into the symbolism of Conrad's words. Since I didn't, and I have no desire to spend a month talking to myself about it, I will check out Wikipedia for more information.

After reading King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, I was expecting this book to be full of atrocities. It's mostly full of wordy prose that describes everything in flowery language.

Sadly, a book that was probably quite shocking for its age has done absolutely nothing for me.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror & Heroism in Colonial Africa, by Adam Hochschild

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It's not easy to claim that you love a book on the occupation, slavery, and death of ten million people. This was a hard read, to be sure, and there were a few times when I didn't think I'd be able to continue on. Much like when I was first introduced to Alex Haley's Roots, I found myself physically ill at the descriptions of the way those in power treated the powerless.

Leopold II of Belgium was a brilliant man. He masterminded the colonization of a vast area of land in a continent he had never even set foot in. How did he accomplish such a feat? He manipulated everyone around him: this government; Belgian citizens; Presidents, Kings, and dignitaries from other countries; African tribal chiefs who ceded away their land and people when they signed "treaties" with Henry M. Stanley, who was Leopold's explorer/emissary to the Congo region; journalists; and on an on. I doubt there was a person he met who he didn't manipulate.

Worse were the actions he (via his officers in the Congo) took against the African people: enslaving them; forcing them to work tirelessly collecting ivory and rubber; cutting off the right hands of those who did not meet their quotas; taking women and children hostage so the men would work harder; killing people for sport. Though none of the atrocities he committed were different from what other nations did at the time, it is no less horrifying and sickening.

And I had no idea this had ever happened! 

My first job out of college, I worked for a company that did business in Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. While I knew that Congo DR had previously been called the Belgian Congo, I didn't think about what that meant. And why would I? What Americans are taught in school was written by wealthy white men, not the poor Africans who were treated so horribly under their rule. Now that I'm older and (hopefully) wiser, I've found that it's important to know what REALLY happened. Hochschild did a fantastic job in describing how this area of the world was transformed over a hundred years ago.