Sunday, April 25, 2010

Does this mean I'm a Twit?

What exactly do you call a person who Tweets? A Twitterer? A Twit? In any case, I've joined their ranks. Why not? Sometimes I don't have enough to say for a full blog post. So I figured tweeting might be a good way to get my smaller thoughts out there.

I'm not quite sure what I need, though. Should I put a Twitter button on my blog somewhere? Or just leave up the widget that's there at the moment?

Any thoughts? Does anyone even follow other people's tweets, or do they just like to tweet themselves?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Top Ten Picks: Worst Books You've Ever Read

I saw this post by Jillian at Random Ramblings, and I thought it looked sort of fun. Sometimes books just deserve to be on a "bottom 10" list, you know? So here are some of the worst books I've ever had the displeasure of reading (from bad to worst):

10. Past Lives, Future Lives Revealed
by Dr. Bruce Goldberg

I enjoy reading about reincarnation cases, and this was one of the books that I read when I first started getting into all of that. When I read it again years later, though, I realized that it had some genuine WTF moments (that I'm not sure how I missed earlier). I think this excerpt from my review sums it up pretty well:

It's as if the author is one of the blind men in the story about the elephant, and he's only able to describe the animal by feeling its tail. The bare bones about reincarnation are there, but there is way too much other stuff that many would view as nonsense, and that damages the credibility of researchers who are looking into the phenomenon of reincarnation. In Goldberg's world, it seems that anyone with inexplicable behavior, past or present, must be possessed -- either by a poltergeist, a past-life persona, a demon, or an extraterrestrial time traveler. I laughed out loud when I read the following passage concerning reptilian aliens: "These time travelers are most definitely to be avoided, as they eat humans." It is statements like this that make me suspicious of the whole book... that, and the fact that we can supposedly be protected from such malicious influences if we buy Goldberg's tapes.

9. The Sun Also Rises
by Ernest Hemingway

I had to read this book in high school. It's put me off Hemingway for life, I think. All I can remember is some guy feeling sorry for himself because he didn't have a penis. I think there was some stuff about bullfighting in there, too.

This book exemplifies one of my pet peeves about much of what I had to read in school. It's all from the man's point of view, dealing with men's issues. We girls were forced to read books like this, but god forbid they'd ever make the boys read Sense and Sensibility or Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret so they could see things from a woman's point of view. Sure, we did read some books about women, but it's telling that whenever a woman showed up in our reading curriculum, she was raped (Tess of the d'Urbervilles), killed (Of Mice and Men), or portrayed as an adulteress (A Doll's House).

8. Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas: Further, Further Confessions of Georgia Nicolson
by Louise Rennison

Don't get me wrong... I loved Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging when I first read it. It was like a Bridget Jones's Diary for the teen crowd. Georgia's voice was witty and funny, and her descriptions of her family and friends were hilarious.

However, by this third book, the "-osity" thing was getting old and I was tired of reading about a girl who was, let's face it, a bitch. She was cruel to her friends, stupid, completely ignorant for someone her age, and also a bit of a racist. As a social commentary for adults, all that might have been okay. But I thought it was all pretty appalling for a teen read.

I can't believe there are something like ten Georgia books out there now. Do people like reading about mean girls that much?

7. Driven
by W. G. Griffiths

I picked up this book thinking it looked interesting... not realizing that it was Christian fiction (our local library is like a minefield for that sort of thing). I wasn't crazy about the possession elements of the story (I thought it was going in a different direction at first), but what really puts this book on my "bottom 10" list is the fact that it's a very shoddy piece of literature. From my review back in 2002:

Okay, I'll admit that, for a while, this book had me hooked. I managed to look past the distracting rhyming adjectives ("bruised and confused", "wired and tired"). I tried to look past the fact that Reverend Jesse J. Buchanan suddenly became Reverend Samuel J. Buchanan (was there a legal name change we weren't made aware of?). But how on earth did Gavin survive being impaled with "a jagged piece of wooden decking, ugly enough to slay a vampire" without any medical attention? In fact, a few minutes later he's snuggled up with his girlfriend, trying to decide where to go on vacation! Was the editor asleep?

Changing character names and continuity problems? Now I'm wondering if there was an editor at all!

6. The Explosionist
by Jenny Davidson

I think I said it all in my review. This was truly one of the worst books I've ever read. And I'm still pissed off about all the time I spent slogging through it.

5. Blue Moon
by Alyson Noël

I also said pretty much everything about this book in my review. It was little more than a badly written Twilight wannabe, with a ridiculous representation of the Law of Attraction and quantum physics. Boyfriend locked his door? No problem... just "manifest" yourself a new one that you can open! Oh, and don't forget to make a VW Beetle appear out of thin air.

Give me a break.

4. Elsewhere
by Gabrielle Zevin

I do have to give the author credit here. She was one of the forerunners of the squick-worthy teen-girl-gets-jiggy-with-old-man genre that seems to be so popular in YA literature these days. But I'm not sure if that's necessarily a good thing.

My problem with Elsewhere was that the afterlife just wasn't very interesting or imaginative. The characterization was horrible; the author was writing about teenagers, but she obviously doesn't know any. They all talked like grannies. Add in the talking dogs and the much-older love interest, and this was a recipe for a book that I could never love.

Girls, just because a guy looks young, it doesn't mean it's okay to enter into a romantic relationship with him. Especially if he's already married.

3. Spellbinder
by Helen Stringer

I didn't actually finish this one, but I'm counting it since the reason that I didn't finish was because it was so bad.

I didn't realize it when I wrote my review, but there's actually a word for the thing that bothered me about this book. They're called "said bookisms", and that's basically when the author goes out of their way to avoid the word "said". As a result, the characters laugh, hiss, growl, whisper, scream, and giggle their words. That's not so uncommon. In this book, however, we're treated to "said bookisms" that don't even make any sense because they're silent actions. Characters in Spellbinder grin, shrug, or glance their words.

And, making the whole thing worse, is the fact that this is a middle-grade book. I learned a lot of grammar from the books I read growing up. If Spellbinder is the sort of thing today's kids are reading, we're going to have a lot of kids who don't even know how to write a correct sentence.

2. Breaking Dawn
by Stephenie Meyer

Come on. Do I really need to explain this one?

I wasn't really anti-Twilight until I read this last book in the series. And then... Wow. I just can't get past the implied pedophilia, the rampant sexism, and the fact that there's absolutely no climax. Breaking Dawn is made of fail... and it's too bad, because it didn't have to be that way. But Stephenie made her choices for her characters, and I guess we just have to deal with it.

Doesn't mean I have to agree, though.

1. Joseph Andrews
by Henry Fielding

This was required reading in my first-year university English class. It has stood out in my mind since as one of the worst books I've ever read... or, rather, tried to read. I never got past the first 20 pages (but I still managed to write a passing essay using Coles Notes!).

All I can remember about this one was that it was stilted, old-fashioned, and mind-numbingly, excruciatingly, spectacularly boring. I hated that little paperback, and I would have burned it if I hadn't been living in residence with very sensitive smoke detectors. Forcing poor, unsuspecting English students to read it is just cruel.

Review - The Forest of Hands and Teeth

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (The Forest of Hands and Teeth #1)
by Carrie Ryan
Date: 2009
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 308
Format: paperback
Source: Indigo

Mary lives in an isolated village in the middle of the Forest of Hands and Teeth, surrounded every day by the Unconsecrated, who are kept at bay by the fences. After losing both of her parents to the Unconsecrated, all Mary has left are the stories her mother told her of life beyond the Forest before the Return... and of the ocean in particular. But in the village, there are few options for young women, and Mary finds herself on the cusp of marriage to a man she does not really love... until a breach in the fence changes everything.

This is the first zombie novel I've read. I'm not sure I'm a fan of the genre. This book, especially, was a little too dark for my taste. (I've still got Pride and Prejudice and Zombies sitting in my TBR pile, but I have a feeling that it's got an entirely different flavour!)

I did enjoy most of this book. When I wasn't reading it, I was looking forward to picking it up again so I could find out what happened next. What I didn't really enjoy, though, were all the unanswered questions. Why, for example, was a village run by a bunch of women still so patriarchal in many ways? Where did the Sisterhood come from? How long ago did the Return happen? Where exactly is the Forest of Hands and Teeth? And the ending, for me, was far too abrupt. In fact, after I finished this book, I went to sleep and dreamed that I wanted to start reading another book, but I wouldn't let myself because I hadn't finished this one yet! I still have this nagging feeling that my copy was missing the final chapter or something (but I'm sure it wasn't). I didn't enjoy this book so much that I want to rush out and get the sequel... and that's pretty much what such an abrupt ending forces you to do.

Anyway, the writing was okay and the characters were fairly enjoyable (even if I couldn't really tell the guys apart... they seemed so similar in nature, especially the two brothers). The pace was a little slow in places, but it made up for that in other places where the action raced along. So, all in all, I'd probably recommend this to fans of zombie novels or post-apocalyptic fiction. I just don't think it was my cup of tea.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Overall: 3.2 out of 5

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Fill-Ins (20)

Friday Fill-Ins:

1. Where are all my friends? I'm not sure I know anymore...
2. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
3. I'd like to see more intelligent heroines in the books I read.
4. When I was a teen, I thought I was so smart. *snort*
5. One of my mother's favorite sayings was (see #2).
6. I'd have a hard time doing without my underwear.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching Jamie Oliver try to knock some sense into that West Virginia town, tomorrow my plans include playing it by ear and Sunday, I want to have an IMM post with something in it!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

In My Mailbox (13)

Just one book this week. I love a good bargain, so when I saw the hardcover of Neil Gaiman's M Is for Magic for under $7, I had to pounce. I didn't realize it was middle grade when I bought it. Maybe I'll be able to use this for the In The Middle Reading Challenge (I still haven't checked any books off that list yet... and I only need to read four).

M Is for Magic
by Neil Gaiman

Master storyteller Neil Gaiman presents a breathtaking collection of tales for younger readers that may chill or amuse, but that always embrace the unexpected:

* Humpty Dumpty's sister hires a private detective to investigate her brother's death.

* A teenage boy who has trouble talking to girls finds himself at a rather unusual party.

* A boy raised in a graveyard makes a discovery, and confronts the much more troubling world of the living.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Another new eReader...

Today, when I went to the Chapters website to order a couple of books, I noticed an advertisement for the new Kobo eReader, which will be coming in May. Now, I still haven't gotten around to buying an e-book reader of any sort. I've been musing over the Kindle and the Sony, but I wasn't really that enthused about either of them. Part of the reason was the price. But the Kobo is only going to be $149 Canadian! The comparison chart is pretty impressive, too. For a lot less money, the Kobo has many of the features of the Kindle or the Sony (although it doesn't look like it has a word look-up feature... darn!). It's also the thinnest and the lightest reader. It holds a few fewer books than the Kindle... but it has memory expansion (which the Kindle doesn't), so you can actually cram up to 4000 books on there with a memory card. I wonder how long it would take to actually read 4000 books...At the moment, there aren't a heck of a lot of e-books available in the YA category. It will be interesting to see if that resolves itself once the Kobo is actually released. I mean, they do have books such as Becca Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush and Kelley Armstrong's The Darkest Powers series. I don't see many really recent releases, though.

It's something to watch, anyway. This looks like it could give us Canadians a more reasonably priced option for e-book readers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review - Dream Spinner

Dream Spinner
by Bonnie Dobkin

I'm a bit confused about this book. I didn't like it, but I can't quite put my finger on why I disliked it as much as I did. And I'm even more confused as to why it currently has a 5-star rating on

Jori lost her father in a car accident. Soon after that, her younger sister went missing. Then, one day, Jori stumbles across a creepy old man, his sentient pet spider, and his greatest treasure: a tapestry woven out of people's dreams. Jori soon realizes that her sister is being held prisoner inside the tapestry, and it's up to her to rescue her.

(That's my own description of the plot, and it's slightly different from the official one. I found the one on the book itself to be somewhat inaccurate and misleading. For example, I wouldn't call a person who has one friend "popular". And the stuff about reuniting with the dead father was misleading, at best.)

This book is listed as a young adult read. Unfortunately (and this may be why I had so many problems with it), it comes off as a book for much younger children... so much so that when the teenage protagonist kisses a love interest, it's rather jarring. I could not put my finger on how old Jori and her friends were supposed to be. Based on the fact that they were teenagers in high school (and yet Jori still had her father driving her around), I'd say they were supposed to be about fifteen. The problem is, they were written as though they were about eleven. This book is about dreams... teenagers' dreams, for the most part. And yet we've got a landscape populated by William Wallace, pharaohs, swamp hags, and talking wolves and unicorns.

And yet, I wouldn't give this book to younger children, either. We've got characters being lured into a derelict house by a creepy old man with only slight misgivings ("Well, we might end up murdered, but he says he's got something special to show me behind that door, so I'm going to go have a look!"). We've got some bad language that really wasn't necessary, and it came across as a desperate attempt to seem hip. Having a character say "shit" a lot does not make him seem more like a teenager. And I don't like recommending books for younger readers that have problems with the English language. There were two spots in the book where the editing went awry (extra words appeared in the sentence, as if the editor couldn't decide on which one, and so included both). There was an instance of "it's" being used as a possessive (gah!). And "pharaoh" was spelled wrong multiple times... including in a chapter title!

It took me ages to get through this one because I just wasn't enjoying it. Perhaps if I had gone into it with different expectations -- namely, that this was a book for a much younger audience -- I would have enjoyed it more. Then again, I probably wouldn't have. Ultimately, Dream Spinner reads rather like someone's weird dream. And while dreams are often relevant to the person having them, they're usually pretty boring to everybody else. As Max Beerbohm said, "People who insist on telling their dreams are among the terrors of the breakfast table."

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Overall: 2.4 out of 5

Monday, April 12, 2010

Musing Mondays (18)

Musing Mondays is hosted by Rebecca at Just One More Page...

There’s been some discussion on my blog this week about what should or shouldn’t make a ‘best books’ list. What elements do you think lands a book in that ‘best’ category? Think of your top 5 best books and tune in next week to see the collated list.

This is a really tough question. It's so subjective!

I do know what books shouldn't make a "best books" list, though. Just because a book is popular doesn't mean it's the best, well-written, or even appropriate for its age group (ahem... I'm sure you can guess what I'm talking about here).

I guess for a book to make it onto a "best books" list, I'd like to see it fulfill the following criteria:

  • It's well-written.
  • It's entertaining.
  • It makes you think.
  • It makes you want to force your friends to read it so you can discuss it with them.

As for my top five "best books"... Well, that's tricky. Best books for adults? Best books for young adults? Best books for kids? Best recent reads? Best classics? Best books overall? It's so hard to pick just five! Let's see...

  1. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
  2. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
  3. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  4. The Light Princess by George MacDonald
  5. The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Of course, I'll probably think of a whole bunch of others later. But these five books I would definitely recommend to readers; they're all well-written, entertaining, thought-provoking, and would spawn some interesting discussions.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Word verification Balderdash (27)

This fun meme was started by Sheila over at One Persons Journey through a world of Books, and is now hosted by Ryan G of Wordsmithonia.
This is the weekly meme where anyone who wishes to play along can take those crazy word verifications they have had over the past week and apply a fake definition to them (much like how you play the board game Balderdash).

Here are this week's words:

Blexuve - noun - a brand of disposable tissues; the name is pronounced BLESH-yoo (the "v" is silent)

boush - noun - a small, bushy beard worn on the chin; boushes are often fluffed up to make them more spherical

inessess - adverb - slang term for "in essence", used by people who don't really know what words they're saying; similar terms include the ubiquitous "wala"

Logyn - noun - a security feature on computers that allows only female users to access the machine; LoGyn is the brand name for a low-dose contraceptive pill (the two companies are currently in court, arguing over copyright issues)

nagist - noun - a person who discriminates against others based on whether or not they nag; nagists often don't like their own mothers

phicro - prefix - used to denote a very small amount; one phicrogram of a substance is little more than a homeopathic dosage

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Review - Before I Fall

Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver

Just when I was beginning to think that there were no good YA books being released, along comes Before I Fall. What can I say? It really is as great as everybody says it is. For once, a book does live up to all the hype.

Samantha Kingston is the girl everybody wants to be... until she loses it all when she dies in a car crash. But she wakes up the next morning, very much alive, and discovers that she has a second chance. In fact, she has a whole week of second chances, in which she must solve a mystery surrounding her death and maybe -- just maybe -- alter destiny.

While it's not the most original premise (it's much like the movie Groundhog Day, which Sam actually makes reference to in the story), it's done so well that one can forgive the slight unoriginality of the plot. The writing is a treat; most of the characters are so well-developed that they practically leap off the page as living, breathing beings; and the story and character arc mesh perfectly to arrive at a conclusion that is neither expected nor a cop-out.

Before I Fall is one of the best YA books I've read in a long time. I highly recommend it.

Plot: 5/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 5/5
Writing: 5/5
Originality: 4/5

Overall: 4.6 out of 5