Sunday, February 20, 2011

In My Mailbox (36)

From Girlebooks:
Princess Priscilla's Fortnight
by Elizabeth von Arnim

First published in 1905, Princess Priscilla's Fortnight was no doubt written as a true-to-life fairy tale for Von Arnim's children. It tells the story of Priscilla, a hugely popular German princess, who grows tired of her lavish and pampered life. Through the instruction of her mentor, Herr Fritzing, she learns there is a wide and varied world outside the castle walls and yearns to escape.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

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

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Pet Peeves

It drives me up the wall when...

10. ... people make a word plural by adding an apostrophe and an "s".  I don't know what's going on in schools today, but I learned this way back in elementary school.  If you want to make something plural, you usually just add an "s".  You don't add an apostrophe.  An apostrophe indicates a possessive or a contraction... not a plural.

9. ... people don't know the difference between "you're" and "your".  When I see someone write, "Your gay," the only thing that makes me cringe more than the derogatory insult is the grammar.  Your gay what?

8. ... people say, "I'm waiting on line."  I'm not sure if it's a regional thing or if people are getting confused because of the Internet and the term "online", but it drives me nuts.  You're not standing on the line; you're standing in it.

7. ... authors don't proofread their online words.  If you can't be bothered to get the words right on your blog or message board, it makes me wonder if you bothered to get them right in your book.  And if you can't be bothered, why should I?

6. ... I see ellipses with two periods instead of three.  There is no such thing as a two-dot ellipsis.

5. ... authors use "said bookisms".  If you can actually laugh, snort, groan, or gasp your words, more power to you.  But most of us can't, so when I see book characters doing these things, I don't find it realistic.

4. ... people stick complete sentences together with commas.  I shouldn't have to explain why this is a problem.

3. ... reviewers consider a book to be well written just because it's popular.  That's dishonest.  If you like the book, just say you like the book.  I can't fault you for having an opinion.  But if you say it's well written even though it's full of grammatical errors, purple prose, and typos, I'll probably lose trust in your opinion.

2. ... people don't know the difference between "loose" and "lose".  If you say you want to "loose weight", it conjures up strange mental images.  "Loose" (as a verb) means to set free.  "Lose" means to be unable to find or have.  While I guess you could technically loose your weight, I'm not sure exactly what that would look like.  I'm imagining a bunch of little fat cells running free through the hills...

1. ... people misspell "definitely".  There is no "a" in "definitely".  Let me repeat that again, because I rarely see this word spelled correctly.  There is no "a" in "definitely".  It's not "definately" or "defenately" or "definantly" or "defiantly" (although that is a word... but probably not the one you mean).  Please, please, please learn to spell "definitely"... or don't use it.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In My Mailbox (35)

From the library:
The Magician's Elephant
by Kate DiCamillo

What if? Why not? Could it be?

When a fortuneteller's tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller's mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true.

From Chapters:
by Lesley Livingston

"I don't love Sonny Flannery."

That's the lie Kelley Winslow told to protect the boy she loves from a power he doesn't know he possesses. Devastated, Sonny retreats—to a haven for Lost Fae that's hidden deep underneath New York City.

But Kelley's not about to let things end in heartbreak. To get Sonny back, she's got to find out who's after his magick—and how to use her own. She's got to uncover who's recruiting Janus Guards to murderously hunt innocent Faerie. She's got to help rebuild the shattered theater company she called family. And she's got to do it all without getting dangerously distracted by the Fennrys Wolf, whose legendary heart of stone seems to melt whenever he's around Kelley.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

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

Monday, February 7, 2011

Review - Breathless

by Lurlene McDaniel
Date: 2009
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Reading level: YA
Pages: 176
Source: library

Travis Morrison is a talented diver, the star of his high school's team. One day at the lake, he takes a dive into the water and ends up in incredible pain. He thinks maybe he's broken his leg, but the diagnosis is far worse. Travis has cancer.

After surgery and rounds of chemotherapy, Travis is still losing his battle. He decides to take matters into his own hands, to take control of his own life. But to do that, he'll need help. Will anyone be willing to grant an unimaginable request?

Warning: spoilers in this review

When I was a teenager, a lot of kids were reading Lurlene McDaniel books. I don't think I ever read any at that time; she was just "that author who wrote about death", and I wasn't really into that. Years later, I was attracted to the cover of Breathless, as well as its short length, so I decided to give this author's books a try. But if Breathless is indicative of the style of these books, I don't think I'll be reading any more of them.

My main complaint is that it was a stereotypical story populated by clichéd characters who were all too similar in voice to make the switching points of view effective (or easy to keep track of).  The main character is Travis, who basically has things happen to him for the whole story.  His younger sister, Emily, is an über-religious teen who spends much of the story going to church to light candles and pray to God for her brother's healing (with predictably ineffective results).  His best friend, Cooper, is trailer trash with an alcoholic prostitute mother.  He always seems to have a beer in his hand, even when he's hanging out at Travis's house (presumably right under Travis's overprotective parents' noses).  Travis's girlfriend, Darla, is the tired cliché of a battered woman, and even though she gets after her mother for letting her father beat them up, she still uses the same old "I walked into a door" line to explain her facial bruises.

As a result of all the blatant stereotypes, I couldn't really connect with any of the characters.  And Travis's mother, in particular, infuriated me.  That may have been the intent of the author, but the mother's character seemed to be written the way she was just to create complications in the story.  I didn't find it realistic that someone who actually worked as a nurse (and had probably seen such cancer scenarios play out before) would be so callous and selfish as to refuse her 18-year-old son a DNR and want to keep him hooked up to machines indefinitely like some awful science experiment, completely ignoring his wishes or his quality of life... even if he was her son.  The parents were in a terrible state of denial about Travis's cancer.  By the end of the story, he was missing a leg, his kidneys were toast, he'd had a paralyzing stroke, and his parents were still trying to keep him "alive".

Overall, I found Breathless to be uninteresting and unoriginal.  The twist in the very last chapter seemed to come out of nowhere, and was somewhat inconsistent from a character point of view.  The only thing I liked was that the book was short, so I didn't have to waste too much time on it.

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

Overall: 2.43 out of 5

Sunday, February 6, 2011

In My Mailbox (34)

From Chapters:
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery....

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.

This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul.

The World Peace Diet
by Will Tuttle, Ph.D.

Food is our most intimate and telling connection both with the living natural order and with our living cultural heritage. By eating the plants and animals of our earth, we literally incorporate them. It is also through this act of eating that we partake of our culture’s values and paradigms at the most primal levels. It is becoming increasingly obvious, however, that the choices we make about our food are leading to environmental degradation, enormous human health problems, and unimaginable cruelty toward our fellow creatures.

Incorporating systems theory, teachings from mythology and religions, and the human sciences, The World Peace Diet presents the outlines of a more empowering understanding of our world, based on a comprehension of the far-reaching implications of our food choices and the worldview those choices reflect and mandate. The author offers a set of universal principles for all people of conscience, from any religious tradition, that they can follow to reconnect with what we are eating, what was required to get it on our plate, and what happens after it leaves our plates.

The World Peace Diet suggests how we as a species might move our consciousness forward so that we can be more free, more intelligent, more loving, and happier in the choices we make.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

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

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Review - The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening (The Vampire Diaries #1)
by L. J. Smith
Date: 1991
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: YA
Pages: 161
Source: library

Elena Gilbert is the girl that every girl wants to be and that every boy wants to date. She's used to getting what she wants, too, so when a foreign student named Stefan Salvatore shows up at her school, she sets her sights on a new conquest.

But Stefan is hiding a dark secret about his past, a secret that could threaten the lives of those closest to Elena... and perhaps even Elena herself.

You'd have to have been living under a rock to not at least have heard of The Vampire Diaries, which has been turned into a television series.  This good old-fashioned YA paranormal romance has been around in book form since 1991 with the release of The Awakening.  For whatever reason, I never read the books back when they were released, even though I would have been about 14 and among the target audience.  (That was probably during my reading dry spell in high school where I pretty much read only what was assigned.)

Reading The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening reminded me of why I got sucked into YA fiction in the first place.  It was written in a time when a good grasp of grammar and punctuation was actually expected of authors (imagine that!), so when I was reading I could just enjoy the story and not get tripped up every second paragraph by some character who, somehow, sneezed their speech.  Okay, so this is not a literary masterpiece by any means.  There are some pretty corny bits and some of the speech is not that realistic.  But I quite enjoyed The Awakening, and was pleasantly surprised by what it had to offer.

There are a number of differences between the book and the TV series.  In the book, Elena is a blue-eyed blonde with a preschool-aged sister who lives with her Aunt Judith and stepuncle-to-be (while those who've seen the TV series know that that Elena is a brown-eyed brunette with a teenage brother who lives with her curiously young Aunt Jenna).  What's more striking, though, are the similarities to books such as Twilight.  Elena is similar in some ways to Bella Swan, waxing poetic about wanting to spend eternity with a boy she's only just met (teenagers in paranormal fiction never seem to have any common sense or foresight, do they?).  Stefan and Edward Cullen are likewise similar, in that they both have that self-loathing thing going on; however, Stefan's reasons for being that way make more sense to me.

The only thing I really didn't like about this book was that it had a cliffhanger ending.  Actually, it wasn't even really an ending; it was more like the story just ended in the middle of the climax.  I guess you have to keep reading to find out what happens next.  I've got too much in my TBR pile to commit to reading the rest of the series right now, but I'm not going to rule it out in the future.  As far as YA paranormal fiction goes, this book was pretty good.  I just wish I didn't have to go back almost two decades to find something that has half-decent writing (technically speaking).

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.71 out of 5

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dreaming Anastasia for Free!

Who wants a free digital copy of Joy Preble's Dreaming Anastasia?  Right now, you can download a copy for each of the major e-book reader formats:

Download Dreaming Anastasia for the Kindle here.
Download Dreaming Anastasia for the Nook here.
Download Dreaming Anastasia for the Sony Reader here.
Download Dreaming Anastasia for the Kobo here.