by velocibadgergirl

Friday, November 27, 2009

Where books come to life

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How about Team No-Plot-Holes?

(this is a cross-post from my regular blog)

I kid, I kid...I don't actually advocate burning of the Twilight books. Unless, of course, I'm freezing to death. Or just really chilly. Now, like the guy in the above photo, I admit that I haven't actually read the series. I watched a bunch of people I follow on Twitter react with derision after reading the final book, and have heard from many sources that the writing is pretty abysmal. I may eventually read them, but don't hold your breath. Also? Robert Pattinson is really, really not attractive. Sorry. And watching someone while they sleep? That's not romantic and sexy. That's stalking, and it's both creepy and the reason we have restraining orders.

So! I thought it would be fun to post about five books that I recommend instead of Twilight, or to pick up if you've read Twilight and need another vampire / werewolf story to feed your addiction:

5. Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett
I put this one at number five because while I did find it enjoyable, I think it's one of the Discworld books that works better if you've read some of the others. Some of the books in the series can almost stand alone, and others are a bit more meaningful if you've already been introduced to the characters. That said, I don't think any Discworld book is totally inaccessible as a first encounter with the series.

4. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause
I like that in Blood and Chocolate, the girl is the werewolf, and the boy she falls for is the human. Main character Vivian isn't completely without flaws, but I didn't have trouble putting up with her. The story has a little less impact to it than the ones I placed above it, but I do remember that I liked the book. I haven't seen the film version, but the wikipedia summary leads me to believe that the screnwriters took a lot of liberties. Might be a fun one to watch for creeps, though.

3. the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris
Also known as the Southern Vampire Mysteries, this series served as the inspiration for the HBO series True Blood. I wrote a review of the first book, Dead Until Dark, back when I read it:  "The heroine, Sookie Stackhouse, is no Sunshine, but she's a good character. In some ways, she's similar to Sunshine, in that both are pretty ordinary girls--not geniuses, not knockout babes, not karate champions. Where Sunshine had a magical heritage, Sookie has a magical talent--she can read people's minds. Because of this, she has few friends and zero romantic experience. When she meets an "out of the coffin" vampire, things change, and before long, Sookie's trying to solve a mystery and stay alive long enough to figure out whether or not a vampire boyfriend is what she really wants.

My only objections to this story: unnecessary (in my opinion) murder of a family member, even more unnecessary murder of a pet, and a vampire named Bill. My friend Tamsyn, who gave me the book, pointed out that Harris was likely trying to create an alternate take on the stereotypical vampire tale. Instead of femmy glam vampires named Lestat or whatnot, she created a vampire who represented a typical 1870s American Southerner. I'm okay with that, but wish she'd called him Will or Liam or even William. I just don't dig the name Bill, having once had a horrible coworker by that name.

Pressing through my misgivings about the name turned out to be worth it, and the story was really enjoyable. I was surprised but not incredulous when the murderer was revealed, which is always really nice in a mystery. There was also one really unexpected and funny moment where it is revealed that a certain extremely famous, dead but occasionally still spotted singer still kicks around as a creepy pet-fancying vampire. I'm definitely going to look for the second book in the series the next time I'm in the mood for a sexy mystery."

Possibly best of all -- if you're looking for something to carry on with now that Twilight is over -- there are now nine books in the series. I sent my friend Rachel the first book and she called me a crack-pusher for getting her addicted.

2. Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
I read this book on the recommendation of the fabulous Kerri Anne, and I loved it. LOVED it. The book makes a significant but not unwelcome change to the archetype, featuring werewolves whose transformation is triggered not by the full moon, but by the coming of winter. Unfortunately, the werewolves in question live in Minnesota, where winter doesn't screw around. Fantastic, believable characters and a tightly-woven plot made for a serious page-turner. I had this book with me the day I had to sit in the waiting room at the lab for four hours to have blood draws done, and the time flew. If that's not a hardcore endorsement, I don't know what is.

1. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
I absolutely loved Sunshine. Not only is it my favorite vampire book ever, but it's also probably on the top ten list of books I've read in the past few years. There's a slightly more extensive review here, which concludes thusly:  I usually don't go for vampire stories, but I enjoyed this one immensely and would recommend it to anyone. It's got enough magic and undead for the sci-fi / fantasy fan and more than enough down-to-earth, believable characterization for those who tend to prefer non-fantasy fiction.

If you've read any other great vampire or werewolf books, please leave a comment. I'm always open to suggestions for new books to read!

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Green book review & giveaway: A Walk for Sunshine by Jeff Alt

This review is part of the Green Books campaign. Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on the Eco-Libris website.

Back in September, I was offered a chance to receive a green book for review in conjunction with a campaign to raise awareness about environmentally-responsible books. Not only were many of the books about green topics, but most were printed on either recycled paper or paper made from sources certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. Participants were allowed to pick a first and second choice from the list of 100 books, and I was selected to review my top choice, A Walk for Sunshine by Jeff Alt.

My book is printed in compliance with the green press initiative on FSC-certified 100% post-consumer content paper. Recycled paper is a cause close to my heart, having spent several years in college in an environmental club that devoted some time to the Sierra Student Coalition's campaign to convince major paper companies to adopt sustainable forest management practices and increase the use of post-consumer content in their products.

I also have some first-hand experience with how difficult it is to convince businesses (and schools) to use recycled paper. In her fantastic book Garbageland, author Elizabeth Royte relays her experiences related to the cause. She asked her publisher to consider printing the book on recycled paper using soy ink, but they were unable to accommodate her and produce what they considered a cost-effective product. Knowing this, I appreciate even more a book that is printed on the best paper possible for the environment.

A Walk for Sunshine is author Jeff Alt's memoir of his 1998 thru-hike of the 2160-mile Appalachian Trail. A lifelong lover of the outdoors, Alt conceived the idea of an AT thru-hike as a fundraiser for the Sunshine group home where his disabled brother Aaron has spent most of his life. Alt spent a year preparing, researching, and recruiting sponsors before undertaking the five-month hike from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine. He would eventually raise $16,000 for the Sunshine home and inspire a yearly fundraising walk in Sunshine's hometown of Toledo, Ohio.

But the book is mostly about Alt's experiences on the trail, and it is a great adventure tale. From the skunk who curled up on his feet on a cold night in Georgia to the bear who charged him on a wooded stretch of trail in Maine, from the thru-hikers he bonded with to the civilians who provided him with "trail magic," Alt weaves a light-spirited, bighearted tale that kept me turning pages from beginning to end. An AT thru-hike is a bit of a Holy Grail of outdoor experiences, something many nature lovers dream about but never attempt, let alone complete. Alt is refreshingly honest about the physical and mental hardships of the trail, but never stops feeling grateful for the experiences he is having on his journey. I found his optimism and good nature enjoyable.

Alt is not afraid to poke gentle fun at himself, and even chooses a trail name based on a silly rookie mistake -- he dubs himself Wrongfoot after spending his first day on the trails with his arch supports in the wrong boots, resulting in blistered feet. The book moves along at a good pace, and short chapters make for easy reading. Each chapter is preceded by a map of the Appalachian Trail with an arrow marking Alt's progress, a nice detail that keeps the reader rooted in the geographical significance of this truly epic walk.

I enjoyed the book very much, even though it did make me feel a bit sheepish about my own somewhat brief encounter with the Appalachian Trail. In the spirit of sharing, I'd love to pass on my copy of A Walk for Sunshine. For a chance at it, leave a comment here sharing a favorite hiking memory or a goal for something major you want to accomplish. For an extra entry, tweet with a link to the giveaway and leave a comment for me that includes your Twitter ID. I will accept entries with valid email addresses until Sunday, November 15, at midnight. US & Canada only, please!

And the winner is... Danger! Congrats :)

As for everyone else, check back in December...the author emailed me and is going to send a copy of the DVD that's being created to go along with the book, so I'll most likely have another giveaway after I've watched and reviewed it :)

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