Clean Out Your E-Reader Challenge Kick Off!

Clean out your E-Reader Challenge Banner

I am doing the Clean Out Your E-Reader Challenge! It runs from November 1st to the 30th and is being hosted by the wonderful Fantasy is More Fun & Because Reading is better than real life. The focus of this read-a-thon is to read e-books that are free (free means legally free, not pirated) or nearly free ($5 or less). There are lots of prizes for submitted reviews for your free e-books, doing the challenges, and participating in the Twitter party. Of course, this is also a great chance to meet other book bloggers! Check out the Clean Out Your E-Reader Challenge Post for all of the rules and information and to sign up. You need to post a kick off post BY THE END OF NOVEMBER 1ST to participate (this is why I am posting this a bit early, so everyone can get in on the action).

Book Goals

I have seven galley books that I would like to read by the end of the month.

Ancillary Justice - Ann Leckie
The Flight of the Silvers - Daniel Price
The Dangerous Book for Demon Slayers - Angie Fox
The Divorce Papers - Susan Rieger
Foolish Games - Tracy Solheim
Blossom Street Brides - Debbie Macomber
A Study in Ashes - Emma Jane Holloway

If I read all of these books by the end of the read-a-thon, I will have the monkey off my back, so to speak, and be free and clear to read whatever I want (well except for some physical books that I won through GoodReads). I enjoy reading ARCs; however, I want to get back to my TBR list that is sad and lonely.

Non-Book Goals

* Participate in the Twitter Party. (If you have not participated in one of these before, I highly recommend it. It is a lot of fun, even if you are not a big Twitter person. Because everyone is there at once, it is like having a conversation with your best-est book friends.)

* Visit everyone's blog at least once. (I want to encourage you to do this too, because it is a great way to meet new friends. I have a couple of cool blogs and bloggers each read-a-thon that I have participated in.)

Leviathan Wakes by James SA Corey: Old Book Review

I feel like I keep writing Debbie Downer reviews, so I dug up a review on GoodReads that I wrote before I started blogging and decided to post it here (I added a bit more to fill it out a bit). I think I need to read something light and fun.

Title: Leviathan Wakes
Author: James SA Corey
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: June 2011
Number of Pages: 561
Series: #1 in the Expanse series
Reason for Discovery: Sword & Laser Book Club

From GoodReads:

Humanity has colonized the solar system - Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond - but the stars are still out of our reach. Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations of the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, "The Scopuli," they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for - and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why. Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to "The Scopuli" and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that this girl may be the key to everything. Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations - and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

Leviathan Wakes was awesome. James SA Corey wrote a summer blockbuster in book form. The book just grabs you from the prologue and doesn't let go until the epilogue. Seriously, I was expecting little explosions to pop out when I turned each page. The softback is a tome, but it is a quick read with ten page chapters. You just keep having to read the next chapter, because each chapter ends on a cliffhanger, and the next chapter is "only" ten pages. 

The book starts with a relatively small mystery and a little political intrigue; however, by the end, the mystery is huge and the political intrigue is far more encompassing that you may have originally imagined. As I was reading the book, I found myself becoming strongly attached to Holden, his crew, and Detective Miller. I held my breath every time something dangerous happened. Did they make it? Will they make it through the next dangerous event?

This book has everything from space flights, fun banter, a bit of romance, explosions, and a mysterious disease. According to Wikipedia, a "space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that often emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, usually involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities." I feel that Leviathan Wakes fits this niche. Specifically, this story takes place in space, there is some interesting technology at the root of the story, and some crazy, dramatic, explosive stuff happens in this tale. If you are looking for a hard SF novel or something using SF to discuss the human condition, you need to look somewhere else.

James SA Corey did a smart thing by having two alternating POVs (Holden and Miller) throughout the book. FYI, James SA Corey is two people (
Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). The two POVs was a really seamless way of merging two different authors and their writing styles into one book. This may be a hindsight is 20/20 thing, but I feel like the two main characters of Holden and Miller felt more developed than main characters in other books, because each author claimed one of these characters for their own. 

I give Leviathan Wakes five space ships. 


The Psychopath Inside by James Fallon: Review

Title: The Psychopath Inside:  A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain
Author: James Fallon
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication Date: October 2013
Number of Pages: 256
Series: Stand Alone
Reason for Discovery: ARC

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 From GoodReads:

"For the first fifty-eight years of his life James Fallon was by all appearances a normal guy. A successful neuroscientist and medical school professor, he’d been raised in a loving, supportive family, married his high school sweetheart, and had three kids and lots of friends.
Then he learned a shocking truth that would not only disrupt his personal and professional life, but would lead him to question the very nature of his own identity. 

The Psychopath Inside tells the fascinating story of Fallon’s reaction to the discovery that he has the brain of a psychopath. While researching serial murderers, he uncovered a distinct neurological pattern in their brain scans that helped explain their cold and violent behavior. A few months later he learned that he was descended from a family with a long line of murderers which confirmed that Fallon’s own brain pattern wasn’t a fluke. 

As a scientist convinced that humans are shaped by their genetics, Fallon set out to reconcile the truth about his brain with everything he knew about the mind, behavior, and the influence of nature vs. nurture on our personalities. How could he, a successful scientist and a happy family man with no history of violence, be a psychopath? How much did his biology influence his behavior? Was he capable of some of the gruesome atrocities perpetrated by the serial killers he had studied?
Combining his personal experience with scientific analysis, Fallon shares his journey and the discoveries that ultimately led him to understand that, despite everything science can teach us, humans are even more complex than we can imagine."

This is the first review copy that I considered not reviewing in a very long time. I kept going back and forth about what I was going to do. In the end, I decided to review it, because I figured maybe someone might want to read it for all of the reasons that I did not like it. This sounds very ominous, huh? Let me explain. In the "real world," I am a graduate student studying clinical psychology. All I have left to do is to finish writing up my dissertation. Due to my background in psychology, I may be more sensitive to certain things that are going on in this book than the average reader. In other words, this book may not drive you as crazy as it drove me. :)

In this book, James Fallon, a neurologist, has decided that he meets the criteria for a possible diagnosis of psychopathy. The entire book is a showcasing of the evidence for this diagnosis, and he includes both a personal history and biological evidence for this. So I need to stop right here. During the first day of graduate school (and on the first day of Abnormal Psychology in college), my professors stated in no uncertain terms that we should not diagnose ourselves, because you cannot observe your own behavior objectively. Fallon paints a very particular picture of himself in this book to show that he has a particular diagnosis. Granted, a lot of his behavior is problematic (e.g., burning things and manipulating people); however, he never tells a complete story. For example, he rarely tells a story about him just acting like a boring, regular person. All the stories are told in such a way that he is portrayed as a superlative including smartest, bravest, most handsome, most cunning, and most manipulative. We have to take his word for it that what he is telling us is the truth. He does say that he interviewed his friends and family, but (1) what do you expect them to say to him? and (2) he is still filtering what they said to him to us. His writing and story telling do suggest certain pathologies; however, I am not diagnosing someone from a book just like maybe a neurologist shouldn't be diagnosing himself with a psychological disorder.

This book left me feeling dirty and used. Fallon would argue that my gut reaction to him does indicate that he has antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy. He may be right; I have worked with people with the antisocial personality disorder diagnosis who have caused my spidey sense to go off just like it did when I read Fallon's book; however, this manipulativeness that Fallon prides himself on could be related to a number mental health issues or the fact that he wants to sell books.

So you may be thinking that Fallon's personal history is a bit shady, but he cites biological proof like his brain scan! Although we have learned a lot about the human brain and how it works, we don't know everything. Maybe Fallon is a psychopath, because his brain looks like serial killers' brains. Maybe his brain scan also matches people's brains with OCD, or autism spectrum disorders, or narcissistic personality disorder. Maybe his brain matches other super geniuses' brains. Unfortunately, Fallon doesn't have any evidence to suggest the contrary to his psychopathic brain structure. Fallon follows this same path with other biological evidence that he has. He shows the reader some blood work that might be damning and states that it might suggest psychopathy, but then he moves on to the next topic. We don't know if Fallon isn't explaining himself fully, because there is not enough research in this area or he didn't bother to look too far from the psychopathy tree. Fallon makes a few leaps of faith that seem reasonable, but ultimately he doesn't always show the evidence he has to back up his claims. There is a lot of razzle dazzle but not enough objectivity, at least for me.  

I did not care for this book, because (1) there was not enough objectivity for me and (2) the narcissism was at times unbearable. With that said, this book made set off my spidey sense for serious personality disorder to go off. Delving into a person's brain like the one Fallon suggests that he has, it not my cup of tea. I thought this book was going to be more fun that it turned out to be. If you want to get a flavor for someone who may have antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy, this may be the book for you. It certainly gives you flavor. I don't think I could have had such a strong reaction to this book, if the flavor wasn't here. At the same time, if you want an objective book on psychopathy, I would look somewhere else.

I give this book 1 out of 5 for me.

Charming by Elliott James: Review

Title: Charming
Author: Elliott James
Publisher: Orbit
Publication Date: September 2013
Number of Pages: 400
Series: Pax Arcana
Reason for Discovery: Tabitha's review on My Shelf Confessions

This book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

From GoodReads:

John Charming isn't your average Prince...

He comes from a line of Charmings — an illustrious family of dragon slayers, witch-finders and killers dating back to before the fall of Rome. Trained by a modern day version of the Knights Templar, monster hunters who have updated their methods from chainmail and crossbows to kevlar and shotguns, he was one of the best. That is — until he became the abomination the Knights were sworn to hunt.

That was a lifetime ago. Now, he tends bar under an assumed name in rural Virginia and leads a peaceful, quiet life. One that shouldn't change just because a vampire and a blonde walked into his bar... Right?

A story about about Prince Charming who is a monster hunter and Tabitha loves it (who is my book doppelganger)? Sold. In all seriousness, this was a really fun read. I liked that their are both men and women, magical folks and humans, working together to fight the Big Bad. Sometimes in urban fantasy books, you only hear about the magical beings and I get a bit frustrated because I am just a human. I want to place myself in the book too! Having purely human characters gives me characters to claim as my own.

In addition to the characters, the book's plot (not the series' Charming arc, see below) was interesting and fairly tight. In this particular book, Charming and his Scooby gang fight vampires! I thought it was fantastic that Elliott James not only had the characters do a bit of investigation and vampire fights, but also he had the gang prepare for battles! That is right! Charming and the Scooby gang have a few scenes where the practice what they are going to do when they fight the vampires. It was really refreshing to see scenes like this. In most urban fantasy books/TV shows, the characters discuss the plan off screen and then they go fight the Big Bad. Elliott James takes a much more realistic approach with having his characters make plans and practice the plans, and it pays off (at least for me).

This book had a few flaws, but I think that these are due to it being a first book in a series. First, there is a lot of info dumping at the beginning of this book. Charming explains why there is all of this info dumping, but I wish that there were just a few less magical creatures in this book that needed to be explained and some of the world building was left just a little more vague instead. The info dumping shrinks dramatically as you move through the book, so you just need to push through it. Second, I don't think that enough time was spent on Charming's issues with the Knights Templar (he used to work with them before the start of the book). Apparently, the knights didn't like him, but then they were forced to work with him, then he did some stuff, and then they really didn't like him. I am summarizing to avoid spoilers, but this is all explained early on in the book. Anyway, I wish there was detail about why the knights didn't like him and why Charming was hung up on it. I think I have read too many other urban fantasy books where the "issue" (not saying due to spoilers) in this book just isn't a problem and everyone seems to deal with it. 

Outside of these two issues, I really enjoyed the book, especially when the book focused on the book-centric plot (not the overarching Charming plot). The plot was interesting and had lots of fun twists and turns. I can really see this series being a real charmer (pun intended) with an urban fantasy audience. I like that this Charming deals with vampires and other typical urban fantasy creatures, but I am keeping my fingers crossed for some more traditional fairy story monsters too!

I give this book 3 out of 5 fairies.

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Scariest Looking Book Covers

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! I recently discovered that I could to the prompts well in advance of Tuesday, so doing TTT suddenly became much more possible. :) Sometimes I am a bit slow on the uptake. So, without any further ado...

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week bloggers post a top ten list related to a specific theme. This week's theme is Top Ten Scariest Looking Book Covers. Interestingly, I have only read 5 of these books.

1. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Treasury by Alvin Schwartz (and illustrated by Stephen Gammell)

The book cover and the illustrations are quite scary. I used to have to cover them up when I was reading the stories.

2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This cover freaks me out, because it looks like the girl is drowning. She may be okay, but my first thought that she is in trouble and I can't do anything to help her.

3. Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series by Charles Gilman

All of the covers from this series are a bit freaky, but the Substitute Creature cover in particular scares me just a bit.

4. It by Stephen King

Clowns don't normally scare me; however, this clown is so sinister. I am afraid he is going to jump off the page!

5. Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber

Good things are not going to happen in this book when you have a Storm Troopers helment (and head) hanging from a hook on the book cover.

6. Flowers in the Attic by VC Andrews

This cover just looks so haunting.

7. The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

If you are this close to the Joker, bad things are going to happen. Really bad things.

8. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 

Black and white pictures of lonely children are scary. She looks like she is going to jump off the cover and haunt me.

9. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

This house looks like it is haunted. Opening the book is like entering this house, bad things are going to happen.

10. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson 

The perspective of this cover looks like the vampires are getting in line to jump off the cover.

I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton: Book Review

Title: I Am Pusheen the Cat
Author: Claire Belton
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication Date: October 2013
Number of Pages: 192
Series Notes: Stand Alone
Reason for Discovery: ARC

This book was generously donated by the publisher for an honest review.

According to GoodReads:
This collection of oh-so-cute kitty comics—an online cult phenomenon, now for the first time in an adorable gift book—Pusheen combines the online reach of The Oatmeal’s How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You with the super-sweet appeal of Hello Kitty.With more than 2 million page views a month, 500,000+ blog subscribers, and 500,000+ Facebook followers, Pusheen is a pleasantly tubby gray tabby cat who has warmed hearts and tickled funny bones of millions worldwide with her signature GIF animated bops, bounces, and tail wiggles. Now, Pusheen is ready to make the leap from digital to print with her first comic collection!
I Am Pusheen the Cat features some of the most popular comics from the website, including Reasons I Love Fall, Career Options for Your Cat, and Christmas To Do List, as well as a healthy serving (at least 25 percent) of never-before-seen material that is sure to delight Pusheen’s many dedicated fans.

I have a 2-year old kitty named Lunabelle. Since I adopted her, I have become a bit of a cat person. Life does not revolve around Lunabelle; however, my husband and I do spoil her. She definitely has us wrapped around her little paws, but with a face like her, how can you say no?

I felt it was important to explain my cat background before jumping into my review for this book. If you hate cats with a passion, this is not the comic compilation for you. If you are anyone else though, you should look through this book, because Oh My Goodness! The cuteness just pulls you in. Welcome to the Dark Side. We have cookies and kittens. Although I have heard of Pusheen and have seen a few of the gifs floating around the web, I had not visited the Pusheen the Cat website before. For this reason, all of the comics in the book were new to me; I think I overloaded on the cuteness. For those of you who have seen the comic, nothing in this book will be new to you.

This book is a collection of short adorable little comics that will make you smile, especially if your cat does some of the things that Pusheen does. In one of the comics, Pusheen, pushes a plate off a table and it reminded me of Lunabelle (she likes to push lightweight objects like pens and eyeglasses off of tables to watch them fall). Another comic showed Pusheen's different sleeping positions, which reminded of how Lunabelle sleeps.

This is a cute book to get the cat lover in your life or a book to keep in case you need a pick-me-up.

4 out 5 cats for adorable-ness

A Tale Dark & Grimm Series by Adam Gidwitz: Review

I received these two books from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Because these two books are part of the same series and each galley only contained the first story, I decided to combine my reviews into one post.

Title: A Tale Dark & Grimm
Author: Adam Gidwitz
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Publication Date: June 2010
Number of Pages: 252
Series: #1 in A Tale Dark & Grimm
Reason for Discovery: Galley

From GoodReads:

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches. Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

Title: In a Glass Grimmly 
Author: Adam Gidwitz
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books
Publication Date: Sept 2012
Number of Pages: 192
Series: #2 in A Tale Dark & Grimm
Reason for Discovery: Galley

From GoodReads:

More Grimm tales await in the harrowing, hilarious companion to a beloved new classic. Take caution ahead— Oversize plant life, eerie amphibious royalty, and fear-inducing creatures abound. Lest you enter with dread. Follow Jack and Jill as they enter startling new landscapes that may (or may not) be scary, bloody, terrifying, and altogether true. Step lively, dear reader . . . Happily ever after isn’t cutting it anymore.

In this companion novel to Adam Gidwitz’s widely acclaimed, award-winning debut, A Tale Dark & Grimm, Jack and Jill explore a new set of tales from the Brothers Grimm and others, including Jack and the Beanstalk and The Frog Prince.

I loved the introduction and the first story in both of these books (there are nine stories in the first book and 13 in the second). The narrator is fun, witty, and biting all at the same time. Although the narrator is nothing like Lemony Snicket from the Series of Unfortunate Events books, there is something in the tone or pace of this book that reminds me of Snicket. Although I did not have the opportunity to meet Hansel and Gretel or Jack and Jill, because they are not in their respective book's first story, I have confidence that they are going to be interesting characters based on how the characters in the first story written (I am assuming that the characters that we meet in the books' first stories are somehow related to Hansel & Gretel and Jack & Jill, respectively).

One thing that endeared this book to my heart immediately was that the narrator states in the beginning that fairy tales were bloody and gruesome when they were written, which is completely true. Cinderella's step-sisters cut their feet to fit into the glass slipper. Rapunzel's witch discovered Rapunzel was spending time with a prince, because Rapunzel commented one day that her dress was getting tight. With the tone set that fairy tales are not so clean cut, I have a feeling that the rest of the book will be fairly true (pun intended) to the spirit of Grimm's tales and lots of fun.

Note: As I stated in my review, the narrator refers to blood and potential violence. Because I could not review either of these books in their entirety, I cannot confirm or deny the appropriate age level for this series. They seem perfectly fantastic, and I want to read them; however, I would want to read through both books before giving them to a younger reader. 

I rate these books 4 out of 5 fairies.

The Essential Cake Boss by Buddy Valastro: Craft Book Review

Title: The Essential Cake Boss: A Condensed Edition of Baking with the Cake Boss
Author: Buddy Valastro
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: October 2013
Number of Pages: 192
Series: Stand Alone:
Reason for Discovery: GoodReads First Reads Program

I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads Program in exchange for an honest review.

From GoodReads:

Here are the essentials from Buddy Valastro’s instant classic, the New York Times bestselling Baking with the Cake Boss, in a condensed, more affordable paperback package with a dynamic, new design. Here are extensive explanations and step-by-step photos that show how you can bake—and decorate—just like the Boss! 

Everyone who works at Carlo’s Bake Shop gets an on-the-job education on how to bake like a pro. Now you can get that training in The Essential Cake Boss, a collection of Buddy’s recipes and techniques that are the building blocks of his show-stopping desserts. You’ll learn to work with baking and decorating equipment, bake perfectly moist cupcakes and cakes, and work magical effects with frosting and fondant. With Buddy’s inspiring enthusiasm and stories from the bake shop told in his inimitable voice, The Essential Cake Boss provides you with the tools for making his most popular, signature creations. A unique chart lets you mix and match cake flavors, frosting, and liqueur syrup to create your own personal trademark cakes. Plenty of gorgeous, step-by-step instructional photos let you follow Buddy as he shows how to create his artistic flourishes and decorations. An incomparable dessert education, The Essential Cake Boss will become a beloved reference for aspiring and skilled bakers alike.

I enjoy watching cooking shows on television. In fact, I have watched several episodes of the Cake Boss, because I love to watch how cakes are put together. It is amazing what people can do with a bit of flour and some eggs. When I read this book, the word that kept popping into my mind was "comforting." Buddy Valastro takes a quiet approach with his readers and eases them into the idea of being a baker. He explains that baking is a skill that can be learned with lots of practice. He encourages his reads to start with cookies and then eventually graduating to cakes. As I read the book, I noticed that I started saying to myself that I can do this!

Although this book is a condensed version of Valastro's large book, The Essential Cake Boss feels complete and is surprisingly detailed. Valastro goes into great detail explaining what equipment a baker needs and why. In addition, he gives some great advice on baking in general. Something that made me quite happy is that there are a lot of pictures showing you what things are supposed to look like. The large numbers of pictures keep the number of written instructions limited, so none of the recipes look too intimidating.

This book contains five cookie recipes, eight cake recipes (and additional recipes that build on these eight foundational cakes), and 10 frosting and fillings recipes. Additionally, Valastro shows the reader how to several different types of cake toppers (predominately flowers).

My skill set does not include cooking; however, this book gives me the courage to make some cookies and maybe attempt a cake for the upcoming holiday season.

I give this book 4 out of 5 cakes.

Sunday Update!

A very exciting event happened this week. Check out the purchased section down below!

Weekly Book Haul

Giveaways & ARCs

I had a plan this week. It was a great plan. This plan involved not requesting any ARCs unless they were super awesome. I was going to play catch up with my current books. It was a great plan. The plan started to fail when I won a raffle hosted by Penguin and received Foolish Games by Tracy Solheim. Then I received two additional ARCs that I had requested at the beginning of September that I figured I was not going to get: A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway and Blossom Street Brides by Debbie Macomber. Finally, I received an ARC that I requested last week The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price. I did request Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, because it was my book club's November book pick, so this book counts as extra super awesome.

As you can probably guess, I have now signed up for Berls and Michelle's Clean Out Your E-Reader challenge in November. You should sign up too, if you have gotten yourself into trouble like me.


I had not planned to get any books at the library; however, a book that I requested in the beginning of September finally was available (Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8: The Long Way Home by Joss Whedon and Georges Jeanty). While I was getting the graphic novel, I decided to borrow Sybil Exposed by Debbie Nathan, because Rebecca from Love at First Book wrote a great review.


I bought Parasite by Mira Grant this weekend!!!! So gather round and let me tell you the story. My husband and I needed to go to Wal-Mart and buy winter supplies (e.g., de-icer fluid for the windshield wipers, snow shovels, ice scrapers, and snow brushes). Barnes & Noble is right next door, so my husband asked if I wanted to pop in to the bookstore first. Of course I said yes, even though I mainly go just to look. I like seeing what the new books are for general fiction and SF&F. I was looking through the new SF&F when I noticed a certain book in the bottom, right hand corner of a shelf. It was Parasite by Mira Grant. I immediately grabbed the book and ran over to my husband and showed it to him. I whispered quietly to him that the book isn't out until Tuesday and that no one was taking this book away from me now. He nodded in agreement as he has learned to do when I have that crazy look in my eye and letting me do what I want won't be horribly detrimental to society. I then paused and said that I am getting it from the library, so I should probably put it back. He looked at the price and said that it was only $20, so I should get it. I tried to say no again, but then he repeated that I should get it, so I got it. [Back story: In situations like this, I will usually put the item away and then wish for days, weeks, months, or years that I should have purchased an item. I still talk about a painting at Dragon*Con that I wished that I had purchased. It was a painting of a dragon knitting.]


The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis: This audio book is 26 hours, and I don't have lots of time to pay attention to it, so it has been slow going. However, this book is really good. Right now, I am learning more about the undergraduate who got sent back in time to the Medieval Ages. I am very concerned that she is the cause of the plague.

Suburban Legends by Sam Stall: This book is fun. It is a collection of urban legends that occurred in suburbia. Some of the stories are a bit grisly, but overall the book is an entertaining Halloween read.

Parasite by Mira Grant: This book is awesome so far. I do have a few critiques, but I am going to withhold judgement until I finish the book. I am not going to say anything more, because I shouldn't even have a copy of this book right now and don't want to spoil things for people who have to wait until Tuesday.

Read This Week

I thought I had only read one book this week; however, I read a few!

Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
A Tale Dark & Grimm and In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz (I discovered that these galleys only had the first story for each book)
LEGO Space by Peter Reid and Tim Goddard
Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

Still Writing by Dani Shapiro: Review

Title: Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life
Author: Dani Shapiro
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Publication Date: October 2013
Number of Pages: 256
Series: Stand Alone
Reason for Discovery: GoodReads First Reads Giveaway

I received this book through the GoodReads First Reads Giveaway program in exchange for an honest review.

According to GoodReads:

"Everything I know about life, I learned from the daily practice of sitting down to write.”

From the best-selling author of Devotion and Slow Motion comes a witty, heartfelt, and practical look at the exhilarating and challenging process of storytelling. At once a memoir, meditation on the artistic process, and advice on craft, Still Writing is an intimate and eloquent companion to living a creative life.

Through a blend of deeply personal stories about what formed her as a writer, tales from other authors, and a searching look at her own creative process, Shapiro offers her gift to writers everywhere: an elegant guide of hard-won wisdom and advice for staying the course. The writer’s life requires courage, patience, empathy, openness. It requires the ability to be alone with oneself. Gentle with oneself. To be disciplined, and at the same time, take risks.” Writers—and anyone with an artistic temperament—will find inspiration and comfort in these pages. Offering lessons learned over twenty years of teaching and writing, Shapiro brings her own revealing insights to weave an indispensable almanac for modern writers.

Like Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Virginia Woolf’s A Writer’s Diary, and Stephen King’s On Writing, Dani Shapiro’s Still Writing is a lodestar for aspiring scribes and an eloquent memoir of the writing life.

Still Writing is a collection of short essays (1-3 tiny pages) about Shapiro's life and writing. The book is divided into three sections: beginnings, middles, and ends. When I started the book, I was a bit iffy about it. I couldn't get comfortable with the format, and I felt like the essays didn't join together. But just like my friend's dog who needs to yank his blanket around before getting comfortable and going to bed, by the end of the beginnings section, I had fallen in love with this little book. Everything suddenly clicked. I had been reading lots of action SF&F books, and this book is the complete opposite of that. This little piece of creative nonfiction is quiet and thoughtful and needs to be read in small doses. With the constant little breaks with each little essay, you are subconsciously encouraged to put the book down and live your life a little more creatively.

I loved this book so much. It reminded me of one creative nonfiction class that I took and another one that I didn't take and regret to this day for passing up. I want to buy copies of this book and send it to my friends and to my creative nonfiction professor. I want to read this book again and underline it and write notes in the margin.

I am not a writer with a capital W, nor do I want to be. I like reading and the idea of being a writer sounds lovely, but I don't think I can do the time (I am not what you would call a self-starter, outside motivation is something that I really need). However, this book spoke to me. This is a book that speaks to anyone who lives a creative life or has lost his or her way.

This book is perfect in so many ways. Each sentence is thoughtful and each essay is "tight." At the end of each essay, I never felt like more need to be said. Shapiro was able to say what needed to say in just a handful of paragraphs each time. The flow worked well going from discussing beginnings, to middles, to ends. I want to reread the book again, so I can notice the flow at the beginning of the book better.

My only critique of this book is more of a wonder. Shapiro refers to some of her other books that she has written. I wonder, if you are familiar with Shapiro's writing that some of the essays would feel repetitive, because she discusses some of the events in them in this book.

I give this book 5 out of 5 quills.

Fairy Debt by Gail Carriger: Book Review

Title: Fairy Debt
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Publication Date: 2013
Number of Pages: 18 pages (~5000 words)
Series: Stand Alone
Reason for Discovery: Gail Carriger's website

According to GoodReads:

"I knew it would all end in tears the moment I saw the hat." Cups is a fairy with a problem. She can't grow wings because is she under a death promise to a local king. So she takes service at his castle as the Least Jester, hoping to earn her wings and learns a great deal about cupcakes, tea daemons, and Earth dragons along the way. 

This short story (~5000 words) by Gail Carriger is a fun, quick read. For those who are a fan of the Parasol Protectorate universe, this is a stand alone story and in a completely different universe. This book feels similar to something that you would find in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles universe (author: Patricia C Wrede). In other words, clever and sometimes snarky characters who live in a magical world.

I was quite impressed with how well Carriger used her 5000 words. Carriger was able to balance plot movement with character and world development fairly well. The writing felt quite natural and flowed for the most part. As a reader, I was happy to take the ride. I didn't find myself looking to see how many pages I had left. I was content to let the book guide me down the path. Typically, with novelettes and novellas, I am constantly checking to see how much I have left, because I have found that this type of story wraps up in two sentences or the story ends on a cliffhanger (usually for an introduction to the next book in a series). With that said, even though I wasn't check how far into the story I was, Fairy Debt does wrap up a little faster than I would have liked. I wish that the story was just a smidgen longer to wrap up things a little bit cleaner.

4 out of 5 fairies

Spook by Mary Roach: Book Review

Title: Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife
Author: Mary Roach
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: 2005
Number of Pages: 311
Series: Stand Alone
Reason for Discovery: I love Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.

According to GoodReads:

The best-selling author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers now trains her considerable wit and curiosity on the human soul. What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that—the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my lap-top?" In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.

In each of Mary Roach's books, she has focused on a part of the human body. In this book, she studies a very different part of the body: the soul/human spirit. If you are not familiar with Mary Roach's books, they are filled with both source documents and interviews and are written in a fun, narrative style. This book is no different from her others. I feel like I am taking a journey with her. At the end of each chapter, she discusses what she learned and new questions that she has, which leads to the next adventure (and next chapter). With that said, if certain chapters are particularly interesting to you, you can skip to particular chapters and not miss too much.

I always end up comparing all of Mary Roach's books to Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, which I loved (or at least that is how I remember it when I read it about 10 years ago). This book is great. I don't love it as much as Stiff; however, it is still a strong book. Let me explain my thinking. The book feels well researched. Roach cites many of her sources within the text and has notes and references in the back of the book too. Additionally, she interviews a lot of people within the field. Ghosts and spirits are not an area of research that I am familiar with, so maybe all of her sources are horrible. Everything sounds sound though. I appreciate Roach's narrative style. I really hate when nonfiction books are written as the be all end all truth, when in reality, the writing is the author's opinion. As a science writer, I don't get to use verbs like "proves." I have to use verbs like "suggest" and "indicates." If I have to couch my writing, I feel other authors have to as well. I feel when authors don't couch their writing, they are providing a disservice to their readers. Granted, there are times when writers can say something is a fact, but I feel that authors write a lot of statements that sound like facts when they are opinions. *getting off my soapbox* Before I move on to what I didn't like, I do want to say that in addition to enjoying her writing, I learned a lot about possible reasons for paranormal phenomena and the history of psychics.

There were two things that bothered me a bit about this book. First, in the first two chapters of this book, Roach discusses research regarding the soul. Normally, I like her fun and cheeky writing; however, in these chapters she is very close to making fun of people's religions and the belief of reincarnation. I don't think she is trying to be disrespectful; however, she was definitely dancing on the line. Second, normally in her books, Roach jumps into the topic and takes things a bit more at face value. In this book, Roach states that she is a skeptic, and I don't see her ever truly believing in the paranormal. I understand why she doesn't believe in ghosts (although she says she might at the end of the book); however, this skepticism took away a little bit of the fun.

I give this book 4 out of 5 ghosts.

Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon II Wrap Up

Hello! I know this post is a bit late, but I figured that three posts on Monday was an overkill. Here is my Wonderfully Wicked Wrap Up Post!

Book Goals
  • Finish Battle Magic -- Completed!
  • Finish Still Writing -- Completed!
  • Read The Haunting of Hill House -- Completed!
  • Read one other book -- Completed! I read Spook by Mary Roach, I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton, Book of Enchantments by Patricia C Wrede, Fairy Debt by Gail Carriger, and Charming by Elliott James.
Non-Book Goals
  • Attend at least one of the Twitter parties -- I attended the Twitter party and I even won a prize!
  • Complete all of the challenges - Completed!
  • Visit all of the participants' blogs and try to comment on all of them -- Completed! 
Final Impressions

I had so much fun participating in Wonderfully Wicked. I met lots of bloggers and now have more blogs to read! Yea! This is not a sarcastic yea, I love hearing about new books and which books to avoid. Life is short, no reason spending time reading bad books. I can't wait to do my next read-a-thon, because clearly I read more during these events; I finished eight books during this event!

Thank you so much My Shelf Confessions for hosting this great event! 

Welcome to Dead House by RL Stine: Book Review

Author: RL Stine
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication Date: January 1992
Number of Pages: 126
Series Notes: #1 in the Goosebumps series (#13 in the "classic series")
Reason for Discovery: Scholastic order form

According to Amazon:

11-year-old Josh and 12-year-old Amanda just moved into the oldest and weirdest house on the block--the two siblings think it might even be haunted! But of course, their parents don't believe them. You'll get used to it, they say. Go out and make some new friends. But the creepy kids are not like anyone Josh and Amanda have ever met before. And when they take a shortcut through the cemetery one night, Josh and Amanda learn why.
When I was in elementary school, I read all of the scary stories that I could get my hands on. I read the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series, Goosebumps, and anything else that sounded spooky. I am hooked on these scary books. Interestingly, these books didn't scare me. I could read one of these books right before bed and fall straight to sleep. I didn't have a care in the world. A few years after my scarefest book marathons, I was getting ready for bed and I started thinking about one of these books and I couldn't get to sleep. That is right, this particular book scared me about 3 years after the fact. The book apparently had to slowly seep into my brain for the scare factor to kick in. The book that I am talking about is Welcome to Dead House by RL Stine.

In honor of the Halloween season, I decided to reread this book. I honestly couldn't remember anything about the book except that it had scared me when I was in middle school (I think it was middle school), which was several years after I had read it. I must admit that as an adult the book itself is not very scary. To be honest, I would have been surprised, if I had gotten scared by this book; however, the premise of this book still scares me. I do not want to give anything away for those of you who have not experienced this book, but the fear factor has to do with the people in the neighborhood. This theme of your neighbors possibly wanting to hurt you is something that I see in the books and movies that really frighten me (i.e., zombie stories, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, and The Stepford Wives). Human beings are programmed to be social. We rely on others to help us survive. Most of us rely on others to make our clothes and grow our food amongst other things. We are not self-sufficient anymore. The idea that the community that I have grown to trust, required to trust, is out to get me scares me more than anything. I think it must scare most people, because zombie films are way more popular than they have a right to be. We fear our neighbors turning on us and attacking us. We fear being forced to trust those neighbors that we never truly liked, because everyone else is a zombie. "They are coming to get you Barbara."

Although over the years, I have discovered several books that frighten me including The Haunting of Hill House, Welcome to Dead House still holds a special place in my heart, because it was the first book to scare me, even though it took a couple of years to do it.

5 our of 5 haunted houses for its special place in my heart

Ocean Breezes by Sheryl Thies: Craft Book Review

Title: Ocean Breezes: Knitted Scarves Inspired by the Sea
Author: Sheryl Thies
Publisher: Martingale & Company
Publication Date: 2007
Number of Pages: 80
Series: Stand Alone
Reason for Discovery: Cruising the knitting books online

Initial Impressions: This book is really pretty. I actually want to knit most of these patterns. Why haven't I heard of this designer before? The patterns are all unique and pretty. I want them all.

The Details: This book contains 25 patterns: 21 scarves, 1 cowl, and 3 shawls. There is one color work scarf. The rest of the patterns rely on texture or lace. These patterns range in difficulty from beginner to more advanced. As an added bonus, at least three of the patterns would work for more "manly men." There are even a few more that I could see knitting for men that I know. This book uses a range of yarns; however, these are yarns that you are going to find in your friendly yarn store, not your big box store.

Final Impressions: I love this book. There is a ton of variety in the patterns, and I know I wouldn't get bored, if I decided to knit every pattern in this book. There is a pattern for everyone in this book. There are scarves for the more adventurous to the more conservative of your friends and family.

I give this book 5 out of 5 waves.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson: Book Review

 Welcome Fortnight of Fright participants! I hope that you enjoy your stay at my little blog. Feel free to pull up a chair and stay a while. For those of you who are wondering what Fortnight of Fright is, it is a two-week long event celebrating everything Halloween and horror-related. It is being hosted by Books Take You Places and The Book's Addict Guide.

Book: The Haunting of Hill House
Author: Shirley Jackson
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: 1959 (first publication)
Number of Pages: 182
Series: Stand Alone
Reason for Discovery: Read the short Story The Lottery in class and I wanted more.

According to GoodReads:

First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a "haunting"; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House is considered one of the best haunted house stories ever written. According to Wikipedia, "Stephen King...lists The Haunting of Hill House as one of the finest horror novels of the late 20th century...According to the Wall Street Journal, the book is "now widely regarded as the greatest haunted-house story ever written." In his review column for F&SF, Damon Knight selected the novel as one of the 10 best genre books of 1959...". Now that I hopefully have provided enough opinions to show that The Haunting of Hill House is a story to be reckoned with, let's talk about what makes this book so awesome.

In this story, Dr. John Montague invites three people to stay with him in a haunted house for the summer: Theo who is a telepath, Eleanor who experienced a paranormal event as a child, and Luke who is the future heir of Hill House. The book is written through the eyes of Eleanor. Dr. Montague wants to gain evidence of paranormal activity. He chose Hill House, because it has a sad history. This house's history is not surprising. Shirley Jackson describes the house as "...a house without kindness, never meant to be lived in, not a fit place for people or for love or for hope. Exorcism cannot alter the countenance of a house; Hill House would stay as it was until it was destroyed." The moment that Eleanor sets foot at Hill House she begins to wonder, if she should have come. The townsfolk steer clear of the property. The housekeepers, a husband and wife, refuse to step foot on the property at night. Dr. Montague and his guests should have avoided the house, because paranormal activity quickly starts.

This story has all of the classic haunting events. There are mysterious creatures, writing on the wall, blood, knocking on doors, and a general sense of foreboding. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as I read the haunting events. As the book progresses, the events worsen, and you have to wonder and worry about what is going to happen to these characters. None of the paranormal events are gory or horror movie-like. These hauntings make you want to hide under the covers with a flashlight, but instead of closing your eyes, you keep reading the book. You want to find out what happens next even though you are scared.

What pluses The Haunting of Hill House and makes it such a favorite is that it is not just a haunted house story. The book, as I mentioned earlier, is told from the eyes of Eleanor. Eleanor is a sad character. She cared for her hurtful and mean mother for several years, and a few months before the book begins, she moved in with her sister, brother-in-law, and their child. These characters continue what Eleanor's mother did and treat Eleanor as a child and ridicule her. The invitation to stay at Hill House gives Eleanor the opportunity to escape and to be her own person. At first, Eleanor feels like she belongs with this motley crew of paranormal investigators; however, Eleanor begins to see herself as an outsider. As the paranormal activity begins to escalate, Eleanor's grip on reality starts to waiver. The reader is left with wondering how reliable of a narrator Eleanor is. For those of you who groaned at that last line, this book can be read strictly as a haunted house story, as a story about a woman who is imaging things, or something else altogether.

There have been two movies based on this book; they are both entitled The Haunting. If you are going to watch the movie version, watch the 1963 version. The 1999 version is not only awful, but it is completely different from the book. 

I give this book 5 out of 5 haunted houses.

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