Archive for November, 2009

Over the last month I’ve read all four books of the Uglies Trilogy (?).  The books in this series are Uglies, Pretties, Specials and Extras.  I plan on including my individual reviews of these books at the end of this short introduction, but I have a few observations to make about the series as a whole.

First I’ll start by saying that the series was very readable … in fact, almost too much so.  It was written simply, and parts got quite a bit annoying with the slang thrown about.  Think about reading a book and hearing “dude” “totally awesome” “groovy” over and over throughout the story.  That was what it was like for me everytime someone talked about being “bubbly” or “icy”. A little too over the top.

I have more to say, and I’ll be including it in italics at the end of this post.  WARNING: There will be spoilers in what I have to say, so read at your own risk.

Uglies #1

I blazed through this book in about 2 1/2 hours. Once I started reading I was immediately sucked into a fantastic world of hovercrafts, dried foods and the adventures of a “Bad girl”. So why didn’t I give it four, or even five stars?

A few things. First, you can definitely tell that this book is written for young adults. Even more so than other young adult novels out there. It’s simplistic and full of moral preaching. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and “Don’t pollute” being two of the biggest messages being told. There’s arguments for (or against, if you take the Pretties side) eating meat, thinking for oneself, etc. It’s almost overwhelming and makes the story a bit less enjoyable for me, so.. take away one star.

The second is the quick resolution. Seriously? Just.. boom, a confession and then everything gets turned around? It just felt all too neat and tidy. So much so, it feels like the cliffhanger at the end is more like.. a downwardhill-hanger. Sure, I’m interested in getting to the bottom of the story, but I’m not propelled to the next book like I was for say, the Harry Potter books or The Hunger Games novels.

Is this a bad book though? Not at all! It’s an enjoyable, fun read with lots of adventure, interesting characters and a vibrant world. Just nothing I feel like I need to run out and by like the other books I’ve mentioned.

Pretties #2

Not a big fan of this second installment of the Uglies series. Unfortunately the entire book made me feel as if I was listening in on the stereotypical cheerleader group. All the “bubbly” was overwhelming and I couldn’t stop rolling my eyes. It seemed dumbed down and severely over-simplified.

I really hope Specials has something more to offer. Pretties didn’t have the same amusement factor as Uglies and it really should have kept the momentum going throughout the book – not just the last portion of the story

Specials #3

Specials was, in my opinion, the best of the trilogy. But the things bugged me in the first two books continued to bug me here.

I spoke to my 17 year old sister about the trilogy fairly recently. She called it “over-rated”. It’s easy to see why kids would gobble up the story. Rebellion, lots of action, a strange world (and an incredible one, I found myself wishing for a hoverboard more than once). So why did she call it over-rated?

While not as bad as the Twilight saga, the series still seems a bit more juvenile and simple than the Harry Potter series, or Hunger Games (I know, I know.. I talk about these a bit). Even the Eragon series had more substance to it. Instead, with these books I felt like skated along the surface of a story. I don’t know how else to explain it other than saying it felt a bit like “fluff” to me.

Entertaining? Definitely. And yes, I’d recommend it to teenagers – especially those that don’t enjoy a lot of reading and have a harder time getting into the more heavy books.

I’ve still got Extras to read and will be interested to see if it carries on the pattern. Oddly enough, I really enjoyed Westerfeld’s Leviathan and I’d rate it over this series any day.

Extras #4

Nothing particularly new here from the other books – I did have hope though, the first half of the book was different and unique and I was enjoying the arc.

It felt like halfway through though Westerfeld copped out by giving Aya “permission” to break the story. The story could have gone in a completely different arc and redeemed what the issue had been with the trilogy, but he decided to go the same path – predictably so.

Not a bad read, just a tad disappointed.

—————————– SPOILER ALERT——————————–

The other thing I wanted to mention was that my biggest issue with the book is that Tally always gets what she doesn’t want.  Normally this wouldn’t bug me, but in a book teaching that pretty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, why is Tally made pretty?  In a book where the Specials are an elitist society within the society, why is Tally made into one?  For all his speaking out against the inane silliness of being popular, of looking just right, of fitting in, Westerfeld doesn’t practice this with his main character.  She would have been much stronger of a character, in my opinion, had she accepted her “ugly” self – much like David did.  But, this didn’t happen.  Perhaps this won’t bug you as much as it bugged me.


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Dear Delta…

Dear Delta Air,

Today I flew home on one of your small, four seat wide planes.  I am a plus-size woman.  On all of your other planes the seatbelt fits me fine.  On this tiny plane, your seatbelt is one inch too short.  So today, I asked for a seat-belt extender.

Now Delta, I know that you might be quick to point out that my size is my fault. Trust me, I know.   But my faults gives your flight attendants no excuse for what they did to me today.

I am a tall woman, 5’10” or a bit more.  I chose to occupy the exit row seat.  This is normal for me. I’ve done it with you in the past, especially on these itty, bitty planes.  But my issue isn’t with your code or manual which states I cannot have an exit row seat with a belt extender. My issue is with the attendants that enforced it.

I watched as they passed me four times, twice each – one of whom was the one who gave me the extender in the first place.  She looked me directly in the eye and asked me if I could handle the duties of an exit row seat.  I informed her I could.  Your other attendant stopped and looked at me in disbelief saying, and I quote, “You got the seat belt fastened?” in a loud voice which prompted everyone’s heads around me to swivel to look at her.

After the door was shut, a total of five trips made past me checking on things by the attendants, the woman who gave me the extender made her way to me, and raising her voice above the noise of the plane, informed me that they did not believe me capable of being able to fulfill the duties of the exit row and it was against policy to allow someone with an extender to sit there.  She went on further to say that they had arranged for me to switch places with the man in the back of the plane, and the row where he sat was empty so there would be room for me to, and I quote, “spread out”.

Do you know what it feels like to have this conversation taking place in full hearing of everyone? And to see pity and distaste on people’s faces as you walk down the aisle to take your new seat?

Furthermore, your other attendant proceeded to inform me that she would show me the code and that the attendants on the other flights I’ve taken weren’t “doing their job” if I had been allowed to sit there before.  I told her twice to stop her confrontation with me (she was seated next to me in the aisle seat she folded out) and twice she ignored me.  When she continued I turned my back on her.

So yes, as I exited the plane and was on the receiving end of yet more excuses and a pathetic attempt at an apology, I was … less than polite in response.

You’ll be receiving my letter of complaint in the next few days.  I don’t expect you to do anything about it, but all of my faults aside, no human being deserves the humiliation that your attendants caused me today.  A simple, polite, quiet request for me to move while people were still being seated would have sufficed.

– An incredibly angry customer.

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Fay by Larry Brown

I did not like this book, I didn’t really like it. It’s no slight against the author, because Fay was well written and interesting. It’s just impossible to like this story.

My sister handed me this book and asked me to read it because she wanted some insights from me for a paper she needs to write about it. If it had not been for this, I never would have read this book as I tend to steer clear of dismal stories. And make no mistake, this is a dismal, gritty story. Do not look here for redemption, you will come away sorely disappointed.

This is the story of 17 year old Fay. She’s a poor country girl, “white trash” by label, but her actions are sweetly innocent and endearing, in spite of the horrifying things she does. This book puts into perspective how uneducated the poor can be and how easy it is once you get to know them to feel sympathy and the urge to help them. I do congratulate the author on successfully portraying this girl as someone I ached to just whisk away from it all. She was polite and well-mannered (as well as she could be), but also a murderer and capable of doing horrifying deeds.

If you are interested in reading about just what circumstances can cause a girl to turn to using herself as a means to earn money, then this is definitely the book for you. But please, don’t expect any sort of good and happy feelings to come out of the experience.

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I loved The Time Traveler’s Wife and when I saw Niffenegger was coming out with a new book I jumped on and immediately downloaded it to my Kindle (it was actually the first book I purchased for that). Just now I’ve gotten to the point where I can actually read it and I cannot believe I waited this long.

Like The Time Traveler’s Wife the author takes a more gentle approach to science fiction in Her Fearful Symmetry. Time travel and ghosts – normally these would be fairly cheesy but fun things to read about but with Niffenegger they become beautiful, fantastic and wistful things.

Several things about this book were fascinating to me. The mirror twins, the outcome of the original twins (which I had guessed, but only one part of), the betrayal of sorts. I cheered for Martin, felt Marijke’s pain, struggled to understand Edie’s stubbornness. I felt for Valentina’s trouble with Julia and tried desperately to understand Julia’s side (but I’m not enough like her to fully get it, I guess).

A few things about the book I struggled with. Mirror twins, but not in all ways (or if they are, things like..left and right feet being reversed were simply glossed over and not made a big deal over). The ease of the relationship between Robert and Valentina. Perhaps it was because time was really not discussed in the book that made it seem as if it progressed too fast.

But overall a peaceful, intriguing read that had me savoring every word written. I don’t do that often with authors, but Niffenegger has provided me another author to follow devotedly.

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A month or so ago I began a short series on how I select books to read (and how I ended up with a huge pile of them sitting on my bookshelf!).  I’ve had questions from people asking me how in the world I manage to come up with so much variety and it prompted me to just write these few posts detailing a few ways I pick out my books.

This post is going to cover the last three items on the list, namely: The Recommendations and The Advertisements and The Author. All three fairly simple, but oh so important.

3. The Recommendations.  First of all, I highly recommend you go to a site like GoodReads.com or Shelfari.com and sign up there.  It’s a valuable resource and a great way to explore authors and genres you’ve never heard of before (Steampunk novels anyone?).  You can find me as a friend there as well, and add me! I always love to see what people are reading.  Just search for my email Benz1966 at Gmail dot com.  Both of these sites have a great recommend column, not to mention the fact that your friends can also recommend books they’ve read that they think you might like.. and you don’t have to worry about remembering the title or finding that slip of paper!

Another great resource for recommendations is Amazon.com.  When you look at the title of a book you are interested in, there is that lovely “what other people bought” slider a bit further down the page.  When I first started seriously reading (I don’t know how else to phrase that – my reading was serious before but never to this extent!) Amazon proved to be a valuable resource to me.

4. The Advertisements.  Here is another place where GoodReads comes in handy.  There are book giveaways, there are mini-ads (like you see on Facebook – but about books!).  They come with great little teasers so you can tell at a glance if it might be something you are interested in.  Books simply don’t get TV time, so in order to find ads for books, you must go to a place where books are central, of course.  It seems so simple, but it really does play a big part.  I think about 15% of the books I end up putting on my to-read list come from GoodReads advertisements alone.

5. The Author.  Everyone does this.  You find an author you like and next thing you know.. you’re grabbing up everything in sight.  But I have a tip for you on this too.  You see, there’s this nifty site called fantasticfiction.co.uk.  Go there. Bookmark it. It’s my precious.  If you are like me and love to read books in order and find out at a glance (and without having to look through some of those authors dopey websites) then you will be visiting this site several times a week to study what it has to offer.  It also lists new books! Upcoming books! And author recommendations! Like Steven King? You can see what authors he recommends!  So very pretty. I love this site and you will to.

Thanks for reading my ramblings and I hope you picked up a few tips that’ll help you out.  I love to read and I love talking with others who love to read so drop me a note anytime you want to chat about that great book you read, or want a recommendation from me.

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When I was around 10 years old, I read Little Women.  How many times have you heard a grown woman say something similar to this?  Maybe the age wasn’t the same, but nearly every woman I know has read Little Women at some point in their life.  Nowadays it’s very possible they’ve seen the movie too, you know.. the one with Wynona Rider as Jo?  I loved that movie as well!

I remember falling in love with Laurie and feeling so much frustration that Jo wouldn’t just give him a chance!  I mean, I understood, but not really.. because at 10 years old, true love would conquer all!  Now, as I read the book every year as an adult, I’m struck by how insightful Jo was, and how capable she was of making a difficult decision, but one that she knew would ultimately bring her happiness.

Louisa’s life was very similar to Jo’s. This biography, written by Harriet Reisen, of an incredible woman was rather dry reading and peppered throughout with excerpts of letters, journal entries and even a few memories.  Her father, not unlike Mr. March, was away for a good amount of time (in fact, one letter he wrote home was copied directly from his letter to Little Women, in those first very few pages).  Louisa had three living siblings, and her mother had various miscarriages.  There was Anna, the oldest. Louisa, Lizzie and Abby (called May) later on.  Fairly easy to see where she got her inspiration from.

The sheer amount of famous people that crossed the Alcott’s life was astounding.  The irresponsibility of Louisa’s father was heart-breaking and the courage and strength of her mother was inspiring.  I always had wondered what the home life of the author of Little Women was like, and, all dryness set aside, what a perfect model for a story her real life was.

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Kindle Giveaway!

Yes, I know..I have one.  However, I’m planning on gifting out a few this Christmas to family members (they already know…) and of course I could use the help!

So how do you win one?  You simply go over here to http://bibliofreakblog.com/great-kindle-giveaway?ref=26db867eec and enter using her various instructions!  Easy as pie!


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