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Archive for April, 2012

Friday Fun! (Updates Ahoy)

April 27, 2012 2 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

Wow what a crazy week it’s been!  Between being slowed down by hobbling everywhere, getting settled in at work, and getting ready to go out of town….it’s just flown by!

I *did* play one of my xbox kinect dancing games in spite of my stitches a couple of days in a row (I know, bad Amanda).  Also over my weekend I managed to get some time in on Waiting for Daybreak‘s edits.  It’s so close you guys.  I’m thinking a July blog tour.  Anyway, I finally got back into the gym last night, and got praise from my trainer, so it appears my attempts at healthy eating/drinking to keep my fitness going in spite of injury are working!

Things may be a bit slow around here next week, since this week I’ve been working on a chunkster, one of my Bottom of the TBR Pile Challenge booksAcacia: The War with the Mein.  PLUS even if I do finish up some books this weekend, I won’t be blogging them for a bit since I’m spending the weekend visiting my dad up in Vermont.  It’s a mini-vacation yay! One I sorely need too.  I haven’t seen him since Thanksgiving.  Crazy, I know.

Progress continues, even when it’s not obvious.  Writing, reading, fitness, bonding……it all plugs along as long as you keep at it!

Happy weekends all.  Care to tell me a chunkster that you feel is worth the time?

Book Review: Grey by Jon Armstrong (Audiobook narrated by Macleod Andrews)

April 23, 2012 3 comments

Man in a suit looming over a woman.Summary:
In the near future capitalism has entirely taken over, and the world is ruled by a few families….and their corporations.  People from all walks of life are also completely obsessed with fashion.  Michael Rivers is the heir to the River Corporation and is being sent on worldwide-aired dates with Nora, the heir to another company.  Just when they are about to announce their engagement, however, a freeboot shoots at Michael leaving the families blaming each other for the incident.  Michael refuses to accept his father’s demands that he marry a different woman, however, and his quest to figure out a way to Nora leads to some deep dark scandals hid on all levels of the company.

Review:
I have to say that this is the first time I was sorely disappointed by a read I originally discovered via Little Red Reviewer’s blog.  I was intrigued by the idea of fashionpunk, which is what this book is supposed to be.  Fashionpunk is a new genre.  Think scifi with a heavy focus on fashion.  It’s unfortunate that the fashion aka world setting was the best part of the book.

Armstrong richly presents the near future he has imagined.  People’s tendencies to reflect their world views via their fashion choices is completely exploded in this world.  Michael identifies as a Grey.  He wears only shades of grey and chooses everything from what bands he likes to what restaurants to eat in based on the grey fashion’s magazine.  Every other type of fashion is similar.  Even the Rivers security team are referred to by the type of clothing they wear–the Satins.  I know!  This sounds awesome and delicious to be in, and it was. But…..the story, you guys. The story.

This book’s plot is like the Kardashian show if it was written down and entirely sympathetic to Kim Kardashian. I know, right? Even reading that sentence is painful.  It’s not that I’m saying someone wealthy can’t be a main character, but it helps if some aspect of them is sympathetic, and Michael is just not.  He’s whiny and wimpy and sooooo obsessed with inane things and his “love” of Nora completely squicks me out.  It reads more like an unhealthy obsession than star-crossed lovers.  And he never really changes!  No matter what he learns or what happens he’s still the same Michael by the end as he is at the beginning.  There’s just….no character development.  No underdog to root for. No nothing.  I liked seeing Michael’s world, but I really would have preferred to wander off and follow the life of the director or a chauffeur or even the inane girl he goes on a date with who has pink fur growing out of her skin.  See what I’m saying?  Someone with a more interesting perspective.  The problem with Michael is that grey truly is the best way to describe him.  He’s dull and annoying.  Like a grey, rainy day.

So why did I continue listening to it and finish it so quickly?  The audiobook narrator, Macleod Andrews, is completely brilliant.  It was like listening to a one-man show.  He somehow managed to breathe some life into the dull plot.  For that I thank him, and I also will be checking out what else he’s narrated on Audible.

Overall, the concept of fashionpunk that Armstrong has worked out is intriguing and makes for a visually and culturally rich world.  Unfortunately, I found his plot completely unappealing.  Perhaps people who enjoy the lives of the rich and famous would feel differently, however.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Book Review: Succubus on Top by Richelle Mead (Series, #2)

April 22, 2012 4 comments

Woman in push-up vest against red background.Summary:
Georgina Kincaid, the succubus that wishes sex with hot men didn’t always steal their life energy, has held up her side of the bargain with her demon supervisor.  She’s been going after quality men in exchange for him not wiping the memory of her human boyfriend, the hot writer Seth.  Of course, they can’t have sex together without yanking some years off his life, so when they sleep together, it’s literal sleeping.  But life continues in spite of boyfriends and job accolades.  Georgina finds herself caught up in helping an old incubus friend, as well as trying to find out what has her coworker, Doug, so full of energy.

Review:
Ahhh, Georgina.  You are quite possibly my favorite urban fantasy heroine, although your fixation on Seth kinda bugs me.  Anyway, everything that made Succubus Blues so fun is back with a bang this time around.  We’ve got crazy sex scenes, paranormal mystery, and an every reluctant succubus.

The story itself is a bit more predictable than the first one, but that’s ok.  I may have known right away what was up with the incubus’s project as well as what was wrong with Doug, but it’s so much fun to be in Georgina’s world that I honestly didn’t care that I knew.  I mostly delighted in this new version of Seattle that Mead has created.

Georgina is complex and so well-rounded.  We constantly learn little snippets of her long life, this time around focusing in more on her succubus years than her human ones.  She may have sex down pat, but she still doesn’t have relationships figured out, which is part of what makes her character work.  Men can still surprise her sometimes. Especially Seth.

There is honestly not that much else to say about this book.  The world is delicious, the plot predictable, the heroine delightful.  It’s drizzled in intelligent wit and topped off with some red hot sex scenes.  This series is definitely remaining my go to for urban fantasy.  Fans of the first won’t be disappointed, and anyone with even an inclination toward the genre should definitely check it out.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Previous Books in Series
Succubus Blues (review)

Friday Fun! (PSA: Never Run for the Bus. Ever.)

April 20, 2012 10 comments

Hello my lovely readers!

So today was the 100 year anniversary of Yankee/Red Sox rivalry.  This is totally awesome, but the game was at 3pm when I was at work. ALAS I commute right through Kenmore (where Fenway Park is), just about when the games that start at 3 tend to get over.  Knowing this, I decided to walk from my lovely place of employment to Kenmore where I would hopefully be able to catch a bus home.

So there I was.  Walking along.  Listening to one of my all-time favorite songs “Sexy and I Know It,” when in the distance I saw that my bus was boarding.  My natural Bostonian inclination was to sprint for the bus.

Wrong. Decision.

I have no idea what happened.  Maybe my feet slid around in my shoes because of my nylons.  Maybe the sidewalk was uneven.  Maybe I am just an incredibly klutzy mess. Regardless, I tripped my feet up and went flying a couple of feet (I am not exaggerating) onto my hands and knees. But mostly my knees.

Immediately an incredibly sweet young lady about my age stopped to see if I was ok.  I thought I was, since, well, adrenaline had kicked in.  But when I tried to get up, it hurt.  Three more people stopped, including two BU students and a fabulous southern gentleman who was a tourist in my city.  They gave me water and tissues for the blood.  One identified herself as a medical student and pointed out that I needed stitches.  I argued that I was fine and poked me knee, at which point one of the girls almost passed out.

It turns out what I was poking was my own “subcutaneous fat.”  Trust me.  It hurt a LOT later when the adrenaline wore off.

These awesome strangers convinced me to go to the ER to get stitched up.  They flagged down a cab, gave him directions, and one of them almost insisted on coming with me, although I managed to argue that I would be fine, it was just stitches.

At the ER, they plopped me into a wheelchair and everyone basically glanced at me and said “Oh honey,” accompanied by a head shake.

I told the nurse that the Red Sox had wiped out worse than me.  *snort*

So I got 4 stitches, which was an entirely new experience.  It felt…..weird.  You’re numb so it doesn’t hurt, but you still feel *things* dragging along underneath your skin.

Also, they told me I can’t do anything rough on my knee for 10 to 14 days.  No spinning, running, squats, etc…. *sighs*  What’s a fitspo gal to do?

On a serious note though, major thank yous to the strangers who stopped to help me.  This single lady seriously appreciates it.  Especially since I  was adrenaline high and may not have had the foresight to drag my butt to the ER on my own.  You guys were great, and I wish I had some iota of an idea as to who you are.  People could easily have laughed at the gal going flying across the sidewalk running to catch the bus.  Instead you stopped and helped, and that is seriously awesome.

Book Review: Three Messages and a Warning: Contemporary Mexican Short Stories of the Fantastic edited by Eduardo Jimenez Mayo and Chris N. Brown

April 17, 2012 2 comments

Skeletons with butterfly wings.Summary:
This collection gathers 34 contemporary Mexican short stories featuring fantasy, scifi, and literary, clearly a wide range.

Review:
For me this collection was very hit and miss, and alas even the hits weren’t that wonderful.  Part of the issue is there seems to be no rhyme or reason behind the order in which the tales are presented.  It feels as if 34 completely random stories were selected with the only thing they have in common being Mexican authors.  I generally prefer a short story collection to have a more universal theme or play upon similar tropes, but there is none of that here.  The stories range from young boys hunting iguanas to figuring out how to dispose of a body to a trophy wife on vacation in Las Vegas to a pact with the devil.  It was a bit of an exhausting collection to read.  That said, I’d like to highlight a couple of my favorites that kept the read from being an entirely troublesome experience.

“Hunting Iguanas” by Hernan Lara Zavala both gives a glimpse into country Mexican life, which isn’t something we get to encounter very much, and provides commentary on colonization.

“Lions” by Bernardo Fernandez was particularly delightful for an animal rights activist to read.  In a time of budget cuts the less attractive animals of the zoo are let loose in the city park and gradually take over.  Delightfully tongue-in-cheek.

“The Nahual Offering” by Carmen Rioja features a disturbingly prophetic dream by a tribal woman.  It is a great example of the beautifully grotesque.

You can see, though, that I was only able to pick out three short stories from a collection of 34 to highlight as particularly enjoyable to me.  The collection simply lacks a universality of theme or talent.

Overall this collection is an interesting peek into contemporary Mexican writing, although it does seem the editors could have done a better job in selecting what to include.  Recommended to those with a marked interest in modern Mexican writing.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: LibraryThing EarlyReviewers

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Book Review: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (Audiobook narrated by Kevin Kenerly)

April 16, 2012 5 comments

Living hand in dead one.Summary:
R is a zombie, and he remembers nothing about his life before he was one–except that his name starts with the letter R.  He and his group of the other living dead inhabit an old abandoned airport and are ruled by the bonies.  They hunt the living not just for the food, but also for the memories that come from ingesting their brains.  It’s like a drug.  One day when he’s out on a hunt, R eats the brain of a young man who loves a young woman who is there, and R steps in to save her.  It is there that an unlikely love story begins.

Review:
Now that I have a new job I decided to stop going through the rigamarole that is finding something you actually want to read as an audiobook in the public library and subscribe to Audible, especially since I always have my kindle with me anyway.  I decided to choose audiobooks to read from the bottom of my wishlist, so everything you’ll be seeing on here (unless it was free on Audible) was put on my wishlist a long time ago.  Half the time I couldn’t remember why it wound up there.  That was the case here.  I mean; I’m assuming it was there for the zombies, but I basically had no other idea about it heading in.  This is partly why my mind was blown, so if you want a similar experience I’m telling you to go get yourself a copy right this instant!  Vamoose!  For those who need more convincing, though, please do read on.

Perhaps surprisingly, I have read zombie love stories before, so I wasn’t expecting too many new or particularly engaging ideas.  This book is overflowing with them though.  Everything from zombies getting high on other people’s memories to getting to see both the zombie and living side of the war to the concept of what the war is ultimately about to even what a zombie is was all brand-new.  And it pretty much all makes sense in the world Marion has set up and is engaging.  I could not “put the book down.”  I listened to it in every spare second I had.  Nothing went the way I predicted and yet it all made complete sense.

R is far more complex than what you’d expect from a zombie, even before his symbolic awakening.  Julie is everything you would want from a heroine.  She’s pretty, smart, and she says fuck!  She can hold her own but is still emotional and vulnerable.  She’s exactly what any artistic, strong woman would be in a zombie apocalypse.  Even the more minor characters are well-rounded, and there is the racial diversity one would expect from a zombie apocalypse in a big city.

Alas, the narration was not quite as amazing as the story.  Although Kenerly does a very good job, sometimes he fails to convey all of the emotions going on in the scenes or doesn’t switch characters quite quick enough.  Don’t get me wrong, it was very good and didn’t detract from the story at all, but I also don’t feel that it added a ton to it.

This is a book that I know I will want to read again, and I may even need to buy an ebook or print version just to do so in a whole nother way next time.  It is an engaging new look at a zombie apocalypse that reads more as a dystopia than post-apocalyptic.  Anyone who needs restored faith in the ability of humanity to fix where we’ve gone wrong should absolutely give this book a shot.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Audible

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Book Review: The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health by T. Colin Campbell, PhD and Thomas M. Campbell II

April 15, 2012 3 comments

Blue and green text on white background.Summary:
Dr. Campbell spent the early part of his scientific career researching diseases of affluence such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.  When a study in rat livers demonstrated that a greater percentage of protein in the diet led to greater disease, Campbell became intrigued.  He designed the China Study to compare Chinese citizens with American citizens, since the Chinese have low rates of these diseases until they immigrate to the United States.  Through this and other studies, he believes he has the proof that most diseases of affluence are caused by the Standard American Diet.  In his book he presents these findings, as well as an insider’s look at the scientific, health, and government trifecta that vastly affects what Americans learn about health.

Review:
Clearly the most valuable part of this book is the chapter that explains Campbell’s China Study.  Since it’s generally not considered ethical to study humans and disease by injecting them with various substances, one of the better methods available is population studies.  You compare and contrast over a long period of time the differences between different populations and attempt to determine what aspects may cause bad health.  It is undeniable that the traditional Chinese rural population compared to Americans eat less animal products and move more.  Additionally they have less disease, particularly cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.  Campbell’s study establishes this easily observed fact into something that has been scientifically proven.  It is also interesting to note that those who emigrate to the US and adopt the Standard American Diet (SAD) change to the American rate of these diseases.  This is ground-breaking information, of course, but it is easy to gather this all from one chapter.  Campbell finds it necessary, for some reason, to devote a chapter to each illness, which frankly gets repetitive and tedious to read.

Beyond the study itself, which is interesting and good for people who aren’t already convinced of the health problems caused by animal products, I felt the rest of the presentation of these facts to be dull in comparison to Diet for a New America.  Where Campbell’s strength lies is in discussing his experiences as an insider in the American health and scientific industry, which frankly we all know is royally fucked up.  He addresses at length how these have become intertwined with the government and animal product lobbyists to the extent that for the sake of profit of animal product producers and those working in medicine, Americans are getting a severely watered down version of what scientists and health care workers know to be the facts.  Anytime anyone tries to tell Americans to eat less animal products, the lobbyists get all up in the way.  This is why people talk about how capitalism should not be involved in health.  It’s only natural that people who have spent decades learning cardiology might not want to suddenly have half the surgeries to perform because heart disease can be reversed by diet.  Or that people who own a dairy farm might not want American women to know that dairy consumption leads to osteoporosis.  But it does.  And Campbell illustrates why and how these facts are kept from the American public.

He also eloquently shows why we have constantly conflicting news stories on health.  Everyone knows the joke about how eggs were bad for you then good for you then bad for you (but only the yolks) all over again.  Campbell shows how this is the direct result of the conflict within the science and health industry.

I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to health, government is not for the people; it is for the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry at the expense of the people. It is a systemic problem where industry, academia and government combine to determine the health of this country. (page 318)

I have worked in the health field myself for years now, and I can tell you, the vast majority of the people who do genuinely care about you and your health.  But traditions are hard to break and even those within the system don’t know everything that goes on among the lobbyists and the top echelons.  I mean, they are still teaching medical students to utilize BMI to determine health in their patients, when multiple studies have shown it is not a reliable tool.  Why is this?  People want to believe what they’ve first learned, and especially in medicine, if a new idea comes along many many many studies must be done and obstinate people push for it before the method utilized will be changed.  This is meant to protect you from quacks, but unfortunately it can lead to the burying of ground-breaking information.

Plus, how would Americans react if tomorrow Mrs. Obama and her obesity prevention program came out and said everyone needs to go vegetarian or vegan?  Hell, the woman is taking flak for daring to suggest children play outside.  I think you can see my point.

Overall, this book definitely could have been shorter.  I believe it would have worked better if Campbell had presented his study and his insider’s knowledge as to why the health care and science industries seem so confused and conflicting half the time.  I hope this knowledge will convince more Americans to take direct control of their own health and conduct their own research to come to their own conclusions.  It’s worth a read for this knowledge, but if you are not interested in the politics of science and health and simply want the information, then I suggest you go with the more reader-friendly Diet for a New America.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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