Monday, January 31, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why

Surprise, surprise!  No I didn't cheat -- or rather I barely cheated -- in continuing The Stand to the end.  I only borrowed a couple things from the library, as I told you a few days ago, and one of those little treats was this, Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why.

Thirteen Reasons WhyClay is just a regular high-school wallflower - he has no beef with anybody and mostly stays wrapped up in his own life.  Until he gets a package on his doorstep with no return address, and included are cassette tapes, voice-recordings made by Hannah Baker - his recent crush, who more recently decided to end her own life and has used these tapes to pinpoint the 13 people who caused all her grief.  Guess what, Clay is one of them, and he has no idea what he did to deserve a part in this scandal of high-school scandals.  But of course he listens to Hannah's tapes anyway, as she describes piece by piece, the puzzle of her life, and the unexpected connections between 13 people who are not at all what they seem...

This reminded me so much of Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall, as both books have in common a protagonist who is so unaware of their connections to other people as they go about their daily life.  I must admit I liked Oliver's take on this theme a little better, mostly because of some ... technical difficulties I had with Asher's.  The format is interesting, I enjoyed the back-and-forth between Hannah's voice on the tapes and Clay's intermittent reactions to what she says; however a lot of his reactions didn't seem very poignant or interesting, more like filler.  In the beginning this seemed to go very well, as Asher found a couple opportunities to insert some irony here and clever wit there, but later on the interjections from Clay just got to be distracting.  The story itself is a page-turner, and I couldn't help but like Hannah - although at the beginning you do think her just a woe-is-me attention-seeker for what she does, as the elements in her life all add up, I began to understand her.  The ending on the other hand was way too after-school special, so I had to say huh? I guess Asher was just trying to find a neat way to wrap it all up and that must've seemed heartwarming or something.  All in all, a great way to pass a couple days, which is all it took me to read it - the characters are engaging, their stories keep you guessing, and Clay is really cute.  Enjoy!

Back soon with a new review - and will it be The Stand?  Ooo the suspense is killing me too, folks.

First Nonfic GIVEAWAY!!

Silent SpringHowdy and welcome back to the Reader's Well, folks, I've got a nice giveaway for you guys here: remember my review of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring?  Well now it's up for grabs!  All you have to do is leave me a comment to this post, telling me what the last book you read is and what you thought of it.  Easy, right? 'Cuz I actually want to know what you guys are reading, love to hear about that stuff.  So...  the winner will be selected from these posts by this Friday, Feb. 4th using  Contest is only open to US and Canada residents.  And please post your e-mail address in your comment so that I can contact the winner.  This time I promise not to post your e-mail in full on the blog so you don't get spammed.  Yes I'm all tech-savvy now! 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Snow & Slowness

So of course we had a snow day yesterday, but instead of reading I studied the entire day.  Oh well, at least it's Friday, right!  And we have more snow a-comin', says the forecast, not just today but probably for all eternity.

One of my short trips today is to the local library to pick up what's available for me!  I am excited but not as excited as I should be, just 'cause I know I won't finish all the books in that pile.  I overdid it (again) and picked out all books I desperately want to read, but won't have the time for!  The story of us all, I know.  But I wanted to let you know that I am still on The Stand, and have recently also received something a little different (from the norm on this blog) from LibraryThing's Early Reviewers!  I'm excited as heck because it's right up my alley, but probably won't be yours, so I'm debating whether to post the review up here.  You'll find out.

And that's my short blurb for today - jam-packed with great information, right?  Sorry dudes but it's been busy as you know and I will try to get The Stand and this new Early Review finished next week so I can bombard you with reviews allatonce!  Happy snow days to you guys who both get snow and enjoy it!


Monday, January 24, 2011

Words from the Well 9, sorta-kinda

Since I know I'm not able to read multiple books per week, I have decided to grace you with my presence just as often anyway.  Instead of solely posting book reviews, I can allow myself a ramble or two in between.  Have no fear, though, it will more likely than not always be book/reading-related.  As that is my life.

So consider this ramble a variation on the Words from the Well (aka In My Mailbox meme which I ripped off of The Story Siren), where I'll tell you what I'm up to in books this past week...

On hold at the library right now:

Beautiful DarknessUnearthly - Cynthia Hand
The Red Garden - Alice Hoffman
The Dark Divine - Bree Despain
Beautiful Darkness - Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl (sequel to Beautiful Creatures, see review)
Across the Universe - Beth Revis (gotta keep up with the Jones' here, nothing special about this choice!)
The First Queen of England: The Myth of Bloody Mary - Linda Porter (found this searching for next book)
The Heretic's Daughter - Kathleen Kent (descendant of a Salem witch, apparently)
FallenFallen - Lauren Kate (I just have to know what's so great/horrible about this one)

I wanted pretty badly to add Lauren Oliver's Delirium today, but I guess because it's not out yet and there are still so many holds on few copies, the library wouldn't let me hold one for my tiny, insignificant self.  But I will get a hold of it!!  And I also wanted to hold Mira Grant's Feed, which I've been dying to read for what seems like ever, but I just don't think I can handle more plague-scenarios right now.  See, I'm all up on the YA now, and I'm also totally excited about some of this historical fiction I'm seeing around.  Yes, yes, I will get to your requested books first, aka The Secret Garden, The Autobiography of Henry VIII, etc.  I just wanted to let you know what's on the menu for the next few weeks, maybe popping up betwixt those books.  Enjoy your reading, folks!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pause for Major Life Event

So I have officially begun my auspicious career as a horticulturist!  My first class is done and it was totally awesome so I am full-on excited about this whole thing now.  The only drawback being, naturally, that the Reader's Well may suffer a bit, as you have probably noticed already.  But the other part of that is the fact of reading a doorstop like The Stand, though it's still making me wonder why I haven't read more Stephen King books (of any size) in recent years.  I have read at some point:  Pet Sematary, Misery, Salem's Lot, Skeleton Crew and Desperation.  Some of those were better than others, only one of which the movie version was worth seeing.  But anyway I hope to become a true fan of King's stuff, with a future full of Dark Towers, possibly avoiding the potential dud that rhymes with bell, and the likes.

Botany for Gardeners: Third EditionSo I hope you'll excuse the next week, as I finish up this tome of a book (I am reading the uncut version, by the way) and get back into the tangle of school/work that I sorely missed these last five years (not!).  Don't worry too much though, because I could never stop reading.  I may started reading Botany for Gardeners, but certainly not to the detriment of this blooming collection (chock full of Phillipa Gregorys or Charlaine Harrises or Patricia Briggses)!  Stick with me, folks, it's gonna be a road slightly less-traveled but ... well-traveled.  Promise.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wildwood Dancing

In Wildwood Dancing, Juliet Marillier takes the Grimms' fairy tale of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, subtracts the father/king figure and a few princesses, adds personalities and several plot threads, stirs it up with a healthy dash of magic and drama, and serves up a truly wonderful YA fairy tale.

Wildwood DancingJena and her four sisters live in Transylvania with their loving but seriously ill merchant father and two kind servants.  The sisters wait for their father to journey abroad possibly never to return again, taking solace in their eventful trips to the Otherworld every Full Moon to dance their shoes to scraps and their bodies halfway to exhaustion.  They've traveled to Dancing Glade for years together, but soon choices must be made... Jena tries with all her might to keep the sisters together, watching while one falls into a star-crossed love affair with an other-kin, and the others crack under the pressure of growing up in a world without their father, who may soon be replaced by domineering tyrant of a cousin, Cezar.  Cezar and Jena share a dark past that binds them together, a little too close for comfort.  Will he succeed in taking away all that Jena holds dear to her and her beloved sisters?  Will they have to give up their forays from this world into the Otherworld, and possibly send both to their doom?

This terrific little bargain book(! believe it or not), got from Amazon last week, has been an absolute delight to read.  The five sisters are real, distinct personalities, the plot threads that weave in and out of each other throughout the story are interesting and involving, and the villains are truly terrible!  I was up a few late nights pouring through the pages, relishing Marillier's lyrical prose describing the Otherworld and its kith and kin, and the enchanting story of Jena's ups and downs in dark, mysterious Transylvania.  Now I so want to be a Transylvanian, even more than I did after reading The Historian, especially because this is the better book, IMO.  Fantasy-lovers of all shapes and sizes, don't hesitate on this one, even if you don't particularly consider yourself a YA-enthusiast... because a couple chapters in, you will most definitely become one!  Four pennies for this gem!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Silent Spring

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is a classic of environmentalist literature, and as I consider myself an environmentalist (in thought more than deed, alas), plus I'm just intrigued by pop science in general, I bought this one for myself a buncha years ago.  And naturally it fell into the Classics Pile which is seldom uncovered once it becomes the Classics Pile, as we all know.  In any case, I managed it after all and I was so not disappointed.

Silent SpringIt's hard to imagine that this was the first of its kind - a popular science discussion on why __ is bad for us and what we have to look forward to as its consequences in the 21st century.  Isn't it true that most of these books are apocalyptic, if not obviously at least subtly?  In this one, Carson warns us against relying on chemicals to treat agricultural bug infestations because as we know today the main chemical used in her time (1950's) was DDT which happens to range from somewhat-deadly to really-darn-deadly to humans and animals.  And since we all know this now, why should you read this book anyway?  Because the truly alarming thread laced throughout Carson's concerns is the apathy and even the downright refusal of both the government agencies and the money-making public to even acknowledge the existence of a deadly serious problem:  "It is human nature to shrug off what may seem to us a vague threat of future disaster."  By reading this, you will also learn about the lengths people will go to, to push their agendas at great cost to 'the public', or more directly, people's lives.  Her research, which is still very current, and her poignant, fluid language on topics like the explosion of cancer in the western world, make for some thought-provoking reading, whether or not that's particularly your cup of tea.

If you're into dystopian fiction, you would enjoy this book - although you might want to pretend it's just dystopian fiction, instead of the frightening reality of our past, present and sadly probable future.  Carson lived from 1907 to 1964, spending her career as a marine biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and writing books about the sea until, knowing of the seriousness of pesticide/chemical usage in the world and the ineffectualness of government regulations to curb it, she felt obliged to write Silent Spring.  I would be hard-pressed to believe that there is any other science/nature writer today who knows what they're talking about as much as Carson knew about her subject as presented here.  I certainly hope I will be pleasantly surprised!

So what do you read in pop science?  I'd be thrilled to hear your experiences with books like this and your opinions on the currency of ideas like Carson's, etc.  I actually haven't read much pop science but plan to do so, and maybe you can help me out.  Until then, it's back to the world we'd all rather be living in, with an upcoming review of Juliet Marillier's fantastic contribution to YA fantasy, Wildwood Dancing!

Giveaway Winner!

Good afternoon all - I am pleased to finally announce the winner of last week's Giveaway for a copy of Emily's Good Nightmares.  (Yes, drumroll, please).....


Emily's Good NightmaresThe Stand: Expanded Edition: For the First Time Complete and Uncut (Signet)You should receive an email from me soon, Jessica.  I'll start on The Stand, as requested, and follow that with the reads you guys mentioned in other comments.  Thanks so much, everyone, for participating!  You guys are great, keep it up!  More giveaways to come soon, as my supply of books grows every week as you may have noticed.  Another update is that I am now on Goodreads (in addition to LibraryThing where I have been), and will post up my past reviews on both sites from now on.  Please stay tuned for my next two reviews, Silent Spring and the mystery book I have also finished lately), followed at some point soon by a review of Stephen King's The Stand!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Words from the Well, 9

Note to all, that the Giveaway for an Emily Strange book still stands!  No one has claimed it yet, so it sits all expectant-like on my kitchen table at home.  Come on, make a comment...

So anyway, on to this week's acquisitions!

From Paperbackswap:

Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 2) - Charlaine Harris (can't wait!)
Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 3) - Charlaine Harris
Petals on the Wind (Book 2 of the Dollanganger Saga) - V.C. Andrews (see Flowers in the Attic review)
Dead Witch Walking (Rachel Morgan series, Book 1) - Kim Harrison (it's about time)

From Borders (bargain section):
Mathilda Savitch - Victor Lodato (skeptical about this one; $2 and change? from Borders?)

From Amazon:
Wildwood Dancing - Juliet Marillier (so far, so awesome!)

From The Strand (bargain section):
Turtle Moon - Alice Hoffman (lurrve me some A.H. books)