Friday, December 31, 2010

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah

iconiconThe problem with getting behind on blogging about what I've read is that sometimes it's kind of hard to remember what I've read!  Especially when I go two weeks without blogging, as I now have.

I read Chinese Cinderella a couple of weeks ago.  I'd been browsing my library's ebook selection online, and checked out one of Adeline Yen Mah's other young adult books, Along the River (which I didn't end up reading before my loan expired, so I'll have to get it out again).  When reading the note at the beginning, I realized I'd be more interested in reading the YA memoir, so I found and checked Chinese Cinderella out, too.

I like that the author makes an effort to educate the young reader in Chinese vocabulary, names, culture, etc.  It's a well-written book, too.  Sometimes I felt kind of guarded reading it, because I felt like some of it was the author whining and reading too much into the pranks that siblings often play on one another, assuming that meant she was unwanted.  But other times, I felt truly horrified at what happened to her, like with what happened to her duckling, a pet she had as a child.

I was glad when she finally escaped and was able to make a better life for her, and although it wasn't what she wanted to do with her life, it did get her out of that situation... and now she is obviously pursing a career as a writer, just as she wanted to as a girl!  I related to this, as I was persuaded as a teen that I couldn't make a living as a writer, but found my way back to it anyway as an adult.

It's an interesting book, from a cultural standpoint, and the premise of the wronged little girl is certainly compelling.  It's also a pretty fast read.  I'm going to check out her adult memoir, though — Falling Leaves — as I think that might be more interesting to me than the YA version.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr

iconiconWell, I actually read this before the last book I reviewed, Alice I Have Been, but since I just got over being sick I temporarily forgot which order I'd read them in!

In any case, I had had a friend and fellow boarder at the barn where I board my horse recommending Nevada Barr's books to me for some time.  She likes to read a lot, just like I do, so she is always recommending books to read.

Track of the Cat is the first book in a series of mysteries featuring park ranger Anna Pigeon.  In this novel, a murder is disguised as a wildcat killing, but Anna Pigeon figures it out — and starts trying to track down the killer.  It's a great, classic mystery, except in a very different setting — a national park.

One interesting observation I had while reading this was the difference in technology between now and when the book was originally published in 1993.  The lack of cell phones, wireless Internet, etc. — all of the things a heroine would use to solve a mystery in today's day and age — were glaringly obvious.  It wasn't a bad thing, but I often found myself thinking, "Just use your cell phone!" followed by "Oh yeah..."

I remember seeing the Anna Pigeon mystery Ill Wind for sale at Mesa Verde — that one takes place there.  I'm looking forward to getting to that one, since I've actually been to Mesa Verde, but I'm going to read them in order, and that one is third!  Next is A Superior Death — I'll read that one as soon as I have a break in my (currently) rather demanding reading list!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

This is another one that I have to thank the library for. I found Alice I Have Been while browsing the library's OverDrive selections, and decided to check it out.  And boy, am I glad I did!

Alice I Have Been is a novel about the real Alice in Wonderland — Alice Liddell, the little girl who inspired Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll).  Dodgson was a professor at Oxford, and Alice was one of the dean's daughters; Dodgson would spend a lot of time with Alice and her sisters, taking their photographs and telling them stories.

I wasn't sure at first whether I would like the novel, but I very quickly got sucked in.  It's a tragic story, in a lot of ways — something happened when Alice was 11 that created a rift between Dodgson and her family, and it seems like neither of them ever got over one another.  Benjamin's novel takes a stab at what that something was, and the result is a deeply moving story that actually made me cry at the end.  I rarely cry at novels, so that should tell you something about how amazing this novel is.

I know I recommend a lot of what I read, and the truth is, I like a lot of what I read — it takes a lot for me to dislike a book.  But I would recommend this one more highly than most.  If you are going to read just one book featured on Livre du Jour, this would be the one!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow

iconiconI had never heard of this book,but I found it browsing through my library's impressive OverDrive catalog for library ebooks to read on my iPhone.  It seemed very much like the other dark fantasy YA novels I have gotten into reading lately, so I decided to try it out.

I was glad I did!  The book is about a teenage girl named Dru, who has spent her life helping her dad hunt the things that go bump in the night.  She has what her grandmother called the Touch, which means she can sense supernatural creatures when they are nearby.

The book takes about 30 pages to really kick into high gear, but it is pretty suspenseful after that.  There was one thing I didn't like about the narration: It was a little meandering and circuitous.  Dru narrates in first person, and a lot of the narration is her reflecting on things... and she tends to spend a lot of time (and words) on the same topics, coming back to them after already having hashed them out.  It reminds me a little bit of how NaNoWriMo writers write when they are trying to eat up word count.  Perhaps the book was too short for her publisher otherwise?

Other than that small beef, I enjoyed the book immensely.  During the last third of it, I could hardly put it down, even though I had a neck cramp from the way I was sitting, not to mention a lot of work I should have been doing instead of reading.  A great book and worth checking out, if you enjoy the YA dark fantasy books that are currently popular in YA fiction!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Google starts selling ebooks

Apparently Google realized there is no money to be had in free ebooks, and decided it was time to start selling them instead:

Google Makes a Play for a Piece of the E-Books Market

It sounds to me like they are a little late to the game, with nothing to set them apart from other ebooks sellers.  The prices — $9.99 to $12.99 — aren't very compelling, in my opinion, and the author of the article even says that the site "doesn't look much different from the Apple or Amazon e-book sites" and that the ebooks are "nothing fancy — no bells and whistles."  Ebooks purchased from Google will open on all readers on the market except for the Kindle.

Not that I think ebooks need bells and whistles, but the price is an important factor in my decision to buy.  I haven't yet paid anything more than $9.99, and probably won't — there is one I really want for $10.99, and I've been vacillating on it so much that the price will probably come down before I will make up my mind.  But the vast majority of the ebooks I buy are in the $4 to $8 range — only on rare occasions have I paid as much as $9.99.  It just seems like too much for an ebook.

It will be interesting to see how Google fares in the ebook market!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Devil's Company by David Liss

iconiconMy husband had me check out The Devil's Company from the library some weeks ago.  He had seen it at the bookstore and been very intrigued.  He loved the book so much that he actually bought several of David Liss's other books, and insisted that I read this one.

It's not as much my type of book as it is my husband's, but I have to admit it was a great read.  The Devil's Company is a mystery, but it is set in 18th century England.  The main character is an ex-boxer and what is called a thieftaker, which is apparently like a private investigator with brawn.  Everything is very well research, and feels very authentic, and the narration and dialogue feel very period as well.

The Devil's Company is just one of several books about the same character.  In this one, Weaver — the thieftaker — is basically forced into investigating the East India Company.  However, he isn't told much about what he is investigating, other than one man's name that he is given — but told he can never speak aloud, only listen for information regarding this man.

Although this is not the type of novel I probably would have picked up on my own, I do enjoy historical fiction, so I ended up really liking it.  There is something to be said for letting other people's recommendations broaden your literary horizons!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Library ebooks on my iPhone

Thanks to some awesome tech support, I can now read library ebooks on my iPhone with the Bluefire Reader.  They recently came up with an update that works with your Adobe authorization to allow you to open DRM-protected library ebooks on your iPhone.  I was still having some problems, though, because my first generation iPhone can't use the iTunes file sharing feature that the reader depends on.

So I wrote to tech support, and they gave me instructions for transferring files between a computer and my iPhone when they are on the same wireless network.  Now I just have to open the library ebook on my computer, transfer the file, and I can read the ebook on my iPhone.

My library has nearly 2,500 titles available, and I have found many that I was considering buying (in ebook form from Barnes & Noble), so I am in seventh heaven right now.  I know I could have gotten all these books from the library in the regular fashion, but being able to get them as ebooks for free feels like winning the lottery somehow.  I think part of it is not having to plan my reading list around when I can make it to the library.  Also, since not very many people read ebooks yet, there are very short waits for even the most popular ebooks.

Maybe I'm being a bit overly ambitious, because I've already downloaded five library ebooks (which I only have 2 weeks to read), put holds on at least twice that, and saved probably 50 or 60 to my wish list...  But there are so many good ones, I just can't help myself!  To search for ebooks and find a library near you that offers this service, check out Overdrive.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

iPhone ebook readers

I've been so excited about ebooks since discovering first the Barnes & Noble eReader app for the iPhone, and then the Nook app.  I've been reading more and more books on my iPhone — actually spending money on books now (I used to get my books almost exclusively from the library).  For the most part I get either free or cheap (i.e., under $5), so I still haven't spent much money on books, but it's a fairly new thing for me.

I've also been reading Barnes & Noble's Nook forums.  I don't have a Nook myself (yet?), so I mainly stick to the forums about available ebooks.  Users usually announce free ebooks or decent self-published ebooks they find on the forum, so it's worth my while to check the forum every day or two.

One of the discussions lately has been about how reprints of the classics have been cluttering up people's searches since PubIt launched.  I said I didn't mind them, because paying a buck or so for a classic in a Nook formatted ebook is better than getting the poorly formatted, error-ridden Google Books freebies.  Many of the forum users are really big fans of "sideloading," or downloading ebooks onto their Nooks from sites other than Barnes & Noble, but the Nook app for the iPhone doesn't allow you to sideload.  And, up until yesterday, I hadn't found a comparable reader that does.

There are a number of problems I was running into.  You can't use Adobe Digital Editions with the iPhone, which is one of the biggest problems.  There are a lot of PDF readers available through the App Store, but in order to read on the little screen, they have to wrap the text, which eliminates paragraph breaks.  And of course, any ebooks with Adobe DRM — such as Overdrive ebooks that you can check out through your library — don't work with those readers.

One other problem I was running into is that I have a first generation iPhone, so iOS 3.1.3 is the most updated version I can get.  Unfortunately, this means I can't transfer files to my iPhone via iTunes, and — as I discovered today — most of the ebook readers that allow you to upload your own content rely on this feature.

I spent hours on it yesterday, but I finally did find readers to solve all of my issues except the Overdrive problem (there is a solution for Overdrive, but it requires a newer operating system).  Unfortunately, this means I now have three different free ebook readers on my phone, but what can you do?

For Barnes & Noble ebooks I get to keep using the Nook app.  Yay!  For all of my complaining recently, I still like this one the best, and I will miss having all of my ebooks in just one reader.

For classics and books in the public domain I discovered Stanza.  This iPhone app is very much like the Barnes & Noble eReader (the old app).  The nicest thing is that it has a direct link to the Project Gutenberg library of free classic ebooks.  You don't have to convert or transfer the file — you browse their books from right there in the app, and download what you want.  The app also has direct links to a handful of other sources for free ebooks, as well as a few ebook stores.

For PDF ebooks I already own and want to sideload I have to use a combination of Calibre (a free software that converts ebooks into any file type you need) and the Fictionwise (another ebook store) eReader app, which allows you to upload "personal content" that can be read in their reader.  This is, quite frankly, a pain in the ass, but it's the only solution I can find for a first generation iPhone.  I have to convert the ebook into PDB format using Calibre, then sign into the Fictionwise website and upload the newly converted ebook into my library.  Then I open the Fictionwise eReader app on my iPhone, download the ebook, and it is FINALLY on my iPhone!

By the way, the Fictionwise eReader is also very much like Barnes & Noble's original eReader app.  Makes sense, since their site proclaims they are a Barnes & Noble company.  Why their reader allows you to sideload books, and B&N's reader doesn't, is beyond me.

Note: I also discovered I can sideload books into Stanza using a website called Dropbox.  I still have to convert the file first (to ePub format), and then I have to upload it to my Dropbox account.  I just had to add as one of the websites that I can download ebooks from (which I didn't know earlier I could do).  Since I like Stanza better than the Fictionwise eReader, I am now down to just two ebook readers, unless of course I decide to start buying ebooks from Fictionwise as well as B&N!

For library ebooks from Overdrive you can apparently use the Bluefire Reader, also a free download.  In the past, library ebooks haven't been compatible with Apple devices (iPhone, iTouch, iPad) because Apple doesn't support Adobe Digital Editions, which is the software Overdrive uses to protect the digital rights of their ebooks.  The latest edition of Bluefire uses your Adobe username and password to authorize library ebooks on your iPhone.  Click here for instructions on how to read library ebooks with Bluefire.  The instructions don't work on first generation iPhones — I'm trying to find an alternate way.

It's not a perfect solution, and like I said, I dislike having my ebooks in so many different formats, and having to use so many different ebook readers.  But I have access to many more free ebooks now, so I can't complain.  Hopefully I'll be able to figure out how to get Bluefire to work on my phone, so that I can check out library ebooks as well!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

NPR's 2010 YA recommendations

I like to check out the top stories in NPR's book news periodically.  Since I've been reading a lot of YA lately, this headline caught my attention:

Oh, To Be Young: The Year's Best Teen Reads

They really aren't the kind of YA books I've been reading lately — dark fantasy novels, vampires and zombies and fallen angels.  But they all look pretty good.  I'm particularly interested in When I Fall and The Mockingbirds.

Have you read any of the books on this list?  Are there any you are interested in reading?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Fallen by Lauren Kate

iconiconA while back I discovered a clever feature on my library's website: I can freeze holds. Freezing a hold says I'm not ready for it yet, and the next person on the list after me gets it. This enables me to wait until I'm ready to get a book, without losing my place for a book with a long hold list.

After I spotted Lauren Kate's Fallen at Barnes & Noble one night, I did this exact thing with it: I put a freeze on the hold.  I just released the freeze a couple of weeks ago, as I've been reading a lot lately and have therefore freed up my reading list quite a bit.

Of course, it only took me two days to finish.  That's one of the things I like about reading YA — easier for me to keep up with my book-a-day goal for this blog!

Dark fantasy romance seem to be pretty popular in YA right now.  As the title suggests, this one is about fallen angels, although everything is not clear at the end of the book — it's obvious that there will be another book (Torment) to continue the story and clear a few things up.  On the surface, Luce is a troubled teen attending a reform school with a bunch of other rejects, most of them much worse than her — but before long it is abundantly clear that neither of the two boys she is interested in are quite what they seem.  And, it turns out, neither is she.

Coming right off of The Dead-Tossed Waves, Fallen was a bit disappointing, because it wasn't quite as compelling — but I have a feeling that reading Carrie Ryan's book, which is intensely compelling, first has somewhat skewed my perception!  That is to say, Fallen certainly was compelling, it's just that The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves were insanely so.  Bad basis for comparison.

In any case, I am definitely looking forward to reading the sequel, Torment.  I am #3 on the wait list at my library, with 14 copies to go around, so hopefully I'll get it soon!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol only $3.99!

iconiconI think I've mentioned that I check Barnes & Noble's website frequently, almost daily, for free ebooks and ebook promotions. Sometimes the sales don't last long, so if I don't check frequently, I might miss out!  A perfect situation to bring out my OCD tendencies, I'm afraid.

But I digress.  Tonight I was checking the NOOKbook Deals section of Barnes & Noble's website, and I discovered that Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol is on sale for only $3.99.  It appears that it is normally $9.99, so that's a pretty good deal!  I don't know how long it will last, though — it might be just a post-Thanksgiving sale — so don't wait!

The Dead-Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan

iconiconI picked this up from the library Monday night, and had it finished Tuesday afternoon.  Much like the first book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I could hardly put it down, though I did finally have to in order to go to sleep Monday night — so instead of one sitting, I read it in two!

The Dead-Tossed Waves continues Mary's story, but through the eyes of her daughter, Gabry.  Mary and Gabry live in a world where fences and barriers are the only things that keep the zombies at bay.  But instead of the fences being used to keep out the Mudo, or Unconsecrated, they have come to be seen as keeping the people in.

Although Gabry doesn't have a burning desire to know what else there is beyond the walls of her down, as her mother did when she was her age, she gets talked into climbing over the barrier with her friends.  Unfortunately, it goes badly, and Gabry is forced to make the choice she never wanted to be faced with: whether to stay, or go.

Both The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves are incredibly suspenseful books — obviously, since I couldn't put either one down!  Even though they are technically young adult, I think adults who like horror and dark fantasy would enjoy them just as much as I did.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for books

I'm feeling in a bit of a reflective mood right now.  On Facebook recently there was a list of 100 classics and other top books circulating, with the idea that you were supposed to identify how many you had read.  I'd read a mere 27 of them — more than some of my friends, less than others.

I can't help but think that one of the things I am most thankful for is having been born who I am — and where I am.  I've always been an avid reader, since I was a little kid — I always had my nose stuck in a book, including with a flashlight under the covers after lights out, and in school (much to my teachers' consternation — how do you tell one child to stop reading and pay attention, when you are trying to teach all the rest to read more?).

Moreover, I live in a country where literacy is valued and education is provided (at least, basic education is).  Not only am I allowed to read anything I want, I also have many opportunities to, whether it is because of the convenience of electronic devices and ebooks, or the budget-friendly library.  (I save a lot of money thanks to my library!)

Finally, I have a lifestyle that allows me to stay up until 2 or 3 in the morning reading if I have my hands on a really good books, or take a break to finish a really compelling novel in the afternoon.  I take full advantage of it, too, even if sometimes that means I have to work evenings and weekends to make up for it!

Call me a geek if you will, but I am thankful for having books in my life!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Certain Wolfish Charm by Lydia Dare

iconiconThis makes my third romance novel in the last couple weeks.  Good heavens...  What is happening to me?

Especially considering I really liked this one. Beyond the Highland Mist was all right, but a very typical romance novel — kind of cheesy in parts.  I read it mainly because I am so obsessed with the same author's Fever series.  And Kiss Me Deadly wasn't much to speak of — I didn't get further than about 30 pages in that one.

A Certain Wolfish Charm was surprisingly good, though.  No possessiveness or controlling behavior from the guy, and the heroine wasn't so weak that I wanted to bang my head against a wall.  The story was reasonably good, the characters were believable, and all in all it was a pretty decent read.  The sex wasn't quite so cheesy, either, which was a bonus.

A Certain Wolfish Charm is a werewolf romance, which makes sense because paranormal and dark fantasy seems to be my thing lately.  (Sookie Stackhouse, Fever series, etc.)  There is some angst about whether he can trust her with his secret and if she'll ever find out what he's hiding from her, but it's pretty well done.  I rather liked that Lydia Dare made her heroine a pretty independent-minded woman, without having to make her fight with her love interest all the time.  I hate that.  Take note, romance writers: Fighting does NOT equal a strong woman (OR good romance, for that matter).

I downloaded this ebook while it was offered free as a promotion, no doubt, for the other three werewolf romances by the author.  I'm not going to rush right out and buy the others right away, but I think I'll read them eventually — I was pretty impressed with this one.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Great holiday gift idea for kids!

I have to confess something: I've become a Barnes & Noble addict.  Ever since getting hooked on their ebooks and their First Look book club, I've been checking their site and forums daily.  There are some pretty good promotions on ebooks from time to time, where the first book in a series is either free or dramatically reduced, but they usually aren't available for very long, so I've gotten into the habit of checking often so as not to miss anything.

Anyway, to get to the point of my story, yesterday I was checking the website and spotted a banner ad at the top of the page, where they usually advertise their sales.  This one was advertising Tikatok gift cards.

The idea is to let your kids create their own picture books.  They can write the entire story themselves, or use one of Tikatok's story starters to help them get going.  They can choose one of the stock illustrations, or upload their own drawings.  It looks as if you can either "draw" an illustration on the computer and upload the file, or scan and upload an illustration from paper.  I can already think of a couple of kids on my holiday shopping list who would love this!

I don't talk about it much on this blog, but I'm a big advocate of habits that teach children the value of literacy and reading.  I can't think of many better ways than being able to see their own words and illustrations in print, can you?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kiss Me Deadly by Michelle Hauf

iconiconNot long ago, I blogged about reading a romance novel for the first time in years.  It wasn't a terrible experience, but I was reminded of how unimaginative some of the plots can be, how much I dislike some of the notions about love that romance novels tend to perpetuate, and (especially) how cheesy the sex can be.

That book, Beyond the Highland Mist, was practically Jane Austen compared to this one, though.  I downloaded Kiss Me Deadly for free from Barnes & Noble — as of this writing, it is still free, if you want to download it using the link below and check it out for yourself.  I only read about 20 pages into it, and it wasn't grabbing my interest at all — too trite and not all that well written.  Maybe someday I'll finish it and revise my review... but then again, maybe not.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Losing Charlotte by Heather Clay

iconiconI first saw Losing Charlotte on the new releases table at Barnes & Noble, months ago.  Those of you who read my other blogs know I am a big horse person, so of course I picked it up as soon as I saw a horse on its cover.

Imagine my disappointment when it turned out not to be a horse book, after all!  I knew it wouldn't be from the inside flap, but I did think there would be a little more about it since the main character's parents owned a horse farm.  Not so much.

The story is about a woman whose sister dies after giving birth to twin boys.  She hadn't always gotten along with Charlotte well, so she has a lot of baggage to deal with when her sister unexpected dies.  She lives with Charlotte's widower for a while, helping him with the babies, and the two of them develop an awkward relationship as they try to deal with Charlotte's death.

It was a good story, with quite a few really compelling bits.  Unfortunately, it was also very wordy and slow-paced, so there were some parts where I would consider not finishing.  I'd always hit another compelling bit before I would follow through on that, but I have to confess to reading another book on and off while I was reading this one — I think that helped me to get through it.

Because so much of the story is character-driven, I would classify this as literary fiction.  I know that's a genre not everyone can stomach, and the book can be slow at times, but it's not for everyone.  I would recommend it to those who like this genre, though.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

iconiconI have a confession to make: I've lived in this house for four and a half years, and I've never checked out the local library.  It's a small city library, so I've just continued to use the same library I grew up using, which is still only about 20 minutes away (not to mention close to a bookstore that we frequent).

This is related, loosely, because on Election Day I stopped in to check out the library at last — since I had to drop off our ballots at the civic center anyway.  The library was actually really nice, with free wifi and lots of places to sit and read or work on your laptop.

It was while I was there that I spotted this book, The Forest of Hands and Teeth.  The blurb on the jacket flap reminded me a little of the movie The Village, which is what piqued my interest, but I read farther and realized it was a zombie book.  It sounded right up my alley.

I started reading the book Monday evening, and read it in pretty much one sitting, taking breaks only to go to the bathroom.  Wow!  What a book!  The suspense was perfect, the descriptions vivid, and I liked that the ending wasn't anything like what I expected.  The book kept me guessing and wondering and trying to put two and two together right up to the end.

I also loved that it wasn't a typical YA love story — boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy and girl live happily ever after.  I don't want to spoil anything, but suffice it to say that you will be surprised.

As much as I loved this book, imagine my excitement when I saw that there is a sequel, about Mary's daughter! Oh goody! More zombie goodness, coming right up.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Knife Music by David Carnoy

iconiconThis is another ebook that I bought on Barnes & Noble's recommendation — I get emails from them every week — and absolutely loved.  It was even better than I expected it would be, and I was pretty compelled when I read the description and the top reviews.

Knife Music is David Carnoy's first novel, but it is one hell of a debut novel.  The suspense is amazing.  With shifting viewpoints (all third-person) and alternating between past and present, it tells the story of a surgeon who is accused of raping a 16-year-old girl, an ex-patient who committed suicide 6 months after she was in the ER following a car accident.  Carnoy really has you wondering for a while if he did do it, and even once you realize he didn't, you keep guessing for a long time as to who did.  The end is a big surprise, too!

One of the reviews on Barnes & Noble's website compared the novel to Robin Cook's books.  I haven't ever read hers, but maybe that will help you decide whether this is something you would like.  I can tell you that I don't usually read mysteries or doctor-type books, and I loved it!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Refurbished wifi Nook on eBay

Are you looking for the perfect Christmas present for someone?  I discovered today that Barnes & Noble sells refurbished Nooks on eBay at a discount.  Here is the refurbished wifi Nook.  Because it is sold by Barnes & Noble, you still get a 1-year warranty, and you save $30.  Free shipping, too.

The wifi-only model does have a bit of a disadvantage, since you can only buy and download books when you have access to a wifi network, such as in your home, at a Barnes & Noble, or someplace else that offers wifi.  I'm considering getting one, since I already know I really love ebooks, for use around the house.  When I go places, I can use my iPhone, which will give me a connection to the Internet if I need it.  Because the apps sync now, I'll always have my most current location in whatever book I'm reading.

Other advantages: the longer battery life of the Nook (the iPhone battery drains more quickly now with the new Nook app as opposed to the B&N eReader, the old app, probably because the new app is always syncing via the Internet), and being able to share my ebooks with my husband more easily (he can read on the Nook while I read on my iPhone).  Hmmm...  I always said I wouldn't spend the money when my iPhone serves just as well, but at $119, maybe it's worth it after all!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beyond the Highland Mist by Karen Marie Moning

iconiconIt has been a long time since I have read any romance.  When I was in high school, I read quite a bit of it, but I have found as I've gotten older that my tastes have changed.  Romance no longer seems as interesting as it once did — the characters seem empty, the story clich├ęd. Moreover, I find that I am disgusted by the messages that romance sends to women, particularly impressionable young women: Fighting means you love one another, violence is sexy, and sex equals love.

By this point you are probably wondering why I read a romance novel, if I dislike them so much.  Well, notice the author — Karen Marie Moning, who wrote the Fever series I recently read and loved so much.  I read a review on Barnes & Noble's website that said her Highlander series of romance novels tells you a little more about what is going on in the Fever series.  Since I am on pins and needles here, waiting for Shadowfever to come out, I figured I would read a few of the romance novels in the meantime.

The first novel was about as I expected — lots of arguing, possessiveness, jealousy, and of course, cheesy sex scenes.  (How is it that someone who maintains such tight sexual tension in the Fever series can use phrases like "his enormous phallus" in a romance novel?  It's got to be because of the expectations of the genre.)  But, as promised, there was stuff about the Fae.  Nothing revealing in terms of the Fever series, but I think it was her first book, so she probably was just starting to develop her ideas.  It looks like there will be more in future books — I'm debating on whether I should read in order or skip ahead to those that look more pertinent.  Either way, I'll probably take some time and read a few other books in the meantime — after all, I have two months to get through the romance novels, and anyway I think my head might explode if I try to read them all in a row!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler

iconiconI found out about this book way back during Banned Books Week, at the end of September.  The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things was one of the top challenged books of 2009.  The reasons it was challenged included language, sexual content, and not being age appropriate.

My thoughts: The language wasn't that bad, and do we think girls are all so sheltered they don't know what sex is?  And good heavens, shouldn't they know what date rape is, and that it's bad?

I thought this was a great book, and if I had a daughter I would be thrilled if she were reading it.  It's about a girl who is overweight and (she thinks) flawed, in a family of skinny, perfect people.  The book is the story of how she discovers herself and her own power, and starts doing things to make herself happy.

I can see the parts that some parents might complain about.  The first few chapters are about her making out with a boy.  I don't get why it's such a big deal, though.  If you think teenage girls shouldn't be reading about French kissing and a little bit of mild petting, you have your head in the sand.

Also, one of the biggest turns of events in the story is the discovery that her older brother isn't so perfect, after all: He's been expelled from college for the rest of the semester for date raping another student.  So a lot of the story hinges on Virginia realizing that everyone in her family is flawed, after all, and learning not to let them make her feel so bad about her flaws.

Really, it's beyond me why anyone would complain about this book.  Seems to me the message is actually pretty empowering for teen girls.  Yet another reason why censorship is stupid!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

iconiconI'm actually not rereading this right now — I first read The Lost Symbol almost a year ago, and I'm not quite ready to reread it.  But when I saw this beautiful illustrated edition coming out, I had to buy it anyway!  I already have a copy of the original hardback that came out, but I have the illustrated edition of both Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code already, and I wanted one of this one to match.  Also, as much as I am loving the new world of ebooks, I still have a serious weakness for beautiful books, especially illustrated ones!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

iconiconBy the time I got to Dreamfever, the fourth book in Karen Moning's Fever series, I was completely and totally addicted.  I had finished Faefever in little more than an evening, and started Dreamfever right away.  (Again, a significant advantage to ebooks — being able to buy them and start reading them right away.)

This one is longer than others, and a lot happens.  I don't want to say too much, for fear of spoiling the first three for people, but to recap, MacKayla Lane has come to Dublin in order to track down her sister's killer.  Instead, she discovers a world that she never knew existed, where the Fae live among us and cast their glamour so that we never know it.  Mac also discovers that not only is she one of the few who can see them, she is also the only person who can track a magic book that is supposed to be able to save our world from being destroyed by the Fae.

Unfortunately, Dreamfever has possibly the worst cliffhanger ending I've ever experienced, and the fifth book, Shadowfever, isn't due out until January 18, 2011.  Believe me, I will be in complete agony until it comes out!  I am that excited to find out what happens!

This is a great series for anyone who likes vampire books and dark fantasy.  I think they are especially similar to the Sookie Stackhouse (True Blood) books, because the heroines in both are young, blond, pretty, and from the southern United States.  Both are also dealing with a completely new world, and supernatural beings they never even knew existed.

Great books — I can't rave about them enough!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Faefever by Karen Marie Moning

iconiconFaefever is the third book in Karen Marie Moning's Fever series, which I started reading last week.  By the time I'd finished both Darkfever and Bloodfever, books one and two, I was so hooked that I could barely put this one down.  I finished it in less than a day!

The Fever series is based on an interesting premise: The walls between Faery and our world are coming down, and the only thing that can fix them is a mysterious book.  Small-town Southern-raised MacKayla Lane, coming to Dublin to find out more about her sister's murder, discovers that 1) she can see the Fae, and 2) she is the only one, human or Fae, who can track the book that will save our world.

I highly recommend these books to anyone who loves Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood, the Twilight Saga, etc. — but bear in mind that the fifth and final book won't be out until January 18, 2011!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning

iconiconMy experience with Karen Marie Moning's Fever series highlights one of the ways in which ebooks are so great.  After finally getting around to reading a free copy of Darkfever that I downloaded months ago, I was so hooked that I immediately bought the second book, Bloodfever.  Buying the ebook allowed me to buy and download the book as soon as I finished the first book — instant gratification!

I wasn't disappointed, either.  The suspense continues to build throughout Bloodfever, as the larger story line develops.  I think a person would be pretty lost if they hadn't read Darkfever first, though the second book does have a story of its own — but it also has a cliffhanger ending that had me hurrying to buy and download the third book the instant I finished this one!

The basic premise of the series is that MacKayla Lane, a small-town girl from Georgia, comes to Dublin to see what she can do in the investigation of her sister's murder.  There she discovers that she is descended from an ancient bloodline of women who can see through the glamour that the Fae use to disguise themselves from humans.  She gets drawn into the battle to save our world, just as her sister had, but she is also seeking her sister's killer!

These books are unique and addicting in a huge way, and I highly recommend them to anyone who enjoys vampire fiction and dark fantasy!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I am reading a romance novel!

If you've looked at the sidebar, you have probably noticed that there is a rather sexy male chest on the cover of the book I'm currently reading.  Yep, I am actually reading a romance novel.  I used to read quite a bit of historical romance back in high school, but I haven't read any for years and years — I started reading one a few years ago, just for old times' sake, but I was so disgusted and bored that I put it down within the first few chapters.

I have a pretty good (well, I think so) reason for reading this one, though, which I will share with you when I blog about it.  Until then, you will have to wait!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

iconiconI got this ebook for free months ago, but it didn't stay free for long!  I think it was part of a promotion to get readers hooked on the series.  Well, it worked!  After finally getting around to reading Darkfever last week, I bought all three subsequent ebooks, and tore through them within a few days.

The books remind me a lot of Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse books (the basis for the True Blood HBO series), in that the heroine is young, blond, and gets mixed up in a world of supernatural creatures.  In these books, though, they are Fae, rather than vampires.  It's quite the ride, and a refreshingly different take on a popular theme.

The books are actually parts of one larger story.  The first book stands fairly well on its own, but it definitely gets you hooked.  MacKayla finds out that her sister has been murdered while away at college in Dublin, and when the investigation fizzles out, decides to go there to find out firsthand what's going on.  Instead of making a few inquiries like she thinks she will be, however, she discovers that she is one of the rare few who can see the Fae, and gets sucked into a world she never even dreamed existed.

It turns out that her sister could see them too, and got involved with something that got her killed.  Mac finds herself retracing her sister's steps, trying to find a mysterious book that apparently has the power to save our world, and that she alone seems to have the ability to find.  Unfortunately, everyone wants this book, which means that Mac is getting used left and right, and doesn't know who to trust.

If you are the type that likes to wait until a series is finished before you start reading, so that you don't have to wait for any sequels, the fifth and final book is due out January 18, 2011.  I do highly recommend the books to anyone who likes dark fantasy books such as vampire novels — they are highly addictive and well worth reading!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review: The Nook App for iPhone

Last week I was forced to upgrade to the Nook app... and I do mean forced.  I purchased an ebook from B&N, only to discover that I could no longer download new ebooks using the old eReader.  Considering the problems reported with the Nook app, and considering they had told us we could continue using the old eReader, I was infuriated to discover this.

After having used the new Nook app to read a couple of ebooks, I have a few comments, both positive and negative.  First, the stuff I like:

* I can use the Nook app to manage my online library.  The old eReader didn't allow you to view ebooks in your archive, send ebooks to archive, or lend ebooks to friends.  You can do all that with the new app.

* The app syncs between other reading devices.  If you have, say, an iPad and an iPhone, or a Nook and an iPhone, or you read ebooks on your computer as well as your Nook, the apps sync with one another.  Your bookmarks, notes, etc. all update when you open the ebook on another device.

* Changing brightness, text size, etc. is a little easier.  The app has a menu that drops down from the top banner while you are in the book.  With the old app you had to go to an entirely different page.

* The formatting is better.  I can now download free ebooks that were scanned by Google Books, because this app reads the formatting better!  The old one didn't have paragraph breaks on ebooks that weren't formatted specifically for the app.  This problem seems to have been resolved in the new app, so downloading free classics is a much more appealing option for me now.

* The dictionary works!  A dictionary didn't come free with the old app — you had to buy one.  Therefore, having a working dictionary on the new app is a nice touch.  In addition, if you highlight something to look it up online, it Googles it for you — on the old app, you had to remember what it was you highlighted, and how it was spelled, so that you could type it into the search box yourself.

Now for what I don't like:

* IT'S SLOW.  Ridiculously slow.  It takes twice as long to load your ebook, whether you are opening it for the first time or going back to something you've already started.  Obviously that's because it is checking the server for any updates to your notes or bookmarks, but I don't like the delay when I am waiting to read.

* I don't like the layout as much.  Although the text size, font, and margins are easier to change on this app, and free ebooks are better formatted, I don't like the way text looks on the screen quite so much.  The old reader seemed to have a perfect text size, while this one seems to always be either too small (hard to read) or too big (too few words on the page).

* I'm not sure how it'll work when I don't have Internet access.  I almost always have wifi or wireless service, so I haven't yet experienced how not having it will affect my ability to read...  But since it updates bookmarks and notes from the server, I can't imagine it'll be good.  What will happen if I want to read an ebook on the airplane?

* There's not a back button to return you to the book if you look something up online.  Nitpicking, I know, but when it takes the app this long to load, you kind of want to be able to just hit "back" instead of having to close Safari and open the Nook app all over again!

So, more good than bad with the new app — but I'm still annoyed that they forced the upgrade, when they had said we could continue using the old app.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Siren by John Everson

iconiconI read this book on a total whim.  A few days ago, I opened up an email from Barnes & Noble, and this book (available only as an ebook) was one of those listed.  Only $2.99, so I figured what the heck, it sounded interesting.

I had very mixed feelings about the book at first.  The premise was great, but the first half or so of the book read like a man's sexual fantasy: Every other (short) chapter featured another sex scene with the naked siren on the beach, but it all read more or less the same.  And all of the sex scenes (except with Evan) ended with said siren tearing out the man's throat with her teeth.  S&M, anyone?

About halfway through, though, the novel became less sex, more story, and redeemed itself somewhat in that way.  I was glad I stuck through to the end and found out what happened.  I have to admit, though, I would be more likely to recommend the book to a guy than to a woman.

Faithful by Janet Fox

iconiconI think most of my readers know that I enjoy reading YA fiction from time to time.  Janet Fox's Faithful is one of those I came upon while browsing the teen fiction table at Barnes & Noble one evening.  It seemed like the kind of thing I'd be interested in.

The story is about a 16-year-old society girl from Rhode Island whose father drags her west to Yellowstone just before her coming out.  Suddenly her world of balls, worrying about propriety, and trying to find a wealthy husband is turned on its head.  She thinks she and her father are there to find her mother, who disappeared the year before, but it turns out to be something quite different.

The novel has a strong feminist bent, which I loved.  As Maggie starts exploring her independence, she starts questioning the expectations of a society girl in 1904.  The book is really about two different journeys of discovery: the physical journey she and her father undertake, as well as the inner journey in which she finds out who she really is, and what she wants out of her life.

I tend to really like YA fiction, but I have to admit, I thought this one was better than the usual.  Not only was it well researched and well written, it was also a wonderful story that I thought ought to be useful in reminding young girls today that they don't always have to do what is expected of them.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vixen by Jillian Larkin

iconiconI actually read this book nearly a month ago, but I refrained from blogging about it sooner because it was a First Look Book Club book, and the discussion hadn't ended yet.

Barnes & Noble's First Look Book Club allows you to get advance reading copies of upcoming books, as long as you agree to discuss them on the forum. Vixen was my first First Look book, and I have to say it was a great experience, although I am not used to discussing a book in such detail on a forum.  I felt a bit like I was back in school, though it was well worth the "homework."

Vixen is the first book in a new YA series, which is going to follow several girls' lives and loves during the 1920s.  I'm fascinated with the Roaring Twenties, especially ever since my 1920s-themed wedding, but there don't seem to be many really good novels set in the period.

I loved the book.  It was just adult enough to be interesting to teen girls as well as adults (like me) who enjoy reading YA fiction.  The setting felt very realistic — obviously the author loves the 1920s and knows a lot about the decade.  The three main female characters were all very different, but very believable.  My favorite turned out to be Clara, whose character seemed somewhat sneaky and unlikeable at first, but who turned out to be the strongest in a lot of ways. The book ended with all three of the girls — including perhaps a new fourth character — disembarking on a new chapter of their lives.  I'm looking forward to the next book in the series — hopefully it won't take too long!

Click here to read the First Look discussions of Vixen for yourself!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead by Nick Drake

iconiconFor Christmas last year my mom got a desk calender that had a new book recommendation for every single day.  Having no use for it herself, she gave it to me, and I promptly gave it to my husband for his desk at work.  Occasionally he brings home a stack of the pages, and that is where I found out about this book.

Nefertiti: The Book of the Dead is a novel about the disappearance of the famous queen during the 12th year of her husband's reign.  A detective from another town is hired to find her, and he is the one who narrates the book.

The story was of course fictional, but it was a good mystery, and the period itself was incredibly well researched.  The book did take about 30 or 40 pages to pick up — it wasn't until they found a body of someone they thought was the queen that I started really taking an interest in the story.

I used to be quite fascinated with Ancient Egypt, and if you have similar interests, I think you would love this book.  In fact, I think anyone who likes historical fiction would enjoy it, so that's how I have categorized it on my blog — even though it is also a well-written mystery!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dear American Airlines by Jonathan Miles

iconiconSorry for the lack of posts this month.  I was reading a very long book, A Clash of Kings, which meant no new posts — and then last week, when I read several other books, I took an unscheduled vacation and didn't update any of my blogs.

I took a short break during A Clash of Kings to read this book, which was due back to the library.  When I first heard about Dear American Airlines — on NPR, I think it was — I have to admit, I thought it was nonfiction.  I thought it sounded like an interesting premise for a book.

It turned out to be a novel, but not one that interested me terribly much.  The rants about the situation (being stranded because of a canceled flight) were funny at first, but it got old pretty quickly.  I found the flashbacks into the character's past more interesting, but the character himself wasn't very likeable.  Thank heavens it was short.  I ended up skimming it just to read the flashbacks.

So, I have to say that this is one of those rare books that I would not recommend... to anyone.  I always feel awful about giving a bad review, but I really hated this book!

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

iconiconNote: The image links to an inexpensive paperback edition available from Barnes & Noble.  If you would prefer the ebook, you can download a nicely formatted edition for free from

I discovered mid-week last week that it was Banned Books Week, and decided to take a break in my current read to honor one of the books on the list of frequently challenged books.  I was looking for something relatively short, since I was interrupting my current read, something that was either new or that I couldn't remember reading, and something that was available in ebook at an affordable price so that I could get it right away!  With these criteria in mind, I chose The Awakening.

I may have read The Awakening in high school — I can't remember for sure.  Or maybe I just read the end, as I remember reading something by Kate Chopin out of a textbook.  I also had read something about the novel (or novella?) before, since I knew how it ended.

It took me longer to read than I expected, but I did enjoy it.  The story is about a well-to-do young wife and mother who falls in love while on vacation.  This inspires her to start questioning her life up until then: her marriage, her motherhood, her family, even her daily activities, such as accepting society callers every Tuesday in her home (after returning from vacation).  Apparently just as in love with her as she is with him, the object of her affection leaves for a while, and Edna spends a lot of time pining for him — which encourages her to question her life even more.

An anonymous reviewer on Barnes & Noble's website wrote about the book,

"She had a husband that treated her well and two children but decided that wasn't the life for her. Instead she fools around with another man while in love with a different one than that. She is a tease and just couldn't surrender to the conformity of life."

Obviously this person missed the point of the book, but I can't help but feel that it is this kind of attitude that has resulted in this book being challenged so frequently.  Despite having everything she needs (or is supposed to need, being a woman), when she looks at her life with a more discerning eye, Edna finds she is unhappy.  This leads her to question a society woman's role in life, and ultimately comes to the conclusion that there is only one way to resolve her unhappiness.