Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's resolutions: Books to read in 2013

Well, my plans for the year didn't work out as well as I'd wanted.  I'd intended to read five classics in 2012, and I didn't read a single one of them.  I'd thought reading would be a New Year's resolution that I could actually achieve, but I guess not!

So I'm going to try again in 2013.  I'll roll these five titles over into the new year's list, plus add a couple more titles (to the end of the list).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

I've read and reviewed quite a few Diana Peterfreund books on this blog: Rampant and Ascendant, her killer unicorn books, plus her Secret Society Girl series, and Morning Glory, a novelization of the recent movie.  She is one of my favorite authors, so I was excited when I realized she had a new book out: For Darkness Shows the Stars, a dystopian, post-apocalyptic YA novel.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

I was reminded of another book I need to review by an announcement that the ebook is on sale: The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley is currently only 99 cents on both Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com's websites.  I myself checked the ebook out from the library a couple of months ago -- and quite happily devoured the entire thing.  In fact, I am currently debating whether I ought to still buy it -- although I don't frequently reread books, it is only a buck.  Plus, I own several of the authors' other ebooks (also all bought on sale).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Duck for President

On Election Day 2012, Barnes & Noble offered this book, Duck for President, as their Nook Daily Find.  You have to respect their sense of humor, offering a picture book like this -- in which the duck tires of being president and returns to the farm -- instead of a weightier political book.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Gunslinger is actually a book I finished last week -- it was our sci-fi/fantasy book club book for December.  We had read another Stephen King book last year, The Eyes of the Dragon, which was officially my first Stephen King book since I read Dolores Claiborne as a teen (unless you count On Writing, which I really don't in this case).

I hated Dolores Claiborne, so I never read another Stephen King book after that.  As far as I was concerned, I hated Stephen King.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy holidays

Today my husband and I will be spending a quiet Christmas at home.  After we had to euthanize Grace a couple weeks ago, we decided we wanted to spend Christmas on our own, instead of with family.  It's supposed to be a white Christmas -- we'll be getting a little bit of snow tonight and tomorrow morning -- which will make it a nice day for staying in and reading, putting together a puzzle, and watching a movie.  We are also planning on going to our favorite local Asian restaurant, which (luckily for us!) happens to be open on Christmas.

I hope all of my readers have similarly pleasant holidays planned!  Happy holidays!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

I found The Lifeboat while browsing Barnes & Noble's ebook selection on my Nook -- I probably found it in the Top 100 category.  It's a historical novel set a couple of years after the sinking of the Titanic -- the heroine has survived a luxury liner sinking and three weeks in a lifeboat until they were picked up, and is now on trial for murder.  The very beginning of the book drops you into the middle of the murder trial, leaving you wondering what could have happened at sea that was so terrible she would be charged with murder because of it.

From there, Grace's journal -- which she has written on her lawyers' request to recount the events in the lifeboat -- takes you back to the day of the explosion that sank the ship, and how Grace found herself as one of 39 survivors in a lifeboat.  From the very beginning -- when it becomes evident that the lifeboat, despite its placard claiming a capacity of 40, isn't big enough to hold them all -- you know that some of the survivors will have to die in order for the rest to survive.

When I started this book, I was expecting Hollywood-style drama and suffering, but the story itself is quieter and grimmer.  The narration is a beautifully done character portrait, in that you find yourself wondering at times whether Grace is telling the truth -- and what she might be lying about.  It's also written in a somewhat old-fashioned style that (between the language and the woman accused) reminded me a bit of The Scarlet Letter, if that book had been written in Hester's voice instead of in third-person.  In some of the reviews on Barnes & Noble's website, readers claimed they devoured the book in only a night or two -- and it is a little on the short side, but I thought it was better read over a few days, since I found that I wanted to read more slowly in order to properly absorb the language and the details.

Although I liked the book, in the end I was left feeling somewhat unsatisfied.  I think I suspected and wanted to find out that Grace was concealing some crucial detail, and the fact that the author never addressed what that might be was disappointed.  I still wonder if I missed something important!  Even so, I would certainly recommend this book, which is an interesting exploration of whether it is moral to sacrifice a few so that the rest can survive.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The $100 Startup by Christ Guillebeau

The $100 Startup is another library book that expired before I had a chance to finish it, so I read the first half several weeks ago, and the rest last night and today.  Even so, the book is a remarkably fast and easy read (it was waiting too long to start it that caused me to be unable to finish it in time, not any flaw with the book itself) -- and, even more impressive, a pretty easy book to pick back up after a while and still remember pretty well where I'd left off.

I attribute this primarily to the fact that the book's messages are pretty simple: Chris Guillebeau's entire message is that microbusinesses are easy to fund and start, and relatively easy -- if you have a good product with customers who are willing to pay for it -- to succeed.  He tells us this partly using his own experience, but also with lots of stories of other entrepreneurs to illustrate his points.

The book's points are clear and concise, and the examples are inspiring.  I'm a freelance writer and no stranger to self-employment, but I still found the book's format and concepts helpful -- especially the ideas for launching a product, ways to get paid more than once, and self-promotion.  But I think the beauty of this book is that it has a lot of useful advice for both existing and would-be entrepreneurs.  Even if you've only ever thought in passing about starting a business, pick up this book -- it's a fast read and chock-full of useful ideas to help you get started (or just give you some food for thought, if you're still on the fence).

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

In the spirit of getting back into the swing of things, I am -- for once -- writing a review right after writing the "I'll be back soon!" or "I'm coming back now!" post.  How many times have I posted that, and it never happened?  So I could see how you could be understandably skeptical when I posted that again tonight.

Yet here I am.

Just earlier today, I finished Dearly, Beloved, the sequel of Dearly, Departed, a YA zombie romance that I read earlier this year.  As you may (or may not) remember, I adored Dearly, Departed, as I found it an incredibly unique (and romantic) take on zombies -- a refreshing change from all the scary-zombie books and movies that have been out lately.  Note: This review will contain spoilers for the first book -- Dearly, Departed -- so read onward at your own risk!

Dearly, Beloved was a continuation not only of Nora and Bram's romance, but also of the predicament they find themselves in.  Although they live in "New Victoria," this actually takes place in the future, when people have technology but have adopted a Victorian-styled society (corsets and dresses, chaperones, etc. mixed with computers, science, and medical technology).  After the existence of the zombie disease was exposed in the first book (sorry if that was a spoiler), New Victoria is struggling with whether to accept the sane zombies -- zombies that retain their identity and intelligence, and are able to abstain from human flesh -- as part of society.

I didn't find the second book as addicting as the first, but that might have been because my library book expired when I was in the middle of it, and I had to wait weeks before I could check it out again and finish it.  Even so, I found the initial romance between Nora and Bram much more compelling than the second book, when their relationship was already established.  This might have been because I felt like the second book focused less on the relationship, and more on the rest of the story -- the intrigues, the politics, the betrayals, etc.  There were more narrating characters in this book, too, which was probably why I felt like the focus had shifted off of Nora and Bram.

I may have been disappointed that the romance was less compelling, but at the same time, I felt like the second book was building to a much bigger story than just Nora, Bram, and their immediate circle.  I think I remember seeing that this is supposed to be a trilogy, but I don't know when the third book is due out, and there doesn't seem to be any information about it on Lia Habel's website (which hasn't even been updated to include the newest book).  Hopefully they won't keep us waiting too long, though -- I will certainly be reading the next one as soon as it's out!

A rough year

I have to say that 2012 has been a rough year for us.  We've been busy, sure: In November 2011, I took an after-school nanny job, which means I no longer work solely from home as a freelance writer.  (I still freelance, but on the side of my part-time work.)  Over the summer, while the kids were out, I worked double what I normally do, so I was very busy then, too.  And barely had I gotten a chance to reclaim my schedule post-summer vacation, when November -- and NaNoWriMo -- happened.

On top of that, there were a lot of pet-related emergencies and time-sucks this year.  Our dog Grace, a white shepherd with hip dysplasia, required weekly physical therapy/acupuncture all year, as well as regular vet visits for various reasons.  She passed away 10 days ago, so life will be easier, yet we're not quite past the empty feeling of losing her yet.

Then there was Emma's (our other dog's) pneumonia in January, Rondo's (my younger horse's) emergency vet call from getting kicked in the face in March, Panama's (my older horse's) weight loss in the spring and early summer, Cleo's (my oldest cat's) possible urinary tract infection (can't remember when that one was), the stray kitten I caught at the barn (now named Izzy) who required various checkups and shots as part of acquiring her, and all the regular vet care (checkups and shots) throughout the year, particularly for the horses.

Whew.

Meanwhile, every time I finish a book, I've been dumping it on my main screen of my Nook to remind me to eventually write a review of it.  The result is a puddle of book covers that I dare not even guess the number of.  The exceptions are the library books I've read in the last few months, since I downloaded the OverDrive app, which keeps my library books in a different part of my Nook (and therefore doesn't allow me to move covers to the "desktop" when I'm done with the book).

In other words, I have a lot of reviews to catch up on.  The thought of even trying to play catchup at this point, let alone trying to remember all of the library books I've read and have no record of, is rather overwhelming, so I think instead I am going to just start reviewing books as I finish them again -- and as I have time, I will write reviews of those I've read this past year, and insert those into any gaps in my reading.  Perhaps then, for a while, this will once again be a "book of the day" blog, even though I no longer have time to finish a book every day!