Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Odd Interlude (Odd Odd Interlude (Odd Thomas #5) by Dean Koontz (read 6/12/15 to 6/17/15)

I picked this up as a side book because my BOTM read is so quick, I do the weeks reading in one day, and I had finished NNCC this month already.  I had recently bought the latest book in the series for my husband, and I want to get caught up so I could read it.
I guess this book was originally presented as a 3-part series of eBook mini installments.  It picks up the same night as the end of Odd Hours, Odd and Annamarie are driving to Santa Barbara after fleeing Magic Beach when they stop at a small gas station/diner/motel just off the highway called Harmony Corner.  And as with anywhere Odd goes, there is more to the place than meets the eye.

This book seems rushed, Odd is in the middle of a problem before the end of the first chapter, and unlike other books the story proceeds really really fast, no set up, no mystery really, just BAM Odd has to save someone and himself. Another odd thing about this book is the only ghost is that of Boo the dog. There is a murdered boy in the story, it seemed to me that he would be a ghost that Odd encountered.  In fact it would have made more sense for Odd to have discovered there was a problem from the boy's ghost than from snooping around Harmony Corner.  The storyline feels off to me.  It was still an easy read, but it didn't feel like the other books.  Maybe it is because it was an e-book serial and not a stand alone book.  The story moves at a very rapid pace, and there is a lot packed into its 250 or so pages.  I liked it, but it felt out of character to me.

Book Riot's Surprise Beach Reads 2015

So before I received my quarterly box, I was listening to my book riot podcast and they were talking up the new Surprise Beach Reads Box for $100.  It was advertised as "Variety is the spice of our reading life! Start your summer with four secret Riot-approved books and a selection of items from the Book Riot Store. (Does not contain any repeats from Book Riot's Quarterly or YA Quarterly subscriptions. Total retail value of contents exceeds $100.)  Purchase of this box sends one book to a community in need."
It sounded like a good deal, 4 books and swag for $100 bucks, plus a little spice of charity thrown in.  I went for it.  It arrived the day after my Quarterly box and I think some of my disappointment from the quarterly tampered my excitement for the summer box.  I wasn't as excited about this box as I could have been, I will admit I am happier with this box.  So enough of the blah blah's what was in it right?

The letter included described the 4 books and a small paragraph calling the four books "not so conventional choices for summer reading."  Two novels, a graphic novel and a memoir.  Not sure why they are considered unconventional, maybe once I read them that description will make more sense.

The first book was Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell ($14.95) .  This is a story about family reunion set during a terrible heatwave in London in 1976.  Gretta, whose husband has just abandoned her, calls her three children home.  Of course none of the children's lives are perfect, and may not be having the best of luck themselves.  But this is the story of "a family falling apart and coming together with hard-won, life changing truths about who they really are."  It sounds like an interesting and heartfelt read.  It may not have been one I would have picked up myself, but I'm interested in reading it.  Sounds like it could be a bit twisty and dramatic, just my style.  When I read the back, I immediately thought this sounds like a book NNCC book club would pick.  And who knows if I like it, I may recommend it to the group.

Next we have The Fishermen by Chigozi Obioma ($26).  This one was a hard back which was a surprise.  I had expected all paperbacks, and didn't expect such a newly published book to be included.  Original copyright was February 2015.  The cover says this is a "Cain and Abel-esque story of an unforgettable childhood in 1990's Akure, Nigeria."  The father is apparently away often and the four brothers skip a lot of school to go fishing.  During one of the hooky days a man tells the oldest brother he is destined to be killed by one of his brothers, and the story follows them to see what happens.  Supposedly it is mythical thing, and is supposed to be life changing, or at least make you think about life and the world and teach you something.  Hmmm...I'm a little leery that it is all that and the bag of chips, but I could be wrong, it could change my life, make me do some major reflecting.  That would be a very pleasant surprise indeed.

Next we have Lumberjanes, Volume 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen, and Shannon Waters ($14.95).  This is a graphic novel that they have been talking a lot about on my book riot pod casts, I guess it is just amazing and funny as all get out.  The book takes place at a summer camp and all the shenanigans the girls at the camp get into.  It looks fun.  The chapters are split up by badges, and there is a blurb at the front about what a lumberjane must do to earn her badge, then I assume the graphic novel part depicts some of the girls earning said badge.  I have never been much of a graphic novel person, so I'm not sure that this is my cup of tea,   But I have heard a ton of good things about it so I'm really glad it was included in the box, because I can guarantee I wouldn't have purchased it myself, but I want to see if it lives up to all the great recommendations.

The last book A Few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip by Kevin Brockmeier ($15).  This is the memoir, Brockmeier writes about his seventh grade experience.  I guess this is the year the author finds himself and survives one of the worst years in a childhood I can think of.  Oh the tween years, it is not something I would want to relive, my middle school memories are pretty ugly, I think we all go into middle school one person and come out another, and that transformation sounds like what this book is about.  Ehh.. this will probably be the last one of this group of books that I tackle.


So what about the swag you ask?  Well I received a Book Riot Water Bottle ($15), a Jane Austin Tote ($15), and banned book socks ($10).  I am much happier with this swag than the Quarterly box's swag, it fell more in line of what I was expecting.  The water bottle is huge, 32 oz, and I wish I had known I was going to receive it before I purchased a 64 oz jug, but I guess you can never have too many water bottles.  I love the tote, it is very roomy and will hold lots and lots of books, perfect for library visits with the kids, and actually something I have been looking to buy.  The socks are cute and fun, but it feels like the wrong season for them.   Oh and there was another coupon for $20 off Book Riot Live event in New York in November of 2015.  Again I will not be attending this event so this coupon was useless to me, but I guess it does add value to the box.

The overall box value was $113.90 when you include the coupon, without it it is $93.90.  So I feel a little cheated that they included the coupon, but for the most part I am happy with the box.  I feel that I got my money's worth, not a super fantastic deal, but at least I don't feel cheated.  I'm happy with my swag and only one of the books really makes me go bleh.  Not bad for a box picked by someone else.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Book Riot Quarterly Box #7 (Recieved 6/10/15)

So my husband gets Loot Crate and I love it, the idea of some random fun stuff being delivered every month, so I started looking for a book related subscription box, and my choices were Powell Books or Book Riot Quarterly.
Book Riot comes out 4 times a year and costs $50 per shipment.  It was described as "The theme of Book Riot's mailings is The Reading Life. Each box contains a great book and a bunch of other bookish stuff that readers will love."
Powell's is every 6 weeks and costs $39.95 per shipment.  It was described as "Powell's subscription club delivers the best new books, with special attention to independent publishers. Signed first editions. Inventive, original sets. Exclusive printings.... Every six to eight weeks, another installment to read and admire."
Two other options I tossed pretty early on was the Book Riot YA quarterly and Owl crate.  Both are YA genre's which I read, but they felt limiting to me.

I debated long and hard about which subscription to go with, but I finally settled on Book Riot's because the reviews of the boxes sent had more stuff in it that I thought I would like.  I placed my order in March and I waited impatiently for my first box to arrive.  The Theme for Box #7 was "Technology, the Future and Reading."  When the mailman arrived today with my box, I opened it all giddy and super excited, but I was really disappointed by what I found inside.

First there was the book riot letter explaining what was included in the box (and because I wasn't one of the lucky randomly selected subscribers, what bonus items I didn't get.)

The first book included was The World Exchange by Alena Graedon ($15.95).  Let letter describes it as "a near-ish future cyberpunk novel."  It seems the premise is that handheld technology has replaces books/newspapers/libraries.  There as always are a few die-hard fans of print and they are struggling to publish the last edition of the North American Dictionary of the English Language.  Right before it is to be published the editor-in-chief goes missing, apparently along with words themselves.  The protagonist is his daughter Anana Johnson, so of course she and a friend set out to find out her father and the words. It sounds like an interesting concept, I will happily give it a shot.
Included also was the "bonus item" of a special coda written after then end of the the book, I think that it was the weird 1 page letter thing included, so I stuck it at the end of the book, maybe once I read the book it will make sense.  There was a second bonus item that I did not receive which was a "Word Flu Prevention Kit."  I tried googling it, but couldn't find out what it was.  :(

The second book was Smarter Than You Think by Clive Barker ($17.00).  This appears to be a non fiction book about if technology is making us dumber, I think the conclusion is no.  It seems like an ok read, not something I would have picked up on my own for sure though.
It included a bonus item of an online essay by Clive Barker about reading War and Peace on an e-reader vs a real book.  I got about halfway through it and was bored, hopefully the book holds my attention better than the essay.

Also included was a Grid-It Organizer ($11.99), it is small 5x7, so will fit well in my purse.  It has a bunch of elastic loops interwoven together, and it market as holding all your stuff (phone, cords, pens, etc.) in place in your bag.  Its an interesting concept, not sure if it will be useful, but I'll give it a shot, I always am looking for better ways to organize my purse.

Final item was a Pop Chart Lab Literary Genres Map Poster ($29).  This was the item I think I liked best from the box, it immediately went up on the wall in my office.  It just looks so cool!

There was also a coupon for $20 off Book Riot Live event in New York in November of 2015.  I will not be attending this event so this coupon was useless to me, but I guess it does add value to the box. Shhh.... and if you read my blog and are going, I am sure you can use the code.

There was potential to get one of two bonus books Symphony for the City of Dead by MT Anderson or Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons, I didn't get either of those either.  :(

So the total value was $93.94, although because I can't use the coupon, my value was only $73.94.  I got my monies worth technically.  I guess I was disappointed because when I looked through the previous boxes, there were notes from authors and cooler goodies, than an online essay.  I felt a little cheated because I had built it up so much in my mind I suppose.  I had really debated and Book Riot had seemed to have cooler book related items than Powell's, and the only item I got that I really liked was the poster, it just seemed like a bit of a cope out.  There was nothing I hated, it just didn't live up to my expectations I guess.  I'll give it one more go, but if I don't like the September box I will cancel and try Powell's after all.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children #2) by Ransom Riggs (Read 5/25/15 to 6/7/15)

This is the second book in the peculiar children series.  It wasn't as good a read as the first one.   It picks up immediately where the first book left off after the island was bombed, and they children had rescued Miss Peregrine.  The children are trying to find other Ymbrynes to change her back from bird form.  They are traveling to London in the 1940's trying to find another loop.  The story just seemed to meander about and take a lot of useless turns, there were still the great old pictures, but they didn't seem as perfect as the first time around and didn't add to the story the way they did with the first book.  The character development was minimal, in fact I was a little annoyed that Jacob seemed to consider himself and expert on peculiars' and the peculiar children he was traveling with, especially Emma, for goodness sake he had known them only a week and only found out he was a peculiar at the same time.  It was annoying what an "expert" he seemed to have become.  I'm not saying it was a bad book, I liked it, I just had higher expectations from the first book.  I will still read the thrid book, but I won't expect as much from it and maybe I will enjoy it more.

Anathem by Neal Stephenson (read 5/5/15 to 5/25/15)

This was a book of the month (BOTM) selection for "Off the Wall" reads.
This was not a hit with me.  The story is set on another planet, that is similar to Earth, but is not Earth.  The society on this planet has divided into the secular and non-secular worlds.  The Secular world is all math based and not a religion, but acts a lot like a religious order to me.  The story line was so dull, with so many unfamiliar big words, that it made it really hard to even start.   There was too much background, but doesn't it didn't help to ease the reader into the story at all.
I tried listening to the audio book and that helped a little, but I couldn't retain anything.  So I switched back to reading and surprisingly that made the reading a little easier. I continued to switch between the physical book and the audio book for the remainder of the read.
The reading got better also once they stopped talking about the architecture and left the monastery, because there was an actual story, not just philosophy based on math theories.  throughout the book there is so much philosophy, but it feels disjointed and thrown in at the most random times.  I have to say this book makes me feel stupid. The theoretical discussions go so over my head that my eyes glaze over and I absorb nothing.  I feel like I'm missing out on a ton of stuff just because I can't follow the theories.  Some in my group really loved this tome of a math theory, but it was not a great read for me.  In fact at times I absolutely dreaded reading for the week because this was just such a tedious read for me.  I think that if you really enjoy and intellectual, deep read, that makes you contemplate our place in the cosmos and in reality yourself, this is a read for you.  But if you are reading for a story, then this is not the story for you, the story plays second fiddle to the philosophy, and it is a complicated and hard to follow philosophy.