Sunday, November 18, 2012

Unfinished Book: We Need to Talk About Kevin

Title We Need to Talk About Kevin

Author Lionel Shriver

Release Date July 3, 2006

The gripping international bestseller about motherhood gone awry

Eva never really wanted to be a mother - and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin's horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

I would say that it's pretty rare that I don't finish a book that I start. Once I start a book, whether it's good or bad, I feel compelled to finish it. Sometimes, though, I find a book that I just cannot get through. Unfortunately, We Need to Talk About Kevin is one of those books. I made it through about 14% of the book (thanks Stanza for allowing me to be weirdly specific with my percentages) and I'm surprised that I was able to make it that far. I feel badly about not finding the strength to finish this book, especially because it's one I really wanted to read.

The thing that sticks out for me was the writing. Shriver goes overboard with flowery language. While it might have been okay for Shriver to write while thumbing through a thesaurus the entire time, I dislike having to spend so much time looking up words in a dictionary while reading. Don't get me wrong, I love expanding my mind and learning new words, but every third word is ridiculous! In general, this is probably what killed the book for me. It was too much work to get through the book.

Since I wanted to read this book so much, I am going to watch the movie. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it isn't as painful as the book.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Book Review: Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir

Title Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir

Author Beth Ditto with Michelle Tea

Release Date October 9, 2012

A raw and surprisingly beautiful coming-of-age memoir, Coal to Diamonds tells the story of Mary Beth Ditto, a girl from rural Arkansas who found her voice.

Born and raised in Judsonia, Arkansas—a place where indoor plumbing was a luxury, squirrel was a meal, and sex ed was taught during senior year in high school (long after many girls had gotten pregnant and dropped out) Beth Ditto stood out. Beth was a fat, pro-choice, sexually confused choir nerd with a great voice, an eighties perm, and a Kool Aid dye job. Her single mother worked overtime, which meant Beth and her five siblings were often left to fend for themselves. Beth spent much of her childhood as a transient, shuttling between relatives, caring for a sickly, volatile aunt she nonetheless loved, looking after sisters, brothers, and cousins, and trying to steer clear of her mother’s bad boyfriends.

Her punk education began in high school under the tutelage of a group of teens—her second family—who embraced their outsider status and introduced her to safety-pinned clothing, mail-order tapes, queer and fat-positive zines, and any shred of counterculture they could smuggle into Arkansas. With their help, Beth survived high school, a tragic family scandal, and a mental breakdown, and then she got the hell out of Judsonia. She decamped to Olympia, Washington, a late-1990s paradise for Riot Grrrls and punks, and began to cultivate her glamorous, queer, fat, femme image. On a whim—with longtime friends Nathan, a guitarist and musical savant in a polyester suit, and Kathy, a quiet intellectual turned drummer—she formed the band Gossip. She gave up trying to remake her singing voice into the ethereal wisp she thought it should be and instead embraced its full, soulful potential. Gossip gave her that chance, and the raw power of her voice won her and Gossip the attention they deserved.

Marked with the frankness, humor, and defiance that have made her an international icon, Beth Ditto’s unapologetic, startlingly direct, and poetic memoir is a hypnotic and inspiring account of a woman coming into her own.

My introduction to Beth Ditto began on the internet. I've read articles about her being fat-positive and feminist. I've read articles about her creating a clothing line for fat girls. I've seen plenty of pictures of her. I had never, before today, heard any of her music. Yes, I knew she was in a band, but I never thought about checking them out. Of course, that was the first thing I did whenever I finished this book. Mainly, though, I requested to read Coal to Diamonds because I was interested in hearing more about Ditto's fat-positive views. Perhaps, reading the book would help me to embrace myself a little more.

I really enjoyed the conversational style of the memoir. It gave me the feeling that I was meeting Beth for the first time and she was giving me insight into her life by sharing these stories that helped shape her into the person she is today. She speaks very openly about her life, the good and the bad, and I found that to be really refreshing.

I was a little disappointed that the book wasn't longer. Things could have been a little more fleshed out than they actually were. The story doesn't follow a linear pattern at all, but I guess that fits in with the more conversational style of the book. Overall, those two things didn't make enough of a negative impact.

I enjoyed Coal to Diamonds: A Memoir. And after checking out Gossip's music, I really enjoyed it as well. I would recommend checking them both out.


4/5 stars 

* This book was received from Netgalley for review. *

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Review: Embracing You, Embracing Me

Title Embracing You, Embracing Me

Author Michelle Bellon

Release Date May 6, 2012

It's the 1990s. 16-year-old Roshell McRady dances her way through High School, never quite admitting that she’s ashamed of her trailer park family home.
She listens to Madonna while wondering why girls her age swap BFFs about as often as some boys change their dirty socks; she empties enough hairspray until her bangs are feathered and vertical like a lethal weapon; and she agonises over how to convince Gabriel Harrison, the new Mystery Guy in town, to invite her to the prom - a night which threatens to turn into a disaster.

But then life takes a dramatic turn for Roshell, and her life changes forever.

A love story emerges from the anguish of Roshell's life, and when she leaves school and finds work at a casino, things don't get any less complicated for her - until one night a powerful dream marks out the exact path that she must take.

I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did. The blurb made the book seem more interesting than it really was. And while I didn't read any reviews of the book before I read it, I did read some shortly after. I was certain that I couldn't have been the only one slightly disappointed, right? Apparently, I am. I always feel sort of weird whenever I don't generally agree with the reviews I read. Unfortunately, I just can't see the greatness that everyone else does.

There wasn't one big thing that made the book less than stellar for me. It was definitely a combination of things. I didn't too much care for the little excerpts from different people throughout the story. I feel like it was too distracting to make a positive impact on the story. While it was nice to know what the other people in the story were thinking, I could have down without it. While I did enjoy the female characters in the book, I didn't too much care for the male characters, especially the ones Roshell was involved with. I don't feel like they were realistic in their dealings with Roshell. It made me irritable and I spent many times rolling my eyes at them. Even with their little excerpts, I didn't really grasp why they acted the way they did. And truth be told, I'm not sure they knew why they acted they way the did, other than they were sure Roshell was worth it.

That being said, the book wasn't all bad. There were parts that I enjoyed and parts were I felt emotionally connected to Roshell. I just wish the entire book was that way.


2.5 out of 5 stars

* This book was received from Netgalley for review. *

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Review: Rape Girl

Title Rape Girl

Author Alina Klein

Release Date September 1, 2012

Valerie always wanted to be the smart girl. The pretty girl. The popular girl.

But not the rape girl..

That’s who she is now. Rape Girl. Because everyone seems to think they know the truth about what happened with Adam that day, and they don’t think Valerie’s telling it..

Before, she had a best friend, a crush, and a close-knit family. After, she has a court case, a support group, and a house full of strangers..

The real truth is, nothing will ever be the same..

Rape Girl is the compelling story of a survivor who does the right thing and suffers for it. It is also the story of a young woman’s struggle to find the strength to fight back.

I was immediately drawn to Rape Girl whenever I read the blurb. I wanted to know what really happened with Valerie and Adam.

This was a really good book. There were many times when my heart hurt for Valerie and I wanted to reach into the book and hug her for days. I think it was pretty spot on as far as Valerie's reaction (right down to her doubting whether or not she made the right choice in telling on Adam) and the reaction of her family, friends, and school.

I liked that Klein took a look at a serious subject without being overly graphic and violent about it. While that can definitely be an effective way to tell a story, Rape Girl didn't need to be that book in order to get the point across. She did a fantastic job at getting me emotionally invested in Valerie's story without excess violence or graphicness.

The book was a little shorter than I would have liked. The story did wrap up, but it was over far too quickly for me.


3.5 out of 5 stars

This book was received from Netgalley for review.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Book Review: And All the Stars

Title And All the Stars

Author Andrea K. Höst

Release Date September 30, 2012

Come for the apocalypse.
Stay for cupcakes.
Die for love.

Madeleine Cost is working to become the youngest person ever to win the Archibald Prize for portraiture. Her elusive cousin Tyler is the perfect subject: androgynous, beautiful, and famous. All she needs to do is pin him down for the sittings.

None of her plans factored in the Spires: featureless, impossible, spearing into the hearts of cities across the world - and spraying clouds of sparkling dust into the wind.

Is it an alien invasion? Germ warfare? They are questions everyone on Earth would like answered, but Madeleine has a more immediate problem. At Ground Zero of the Sydney Spire, beneath the collapsed ruin of St James Station, she must make it to the surface before she can hope to find out if the world is ending.

Warning: Contains swearing, sexual situations, and Australians.


Whenever I read the description on NetGalley, I was hesitant to request it. I wasn't sure if I was up for reading a sci-fi book. I love a good sci-fi book, but I have to be in the mood for one to really enjoy it.

However, I'm really glad I requested this book. I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. The characters felt real and were relatable. The story was interesting and kept my attention.

I loved that Höst kept the story to a single book. It's becoming more and more rare for an author to wrap up a story in a single book instead of making a series. If a sequel were to come out, though, I would definitely read it.

Though the book was great, I felt like the ending was a little abrupt. It wasn't enough to throw me off completely. I also really appreciate Höst adding the epilogue to finish off the story.


4 out of 5 stars

This book was received from Netgalley for review.