Author Archives: genericwhitegirl

genericwhitegirl’s CBR book #31: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

If you’re into Twilight or other angsty teenage supernatural type books, then you’ll probably dig Beautiful Creatures. Now that I’ve mentioned Twilight, some of you die-hard fans (I am not one of them) might want to know which is better…honestly, I’m not sure. I think Twilight fans would still prefer the Twilight books to Beautiful Creatures, but with three books already in the series, Beautiful Creatures may be worth a deeper look.

Okay, now I’m talking to normal people. This book is along the lines of the Twilight series so…possibly an entertaining, brainless read with a cup of annoying and over dramatic mixed in.

Basically, Beautiful Creatures takes place in the small town of Gatlin, South Carolina, where the civil war is still the biggest news of the day. Ethan Wate, a sophomore in high school, has his friends and basketball team. But then Lena Duchannes comes to town. The niece of the town’s mysterious recluse, Lena’s welcome in Gatlin is anything but. Ethan, however, is strangely drawn to Lena. Haunted by a recurring dream, Lena seems to be the clue to Ethan understanding it. As their friendship develops, Ethan learns more and more about Lena’s family and all of its supernatural secrets.

I think this story focuses more on the relationship between Ethan and Lena (read: a love story) as opposed to really exploring and understanding Lena’s supernatural world. In that sense, I found the book lacking. I love being immersed in new worlds but the perspective is Ethan’s so you feel just as in the dark as he does about all the interesting things Lena is privy to. Of course, things are slowly revealed throughout the book, but I still had a lot of questions and wanted to know more. I suppose that’s the point of a series though, isn’t it? Perhaps I’ll read the second book to discover more. But I’m not sure the first book entranced me enough to go to the trouble.

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR book #30: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I’d seen the Disney cartoon, the Johnny Depp version, and a creepier version on TV back when I was younger…so I thought it appropriate to pick up the actual book and experience Lewis Carroll firsthand.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written by Carroll (a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) in 1865. Apparently Carroll was a man of many hats (author, poet, mathematician, logician…is that a word?). And this book showcases all of these hats, although with characters like the mad hatter wearing them, things get a bit…strange. Apparently, according to wikipedia, and I’m sure a host of other web sites, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is rife with literary allusions and symbolism. But it was all lost on me. I suppose this book would be more interesting studied and picked apart in an academic setting than just as a summer read. Because as the latter, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But I guess that’s the point, since Carroll specializes in the literary nonsense genre (didn’t make that up).

Alice’s story begins in her garden, where she finds a rabbit hole and falls down into a fantasy world. Each chapter is a new adventure in Wonderland, with new characters and silly situations. A lot of what happens in the book reminds me of a dream. Events are random, don’t make a whole lot of sense, and crazy seems to be the norm. I won’t go into details about the story itself…I think most of you are familiar with Alice in Wonderland in one way or another. I’ll just skip to my impressions. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I had hoped. In fact, it took me awhile to read – I’d pick it up between reading other books. As silly as the story is, I didn’t find myself that interested in it. I guess a lot of the humor and irony was over my head.

Would I recommend it? Not for a casual read. And definitely not as a children’s book. I think of all the versions I’ve seen, the one that I liked the most was the 1985 Alice in Wonderland movie which also included a sequel, Through the Looking Glass. I just remember they were creepy as all hell and Through the Looking Glass featured one of my favorite poems, Jabberwocky (also written by Carroll). Of course, I was only 6 when the first movie came out, so it’s probably cheesier than a can of whiz. But given the source material, I can’t really say it’s too far off base.

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR Book #29: The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

Fairy tales are everywhere. I just got back from Disneyworld where Cinderella Castle stands prominently at center stage. And of course there’s the classic Disney ride, Snow White’s Scary Adventures (although I heard the Magic Kingdom in Florida is axing Snow White in a year or two. How sad.).

There is also a more modern emergence of fairly tales on network TV. Shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time peaked my interest, until I started watching them.

So it makes sense that I turned my attention to a different, and more traditional genre for my fairy tale fix, books. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly was written in 2006 and is a departure for the author, who normally writes thriller novels. I’ve read mixed reviews about his experiment and must say, I agree to some extent with everyone.

Our story takes place during WWII in London. David’s mother has died. His father remarries a woman named Rose, and the three move into Rose’s family home. Soon after, Rose gives birth to a son. As David feels more and more isolated and forgotten, his grip on reality slowly slips. He suffers seizures, hears books whispering to him, and begins seeing The Crooked Man. One night, he hears his mother calling to him, and David follows her voice to a sunken garden. As the war rages around him, a German bomber plane goes down, heading for the garden. David hides in a crack in the garden, where is he transported to another world.

In this new world, David begins a quest to find the king, whose Book of Lost Things may hold the key to David’s return home. Along the way, David quickly learns he is in a land where fairy tales are real. But unlike the the sanitized versions Disney would offer, Connolly’s version of our favorite stories is more along the lines of the inspiration followed by the Brother’s Grimm. The stories Connolly tells through David’s adventures deal with issues like bestiality, homosexuality, and murder for sport, to name a few. And they involve familiar characters like Red Riding Hood, Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, and some new ones as well.

So why the mixed reviews? My biggest issue with the book is that there is something in the way Connolly writes that makes The Book of Lost Things seem like a young adult book. Maybe it’s his writing style. Maybe it’s the fact that the main character is a twelve year old boy…I can’t really place my finger on it. But the stories Connolly tells are more suited for an adult audience. There is overt sexuality and violence that wouldn’t have shocked me as much, had I not felt like the book was a YA novel. I was confused by the two voices which clashed, rather than blended.

With that said, it’s a damn interesting book. A little slow in the beginning, but a great fantasy novel. And I’m a sucker for good endings. I can forgive a lot in a book if the ending is satisfying, and this one delivered for me.

So if you like fairy tales, fantasy stories, and a bit of the macabre, it’s a recommend. Oooh, and while we’re on the subject…despite Disney’s abandonment of her, Snow White lives on in theaters next year. I can’t wait to see the two versions coming out! Click here for the trailer of Snow White and the Huntsman with Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, and Chris Hemsworth. And the trailer for the campier looking Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts is here.

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR Book #28: A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

This is the second book of the Song of Fire and Ice series written by Martin. You really can’t just jump into these books without starting at the beginning, so I’ll assume you’ve read the first book already.

Martin picks up where he left off after book one, and he takes off running. The book is basically in the same format as the first, with a few new voices added in. Basically there are several men and a few boys fighting to be king. Namely Robb Stark from Winterfell, the heir apparent Joffrey Baratheon, and two of Robert Baratheon’s brothers. In addition, Theon Greyjoy, Eddard Stark’s ward, decides to throw his name in the hat and fight for his father’s honor.

In addition to the wars and battles in the south, Jon Snow has traveled north of the wall to find his missing uncle. Although his story doesn’t intersect with the main plot line, I hear it will by book three. Honestly, I was a bit bored by Jon Snow’s chapters.

Of course, we can’t forget Dany, in the East. Her story was my favorite from book I, but it slowed down considerably in the second book. She is still trying to build an army and secure ships for her return.

Overall, I think I liked book I better than book II, but I enjoyed both. I think the biggest obstacle in reading these books is the sheer length. At 969 pages, A Clash of Kings took me awhile to read. And I can’t help but think I could have read 3 or four other books in that time. So while I may eventually read all the books in the series (there are seven planned), I might have to take a break for awhile and catch up on some of my other books.

Kind of a luke-warm review, I know. But if you’ve read their first book, I have a feeling you’ve already decided for yourself if you’re going to keep going or not.

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR book #27: The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

I have to make a confession…I’m not a Stephen King fan. I’ve tried reading a couple of his books (The Tommyknockers and IT) and couldn’t get through them. Disappointingly, it’s not because I’m a huge wimp and am just too terrified by his books. It’s because I find them so BOOOOORING. Go ahead, feel free to mentally flog me if you disagree.

So now you’re probably waiting for me to say how I’ve read The Dark Tower and I’m a changed women…sorry to disappoint again. But at least I got through the entire book!

In case you’re still reading this review, The Dark Tower books are a 7 book series (with an eighth related short story as well). The series revolves around Roland, a gunslinger. The books are a kind of sci-fi western where the time and place are a bit vague. Things seem primitive at times, but then things seem other-worldly and even magical at times. Roland is pursuing a man in black and is also on a quest for the dark tower. You’d think I’d have another reference for “man in black” besides THE Mr. Cash after reading this book, but alas, I have no idea who he is in Mr. King’s eye. And the dark tower? Not a clue.

I don’t know if it’s just that King gives more information than I’m retaining and I’m just too bored to absorb it. Or if he just likes to leave mystery and unanswered questions in his books so that you slowly…slooooowly learn bit by bit what the hell is going on after reading all of the books. But I really can’t tell you what The Gunslinger is about. I know there’s Roland, there’s a kid from another time and place, and there’s an underground cave with scary creatures, and there’s a lot of wandering.

So…I think I’m done with this review. It’s just going downhill. I warned you. Not a fan. Why’d I’d read the book then? A friend gave it to me so I thought I’d give it a shot. Oh well.

Hmmm…maybe I can offer you a consolation prize. I read Stephen King’s Bag of Bones last year and it wasn’t half bad. Just a good old fashioned ghost story. No giant spiders or aliens or anything silly like that. Read that one instead.

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR Book #25: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

With the recent popularity of HBO’s new series A Game of Thrones, based on Martin’s books, it came as a surprise to me that Martin’s first book was written 15 years ago. Although the book received numerous awards in the years after its release, it wasn’t until July of this year that it reached #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. Of course, I never heard of the book until my friend started geeking out about it in the Spring. And since I’m cheap and prefer to Netflix HBO/Showtime series, rather than pay for the channels, I knew I’d have to read the books in order to understand what the hell she was talking about. Bandwagon jumped.

So what is it that makes A Game of Thrones so compelling? Well, I don’t know if there’s a magic formula that must involve midgets, swords, incestual twins, supernatural zombie like creatures, and barbarianism, but I guess they sound good to a Hollywood exec. And the public agrees. Granted, I haven’t seen the series yet, so I’m going off of what’s in the book, but I hear the two are pretty closely married. And I must admit, I enjoyed the first book and my husband literally spends all weekend reading the series (called A Song of Fire and Ice) which is pretty amazing.

I guess I should enlighten you on the plot. Basically, it’s some kind of midevil time period where people live in castles and basically anyone can be King. You just have to kill whoever the current one is. Each chapter is titled with a person’s name. So you get the story through that person’s perspective. This means there are a lot of people with their own plot lines that intersect with everyone else’s. It’s an interesting dynamic.

The main family is the Stark family. Ned, the father, has gone south to serve as the King’s advisor. The King’s wife is one of those evil bitches you just love to read about. And her family is that power-hungry, conniving, new money kind of people that make for great reality show stars. But my favorite plot line has to be Daenerys’. Daenerys’ family used to be the ruling family until they weren’t. So she went into exile to a land where everyone is basically a barbarian. Like, if you don’t have at least 10 people die at your wedding, then it wasn’t a cool wedding kind of barbarian. Anyway, her story is really interesting, as she evolves from a meek young girl to a strong woman (you can actually read just Daenerys’ story in the novella Blood of the Dragon).

Oh, and another thing, since this is midevil times or whatever, girls get married and have kids at 12, 13. It’s weird at first to get used to but then you start thinking like everyone in the book, “wait, she’s 20?! She’ll never have a family! What will she DO with her life now that she’s ANCIENT?!” Yeah, it gets like that.

I mentioned supernatural earlier. It’s not a HUGE part of the book, but there are some bits and hints of more to come. Don’t pick it up expecting unicorns and leprechauns though. But even without a blatant zombie plot, which seems to be the easy way to get a book sold, A Game of Thrones had some moments where I literally gasped. “Did he really just write that?” I’d think. Yes he did, and it was awesome. Really, kid characters shouldn’t be immune to the atrocities of the day. And Martin acknowledges this. But you’ll have to read the book to know what I’m talking about.

So a recommend from me. If you’re into Lord of the Rings fantasy type books or epic novels, or just a good story, I’d pick it up.

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR Book #26: Twinkie Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger

Show of hands…who has ever eaten a Twinkie? If you haven’t, then you’ve probably had something similar to a Twinkie. And by similar, I mean something with a list of unreadable, mystery ingredients. If you haven’t had this experience, congratulations, you’re Omish.

Steve Ettlinger is one of those people who had a Twinkie and actually tried to decipher the ingredients list. The results of his quest are recorded in Twinkie Deconstructed.

I went into this book thinking I would be horrified by what I learned and never touch processed foods again. Strangely, the book almost had the opposite effect. Understanding what all the ingredients were made them more accesible. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of strange, scary, and downright head scratching details in this book.

Examples? Well, did you know the original flavor of Twinkies was banana? Ewwwwww. There are also plenty of ingredients that have more industrial uses than culinary ones. And I was amazed at how much acid was used to process some of these ingredients. And I’m taking strong, burn your face off acids. Then there are the ingredients that are mined. Yes, mined. It’s amazing how minerals and rocks can be turned into Twinkies and Ding Dongs.

It’s an eye-opening, educational, and at-times technical journey. I’m not sure it’s a book for everyone but if you have an interest in food science or chemistry, it’s probably up your alley.

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR book #24: Blind Descent by James Tabor

Okay, I gotta admit, when the power went out for a big chunk of the southwest, crazy thoughts rushed into my mind. But at least I didn’t go looney tunes and call radio stations, spouting things like terrorism, conspiracy, and yeah, even aliens. Several hours later, the crisis was over. And short of some spoiled food in the fridge and unruly wax candles, the damage was minimal.

So when I think about how I nearly panicked when things got a little dark for a couple hours, I can’t begin to fathom what it would be like to be in complete isolation, without anyone around to help, in the deepest, darkest places on earth. I used to think such places were confined to alleys, corporate meetings, and my mind, but let’s add one more to the list…supercaves. Exactly what makes a cave rise to the status of super, you ask? Well, my first mental picture was that of a beautiful cave with glowing kryptonite, but it’s more the antithesis of that. Darkness, dirt, deep thin waterways, and isolation.
          Blind Descent is a book about two men who have devoted their lives to finding this place, specifically, the deepest cave on earth. Tabor begins with the story of Bill Stone, an American caver who focuses on Cheve cave in Mexico. He also details the work of Alexander Klimchouk from the Ukraine, who explores Krubera cave in the Republic of Georgia. Besides giving a crash course in cave exploration, Tabor recounts expeditions by these men that will make you claustrophobic just reading about them. He also adds interesting tidbits about things like the phenomena of cave hallucinations and the fun fact that the ebola virus is believed to have originated in a cave.

If you’re into caving, or like books like Into Thin Air, I’d definitely recommend this one. There is no shortage of drama and suspense here. And it even inspired me to do some cave exploration of my own! Coincidentally, shortly after I read this book, I went to Glenwood Springs Colorado, which boasts a healthy dose of cave tourism. The pics posted with this review are from my own cave explorations there.
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genericwhitegirl’s CBR Post #23: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This is a book I “read” by audio tape. I have to admit, it was about a month or more ago and so I’m going to keep this review short and sweet. I’m also vegging out right now so my brain is on the cusp of checking out…Hmmm…do I have any more excuses for this shoddy review?

Okay, on with it. Susie Salmon is a teenage girl who is murdered (not a spoiler). She narrates the book as a ghost, following the investigation into her murder as well as her family’s lives after her death. The book isn’t really a whodunnit, as Susie reveals the details of her murder (including the murderer) right away. The book is more about how both she and her family deal with the aftermath of her murder.

I felt like the book started with a lot of momentum but slowed significantly closer to the second half of the story. At first, Sebold focuses on the investigation, and we’re still learning who all the characters are. The second half, however, is more about how everyone’s lives progress, as Susie’s murder investigation slowly fades from its initial prominence.

One thing I like about this book is that we get glimpses of Susie’s heaven…what it’s like, the people she meets there, and how she watches her family and friends on earth. Sebold’s idea of heaven is an interesting one and I enjoyed reading about it.

Just some random information about the book…it was written in 2002 and made into a movie in 2010. The book, I’d recommend. From what I hear about the movie…Peter Jackson should stick to elves and hobbits. But if you’re interested, here’s the trailer…The Lovely Bones Movie Trailer

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genericwhitegirl’s CBR # 22: Room by Emma Donoghue

I’ve always been a bit slow when it came to trends and technology, always the last to embrace new things. I jumped on the cell phone train probably 5-10 years after everyone started carrying them around (including 12 year olds). Smart phone? Puh-leese. Who needs THAT? I discovered myspace just as everyone transitioned to facebook, and if there’s anything better than facebook now, I have no idea what it is. As far as trends, I was never into the fashion trends or pop culture until it was too late. Remember all those boybands back in the 90’s? I never followed them as a kid. And all the popular shows on Showtime and HBO? I usually start renting season 1 on Netflix when everyone’s watching season four “live” on TV.

I say all that to say this…I’m probably one of the last people on the book blogosphere to read Room. My impression of the reviews of Room is that in general, it is a good book, a bit disturbing, and possibly annoying since it’s written from a 5 year old’s perspective. I must say, I agree.

Basically, Room is about a boy named Jack and his mother who live in an 11’x11′ room. To Jack, Room is his world. He knows nothing else and has no desire to see what is beyond Room. In fact, he doesn’t think there IS anything beyond Room. It’s an interesting “world” view. And it is in stark contrast to his mother’s view of Room. She’s like you or I (I hope, at least). She used to live a normal life in a house with freedom to do what she wanted. But she ended up in Room with Jack. If you want to know how, you’ll have to read the book.

SLIGHT SPOILER AHEAD…

The book can be divided into two parts. The first part deals with Jack’s life in Room, what he and his mother do from day to day. You also receive bits of information that reveal how Jack and his mother came to live in Room. The second part deals with their life after Room and how Jack deals with the outside world. This second half is what I really liked about the book. Once Jack starts interacting with people, we are privy to his thoughts and motivations, which aren’t always obvious by his words and actions. I think Donoghue was very insightful when she wrote Jack. It helped me understand why children might react to adults in certain ways or say certain things. If you just see Jack’s reactions to things without understanding what he’s thinking, he just seems like a strange little kid. But because we see the world from his perspective, everything he says and does makes sense.

And I understood why Jack wanted to go back to Room. It was a place where he felt safe, loved, and did nothing but play with his mom all day. It was an interesting perspective in comparison with his mother, who knew Room as a prison and wanted nothing more than to get away from it.

END SPOILER

So it’s a recommend from me, and it’s a pretty easy read on top of that. Like I said earlier though, the fact that the book is written in Jack’s voice is a bit of a put-off. But if you can get past that, it’s an interesting story, cleverly and insightfully written.

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