April 29, 2013

Book Blogger Confessions: Hot Topics Edition

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme that posts the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, where book bloggers "confess" and vent about blogging-related topics. This meme is hosted by Midnyte Reader and For What It's Worth. So click on the link(s), grab the logo and jump right in! Let's get to know each other a little better :).

April 29 Question: Hot topics!
   1) Amazon buys Goodreads. (Find the announcement here). Do you think this is a good thing for readers – or is Amazon the devil? Will this move effect you? Will you be leaving Goodreads?

I don't plan on leaving GR anytime soon, but honestly, on the other hand, I don't have a clue about the impact this move will have on the site. I'm not even an Amazon member, so I'll let those who are more into things be the judges :).

   2) The death of Google Reader. As Google continues to phase out its less popular products, bloggers were scrambling to find a new reader platform to follow their favorite blogs. What have you switched to for a reader?
The big fear though is the loss of Google Friends Connect. How are you preparing if indeed GFC is discontinued? How many subscriber options are too many to offer your followers? What ones are the most popular on your blog?

The truth? I have never even used Google Reader in the first place. *everyone freezes in shock*
Really, you know, I usually scroll down the stream on the dedicated page of my blog and look for the posts that may interest me there. I've never felt the need of actually using Google Reader. Did I miss something?
As for GFC, I think most of the fuss about it eventually disappearing is unjustified. Still, I would like to cover any base, and to offer my would-be followers more options. But I can't decide on any of them. So I'm really looking forward to what my fellow bloggers have to say :).

   3) What do we owe authors? I read this interesting post the other day. An author had tweeted that if you get all your books from the library it deprives an author of income, another suggested using this fun little graphic to help readers spread the word about a book they love.
What are your thoughts on this? Do they have a point? Do they go too far in expecting readers to only buy their books at indie bookstores, avoid Amazon or expecting readers to go forth and publicize their book after a purchase?

I do get where authors are coming from, of course. In a world where books, songs and movies are most of the time reduced to a mere bit sequence, and in fact disembodied - since they don't necessarily need to be physical anymore - it doesn't even feel like you're stealing something if you don't buy the offspring of someone's art. Having said so, for what concerns this particular department, libraries have been in existence for centuries; friends have always lent each other books; photocopies have been made at work, when someone you knew had a book you would have liked to read but wasn't keen on actually buying. So basically, what I'm wondering about is, WHY NOW? Why authors have suddenly risen and gone on a crusade right now? Could it be because of the increasing number of book lovers populating the net with their (our) blogs and Goodreads-and-the-like accounts? My guess is, some of those authors thought they'd better ride the wave. But in doing so, they have sometimes become a little demanding, maybe because they expect those who found pleasure in a book to do something in order to repay the pleasure said book gave them. Which is understandable - but since when being a fan has become a job? Since when we are supposed to be instructed about the right ways to promote a book, and even go through a list of requirements? If I'm passionate about a novel and go out of my way to spread the word, fine. If I submit a proposal to an author regarding a book I'd like to push forth, it's my choice. Not my job. This is, actually, the publisher's job. Also, the author didn't write that particular book to keep me entertained. She/he wrote that particular book to satisfy a personal need - and (if possible) to make some money out of it in the process. I was only accidentally involved in such a scheme. I paid for said book and read it. That's where it ends, if I don't make a different decision. Fair, isn't it?
As for libraries - should they even be, I don't know, banned? I think that, if someone really liked a library book, they will end up buying it anyway, because good things are for keeps. Of course, if writers don't care about their books finding a loving home, but just about shoving them down readers' throats, they may expect you to buy a novel of theirs, hate it and throw it in the appropriate trash can. It's still a sold copy, right? What else matters?

So now, my dear fellow bloggers, jump into these rough waters at your own risk! ;D What do you think?

April 20, 2013

Christopher Pike: "Witch World" ("Red Queen")

Title: Witch World (edit, June 2013: new title for the 2014 reprint is Red Queen) [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Witch World (1st of ?? books)
Author: Christopher Pike [Facebook | Goodreads]
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Multiverse, Paranormal, Sci-Fi
Year: 2012
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5
Pros: Unique approach to witches and alternate universes. Fastish pace (except for the very first chapters and some largely talkative interludes). Incorporates history in a creative way.
Cons: Heroine reads like a slightly different version of Sita (The Last Vampire/Thirst). Prose is mostly dialogue. Writing sounds lazy sometimes (see review).
WARNING! There's the steaming prologue of a would-be sex scene, just so you know...
Will appeal to: Those who like feisty female leads. Those who can tolerate some gore and not memorable prose if a story draws them in.

Blurb: Heading off for a weekend in Las Vegas with her friends, Jessie Ralle has only one worry - how to make it through the road trip in the same car with her ex, Jimmy Kelter. The guy who broke her heart five months ago when he dumped her for no reason. The guy who’s finally ready to tell her why he did it, because he wants her back. But what Jessie doesn’t realize is that Jimmy is the least of her problems. In Las Vegas she meets Russ, a mesmerizing stranger who shows her how to gamble, and who never seems to lose. Curious, Jessie wants to know his secret, and in response, alone in his hotel room, he teaches her a game that opens a door to another reality. To Witch World. Suddenly Jessie discovers that she’s stumbled into a world where some people can do the impossible, and others may not even be human. For a time she fears she’s lost her mind. Are there really witches? Is she one of them? (Amazon)

Review: As a whole blog page dedicated to the man testifies, I'm a long-time Pike fan...but not a biased one. I don't shun criticizing his works if needed. And honestly, while this novel is original as far as alternate universes and witches are concerned, I have quite a few issues with it. So I decided I'd address them first...leaving the positive remarks for last. Weird procedure, I know. But then again, I'm weird ;D.
My main issue with Witch World is Pike's apparent incapability of distancing himself from his most famous heroine. I would have probably liked this novel better had it departed from The Last Vampire/Thirst series more. Most of the time, I felt like I was reading about a slightly different version of Sita - not only because of what Jessie does or says, but also because of some small or not-so-small incidents scattered through the book. Also, Jessie is not your average witch - and I do praise Pike for that - just like Sita is not your average vampire. Anyway, my point is - as much as I love Sita, I don't feel the need to have her shadow lingering over a character from another book.
Next to that, there's the writing...and yes, I know, that's nothing new. Pike's style hasn't changed that much during the years - he's never been big on description, and always more inclined to write pages full of dialogue. Still, this book has a huge amount of conversation/discussion interspersed among the action-driven scenes - which sounds anticlimactic. Also because, when I say "dialogue", I mean almost entire pages of she says he says, without much else in the middle, like asides or inner thoughts/emotions. The novel sports some lazy writing as well, which is unlike anything I've ever experienced in a Pike book before (not that I've read them all...yet). There are awkward repetitions such as "I explained how I owed Alex an explanation" or "She doesn't care as long as I care for her". Also, Jessie's voice suffers from a mild case of schizophrenia. One moment she sounds so much older than her age while recounting her story - and this may be understandable, since she's telling it from a distant future ("I turned eighteen a long time ago"); though, mind you, her voice sounds the same in the past that she's revisiting. Then Pike occasionally seems to remember that Jessie is supposed to be a young girl when her witch-awareness first arises, and makes her utter such squeaky sentences as "Whip had a tail!" or "That's so cool!", whose exclamation marks, for some reason, urge me to laugh every time. Then again, very few YA in this book seem to have a realistic teenage voice.
Also...this is explained in the book, but still I can't buy it entirely, because it's too convenient...most characters have a certain "small" thing in common. Funny how they actually manage to, since it appears to be such a rare condition, as Jessie's new friend Russell states when they meet in Witch World.
My last concern about this book is the amount of disjointed incidents...something major happens, then the characters go off at a tangent, then they're back on route again. A lot of stuff is going on that doesn't seem to be tied-in.
So, you must have started wondering why I rated this book 3.5 stars despite my amount of criticism. And I'm about to explain just that. Care for following me a little further? ;) [...]

April 15, 2013

Book Blogger Confessions: Blogging in Time Edition

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme that posts the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, where book bloggers "confess" and vent about blogging-related topics. This meme is hosted by Midnyte Reader and For What It's Worth. So click on the link(s), grab the logo and jump right in! Let's get to know each other a little better :).

April 15 Question: How long do you see yourself blogging for? Do you think it's ok for a blog to evolve over time? For example: You may have started out as a book review blog but now your interest is in cooking as well. Do you incorporate that or start over?

Um, though question. I've only been blogging since October, so it's not like I got drained or something. Also, it's been relatively tranquil so far, since I've not entered the big scene yet - and I don't even know if I ever will. Anyway, the fact is, this is my one and only corner of the net, so I suppose I won't let go of it that easily ;). Not to mention that it makes me feel part of a community. And it makes me rack my brain in order to write in irreproachable English, or come as close to it as I can - which is good, because I love that.
Evolving over time is OK to me, as long as the blog doesn't lose its identity. Should I feel the need to talk about something else steadily, I would for sure open a second blog.

How laconic uh? So unusual for me ;D. It's your turn already!

April 07, 2013

Mike Lancaster: "1.4" (or "The Future We Left Behind")

Title: 1.4 (U.S.A.: The Future We Left Behind) [1.4 on Amazon - The Future We Left Behind on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Point 4 (2nd of 2 books)
Author: Mike Lancaster [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Year: 2012
Age: 12+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Unique premise. Thought-provoking take on technology. Some interesting, highly speculative scenes.
Cons: More typical than the first installment - see: romance with the new girl (though it isn't overcharged), fight with parent, big cospiration.
Will appeal to: As with 0.4, those who are in for a different dystopian - not of the usual post-apocalyptic variety, but more of a creepy one. Also, those who are able/willing to see how technology is swallowing us up...And finally, those who need more action than 0.4 provided.

Blurb: Thousands of years in the future the divide between humanity and technology has become nearly unrecognizable. Each thought, each action is logged, coded, backed up. Data is as easily exchanged through the fiber-optic-like cables that extend from fingertips as it might be through ordinary conversation. It's a brave new world: a world that the Straker Tapes say is a result of many human "upgrades." Nearly sixteen-year-old Peter Vincent has been raised to believe that everything that the backward Strakerites cling to is insane. But when Peter meets Alpha, a Strakerite his own age, suddenly the theories about society-upgrades don't sound quite so crazy, especially when she shows him evidence that another upgrade is imminent*. And worse, there may be a conspiracy by the leaders of the establishment to cover it up. A conspiracy spearheaded by Peter's own father. (Amazon excerpt - from the Future We Left Behind version)

*Reviewer's note: actually, Peter is the one figuring it out. Alpha only uncovers the awaiting can of worms by accident.

Review: Note: as with 0.4/Human.4, despite being published with two different titles, it is the same book. I linked to the respective Amazon pages for the two versions because of the blurbs and reviews being different; but as for Goodreads, apart from the blurbs (taken from the Amazon pages I mentioned), the reviews are of course identical - so I didn't bothered :).
So, I've been pondering for a while if I was going to rate this 3.5 or 4 stars. On one hand, it didn't make as strong an impression on me as 0.4 did. On the other, it is definitely more articulated, and has its share of engrossing scenes - not to mention that it takes the tech issues much further. Which is logical of course, since this book is set a thousand years after Kyle Straker's story (that is, 0.4) took place. Later on, Lucas Whybrow, Professor of WorldBrain studies, discovers the Peter Vincent files, and decodes them. In other words, he kind of succeeds to Lancaster himself, who posed as the editor for 0.4. Also, like with Kyle's narrative, we're never told how much time has passed between Peter recording his files and Whybrow discovering them.
Don't be mistaken: like 0.4 - which was even awarded a "2012 YALSA quick pick for reluctant young adult readers" - this is a book that can be enjoyed from 12 to 90. It's easy to read and understand, but not simplistic. I'm far from being a teen anymore, but I found it satisfying.
Peter, the main character, is exactly the same age as Kyle was in the first book. We come to know him much better though - and his partner-in-crime Amalfi (Alpha) as well. [On a side note: I love unusual names, but sometimes they're a bit...extreme? Amalfi - really? Well, anyway, the author pays homage to an Italian town at least LOL]. Unsurprisingly, she's the new girl at school - that useful, old device. Luckily, their interaction is not described as instalove, though love is mentioned in the very end, before they meet their fate. For the most part, they are two outsiders (though of different kinds) who happen to meet and bond over a huge crisis.
I found the tech described in this book both scary and amusing - amusing in what it mirrors some of nowadays trends and obsessions, though obviously taking them much further. Everyone is literally, mentally linked together and to the world all the time; there are FaceSpace and MyBook and Linkypedia (well, MySpace is actually old story already as a social network, but I suppose Twitter or Pinterest wouldn't have worked well with the word game LOL); virtual games are state-of-the-art; and the most visionary aspect is, one can download a whole wardrobe from the Link (that is, the highly evolved net) under a template form. Also, memories can be revisited...and even hacked...and physically entered. The way it is done reminds me a lot of Johnny Smith's visions in "The Dead Zone" (I mean the TV show, since I haven't read the book yet), only it deals with one's past instead of future (though Johnny occasionally happened to visit the past himself. [...]

April 01, 2013

Book Blogger Confessions: Real Life Edition

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme that posts the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, where book bloggers "confess" and vent about blogging-related topics. This meme is hosted by Midnyte Reader and For What It's Worth. So click on the link(s), grab the logo and jump right in! Let's get to know each other a little better :).

April 1 Question: How does blogging affect your *real* life? Are friends and family supportive? Do you find that blogging cuts into family time? How do you strike a balance between the two?

Since I've only been blogging for a few months - and not feverishly - I can't say that my life has taken a drastic change because of that. Of course, I'm still reviewing bought books so far...should I start receiving ARCs or giveaway prizes or stuff like that, I suppose my blogging life would become far more hectic :). (Though, since I'm in Italy, I guess ARCs are largely out of question...). Having said so, when not spending time on my blog, I can more than often be found on Goodreads - hoping to "meet my next favorite book" or gathering more info about those already in my to-read and not-sure lists. And that cuts into family time even more LOL. But I have to confess it especially cuts into work time *inserts sly grin here*. I spend part of my working hours online for legitimate reasons, so it's easy for me to sneak in some personal business here and there. Lucky gal, I know ;).
The only person from RL who is privy to this blog is my husband. I don't know anyone who could be interested in it, especially since I'm in Italy and my blog is in English. Anyway, my husband has this one wonderful quality - he never questions what I do. Whether it's about my hairstyle or the books I read and review. So I guess you could say he's supportive, in the sense that he lets me go my way without thinking that what I do is funny or crazy. He knows I only get involved in stuff that really means something to me anyway.
As for striking a balance, I wish I could be useful  by giving advice - but like I said, I'm (still) a budding blogger, and a lucky person who can blog from work if need be (please don't hate me too much LOL). But one thing I've learnt: while memes are a wonderful tool when it comes to meet other bloggers and chat with them and get a perspective of blogging, they are very time-consuming as well. If you get a lot of traffic through them, you feel like visiting all those kind people back at the shortest possible notice. If you read a post that you appreciate, you feel like letting the blogger know ASAP. That's what happens to me anyway. So, I decided that I'd only participate in this very meme for the time being. What I'm trying to say is, one should probably make up her/his mind about how many memes/contests/cover reveals/etc. one can actually keep up with, and stick to them...
When it comes to reviews, I personally try to take it easy, refusing to feel compelled to post more than once a week. I read somewhere that a blog should have a new post at least every couple of days, in order to prove that it is alive and kicking. Well, sorry, but no. I don't have the time, but aside from that, I firmly believe that posting should be a meaningful act, not a productivity contest. Also, like many of you BBC participants have often stressed, it should be fun! If I feel guilty for not posting enough, or on the contrary, for neglecting family and friends and RL duties in order to post more, maybe I should step back and reconsider the whole matter...

Now, this one should be fun. What about you? I expect the most diverse answers from my blogging buddies :).