29 December 2011

World Builders 2011

Last year, after reading Patrick Rothfuss' The Name of the Wind, I began reading his blog as well. About this time last year, I was introduced to Worldbuilders (something Rothfuss runs every year) - it's essentially a way to collect donations for those in need. Here's a little excerpt from his blog, on December 2nd.
What’s that you say? You want to make the world a better place while simultaneously winning fabulous prizes?

Well today is your lucky day.

Heifer International is my favorite charity. It helps people raise themselves up out of poverty and starvation. All over the world Heifer promotes education, sustainable agriculture, and local industry.
They don’t just keep kids from starving, they make it so families can take care of themselves. They give goats, sheep, and chickens to families so their children have milk to drink, warm clothes to wear, and eggs to eat.

There are plenty of ways to donate, too! There are auctions, you can purchase books, clothing or prints from his store (where all proceeds go to Worldbuilders, year round), and a lottery. The lottery works in this way - for every $10 donated, you are entered in a draw to win some Awesome Prizes. The prizes include a whole lot of books, rare ARC's, and some other items as well.

What I really like, though.. if you go to the main page for Heifer International and look under 'Give - Gift Catalog' you get to really see where this money goes. Whether it's a flock of geese, a trio of bunnies, or even a llama - you can check out all of these things to see just what it means, and just what it will do for these people. It's amazing, to me, and really puts things in perspective when I consider what my money can really get for another person. It can change their world.

The nice thing is too (yes, there is more) is that Worldbuilders will donate 50% of donations up to the end of January. As of this posting, too, donations are upwards of $100,000!

So if you're interested in helping those who need it, having a chance to win some awesome books and other geekery, check out this blog and others under the "Worldbuilders-2011" tag so you know where to donate and just what other Awesome Things that could be headed our way.

27 December 2011

Spectyre by Philippa Ballantine

Spectyr (Book of the Order, #2)Spectyr by Philippa Ballantine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


From Goodreads
Though one of the most powerful Deacons, Sorcha Faris has a tarnished reputation to overcome, which is why she jumps at the chance to investigate a string of murders in the exotic city of Orithal. But it is there that her lover, the shapeshifting rival to the throne, is targeted by a cruel and vengeful goddess, unwittingly unleashed by the Emperor's sister.

I read Geist, the first book in the series, in early October and knew right then that I had to read the rest of Philippa Ballantine's books as soon as I could. Geist was just that good. Spectyre, unsurprisingly, is very much the same in that sense.

With the groundwork laid on in the first novel, Spectyre continues on from where Geist left us off. We get a closer look into each character and Sorcha's partner, Merrick, gets a little more focus as well. As with the plot... I never knew just where it was all going. It is a very character-driven story and the story the characters weave together is interesting and unpredictable, without being completely unexpected. The ending, which I won't get into too much, was both surprising and left many questions. One of the most important being: When is the next one coming out? (I kid, I kid..)

Joking aside, I eagerly await the next novel in the series. There was a huge Cliffhanger Ending and, while I usually dislike such endings, it leaves me wondering what will happen to Sorcha and her companions. It's not a cliffhanger that left me upset, though - it was a fitting end to a story arc like this one.

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24 December 2011

Stained (Zombie I Am) by Mike Mauthor

Stained (Zombie I Am)Stained by Mike Mauthor

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

From Goodreads
A swift outbreak changed Lin Matthew's world forever.
A mysterious new student enrolled in Beaver High.
And a popular television show brought betrayal hence endangering Lin and his friends' life.

Stained is a different take of a zombie tale like no other.


Stained (Zombie I Am) was introduced to me by a member of Goodreads, who had seen my review for Amanda Hocking's book, Hollowland. (You can go check it out, if you'd like. I'll wait here.) I don't often follow recommendations for zombie stories but, for someone to recommend it after reading my review, it sounded promising. I read the excerpt available on Amazon.ca and also discovered the price of the eBook being $0.99. I don't own a Kindle, but I was able to download the PC version for free. That pretty much settled it right there. That, and one really can never go wrong with a ninety-nine cent book. Ever.

The beginning chapters are interesting, and I could already tell there would be a little something different about this novel. It didn't seem like the usual post-apocalyptic zombie story. The writing style was quite different too, so that drew me in as well.

Within a few pages I began noticing more and more sentences with odd phrasing, lack of proper punctuation, wrong words, or simply a plain lack of some solid editing. I have seen this come up on other novels and I don't always mention it. It really only concerns me when it is occurring very often - even within the first few pages, or chapters, like this one. Oddly places commas didn't help much, and I just can't help but wish there was more editing or proof-reading done. It would improve the story so, so much. And I don't mean to nitpick, but I do want to share a few quotes, directly from the book, to show what I mean.
"Then the next thing he knew was that he was in a hospital, a year had passed. A year he can’t bring back. Throughout those years he was a monster, a flesh-eating monster."
“you’re driving my patient.” --[bus driver, telling Lin to hurry and sit down.]
"Lin marched through the hallway, heading toward his locker. He made it to the end of the main hallway and took a right turn. After passing about twentieth red lockets he finally spotted his."
"“I was taken Cujo for a walk,” Pete said, dropping his spoon at this half empty tray, “my dog, Jelly Beans, a Saint Bernard, broke off his leash, barking at something at the bushes. He galloped into the bushes. I—being native—went after it and Jelly Beans popped out of the bushes."  --[talking of zombie-bite stories.]

There are so many more than this, but I just can't list them all. The thing is, if I am noticing this on my first read, how was it not picked up by anyone else? Why did the author publish this? This is a Young Adult novel, though I would list it as "Teen" for both style and content, but that doesn't mean it's okay to publish work that's unfinished. To me, and I am certain this is true for others as well, it gives the work an amateurish-feel and I am less inclined to take the work seriously.

After the initial introductory chapters, once the zombie-illness-aftermath is established, the story takes a very different turn than I expected. From the beginning I knew it would be a different type of zombie story, but what I expected was more... along the lines of Lin, the main character, dealing with how the world treats him, how things changed, and so on. What we get after that, instead, feels like more of a High School Drama following the lives of Lin and company. It has the same feeling as the Jock versus Nerds, Rich/Poor, or Prince/Commoner stories, where the "infected" get shunned by the "normal" people.

We do have the zombie-issue as a base, but it doesn't seem to be the focus - and I really wish there was more of it explored,  fleshed out. For me, being out of school for a number of years now, I found myself quite bored with the talk of cliques, who the cool kids are and what they're up to. I wasn't even interested in it when I was in school!

Oh, and remember when I said that one really can never go wrong with a ninety-nine cent book? Well.. this book just isn't worth that much. It's not even finished. Give it a thorough proof-read, fix the spelling, tense, and punctuation errors and then, only then, will I say it's worthwhile.

I cannot see beyond a lot of the issues I have with it and just can't continue reading this. Calling it Quits. Clearly, I am not the Target Audience. There is nothing here for me.

Next!

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13 December 2011

Johnny Wander #1: Don't Burn the House Down.

Johnny Wander Vol. 1: Don't Burn the House DownJohnny Wander Vol. 1: Don't Burn the House Down by Ananth Panagariya

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From Goodreads
Johnny Wander is about life after college, striking out on your own, and all the moments in between the adult stuff. This volume collects the first year of comics with additional material including never-before-seen autobio comics.

I have been following both Yuko and Ananth's work online for a number of years now, and their current project, Johnny Wander, has been a definite favourite. I have been reading the online comic since it began, and tend to go back and read it all over again every now-and-again. It's cute, funny, and very easy to relate to.

I purchased both this volume and volume 2, directly from the Johnny Wander website - there was a little bit of savings for getting both at once, plus the mention of little "extras" for those who ordered both. For me, these extras included a snicker, a little dinosaur felt sticker, and a temporary tattoo of a brontosaurus. Sure, they're not really anything major.. but it's cute and I am sure to put them to use at some point.

It's true that one can simply read all of these comics online, but there is definitely something to having a book to read, in one's hands. Plus, for all of the wonderful work both authors create, it's good to give a little something monetary back in their direction.

So, if you haven't yet done so, check out Johnny Wander. Start at the beginning, spend an hour or two, and just enjoy what there is to see. I also recommend checking out the posts below the comic (some are included in the book, while some are not.) In some cases it'll give you a little extra information behind the story, and even the comments section has some interesting conversations going on.

It'll definitely be worth your time. You don't have to tell 'em I sent you.


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11 December 2011

Seriously... I'm Kidding

Seriously... I'm KiddingSeriously... I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

From Goodreads
"Sometimes the greatest things are the most embarrassing." Ellen Degeneres' winning, upbeat candor has made her show one of the most popular, resilient and honored daytime shows on the air. (To date, it has won no fewer than 31 Emmys.) Seriously... I'm Kidding, Degeneres' first book in eight years, brings us up to date about the life of a kindhearted woman who bowed out of American Idol because she didn't want to be mean. Lively; hilarious; often sweetly poignant.

First off, I should mention that while I know of Ellen DeGeneres I do not follow her work or her show. (Not that I haven't seen an episode or two, but it just hasn't kept my attention.) Nor have I checked out any of her previous books, so I knew little of what to expect. I purchased her book simply because I found the description on the back cover to be amusing, and it brought a smile to my face. Instead of quotes from other authors about the book, she chose to go with her own "quotes" of compliments toward her reader. It's an interesting way to do it, and it got my attention - if the inside of the book was anything like this, well.. I was sure to enjoy it.

Well, that wasn't exactly the case.

While portions of the book made me laugh aloud, some for a few minutes at a time, there was a lot missing from this book. Many chapters seemed only added to increase the page count to something reasonable. We were given multiple "colouring pages" for children in one chapter, one that featured "sounds" for Audio readers, while another was a 140 character Tweet! What is this?

The message, apparently, is "Be Happy!" but I never really got the sense from the book. Some parts were funny, sure, but it gave nothing I did not already know. And a lot of it really wasn't all that interesting, inspirational, or even funny. Much of the book is of trivial things, and we are given little-to-no insight into Ellen's life.

I purchased this book at Chapters for $30, will a 30% discount, so the price wasn't too bad. Still, it was definitely not worth it, at all. If you really want to check out the book, read it in store or borrow it from a friend. Don't buy it - you'll just be wasting your money.

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Aaand.. We're back!

And that's the royal "we" of course.

It's still the Holiday Season and things are just a little bit hectic, especially with my sister coming over in just a few days for Christmas, but I will work on getting some semblance of order going on over here. Work is finished for the season, as of December 6th, so there has more time for reading and getting used to Not Working All of the Time. I am also behind on some reviews, so I'll be getting those up shortly. Sometime.

The next post will be about books, I promise.