Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Book Wrap Up!

Books Read During 2012 But Reviewed in 2013
The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia

Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country by Rosalind Miles
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

The Thirteenth Tale by
The Gold Dust Letters by
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na
The Insomniacs by Karina Wolf
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker
All the Awake Animals are Almost Asleep by Crescent Dragonwagon, David McPhail
A Million Little Pieces by James Frey

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
The Borgia Apocalypse by Neil Gaiman
Mermaids by Skye Alexander
Wake by Amanda Hocking

Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant
Women of the Otherworld: Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Monday, December 30, 2013

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

I'm so happy that I purchased this book and flew through it. As often as I complain about loud, odd, sometimes insane people on the DC Metro, I certainly became one of them each morning that I rode the metro on my way to work (but just while reading this; I haven't completely gone insane). Sitting on the metro I would be reduced to snorting and giggling over the stories Allie has cartoonized and shared with us. It is a rarity--A RARITY--for books to elicit literal emotional reactions from me but this book joins that small club.

Everything she shared I found myself going, "Oh my god, I do that too!" and laughing all the while. In some ways, I want to force my boyfriend to read this book so that he might better understand the internal debates and thoughts I have.

But on a more serious note, I was particularly impressed and thrilled to see that Allie included Depression Parts 1 & 2. I am always so grateful to people who have a platform in the world for taking a step forward and admitting that they are not perfect. Whether it be celebrity, singer, artist, or author; I appreciate when they admit that they have suffered from mental illness, addiction, or various other unfortunate events that happen to people in the world and are often ignored and not talked about. Allie was capable of taking depression, a subject that often is ignored and brushed under the carpet, and writing about it with a splash of her typical humor but in such an informative way that for people who have suffered from depression can identify, those who know people who have suffered from depression can relate, and those who may have never experienced depression (as someone who has suffered it themselves or has known someone who has suffered from it) and informs them of what it really is like.

So much of depression, I feel, is glossed over in our culture. It's ignored or joked about and people often don't take much time to try and grasp it or understand it. Family members or friends of someone who is depressed may try to help or get frustrated when their loved one can't just "snap out of it" but it's not that easy. Allie addresses this and she addresses it well.

So while this book is labeled as humor -- which is certainly IS humorous -- it also has a lot of truth bombs that are informative and helpful. I'm thankful that Allie chose to share that with us (on her blog and in her book).

Overall, after taking a reading hiatus for so long I'm happy that this was one was one of the books that reintroduced me to reading. I'd suggest this to anyone. Or maybe just force them to read it. Fabulous, fabulous, and I want to read it again.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Make or Break

When I first began Soon Remembered Tales it was just after college. I was yearning for the set schedule of my college years and the assignments that I once complained about. It was odd for me not to constantly be reading classics and writing essays. After all, I had been in school for 17 years, and suddenly that constant presence was gone from my life. Aside from that, I had a lot of free time where I was reading new and old books. During the rereads I discovered how much I had forgotten about books. I had forgotten moments I loved or reasons I hated others. I wanted to be able to take notes and see what I had thought about a book years beforehand. So this blog was born.

Slowly it morphed into an actual review blog where I was receiving copies from publishers and authors alike and reviewing the books for free. I wanted to keep readers happy and get a lot of views so I started to churn out more and more reviews plus filler posts. My quality, in many ways, stayed the same.

Then this year happened and as I mentioned in my last personal post I have been so busy I can barely keep track of everything that has been going on. It’s a good kind of busy, a happy kind of busy. My life is happy and full but there is little time for blogging and over the past three months I have been stressing over the status of this space.

I began to force myself to write reviews on books I didn’t particularly enjoy nor had much to say about. Then my reading slowed up—I haven’t read a full book since October—and I wondered how else I could fill up this blog. Should I put filler posts in? No, because I don’t find blogs that just have filler posts to be very entertaining and I didn’t want that to happen to this space. Should I just let the blog die? No, it may die in the future if I continue to be so overwhelmingly busy but for the moment I don’t want to take that step.

Then what?

The sad fact is that while I love writing reviews, I don’t have the time. I’m not paid for reviews, I don’t make any profit from this site, so I work a full time job outside of here. I’d love for my income to be from book reviews and running the social media aspect of all of this but that unfortunately is not my place in life. At least not right now. So with working a full time job and doing real-life things outside of here it’s been hard to read books. The holidays have taken a real hit for me as all of my spare time has been spent crocheting Christmas gifts. Still, reading is as much a part of me as my need to be near trees or my obsession with Christmas music. I was growing more and more stressed until my friend took me aside and commanded I go to a bookstore, be frivolous and buy a book I’ve had my eye on, then go home and read.

The book of choice for my night of reading.

I did just that and like magic, most of my stress dissipated. I was ok. I could breathe again. My body had gotten a taste of reading and I realized how much I not only needed it but missed it.

Still, I don’t have the time to read enough books to post reviews every week. Hell, I have had numerous post ideas floating around in my drafts for quite some time. Thoughtful, in depth posts, that have all been ignored because I haven’t had the time to sit down and do the ideas justice.

And with all of this slushing around in my mind over the past month I’ve finally come to a decision: the blog will drift. I’ll update it when I can and hopefully then the posts will be of better quality. Do not think that this blog is dead, it’s not, but I have other things outside of the blog world to focus on for the moment.

I hope to have more varied posts in the future—traveling with books, reviews, and random things such as that—and hopefully it will happen. For now I bid you all a brief adieu. This blog will be back, not as frequently as it has been in the past, but it will have reviews scattered here and there when I have the chance to sit down and write so please don’t run away just yet.

Happy Holidays, guys.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Eleanor & Park

I approached this book with some apprehension. I saw some rave reviews about it and it seemed to gain a quick following, that intrigued me, however I still made no effort to get the book and read it. It was super popular and I tend to step away from such things because I'm strange. Then I saw a few people give the book negative reviews and it intrigued me more. What was it about this book that was getting everyone's attention?

Well, their attention got mine and I picked up the book and flew through it.

It was easy enough to fly through this book, the chapters are short, everything's broken up, and it's all internal dialogue of Eleanor and Park's obsession with one another. There's little description of what goes on around them, instead, I felt like I was reading the diary of each character. Description, detail, beautiful prose was severely lacking in this book. I couldn't very well picture where the characters' lived, other than their bedrooms, because they often left out those details.

That would be the negative side, if there were to be one, that this reads like a diary. Description and deep thoughts are not a plenty with this book and I feel it greatly sums up YA literature of this day: It's about falling in love and whether or not its true love, etc etc. 

I often hear complaints about YA books being all the same and by same, I mean they're all about love and that finding your true love is way important. I suppose as a teen that was a major plot point of my own life: I wanted to fall in love. Now as an adult I look back and think it was time wasted and often forget that "finding love" was such a prominent thing in my life. Instead I think of what I did with friends and my past times.

For Eleanor and Park it is the center of the world. Well, for Park more so than for Eleanor in my own opinions. They come from opposite worlds. Park's family is middle class. His mother is Asian, his father is Irish, and besides his father being hard on him for "being a pansy" he has never been without. 

Eleanor's family is extremely large and extremely poor. Her mother is married to an alcoholic who regularly abuses her mother and has already kicked Eleanor out once. She lives in fear at her home and is tormented at school for the unusual clothing she wears.

This, this right here I found interesting. The blend of different cultures was great. The fact that the main characters was an Asian teen boy and a heavy red headed girl from a poor family was a nice touch because it's rare. Again, most often with YA books the characters are white, perfect, and gorgeous. There's more to the teenage world than that! 

I also appreciate seeing real life problems. Mainly what Eleanor was dealing with: her family struggling, not having much money, and the problem of her stepfather. For Eleanor, this was a major piece or her life and it often, understandably, overshadowed the importance of Park. For Park it seemed that his real life issues were often second to his feelings for Eleanor. (He struck me as a bit obsessed at times)

So this book definitely had its good and bad sides to it. I find that when it comes to YA fiction it either needs to completely remove me from this world (huzzah, scifi and fantasy!) and do a good job of removing me from this world as well, or it has to be engaging and deal with real life difficulties that I often feel are shied away from. This book had what I dislike about the current theme of YA fiction but it also had what I appreciate. 

Would I read the book again? Eh... probably not. Would I suggest it to others to read? Yes, if they are interested in a quick read that's engaging enough but nothing that really pulls on the heart strings.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Women of the Otherworld: Bitten

I wanted to read Bitten for quite awhile but it wasn't until I heard that the series was being made into a TV show that I really got on top of reading the book. I feel, in some way, that I am scarred from supernatural series because of Laurell K Hamilton. As a side note, Laurell K Hamilton, in some ways, made the adult supernatural side of things relevant. She held her own in a world infused by Twilight lovers (although I'm pretty sure her books came out before Twilight...). But her books had a lot of dislikable characters and quickly devolved into smut with little plot. I was figuring that Bitten would be much of the same. I mean, it's about werewolves! Aren't werewolves known for being happy to have lots of sex? I wasn't so sure I was ready to read another place-yourself-here smut book as I was still recovering from my multiple-Anita-Blake-read-through from the year before. 

I can't speak for the rest of this series, as this is only the first book in it, and I've learned they can always go downhill, but I immediately enjoyed Bitten much more than I enjoyed the first Anita Blake book. In comparison the characters were more likable and the plot much more interesting and not as gritty. So let's now move away from the comparison of both authors and focus solely on Armstrong's series.

Elena, our resident werewolf, is the only female werewolf in the world. Women becoming werewolves is unheard of and Elena certainly didn't ask to become one. We get snippets of the life she lived beforehand but some of the information is slow coming, left to surprise you further into the book, or maybe I'm just not that observant. Elena certainly hasn't accepted being a werewolf with grace and when we meet her it's as she has, for the past year, been attempting to appear as human as possible and live a normal life.

Further in we meet her werewolf "family" who I quickly grew to adore. The only let down with this is that Elena discusses, rather randomly, one particular werewolf whom she stayed close to while blocking out the rest of the pack from her life. This werewolf is brought up a few times and then, in my opinion, quickly forgotten. I feel as if the author might have last minute decided to add this character to the story and didn't take the time to put much emphasis into who he was or his relationship with Elena. The rest of the family who is present in the book I really enjoyed reading about. They were all different in their own ways and definitely stood out in their actions (except for Antonio and Nick, whom often had the same "voice" to me, but then again they are father and son so I suppose that makes sense). 

The attention to detail when Elena was a wolf really thrilled me. Often, I feel, when authors write about werewolves in their wolf form it's vague and not all that thrilling. But with Armstrong she made the reader be a wolf, see through the eyes of a wolf, and understand the disconnect Elena felt from the human world when she became a wolf. Good, very good.

I found the start of the book a bit sluggish but once I got into the werewolf territory it became more fast paced and it pained me that I had to put it down when I got to work. Towards the end of the book it was horrendous. I was sitting at work, trying to concentrate on my job, but the entire time I knew my kindle was sitting in my bag. Waiting. It was like the torture of a wrapped present left to sit under a Christmas tree with the words "Don't open until December 25th." I wanted to know what happened in the end but I was stuck doing work, silly real world where you have to make money so you can afford these books, and couldn't just read to my heart's content. 

I added the next book to my read list but the description doesn't sit well with me. It looks sort of boring, to be honest, but maybe I'm just gun-shy because I've experienced this before: where the first book is great and I love it and I want more only to be disappointed by the future books. I'm going to give it a go when I have the chance, read the next book and see how it works, but I'm not holding high hopes for it. If I dislike the second book at least I have the first that I can return to and reread in the future. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Blood and Beauty

Hey guys, I'm revisiting my love of the Borgias. Shocking, I know.

Recently I ranted about The Borgia Apocalypse by Neil Jordan so you can review that for my fangirling of the family. For this, let's hop into the book, shall we?

I waited for this book for what seemed to be ages. I don't know if goodreads was just mucking up or if there was actual indecisive planning on the publisher's part but the release date kept changing. I wanted this book and I wanted it as soon as possible and yet when I thought the book was finally out I would be told by a friendly book seller that nope, it wasn't released yet.

When I went to my local Barnes and Noble and spotted this book on a display I gasped and lunged for it, causing a middle-aged gentleman to stop and stare, and bounced about when I had it in my hands. I put all books aside and began reading this book immediately.

In some ways, this book seems to be more historically accurate than what I've read before and certainly more so than the show. The little known details I have found about the Borgias seemed to all be hit on in this novel and while the author made this a fictional retelling of history, I feel that she did so with a gentleness and respect for details. It wasn't wild or something you would find in the depths of a fan fiction database.

I find non-fiction books to often be dry. I'm a fiction-loving girl, what can I say? I like to have emotions and creative language put into my books. So maybe that's why I enjoy fictional historic books more than a non-fiction piece. Really, it's hard for me to spot non-fiction that I enjoy. 

The only thing I disliked about this book is that Dunant made Lucrezia's hair much darker than it was. Hell, there are pieces of Lucrezia's hair on display and it is blonde, not a light brown or auburn or any of that. She seemed to put emphasis on Rodrigo Borgia's lover's hair and not as much on Lucrezia's. 

Lucrezia begins the novel at the young age of 12 and grows into a woman that is used as a pawn in political strategies of her brother and father. Cesare is as cold as ever, but still loving to his younger sister, as is Rodrigo who at times seems to be the typical oblivious father many readers will be familiar with from their own lives.

Dunant portrays these characters wonderfully. It's clear how they behave in addition to their strength and weaknesses. When I would sit the book down due to real life getting in the way I often found myself thinking of them and wondering what would happen next within the book. 

If you are familiar with the Borgia history, you know how this book will go, but if you aren't it is within my opinion that this would be a fabulous way to be introduced to the saucy history of this historic family. While the author took creative liberties with some of the details it is an interesting story and, to my knowledge, pretty close to the facts that historians have been able to provide.