Book Review - Being Henry David by Cal Armistead

Being Henry DavidBeing Henry David by Cal Armistead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A quick and interesting read, and a great, accessible introduction for young adults to one of the great authors and thinkers of the "modern" age - Thoreau.

Being Henry David is a different kind of coming of age novel - one in which the hero has to learn who his is literally, as well as figuratively. "Henry David" aka Hank, is a teenaged boy who has awoken in Penn Station with amnesia. As he tries to scrape together some of his memories, or at least some semblance of a new life, we the readers learn along with him - about the streets of New York, the writings of Henry David Thoreau, and the quiet town of Concord, Maine.

Though the book is peppered with interesting supporting characters (as usual, the librarian is my favorite, but there's a twist this time), and a couple of minor subplots, the real character development is all centered around Hank as he learns to come to terms with the realities of the present, and the past so shocking he had to forget.

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Book Review - My Life Map by Kate & David Marshall

My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your FutureMy Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future by Kate Marshall
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Our job in life is not so much to find ourselves as it is to create ourselves." ~My Life Map

The same is true of this book. You don't read it, but you create it, and with it yourself, and your life.

"My Life Map" divides your life into manageable chunks - subjects (family, work, play), ten-year map, whole-life map, and more - and each section contains excellent quotes and prompts to help you consider your life - as you have lived it, as you are living it, and as you may live it in the future. There are even spare copies of each map in the back of the book and online so that you don't have to feel tied down by your map, your plan. Instead, you can dream and explore and create, and then change your mind a million times, if you so desire.

I didn't DO this entire book before reviewing it; I felt it deserved more consideration than the few weeks it was in my possession. I did read through and consider how I might respond to each prompt, each example, each beautiful quote, and each suggestion. And I can tell you - I am excited to map my life.

I'm the sort of person who loves to make plans and to document my life - New Year's Resolutions, 101 things in 101 days, Project 365, my blog, and so forth. But I tend not to follow through. Either my plans falter a few months in, or life gets busy, or my priorities change. But "My Life Map" understands. "You will not be a failure if what you write in this book does not come true," it says. And I breathed a sigh of relief upon reading it. I imagine revisiting old versions of my life maps will be like opening a time capsule to the things that seemed important to me when I created them.

When all is said and done, if you complete the Whole Life Map (which is the entire point, really), you will have a one-page overview of your past, present and future, split into chapters you've named for their main idea, divided into life sections, and progressing with purpose, even if it is retrospective. You'll have found a Mission and Vision for your life, made yourself goals to help you live up to your own standards. You'll have a clear view of the path behind you and a clear idea of what to do to carve out the path ahead. I can't wait.

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This is a compensated review by the BlogHer Book Club, but all opinions expressed are my own. 

Book Review - Diary of a Submissive by Sophie Morgan

Diary of a Submissive: A Modern True Tale of Sexual AwakeningDiary of a Submissive: A Modern True Tale of Sexual Awakening by Sophie Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Three-and-a-half stars might be more appropriate, but it wasn't an option. ;)

Since Fifty Shades of Grey began the mainstream pseudo-kink craze, I've kind of shied away from it all. I disliked the concept of "mommy porn," the way non-vanilla sex was stigmatized, and what can I say, I'm a little bit of a hipster when it comes to staying off the beaten path.

But when the opportunity to review Diary of a Submissive, an ostensibly true story, and clearly a response to Fifty, landed in my inbox, I couldn't resist. In many ways, I was not disappointed. In other ways, I was let down.

Far and away the most refreshing thing about Diary of a Submissive is the author's ability to, well, write. She's a journalist by trade, and I laughed in delight when I read, "I decided quickly that committing crimes against grammar was a hard limit for me."

The other big positive to Diary, as compared not only to Fifty, but also to the seeming opinion of the mainstream world, is that the pseudonymous Morgan quickly dispels the myth hat only people with some sort of trauma in their pasts could be interested in kinky sex. She describes her simple life that is very much like yours and mine - except that she's a self-described masochist who gets off on physical pain and humiliation, when they're meted out by someone whose judgement she trusts, who has her best interests at heart.

The big letdown of Diary was the quick and dirty finish. In what seems like the midst of the story, suddenly it's over, and you're left unsure what even just happened. I guess real life doesn't have tidy endings.

EDIT: I've read on Sophie's twitter and interviews that there is a sequel coming soon. Hopefully that will relieve my angst at the ending.

 This is a compensated review commissioned by the BlogHer Book Club. All opinions expressed are my own. 

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Book Review - Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1)Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're following me on Goodreads, you know I have a newfound mantra not to finish crappy books just for the sake of finishing them. Well, I finished this book (and the others in the series), and the writing sucks. It is painfully obvious that this began as fanfiction and had little in the way of professional editing.

This is not your mother's romance novel. Unless you're under 18, in which case, buzz off (for this particular post. The rest are great birth control).

When I think of romance novels, I think of quaint victorianism and words like heaving bosom, corset, and manhood. Fifty Shades of Grey has its own special oft-repeated words, of course, but they tend toward the poorly-written rather than the adorable. Think, apex, sex-as-a-noun, flush, and behind. Oh, and words like, dominant, submissive, and flogger. Readers have been known to require Google assistance to define some of the terms found in this book, but it's best to keep safe search on and don't search at work. 'Nuff said?

Now that I have your attention, let me mention that this book is also not your typical whips-and-chains erotica. No, it walks a fine line between these genres, and while FSOG does have its very own almost-but-not-quite-completely-lacking-a-personality heroine, it also has one character who is quite well, um, fleshed out.

Ana Steele is everything a romance novel's heroine should be: unknowingly gorgeous, barely-legal, virginal, and naive. When the series begins, she is clumsy and awkward, but somehow a feast of mind-blowing sex three times daily leaves her a smoldering temptress before long. That's... about as much character development as we get for Ana.

Christian Grey, on the other hand, experiences a lot of growth (heh), though it's mostly from one stereotype to another. He begins the series dark and broken - fifty shades of fucked up, if you will. He's into "kinky fuckery" due to a horrific childhood, and he struggles his way into becoming a strong-but loving personality who is exasperatingly-overbearing-in-a-kind-of-sweet-way and also hellfire in the bedroom.

Though the novel's plot starts out as weak and wibbly as any romance novel, it quickly escalates to kinky, hardcore erotica before fizzing down into the glowing embers of something resembling a real-life relationship. An olympic amount of kinky sex is thrown in to keep things interesting, and overall the book reads like its humble beginnings - poorly-written fan fiction with rebranded characters.

I'm not sure why the media is calling this "mommy porn," since the protagonist is a young and breathless college graduate. Unless maybe the media expects moms to need vicarious kinky sex, while non-moms are presumed to be able to have their own fun.

If you're squeamish or overly moral (in sex or in writing), you probably won't much enjoy 50SG, as it's lovingly called by fans.

I enjoyed it plenty, though I think I'd enjoy perusing it with my red pen almost as much.

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Book Review - Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card

Shadow Puppets (Ender Saga, #7)Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I used to be the sort of person who prided herself on not quitting a book. Much as I flit from one project to another, leaving things unfinished, books and movies deserved my full efforts, no matter how abysmal they might seem in the beginning.

Thanks to a run of bad novels, I've changed my mind. Life is too short to finish a book that doesn't grip you. It's definitely too short to finish a book that makes you roll your eyes, chapter after chapter.

I trudged through the first hour or two of this audiobook with little interest. A rambling quasi-love story, it kept my mind busy while I did my duties as domestic engineer. However, I rarely thought about the story after I'd put it away, and it didn't draw me back in, enticing me to do my chores the way pretty much all of OSC's other books have done. This should have been my first clue that it wasn't worth it.

Then came the preaching.

Orson Scott Card, of whose religious and political beliefs I was blissfully unaware until after my first reading of the original Ender saga, claims not to preach through his fiction, unless he says he is (as in the Alvin Maker series, which is based loosely on the life of Joseph Smith). I could give him the benefit of the doubt, but that would just mean he is painfully unobservant of the underlying messages in his own writing.

From a diatribe against gay marriage (the character given this not-so-subtle soliloquy decides that, even though he's gay, he'll marry a single mother and use his pension to support them. Seriously.) to anti-abortion rhetoric that is pounded like a nail again and again, I just couldn't stomach it anymore.

So I've given up. I've got a to-read list a mile, long, and I'm sure most of it deserves more attention than this drivel.

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Book Review - Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card

Seventh Son (Alvin Maker Series #1)Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No matter my thoughts about his politics, I just can't quit Orson Scott Card. I refuse to pick up his books in paper (or e-paper) form, and insist on listening to them read aloud, usually by voices I've come to know and love through repeated listenings of the Ender Saga. Since Card claims he writes with this in mind, I figure it increases the authenticity of the tale. Besides, it stops me from noticing typos and bad editing, which always pull me from a story.

I know that the Alvin Maker saga is meant to be loosely based on the life of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion. I can't decide if it's better or worse for me that I don't know the details of LDS history. Better, probably, because I'm not constantly analyzing the plot, trying to spot the preaching (which I do with the latter Ender books, and it always tarnishes them a little for me). Though I wonder what lovely allegories I am missing. Though not a Christian, I'm always interested in the Christian allegories I find in popular literature. So maybe they're worse for it.

Maybe it's better just to take the book as it is, a tale like so many of Card's, of a bright young boy with a fantastic talent and too much responsibility for his age. The setting of 18th century colonial America almost doesn't matter to the plot. Sure, there is a certain amount of naming convention (with kids named Vigor, Measure, Waste-Not and Want-Not, and so on) and religious fervor only rivaled by today's neo-conservatives, but really, again as most of Card's work, this is a story not about place, but about people.

I'm hoping the series will hold me over until the release of the next Mithermages and Pathfinder books. It kept me engaged, made the time slip away while I worked on my own household chores, and left me eager to borrow the next book in the series from my library's digital library. Really, what more can you ask for?

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Book Review - Hand Wash Cold by Karen Maezen Miller

Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary LifeHand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life by Karen Maezen Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I read this entire book in two sittings separated only by dinner with my family. I have thirteen pages of highlighted passages in my notes section. Suffice to say, it was invigorating and inspiring. I highly recommend you go pick it up right now.

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