Sunday, July 22, 2012

Coming this fall: League of Strays

League of StraysLeague of Strays by L.B. Schulman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the controversy here on Goodreads surrounding The League of Strays, I was apprehensive to begin the novel.

The League of Strays is about a group of four kids who are loners for various reasons. Richie is gay, Charlotte is an introvert, Zoe is combative, and Nora has a single-minded goal to make valedictorian. Enter Kade, a charismatic bad-boy, who knows just how to manipulate these fine, but lonely seniors and bend them to his will.

Kade wants soldiers to help him seek revenge on bullies at Kennedy High. The League (but mostly Kade) selects and plans attacks on supposed "bullies" that have hurt the Strays.

Warning***Spoiler Alert!

The attacks begin with some vandalism and threats, and grows to assault in quick succession. Kade soothes worries with sexual charm and it seems to work like magic on these inexperienced teens.

Meanwhile, Charlotte is swept up into a secret relationship with Kade, which seems to serve Kade far more than it does Charlotte.

Blessedly, Charlotte finally gets a clue and a spine. It came a bit late, but better late than never.

The story is fast-paced, which works well. The characters seem much younger than seventeen and eighteen, but from studies we know that readers prefer characters that are about two years older than the readers are themselves.

Schulman does a decent job conveying that popular "bullies" are not all bad people. Schulman maintains her light touch on these themes, which again, lets readers reach their own conclusions.

In another, more controversial section of the book, Schulman fails when Zoe becomes Richie's' beard, becoming his public girlfriend. However, the secretive nature of The League couldn't have been maintained if the members all donned Pride t-shirts. Also, it's important to remember that as real characters, the girls may actually believe that giving Richie a girlfriend will fix the problem.

In another related, Heathers like section, The League makes it look like one of Richie's homophobic bullies, a "jock" football player is gay and waiting for a hookup from another "jock". The falsely lured football player waiting, gets beat by his team mate, landing him in the hospital.


As a reader, I had a hard time with this scene, not just because a hate crime was being committed, but because there didn't seem to be enough of the right kind of why-this-is-SO-wrong narration coming from Charlotte's inner monologue. However, in defense of Charlotte, she is 17 and imperfect, which is real. Because Schulman is not in the reader's face, it allows readers to draw their own conclusions and form their own outrage.

As a YA novel, League of Strays offers a disturbing look into the act of retaliatory bullying, the consequences of lying, and the resulting confusion that sexual attraction has on behavior.

ARC provided by Amulet Books an imprint of Abrams in association with

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Friday, July 20, 2012

Fifty Shame of Earl Grey is Full of Laughs and Snorts

Fifty Shames of Earl GreyFifty Shames of Earl Grey by Andrew Shaffer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When this book landed in my arcs I was was stoked to read it even though I am one to admit that actually enjoyed
Fifty Shades of Grey.  I know, I know...  It's one of my fifty shames.

Fifty Shames of Earl Grey is a wonderful parody of the Fifty Shades trilogy.  It has everything including, but not limited to:

1.  Shopping at Walmart
2.  Butt Chugging
3.  Brony Fanfic (based on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)
4.  Tom Cruise
4.  Helicopters, stock cars, and F-14s
5.  Nose picking
6.  LARPing
7.  Jersey Shore
8.  16 and Pregnant
9.  Magical stalking
10. Out of season McDonalds' cuisine such as the McRib and Shamrock Shakes

Shaffer starts out strong with lots of laughs in the first part of the book.  I was snorting along to this one, and woke my husband up:

"The Earl Grey Corporation headquarters in downtown Seattle is a ginormous 175-story office building that juts into the cloudless sky like a steel erection.  I walk through the glass doors and into the lobby, which is floor-to-ceiling glass and steel.  This fascinates me to no end, because buildings in Portland are made of grass and mud."

There are more where that came from, which is why I was disappointed when the laughs began to lag towards the middle and end of the book.  It's not to say that it wasn't amusing, because it was.  I just couldn't help feeling like I was watching the parody, Scary Movie, especially when Earl Grey kept popping up magically wherever Anna happened to be. For instance, he appears behind a bar (think Tom Cruise in Cocktail), a Starbucks bathroom stall, from under Anna's bed, Walmart, and other ridiculously laughable places.

The book moves from laugh out loud mockery of Fifty Shades,its character similarities to Twilight and the legalities of fanfic, to more slap-stick/situational comedy that pokes fun at moments in the book such as the car chase scene, to Christian Grey's eating issues.

Overall, this book is a humorous parody of the million-dollar-per-week pop culture phenomenon.  Though it lags at times, it still held my attention and kept my husband waking all through the night.

ARC provided by Perseus Books Group in association with

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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Baby blogger has feeling! My random rant concerning the batshit site that is

I sit in my home, working on completing another galley and watching my children swim. I make copious notes on the book, considering how I might discuss it on Goodreads and my blog. I might occasionally fold the radom piece of laundry, but really, why?

It would be like any other day, except that I can't concentrate on what should be an enjoyable book. I keep thinking about Lucy, and The Holy Terror, Kat, and Ridley. I keep thinking about what I have to assume is a very messed up author and her revenge bullying, vindictive nature. I'm thinking about the bullshit site that is

The site, which I will not link discusses how one of the reviewers is a bad mother who has a drinking problem. It posts real names, places of employment, etc.. It suggests that they are giving the reviewers a taste of their own medicine, all while they themselves remain anonymous. Wow!

There's a lot going on in this site. Some of the complaints deal with the ways in which reviewers can shelve books. Apparently shelving the book under, "pile o'shit" is offensive. There's a good deal discussing language and profanity, and the ways in which the reviewers describe books. Somehow this is labeled bullying because the language is deemed violent. Okay-dokey.

Profanity and the dickish response:

Can I just explain to those who are new to Earth and the interweb that not everyone is appalled by profanity. It's actually quite the thing to do today--or so I'm told. My favorite internet mag, Jezebel begins most headlines with a good old fashioned swear word. It's a style of writing I'm quite fond of. Does that mean that those using profanity are bullying? No. It means that have a wonderful handle on the art of cursing. I salute thee! Fuck yeah!

I guess my point is, if you are one of the uptight crowd who doesn't need a swear jar in every room, or youve smashed yours (mozel tov) please ask yourself if the reviewers deserve the treatment that they have received simply because they choose to use profanity in their responses? I ask this because it seems to be a major selling point on STGRB website and has shown up in the comments section on The Passive Voice. This alone seems to count for many of the positive comments. It's rather stupid. The content of the message is completely eclipsed by the use of the word, "shit". REALLY? REALLY! Goodness, me oh my! Vulgarity!

Some books are bad:

Hey! Did you know that some books should actually come with a free recycle bin? I have actually been so pissed at certain books that I can't even have them around for doorstops. I can't even look at the things any longer than it takes to hurl them across the room, pick 'em again, and walk them to the recycle bin. Franz's Freedom comes to mind, along with The Shack. As the consumer, I am perfectly within my rights to say that I think that these books suck donkey. That is not bullying. I could even say that this book should come with a picture of it pleasuring donkeys, but it still wouldn't be bullying. Just as a side note, I get great pleasure from imagining that stupid bird on the cover of Freedom loving a donkey. It takes the sting out of the experience out having read the piece of crap.

The American Idol effect

I started to think about the person who could author a site like STGRB, and it came to me that they must be self centered and immature. Some have suggested that this person is a YA author. This got me thinking about teenagers, and American Idol. For who else is more self important than a teenager who thinks they are going to be the next Jay Z?

Think of these authors/or author like the folks who show up for the American Idol tryouts. EVERYONE knows these guys suck except their mom, dad, and a handful of tone deaf buddies there to lend support. They cannot believe that they aren't going to be the next Carrie Underwood. They are in fact so astonished that they believe that the judges have a grudge against them. As viewers, we all find this laughable, especially when they flip off camera, but really, is it much different that what is going on over at

Some authors will never be popular or well received, so when they write a book that isn't good, that's just par for the course. It's sad, but it's not the reviewer or reader's fault. We aren't the tone deaf family and friends. Propping up and providing encouragement isn't our job.

Hey STGRB! This is for you!

Do the writers at have the right to post their views about profanity? Sure they do. If you guys want to dig in to that age old debate, be my guest. Maybe they can even have some t-shirts and wrist bands made! I'm sure it will be super popular!

Even better? Like, a real solution?! Lobby for stronger moderators on Goodreads! Change Goodreads! Beg for the profanity police to stop threads that have become toxic. Sure, Goodreads won't be the once free place it used to be, but then that doesn't seem to matter to you folks anyhow.

There are a few other things that you can do to improve your situation. Here's a short list.

1. Pick up books on debate techniques.
2. Seek therapy/medication for your stalking tendencies.
3. Read up on real bullying. It's really sad and should in no way be mistaken for what has happened to you.
4. Write better books.
5. Grow some impulse control. Don't respond to negative reviews.

What you shouldn't do:

You know what should not be done? Like AT ALL! Above all, you should not harass your readers. It actually IS bullying. I mean, you know that right? You know that being outsmarted in a debate does not constitute bullying? You know that the F word is not really bullying don't you?

If you are reading this STGRB, you should know that I'm not buying your bullying story and neither are most readers. Your internet traffic is, and it's just a strong guess, based on readers at Goodreads getting the skinny on the hate mongering happening on your site. They want to see a real asshat in action before the lawsuits get slapped on your doorstep or Go Daddy shuts you down.

Oh, and one more thing. Revenge bullying doesn't work in the long run. You should know that too.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Shadow of Night Delivers

Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy, #2)Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It begins with absence and desire. It begins with blood and fear. It begins with a discovery of witches.

The second installment of the All Souls Trilogy is as dense as it is enjoyable. Harkness does a beautiful job maintaining the plot while spinning an ever increasingly involved story. Much like Diana Gabaldon who pens the Outlander series, Harkness is not one to rush. Instead, she remains constant, creating a world that is rich and brimming with life. And, like Gabaldon, Harkness is a published academic, which shows in the quality of the work. The word choice alone is food for the reader's soul.

In Shadow of the Night, Diana and Matthew must seek shelter in 1590 to escape the creatures who want them dead in the present. The goal of the trip is not just to preserve their lives, but to find a witch willing to teach Diana how to better control her roiling witchy powers, and procure the Secret of Secrets, Ashmole 782.

Diana and Matthew naively believe that they will be in the past less than a month, which is their first problem. Diana, like most historians has always dreamed of living in the past and therefore thought she would simply slip into the past. Unfortunately, her accent and manner of speech is so foreign, it takes longer than a month just to be able to present her in public.

The relationship between Diana and Matthew is at the heart of this constantly shifting novel, whose overarching theme of tolerance and change is challenged from beginning to end. It is their marriage that beings a new day for all creatures, but change doesn't come without sacrifice. It is then appropriate that Diana and Matthew learn to be one during the
Renaissance when science and learning were thriving, and change is expected and welcomed.

Readers might find the opening of Shadow of Night difficult, as Harkness jumps right into the story adding new characters left and right. Likewise there are some parts of the story that lag. Despite these small weaknesses, Shadow of Night is a beautifully crafted story that will leave the reader bleary with tears, but satisfied.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Good in Bed

Bared to You (Crossfire, #1)Bared to You by Sylvia Day
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't going to write a review about this book, but then I got to thinking about the popularity of books like this one (#4 on the NYT Bestseller's List) and the Fifty Shades trilogy.

Fifty Shades is poorly written, but it's scratching an itch, if you will, much like Bared to You, which touches on that something that women readers crave every now and again. They crave it so much so, it was recently reported that the Fifty Shades author is pulling in a cool million a week this summer.

When I was growing up in the late '80s, my mom read books about sexy highlanders or some such dominate male who would "claim" and "possess" said heroine.


We look at modern romances and find very similar situations. The differences are minor. Instead of the highlands of Scotland, we have the skyscrapers or Manhattan. This is where our warrior/hero/misunderstood man waits.

The women in our modern romances are only slightly different from the bodice rippers of the past. Sheading petticoats for sheath dresses, these women are beautiful and smart. They might make more suggestions concerning their desires, but in bed, they are typically submissive.

So why is there a sudden a backlash against these modern romances when we've been reading them for years? Is it just the writing or is it the subject matter?

Women are still not supposed to be as sexual as men. Women are supposed to be above it all. When we read, we shouldn't give in to our baser desires, but read something more enlightening--something worthy of our sex. Sigh. Isn't this the same bullshit society has been pushing for decades, if not centuries? Women should read contemplations concerning Christ or needlepoint. Yawn.

It seems that today it is other women sending the message that women should avoid these topics, rather than men.  In our desire to get away from fantasies of the past, we tell other women that they must avoid such dribble.  How can women want a man who is controlling and possessive?  That isn't the modern woman's fantasy!  Well, according to sales, yes it is.

Bared to you takes a modern woman who is smart and beautiful and screwed up and places her with her soul mate, an equally screwed up dominate male. Hold up reader! These two have more in common than looks and money. Both Eva and Gideon have been sexually abused in their pasts. And this is what makes Day's book both compelling and emotional. These two survivors are learning to make their way in a relationship while also being in the limelight. It's an interesting concept that works.

What we have is a book that is pro-human and possibly, for some, worthy of our sex.

For those female readers who are hung up on what we as women should be, I ask you to question those values. At the end of the day, we are still sexual human beings, who might crave a little fantasy. And that does not make us less intelligent. Women can be both smart and sexy, not sexy, but also smart--as though being smart is something rare when discussing a woman who is beautiful. Gak.

If you can unshackled yourself from both modern and antiquated conventions, you might enjoy this book quite a lot. To read is human, and when we read, our human craves a variety of subjects. Giving it the occasional romance should not be held against us; it should be just one more subject that titillates and excites our largest sex organ, the brain.

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