Book Reviews by Today, I Read…

A Continuous Book Review and Vocabulary Assignment

September 16

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Keeping it Together: How I Manage My Reading the Analog Way

by Ann-Katrina

A couple weeks ago, Liz Finch asked me how I keep track of the books I read. I started this system a while ago, but it’s evolved and I figured it might be a good idea to share it with the world.

book-journal-collage

Here’s a breakdown of what I use:

  1. A pen that makes me smile (in this case, Dong-A Miffy Scented Gel Pen in Lavender Purple)
  2. A quality journal (I prefer Kikkerland)
  3. An inexpensive spiral or composition notebook (New Leaf makes some cute ones)
  4. Index tab stickers (one of the greatest inventions ever—pictured JStory Index Fun Rabbit)

And if I’m feeling particularly spunky, I might use some Post-It flags and highlighters, too.

Now to explain as best I can why and how I use all of those things…

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March 22

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Recent Arrivals: Underworld (Abandon Book 2) by Meg Cabot

by Ann-Katrina

Recent Arrivals chronicles the books that have made their way onto the Today, I Read… bookshelf. Here’s the latest arrival: Underworld by Meg Cabot

Underworld by Meg Cabot cover

First paragraph: "Pierce keeps having the most terrible nightmares." My mom used to say this to all the doctors we saw right after the accident. "She talks in her sleep–sorry, sweetheart, but you do–about a boy following her. Sometimes she even wakes up crying. It doesn’t seem normal. I’ve never had dreams that vivid."

Initial thoughts: I literally squealed like a little fangirl when this arrived on my doorstep. And I love that cover—it’s much shinier in person. Thank goodness I keep a book summary journal* because I only remember a few bits and bobs of Abandon, but I remember enough to know I enjoyed it**, so I’m looking forward to reading the continuation of Pierce and John’s story.

Book description:

Seventeen-year-old Pierce Oliviera isn’t dead. Not this time.

But she’s been taken by John Hayden, lord of the Underworld, to the dim, twilit place between heaven and hell, where the spirits of the deceased wait before embarking upon their final journey.

John claims it’s for her own safety, to protect her from the Furies who yearn for vengeance against him. But John may have reasons of his own for wanting to keep Pierce close…

And soon she learns that while she might be safe from the wrath of the Furies in the Underworld, the people she loves back on earth are not. Can Pierce convince John to release her in order to save the life of someone in her family–or will the price he asks her to pay for her freedom turn out to be too high?

Book Details: 336 pages; Point; Pub. May 8, 2012

* Book summary journal: After I finish reading a book (usually immediately afterward unless I’m feeling lazy), I’ll write a 5-10 page summary of all the major plot points, character list, and other relevant notes so I can reference it later. This system has been working out well—except for the books I didn’t get around to summarizing.

** I’m such a dork. I wrote the review for Abandon, but never edited or published it. I thought I did, but didn’t. Expect that soon-ish.

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January 17

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SOPA & PIPA Will Break the Internet

by Ann-Katrina

I’ve been reading a lot of hullabaloo about a couple things going on in Capital Hill right now and it all seems to center around SOPA and PIPA, Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act respectively.

You may not think this affects you because you’re just a reader or book blogger or whatever (to be honest, I didn’t think it affected me either), but believe it or not, it does.

Stop Internet Censorship

These two bills will basically give the government the right to deny access, for however long they feel like it, to any website it so chooses whenever it so chooses without prior warning or explanation to the website owner. That’s a generalization, but that’s essentially what it boils down to.

So, if you or one of your favourite bloggers were to link out to a website that was hosting something deemed to be pirated, access to the website that did the linking could be blocked. Just for linking to a site that MIGHT have pirated material on it. Heck, the blogger doesn’t even need to be the one to provide the link…it could be a commenter or guest author or a spambot.

Millions of people, especially small businesses, to include small publishing houses, indie authors, and bloggers in general, will be adversely affected by this. They won’t have the resources necessary to fight should their site (and livelihood) get shut down. They can have their payment processors* cut all ties with them. Oh, and they can be sent to prison for up to 5 years. (What due process?)

All over one little link.

Or if that doesn’t get you, how about the larger sites that have become a major part of your internet life? Sites like Google, or YouTube, or even Amazon or Barnes & Nobles. Yes, even these sites could be blocked because, guess what?, they allow user submitted content and should one of those users post an unseemly link in the forum or publish a video with a copyrighted song playing in the background, POOF goes the site.

To me, that’s just plain stupid and infuriating. Whoever came up with it (eh hem…RIAA, MPAA, major publishers, television networks, etc., I’m looking at you) needs to yank their heads from their rear ends and wake up. Breaking the internet is not the answer.

In protest, I’ve decided to join the likes of Reddit, Wikipedia, and WordPress and go dark tomorrow from 8AM through 8PM.

I urge other bloggers to join in and help spread the word to kill these two bills where they stand, for should they pass, blogging and socializing on the internet will become a lot less fun and a lot more like an unnerving dystopian novel. (I swear George Orwell must have been psychic.)

*If you sell digital goods, for instance your ebook, directly on your site, yes, this affects you, too.

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January 16

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Recent Arrivals: The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams

by Ann-Katrina

Recent Arrivals chronicles the books that have made their way onto the Today, I Read… bookshelf. Here’s the latest arrival: The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams

The Alchemy of Forever cover

First paragraph: I feel as though I’ve been waiting for the masquerade ball for my entire life. At fourteen, I am eligible for marriage and finally old enough to attend. The torchlight flickers on the sandstone facade of Lord Suffit’s palace on the Thames, and the roses woven into my hair are heady and sweet. I remember to push my mast up over my face before I walk through the great arched doorway.

Initial thoughts: Let me say up front that I’d not heard word one about this novel. Never read anything by Avery Williams before and, in general, have been out of the loop. But when I checked my mail and saw a package from Simon & Schuster and with tucked inside a book with a very pretty cover, I couldn’t resist checking out the back cover and blurb. (By the way, the picture does not do the actual cover justice.)

My first thought was, Hmm, this reminds me of that episode of The Outer Limits where the cops were chasing those spirit orb glow-y things that kept leaping from body to body. Before you think that’s a bad thing, it’s actually not. The Outer Limits happens to be one of my all time favourite shows. So while the gist of the story sounded quite similar to that episode, it was different enough to grab my attention—different in a way that made me want to read this book—like—yesterday.

As luck would have it, the book doesn’t appear over-long, so it should only take a few hours, however, it’s the beginning of a series, so I’m a little worried that this won’t be a fully contained story. I saw a lot of that going around last year—an almost story with a cliffhanger ending in an attempt to shove you into the next book—but the good news is that I haven’t seen it too much with stuff put out by S&S.

Book description:

Her first love made her immortal…

Her second might get her killed.

After spending six hundred years on Earth, Seraphina Ames has seen it all. Eternal life provides her with the world’s riches, but at a very high price: innocent lives. Centuries ago her boyfriend, Cyrus, discovered a method of alchemy that allows them to take the bodies of other humans by jumping from one vessel to the next, ending the human’s life in the process. No longer able to bear the guilt of what she’s done, Sera escapes from Cyrus and vows to never kill again.

Then sixteen-year-old Kailey Morgan gets into a horrific car accident right in front of her, and Sera accidentally takes over her body while trying to save her. For the first time, Sera finds herself enjoying the life of the person she’s inhabiting–and falling for the human boy who lives next door. Buy Cyrus will stop at nothing until she’s his again, and every moment she stays, she’s putting herself and the people she’s grown to care for in great danger. Will Sera have to give up the one thing that’s eluded her for centuries: true love?

Book Details: 246 pages; Simon & Schuster; Pub. January 3, 2012

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January 12

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2012: The Year of Extinction (and Change)

by Ann-Katrina

Aside from humankind becoming extinct this year (some time in December, I believe it is), it’s also the year to make positive changes. Every year we all make resolutions to be different, be better, be whatever, and every year we completely forget about those resolutions come February.

But what if these changes were broken down into bite-sized manageable pieces? I’m thinking it would be a lot easier to make those changes stick, especially with continued and repeated effort.

This year I have many plans for this blog, including the reintroduction of the newsletter, more interviews, giveaways, general commentary, and, of course, book reviews. I’m also thinking of coming up with a proper publishing schedule (which, as I think about it, seems like a very good idea) with features on specific days. Once I get my personal life back in line, I’ll certainly be revisiting the idea.

52 Small Changes book coverFor now, I’ll just post up a quick note about a nice boon that arrived on my doorstep recently: three copies of 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier New You by Brett Blumenthal to giveaway to a few lucky readers.

I’ve already started to read a few of the tips and I’ll admit, some seem fairly common sense (i.e. drink more water), but there are a few in there that have grabbed my attention. I also like that Blumenthal offers a few helpful tips for actually making those small changes less painless. Once I’ve finished reading it all the way through and making notes, I’ll post up a proper review, along with progress reports.

With that, I’m going to finish up with: I hope you had a splendid, varied, and wonderful 2011 and I hope that your 2012 will be even better.

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