Books

23rd November
2011
written by Steph

Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner for those of us living in the United States, I feel that talking about a book that takes a trip through the madness industry is apt. Oh come now! I can’t be the only one who finds that large family gatherings are something akin to a trip to the loony bin! If, like me, you tend to find that congregations featuring your nearest and dearest tend to be a bit, well, colorful, OR if you just find yourself interested in mental health issues, I’m sure you’ll find this book enjoyable and educational… Whether it also leads you to mentally evaluate how many of the criteria on Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist every person you meet exhibits, well, that’s just another perk, now isn’t it? Like so much non-fiction, I think that The Psychopath Test is a fun read for those who have a pet interest in a certain subject but aren’t actually experts in that field. Those who have, say, majored in Psychology (as I did at university) will find that there are a lot of tidbits that are already familiar (though certainly I learned some things I didn’t already know), but that there is also a lot of glossing over of material as well as oversimplifications made for the sake of engaging storytelling or enhanced accessibility for the layman. That is why, although I found this book fun and interesting, I also found it exceedingly frustrating. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Jonson states anything that is deliberately false in this book, but there were moments where I felt like many nuances were lost (or counterpoints were omitted), so as someone who is more than passingly familiar with clinical psychology (though I will say straight up that although I am working on my Psychology doctorate, my area of expertise is cognition and perception NOT clinical populations) I found myself arguing with this book quite a lot. Just as a fair warning, after finishing this book, I jotted down some notes in my book spreadsheet, and when I imported those notes into Word, they filled an entire page. So yeah, I have feelings when it comes to this book (and yes, a lot of them are crabby and could likely be written in all-caps, but worry not, I've saved you from Caps Lock Steph... this time...). (more…)
22nd November
2011
written by Steph
Thank you to all of you who stopped by to celebrate our blogiversary with us, whether it was simply to wish us well, suggest a book we should read, or suggest a book you would like us to buy you. This time around, I didn't avail myself of magic (unless you consider random probability magical), but instead entered all people who commented suggesting a book they'd like to win into a numbered list like so: And then I went to Random.org and this is what happened:

Which means that the winner of our third blogiversary giveaway is Katie B!!! And as a result, a copy of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters will be making its way to her, while a different copy of it will make its way to me & Tony. I have to say that all of the books that were suggested sounded fantastic (and I even found out about a few new books in the process), so you've all given me plenty of food for thought when it comes to picking future reads. And of course, I'm guaranteed to be reading at least one Sarah Waters title come 2012. Thanks so much for stopping by our little corner of the blogging world (we know you're busy too!), and here's to another year of fun!
18th November
2011
written by Steph

So, if I had my act together, this is the book I would have lined up to write about for Halloween. It doesn’t really matter that The Radleys isn’t actually all that spooky, because if there is one mathematical equation that always stands true it is this: Vampires = Halloween. It’s just one of those unassailable laws. But, as you all know, life has been chaotic so I instead posted about the Amazon (one day late), which turned out to be a pretty good choice as well. I was actually offered a copy of The Radleys a few months ago, when Giselle from Simon & Schuster contacted me about being on a tour for the book when the paperback was released on September 20. Because being disorganized is my m.o. at the moment, I missed out on the blog tour, but Giselle was still kind enough to send me a copy of the book to read and review here at my leisure. This is a book that I had been curious about, because while I haven’t been part of the latest vampire craze, I was intrigued by the book’s lighter, more humorous tone… I feel like if anyone needs to lighten up, it’s vampires, and this is coming from someone who loved Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer! Sure brooding is super hot when David Boreanaz is doing it, but the line between Angel and say, Edward Cullen, is a fine one indeed, and if there is another mathematical principle that has yet to be disproven it is that Edward Cullen = Angsty = Annoying. (There is also the Edward Cullen = Stalker = Creepy equation, but that one is less relevant right now.) Also, apart from the fact that Haig was apparently tackling the whole vampire issue with some much needed levity, I appreciated that The Radleys was purportedly a story that involved vampires without really being a story about vampires. In fact, when the book opens, only half of the Radley family in question is actually aware they are something rather otherworldly. So if, like me, you wish vampires would just die already but you feel like taking one turn around the ballroom with the undead, I am prepared to say that you probably won’t hate The Radleys! Well, not because it involves vampires, at least… (more…)
12th November
2011
written by Steph

This photo may have actually been taken months ago during a trip to Arrington Vineyards, but with the addition of party hats, you'd never know!

It seems like Tony and I are making it something of a tradition to forget our actual blogging birthday until about a week after it has past. So while S&TI! turned a whopping three years old on Nov 2nd, we are keeping up our pattern of neglect for this year and just remembered that now.

I know we haven't been around as much this year as either of us would like (life has been so busy), so we'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of you have have stuck with us and continue to make blogging so fun. Whether you've been with us from the beginning or just found us a few weeks ago, we really love it when you take time out of your busy days to let us know that you like what we're doing or even just to say hi. So thank you, thank you, thank you! To keep with the tradition we started three years ago now, we'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all with something more than mere words. So, we're offering one lucky commenter the chance to pick up a new book on our dime. BUT this year there is a TWIST! Normally, we always ask you to go through our archives and pick a book that we've read that you would also like to read, and if you win, we will send you said book. To shake things up, here's what we're proposing: instead of limiting yourself to books we've read, instead we'd like you to pick a book that we HAVE NOT read but that you would also like to read. Leave us a comment telling us why you think we should read this book (or why you would like to read it), and if we pick your comment (via a random number generator OR via magic; I'm open to either option), then we will buy ourselves a copy of the book of your choosing AND send you one as well. We further promise that we will read and review this book on our blog sometime in the 2012 year - if you'd like to do a joint review of some kind, we're certainly open to that, but if you'd just like us to read it and do our thing while you do yours, that's cool too. We can sort out those details later. So to recap: 1) Pick a book that you would like to read that we HAVE NOT already read and reviewed (you can check out our archives here to see if a book's been covered on the site). You can of course use this as an opportunity to force us to read something you think we will hate for a maximally grumpy review (which you all seem to like), but remember, you'll be getting a copy of the book too! 2) If you live outside of the United States, check The Book Depository website and make sure that the book you want is available there AND that your home country can be shipped to (and since The Book Depository essentially ships everywhere on the planet, that means this giveaway is open worldwide!). If you live in the U.S., you have the added option of picking a book via Amazon. 3) Comment on this post letting us know what book you are choosing and why. Comments will be accepted until MIDNIGHT on the evening of SUNDAY November 19th, 2011. So that's pretty much it. Put on your thinking (or party!) hats, let your imagination go wild and let us buy you a book! [P.S. Per usual, this post will be sticky until the end of this giveaway, so make sure you scroll down for new content!]
8th November
2011
written by Steph

Before I know it, it's going to be the middle of the month... and then the end of the month... so before I forget, I'd better remind you that the November issue of BookPage is out AND, after having taken a few months off, I actually have a review in it! As you have likely gathered from the title of this post, I read David Guterson's newest novel, Ed King, which is actually a modern day retelling of the classic Greek play, Oedipus The King. The original source material is quite a yarn, so you can imagine just how fun and zany this book was! Although knowledge of the original play is by no means necessary, familiarity with Sophocles' version will certainly add to one's enjoyment. It was really fun to see how Guterson chose to modernize certain elements, and one of my favorite bits was how he re-envisioned the Greek chorus. But regardless, however you read this one, whether it be with fresh eyes or through the lens of what came before, this is a book that hooks you right from the start and is full of juicy scandals. Although this isn't Guterson's first novel, it was actually the first book of his that I've read and I really enjoyed it. It was the perfect blend of smart and playful, and even though it was certainly quirky, I never felt like Guterson was trying too hard to be clever at the expense of the story. If I were reviewing it solely here on the blog, I would give it a 4 out of 5. For more of my thoughts on Ed King, you can check out my review here.
1st November
2011
written by Steph

OK, so I’m a day late when it comes to posting something for Halloween, but I’m going to go ahead and post this anyway. It’s not like it was really all that spooky or holiday appropriate to begin with, but when I started typing this up yesterday, spookiness was in the air. I felt left out as everyone else posted cute pictures of jack-o-lanterns and reviews of spine-chilling reads, and while I have read some pretty scary books in the past few weeks, I’m still dealing with review back-log. So, I decided I would just take the next book on my queue and make it fit with the Halloween theme. But you know what? The Lost City of Z by David Grann was actually not such a bad pick for Halloween! You know why? Because the Amazon is frickin’ terrifying! I am not sure if this book says so explicitly, but the Amazon pretty much has the largest population of weird stuff that can (and will!) kill you. PLUS, all of this stuff really exists, which I think bumps the fear factor up a couple of notches as well. Before I get ahead of myself, let me explain what this book is about for the tiny proportion of people out there who haven’t heard about it. Essentially, The Lost City of Z is the travel memoir of David Grann, who becomes obsessed with British explorer, Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett. During his lifetime, Fawcett was a real trailblazer, traveling fearlessly into the blank spaces on the map in order to chart them. Where other explorers quavered and failed, Fawcett prevailed; if reality tv had been around in Fawcett’s time, he would have handily won Survivor, several times over. Especially if it took place in the wilds of South America, since that was Fawcett’s preferred niche, and it became a bit of an fascination for him. In particular, Fawcett embarked on numerous treks into the heart of the Amazon, determined to find the novel’s namesake, the lost city of Z. More commonly known in legend as El Dorado, Fawcett believed that Z had indeed existed and could still be found, if only one were brave and savvy enough. (more…)
27th October
2011
written by Steph

We don't feature a lot of sci-fi or fantasy novels on this site, which is kind of weird because Tony is something of a sci-fi aficionado. I, on the other hand, don't care for the genre very much. I don't know why, because I like science and I like fiction, but put the two together and it's like they repulse one another (or at least me!) and I want nothing to do with what you're offering. I have no idea why this is, because I like Fantasy well enough, so flights of fancy obviously don't bother me. But if your book involves outerspace or aliens, I will likely give it a wide berth. I do not, however, have an official stance regarding time travel: sometimes I like it (e.g., Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban) and other times, I hate it (e.g. The Time Traveler's Wife... though to be fair, the time travel was perhaps the thing I disliked least about that book!). So although I did not read and review Thomas Mullen's The Revisionists, Tony did, and I have to admit it actually sounds kind of cool. And since it seems to fall into the nebulous "speculative fiction" genre which, as Margaret Atwood informed us, is NOT the same thing as science fiction, nary a spaceship or alien is in sight! Huzzah! The Revisionists is one of those books that had a lot of pre-pub buzz, but I've not read many reviews of it since it's release, so if you were one of those people who was intrigued by the premise of one man being tasked to travel through time to ensure that the events of world history as we know them to have occurred (even the bad ones) do in fact happen the way they are supposed to, all so that we can one day reach a utopian future, then you'll want to check out Tony's review. Heck, this one sounds good enough that even if it had a laser or two, I would probably still read it! For a more in-depth review from someone who has actually read the book, check out Tony's review at BookPage here!
19th October
2011
written by Steph

Quick question for you: are you one of those drivers who loves to rubberneck? You know the kind of driver I mean – the one who slows to a crawl whenever a traffic accident occurs, rolling by at 15 mph so that you can get a good look at the crash in all its faded glory. Don’t even bother denying that you don’t do it, because I’ve been stuck in enough traffic due to people needing to gawk at fender benders to know that the human tendency to stop and stare at tragedy is hard to resist. If you’re worried this is about to escalate into a judgmental diatribe about bad drivers, fear not! Rather, all this talk of ogling wrecks is merely a prelude to discussing Lauren Grodstein’s A Friend of the Family, which is kind of like literary ode to the trainwrecks of life. Note, that there aren’t any actual trains or vehicular accidents that occur in this novel, but so much shit goes down in it that it is certainly the metaphorical equivalent! The back cover of A Friend of the Family is rather opaque but alluring in its description of the novel, and I do think this is one of those novels where its best to let Grodstein do the storytelling rather than me sharing it secondhand. All I really knew going into this book was that it involves two families (the Dizinoffs and the Sterns) who used to be quite close but ultimately grew apart when a scandal involving the Stern’s eldest daughter takes place. Flashforward a decade or so and the Dizinoffs are struggling with their own set of problems… problems that come to a head when fallen daughter, Laura Stern, reemerges and reenters the picture, not at all afraid to cause some problems and with her sights set on the Dizinoff’s only son. (more…)
12th October
2011
written by Steph

*only you're not at all surprised, are you? As we saw from my recent post regarding our newly acquired bookshelf meant to deal with our overwhelming TBR book situation, clearly the last thing I needed was to buy more books… so you know that that’s exactly what I went out and did! It’s a sickness I tell you! And McKay’s is no help since I trade in most of my books there once I’ve read them, so the cycle is never-ending. Based on our instore credit, this haul cost a whopping $2.20, so while my shelves might not thank me, I promise you my book buying habit isn’t sending my family to the poorhouse. Full rationalization of my haul after the jump… (more…)
10th October
2011
written by Steph

I’m just going to come right out and say it: I have not been having good luck with book tours of late. I am eternally grateful to TLC tours for turning me onto some really enjoyable reads, but lately I feel like I’ve been striking out with the books I’ve been covering for them. Sometimes it’s clear that a book is good but you aren’t the right reader for it, or maybe you just aren’t in the right mindframe for it (always one of the drawbacks of scheduled reading!)… I want to think that’s what happened with My God, What Have We Done?, Susan V. Weiss’s debut novel, because if I’m being honest, I did not really enjoy this book very much at all. So much so that I only read the first 50 pages in earnest before switching to skim-read mode for another 30 pages or so just to see if things would improve, and then finally I threw in the towel. The premise of the book was not uninteresting in theory: through parallel storylines Weiss tells the tale of newlyweds, Pauline and Clifford, who have decided to vacation in New Mexico, largely due to Pauline’s crush on Oppenheimer, inventor of the atomic bomb. Interspersed with P&C’s story is that of the great man himself, Oppenheimer, fifty years earlier, toiling tirelessly amongst a group of dedicated scientists to create the ultimate weapon. For the romantic or the naïve, the correlations between a marriage and the atom bomb may not be readily apparent, but with a little imagination or some life experience, I think astute readers can see how analogies between the two can be drawn! I personally thought the notion of setting the two references up as a means of comparison was rather clever, if a tad on the nose. It’s no secret that I really enjoy novels that feature interleaved (and seemingly disparate) storylines if done well, so my curiosity was certainly piqued.  I also admit that I was intrigued by the fact that MGWHWD? was published by Fomite Press, an indie publisher that I’d never even heard of before and as Trish pointed out to me her query email, it’s kind of interesting to see what these small imprints decide to pick up. (more…)
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