Posts Tagged ‘3.5 out of 5’

14th December
2011
written by Steph

Guys, I am in the thick of it, dissertation-wise. I have been told on multiple occasions that the homestretch of one’s thesis is not for the faint-hearted, and I must agree one thousand percent. I keep trying to buoy my spirits by telling myself that everyone who gets a doctorate has to go through this fire walk at some point and that if it were easy, everyone would choose this path. I just have to keep getting up in the morning and pushing forward until finally this thing caves because I will not let this dissertation beat me. I don’t proudly proclaim the fact that I’ve actually been a grad student for seven years now, but given that that is the case, I certainly can’t back down now. I’ve invested too much of myself to let another six months of mind-breaking work conquer me, so come hell or high water, I will finish. And when I do, I shall rename this site “Dr. Steph & (Not Dr.) Tony Investigate!” OK, not really… Anyway, this is all to let you loyal readers know that I haven’t forgotten you even though this space has been dormant for quite a while now. I’ve just been so mentally taxed of late that it’s left me little breathing room for fun. I’m still reading, albeit less than I normally do, but the thought of writing about any of the books I’ve finished has seemed impossible. Until now. Rather than mope about and give in to my exhaustion, I’m going to push through the waves of fatigue so that I can share some of the books I’ve been reading, because really, don’t books make everything just a little bit better? (more…)
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…)
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…)
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…)
26th September
2011
written by Steph

I’ve been blogging here at S&TI! for nearly three years now (I kind of can’t believe that’s true… it seems like we were just celebrating our two-year blogiversary!), and save one or two titles each year, I am very good about writing about each and every book I read. Before starting this site, I simply had an Excel spreadsheet where I noted each book I finished and then jotted down whatever impressions it left me with when I was done. This blog was meant as a way of formalizing and expanding on those notes. I have a notoriously bad memory regarding books I’ve read, so it’s good for me to write about them afterwards, otherwise years later, I’ll remember that I’ve read a book, and maybe even vaguely how I felt about it, but generally that’s about it. Writing hasn’t made my memory any better, but at the very least, I now have a pretty record of my reading history, and I admit that I do sometimes go back and read my own posts to see what I had to say about certain books. In all my time blogging AND keeping my Excel spreadsheet (which I still keep), that is to say, five years now, I have never forgotten to include a book in my spreadsheet once I finished it. Never, that is, until now. I’ve been struggling with a backlog of books to review on the site for a few months now, and just the other day I was getting excited about the fact that the number of books that I need to cover was now down to less than five. I then started to re-organize my GoodReads shelves, and I stumbled across The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist as I was cataloging books for my “Books Read in 2011” shelf and I thought I was going to have a panic attack. I knew I had read this book, and read it quite a few months ago, so how was I so close to the end of my backlog of books and yet I hadn’t talked about this book yet? I immediately opened my book log and scanned the entries for this year frantically. Holmqvist was nowhere to me found! I had somehow completely forgotten to enter this book into the list, something I have never done before! So now I’m in a bit of a pickle, because I really want to write about this book, but I know I finished it back in May and I have no notes on it and so I’m at a complete loss about what I’d like to say about it. I remember that at the time I had quite a lot of feelings about this book, which involves an older woman who lives in a society where if you reach a certain age and don’t have someone who loves or needs you (and no, dogs don’t count) or hold an important job, you get sent to a unit where you are put to good use. Which pretty much means you are experimented on and act as a walking organ farm, as ultimately your organs will be donated to others who are considered more important to society. I mean, with a topic like that, how can you read the book and not have some kind of reaction? I’m sure I had one, but what was it? (more…)
8th August
2011
written by Steph

Don’t you just hate it when you have this huge backlog of books to review for you blog (like, we’re talking months behind here…) and you’re starting to feel like you’re making forward progress and then wham! You find yourself having to write about a book that was so totally mediocre (if inoffensive) that you kind of no longer have anything to say about it anymore. Because let me tell you, it’s not that the intervening months between my having finished Matrimony and actually writing about it have been unkind to the book so much as they have been indifferent. As in, if it were not for the notes I hastily jotted down when I finished it, I might not be able to say anything about it at all, because it has not really endured in my memory. I am thinking that we may have to retitle the book “Mehtrimony”, because that’s pretty much how I’m feeling about this book. I kid, I kid. I just mean this book is kind of forgettable. [Also, please don’t comment and say that you never have a backlog of books to review for your blog because I will both: a) hate you, and b) not believe you.] (more…)
30th June
2011
written by Steph

By this point everyone on the planet has read One Day, so once again, I am late to the party. But hopefully that means I don’t have to bring the gift of exposition! Well, ok, for those of you who have been living in the land of Classics or non-fiction or whatever, here is a brief idea of what the book is about: On the eve of graduating from university, Dexter & Emma spend one night together and kick off a friendship that, through ups and downs, will last them a lifetime. One Day follows Dex & Em on the anniversary of their meeting each and every year, and in so doing, readers spend both something close to 20 years and just 20 days with the duo. In many ways, One Day appears to be your conventional chick lit novel, the unique premise not withstanding. I’m not sure I would have been drawn to it when I first saw it over in the ARC shelves at BookPage if not for the premise, so while it may seem gimmicky, you’ve got to admire Nicholls for doing something different to set his book apart. I don’t read tons of chick lit anymore, but so much of it is formulaic, that in many ways I feel like the overwhelming popularity of One Day can be attributed to it being a breath of fresh air. That said, it took a trip to Naples, Florida where I knew I’d be lazing by the pool and on the beach for many hours to finally decide that I should see what this sensation was all about. (more…)
13th April
2011
written by Steph

I’m not pointing any fingers at this book in particular but I have decided to suspend my Indiespensible subscription for the time being. While I love the idea of receiving a beautiful book (along with extra goodies!) every 6 weeks, at $40 per installment I really want to be loving the books I am getting. And truth be told, the books I’ve read via Indiespensible thus far I’ve just found mediocre. Of the three I’ve read, all of them (including this one) are 3.5/5 reads… which isn’t terrible—I certainly don’t regret my time spent with these books—but they aren’t exactly books that are setting my world on fire. The Fates Will Find Their Way is a book I probably wouldn’t have read if not for Indiespensible. The premise—a girl goes missing from a small neighborhood, and the local boys are irrevocably shaken by this, making up stories about her possible futures well into middle age—while intriguing, was undeniably reminiscent to Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. I really liked TVS so any book put up against it is going to have some stiff competition. However, Indiespensible sent it my way and all of the pre-pub reviews had been really positive, so I gave it a go, but I have to say, I wound up feeling very ambivalent about this book. (more…)
22nd February
2011
written by Steph

Full disclosure: I read this book about three weeks ago, and if absence makes the heart grow fonder, it also makes memory a bit hazy so details on this one might be a bit sparse. In the notes I jotted down on this one, I wrote “In the end, this book probably won’t stay with me forever, but I did really enjoy it in the moment.” Yup, that sounds about right. As someone who legitimately enjoys writing (I feel all of us bloggers must not only enjoy reading the written word, but creating it ourselves as well), I am always interested in books that features writers or that focus on the craft of writing itself. You’ll recall that a while back I read and loved The Writing Class by Jincy Willett, so while the back blurb on The Writing Circle sounded somewhat similar, I was willing to give it a go. Essentially, the story is pitched as following a group of writers who have formed a writing support group that meets to discuss each other’s creative endeavors and provide constructive feedback in the hopes of getting these works published. Unfortunately, not everyone in the group is equally supportive and honest and when certain confidences are breached, each of the individual members face hardships that will throw the entire group into turmoil. (more…)
12th January
2011
written by Steph

First read of 2011

I feel like I’m in a bit of a reviewing slump. I’m picking up tons of great books but I’m not sure what to say about any of them. I’ve often said it can be harder to write something meaningful about books that really astound me and I think this might be an example of that very thing. As you know, 2011 is my year of reading from my own shelves, so I figured the best way to kick things off would be to pick up the book that has possibly lingered on those shelves for the longest. I think I’ve owned You Remind Me of Me for at least five years, though it certainly feels like longer. I remember picking it up in hardback off of a remainder table at the World’s Biggest Bookstore in Toronto, and I’m sure the sticker proclaiming it “seulement $9.99” was a large incentive (weird factoid about me: when I buy books that have price stickers on them, I NEVER remove these stickers until I’ve finished reading the book… I have no idea why this is the case, but without fail I always do this… hence how I still know how much I paid for this book…). I’m sure the premise of intermixed storylines of seemingly unrelated characters that eventually unite into a meaningful and breathtaking whole played some part, but dollars to donuts it was the price that really sealed the deal for me. I think the real question is why the heck it took me so long to read this book! (more…)
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