Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Favorite Blog Post this year - Cassy

Can you believe it?!  It's been three years that we've been bringing you our witty, fun and sometimes completely confusing opinions on books, here at Review Me Twice.

I know, we think it feels a lot longer than that too.

So, in keeping with tradition (set up last year), I'm going to tell you my favorite blog post that we have done in the past year.

I really liked when we told about our favorite bad books.  Usually on our blog we're telling you about the things that we love, things you should go out and read, things that you just can't miss because they're JUST TOO GOOD.

But in that particular post, it was a different take on our favorites.  Yes, they were "favorites" but books that were so absolutely terrible, they looped back into being good again.  I have a good friend who really likes books and movies like that, things that are so terrible, that they're funny, so they become good again.  It really was a fun post, and different than the things we usually do.

It's been a great three years, and I hope we still have everyone three years from now!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Author Bio: Debra Frasier

This is our birthday week! So we're taking it a little bit easy and reading a children's book.

And the author/illustrator of that book is Debra Frasier!

She seems to be quite the busy bee, if you check out her website and see all the projects she's up to: blogs, books, community work.

The book we're reviewing this week was the first one Debra Frasier published: On the Day You Were Born. (It only seemed appropriate to read a book about birthdays on the blog's second birthday!)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Review Me Twice: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

This week's review book, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher, was number three on the ALA's list of most frequently banned/challenged books in 2012 (out of 464 challenges reported). The reasons given for its challenges were drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited to age group. (You'll notice that the first two reasons wouldn't be relevant if it weren't for the fourth reason.)

Let's address the "reasons why" (ha, see what I did there?) this book was banned/challenged first. I'm a little offended that the sexual assault wasn't mentioned, but "sexually explicit" was. That bothers me. But that's not the book's fault; that's the fault of someone who didn't want other people to read this book because they're afraid of it.

I really like this book. I like the way it's set up. Clay gets a box of cassette tapes in the mail and they were made by the girl at school who killed herself. They're being sent to all thirteen people she deems - in some part - responsible for her suicide. It's different and interesting (and it knows that cassettes are outdated... it's kind of a plot point that he needs to find a way to listen to the tapes.)

I'm about to get hypocritical here, so get ready. Remember how, with The Fault in Our Stars, I didn't like the characters because I thought they were smug and self-centered and that sort of ruined the book for me? Well, I don't really like Hannah in this book. At first, you think, "Oh, poor girl, she was bullied and assaulted and used and she reached a breaking point and saw no other way out." But later, I can't help but be a little mad at her. Some of her "reasons" are a little tenuous and the tapes seem to be more like her playing with flies in a web than anything else. The difference, though? I don't believe that Jay Asher idolizes her like John Green idolizes his characters.

Another weird comparison to The Fault in Our Stars that I noticed? I cry at this book (same place, every time) but not TFioS. But as we know from that review, I might be the only person in the world who doesn't.

I really disliked Hannah in the book.  She gives these tapes to all these people, blaming them for her suicide, for what happened to her, and never once takes responsibility for what she has done in her own life.  She never once takes responsibility for what's going on in school and around her and with her friends and family.  She claims that no one cares about her, no one wants to reach out and help her, but when Clay tries, she pushes him away as hard as she possibly can.

And I think Hannah kind of ruined the book for me.  Because I really did like Clay and the fact that he had to listen to these tapes and share her journey.  I really like that Asher opens your eyes about all the things that are going on in this high school, and they're all real, scary things that happen in the real world.  Rape, and ruined reputations, and bullying.  It all happens, every day, in high school and more often than not gets swept under the rug.

But I think I just got so annoyed and put off by Hannah, it distracted me from how good the rest of the book was.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

How to Ban/Challenge a Book

We all know that Cassy and I are big fans of supporting Banned Books Week, because it is wrong to impose your own views on others by taking away their ability to read a certain book that you disagree with. And we also know that Cassy has kept you on top of which books are the most banned/challenged each year. But how do books wind up on that list? I'm here to tell you how.

Fun fact: The ALA's Intellectual Freedom Committee is just as old as Cassy and I (it was formed, like us, in 1986). They do a lot of important things, but the relevant one for this post is working with the Office of Intellectual Freedom (established in 1967) on issues related to censorship.

The OIF collects two types of reports on banned/challenged books. They keep an eye on media to see what gets reported in the news. They also accept reports from individuals: librarians, teachers, students, anyone who knows about a book that has been banned or challenged and wants to make sure the ALA knows about it. If you are someone who wants to make such a report, the form is here.

The OIF also offers support for the people defending such a challenge (usually librarians and teachers). On that page, you can find information and guidelines for dealing with authorities, the public, and the initiator of a challenge, among other useful tips.

So that's really all it takes... someone complains about a book being on a shelf or in a classroom, the institution being complained to makes a decision, and someone hopefully reports the challenge (or, worst case scenario, the ban) to the ALA to make sure it gets counted for the year. But don't feel too bad... the books that get challenged usually grow in popularity, especially around the end of September...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Favorite Book about Suicide

Morbid, right? But this week's book is about suicide, and many YA books (and other books) are, because we - as a society - are talking more about it and related topics (see last week's Bullying is Bad post for another example). So here are some of our favorite examples of the subgenre.


I love this book. I hate that it exists, because it's autobiographical, so it's horrible that all these things happened to Brent Runyon, but I have to admit that I'm really glad he wrote about them, because he wrote it well.

Long story short, Brent Runyon lit himself on fire in a failed suicide attempt and this is the story of his recoveries (physical, mental, and emotional). He has a great sense of humor mixed with serious talk about important subjects.

Because this is easily one of my favorite subgenres, I feel the need to give you a list of runners-up: Girl, Interrupted; Suicide Notes; Impulse; and I could give you a dozen more if we included self-harm (which is different, though related).

Fair warning, there are going to be some spoilers for this book.

So this book, one of my favorites, is about an older sister, Kate, who has cancer, and her younger sister, Anna, is basically perfectly genetically engineered by her parents to be a perfect match for her older sister in ever way.  In a lot of ways, she was meant to be the replacement parts to save her older sister.

Kate needs a kidney to live, and Anna is expected to give up one of hers.  So Anna sues for the right to her body, the right to NOT give her organs to her older sister, to make all of the decisions about her body.

So what does all of this have to do with suicide you might ask?  Well, inevitably it comes out that Anna isn't doing this because she's a big old jerk who wants her sister to die, but because she's actually making the biggest gesture of love to Kate she can... and giving Kate exactly what she asked for.

Kate is tired of the surgeries and the hospitals and the blood draws and never, ever, getting to be a normal girl... ever.  The kidney was her final straw.  So she asked Anna to say no.  To help her die.  To just let her pass on.  It's, essentially, assisted suicide.  Which, really brings up the big ethical question of should it be legal or shouldn't it be?  In the US, it's currently legal in Washington (state), Vermont, New Mexico and Oregon.  In Montana it's not legal, but it's not technically ILLEGAL either, so take that how you will.

The book is incredibly powerful and moving and raises a lot of questions and issues like this one.  Is assisted suicide OK?  Especially in cases where there is absolutely no other way out?  Or how about a case where it seems all but hopeless, and the patient could live, but not a life that's really worth anything?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Top Ten

Just like last year, I'm going to give you the top ten books that have been challeged/banned in the last year (since it's 2014, this is the list for 2013.)  There are a lot of repeats (Captain Underpants is number one again!  Really!?)  But there are some newbies to the list too.

The Adventures of Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive Language, Unsuited for Age Group, Violence

The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit,  Unsuited for Age Group, Violence

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Reasons: Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking, Offensive Language, Racism, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited for Age Group

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Reasons: Nudity, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited for Age Group (which is just silly, because it's an adult novel, so you're basically telling me either A. it's appropriate for people YOUNGER than an adult or B. it's inappropriate for everyone.  Everywhere.)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited for Age Group

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
Reasons: Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking, Nudity, Offensive Language, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group

Looking for Alaska by John Green
Reasons: Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited for Age Group

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Drugs/Alcohol/Smoking, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited to Age Group

Bless me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: Occult/Satanism, Offensive Language, Religious Viewpoint, Sexually Explicit

Bone by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political Viewpoint, Racism, Violence

A good list this year (especially because we don't usually see graphic novels, so good for you, Jeff Smith.)  The usual reasons for banning book, sex, drugs and inappropriate topics, though I will admit, this is the first time I've seen Occult/Satanism on the list (though, I'm sure not the first time that it's been on there.)

What are your favorite banned books?  We would love to hear and tell us why they've been banned.  What "reasons" were given for the challenge?  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Author Bio - Jay Asher

Our book this week, for BANNED BOOKS WEEK (holla!) is Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  Asher actually went to school to become a school teacher (and enjoyed writing kids book) but in his senior year, dropped out to persue his writing more seriously.

Since he's only had two published books, Thirteen Reasons Why, which we'll be reviewing on Friday and landed itself on the top ten banned books list back in 2012, and The Future of Us.

He's got a blog that you can follow (along with any other information that you want on him), along with a Facebook and a Twitter account.

We'll be doing all sorts of stuff with banned books this week because, let's face it, it's our most favorite week of the year.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Review Me Twice: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

Y'all know how Cassy and I feel about YA fiction in general. (If you don't: favorable.) So for me to say that this is great YA fiction is quite a thing.

It gets bonus points for passing the Bechdel test so hard, and also for being a widely banned/challenged book.

The title and cover explain the plot pretty well: one high school girl wants to kick the ass of another high school girl. The book touches on issues that a diverse audience can identify with: being a go-getter and being the go-getter's friend; hiding your sexuality in an unfriendly environment; being the bully and being the bullied; having a parent who can't spend as much time with you as you might want because they have to work; moving to a new neighborhood and new school; being smarter than your peers and therefore being bored in class; public humiliation hosted online... I'm sure I'm missing at least a dozen other situations dealt with openly and honestly (and non-patronizingly) in this book.

I think it's really hard to be a "problem novel" without coming off as super condescending.  Mostly because I believe that a lot of adults just genuinely don't really get (or care to get) what teens are going through and so the condescension happens.  There are, of course, exceptions to the rule.

This is most definitely one of those exceptions.

I think bullying is one of THE hardest topics to approach because so many adults just. don't. get it.  Bullying isn't just picking on a kid.  It's demoralizing a kid.  It's making a kid feel like they're just not worth it.  It's finding the absolute worst ways that you can insult that kid to make that kid feel like they're not a person anymore, to make that kid feel like they're not themselves anymore.

Bullying leads to suicides, it leads to fights, aggression, drop-outs, drinking and drugs.  A lot of which could be avoided if you would stop telling kids things like, "it's just a phase" or "it won't matter when you're older."  It matters now.

I love this book because the characters in it are real.  The bullying in it is real.  The conflict that Piddy feels in it (if I tell, she's just going to keep beating me up, but if I don't tell, I can't go back to school) is SO REAL.  That's the constant struggle that kids deal with.

And I like that the solution, is also real.  It's not perfect, and it isn't punishing who you want, but unfortunately, that's how it happens, and it's INFURIATING, but there's little that can be done.

I loved this book, and I think this is a book that every kid should be made to read before they enter middle school.  And then again, before High School, just to remind them.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Bullying is Bad

Duh, right? Bullying is bad. I'd like to point out that I didn't say that "bullies are bad," because most bullies have their own problems and they just found the wrong outlet for them. Anyway, that's not the point of this post. The point is that there's a government-run website that can tell you way more about bullying than I can:


They have statistics on who gets bullied, who bullies, how people experience bullying (see it, report it, do it, are victims of it, etc.), and the "side effects" of bullying (like suicide).

But the long and the short of it is...

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Favorite Literary Bullies

This week's book is quite clearly about a bully. Her name is right there in the title: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. So this week, we're picking our favorite bullies from books.

Draco Malfoy was the very first character I thought about when I tried to come up with my favorite bully from a book. Then I considered some others (The Chocolate War, and Thirteen Reasons Why - but probably not for the reasons you think) but I don't LIKE them as much as I like Draco.

One thing I really love about the Harry Potter books is that, by the end, there is really only one bad guy, and if you have a big enough heart, you can even see that Voldemort was only a victim of circumstances and bad decisions. But the two characters you've hated since the beginning, Draco and Snape, become lovable. Did you ever think, back in the late 1990s, that you would wind up feeling such pity for Draco? By the end, you can go back and look at everything he ever did in the books and see exactly why. Just watch him in the last book/movie, making the hardest choice of his life, picking between his parents AND Voldemort - who hand-picked him for an extremely high honor and difficult task - and doing the right thing. I'm just so proud of him.

You might wonder why I chose Draco and not Snape. I feel the same exact way about Snape, with one major difference. An adult, and more specifically an educator, - no matter how deep and painful their emotional wounds run - should know better than to treat a young student the way Snape treated Harry all those years.

I love Merteuil from Dangerous Liaisons.  I mean, how could you not?  She's a fantastic bully, mainly because half the time, you probably don't even realize that she' bullying you.  She manipulates and strategies and moves everyone around like pieces on a chess board and most of those pieces think she's their friends!

Really, it's only through her letters to Valmont that we realize what a bully she is.  She's retaliating through an innocent girl, completely ruining her life for no other reason than she feels she was slighted by a guy.  She's the ultimate bully, if you think about it, and, up until this point, has gotten away with it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Why We Bully

Bullying has been around forever, and it's a huge topic in our book this week, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.  It's incredibly prevalent in our literature, probably in places that we didn't even realize.

Who would have thought that innocent Peanuts cartoons could be brought into a bullying post, but Lucy is a bully.  She is constantly pulling that football out from under Charlie Brown, telling him that he's hopeless, and generally just putting the guy down (not to mention the various other characters in the book.)

However, Shultz does show us that the bad guy doesn't always win.  Lucy is desperately in love with Schroeder, who constantly rebuffs her, often giving her a taste of her own medicine and befriending Charlie Brown.

For the record, this was what my copy looked like as a kid, 
until I read it so much the cover tore off.

Harriet the Spy is one of my favorite books and is a great example of bullying among kids.  Harriet gets basically ostracized by everyone in her class.  The thing I think that I like best about Harriet the Spy is that no one in that book is perfect.  Yes, Harriet gets bullied.  But you know what?  Harriet, in her own way, is also a bully.  She writes some pretty terrible things about her classmates, and then instead of suffering the consequences of her actions, retaliates with more bullying before she finally realizes that if she wants her friends back, she's going to have to humble herself.  

Books like Harriet the Spy use bullying to show how tough it is on a kid, how really wrong it can be and how hard it is in school, but also how easy it is for any kid to fall victim to it's lure as well as be a victim of it.  Bullying in literature is also used to show ways that we can prevent or solve bullying in schools, like our book this week does.  There are lots of books that have successfully used it (and some that have not so successfully done it.)

Either way, bullying is both an important literary and social topic that shows up tons in our literature.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Author Bio: Meg Medina

As with so many great books I read, I discovered this week's review book, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, by reading an article about how it was being banned in a school. It wasn't too surprising... the book has the word "ass" right there in the title, and it's about bullying and violence and there's some stuff about a girl experiencing puberty (noticing new body parts and whatnot). But what I remember most about the article (I wish I could find it to link it for you) was what the author, Meg Medina, had to say about the banning. I don't remember her response specifically, but it had to do with how kids should be able to read about situations similar to what they're going through, to see that they aren't alone and there are ways out of their predicaments.

Medina's website says that she's about "strong girls, tough circumstances, and the connecting power of culture." All three of these are major themes in Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.

She is Cuban-American and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia. Between bouts of writing, she works on community projects that benefit young girls like the ones in her books. This year, she won the Pura Belpre award (named after the first Latina librarian at NYPL, awarded by the ALA since 1996 to a Latino/a writer/illustrator who portrays, affirms, and celebrates Latino culture in a work for youth) for Yaqui Delgado.

She has also written The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, Tia Isa Wants a Car, and Milagros: The Girl from Away. They all feature strong Latina girls, something YA books need more of.

This is a great time of year to be reading Meg Medina... Hispanic American Heritage Month is September 15 - October 15, and Banned Books Week is September 21-27!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Review Me Twice - Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson

See the great thing about working at my job is sometimes, you just trip over great books.  This time, I happened to trip over a great book's sequel.

This is the cover to Robogenesis, the sequel to Robopocalypse.

Awesome, right?  I thought so too, and after looking at it for weeks, I finally picked it up and read the inside cover... only to discover that I had to read a different one first.  I mentioned this to a co-worker, who immediately told me I should read Robopocalypse because I would enjoy it.

And I did so much!  It has very much a World War Z feel to it (which Alex and I ADORE), in the sense that it's lots of people's stories about how humanity came together and fought the machines.  And Wilson's writing is great.  He keeps you on edge and you can't really seem to put the book down because you REALLY want to know what's going to happen.

Even though it's one of those books that tells you what's going to happen on page one.

Also, Wilson wins for my favorite quote of the year:

"Stop.  You have to stop.  You're making a mistake.  We'll never give up Archos.  We'll destroy you."
"A threat?"
"A warning.  We aren't what we seem.  Human beings will do anything to live.  Anything."

Archos is the computer that starts it all, that goes after all the humans and starts to kill them, eradicate them.  And here, right in the very beginning, his creator warns him.  The machines aren't going to win.  Humanity is going to win, because at the end of the day, we never stop.  And I just LOVED that whole quote, the whole exchange, because it just rang so true.  It happens in every day life, in movies, in books.  There are a million accounts of humans fighting until the bitter end in a way that other animals just... don't.

Really, the book was just well done.  It wasn't over the top.  It wasn't made to seem unrealistic.  This made me feel like a Robot apocalypse could actually happen.

If you recall, I mentioned on Wednesday that I don't much care for stories about robots in general, especially robot uprisings. It's just not my thing. I find it really interesting, actually, that I probably would have written a very different post for yesterday if I had written it before I finished Robopocalypse. Because I loved this book.

It is absolutely the World War Z of robot stories. I believe, if given the chance, it could bring about a renewal of interest in robot fiction. It has the multiple, interconnected perspectives, worldwide scope, disaster content, and writing pace of World War Z, which were some of the things that made WWZ better than most zombie fiction.

This will undoubtedly be one of my "best books we read in 2014" picks.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Why Artificial Intelligence Is Scary

When you read about a robot uprising (like the one in this week's review book, Robopocalypse), what you're usually really reading about is artificial intelligence taking over all the robots.

Most great horror revolves around the concept of losing humanity. Zombies are scary because they used to be human and they still mostly look human, but what essentially makes them human is gone. The same thing goes for vampires. And reanimated mummies, if that's your thing. Robots have the opposite thing going for them... they were not human, then we gave them what is the thing that makes us essentially human (however you define it: emotions, love, dreaming, etc.).

Another scary thing about robots is that we are responsible for them. Zombies are sometimes created by humanity (lab-created viruses are especially popular in the current literature) and anything arcane can be attributed to someone messing with magical objects or reading willy-nilly from spellbooks. But robots are 100% undoubtedly man-made, and so is artificial intelligence. We brought it on ourselves, so it was preventable, and that's part of why it's so terrifying.

It's scary for one other huge reason, too: they are meant to become smarter than us. With everything at a robot brain's disposal, it would be nigh impossible for them not to become smarter than humans. Their interconnectedness and enormous processing power allows them to think and experience and feel at a much greater rate than humans, making them superior to us in so many ways (combat, puzzle-solving, reflexes, and so on).

All I'm saying is, maybe you shouldn't beat the crap out of the printer when it jams. Someday it might hit back.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Favorite Man Vs. Machine Stories

I don't like robot stories, as a general rule. I have absolutely zero interest in the Terminator movies, and the easiest way to make me not want to read a book (other than telling me it's written by a televangelist) is to use the phrase "robot uprising." Seriously... robots just don't do it for me.

Saga is a comic book series by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. I recently read all three currently existing graphic novel volumes as part of my goal to read everything Vaughan has written before meeting him at NY Comic Con. It's about a huge interplanetary war, mainly between the home planets of the two main characters you see up there on the cover. You may notice they have a baby with them. This is why both their homeworlds want to hunt them down (extreme fraternizing with the enemy).

You may be saying, "Alex, I know you said you don't much care for robot stories, but you still should be talking about a robot story here." Well, one side of the war has joined forces with the Robot Kingdom. Prince Robot IV is one of the major pursuers of the family, and he looks like this:

So while the "man" in question is a family consisting of a women with wings, a man with horns and magical abilities, and their hybrid daughter, they are certainly up against a formidable machine.

It's always my favorite weeks when I get to tell you about books that I've never told you about before.

I love Crichton.  I mean, I honestly don't think I've read anything by him that I didn't like.  This was probably my least favorite book by him and I still REALLY liked it.  Long story short, humans create nano-bots and these nano-bots get minds of their own and start taking over everything.  They become a threat in a way that only Crichton could make them.  

I like it because while it is the classic man vs. machine, cautionary "be careful what you create" tale, it's not preachy.  And it's fascinating and thrilling and has you on the edge of your seat constantly wondering, "Oh, my God, are they going to die?  Are they next?  No, Crichton, YOU CAN'T KILL HIM!!  I LIKED HIM!!"

Really, Joss Whedon has nothing on Crichton.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Man's Curiosity (and why it makes for a good story)

Let's face it: more often than not, when we're reading a book, a book's plot comes because we're just too.  Damn.  Curious.  This week's book, Robopocalypse, comes because a professor wanted to create and AI that could work WITH mankind, but continually made ones that wanted to take it over (14 of them, in fact), until he slipped up and couldn't control it (I don't mind telling you this because I found this out about 20 pages into the book.  Pretty non-spoilery.)

Ayn Rand's book, Anthem, that we reviewed a few weeks ago was all about how we had shoved ourselves back into the stone age because of knowing too much, and therefore we then punished people who were curious.

We see the theme every where (Martial Chronicles: We destroyed the Martians and then ourselves.)  So why do we keep seeing it?  And better yet, why do we, as readers, keep reading it?

There's not a lot better, in my book, that apocalyptic fiction, which is what a lot of this is.  It's the idea that humanity became too ambitious and destroyed ourselves and bam, here we are (Time Machine anyone?)  And yet, in all these stories, we always seem to be able to pull ourselves back out of the hole.  The Martian Chronicles a few families survive.  The Time Machine, they destroy the enemy and are able to progress as a society.  As a reader, we never really know if the author is telling us to hold ourselves back, because we could destroy ourselves, or to let loose, because at the end of the day, the Human Race is enduring and we're going to survive in the end anyway.

That's part of the reason that we read these books.  We, as a species, are absurdly attracted to disasters.  How many times have you slowed down and taken a good long look at the accident on the side of the road on your way home?

Stop lying you have too.

The truth of the matter is, for some weird reason, we are attracted to this disaster like moths to the flame.  It makes sense that we would be attracted to it in our literature too.  Think about the non-fiction that you read.  Now how much of that is about the Holocaust?  Or scandal?  Or a tragedy of history?  My two most favorite time periods to read about?  The Romanov Family (everyone is tragically murdered) and Tudor England (Henry VIII kills all his wives so that he can sleep with some new woman.  To be fair, I like to read about his daughter also, who brought about an English Golden Age, but mostly it's the beheading Man-Whore ways of Henry.)

The apocalypse almost has its own sub-genre in sci-fi/fantasy.  You see so much of it, robot uprisings, zombie take overs, nuclear warfare, that it could have a section all on its own titled "end of the world."  And it would probably be the best selling section.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Author Bio: Daniel Wilson

Daniel H. Wilson
From Wilson's website

Daniel H. Wilson wrote this week's review book: Robopocalypse. He has written seven other books, which all seem to be about robots. This could have something to do with the fact that he got a PhD in Robotics, and Master's in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. So he knows the subject matter pretty well.

Robopocalypse now has a sequel, Robogenesis, plus it has been picked up by DreamWorks and it is rumored that Steven Spielberg will direct. So we have that to look forward to!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review Me Twice - The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

This is Alex's favorite book, and I do enjoy it.  I mean, Bradbury is a well known writer for a reason.  But, this is one of those times that you realize why Alex and I enjoy such different favorite books.  The Martian Chronicles is a series of short stories that are loosely related.  They're obviously chronological (and would be even if he didn't mark them with the date at the top) and Bradbury takes us through the extinction of the Martian race and then, inevitably, the human race.

Bradbury is a lot like Orwell.  He kind of hits you over the head with the message.  We're industrializing too much.  We don't respect cultures.  There's too much censorship.  We need to just live and let live (I don't know this for sure, but I get the feeling he was a Republican.  And I'm not even saying as a mean thing.  The vibe I get is just very anti-big government, pro-the individual.)  Orwell is very similar in the writing style.  He's really obvious about the message.  Almost like we, as readers, aren't smart enough to figure it out if we're not completely hit over the head with it (remember that conversation about didactic writing?)

That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the book.  There's something about Bradbury's writing that's just... I don't know.  Calming.  It's soothing and enjoyable and like being read a good story by Barry White.  He just has that kind of writing that you can't help but enjoy, so even though it should kind of drive you crazy, it doesn't because he just writes it so well.

So, I liked the book, but I don't LOVE the book, like I know Alex loves the book.

(Why yes, I did write my review two days late... Let's just say it's because I assumed you've picked up on all the clues that I love this book and didn't really need my review.)

You may have heard that this is my favorite book! You may have even heard that I have a tattoo based on it. Both of these things are true.

I love good sci-fi, especially from the 1960s-ish era, I love collections of short stories (related or not), and I love Ray Bradbury's work. So it's kind of like the perfect book for me. I particularly like that all the stories are from very different perspectives. You have the astronauts on the first few expeditions to Mars; you have the Martians themselves; you have people from out in the country, people with the high-tech commodities in cities, families, loners, eccentric billionaires... everyone is a part of the story.

And this is a book that I can carry everywhere (it's short enough that the book fits in my purse... well, the paperback does, anyway) and pick up at any time to read from any point. It comes in very handy in waiting rooms or if you have a few minutes to kill before you need to go somewhere.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Aging Science Fiction

Good science fiction makes up crazy technology and implements it in the story somehow. Great science fiction predicts the future.

...No, I'm serious. Okay, remember when the iPad was released? And it took everyone about a nanosecond to realize, "Hey, Star Trek had these! I'm like Jean-Luc Picard! Awesome!" The reason that happened is because the writers for Star Trek were good at their jobs. They did research into what actual science was working on at the time and reached logical conclusions and wrote them into the show. It's like if someone wrote something now set in a world where all cancer is cured, and someday, when all cancer is cured, somebody reads that and realizes how ahead-of-the-curve that writer was.

That said, nobody's perfect. One of my favorite types of cartoons when I was little was the "house of the future" stuff. They were just as old as Tom & Jerry and Bugs Bunny, but usually those guys are pretty timeless. When you have 1950s and 1960s traditional ideas mixed in with the futuristic technology, it can be really entertaining in a way they didn't expect it to be when they created those cartoons.

This happens with other science fiction, too. Each short story in this week's review book, The Martian Chronicles, for example, has a date on it. We passed all those dates recently. We're both ahead of and behind Bradbury's expectations for us. Our rockets are more advanced than his descriptions, and - despite recent news out of Missouri - as a society, we're more friendly to minorities, and we haven't created a sanitizing society that destroys anything creative or unhappy in the world. But we also haven't put men on Mars (and we certainly haven't terraformed it) and we don't have automated houses.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Favorite Literary Tattoo

So I know we're supposed to pick our favorite, but I couldn't really decide which one I liked better so I figured, what the hell, I'll pick two of them.

The top one is from Alice in Wonderland, the famous line uttered by the Cheshire Cat.  I don't know why I have always liked the line so much, and it is, of course, vastly over used, but I've always thought it was a really good line.  It's in direct response to Alice's comment of, "I don't want to go among the mad people" and Carroll telling us that we're all a little crazy, a little mad.  

The second one is from Narnia, the lamppost from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.  I really love tattoos that are subtle.  If you didn't know about Narnia, you would never know why this person has a lamppost on their arm.  But, as a reader, it makes all the sense in the world and you secretly love it and think it's awesome. 

I'm going to refrain from posting either of my own book-based tattoos, because I feel like I'm probably a little biased toward them, seeing as how they're on ME.

What I really love - and don't have... yet... - is call number tattoos. It's like saying you really love two things: a book or genre thereof, and libraries! My favorite example is this Harry Potter call number tattoo, because she used the lightning bolt font from the series, too:

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Can't Beat Kelly

Did you miss my radio writing debut today?

That's ok:  I've got the recording.


So I always like to share some good deals with all my book lovers, and this is one of them.

To be honest, I'm not even sure how I tripped across BookBub, but I did.  It's a site that give away eBooks.  Old news right?  Except, they don't all suck.  A lot of times it's publishers trying to get you interested in an author's new book, so they give away eCopies of the old one.  

Not every book on the site is free, but you'll rarely see a book priced above $2.  They're are a lot of good books on the site, there are a LOT of books to browse and, what's more, the don't inundate you with emails (I get about one a day and that's because I've been to lazy to go change it from the default settings.)

I know a lot of us are eReaders around here (though maybe not all of us) and this is a really great site to check out if you're tired of the crap that is Amazon's free books page.

Did you miss my radio writing debut this morning?  That's ok!  We've got a recording and will be posting it soon.

In other news,


Monday, September 1, 2014

Author Bio: Ray Bradbury

This week's review book is one of my favorites (as you've heard before), The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.

Bradbury was born in Illinois in 1920 and died in Los Angeles, CA in 2012. In other words, he was writing science fiction during a truly golden age of science fiction, and lived to see a great deal from his work come true, for better or for worse.

You probably know him better as the author of Fahrenheit 451, especially if you're a banned book enthusiast Cassy and I. Some of his other particularly famous works include Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, and I Sing the Body Electric.

A lot of his great works are in the form of short stories (for example, The Martian Chronicles is a collection of loosely connected short stories about Mars and the human relationship with it).

The New York Times called him the author who most greatly contributed to bringing science fiction into the literature mainstream, and I won't argue with that. There's a reason we all read Fahrenheit 451 in high school.