Friday, November 13, 2015

The End

I realize that it's been close to three months since anything has gone up on here, and I've been meaning to post something to let everyone know what's been going on, but Alex and I have just gotten crazy busy with life.

Which is part of the reason we have such sad news to deliver (if you haven't already figured it out.)  We've decided to discontinue the blog.  When we started this blog, she had part time jobs, I had no job, and neither of us were married.  Now we both have full time jobs, we're married and have a pluthera of other things going on in our lives.

Other things that have made it impossible for us to continue reviewing and writing for all you lovely folks.  This month, as per usual, we both doing NaNo again, adding one more thing onto the pile of things in our lives.  I transferred to a different store.

But, we want to let you know that we have LOVED reading and reviewing books for you these three years.  And we hope you've found books that you've loved in that time.  It's always been our goal to recommend books we adored and books that were near and dear to our hearts.

That being said, we're keeping the site up, because who knows?  Maybe one day we'll come back.  And, we don't want to get rid of the stuff we've done these three years.  We just can't continue for now.

So until next time, readers.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Bunnicula (and some sequels) by James Howe

Bunnicula was one of the books that I loved reading as a kid.  It had some mystery and interesting characters, but was just this side of ridiculous (I mean, come on, a vampire bunny who sucks the juice out of all the veggies?)  I like the dynamic between all of the characters, how one dog was simultaneously smart (he's writing books after all!) and yet didn't really like to concern himself with much more than sleeping and eating.

I like how the Bunnicula never talks, even though all the other animals are very verbose, but yet we always seem to know what he's feeling.  He has a very prominent role for a character that never talks.

Inevitably, the books end up being more about Chester (the cat) and Harold (the dog) then Bunnicula, so Bunnicula Strikes Again was a nice change because it focused on the bunny and his past a little more than we had seen before.  But, inevitably, it was the same animals up to the same antics.

Monday, August 24, 2015


If you've been following our twitter (or our Facebook page), you might have noticed that I took a little trip!  And since I had nine relaxing days away from work, I decided to read nine books while I was away.

I'm only going to review seven of them today (you're going to have to wait until the end of the week when Alex and I do Bunnicula books), but I'm going to review the rest of them right here, right now, including TWO books that aren't out yet!!

Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld (Release date 9/29/15)

Really, did you expect a Westerfeld book to be bad?  Well, if you're waiting for one, this isn't it.  You have dynamic characters, who grow not only in their characters but in their powers too.  And you know what?  They pushed the envelope on what we think super heroes are.  We think of people with powers as either good or evil, but these kids?  They could really go either way.  And that's kind of what I love about this book.  At the end of the day, they're still just people.

Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman

This is one of Shusterman's earlier ones and, honestly, I was a little weary.  I had read Downsiders and had been a little disappointed, so I wasn't sure how I would feel.  the Unwind distology is a high bar to set, and some of his other writings hasn't met it.  However, Full Tilt isn't in that category.  It was gritty and in your face and really made you think about life.  It was this nice middle ground between Goosebumps and Fear Street.  Scary, but not so scary you had to put the book down.

The Lightning Thief Graphic Novel (Percy Jackson #1) by Rick Riordan

What is there to say about Percy Jackson that hasn't already been said?  Do I love him?  Of course I do.  Percy Jackson is one of my go to book series.  And, if your kid isn't big on the reading, I might direct you towards the Percy Jackson GNs.  Graphic Novels are great things, and I think they fill a certain niche.  But at the end of the day, this just doesn't even hold a candle to how good the first book was.

Poison by Sarah Pinborough

This one was the only real wildcard in my books this month.  All the other books were either ones I'd read before or by authors I adore.  Pinborough was the only author I knew nothing about, and really didn't know much about her books other than they were retellings of fairy tales.  But I like fairtale redos and the covers on her books look beautiful if nothing else (plus, I got them fairly cheap during employee appreciation.)

However, it was the biggest disappointment this week.  Really, Poison just ended up being the same old Snow White story we always knew, with a twist ending.  The only problem was that twist, wasn't really good enough to make up for the rest of the book.  Her writing was mediocre so, really, the book ends up just being something to look pretty on my shelf.

Sold by Patricia McCormack

I have found I have a love hate relationship with McCormack's book.  Some are AMAZING, some are... eh.  Some I think the topics are important, I think the execution just is a little wanky.  Sold I think falls into the last category.  It most definitely gets better as it goes along, but the beginning of it was just really slow and hard to get through (and not in the 'this is so terrible it's hard to read' kind of way.  In the 'this is kind of boring; please get to the story' kind of way.)  But once our main character had entered the brothel and we saw her deal with her life, her reality, and learn to make friends and negotiate her situation, I think that's where the real story came out.  So, good book, but one that you had to stick with to get there.

Rumble by Ellen Hopkins

I actually expected more out of this book.  That's not to say that I didn't like it, because I did.  I think I've just gotten used to the shock factor in her books and this wasn't one of those books.  BUT I will say that I really did like her approach to the ideas of religion and there being a God.  The main character of our book is an atheist, and there are varying degrees of religious belief all around him, from his overtly christian girlfriend, to his mildly religious aunt, who believes in a creator, but doesn't push it.  As usual, Hopkins hits those topics that people are afraid to talk about, like the idea of a creator, and how people believe, and THAT is what I liked about this book.

Another Day by David Levithan ( Release Date 8/25/15)

When I saw this sitting on the break room table just two days after David Levithan had posted a picture of the cover, words can not describe the excitement I felt.  Seriously, I was jumping up and down in our break room, I was so stoked (we hardly ever get ARCs that I TRULY want to read.)  And this book was every word as good as I thought that it would be.

Levithan really pushes the bounds of sexuality for us, really making us rethink what is male and female, gay, straight, does it even matter, if we're in love?  And I like that it's not a straight forward answer either.  A has been like that his whole life, but it's much harder for Rhiannon to get past the conventions.  Either way, Levithan construction a most wonderful love story that pulls at our heart strings.  I've been waiting for this book for years, and I was not disappointed for a moment.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Review me Twice - Butter by Erin Jade Lange

To be honest with you, I thought this book was going to be about anorexia, not about an overweight kid, but that's just because I didn't read the blurb on the back (I hardly ever do the weeks that Alex picks.  I like to be surprised.)

But to be honest, I think obesity, and how it effects the KID, should be addressed.  We're so concerned with kids and their weight and the health issues associated with it, we're not thinking about the kid, and what's going on with them, and how their being treated and if they're depressed and that maybe, just maybe, their obesity isn't just because they like to eat.

I think Lange does a good job of addressing the issue and really making a point, showing you the problems obese kids face, and showing you that they are people, just like everyone else.  Like most problem novels, she shows us something that we've known all along; kids are cruel.  Fall in with the wrong set of them, and they're only going to make your life worse.

I like the ending because while it does have a little bit of the "everything wrapped in a neat bow" ending, it also has a log of the "things are really still screwed up and not fixed."

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Coming to a Barnes & Noble near you

If you happen to be living in a bubble, you may not have heard that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is coming out with a new book on Tuesday, called Go Set a Watchman.

Barnes & Noble is doing a read-a-thon tomorrow, and if you walk into any Barnes & Noble between open and close, you can listen to someone reading To Kill a Mockingbird.

So my Customer Relations Manager and I thought up and AWESOME plan where I visit four B&Ns and read at their read-a-thons!

To be fair, I AM driving home from NY, so I was making this trip anyway, but it's still cool.  So below are the B&Ns I'm visiting with the (VERY) rough estimated times I will be there.

Moorestown, NJ (Between 12-1)
Christiana Mall (Between 3-4)
Belair, MD (Between 6-7)
Tyson's Corner, VA (Around 8-9)

If you can't see me at any of these places, you can follow my adventures on Twitter, @reviewmetwice.  Also, if you see me, take a picture!  #GoWatchaBookseller

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review Me Twice: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

It took me ages to finally pick up this book. (And that, combined with the fact that I left it in my office overnight too many times, is why I didn't QUITE finish it on time, so I can't speak to the ending of the book.) But I'm glad I finally did start it, because it was a lot better than I expected.

I expected your average silly teenage girl who is entirely focused on the little things at school but then realizes there's something "so much bigger" out there, and she's required to be "the one" to fix it. What I got was a girl who already knew about the "so much bigger" (although not all of it) and plays a very delicate balancing game in order to maintain both a "normal" life where she gets to think about grades and boys, and her supernaturally-related life where she has obligations and real consequences. Then everything gets turned upside down and she chooses to do something about it.

Although I do have to admit... when the seraph gets involved, she turns into a simpering, lovesick girl (even when she thinks she hates him, so I'm not even spoiling anything for you... right off the bat, it's like "oh you're so my enemy but damn you fine").

That doesn't bother me too much, but the really heavily laid-on-thick "who are you" question bothers me quite a bit. From the very beginning, Karou's origins and history are an enormous mystery. You can't just have a new character announce in the middle of the book that he figured out the secret and then lead me on for at least several more chapters (I haven't gotten to where - if anywhere - in this book he tells the big secret). Yes, I like mystery and secrets that don't get revealed for a long time, but not if you draw that much attention to them. It's too blatant.

Beyond that, though, this is a very well-written book, and I would recommend it to most.

This book was recommended to me by my YA bookclub librarian... about four times.  And then I FINALLY picked the first one up and read it.

Really, I had put it off too long.  Karou is a very independent, do what she will, refuses to just take her punches and lie down kind of girl.  Even though she loves her adopted family to death, and knows nothing about her past, and has been told to just stop asking so many damned questions.... she never stops asking questions.

Ultimately, it gets her in some trouble, as questions are wont to do, but she doesn't even let THAT stop her.  She seeks out solutions, answers, is determined to know what is going on and WHY it's going on, and won't let creepy old guys or dangerous situations stand in her way.

I will give you that the romance is a little... OF COURSE she falls in love with the super hot guy, but to her credit, she did beat the crap out of the super hot guy first, so there's that.  Karou is incredibly loyal and I like that about her.

I like that the mystery of her past was drawn out and I like that the book was left at a cliff hanger, (much in the same way that Ashes by Ilsa Black was).  It makes you want to read the next one.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Review Me Twice: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

For the first 1/6 or so of this book, I was really interested, totally on board, ready to hear more. For the next 4/6 (or 2/3 if you prefer), I was irritated with Piper for being... I'm not entirely sure what. She didn't seem to be connecting with her situation very well. Granted, she admits that she was very lucky to have high-end legal representation, and people on the outside with far more resources than the loved ones her fellow prisoners had outside, but it doesn't really seem to sink in for her. Until, of course, the last 1/6, where I felt like some kind of redemption happened. She really got it.

I think that maybe if this had been written during Piper's time in prison, instead of after it, the whole book would have a very different tone. She was lucky; she didn't experience any immense hardships or abuse during her year in prison.

Certainly, I learned things from this book. I would love it if more prisoners wrote similar memoirs about their time inside, to present a wide spectrum of experiences and viewpoints. I also appreciated the list of organizations and contacts at the end of the book that address different ways of helping prisoners and their families (my favorite is "Book 'Em," which is Pennsylvania-based and provides books to prisoners and prison libraries).

I wouldn't run around telling everyone I see to read this book, but it is quite good, and if someone asked me about it, I'd say that yes, they should read it.

For a book that's as famous as this one is, and that's been a bestseller for as long as this one has (seriously forever.  It's still sitting on the bestseller list.  I'd say it's been at least a year.) I was expecting a little more out of it.

It took me awhile to get into the book, and then it took even longer to figure out why she had written it.  Thank goodness it's not that long of a book.

However, I admit I grew very attached to the characters, to these women that she spent a year plus with, that she shared some of her most intimate experiances with.  You found yourself rooting for these women in a way you never really thought pssibly and seeing these "criminals" in a whole new light.  Have they done things wrong in their lives, sure, but about half of them would be better suited to a true rehabilitation program.  Or better yet, a program that helps them get jobs and housing and gives them ways to stay off the streets so they didn't have to sell drugs and land themselves there in the first place.

I will admit that the book sheds a harsh light on the growing problem of our prison system.  Kerman's prison had a litany of its own problems and, compared to what she had to deal with when she went to high security prisons in Oklahoma and Chicago, it really wasn't bad in comparisson.  The book showed how much money is wasted on prisons instead of maybe putting it toards our school.  That we incarcerating instead of teaching.

It was an enjoyable book, that I'm glad I read, mainly because I think it's a good idea to read the books that everyone has read, be they good or bad.  But it has been added to my "to be donated" pile.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Based on"

I'm all for artistic license when it comes to adapting books to film, video games to film, film to book, film to video game, real life to book... whatever. But sometimes it doesn't seem like anything from the original (the adapted-from) remains in the new version (the adapted-to).

Image result for i am legend movie poster

If you're a long-time reader of RMT, you know that, while I enjoyed both the book and the movie of I Am Legend, I recognize that basically nothing other than the main character's name and his general circumstances remained the same between the two. (If you don't like the dog part of the movie, go read the book. No, really. Do it. Trust me.)

I've never read nor seen this one, yet I have been told the ending of both, and I know that they are essentially polar opposites. This is an example of the kind of change I'm fine with: one major piece that they thought played better on film in a way that was different from the way it played in print. It's a choice the screenplay writer, director, producers, etc. have to make; sometimes it pays off, and sometimes it backfires.

Speaking of making hard choices that change the screen version drastically from the print version... I recently (last night) started reading Game of Thrones again. (You may recall that I didn't make it too far last time I tried.) Before, I hadn't watched a single second of the show when I tried to read it. Now, I keep gasping because I think I found some huge thing (I keep mixing up all the dead Targaryens who were kings and princes and whatnot, and I realized only after seeing it in print that Ser Ilyn Payne is actually related to Podrick, even though it's just as distant cousins). Most viewers know that by now, the little changes here and there in past seasons have added up, leading to bigger and bigger changes. This is an example of an adaptation that is drastic, but I still think it's great. I've been warned that there are long swathes of these books that are... Lord of the Rings - like. You know what I mean: long walks, followed by more walking, and some walking interspersed with walking. HBO wouldn't be able to sell that. Or the hundreds more characters the books seem to have by this point. At any rate, you know the ending to the show will be different from the ending to the books, which is good, because can you imagine how pissed the readers would be if the show told them the end before they could read it?!?

All of this brings me to why I brought this up this week:

I know it must be difficult to adapt an autobiography to fiction... and comedy, at that. Especially when the subject is so... non-comedic. Piper Kerman wrote a fairly serious book about her experiences during a year in prison. Someone at Netflix thought that would make the perfect basis for a comedy series. I read the book first, then tried to start watching the show. I made it three minutes. The tone is all wrong, the scenes that are similar to the book are just weird because they're so displaced... I don't know, maybe I have to see a whole episode, or maybe something other than the first episode, but I feel like just making a totally separate prison comedy would have been a better idea. But making the show "based on" her book means Piper Kerman is famous now, and a lot more people have read her book, so I guess that's a good thing.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Author Bio - Piper Kerman

This will be our last author bio for awhile (and it's the last of our Memoir books!)  We're now going to be posting reviews monthly, so the usual stuff we do during the week won't happen until the week that we review the book.

And since we're doing a memoir, I don't want to give too much away about Kerman.  She grew up in Boston, into a family of doctors and lawyers.  She had a short stint in prison, for a ten year old crime, which is what our book this week, Orange is the New Black, is about.

She currently will talk to many criminology students and law students, along with serving on the board of the Woman's Prison Association.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Where's The Review?

I know that most of you are expecting a review right now because, well, Alex and I have been reviewing books for close to three years now.  We have some GREAT followers and readers and read some great books over those years (and even some not so great books.)

The only photo of Alex and I that wasn't from 2008
(and also illustrates what an awesome friend she is because 
she's helping me get my veil off.)

But, when Alex and I started this blog we both had a lot less going on in our lives.  Now we have jobs  (which I was lacking when we started) and we have husbands (which we were both lacking when we started) and a million things going on, so the blog is going to go through a little bit of a change.

Does this mean the blog is disappearing?  NOT AT ALL!  Alex and I will still be around, telling you about our favorite books.  We're just going to be shaving it down to about once a month, instead of once a week.

We're still going to all the great things the week of the review we've always done (author bios, favorites, little tidbits of info from both of us), but our lives have gotten to the point we can't do it weekly anymore, just the last week of the month.

But that doesn't mean you should totally tune us out!  We still want to share great books, and great writing events with you and even want to still give you things in the future.  Even though we will only be posting a REVIEW once a month, Alex and I are going to be sporadically posting throughout the month about books that we really love and you might even start seeing some new faces around here.

So stick around and we'll keep bringing you books.

Like this one!  Next week is the last week of the month, so keep and eye out for our review!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Favorite World War II Book

I hardly even had to think about what book to choose for this.  And I've only talked about The Book Thief about a million and one times.  The book is beautiful and wonderful and makes me sob like a baby every time.  It has one of the best friendships in it of all time between Rudy and Lisel.  And the best part is the narration.  Zusak has Death narrating the whole book, which gives it that extra poignancy.

Honestly, I really just like Zusak's writing (he has this way of ending his books so everything just comes together in the best, most perfect fashion), but this book just really is beautiful and it's because, despite all the horrors going on in the world, despite everything happening, there is so much love in this book, so much friendship, so much devotion, it just makes your heart ache.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Author Bio - Laura Hillenbrand

This week we're reading Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, which is technically a biography, not a memoir, but it was a book that had been only TBR pile for way to long, and this was really the only month that it made any sort of sense.

But on the flip side, that means I can tell you a little more about Hillebrand without spoiling the book.

Hillenbrand has two books to her repertoire, Seabiscuit and Unbroken, both of which have been made into movies.  They've also both been best sellers, so whatever she's doing as a non-fiction writer, she should keep it up because it's obviously working out really well for her.  The two books combined have sold over 10 million copies. (I feel like now is where I insert a statistic of "that's enough to circle the earth ten times!" but I don't actually have such a statistic.  I'm sure someone could figure it out though.)

Hillenbrand was born in Fairfax, VA (which, I want to point out, is pretty much near where I live.  So that's awesome.) and was the youngest of four kids.  She went to college in Ohio, but ended up dropping out due to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, something she still suffers from.

Currently she lives in Washnington, D.C., keeping much of the time to her home due to her condition.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Review Me Twice - The Man Who Couldn't Stop: OCD and the True Story of a Life Lost in Thought by David Adam

One of the best things about this blog, I think, is that it has expanded my non-fiction horizons SO MUCH.  As in, I used to never read non-fiction and now I pick up a lot of it.  OCD is one of those things that, in reality, I don't know a lot about.  There are a lot of stereotypes surrounding it, one being that OCD means insane cleaning.

But I think the best thing about Adam's book is that he showed his reader that OCD isn't about being clean.  It's about something small, something negligent in our lives, becoming something all-consuming in his.  For him it was AIDS.  He would obsess about ways that he might contract the AIDS virus, and the ways he thought he could were insane, but that didn't stop him from thinking about it over and over, from it stopping him from living his life.

I like the fact that it was written more like a biography than like a "let me tell you about OCD" book.  I mean, he did tell me about OCD, but by telling HIS story, Adam's made it so much easier to really learn about the disease, to get that it's not just this weird things where you wash your hands to much, and I think that was really great.  If you're making a list of non-fiction this year, pick this one up.

Saturday, May 9, 2015


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Friday, May 8, 2015

Review Me Twice: Hack by Melissa Plaut

I really enjoyed this book. I like autobiographies and memoirs because it's like having someone tell you stories over drinks (if it's written well). I can picture Melissa Plaut sitting at a table with me, starting each chapter of this book with, "Oh that reminds me of the time..." or "You wouldn't believe this one thing that happened..."

To be entirely honest, I never thought much about what it's like to be a New York cab driver, because I've only ever met two of them (LaGuardia to my hotel and the return trip when I went to New York Comic Con last October). They were both really nice and I made sure to tip well, and the guy who took me back to the airport showed me the UN building on the way... beyond that, it's not something I've ever dealt with. So not only was this book interesting and funny, but it showed me something new that I hadn't thought about before.

I also feel very much like Melissa Plaut is a real person. You know how sometimes, someone writes from their own point of view and you can just tell that they're molding the story to make themselves sound a certain way (be it more moral or smarter or in the right all the time)? I didn't get that from this book. Even in stories where Plaut clearly feels that she was right, she seems to realize that the reader may disagree. It's like having a friend tell you about a traffic incident they were in, and you may know they did something stupid, but it doesn't matter. I hope that makes sense.

One thing I really didn't expect from this book was to feel emotional connections with some of the other people (it feels weird to refer to them as "characters" because they're real people out in the world somewhere). I want to give meet Helen and give her a hug. I want to hear some of Allie's stories about her own job and life. I want to avoid some of the guys from the garage, or hang out with some of the others.

I picked this book up at this huge discount bookfair that I go to about once a year.  It's about an hour and a half from my house, but I never walk out with less than like four books (and usually more towards ten), and it's always worth it.

I paid a big four dollars for Hack, picked up on the recommendation of a friend.  And oh, what a great one it was.  Hack is surprising for a number of reasons.  One, you wouldn't think driving a taxi would be all that entertaining, but the amount of people that you meet doing the job is unprecedented.

Two, I LOVE the picture that it paints of NYC.  NYC is one that, sometimes, gets such a bad rap, when really, it's such an amazing city.  And I love that there were so many stories, so many experiences in her book that show what a GREAT place it is.  At one point, she talked about the Public Transit strike and this mood the city got, this comradery, that you can only get in NYC, but when you get it (and it's rare), man is it unlike anything you've ever felt.  There are some experiences, I feel that can only happen in New York City.

The part that surprised me the most those was the kind of stress this job takes on you.  I mean, she got to the point that she was angry ALL THE TIME.  It would seep into her very bones, into her being, and the hair trigger of her job was seeping into her very life.  Cabbies are the bottom of the barrel, the lowest of the low in NYC, for no real reason.  So they get hassled the most, and targeted by cops the most, and looked down on by customers the most and really just take the most amount of crap.  Eventually, it all just kind of builds up and explodes.

It's a great memoir and really well written and one you can breeze through pretty easily.  It's really a lesser known book, so I really like to let people know about it as much as possible when I can.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Favorite Blogs into Books

Technically my favorite blog into a book is a Tumblr into a book, but I feel like it's all counts.  Internet media into a book.

Alex and I reviewed this book quite some time ago (about two years ago, actually!), and really, there's nothing I don't love about it.  Mostly because, as someone who now works in a bookstore, I can relate to pretty much every single thing that goes on in this book.  I have worked retail for a large portion of my life, and the way that people act towards you when you work retail is... well actually kind of insane.

That's not to say that it's all bad, and that's what I like about Campbell's book.  It's not a whole book about all these terrible things that happened and all these terrible customers she's had.  But it's certainly a book that makes you question what people are thinking sometimes.

She still keeps up the tumblr here, but it's more a promotional type space than a recording of crazy things customers say.

My favorite blog-to-book is also one that we've read here on our blog:

Allie Brosh's Hyperbole and a Half. I love her humor, her drawings, and her stories, which makes an excellent combination. She has slowed down a lot with posting to the blog lately, but the internet explodes a little every time she does post, which is pretty cool.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Blog to Book

There are a lot of books that started out as just humble little blogs.  Our book this week, Hack by Melissa Plaut is one of them.  She started her blog (, where she documented all of her stories in her cab.  Eventually, culminating them into a book.

So what makes a blog good enough to transition into a book?  Well, as much as Alex and I love our blog, it would be a terrible book transition.  We, for one, talk a ton about other books, so the copyright laws would be a nightmare to get around, and, let's face it, while there are some quirky fun things in here, and our reviews are (we like to believe) original, for the most part, our material is a lot of informational stuff we get from other places on the internets.  We frequently (and loudly because we don't want people to sue us) proclaim that we pull our information from places like Wikipedia and the authors pages and the like.

However, Hyperbole and a Half, which we reviewed awhile back, transitioned very well into a book.  Not only does was it original in the sense that it was taking from her every day experiences, it was also original in the sense that she was using a lot of poorly drawn web comics to get her point across about some very serious topics.  It's probably why not only was her blog hugely popular, but so was her book.

What If?, the book we reviewed just last month, is another one that transitioned well.  Though not a true blog to book, it was based off of Randall's web comic xkcd.

The key seems to be originality.  A lot of the blog to book authors are talking about their lives, or putting their everyday lives down in the blogs.  Their every day lives also happen to usually be pretty interesting.

Don't forget to enter our contest!!

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Author Bio: Melissa Plaut

Welcome to May, the month of memoirs and biographies here at Review Me Twice! This month will make the Monday posts a little bit tricky, since telling the story of the author is basically the same as summarizing the books, since that's the idea of memoirs and biographies.


Our first author of the month is Melissa Plaut, who wrote a book called Hack, about her choice to start driving a yellow cab in New York. And that's just about everything I'm going to tell you, because you'll hear more about her interesting life come Friday when we review the book!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Win a SIGNED copy of The Rithmatist

So Alex and I fully realize that we have been super busy and, maybe, just maybe, slacking a little as bloggers.  We are human and both are married with full times jobs.  I know; crazy.

But, we want you to know that we appreciate you guys for sticking around these past couple of months and want to do something to welcome new readers, so we're giving away a signed copy of The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson!

I know!  It's because we love you guys so much and want you to know it!  So, now the rules!

-You can do each thing once per day (So you can retweet us, share us on FB, comment, etc., once a day.)

-As much as I hate to say this, you must live in the contiguous US, as per usual, because unfortunately, neither Alex, nor I, have won the lottery or inherited a large amount of money since the last time we had a contest, so we STILL don't have the money to sent it outside the contiguous US.


-And it ends on Saturday, May 9, 2015 at 11:59 PM  We'll announce the winner on Sunday.

-Winner must provide us with a valid US address within one week of winning the prize.  If the winner does not claim the prize, we will pick another winner and the same rules apply.  If BOTH winners do not claim it, we can do with the book as we please.

-The prize will be mailed via USPS, no signature required, with a tracking number.  The number will be emailed to the winner the day that it has been mailed.  Alex and I are not responsible for delivery errors made by the USPS.

-All the rules/regulations/whatever else you can think of as a loophole are up to Alex and I.

If there are any questions or comments, just let us know.  Otherwise, we'll be giving it away in ONE WEEK!  Good Luck!

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Friday, May 1, 2015

Review Me Twice - 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

When I was listening to the introduction of this book, Clarke said that he wanted to write a book that would still be plausible when 2001 came around.  He didn't want the book to seem dated as the years went on.  And, other than the fact that he was referring to Russia as the USSR (and really, who could have predicted that), I'd have to say he did a pretty good job of that.

There's a lot in the book that is futuristic, but no so out there that it's unfamiliar to me as a reader.  Sure, we haven't been to Saturn, but the fact that they're getting there by rocket power makes it seem like it's something that we COULD do soon.

However, you know I'm all about endings and I felt this book left more questions unanswered than it answered them.  The book just kind of... ended in a way that made me feel like it was ending mid sentence.  I realize that there are sequels to the book, and maybe I need those to get some sort of satisfaction, but usually even when it's a series, there's SOME sort of ending to the book, and I just didn't feel like this had it.  I didn't feel that by picking up the next book, I was going to get the answers I was looking for.

In terms of the sci-fi books this month, I'd say this was the biggest disappointment.

I didn't like the movie, but I recognized that Kubrick tends to have a... let's call it a "unique interpretation." (I haven't read all of The Shining but I know it's different from the movie.) So I knew I should read the book separately.

I didn't like the book either. I don't know if I just couldn't force my brain to forget about the movie, or if I wouldn't have liked it in the opposite order, but it just didn't grab me.

One thing I did like is the same thing Cassy mentioned: continuing plausibility. For the most part, Clarke made good predictions based on at-the-time current knowledge.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Favorite Sci-Fi Prediction

Science-fiction writers make lots of predictions when they set their stories in the future. I love that we live in a time that is "the future" for a lot of great science-fiction, because we can see whether their predictions came true. The really mind-blowing part is that some of them DID!

I chose Ray Bradbury's imagery of "seashells" in Guy Montag's wife's ears because it took me forever to realize that they were something that existed when I was reading the book. My GameBoy came with the best pair of earbuds I've ever owned (hey Apple, take a page out of Nintendo's book on that one, they were seriously amazing... oh wait, I mean ARE because they still work great two decades later) and I didn't notice at first that that was exactly what Ray Bradbury was talking about when he wrote, "And in her ears the little Seashells, the thimble radios tamped tight, and an electronic ocean of sound." More importantly, he nailed the fact that having earbuds delivering your electronic audio media of choice whenever you want would make people... distant. Montag's wife is so absorbed by digital media (her Seashells or the wall screens she nags him about) that she's hardly even aware of her own husband's existence. Today, some people are so absorbed by whatever's on their phones or iPods or what-have-you, they don't notice the world around them. This was actually a pretty big theme of Bradbury's (he wasn't a huge fan of technology).

Mine actually came from our book this week, 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Clark talks about a electronic pad that has all the world news at just a drop of a hat, any newspaper you could possible want in an instant, eliminating the need for paper any longer.  Sound familiar?

I would wager that just about all you readers own one of these.  And what do you do with it?  Oh yea, you browse the internet where you have all the world's news articles at the touch of a button without wasting paper.  It's amazing how accurately Clark predicted we would be getting our information, considering he wrote the book in the 1960s.

"One by one he would conjure up the world's major electronic papers... Switching to the display unit's short-term memory, he would hold the front page while he quickly searched the headlines and noted the items that interested him."

Monday, April 27, 2015

Author Bio: Arthur C Clarke

The author of this week's review book, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is Arthur C. Clarke.

Yeah, that's the guy.

He lived from 1917 to 2008, and wrote science fiction. His most famous work was 2001, which was actually the first of a series (the others were 2010: Odyssey Two, 2061: Odyssey Three, and 3001: The Final Odyssey).

His writing helped popularize the ideas of space travel and futurism (he made lots of technology and science based predictions in his writing, as tends to happen in science fiction works set in the future).

Friday, April 24, 2015

Review Me Twice - Dune by Frank Herbert

I just wanted everyone to share in the awesome
1970s cover that I was experiencing.

I'm not sure if you know this, but Dune is a freakin' long novel.  Seriously guys.  I've been hardcore reading it for two weeks now and I'm still only about a little over halfway through it, which is INSANE.

But you know what?  I'm probably going to continue to diligently read it and finish it up as soon as I can.  I want to know what happens.  I am really invested in these characters and their lives and what's going to happen to them.

Not to mention the world building in this novel is insane!  This is Tolkien level of world building, complete with its own religions and legends and languages and solar systems.  HERBERT CREATED A WHOLE NEW SOLAR SYSTEM FOR THIS FREAKIN' BOOK!  It's really impressive.

So far, it's the book I've been most impressed with during our month of sci-fi, which I wasn't so sure was going to be the case.  Dune is a classic that gets a lot of hype and, often, the books don't live up to that hype.  So far, Dune completely does.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Fiction is Leaking into the Real World

I could write on this topic for at least two dozen famous books and series (off the top of my head, I'm thinking of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, Star Wars, and many DC and Marvel comics), but I think this one is particularly fun because it extends beyond Earth.

Dune is a huge series. Sure, this week, we're only reading the first novel. (Which is huge enough as it is.) But there are many other books, short stories, and don't forget the movies. Since it's set on a fictional planet, and lots of other fictional planets, you can imagine that the world gets pretty big.

Here's a list of the planets in the Dune universe (the Duniverse, if you will).

Go on, go read it. It's from Wikipedia. Check out the fact that a lot of those planets have information about real-life things in space that are named after them! Like Arrakis (the primary planet in the story) being the name given to a plain on Saturn's moon, Titan.

I'd like to think that if Frank Herbert were still alive, he would think that's pretty darn cool.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Favorite Mythical character

Have we done this before?  Maybe, but I figure you'll forgive us if we have because, with our book this week, it's immensely relevant.  In Dune, there are these huge sandworms that are attracted to the spice (basically the biggest major investment in this book) and then they come and eat you.  So I figured this would be a good week to know about some mythical beings.

Hyrda is one of the coolest, most bad-ass mythical beings ever.  I mean, not only does the thing have 100 heads, but it JUST KEEPS GROWING THEM.  You just can't seem to kill the stupid thing hno matter how hard you try.  A blow tot he heart is the only way that you're going to get rid of it.

Hyra has also had some cool pop culture references, most recently on the Captain America movie.  Hydra was a specialty branch of the Nazis, a secret society meant to bred the best of the best, to take over the world.  It's a potent symbol, the idea that you can kill as many agents as you like, but Hydra will still always be there, persuing their mission.

Phoenix, hands-down. It has been over-used a bit in pop culture, but it's still pretty amazing. Plus, it was my school's mascot when I was in sixth grade. And Fawkes is awesome. A phoenix bursts into flames periodically and is reborn from its own ashes. If that isn't one bad-ass mythological creature, I don't know what is.

My favorite thing about the phoenix is that it's immortal, but not in the way most immortal creatures are. It gets to keep living a full life over and over, instead of being stuck as an adult forever. That's the way I would want to be immortal, I think. Fresh start every century or so. Phoenixes have got it figured out.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Author Bio: Frank Herbert

Frank Herbert - 1984.jpg

Frank Herbert (1920-1986) was best known for the Dune series, and we're reading the first book of that series (appropriately titled Dune) this week. That book is the best-selling sci-fi book in history, and is unquestionably one of the classics of sci-fi, so Herbert is kind of a big deal.

He's from Washington, but had a bad home life and ran away to live with family in Salem, Oregon. His first job was at a newspaper. He served in the Navy as a photographer during WWII, then went to University of Washington and did all sorts of writing, but he only took classes that interested him, so he never finished an actual degree.

Dune - along with Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, published a few years before it - helped turn sci-fi into a literary genre. Before that, all you really needed for a successful sci-fi story was a good technological idea; it didn't matter if you wrote a good story alongside it.

I always think it's interesting to see what an author thought of film adaptations of their greatest works, so I'm pleased to share that Herbert was overall pretty happy with the movie Dune (1984). There was also a TV series adaptation in 2000 but that was 14 years after Herbert's death, so I don't know what he might have thought of it. Since his death, Herbert's son Brian has added a few more books to the series using Herbert's old notes.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Review me Twice - Raptor Red by Robert T. Baker

Alex always seems to pick interesting books for us, and I was excited to see what she was going to for sci-fi month.  I had never even heard of this book (though, apparently it's kind of a big deal.)  I don't read a lot of dinosaur literature because, frankly, there's just not a lot out there.  I've read Jurassic Park and The Lost World and that's pretty much where it ends.

Raptor Red is a different beast entirely.  It's very much one of those non-fiction novel type books.  The book itself is based in fact.  Bakker has done a ton of research on these animals and the book is probably a pretty accurate portrayal of what life was like for a Utahraptor.  But we can't ever actually know for sure.  It's all a big educated guess, so it sets it very firmly in the fiction section of the library.

The book was well executed and interesting to read.  I feel like I learned a lot about dinosaurs without feeling like I LEARNED, laboriously, about dinosaurs.  But, as interesting and fun as it was.... it was still a book about dinosaurs, that were meant to BE dinos, not humanized characters.  So I found myself growing kind of bored at times because I couldn't really connect with the characters.  There are parts that I should have been sad and I just kind of wasn't.

I'm glad I picked it up, but I won't ever read it again.

Everything Cassy said, exactly. I can't really identify with a dinosaur (or any character, even) whose entire purpose is surviving and mating. So while everything was interesting and informative and definitely unique - I've never read another book like this - I didn't feel very invested in the protagonist. Although, I did feel more invested than I would have been in the hands of a less skilled writer, so that's something.

I love when fiction like this is heavily anchored in fact, but there's one very easy trap to fall into. I first noticed it in the Earth's Children series by Jean M. Auel... the author seems to want to make sure they put every bit of their research to good use in the writing. So even if it doesn't really matter exactly what that plant she stepped on is good for, we're going to hear about it. Possibly for a paragraph, or a page. Bakker's execution of this seems more natural, so it's not nearly as much of a problem. For example, one chapter begins with saying the raptor doesn't want to bed down in moist earth, and no raptors do, because they evolved in a dry climate and too much moisture encourages fungal growth which is bad for them. Interesting, related to the plot in the sense that this is the reason she doesn't want to sleep in the mud, and possibly a little more info than we strictly needed, but then we move on to bigger and better things. I think the difference is probably that dinos were Bakker's first thing, then writing, whereas Auel started with writing and then started the research on primitive humans. Either way, it's not a deterrent for this book; I just thought it was interesting to note.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Non-Verbal Characters

I love a good non-verbal character. Not being able to have your character say something seems like a disadvantage, but really, it opens up a lot of other possibilities.

Take this week's review book, for example. Our protagonist is a Utahraptor. Bakker did not create a world where dinosaurs magically have the ability to talk like humans. Instead, he uses other mechanisms to describe what she is thinking and doing and communicating. Some of these methods are better than others. A clunky example is when he says, "If she could speak like a human, she would say..." A much better example is, "She knows her mate is smart. She trusts that he knows what she knows."

You can also describe non-verbal types of communication, like body language (posture, gestures, gaze, facial expressions, etc.) or narrate their internal monologue.

It's easier to work with non-verbal characters in visual media (like graphic novels, movies, and video games) because you don't have to spend a lot of time describing how they're standing or what their face looks like; you can just show it. I'm quite fond of Chell from the Portal games, because she's non-verbal but still has personality (although it's in a way that you can still project yourself onto her... she's a well-done everyman character). Side note: I learned the other day that Blink from X-Men: Days of Future Past has no verbal lines as a little nod toward Chell (since Blink also uses portals).

Who's your favorite non-verbal character? How do they express themselves best?

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Favorite Dinosaur

This week, we're going to deviate a little from literature-related favorites to talk dinosaurs.

I know the velociraptors in the Jurassic Park movies are inaccurately portrayed. And I don't care, because they're REALLY COOL. They should be smaller, and feathered, or called Utahraptors, but I love them just the way they are.

They're so smart. They hunt in packs. They communicate with audible language. They're fast (see the name "velociraptor"). They're terrifying. They're an excellent way to judge the safety of any place you find yourself. Perhaps the best part is, they're humanized in the third movie (with the whole stolen egg ordeal).

If they weren't so deadly, I'd want to hang out with these dinosaurs. Because they're the cool kids of Jurassic Park.

Close runners-up for me: gallimimus (who doesn't love a dinosaur whose name means "chicken mimic"?) and the pteranodons (flying dudes in JP3) and parasauralophus (the ones with the swoosh thing on their heads that get chased down by the hunters with the horribly designed Jeeps in JP3) because they look pretty awesome too. I know, they all come from Jurassic Park 3. But Spielberg does amazing work; what can I say?

I love the brontosaurus.  He's big and bad ass and, let's face it, there were very few herbivores that put up any sort of fight.  The fact that they could take on pretty much everything thing (really, only T-Rex and Utahraptors gave them any real competition, and not even very often) just makes them that much cooler in my book.

Now I know what you're going to say.  "Cassy, there is no brontosaurus; they're all the apatosaurus."

Not true!  Earlier this year, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History discovered that the huge set of bones that they said WASN'T a brontosaurus? Turns out, it actually was.  The bones are a different branch of the apatosaurus line, a dino all their own.  So, just like Pluto, looks like the bronto is back.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dinosaur Books

Dinosaur books isn't exactly a book topic you come across everyday, and it's a fairly small genre, let's face it, but there are some really great ones out there.  And, since Alex decided to introduce me to one of them this week, I'm going to introduce you to a few more of my favorites.

It wouldn't be a list of dinosaur books if I didn't include Jurassic Park and The Lost World by Michael Crichton.  They're the first ones anyone thinks of (mainly because of the movies) and there's a good reason they've become literature staples.  They're intense and interesting and exciting and just plain fun to read.

Tea Rex by Molly Idle is one I actually came across just recently at my job.  It's a children's picture book about a T-Rex coming to a tea party and the proper manners you should have when having a dinosaur at your house.  It's an adorable book and incredibly well illustrated and, I think, subtly teaches something like manners without beating the kid over the head with it.  Since the book is being so silly about the whole thing, the kid reading it doesn't feel like they're being talked down to.  They just think it's a funny book about dinosaurs.

You can't have dinosaurs without a little bit of humor somewhere.  All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen is a short little picture book that starts out with a dinosaur saying "All my friends are dead" and the second page has a picture of an old person saying, "Most of my friends are dead."  You can guess where it goes from there.

Those are just a few of the dinosaur based books out there.  What are your favorites?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Author Bio: Robert Bakker

Chances are pretty decent that the first time you heard Robert Bakker's name, it was here:

In this scene of Jurassic Park, Dr. Alan Grant is trying to find a seat in one of the Jeeps without having to sit next to either of the kids, but the boy (Timmy... classic 1990s boy name) is a huge fan of Dr. Grant's work, so he's following him around asking questions about his theories. He references a couple other sources, including "this one book by a guy named Bakker..." Well, that guy is this week's author here on the blog.

He actually gets referenced again in The Lost World, since this guy (Dr. Robert Burke) is supposed to be an affectionate caricature of him:

And this is really Bakker:

Robert T. Bakker #3

Bakker has been publishing studies on dinosaurs since 1968. He advised Jurassic Park, published his seminal work (The Dinosaur Heresies) in 1986 (which presented evidence to support his theory that dinosaurs may well have been warm-blooded), and is currently the Curator of Paleontology at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Bakker was born in New Jersey in 1945. He's an ecumenical minister, and doesn't believe that religion and science are mutually exclusive. To him, the Bible is a moral guidance system, not a literal timeline of events, and does not disprove evolution or geologic history.

A friend of mine suggested Bakker's novel Raptor Red when he found out that I'm a big fan of the Jurassic Park trilogy, and that's why I chose it for us to review this week. It's told from the viewpoint of a Utahraptor (which is actually what we think of as Velociraptor, thanks to the Jurassic Park movies... Velociraptor was closer to the size of a big turkey, whereas Utahraptor was the height of a rather tall human).

Friday, April 10, 2015

Review Me Twice: Stardoc by S L Viehl

At first glance, when I pulled this book off the holds shelf at my library, I thought it had to have been published in the 1970s. Back in the decade where "star-" was a prefix that magically made any topic exponentially cooler. And my copy is in pretty sorry shape... "well-loved," you might say. But actually, it was published in 2000.

It's... better than I expected. I thought it would be horribly cheesy and overwrought and medically unsound, but this is definitely an instance of a time you should not judge a book by its (1970s-sci-fi-ish) cover.

Sometimes the first-person narration sounds a little haughty... but Cherijo Grey Veil (our protagonist) has good reasons to think like a dictionary, like isolation from peers from a young age, intense academic study forced upon her by her father, etc. And I admit to thinking with a large vocabulary sometimes, so it's not like it's impossible. It just sounds a little awkward every once in a while.

The alien names and words take a little getting used to, but I think that's part of the experience. Cherijo is getting used to them too. And they're not impossible (though the charge nurse at the FreeClinic has a name I never could sort out how to pronounce in my head).

All in all, I think Stardoc was fun to read. I don't think I'll run out and grab the next book in the series, but I might go back and read them someday, if I run across them.

When I first read this series, I actually read the third one, not realizing it was the third one in the series.  Let me tell you, it's not the type of series that you can jump in at book three and know what's going on.  But I liked it enough to go back and pick up the first two books in the series and figure out what the hell was going on.

You get a strong female lead, who is just a little more genteically badass, making it her fit right into the sci-fi world she lives in.  And it's very sci-fi her world.  She is a doctor who heals aliens of every sort and travels to another wold.

I have read (almost) the whole series, and her asshole father becomes a big deal as it goes on, along with Duncan Reever (the linguist she continually runs into).  I'm not going to sit here and tell you it's an intellectually stimulating story, but it's fun with good characters and is a fast read.