Friday, August 31, 2012

Feature and Follow!

Feature and Follow is hosted weekly by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read.  It's a great way for book bloggers to discover each other!  Looking forward to connecting with many of you.

Today's featured question is: What is the best cover of a book you've read and loved?

I have a hardcover copy of Stephen King's Under The Dome, and I love the cover.  It's very detailed--once you start reading the book, it's fun to flip over to the cover once in a while and see how it relates to the story.  Plus, doesn't it just make you want to read it??  It's almost more movie poster than book cover.  (This is the shot of the whole cover, back and front):
I haven't often been impressed by the book covers on my King novels, but this one is excellent.

Do you like this cover?  What are some of your favorites?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: Gold by Chris Cleave

Title:  Gold
Author: Chris Cleave
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: July 3, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads:
What would you sacrifice for the people you love? Kate and Zoe met at nineteen when they both made the cut for the national training program in track cycling—a sport that demands intense focus, blinding exertion, and unwavering commitment. They are built to exploit the barest physical and psychological edge over equally skilled rivals, all of whom are fighting for the last one tenth of a second that separates triumph from despair.

Now at thirty-two, the women are facing their last and biggest race: the 2012 Olympics. Each wants desperately to win gold, and each has more than a medal to lose.

Kate is the more naturally gifted, but the demands of her life have a tendency to slow her down. Her eight-year-old daughter Sophie dreams of the Death Star and of battling alongside the Rebels as evil white blood cells ravage her personal galaxy—she is fighting a recurrence of the leukemia that nearly killed her three years ago. Sophie doesn’t want to stand in the way of her mum’s Olympic dreams, but each day the dark forces of the universe seem to be massing against her.

Devoted and self-sacrificing Kate knows her daughter is fragile, but at the height of her last frenzied months of training, might she be blind to the most terrible prognosis?

Intense, aloof Zoe has always hovered on the periphery of real human companionship, and her compulsive need to win at any cost has more than once threatened her friendship with Kate—and her own sanity. Will she allow her obsession, and the advantage she has over a harried, anguished mother, to sever the bond they have shared for more than a decade?

Echoing the adrenaline-fueled rush of a race around the Velodrome track,  Gold  is a triumph of superbly paced, heart-in-throat storytelling. With great humanity and glorious prose, Chris Cleave examines the values that lie at the heart of our most intimate relationships, and the choices we make when lives are at stake and everything is on the line.

My Review:
My first question is, did you read Cleave's Little Bee?  If not, you should.  It got a ton of hype when it was released in 2008, and in my opinion, completely lived up to it.  That was what got me so excited for this, his next novel.  Surprisingly (given how talked-up Little Bee was), I didn't hear much chatter about Gold before it released.  And now, post-reading, I am VERY surprised about that.  Because I thought this was just as good, if not better, than his last novel.

First off, I read this during the London Olympics, which made me that much more engrossed as I delved into it.  Reading a fictional novel about female cyclists at the Olympics is pretty cool when you're actually watching female cyclists at the Olympics on your TV.  However, as awesome as it was, I don't recommend waiting another 4 years before you read this one.  You need to read it MUCH sooner.

This book is all about the character development.  Your perceptions of both Zoe and Kate morph, change, and get flipped on their heads multiple times throughout the novel.  The protagonist(s) in every novel are expected to change during the course of it, but Cleave brings that idea to another level.  I love the complexity of these ladies, and the intricacies of their relationship brings so much to the story.  Zoe was especially captivating.  I alternately wanted to punch her in the face and be her friend throughout the book.

Not to mention, there are some OMG moments that will keep you completely riveted.  I know a book is good when it makes me wish my son would sleep during naptime for just TEN MORE MINUTES, PLEASE, ANYTHING FOR ME TO FINISH THIS CHAPTER.  Cleave does a good job of throwing you for a loop when you didn't even know a loop was going to be thrown.  I would say more about this, but I don't want to hit spoiler territory.  I know I'm new to blogging, but TRUST ME, Y'ALL.

An added bonus is that Cleave clearly did his research on indoor cycling.  I knew next to nothing about the sport before reading (exact quote to my husband: "I thought they only biked outside at the Olympics?"), but the details in this book let you in on everything from the curve of the track to the wind patterns behind the riders.  Really well done.

Overall?  Don't miss this one.  And replay some Olympics clips online while you read, just to get yourself in the spirit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top Ten Bookish Confessions

Top Ten Tuesdays is hosted each week by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's top ten are your best bookish confessions...oooooh scandalous!

1. I have a VERY difficult time giving up a book once I've started it, even if I really can't stand it.  People have told me "life is too short to read bad books," but I still get agita over leaving one unfinished.  I actually "gave up" my first two books, ever, this summer, because they were both very long and getting quite painful (1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and Middlemarch by George Eliot).

2. I gave up on Middlemarch by George Eliot.  Book connoisseurs the world over are writhing in agony at this confession.  In my defense, I tried to finish it for almost a YEAR!

3. I staunchly resisted the idea of an e-reader for a very long time, insisting that nothing could be better than a real, honest-to-goodness, book-smelling book.  Then my darling husband gifted me with a Kindle in May 2011, and I saw the light.  Real books are still amazing, but my Kindle is basically a third arm at this point.

4. This is my only confession that borders on criminal behavior, but hopefully the statute of limitations is up.  In my book collection are at least 3 books that somehow made their way to my home, but may or may not have originally belonged to my high school.  What can I say?  We had really good reading assignments in high school, and I didn't have a lot of money for books back then.  **hangs head in shame**  If Mrs. Roth is reading this, I apologize and beg for mercy in the name of good literature.

5. I won't take the Borders Rewards key fob off my key ring.  I CAN'T DO IT.

6. If my son grows up and doesn't enjoy reading for fun, I will probably feel a little bit (a lot?) like a failure.

7. I do not care if people have different reading tastes than I (heck, go forth and READ, I don't care if it's a shampoo bottle), but I have made an exception for 50 Shades of Grey.  I've read enough excerpts, reviews, etc. to know what I think of it.  And if this ranks up there on your list of favorite books, you can rest assured that I am silently judging you.  It's not so much the content (though that's part of it)--it's the writing.  'TIS SO BAD.  I could go on about this, but I'll spare you my standard diatribe.

8. There are many things that scare me about death, and one of them is the fact that I have 616 books on my TBR list.  There are few moments more depressing than when you realize you will never READ ALL THE THINGS.

9. I have had late library fees exactly twice in my life (both times in the months shortly after my son was born--not a fast reading period for me).  In each instance, I brought the book back as soon as I could, and paid the fees that very instant.  One time the librarian said, "You know you don't have to pay right now, right?"  I said, "YES I DO" with a terrified look of shame, and handed over my 50 cents.

10. I have read while driving in traffic before.  (Hey, at least it was heavy traffic...)  In the same spirit that Mythbusters tells their viewers not to try this at home, I do not recommend this.  Audiobooks are an admittedly safer alternative, but you know, I get desperate if I don't have one available.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Review: Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Title: Look Again
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: April 14, 2009
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

The summary from Goodreads:
"When reporter Ellen Gleeson gets a “Have You Seen This Child?” flyer in the mail, she almost throws it away. But something about it makes her look again, and her heart stops—the child in the photo is identical to her adopted son, Will. Her every instinct tells her to deny the similarity between the boys, because she knows her adoption was lawful. But she’s a journalist and won’t be able to stop thinking about the photo until she figures out the truth. And she can’t shake the question: if Will rightfully belongs to someone else, should she keep him or give him up? She investigates, uncovering clues no one was meant to discover, and when she digs too deep, she risks losing her own life—and that of the son she loves."

My Review:
Can you see why I was dying to get at this book?  I remember reading the back cover of it in a Borders (OH SNAP, dating myself!) when it first came out, and frantically writing a note on my hand so that I wouldn't forget to put it on my TBR list when I got home.  I finally got around to borrowing it this week.  Believe it or not, this is a tough one to review.

Let me start with the good things.  The plot will rip your heart out and stomp on it at multiple points throughout the novel, especially if you're a parent.  It's tough not to get emotionally attached to three-year-old Will.  There were a few times that I threw the book down and ran into my son's room to stalkerish-ly watch him sleep, because I was terrified at the VERY THOUGHT that something like this could ever befall a mother and child.  For that alone, Scottoline gets big points.  She does a great job with the emotional side of the plot.

I also loved that there were several twists that I did not see coming.  A few times I thought (quite smugly, I might add) that I had it all figured out, only to be proven horribly wrong ten pages later.  And I'm pretty sure that the only time I LOVE being wrong is when I'm predicting book plots.

But alas, this book was not 100% full of awesome.

One issue for me was with the writing style.  There were several times that Scottoline used young, "hip" conversational terms that felt extremely forced.  Phrases like "mos def", "we cool?", and "hold the phone" peppered the dialogue at times, and they were painful to read (even on younger characters).  This made the chatter between characters feel way too clunky.  Plus, Scottoline seems to have a burning desire to end every chapter with a dramatic one-liner, which got old quickly.  Choppy sentences like "She felt a catfight coming on." or "As if she would forget it." dangled dramatically at the end of every chapter (of which there were 96, so yes, it happened a lot).  It felt kitschy and didn't fit the tone of what was happening in the novel.

My only other issue was the romantic relationship that Ellen develops between all her super-sleuthing.  It was odd (strangest May-September romance ever), completely misplaced given the adoption/kidnapping situation, and totally unnecessary to the plot.  It was clearly thrown in there solely to keep the attention of the 50 Shades set.  I could have done without it.

Overall?  Look Again is based on a great concept, and certainly keeps you guessing.  But the writing leaves a lot to be desired, and at times, takes away from the enormity of the topic at hand.  It's Jodi Picoult-ish, but with a less serious writing style.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A quick and dirty survey.

I saw this brief book survey on The Broke and the Bookish today, and I had to repost.  An easy way to give you some insight into my latest reading habits.

The book I'm currently reading: Look Again by Lisa Scottoline.  I saw a brief summary of this book a year or two ago, and have been dying to read it ever since.  Unfortunately, it's not all that I thought it would be, but I have another 100-ish pages for it to change my mind (I'll keep you posted on how that goes). 

I'm also listening to The Confession by John Grisham on audiobook, and it's been an excellent way to spend my commutes these last couple of weeks.

The last book I finished: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman--you saw my happy-customer review here.

The next book I want to read: I am hoping to get my hands on a copy of Emily Giffin's new one, Where We Belong.  I'm a big fan of her other work.  I've been on the library wait list for a while now, I should be up soon!

The last book I boughtCommencement by J. Courtney Sullivan--I do indeed have a professional life in higher education (book bloggin' JUST DON'T PAY), so books about colleges/universities, undergrads, recent grads, etc. always catch my interest (I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe is one of my absolute favorites, all-time).  I haven't read this one yet but it's on my Kindle and I'm looking forward to it.

The last book I was given: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova.  Cari gave me this book a few months ago, and it was an excellent recommendation for me.  It's about a high-powered working mom whose life is turned upside down when she is in a terrible car accident, leaving her with a traumatic brain injury.  The physical and emotional changes she goes through in the novel are amazing.  A great read for anyone who loves Jodi-Picoult-style family dramas.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Book Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Title: Neverwhere
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: BBC Books
Release Date: September 16, 1996
Source: bought it for my Kindle via Amazon

Here's the plot summary from Goodreads:
"When Richard Mayhew stops one day to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London pavement, his life is forever altered, for he finds himself propelled into an alternative reality that exists in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere."

My Review:
First of all, I have to say I was a bit intimidated to read this novel.  The ladies from my online book club found out that I had never read any Neil Gaiman, and immediately took to arms with cries of, "GET THEE TO THE GAIMAN!"  And so, after many months of agonizing over which to begin with, I picked up Neverwhere.
I was a tad skeptical at first.  Fantasy novels are not one of my top genres, and generally only work well for me if the author does a downright AMAZING job of making the fantastical world "believeable", on some level.  But guess what--Neil Gaiman does this in spades.  Richard, the main character, falls from London Above (our real-world, Olympics-hosting London) to London Below, a seedy, horror-filled underworld-London where all the people and things that have "fallen through the cracks" over time end up.  London Below is described in such a way that it is extremely detailed, but not at all overdone.  I think this is partially because the concise and sometimes depressing descriptions of London Above mirror the way London Below was described...thus making it easy to mentally leap from one to the other.  Anyway, I believed it.  I fell into it right along with Richard and I didn't look back.  Gaiman makes that transition so seamless, you don't have the time (or the desire) to question it.
The characters were also very well done; again, distinctive and quirky (and surprisingly human...even when they're not) without being over-the-top.  I'd have to say my favorites were the baddest of the bad guys, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar.  Never before have I encountered villians that both gave me nightmares (true story), and at the same time hit me with hilarious one-liners throughout the entire book.  But Richard is also a wonderful protagonist, mostly because he keeps such an "average-Joe-ness" about him even after his craziest of encounters with London Below.
I do find it funny that this book is actually the companion to what was originally a British TV mini-series, because as I was reading it, all I could think was, "Oh, I hope no one tries to make this into a movie.  No one could do this justice on screen, BLASPHEMY!"  Apparently, the BBC made Gaiman leave some things out of the TV series, hence the novel.  But I'm afraid to watch the series because I already so enjoy the world of London Below as it exists, safely in my head.
Overall?  Creepy, funny, and oddly believeable.  Well played, Neil Gaiman.  I'm late to the game, but you have a new fan.  I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys the fright and occasional fantasy bent of Stephen King, but is twisted enough to want a laugh at the same time.  (I'm not afraid to put myself in that category.)


Hello, fearless readers!  I'm Kelly, the Well-Read Redhead.  I will admit, it feels a little presumptuous to call myself "well-read" right off the bat...but really, YOU try coming up with a catchy book-related blog name that includes your distinctive hair color.  Limited options, truly.

However, I do hope that "well-read" is at least a somewhat accurate description for me, given my lifelong love of reading. And when you love something, you blog about it.  I'm pretty sure that's how it works.

So, stay tuned as I bring you my reviews, bookish musings, and important thoughts about the origin of "book smell".  I always welcome your comments and feedback.  As things get going, I hope to also move into some giveaways, author interviews, and the like.  First review is coming later today--stand by!

Oh, and follow me on Twitter!  @TheWRRedhead.  If you need convincing, I can promise more grammatically-correct tweets than Kanye West.
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