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Tag Archives: amazon-vine

Blood and Roses (2013): In Wintertime the Roses Died

A. K. Alexander, Blood and Roses (Thomas and Mercer, 2013)

Full disclosure: This book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

photo credit: Brilliance Audio

It was yesterday. Doesn’t feel like nearly long ago enough.

There are some books about which you just know. By the end of page two of Blood and Roses, I was absolutely certain that this would be the first book I’d attempted to read in 2013 upon which I would be invoking the fifty-page rule. And the closer I got to page fifty, the more the book fulfilled my expectations. This is terrible in ways I’m not even sure people have names for yet.

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Living Paleo for Dummies (2012): She’s Making Movies on Location, She Don’t Know What It Means

Melissa Joulwan and Kellyann Petrucci, Living Paleo for Dummies (Wiley/For Dummies, 2012)

Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

photo credit:

Want to grow up and find alunda? Get some zug zug? Paleo! (And a screening of Caveman to bone up on your neanderthal lingo… no pun intended.)

I’m gonna start out with the book’s biggest, most glaring failure: it never addresses the main reason critics say the paleo diet is untenable. (For those reading this where outside links cannot be provided, a concise summary of what everyone else saw in those links: “even if you take at face value the idea that the human genome has not changed much in the last 2.8 million years, the food has, so there is no way for a modern human being to eat a diet approximating, much less mirroring, that of our paleolithic ancestors”.) With that said, however, I think it would be hard to refute one of the basic tenets of the paleo diet, whatever you think of the rest of it: getting processed foods out of your diet—and out of your body—is a Good Thing(TM). In other words, I’m going to start out by saying “take this with a grain of salt, or perhaps a few shakes of garlic powder and a pinch of ground cumin, but don’t dismiss it out of hand.”

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Reunion at Red Paint Bay (2013): Nothing New

George Harrar, Reunion at Red Paint Bay (Other Press, 2013)

Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.


photo credit: Goodreads

Insert standard joke about not being able to hit the side of a barn.

I finished reading this book just before the turn of the new year, and here it is late April and I’m just starting to write a review of it; I’ve never really been able to come up with anything compelling to say regarding it one way or the other. It’s your basic thriller with pretensions to something larger (and while a number of reviews, notably Booklist’s, give away major spoilers in that regard, I will avoid doing so here in case you haven’t read those already), but it never quite gets there; it almost seems as if Harrar, once he’s finished with the setup, doesn’t know what to do with the payoff. Questions are raised, but not only are no answers forthcoming, I sometimes wondered if Harrar was certain exactly what questions he wanted to ask. None of which makes this an automatic pass-over, as the mystery/thriller angle is still solid, and the setup is good stuff. But when the cliff comes rushing up, Harrar didn’t even attempt to turn the wheel. ** ½

Blood of Dragons (2012): Kelsingra Awakened

Robin Hobb, Blood of Dragons (Harper, 2012)

Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

photo credit: Harper Voyager

Come not between the dragon and his wrath.

For the first time, Robin Hobb has extended past the trilogy and given us a quartet. I admit, I was a little apprehensive—especially given the brevity of the third novel in the series (really, she could have easily combined the two)—but she pulled through, and Blood of Dragons, while not packing as much of a punch as concluding-trilogy volumes like Ship of Destiny or Fool’s Fate, brings the Rain Wilds Chronicles to a satisfying conclusion.

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I Hated, Hated, Hated This Obituary

As I’m sure you’re aware if you’re a member of any social media network–and you’re probably aware a thousand times over by now, almost eighteen hours later–Roger Ebert, one of the film critics who, for better or worse, helped define the generation who came after him (including yours truly), died yesterday, only a day after announcing he’d be taking a “leave of presence” from his job as film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.

photo credit:

Rest in peace, Mr. Ebert. I hope they make better movies in whatever world may await beyond this one.

On a more personal note, I’m filing an obituary myself, for my four-year relationship with the Amazon Vine program. They sent out, just after midnight their time last night, an announcement that read, in part:

“the Vine team is implementing the changes below and we want to make sure you know about them.

Starting on May 15, 2013:
•       The percentage of items ordered that must be reviewed will increase from 80% to 100%.
•       Items must be reviewed within 30 days of receipt of shipment.”

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t work that way, and I’m not going to attempt to bend my own rules in any sort of attempt to conform to their new standards. I expect I won’t be the only one, and I guarantee you’ll see the flow of books from certain publishers drying up as well if you’re a member; I find it hard to believe that one could read, mull over, and intelligently review within the space of a month a book from FT Press, Cambridge, Morgan Kaufmann, or a number of other publishers who have gotten dramatically increased exposure/publicity thanks to the Vine program. Sorry, guys.

photo credit:

Goat’s relationship with Amazon Vine, 2009-2013. Requiescat in pacem.

Mila 2.0 (2013): The Worst Spoilers Are Those on the Book Jacket

Debra Driza, Mila 2.0 (Katherine Tegen Books, 2013)

Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.


photo credit:

Though I have to admit it’s a cool cover.

The biggest problem I have with Mila 2.0 has not thing one to do with the manuscript that Debra Driza turned in, and for that I am heartily sorry. You see, Driza spends the first circa 100 pages of Mila 2.0 trying to keep secret what thoughtless copywriters and marketing agents—not to mention more than one reviewer—trumpet on the book jacket, in its ad campaign, etc., which by default makes it no longer a spoiler that our titular heroine is, shall we say—not to be spoily myself in case you have somehow managed to miss all that—not exactly what she seems to be.

(non-spoilery) Plot: Mila and her mother Nicole have recently relocated to Nowhere, Minnesota, to regroup after a house fire in Philadelphia claimed the life of Mila’s father. Mila hasn’t taken it well, not just for the obvious reasons, but, well, city-kid-in-the-country syndrome is in full swing. Sure, Kaylee, one of the popular girls, has taken Mila under her wing, even if her sarcastic-bitch best friend keeps prophesying doom on that relationship, and not long after Mila appears, here’s Hunter, an ultra-hunky transfer student from California. Kaylee sets her sights immediately, but Hunter seems to only have eves for Mila, creating a triangle that culminates in the car accident that sets up the remainder of the book—which is where I’ll stop, though you can pick up after that by simply reading the jacket copy, because that car accident reveals the major spoiler emblazoned all over same.

Simply-put: it’s a genre sci-fi-thriller, and as long as you’re okay with the predictability that brings along with it, you’ll find this as enjoyable a ride as I did. The criticisms I’ve read of the book in other reviews all hold water—most of the minor characters are one-dimensional, and some of the majors aren’t much better yet (but I’m assuming they’ll be fleshed out in later volumes, so am not counting off for that at all), the plot never goes anywhere an astute reader wouldn’t expect it to, etc.—but I’m okay with all that. This is meant to be a quick, fun read, and it delivers. ***

Lesbian Scandal and the Culture of Modernism (2012): Werewolf vs. Phantom Women

Jodie Medd, Lesbian Scandal and the Culture of Modernism (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

Full disclosure: this book was provided to me free of charge by Amazon Vine.

photo credit: Cambridge University Press

Who better than Egon Schiele?

I follow the world of poetry more than the world of non-fiction, so maybe I’m oversensitized to this sort of thing. But at least once a week, an article comes across my desk that laments the death of modern poetry, usually because it’s inaccessible or unreadable or some other buzzword that translates to “we don’t feel like taking the time to teach students how to read it”. I never see them about academic non-fiction, but it seems to me one could make the same argument; I’ve read dissertations, vast tracts of verbiage written by people who haven’t seen the outside of the University in their entire adult lives (A. J. Greimas’ notorious Structural Semantics comes to mind), books I needed to keep two dictionaries within reach at all times in order to even comprehend. You think poetry is unreadable?

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