Review: Lego: A Love Story by Jonathan Bender

Lego: A Love StoryLego: A Love Story by Jonathan Bender
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another audiobook finished courtesy of my recent slew of weekends driving to Boston- and a non-fiction piece, no less! I definitely found myself zoning out throughout various parts of the book, but overall, this is an informative glimpse into both the history of Lego(never Legos, the reader/listener learns quickly) and modern Lego culture. The author's personal Lego history provides many poignant anecdotes that color the story in a most pleasing manner.

Bender also weaves in his personal trials, such as his wife's repeated attempts to get pregnant, and it's very evident how Lego bricks are a stress reliever, therapy, and an escape for him, but also a social tool and a true love. His wife builds with him, and Bender draws parallels between their individual personalities and communication styles and their complementary building styles.

The author's occasionally self-deprecating tone and lack of self-confidence in his building abilities, especially creative free-building ones, definitely resonated with me on a personal level, and I found myself mentally encouraging him on several occasions.

Overall, a solid book, evoking lots of childhood memories and even awe at Lego's business model, which seems to basically boil down to brick perfection and compatibility. I'm motivated to go dig out the boxes in my parents' basement, and eternally grateful for a mother who kept such childhood treasures.

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Review: Jane Slayre: The Literary Classic with a Blood-Sucking Twist! by Sherri Browning Erwin, Charlotte Brontë

Jane Slayre: The Literary Classic with a Blood-Sucking TwistJane Slayre: The Literary Classic with a Blood-Sucking Twist by Sherri Browning Erwin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Maybe it's the audiobook factor, but of all these classic-meets-iconic fantasy/horror demons, this is my least favorite so far. This is funny, considering this novel contains vampires, zombies, AND werewolves. I like vampires. I like that the vampires in this novel are generally self-serving, rude, dark, and very much un-sparkly. Sometimes they were a little too... human for me, though, and I found myself pitying a number of them. The werewolf was an important character to the plot resolution and the main stumbling block for the main character's romantic leanings, but is only vaguely referenced until the latter portion of the book. The zombies were definitely my favorite appearance in the book. Jane is a young girl away at boarding school, safe from the machinations of her vampiric extended family, but becomes an integral part in uncovering the zombie plots at her school in the most humorous way. The descriptions of the zombies, both their movements and actions, and the account of how they become transformed, are exceptionally detailed and captivating.

I'd probably give it more like a 3.75/5, but I don't feel like rounding up.

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Semi-Unplanned Hiatus

I haven't posted since February 27, 2012, Blogger tells me.

Something incredible happened right around then. Bear with me while I try to "use my words". :p

In January, Mike "Gabe" Krahulik of Penny Arcade, of whom I am a Twitter follower, sent out a request for "Enforcer" apps for PAX East 2012, a gaming convention in Boston. I attended this convention one out of the three days last year, and at PAX East, experienced immediate shock, awe, and love. Enforcers are the volunteers that help staff the convention and make sure things run smoothly. I wavered on whether or not to apply for about two weeks after his initial posting (mostly because of anxiety) and then assumed I was too late.

Fortunately, I was wrong, and he tweeted a second request the end of February, and I jumped. I waited impatiently for about a week, worrying and obsessing about how I'd be declined because I wasn't nerdy enough, or didn't have the right skills, or because I made the egregious error of spelling the Enforcer manager's last name wrong in the e-mail, which we all know is an excrutiatingly painful mistake for me. Luckily, my fears were unfounded, and I was accepted.

Accepted into an incredibly accepting and amazing community. Yes, that's a lot of "accepting", but it's true. This is like those little capsules that explode into sponge animals in water, but on a significantly larger and better scale. Worst analogy ever, I know. But the fact remains that I can't properly describe how wonderful this group of people is, so I'll have to rely on drawing terrible comparisons.

PAX East 2012 was April 6-8, 2012. I went out the week before for a party with these new friends and to help stuff "swag" bags for the convention attendees. The weekend before was great, but still couldn't have prepared me for the incredible, almost-week-long emotional high that would come once PAX drew nigh. I went out Wednesday night and helped briefly with setup in the computer section, then again on Thursday. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were probably the most chaotic days of my life, ever. Even more so than Black Friday at Best Buy in a $1M+ store. Chaotic days, but incredible nonetheless, even with the worst anxiety attack I've had in some time Saturday afternoon. I met so many amazing people face-to-face that I'd been able to converse with on IRC/forums and "see" via Google Hangouts. I met some others I'd never seen or spoken to before with whom I felt an instant rapport. Monday brought sleep, attempting to stave off sickness, and then the afterparty, an amazing evening full of adorable men snazzily suited up (a weakness of mine), ladies in pretty dresses, bowling, and drinking and bonding with new friends.

I crashed, hard, after getting home on Tuesday. I've basically spent most of my free time outside of work, since, on IRC trying to get as much Enforcer-time in as I can. I jumped on the opportunity to spend what I thought would be three of the next six weekends with Enforcers, and will actually end up being four out of six. I'm finally mostly out of my funk and ready to face life like a semi-responsible adult again- and that includes getting cracking on my reading goal for the year. 100 books seems incredibly daunting right about now, when I've only read one-fifth of those books. Goodreads tells me I'm nine books behind, and I feel like an unfortunately high percentage of what I have read has been "brain candy". I said I was going to try to read 1:1 fiction and non-fiction this year, too. At any rate, this is a very long-winded explanation for why I haven't been reading much at all lately.


Took a chance, scored one in the fight against anxiety, PAX East happened, I met amazing people, I didn't have time to read.

*For those of you not up on your Internet acronyms, TL;DR is Too Long; Didn't Read, which is followed by a very brief summary.


Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games TrilogyThe Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars to EACH book

Disclaimer: I'm tired and this post may or may not be riddled with errors.

I like to review books based on their own merit when they’re part of a series or trilogy, but in the case of the Hunger Games books, I decided to wait until I’d finished all three books before writing a single blog entry. Part of the reasoning behind this was because I was so involved, I devoured them so quickly, but partially because I was trying to keep up with my friend Pez. We read the A Song of Ice and Fire books in the same manner, casually checking each other’s progress and speculating on future events. As an aside, if you haven’t read George R.R. Martin’s books in that series, I advise you to stop reading this blog entry and go pick up A Game of Thrones, the first installment in the series.

Where were we?

Ah, yes. The Hunger Games. This trilogy consists of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. While I can safely say Catching Fire was my "least" favorite (though I cringe to assign it such a negative adjective), I couldn't really decide whether The Hunger Games or Mockingjay edged out the other. Absolutely everything in these two contenders seemed to me to be the opposite of what I expected to happen next. Surprises everywhere. I flew through the first book. I'd read about 15% the first night, and absolutely could not put it down the following morning, playing a game of chicken with the "Low Battery" pop-ups on my Kindle because I didn't want to put it down long enough to charge it. The second and third installments took me a bit longer because of some real-life delays.

If you've ever seen the movie Battle Royale (Japanese, with subtitles) you will absolutely adore these books, as it follows the same general plot, that of a group of teenagers thrown together by the government and forced to fight to the death in an arena-style matchup. Even if you've never seen the movie, but enjoy a good, unique thriller, theses book are a no-brainer.

I felt so much pain and empathy for Peeta’s longing for Katniss. I’m a sucker for a romance fraught with roadblocks, tension, and tears, but that is not by any means the primary content of these books. At no point does this unrequited-love-turned-possible-relationship overshadow the importance of the Games, the action and plot twists contained therein, or the author's subtle digs at the overly-controlling government that rules Panem with an iron fist, and changes the rules and aspects of the game for their own amusement or to play to the crowd and up the entertainment quota. There are a lot of moral and political undertones to these novels, too, but subtle enough to slip by subconsciously unless you stop to reflect upon them.

I'm excited to have a movie date with some incredibly wonderful ladies to see The Hunger Games when it comes out in theaters.

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Readalong: Feed by Mira Grant, Books III-IV & Final Review

Feed (Newsflesh Trilogy #1)Feed by Mira Grant

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second installment of my feedback on a book chosen for this month's readalong by my friend Grace. Feed is the first novel in a trilogy about a team of bloggers tasked with reporting the news in a zombie post-apocalyptic world trying to rebuild. There's lots of sabotage, some deliciously gory zombie scenes, and even some awkward family tension.

There is a major spoiler several paragraphs down. Consider yourself warned.

I take back all my complaints about the drawn-out, sluggish first portion of the novel, which you can read here. Okay, so I can’t take them back, because that still stands, but the amount of action, character development, and tugging of heartstrings thereafter completely makes up for the previously declared lack.

I’m really hoping Steve plays a bigger role in the next two books in the trilogy. Grant doesn’t seem to spend a lot of time fleshing out his character (nice word choice, right?), but I just have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of him. He’s been through so much in this book with his security detail partners, and a great asset to Shaun and the After the End Times team.


I don’t know that I can really put into words how much George’s death shook me. I really identified with her, and I can’t remember the last time I felt so in tune with a character in a book. The way she died was so incredibly painful and awful to read, but I felt it was flawlessly written, and in my case, got the desired reaction, I imagine. The notes at the end of the novel mention that Grant said she “cried like a baby” after she wrote that scene, as well, and reading that made me feel a little better, knowing that it affected her so deeply as well.

Overall, I'm really glad I gave this book a chance and am excited to read the next two in the trilogy- though likely not until I make a dent in these stacks of other books.

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See Jennifer's review here: Book Den
See Grace's review here: Feeding My Book Addiction


Readalong: Feed by Mira Grant, Books I-II

Grace at Feeding My Book Addiction is doing another readalong this month-a horror novel to offset the sappy mush that is Valentine's Day.

From miragrant.com: In 2014, two experimental viruses—a genetically engineered flu strain designed by Dr. Alexander Kellis, intended to act as a cure for the common cold, and a cancer-killing strain of Marburg, known as "Marburg Amberlee"—escaped the lab and combined to form a single airborne pathogen that swept around the world in a matter of days. It cured cancer. It stopped a thousand cold and flu viruses in their tracks.

It raised the dead.

Millions died in the chaos that followed. The summer of 2014 was dubbed "The Rising," and only the lessons learned from a thousand zombie movies allowed mankind to survive. Even then, the world was changed forever. The mainstream media fell, Internet news acquired an undeniable new legitimacy, and the CDC rose to a new level of power.

Set twenty years after the Rising, the Newsflesh trilogy follows a team of bloggers, led by Georgia and Shaun Mason, as they search for the brutal truths behind the infection. Danger, deceit, and betrayal lurk around every corner, as does the hardest question of them all:

When will you rise?


Warning: Spoilers!

I was exceptionally excited to read this book, as I am a huge fan of anything zombie--books, video games, internet memes, pretending to be one to scare my co-workers. This first installment in the Newsflesh trilogy has been a little disappointing so far. The information dump necessary to set the scene seemed a little bland and dry, but I will say I'm exceptionally intrigued by Georgia's brusqueness and Shaun's laissez-faire attitude. Buffy's character fades into the background for me. Perhaps this is intentional, and in the second half of the book she is the unexpected heroine. Grant's nod to zombie culture icons like George A. Romero, arguably the "father" of zombie apocalypse movies definitely put a smile on my face, and I love to hate the Masons, Georgia and Shaun's adoptive parents. The amount of "affection" shown by the parents directly correlates to the foreseeable increase in ratings that the parents can obtain with public displays of family togetherness. Not quite Toddlers & Tiaras-bad, but still...

I think (hope) the second half of the novel will be much better than the first, and the two subsequent novels will only improve the story line. I can't wait to find out who's behind the sabotage attempts on Senator Ryman's presidential campaign. The obvious answer would be David Tate, but that seems too predictable, and Grant has definitely surprised me already with some of the plot twists. It was very difficult to stop reading after the second book when the news is revealed to Georgia and the reader about the outbreak at the Ryman horse ranch.

Grant also subtly works in some moral dilemmas, such as the hotly-debated Mason's Law. I definitely found myself thinking about which side I would support. I definitely am a bleeding heart, especially when it comes to animals, but the constant unknown having large animals around all the time would be incredibly nerve-wracking. Which side do you think you'd support?


Other Posts:

Alice @ Tales of an Intrepid Pantster

Grace @ Feeding My Book Addiction

Jennifer @ The Book Den


What Reading Means To Me, Or Coming Home

This is a long post. It's mostly for me, but I'm sharing it with you anyway. This is about what reading used to be to me, and how I reconnected with what I am now positive is one of the most important things in life, and a nod to the person to whom I feel I owe this return to the greatness of books.

When I think back to my childhood, reading was a huge part in my development. I started to read quite early, and was reading books to my classmates in kindergarten. I don't remember what grade level I was reading at, but I'm sure my mother would love to tell you. For as long as I can remember, my mother would halfheartedly chastise me for blowing through my double-digit stack of library books far before the due date. I'm sure I drove her up a wall begging to go back. Throughout elementary school, I remained significantly ahead of the reading curve, leading my teachers to assign me additional, more advanced, reading material, which I hungrily accepted. I also was a bit of a speed-reader, and was accused of lying to a teacher very early in my schooling about whether or not I had read a book. I dutifully (and a bit tearfully) recited the plot back to her until she was satisfied. This pattern continued. One of the sixth-grade teachers loaned me a copy of Steinbeck's The Pearl one morning when we had free time, and I returned it to him several hours later. He gave me the test he normally administered to his class and was flabbergasted when I could answer in detail. I would always read anything, too. The encyclopedia, Reader's Digest, cereal boxes, instruction manuals my parents left about. My parents were constantly scolding me for falling asleep with the light on and a book on my chest. I broke at least one pair of glasses this way.

I'm not mentioning all this because I want to brag, or to talk about how awesome or gifted I think I was (because I learned I'm just a small fish in a huge, enormous sea, once I got out of my small town), but because I hope it gives a glimpse of how ever-present books and reading were in my formative years. I'm not sure at what point reading was pushed to the back burner, but it unfortunately happened nonetheless. I became caught up with reinventing myself after leaving the conservative religion I grew up in, I moved away, I worked 60 hours a week, I partied in an incredibly self-destructive manner, I became obsessed with and possibly addicted to video games (not all at the same time, thankfully). For the last handful of years, I still enjoyed reading immensely, when I got around to picking up a book, but my reading was limited mostly to genre fiction and on vacations. I regrettably sold a fair amount of my books at garage sales or donated them.

Things changed several months ago, when I began to reconnect with Grace. Grace and I went to high school together, but never really "hung out", other than occasionally at the lunch table my junior year, if I remember correctly. I'm only vaguely certain how it all started, but I think my decision to rejoin the ranks of Tweeters was the catalyst. I started to casually follow Grace's book blog and was privy to a few Twitter conversations about books, and she quickly introduced me to her "Twitter family", several friends and online acquaintances she was sure (and rightly so) that I would get along with. I'm horrible with time frames and event sequences, but Grace and I met one evening for dinner and Moe's and to exchange some books after she initiated a book swap, and talked for several hours. Since then, not only have I felt instantly at home among her reader and writer circle of friends, I've been inspired by her and others to attempt to participate in NaNoWriMo, start this book blog, set personal reading goals for 2012, and participate in my first online readalong. That passion for reading is back, full force, and I don't think I can really find the words to express how grateful I am to her for that, but this is my feeble (but lengthy) attempt. So Grace, if you get to the end of this, thank you. So much.