Tiny Thoughts on a Bunch of Books

20170404The last book review I posted was for Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, way back in February. Since then, I’ve read “a few” books, but haven’t had time to get my thoughts down about any of them.

This post is going to serve as a very brief, rather frantic “catch-up.”  I want to at least write down reactions to the other books I’ve read so far.  No, these aren’t formal reviews – but something is better than nothing!

So, in order of completion from most distant to most recent:

Half Bad by Sally Green: This is the first book in a planned YA fantasy trilogy by new author Sally Green. I think the premise is interesting and the execution rather good. There is quite a bit in this book which is derivative, owing a lot to other popular YA fantasy series’ on the market; however, that being said, I really enjoyed the story and a lot of what is unique about it. Green builds quite a bit of believable tension into the story, issues between the main character/protagonist and his best friend, his girlfriend, his father, his family etc. I think this is a series worth reading and fans of YA fantasy are likely to enjoy it.

downloadWarlock by Jim Starlin: Adam Warlock is one of my favorite comic book characters and I’m glad to have finally read the complete story in graphic novel form. Some of the more interesting stories (like the Infinity plots) are not present because they are exterior to the original Warlock storyline, but this graphic collection was still fun, dark, and interesting.

Half Wild by Sally Green: This is the second book in Green’s fantasy trilogy and an interesting and improved follow-up to the first in the series. Main characters from the first book reappear and some new ones are introduced. A lot of the tension between the main character and minor ones continues to deepen, and Green takes some very welcome and exciting risks. I’m looking forward to the next book in the series (which, from what I’ve read, will be the conclusion to the trilogy – but you never know with fantasy series’!)

The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith: I’m a huge fan of Andrew Smith, and The Alex Crow did not disappoint. This is Smith’s most complex and adult novel to date. It’s not hard to understand the comparisons to Kurt Vonnegut. There have been some criticisms about unnecessary storylines or sub-plots, but I think those critiques are missing the point. The story’s sub-plots work together toward a final conclusion, without one or the other of these storylines, the overall message would not be as profound as it is. Unfortunately, that message seems to be lost on some readers. Still, this book, after Grasshopper Jungle, is resulting in a great deal of critical attention and acclaim for Smith, praise which I think is completely valid.

download (2)Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore: I read this because of Twitter hoopla surrounding gender representations in comic books and the new covers for some classic comics. I’ve never been a big fan of Batman comics (I’ve enjoyed the movies more – and I’m really a Marvel fan, so I haven’t given as much attention to DC stories) but this was a really interesting take on the Joker’s possible backstory. I know there’s a debate as to whether or not the backstory is necessary or helpful – some fans like that the Joker is just innately evil, while others appreciated the fact that perhaps some event triggered that descent into madness. I can understand both points of view – for what it is, I enjoyed this story.

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1 by Willow G. Wilson: I think this is an incredibly powerful and long-overdue take on female power in comics. The new Ms. Marvel is young and fierce, filled with good intentions but also prone to mistakes. Volume 1 introduces us to her character, her friends, and her family, all of which adds great complexity and detail to her personality and the possibilities/pitfalls that might be ahead of her. Super cool.

download (1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin: I’m so glad I finally read this book, and I’m eager to get on with the series. While I don’t think that Martin is quite the writer or world-builder as, say, Tolkien, his take on fantasy is still refreshing and unique. As Martin has explained, his goal was to place fantasy elements in a realistic medieval environment, and in that I think he is succeeding. The story is dark, dangerous, and rarely redeeming or uplifting, but the times (from a historical perspective) were equally difficult. As a fan of the television show (until this season, where I’m finding much to complain about) I think it’s incredible how closely the show was adapted from the book – but those who have only watched the show are missing some important things, even simple things like the characters’ ages make a big difference in understanding and appreciating what’s happening.

Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan: I finally took the plunge and started this series. Everybody talks about it, and now I know why. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a comic so much since Blankets (which, admittedly, is completely different and not actually a comic – it’s a long graphic novel). Anyway, Saga is narrated from the future by the protagonist who is, in the first comics, just a newborn baby. We learn about her parents and their worlds & the war they’re engaged in. The comic is rated “M” for good reason – I wasn’t expecting some of the graphic sexual situations and violence, but the great thing is that it’s not at all gratuitous, it’s just a part of the world. I’ve got Volume 2 sitting on my shelf waiting to be read, and I haven’t been so anxious to get to a read, especially a comic, in a very long time! Loving it!

Also read but not reviewed:

download (3)The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan (4 out of 5, Read May 2014)

Bertram Cope’s Year by Henry Blake Fuller (5 out of 5, Read June 2014)

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley (3 out of 5, Read June 2014)

Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry (4 out of 5, Read June 2014)

The Dog Star by Donald Windham (3 out of 5, Read June 2014)

Messenger by Lois Lowry (4 out of 5, Read June 2014)

The Madness of Lady Bright by Lanford Wilson (4 out of 5, Read July 2014)

Son by Lois Lowry (3 out of 5, Read July 2014)

download (4)The Boys in the Band by Mart Crowley (3 out of 5, Read July 2014)

Totempole by Sanford Friedman (5 out of 5, Read July 2014)

The Front Runner by Patricia Nell Warren (4 out of 5, Read July 2014)

The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer (5 out of 5, Read July 2014)

Lemon Sky by Lanford Wilson (4 out of 5, Read July 2014)

Invisible Life by E. Lynn Harris (2 out of 5, Read July 2014)

Letters to Montgomery Clift by Noel Alumit (5 out of 5, Read July 2014)

Sons of the Prophet by Stephen Karam (3 out of 5, Read August 2014)

51Be-zEhd7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (4 out of 5, Read December 2014)

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee (3 out of 5, Read December 2014)

Halfway Home by Paul Monette (4 out of 5, Read December 2014)

Revival by Stephen King (4 out of 5, Read December 2014)

Red Caps: New Fairy Tales for Out of the Ordinary Readers by Steve Berman (3 out of 5, Read January 2015)

Checkpoint 5!: #TBR2015RBR


Welcome to the MAY Check-in for our 2015 TBR Pile Challenge! We’re almost half-way there! 

Question of the Month: If you could go back and edit your list to make ONE change, what do you think you would have done differently? A book or author that you wish you had included? A book that you wish you hadn’t bothered with?

My Progress: 4 of 12 Completed 

So far, I’ve read and reviewed 4 of my 12 books, which puts me exactly on pace. I’ve also started my 5th, John Rechy’s City of Night, and I hope to finish it (and review it) before the end of this month! That would keep me on track with 5 books in 5 months. My completed books:

How are you doing?

If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be open until May 31, so any books that you complete this month (and post thoughts for), can be linked-up in this first checkpoint. 


This month’s checkpoint comes with a giveaway! This is open only to official participants who pre-registered by the January deadline. One lucky person who links up this month (to a review of a completed book originally written & posted this month or to a checkpoint post of your own) will be entered to win up to $25 in gifts from Dork E Mom Crafts!

Dork E Mom is the newest partner in our annual Austen In August event. The website is filled with a plethora of fun and nerdy stuff for book lovers, gamers, Sci-Fi/Fantasy fans and the like. Check out the website and the Etsy page for ideas! 

Keep up the great work and best of luck to you as we head rapidly toward June and the half-way mark!


Other Important Links:

The Year of Giveaways: May!

Hello, Readers!

In 2014, I was fortunate to have received dozens and dozens of books, from publishers, friends, authors, and contests. Among all of these acquisitions, however, were a number of duplicates.

So, in 2015, I’ve decided to feature one of these duplicate books each month, and offer that book as a giveaway to one of you! Yes, it’s The Year of Giveaways!

This month, the spotlight is on: The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani

17888950Description: For over a hundred years, the Angelini Shoe Company in Greenwich Village has relied on the leather produced by Vechiarelli & Son in Tuscany. This historic business partnership provides the twist of fate for Valentine Roncalli, the school teacher turned shoemaker, to fall in love with Gianluca Vechiarelli, a tanner with a complex past . . . and a secret.

A piece of surprising news is revealed at The Feast of the Seven Fishes when Valentine and Gianluca join her extended family on a fateful Christmas Eve. Now faced with life altering choices, Valentine remembers the wise words that inspired her in the early days of her beloved Angelini Shoe Company: “A person who can build a pair of shoes can do just about anything.” The proud, passionate Valentine is going to fight for everything she wants and savor all she deserves — the bitter and the sweetness of life itself.

Romantic and poignant, told with humor and warmth, and bursting with a cast of endearing characters, The Supreme Macaroni Company is a sumptuous feast of delights: a portrait of a woman and the man she loves, her passion for craftsmanship, and the sacrifices it takes to build and sustain a family business while keeping love and laughter at the center of everything.

If you would like to win a copy of this excellent book, here’s what you need to do:


  • Must be an e-mail or WordPress subscriber.
  • –Must be 13+ with parental permission if under 18.
  • –Winners must respond to e-mail within 48-hours or new winner selected.
  • –Winners chosen randomly through Rafflecopter.
  • -Giveaway ends at 11pm Central Time (USA) on the last day of the month.

Enter by Completing This Rafflecopter Form

April in Review + Bonus Giveaway!

Goodbye-April-Welcome-May-4So Long, April! Hello, May!

It seems like only yesterday that I was writing a wrap-up post for the month of March! Where has the time gone? 

Things have been rather quiet here at Roof Beam Reader this month, but I have been very active over at About.com’s Classic Lit page. The “real world” has also kept me busy, with conference presentations and finishing up the last semester of coursework in my Ph.D. studies (I’m on to the final hurdle, dissertation, after this!).

Full_WisdomofMerlinTo celebrate the end of a very busy, very stressful 6-months, I’ve decided to offer a GIVEAWAY!

Recently, I participated in the blog tour for T.A. Barron’s Wisdom of Merlin and I am thrilled to offer one copy to a lucky reader!

Click this link to visit the Rafflecopter and enter for your chance to win! 

As we head into May, we’ve now finished four months of #TBR2015RBR and have presented the first four books in Roof Beam Reader’s Year of Giveaways, Here are some more of the month’s highlights:

Book Reviews & Guides




Roof Beam Reader Updates:

Doing Dewey’s 2015 #readathon


Today, I’m participating in the infamous Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon!  I plan to return to this post throughout the next 24-hours and make updates (as I feel like it), and also to update it at the end of the 24-hours.

I’ll give a note on my progress, take a look at how many total pages I read, where I stand in each my books, etc.  Very exciting!

Here’s our kick-off prompt and my responses:

Mini-Challenge 1: Opening Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today? Chicago, Illinois, USA!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? My Tender Matador by Pedro Lemebel

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to? Almonds and cheese!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself! I’m a college English instructor, nearing the completion of my PhD studies (and haven’t been able to participate in many events such as this in the last couple of years!)

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to? The last read-a-thon I participated in was for the Classics Club, and I think it went pretty well. I think my only difference will be spending less time on social media and more time actually reading. ;)

Mini Challenge 2: Classic Words of Wisdom

“Don’t every tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

This is, of course, a famous line from J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. I used to take this line, in all its cynical fashion, to heart when I was younger. I really thought that getting close to people couldn’t end great. Now, I have a new appreciation for the words. Instead of taking them at face value, and applying them broadly, I use these lines as a reminder to be selective with my time and friendships. In college, I wanted to know everybody and be there for everybody and, of course, have everybody like me. Now, I truly appreciate the few good friends that I have, and I feel my bond with them is strongest because we do know each other very well and can be there for each other in ways that past me, with mounds of friends, couldn’t really ever do. I also do take the cautious note – not everyone needs to know everything about your life! Share smartly. :)

Mini Challenge: Picture It

I’m currently about half-way into Half Wild by Sally Green. The story is about a young witch who is a “Half Code,” or half black witch, half white witch. He’s wrapped up in a journey to save the girl he loves, come to terms with his villainous father (whom everyone thinks/hopes he will kill), and maintain a trusting friendship with his best friend Gabriel, whose feelings for him happen to be more than just friendly.

This image by Martin Kohn, from his “Wizards of the Wild” series, really captures the power, mood, darkness and hope that my main character is dealing with now, as he learns to deal with and control his own talents.

Update 2: 12:12pm local time

We’re 6 hours in and I’ve made little progress – had to run some errands and do some cleaning around the house (isn’t that always the case). But I am enjoying my book & checking in on Twitter with other folks. I’ve been trying to participate in some of the challenges and such, too.

Update 1: 9:30am local time (Central US). 

I’m reading Half Wild by Sally Green – sequel to Half Bad. It’s a good YA fantasy series. 170 pages in!  I’m being distracted by the marathon that is happening literally right outside my window. Bah!

Book 1: Half Wild by Sally Green

Starting Page: 30 of 400

Ending Page:

Total Pages Read: