Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Review and Release Tuesday: Getting Off: One Woman's Journey Through Sex and Porn Addiction by Erica Garza

Standalone to date

"A fiercely courageous account of one woman's unflinching, raw, and ultimately hopeful journey through sex and porn addiction.

For almost two decades, Erica Garza was consumed by a singular, secret, shame-fueled pursuit that threw her life into chaos: orgasm. Back-braced, isolated, and teased in adolescence, and ambivalent about her Catholic upbringing, Garza found a secret solace in masturbation and porn--first by way of the limited softcore viewing offered by late-night cable, and, later, with the booming proliferation of online porn.

In this wrenching, vivid account, Garza explores her sexual fixations and relives the series of disastrous relationships and one-night stands that haunt her as she runs from one side of the world to the other in a futile attempt to break free of her habits―from East Los Angeles to Hawaii and Southeast Asia, through the brothels of Bangkok and the yoga studios of Bali to disappointing stabs at twelve-steps, therapy, and rehab back home.

Garza's terror at digging so deeply into her history to understand her anxieties is palpable, as is her exhilaration when she begins to believe she might just be free of them. And yet there is no false hope or prepackaged sense of redemption. Even her relationship to the man she will ultimately marry is credibly rocky as it finds its legs with several false starts, making her increasing sense of self-acceptance and peace by journey's end feel utterly earned.

In exploring the cultural taboos surrounding sex and porn from a female perspective, Garza offers a brave and necessary voice to our evolving conversations about addiction and the impact that Internet culture has had on young women."

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC review copy.  All opinions expressed are my own.

To preface, I've never reviewed anything like this before.  Normally, I review relatively clean books and I've never reviewed anything that directly confronts sex and porn like this book does.  When a representative from Simon & Schuster approached me for a potential review, however, I felt that it was an important topic to take on.  I'd also like to mention, that if you are someone who suffers from this same addiction, a trigger warning is in order.  I would also suggest 18+.

1.  The content (the journey itself).  The first portion of the blurb is beyond true.  This book offers a good long look through a window into the house of sex addiction and it's probably a house not many have seen unless they've become trapped into the house themselves.  Quite honestly, I found myself crying at one point because what the author has chosen to reveal is heartbreaking.  Personally, I don't know too much about addiction of any kind so the feelings the author expresses are all new to me.  She walks you through her shame and guilt and feelings of worthlessness which is so hard to read.  I think Garza did a fantastic job of illuminating her personal struggle through these feelings and her journey of coming to understand herself and accept herself.

2.  The cultural implications.  One aspect I'd like to mention before I get to far into this review are the cultural implications of a woman addressing her own sex addiction.  As Garza states in the book (and backs up with evidence), sex addiction is often seen as a man's problem and one that isn't really taken too seriously (at least, not as seriously as drug or alcohol addiction) and it isn't as nearly widely publicized for many reasons.  Our culture today is still struggling to break free of the idea that only a man's pleasure counts during sex and sex is predominantly a man's world.  This novel addresses this in several scenes which I found to be particularly relevant.

3.  The big picture.  The only large issue I had with the book was, in fact, the big picture.  The blurb promises a book that will link the struggles of one woman to the larger issue of sex addiction itself and how the Internet plays into this.  While Garza does refer to several studies and mentions these big picture ideas once or twice, I found the supposed connection flimsy and inadequate.  Her personal narrative is compelling, but her connection with the rest of the puzzle wasn't enough for me.

The Final Verdict:
Though this is different from anything else I've read, I'm glad to have experienced it.  The narration is poignant and very near flawless though the focus seemed to be only on a single puzzle piece.
4 stars

Sunday, January 14, 2018

December Wrap-Up

December is finally over and with it, 2017 has also come and gone.  It's kind of strange that a whole year has passed since the dreaded 2016... In any case, I'll be doing a whole year end wrap up in a week or so (when I get my life together enough to pull together ALL the stats).  For this post, I'll be focusing on the lovely month of December.


Number of Pages Read: 4,661

Total Books Read: 16
Rereads: 6
Reviews Posted: 7

Distribution of Ratings:
5 star: 8
4-4.5 star: 5
3-3.5 star: 3
2-2.5 star: 0
1-1.5 star: 0

Numbers of Authors Read: 8
Number of Series Book Read: 12
Number of Stand-Alones: 4

The Books:
The Good Girl - Mary Kubica (4.5) (Review to come)
Artemis - Andy Weir (5 - possibly subject to change) (Review)
The One and Only - Jennifer L. Armentrout (#4.5) (4) (Review to come)
Series Extras - Jennifer L. Armentrout (Covenant series) (4) (Review to come)
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - Junot Diaz (3.5) (Review)
Rebellion - Molly Patterson (5) (Review to come)
Cards on the Table - Agatha Christie (#15) (4.5) (Review)
Appointment with Death - Agatha Christie (#19) (3) (Review)
A Holiday for Murder - Agatha Christie (#20) (4) (Review)
Sad Cypress - Agatha Christie (#22) (3) (Review to come)

This was an interesting month.  I've finally been able to get back into reading some non-rereads which is lovely but I still haven't entirely gotten out of my review slump.  Hence the many 'review to come's.  The Good Girl was a very good thriller.  It seem like something else entirely as you're going through the book, but then, once you get to the end, there's this major twist that turns everything you think you know on it's head.  It's gorgeous, really.  I have mixed feelings about Artemis.  When I first read it, I was blown away by the science (like in The Martian) but then, as I reread sections and read other reviews, I noticed that I had almost entirely ignored the fact of genuine character development.  There will be a new review out soon with a revised ratings and more of an explanation.  I came upon The One and Only and Series Extras almost entirely by accident.  I've been rereading the Covenant series by JLA and when I was going back and looking at the series on Goodreads, I found those two short stories!  They're both great additions to the series for any fan although they're necessary to the plot.  If you're looking for more of Aiden's POV, that's where you'll get it!  The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was interesting, I'll give it that.  However, I found the whole point of it to be rather obscure and ambiguous.  It did give me a chance to practice my Spanish, though, and the cultural immersion is really poignant.  I read Rebellion after I heard the author would be having an event in my area and I'm so glad I did!  It weaves together four different stories that are connected by both theme and literal biological connections which I found was very interesting and fun to figure out as the novel progressed.  Cards on the Table is the first Agatha Christie book I read for winter break and it was an interesting one to start out with.  It isn't Christie's usual set-up but I found I enjoyed it nonetheless.  I followed that up with Appointment with Death which, admittedly, wasn't one of my favorite Christie novels.  It just wasn't very memorable for me and the ending was slightly disappointing.  A Holiday for Murder was slightly better.  There's a great twist at the end and even though it was slightly out of left field, it wasn't entirely inconceivable.  Sad Cypress was my last read of the month and again, it was just okay.  This one I didn't enjoy as much merely because everything seemed incredibly obvious to me which kind of took away a lot of enjoyment I normally get from Christie's books.

Grave Mercy - Robin LaFevers  (#1) (5) (Review)
Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas (#1) (5) (Review)
Half-Blood - Jennifer L. Armentrout (#1) (5) (Review)

Pure - Jennifer L. Armentrout (#2) (5) (Review to come)
Deity - Jennifer L. Armentrout (#3) (5) (Review to come)
Elixir - Jennifer L. Armentrout (#3.5) (5) (Review to come)

It was also an excellent month for rereads.  These are all some of my favorite books to reread.  Currently, I'm still rereading Apollyon (#4 in the Covenant series) but I'm hoping to finish rereading the series soon.  Of course, like HP, the ending is the saddest part.  I'm also rereading the Throne of Glass series right now.  I still haven't decided whether I'm going to adjust my ratings for any of the Covenant books but I don't think I will just yet.  I still enjoyed them and they have their own place in my heart.  Do take note, if you read these reviews, that I wrote them a very long time ago so they're a little less than eloquent!

Currently Reading:
The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding - Agatha Christie (#35)

I'm currently on an Agatha Christie binge and I've been posting review round ups with three books each .  I don't know what it is about them but they're very addicting!  I've literally just picked this one up (I'm on the first page) so I have no impressions so far.

Christmas in Evergreen
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song
Get Smart
Safe Haven
Roman Holiday
Marry Me At Christmas
A December Bride
The Hunt for Red October
Mulan 2
Clear and Present Danger
A Christmas Prince
Bridget Jones's Diary
American Made
American Assassin
National Lampoons Christmas Vacation
2 Guns
The Greatest Showman

As you can probably tell, this month was a great month for movies.  A couple of these are rewatches (Mulan, Mulan 2, Safe Haven, Christmas Vacation, The Hunt for Red October, and Clear and Present Danger) but the rest were my first time seeing them.  I'm not going to go into too much detail, but my favorite movie this month has to be The Greatest Showman.  If you haven't seen it yet, it's completely worth it to see it in theaters with the big screen and surround sound.  The visuals and the soundtrack are beautiful.  Another favorite was Arrival.  Again, the visuals and the soundtrack are wonderful and the cinematography is gorgeous.  Roman Holiday is a nice, cutesy old black and white movie.  Bridget Jones's Diary is hilarious and it's perfect for a girl's night in!  The two Hallmark movies were equally cutesy and perfect for the Christmas season.  A Christmas Prince is as laughable as you've been hearing.  There are some seriously questionable practices going on but it actually makes it kind of ridiculously hilarious.  American Made, American Assassin, and 2 Guns were all adequate action movies.  My favorite out of the three would have to be American Made.  I didn't love them, but they were pretty good.  Get Smart was pretty funny and the cast is an interesting combination.

On the Blog:

50/50 Friday:
50/50 Friday (61): Favorite/Least Favorite Book Read in November
50/50 Friday (62): Newest/Oldest Book You Own
50/50 Friday (63): Favorite/Least Favorite Sidekick
50/50 Friday (64): Favorite/Least Favorite Christmas-Themed Book
50/50 Friday (65): Favorite/Least Favorite Christmas/Winter-Related Trope

Wrap Ups:
November Wrap-Up

Music Mondays:
Music Monday (7)

Review: Artemis by Andy Weir
English Course Mini Review Round Up: Part 1
English Course Review Round Up: Part 2
English Course Review Round Up: Part 3

A Guide:
A Guide: The Wonders of Images

Life Updates:
As for TV shows that I've been loving, I've mostly been sticking to Criminal Minds and Pretty Little Liars.  Because of all this reading and movie watching, there hasn't been too much time for TV watching.  I'm currently starting season 6 of Pretty Little Liars and I'm in the middle of season 8 of Criminal Minds.

I officially finished my third semester of college right at the end of December and my final exams went better than I could have hoped!  I ended up with a 4.0 (the highest you can get) for the semester which is excellent and exactly what I needed.  Now, I just need to worry about scholarships and such so I can pay for my next year of university.  I'm not able to work over winter break (where I worked in the summer didn't want me back for the month so I'll be dallying about the house, seeing friends, knitting, sewing, reading, and watching Netflix.

I've been listening to so much new music I'm going to just do another Music Monday this Monday!  As an overview, though, I've been loving The Greatest Showman's soundtrack, the Les Mis soundtrack, the Beauty and the Beast soundtrack, and Taylor Swift's new album, Reputation.

Mostly, I spent the month studying and spending time with family for the holiday's!

I hope your December was just as great as mine!  Have you read any of these books or seen any of these movies?  What did you think of them?  Do you have a preference between watching movies or TV shows?  I hope you all have a lovely January!

Friday, January 12, 2018

50/50 Friday (67): Best/Worst Book Read in 2017

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Best/Worst Book Read in 2017

Since there are so many books I loved this year, I picked the one book that I'll be the most likely to reach for a reread first in 2018.  I'll be compiling a more complete list in my yearly wrap up!

Robert Langdon #2

Review to come!

"A fascinating and absorbing thriller -- perfect for history buffs, conspiracy nuts, puzzle lovers or anyone who appreciates a great, riveting story.

While in Paris on business, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon receives an urgent late-night phone call: the elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum. Near the body, police have found a baffling cipher. While working to solve the enigmatic riddle, Langdon is stunned to discover it leads to a trail of clues hidden in the works of Da Vinci -- clues visible for all to see -- yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.

Langdon joins forces with a gifted French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, and learns the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion -- an actual secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Botticelli, Victor Hugo, and Da Vinci, among others.

In a breathless race through Paris, London, and beyond, Langdon and Neveu match wits with a faceless powerbroker who seems to anticipate their every move. Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle in time, the Priory's ancient secret -- and an explosive historical truth -- will be lost forever.

The Da Vinci Code heralds the arrival of a new breed of lightning-paced, intelligent thriller utterly unpredictable right up to its stunning conclusion."

This was a close tie between this and Caraval but I think I'll end up reaching for this one first.  I loved Caraval, but I think I'll want to savor my initial read and only reread it right before the sequel is released.  As for this book, I loved the chase and the puzzle solving concept.  The actual solution is something I would have never thought of.  Hopefully I'll be able to read the rest of this series soon!

I had a few 2 star ratings this year but again, I'm going to pick the book that I feel was the weakest and I wouldn't really want to reread.

Standalone to date

"The United States is under siege! 
A devastating new bacterial disease sweeps across the states on the west coast and saps its victims of their own free will. Four strangers must work together to survive a mad dash across the United States to find safety in the nation’s capital. The outbreak chases them from their homes on the west coast, and they struggle to reach the capital before the disease does. When they arrive, danger rears its ugly head again, and the four must race against time to save not only themselves, but the entire country from destruction. The Departed is a story filled with the unlikeliest of heroes, who must find hope even when things look hopeless."

I just mainly had two issues with this book.  For one, I just couldn't get into the writing style.  It may be great for someone else, but I just couldn't get into it.  It's kind of like the text that used to be on Nintendo SP or Advance games (those 'real' life role play games).  I just prefer more lyrical writing.  Additionally, the geographic path the characters took was a little skewed.  The concept is really cool, but I just couldn't bring myself to give it any more than 2 stars.

Have you read either of these?  What did you think of them?  Are you a fan of books with puzzles and ciphers?  Were you a 90s kid with a Nintendo and if so, what was your favorite game?  What were the best and worst books that you read in 2017?  Make a post and link up down below!

Next Week's Topic: Book With Most Complex/Straightforward Plot Structure

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Agatha Christie Review Round Up: Part Four

I've been reading more Agatha Christie!  For my last birthday, my parents gifted me a whole box full of Agatha Christie paperbacks (about 35, mostly Hercule Poirot) and I've been making my way through them.  Parts 1-3 are linked below.  Here are my thoughts on the last three that I've read!

Hercule Poirot #15

Rating: 4.5 stars

"It was the match-up of the century: four sleuths--Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard; Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, famed writer of detective stories; Col. Race of His Majesty's Secret Service; and the incomparable Hercule Poirot - invited to play bridge with four specially invited guests, each of whom had gotten away with murder! But before the first rubber was completed, the host was dead."

This is one of my favorites (although I didn't like it as much as Death on the Nile or others like that).  This book is slightly different than the others because of the process of figuring out who murdered the victim.  In other books, it's always the least likely person that you'd expect and the one who has been cleared right away.  In this book, each of the four suspects is equally likely to have committed the crime which made the investigative process really interesting.  There's also a beautiful twist introduced at the end that I wasn't expecting at all.  Of course you expect there to be a twist, but I thought it had already happened (it was one that you'd expect) but then an unexpected one happened!  Hercule Poirot also teams up with other people whose business relates to crime (Secret Service (Colonel Race), a novelist (Miss Oliver), and Scotland Yard (Battle)) and it was really cool to see him work with more than one perfectly capable investigative mind.  We also spend time following each of these people around which made the story more circular than some of the others.
The Final Verdict:
Well-rounded with a slightly different premise than other Agatha Christie novels with a wonderful compilation of characters.
4.5 stars

Hercule Poirot #19

Rating: 3 stars

"Among the towering red cliffs of Petra sits the corpse of Mrs Boynton, a tiny puncture mark on her wrist the only sign of what has killed her. Hercule Poirot has only 24 hours to solve the mystery.

A tyrannical old martinet, a mental sadist and the incarnation of evil. These were only three of the character descriptions levelled at Mrs. Boynton, the matriarch who kept her family totally dependent on her. But did she really deserve to die on the excursion to beautiful Petra? Hercule Poirot hears about the murder and feels compelled to investigate-despite the family's request not to do so. Do they have something to hide and, if so, can they keep it hidden from this master sleuth?"

I wasn't that big of a fan of this one although I won't deny it was an enjoyable read.  Mostly, I just have a quarrel with the ending.  It seemed like a cop-out, honestly.  There was a twist as to who murdered the victim, but it was somebody who was just totally out of the blue and for whom no clues were laid in the duration of the novel.  The reason I love these books is because of the deliciousness of the ending and how everything falls together once all the facts and psychology are put together to prove that this person that you may or may not have suspected did it.  This book just brought in an entirely new motive and character right at the end to solve everything and I didn't really like that.  However, the journey to get there, was really absorbing and the characters themselves are very interesting.  I have to say, the motives presented in this book (and the whole first half of the book, frankly) interested me more than other Agatha Christie books I've read just because it was so unexpected and almost hinted at dark magic (but of course, these books are grounded strictly in reality with no magic realism so it pointed more so towards the darker side of human nature).
The Final Verdict:
While the premise interested me greatly, the ending deeply disappointed me.
3 stars

Hercule Poirot #20

Rating: 4 stars

"Motives for Murder: A fortune in uncut diamonds, hidden by an eccentric old man - A woman's love, too freely given - A business empire built on ruthlessness. Each of them may have been a motive for the brutal slaying of wealthy old Simeon Lee. Coupled with Lee's family, each member of which hated him and wished to see him dead, they present Hercule Poirot with a baffling challenge--one which the astute detective solves only through his uncanny ability to see "the little things.""

I enjoyed this a fair amount.  Like Appointment with Death, it does end with a rather unexpected and slightly uncalled for solution but this time, it's a little more palatable.  It's slightly more plausible and there are more clues laid out throughout the book so that once you know the ending, it makes sense.  The ending of this one was actually thoroughly enjoyable because it did really bring together all the inconsistencies with the crime.  It's also thoroughly gruesome so there's no question of whether or not it's a murder or not so there's no time spent trying to figure out whether it was indeed murder and there is more time spent on what kind of people were in the house.
The Final Verdict:
Thoroughly enjoyable with a wonderful twist at the end that comes from left field, but still within possibility.
4 stars

That's all for now!  Have you read any of these or any Agatha Christie books in general?  What did you think of them?  Are you a fan of mysteries?  How do you like your mysteries to end?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, January 5, 2018

50/50 Friday (66): Best/Worst Book Read in December

50/50 Friday is a meme hosted by Carrie @The Butterfly Reads and I and focuses on the opposite sides of books (best/worst, differing opinions, etc).  Every week will have a new topic and several advance topics will be listed in the tab labeled 50/50 Friday!

Today's Topic: Best/Worst Book Read in December

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

English Course Review Round Up: Part 4

This is part 4 of 4 of this series!  One of my programs in university is English Critical Studies so we end up reading a lot of books.  In one of my courses this semester, we read a total of 8 novels and I've been writing mini reviews for each of them!  To see the previous three parts, click HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Guide: The Wonders of Images

This is my December installment of a series I'm doing to commemorate my third blogoversary!  Every month, I'll take on a topic in which I've learned something about in my three years in the blogoverse.  These all reflect my experiences so there are definitely other resources out there!  This is just what I've found works for me.  A list of linked previous topics are below for your convenience!

In this installment, I'll be talking about images.  They spice up your blog and make everything that much prettier!  But how can you customize (or even make your own) images?  And do you have to cite images you've borrowed from other people?
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