Friday, December 16, 2011
I first heard about this book over at The Enchanted Inkpot, where they have a delightful interviewed Kersten Hamilton. I am so glad I picked up this book! I hadn't heard of Hamilton before, but I will definitely be reading anything she writes from now on.
Teagan is a fairly typical high school student. She has a great after-school job working at a vet clinic; a mom who writes and illustrates children's fatasy books; a librarian dad; a music-obsessed younger brother; and a best friend she's known forever. Teagan's practical and goal-oriented; she's got a plan for her life and the action steps necessary to go after it. But one night her parents agree to take in Aiden, Teagan's cousin, who has been in and out of foster homes since his parents -- Teagan's mom's adopted brother and his wife who also happen to be Irish Travelers-- died in a car accident. What happens next has little to do with Teagan's simple and uncomplicated life, and a lot to do with adventure, danger, and a million-year war.
Tyger, Tyger is basically an interpretation and retelling of classic Irish legends and myths; which I'll admit I am predisposed to like. Hamilton does a good job of infusing the book with both a mystical and magical feel, as well as reminding us that Teagan has always been firmly grounded in reality. At least...reality as she knows it. I also like that Hamilton doesn't shy away from the creepy and sinister. The book moves along at a fairly quick pace, but I think that gives the book an appropriate sense of urgency. As far as characters go, I enjoyed everyone I met, and particularly loved Teagan's younger brother. Then of course there's Aiden: hot Irish guy. Need I say more? There's thankfully no love triangle; and while the romance had a bit of the "we're destined for each other" element, it wasn't overdone and there was still a lot of sweet, awkward first romance.
Bottom line: an excellent fantasy/fairy tale, with more to come!
Alloy of Law is a book set in the same world as, but several hundred years after Sanderson's excellent Mistborn trilogy. It's part Western, part mystery, part fantasy. There's magic and gunfights and wisecracks. In some ways, it reminds me Joss Whedon's Firefly series, in that it's a fun, Western-inspired adventure. You can read Alloy of Law without having read the Mistborn books, but it's pretty cool reading a book where the history and religion of the people you're reading about are the people you've met and bcome friends with.
About the story: Waxillium Ladrian is a lord turned lawman turned lord again -- very reluctantly. As he attempts to supress his "uncouth" habits learned in the Roughs, fit back into society and repair his deceased uncle's damaged estate, Wax becomes intrigued with a string of seemingly impossible train and coach robberies. He is further pulled into the mystery when a friend from the Roughs - Wayne, who I might have little crush on -- comes to solicit his help. Although the story isn't necessarily deep and layered, it's a good mystery, with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing.
About the characters: the characters definitely play to some classic archetypes. Wax is the hero with integrity, a heart for the downtrodden, a strong moral code, and a sense of duty and loyalty. He is no stranger to heartache, and prone to conflicted emotions. Wayne is the guy with a rough past, but ultimately a good heart. He's funny and irreverant and doesn't seem to take things too seriously, but he's good in a fight and loyal to the end. Kind of the Doc Holiday to Wax's Wyatt Earp. Then there's the ladies: one who is blunt and forthright and Wax's best prospect at marrying into money to save his estate; and her bastard sister who is super smart, a little bit spunky, and in love with Wax. Oh, and let's not forget the woman from Wax's past, the one he loved who now haunts his present. Although I loved all of the characters, I will admit the villian didn't exactly leap off the page at me.
Bottom line: a fun read from one of my favorite authors.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
My first encounter had to do with downloading ebooks. Our library system is part of a consortium that offers downloadable ebooks. Awesome! Free ebooks! Of course, now that we've advertised and promoted and excited people with our free ebooks, a lot of people want to read them. And all the good books have waiting lists. But the ebook collection is basically like starting a library from scratch on a limited budget: the numbers are growing but still limited. Buying one copy of an ebook is like buying one copy of a print book in that there is only that copy available at a time. This limited availability of every book one wants irritates people who are used to digital content being more accessible, more instantaneous. I'm curious to see as ebook publishing continues to evolve, if these limitations will become less limiting. In the meantime, the good news is that check out time is two weeks. Just get on the waiting list and you won't have to wait long.
My second encounter had to do more with the mechanics of libraries and fine policies in a scenario that happens regularly: Patron checks out books. Patron returns books. Books are not checked in properly. Patron receives letter from finance -- return your books or pay the replacement cost or get sent to collections. Patron is angry and comes to library to confront staff. Staff finds books on shelf. Patron leaves feeling self-righteous and with a grudge against the library. There are two things happening here: first, irritation at fines and the collection of fines; second, the incorrect accusation. Basically, the person feels like they are being called a liar.
Here's the thing: the library is staffed by human beings. We make mistakes. And we also respond to your attitude when you come up to the desk. If you approach me angry and defensive, my first instinct is to be angry and defensive right back. But if you come up to me and calmly and rationally explain that you turned the books in, I will do my best to work with you and figure out what happened. I'm not calling you a liar; I'm just trying to do my job and find our books. Librarianism is a helping profession -- I WANT to help you. But if you're attacking me, it's a whole lot harder.
And about those fines: do I wish that the policies were different and we could do away with fines? Sure. Does "harrasing" people for $30 seem a little petty? Sure. But one could also look at it this way: we (at the library) are responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of material paid for by tax payers and used by tax payers. It is our job to be fiscally responsible as well as provide fair access to all of our patrons. Fines encourage turning books in on time, thereby making them accessible to more people. If a library just wrote off the cost for all of the items never returned, we would lose thousands of dollars each year. Is that fiscally responsible? And the same patron who thinks it's ridiculous to be threatened with collections over a missing (or assumed missing) book is probably also the same patron who is mad if we don't have exactly the book he or she wants exactly when he or she wants it. And they don't see the connection between the fact that because we have to spend $80 to replace that GED study guide that someone never returned, we don't have the money to buy that book you want.
Like most things in life, it's a balancing act: customer service versus responsibility. Big picture versus individual interractions. And it's all tied together by human beings. We're just doing our best.
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Auden hasn't slept at night since her parents started fighting, a habit that has continued past the divorce and all the way through high school. She spends her nights at an all-night diner, overachieving as the perfect, academically minded daughter. After her senior year of high school, Auden decides to spend the summer in Colby, the beach community where her father lives with his wife and newborn daughter. The academically-minded Auden has never had a social life -- has never really had friends. And to be honest, Auden starts off the book pretty cold and judgemental, but also a little lonely even if she doesn't realize it. As the summer progresses, Auden begins working in her stepmother's boutique, meeting local girls her own age and their male bike-shop counterparts. And she meets Eli, a haunted boy who also spends his nights awake. And so begins the summer where Auden learns and grows in ways completely unrelated to test scores and college admissions.
This book could have easily turned into one big, cheesy cliche; but what I love about Sarah Dessen's book is their genuineness. Her characters are real and relateable, her settings vivid (I could smell the salty air and taste the copious amounts of coffee Auden drank). Auden drove me crazy at first -- but in the way that a real live person would. Her mother and father were unbelievably self absorbed and annoying -- but believably. I enjoyed reading about Auden's journey, I enjoyed meeting the secondary characters that taught Auden about friendship, and I rooted for Auden and Eli's sweet relationship. And speaking of Eli, I liked how he and Auden had a two-way relationship; they needed each other, which just made it that much more rich.
Bottom line: another solid contemporary YA book by the consistently great Sarah Dessen.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
One of my oldest and bestest friends recommended Firefly Lane to me during a visit to see her this summer. The nature of post-college-new jobs-marriage-bills-and-the-US-is-a-big-place life meant that the two of us had not seen each other in 10 years before we got together this summer. Ten years! (insert Grosse Point Blank reference here). Sure, we'd communicated via phone and text and email and Facebook, but it's just no the same, you know? All that to say, usually the fact that a friend recommends a book to me doesn't really effect my opinion or enjoyment of the book. But in this case, a book about a lifelong recommended to me by a lifelong friend became more enjoyable and poignant because of that recommendation.
But about the book: Tully and Katie meet at 14, both lonely and entrenched in the awkward pain of adolescence. Although they are far from friends at first, when Katie reaches out to Tully after a crisis, the two become best friends. Inseperable. The rest of the book follows their lives for the next 30 years -- high school, college, jobs, boyfriends, families, success, failure, pain and joy. In many ways, Firefly Lane is exactly what you'd expect: a drama about women, told in sweeping brush strokes. Hannah has stocked the book with a lot of pop culture references which help you get the feel of how much time is passing, although it times it feels a bit awkward and stilted. What I appreciate about this book is that Hannah manages to write a drama that avoids melodrama. The emotions in the book feel genuine, as does the relationship between the two main characters. The secondary characters are not super fleshed out, but the story is really about Katie and Tully anyway.
Bottom line: a story that will make you want to get on the phone and call up your best friend to tell her how much you love her. Oh, and fair warning: put a box of tissues next to your chair!
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
I've been slack on my challenge reading, but here's another review for The Story Siren's 2011 Debut Author Challenge.
I began this book cautiously, afraid it wouldn't live up to the hype. But. Y'all. It does. I devoured this book, and immediately passed it on to my husband, who also blew through it. And I can't wait for the sequel! I hope Veronica Roth is a quick writer.
So on to more specific comments: the plot wasn't anything groundbreaking, but it was a solid treatment of a classic dystopian story, well-paced and with enough action to keep you moving through the story. Particularly for a first book in the series, I thought Roth's pacing was spot-on. She gave you enuogh of a story and resolution to feel satisfied, but left a lot more ground to cover and definitely left you wanting more. I loved Roth's characters because for the most part they seemed real -- flawed and conflicted. The progagonists were relateable and sympathetic, even when were making me mad. And while the antagonists made me want to punch them in the face, they seemed like characters not characatures. I enjoyed the romantic storyline as well, and the fact that it grew rather than appeared. And thank you, thank you, thank you Ms. Roth for NOT putting in a love triangle.
Overall, a highly recommended first book from a fantastic new author.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Daughter of Smoke and Bones, by Laini Taylor -- raise your hand if you want to visit Prague? (raises hand). This book has a ton of things going for it. Unique story, vivid characters, a wonderful sense of place and mood, and it's full of emotion. Hope and love and mystery and aching heartbreak.It's the kind of book that I just liked more and more as I continued reading it. I can't wait for the sequel!
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
This is the first book in the Maisie Dobbs mystery series set in 1930s England. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I'm so glad. It has a lot of things I love: historical setting, great characters, and an intriguing mystery. It's a quiet book, and kind of somber in some ways. The characters are still reeling emotionally from the first World War, and in this first book we are given some back story that took place during the war itself. Yet the story never became gruesome or maudlin; and overall, the tone wasn't depressing. The mystery itself had a classic British mystery feel to it, but I also liked the fact that the book was about more than the mystery and also about the characters themselves. So it was like two stories seamlessly woven into one. I'm looking forward to reading more about Maisie and Billy and Maurice and Lady Rowan. Bottom line, read this if you enjoy mystery or historical fiction.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr
This is a short book, but it packs such an emotional punch. As children, Jennifer and Cameron are picked on and ignored and bullied by their peers; but they have each other. A traumatic event ends up separating the two for a while, but years later they are brought together again. They must confront their shared history, the different paths they've taken, and figure out where to go from there. It's beautiful and heartbreaking; a look at love in an untraditional way. Zarr is so good at creating characters and stories that just burrow right inside of you.
Big Stone Gap, by Adriana Trigiani
Set in the mountains of Virginia in 1978, Big Stone Gap is the story of Ave Maria Mulligan. Ave Maria is content in her life, a life full of work and friends and community involvement. Until one day she receives some news that shakes her whole world and causes her to question everything about herself. This isn't a fast-paced story, but it doesn't drag either. There's a sense of simplicity and unhurriedness. I enjoyed the sense of place that the author created. And while normally I don't like "life-crisis" type of stories, Triginani managed to create a story free from the melodrama I often associate with that kind of book. Plus, the book was about more than just Ave Maria's crisis, it was about the town and the mountains and the people who lived there. It's about family and love and frienship.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
I've been slowly rediscovering author Robin McKinnley, and am enjoying every minute of it. Pegasus, her most recent novel, is a story of friendship, love, family, loyalty, and growing up. As a member of the royal family, Sylvi is bonded to a pegasus in an important ceremony on her 12th birthday (every little girl's dream, right?). This tradition is part of the treaty forged between humans and pegasi when the human's discovered the pegasus country and helped them defeat their enemies. For the most part, humans and pegasi must communicate through magicians and shamans, but Sylvi and the pegasus Ebon are able to communicate in the unspoken and telepathic way most pegasi communicate. Their unusual relationship is unusual and challenges centuries old traditions. And has some rather unintended consequences.
The characters in the book are very well-drawn. I love the picture of Syri's family; it's family in which people are encouraged to be themselves, yet fulfill their duty and responsibility as a monarchy. The families (both royal families -- human and pegasi) love each other. I also enjoy the development of Syri and Ebon's relationship. Because they are two different species, McKinnley is able to show the development of a real, loving, deep frienship without any of the expectations (and sometimes hinderances) of a romance. (not that I don't love a good romance -- because I do. But life is more than romances). I also love watching Sylvi and Ebon grow up, watching them go from enthusiastic kids, to young adults who have to face some pretty heavy stuff -- and some pretty intense consequences to their unusual relationship. The story jumps a bit between the reveal of the history of this land and the current events. But it has the rambling quality of listening to your Uncle George tell you a story. There aren't "history breaks"; it's more narrative. Sometimes I can get put off by rambling, but in this case it's charming and cozy.
I'm pretty sure there is going to be a sequel. If not, I'm going to be banging on Robin McKinnley's door asking her why she is so cruel!
Bottom line: excellent book!
Friday, August 12, 2011
I'm super excited about Maggie Stiefvater's new book The Scorpio Races. You should all check out her trailer for it, which I have conveniently put in this post...enjoy!
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.
Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know. -summary from Goodreads
I absolutely adored this book, and would read it again in a heartbeat. The writing style is lyrical and musical and haunting; perfect for a book that is set in this world, but has a part of it in another world. I loved the characters. Briony, Eldric, Rose, Tiddy Rex...even the characters who don't get a lot of page time are fully developed. By the end of the book, you know them. And no one is a caracature. I loved Briony's sass and spirit, even though her heart was broken; and I loved that Eldric was fun and irreverant, but with a hidden maturity. And as far as the story goes, I loved the way it unfolded so delicately. You know pretty early that there's more to the story than what Briony knows and believes, but you have to stick with her as she finds it out.
Bottom line: read this book!
Monday, July 25, 2011
Under the Dome begins with a bang - literally. A mysterious force field appears out of nowhere, causing plane crashes and car crashes along the perimeter of Chester's Mill, Maine. All attempts at breaching the Dome -- from acid to bombs -- fail. The town's population -- at least those who were in town on Dome Day -- are stunned and confused. Some in the town have big secrets to hide, others see this as an opportunity to seize power and control, some see the Dome as their chance to get away with whatever they want, and others are just trying to figure out what in the world is going on.
I read this book for book club, and have to say that I really enjoyed it. I haven't read a ton of Stephen King's books, but of the few I've read this is my favorite so far. I don't really do horror, and this was more of a drama/adventure/mystery type book. Horrific only as you see what kinds of things human beings are capable of doing to each other (and I will admit, there were a few things that made me go ewwwwww. Junior, you are one sick puppy). Sometimes I have a problem with King's pacing in his books, but this book was very well-paced for such a huge story. I was also impressed with the characterization in the book, particularly given the large cast of characters. There was a fun good guys-bad guys element to the book, which was also maddening at times because WHY ARE THE BAD GUYS GETTING AWAY WITH THIS JUNK! I was invested, that's for sure.
Bottom line: fun, entertaining, and slightly disturbing.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Sarah Dessen has quickly become one of my go-to, contemporary YA authors. When I'm in the mood for a story with heart and humor, and a story with characters that you grow to love, and a romance that feels real and honest, I reach for a Dessen book. What Happened to Goodbye is her newest release. Since her parents divorce, Mclean has lived mostly with her dad, moving around every few months with his job as a restaurant consultant. She uses these moves as a chance to reinvent herself. New name, new girl. A way to avoid her anger and inner turmoil after her parents divorce; a way to avoid getting too close to people. She doesn't have to be real, she just has to slide into her role. But Mclean's walls start crumbling when she and her dad move to yet another town, and Mclean makes some friends that force her to be genuine, make connections, and work through her past.
Again....I loved, loved, loved this book. My only "complaint" -- if you can call it that -- is that Dessen just leaves me wanting more. More Mclean, more Dave, more Riley, more Deb.
Bottom line: pick up this book when you're looking for a comfort-food kind of read.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
But here's where my habit becomes a dilemma: what do you do when a friend hands you a book saying "this book is amazing! You have to read it!" And then you just don't like it. Or can't get into it. Do you hand it back with a simple "I couldn't get into it." Or do you persevere because of your regard for the friend?
For me, I think it depends on the friend, knowing them well enough to know what they would do in the same situation. Knowing them well enough to know if their feelings would be hurt by casual disregard of the book. And knowing them well enough to know how important the book is to them.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
(This may be a first! A review written and posted immediately after finishing the book)
Riley Blackthorne just needs a chance to prove herself – and that’s exactly what the demons are counting on… Seventeen-year-old Riley, the only daughter of legendary Demon Trapper, Paul Blackthorne, has always dreamed of following in her father's footsteps. The good news is, with human society seriously disrupted by economic upheaval and Lucifer increasing the number of demons in all major cities, Atlanta’s local Trappers’ Guild needs all the help they can get – even from a girl. When she’s not keeping up with her homework or trying to manage her growing crush on fellow apprentice, Simon, Riley’s out saving distressed citizens from foul-mouthed little devils – Grade One Hellspawn only, of course, per the strict rules of the Guild. Life’s about as normal as can be for the average demon-trapping teen. But then a Grade Five Geo-Fiend crashes Riley’s routine assignment at a library, jeopardizing her life and her chosen livelihood. And, as if that wasn’t bad enough, sudden tragedy strikes the Trappers’ Guild, spinning Riley down a more dangerous path than she ever could have imagined. As her whole world crashes down around her, who can Riley trust with her heart – and her life? (summary from GoodReads)
The Demon Trapper's Daughter was a quick, action-packed read. I liked Riley, and believed that she was a 17 year old girl. In some ways an adult, and in some ways still young (and stubborn and impetuous and emotional). She's brave, but at the same time scared. I also liked Beck, Riley's father's trainee and Riley's former-crush-now-kind-of-big-brother-but-not-really. Although at times, I felt his character fell a bit into too much of a cliche. And I look forward to seeing if some of the other secondary characters - Peter, Simon, Oli, and even Martha - are fleshed out a bit more in the upcoming books. I hope they are. I also liked the concept of the book -- it made me nostalgic for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and would definitely appeal to fans of those shows (like me!) The only real hangup I had with the book, is that the world building was lacking for me. The setting - urban Atlanta - was spot-on. I could see Atlanta around me. But the foundation of this alternate reality just wasn't developed enough for me. What are the rules of this world? Why are things the way they are?
Maybe not the best book I've ever read, but over all an enjoyable book. A nice quick read if you're in the mood for action and butt-kicking.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Elizabeth has a new job at an unusual library— a lending library of objects, not books. In a secret room in the basement lies the Grimm Collection. That's where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White's stepmother's sinister mirror that talks in riddles.
When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth embarks on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before she can be accused of the crime—or captured by the thief.
This was a fun book to read, and partly because as I read it I thought "it would be so cool if this was real!" I love working at a public library...but working at a lending library for objects (especially if some were magical) would be pretty awesome. The book started out a little clunky for me, but I realized that if I started reading it as though I were reading a fairy tale -- not just reading about fairy tales -- then the writing style fell into place. For example, the simplistic reveals and the willingness to accept magic felt more natural once I read the book as a fairy tale. And that's not to say that the story was lacking in depth. The characters, for example, were very well-drawn and lent a richness to the book.
Bottom line, a fun, enjoyable, magical read.
Please Ignore Vera Dietz, by A.S. King
Vera's spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she's kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.
So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to? (summary from www.goodreads.com)
I LOVED this book. The characters are solid and clear and ring true; the story is simple, yet deep and complex at the same time; and it's just quirky enough. I love that the author is able to take a sad, tragic moment in a girl's life and write a story that isn't melodramatic and isn't too dark and full of despair. At the same time, she doesn't make light of the major things going on in Vera's life. You feel her heartache, but the author paints a picture of life as being more than just heartache. There is love and hope and humor mixed up in there too. I loved Vera's journey through the book, and getting to see her relationship with Charlie, even knowing the bittersweet nature of that relationship. I also really loved Vera's dad and her relationship with him. Again, it's such a reflection of a true relationship: realistically imperfect. But still a solid relationship. These two need each other, and it's great to see them work through that as they both work through personal trauma as well.
Bottom line: excellent book.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
This weeding cycle I'm also facing the reality that I may walk home with quite a few books today. Some of these books look good! Maybe they just need a good home, someone to love them.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
I've also started Monsters of Men, by Patrick Ness, the final installment of his gripping and heart-wrenching Chaos Walking trilogy. Holy cow. That's all I can say.
And slightly related to what I'm reading...I've also started watching the first season of the t.v. show Friday Night Lights. It's a good show -- solid storytelling, interesting characters and great actors. All the things I enjoy from a good book! And even though the insane football stuff just makes me shake my head in wonder, I have to admit it kinda makes me miss Texas a little.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Aoife lives in a world where science and reason are the only religion. There is no magic, no gods, nothing weird or strange or fantastical. And anyone who says or acts otherwise is either a heretic, or infected with a deadly nanovirus. Aoife's mother is, in fact, infected with the nanovirus; and lives in one of the city's many mental hospitals. Luckily Aoife, whose father is not in the picture, is smart, and she has been allowed to attend the School of Engineering. Unluckily, Aoife is almost 16, the age when her older brother's nanovirus manifested itself and he tried to kill her before disappearing. But Aoife doesn't believe that her brother really tried to harm her, and she's been getting secret correspondence from him since he disappeared. Weeks before her own 16th birthday, Aoife receives a brief letter from him: Help. She finds out he has gone north to find their father, and tells Aoife she must follow him. Withing nothing to lose, Aoife sets out on a dangerous adventure and discovers a lot more about the world she lives in...and some she doesn't.
That may be the worst summary ever! But I didn't want to give too much away. For the most part, I enjoyed Iron Thorn. I liked the world that Kittredge built: it's an alternate United States around 1959/1960, with steampunk touches. That's a time period you don't see a lot of in YA fiction these days, and it allowed the author to add some fun details, such as the 1950s morals (think Sandy in the first part of Grease), and a James Dean-esque bad boy. The first part of this book was really creepy and trippy, which I loved. As the story unfolded and the reader -- along with Aoife -- start figuring out what's really going on, things became more straight forward. Unfortunately, this is about the time I started getting really irritated with Aoife. I felt like she was just so dense and very uneven. I really wanted to smack her a few times. The secondary characters were interesting, but I would have liked to see a little more development. Fortunately, it's a trilogy, so maybe that will come in later books. I will also say that the very end of the book picked up quite a bit, and really left me wanting to read the next installment. My only other complaint with the book, is that I didn't really feel the romance. It seemed a bit forced to me.
Overall, it was a good read, if not one of my favorites.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Monday, May 9, 2011
Summary from Goodreads: Natalie Sterling wants to be in control. She wants her friends to be loyal. She wants her classmates to elect her student council president. She wants to find the right guy, not the usual jerk her school has to offer. She wants a good reputation, because she believes that will lead to good things.
But life is messy, and it's very hard to be in control of it. Not when there are freshman girls running around in a pack, trying to get senior guys to sleep with them. Not when your friends have secrets they're no longer comfortable sharing. Not when the boy you once dismissed ends up being the boy you want to sleep with yourself - but only in secret, with nobody ever finding out.
Slut or saint? Winner or loser? Natalie is getting tired of these forced choices - and is now going to find a way to live life in the sometimes messy, sometimes wonderful in-between.
I read this book in one sitting, staying up late to finish it and then staying up even later as my mind thought about it and processed it. I enjoyed Vivan's writing: it was straightforward and descriptive and genuine. The characters rang true -- which is probably why I just wanted to smack Natalie and Spencer throughout the first 3/4 of the book! The story itself felt very genuine, and felt like a story that everyone experiences at some point -- regardless of your age. Life isn't as black and white as many people want it to be; we are all responsible for our own choices in life, and it's important to be true to yourself, without worrying so much about what other people think. That's definitely something even I have a problem remembering! I guess the only real problem I had with the book, is that the ending felt a little rushed. And thematically, I had a big problem with Spencer's speech and the ensuing idea that sex is your weapon to control boys and make them do what you want. Yes, girls and women should be in charge of their own sexuality; however, I think it's mean and disrespectful to use anything to have "power" over another person, male or female. Sexuality as a weapon is one of my big pet peeves. And, of course the street goes both ways. Life isn't a gender competition and power struggle. Maybe the characters were on their way to realizing that and just didn't have time...that's what I like to think anyway.
Bottom line: an enjoyable book that entertained me and made me think...both things that I love!
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Red Glove, by Holly Black
Spoiler Warning: if you haven't read White Cat, you should probably stop here, go out to your local library or book store and immediately get a copy, then block off an afternoon and read it. But then you'll want to read Red Glove right away, so just go ahead and get both books while you're at it and block off an entire day.
As you can probably tell, I love White Cat and its sequel Red Glove. Black has created a world filled with shades of gray -- there is very little black and white in this book (except for the cat, of course. Sorry, couldn't help myself). But really, what do you expect from a book about magic, crime familes and con artists. I love the slightly noir feel to the books, the creative world-building (modern but with a touch of magic), and most of all the characters. Cassel (the main character) is complex, conflicted, and such a real teenage boy. But Black has also give us a cast of wonderful, fleshed-out characters from Cassel's crazy mother and horrible brothers, to his "normal" friends at school.
Bottom line, these are great books. Read them!
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
The Red Glove, by Holly Black (sequel to the awesome White Cat)
The Grimm Legacy, by Polly Shulman
Trapped, by Michael Northrop
Pegasus, by Robin McKinley
Other Words for Love, by Lorraine Zago Rosenthal
One Amazing Thing, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Thursday, April 21, 2011
The Next Best Thing, by Kristan Higgins
This is one of my favorite comfort-food-type romances: an engaging story, likable and well-drawn characters, fast-paced but not rushed, and plenty of romantic chemistry. Not over-the-top and not overly cheesy.
The Iron Duke, by Meljean Brooks
Brooks has built an interesting world in this book. It's an alternate history, somewhere between Edwardian and Victorian, but vastly different than the 17th and 18th century that we know about. The Mongol Horde has conquered Europe and England through the use of nanoagents -- tiny, mechanical bugs that can control a person's emotions and actions (although not their mind, which is doubly horrible. You're aware of doing the things you don't want to do). Although England is now free of Mongol rule, they are struggling with finding freedom after hundreds of years of oppressive rule. The story follows Mina Wentworth -- a detective with the Metropolitan Police Force in London as she solves a murder and unravels a conspiracy plot. Her duties force her to work with Rhys Trahearn, the Iron Duke and the man who effectively brought the Horde to destruction in England; and as they work together the two share a very intense romance. I'll admit, a bit too intense for me at times; I ended up skipping a few sections because things got a little too...vivid. And while the story and the setting were very interesting, the book was a bit too dark for my mood at the time.
Wise Man's Fear, Patrick Rothfuss
The second in a fantasy trilogy by a very gifted story-teller. Kvothe is telling us his life story, a story that is at times joyful, fantastical, hilarious, heartbreaking, angry and irreverant. If you like good stories, interesting characters and fantasy (or if you've thought about reading a fantasy novel but weren't sure where to start) do yourself a favor and go get Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear. And block off a couple of days in your schedule.
One of the different things I've done lately is attend a mini-conference for public libraries hosted by our state library association. I really love conferences, even if the workshops are things I've heard before. Sometimes -- particularly when it comes to work -- I think it's good to hear the same or similar things more than once. Makes it stick better, you know? One of my favorite workshops was the one on Reader's Advisory. I love Reader's Advisory! A couple of years ago, I stumbled upon this blog: RA for All. I was first just impressed with the resources and information she made available for other librarians who help their patrons find books. And then I realized -- the author's job at her public library is Reader's Advisory! It's her whole job! Very cool. I'd considered my professional goal to be a reference librarian at a public library, but now...I'm thinking Reader's Advisory. Anyway, one of the pieces of the discussion in our workshop, was on judging a book by its cover. The speaker maintained that in general, you can tell basic characteristics of a book based on its cover -- especially in genre fiction. Is the book going to be dark, strange, edgy, sappy, cheesy, sweet, family-oriented, romantic, hot and steamy, funny...I've been thinking about this a lot since then, and while I have in the past been mislead by the cover of a book, I think in more cases than not this is true. And I think one thing is really true -- the cover is designed to appeal to the readers that the publisher thinks will want to read the book. And sometimes, that is actually the person who wants to read the book.
what do you think?
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Sean Griswold's Head is a totally adorable book, and it manages to be adorable while still having depth and heart.
Over Christmas break, high school freshman Payton Gritas accidentally discovers that her father has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This fact is shocking and upsetting enough on its own; but Payton becomes even more angry when she finds out her entire family -- dad, mom, two older brothers -- has been keeping this information from her for 6 months. Payton's mom asks her to see the school guidance counselor to help her deal with this information, and hopefully get Payton talking to her family again. As her first exercise, the guidance counselor tells Payton to find a Focus Object, something to help her focus and organize her thoughts on. As Payton sits in her next class, she thinks about the assignment while staring at the thing she stares at every day -- the back of Sean Griswold's head. Payton has been sitting behind Sean Griswold in the alphabetical world of school since 3rd grade; but for all the time she has known Sean, she doesn't really know him.
I like pretty much everything about this book. The characters are realistic and quirky, but not too quirky. Leavitt deftly explores many different kinds of relationships in the book -- friendship, family, and first crushes. I really enjoy all the different relationships in the book, and how each one is a vital part of the book. The book is really about Payton going through a major event in her life, and how it effects all of her relationships. And while this book could easily have been trite and cheesy, it isn't.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
I picked up Elizabeth C. Bunce's first book, A Curse Dark as Gold, partly because of the cool cover, and partly because she's a fellow Kansas City girl. I like to support the home team, if you will. I wasn't wowed by Curse, but enjoyed it enough to want to give Bunce's second book a chance. I'm certainly glad I did! StarCrossed is the story of a thief who disguises herself as a ladies' maid to escape punishment and certain death in her home city. She then finds herself caught up in political intrigue, forced to spy on people who she finds herself growing to care about -- people with whom she is forming attachments, despite her best efforts to remain emotionally distant. I really enjoyed watching Digger's character progress through the book, and hope that in the sequel some of the secondary characters develop as much as hers did.
Although the fantasy world that Digger lives in is the fairly typical medieval-Europe-but-with-magic type of world, that didn't bother me. The story and characters are what this world is really about, and that kept me invested and interested and entertained. And Bunce does a great job of throwing you right into the middle of a mess of secrets, then slowly unraveling the knot.
All in all, a fun adventure. I'm looking forward to the next book!
Friday, March 18, 2011
Across the Universe, by Beth Revis
At some point in the not-so-distant future, a group of adventurous scientists and soldiers and settlers leave earth for a distant planet. The journey aboard the immense ship Godspeed will take 300 years. The settlers are cryogenically frozen, and the ship will be manned by its own society of caretakers. 50 years before they are scheduled to arrive at the new planet, Amy -- a teenage girl who accompanied her parents on the journey -- is unplugged and nearly dies. Instead, Amy finds herself trapped on a ship in the middle of space with a strange society led by an intense man simply called Eldest. As Amy attempts to figure out and adjust to her new circumstances, someone begins unplugging more of the frozen settlers, and leaving them to die. Amy must figure out why someone is murdering the settlers, and who she can trust.
Across the Universe was a fast-paced adventure read. The story is told in alternating first-person narratives between Amy and the ship's second-in-command Elder. Both characters were at times frustrating and endearing; which, to me, made them very believable characters. I enjoyed watching the characters grow throughout the book.
The world-building and set-up for the story were very interesting -- and at times very creepy! (i.e. The Season). Godspeed as it is when Amy shows up is a very disconcerting place. Revis did a good job of really putting me there, whether I liked it or not!
I love mysteries, and while a few of the mysteries were easy to figure out, there were enough gasp-worthy moments to leave me feeling satisfied at the end. I also liked how Revis tied up the primary storylines at the end of the book, but left it wide open for the sequel. There is a tenuous sense of harmony at the end of the book, but so many ways in which everything can go wrong. And there are some larger issues unresolved, so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
Tiger's Curse, by Colleen Houck
Kelsey Hayes is just looking for a summer job, something to get her through to the fall when she’ll start community college. The temp agency sends her on a two-week gig to a small circus, primarily to help care for and feed the circus animals. While at the circus, she’s immediately drawn to the gentle white tiger Dihren. Since both of her parents died a few years ago, Kelsey has distanced herself from strong connections and friendships, so she enjoys Dihren’s safe companionship. She begins to spend most of her evenings with Dihren, writing in her journal, or reading out loud to the tiger. Toward the end of the circus’ time in Dallas, Oregon, the circus owner gets an offer for Dihren that he can’t refuse. Unexpectedly, Indian gentleman who is purchasing Dihren asks Kelsey to accompany them to India where his employer wants to release the tiger into a wildlife reserve. Mr. Kadam tells Kelsey that because the tiger is clearly very comfortable with her, he would appreciate her help in caring for Dihren during the journey. It’s unexpected and not your typical summer job, but Kelsey doesn’t see any reason to refuse; plus, she’ll miss her tiger once he’s gone, and welcomes the chance to spend a bit more time with him.
After a luxurious flight in a private jet with the considerate, genteel and charming Mr. Kadam, the three land in India. Mr. Kadam has hired a driver to take Kelsey and Dihren to the wildlife reserve where he will meet them; but when they stop for gas and lunch, the driver takes off, leaving Kelsey and Dihren stranded in the middle of nowhere. Kelsey discovers her backpack has been conveniently stocked with survival gear, and her cell phone is missing. With no way to contact Mr. Kadam and a huge white tiger to care for, she follows Dihren into the jungle with the idea of hiking back to civilization. But that night, Kelsey’s strange adventure becomes even stranger when her tiger turns into a man (and a drop-dead gorgeous one at that) who turns out to be a 350 year old prince who claims she is the one who will be able to break the curse he has been placed under. Before she knows it, Kelsey is on a quest to break the curse, and on an adventure that includes a shaman, an Indian goddess, temples, a dangerous world ruled by monkey-god, and – of course – love.
The best part about this book is the story – Colleen Houck mixes magic and fantasy and Indian legends and stories into a really fun adventure. The love story is sweet, and I like how it develops. At first, it’s kind of a love-at-first-sight-instant-chemistry-destiny kind of thing. Which…meh. But, as Kelsey and Ren spend more time together, their relationship starts developing past the instant chemistry stage and gets more depth.
I will say that the writing itself fell a little flat for me; it seemed stiff. But again, the story itself really carried me past the at-times clunky writing. Also, it took me a while to start connecting with the characters, but by the end of the book I was definitely invested in them and their story (and I was emphatically trying to tell Kelsey “don’t be an idiot!”). One thing about Kelsey – her character is kind of refreshing. She’s a soon-to-be college freshman, but she’s not a worldly-wise person; she she’s innocent and unsophisticated (never had a boyfriend and never even been kissed). But she’s also smart, loyal, compassionate, bookish, down-to-earth and strong.
Bottom line – a fun story and a good read. I’m looking forward to the next installment.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Next on my list is a book for the book group I've recently joined: Cry, the Beloved Country, by Alan Paton. Then after that, I'm finally getting started reading a few books for the Story Siren's Debut Author Challenge. The first two up to bat: Across the Universe, by Beth Revis and Tiger's Curse, by Colleen Houck. I'm even more curious to read Across the Universe now because I've been seeing more reviews for it and they are definitely mixed. So we'll see!
that's it for now! Happy Reading!
Monday, February 7, 2011
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver:
This is a Groundhog Day setup -- a popular but not-very-nice girl relives her last over and over again. In doing so, she learns a lot about herself, her friends and the people she encounters every day. Lauren Oliver does an excellent job of creating very unlikable characters that you still want to keep reading about; and characters that actually grow and develop through the story. She also brings a what-in-the-world! ending that kept me awake at night, trying to unravel my response to it.
Enchanted Ivy, by Sarah Beth Durst:
This book has such as great premise: a high school junior gets the chance to secure early admission to Princeton, her grandfather and father's alma mater and the university she's always dreamed of attending. But to secure this admission, she must pass a Legacy Test. But in her search to find the Ivy Key, Lily Carter discovers a hidden Princeton full of secrets and magic, old aliances and new friendships. Like I said, I loved this premise. A magical scavenger hunt! A hidden world! Gargoyles! But for me, the book just did not deliver. It wasn't terrible, just slightly dissapointing. I felt like it could have used a lot more depth and development.
Saturday, January 29, 2011
At some point, I began writing some of my stories down; but I'd get discouraged, or lose steam and not finish them. I cringe at the fact that I threw most of them away. Fast forward -- I still love to write. But I'm a lazy writer, I'll admit it. I've attemped NaNoWriMo twice and missed the goal. But the stories are still in my head and they want to get out! My previous philosophy of "write when you have spare time" just doesn't work (did I mention I'm lazy?). I need a plan and a schedule that I can stick to. But when to schedule time? I work, and I have a family and social obligations. But...I had an epiphany. I'm currently training for a half marathon. I run Monday-Thursdays, plus Saturday. During the week, I get up at 6:45 or 7 in order to make it to work on time. Friday is a rest day. So I've just been getting up later -- bingo! What if, I asked myself, I still got up at 7, but instead of running, I write. Doing something during that time is already built into my daily routine.
I know it's only once a week, but I'm focusing on baby steps right now. An hour a week is better than nothing. And hopefully, it'll grow into something more. And hopefully, some of my stories will gain their freedom during that hour a week.
Friday, January 28, 2011
Plain Kate, by Erin Bow
Summary: Plain Kate is the daughter of a wood carver, and a talented carver herself. She and her father are happy and content until failing crops and terrible sickness sweep through their small town. When Kate’s father falls to the sickness, Kate is forced out of her home and into a struggle for survival. An encounter with a witch leads Kate reluctantly into an adventure that involves not only a fight for her own future, but the future of thousands.
Review: This is great middle grade/young adult fantasy novel, with a heroine that is one of the most sympathetic characters I’ve read in a long time. Kate’s just trying to survive the best she knows how, and you just feel so bad for her. Even when she’s making a very questionable decision, you know that she’s just doing it because she doesn’t see any other way. And I love how throughout the book Kate digs deep to find strength and resilience that you know she didn’t think she had. She just faces life and does what needs to be done.
The book has the feel of a kind of fantasy/folk tale blend, and the world has a Russian feel to it, which I found very refreshing and unique. But it’s the story and characters that are the central focus of this book. One thing that really stands out about this story is that it’s not a strict black and white/good versus evil story. Yes, there is that element, the classic “hero saves the day, defying all odds;” but the situations and characters and choices are complicated and conflicting and gray. But at the end of the day, hope beats despair.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, by Morgan Matson
In March, Amy’s dad died in a car accident. As Amy’s junior year ends, her brother is in rehab in North Carolina, and Amy’s mom has decided to move from California to Connecticut. Amy hasn’t driven since the accident, but her mom wants Amy to bring the family car with her as she makes the move to Connecticut. So Amy’s mom enlists the help of her old friend’s son Roger, who is also on his way east to spend the summer with his dad in Philedelphia. The trip is all planned out – four days on the road, hotels booked. But as they hit the road, Amy and Roger decide to chart their own way across the country. As they see new places and meet new people, they each experience a personal journey – Amy as she grieves for her father, and Roger as he comes to terms with a lost relationship. They also take a journey together, discovering in each other something that they need.
This is the best kind of warm and fuzzy book. It was heartwarming, humorous, but delightfully un-cheesy. I liked that Amy and Roger had never seen much of the U.S., so they got to discover things like the vastness of Nevada and Utah, and new foods like roadside diners, Sonic, Chic-fil-A and sweet tea. Even though the book could be viewed as light and simple, each part of their trip moved the stories and the characters forward; it wasn’t stagnant. I also really appreciated the romance in the book because it wasn’t a typical “love at first sight” love story, but a love story that developed. So refreshing! Lastly, I really enjoyed the scrapbook touches in the book – pictures, receipts, journaling, playlists. It really contributed the road-trip feel of the book. And it made me want to go on a road trip!