Sunday, July 31, 2011

30 Day Book Meme (2)

Day 02 – A book that you’ve read more than 3 times


There are actually only three books I've ever read more than once. I'm such that there's always something new for me to read so after I read something I just don't go back to it again. The Scarlet Pimpernel is the ONLY book I've read more than twice. I love this book. Sure there are parts of it that are dated, but there is so much adventure to it and I love the love story. And Percy is the original hero with a secret identity.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

In My Mailbox (5)


Not very many acquisitions this week, mainly because all my rentals came last week. Hopefully they'll be spread out better now.

Bought from Books-a-Million

The Silver Blade: Yann must rescue his fiancee from an evil count all while trying to save aristocrats from the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. Sounds very Scarlet Pimpernel.

Hottie: After getting zapped with superpowers, teen queen Alison becomes Hottie, a new superhero who has to pair up with the school geek and who may be falling for a super villain.

Pretty Little Devils: Desperate to be part of the group of the four most popular girls at school, Hazel finds something is terribly wrong when their arch rival turns up dead and a trail of bodies of animals and people starts to pile up as someone appears to be very angry with the "it" crowd.

30 Day Book Meme (1)

Originally started by Chimneys & Magic, this is a 30 day meme that actually looked fun. I'm notorious for starting memes and never finishing them, but I'll give it a shot.

Day 01 – The best book you read last year


Mattie Ross hires a law man to track down the man who killed her father, but insists on going along as she doesn't trust he won't drink away her pay before the man is caught.

I didn't even know if I'd finish this book when I picked it up as I'm not a huge fan of westerns, but I ended up finishing it in a day, which is pretty impressive considering it was a week day and I was at work during the school day. I loved it. Everyone in this book was perfectly flawed and there were no characters who didn't have at least some grey area to them. Rooster never sobered up and became a saint, he was the same cranky, trigger happy, reckless drunk he was at the beginning, but he was also a good man. Laboeuf was arrogant and infuriating, but also a hero. Mattie was sanctimonious and pushy, but ends up getting her revenge by the end. And it really has nothing much to do with revenge in the long run. Mattie doesn't necessarily go after the man who killed her father because it will make her feel better, it's more because she thinks the scales of justice are out of line by him getting away. And she pays the price for her hellbent tracking down of Tom Chaney.

This was a book of people who were very likable in spite of their glaring flaws. I love good character writing and am willing to forgive almost anything if you have strong consistant characters in a book, and these are some of the best. Mattie, Rooster, Laboeuf and even Tom Chaney are infuriating and frustrating, but they are never not understandable. The classic movie version does the book a great injustice by whitewashing the characters and the ending. The recent remake manages to stay true to the novel.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

This new series begins smartly with 16-year-old Dana, tired of coping with her alcoholic single mother, running away to find her father in Avalon, which, in this arch and insightful version, is situated between twenty-first-century London and the world of faerie. Black handles the mash-up of genres and cultures deftly, giving Dana a credibility that keeps readers cheering her on through such dismal adventures as being dogged by a bodyguard while trying to spend her new found father’s euros and getting attacked by would-be assassins, as well as those of a more delicious variety, like discovering that bad-boy hunk Ethan may not be all that bad after all.


Genre: fantasy

Rating: 4/5

Note: #3 for YA Series Challenge (Faeriewalker Series)

I was originally going to rate this book lower, but by the ending it had won me back over. My initial issue was Ethan, the inevitable love interest for Dana and how not only did he have no reason to have a crush on Dana, as she didn't know him and repeatedly describes herself as boring looking while describing him as a beautiful playboy. Ethan was, for lack of a better term, annoying to me. About half way through the book he sort of disappeared, leaving room for characters that didn't annoy me as much. Also, an issue I'd been having with Dana disappeared too. It had been made clear that Dana was having to act like an adult for most of her life because of her mother's alcoholism, but once she gets to Avalon she doesn't seem very proactive. Eventually she stops being toted around by one kidnapper after another and starts acting like a normal teenager.

The book redeems itself on the strength of Dana having some real problems with no real answers. Her mother is an alcoholic and that is an on going issue. She obviously loves her mother, but her mother is still in denial by the end of the novel and not much closer to being sober. Dana's father isn't an easy option out either. Dana thinks running to him will solve her problems, but it doesn't. Her heritage puts her in danger from his enemies and while he does seem to love her, he's also a ruthless politician and a bigot. There is no "good" parent here. Dana has to learn to deal with both of them. And Dana isn't the only one with family issues. Her new friends Kimber and Ethan have father issues, with Kimber being the ignored child and Ethan being arrogant from the pressure their father puts on him. There's also Keane, a minor character who has issues with his own father and authority figures in general. This is one of the best "fairy" books I've read that was able to blend real family issues with the fantasy, bumping the rating back up as things went on. Hopefully later books in the series will improve.

Follow Friday (July 29)

Q. Let's step away from books for a second and get personal. What T-Shirt slogan best describes you?

I am a massive, massive football fan, and lest I confuse anyone, by football I mean what we'd call soccer. It defines me a great deal as I sincerely love the game, so my slogans aren't so much slogans as they are my teams.


FC Barcelona is my favorite team and the one that originally made me fall in love with the game. They're from La Liga, Spain's football division, and have recently become the force to be reckoned with in European football.


Schalke 04 is one of my other teams, this one from Germany's Bundesliga. They unfortunately had a rather poor season last year. They're generally one of the major teams in Germany, but things went downhill at the end of last year, culminating in them losing their world class goalie to another team. They've looked pretty decent preseason this year, so here's to hoping.

I'm also a Tottenham Spurs fan, but I figured two shirts is enough.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Devoured by Amanda Marrone

Ever since the car accident nine years ago, life for 16-year-old Megan has never been the same. Her father lies in a coma at the nursing home; her twin sister, Remy, who died in the accident, continues to haunt her; and her mom only seems to care about winning dog competitions with their purebred Fergus. Events become even more complicated when Megan decides to take a job working at the Land of Enchantment in order to keep an eye on her boyfriend, Ryan, and his "best friend," Samantha. There she meets Luke, who is psychic and, to Megan's relief, can also see and communicate with Remy. Megan is concerned because Remy's behavior is becoming violent. The natural attraction between Megan and Luke quickly becomes a problem for Ari Roy, whose family owns the Land of Enchantment. Ari feels that Luke is hers, and she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.


Genre: fantasy; supernatural; contemporary

Rating: 4/5

Note: #4 of Modern Retellings of Classics Challenge (Snow White)

Not a traditional retelling, but one that takes some of the elements of the original story and puts them into modern context. There is no one to one correlation of dwarfs to humans or evil stepmothers to villains, but there is a magic mirror and a healthy dose of jealousy, which is what the original story is based on. There is someone not awake but not dead (Megan's father), but there isn't any waking up for him. Megan is trapped in a life with a mother who won't face the tragedy around her and seeing the ghost of her twin sister. Luke, who can also see ghosts, seems like a knight in shining armor, but even he gets wrong what is the basis for Remy's reasons for not leaving Megan alone. Megan is a believable character struggling with several tragedies in her life and whether to dump her boyfriend or not. Luke is a very one dimensional character who is the "right guy for Megan" mainly because he can also see ghosts.

The book was a good mystery and there was real peril as several characters didn't make it out alive. There were a couple issues though. First, the description of the amusement park goes out of its way to get across how run down and cheesy the place is, yet there seems to be plenty of money rolling in to employ the various park workers. Then there's Megan's mother, who goes from trying to ship Megan off to the loony bin every time she brings up Remy to suddenly believing her. There's also the fact that Megan just seems to spontaneously hop in bed with Luke, something that seems out of character and also unnecessary for the story line. Also, the cover misleadingly makes it seem like there is a serious love triangle. There isn't. Megan has a boyfriend who is clearly only interested in her for sex. There is no real competition for Luke no matter what the cover implies.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (4): Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn't expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas's life.


First off, what an awesome title. Secondly, this book seems set to be a good YA horror with a ghost who isn't friendly and some real peril involved. There seems to be an element of Supernatural to the book or at least a layer of Buffy. I don't know anything about the author, but this seems like a book that I'd pick up based on the title and premise alone.

TV Interlude: The Nine Lives of Chloe King


Another series that has completely surprised me this year is this one based on the books by the same name. The show diverts wildly from the books I'm told though. The series revolves around Chloe, a feisty teenager who finds out she's genetically a part of a clan of catlike beings called Mai and that she has been foretold to bring all the clans together. In addition to that far fetched issue, she also can't kiss humans, lest it kill them a la Rogue on X-Men. That wouldn't be so difficult except for the fact that Chloe has become friends with Brian, a charming young man who likes her a lot and whose father is trying to kill Chloe and her people. Brian doesn't know what she is, making her continued avoidance of a relationship extremely confusing to him.


The premise of the show is far fetched and strange, but the actors are charming. Chloe is a genuinely nice and pretty girl who you can understand why Brian is so hung up on, regardless of her strange behavior. She is trying to be responsible for her weird clan, her human mother, and her friends. Grey Damon, who plays Brian (and has a name like a race horse in a Disney movie) is completely understandable as someone who a teenage girl could fall all over themselves for. While I originally wrote him off as mopey and broody, he quickly proves he has an incredibly bright smile and actually becomes a bit goofy around Chloe. There are Chloe's cute friends who know she's Mai considering she was dead at one point and used one of her "lives" and try to support her in spite of her strange legacy. There's also the subplot of Chloe's Mai friend Jasmine who can't seem to do anything to please her Mai mother and who begins to question some of the Mai beliefs after Chloe questions the morality behind some of them. Chloe's relationship with her mother is also sweet as she tries to shield her, but they are genuinely a loving family.

Then there's the love triangle. Chloe and Brian are clearly hung up on each other, but added to the mix is Alek, Chloe's cocky yet startlingly vulnerable Mai mentor. He has no family left and keeps an arrogant chip on his shoulder until Chloe's irrepressible love for other people and life in general makes him suddenly reconsider his position as a Mai warrior. Actually caring for someone is new for Alek, so he struggles with his feelings for Chloe more than a normal boy.


It's a well balanced love triangle based on the strength of the actors. Alek or Brian could either be unlikable based on how the actors took them, but they are both very different and very charming in their own ways. It's understandable that Chloe struggles to decide which one she likes. Brian is a nice normal guy who appeals to her human side while Alek might be snotty, but softens around her and appeals to the woman she's becoming.

Excellent show, for what it's worth.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

As a kid, Jacob formed a special bond with his grandfather over his bizarre tales and photos of levitating girls and invisible boys. Now at 16, he is reeling from the old man's unexpected death. Then Jacob is given a mysterious letter that propels him on a journey to the remote Welsh island where his grandfather grew up. There, he finds the children from the photographs--alive and well--despite the islanders’ assertion that all were killed decades ago. As Jacob begins to unravel more about his grandfather’s childhood, he suspects he is being trailed by a monster only he can see.


Genre: fantasy

Rating: 4/5

Atmospheric and unique, this book managed to incorporate old photos into the narrative of the story as Jacob tries to uncover the truth about his grandfather. Involving time loops and monsters, this is an unsettling, yet still magical story about a group of children with strange abilities. Much like the X-Men, these children can do peculiar things, some of them useful, some not so much.

The feel of the book is off balance. Even with the peculiar children being "good", there are some of them (particularly Enoch), who are disturbing people. And Miss Peregrine, while trying to protect the children, has also doomed them to be trapped in time and tyrannically tries to keep them from wishing to move forward. While the children and Miss Peregrine might be technically "good", they did some very questionable things in some cases. But this was a very nice, moody novel was unique in its layout.

Teaser Tuesday (July 26)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
"I knew what I was getting into when I swallowed those pomegranate seeds. I wanted to sleep with Hades, but it's always easier to let men and mothers think they're controlling the situation."
- p. 200, Sirenz by Charlotte Bennardo & Natalie Zaman

Monday, July 25, 2011

TV Interlude: Falling Skies


I wasn't sure what to expect out of this show when it first came on, but I've fallen in love with it. Aliens have attacked the world and are killing adults and stealing children to turn them into what seems like slaves. Yet as the survivors continue to battle the aliens (called Skitters) and try to get back some of the children, strange things begin to surface, such as the fact that the aliens actually seem to care for the children and some of the children who have been freed from their captors are acting strangely and seem to want to return to the aliens.

After not seeing him in what feels like forever, Noah Wylie is back and lovely as Tom Mason, a man who isn't a fighter, but who has lost his wife and is determined to save his sons. Moon Bloodgood is also in the series as a nurse trying to deal with all the casualties, and she is also lovely. I had always wished she could find a series to lead in as she's such a nice actress and this one suits her. Scene stealing ends up being Drew Roy as Tom's oldest son Hal. He's a nice kid. A bit cocky and a jock, but also extremely loyal, kind, and has a fighter's head and attitude. He'll protect his brothers if it's the last thing he does and Roy is excellent as a teenager who has had to become a man very very quickly. There are flashes of uncertainty to him, being so young, but Roy's underlying charm also makes him a character you really invest in. You want him to get a girl and be a leader and just survive the whole ordeal. Shocking to me, because the last time I saw this actor he was on the Disney channel or something.


Something Rotten by Alan Gratz

Denmark, Tennessee, stinks. The smell hits Horatio Wilkes the moment he pulls into town to visit his best friend, Hamilton Prince. And it's not just the paper plant and the polluted river that's stinking up Denmark: Hamilton's father has been poisoned and the killer is still at large. Why? Because nobody believes that Rex Prince was murdered. Nobody except Horatio and Hamilton. Now they need to find the killer, but it won't be easy. It seems like everyone in Denmark is a suspect. Motive, means, opportunity - they all have them. But who among them has committed murder most foul?


Genre: mystery

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: #3 of Modern Retellings of Classics Challenge (Hamlet)

This was one of the best retellings or spin offs of Shakespeare I've ever read. Sure, there were parts where the author was trying a bit too hard, but on the whole this was Hamlet twisted into a very believable mystery with a noir flare. This would be a great companion for teenagers actually reading Hamlet. Horatio does some stupid stuff as detective, but then again he's just a teenager and a reluctant investigator. Hamilton is a jerk through most of the book, but his moments of likableness makes it understandable why Horatio is best friends with him before things got all weird. And the issue with Olivia is understandable too. Horatio might like her, but she and Hamilton have far too much baggage for that to go anywhere.

Horatio is a great protagonist. He's sarcastic to the point of being mean and has no thrill of the chase when it comes to solving this mystery. There's such a noir feel to the whole thing, with Horatio doling out zingers, falling for the wrong girl, and reluctantly solving a mystery. And of course, like the film noir hero, once the action is done he leaves the girl with the better man for her and rides off into the sunset. While it was nowhere near as serious, I was reminded of the movie Brick, a film noir set in a high school. Let me quickly comment on the cover too. While I'm not a big fan of the faces, I do like the fact that the cover is done in the colors of the Danish flag. On the whole, this was just a sharp retelling.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hearts at Stake by Alyxandra Harvey

Solange is the youngest child and only female born in 800 years to a blue-blood clan. As she approaches her 16th birthday, she is pursued by male vamps from all over. An ancient prophecy predicts that she will be queen, thus putting her life in danger from various forces, human and otherwise. Solange's family is trained in martial arts and other types of fighting and her seven older brothers keep close watch over her. When the current queen kidnaps her, Lucy convinces Solange's brother Nicholas to help rescue her, and a frantic search ensues. Kieran, a young Helios-Ra, discovers that his hate for vampires is fueled by lies and helps to save Solange, and a romance develops between the formerly feuding Lucy and Nicholas.


Genre: supernatural; romance

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: #2 of the YA Series Challenge (The Drake Chronicles)

I'll start by saying I don't like the cover of this book. It made me think this was going to be another cheap cashing in on the vampire craze of late. Thankfully the cover is very deceiving. This book was fun and action filled and actually had very likable characters. Sadly, I haven't heard a whole ton about this series which makes me think it's been lost in the shuffle of vampire books to some degree.

The romance aspect of Lucy and Nicholas worked wonderfully without a lot of build up. Lucy is far more aggressive and mouthy than her vampire best friend and it's a nice change of the human actually being more proactive than the supernatural being. Solange is shy and quieter and generally defers to her human friend. You don't need to see every moment of how Nicholas falls for Lucy simply because she's feisty and dynamic and you understand why he would after being around her for years. The Solange/ Kieran romance was a bit more of a stretch, but wasn't really the focus so it didn't hurt. The action was very fast and hardly paused through the whole book, which gave next to no time to notice plot holes. It was just a great book that had more Buffy sensibilities than books that say they're styled after Buffy.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

In My Mailbox (4)

I got a huge bunch of rentals returned this week, so I'm under a pile of books.

From Booksfree
Hearts at Stake- A vampire princess is kidnapped forcing her brothers, her best friend and a vampire hunter to work to save her

Wings- When she starts sprouting wings, Laurel suddenly realizes she's a fairy who has to save her family

Ice- A modern retelling of "East o' the Sun, West o' the Moon" set in Antarctica

Something Rotten- Horatio goes to Denmark, Tennessee with his friend Hamilton only to find himself involved in a murder mystery

Beautiful Creatures- Ethan has always wanted to leave the small town of Gatlin until he meets Lena and begins to wonder about the mysterious connection they have

Incarceron- Finn has been born and raised in a giant prison that is more like a maze until he befriends the gatekeeper's daughter and sees a possible way out, except that the prison itself is alive

When Rose Wakes- After waking from a coma, a girl starts to question whether she's actually Sleeping Beauty

The Bad Queen- Commonly considered a frivolous, shallow queen, Marie Antoinette was actually a lonely young woman who had no other outlets than her fluffy diversions

Glimmerglass- Dana finds out that she is able to cross from the human world to the faerie world and suddenly becomes embroiled in faerie politics

Sirenz- After causing death over shoes, Shar and Meg become servants of Hades and tangled with the affairs of the gods

By These Ten Bones- Being drawn to the quiet woodcarver who was involved in a supernatural attack, Maddie begins to untangle the mystery in feudal Scotland

The Iron King- Meghan learns she is the daughter of a powerful faerie king and has to save her brother with the help of a few handsome faeries

From Gilded Books
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children- After a tragedy, a young man finds himself entangled in the strange stories his grandfather used to tell him about an island filled with strangely talented children who may still be alive

Devoured- Able to see her dead sister, Megan must now figure out what her sister is trying to warn her about

Falling for Hamlet- Dating the prince of Denmark proves difficult for Ophelia as the media follows them around especially since the death of Hamlet's father

Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

In this steamy case of adolescent wish fulfillment, high-school senior Frannie finds herself caught between two impossibly hot new schoolmates who turn out to be a demon and an angel wrangling for her soul. Will she choose dark, thrillingly dangerous Luc (a First Level demon from his namesake’s Acquisitions Department, and her co-narrator) or blond, dazzling Gabe? Rather than go for a metaphorical level—Frannie, as it turns out, is being wooed because she possesses a psychic ability that would be invaluable to “the Almighty” and Lucifer alike—the author crafts a suitable plot for her Buffy-style protagonist, well endowed with innuendo-laden conversation, heavy breathing, and battles with hell-spawn set against a backdrop of shared school assignments and weekend parties.


Genre: supernatural; romance

Rating: 3/5

People are going to start thinking I do nothing but complain about novels that I read. I apologize for being really picky. This book had several fundamental flaws. First off, nothing seems to happen with the plot for a good 3/4 of the book. Most of that time is spent with Frannie trying to decide if she wants to sex Luc or Gabe as every time she's with one of them, she seems to forget about the other. Any action is reserved for the last few chapters. Second, Frannie is annoying. She spends most of the book yanking the chains of not only an angel and a demon, but also several guys at school in the course of the book. Her justification is that she feels bad afterwards, but it doesn't stop her from messing around with everyone it seems like. Third there's the fact that we're supposed to see Gabe as legitimate rival for Luc, but the book is written in Frannie and Luc's point of view, so Gabe never stands a chance in the rival department as the writing deck is unfairly stacked in Luc's favor, which makes Frannie's wishy washiness seem even more unappealing. Every inference in the novel is that the reader is supposed to like Luc more, yet Frannie is still wandering around wondering if she's in love with Gabe. There's no real indication why every male seems to be falling all over themselves for Frannie. She's supposed to be pretty, but not the popular girl in her group and her powers don't really involve seducing every male she comes across. She's fairly mean and self pitying. Her family is portrayed as uber-religious and fairly unlikable. There's also a fair dose of sex, or almost sex throughout the whole book.

The writing of the book is actually not bad, which is the sad part to me. If the heroine (and I use that term loosely) hadn't been so unsympathetic and the plot started sooner, I probably would have really enjoyed this book. Luc is the most likable character, so much so that in parts where Frannie is the narrator, I simply wished they'd go back to Luc's voice. So this book rides in a weird place. I'll probably read the second in the series just to see if it gets better.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I Can't Believe It's Non-fiction Friday (3): The World's Bloodiest History by Joseph Cummins

In a somber survey leavened by sparse but inspiring accounts of heroism, author Joseph Cummins revisits some of the most dreadful and destructive acts of violence in history—from moments of sheer madness and merciless military offensives, such as that of the Spanish conquistadors in 1521 in what is now Mexico City, to clinically orchestrated campaigns of genocide, as took place in early twentieth-century Armenia, Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, and 1970s Cambodia. Engaging, harrowing, and enlightening, his accounts convey the terror and trauma of these incidents while identifying the zealotry, prejudices, and animosities that fueled them, and analyzing, in revealing fashion, their enduring and sometimes insidious influence on history.


Genre: non-fiction; history

Rating: 5/5

This is not a pleasant book, but an important one nonetheless. Covering the world's worst genocides and massacres, the reasons for and impact of such disturbing incidents as the Cambodian genocide to the Sand Creek Massacre are told with enough detail to give understanding without bogging the reader down. There are many pictures documenting the inhumanity of man to man (not explicitly, perhaps, as I've seen much more graphic, but disturbingly enough). It can be depressing if just read the whole way through, but it's important to be aware of these events as even as recently as Rwanda and Bosnia, genocides have been ignored by the world. While this might be a heavy read for teenagers, it's suited to them in the way it is laid out and worded. A very good book on a very dark subject.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (3): Ripple by Mandy Hubbard

Lexi is cursed with a dark secret. Each day she goes to school like a normal teenager, and each night she must swim, or the pain will be unbearable. She is a siren - a deadly mermaid destined to lure men to their watery deaths. After a terrible tragedy, Lexi shut herself off from the world, vowing to protect the ones she loves. But she soon finds herself caught between a new boy at school who may have the power to melt her icy exterior, and a handsome water spirit who says he can break Lexi's curse if she gives up everything else. Lexi is faced with the hardest decision she's ever had to make: the life she's always longed for - or the love she can't live without?


This is one of those books I'm more interested in for the author than the premise. Yeah, I'd probably pick the book up anyway, but mermaid books are always a crap shoot with me, much like angel books. Hubbard is the author of Prada & Prejudice, which I liked, and You Wish, which is in my too read pile.

On a side note, I'm looking to comment about some tv shows I'm enjoying, which is almost unheard of for me considering I have commitment issues with television series. Nine Lives of Chloe King, Falling Skies, Alphas and a couple of new season changes to True Blood suddenly have me interested.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (July 19)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

"Did you kids have a nice time?" Mom chirps. What I want to know is, how many seventeen-year-old girls could show up hungover at nine o'clock in the morning draped in some guy's arms (even if that guy is a real honest-to-God angel, which my parents couldn't possibly know) and get a "did you have a nice time?"
- p. 312 Personal Demons by Lisa Desrochers

Monday, July 18, 2011

Worldshaker by Richard Harland

Hand-selected by his grandfather, chief advisor to Queen Victoria and supreme commander of the juggernaut Worldshaker, 16-year-old Col Porpentine has a glittering future mapped out for him as his grandfather's successor. But when an escaped Filthy, a 14-year-old girl named Riff, seeks refuge in his cabin, that future is shattered. Col discovers that his privileged life on the Upper Decks is only possible because of the labor performed by the Filthies of the Lower Decks, who work in appalling conditions to keep the large-as-a-city Worldshaker constantly on the move. Through Riff, Col discovers that the Filthies are not the subhuman bestial creatures he was led to believe they were. In fact, they are the descendants of Great Britain's lower classes who attempted revolution during the Napoleonic Wars, were overthrown, became “factory slaves” during mass industrialization, and ended up incarcerated on the juggernaut. Casting aside years of social conditioning and training, Col joins with Riff and the below-deck revolutionaries to change the course of his entire world.


Genre: fantasy; steampunk

Rating: 4.5

This was actually a really good introduction to steampunk for younger readers. I struggled to tell what age group this was actually aimed at for a long time. The plot and characters were good, but it often felt as though Harland was consciously trying to simplify his wording for people to understand, then he would forget for a while, then he would try to simplify things again. For all that, the book was very good and because of the short chapters, a fast read. Col is a sympathetic character even though he's caught in as much prejudice as everyone around him. The difference is that he recognizes it eventually and tries to fix things. The Filthies are not innocent lambs either. They kill surrendered prisoners until someone stops them and they would have killed Col, yet it is clear they have legitimate grievances. Harland's emphasis on the vapidness of the upper deck is rather heavy handed sometimes. The most annoying parts of the book are when the women are protrayed as being completely helpless and stupid on the upper deck. It just wasn't believable.

The book does have a lot of social questions that should make readers think though. The class struggle and prejudice issues being big ones. The second book of this series comes out in the near future and I'm interested to see where it goes. This was a far better steampunk effort than I've recently seen and while it might be comparable to Leviathan, I think this one is better.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Cover Crazy (2): Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

As I said, a great cover for me doesn't have to be pretty. And this cover isn't pretty. It's creepy. But it's so perfectly creepy and goes with the title so well, I would completely pick this book up just based on the cover. Look at the creepy little kid, who you notice after a moment is hovering. Kids are creepy. Kids in historical pictures are extremely creepy. Hovering kids in vintage photos have to be the height of creepy.

In My Mailbox (3)

Not as much this week. All my book rental orders are in shipment so I expect to get a huge amount next week.


From Books-a-Million

Bad Taste in Boys- After the football team gets injected with steroids they turn into flesh eating zombies forcing Kate to find a cure to save her crush and the school

Gone- After all the humans in the world disappear, the kids left behind struggle to get by and find themselves developing bizarre powers

Romiette and Julio- Two star crossed lovers try to overcome racial divides after a gang resents their romance

Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood- After her one time best friend betrays her so cruelly she has to leave her school, Helen remakes herself and comes back looking for some revenge

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Avalon High by Meg Cabot

Elaine's parents are on sabbatical and she has to spend her junior year in Annapolis, MD, far from her Minnesota home. While running in the park, she meets Will, and she finds her life intertwined with a familiar story. Too many coincidences, like being named after the Lady of Shalott, and Will's complicated family life make her feel as though she is living in modern-day Camelot. Even her teacher believes that King Arthur will be reincarnated.


Genre: romance; contemporary; fantasy

Rating: 4/5

Note: #2 of the Modern Retellings of Classics Challenge (Le Morte d'Arthur)

Cabot is more known for her humor, something that this book is actually fairly devoid of surprisingly. That's not to say this isn't a good read. Cabot makes a good attempt at trying to blend Arthurian legend with modern high school life and Elaine isn't unlikable as a heroine. She's feisty and basically the hero, in spite of Will being the Arthur figure. The main feeling you take away is that this book is a nice, fluffy, fast read that isn't anything earth shattering, but at least tries to be creative. My main issue was with Mr. Morton and the Order of the Bear going to all the trouble to hunt down possible Arthur reincarnations, only to have him try to give up and run the minute he thinks Will is in danger. It seems like an ancient order who had apparently been trying to defeat the "forces of darkness" for centuries would have come up with some sort of game plan at some point.

So, the book succeeds in being a pleasant enough summer read, but nothing that will go down in the annals of great YA literature.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Book Rentals

At some point I realized I was spending a huge amount of money on books, mainly because I live some distance from a good library and even that library was limited in what they had available in YA books. So I was stuck running out of shelf space and money until I stumbled across book rentals. Working something like Netflix, there are several different book rentals to choose from. I've tried 4 different ones. Paperspine is no longer in operation, so I'm only going to mention them in passing.

A book rental works by sending a shipment of books with a return mailer. Depending what plan you have you keep so many books and return them in shipments of two or three (depending on plan) after you finish them. There are no due dates or shipping fees, only the monthly rental fee (which go from 10 to 50 dollars depending on the plan).


I've belonged to this site for several years.

-Very professional looking. Books pop up with pictures of the cover and summaries when you hover the cursor over any books you might be browsing.

-Fairly quick turn around rate. They've lost relatively few of my orders over the years and after two weeks you can claim missing orders.

-Their queue ordering system is very easy to use and depending on the plan you have you can organize so that some books aren't shipped before others and also there is a feature that lets you include a book with low availability in a shipment after so many weeks.

-Book availability is shown in the queue so you know if something has high, medium or low availability.

-They only have paperbacks

-Their YA section got a bit screwed up when they revamped the layout and some things are hard to find in that section only

-Their YA section is probably their weakest selection wise


I no longer use this one, not only because it was more expensive, but also because of their service.

-They carry hardcover and textbooks

-The site is very professionally done and looks nice

-Their shipping as extremely slow and they lost several orders within a short amount of time.

-They really have very limited selection, basically only best sellers

Gilded Books

I've used this site the least amount of time, a little over a year, and they've been very nice.

-Huge selection of hardcover and paper back (the hardcover plans cost a little more)

-Their YA selection is extremely good. Any newly released book will be available.

-Their shipping speed is probably the fastest of any I've tried.

-Their customer service is very nice

-Their site is the least professional looking and you can't see book covers

-You need to know what you're looking for as their browsing options are hard to use

-They don't have many books released a long time ago

-They don't have an availability notification, so books are sometimes a crapshoot being sent from your queue depending on the availability. This is really no different from any of the other sites, but you can't tell whether something is high availability or low

Of the rentals I have used, Gilded Books is my favorite, mainly because they have so much accessibility to new hardcover releases and their YA section is so huge. I use it by going through what the book releases are for the week, looking them up on the site and adding them too my queue. My end conclusion is this:

If you know what you're looking for and want the best selection of YA books, Gilded Books is the best. If you like browsing for books and want a wide selection of older books and different genres, you probably want Booksfree. I use both, mainly because Booksfree has a higher volume plan and I can rent more at a time.

I Can't Believe It's Non-fiction Friday (2): They Called Themselves the K.K.K. by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

This richly documented, historically contextualized account traces the origin and evolution of the Ku Klux Klan from a small mischievous social club into a powerful, destructive organization. With compelling clarity, anecdotal detail, and insight, Bartoletti presents the complex era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877, that gave rise to the KKK. After the Civil War, the defeated South was a simmering cauldron of political, economic, and social instability. As the federal government struggled to provide law and order and to protect the rights of freed slaves, secret groups of Southern whites banded together to vent their anger over lost property, prosperity, and power. From six men in a law office in Pulaski, TN, KKK dens spread across the South targeting freed blacks and their supporters. Although the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 was meant to end violence, KKK activity persisted through the 20th century, diminishing in the last 30 years as civil rights became a reality for all Americans.


Genre: non-fiction, history

Rating: 5/5

Aimed specifically at teenagers, this book is brilliantly researched and laid out. Bartoletti accomplishes the very difficult by not letting opinions color the research. She never comes out talking about how horrible the KKK is, she simply lets their actions and the research speak for itself. So often non-fiction aimed at children seems to want to tell them what to think about events or issues. This book never tries to say "you should hate the KKK because...", rather, through personal accounts, meticulous research and drawings from the time period it allows the reader to form their own opinion. This book should make the reader angry. The injustice that was allowed to be perpetuated against the freedmen during Reconstruction should make any sensible person want to rage. Bartoletti wisely never tells you want to think, but lays out her case so well that there are no other options than outrage.

This book is exceptional for school libraries. It's not graphic, as some non-fiction dwelling on a violent topic get into, but it's so well written that it doesn't have to be. Laid out like a court case, the information is presented to be judged and hopefully learned from.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes

In this compelling retelling of The Phantom of the Opera, high school senior Esti Legard moves to the island of Cariba, in the West Indies, to begin theater studies at Manchicay School. Once there, she struggles to break free of the shadow of her late father, a legendary actor, in order to be recognized as a legitimate actress in her own right. During tryouts for Romeo and Juliet, Esti hears the seductive voice of a mysterious man–known as Alan–helping her through the audition. Unknown to anyone, she begins meeting privately with him at the theater although he refuses to reveal himself, and she performs in the play under his tutelage. When Esti shares with a classmate that she has been hearing Alan's voice, the news spreads, and the superstitious islanders suspect he is a type of ghost–a jumbee. However, Alan's passion for Shakespeare wins Esti over, and she begins falling for him, unsure of whether she has feelings for a man or a ghost. Further complicating matters is Esti's growing attraction to a family friend turned bad boy, Rafe Solomon. When mysterious accidents befall the set of the play, everyone, including Esti, begins to suspect Alan is behind them. In her quest for the truth, she uncovers shocking secrets about her father and the island.


Genre: romance, gothic

Rating: 4/5

Note: #1 for Modern Retellings of Classics Challenge (The Phantom of the Opera)

This book. I don't know how to rate it actually. Let me preface by saying that The Phantom of the Opera has been one of my three favorite books since high school. It's one book I've read over and over. I love Erik in all his insane glory. The issues I have with the book are really not the fault of Keyes at all. She does a beautiful job of staying true to the original, and that in and of itself creates its own set of problems.

First off, this book is set in the Caribbean and is exotic and mysterious in its beautiful descriptions of island life. The setting is perfect for evoking the supernatural and mystery without over stretching to become unbelievable. Esti, the updated Christine, is actually intelligent rather than the bubble headed Christine of the original. Keyes makes Alan, the Erik substitute, completely innocent of murdering anyone even though he is occasionally threatening. Unfortunately, while that makes him a nicer and redeemable person, it also defangs him and takes away the reasoning that the original gave for Erik not being acceptable. Erik, for all his brilliance, is a murderer and it is understandable that he would have that issue even if people did get over his looks. In taking murder away from Alan, there's no good reason that Esti eventually goes with Rafe other than that Alan is physically ugly. It makes Esti look worse in her intelligence for choosing the pretty boy over the artist.

And then there's Rafe, who as the Raoul stand in is already set up to be hated. Raoul was never any competition for the brilliance that was Erik. He was a fop and a pretty boy and rather vapid. Rafe is a womanizer who makes no bones about the fact that he finds women good for one thing. He's also just as bad at trying to control Esti as Alan is, only in a more aggressive way. He has anger issues. He was severely unlikable, which while reflecting the original, doesn't make as much sense since Esti is more intelligent than Christine and seems less shallow so her "love" for Rafe just seems like bad judgment. And then there's Esti's mother who inexplicably has no problem with her daughter being with the island manslut as long as that means she's away from Alan. She even becomes enraged when Esti toys with Rafe's emotions, even though it's made very clear he's slept with most of the girls on the island. Rafe also digs his hole deeper by condemning in Alan the very same behavior that Rafe shows in different ways.

So here's the thing, the character foibles of the original are either glossed over or modified, but in being true to the original, Keyes can't avoid the issues of the original, only change them. Her very success is what sometimes makes you want to strangle Esti and punch Rafe. Rafe doesn't deserve Esti in the end as he's not the better man. Esti is selfish and allows physical love override emotional. Alan is again left alone even though in this book his crimes are even less deserving of desertion. Yet that is all true to the spirit of the original.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Read-a-Thon Wrap Up

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon

Wrap Up:

3 books finished, 5 mini challenges done.

I really enjoyed the mini challenges. Blogs should do them more often. And I clearly can't read as fast as I'd like, but then I also had to write a paper Monday and today for class, so my read-a-thon was rather truncated. The fact that I can't concentrate on one book at a time is also to be noted.

Waiting on Wednesday (2)- Dangerously Placed by Nansi Kunze

Alex Thaler can't wait to start her dream work experience placement at Virk, where staff from all over the world mingle in an astonishing virtual office. But when an employee is found murdered, the dream becomes a nightmare—because Alex is the prime suspect. Fortunately, Alex's friends are willing to brave shark tanks, disgusting pathology specimens, and even a nude beach in order to clear her name. Can a hippie chick, a goth girl in a lab coat, and two guys with a taste for blowing things up really help solve the mystery before Alex becomes the next victim?


This book looks not only cute, but I like a well done YA mystery. With an eclectic group of characters and a sense of humor, I'll be picking this book up.

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

As if Hansel and Gretel didn’t already have it tough in their original fairy tale, Gidwitz retrofits a handful of other obscure Grimm stories and casts the siblings as heroes. Connecting the dots, he crafts a narrative that has the twins beheaded (and reheaded, thankfully), dismembered, hunted, killed, brought back to life, sent to hell, and a number of other terrible fates en route to their happily ever after.


Genre: fantasy

Rating: 4/5

Note: 3 of Once Upon a Read-a-Thon

Much more suited for middle school age, Gidwitz takes the bloodier and stranger Grimm's fairy tales and ties them together using Hansel and Gretel as the protagonists. His interruptions as narrator are cute, though sometimes a bit heavy handed. The main question is always "are they no good parents left in the world?" Well, not here, though Hansel and Gretel's parents redeem themselves and reinforce the fact that while children sometimes don't understand why their parents do some things, that does not necessarily make all adults evil.

Matchmaker Challenge

The last day of the Read-a-Thon and Wicked Awesome Books has another mini challenge.

We all enjoy a good love story (don't deny it!), but sometimes the two (or three or four) characters involved in a love story struggle so much, that I just want to say, 'hey, _____ would be so much better for you!' So in the spirit of matchmaking, I'm setting you with the task of playing cupid and shooting your arrows at two characters from different books in, what I'm calling, LET'S PLAY MATCHMAKER!

Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter) and Murtagh (Eragon)
An insane pairing, perhaps, but I like it. Luna is so unequivocally good and kind and unflappable, I would love to see her not be phased at all by Murtagh's nasty past and simply accept him. He doesn't want to be bad, and I think Luna's intelligent nuttiness would be good for him.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie Halpern

Jess loves audiobooks, sewing skirts, and the first day of school. She even gets along with her family, including Barrett, her rock-god older brother. She is, in short, a nerd, and feels immediate dread when she starts to grow apart from her two best friends, Bizza and Char, who underwent a punk makeover to fit in with Barrett’s band. After Bizza goes after Jess’ longtime crush and winds up with an STD, Jess ends the friendship. Karma, like Bizza, can be a bitch. With no clique to hang out with, Jess is lulled into the clutches of the Dungeons & Dragons crowd—and finds herself falling for one of them!


Genre: contemporary; humor

Rating: 4.5/5

Note: 2 of Read-a-Thon

Let me get this out of the way. I'm using the cover art from the hardcover version of the book because the paperback cover is hideous. If I hadn't seen the hardcover version first I never would have picked up the book, even with the cute title. I think it's the hideous mustard green background and the fact that they picked tacky clothing to focus on rather than what the book is really about. This cover is perfect. The D&D die with the peasant dress. Dorky and cute at the same time, exactly what the book is aiming for. Go to Amazon to see the paperback cover in all of what I consider its hideous glory.

I liked Jessie. She's a nice girl who was content to trail after her more popular friends. She's smart and funny and gets along with people in her school, just doesn't stand out. The only thing you really wonder about is how she put up with Bizza as long as she did. Yet even that part is done believably. We've all had friends that we were close to then just drifted from when our lives changed. This leaves Jessie trying to figure out what her place in the social scene is. Halpern does a great job of introducing a character that seems like a walking cliche, who then suddenly changes or shows different facets. Dottie, who Jessie initially considers weird, is a great example as she's revealed to be smart, confident, funny, and has a boyfriend. Bizza and Char, the two girls who Jessie initally considered superior to her growing up, are shown to be posers, shallow, and are left without boyfriends by the end. And even there is a twist as there may be more to Bizza than Jessie's anger gives her credit for. And Jessie is no angel either. When she finally has enough of her user best friend, she has all the cattiness that teenage girls have when hurt. Jessie also is guilty of judging social groups, something she eventually gets over.

Jessie and Barrett's sibling relationship is also cute as they get along without it being sappy and you understand Jessie's struggle with her brother leaving for college and morphing into an adult. There is plenty of swearing and questionable subject matter discussed, but it's the same talk I hear in the hallways at any high school. The book more focused on how people are often judged by their social standing, when in reality with a few changes anyone could belong to any group.

Cover Crazy (1): Entwined

I'm now joining in the weekly meme from The Book Worms involving what has long been a pet peeve of mine: cover art. Not all cover art that I like is necessarily fancy or artsy. I like cover art that stands out, and sometimes simplistic stuff works just as well as something that looks like a painting. Sometimes disturbing is what works. Sometimes modern. Anything but boring or over used.


Today's choice happens to be fancy. A book based on The Twelve Dancing Princesses should be sufficiently fancy. And this cover is beautiful. Look at the dress. And the extra scrollwork around the outside of the cover. This is a cover so pretty any girl would want to pick it up. Of course, a boy probably wouldn't be caught dead reading it for the same reason. Funny thing, cover art. It can totally close off a subgroup for you.

A Synopsis Based on the Cover

The Bookish Type has another mini challenge.

Pick any book from your readathon pile and write a fake synopsis based solely on the cover. The synopsis does not have to be related to the actual book at all, just the pretty, pretty cover.


Working with automatons, Dina as often been fascinated by making things "alive", but she finds her father's experiments on the mechanical men troubling when she realizes he's trying to make a fully functional replacement for her dead brother. What is created is something that is her brother but isn't. A machine that has his eyes and mannerisms and memories, but is somehow wrong. Horrified, yet still drawn to the image of her beloved brother, Dina must decide what is human, what is not, and whether playing God should ever be tampered with.

Love Triangle Challenge

Another mini challenge, this on from YA Bliss.

Top Three Love Triangles

This one is hard for me because there are love triangles and there are GOOD love triangles. So often the author falls into the trap of making an attempt at a love triangle then shoving one character down your throat.

1. Gale/Katniss/Peeta- The Hunger Games
This one worked because both guys were suitable for Katniss and you could understand her being torn over them. She'd grown up with Gale and he was so much like her, yet Peeta was so kind. You sort of know which way it's going to go, but it was well done.

2. Raoul/Christine/Erik- The Phantom of the Opera
This is a weird, weird love in the fact that no one really deserves anyone else. Erik is a murderer and obsessive and slightly crazy, but his love for Christine is pure and there is that part of Christine that loves Erik just for the genius he is. Raoul is an idiot, though Christine is no rocket scientist herself. Yet she obviously ends up with Raoul, fitting for a flighty girl and I suppose Erik deserves his fate for his homicidal tendencies, but Erik's story is so sad you feel more deeply for him that most jilted sides of a love triangle.

There honestly aren't any more than that that I'd consider "good" love triangles that I've read, at least that I can remember.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the "thing" inside her.

When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on—even if it seems no one believes her.

(from Amazon)

Genre: fantasy; steampunk; history

Rating: 2/5

Note: #3 for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge; 1 Read-a-Thon book

Abandon all hope, ye who avoid spoilers. This book I had such high hopes for and it let me down so hard, so allow me to vent. Look at that beautiful cover. Hear how intriguing that title is. I know everyone says not to judge a book by its cover, but I do and hard. I think books should be visually appealing as well as well written. By that standard of things, this book is gorgeous. Unfortunately for me it was all downhill from there.

It's not that Cross is a bad writer. She's not. There's none of the clunkiness that is sometimes a problem in sentence structure. Her problem is characters and plot. And for me, who has always very much been fixated with character writing, that's a problem. The main protagonist isn't bad. Finley is a pleasant character, though her guilt over things (specifically Sam, which I will get to) makes no sense. Griffin is what we called in fanfiction writing, a Gary Stu, or a male character who has no flaws whatsoever. He doesn't as he's handsome, intelligent, caring, talented, I'm sure he could probably sing and dance. Interestingly, he's not the worst character problem to me. That honor is a tie between his aunt Cordelia and best friend Sam. Cordelia maybe gets away with her character problems better. She's arrogant, snobby, and elitist. She makes Finley's life miserable for no other reason than that she didn't trust Finley's father. Yet I got the impression that you were supposed to forgive her this behavior because she was "doing it to protect Griffin". That's nice and all, but she's still a jerk who we are implied we should like for no real good reason. Sam is the greater problem. There's no reason to like him. At all. Other than the characters seem to like him for some unfathomable reason. He's a jerk. All he does in the book is mope around about the fact he has mechanical parts and was "brought back to life when he didn't want to be". He manages to stupidly give up every secret about his friends. He's never grateful his friends saved his life. Worst, he attacks Finley and tries to kill her. He punches her several times and tries to strangle her and really isn't all that sorry about it. Yet all his friends are "oh the poor thing". I'm sorry, no. Not a poor thing. He beat up a woman, the very thing one reviled side character did. And he's also the main romantic interest for the rather likable Emily, so we're supposed to LIKE him.

And then there's the "mystery" of what the Machinist is up to. One of my favorite movies when I was little was The Great Mouse Detective. I loved it. The plot revolved around the evil Ratigan trying to build an automaton Queen Victoria and replace the real one with it. THIS BOOK HAS THE SAME PLOT. I seriously kept expecting the Machinist to be revealed to be a sewer rat.

So, this book wasn't poorly written technically, just to me, very poorly conceived.

Mythology Mini Challenge

It's Once Upon a Read-a-thon week, so expect more posts than the usual, both reviews, challenges from other blogs, and I'd like to discuss book rentals at some point this week.

This is a challenge from IB Book Blogging.

Mini Challenge Question 1:
What is your favorite type of myth (Greek, Roman, Egyptian etc)?

Greek, though I do like Norse mythology as well. Being a World History teacher the Greek myths are easier to expose the kids to, especially with connection to English.

Mini Challenge Question 2:
What is your favorite book with some type of mythology in it?

The Percy Jackson series, which I have a feeling is going to be the answer to a lot of peoples'. It managed to blend the nastier parts of mythology and modernize it into something accessible. Special mention to 'Til We All Have Faces by CS Lewis as well. Beautiful take on the Psyche myth with it's own mystical spin on things.

Modern Retelling of Classics Challenge

This one is much harder, considering it's 30 books and I'm not sure if she counts fairy tale retellings yet. Fingers crossed that they do.

0/30 books

Post-Apocalyptic/ Dystopian Challenge

Again, I've never met a challenge I didn't like. I signed up for another one, though this one I'm more on time with since it just started June 27 and ends June 27, 2012. It might be harder to find books though considering I'm going to be reading dystopian YA.

0/15 books

Sunday, July 10, 2011

In My Mailbox (2)

I got six in the mail from Amazon that I'd bought a while back and are just finishing trickling in. I also found my Gilded Books account carries new releases in hardcover YA and are really good about having them, so I'll see how they receive and deliver this week. They're always faster than Booksfree, though Booksfree lets you know specifically how much priority certain books you want have and are always very professional looking. Gilded Books looks a little more amateurish, but they carry hardcover and have a huge amount of YA books, but you can't tell which in your order they're going to send you. Now if I could just merge the two...

You Wish by Mandy Hubbard- Girl gets a chance to have all her birthday wishes come true with disastrous results.
Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson- A reimagining of the fairy tale in India
How I Stole Johnny Depp's Alien Girlfriend by Gary Ghislain- A teenage boy finds one of his dad's patients is on a quest to find Johnny Depp and take him back to her planet.
A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz- A reimagining of Hansel and Gretel with pieces of other fairy tales to make it even darker
Worldshaker by Richard Harland- On board a giant juggernaut, a young man befriends one of the "Filthies" that runs the ship and finds he has been lied to
Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt- Dealing with her father's medical issues, Payton focuses on the back of a classmate's head with surprising results

I hope to address book rentals at a later point as I've used 4 of them with mixed results and still use two of them. Living in the middle of nowhere makes me creative.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Danica Shardae is an avian shapeshifter. She is a princess of her people who, like the birds they become, is reserved and disciplined, yet full of passion. Her people have been at war with the serpiente, a people who shapeshift into serpent forms, for so many years that no one remembers how it all started. The hatred and bloodshed have taken a heavy toll on both sides, and Danica and Zane Cobriana, a prince among the serpiente, are determined to stop it, at any cost. He is the last of his line as is Danica and so he proposes that the avian and serpiente royalty meet at a neutral place and seek mediation to end the war. The mediator proposal-that Danica and Zane marry-is so crazy and repugnant a plan that both parties leave immediately. The young people, however, consider it in spite of the apparent lunacy, for it would mean an end to the fighting. But can they pull it off? And can they keep the dissenters among them from destroying this shred of a chance for peace?


Genre: fantasy; romance

Rating: 4/5

Note: #1 for the YA Series Challenge

I remember when Amelia Atwater-Rhodes was hailed as a writing prodigy long before Christopher Paolini, though probably without as many initial sales or movie deals, which is a shame because she's the better author. What she does with this book is create a book that has all the feel of an adult fantasy series, but which in length and narrative is more accessible to high school age. The problem that so often gets YA fantasy is that it ~feels~ like YA fantasy. This series avoids that and is good on its own without falling into the "we're aiming this at teenagers" trap.

The plot believable deals with the issues of hate without understanding. Danica and Zane are trying to end a fight that has gone on for decades. The hate among their sides goes so deep that it's logical that the sides don't trust each other. There are still some areas of vagueness in the book, but on the whole it works well. Danica is actually the colder of the characters, even though that's more a trait of her upbringing that her actually not caring. The romance between her and Zane is about as believable as could possibly be given the circumstances, though there is the vague "love at first sight" sort of veneer to everything. As a young adult fantasy though, this book was above par with most.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I Can't Believe It's Non-fiction Friday (1): Poison: An Illustrated History by Joel Levy

In the interest of starting a tradition and encouraging people reading more non-fiction, I'm going to devote Fridays to reviewing a non-fiction book. Non-fiction is funny a lot of times simply because it often isn't written for young adult readers, specifically high school level. I assume that this has to do with publishers assuming that teenagers are going to use adult books for research papers and that they don't have interest in non-fiction on their own, so much so that Amazon doesn't even really have a non-fiction section for teens. There are some broken down science and technology categories, but these are not so much non-fiction as they are text books or help with homework. So I'm off trying to find non-fiction that might appeal to more than just researchers. I may not get one done every Friday, but I think it deserves a shot.

From Greek philosophers to Russian spies, poisons have a long and colorful history. Easy to obtain and administer, they are often hard to detect or trace. They kill, but they also smooth wrinkles, calm nerves, provide visions, and cure illnesses. The history of poison is also the history of medicine, and it plays a vital role in the histories of science, industry, and agriculture. From arsenic and belladonna to thallium and Zyklon B, Poison explores the nature of toxicity and reveals how poisons intersect with our everyday lives.

Engaging sidebars uncover history’s most notorious poisoners and their victims—from Cesare Borgia and Isaac Newton to Erwin Rommel and Saddam Hussein—while informative case studies provide easily digestible profiles of specific substances. Learn the differences among poisons, toxins, and venoms, the five stages of poisoning, how many bee stings it takes to kill someone, and what you should really do if a poisonous snake bites you.


Genre: non-fiction; history; science

Rating: 4.5

Before people think I'm trying to teach the children how to be murderers or knock off a family member, I point out that this is more a cleverly disguised science and history book than anything else.

This is a book that would appeal to teenagers if only for the strange subject matter and the illustrations. The book goes through usages of poisons from murder to medicine, all with sidebars and illustrations all throughout. It's fascinating to see how much a part of history poisons have been. As the book points out, anything in a large enough dose is toxic. Some things seem a little skimmed over, but for a good read this was an enjoyable overview of a strange topic.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (1)- This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein by Kenneth Oppel

Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real.

They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only peaks Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not be satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Elizabeth, Henry, and Victor immediately set out to find assistance in a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula.

Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrads life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another.


Not only is the cover totally cool, but the premise is interesting and considering Oppel is a respected author, I expect it to live up to expectation. I love current novels that integrate classic books and this one looks dark and gritty and like a book I'd bother picking up in hardback.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

College dropout Samhain LaCroix is sort of a failure at life. He's stuck in a dead end job without a lot of prospects, but at least he has his friends. That is until one of them ends up nothing more than a talking head after Sam accidentally crosses paths with one of the most evil, paranoid necromancers in the country. And this necromancer sees that unbeknownst to Sam, he's a necromancer too. And now Sam is not only a threat, but he's also managed to make the necromancer very angry. So now, with one of his friends undead and involved in an evil plot involving werewolves, Sam is forced to figure out how to deal with the fact that he can raise the dead.

Genre: horror; humor; supernatural

Rating: 4/5

This was a funny book. Surprisingly so. I'll admit the title was the main reason I picked it up and the tongue in cheek humor carries through most of the book. Sam and his friends are deadpan and snarky and trying hard to figure out how to deal with the fact that Sam can now raise the dead. That's not to say that the book isn't also a horror novel. There's plenty of realistic horrible things going on, starting with the sadistic Douglas, necromancer for Seattle and major bad guy. I've never seen a protagonist get beat up as much as Sam does. He's abused throughout the novel and rather than shake it off, he feels it. There are several points were he just can't do stuff because he's hurt too badly. He's realistically angry at his mother for lying to him about his powers. He has an absolute jerk of a father who walked out on his mom to start a "normal" family after he suspected Sam was a necromancer even though the necromancy genes came from his side of the family (and there is a moment of deep irony when Sam meets up with the "normal" wife and kids and meets his two half sisters). And Sam is up against a horrible bad guy in Douglas. Everything about him is cruel and angering, yet he's not over the top, just evil.

The weakness of book came with some of the humor becoming sparser by the end and also a sex scene that just felt thrown in and unnecessary for a YA novel. It honestly felt like that part was supposed to be in a normal paranormal novel, not a YA one. No, it wasn't graphic, just out of character and not what I think would even be normal for a situation such as the characters were in. That said, I'd read more books if this was made into a series. The humor alone was worth it and Sam was a likable character.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

YA Series Challenge

I apparently have never met a book challenge I didn't like. I consider it my competitive streak. I've signed up for a second one, which may be a little harder than the first.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Mattie is just another citizen of Philadelphia, feeling like she has too many chores and a mother who doesn't appreciate her when a yellow fever epidemic strikes the city and Mattie becomes separated from her mother. Forced to grow up quickly, Mattie starts having to make decisions while the fever continues to rage through the city and people turn on each other as death stalks the summer.

Genre: historical

Rating: 4/5

Note: #2 for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge

Considering Anderson is a fairly well respected YA author, it was no surprise that this was an excellent historical fiction. Forced with some very adult choices, Mattie is a believable heroine as she tries to survive in a time when there was literally no understanding about what caused yellow fever. This was a disease that not only killed people, but to those at the time it seemed to have no logical pattern since it wasn't understood that it was mosquito transmitted. The inhuman things people do to each other in the face of panic is shown in the novel. Clearly this isn't an issue that has happened very recently in America, but there is always the possibility of epidemics anywhere in the world and the fear shown during this one is understandable.

Sometimes the events in the novel lead you to realize that Mattie was very lucky, but it doesn't take away from the impact of the novel. Her mother is portrayed a bit harshly at the beginning and sometimes things seem to work out just a bit too nicely, but the historical aspect of the story is very well researched and done in an interesting way. In a world gone crazy, Mattie's actions often seem rational and her confusion is understandable. Anderson has taken a neglected historical event in US history and made a tightly plotted historical novel which would be enjoyable for not only history buffs, but anyone looking for a good read.