Monday, December 30, 2013

Best Books I read in 2013

Time for the annual round-up of the best books I read in 2013.  Note, this is not a round-up of the best books published in 2013.  About 50% of the best books I read this year were actually published in 2013 and 50% were books I'd been waiting to read.  Oddly, even though there were some great books this year 2013 doesn't feel like a stand-out year for YA books.  While the genre has been consistently good this year, only a few books crossed the line into greatness.  That's one reason Melina Marchetta needs to publish a book soon, her absences, along with some other favorites, was felt this year. (Note: Books are not in any particular order)

Teeth (Goodreads | Amazon)

The beauty of the prose is not that it's complex or prettied up. Instead it's simple, and just reeks of authenticity. Moskowitz writes what needs saying with as words few possible, never adding unnecessary flair and letting the power of the characters and realism of the words, even on this fantastical magical island, speak for themselves. Read full review here.

Code Name Verity (Goodreads | Amazon)

This audiobook impressed me from the start.  The first narrator had the most lovely Scottish accent, which pulled me into a nearly perfect story.  Code Name Verity follows two best friends, Maddie and Julie, who are attempting to do their part for the Allied Forces in WWII when they are trapped behind enemy lines.  This is a story about friendship and we need more of that in YA. (Review coming soon)

The Hallowed Ones (Goodreads | Amazon)

Talk about a book that will blow your mind.  It's about Amish people and vampires, two types of stories I would've never combined.  But this novel is brilliant, with one of the best main characters I've read in awhile.  You'll have to read it to believe it. (Review coming soon)

Chimes At Midnight (Goodreads | Amazon)

The humor in this book might be the best yet. The story has emotional highs and emotional lows. Even when I was scared shitless for October, the book always had a gag, pun or joke to throw at me. And it never felt out of place. The book manages to balance it's sarcastic sense of humor and ability to laugh in the face of certain death,with it's well-plotted, dire circumstances storyline. Read full review here.

The Sea of Tranquility (Goodreads | Amazon)

The writing is so evocative it almost feels like I need to step away and look at it with fresh eyes. But once I start thinking about the story, the feelings hit me again. If this book does anything it makes you feel. The emotions are so vivid that I can't imagine not emotionally connecting with this story, even if it's not your typical type of story. Read full review here.

The Sin Eater's Confession (Goodreads | Amazon)

The Sin-Eater's Confession does not hold back. It's terrible, descriptive and I had to set the book down on many occasions. But it's a book that shouldn't hold back. It's Ben's coping mechanism, his confession of everything he saw and the details he remembers. He's trying to understand what happened, trying to sort it out. Anything else would feel less truthful. Read full review here.

The Spectacular Now (Goodreads | Amazon)

This story is not a lifetime-original movie, where a teenage alcoholic finds redemption. It's a story where Sutter accidentally learns to love and learns to be loved.  This book is full of imperfect people who are just trying to figure out how to live life, have fun and be happy without bulldozing over everybody around them. Read full review here.

These Broken Stars (Goodreads | Amazon)

More often than not, I don't like books described as "timeless love stories" in the blurb. Usually they're too romantically driven, either ignoring the plot or without a plot to start with. These Broken Stars isn't like that. Yes, it's a timeless love story but it's also a good story. Read full review here.

Ashes of Honor (Goodreads | Amazon)

The characters, major and minor, really shine in this novel. I love when characters who have been hanging around for 5 novels like Etienne finally come forward, get fleshed out and suddenly you understand who they've been all along. McGuire is an expert at building a world full of characters who are complete characters, not placeholders caricatures. Read full review here.

Tiger Lily (Goodreads | Amazon)

Rather than focus on Wendy and the Lost Boys, this book focuses on Tiger Lily--found in the forest, an outcast among her own people and a tomboy in a world where she's expected to become a woman. I enjoyed that this book dealt with, subtly, the sliding scale between femininity and masculinity. Tiger Lily is fully a girl, but has boyish tendencies like hunting, that make her feel like an oddity. Read full review here.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Being Sloane Jacobs (review)

4/5 stars

Sloane Emily Jacobs is the daughter of a U.S. Senator with the picture perfect family that isn't quite as perfect as it seems.  A figure skater, Sloane Emily choked at junior nationals and isn't sure that iceskating is really for her, but her parents send her to Montreal for skating camp despite her objections.  Sloane Devon Jacobs is a tough hockey player dealing with her own slew of problems that are manifesting themselves in fighting on the hockey rink.  Like Sloane Emily, she's sent away to a different ice hockey camp in Montreal.

Being Sloane Jacobs (Goodreads | Amazon) is about each girl's struggle to find themselves in the midst of their problems.  The pair meet because of a luggage mix-up at their hotel.  Neither wants to face their life so they decide to switch for the summer.  This book requires a certain suspension of disbelief, that the Sloane Jacobs can switch sports with minimal difficulty and nobody will notice that they're not who they're supposed to be.  If you're willing to make that jump then this is an enjoyable book.  It's a little bit of a leap, being able to skate does not make someone an figure skater or hockey player, but it's one the book requires.

I love sports books, especially when they're not just play-by-plays of the action but realize the impact that sports can have on someone's life.  Part of the reason Sloane Devon sticks with hockey is because that's her ticket out of her life and into a college scholarship.  It also recognizes the camaraderie of team sports, which is something an isolate and lonely Sloane Emily needs in her life.  Even though this book takes place at sports camp, it's not just about sports.  It's about their lives back home, their families and everything they're trying to escape.

For me, this book was a fun sports read.  I don't feel like there are enough books about sports, especially not enough books about girls playing sports out there in the YA realm.  This book had it's flaws, I personally didn't think it was necessary to pair off the two main characters with romantic interest, but the story was still an enjoyable read.  For something cute and fun, this book will do nicely.

I received an advance reading e-book in exchange for an honest review.   

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Follow Friday - Christmas Book Haul

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! What books did Santa stuff your stocking with this holiday season? Do a holiday book haul for us! If you don’t celebrate just show off your books that you got this week. Pictures!!!

Originally I did not get Dark Triumph.  Santa stuffed my stocking with Book Thief, which I had already read.  Originally I planned to keep Book Thief since it's such a good book but my mother said "What's the point of getting a book you've already read?"  So I went to the bookstore and we did an exchange.  I actually think I'm going to be able to carve out some time to read books for fun this month so I'm pretty excited to have this beautiful pile waiting for me.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Roomies (review)

4/5 stars

Roomies (Gooreads | Amazon) is the type of contemporary that I'm just bound to like.  It's about friendship, family and figuring out who you are in relationship to both of those things.  Roomies is the story of Elizabeth, from New Jersey, and Lauren, from San Francisco who are assigned to be roommates their freshman year at Berkley.

The book is told partially in prose and also in epistolary form, with emails back and forth between the two roomies.  As their lives get more complicated with college looming, the pair find it easier to confess their secrets to a nameless person that the people around them.  For me, someone who has had an email friendship, this rang true.  Before text messaging was all the rage, I used to send long emails to one of my best friends from college and this is how we communicated 90% of the time.  Sometimes it is so much easier to write down your fears, your doubts, your life frustrations than to speak them out loud and make them real.
"And I'm starting to think that what people's parents are like is HUGELY important. Because you either turn out like them or you go so far in the opposite direction for whatever reason that you end up being totally unlike them." 
Elizabeth is struggling with her mother's promiscuity and her father's absence.  Whereas Lauren has a seemingly perfect set of parents, just with a lot of siblings and responsibility piled on her and not much money to go around.  They aren't that similar.  But isn't that the wonder of the college roommate system?  If you don't already have someone (I did), then you could end up with anyone and you have to build a relationship from scratch, which is what we see happening in this novel.

Both characters are imperfect people.  But that's what makes them compelling and believable.  When they mess up, you can imagine yourself making the same mistake.  The emails are full of honesty, and the authors let us see not only what the characters say but what they wanted to say, the things they're not sure how to word or if they're allowed to say.  It's the type of real honesty and willingness to let their characters say things they shouldn't that really makes this novel something special. And even though there is romance, this is first and foremost a book about friendship and family, important things that are often neglected in YA books because they're less glamorous and more messy.  I'm glad Roomies accepted the messy aspects of life, opting for emotional honesty and creating a novel that is both wholly readable and achingly realistic.

I received an advanced reading e-book in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Follow Friday - Reluctant Reader Recommendation

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Question: Pick a book in your favorite genre that you’d recommend to a reluctant reader.
Favorite genre?  I mainly read young adult but a lot of people argue that's not a genre. Is YA fantasy specific enough? (Though really I read any good YA).

Well it's going to have to be Hex Hall.  This book is fun, silly, easy and I may have proposed marriage to it once (okay I did and the book accepted. So we've moved beyond the book boyfriend to the I-married-this-book type of relationship)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Until We End (review)

4/5 stars

I'm always pleasantly surprised when I read a dystopian/post-apocalyptic type book that's still good. It's a genre that feels full and it's been so well-done in some series, that it's hard to compete with what has come before.  Until We End (Goodreads | Amazon) is a solidly good book.  I had one major problem with it (and I feel like a broken record because once again my problem was the romantic relationship) but that does not detract from most of the book.

Seventeen-year-old Cora was raised by her father to be a survivor.  He was one of those crazies, stockpiling food, building a self-sustaining greenhouse, keeping a cabinet full of guns, that the neighbors gossiped about.  Until the world really did end, a highly contagious virus sweeping the country, and the neighbors all died.  Six months have passed since Cora's father disappeared, leaving her alone taking care of her eight-year-old brother.

The book begins with a drought forcing Cora to leave the safe confines of her home, venturing to the local spring in an attempt to keep their greenhouse functioning.  At the spring, she is ambushed by an army-deserter named Brooks who carjacks her at gun-point and forces her to take him back to her house to claim her stash of food.  But when Cora returns to her house it's been ransacked and her brother Coby is gone.

Family relationships are typically the best drivers of dystopian/post-apocalyptic books.  That's a connection that's solid and strong, something worth tearing the world apart for.  Like Katniss with Prim, Cora's devotion to her brother is what forces the plot forward in this book.  I believe in her relationship with Coby. I believe that she wants to save him, protect him and give him what childhood she can salvage.

I also like that Cora's survival makes sense.  Cora was literally raised from her childhood to deal with this exact situation.  Even though she doesn't always handle it well (who would?), she has the skill-set to survive.  She's not just lucky. She's trained.   Too often books are dependent upon coincidences to cobble together a plot that makes sense.  But this book actually calls out coincidences and the main characters question them.

As I already said, I didn't believe in the romantic relationship that developed in this book.  I could give you a whole list of reasons (how it started, who the main characters were before the apocalypse, etc) but I'll let you be your own judge of that.  Overall this book is still worth reading, well-plotted, compulsively readable with twists that you won't see coming.

I received an advance reading e-book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Poor Little Dead Girls (review)

3/5 stars

At times, I really enjoyed Poor Little Dead Girls (Goodreads | Amazon) but at times it dragged.  When Sadie is awarded a scholarship to a fancy boarding school she's worried about the normal things - classes, making friends, being the poor scholarship girl, her roommates, etc.  But when Sadie is kidnapped by a secret society and tricked into joining, the really scary part of Keating Hall is only beginning to unveil itself.

This book had a strong beginning.  It starts off by showing a strong, caring relationship between Sadie and her father, then builds on that start when she arrives at Keating Hall.  The first few chapters are filled with mystery and secrets as Sadie slowly starts to discover pieces of her dead mother's past at the school.

Where this book falters in the mundane "teenage" clothes, drinking and relationship drama it includes.  I'm not saying these choices are always bad in YA books (in fact some books use some of these elements brilliantly, i.e. Spectacular Now).  In this book it just reeks of falseness.  There's this big mystery, a few dead girls and we're getting shopping montages with designer dresses.

After the beginning the book never really found its stride again.  There would be passages where you thought "this is picking up again" only to have something ridiculous happen like a girl get her period at a fancy ball and have no tampons or the main character would say something idiotic.  I also struggled with the main love interest because it never really developed in a meaningful way, they just were kinda thrown together but we were supposed to believe in their relationship because it served the story.

At times this book is fun, with a nice mystery that needs to be solved.  Other times, this book loses the plot.  I suspect some people will enjoy this, as there is a lot that can be enjoyed but overall I didn't connect with the book in the way that I hoped.

I received an advance reading e-book in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Follow Friday - My best sales pitch

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Bookselling Time: Go to your biggest bookcases. Go to the second shelf from the top and pick out the sixth book from the left. Hardsell that book to us – even if you haven’t read it or if you hated it. (if you don’t have bookcases, don’t have six books on one shelf, etc, pick a book at random)
Viva Jacquelina! is the 10th book in the very underrated Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer.  In this edition we find our wily heroine back in the hands of British Intelligence, this time in Portugal.  The hottest of her flirtations, Lord Richard Allen, makes an appearance and that alone should be enough to get you to read the book.  There is music, flirting, history, posing for Goya and adventures galore.

Honestly this is an easy book to promote because if you haven't read this series, you're missing out.  From the integration of real history, to one of the most interesting, flirtation and fun heroines in YA, this series is excellent.  If you're able to find the audiobooks, they are award-winning spectacular pieces filled with laughter, music and narrated by the incomparable Katherine Kellgren.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rebel McKenzie (review)

4/5 stars

Rebel McKenzie (Goodreads | Amazon) feels like a book for kids and as a middle-grade book, that's probably a good thing.  One of my friends (Cough Megan at Book Brats Cough) keeps talking how a lot of middle grade books feel like they're being written for adults who are sentimental about the innocence of youth rather than for actual children who are in the midsts of it.

There is no real sentimentality in Rebel McKenzie.  It's a book very much in the present, with a main character who is flawed and funny.  Whereas adults might clutch their pearls at Rebel's tactics and her tendency to be mean-spirited, I think kids will relate to the smart girl who wants to be taken seriously, humiliate the neighborhood bully and be a good aunt to her little nephew all at the same time.

The story starts with Rebel attempting to run away to join a kid's paleontologist dig.  When that attempt fails, her much-older sister shows up and asks Rebel to come stay with them for the summer to babysit her nephew Rudy.  This is where the adult in me started to say "Wait that doesn't seem believable" but then I remember that was pretty much how all my games as a kid went. (Seriously when I played Barbies the parents went away for the summer leaving a house full of teens and kids, shenanigans ensued and they had to flee to the cave in the woods aka my bunk-bed).  That's not something that's going to faze a kid, reading-wise, they'll just be glad to have parents out of the picture.

Rebel is not a perfect main character, but she's a realistic one.  In order to raise money for the paleontologist dig, Rebel decides to win the Frog Level Volunteer Fire Department's beauty pageant.  And Rebel uses any means necessary, even tricking her new-found friend.  With a unique talent (burping...), and a non-beauty queen personally, can Rebel beat the neighborhood bully/beauty queen, her new homely friend, and become the serious paleontologist she dreams of?

As you can imagine, Rebel's antics do not go unchecked and there's a nice little moral to the story by the end.  After all this is middle-grade and we don't want our little girls taking out their best friends in beauty pageants, but it's a fun ride of a book.

I loved the newsletters, cartoons by Rudy and other children-friendly insertions of this book. Middle Grade can be so fun! 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

These Broken Stars (review)

4/5 stars

More often than not, I don't like books described as "timeless love stories" in the blurb.  Usually they're too romantically driven, either ignoring the plot or without a plot to start with.  These Broken Stars (Goodreads | Amazon) isn't like that.  Yes, it's a timeless love story but it's also a good story.

The book starts with a chance meeting between Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen, a rich heiress and a poor war-hero soldier, on a luxury spaceship traveling through hyperspace.  The chemistry in the first scene between these two is off the charts, but once Lilac regains her senses she pretty much shuts down any potential relationship.  It's not because she thinks she's better than Tarver, but because her father is a  very rich and controlling man who would not approve.  But when the spaceship crashes, leaving Lilac and Tarver as the only survivors the pair are thrust together to fight for survival.

What I like most about this book is the characters.  The authors don't simplify them to stereotypes.  For example, Lilac is a beautiful, rich heiress, but she's not a snobby airhead.  She's smart, strategic and stubborn.  It's her knowledge of the escape pods, after all her father's company built them, that saves them in the first place.  But it also shows that she's out of her element, wearing a party dress and heels, once they crash land on the planet.  She's stubborn and determined to keep up with Tarver, even if it's not within her abilities.  There is a realistic balance between strengths and weakness that make her an interesting character.
"But I'm tired of being weak. I'm tired of being led. I'm tired of having this soldier decide my every step. I'm Lilac LaRaux."
Tarver is well-developed as well.  Yes he's a soldier, but he's more than a uniform barking commands.  He's a person, who aspiration beyond the army, a family back home and a heart-wrenching backstory.  Throw two well-fleshed out, equally-developed characters onto a planet and odds are you're going to have a good story to tell.

The story itself kept me guessing.  They're stranded on a strange terraformed planet where nothing makes sense.  There's a mystery, a secret there and in order to get rescued they're going to have to discover why this planet was forgotten in the first place.  It's original, unique and wholly readable.

I received an advanced reading e-book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Follow Friday - New in 2013

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Tell us at least one new or unusual thing you’ve done in 2013.
Oh goodness, 2013 has been FULL of new things.  December 15, 2012 I moved to a new city so pretty much everything has been new.  I'm not sure how unique or unusual my experiences have been but I'll share some of them.  Probably the most interesting thing is that I joined the climbing gym.  I've been climbing before, but not consistently.  Now I'm in a meetup group (if you move to a new city that website is gold) and climb usually twice a week.  Other new experiences: living on my own, going to exciting places in Louisville, live-tweeting a tractor pull, hosting a Doctor Who party for my new city friends, having plans on weekends, etc.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Follow Friday - Fave Thanksgiving dish

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving Day food? If you’re not American or Canadian, what is your favorite holiday food?
Sweet potato casserole! No competition.  It tastes like a dessert but counts as a vegetable. Seriously, how could you go wrong with that?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sexism and Feminism in Geekery 12

It's been a quiet month on Galavanting Girl Books.  I apologize! NanoWriMo has been soul-consuming.  But the blog must go on!

Swedish Cinemas Give Films the Bechdel Test

The state-funded Swedish Film Institute supports the initiative, which is starting to catch on. Scandinavian cable TV channel Viasat Film says it will start using the ratings in its film reviews and has scheduled an A-rated "Super Sunday" on 17 November, when it will show only films that pass the test, such as The Hunger Games, The Iron Lady and Savages.

Many people have pointed out while it's good to consider the Bechdel Test when writing/reading/watching media, it's also not a perfect test and it's unfair to write off any movie that does not pass the Bechdel Test.  The fact that the Harry Potter films don't pass, even though personally I consider them empowering to girls, is an example of the flaw in the system.  Read more here.

Foz Meadows Gets the Worst Comments

So Fox Meadow posted a pretty epic rant about a sexist comic on Penny Arcade that boils down a television show with complicated women characters to their component body parts (aka boobs).
Shit like this is why women are routinely shut down by sexist, sizeist fucks who think that telling us we’re fat or ugly must necessarily invalidate whatever point we’re making, because if a woman isn’t conventionally pretty, then she has no right to take up space by speaking.
The post itself is pretty great, but honestly the only reason I came across it was because she had a super special sort of comment.  And I thought it was on this post, but if you look at the comment section you'll see why I'm struggling to locate it.  But, Foz put it on her tumblr so here is the comment from hell. Even if they are unconnected, both are worth sharing.
Am I sexist? I hope so. Sexist means you can observe reality. Guys and girls like different things. Girls like to infiltrate the boys’ clubs which tends to drive out the boys. Most good writers are men, and as a man, given the choice I will naturally prefer an equivalent male to a female.
Read the full post about Penny Arcade here.  Read the full weird comment here.

Joss Whedon says Some Things about Feminism

Joss Whedon, acclaimed creator of short-lived shows, gave a speech about the word feminism.  At first, a lot of people seemed pleased with the speech but it didn't sit well with others, as most "re-branding" attempts of feminism by men won't.
This is why feminists are feminists—it's why there needs to be a name. Social, political, and economic equality is not the default. The reason Whedon can stand up at the podium and say that equality is natural is because all these feminists he doesn't talk about, from Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth on up, have fought exhausting battle after exhausting, grinding battle to get to this point. "Feminist" is a movement, a history, a faith, and a hope for change—as Firestone says, "if there were another word more all-encompassing than revolution we would use it." Saying equality is natural sounds like a good thing, but Whedon uses it rhetorically to ignore the entire history of feminism.
Read more here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Follow Friday - I will lose

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
 You Are It! We are playing #FF tag this week. Comment on as many blogs as you can, even if they aren’t participating in #FF. Just say Happy #FF! At the end of your comment. Keep a running total if you want and update your post with it. The bigger the number the more impressed we will be!
Guys I love Follow Friday. I don't always participate as much as I want to BUT it's my favorite book blogging meme.  But I'm going to tell you straight up that I will lose this week.  If you haven't noticed this week has been quiet.  Here are my super good (or not) reasons.  1. NanoWriMo - I fell behind on Saturday due to rock climbing and a headache.  2. Doctor Who 50th Anniversary - I'm having a very small party for the occasion which somehow leads to all the cooking and cleaning even though it's only a few close friends.

So tomorrow I will try to play tag.  But my expectations are low. Oh November, you always seem to do this to me!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Follow Friday - Movie adaptations

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Are there any book to movie adaptations where you think the movie is better than the book?
Okay, I feel blasphemous for even saying this, but I've said it before. As much as when I originally read the Hunger Games books I loved them, when I read them a second time I found myself mocking them somewhat.  But the first Hunger Game movies was so well done.  It made Katniss more relatable and likable than the book did.  In some ways, especially for non-YA readers, it was better than the book.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Bellman & Black (review)

4/5 stars

Bellman & Black: A Ghost Story (Goodreads | Amazon) was not what I expected. As a boy, William Bellman kills a rook with a slingshot.  He's the type of jovial youth who's always up to something, but smart and hardworking, the type of person everyone wants to be around.  His life is nearly perfect, working at his Uncle's mill, marrying a beautiful girl, having children of his own until slowly one-by-one those around him start to die.  At every funeral he sees the same unknown man dressed in black smiling at him.

I expected this story to be scarier, a more clear-cut ghost story, but it leaves you guessing for most of the book.  Are William Bellman's friends and family dying because he killed the rook or are they just dying because eventually everyone does? Not even Bellman himself can be sure whether he's cursed or his luck as turned.
"I see misery and suffering and despair. I see the futility of everything I have ever done and everything I may ever do! I see every reason to do away with myself right here and now, and be finished with it! Forever!" 
For me, the book was more sad than creepier or scary.  We see Bellman build an enviable life for himself, then watch it fall apart as he loses everything he loves.  His desperation, his attempts to bargain with death, are very real and familiar emotions to anyone who has ever lost somebody they loved. And always in the background, always looming is the man in black and this sense of doom and paranoid that Bellman develops over time.

The writing is very atmospheric, setting the place and tone of the novel, and even though the story is slow-moving, it works for this particular novel.  This book is not a sprint, but a marathon, the haunting story of living, losing, paranoia and the potential price of a childhood mistake.

I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pirouette (review)

2/5 stars

Pirouette (Goodreads | Amazon) just didn't do it for me.  At first glance, a Parent Trap-style twins-seperated-at-birth premise just seems too fun to pass up. Factor in the fact that they're twin ballerinas sent off to dancing summer camp (dancing + summer camp too of my favorite story things) where they meet for the first time this book just sounds like it's full of win.

It's not.  The problem with this book is that it expects you to set aside your suspension of disbelief way beyond what is possible AND the main characters are supposed to be smart, but so obviously aren't.  My problems start when Hannah, the outgoing happy twin, is delayed at the airport by a day which allows her to arrive a day after all the other students so she can meet her sister in private.  It's contrived and feels contrived.  Another problem, is the speed with which Hannah (who has just met Simone) agrees to the switching for the summer despite the fact it'll wipe this prestigious dance camp off her resume (and she has aspirations of being a professional dancer).

I tried to set that aside as hokey fun.  But when Simone, the smart shy twin, begins googling information about DNA tests the bottom kind of fell out for me.  There's this whole section where Simone tries to figure out if a DNA test could prove they're identical twins and insists on doing a mail-in DNA test to prove they're twins.  Let me break this down for you.  Simone (through google) learns that identical twins have identical DNA.  She wants to do a DNA test to prove to their parents they are twins.  If Simone and Hannah have identical DNA there's no way for the lab where they're mailing the tests to be able to tell that the samples came from two people.  For all they know Simone could've sent in two samples of her own DNA and received the same results.  As far as proving this her parents, it's a waste of over $300.  Also, after going through all the trouble of taking the test and getting the results it's never mentioned again throughout the novel.

(For the record, I did some basic googling about twins & DNA.  Apparently they are coming up with tests that might be able to differentiate between identical twins genetically, but we're talking about a mail-in paternity test here).

After the DNA section disappeared and they decide to continue the switch after-camp, the book hit a pretty good stride.  Fooling the family and friends while learning more about the others.  These sections were the best of the book, enjoyable and fun as they walk, occasionally stumbling, in each other shoes  But then, near the end there's another section that's way too hard to believe.  To say more would be spoilers, but it's something that would never happen.

Overall this book was not realistic enough for a contemporary YA and the characters weren't enough to carry the story. For younger YA readers, borderline middle-grade, it would probably be more enjoyable than for older YA readers.

I received an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Sexism and Feminism in Geekery 11

I know I know I'm once again behind.  Part of the problem is so much happens that I always feel behind.  ALWAYS.  Somehow being behind makes me procrastinate as the links pile up.  The world is just full of sexism and feminism to cope with the sexism that even what I originally thought was a small subset of the discussion covers a lot of information, articles and posts than originally expected.  In some ways it's great that we're having so many discussions about sexism around the literary, fandom and geek worlds.  Then sometimes it's sad that even though we have SO many discussions this is still the world we find ourselves in.

Girl Leaning Fandoms Get the Worst Haters

This article was written because Den of Geek lost a bet with the internet.  Honestly, their loss equals our win if this is the type of commentary we get.  While the football being for boys thing stings a little bit (big football fan. I think it only skewers male because we don't raise our girl-children to watch it and they also lack the experience playing it), this article is spot-on it's it's commentary on fandom.
     Yet it was in the comments field of that article that one point stuck in my head, where it's firmly resided since. As one commenter put it, "it does seem that fandoms that can be 'female' learning (such as One Direction) do get a lot of stick, but if it's male skewering (e.g. football) then it gets a free pass".
     A further commenter picked up the baton: "anything with a fanbase mainly composed of teenage girls - One Direction, Bieber, Twilight etc - gets tons of these uber-macho comments from people desperate to prove that they don't like this sissy garbage". As such you get "homophobic slurs aimed at the artists and misogynistic ones aimed at the fans".
Read more here.

Cosplay Creeps And You 

This video is pretty much perfect and everybody who attends a con or cares about geek culture should watch the treatment women cosplayers are subjected too.

Do Women REALLY dominate the YA market? 

Stacked took an excellent look at something year hear time and time again.  If we're not worried about the poor boy readers, we're noting that YA is really where the women can get ahead (often disparaging YA in the same article).  This article on Stacked full of numbers, statistics and graphs, all things I love in an article, and really in-depth.
     As should be absolutely clear, there has never been a time women have outnumbered men on the NYT List in the top ten. Never. There have been six weeks where there have been a grand total of four women in the top ten -- January 6, February 24, March 31, May 5, May 19, and June 9.
Many studies have shown that any time there is gender equality, such as calling on students in a classroom, it's always perceived as the women dominating the discussion.  There's too much data in this article so you need to read it for yourself here.  This article also spawned a REALLY long and sometimes confusing (due to twitter's terrible ability to organize conversation) discussion on twitter among YA authors. There is absolutely no way to summarize these so I'm just linking them as well.
First day of discussion is here.
Second day of discussion is here. 

Female Characters Should Be People Too (Duh)

The fact that Seanan McGuire is one of my favorite authors is a well known fact.  She also makes a regular appearance in this column.  Since the October Daye series is one of my favorites, this particular passage of this excellent post about female characters amazes me.
     Midway through either the second or the third book—I don't remember anymore—I got a note from one of my proofers saying "You can't have Toby do this, she's always been a little bitchy, but this makes her a total bitch. No one will like her if she does this."
      I panicked. I couldn't write a series about an unlikeable character! I'd never get published, no one else would ever meet my imaginary friends, and everything I'd worked for my whole life would be over, all because Toby was unlikeable.
      Then I took a deep breath, and wrote back to the proofer requesting that they do a find/replace on the .doc, and plug in the name "Harry Dresden" for every instance of "October Daye." They did, and lo and behold, what had been "bitchy" and "inappropriate" was suddenly "bold" and "assertive." A male character in the same situation, with the same background, taking the same actions, was completely in the right, justified, and draped with glory. He was a hero. Toby? Toby was an unlikeable bitch.
      The proofer withdrew the compliant. I have never forgotten it.

Read More Here

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Follow Friday - Vlog

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Q: Vlog Feature: Tell us why you would be the best feature ever in a vlog. The best two will get picked for next week’s feature. If you do not want to participate, just tell us why you can’t be caught on video.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Palace of Spies (review)

4/5 stars

Very rarely is a book as much fun as Palace of Spies (Goodreads | Amazon).  Peggy Fitzroy is an orphan living in her bossy and overbearing uncle's house.  But since she has nowhere else to go, she trudges through trying to ignore his increasing insults.  Everything goes awry when her uncle announces her sudden betrothal, she meets said fiancee (he doesn't deserve our Peggy) in unfortunate circumstance and ends up kicked out of her uncle's house into the streets.

Before she knows it, Peggy is swept into impersonating Lady Francesca, one of the lady's in waiting at King George I's court.  A clever girl, Peggy doesn't understand why she's been brought into this scheme but through observation and some snooping, she discovers that Lady Francesca may have been murdered and begins fearing for her own life.

This book is a romping adventure, not that there are pirate ships or lots of sword fights, but it feels like a romping adventure.  Filled with politics, intrigue and the drama of life at court, Palace of Spies is feisty and fun.  In some ways the style of writing reminded me of Gail Carriger, (minus the fantasy elements) and the book has a great sense of humor and snark.

Peggy, too smart for her own good, carries the book.  She's everything you want in a main character, intelligent, funny with a knack for getting herself into sticky situations.  I liked how this book dealt with female characters all-around, rather than making them vapid for wearing pretty dresses and flirting with boys it presented them as master strategists.  Whether it's Peggy, who you have to cheer for, or conniving Sophy, the women of court aren't just eye candy or pawns but playing their own political game.

Whenever I read books filled with mystery and court politics, I always wonder why there aren't more YA novels set in royal courts.  It just seems such a natural fit, royal courts are filled with scheming young beautiful people and someones always plotting treason.  This book has it all, a mystery that keeps you guessing, a heroine to cheer for, handsome young men and mischievous plotting by almost every character in the book.

I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, November 3, 2013

NanoWriMo 2013

So after falling behind on blogging during vacation we've reached November, a.k.a. National Novel Writing Month (NanoWriMo) the craziest thirty days in existence.  This year NanoWriMo will be a different challenge altogether for me.  Last December I moved to Louisville, away from my parent's home and the always-there meals of my mother to the city (or what constitutes the city in Kentucky).

Back home, I didn't have much of a life so NanoWriMo was simpler.  Everyday I would come home from work, eat dinner and write.  But this year will be much more of a balancing act than ever before.  It'll look more like come home, walk dog, cook dinner and then that's where things get interesting.  Having finally gained some semblance of a social life, I'd like to maintain that  during November.  So I'm trying to find a way to watch all my sports, feed myself, go to the climbing gym twice a week, knit and write.  In preparation I looked back on my tip list from NanoWrimos past (see here) and actually the advice is still pretty good even in my new situation.

  1. Time Management - For this year stealing writing time is going to be even more important.  I've already decided that I'm going to have to take my laptop to the office and write during lunch breaks later this month.  I probably need to request a vacation day later this month to help as well.
  2. Sundays - Big Sundays are still my goal.  As soon as this blog is posted I plan to go back to writing.
  3. Rewards - I'm using the climbing gym as a reward.  Right now I'm planning to continue going on Tuesdays regardless, but going on Thursdays will depend on where I am on the word count.  
  4. Don't Let the Bad Bother You  - Always good NanoWriMo advice
  5. Write Different - Like last year, I am writing most of my NanoWriMo novel in Written Kitten. 
  6. Live a Little - Last year this was a challenge I gave myself and this year it's even more important.  I've started a new life here in Louisville and I'm going to maintain it.
I have a few other strategies for surviving NanoWriMo this year, like planning to cook big meals on Sunday so I can eat leftovers more during the week and going to my magical writing place (the apartment complex laundry room where there is no wifi) if needed.  Yesterday I went to my first Write-In which was fun, if not completely productive, and I'd like to try to take advantage of living in a city with other Wrimos.

If any of my blogging friends are dong NanoWriMo this year feel free to add me as a buddy!  And if not, I'll see you around the web because I'm planning to keep book blogging and tweeting throughout this month. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Follow Friday - Embarrassing

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
What book are you embarrassed to admit you LOVED? (try to think beyond Twilight).
I'm going to be honest with you here, I don't tend to be embarrassed by books that I love. Sometimes I'm surprised and not sure why I like a book or series so much, but embarrassed...nope. Honestly I think there's a place for fun books and guilty pleasure reads.  Some of my favorite books are silly and snarky and they completely own it.  I'm not the pseudo-intellectual type who gets judgey judgey about the type of books you should like. Like snarky fun YA? GOOD. Love serious literature with densely written prose? Good for you! Devour guilty pleasure erotic e-books? That's fine too (if all you ever read is very poorly written re-purposed fanfiction that might be a problem, but if you read that and other stuff then fine by me). Honestly most of us adults read for enjoyment, so read books, have fun and be merry.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Iron Traitor (review)

3/5 stars

Julie Kagawa, I just can't quit you.  The Iron Traitor (Goodreads | Amazon) is not my favorite of Kagawa's works, but she did enough that I find myself shelving the 3rd in the series to be read on Goodreads and wondering where the story goes from there.  Because that ending, be warned, is a whammy of an ending.

My problems with The Iron Traitor are similar to my problems with The Lost Prince (review here).  As much as I wanted to like Ethan, that little boy Meghan sacrificed so much to save, I just do not connect with him that much.  He's brooding, angry and surly, whereas Meghan was wide-eyed and innocent when she stumbled into faerie.  Ethan puts up walls to protect himself, which makes it hard for other people to connect with him (both characters and readers).

The biggest problem for me continues to be his relationship with Kenzie.  There is too much bickering about their relationship, too much him telling her not to come to protect her and her getting angry and insisting on making her own choices.  Too much Kenzie calling him "tough guy" and me groaning because pet names can get really annoying when they are repeated.  For all of Kenzie's being superglued to Ethan's side, she doesn't really do anything throughout the whole novel, except bossing Ethan around. She's pretty ace at shouting at Ethan but if she's going to be in the story I'd like her to be relevant.

As far as plot, the relationship drama dragged down the story.  Once they arrived in faerie and the action really started, the book hit it's stride from their meeting with the deliciously evil Queen of the Seelie Court, to frolicking Puck showing up and the original brooder Ash even makes an appearance.  All of that leads up to an ending that took me completely by surprise. Will you like this sequel? It probably depends on how much you liked the Ethan/Kenzie dynamic in the first book.

I received an advance reading e-book in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Quick Reviews - The Fourth Bear, The Stolen Child, Over Sea Under Stone

The Fourth Bear

4/5 stars (Goodreads | The Fourth Bear)

This book was a lot of fun, especially as an audiobook.  Despite being the second in a series, I never felt lost or confused by the characters or the plot.  It's always nice to read a series where you don't necessarily have to remember everything from the last book to enjoy the next.  This book is meant to be ridiculous, with a villain like the Gingerbread Man and a fairytale police department would you expect anything else?  A fun, twisting, silly mystery that's great for car rides.

The Stolen Child

4/5 stars (Goodreads | Amazon)
A story of two changelings, the boy who is stolen and the changeling who takes his place, the story is told in alternating points of views.  With both characters you get the longing to return to the human-world.  They are children who aren't children, either growing up without growing old or being old already when they finally get to grow up.  It's an interesting story, more powerful for showing the two perspectives.  While at times the story drags and the passage of time is confusing, the book is very enjoyable and well-worth reading.  I listened to it on audiobook and really enjoyed the narration.

Over Sea, Under Stone

3.5 stars (Goodreads | Amazon)
Another take on Authurian legend and looking for the treasures of King Arthur, which is pretty middle of the road.  The book was good enough, a nice little story about a family staying in Cornwall who find an ancient map.  Evil people, known as "the Dark", try to steal the map and stop their progress.  I listened on audiobook and wasn't very impressed with the narration, particularly when it took on female voices, but it was acceptable. Depending on how much you like variations on King Arthur, the book is a pleasant little story.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Follow Friday - Book in a funny place

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Bookagram: Photograph your fave read in a funny place.
Guys I'm on vacation so I don't have access to my favorite book or anything funny (hotel rooms are decidedly lacking in personality).  So what you'll get is my current read (I'm researching Title IX for NanoWriMo purposes) balanced on my head while taking a selfie on an iPhone.  I feel like I should mention I've had a glass of wine even though I'm feeling zero effects just to make it sound more impressive.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Is it quiet around here?

Sorry I've been quiet this week.  I am on currently on vacation.  Despite my best intentions of preparing ahead of time (okay I probably shouldn't have gone to a rock climbing event/camping trip Oct. 12 if my intentions were that good) I have zero reviews queued up.  I have a few books that I intend to review already read and a couple weeks worth of sexism/feminism geekery reports in their rough pure linkage format.  However, none of that is done and since I'm on vacation my motivation is really low. Unless you're a trail to be hiked, which is all my priority list consists of at this point.

So here's a pretty view to bide your time.  I'll have more books and pretty views for you soon.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Follow Friday - Magazines WHAT?

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
What are some of your favorite magazines?
So I don't actually read magazines.  As a reader I feel terrible admitting that.  I used to subscriber to Backpacker until I realized that I just looked at the pictures.  I like Backpacker, really I do, but seriously I kept piling up issues saying that I'd read that next. Back in college I loved Transitions Abroad.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Parasite (review)

4/5 stars

I look forward to every book Mira Grant writes (or Seanan McGuire, her urban fantasy alter-ego) and Parasite (Goodreads | Amazon) was no exception.  The story follows Sally Mitchell, an amnesiac who was declared clinically brain-dead then somehow, miraculously woke up.  Doctors credited her Intestinal Bodyguard, a genetically modified tapeworm that is culmination of modern medicine, with saving her life. Almost every human has one, a parasitic tapeworm that enhances the human immune system, which has been too sanitized by years of medicine, and distributes necessary medications and immunities into it's the human system.

This book is very different from Feed and Sally is a very different main character from Georgia (If you've read Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy). Sally can only remember the last six years of her life.  So despite being an adult, sometimes she's also very young and naive.  She's pushed around by almost everyone, SymboGen Corporation, who want to figure out her miraculous survival, and her parents who have guardianship over her.  She lives with the ghost of a girl she can't remember but everyone expects her to be.

In some ways that makes Sally hard to connect with.  There were huge gaps of her life, and thus pieces of her personality missing.  Even though I rooted for Sally, I didn't really feel her experiences on an empathetic level until the end of the book.  However, by the end of the book I REALLY felt them.

From the onset, the idea of a symbiotic tapeworm living in everyone's intestine, this book is creepy.  The science seems crazy impossible, yet well-researched and feasible.  What scares me the most about Mira Grant books is that they don't seem that far-fetched, like we're a few twists of science away from parasites trying to take over the human race. Like her other books, the complexity of the world-building continues to impress me.  Not only is there the basic plot-line, but inset interviews from magazines, autobiographies and the creepiest children's book known to man, that make the world feel layered and realistic.

While Parasite might not be as good as Feed, it's still a very good book and a series with a lot of potential. By the time I finished the last page I cared (and it's driving me nuts not knowing what happens next).  If you're looking for realistic medical-based science-fiction, then once again Mira Grant has written a winner.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sexism and Feminism in Geekery 10

As far as I'm concerned, sexism has been put on notice for this week.  Honestly there was way too much to include.  I've left out at least three incidents (which I hope to include next week) because sexism just exploded the past couple of weeks.

David Gilmour Does Not Like Women Writers

Congrats David Gilmour! You are the sexist asshat of the week.  The whole internet exploded in one giant WTF over your terrible comments about how you don't teach women writers. 
I’m not interested in teaching books by women. Virginia Woolf is the only writer that interests me as a woman writer, so I do teach one of her short stories. But once again, when I was given this job I said I would only teach the people that I truly, truly love. Unfortunately, none of those happen to be Chinese, or women. Except for Virginia Woolf. And when I tried to teach Virginia Woolf, she’s too sophisticated, even for a third-year class. Usually at the beginning of the semester a hand shoots up and someone asks why there aren’t any women writers in the course. I say I don’t love women writers enough to teach them, if you want women writers go down the hall. What I teach is guys. Serious heterosexual guys. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Chekhov, Tolstoy. Real guy-guys. Henry Miller. Philip Roth.
You legit cannot make this stuff up.  Readin the full original article here or the full transcript. You can also read his apology where he admits that the only reason he's apologizing is that his publisher is worried women might not buy his book.  But guys I'm sure he's genuinely sorry. And he teaches Truman Capote so he can't be anti-anything (that's in the Bible or something I swear)

Probably my favorite response came from a professor at the University of Toronto.  Read it here.

Tumblr Takes on Sexism in Axe Astronaut Contest

Tumblr, I love thee.  Especially when you do stuff like this.  When Roshini Muniam Rose was announced as one of the five finalists from Malaysia, she faced the almost-expected sexist comments of the internet.  But then something magical happened.
Last night, Tumblr user sisterofdusk decided to take Rose’s fight to the people. Posting to the Malaysian feminist Tumblr group keluargakilljoy, she asked, “I’ve cast my vote, what are you waiting for? Let’s send her to space!” Rose got a big boost when Tumblr and YouTube celeb Tyler Oakley reblogged the post, noting, “She’s losing by 20k votes. Let’s fix this.” And Tumblr did. In less than 24 hours, Tumblr reblogged sisterofdusk’s post more than 38,000 times, pushing her from less than 3,000 votes to nearly 39,000.
Read the full article here. My favorite part about this story is that it actually worked and Roshini will go on to compete at space camp in Orlando.

Sexualization of Suicide - Comic WTF

Yes this is a few weeks late but it feels way too significant not to include.
Let’s recap this—in order to get potentially hired by DC Comics as an artist, all you have to do is draw a picture of a female character (who has already recently gone through an unnecessary hyper-sexualized redesign) completely naked and about to commit suicide. 
Read full article here.

Eventually DC Comics apologized but it still left everyone wondering, do they just not get it?

Friday, October 11, 2013

Follow Friday - Blogs I love

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
Feature your own favorite blogger, have it be a surprise.
Honestly I never find this question fair. I like particular features from particular bloggers and it constantly changes.  I absolutely love Cuddlebuggery, especially their round-ups of bookish news, I couldn't live without Forever YA's Gilmore Girl re-watches (or my quality of life would decrease at least) and lately I've been into The Mary Sue's tumblr blog.  Ask me next week and this might all be different depending on what I'm obsessed with at the time.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Chimes at Midnight (review)

5/5 stars

Chimes at Midnight (Goodreads | Amazon) once again proves that Seanan McGuire should write all of the books.  Whenever I've had a slew of sub-par books and I'm able to come back to one of her works, it feels like you've thrown a starving person into the best bakery in the world and I can't help but devour everything. (For me this is the world's best gluten free bakery which makes it even more important).
"When you decide its time to up the ante on getting into deep shit, you don't mess around, do you? You're just like, hey, what's the worst that can happen? That's the worst that can happen? Great. Let's do that." 
October Daye is one of my favorite heroines.  Despite being half-fae, she feels all too real.  Even if technically she's not human, she clings to and carry her humanity because that's what keeps her from becoming too disconnected with the world.  That stubborn humanity, is what sets her apart from the fae around her and makes her good at what she does (solving crimes, saving the world, etc).

As I read Chimes of Midnight and all the pieces from previous novels began to fall into place, clues dropped over time, it was hard to believe that the world McGuire built exists only in her head.  How can someone build a world so complex, characters who will matter more later, and drop so many clues?  It makes me wonder, is San Francisco really a hot-bed of faerie activity?  I'm just in awe of McGuire's ability and foresight in building a world and a multi-book narrative that feels so flawless.

The humor in this book might be the best yet.  The story has emotional highs and emotional lows.  Even when I was scared shitless for October, the book always had a gag, pun or joke to throw at me.  And it never felt out of place.  The book manages to balance it's sarcastic sense of humor and ability to laugh in the face of certain death,with it's well-plotted, dire circumstances storyline.

That's about all I can say spoiler free.  Because this book is so cleverly written, now I want to leave you with some quotes (and these might contain minor spoilers for people who have not read books 1-6.)

I went to pick my favorite quotes and they were all from Tybalt (I don't know why this surprises me). Without further delay, three Tybalt quotes to savor!
"I am a cat, October. I have a sense of duty, because I am also a man, but no cat can be held down by duty forever. Eventually, we must go where we wish to be, not where we are told.' Tybalt smiled slightly at the expression on my face.
He smiled against my lips. When I pulled back, he said, "I was a student of Shakespeare centuries before the romance novel was even dreamt. Be glad I do not leave you horrible poetry on your pillow, wrapped securely around the body of dead rats."
"I would gladly take a bullet for you.  I would even more gladly stand behind a man of living stone and allow him to take the bullet for the both of us."

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tandem (review)

3/5 stars

Without the romance, Tandem (Goodreads | Amazon) would be a much better book.  There's an action-packed sci-fi plot, Sasha Lawson is kidnapped into a parallel universe to take the place of Princess Juliana, a girl who looks exactly like her.  In Aurora (the parallel world) things are dire, after years of near-constant fighting with their neighboring country, a marriage pact between Juliana and Prince Callum is the only route to potential peace.  That is until Juliana disappears without a trace.  There is plenty of plot - treason, kidnapping, terrorism - to keep the book moving forward.

However, the story is dragged down by the unnecessary and illogical romance.  Just for once, I'd like it if the main character did not fall in love with her kidnapper.  Is that really too much to ask?  Instead of focusing on the exciting plot, we get long passages where two character muse internally on whether they have feelings for each other or not.  We get hissy-fit arguments accusing each other of jealousy.  If there's chemistry, I never felt it.

Why is the romance worst than most?  At the most, the male love interest has known Sasha for two weeks.  He's been raised to be a soldier and to keep his emotions in check.  She is his assignment but he goes all doe-eyed, lovely-dovey really quickly.  What's worse, is by the end of the novel Sasha has known who he is for six days (for 2 weeks he was observing her by pretending to be his earth duplicate).  SIX DAYS!  In six days she goes from being kidnapped by this guy, to saying she's not ready to leave him and go back to her life yet.  Never mind that her grandfather is probably worried sick (she barely seems to worry about him), there's a boy to be liked, family be damned.

If you can swallow the unrealistic romance, this is otherwise a good book.  The sci-fi elements and explanation of parallel worlds is well done.  The plot itself is a good story, though it drags in the middle due to the overemphasis on romance.  I just cannot suffer the romantic plotline because it undermines the rest of the book and is absolutely unnecessary.

I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Feature Friday - Popular book I haven't read

Follow Friday is a feature created by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.  It's a fun blog hop where you meet other book bloggers and find people to follow.
What book (or TV show or movie) have you not read that seemingly everyone else has?
Divergent.  I saw some meh reviews from some trusted friends on Goodreads and kept putting it off.  Then with later books came out there was SUCH a huge hype machine that I just go too annoyed to even go back and read it.  It's languishing on my to be read shelf on Goodreads but I don't know if it'll ever happen.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (review)

3/5 stars

The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (Goodreads | Amazon) is not what I thought it was, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  I thought the novel, despite the premise of being able to taste feelings, would stay clearly in the contemporary category.  By the end, it seemed a little bit more magical realism than contemporary, but still an interesting read.

The night before her ninth birthday Rose Edelstein takes a bite out of her birthday cake, a homemade lemon and chocolate masterpiece, only to discover that she doesn't taste the lemon, or the chocolate, but is immensely overwhelmed by the feelings baked in her cake.  She tastes her mother's sadness and emptiness.  From there onward, Rose can taste the emotions in food, tracing the feelings back to the farms where the vegetables are picked and factories where food is packaged.

Sometimes people ask the difference between an adult book with a child narrator and a children/young adult book with a child narrator.  This is a textbook example where adult knowledge and experience is put into the child's mouth.  For me, an avid young adult reader, it's a little jarring and makes the character less believable.  At age 8, Rose is building roads for her toy cars to travel and mentions city ordinances requiring them to go past her brother's door.  That's just not an 8-year-olds knowledge.  Tidbits like that are scattered throughout the book.

For me what really undermines this book is the ending.  Not only is it strange, but it's abrupt.  The book is suddenly over and you're left wondering if you missed something.  I'm not saying the book needed a happy, all the ends tied-up ending but the last chapter of a book should feel like a conclusion and for me it didn't  As for the strangeness, I really can't say much more without spoiling the book.  But it's very strange.  Overall the book was enjoyable but flawed.  I listened to this on audiobook from the public library, and it's worth a listen if you're in need of a book.

When I realized this was an author-narrated audiobook my expectations dropped.  Honestly, author/narrator combinations are so hit and miss that I tend to avoid them.  Luckily, this author manages to narrate the book well.  She does it without trying to overact, but reading the book in a simple narration style that fits Rose, a girl who has disconnected herself from her feelings to an extent.  It works.  Actually her style reminded me a bit of Sara Zarr (who I love as a narrator).  I think listening on audiobook helped improve the book, especially when I see other people complaining about grammatical style issues in reviews, which is something I did not have to deal with at all.  Like I said before, if you see this audiobook at the library it's worth a listen.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Witchstruck (review)

4/5 stars

Have you ever had expectations of a book that were came completely from your head?  That's how I feel about Witchstruck (Gooreads | Amazon), which I 1000% thought was going to be a book with a lot of kissing.  Do not ask me where I got that idea.  The description talks about a young witch named Meg Lytton, living in an England on the brink of inviting in the Spanish Inquisition, who is sent to Woodstock, the old dump of a palace, to service the disgraced Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII.  A witch and a disgraced princess? Sounds like my type of story.

The last line of the description does mention that Meg is drawn irresistibly to the young spanish priest Alejandro de Castillo.  And from there my kissing expectations SKYROCKETED.  Once Alejandro is introduced, it's clear that him and Meg have fiery chemistry, plus there's the whole forbidden romance angle of her being a witch and him being a future Catholic priest (though apparently he's in a fighting branch of the priesthood that's allowed the marry).

The flirtation between these two is just as fun and ridiculous as you would imagine.  Even though the chemistry is immediate, there is no insta-love in sight but admiration built over time and theological debate.  Meg spends quite a bit of this story fainting, but no worries Alejandro is always around to take care of her afterwards.  She also has a tendency to be accused of being a witch (or get caught doing witchcraft) which brings Conflict! Religion! Drama! to the forefront.  Meg is a strong and stubborn character who stands up for herself and is willing to risk everything to protect her family.  She's determined to be true to herself, no matter the cost.

This book is a guilty pleasure, but for me the emphasis is on pleasure.  Sometimes you want a book that's a little bit silly and a little bit swoony.  Add in a dash of real life history regarding English royalty and you have a pretty good recipe for an enjoyable book.

I received an advance reading ebook in exchange for an honest review.