Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Month of me 2013

As a blogger, reading can become this rat race.  You get this "I must read ALL THE GALLEYS and REVIEW ALL THE BOOKS" syndrome.  Because without reviewing upcoming releases, without the galleys, without all the reviews our page numbers drop. For better or worse we are judged by publishers (and often ourselves) by those pageviews.

Sometimes it can suck the fun out of reading. (Not all the time.  Sometimes you discover a new favorite that you would've never read without blogging or make a new book blogger friend. Those times make it all worthwhile).  Last year I came up with this idea.  I looked at my very-scary to-be-read list and all the books I had all the intentions of reading and decided to carve out a month where I could read whatever I wanted.  My birthday is May 26 so May seemed as good a month as any for this little experiment.  It took months of preparation, careful selection on netgalley and saying no to books that I might otherwise have decided to review.

But it was worth it.  I read conclusions to favorite series, the next Iron Druid book (coincidentally the next after that is at the top of my list this time as well), library books and whatever I wanted.  There was a freedom in taking a month off from galleys and reading actual published books. I'm not one of those super popular bloggers who is inundated with request.  Honestly I don't know how you do it.  But even with what I have and my netgalley obligations, I think it's important to take time and just read freely.

Since May is already upon us I wanted to see if anyone had any "Must reads" that I may have missed this past year.  Here is my to be read shelf on goodreads if you want to recommend upgrading (or downgrading) any books.  Or if you want to steal my idea and take a month off for yourself go for it.  You won't regret it.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Eternity Cure (review)

3/5 stars

The Eternity Cure (Goodreads | Amazon) feels very much like a middle book.  Partially because it is a middle book, but also because I feel like the book doesn't get me anywhere plot-wise.  In some ways we're in the same place we were midway through book one.  Actually the more I think about it the more accurate that feels.

This is a typical Julie Kagawa book.  There's a lot of journeying too and fro and the next book will involve a lot of traveling.  This time, however, she skipped a whole section of the journey (shocking!). The things Kagawa does well, the best fight scenes in young adult, she still does well.  Her fight scenes are fast-paced and realistic, written like she's actually held a sword in her life rather than just as something she imagined.

Jackal is more developed and often a hilarious counterpoint to oh-so-serious and self loathing Allie.  He gets all the best lines and quips throughout the book.  Allie is still likable, though the self-loathing gets a little extreme in this book.  Surely she's dealt with those nasty "I'm a monster" feelings by the end of this book, right? (Let's hope so).

Overall this is a solid middle book.  This is still the only vampire story I've ever liked and I have every intention of continuing the series.  Whereas the book maybe felt like a middle-book throughout, the ending was a punch-you-in-the-face emotional roller-coaster from hell. In a totally good, well-written, adding the next book to be "to be read" shelf way.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Follow Friday - Song + book combo

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: Is there a song that reminds you of a book? Or vice versa? What is the song and the book?
Easiest Follow Friday ever! When was reading Ready Play One (review here) this song literally kept popping in my head.

The whole book takes place inside of a virtual reality game. Actually people live their whole lives within the game. The book talks about how people have even got married within the virtual world and never met. Tell me this song isn't the perfect match?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Land (review)

4/5 stars

The Land (Goodreads | Amazon ) is a young adult classic that sadly I never encountered in my youth.  It takes place in a post-Civil War South.  Paul Edward is the son of a former slave owner.  Unlike most blacks boys, Paul's father acknowledges him, educated him in a time when it was illegal for blacks to have an education and treats him as his own.  In some ways that sounds wonderful, but in other ways it makes it more difficult for Paul to live as a black man (even though he can pass for white) in the South because he was not raised as most black boys are raised.

This book has all the themes that classic Southern tales have, racism, hatred, poverty, etc.  But it's just as much about family as anything else.  For me the family story was heartbreaking, resonating and stayed with me.

A timeless tale, The Land will make your heart hurt and you'll probably shed a few tears.  But it's not a downtrodden, sad story, it's a hopeful story where a boy becomes a man and builds a live for himself on his own terms. It's a book about finding your own way in the world, becoming a self-made man, and making something out of nothing.  Even though it may taken place in the post-Civil War South, the themes transcend the setting, creating an ageless book.

It's hard for me to seperation the narration from the story. The narration is wonderful and perfect for the story.  I can still hear Paul Edwards deep voice in my head and it will always be how I imagine Paul Edward. If you find this audiobook listen to it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Goddess's Choice (review)

3/5 stars

The Goddess's Choice (Goodreads | Amazon) was very difficult to rate.  I really like the overall story. It has a lot going for it.  But there are very obvious flaws that are hard to ignore.  If I could take a red pen to certain sections I would wholeheartedly recommend this book, but I can't pick and choose which parts to review.  Yet I can't say reading this book is a bad choice either.  I know, I'm being terrible reviewer right now.

The Good
  • Samantha is very believable.  As a child I was very much like Samantha.  She's a little feminist forced to wear Princess dresses but raised by her father to rule a Kingdom.  She's outspoken about gender roles and what's expect her in a way that felt very familiar.  For me, she carries this book and I would've liked even more of her. 
  • The fairytale.  This story is a fairytale retelling, a fairytale I'm not actually familiar with.  For me, that's a bonus because I love fairytales and mythology. It's a very interesting retelling.  The story lying underneath everything in this book was quite good.
  • I want there to be a 3rd point to make this look more even because I have very even feelings about this book. So tada 3rd point is, "I want to forgive this book it's flaws." Or Something. 

The Bad
  • The inappropriate sexualization.  That sounds harsh doesn't it?  You may thing I'm just a prude who can't handle sex in my books.  But while sex may not be my favorite aspect of most books, I just read Game of Thrones and it didn't bother me.  But here's the difference, Game of Thrones reads very adult-like, where the Goddess's Choice feels like it should be a younger Young Adult book.  The voice and the quite graphic sex scenes don't match up.  I feel like maybe the trendiness of Game of Thrones influenced this book to try to be more edgy or adult when really it should've shot more for Tamora Pierce type fantasy (and there is sex in those books) than Game of Thrones.  The included sex scene makes me sad because the audience I think would enjoy this story is too young for everything that's included.
  • It had some cliche moments.  The two main characters who see themselves as unattractive (and nobody else saw them as attractive) but were wildly attractive to each other.  Looking in the mirror description, etc. 
  • Too many exclamation points.  This book could've used a tad more editing.

So I'm not sure if the good outweights the bad.  I'm frustrated because within this book there's something that could be so much better than what it is.  And it's not a matter of changing much, just removing some parts and accepting that the story is a young adult story, not an adult one.

Is this book worth giving a chance? Yes, I think it is. Especially when I see the Kindle ebook is only $2.99. But be prepared for a good story surrounded by imperfections.  (Ford the record, I'm planning to continue reading when the next book is published). 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Follow Friday - Hanging Out With Authors

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: If you could hang out with any author (living) who would it be and what you would want to do?
Hmmm.  That's hard because I try (my best) to mentality seperate authors and their books.  In the age of twitter it also feels like I kinda do hang out with authors in a virtual sense.

1. Matt de la Pena
Easy. We'd go to a UK basketball game.  We already talk sports on twitter (he kindly offered condolences on UK's terrible terrible season).  I think he'd appreciate the magic of a game in Rupp Arena (because Rupp Arena is one of my favorite places in existence).  It's also part of my master plan to convert all my friends to being UK fans.

2. Rachel Hawkins
I just finished School Spirts which reminded me how much I love Rachel Hawkins' sense of humor. I just kinda want to watch a TV show (Game of Thrones, The Vampire Diaries, whatever), drink and snark with her.  Bonus if there's a drinking game involved and I get to hear stories of Small Son.

3. Melina Marchetta
I want her to show me Australia.  That's not too big of a feat?  Or I could just fangirl and hope some of her talent rubs off on me.  Writing is contagious, right?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Game of Thrones - Crowns, Dungeons and Hell

In the past few weeks I've both watched the first season and read the first book of Game of Thrones.  Right now this series seems ubiquitous.  Almost everybody knows about Game of Thrones and I'm so behind on reading/watching it I kinda wondered if I should even bother with a review.  But I spent HOURS on this book, morning, noon and night so by golly I was going to post something.

I enjoyed the book.  While I do wish the book was shorter, I understand it's length.  The world is very detailed and well developed.  It's complex in a way that most books aren't.  So I appreciate that even if the amount of time you have to devote to this book drives me a bit crazy. Rather than a normal review I want to talk about the characters.  The characters in Game of Thrones are really spectacular.  It's a very large cast and very well developed.  You may love them, you may hate them but by goodness you have an opinion on them.

So I've decided to give crowns to my favorite characters and punishments to the characters I don't like.

Crowned by Cassi

Is anyone surprised that Arya Stark was my favorite?  That I give the girl who dresses as a boy the first crown? Are you new here? Arya is smart, feisty  a fighter and she constantly stands up to the expect gender roles. She's a badass in a little girl's body.

Jon Snow not only are you handsome, you are kind and noble.  You see the value in people and try to stand up against bullies and wrongdoers. You are a honorable boy, a good brother, and you take a lot of shit from people and you don't let it effect you're innate goodness. Your the type of character who I both admire and want to nurture.  *Hands Jon a cup of tea and a cookie*

Eddard Stark is probably the only honorable nobleman in the whole kingdom.

Samwell Tarly may not be brave or bold, but he's a good friend and a kindhearted person.  

Bran Stark has the potential to be a good ruler someday.  He's a sweet clever boy, survives paralysis and only has bouts of self-pitying.  He just gives me "good ruler" vibes. 

I love how Daerneys Tarygaren grew over the course of the book.  She started out as a scared little girl, listening to her crazy-ass brother and she was willing to do anything to help him gain a crown.  By the end she was a queen, by behavior if not by actually having a country to rule.  This scared little girl turned into a badass.  So why the question mark.  Because Dany makes is at a crossroads and that makes me a little nervous.  She could either become an amazing leader, or go off the deep-end and be batshit crazy.  Only the next books will tell. 

The Questionable

Here's the thing about Catelyn Stark. She's smart, intelligent, capable - all things I admire in a character. She'd probably be able to rule a home or kingdom pretty easily.  However, she's got this thing against bastards, particularly Jon Snow (the king of my heart) because he's her husband's bastard.  If she could learn to live with Jon I think we'd get along. But right now she's questionable.

Tyrion Lannister is complicated.  He's a dwarf and to make up for his small stature  he's become a very intelligent man. I admire someone who's so aware of his limitations, makes jokes about his stature and is smarter than almost everyone around him.  However he's a Lannister and thus on the wrong side of the story.  If you could somehow make him not a Lannister and separate him from the rest of that crazy clan I think he'd actually be okay.

In the Dungeon

Sansa Stark gets thrown in the dungeon for being the most terrible sister in the world to Arya.  She's selfish, vain and rarely thinks of others.  She's unbothered by the death or pain of others unless it directly effects her.  But Sansa is young, naive and pretty clueless. With time she could grow out of this idiocy.  

Burning in Hell

Jamie Lannister was on the border of being thrown in the dungeon and burning in hell.  He does terrible things. Also really gross things.  But he seems more like the weapon being wielded than the actual mastermind. 

That brings us to Cersei Baratheon (Lannister).  Selfish, conniving, manipulative and power hungry. Very evil, Cersei is behind a lot of the shit that goes down in this novel.

And then her son Joeffry Baratheon. Also, selfish, conniving  manipulative, power hungry evil, but add in sexist, cruel and potentially being batshit crazy. Yeah he's a winner.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I am Morgan Le Fay (review)

3/5 stars

I'm going to be honest with you, there are so many incarnations of the King Arthur's legend I'm really not sure what is the historically accurate version anymore.  Obviously I'm going to have to remedy that.  I am Morgan Le Fay (Goodreads | Amazon) is another look at that often adapted story, only this book is told from the perspective of a young Morgan.

It's actually a pretty enjoyable book.  Nothing about it stands out as exceptional, but I enjoy a good Camelot story as much as the next person.  Morgan is an interesting character.  She's neither hero nor villain in this story, just a young girl who's selfish, jealous and powerful.  Morgan longs for her mother's love. Unfortunately her mother seems more interested in her son Arthur, thus planting the seeds of Morgan's jealousy.  She's not all bad.  She cares deeply for those she loves, even if it's a selfish sort of love she has good intentions.  But things just do not go Morgan's way, ever.

Overall I liked this book.  Would listen to/read more in this series.

Pretty standard narration that doesn't harm the book.  Unfortunately brings emphasis to just how whiney Morgan is as a character (but the character is whiney so what should the narrator do?).  Biggest problem was when the book would go from normal talking to whispering.  In order to understand the whispers you'd need to keep the volume so high it hurts your ears.  It really should be much more even level sound-wise.  I'm not sure if this was an acting or sound production problem, but it was a problem.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Weekend Book/Geek Sexism Report

On twitter I declared yesterday as "the day to read about sexism" because I came across 3 separate posts about incidents of sexism in book/geek culture.  Numerous unconnected people saying sexist shit.  I'm hoping this does not become a regular feature on the blog.

First we have the Hugh Howey incident.  Where he repeatedly used the word "bitch" and "broad."  He went as far to fantasize about grabbing his crotch and ended the post with "suck it bitch."  Yeah I'm not even kidding. Read his whole blog entry here. (Not Hugh Howey's site because he eventually deleted the blog).

In another show of sexism, a male geek saw Rae Johnston wearing an "Bioshock Inifite" tshirt at a coffee shop and made a snide remark.  Rae responded by putting him in his place.

Then we have Seanan McGuire, who is one of my favorite authors, accused of excessively self-promoting for the Hugos when she's acutely aware that she doesn't promote herself nearly enough, especially when compared to male counterparts.  She wrote a great blog about this here

Then she linked to an even better article from PBS that talked about the myth that women speak too much.  It has lots of great research and data.  In most situations, women don't speak more than men, particularly formal professional settings, but when women speak it's perceived as more than it actually is.  Very interesting article.  I already knew about teachers calling on boys more than girls, but I didn't realize how it actually was.

If you were planning to say something sexist this weekend just stop.  I'm tired of it and it's only Saturday morning.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Follow Friday - Conventions ?

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: We are about to see a lot of posts & tweets about reader conventions, RT, BEA, ALA and many more are starting soon.  Which one would you love to attend? Where and Why?
I'd liked to go to any of them.   BEA or ALA being the two that I've heard the most about.  I'm actually kind of considering going to ALA this summer because I realized Chicago isn't THAT far from Louisville.  But I probably won't because logistics/expense.  There's no way on God's green earth that I would drive to Chicago myself (I think my city driving skills max out at Louisville).  Where would I stay? Who would I stay with? Where would I leave my car?  Feel free to try to convince me I shouldn't be such a nervous nelly and should go.  Really I'd love to. I want to go hang out with other book lovers, get a few ARCs and party it up literary style.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ashes of Honor (review)

5/5 stars

Ashes of Honor (GoodreadsAmazon ) is the sixth book in one of my favorite series.  I've reviewed these books before (here and here).  This series continues to get better and better with each book. Seanan McGuire how do you do it?  A long time Tybalt fan, this feels like the book I've been waiting for.  All that flirting, all that tension, everything finally comes to fruition.

I just looked at my placeholder review over on goodreads and it says "Stars for Toby, Stars for Tybalt, Stars for Quentin, Stars for Raj, Stars for April, Stars for Etienne." Really that's a pretty accurate review.  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.

So why do I love this book so much? A lot of reasons.  For once, I actually like the romance in a book(I know, it's weird for me to say that). The best swoon builds slowly.  Realistic relationships aren't instantaneous.  They aren't love at first sight. They start as friendship, switch to flirting, go off track countless times and then when they happen they matter. Toby has to face her demons and her baggage. As Tybalt points out, "We do not raise the dead by mourning them so fiercely that we join them."

If you've not read this series you're missing out.  This is urban fantasy at it's best, it's sexy without being sex-filled (not that sex in books is all bad, but well-built couples can be much sexier than hastily thrown together sex scene), romantic without making me gag, plot-focused rather than relationship driven and for once the snarky love interest actually treats the heroine as his equal.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Strangelets (review)

3/5 stars

Strangelets (Goodreads | Amazon) is one of those (many) books where the concept is more interesting than the execution.

I'm not sure who told authors that every YA needs romance but they're badly mistaken.  There is no need to add romance to a science-fiction/dystopian YA, especially not when it's poorly done.  Most of this book takes place in less than a week.  In that time, crushes start, relationships between complete strangers flourish and it all detracts from the plot.  This isn't summer camp!  I buy summer camp romances because everything is beautiful and magical at camp.  I don't buy "Oh my goodness we're transported to this scary dystopian world...hey she's pretty cute," romances. Nope. Can't.

This book has a diverse ensemble cast.  With a little more development they could've been really interesting.  Instead we get more types (with potential) than people.  Sophie the girl who was dying of cancer.  Declan the badboy with a heart of gold. Rico the strong stubborn uncommunicative type.  For me, the character with the most potential was Anat--the strong, tall, feisty girl from Israel.  But none of these characters are given time to become anything more than a basic type which is disappointing.

However some people won't mind all that.  It's a fun adventurous story.  But as a reader I need more.  I need characters that leap off the page and science that I actually believe.  I don't want to see what inspired your book so transparently (the Large Hadron Collider, Lost, Israel-Palestine conflict).  This book stays on the surface which is disappointing because I feel like the concept had the potential to do more.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Follow Friday - Book I plan to hate

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: Have you ever read a book that you thought you would hate--? Did you end up hating it? Did you end up loving it? Or would you never do that?
Honestly I've read books that I've been skeptical of but never a book I thought I would hate.  I go into every book with as open a mind as possible.  Some books I've read at the urging of friends, The Raging Quiet being the most memorable because I absolutely loved it.  But there are way too many books and not enough time to be wasting time reading a book that I expect to hate.  It's not fair to the book and it's not fair to myself.  The more I blog and the more I read the more I realize there's a WHOLE big world of books out there that I will never read.  I'm sad when I think about all the books I'll never read.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Quick Reviews - The Traitor in the Tunnel, Despereaux & Story of a Girl

The Traitor in the Tunnel (Goodreads | Amazon)
4/5 stars

Sometimes you have a series that you just love.  For me The Agency, despite the fact that I know it's completely unrealistic, is a favorite.  I love Mary's practicality.  I love how circumstances keep throwing Mary and James at each other. I love how they try to resist each other for logical and rational reasons.  I love the witty banter and flirting between them. I love that they are attracted to each other's intelligence.   This series is very pro-female, which I love.  There is no real way to review the 3rd in a series without some spoilers (and some might consider that paragraph spoilery enough as is).  This series continues to be delightful, full of good mysteries to solve, fun flirting and a very pragmatic heroine.

The Tale of Despereaux (Goodreads |Amazon)
4/5 stars

The Tale of Desperaux is a very sweet story about an intelligent mouse that doesn't really know how to be a mouse.  Desperaux loves to read, music and eventually falls in love with a Princess.  He's banished to the dungeons, a death sentence for a tiny mouse, but with bravery and intelligence he finds a way to become a hero that both mouse and man can admire.  An adorable story that any kid would enjoy.

Story of a Girl (Goodreads | Amazon)
4/5 stars

Sarah Zarr is one of my favorite contemporary writers.  The way she writes struggling, lost teenagers is very authentic.  I really felt for Deanna Lambert - how one mistake with one stupid boy changed her reputation, changed how her father looks at her and changed everything.  She was only 13 years old when her father caught her having sex in the back of Tommy's car and she became the school slut.  At 17 she is still suffering the repercussions, especially at home where her father still doesn't trust her.  Deanna is not a hero, just a confused girl who wants to be loved, wants to feel like a part of a family and wants to forget about her past.  This is a character-driven, plot light story that deals with Deanna's internal struggles and it's wonderful.  The only problem I had with this book was the ending.  I'm just happily listening to the narration, enjoying the book and then suddenly it was over.  To me the story didn't feel finished yet and it felt like a strange way to end an otherwise brilliant book.