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. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Follow Friday - Reading Nook

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.
Activity: Reading Nook Tour!

I don't actually have a real reading nook.  I actually do most of my reading in my office on my lunch break. It's sterile and not a very comfortable couch. So I guess that counts.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sexism & Feminism in Geekery 9

Apologies for the delay in posting this!  Sometimes I get a little distracted by the world.  Also I'm done pretending that these have to be timely.  This week and in the next installment of Sexism and Feminism in Geekery we will have some older posts that are just too good not to share.  So without further apologizies I bring you the best the web (or my memory) has to offer you in commentary about sexism and feminism in the geek world.  And yes I know I'm leaving out some important happenings but those may make an appearance later.

Women Ruining Science Fiction (Again)

Once again we have reports that girls have invaded the genre of science-fiction and are ruining it by being girls and generally smearing their femininity all over the place. Didn't anyone tell them that science fiction was by men and for men?  (Over here in the patriarchy we don't talk about Mary Shelley and if we do we call her Mark Shelley because it makes us feel better). A lot of writers and readers jumped into this conversation.  Seanan McGuire had a lot to say (including talking about how My Little Ponies is actually fantasy).

Here is a storify of the whole situation that explains everything much better that I have.

The Savior of YA is Man Of Course

YA Flash over on tumblr put on their Ranty Pants about John Green saving the YA genre and it's a beautiful thing. Don't get me wrong I love John Green books.  I always seem to relate to his protagonists and continue to read all this book.  Also to clarify: Nobody is hating on John Green or saying he claims to be the savior of YA because in fact he consistently points out books that he thinks are better than his.  This is more a reaction to the idea that despite the hard work of female authors like J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyers (I bet you never thought you'd see her name mentioned positively here) that some people insist on latching on to the most prominent man in the vicinity of YA and placing the crown on his head.
So to see that someone who knows literature, someone like a collegiate literature/writing professor, is saying that John Green is THE revolutionary who “brought back” the young adult novel? Oh my god that makes me so upset. It discounts all the hard-working and incredible authors who have been writing YA before it was a moneymaker, before it made you “cool.” Of which John Green is a part, to be fair, since his first novel came right before the boom and he is a literary writer, which is not the most lucrative of book markets, typically.
Read the full post in all it's glory here.

The discussion got really interesting after that and here is a post with a lot of different tumblr peeps contributing their thoughts, especially in regards to the sexism involved in ignoring the many female authors that have contributed to the rebirth of YA.


I can't even pretend this was recent.  However it was both hilarious and poignant.  Gail Simone and lots of people on twitter started tweeting about the mysteries of writing men (because men think it's SO HARD to write a woman that's an actual human being). It's just one of those epic instances when the internet wins.

To fully appreciate this you need to go look at the compiled post to see all of the responses.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Follow Friday - Favorite Picture Book

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 were some of your favorite picture books as a kid? If you have kids, what are your favorites to read to them?
As a child I had this book about "Snug the Bug" and it flipped over and was another story about a bug character.  As a child I had portions of these books memorized.  Sadly I cannot easily find them online (I have a copy somewhere but I think it might be in my bedroom at my parent's house).  I think Snug the Bug was afraid of the shadows on his wall (or it may have been another one) but it was just the nightime bugs coming out to play or something.  We also had another one where the story was about "June Bug."  I think she's wearing a pink dress on the cover.Does anyone else remember these books at all? It's driving me nuts that I can't find them online.

Now that I'm thinking about it, you can probably attribute my fascination with bugs to these books.  I am not afraid of bugs at all. Thanks parents! (Really I'm glad not to have these fears)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Charming (review)

3.5/5 stars

Charming (Goodreads | Amazon), the first book in a new urban fantasy series, has a lot of potential.  While the book wasn't perfect, it had the combination of snark, mishmash of belief systems and lots of action that I like to see in urban fantasy.

John Charming comes from a long line of "Prince Charmings."  They aren't the royalty from the stories, but a line of knights burdened with keeping the public unaware of the supernatural world through whatever means necessary. John was a proud knight until he became supernatural himself.  Now considered a monster, he runs from town to town hiding from the knights.  He tries to keep his head low, but when a particularly nasty vampire hive starts killing people in his new town he's forced to team up with Sig and her crack team of monster hunters before the knights show up to take care of the problem themselves.

It's biggest problem with this book was a romance/love triangle that slowed the plot and dragged the book down considerably. Not only was there a love triangle, the romance in this book moved way two fast. However, by the end of the book, the love triangle appears to be over which gives me hope for future books.  Without all the romance drama, I think subsequent books will be able to focus on the plot.

This book is the author's debut which is part of why I expect the series to improve.  There is some clumsy writing and occasional info dumping (such as a long passage explaining Australian rappelling, which being a rock climber I know about but suspect the general public doesn't care).  A cringeworthy dialect section aside (seriously I couldn't read half of it), I think there's a lot going for this book.
"I know it sounds ridiculous. How could magic really exist in a world with an Internet and forensic science and smart phones and satellite and such and still go undiscovered?The answer is simple: it's magic."
The tone and humor is right for urban fantasy.  The chapter headings are particularly funny.  As far as a supernatural crime fighting crew, they're a little bit Scooby Doo squad in a very good way.  They're quirky and over the top, but I like them.  Molly, one of the secondary characters, is really a bright spot in the novel and I hope they'll do more with her in future books.

As far as series potential, the overarching concept of the Knights who protect the public from knowing about the supernatural around them, gives the story a lot of room to grow into an interesting series.

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

Sunday, September 15, 2013

What I Came To Tell You (Review & Giveaway)

3.5/5 stars

What I Came To Tell You (Goodreads | Amazon) is a good, but sad story, that tackles both grief and growing up.  Set in Asheville, North Carolina, the book has Appalachian roots and a distinct sense of place without getting into the touchy area of dialect (meaning dialect can be well done, or it can be poorly done, difficult to read and offensive).

The story follows Grover, a young 12-year-old boy who recently lost his mother in a sudden accident.  There was no long illness or expectation like in many other stories about grief, just a tragic death, and Grover doesn't know how to cope.  Grover has always been a bit of an artist but after his mother's death he spends all of his time in the bamboo forest behind his house creating beautiful weavings out of the plants he finds in the woods.

Overall I like this book.  It's a good book that deals with the impact of grief, not just on the main character Grover but on his family as a whole.  It captures the anger and the guilt, not just the sadness that most people associate with grief.  Grief radiates outward, spreading its affect in all relationships, as  well as work and school work.  The portrayal of grief felt accurate, capturing grief's widespread, long-lasting and complex impact on the life of Grover, his family and friends.
Sam took a couple steps towards Grover. "You stopped riding bikes with me, stopped skateboarding with me, stopped coming to our house." He shrugged. "Stopped being my friend.
"I already told you--"
"Just because your mother is dead doesn't mean you have to be."
The book did have some flaws. There was one section where two adults (behind closed doors) have sex.  By describing the squeaking of the bed and other sounds, the book made it clear to me, as an adult, these two characters were having sex.  My first thought was "Even though this is a middle grade book maybe kids won't notice." Then Grover explains that he knows what he overheard because they'd learned about sex in school. Adults having consensual sex doesn't bother (heck in some books I cheer for it) but this book is distinctively middle grade, and the scene felt out of place and odd.  Even though it pushed the plot forward, I feel like this could've been done differently and had the same impact story-wise.  (I'm curious what parents think of this, so if you have kids let me know it he comments).

As a middle-grade novel, this book has a lot of important themes - grief, growing up, change, etc.  While at times it might seem like too much for one book to deal with, I believe it's true to life.  Very rarely does life just throw one obstacle at you. Instead life seems to dump them all on you at once and expect you to figure it out.  As an Appalachian, I'm glad to see a story set in our region that's not about fixing Appalachia but where the mountains and culture are a backdrop to a self-contained story.  While this may not be the best middle-grade book tackling grief (Bridge to Terabithia has that honor), it's still a good, truthful and enjoyable book.

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


I have an absolutely beautiful hardcover copy of What I Came To Tell You (really it's beautiful and looks like fall).  

Some rules:
  • This giveaway is open to the United States and Canada.  
  • You must be 16 years old to enter
  • If I catch you cheating you will be disqualified.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Follow Friday - Casting Favorite Read? No thank you!

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: It is up to you to do a Kickstarter campaign for your favorite book!!! Who are you casting for the main characters?
I'm going to be honest. I can't do this question, not for my favorite book at least.  My favorite book is Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (brilliant if you have not read it).  It's set in Australia and I am drawing a complete 100% blank on young (high school aged) talented Aussie actors.  I don't actually see many movies so they probably do exist.  I know this is the lazy way out but A. I literally have nobody B. It'd be too much pressure to cast this movie because it's very character driven and the actors would have to carry it.

So I'm going to point you towards some old fancastings I've done for Soulless and Hammered and hope that satisfies everyone.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Thin Spaces (review)

3/5 stars

Thin Spaces (Goodreads | Amazon) was an acceptable book but didn't really shine.  Ever since his identical twin brother died in a car crash Marshall has been overwhelmed by guilt.  As the driver and the one who planned the ill-fated double-date, he blames himself.  When the little old lady next door tells him about thin spaces, portals between life and death, and promises to create one when she dies by dying where she first game into the world Marshall becomes obsessed with the idea of finding his way to the other side.

Walking around barefoot in hopes of stumbling into a thin space, Marshall is consumed by his grief.  While I tend to be drawn to stories about grief (I don't know why. Maybe it's the visceral emotions with it all), this just doesn't stand out.  When I look back at my notes I didn't underline any passages, didn't write down much of anything.

There were some things that were hard to believe, a very personal conversation that the main character and his love interest (because of course there's one) have in a movie theater during a movie.  The fact that there was an unnecessary love story (seriously couldn't she have just been a friend?) and it takes the stereotypical new girl to help wake Marshall up.  What's worse is that for me the book was very predictable.  I figured out pretty much everything ages before the main characters or anyone else in the book.

I've read much worse books dealing with grief but I've also read much better books.

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

Sunday, September 8, 2013

All Our Yesterdays (review)

4/5 stars

When I started All Our Yesterdays (Goodreads | Amazon) I had a lot of doubts.  Because romance was mentioned heavily in the description I was worried that it would be romantically driven and have a meandering plot. But at the same time, as a huge Doctor Who fan, I couldn't resist the idea of a time travel YA novel.  I needed that in my life.

And fortunately, it was really good.  Told in two timelines, the past and the future (or present if you will) as the storylines slowly converge.  I love the broken up narrative.  I like when authors experiment with storytelling and this worked extremely well.

Don't let the description fool you, this book is all about the plot.  When we first meet Em and Finn they are trapped in a prison and Em, obsessed with the drain in her cell floor, finds a list written in her own handwriting.  The list encompasses all their failed attempts to save the world and sets off a daring escape to once again travel back in time to try something new and hopefully to actually save the world this time.  The story of Marina, in love with her genius best friends James Show, is just as relevant.  All the carefully placed pieces are meant to push the story forward.

Surprisingly the romance worked for me.  I can't say that I shipped anyone but all of the relationships made sense.  Even if we weren't seeing things in the correct order, the relationships were built over time and there was no instalove in sight.  And I feel the need to state again, romance was not the focus of the story and it never held back the plot.  The characters were on a mission to save the future and that came before anything else.

This book is action packed, yet the character's are well developed and really shine.  There's a lot more I want to say in this review but I want to allow you to be at least a little surprised.  Just read the book!

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

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Follow Friday - Bookshelf tour

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.
Bookshelf Tour! Take us on a tour of your shelves.
Most of my recent books are on my Kindle and my childhood books are at my parent's house. So this tour isn't the greatest due to ebooks BUT still there are pictures.

This is the place of honor for books I want to show off.
Behind it you see a china cabinet filled with my grandfather's books and my Harry Potter memorabilia. 

Some of my favorite series and then useful books live on the top of my desk.

All the other books that I wanted to come to my apartment live here. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Dear Amazon - A letter from a reader

Dear Amazon,

I feel like you should know me better than this.  I've been a long time customer and a Kindle advocate but sometimes I feel like you don't know me at all.

For example, I just received this email:

Amazon, seriously you should know me better by now.  Why do you continue to ask me this same question every time I buy a book.  Let me be honest with you Amazon, buying a book VERY RARELY means that I'll read it in a timely manner.  You should realize that I always buy ebooks during your monthly sales, normally more than one, and keep them for a rainy day.  Though I am a reader of books and a buyer of books, I rarely read the books that I buy, at least not quickly.

But Amazon due to your recent acquisition of Goodreads you should know me better than almost anyone, including many of my friends and my exes.  Now you have insight into my reading habits and probably my soul.

Yet you still send me these emails trying to ask me to rate books that you very well know are hanging out on my "to-be-read" shelf.  Even worse, you sending me emails recommending me to buy books that I've already read and own.  Please do better Amazon. We've been together a long time and I foresee a book-filled future for both of us.