Friday, February 28, 2014

Follow Friday - Plot change

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 Change the Plot. If you could, what book would you change the ending or a plot thread? Go ahead and do it...change it.
Honestly I have trouble thinking of changing the ending of books.  To me they stand on their own.  There's always fanfiction, but to me that is it's own things.  Sure, if I'd written Harry Potter (it would've failed epically first of) I'd ended up with a Harry/Luna paring and would have left of the epilogue because I just am not a fan of epilogues, but should that be different in the book? I'm not sure.

In things I would probably actually change, I'd give Susan a better ending to the Narnia series.  I feel like the briefest of lines has been explored and extrapolated on.  In fact, I've seen a much better Susan-ending floating around the internet.  I'm fine with her not coming back to Narnia/losing the faith in the allegorical sense because that is something that happens, but if that's what happens the reader deserves to know more because there's clearly a story there.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dangerous (review)

3.5/5 stars

Dangerous (Goodreads | Amazon) is a book that I'm not quite sure how to feel about. I like it...I think.  This book is a far-cry from what Shannon Hale normally does, the story about Maisie Danger Brown, a teenage girl who goes to space camp to learn more about being an astronauts and ends up becoming part of a plot to save the world.

To say this book is unique might be an understatement.  I'm not sure how much would be considered a spoiler review-wise to bear with me if I'm vague.  This first half of this book reads a bit like a superhero origin story, we get the backstory of Maisie Danger Brown. She is an intelligent latino girl born with only one arm, smart, geeky and home-schooled who wins a scholarship to space camp on a cereal box.  Then we get to see Maisie evolve into something more while trying to hold on to her identity.  She struggles to stay Maisie while trying to save the world.

There's other things thrown in there like first love (which isn't my favorite part of the novel but summer-camp romance is something I 100% buy as believable).  The story itself is twisty but only has a few real surprises.  As always, I enjoy Shannon Hale's writing style and the humor she infuses.  There are some choices I don't agree with in this particular novel (Maisie bleeping out curse words can get disruptive), but Hale's writing, especially the cheesy fun humor, still shines. Maisie's dad's puns were my favorite (also that there was a decent family that mattered was nice).
"Hey Maisie," Dad said, coming in from the garage. "Did you hear about the dog that gave birth to puppies in the park?" She was arrested for littering."  
Near the end this book really found it's stride.  The last third I could barely put down and it flew by compared to the rest of the book.  Overall, I think I liked this book but it was so outside of my expectations that it's hard to quantify.  Sometimes it feels more like a superhero movie or maybe a comic book than a young adult novel, but I have to give props to Hale for doing something so different.

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

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Other Way Around (review)

3/5 stars

Sometimes a book just isn't for you.  Though I love the idea of roadtrip books the newer ones seem to be a little too hipster-ific for my tastes.  The Other Way Around (Goodreads | Amazon) is the story of a slacker named Andrew who doesn't really have any direction in his life.  His mother is the headmistress of the school where he goes and has high expectations for him and his father really isn't in the picture anymore.  When his cousin Barry comes to Thanksgiving, Andrew reaches the point where he's had enough of his life and decided to go spend the weekend with his Grandmother Mimi, the only family member he really likes.

Only Mimi's dead and his mother was too afraid to break the bad news.  While waiting at the bus stop, Andrew meets a girl named G who offers to let him travel with their group in exchange for gas money. The "Freegans" as they call themselves, because they get free food by dumpster diving, are a group of street performers traveling across the country. They're also vegetarians (except for Emily, the vegan) and straight-edge.  The book explained numerous times what it means to be straight-edge and sometimes they're just as judgy as you'd expect from a group of hipster, vegetarian, straight-edge buskers.

Quite a few things about their hipster-ness bothered me.  For one, Emily has dreadlocks which the main character usually doesn't think are pretty on white girls (yes that get's pointed out) but surprisingly they smell good.  Also, the whole "freegan" dumpster diving and anti-corporate America talk got old.  Yes businesses sell food for money and they throw away expired food.  They have to do both of those and there's nothing evil about it. Not everyone is trying to rip you off, they're just trying to survive. Do I like Walmart? No. Do I shop at Walmart? Yes because otherwise I wouldn't be able to afford to eat/live in a nice neighborhood at the same time.

Also there's a whole romance that I don't buy.  Andrew just drifts along with the group but everyone likes him and thinks he's a great person and one girl even "loves" him.  As far as I can tell, there's nothing that distinguishes Andrew as a person but he's more of a blank-slate for those around to reflect on.  The romance just never sparked and seemed more based on jealousy and desperation than anything that I find remotely romantic.

Near the end this book actually changes up it's storytelling format slightly and hits it's stride.  Unfortunately for me, it was a little too late for redemption.  But the last few chapters are the best chapters and kept me engaged in a book that I'd almost given up on.  I don't know, maybe if you're better with hipsters than me you'll like this book but for me it was trying too hard to be cool-but-not-cool and I just ended up annoyed. The book isn't terrible and I expect a lot of people will quite like it, but it's just not for me.

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

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Seriously Saturday Series Catch-up - Update 1

Somehow we've reached the last Saturday of February.  Where did it come from?  I could've sworn it was January last week or just the week before that.  So anyways, in case you missed it earlier me and Dee from Dee's Book Blog are doing a series catch-up read-along (and you're more than welcome to join at any point).  Here is my original post.

So how am I doing? Well...not terrible but not great.  I would classify this month as "okay" as far as series catching up goes.  Before the actual challenge started I read Dark Triumph, which I finally reviewed this month.  Yesterday I started Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter (and am already nearly done).  Aside from that I've not done any series reading.  However, one of my friends has obtained Boston Jacky by L.A .Meyer and agreed to loan it to me.  So I'm counting that as progress.

Anyone have any luck on catching up on series?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Follow Friday - Tears

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: What was the last book that made you cry?
Honestly, books rarely make me actually cry.  The last book I remember really hardcore crying as I read was The Fault In Our Stars.  I think I may have felt some little tear prickles more recently in Code Name Verity, but since it was an audiobook I have a tendency to pause the book when it gets sad so that I can calm down and not get distracted driving.

If you want to know what actually makes me almost-cry regularly, stories about animals.  Sadly, the animal shelter in my hometown burned right after Christmas and every time I read a story about it I cried.  When the found the lone cat survivor I cried.  When I read that the cat was recovering nicely a few weeks later more crying.  Whenever someone posts a picture of an animal looking for it's "forever home" I almost cry.  Maybe if I want to cry while reading I should read more animal books.  Or maybe that's a terrible idea and I should just keep not crying.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dark Triumph (review)

4.5/5 stars

Dark Triumph (Goodreads | Amazon) is a sequel that surpasses it's predecessor.  For me, Grave Mercy (review here) was guilty-pleasure fun, but Dark Triumph is something different entirely.  It has everything I loved about the first book, mainly badass assassin nuns, but Sybil is a deeper character than Ismae.  Her story is twisted and dark.
"Hate cannot be fought with hate. Evil cannot be conquered by darkness. Only love has the power to conquer them both."
If you're like me, it's been awhile since you read Grave Mercy.  But no worries after a little initial confusion (mainly me remembering who the hell some of the characters were), you're be able to get into the flow of the second book without re-reading the first.  Whereas protecting the Duchess was the primary focus of the first book, Dark Triumph is more about Sybil's past and unravelling her self-loathing.

The politics in this novel are maybe more complicated than the first.  No only is there plotting against the Duchess, marriage negotiations, trying to avoid invasion, there is also the politics of the covenant of St. Mortain that comes in play.  In the first book Ismae is so devout that we don't see the underbelly of the order, but Sybil is naturally skeptical and questions everything.  Even where religion is concerned, human ambitions and egos impact the decisions made.

Of course there is romance in this book, and it's even better than the first book because there's so much standing in it's way.  Before Sybil can even consider a man romantically, she has to accept that she's not a monster, not broken beyond repair and is worthy of being loved, not just used. That's the type of journey I want to take with a character, when they encounter their personal demons and save themselves.

This was the first book I read in 2014.  Thus far it's the best book of the year for me.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Grim (review)

4/5 stars

I don't read many anthologies. I've dabbled in reading them, picking up one here or there but I have a tendency to read a couple stories then move on.  It's not that I don't like short fiction, I've enjoyed many short stories during literature classes (I'm a big fan of Hemingway) but I've never had much luck picking up anthologies on my own.

Fortunately, Grim (Goodreads | Amazon) is an exception.  This collection of short stories based on fairytales is a really solidly good anthology.  As with all collections, a couple stories are weaker than the rest but for the most part it's good start to finish.  Basing the stories on fairytales was a genius move because fairytales are meant for the shorter format.   These fairytales range from original stories, to re-tellings to sci-fi re-imaginings.  It's nice to see how many different directions you can get from the jumping off point.

The book starts strongly with a Rachel Hawkins story.  Outside of the Hex Hall universe she maintains all the humor that made me love her writing.  Some of the other highlights of this book are the two Beauty and the Beast retellings.  The first is  Beast/Beast by Tessa Gratton, which is set in the past, is beautifully written, similar to the story we know and completely engrossing.  The second, Beauty and the Chad by Sarah Rees Brennan is hilarious.  I loved seeing how two different authors could take on the same story but create something completely different.

For this anthology, you get a variety of settings, the past, the present and the future, which reminds us that fairytales are meant to be a timeless.  It's a good mix, hitting the sweet spot where you have just enough of everything. If you're like me, a lover of fairytales, this anthology is a must read.  As a bonus, you get to sample stories from some of the most well-known young adult writers and get a taste of their style.  As a reader this book is a win-win and I plan to look for more anthologies like Grim in the future.

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sexism & Feminism in Geekery 15

This week edition brings us a wide range of articles related to sexism and feminism in geek culture.  From really famous authors saying something stupid, to somebody tearing about a poorly-reasoned article in beautiful fashion let's just get to the links! (Note: This article was written before the SFWA petition situation. That will be in the next edition). 

Stephen King Eats His Foot

Stephen King said something really stupid about the Dylan Farrow letter on twitter (for the unaware Dylan Farrow wrote a letter about her alleged molestation by Woody Allen that was heartbreakingly honest and has created a big controversy because people aren't supposed to speak out about those things, especially not against famous fathers.)

He does apologize and seems to genuinely mean his apology but I'm not quite ready to accept it myself.  I understand that we don't want it to be true, but usually when people say that it feels like they're not saying that they don't want Dylan Farrow to have been abused, but rather they don't want someone they like artistically to be a rapist.  I'm uncomfortable with so many people hoping that a little girl is lying rather than looking at the facts (read article here) and being genuinely concerned for her suffering.  Read full article and Stephen King apology here.

Frozen Feminist Smackdown

I have this great affinity for what I call "Disney smackdowns" on Tumblr, which is where when someone tries to take a Disney movie out of context to prove a point someone with more Disney knowledge responds with bitingly intelligent commentary.  Probably because of it's popularity, Frozen has been receiving a lot of analysis from people wanting to tear down the film.  I've had enough of it and so has this writer.
Was there a special on PBS outlining that one of the goals of feminist theory is that female characters shall never be flawed? Did I miss that memo? She then goes into a thousand-word spiel for why Anna’s social awkwardness somehow doesn’t make logical sense and is a bad thing and works to the movie’s detriment. Flaws are bad. I hate Anna. 
You know, I see a lot of the same vitriol channeled towards Skylar White from “Breaking Bad” and Sansa Stark from the A Song of Ice and Fire series, particularly Sansa. At the beginning of A Game of Thrones, Sansa is a young, lovelorn girl fawning over Prince Joffrey. She believes in the social contract. Moreover, she wants to be a princess. As the narrative progresses, she finds her dreams dashed by increasingly horrifying circumstance and becomes trapped in a system she must learn to manipulate quickly in order to survive. 
However, despite Sansa starting from a place of such naiveté and immaturity giving her room to grow into one of the more interesting characters in the series, she more often is shit on, because teenage girls with teenage girl-emotions are for shitting on. God forbid young girl characters start from a place of immaturity (in this case, falling in love with the first guy she sees) and then growing from there. Oh, no, they must spring forth from the thigh of Zeus, fully formed Strong Independent Women, guns blazing and kung fu fighting!
This article is very long, ranty and gif-filled.  And it is beautiful in it's anger.  Honestly, I immediately shared it with two friends who are Frozen fans.  It'll take some while to read but it's well worth reading.  Read the full article here. Honestly, I want to buy the writer a drink and be her best friend.  Someday maybe I'll get around to the post about Disney Princesses and feminism (a story about how even if they're problematic I think they made me a feminist at a young age) but for now, just go read this.

Women of Marvel

This article is an oldie but a goodie.
Perhaps even more notable than the large and enthusiastic attendance was the way in which the panelists directly addressed sexism in the industry and expressed their commitment to increasing representation of women and people of color in the industry.
Read full article here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

A Step From Heaven (review)

4/5 stars

A Step From Heaven (Goodreads | Amazon) is a lovely little audiobook I stumbled upon in my library.  This book was nearly perfect and though I wanted it to be longer the slice of immigrant life it presented was just enough to leave me longing for more.  Sometimes it's better for books to leave you loving their characters and wanting more than to over-tell a story.

Young Ju is only four when her family moves from a fishing village in Korea to the United States.  Since she is so young she doesn't understand when her family talks about Mi Gook (America).  Because of the glorious stories she thinks they're leaving their home to go to heaven.

But Young Ju quickly discovers that America is not heaven.  We get little tidbits of her life growing up, being sent to school where she doesn't speak English and the teacher doesn't speak Korean, both of her parents working all the time and ultimately her family struggling to stay together.

The story feels true to life, painting the move to America as neither wholly good or wholly bad.  It makes their life difficult, especially Young's father who turns to alcohol as a coping mechansim, but also gives Young Ju an opportunity to hopefully become more than just a fisherman's wife.  Moving to America is a balance between hardship and hope, and A Step From Heaven portrays that beautifully.

The narration for this book is beautiful and spot on.  It captures Young's voice and tells her story without intruding.  Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Follow Friday - Book I want to experience anew

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.
If you could read a book for the “first time” again, which book would it be? Why?
I'm going to go with the obvious answer, Harry Potter, because it is also the truest answer.  Not only do I want to read these books afresh (why would I do that to myself? Think of all the heartache!) I want to travel back and time and EXPERIENCE them again.  For me, Harry Potter was much more than just a book series.  It was an experience, an online community and a fandom that nothing else will ever compare to.  All the nerdy things, posting on messageboards as characters, basing my online identity off of a magical creature (veela), writing fanfiction, I did them and have no regrets.  I loved that time and I loved how Harry Potter defined my youth and influences who I've become.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Fire and Flood (review)

2.5/5 stars

Fire and Flood (Goodreads | Amazon) is pretty much a middle-of-the-road book for me.  I can't say that I liked it but I can't say that it was terrible.  I just kind of didn't see the point of it.  It feels too derivative, like it's already been done before and done better, plus I just didn't buy the story.

Fire and Flood follows Tella, a girl who left her city-life behind to move to Montana with her family in hopes that the fresh air would help her dying brother.   She's completely isolated from the world until she receives a mysterious package inviting her to be a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. Along with other Contenders, she'll race across the jungle, the desert, ocean and mountain in hopes of winning a mysterious "Cure" for her brother.

While, it's not the Hunger Games or Maze Runner it's in that vein of those books.  Maybe if it'd come out a few years ago (at the same time they did) I would like it more.  What doesn't work for me, is that Tella has never heard of the race and that there's no real purpose to the race explained until the very end but she just runs away from home and goes to compete without really questioning it.  Even after the reason is explain, after much delaying, it doesn't really make sense.  It's gimmicky and unbelievable in a way that the Hunger Games is not (even though it's got it's own fair amount of gimmick, at least the purpose of the games is quasi-believable compared to this).

The Brimstone Bleed just doesn't make sense.  Nor do the Pandoras, the helper animals, the backstory or anything really. Maybe if this took place further in the future or a different world I'd be able to buy the race, but in this world in the maybe no so distance future (or maybe present day) the whole premise just doesn't work for me.
"Green Beret's face pulls together. I realize it then -- he hates me. And not in the way in which I find out later that he actually liked me the whole time." 
Also, this is yet another young adult book where romance OF COURSE comes into play and it's the typical he-hates-me-no-wait-he-loves-me type relationship, but at least they get the hate out of the way early.  For me, this is off-putting especially after it pretends it's not that type of relationship.  Could we not have a romance that I can predict almost immediately?

The book is not poorly written or offensive.  I almost feel bad for giving it such a low rating, but it's just not logical at all and if I can't believe the basic premise how can I truly enjoy the book?

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

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Seriously Saturday Series Catch-up

If you're anything like me, you probably have first-book-series syndrome. You know, where you read the first book (or first couple) of a series, really like it then forget about it completely because there are so many new and shiny books out there.

That's why Dee from Dee's Book Blog and I teamed up to do a series challenge, the Seriously Saturday Series Catch-Up. And you are more than welcome to join us! Just pick which series you want to catch up on, make a goal and post how you're doing once a month.

Create a list of series you want to complete during 2014. Share it on your blog, then join us the first Saturday of the month as we share about our successes (or failures) in this series finishing adventure.

My Series Goals 

  1. Heist Society by Ally Carter (books 2 & 3) 
  2. Necromancer series by Lish McBride (book 2) 
  3. Cinder by Marissa Meyers (books 2 & 3) 
  4. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (books 2 & 3) 
  5. Abhorsen series by Garth Nix (book 4 will be published in 2014) 
  6. The Agency by Y.S. Lee (book 4 will be published in 2014) 
  7. Fallen World series by Megan Crewe (books 2 & 3) 
  8. Iron Druid by Kevin Hearne (read at least 1 book in) 
  9. Bloody Jack by LA Meyer (book 11) 
  10. His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers (In the name of honesty, I'll admit I've already read the second book in 2014 but I want to count it.  Book 3 will be published in 2014)