Saturday, July 31, 2010

Prolific Blogger Award!

Oh my goodness, today has been award-tastic!! Liz from Consumed By Books has just informed me that she's given me the Prolific Blogger Award! Thank you so much Liz!

"A prolific blogger is one who is intellectually productive, keeping up an active blog with enjoyable content. After accepting this award, recipients are asked to pass it forward to seven other deserving blogs."

Eek, "Intellectually productive"? "Enjoyable content"? Uh oh. I'll have to try really hard to live up to this. The pressure! (I think I can, I think I can!)

Anywho... Here are 7 blogs I think DO live up to this excellent standard, but are by NO means all of them:
  1. Basically Amazing Blog
  2. The Broke and The Bookish Blog
  3. This Miss Loves To Read
  4. Books Before Breakfast Blog
  5. Ellz Readz Blog
  6. Passages To The Past Blog
  7. Chick Loves Lit Blog
Again, if you are not already following these blogs, you should be. They are great!

Versatile Blogger Award (#2) -- Thanks so much!!

Wow! I've been awarded again! I am thrilled!... Thank you so much to Marcie at To Read or Not To Read for giving me this award!

Here's how the Versatile Blogger Award works:
  • Thank and link back to the award giver.
  • List 7 things about yourself.
  • Pass the award on to 15 other bloggers you've recently discovered, and who you think are great.
  • Notify the bloggers and let them know they've been awarded!
So here are 7 (new) random facts about me you oughtta know:
  1. ♪ I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller... Oh wait, that's Skee-Lo, not me. :P
    But I am apt to burst into random song at odd, and sometime inappropriate moments, or say things in a sing-songy way. Often at work. I'm just SPONTANEOUS like that. And pretty much ONLY like that. ;)
  2. I am a starter. I start projects, like knitting or crocheting or whatever, but I never seem to actually finish them.
  3. I do not like food scented smelly stuff (unless it's actually food).
  4. My fingernails are very strong, and have actually worn grooves in my laptop keyboard. O_o
  5. I have had my left eyebrow pierced since I was 16 (that would be 11 years for those of you trying to do the math), and I can gross people out by pulling on it. It pulls out quite far! LOL
  6. I do not like shoes. I would go barefoot year round if I could.
  7. And finally, I'm addicted to StumbleUpon.
Here are the blogs that I would like to recognize for their awesomeness!
  1. An Addicted Book Reader
  2. The Reading Ape
  3. Books Are Dreams
  4. Books By Their Story
  5. Geeky Blogger's Book Blog
  6. Helen's Book Blog
  7. Kate's Library
  8. Let Them Read Books
  9. Misadventures Of A Teenage Bookworm
  10. Niki's Book Reviews
  11. Tattooed Books
  12. The Literate Man
  13. The New Dork Review of Books
  14. The Perpetual Page-Turner
  15. Terra on the Bookshelf

There you have it. If you are not already following these blogs, you should be. Hop to it! :D

And... Thanks again to Marcie for recognizing my blog!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Friday Flashback Review (5): Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran ★★★★★

"Friday Flashback" is a weekly feature created by JG, The Introverted Reader.
Disclaimer: Some of these reviews may not be the best I've ever written, so just be forewarned! ;)

Cleopatra's DaughterMy rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was chosen for the May/June 2010 group read in the historical fiction group that I moderate on Goodreads, and I couldn't wait to read it, so I read a teensy bit early and finished it before the group read technically started. *blush* I'd been wanting to read one of Michelle Moran's books for a while, since I hear so much praise for them, and I'd planned on starting with "Nefertiti" with a friend, but that kind of fell apart due to other obligations. So I was thrilled when "Cleopatra's Daughter" was chosen, as it gave me the perfect excuse to shove all of my obligations off to the side for a day and read this.

And it literally only took me a day to read it. I could not put it down. I've always been fascinated by Ancient Egypt and Rome, so this one was right up my alley. (All of Moran's books at this point are right up my alley, actually!) I was not disappointed. The book starts with a bang with Cleopatra's rule crumbling around her, and follows Selene (Cleopatra's daughter) as she's taken from her home and country to Rome, which is rife with danger, uncertainty, spies, cattiness and political roller-coasters. Selene and her twin brother, Alexander, are guest/prisoners of the royal family, and never know what the next day will bring - an unwanted and unhappy marriage, slavery, death?

It's fascinating. I would have gladly read another 400 pages. There was so much going on between these covers that even though it was not action-packed, it felt like it was, and I just had to know what would happen next. This is the kind of book that made me love historical fiction - books that can bring a name and date-range to life, and make me not only intrigued by their life, but care about them, and empathize with them. So much in history is distant and boring that unless you have a real interest and passion for it, we forget to keep it alive. And much of history was so brutal and harsh that we forget that people who lived it were really people, and had hopes and dreams and fears that were probably cut short by the brutality and upheaval. It's easy to distance ourselves from that brutality, so that 30,000 deaths in such and such battle becomes just a number, and not a staggering atrocity.

But this book brought these ancient people to life, and I crossed my fingers for them, and mourned with them, and was angry on their behalf even though they've all been dead for 2000 years. I loved Selene's character. I admired her courage to do the right thing even when it could have cost her her life at any time. Her life was one thread away from forfeited as soon as she stepped foot off of Egyptian soil, but she still spoke up for those who could not speak for themselves. And this, in a time when callousness and bloodlust seemed to be an artform, is admirable.

I also loved the way that Octavian Caesar's loyal men were humanized, rather than just being expressionless moving statues which do the Caesar's bidding, they were men who were able to think and feel and hope themselves.

I also loved the political and societal issues depicted. Octavian's fear of any potential threat, his genius political maneuvering and manipulation, his ruthlessness all gave me chills. Livia's too, and her pure maliciousness made me want to slap her. I couldn't imagine living under the thumb of people like that. But then to counter them, Octavia, his sister, was kind and compassionate and charitable, even when she had cause not to be, and when it was almost pointless given the attitudes of the time.

Moran pulls no punches with this book, and shows the harshness of living in Rome at this time. Slaves were everywhere and harshly ruled and even more harshly punished at their owners' and/or corrupt judges' whims. Babies are cast out for being born the wrong sex, or for having a deformity, or for no reason at all other than that they are unwanted and are left to die of starvation or by the elements if not for charitable wet-nurses. It's appalling, but all of this combined to create a Rome that felt real to me.

I also liked the subtle nod to homosexuality in the book, and how it's accepted in private, but kept quiet in public. I'm glad that we're at a point now where being gay is socially accepted (by most) and doesn't need to be hidden.

Anyway, in short, I loved this book. The only thing that I can think of to complain about is a single misspelling: quite should have been quiet, and that should have been caught by an editor. ;) I will definitely be reading more of Moran's books. If they are half as good as this one it will be well worth it. :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff ★★★★

The ReplacementMy rating: 4 of 5 stars
Before I start talking about the book itself, I want to talk about the impressions that I had about it before I read it, which includes the cover and blurbs on it. First, right up front, I want to mention one thing that bothered me, which is that the cover indicates that the recommended age group for this book is for 12+ readers. If it was just about the scare level, I'd say 'yes sure fine', because I didn't think that there was really anything that was overtly scary, or too scary for adolescents. But there was quite a bit of cursing, with more than a couple F-Bombs thrown in, drinking, references to drug use, sex, touchy-touchy stuff. I have no problem with this, and probably wouldn't have any problem with my own kids reading it (had I any), but some people are more concerned about this kind of thing, and I just thought I would mention it, just in case. :)

Back to my impressions pre-read, I expected this one to be a lot like the cover art: creepy, half-seen, antique and dirty and just all around eerie. With the rusting file, the knife and the scissors hanging over an antique baby carriage, with a background of grayish fog, this is what came to mind. And especially when I read the quote from Maggie Stiefvater that says {paraphrasing here - I don't have it in front of me} "...This is a story of ugly things that should be read in the dark at a whisper..."

So, I really enjoyed this one for what it was, but I have to admit that it was not what I'd expected at all! One doesn't usually expect this type of story to be told from the point of view of the scary creature, going on the assumption that in order to scare us, the mystery and the unknown and the fear of these things must be left intact - and showing us right off the bat how fearful and vulnerable it is definitely detracts from that. I'd also expected it to be more surreal and eerie and clammy and dark, but it was surprisingly real and modern. Maybe this took a little away from the scariness for me as well, but I can see how this very aspect would increase the scare-factor for others... IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU! ;)

I really liked Mackie Doyle, and liked him for his vulnerability and his knowledge that he was different in all manner of substantial ways, but still he tried to fit in, to be normal. I couldn't always identify with him, but really, who could? He's caught between two worlds, one of which is twisted and demented and mythical, and so he doesn't really belong anywhere, but still he tries to find a place for himself, so that he can carve out a little happiness and stability. He's somehow managed to find a group of some of the best friends anyone could have, let alone someone as uncommon as Mackie. Roswell (which I thought was an awesome name) is probably one of the most interesting and unswerving friends a guy could have. He collects cool pens and rebuilds clocks. That's pretty cool. Drew and Danny are twin inventors and are also solid-like-the-rock friends who just generally accept life as it comes and Mackie as he is. Tate is interesting as well, and I really liked her fire and her passion and unwillingness to give up for what she believes, even when she doesn't really know what that is. Emma of course is awesome, and shows the kind of sibling love and devotion that knows no bounds.

I was surprised by the musicality of the story, and how music played an integral part in not only Mackie's life, but in the town and in the story. I LOVED that he played bass, which is my favorite "rock band" instrument. I love the deepness and the range of feeling that it can evoke. I love that he used it in this way as well, that it wasn't just a hobby or something to do to clear his mind - he actually used it as an outlet for his emotions and thoughts. I loved that. :)

I really liked the unique take on the fey (I'm assuming here, because there was nothing that ever named them), and I liked the way that ancient lore was brought into the new millennium and kept modern. Overall, I really liked the story, and the feel of it. It was a very quick read and kept me turning the pages to see where it would go. I liked it quite a bit. :)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Review: Matched by Ally Condie ★★★★

MatchedMatched by Ally Condie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting story about what we value as a society and as people. Do we value the risks and uncertainty that come with freedom to live our lives as we choose over stability and safety and longevity?

As I was reading this, I couldn't help but be horrified by the existence that the members of this Society live. Their every move is monitored, even their dreams are monitored, and this information is used to predict and guide them to the optimal life. Their food is specially formulated for their metabolism, and is delivered 3 times a day - no sharing, no treats unless it's a special occasion and sanctioned by the Officials. There is no free time, no unscheduled alone time - every second is ruled by the Officials. Sure, you get your free-rec hour, with your choice of seeing a showing, which is essentially a Society propaganda film, going to a music hall where the music is simulated, or going to the game center.

The world has been narrowed down to a hundred of each kind of thing because life was just too cluttered before. Now there are one hundred stories, one hundred poems, one hundred songs, one hundred paintings, etc. Everything else was deemed unnecessary and slated for incineration. All of the world's history and beauty and creativity, gone, just like that.

Ally Condie did a great job building this world, and making me believe it. She did a great job showing the bleak and dreadful aspects of living in a world where any difference, any nonconformity, could mean disaster. I loved how she brought this knowledge to us through Cassia's gradual understanding of her world. What was once perfect and ideal turns into a stifling cage. The only thing that I would have liked was a little backstory about how the world became this way, but as history is avoided, it's unlikely that it would just be handed to us on a silver platter. I hope that Cassia finds out though because if we don't know where we came from, it's impossible to get back.

I loved all of the characters in this story. I loved Cassia's growth and her willingness to do what she thinks is right for the people she loves, even if what she thinks is right is the very thing that the Society tells her is wrong and forbidden. I liked that she was willing to go against the grain, to go against what even she recognizes as a great match, for a chance at even truer happiness.

I loved Ky as well. I loved his control, his innate knowledge of the ways of the world, and how he helps Cassia to see things the way that they really are, and not the way that the Society wants them to be seen. I loved the way that he was passionate inside, but never showed his hand, even when the whole system seemed against him.

I loved Xander for his devotion and true friendship even when his perfect world was falling down around him. His best friend is falling deeper and deeper, and running more and more risks, yet he never says a word and helps as much as possible, even when that goes against everything that he wants for himself.

I really enjoyed this story, and I can't wait to see where the sequel takes us.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin ★★★★

The PassageMy rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am really torn on what to rate this book. On one hand, I really, really liked it, and was engrossed in the story, and could identify with the characters and loved the "feel" of the story, but on the other hand, I feel like there was just something more that was missing, some line that would pull it together and make it great.

I was sucked in from the start, and having now finished it, I can definitely see why there are comparisons made between "The Passage" and Stephen King's novel "The Stand". It also brought to mind Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" as well as the "Resident Evil" franchise. But this was different too, and stood on the shoulders of giants, so to speak, but then became something else entirely. I loved what it became, but I just wish that there was more of it, that things were explained and fleshed out a little more fully. I'm ok with there being a bit of mystery - obviously we can't know everything, and there was enough explained along the way so that we don't feel completely in the dark, but I just wanted more of an understanding of the world that Cronin created here.

I loved the realistic feel of the story, and loved the different methods of narration that Cronin used throughout. It shifted around, but each section was enhanced by the way it was relayed to us more than hindered by the change from straight omniscient 3rd person narration. In fact, the narration was just about perfect - it moved the story along, provided details and back story where necessary, and generally went unnoticed until it shifted to a different style. I actually found myself flipping back to a previous section a few times because the story just seemed to flow so effortlessly that I hadn't even noticed HOW.

Two things mainly bothered me about this story. Ok three. The first one I mentioned before - I wanted more.

The second thing that bothered me was the luck that popped up just a little too often and made it seem as though Cronin was adding a little deus ex machina in here, but just wasn't committed about it. In places, it seemed like there was an undertone in the story of "Yeah, God might be moving things along a bit... but then again, he might not. Who knows?" Religion played a role in the story, a kind of largely subtle one. It was there, but it was understated and could be picked up by those who have a mind to do so, or accepted and moved past for those who are more skeptical. I accepted it in the story for what it was, and so the wishy-washy aspect of the possible "hand of God" slightly annoyed me. You can't have it both ways: Either there IS a God who is taking an active role in the story, or there is not.

The final thing that bothered me was the ending. It was very ambiguous. I am OK with an ending that leaves things open and lets the reader decide for themselves what happened, but this one tried for that, and didn't pull it off well. The reader understands where the story will need to go, and is able to go there on their own. So that part's fine, but there is a last little segment tacked on to the end that sets up this expectation and then just cuts it off, like an amputated limb, and THAT is what was disappointing. The abruptness of the end and the sudden evaporation of the expectation that he'd set up so carefully. It just seemed unnecessary to me, after everything.

Anyway, overall, I really did like this story. I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading it, and that is always a plus, but the things that bothered me wouldn't allow me to give this 5 stars, despite how much I really enjoyed the rest of it.

{Edit: Since writing this review, I have since found out that this book is only part 1 of a proposed trilogy, so I will get the more that I wanted, and the ending obviously was left unresolved in order to be picked up in book 2. So, this information definitely changes how I feel about the book - for the better - but still the 2nd point that I felt bothered me stands, and is why I will leave this as a 4 star rather than a 5 star review.}

Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride ★★★★★

Hold Me Closer, NecromancerMy rating: 5 of 5 stars
This book was SO MUCH FUN! I devoured this book, and had to put it down so that I could sleep around 3:30am, but I had a little internal tantrum when I did, because as tired as I was, I was enjoying the book so much that I just did not want to set it down.

I really loved everything about this book. I loved all of the characters, all of them, even the deviously evil ones. But I especially loved The Quad, as I lovingly referred to them in my head: Sam (the main character), Ramon (his best friend), Brooke (the awesome girl next door) and Frank (the up & coming flunky friend who tries really hard). They were all hilarious and so down to earth and awesome that I wish that they were real people. They all came off with some off-the-cuff one-liners that made me envious, because I can NEVER think of pure comeback awesomeness in the moment. It's always like 4 days later and I'm like, "DOH! I should have said...!!"
And then there were the secondary characters who were just as great. Brid especially. I loved her spunk and her charisma and tenacity and ass-kickery. Sam's mom and neighbor were also hilarious without even trying. All of them felt real and true, and I felt like I knew them rather than like I was reading about them.

I will say that this book is more for the mature teen set. There was a bit of cursing, a bit of defiance, and a bit of sex, all of which fit perfectly in the story and didn't feel out of place at all, but might be a bit more than someone looking for a more innocent brand of YA is bargaining for.

The paranormal characters and characteristics felt fresh and true to the story as well, and I loved the way that it was represented here. The "creatures" felt traditionally modern, if that makes sense. Like they are true to how folklore represents them, but also are changeable and adaptable to modern times to stay ahead of the curve. I really enjoyed that, because the paranormal genre is in an upswing in popularity right now, and things can get a bit stale. But this wasn't like that at all, and I really liked the way that things were subtly modernized without that taking over the whole story.

Because this story is about Sam, full name Samhain Corvus LaCroix (yes really), and he is full of awesome. Between him and his friends, I was hooting with laughter so much that my boyfriend started looking at me funny. This book was chock full of my favorite type of humor - sarcastic, dry wit that you could almost miss if you blink. In fact, I read a few lines that hit me later and had me cracking up and feeling slow at the same time, because I'd missed the funny the first time around. Sam's voice and personality is just so great that you just can't help but love him and root for him.

I loved the narration as well, how it shifted between Sam's first person narration and then a omniscient third person narration. You'd think that this would be distracting, but it wasn't at all. It was like scenes in a movie - some of them contained the main character's thoughts as a voiceover, and some showed action elsewhere.

Overall, I loved this. I hope that this is the first in a series, because I definitely want to revisit these characters again... and again. This is definitely going on my Wishlist and To-Buy list. :D

Plus... There was a zombie panda. O_O

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Review: I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore ★ ★

I Am Number Four (Lorien Legacies, #1)
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I received this book from Star Book Tours (YA ARC tour blog) for review, and I was super excited to read it because I'd heard a lot of buzz and it seemed like it would be right up my alley - aliens taking refuge on Earth and being hunted one by one... Sounds interesting right? I thought so.

Unfortunately, it fell a little flat for me, and was a bit too predictable.

Essentially, the story line is thus: Lorien (which is another thing that drew me to this book, although it's a blatant rip from Tolkien's Lothlorien) is one of 18 life sustaining planets in the universe. There, life developed and thrived millions of years ago, developing technologies and the like, similarly to how Earthlings are doing today. The people of Lorien nearly destroyed their planet (again, shades of Earth) and changed their ways for a more enviro-friendly and light footprint to sustain the world that sustains them. In return for this consideration, the Loric people are given/develop gifts (Legacies) to use to protect the planet.
That is until the Mogadorians show up. These dudes are just bad, greedy, ruthless, and mean. They killed their planet, and so they now want Lorien, and they wage a war to take it. Things go badly, Lorien loses, Mogadore (which recalls another Tolkien land, Mordor) gains an outpost, so to speak. But 9 children, and their guardians, are shipped off planet to bide their time and return when they can fight to regain and save their home.

Now, the question in my mind is this: If an entire planet full of adult and fully trained Legacies, who have come into their powers and abilities and know how to use them, cannot stop the invasion, how are nine kids supposed to? Well, of course in the true hero-quest, our hero, Number Four will be the most special of them all. Perhaps even a prophecy will come to light later saying so.

I did enjoy the story, I don't want to imply that it was horrible - it was a quick read that is exciting and fun. But it wasn't unique, there was far too much convenience and providence to be completely believable, and it was juvenile in all the ways that matter, although it felt like it was trying hard not to be. The writing was clipped and choppy with incomplete sentences and description that left a lot to be desired in some areas, and provided almost too much detail in other areas.  Maybe this inconsistency will be cleaned up in the final edit, but maybe not. I didn't feel like all of it was unintentional.

Moving on to the romance aspect, I stopped counting the number of times that I rolled my eyes about halfway through. First of all, the girl, Sarah, is "the most beautiful girl in town", and probably the nicest, and most understanding and the most generous and empathetic and compassionate and... most perfect. Too perfect. She has NO flaws. Zero. Unless you count the fact that she, as a cheerleader, used to date the Bully Football Star, and formed a bit of a dependence. But don't worry, that's all water under the bridge because after a summer away, she found herself and made a life change. At 16. Commendable, but not really believable at all for me.
The relationship seemingly forms out of thin air. One minute they are just friendly, and the next they are in a relationship, and within 3 months they are committed to each other completely. I'm sure that in the history of the world there are relationships that have gone this way, but they are hard to believe, especially when they are formed between two people who are so very different and who, from what I can tell, have nothing in common or anything to base their "love" on. I can see what "John" (Number Four) sees in Sarah as a crush, but what she sees in him, I have no idea. I don't know why she would want to be with him at all, unless it's for the amazing stand-up-to-bully attitude he has, or the way that he plays savior to her damsel in distress three times. During one of these occasions of rescue, he actually says, "No one, and nothing, will ever hurt you as long as I'm alive," during a raging house fire that they are standing in the middle of. Gag. I don't remember thinking or acting that way when I was a teen.

Moving on to more pleasant things, this book is pretty much one big reminder of our responsibility towards our home and environment. The Loriens represent the stewards, the tree-hugging environmentalists (whom I happen to agree with), and the Mogadorians represent the progress-progress-progress industrial types with no scruples when it comes to what is consumed to make that progress. There's no question in the book as to which is the right side. On the plus side, even though I agree with the message, it's never preachy, so one is able to note it and then move on to the plot if they choose.

Overall, this was an OK book. There were things that I wish were fleshed out more, like the characters, and things that I wish were harped on less, like the romance, but it wasn't bad. I certainly do wonder how this will go on for a full series though. We shall see.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Review: The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch ★★

The One That I WantMy rating: 2 of 5 stars
I won this ARC from Crown Publishing's "Read It Forward" program. I requested it thinking that it would be something of a late-bloomer's coming of age story, which I love because as much as I love teen coming of age stories, it seems to me that the ones with adults finding themselves pack a little bit more of a punch and a bit of a deeper meaning. This story both was and wasn't what I'd thought and expected.

Tilly Farmer is stuck in a rut and doesn't even know it. She's 32 and describes her life as "perfect". She's lived in one town all of her life, loved one man all of her life, and her only goals are 1) to have a baby, 2) to stay perfectly happy in the same way as she is now, and 3) to plan prom. Again.

Until Tilly comes into contact with a fortune-teller who gives her the gift of "clarity", and soon afterward Tilly's life starts to fall apart around her.

This "clarity" is my main issue with the book. It's misleading. I felt misled. Tilly has created her own little perfect worldview and refuses to see things as they really are, deluding herself into thinking that the status quo is perfectly fine, and can't understand why others may not like it. She's a guidance counseller who doesn't understand why her students would want to move out and away from what she sees as the perfect town which allows for the perfect life. So I'd expected the "clarity" to give her insight into other people's perceptions and feelings, but instead it was more of a half-hint glimpse of the future that's coming without any context at all. I actually think that this part could have been switched to simple dreams, or a fortune-telling or removed altogether and the story wouldn't have suffered.

I couldn't identify with Tilly, and so I didn't really care what happened to her. I liked the secondary characters a LOT more than I liked her. At least they knew who they were and didn't delude themselves completely. The story didn't feel finished to me. I don't think that Tilly really came full circle and learned who she was. It seemed more to me like she just swapped one perfection-substitute for another.

I won't talk too much about the editing, because this was an uncorrected ARC, but I do want to mention one thing that bugged me - the author's almost melodramatic use of the word "broken" that Tilly uses to describe everything that isn't "perfect". Her friend is depressed because her husband was caught fooling around with his co-worker, she's broken. The townspeople have secrets, they're all broken, and the town's broken. It just seemed ridiculous to me to use that word for such mundane everyday stuff. True, you might feel broken when your life falls apart, but "broken" is so dramatic a word that it should be used sparingly when it fits, not for every little thing that goes wrong.

Anyway... This was an OK read. I think that it could have used a bit more fleshing out and plumping up of the characters, especially the main, but it wasn't bad.

In My Mailbox (4)

"In My Mailbox" is a weekly meme hosted over at The Story Siren in which we can share the books that we've acquired that week. :)

This past week was pretty awesome for me! I had a great time in San Francisco and got to see Alcatraz and some great museums and just in general had a fantastic time not doing anything responsible at all. My brother's wedding was amazing, and everything went off without a hitch, even though they made me do a reading of the Irish Blessing... and if you know me, I'm not much for public speaking. But, he's my brother, so I let him live. This once. ;)

I am having technical difficulties with my internet provider at home, so I'm using free wifi at the moment, so no Pretty Kitty With Book ™ pictures this time... Sorry to disappoint. :P

Anyway, here's what I received in and around this week...

ARCs and For Review Copies

From Star Book Tours, I received ARCs of I Am Number Four & Hold Me Closer, Necromancer. Reviews of both coming soon! :)

From Penguin Publishing, I received Matched & The Replacement. I am SUPER excited for both of these, because I love dystopias (Matched) and horror (The Replacement). These are next on my list, and I've already started Matched. Pretty good so far! Also, both will be donated to Star Book Tours once I've read them, so if you're looking for a chance to read one of these, head on over and sign up! :)

From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, I received The Turtle Catcher, which is a historical fiction novel taking place around WWI. I can't wait to read this one as well! :)

Everything Else

Won from The Book Scout, Claire de Lune! Really looking forward to this one! :)

 And last but not least, I couldn't visit Alcatraz without picking up a book about the place. I wish that I could have done the night tour there, it was awesome enough during the day, but at night, I bet it would have been amazing. But anyway, I grabbed a book about Alcatraz that was written by one of the inmates there, and then I found out that the author was actually there! He signed my book and chatted with me a little bit, which was really cool. I felt a little bad for him, because nobody else seemed interested in talking to him at all! I don't know how often he is there, but I was excited that he was there on the day I went. :)

So, that's what I got in my mailbox this week... what have you got in yours? :D

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Wooo!!! So, tomorrow's the day peeps! I'm leaving Pennsylvania behind and flying off into the sunset... literally! Tomorrow, I fly to San Francisco for my brother's wedding/my VERY MUCH NEEDED AND WELL DESERVED vacation.

I will have my laptop, but may not post all that much since this is supposed to be my chance to be all touristy and stuff. I've been to San Francisco before, and I love it. I will try to take tons of pics with which to regale you all upon my reluctant return to normal 9-5 life. *sigh*

I have received my very first Star Book Tours ARC in the mail today -- JUST IN THE NICK OF TIME! I hadn't expected it anything LIKE this fast! But I am SUPER excited about reading it. It's the very one I was most anxious for! Look!!

So now I know what I will be reading on the plane! :D

For those of you anxious about potentially neglected felines, fear not, The Boy will be staying home to take care of the kids. The poor cats are just about melting in the heat, as you can see... And Alfie, the white & black one, has urinary tract problems, and we can't just plop a big bag of dry food in the middle of the floor and let them go at it when they get hungry. (That's a joke.) But really, dry food's ash content is too high. So one of us parents have got to be responsible and make sure our little ones are well tended with the proper diet to keep our furry monsters feeling up to fluff... :)

I will miss them. I wonder if they'll notice I'm gone... ? =\

Sunday, July 11, 2010

IMM (3) & What Are You Reading?... And what SHOULD I read??

"In My Mailbox" is a weekly meme hosted over at The Story Siren in which we can share the books that we've acquired that week. :)

"What are you Reading?" is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila from BookJourney where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week. It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

I will desist with all the fluff and just show what I got! :D

ARCs and For Review books:
This week I received quite a few ARCs and review copies, at least for me!
In the mail came:
The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch
Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure & Zan-Gah And The Beautiful Country by Allan Richard Shickman
and Blind Man's Alley by Justin Peacock

A while back I bought Changeless, which is the sequel to Gail Carriger's Soulless (as if you didn't know). Can't wait for Blameless, too!

Upcoming this week:

I'm Currently Reading:
The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch

What I plan to read:
Ahh, well see, this is tricky!! I'm going on vacation to San Francisco for my brother's wedding starting Wendnesday... My mom has all sorts of activities planned for us to do, but the only one that is set in stone is an Alcatraz tour for Thursday. And since The Boy is staying home, I'll hopefully have lots of reading time! (Does that make me a terrible girlfriend?) Anyway, Wednesday should be a good reading day, since I have a 2 hour drive to The Airport Of The Cheapest Flights (and I'm not driving), and then a 8 hour flight, and then another hour long commute to the hotel.

Ahhh... blissful reading time.

Ahem. Excuse me. I was having a moment. *wipes daydream drool* So, right. What to bring! I have no idea. I am about 94.5% certain that I'll be reading The Passage by Justin Cronin on the outbound journey, even though it's a brick. What's better than than a great book to just lose yourself in for a day? And aren't bricks what tray tables were designed for??

Other than that, I have no idea... Maybe something light and fun like Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella? Or mindless? The Rising by Brian Keene or anything by Dean Koontz for that matter? Should I go with a fast-paced legal thriller and read Grisham? Or go with an old stand-by and take a King with me? (Oh, who am I kidding, I'll be bringing King. He's like my AmEx: I don't leave home without him.)

Suggestions welcome! I don't want to buy anything new, or bring a library book. I'm open to any suggestions of books that can be found on my Owned-Unread Goodreads Shelf. Leave me comments with what you think I should read and why! :D

So anywho... That's what I got In My Mailbox and What I'm reading this week... What about you? :)

Review: Hurt Go Happy by Ginny Rorby ★★★★★

Hurt Go HappyMy Review: 5 of 5 stars
In one of the Goodreads groups I’m in, Wild Things: YA Grown-Up, we do a bookmark swap with other members (Round 5 is currently taking suggestions!). For the 3rd round, we each chose three favorite books for the bookmark maker to choose from. The person that was chosen as my recipient, Kellee, chose “The Giver” by Lois Lowry, “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins, and “Hurt Go Happy” by Ginny Rorby. I’d read the other two books, and as much as I love them both, decided against using them as they are both so popular and well-known. “Hurt Go Happy” on the other hand, I’d never even heard of, and the premise interested me, so I decided to use it, sight-unseen. I read a preview chapter on B& and when that was AMAZING, I ordered a copy.

Thirteen year old Joey is almost completely deaf and struggles to read lips in a world of hearing people because her mother refuses to allow her to learn sign language. Her mother is full of excuses, everything from “It’ll make you lazy so that you won’t be able to read lips to understand people who can’t sign,” to “It’ll show everyone that you’re disabled and they’ll pity you.” So, needless to say, Joey is isolated and largely ignored by people who aren’t able to communicate with her, until she meets Charlie, an elderly man who lives nearby and his chimpanzee, Sukari. This chance meeting changes all of their lives.

All I can say is “Wow”. If you know me at all, you know that I love a gut-wrenching story, one that breaks your heart and hollows you out. This book did all that and more. This book made me something of an emotional train-wreck. I feel like I need a thesaurus to even correctly assign my emotional states. I couldn’t breathe through the last half of this book, and I could barely even see. I can’t remember ever having cried so much during a book as I did with this one, but I didn’t feel manipulated or that Ginny Rorby was playing with my emotions. Rather I felt that she took this story, and all that it represents, incredibly seriously and portrayed it as honestly as possible. The fact that it crushed my soul is inevitable, because both subjects in the book are ones that nudge my overactive empathy gland into the mass-production red-zone. I’m an animal lover, and protector of small and defenseless things of all kinds, and so the events that occurred in this book were painful. I’m not deaf, but in her love for Sukari, I identified with Joey to the point where what happened to her felt like it was happening to me. And it felt incredibly real.

Whew. OK. Picking this back up later. I wrote all of that on June 24th, but I couldn’t stop being a weeping mess, so I set it aside. I couldn’t post it until Kellee’d received her bookmark anyway, which was definitely a good thing because it gave me a chance to put a little distance between this story and my heart, even though all I wanted was to rush in to talk to her about it, because it had affected me so strongly.

I don’t want to talk about the story itself in this review, although I will say that it is one that made me both proud and ashamed of being human. Proud because we have the capacity for learning and growth and empathy and understanding one another, but ashamed because we don’t use it, and worse, we exploit anything and anyone to reach an end. And regardless of how supposedly noble that end is, exploitation to reach that end is wrong. Horribly. I want everyone to read this book. It’s incredibly important. I know that many of you will read this review and say to yourselves, “Why on earth would I want to read that? She said it CRUSHED HER SOUL! O_O” but sometimes we need to have our souls crushed so that we can rebuild them better and containing more caring, compassion, and understanding than they had before.

That’s all I’m saying. Read this book.

And, if you're curious - here is the bookmark that I made based on the book. This is a scanned image.

PS. Sukari is a chimp, and the image on my bookmark is of a monkey. They are not interchangeable, but I couldn't find a chimp that did not look angry or dressed up or something that didn't represent the book - so I made a compromise as I wanted to represent Sukari as being happy.


Bookmarks... My Love of Place-Holdery Goodness!

I've realized that I have a bit of an addiction to bookmarks. Luckily, I think that my bookmark addiction has not yet reached critical-mass like my book addiction has (but that's a post for another day!).

Anyway, I thought it would be fun to document them for your (and my own) viewing pleasure. I was very tempted to doll these babies up and do full on GlamourShot-esque photos, because I'm a little weird like that, but then I figured that they were awesome enough on their own, and just staged them with appropriate books when available. I couldn't resist. Off we go!

So up there at the top we have the lot of them lined up on my dresser with a bunch of books that I don't have room for on my bookshelves (Book addiction at critical-mass, remember? And I just received 4 more in the mail, with another on the way... Life is good. :P).The Glamour Shots will come next, and in no particular order. :)

First, we have my Lord of the Rings bookmarks. The two with the tassels (which are Frodo & Sam with the yellow tassel and Grima Wormtongue with the black) were sent to me by my friend Kandice, and I'm 92% sure that King Theoden was sent to me by Allison @ The Allure of Books.
I was tempted to take the picture with both sets of my LOTR books, but I thought that would be a little bit TOO geeky. Even for me.

Next. My one and only Stephen King bookmark. There is something horribly wrong with the fact that I only have ONE bookmark commemorating my very favoritest favorite author, and that only by the goodness of my friend Chris's heart. He sent me Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes (which I really need to read!) with this bookmark and a concept art sketch insert from the first graphic novel in this series as a surprise inside. That's why he's one of my favorite people. :D

Oh, and for those observant peeps among you - this is the 2nd graphic novel that accompanies the Dark Tower series, and yes, that is Roland, hero of my Character Connection Post. Thank you for noticing. :)

Now, more observation skills are needed here... April over at Good Books and Good Wine and Sharon at Sharon Loves Books and Cats recently hosted Zombies Vs. Unicorns Week... I like to think that if you know me that I wouldn't need to advertise my preference, but I did anyway. TEAM ZOMBIE! Woo! *ahem*
Allison sent me the bookmark, because she's awesome, and Kandice sent me the book, because she too, is awesome. :D

I received these bookmarks (The Crown Conspiracy, Avempartha and Nyphron Rising of the Riyria Revelations series) from Susan @ Ridan Publishing when she sent me Avempartha from the Goodreads swap. Thanks Susan! These are a few more that I really need to read soon - I've heard such good things about them. But I'm such a stickler for reading series books together and all at once. I absolutely love the cover art for these books. They are gorgeous, and from what I understand, Michael Sullivan designed them himself, which is impressive!

Percy Jackson! :D I received all of this lovely swag from my friend Kandice. She's the best. I love this series. It's so fun and cute and smart!
So here we have the first book in the series with the movie tie-in bookmark. Then we have a Camp Half-Blood patch, and a pewter Camp Half-Blood keychain, which is surprisingly heavy. Good stuff!
If you haven't read these books, I recommend them highly. They are written for younger readers, around 8 or 9 I'd say, but they are brilliant books - especially if you enjoy Greek mythology.

From Greece to Rome! This is the bookmark, ancient bronze coin, and two signed bookplates that Michelle Moran (author of Nefertiti, Cleopatra's Daughter, The Heretic Queen, and the upcoming book about Madame Toussaud) who recently participated in a discussion in my Historical Fictionistas group on Goodreads *plug* sent to me! I don't think that I'm special or anything, she's super nice and willing to send goodies to just about anyone who asks, but I love them... Now I just need to buy her books so I can use them. LOL

Whew! This is getting long... I think I will stop here... and pick up with a Part 2 at a later date. This is so much bookmarkery goodness that I don't want to overwhelm anyone with awesomeness. Keep your eyes peeled for more later! 

Feel free to share your own bookmark addiction with me in the comments. I love knowing what people use. Do you use just one? Do you use certain bookmarks for certain books, or for certain types of books? Are you a bookmark user at all? If not, I hope that you're not a dog-ear folder!! THE HORROR! Share your habits. Inquiring minds and all that. :)


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Celebrate the 4th of July with Giveaway Winners!!


So after much tallying and calculating and rechecking and computing, has spit out my winners.... 

*melodramatic drumroll*

WINNER: NATALIE @ The Mindful Musings blog who will receive a spankin' new copy of Linger on July 20th!

Winner's Choice of ONE of the following books:
1) Clockwork Angel (Infernal Devices #1) Pre-order (Available August 31, 2010)
2) Linger (Sequel to Shiver) (Available July 20, 2010)
3) Mockingjay (Book 3 in the Hunger Games trilogy) (Available August 24, 2010)

WINNER: Krystal @ We Are All About The Wordplay blog!

Book ("If I Stay" by Gayle Forman) + 1 $10 B&N Gift Certificate/Card*:

and a $10
(*Please note: B&N Gift may be in the form of an online certificate or an actual gift card depending on if I have a chance to get to a B&N.)

WINNER: Marcie @ 2 Read or Not 2 Read blog!

A YA Prize Pack containing:
1) Airman by Eoin Colfer
2) Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden
3) Sold by Patricia McCormick

Congrats to all! I will be sending you emails to confirm that you've won! I hope that you all love your new books and thanks for helping to make my blog a success!! :D

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman ★★★★★

If I Stay Description: In a single moment, everything changes. Seventeen-year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall riding along the snow-wet Oregon road with her family. Then, in a blink, she finds herself watching as her own damaged body is taken from the wreck...

A sophisticated, layered, and heartachingly beautiful story about the power of family and friends, the choices we all make—and the ultimate choice Mia commands.
(Source: Goodreads)

My Review: 5 of 5 stars
I admit it: I judge books by their covers. There, I said it. If it weren't for the cover of this edition, with the girl staring up into a blue-grey space, I'd have missed this book entirely. There is just something haunting and beautiful about the cover of the edition I read, and to me, it implies that the story within will be haunting and beautiful too.

Covers are important. This is the first impression that a potential reader has of your book, and so the cover must convey what you want it to, and communicate to a reader what your book may have to offer.
This cover makes me feel like the story inside will be playful and fun and it reminds me of birds, and spring and happiness. It's a lovely cover, but in my humble opinion, doesn't do well to represent the story. I've passed by this book, dozens of times with hardly a glance at the blue cover. But my eyes were instantly drawn to the haunted quality of the image on the edition that I bought.

My next cover related comment will pertain to the little "note" on this edition, which says, "Will appeal to fans of Stephenie Meyer's TWILIGHT." --USA Today This too is somewhat misleading, because my initial thought was that it would indicate that there's a supernatural element to the story (vampires or werewolves, etc), but that's not the case. There is a quality of the story that is a bit paranormal, but not in the way that people would associate with Meyer's story. Rather, this comment is about the romance aspect of the story, but I feel like it would have been better left off altogether. I didn't even realize the quote was regarding Twilight when I bought the book, as there was a price sticker over almost all of it. I could see "Will appeal to fans of" and "A Today". So this thought is what occurred to me after reading the story and then removing the sticker.

I don't normally talk about the covers much in my reviews, but this one just has so much bearing on how the story can be seen, especially if one is inclined to determine by a cover if a book looks like it might be to their taste, that I wanted to talk about it.

After first cracking the book, and reading a little bit of it, I have to admit that I didn't think that the writing really warranted the praise lavished on it. The writing was simple, and direct, even somewhat vulgar, seeing as how much of the story pertains to the punk music scene, which is full of colorful language, but isn't exactly flowery. I read, waiting for the "achingly beautiful" parts to kick in, and was thinking that I'd be writing in my review about how, yes, it was sad, but I wouldn't exactly call the writing beautiful. And then I realized that it IS beautiful, in the unflowery, punk-rock and down-to-earth way that fit the story perfectly, and made my heart break for all that it represented.

I loved the way that Mia, the main character, showed us her life, and her family, and her world. Interspersed with "now" events were her memories, which showed so perfectly all that she no longer had due to an unfortunate accident. One minute everything is fine, and the next, everything is gone, and Mia has to decide if she wants to live in a world without the people she loves the most.

I loved the characters, and how they were all unique and true to themselves. I loved the way that they each represented a choice in how they wanted to live, and made that choice almost without effort. This seemed to contrast the decision that Mia has to make, and the difficulty and pain that it causes, both to her and her friends and loved ones. I could really identify with Mia's grandfather, who tells her that it's OK if she needs to let go even though he desperately wants her to stay, because I had a similar conversation with my grandmother when she was in the hospital a few years ago. It was incredibly hard to remember that feeling, reading this, but it was honest and true, and made sure that I understood the depth of Mia's family's love for her to want to let her be free of her pain.

Mia's boyfriend, Adam, was perfect. I almost don't want to talk about him. He is the kind of boyfriend that girls dream about: gorgeous, a little wild and dangerous and unpredictable, but sweet and honest and caring and sensitive too. His speech to Mia was so... raw and painful that I could barely see the page to read it. It's a good thing I was sitting up, or I'd have to wring this book out. Adam's request to Mia rivaled Wentworth's letter to Anne, and that is saying something.

This story was beautiful, achingly so, so it absolutely deserved the praise that it received. I was very surprised by this book, by it being so musically oriented, and how big of a roll that played in the lives of everyone in the story. I was surprised by the roughness of the story, but glad that it was written this way, because it more real than any poetic prose could offer. Life is ugly and dirty and unfair and mean, so why shouldn't a story about these things be the same way? I thought it was beautifully done, and can't recommend this book highly enough.

I'm off to call my parents and tell them I love them.

View all my reviews >>

Review: Airman by Eoin Colfer ★★★★

Airman Description: In the late nineteenth century, when Conor Broekhart discovers a conspiracy to overthrow the king, he is branded a traitor, imprisoned, and forced to mine for diamonds under brutal conditions while he plans a daring escape from Little Saltee prison by way of a flying machine that he must design, build, and, hardest of all, trust to carry him to safety.(Source: Goodreads)

My Review:
I picked this book up quite a while ago, but never got around to reading it until I decided to give it away. I'm not sure why I never read it, because everything about this seems like it would be to my taste. I really enjoyed the Artemis Fowl series, and laugh like a loon whenever I read them, so I had a pretty good idea that I would like his other books, but still I put this off.

Well I'm glad that I decided to give it away, because it gave me an excuse to read this sooner than later, and I'm happy to say that I really enjoyed it.

This was nothing like the AF series. There's not really any fantasy here, or magic or ridiculous jokes or gutter-humor or any of the stuff that I loved about the AF series, but I enjoyed this as much for the lack of those things as I loved AF for them. This book definitely has a more serious, somber tone, and in many ways it reminded me of one of the greats, The Count of Monte Cristo. That is a huge compliment coming from me, because COMC is without a doubt one of the greatest books about betrayal and revenge ever written, and I adored all 1300 pages of it. This is not a YA reproduction of The Count of Monte Cristo, however. The storyline here veers off in its own direction, and follows its own trail, but the tone, and some of the details just brought the classic to mind.

I glanced at a few reviews of this book and see that a common complaint was the darkness and bleak feeling of the story, the hopelessness. I don't agree that that's how the story was portrayed. Yes, overall it was far from light and happy, but again the story warranted a darker and hopeless feeling. I thought the somber tone was appropriate for this story, considering all that poor Conor endured, and all that he lost: his freedom, his family, his love, his country, his honor. These are not happy events. Even so, Colfer did a great job at weaving some threads of lightness and humor into the story to break up the solemnity of the main story. It was done in a very subtle manner, not at all overstated and blatant like the humor in the Artemis Fowl series, but it had me giggling all the same. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that the tone fit the story for me, and anything much lighter would have been out of place.

Moving on to the characters, I have to say that I really liked all of them. I would have liked a little bit more depth, especially in Conor. As much as I liked him, and I really did, his only real flaw was in his despair and willingness to move on and start over without even trying to bring out the truth and set things to rights. I know that he'd been through a torturous 3 years, but considering that he was so determined in everything else, you'd think that his determination, and the anger at his mistreatment would spark a vengeance in him. He was just a little too perfect, a little too noble and charitable.

I really liked Declan, Conor's father, and felt for his loss. He was grieving and feeling guilty and angry and lost himself. Even though I empathized with him, I still would have liked a bit more personal grief and anger from him. It was told, not felt. It served the purpose, but I would have just liked a bit more.

The Marshall was decidedly villainous and evil, and even though I immensely disliked him, I could not help but laugh at some of his wittier comments and thoughts. He's so unabashedly bad that he becomes a bit funny, but not funny to the point at which he's no longer awful, but just funny as in "Wow, I can't believe people are really THAT horrible!"

I really liked the scientific and engineering historical references in this story. It lent the book a feeling of realism and groundedness that it would have been lacking otherwise. I would still classify it as an adventure story, but with these details, it has a more real historical feel.

I must admit that I was so engrossed in the story that I was surprised to find that 3/4 of it had passed in build-up, and that the resolution was yet to be hinted at. You'd think that the end would feel rushed in this kind of a situation, but I didn't feel that way after everything was said and done. The resolution, while very different than what I thought would occur, fit the story very well, and left the reader an opening to extend the ending as they choose.

Overall, I really liked this one, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to someone looking for something enjoyable and interesting to read.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, July 2, 2010

Friday Flashback Review (4): Roots by Alex Haley ★★★★★

Created by JG, The Introverted Reader, "Friday Flashback" is a weekly feature which gives us the opportunity of sharing older reviews from another source (Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon, whatever) on our blog.
Disclaimer: Some of these reviews may not be the best I've ever written, but hey, we live and learn, right? ;)

RootsDescription: Roots begins with a birth in an African village in 1750, and ends two centuries later at a funeral in Arkansas. In that time span, an unforgettable cast of men, women, and children come to life, many of them based on the people from Alex Haley's own family tree. (Source: Goodreads)

My Review- Originally written April 2, 2009 on Goodreads:
I'm so glad that I read this. I'm not sure how much of the story is true, but I'd like to believe it all is.

I love history when it tells a story. Endless facts and figures and dates are boring and tedious, which is exactly what "Roots" isn't. Almost from the first page, I felt that the people being described were REAL people, not characters someone has created out of nothing. The story of Kunta Kinte and his descendants really touched me in their determination to keep not only Kunta's memory alive, but to make sure that every single member of their family knew who they were. That's something that I don't really think a lot of people think or even care about these days. I know I myself never really thought about it, but I am now.

I also really loved Haley's writing style, which was simple and honest, without trying to overemphasize the horrors that his ancestors must have endured. I'm glad that he didn't make the atrocities overbearing, because that would have made the story unbelievable to some, even if every word is true. His method of "tracking" a particular family member was a bit shocking at the first major shift, but after reading the rest of the story, it only makes sense; this is as much a tribute to Kunta as it is a family history, but Kunta can only take us so far.

It also struck me in the segue between Kunta's and Kizzy's story the stark reality that in the life of a slave, nothing was certain. From day to day, even minute to minute, the whim of someone else can change the entire course of a life. Kizzy was removed from Kunta's life abruptly, and just like his own parents, he was cursed with the fact that he never knew what happened to her. That has got to be the hardest thing a parent can endure, and it was so commonplace that it sickens me.

It's so easy to forget the terrible things that we can do to each other. So I'm glad that Haley decided to put into print his and his family's history.