Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: The Dark City by Catherine Fisher AND Giveaway

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.
I know this series is published and publicized as teen, but I think it has great appeal for tweens who love a rich fantasy.  It was remarkably easy to read as well and will definitely have broad appeal in its age ranges - for both teens and tweens.

The Dark City by Catherine Fisher
Publisher: Dial (Penguin)
Publication date: May 2011
ISBN: 9780803736733
Source: ARC provided by publisher

The Dark City #1 (Relic Master)

Summary from the publisher:
"Welcome to Anara, a world mysteriously crumbling to devastation, where nothing is what it seems: Ancient relics emit technologically advanced powers, members of the old Order are hunted by the governing Watch yet revered by the people, and the great energy that connects all seems to also be destroying all. The only hope for the world lies in Galen, a man of the old Order and a Keeper of relics, and his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Raffi. They know of a secret relic with great power that has been hidden for centuries. As they search for it, they will be tested beyond their limits. For there are monsters-some human, some not-that also want the relic's power and will stop at nothing to get it."

Things I Liked:
As you know, I adored Catherine Fisher's other books, Incarceron and Sapphique, so I was super excited to get an ARC of the first in this "new" series.  In some ways, it felt similar to her other books, but in many ways it was different.  It has the same unique and interesting world that has many secrets to be unraveled.  Initially, it seems Anara is just another fantasy world with no relation to us.  As the story unravels, bit by bit, hints are dropped here and there that give us a glimpse of much more.  I love the complete world Fisher has created and the feeling of so much history behind it.  I think that is one mark of really great fantasy, when the world that's created has such depth and history that it almost feels real.  I was definitely sucked into this new story and I can't wait to fit more pieces into the puzzle of this series.

Things I Didn't Like:
While it did have some similarities to Incarceron and Sapphique, it lacked the complexity and depth that series has.  It is more simplistic and definitely doesn't have (at least not in this first book) the same level of writing and the characters are not quite as intriguing.  Still, a fantastic new series for fans of Fisher and good fantasy.

Incarceron and Sapphique by Catherine Fisher

Reminded me of Beyonders by Brandon Mull

s-factor: none
that I recall...

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
a bit, but nothing graphic

Overall rating: ****

I'm super excited that the sequels will be released so closely to one another!  That's definitely an added bonus.  To learn more about the series, visit the Relic Master website.  The release dates for the next three books are:
Book Two: The Lost Heiress, June 14
Book Three: The Hidden Coronet, July 12
Book Four: The Margrave, August 9

For the giveaway, I have two copies of The Dark City, thanks to Penguin and Big Honcho Media, to give away!  Also, I managed to get two ARCs of the book, so I have an additional copy of my own I'm giving away.  So, three copies up for grabs!  To enter, fill out the form below.  (US only, must be 13 or older to enter.)  You have two weeks to enter, until June 14th!

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, May 30, 2011

Winners in the Armchair BEA Giveaway!

Sorry I postponed announcing the winners - hopefully no one was kept in too much suspense :)

I chose two winners!  The winner of the signed ARC of Across the Universe by Beth Revis is...

Devan of Book Strings

The second winner, who is getting two bookmarks signed by Ally Condie and Andrea Cremer, is...

Julie of My Book Retreat

I've contacted both of you and will have the prizes sent out soon. Thanks everyone for entering the giveaway and for stopping by my blog for Armchair BEA!

And a happy Memorial Day to all you Americans!

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Armchair Stops Here

Well, another Armchair BEA has come to an end.  It was fantastic, as it was last time.  A huge thank you goes out to all of the organizers of this event!  All that time and effort really made those of us who didn't get to go to BEA feel like we were a part of something just as fun.  Here's what happened this week:

Day 1: Welcome to my blog - intro to me!
Day 2: Enter my giveaway for a signed ARC of Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Day 3: Read my interview with Laura of Tattooed Books
Day 4: My advice on how to win publishers and influence bloggers
Day 5: Blogging about blogging: the blog is not my life 

My favorite part of Armchair BEA was meeting and getting to know other bloggers.  I loved attempting to be a part of the twitter party (even though it was a bit overwhelming at times).  I loved hopping around different blogs to find new book friends and especially all their advice about blogging relationships and blogging tips.

It was awesome to watch Emily's videos of what it's like to be at BEA and to see all those cool photos.  And the giveaways!  I won't lie: those were amazing (though, I've got some serious inability to win, apparently).  So, obviously I'll be participating next year (and probably the next many years, since it will be a LONG time before I get the funds/time to make it to BEA).

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: May 2011
ISBN: 9780062024022
Source: ARC sent by publishers

Divergent (Divergent Trilogy) 

Beatrice has spent her life in the Abnegation faction, where selflessness is the most prized attribute.  But, when she turns sixteen and gets to choose whether to stay with her family in Abnegation or go somewhere else, she decides to leave it behind, along with all the feelings of inadequacy for not being selfless enough.  Choosing Dauntless, however, ends up being a lot more difficult than she originally thought, as she must fight for her life every day.  Danger is lurking around every corner, and not just because of the deadly secret she's keeping.  She will have to face many threats from inside Dauntless and from outside it as well.

Things I Liked:
This was a fantastic story that sucked me in right from the beginning.  It definitely has the appeal that Hunger Games has, with the action-packed fast-paced story that has you flipping pages as fast as your fingers will allow and reading late into the night because you simply can't put it down.  I flew through this one, devouring the dystopian goodness and loving Beatrice/Tris for her conflicted feelings and her unique personality among the many around her.  She was most definitely not the perfect main character, but made bad choices and good, as well as struggled with issues many of us faced as teens and continue to face today.  Every page is stuffed with details of this interesting future world, not to mention all kinds of fighting for life and struggling to survive.  It's definitely another of my favorite dystopians of the year. 

Things I Didn't Like:
I did start to think it might be just a little bit over-the-top in its non-stop action.  I mean, pretty much every bad thing that could happen does.  But, most of the time, I was glued to the pages, unable to pry my eyeballs from the story, so this is a very minor quibble.  

Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

s-factor: !
a few here and there

mrg-factor: X
some implied, nothing explicit

v-factor: ->->->
quite a bit, some disturbing

Overall rating: *****

Any other new dystopians that you've enjoyed recently?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, May 27, 2011

Armchair BEA: Blogging is NOT My Life

Today's Armchair BEA topic is blogging tips and I really only have one or two thoughts on this.  Go to the Armchair BEA site for more extensive advice :)

I "attended" the twitter party last night and boy was it crazy!  One thing I noticed being RTed over and over was something @BookaliciousPam said (and of course I can't find it now).  Essentially, book bloggers sometimes feel like they HAVE to post.  But we don't.  If you don't want to or don't feel like it, don't!!  It's much easier (for me) to say than to follow through.  I hate missing more than a day or two, but sometimes you just gotta take a break.  And honestly, this is the best and only piece of advice I have for finding balance in life and blogging: to remember that blogging really isn't my life.  Even though it feels like it sometimes :)

I would like to talk about what memes and blogging events you think are the best.  The only one I regularly do is Tween Tuesday from GreenBeanTeenQueen and I plan to continue that.  I like having a chance to focus on non-YA books for a change.  Also, I like Retro Friday Reviews from Angieville, though I've been anything but consistent.  I think having events/memes that focus on stuff I don't regularly review or talk about is good for me.  It helps keep the content fresh and interesting.  For the most part, I've kind of done my own events like Listless Monday, I Actually NEED It, Name that Book, Double Features, Cover Sillies, and Libraries Around the World.  

Are there events out there that you think I should totally be participating in?  What are your favorites?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Armchair BEA: How to Win Publishers and Influence Bloggers

Ok, right from the start, let's just say I'm the one in need of advice about blogger/author/publisher relationships. I'll be reading everyone else's relationship posts religiously for some tips.  Mind you, I have some contacts with publishers, publicists, and authors, but I'm definitely not a model for others to emulate.  So, with that oversized grain of salt, here's my two cents:

1. Remain courteous no matter what.  Seriously, imagine being face to face with them, would you say nasty things?  No.  If someone is making you angry, cool off before you shoot them an email (or twitter/other social network something nasty).  Personally, I've never been that angry, since they are all really nice, even when I give them a not-so-amazing review.  

2. When receiving a review request from an author, think carefully about the book.  If it's an author that is tried and true good for you, then you can probably accept a request without worrying.  For those you know less about or if a book doesn't sound like something you would like, don't feel bad declining.  I think sometimes they'd rather have you decline than accept and hate it.  And believe me, it's hard to send a not-so-glowing review of a book to the author.  I've done it.  It stinks.

3. Don't be afraid to send out requests for books you're interested in!  Maybe this only applies to a small minority like me, but I was absolutely terrified to send requests to publishers.  I've only done it a few times, but every time they politely responded or simply sent the book without a response.  Either way, there was no pain involved.  Give it a try.

4. On the other hand, don't overdo it.  Don't request too many books, especially all at once, especially if you are very new at blogging.  I've heard this over and over from much smarter bloggers and it rings true to me too.  I didn't send a request until I'd been blogging for at least 2 years.  Not that you have to be like me, but wait a few months at least.  And don't forget to send them info about your blog, your stats, and your mailing address.

Other Book Bloggers:
Again, I'm not very good at blogger relationships, but here's my experience.  You can make fantastic personal connections online, but meeting bloggers in person definitely solidifies friendships.  I was so lucky to meet up with bloggers in Utah (see all these Utah Book Blogger Social posts) and I joined Suey's excellent book club as a result as well.  I made some of my best book-y friendships during those socials, so I highly recommend trying it out.  Now I just gotta find me some Arizona blogging friends...

Some of the Real-life Book Blogging Friends
Suey of It's All About Books
Natasha of Maw Books
Jessica of The Bluestocking Society
Kim of Good Clean Reads
Jenny of Alternate Readality
Emily of Emily's Reading Room 
Britt of Confessions of a Book Habitue
Julie of A Small Accomplishment

Meeting other bloggers is one thing that really makes missing BEA and ALA events suck.  Still, relationships can (and do) flourish virtually.  I'm open to receiving your advice about that, cause it's definitely something I could work on.

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Armchair BEA: Blogger Interview Fun!

I had the very great privilege of interviewing Laura of Tattooed Books.  It was so fun to peruse her blog and see what she has to say about books.  But, it was even more fun to ask her some questions and get to know her more.  So, here we go!

Tattooed Books Button

Tell us a bit about yourself, including when and why you started blogging about books and about your librarian training.

My real name is Laura, but my handle is Loreleimarsh. I started Tattooed Books in July of 2009 because I needed a creative outlet for my bookish opinions. I have kept a detailed journal with book reviews & ratings for years, but my blog allowed me to share them with more people than just those fortunate enough to know me in real life.

Interestingly enough, I am not currently in school to become a librarian. For those who don’t know, in order to truly be a “librarian” you must obtain a Masters in Library Science (or some variation thereof). Honestly, I just love libraries! I was raised on books & started working in my high school library my junior year. I have worked in libraries ever since (9 years total). Though I must say that the best & most important training one can receive in this field is taught hands-on by those who have a passion for it.

I sure wish I'd kept a detailed record of what I'd read.  I kept nothing but my brain, which has proven iffy at best.  And, as one who did do the official "training" I completely agree that hands-on is twice as important as by the book.

What do you think is the best part of working at a library? What is the worst part?

The best part is customer interaction. Whether I am doing a teen program or helping people find the book they’re itching to read, the patrons are what make it great.

The worst part is definitely the bureaucracy. I work in a county-run (read funded by taxes) library & a lot of very important decisions are being made by higher-up folks who have forgotten what it is like to work with the public.

How do you balance your time in order to contribute to your blog, enjoy time with family and friends, and find time for reading? Do you have any tips for those of us who still struggle to find this balance?

Honestly, I am the worst person to ask! :D My balance waxes & wanes like the moon. I read when I can, which is mostly on breaks at work & in the evening at home. While I am married, due to the craptastic economy, my husband has been living 800 miles away for the last year. He really keeps me balanced & helps me make the most of my time. I’ve been in a bit of a funk, so I’ve been taking time off every few weeks & I think that is the best thing to do. Blogs are not a chore; they are a release & if it starts to feel like a burden, then step away. That has been the absolute best way to keep things in perspective.

I agree 100%!  Mind you, just because I know that I need a break, doesn't mean I take it :)  

What is one of your greatest passions in life, aside from reading?

French. My BA is in French & I even got to study abroad for a semester where I met some of the most amazing people ever! I love the sound, the culture, the food, & most certainly the people. J’adore le fran├žais!

I have fantastically fond memories of my short visit to Paris as a teenager.  And oh, the food!

Have you ever tried assigning ratings for books you review? Do you like reading reviews that use ratings of this kind?

I did that in my notebooks & I use it on Goodreads, but I just didn’t want the hassle of trying to make it work on a blog. If the blogger is serious about their ratings & uses them judiciously, then I enjoy them on blogs.

What's the strangest request you've received as a librarian?

If we could accept several boxes of pornography as a donation to the library. Talk about awkward.

Awesome!  That must have been quite interesting :)

If you didn't work at a library, what job would you like to do instead?

I think I would like to be a Human Resources educator (teaching classes like the 7 Habits & Effective Communication) or an Academic Adviser in a university.

If you could meet any three authors (dead or alive) for lunch, who would you choose and why?

Rachel Vincent, Mary Oliver, Corrie ten Boom

Rachel Vincent is an AMAZING writer. I love her characters & her realism she brings to an urban fantasy world. Mary Oliver is one of the most memorable poets I have ever had the fortune to read & I would just love to hear her read a few lines. Corrie ten Boom was the narrator of one of the most influential Holocaust memoirs I ever read. I still re-read The Hiding Place often.

What a diverse group!  Having just re-read The Hiding Place myself, I wholeheartedly agree that her story is just so uplifting and powerful.  I haven't had the chance to read the other two authors yet, but I'm intrigued now.

What is one talent you wish you had?

I wish I could just pick up my guitar (I have both an electric & an acoustic) & play without having to work so hard at it.

What YA books do you recommend to adults (family, friends, strangers) the most and how do you sell it to them, especially if they are reluctant to read "below" their age level?

The biggies that I recommend (depending on who I’m selling it to) are The Hunger Games, Delirium, & The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I remind whoever I am recommending the book to that just because it’s in YA, doesn’t mean that there was any less thought put into the story development. There may be a bit of teenage angst & whining in many YA books, but looking past that (like I turn away from more graphic scenes in adult books) allows you to enjoy a plot that you would have otherwise missed. And the story is all that matters.

Well said!  Thanks very much for answering my questions, Laura.  You can find Laura (aka Loreleimarsh) at her blog Tattooed Books and on twitter

If you are interested in seeing my responses to a fun interview (and possibly a deep dark secret) visit Molly at The Bumbles Blog.  

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Moving Discovery: Armchair BEA Giveaway!

Welcome, welcome!  So, as you may know by now (if you checked out my intro post yesterday) we just moved to Arizona and let me tell you, moving with books is awesome!  We had some folks help us pack up the truck and then unpack it when we got here and they all commented on how many boxes of books they hauled in and out.  I told them it was one of the hazards of helping a librarian move.  :)

One of the other "hazards" is discovering books you forgot you had.  Just before we left, I found my ARC of Across the Universe that I had Beth Revis sign when she came to SLC for the Breathless Reads tour.  Want to see who she signed it to?  Of course you do.

Ok, so you may need me to interpret.  It's to "a book lover."  That's where you come in.  

Must be 13 to enter.
US addresses only.
Fill out the form to enter.
Giveaway ends this Saturday, May 28th.  

Oh, and there just might be some other little things I got signed from that event.  For another winner.  :)  I'd still love to hear about some of your favorite reads of 2011 in the comments!  [Edited to add: ok, here are a few of my favorite books so far this year: Red Glove by Holly Black, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Divergent by Veronica Roth.  As for what I'm looking forward to: Crossed by Ally Condie, The Death Cure by James Dashner, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.]

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, May 23, 2011

Armchair BEA: Welcome and Hello!

Hello all and welcome to another year of Armchair BEA.  The prompt from the organizers is to introduce myself.  I'm not great at intros, I'll be honest.  I'm uber shy in real life.  And a little in virtual life.  But here goes:

-A librarian in search of a job: just left my academic library job in Utah to move to Arizona so my hubby could get more schoolin'.  I'd really like to end up working with young people, recommending the books I love most to them.  

-A kid-at-heart: something always draws me to read the MG and YA stuff.  I used to be an adult-classics-only reader, but once I found discovered that younger stuff (again) I haven't been able to feed the addiction enough.  Though I do try once in a while to broaden my horizons and pick me up an adult book.  I'm sure it's good for me.

-A board game player extraordinaire: ok, maybe a slight exaggeration, but I have addictions to playing board games.  My current favorites are Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan.  Now I just have to find some local buddies to have game night with.

-A camper/hiker/backpacker: Right about this time of year (and, you know, four months ago) I get a real hankerin' for some camping.  I used to live for our family camp outs, driving two hours and hiking twice as long, to escape from civilization (and trust me, we didn't bring it with us).  I don't get to go for nearly as long or a far as I used to, but that desire to escape hasn't disappeared.  I'm thrilled to have a whole new state to explore the outdoors.

Ok, I think I've bored you enough with all those random details.  I Armchair BEA because my husband's in school and I currently don't have a job and pretty much, the money says no.  But, I'm ok with it for now (though don't ask me after I read all the BEA posts, I'm sure the green-eyed monster will strike).

Welcome to my blog and I hope to meet many new bloggers this week!

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Book Review: Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson

Alcatraz Versus The Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication date: December 2010
ISBN: 9780439925570
Source: Library

Alcatraz Versus The Shattered Lens

Alcatraz and his friends face their worst enemies yet - a faction of evil librarians called the Shattered Lens.  They destroy any glass, including the prized special lenses Oculators use for power.  The capital city of Mokia is beseiged and Alcatraz must find a way to get help to the city in time to save it.  But, will he be able to save himself - from his own mother?

Things I Liked:
Once again, the humor in this series does not disappoint.  Alcatraz is filled with silliness and ridiculousity that rivals anything I've ever read.  He takes his diversions to the point of embarrassment, even while you have to laugh at the sometimes dreadful puns.  The story is also fun for sci-fi lovers and those invested in the Smedrys' stories.  Definitely a go-to book for reluctant tween boys who love a good laugh, tongue-in-cheek humor, and a bit of sci-fi action.  Here's just a taste of some of the fun stuff:

I won't lie.  It was shatteringly cool.  Instead of sitting around all day writing biology papers r listening to Mr. Layton from algebra class extol the virtues of complex factoring, I got to throw teddy bear grenades and jump off buildings.  It was really fun at the start.  Okay, it was really fun the WHOLE TIME. p 12
If you've ever thought that books are boring, it's because you don't know how to read them correctly.  From now on, when you read a book, I want you to scream the words of the novel out loud while reading them, then do exactly what the characters are doing in the story.  Turst me, it will make books way more exciting.  Even dictionaries.  Particularly dictionaries. p 37
People don't become Librarians because they wnat to force people to be quiet, or because they love books, or because they want to help people.  No, people become Librarians for only one reason: They like to put things in order.  Librarians are always organizing stuff.  They can't help it.  YOu'll see them for hours and hours sitting on little stools in libraries, going over each and every book on their shelf, trying to decide if it should be moved over one or two slots.  It drives them crazy when we normal people wander into their libraries and mess stuff up. p 199
Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit, as an adult, I got terribly annoyed after a while at the story's silly tone and the completely over-the-top feel of the story.  I can really only handle one of these at a time before I get too annoyed.  Also, despite it being the last of the series (supposedly) it really had no ending that felt satisfying to me.  [Note: I heard Scholastic didn't sign on for another book, but Sanderson indicated there is a 5th book, so that's why it felt unfinished.]  Still, as I said, the right tween boy (and possibly girl) will devour these.

Read the first three Alcatraz books by Brandon Sanderson first

The Secret series by Pseudonymous Bosch 
A little like the Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ***

I believe this might be my last Utah author review for May's Utah authors celebration (yeah, I didn't get to some on my list). How do you celebrate your local authors?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Hey! Look at me - posting again. Must mean we finally have internets at our new apartment. And I'm still alive (apparently).

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: May 2010
ISBN: 9780316056212
Source: Library (though I should totally buy it)

Ship Breaker

Nailer has never had much, working on a ship-breaking crew, trying to avoid being beaten by his drunken father.  But, when he happens on a lucky discovery, he has the chance to have everything.  This chance, however, rests on a decision between stripping a rich ship or saving a rich girl from the ship.  Is Nailer willing to risk everything on the chance that this girl could change the course of his life?

Things I Liked:
Wow.  This is dystopian literature at its finest, I think.  In rich, vivid, and totally engrossing language, Bacigalupi has created a future world where the divide between haves and have nots is so wide it seems impossible to breach.  Nailer's world is so horrifying and so realistically portrayed, it almost makes me think that it was based in reality.  You get a real sense of what they feel, touch, even breathe from his gorgeous writing.  Which doesn't even get into the fascinating story that is told in its pages.  The action is fantastic and I really loved the characters, particularly Pima and Nita.  A fascinating and terrifying future world that seems like it might just be our future.  Totally deserving of the Printz award it won, in my opinion.  Here are a few of my favorite parts:

It was as if the Scavenge God had come amongst the ships, slashing and chopping, dicing the huge iron vessels into pieces, and then left the corpses scattered carelessly behind  And wherever the huge ships lay, scavenge gangs like Nailer's swarmed like flies.  Chewing away at iron meat and bones.  Dragging the old world's flesh up the beach to the scrap weighing scales and the recycling smelters that burned 24-7 for the profit of Lawson & Carlson, the company that made all the cash from the blood and sweat of the ship breakers. p 6-7
Now, though, the dark reek of the oil room filled his mind - the memory of being up to his neck in warm death staring up at Sloth high above him, her little LED paint mark glowing - salvation if only he could convince her, if only he could reach out and touch that part of her that cared for something other than herself, knowing that there was a lever inside her somewhere, and if only he could pull it, she would go for help and he would be saved and everything would be fine.  p 99
Dozens of futures extended ahead of him, depending on his luck and the will of the Fates...and the variable that this girl presented.  He could see those roads spinning away from him in different directions.  He was standing at their hub, looking down each of them in turn, but he could see only so far, one or two steps ahead at best.  p 111
Things I Didn't Like:
I kinda wanted a little more info, mostly about Tool.  He felt like an enigma the whole time, a wild card that conveniently arrived to help them out and then disappeared when he wasn't needed anymore.  I couldn't figure him out.  Also, the ending was a little too neat and clean for the way the rest of the story felt - harsh, gritty, painful.  Still, like I said, one of the best dystopians I've read!

The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness
Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

s-factor: !@
throughout but no f-bombs

mrg-factor: X
mostly implied stuff, nothing descriptive

v-factor: ->->->->
quite a bit, some rather gory 

Overall rating: *****

Seriously, if you love dystopian stuff, get your hands on this. You won't be sorry!

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, May 13, 2011

Excuse the Mess...

Oh, wait, you can't see it (thank heavens).  The mess I speak of is in my apartment.  We are getting ready to move, which is why this week and most definitely next week, my posting will be inconsistent (if not nonexistent).  Thanks for all my readers who will be sticking with me through this quiet time.  See you next from the great state of Arizona!

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Book Review: Bright Blue Miracle by Becca Wilhite

Bright Blue Miracle by Becca Wilhite
Publisher: Deseret Book
Publication date: February 2009
ISBN: 9781606410318
Source: Library

Bright Blue Miracle

Leigh is uncertain if she's ready to share her home, her mom, and her bedroom with her new stepsister Betsy.  But, she's quite certain she isn't ready to share her best friend, Jeremy.  The two of them must learn to get along, which might just require a miracle, before tragedy pulls them apart.

Things I Liked: 

This was sweet, simple, and yet had some good and relatable messages inside.  I felt angry and upset right along with Leigh, even as I saw Betsy struggle to be kind in the face of her frustrations.  I loved the characters, particularly Leigh's grandmother, who works her magic on the two of them.  It was definitely a sweet and uplifting story, with just enough realistic and sad things to keep it balanced.

Things I Didn't Like:
The quick romance Leigh experiences while on vacation was just a little out of place for me.  It didn't feel like it had much of a purpose, except to make Leigh feel better about Betsy and Jeremy.  He kind of appears and then disappears in the plot.  

My Ridiculous Romantic Obsessions by Becca Wilhite

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ****

I am realizing I don't read enough sweet, simple stories - most contemporary stuff I read are "issue" books or depressing. Any suggestions for me?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book Review: Keeper by Kathi Appelt

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.
Keeper by Kathi Appelt
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: May 2010
ISBN: 9781416950608
Source: ARC provided by publisher


Keeper was betting on the blue moon day to be one of the best in her life.  But, when things don't go at all as planned, she sets off on an adventure to find her mermaid mother, who will make everything ok again.  But, when her small boat is sucked out to sea instead, she will find herself even more alone than she thought and wondering just where her mother could be.  Will she find what she's looking for?

Things I Liked:
This was a sweet and imaginative story.  Keeper is a fun character and I loved watching the story of her disastrous day play out a little at a time.  I remember feeling like the end of the world came every time you did something wrong and your parents were angry.  The magical realism elements and fantasy were fun too - I liked hearing things from the "beasts" point of view and also the don't-know-if-it's-true-or-not mermaid parts.  Appelt does a nice job of combining real stories with just enough magic to make us wonder what is true and what's fantasy.  She has such a distinctive style and voice that reminds you of just how a child might think and speak.  It is a little like the voice in Savvy and The Girl Who Could Fly.  Here are some favorite parts:

Over the years BD had found a while host of missing objects - the odd sock, a misplaced spoon, the tiny key to the lock on Keeper's diary, one of Signe's peace-sign earrings, loose pages of homework.  He also found other things, things that weren't missing until he found them, like one-of-a-kind seashells and tiny abandoned puppies, including Too, who was adopted by Dogie, their next-door neighbor.  He even found shooting stars and stripey geckos, things that came and went.  But right now BD wasn't so much a finder dog as a worry dog.  p 31 of ARC
Now a fear as deep as the ocean zipped through Keeper's body, her biggest fear ever, one so deep, she knew not to ever, ever say it out loud, not ever.  And then today, it had crawled out of her like an ugly toad: If a girl's own mother can swim away, what would keep everyone else from leaving too, especially if that same girl caused so much trouble?  p 105 of ARC
Things I Didn't Like:
I think the part that didn't work so well for me was all the stories going on at once.  There was a lot of skipping around in perspective and place and time.  I didn't care very much for the adults' stories and thought some of them were a little extraneous and didn't really move Keeper's story forward.  Also, the present story's action felt like it was moving so slowly that I got bored sometimes too.  I think kids who love longer fantasy or magical realism books might like it, but it might turn off others who are looking for a little more action. 

Savvy by Ingrid Law

The Girl Who Could Fly by Victoria Forester

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: ***

Any thoughts about magical realism?

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Monday, May 9, 2011

Book Review: The Way He Lived by Emily Wing Smith

The Way He Lived by Emily Wing Smith
Publisher: Flux
Publication date: November 2008
ISBN: 9780738714042
Source: Library

The Way He Lived

Joel Espen died in a scouting accident.  His life is revealed one bit at a time through the eyes of those he left behind.  The attitude he had toward other people and the influence he had on everyone is only measured in the way people remember him.  His family, his friends, his neighbors, everyone remembers him in their own way.  Is that who he really was?

Things I Liked:
I had a mixed reaction to this book.  On the one hand, it really makes you think and wonder how much you can learn about a person through the eyes of others.  The book is unique and intriguing in the slow revelation of our main character.  I liked that.  I also really loved all the connections between the characters.  Each one seemed so separate from the others, but they would interact and we would see those little connections revealed as well.  It is also very well written and will have you thinking for days afterward.

Things I Didn't Like:
On the other hand, I felt like I never got a grip on anyone, not even Joel.  With the changing narration, I just never felt a connection to any of them.  Some characters felt more real to me than others, but none really grabbed me.  At least one of the viewpoints was told from someone with what I thought was a pretty tenuous relationship with Joel and I sort of lost interest at that point.  Definitely a mixed reaction for me, but worth a read for anyone with any kind of interest.

Uh...nothing comes to mind

s-factor: !@
a few

mrg-factor: X
a little bit here and there, pretty mild

v-factor: ->
not violent really, but some difficult situations

Overall rating: ***

I can't think of a single read-alike for this - any suggestions?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Friday, May 6, 2011

Book Review: Red Glove by Holly Black

Red Glove by Holly Black
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Publication date: April 2011
ISBN: 9781442403390
Source: e-galley provided by Simon & Schuster GalleyGrab

Red Glove (Curse Workers, Book 2) 

*Some spoilers for White Cat*
Cassel's life was turned upside down, when he learned that not only was he a worker, but a very rare type of worker at that.  And he was being used by his brothers for their dirty work.  Now, he's trying to return to normal life, but nothing will ever be normal again.  When his brother is murdered and the feds show up trying to solve the case, Cassel is embroiled even more in a world of deceit, lies, and destruction.  Will he be able to extricate himself without losing all he cares about?

Things I Liked:
Remember how I loved White Cat?  This one did not disappoint for me either.  The realistic feel of Black's world is amazing!  She's managed to create this alternate reality with curse workers and magic that feels absolutely real.  The details and description just suck you into it.  Not only that, but Cassel is also really interesting and, well, real.  He feels like a real teenage guy, dealing with all the regular teenage things, in addition to the crook lifestyle of his family and the gangsters pitching for his help.  He has the good guy vibe going for him, while also not really being a good guy.  And I have to admit I loved the crime family lifestyle.  There is something so appealing about reading those kinds of stories (as opposed to living them).  Oh, and I have to mention the awesome twists that Black manages to throw in as well.  I don't usually see all of them coming, though sometimes I'll get a few.  Seriously, this is probably one of my favorite series ever.  Some favorite parts:

I remember sitting in the basement for hours, watching movie after movie of rough-voiced women and men in dapper suits with drinks in their gloved hands.  When Lila's parents divorced, she went to Paris with her father and came back smoking Gitanes and outlining her eyes in smudgy black kohl.  It was like she stepped out of the movie I wanted to be in. p 145
I thought that I could never betray my family, work someone I loved, never kill anyone, never be like Philip, but I get more like him every day.  Life's full of opportunities to make crappy decisions that feel good.  And after the first one, the rest get a whole lot easier.  p 253
Things I Didn't Like:
It wasn't quite as amazing as the first one.  But darn near close.  I can't remember anything else I didn't like about it, though.  

I guess it felt a little Heist Society by Ally Carter

s-factor: !@#
plenty throughout (no f-words)

mrg-factor: XXX
it was very sensual in a few places

v-factor: ->->
some instances of roughing people up, but nothing too graphic

Overall rating: *****

Any others who are just as enthralled by this world and Cassel?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book Review: This is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis

This is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: July 2007
ISBN: 9780316013635
Source: Library

This is What I Did:

Logan witnessed something horrible happen to one of his friends.  The worst part, is that he did nothing to help.  The aftermath of this event makes him an outcast at school and outside of school, people treat him no better.  Logan struggles to deal with his own feelings of disappointment in himself and to feel like a real person again, while we slowly begin to understand what really happened that night.

Things I Liked:
This is a short book that really packed a punch.  Ellis' style of short sentences and simple prose allows the real power of the story to stand out.  We begin to feel sorry for Logan, at the same time that he is beating himself up over what he didn't do.  It really brought out the power that psychological stress can play on a person's mind and actions.  I love how Logan changes over the course of the story and the hopeful ending that it allowed.

Things I Didn't Like:
I admit that at times I thought it was a little to simplistic.  I don't think I understood or "got" all the things Ellis might have been trying to portray.  This is probably more a problem of me than the book, though.  I don't know, I just didn't really get into it as well as I did her other book Everything is Fine.  Perhaps it just didn't have the emotional punch that book did for me.

Everything is Fine by Ann Dee Ellis
Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams

s-factor: !
a few here and there

mrg-factor: XX
some talk and a short scene with nothing really described

v-factor: ->->
some domestic violence

Overall rating: ***

I'm one of those readers who can only handle so much contemporary stuff before I get depressed. What about you?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Book Review: The Dead Boys by Royce Buckingham

Posted as part of Tween Tuesday, hosted by GreenBeanTeenQueen.
The Dead Boys by Royce Buckingham
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication date: September 2010
ISBN: 9780399252228
Source: Library (for Cybils)

The Dead Boys 

When Teddy moves into a new neighborhood, he is nervous about starting over making new friends.  But making friends is the least of his problems, when he is being scared to death by the creepy old house next door and its enormous old tree.  The kids he does meet seem a bit strange and they keep disappearing in mysterious ways.  Can Teddy figure out what is going on before he himself disappears?

Things I Liked:
This was a deliciously creepy story.  I'm not a fan of horror or scary stories generally, but this one was quite good.  I loved the disturbing situation that Buckingham created for Teddy and especially the evil tree force.  It is an imaginative and really vivid story that will have you breaking out in goosebumps and watching out for trees over your shoulder.  A perfect Halloween read, I'd say (too bad I read it in January). Here are some atmospheric parts:

Teddy backed away from the old house, a little spooked that he'd been so drawn to its rickety porch.  He felt for the steps behind him with his foot, but when he eased down off the porch, his shoe caught on something.  As he fell, he made a grab for the rail, but his hand glanced off and dragged across a loose nail instead.  In the hot sun, the rusty metal felt strangely cold slicing into his wrist.  p 8
The branch quivered behind the nightstand, making Teddy's heart pound as he imagined a rattlesnake curled around the end that was beneath his bed, shaking with its eagerness to strike.  Or maybe a swarm of scorpions or black widow spiders pouring in on the branch from outside to scatter across his floor, creep up the walls, and crawl over his mattress.  Or could it be something even worse? p 27
Things I Didn't Like:
The fantasy element in the story was not very clear to me.  I struggled to understand parts of the story and how it would work.  Also, many of the characters were very flat, particularly the adults.  I felt like one character made an appearance early on and then sort of dropped out of the story all together, without much explanation.  I also felt like the prologue kind of ruined the mystery of the book by essentially telling us what was happening right away.  It was still good and creepy, but not quite Neil Gaiman. 

Coraline and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Spellbinder by Helen Stringer

s-factor: none
that I recall

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->->
definitely some creepiness and also a bit of gore

Overall rating: ***

How much creep-factor do you like in a book?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Monday, May 2, 2011

Listless Monday, Utah Authors Edition

Listless Monday was inspired by both Amanda at A Bookshelf Monstrosity's feature Books by Theme and Court at Once Upon a Bookshelf's Listed feature.  Be sure to check out their lists!

I'm happy to be participating in Natasha's next great idea, Utah Author Month and thus, this week's Listless Monday will celebrate my local (at least for now) Utah authors.  So, I've tried to compile reviews I've done for books written by Utah authors.  This means it obviously isn't going to be a complete list.  For something along those lines, see this goodreads Books By Utah Authors list.  

Utah Authors' Books

The 13th Reality, Book 2: The Hunt for Dark Infinity by James Dashner
The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale
Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson 

Alcatraz Versus the Knights of Crystallia by Brandon Sanderson 
Alcatraz Versus the Scrivener's Bones by Brandon Sanderson
Beyonders: A World Without Heroes by Brandon Mull
Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale
The Brothers: A Novel by Chris Stewart
Calamity Jack by Shannon Hale

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card
The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby 
The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
Dragon Flight by Jessica Day George 
Dragon Spear by Jessica Day George 
Everything is Fine. by Ann Dee Ellis 
Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison by Brandon Mull
Fablehaven: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull
Farworld, Book 1: Water Keep by J. Scott Savage
Forest Born by Shannon Hale

Glimpse by Carol Lynch Williams
The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum
The Lost Saint Bree Despain
Matched Ally Condie
The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe
The Mother in Me edited by Kathryn Lynard Soper

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
The Princess and the Bear by Mette Ivie Harrison
The Princess and the Hound by Mette Ivie Harrison
The Princess and the Snowbird by Mette Ivie Harrison 
Princess of Glass by
Jessica Day George 
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon Hale

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner 
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
Sweethearts by Sara Zarr
The Way He Lived by Emily Wing Smith  

And reviews to come later this month: 
Bright Blue Miracle by Becca Wilhite 
Entwined by Heather Dixon
Possession by Elana Johnson
This is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis
The Way He Lived by Emily Wing Smith

Do you have favorite local authors?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage
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