Monday, April 30, 2012

Name That Book, Episode 24

Name that Book is an irregular feature where you get to guess a book title from the photo clues. 

So, it's been much too long since my last Name That Book game and I finally got one together for you today!  Leave your guesses in the comments and if you need a hint, one of these books I'm currently reading and the other is closely related to that book...

Book 1:

Book 2:

Any guesses?

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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Retro Friday Review: Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer

Retro Friday is a meme hosted by Angie of Angieville and "focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc." 

Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy by L.A. Meyer
Publisher: Listen & Live Audio
Publication date: (book published in September 2002)
Length: 7hrs, 22 min
Source: Audiobook from Library
For: Fun
Series: Bloody Jack Adventures, Book 1

Jacky Faber, formerly Mary Faber, finds life as a ship's boy practically a dream.  She no longer has to fight for food and her life on the streets of London and being a boy makes things a LOT easier.  But everything is not as easy as all that, especially if her secret gets out.

Things I Liked:
Oh. My. Word.  Why didn't I get to this series sooner?  (Huge thanks to Susan for always raving about it and to Megan for giving me the heads up on the audio.) I love, love, love it!  Jacky is so hilarious and has become one of my new favorite characters.  She is tough and smart and also really stupid sometimes.  She made me laugh even while she was dealing with horrible things.  I fell in love with her and wanted her to succeed.  I am a big sucker for the girl disguised as boy thing and this one does it very well and very thoroughly.  There are lots of things Jacky does throughout to make the deception believable.  And I love that she is always thinking ahead to when she will be found out.  She doesn't just ignore that it will happen, she expects it.  She deals with a lot of crap and she takes it, well, like a smart girl.  And, oh, the audio of this book is the very best I've ever listened to.  Katherine Kellgren is amazing at the cockney accent, making it so believable and doing so many voices that I honestly didn't care how long my commute was, I was only paying attention to the story and the characters and loving every minute.

Things I Didn't Like:
The romance element was not that amazing, since I didn't know why she liked him and I didn't get a good handle on him as a character, but honestly that isn't the focus of this book.  And I liked it that way just fine.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Maybe a bit like Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

s-factor: !@
they are sailors, after all :)

mrg-factor: XX
there is attempted rape and plenty of passionate kissing

v-factor: ->
some fighting and killing

Overall rating: *****

What series do you wish you'd discovered sooner?  (And if you haven't tried this one, do yourself a favor and get on it!!)

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

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Book Review: Fever by Lauren DeStefano

Fever by Lauren DeStefano
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 2012
Pages: 352
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: Chemical Garden, Book 2

*Spoilers for book 1, Wither, are inevitable*
Rhine and Gabriel may have escaped from the mansion where Rhine's husband and father-in-law ruled their lives, but they are far from free. Stumbling onto a strange circus world where nothing is as it seems, the two find themselves just as confined as before. Can they survive in this new world?

Things I Liked:
I love how the story is so strangely atmospheric.  Gabriel and Rhine see some very weird and totally destroyed places in the real world and DeStefano has painted them very well for us, especially with the vivid use of color and scent.  I was quite surprised by some of the twists at the end - not all of them, but some.  I really like how Gabriel and Rhine's relationship is not set in stone, they are not in insta-love or even necessarily in love, but trying to figure it out.  It feels more realistic than some of the true love YA books out there, which was refreshing.  The ending definitely left me eager to figure everything out and see what happens next.

Things I Didn't Like:
Honestly, the first two thirds of the book were so trippy and insane that I had a really hard time enjoying it.  Rhine has the craziest dreams/hallucinations/nightmares so often that I got tired of reading about the things she saw.  It seems to be (in my very uninformed opinion) an accurate portrayal of a person in her situation, but it was also really annoying.  The ending picked up when things began to fall into place, but it almost seemed like the first part of the book at the circus was a random side trip with no significant place in the story.  I still plan to read the next book, but I'm not raving about this second in the series.

Honestly, not sure it's like anything I've read - maybe a bit like Delirium by Lauren Oliver
Start with the first book, Wither by Lauren DeStefano

s-factor: ! 
some, not a lot

mrg-factor: X 
some steamy stuff, but not beyond

v-factor: ->
a little bit of action and some scary images

Overall rating: ***

Who likes trippy books?  And why? :)

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mini Reviews 6: Everything But the Kitchen Sink

I've got another crop of minis for you, though I'm starting to think I can't write truly short mini reviews! It's a real conglomeration of different types of books today, so hopefully there's something here for everyone!

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication date: September 2010
Pages: 336
Source: Library
For: Book Club

Jack has always lived in Room - a place where he and his Ma live, eat, sleep, and play.  It is his whole world.  But for Ma, it is a place of torture that is only made bearable because of Jack.  But she knows they can't remain there forever and hopes that both of them can escape the clutches of Old Nick.

My thoughts:
This is a unique, intriguing, thought-provoking, emotional book.  What I think I liked best was that we are able to explore a difficult, tragic, and painful topic just a little easier, because we view it through a child's eyes.  Everything is softened and has a lighter cast to it, because we see through Jack's point of view.  The pain, torture, and other psychologically damaging things his mom experiences could have been too much for me to finish, but having it just a step away made it more bearable.  It really has a lot more going for it than I initially expected.  Honestly, the fact of its subject (is it a spoiler to say what it is?) makes it kind of not something you want to recommend or "enjoy."  The one thing consistently bothering me was that in the Room Jack has a name for everything, most of them capitalized.  Except for when he's "having some."  I think it was a tiny bit inconsistent that he did not ask his mom what "some" should be called, or at least called it Some.  Probably there's a reason for it, but I thought it seemed a little less consistent with Jack's voice, like she added it so she could prolong the surprise of what "some" was.  Still, it offers a unique look at a very difficult topic.  It obviously is an adult book with some very disturbing and sometimes graphically violent things happening.

I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
Publisher: Harper Audio
Publication date: August 2010
Length: 11 hrs, 24 min
Source: Audiobook from Library
For: Fun
Series: Lorien Legacies, Book 1

There were nine who left Lorien as it was destroyed, each of them separated for their own safety.  But when number four, going by the name John Smith, discovers that the first three are dead, he knows they are coming for him next.  Will hiding in this new small town, where a cute girl and a new friend make him feel welcome, keep him safe long enough?

My thoughts:
I liked the idea of aliens living among us, waiting to return to their home planet.  I liked the fact that John didn't want to follow all the rules, keep running, never have a life, and do what Henri told him to.  But ultimately, I had so many issues with this book I can't include them all and still call this a mini review.  The writing was, as many have noted, quite bad.  It seemed riddled with cliches and strange phrases that made for awkward scenes.  Even more annoying were plot points that seemed painfully obvious and characters that were stereotypical.  The Bernie Cozar plot point (seriously, the name alone annoys me) was evident almost from the beginning, but John doesn't pick it up until the end.   The bad guys are so evil they can't do anything but cackle evilly whenever they are on page.   I think that the characters were not helped by the narrator, Neil Kaplan, who gave them all voices to match the stereotypes (deep jock voice, nasal nerdy voice, and don't get me started on his female voices).  Sarah was probably the most annoying character for me - I swear all she did was hit John on the arm and called him "silly."  The romance was, as we say in my house, vomitrocious.  The whole ending, which I expected to be exciting and heart-pounding and make the book worth listening to was so weird and confusing, with plot points just showing up that made no sense that I can't believe I finished the book.  I guess I did because I have a copy of the next book, which I might try, just to see if it gets any better.  I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.  The book has some swearing and violence, but nothing overly graphic.

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication date: March 2012
Pages: 288
Source: e-book from Publisher
For: Review

Kelsey Finklestein is fourteen and determined to make freshman year the best yet - she's going to be a soccer star and finally catch the attention of the hot boy she's crushed on for years.  But when things don't go quite according to plan, she must figure out what she can do to turn this year around from a disaster to a success. 

My thoughts:
I really liked Kelsey!  She is really the only reason I kept reading the book.  She's smart, funny, teenage, and able to take whatever comes her way.  She could have spent the entire year crying in her room over everything, but she doesn't.  She is tough and pushes through the embarrassment and other difficult things she deals with and is smart about it.  Her views on life were so hilarious, because I remember feeling and thinking the same things, especially her crushes.  I laughed a LOT in the book, but pretty much I didn't like anything else.  The story seemed to have no real point, except to show one funny, embarrassing, sort of sad moment after the other.  I can see how Kelsey was supposed to change over the course of the stories, but I really prefer having more story and less episodes.  I was not very interested in what happened next or in any of the other characters.  The seriously lax attitude of the 14-year-olds about drinking made me uncomfortable.  I'm sure it happens, but I just don't think (or I guess I just don't want to think) it's quite that common at 14.  There is also a bit of swearing and plenty of talk about sex with one near incident, but most is not on page.  I guess this one was just not right for me! 

Dreamland by Alyson Noel
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication date: September 2011
Length: 4 hrs, 50 min
Source: Audiobook provided by Publisher
For: Review
Series: Riley Bloom, Book 3

Riley is learning that the afterlife is really depressing when you don't have much of an afterlife, especially at a permanent twelve years old. After focusing only on her work as a soul catcher, she decides to visit Dreamland - the place where dreams happen. In her eager attempts to contact her sister Ever, she finds herself caught in a nightmare that may never end.

My thoughts:
This series covers a lot of interesting ideas and things that tween girls struggle with and worry about, but in a unique setting.  The fact that Riley spends so much time trying to grow up will really resonate with those girls right on the cusp of becoming teens.  I remember wanting to be older, grown up, and look like it, so I think it will definitely appeal to those experiencing that.  I thought the narrator, Kathleen McInenery, really nailed the voice too - almost to the point of annoyance as she's got the tween girl whining part down pat.  As an adult, though, this book was pretty annoying.  I thought the story was kind of pointless, except to show Riley still stuck, not improving, not changing, being obnoxious, selfish, and defiant.  She still hasn't learned anything and it's book three?  By this point, she should have been getting something.  It just seems like she's not going anywhere and each book is the same thing over and over with a slightly different side character's story.  Apparently, I didn't need to pick up the second book (I thought this was the second one) because Riley's exactly the same and had pretty much the same adventure as in Radiance, the first book.  Hand these to the tween who is ready to be a teen already.

Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 2011
Pages: 192
Source: Library
For: Learnin' :)

This book recounts the events leading up to and happening on March 25, 1911 in the Triangle Waist Factory fire.  It also covers the aftermath and modern day working conditions and factory hazards.

My thoughts:
I have become truly fascinated with the Triangle Waist Factory fire from 1911.  I've read plenty of historicaly fiction about it, but don't think I've read enough nonfiction.  I was so impressed with the detail and the information the book contained.  The photos and other graphic images added just the right touch to everything, keeping it real and making it even more possible to imagine the plight of those women and their families.  I was especially interested in the details about modern factory tragedies and poor working conditions.  It is well researched and interesting, not to mention fascinating and horrifying.  Despite its title, the amount of the book actually dedicated to discussing the fire - what actually happened and the aftermath - was remarkably small.  I liked having plenty of introductory information to set the scene and tell about what led to it, but I was truly surprised by how short that part was.  Of course, I cried through the whole part about the fire, so perhaps that was good.  Either way, this is a great book to introduce the topic and get a better feel for what led to the incident and what happened after.

Which of these books are you most interested in?

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

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: My All Time Favorite Characters

Today's Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish is a great one - our Top Ten All Time Favorite Characters in Books.  And this was a struggle for me - not that I couldn't find any, but that I had so many to choose from!  So, consider this a very short portion of what is a very long list. 

Anne Shirley, from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
That spunky, wild, imaginative girl (who I will always picture as Megan Follows). I can't imagine a childhood or adulthood without Anne being some part of it. I hope we would have been bosom friends.

Harry from The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Harry is the epitome of the orphan girl who grows to be a great sword-wielding, all-around tough gal. Just love her!

Holling Hoodhood from The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Holling always manages to make me laugh hysterically and also want to cry a little bit. Nothing dampens his spirits completely, not even Shakespeare :)

Bartimaeus from the Bartimaeus Trilogy (and The Ring of Solomon) by Jonathan Stroud
Nothing can get me laughing like the antics of the ignoble djinn Bartimaeus. His wry and slick sense of humor makes this series one of my favorites when I need a good laugh.

Valek from Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
There is something about this broody, hot man that makes me swoon. Maybe it's because he is always there when you need him :)

Jacky from the Bloody Jack series by LA Meyer
This series is a new, but favorite discovery for me. Jacky is incouragable and incurable and just so hilarious! I love how she sometimes just can't be good!

Grandma Dowdel from A Long Way From Chicago, A Year Down Yonder, and A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck
This spunky and still sprightly old lady can always bring the tears to my eyes - from laughing so hard! Her adventures will leave you rolling on the floor with aching sides - guaranteed.

Eowyn and Faramir from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
I know, I'm cheating and doing two at once, but these two are my all-time favorite characters from this series. Eowyn who refuses to accept her role as a woman left behind and Faramir who, despite his character being slaughtered in the films, is the toughest, smartest, and most noble of men in the books.

Jane Eyre from, well, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Despite what many view her as - the plain governess who falls in love with her employer - this woman has a steely resolve and an unwavering sense of what's right and I love how she doesn't let anyone, not even Mr. Rochester, convince her otherwise!

Kit from The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
She's been one of my favorite heroines since I first discovered this book in 4th grade! Her bright, unconquerable spirit and character, despite the New England gloom of her day, was just what I wanted to emulate when I grew up.

Who are your favorite literary characters?

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

Monday, April 23, 2012

Friends of the Blogging Variety

So.  I met up with some blogger friends a few weeks ago.  And I totally never posted about it!  It was so much fun to see Suey of It's All About Books fame, one of my favorite book bloggers that I knew from Utah.  And then I got to meet two new friends, Susan of Bloggin' Bout Books and Gay from Inside a Book, some bloggers from my new homestate of Arizona!  We talked and laughed and ate delicious treats (oh, I wish I'd taken a photo of that cinnamon roll I had).  I love meeting new bloggers and hanging with ones I already know.  Thanks go to Suey for getting it set up, Susan and Gay for showing up, and Changing Hands for putting up with us :)  For more thorough or interesting recaps, check out their posts:  Suey, Susan, and Gay.

There were photos taken, none of which seem flattering to me, but I'll steal the one from Gay's blog post, since it seems the least horrible (and, um, I don't know where my phone pic went...). 

me, Susan, Suey, Gay
What's your favorite part about blogger meet-ups?

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

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bring on the Read-a-Thon: Progress and Finish!

It's finally time for another read-a-thon!  Yeah!

Post read-a-thon survey:

-Which hour was most daunting for you?
Um, actually right in the middle, about hours 13-15, since I was doing other stuff

-Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
I think if you pick some nice short YA non-fiction, it goes down easy - especially if there are photos and other things (I really enjoyed Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin)
Also, I loved Partials by Dan Wells, but it is pretty long despite the quickness of the read

-Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
A little more advertising in advance - I think it kind of surprised me when it arrived cause I hadn't heard anything about it since I signed up!

-What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
The hosts and mini-challenges

-How many books did you read?
I only finished one  and started/continued three

-What were the names of the books you read?
Finished: Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin
Started/continued: The Curse of the Blue Tattoo by LA Meyer (audio), Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, and Partials by Dan Wells

-Which book did you enjoy most?
Um, actually I really loved all of them!

-Which did you enjoy least?
see above :)

-How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again?
Quite likely - I tend to sign up even when I don't have the time

-What role would you be likely to take next time?
Reader and I really ought to sign up to be a Cheerleader too - and I plan to host my Book Puzzle mini-challenge again :)

Update #4, hour 20 (Final Update)

Title of book(s) currently reading: Partials by Dan Wells and listening to The Curse of the Blue Tattoo by LA Meyer
Number of books completed since I started: still only 1, I guess I jump around too much :)(Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin)
Pages read since last update: 130
Total pages read since I started: 538
Time spent reading since last update: 2.75 hrs
Time spent reading since I started: 11.25 hrs
Mini-challenges completed: 6 ish (I think) no new ones :(

Update #3, hour 17

Title of book(s) currently reading: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and listening to The Curse of the Blue Tattoo by LA Meyer
Number of books completed since I started: 1 (Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin)
Pages read since last update: 200 (including audiobook)
Total pages read since I started: 408
Time spent reading since last update: 3.5 hrs
Time spent reading since I started: 8.5 hrs
Mini-challenges completed: 6 ish (I think)

Update #2, hour 13
Title of book(s) currently reading: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and listening to The Curse of the Blue Tattoo by LA Meyer
Number of books completed since I started: 1 (Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin)
Pages read since last update: 113
Total pages read since I started: 208
Time spent reading since last update: 2 hrs (friends stopped by!)
Time spent reading since I started: 5 hrs
Mini-challenges completed: 5 ish (I think)

Mid-event Survey
1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?
Ready to buckle down and read (just said goodbye to some visitors)
2) What have you finished reading?
Just one book - Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin (so moving!)
3) What is your favorite read so far?
I am really enjoying listening to Curse of the Blue Tattoo - what an awesome audiobook
4) What about your favorite snacks?
I just devoured some delicious cookies, so I might need to have something healthy now...
5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love! I haven't had a chance to look at all the book puzzle entries yet, but I'm quite sure there are lots of fun ones there!

Update #1, hour 7
Title of book(s) currently reading: Still with Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin and listening to The Curse of the Blue Tattoo by LA Meyer
Number of books completed since I started: 0
Pages read since last update: 95 (+ about 45 min of audiobook)
Total pages read since I started: 95
Time spent reading since last update: 3 hrs
Time spent reading since I started: 3 hrs
Mini-challenges completed: 3 ish (I think)

Ok, so this might be another disastrously poor blogger event for me, but I think with some handy dandy audio books, I might be able to pull off something decent.  I love read-a-thons, and though I'm trying to accomplish stuff on our new house, I just couldn't pass it up.  Here's my info for the intro challenge:

-Where are you reading from today?
My new house!  Hopefully outside in the nice weather of AZ (nice until it gets too hot, that is).

-A bit about me.
1- I should be working on my house.
2- I'm neither a morning person nor a night person - I guess I'm a midday person
3- I can't say no to chocolate peanut butter candy (oh the reese's were invented for me)

I have a list of 6 books here that I'd say are my options, not necessarily TBR:
Curse of the Blue Tattoo by LA Meyer (best. audiobooks. ever.)
Flesh and Blood So Cheap by Albert Marrin
The Notorious Benedict Arnold by Steve Sheinkin
Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Partials by Dan Wells
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
-Book I'm most looking forward to is Partials by Dan Wells

-Snack I'm looking forward to:
Oops, forgot to plan for snacks! I did have Cherries with fresh strawberries though and it was yummy :)

-If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Stop reading if it is becoming a drudgery and do something else.  This shouldn't make you not want to read, it's not a contest.  Enjoy yourself until you aren't anymore and then stop :)

I'd like to read about three books, but have no real goals as far as hours or mini-challenges  (I am hosting a fun mini-challenge from hour 3 to 6, so check it out).

I'll be updating this post throughout the read-a-thon, so just check back every once in a while to see how things are going, if you're interested.

What are your plans for the read-a-thon (or for this weekend if you're not doing the read-a-thon)?

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

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge: Book Puzzle

Welcome reader-a-thon-ers!  I'm super excited to be hosting this mini-challenge again.  Hopefully this will be a fun break from your reading that will let you exercise other parts of your brain!

For this challenge, you will be creating a Book Puzzle.  Essentially, this is a series of pictures, graphics, or photos that you put together that will describe a book title.  I have been doing a biweekly game called Name That Book where I create book puzzles and let people guess the titles.  Here's an example from that first game:

This series of pictures illustrates the title Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale.

Now it's your turn to create your own Book Puzzle (or you can create more than one - they are quite fun).  Once you've posted your puzzle on your blog or elsewhere, come back and leave me the direct link to your puzzle below.  And be sure to visit others' puzzles - it's lots of fun to guess!

[For more examples or some inspiration, take a look at last read-a-thon's Book Puzzle participants, check out other episodes of Name That Book, check out Name That Book episodes from Stephanie Reads, or look at these awesome book puzzles created by Mrs. Stakey's 6th grade class.]

I'll be picking a winner (randomly of course, I'm not good at judging awesomeness) who will be able to choose two books from the photo (and list) below.  This is open only to US addresses and you have until the end of hour 6 to enter.  Now go forth and create!

(I also have three audiobooks available not pictured: Tempest by Julie Cross, Dreamland by Alyson Noel, and Destined by P.C. and Kristin Cast)

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