Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

UnWholly by Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: August 2012
Pages: 416
Source: ARC from ALA
For: Review
Series: Unwind, Book 2

*Spoilers likely for the first book, Unwind*
After numerous unsuccessful attempts to summarize the book myself, I'm relying on the publisher's summary, somewhat shortened:
Thanks to Connor, Lev, and Risa...people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding...  However, unwinding has become big business, and there are powerful political and corporate interests that want to see it not only continue, but also expand to the unwinding of prisoners and the impoverished.  Cam is a product of unwinding; made entirely out of the parts of other unwinds, he is a teen who does not technically exist... And when the actions of a sadistic bounty hunter cause Cam’s fate to become inextricably bound with the fates of Connor, Risa, and Lev, he’ll have to question humanity itself.
Things I Liked:
I was truly impressed with this sequel.  Not only does it build on the complicated ethical questions from the first book, but it adds new dimensions it.  Ideas about leadership and identity and what we think is right.  I loved the many different perspectives portrayed, not just Risa and Connor and Lev, but new people with different opinions.  Each person expresses a unique take on what the Unwind Accord means to them personally.  Even when we think something is right or wrong, we are forced to see it from their perspective and gain greater understanding.  Plus, it has plenty of action and twists, enough to keep you guessing to the end.  I would love to have a book club or other kind of discussion about this book, as there are so many things to talk about!

Things I Didn't Like:
This is not an easy book to read, not only in terms of difficult and intense subjects, but from complexity.  Being told from so many different viewpoints makes it difficult at times to connect with any one person.  I had a hard time getting into the story when perspective would shift so often.  It was also quite long with some long sections with no action.  Definitely this one will appeal to those who are not afraid to put in the time and effort, and who prefer more complex dystopians.  Here's hoping the next book comes soon!

Start with Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Jenna Fox Chronicles by Mary Pearson

s-factor: !@
regularly throughout, no f-bombs

mrg-factor: none
that I recall

v-factor: ->->->
lots of sometimes gory violence

Overall rating: ****

I'd love to hear your opinions on this book, if you've had a chance to read it!  Or tell me why you want to pick this one up.

(For more dystopian awesome, check out Presenting Lenore's Dystopian August celebration!) 
If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Good Times Ahead

I've been sort of remiss in talking about some of these upcoming events.  There are lots of good times ahead in the blogging world, so keep your eye on these:

I'm feeling very sad that I'm not signing up to be a judge for Cybils this time around, as I've been so fortunate to be a judge now for three years on the MG Sci-fi/Fantasy panel.  But, my life is rather busy and uncertain and I don't want to sign up and not contribute to my fullest.  However, if you love Cybils and reading, do jump into the judging pool by this Friday, so you don't miss out.  It's always been such a fun and rewarding experience, plus you get to read lots of fabulous books!  Also, get thinking what books to nominate, as the nominations open October 1st.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is back again!  I'm super excited to have this fun week-long event come back and I'm pretty relieved that the awards aren't making an appearance this year.  Mark your calendars for September 10-14 and prepare to celebrate each other and ourselves in the book blogging world!

I was super thrilled when Holly announced she was going to host a Seven Days for Sevenwaters celebration, all in honor of the fabulous Sevenwaters series by Juliet Marillier.  Despite only having read the first two books, I fell in love with the gorgeous world and beautiful relationships in each one.  I'm so excited to see what she's got planned for that week.

Last, but certainly not least, the wonderful fall Bloggiesta is set for September 28, 29, 30 this year.  I've participated as much as possible in this event and it's so wonderful to have an excuse to work on keeping up your blog.  Right now, Suey and Danielle are calling for mini-challenge hosts, so if you're interested in that, head on over to the mini-challenge host posts.  And prepare yourself for the fiesta!

What events in the book blogging world are you looking forward to!

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

Book Review: False Memory by Dan Krokos

False Memory by Dan Krokos
Publisher: Hyperion
Publication date: August 2012
Pages: 336
Source: ARC from ALA
For: Review
Series: False Memory, Book 1

When Miranda wakes up with no memory of where she's been or what she's done, she is understandably confused. But when she finds out she's been trained as a weapon and created to be able to destroy entire cities, she is overwhelmed. Her old life seems impossible to recover, despite her friends' attempts to remind her, but all that pales when she discovers a more sinister design behind her existence.

Things I Liked:
This book is filled with crazy times!  It was a roller coaster trip through action and adventures from start to finish.  The concept was so awesomely complicated that sometimes I couldn't keep up.  This book has pretty much non-stop action, loads of twists and turns, and a wild ending that will have your heart racing (no kidding: I had an adrenaline rush during a few passages).  This is most definitely a fast-paced, intriguing new series that will have teens (and tweens) racing to the end and wondering what comes next.

Things I Didn't Like:
Despite the many good things about the book, the relationships and some of the ideas left me with some nagging issues.  The memory loss of Miranda (not a spoiler - she wakes up first page with lost memories) is a little bit too selective for me.  It isn't that from a certain time period on, she can't remember things, it's more like some things she remembers and some she doesn't.  She knows who she is, but not what she's supposed to be doing.  She remembers her training sometimes without thought, but not the people she trained with.  I have to admit I had a difficult time trying to wrap my mind around just what she conceivably could and couldn't remember.  This is sort of explained and I'm not well-versed in real memory loss and how it works, but I admit to feeling skeptical at times.  Also, the violence made me just a wee bit squeemish.  Otherwise, it was a story filled with twists and turns and a truly surprising (yeah!) ending.

Variant by Robison Wells
The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken (this might be more because I was reading it about the same time and the kids have powers too)

s-factor: !@
not a lot, no f-bombs

mrg-factor: X
mostly some implied stuff, nothing actually happens

v-factor: ->->->
a bit gore-tastic for my taste

Overall rating: ****

What's the best surprise ending book you've read?

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions

I haven't done a Top Ten Tuesday in a while, but this topic was pretty easy for me to do, so I had no excuse.  Without further yapping, here are my Top Ten Bookish Confessions:

10. I still prefer print books to e-books.

9. Once a book has been purchased, it often languishes on my shelf instead of hopping into the TBR pile.

8. Despite being a librarian, my home library isn't well organized.

7. I will occasionally dog-ear a book (that I own) if I don't have anything else to mark its place.

6. Also despite being a librarian, I will sometimes purposely not return books on time, if I haven't finished them.  I always pay my fines, though :)

5. I suffer from serious book envy on occasion.

4. Some days, I just don't feel like reading.

3. I am horribly behind on reviewing books sent by publishers.  (I can't even bring myself to tell you how far behind, I'm so embarrassed.)

2. I rarely buy books I haven't read before.

1. I've dropped library books in the bathtub before.

What are your confessions?

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

Monday, August 27, 2012

Listless Monday: Masked 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 had a (tiny) burst of inspiration, after my week-long on-vacation absence last week.  I was noticing a few book covers that featured a mask of some kind.  And thus was born today's Listless Monday post: the masked edition.  Some of these have the mask on the cover (or, you know, what looks like a mask), others I had to include since a mask plays an important part of the story.  I'd love to hear your additions to my list!

The Masked Edition

Any additions?

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

Monday, August 20, 2012

Name That Book: Episode 25

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

So, even though I'm technically not a Utah blogger anymore (observe a moment of silence for my former home state...just kidding), I'm doing a mini-challenge to celebrate Utah Book Month.  There are lots of fun things (including prizes) that are going on this month to celebrate.  Check out the Utah Book Month site for more info.  (If you participate in my mini-challenge, you get an extra entry in the Grand Giveaway - you can comment with your guesses on this post and just link to my post or do a separate post with your guesses.)  Of course, each of these books is by a Utah author.  Have fun!

Book 1:

Book 2:

Book 3:

Book 4:
Wooden hourglass 2

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

Friday, August 17, 2012

Persuasion by Jane Austen AND For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

*Prepare yourself for a very long and possibly slightly spoilery double feature review!*

Persuasion by Jane Austen
Publisher: Various
Publication date: 1817
Pages: 158 (in one edition)
Source: Free e-book from Austen.com
For: Classic Double Challenge

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: June 2012
Pages: 416
Source: Library
For: Classic Double Challenge

Persuasion (P):
Anne Elliot has had eight years to regret and wonder about the man she was persuaded not to marry, Frederick Wentworth, because he did not have good enough prospects. Now, returned with a fortune and a long memory, the two are thrown together again. Anne must watch painfully as he courts another woman. Will she once again allow herself to be persuaded against her feelings?

For Darkness Shows the Stars (FDSS):
Elliot North gave up her best friend four years ago when he left and she stayed behind with her insufferable family to help save the estate. The world may have suffered terrible population decimation and still feels the effects of those scientists who thought to improve humanity, but instead ended up destroying it, but Elliot still feels her own personal suffering. When Kai returns with a new name and a new life, she isn't sure what to feel or do. Even when it is clear he hasn't forgiven her, she can't seem to get him out of her heart.

The Characters:
Anne and Elliot obviously have some things in common - the two ladies gave up someone they loved because of what they felt was duty.  They have the same sensible notions about class and aren't bothered (as much) by the family pride. I think they are also very different, though, with Anne being a lot more mild and quiet and accepting of her fate than Elliot.  Elliot is not wasting away, though that might be because in her situation she has opportunities to be active whereas Anne is very limited by time and circumstance to sitting at home with not much to do.  Elliot is tough and daring, though in quieter ways than those around her.  She does stand up to her father in small ways, while Anne will usually try to placate her father and soothe him to achieve her ends.  Elliot is obviously younger and more impulsive than the more mature, calm Anne.  I think Kai and Wentworth are more similar than Anne and Elliot.  Both come back angry and hurt and trying, at least unconsciously, to forget the girl they left behind.  Both are cold and unfeeling, though also kind in quiet ways. 

The Story:
What I love most about P is the hope of second chances.  This idea is not lost in FDSS, but it is not the main part of the story.  I think Peterfreund did a fabulous job of taking that original story and expanding it in new ways.  FDSS is a story of second chances for Elliot and Kai, but it is also a story of class distinctions and ethics in scientific experimentation.  I just loved seeing little things that inspired Peterfreund to add to her story - those iconic moments in P brought to life again: the accident, the letter, etc.  The bare bones of that beloved story transfer to this new one with its own twists and changes very well.

The Romance:
One of the things Jane Austen does so well is to show those brief moments that show a character's feelings.  Words, expressions, little movements even, all contribute to building a foundation for the love story.  She had a true gift for making us care about her couples and what happens to them.  I found the romance between Elliot and Kai was less well drawn, lacked that foundation.  I think perhaps because so many other things were going on in that story, I didn't quite believe in them.  There was not enough, not even with all their letters, to convince me they cared about each other then or really now. 

The Setting:
In both stories, location and time are integral parts of the story.  And despite being so obviously different (1800s in England vs. far future on an island likely in the South Pacific), there were some things that looked similar.  Obviously, the social structure - the nobility of England and the Luddites of Elliot's time - they both had upper and lower classes.  Elliot has some unusual restrictions in the things she can do, like experiment with genetics.  Both settings play a huge part of some of the minor actions and in how things progress.  Obviously much of Anne's behavior is because of the customs and manners of England at the time.  The same is true of Elliot's behavior in her time and place, but even more so.  Jane Austen was writing about how things were in her own time time, so it didn't seem so different or restrictive to her, but Peterfreund is writing of a future time and place with very specific limitations and other cultural practices in place.  The setting is much more deliberate and therefore more important to the story, I think.

Things I Liked about P:
Persuasion did not disappoint on this reread.  Despite being reminded of all the many side characters and side stories that Austen was prone to, the story at the heart of the book remains a favorite of mine.  Anne Elliot, despite being a somewhat meek and colorless lady, is more than her original appearance belays.  She is truly a good person, reminding us that while many in the nobility of England were vain and slaves to rank, she was a person who found delight in knowing people of all stations.  I suppose I love the story because I always thought of myself as relating most to Anne than any other Austen heroine (no matter how much I'd like to be a Lizzy).  A beautiful story that reminds us of all that is constant and good in human nature and that second chances should happen more often.  I can even be reconciled the Captain Wentworth, who was not very nice to her initially and to Lady Russell who was kind of an idiot.  There certainly are a lot of foolish people in Anne's life - something Austen had a real talent for portraying.

Things I Didn't Like about P:
Ok, sometimes I got frustrated with how mild Anne was.  I often wondered at her being so tolerant of the obnoxious and often unfeeling things people said to her; she always remained calm.  Perhaps it isn't that I'm frustrated at her, but that I wish I could be like her in this.  Yes, she isn't the most exciting or tough or independent person, but she is so darn good that you can't help but wish you were a little better.  I can't find much to complain about in this story - I just love it.

Things I Liked about FDSS:
Sigh.  I love Persuasion and I love dystopian literature, so a mix of these delights was simply perfect.  I think Peterfruend has done a really excellent job of keeping the original beautiful story of second chances and making it something completely different - a look at class and ethics and a broken future world.  Seriously, this book was good, even for those who don't like (or haven't touched) Jane Austen.  I loved the little Persuasion details that I caught glimpses of here and there (the letter!  oh, the letter.)  I think I loved even more the complicated feelings and difficulties involved in scientific experimentation and both the risks and rewards.  Yeah for science!  It was a pretty balanced view of both types of consequences too and gave this reader a lot of food for thought.

Things I Didn't Like about FDSS:
As mentioned above, I was not entirely sold on the relationship between Kai and Elliot.  That development kind of took a back seat to the larger picture and story.  While Elliot was a clear and conflicted person, I never felt like I got a grasp on Kai.  Despite this drawback, I did truly enjoy the story and loved seeing bits of my favorite Austen classic putting on new clothes.

Ok, I can't help posting a few of my favorite quotes from P. I thought I'd marked some from FDSS too, but I guess I lost them when I returned the book to the library. Darn, guess I'll have to buy it :)
"She had been forced into prudence in her youth, she learned romance as she grew older: the natural sequel of an unnatural beginning." Ch.4
"Alas! with all her reasoning, she found, that to retentive feelings eight years may be little more than nothing." Ch.7
"There could have been no two hearts so open, no tastes so similar, no feelings so in unison, no countenances so beloved. Now they were as strangers; nay, worse than strangers, for they could never become acquainted. It was a perpetual estrangement." Ch.8
"When pain is over, the remembrance of it often becomes a pleasure. One does not love a place the less for having suffered in it, unless it has been all suffering, nothing but suffering." Ch. 20
Other Jane Austen books
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

s-factor: none


v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

s-factor: !
maybe a few


v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

Any thoughts on these two? (And bravo if you read that whole review!)

(For more dystopian awesome, check out Presenting Lenore's Dystopian August celebration!) 

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