Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book Review: Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date: February 2013
Pages: 320
Source: ARC from publishers
For: Review
Series: Finishing School, Book 1

When Sophronia is sent off to be finished, she little expects the kind of finishing that goes on at her new school. On the remote, floating school, she begins to learn the arts of deception, diversion, and espionage...in addition to etiquette and decorum. But she also discovers a lot of secrets, including one that threatens the school and all she's coming to love.

Things I Liked:
I always enjoy a good steampunk novel.  For some reason, they contain just the right amount of quirky fun and strange inventions, so that I can't stop reading them.  I fell in love with Sophronia, who was such a great character to follow around in her mostly historical setting also populated with supernatural creatures and other strange inventions.  There's nothing quite like a girl who doesn't know where she fits, finds a place, and it certainly isn't where she's expected to fit.  I love all the friends she makes too - especially Sidheag, for some reason.  I like her prickly exterior and her complete lack of concern over what makes a lady.  Just an all-around fun steampunk adventure with loveable quirky characters.

Things I Didn't Like:
The plot was a little bit slow and seemed to not be getting anywhere anytime soon.  But the everything else (setting, steampunk fun, characters, etc) kept my attention engaged (though I have to admit it took me almost a month to finally finish it - mostly because I had other books that HAD to be read right away).  Also, there was an inordinate number of side characters introduced, which I assume will play larger roles in future books - a bit of setup-itis I think.  Pick this one up when you need some fun entertainment!

Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld

Also, a tiny bit Harry Potter-ish

s-factor: !
maybe one or two mild ones

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none
despite the numerous run-ins with flywaymen and picklemen :)

Overall rating: ****

Are you a steampunk fan?  What are your favorite steampunk books?

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Pretend I Did This Two Weeks Ago...

So this Top Ten topic, Top Ten Best Bookish Memories, was from two weeks ago and I really wanted to participate because I LOVED everyone's answers, but just didn't get myself motivated enough then.  So now, I'm going to take that plunge and write about some of my favorite bookish memories. 

1 - One of my earliest is not a one time memory, but more of a combination of several.  I remember reading The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner and just adoring the idea of being a runaway kid and living in a boxcar (this was fueled by the creepy and very dirty boxcar parked in the fields of my grandmother's house).  Mixed with that was one of my other early favorite books with a similar runaway kid theme - Enchantress of Crumbledown by Donald R. Marshall, now out of print. There was just something about runaways that sounded so glamorous and exciting, but in real life would definitely NOT have been.  

2 - A number of years later, I recall discovering (and devouring) Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  I think this book impacted me so much because it was my first introduction to a story that did not have a happy ending!  I couldn't believe how much more I thought about and wondered about the characters when I didn't know exactly what happened.  This was my first book/movie obsession and it was pretty obsessive (I've spared you the pain of seeing evidence, mostly because I'm not sure where all my GWTW paraphernalia went).

3 - Around the same time, when I was 14, I remember discovering Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte accidentally in the school library.  I was sucked into the story and first felt the power of romantic classics.  I adored Mr. Rochester and Jane with my simplistic understanding of their relationship.  This also happened to encourage my desire to find and watch every Jane Eyre movie made at the time.  And there were a lot even back then!

4 - One of my earliest favorites, and still a favorite, is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (what happened to my classics obsession?!?).  I can't even recall the first time I picked it up, but I remember reading and rereading that big (although, I discovered later it was abridged), battered paperback that was handed down from older siblings.  I couldn't believe Dumas could write such a complex story with so many characters and still make it exciting enough that I wanted to plow through it again and again.  Still one of my favorite stories and I've yet to find a movie that does it justice.

5 - I remember being completely engulfed in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien the first time I read it in high school (pre-movies) and being totally blown away with the complexity and just epic nature of the story.  I have since become rather fanatic in my love for LOTR, though that has cooled somewhat.  It still stands as one of my all-time favorite fantasy series and it is just incomparable in my opinion.

6 - Again, not a one-time memory, but when I first started meeting authors it felt like a dream come true!  I remember hearing some young tweens comment at a Brandon Mull event that people were acting like he was a rock star.  And then saying that he kind of was like a rock star.  That is how I feel pretty much every time I meet an author. I've had favorite events, but each one has been such a treat for me.

7 - Along those same lines, meeting bloggers for the first time has definitely been a highlight in my reading life.  Since that first Utah Blogger social I attended, I have really enjoyed every chance I get to hang out with my fellow book-obsessed friends and it made me so happy to realize just how fun it is to hang out with like-minded folks.  

8 - Finally joining a book group!  I can't believe how long it took me to come out of my shell and find (and then start) a book group.  I adore the chance I get every month to chat about books with people who just love to read.  There's something about your bookish friends that just makes you feel at home.  

9 - I loved the few times I've managed to "make" readers out of those in my family who are not readers.  For a long time, this was mostly my sister, who suddenly began reading books I suggested and found she loved it.  But the ultimate achievement for me was when I finally got my husband (who had never liked reading) to pick up the Harry Potter books and he just ripped through them. While he doesn't have much time for it while he's in school, it's always so fun to introduce him to a new series (Maze Runner or Hunger Games) that he just can't put down.  One of the most rewarding experiences in a readers life, I think.

10 - This last memory is from this summer when I finally got to attend an ALA conference.  Despite not being able to afford going to any events or panels, it was so fantastic to just go and feel the excitement.  Even if I never get a chance to attend another bookish conference like this, I will consider that dream as fulfilled and count myself fortunate.

Any bookish memories you want to share? 

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

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mini Reviews 10

It's been months since my last mini reviews and it's about time I get some of these books reviewed!  So, enjoy.

The Candy Shop War, Book 2: Arcade Catastrophe by Brandon Mull
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Publication date: October 2012
Pages: 416
Source: ARC from ALA
For: Review
Series: Candy Shop War, Book 2

The kids are now battling for stamps that give them magical powers.  They are caught up in a plot by another evil magician to find a magical object so powerful he would control the world.  They must fight and race against each other and against other kids in order to gain access to this magical

My thoughts:
This book definitely has the signature Mull imaginative story.  With stamps that give magical powers and an evil magician seeking to take over the world, the kids face seemingly insurmountable odds.  There are so many strange and quirky characters and artifacts that it seems Mull has unlimited stores of weird ideas.  There's plenty of action and the end will keep you guessing right to the last page.  But, 
I had a really hard time wanting to keep reading.  It seemed to drag on for a really long time and I lost interest often in what was happening with the kids.  I got annoyed at the many side tracks that seemed to happen throughout.  I put down the book a number of times and finally had to force myself to finish.  I think fans of Fablehaven will get a kick out of this story.

The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Publication date: originally published 1961
Pages: 6 hrs 57 min
Source: Audiobook from library

For: Driving Sanity
Daniel's one purpose in life is to avenge his father's death at the hands of the Romans.  He's left his sister in the care of his aging grandmother in order to join a band of rebels intent on breaking free of the Romans.  But when his life takes a different turn he little expects to be drawn to Jesus, a rabbi who teaches something completely different than what he wants, but who he can't seem to forget about.

My thoughts:
I never read enough historical fiction and when I do, I am reminded just how great well-written and researched historical fiction is.  I loved the setting - it's definitely unusual in YA and MG literature.  I loved how natural Daniel's progression is through the story.  The characters were flawed and therefore more real - even if I did get mad at Daniel's hardheadedness a few times.  They believed what was natural for them at the time and they made mistakes that hurt.  It was also unique to see the focus of the story not on Jesus' death and resurrection, but on his power to heal - both physically and in other ways.  I wasn't very pleased with the narrator, but I thought she did an ok job (look up narrator).  A powerful book, one that left an impression on me.

The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Publisher: Recorded Books
Publication date: originally published 1982
Pages: 12 hrs 16 min
Source: Audiobook from library
For: Driving Sanity

When Harry is sent to live with her brother in Istan, a place right on the outskirts of the empire, she finds that the change in country suits her.  But she is strangely drawn to the Hillfolk - an independent people with mysterious powers that her country has long been unable to conquer.  When the king of the Hillfolk visits their home to try negotiating a treaty, he is disappointed in the Homelanders mistrust of his people.  Harry, however, can't seem to get the people out of her mind and heart.  And her destiny is closely tied to these strange people.

My thoughts:
This is still one of my favorite fantasy stories of all time.  I've reviewed this one before on the blog, but decided to listen to the audio for fun.  I found the story still intrigues me with its glorious details and I still love Harry for all her wild and difficult ways.  However, I really struggled with the audiobook.  The narrator, Diane Warren, used strange random pauses in the middle of sentences and in places where pauses didn't make sense.  Her voices were not that well done or distinguishable and I just didn't want to listen.  I would have given up if I didn't want to remember the story and if I hadn't had nothing else to listen to on my commute at the time.  Definitely one to pick up in print.


Miles to Go for Freedom: Segregation and Civil Rights in the Jim Crow Years by Linda Barnett Osborne
Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers
Publication date: January 2012
Pages: 128
Source: Library
For: Fun

This book recounts the history of segregation and civil rights during the period from the 1890s to 1954.  Discussing the Jim Crow years both in the North and the South from first hand accounts and other sources.

My Thoughts:
I learned tons from this book and it wasn't hard to keep reading it - a perfect combination for nonfiction, I think.  I keep realizing just how ignorant I am about civil rights, Jim Crow laws, black history, and so much more.  I liked that this focused on a time period that I didn't know a lot about (or much of anything).  I was completely surprised to learn that African Americans had way more rights in the late 1800s than they did like 40 years later.  It's painful to read about those rights being slowly sucked away.  This was readable and very well researched.

Any thoughts on these?  Ones you've read or want to read?

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

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Cybils Day!

Today's the day for the happiest announcement! Even though I didn't participate in Cybils judging this year, I still adore anticipating the announcement. And it's finally here! So, without any more babbling or exclamation points from me, here are the winners (well, some of them):

MG fiction: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (so happy about this - was a bit sad it got no mentions in the youth media awards last month)

MG Sci-fi/Fantasy: The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen (love, love, love this one!)

YA fiction: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (and I haven't had any desire to read this before...)

YA Sci-fi/Fantasy: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman (at least this is on my TBR pile!)

And you can find the rest of the winners at the Cybils website (sorry too lazy to list any others).

Any surprises?  Comments?  Disappointments?

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

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book Review: Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

BTW, thank you all so much for your support and enthusiasm following my announcement last week - you are all so wonderful and supportive!  I love being a part of this great blogging community :)

Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Publication date: March 2012
Pages: 264
Source: Library
For: Book Group

When Marianne is invited to visit with her sister at a country estate, she is more than happy to escape her life in Bath. What she doesn't expect is to be completely thrown off balance by a young man who manages to surprise her at every turn. And when her sister arrives, intending very much to snag the man of the house, things begin to get a little bit more than interesting.

Things I Liked:

As I mentioned in my favorites from 2012 post, this book reminded me just why I love to read Jane Austen and old fashioned romance stories.  I loved the way the love story developed between Phillip and Marianne.  It was slow, sweet, and good.  I loved the period details, though they were pretty light and I enjoyed watching the story unfold.  I found myself completely immersed, especially in the interactions between the two.  The dialog was lively and the chemistry between them felt perfect.  Honestly, I just felt so good and happy after reading it, that I don't care about its flaws.  A darn good read.

Things I Didn't Like:
I know the writing and style were not at the same level as Jane Austen or even Heyer.  The plot was pretty predictable from the beginning; it stretched believability a few times.  But, as I mentioned, I noticed none of this and simply enjoyed the ride.  I love to be able to do that sometimes.

Anything Jane Austen or Georgette Heyer

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: none

Overall rating: *****

I really need to read more historical fiction like this.  Any great suggestions?

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

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Well, There's This

You know how people are always coming up with excuses for why they haven't been blogging as regularly? I know I do. Life happens, work's busy, etc. Well, here's my current excuse:

Enjoy the obligatory creepy ultrasound image that no one but parents and grandparents really care about.
She's making her debut in June. Most of you don't know this, but my husband and I have been trying for kids for a looooong time. And we'd begun working on the adoption process. So, needless to say, this little miracle was a big, welcome surprise.  I've been trying to keep up on my blogging, but some days, I just don't have the energy. :) Thanks for being patient and for sticking around!

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

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book Review: Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication date: October 2012
Pages: 368
Source: ARC from ALA
For: Review
Series: Ruby Red, Book 2

*Spoilers are inevitable for the first book, Ruby Red*
Gwen's life has been turbulent, to say the least, since she's discovered she's the one with the time traveling gene. With all that prep time she missed out on, she's a bit backward when they visit the eighteenth century. But their travels to get the blood of all the time travelers is not going as well as it should and things in her own day are starting to heat up. Especially when the frustrating Gideon is involved.

Things I Liked:
Time travel.  Really, I always seem to remember when I'm reading books about time travel, that they are a weakness for me.  I just love a good, complicated time-bending story.  Obviously, the parts about time travel were my favorite.  I loved when the plot got complicated because of when things happened and who had gone back to do them, etc.  The romance was not a win for me, but I was able to overlook it most of the time and just enjoy the strange time travel delights and Gwen's fiesty reactions to many things.  I like the way she doesn't fit into a mold and most of the time, doesn't care about it.  I like how she's mad when they exclude her and then finds ways to figure things out on her own. 

Things I Didn't Like:
Seriously, I hate the romance.  I think the way Gideon treats her (hot and cold, etc) was just plain annoying.  But the way Gwen reacted was even more so.  She just couldn't help herself from loving him, he was so handsome and charming, except when he was cold and rude.  And she wouldn't let him kiss her again if he was going to act like that.  Until he tries to kiss her again.  She just should have smacked him upside the head and told him to hit the highway.  I think sometimes I like to impose my adult romantic sensibilities on teen romance.  My other beef with the story was the lack of story about Lucy and Paul.  Considering Lucy is the sapphire, I figured that she would play a big part in the story.  She only shows up maybe once or twice.  I was a bit disappointed by that, actually, because I'm very interested in what they are up to.  More than in Gideon and Gwen.  But, I still have high hopes for the last book.

Reminds me of Hourglass by Myra McIntire

s-factor: !
some, not too much

mrg-factor: XX
mostly talk, though with fairly loose views of teen sex

v-factor: ->
a fight or two, but nothing described

Overall rating: ***

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