Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review: Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Rebel Heart by Moira Young
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: October 2012
Pages: 432
Source: Library
For: Fun (and Dystopian Challenge)
Series: Dust Lands, Book 2

*Spoilers are inevitable for Blood Red Road*
Saba has finally found Lugh and has everything she wants. But she can't seem to shake the ghosts of her violent past. Not only that, but Lugh has changed and their relationship is no longer what it used to be. So when a cryptic message comes from Jack, she's determined to return and find him, despite the danger to herself and her family.

Things I Liked:
Unfortunately, it's been months since I finished this and I didn't write much in the way of my thoughts after finishing it.  I had to go and remind myself what happened in the book (and then I remembered just how crazy the ending seemed to get).  It was not as amazing as the first one for me, but I still like Saba a lot and I still love the dialect and simplistic writing style Young uses. It makes the whole book more engrossing (once you can get into the rhythm of the story).  I do remember thinking Saba, Lugh, Jack and the others seemed to be experiencing realistically the effects of the first book.  The tension in all those relationships, and the new ones, was painful, but real.  An interesting and definitely unique kind of post-apocalyptic story.

Things I Didn't Like:
I have to admit the romance was the thing that bugged me the most.  It seemed everyone was in love with Saba and she was rather cruel to some of those in love with her.  She made some interesting choices that I think will have even more painful consequences in the future.  Still, I couldn't believe how much of the book ended up focusing just on these romantic relationships and less on Saba adjusting to her world that's changed.  I'm still very interested to see where the story goes in the next book. 

Start with Blood Red Road by Moira Young
Reminds me a bit of Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

s-factor: !@
mild ones, mostly

mrg-factor: X 
an "incident" that isn't described so much as implied

v-factor: ->-> 
plenty of action, but not gory

Overall rating: *** 

Which of the people in the love quadrangle would you choose?

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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Recommend the Most

This is a tough one, because one of the things I especially like to focus on is that recommendations should nearly ALWAYS depend on the person to whom you are recommending.  [Boy, I hope that came out grammatically correct.]  There are certain types of books that I know certain types of people will like or not like or turn their nose up at, etc.  Knowing the reader is essential.  You don't have to know them like your best friend, but know at least a little of what they like.  So, here are my top recommendations for some kinds of people:

If they are fans of classics:
1 - Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson (for Jane Austen fans)
2 - Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore (this is one of the first classic books I just found laugh out loud funny)
3 - The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (like a soap opera, this story)
4 - Precious Bane by Mary Webb (so, so moving)

If they like something exciting, fast-paced, action-packed:
1 - Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (hey, they are popular for a reason)
2 - Divergent by Veronica Roth (same here)
3 - Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
4 - Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

If they want something that will bend their minds or with awesome twists or surprises:
1 - The Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner
2 - Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
3 - Unwind by Neal Shusterman
4 - Variant by Robison Wells

For sheer I-Loved-It-To-Death factor:
1 - Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
2 - For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund
3 - Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
4 - House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
5 - The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

For laughs:
1 - Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
2 - Rick Riordan's stuff
3 - The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
4 - The Bartimaeus series by Jonathan Stroud

For tears:
1 - The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
2 - Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
3 - A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
4 - Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

What are your top recommendations?

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

Friday, March 22, 2013

Book Review: The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan

The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Publication date: May 2012
Length: 11 hrs 23 min
Source: Audiobook from library
For: Fun
Series: Kane Chronicles, Book 3

*Spoilers for the first two books are very likely*
Apophis, the Lord of Chaos, just can't seem to be defeated and Carter and Sadie Kane must go to extreme measures to ensure the survival of the world. But it seems like they may have to do it alone, what with so many other battles going on among the magicians and gods. Can they find a way to defeat Apophis before it's too late?

Things I Liked:
I just love Rick Riordan's smart, twisty, and funny stories and especially the witty dialog.  I always find myself entertained from the first to the last when I read (or in this case, listen to) his stories.  I love the interaction between the two siblings in this series, since it feels very much like a regular sibling relationship, just with some added godly drama going on.  I can't say enough good about the narrators, Katherine Kellgren and Kevin R. Free - their interactions are pitch perfect.  I'm super glad I listened to this series, since I think it lends itself very well to the format.  A fantastic and entertaining finale to the Kane Chronicles.

Things I Didn't Like:
I think a few times I recall wondering just how perilous things could get.  It does stretch the plausibility (not that the premise is intended to be truly plausible), but near the end I began to really raise my eyebrows at some of the stuff that happens.  Still, I really was just entertained by this book and series.  Highly recommended!

Start with The Red Pyramid and The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

Pretty much reads like any other Riordan series

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
some, but not overwhelming

Overall rating: ****

Are you a fan of Riordan's books?

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Book Review: Reached by Ally Condie

Reached by Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (Penguin)
Publication date: November 2012
Pages: 384
Source: Purchased
For: Fun (and book group)
Series: Matched, Book 3

*Spoilers are inevitable for the first two books, Matched and Crossed*
Cassia is once again apart from Ky and Xander as they each pursue the purposes of the Resistance. Each is waiting on the rebellion that is planned and hoping for a future where they can live the way they want. But, when things don't go quite as planned, the three of them must each decide what is most important to them.

Things I Liked:
I'm always so impressed with the writing in these books - Condie has a way of writing poetically and simplistically without being over the top.  I was especially caught up in the details that emerged with the plague and what happened after the cure was administered.  I was happy to have many of my questions answered.  The second half of the book was the most interesting to me and I really liked watching how they dealt with changes that were unexpected and with their changing relationships.  I think what I liked most were the small things - glimpses of what Cassia is learning about freedom and choice: the art that they create, the ability to see beyond what Society has told them.  An interesting and thoughtful series, if not the most action-packed dystopian story.

Things I Didn't Like:
I did get bored for some of it (this was a major complaint of some of my book group buddies).  The action is slim and unfolds rather slowly.  I can see how some people might be bothered by the medical aspects where they talk about the plague, but I am fascinated by that stuff so I enjoyed it.  It's definitely what I consider a quieter and more thoughtful dystopian series, without the loud bangs and violence and non-stop action of many other series.  Still, I liked it and would recommend it for those interested in a more introspective story.

Be sure to read Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie first

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

s-factor: !
a handful of minor ones

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
not much

Overall rating: ****

I know there are opinions on both ends of the spectrum, so what did you think of the book?

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Review: Mind Games by Kiersten White

Mind Games by Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: February 2013
Pages: 256
Source: e-book from Edelweiss
For: Review
Series: Mind Games, Book 1

Fia has an uncanny ability to make the right decisions. Annie sees visions of the future. The two sisters, left orphans at a young age, are taken into an unusual school for girls with their kinds of talents. What they little expect is for that school to use their talents for their own purposes. Now Fia is trying to protect Annie, no matter the cost.

Things I Liked:
What a crazy ride this book was!  I got really immersed in Fia's mind, though it was not a place I wanted to hang out.  I loved that we got to see from Annie's point of view too, because she made it more palatable to be with Fia.  I could only handle so much of Fia's stream of consciousness style.  The book has a twisty plot and crazy ideas and is not a happy ending kind of story.  Which made me like it even more.  Also, it felt like a stand alone, which also made me happy, though I understand there are to be sequels.  I loved trying to figure out what was going on, who was doing what, and why it was all happening.  I got answers to most of those questions.

Things I Didn't Like:
It got a bit confusing with all the stuff going on - the multiple perspectives and the mysteries.  At times I was completely lost, but I think I mostly just enjoyed the ride.  I was swept up in the action, in broken Fia and I especially liked the ending, which seemed just about right, if a bit sad.  Really interesting, but hopefully will get a touch more polish in the final version.

Honestly, not sure I've read anything like it.  Maybe a little like the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter

s-factor: !@
no f-bombs that I recall, but some swearing

mrg-factor: none
though some sensual moments

v-factor: ->->
Fia does fight and kill and she is ruthless

Overall rating: ****

What did you think of this unusual book?

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

Monday, March 11, 2013

Listless Monday: Great Read Aloud Books for Kids

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!

It's been ages since my last Listless Monday, and I remembered the suggestion made by Amber about doing a list of great read aloud books for kids.  This list is pretty wide in age-range, probably from kindergarten (and earlier) up.  That's not to say that every book is good for a kindergartener, as there are some more mature titles.  Use your discretion!  But these all seem, in my narrow experience and wisdom, to be books that would be great fun to share with your kids or students.

Great Read Alouds for Kids of All Ages!

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (recommended by Emily)
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or James and the Giant Peach (and other Roald Dahl)
Charlotte's Web or Stuart Little by E.B. White
The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (recommended by Amber)
The Flint Heart by Katherine and John Paterson
Frindle and other books by Andrew Clements (recommended by Amber)
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling (recommended by Amber)
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (recommended by Emily and Amber)
Holes by Louis Sachar (recommended by Emily and Amber)  
The Humming Room and The Kneebone Boy by Ellen Potter (recommended by contemplatrix)
The Indian in the Cupboard and other Lynne Reid Banks' books (recommended by Cheltz and Emily)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (recommended by Amber)
Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville (recommended by Emily)
Little House On the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
A Long Way From Chicago, A Year Down Yonder, and A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater (recommended by Lee)
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald (recommended by Cheltz)
The Name of This Book is Secret series by Pseudonymous Bosch (recommended by Amber)
Princess Ben and Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Ramona books and The Ralph Mouse Collection by Beverly Cleary (recommended by Emily)
Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan
Rules by Cynthia Lord (recommended by Amber)
Savvy and Scumble by Ingrid Law
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken
A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls (recommended by Amber)
The Tale of Despereaux, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, and other Kate DiCamillo books (recommended by contemplatrix and Des)
A Tale Dark and Grimm and In a Glass Grimmly by Adam Gidwitz
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume (recommended by Emily)
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
The Wednesday Wars and Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt
Where Mountain Meets Moon and Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
Wonder by R.J. Palacio

And there are so many others (like all those classic kid's books you remember).  I'd love to hear your suggestions too!

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Book review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication date: August 2012
Pages: 416
Source: e-book from Netgalley
For: Review
Series: Throne of Glass, Book 1

Celaena Sardothien, a master assassin, has been stuck in prison for the last year, wasting away.  But when she receives an unexpected reprieve, a chance to earn her freedom while competing to be the royal assassin, she doesn't hesitate.  The competition proves only a little challenging and she's glad to be out, but when other contestants start turning up dead, things begin to get a little bit interesting.

Things I Liked:
There are many good things about this book.  I liked seeing a Cinderella retelling that was unique but still retained some of the iconic elements of the fairy tale.  I especially liked the strong girl assassin who could take care of herself.  Celeana was an interesting character, but not one I'd say I actually like.  The story kept me interested through most of the book, though at the end I was more disappointed than anything.  I think I liked the idea of the book more than its execution, unfortunately.

Things I Didn't Like:
I really had a hard time finishing this one.  I struggled with it for months, persisting only to see why so many people loved it.  I got pretty sick of Celeana.  She seemed rather smart and strong at times, vulnerable and afraid occasionally, but most annoying when she'd get so angry about stupid things like not playing billiards well.  Her desire to kill or injure people who bothered her was somewhat inconsistent with her conscience about killing and her desire to save people.  She has a temper, which is refreshing to see, but it came and went sometimes at random.  The ending was a bit out there for me, but fairly satisfying.  I was unimpressed with the writing, which was awkward at times and included random details that seemed to be there for no reason.  I'm the first to admit some of these problems might be with the ARC I was reading, but I don't care enough to check out the finished copy and find out.  I'm not entirely sure if I want to read a sequel or not, we'll see.

Reminded me of Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, for the female assassin angle

Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott for the unique Cinderella retelling
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

s-factor: !@
A few

mrg-factor: X
Mostly implied, nothing on page

v-factor: ->->
Some fairly gory, but not overwhelming

Overall rating: **

What did you think of this one?

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

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Classic Double Challenge: March

It's already March?  I still haven't read a book for my challenge, though that might be because I gave up on one of my pairs.  But, I have high hopes for this spring month and what I can accomplish!  Hopefully you will all keep reading for the challenge too.

In case you missed it, I hosted the first annual (well, I hope it's annual) Retell Me a Story event on January 13-19. It was a lot of fun and some really great people were guest posters. Also, we talked about some favorite and some new and upcoming retellings. If you're still looking for ideas on what to read, definitely check out all the Retell Me a Story posts

And if you haven't signed up for the Classic Double Challenge yet, there's still time! Head over to the sign up page.

Don't forget to link up your reviews done in the month of March (or January and February if you forgot to do it before).  Happy retelling reading!

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

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Series Review: The Seven Realms by Cinda Williams Chima

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima

The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima
The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: Recorded Books, Hyperion Book CH
Publication date: 2009, 2010, 2011, October 2012
Length: 15 hrs 6 min, 17 hrs 49 min, 14 hrs 59 min, 608 pages
Source: Library
For: Fun!
Series: Seven Realms, Books 1-4

I'm quite sure I can't summarize the story for all four, but the books follow the story of Raisa, Queen of the Fells as she struggles to come into her own as an independent queen and avoid becoming a pawn either to the Wizard Council or to the Clans.  Han is a street lord turned scholar and trying to make his way in the world as something more than what he was before.

Things I Liked:
Since I already reviewed the first three books in the series, I won't go into detail on each of them again (The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, The Gray Wolf Throne).  This is more an overall series and Crimson Crown review.  I listened to the first three books on audio in preparation for the last one and it was a great idea!  Especially as there are so many characters and plots going on at once that I totally forgot some things.  I am always blown away by the complicated, detailed, and enthralling world Chima created.  This world is so believable, mostly because Chima doesn't spare on details.  It totally reminds me of the full-immersion experience I have when reading Lord of the Rings.  Middle Earth is only slightly more real to me than the Seven Realms.  Not only is the fantasy just amazing, but the characters are too.  I thought about Raisa and Han and Amon when I wasn't listening or reading and then long after I finished.  I can't seem to get them out of my mind!  
I enjoyed the narration, though I was a bit skeptical at first, because Carol Monda has kind of an older woman voice.  But she does accent and feeling very well and I was immersed in the experience all the way through.

The series end did not disappoint.  It was so packed with action, adventure, depth, twists and emotion that I almost couldn't believe it.  I loved where the story went and I was really impressed that it seemed Chima was getting her characters into spots where there were no ways out.  But of course, Han can always find a way out.  Raisa continued to make hard choices, and balanced her feelings with her responsibilities very carefully.  

Things I Didn't Like:
The books are LONG, but for true fantasy-lovers, the longer the better.  Also, I did get a bit bothered by the pretty lax attitude everyone seems to have about relationships and how many different people the Raisa has relations with and thinks it doesn't matter much.  It was a bit disconcerting for a sixteen-year-old to be that way.  I had a few issues near the end of Crimson Crown where I thought things were not explained enough and then left me wondering if they happened just for convenience in the story.  Still, I'm completely blown away by this epic series and recommend it to fantasy fans looking for something totally engaging.

Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Crown and Court Duel by Sherwood Smith

occasionally, though most are made up in the world

mrg-factor: XX
implied, not on page

a number of violent incidents, generally not too descriptive

Overall rating: *****

Epic fantasy - love it or hate it?

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