Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Book Review: The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison

The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Publication date: May 2013
Pages: 400
Source: ARC from publisher
For: Review

In a world of unbalanced magic, where the neweyr (a female and more nature-oriented magic) and the taweyr (a male more violent, controlling magic) seem completely incompatible, two princesses in opposing kingdoms must find their places. Uniting the two lands seems like the best option, and may just fulfill the prophecy that predicts a healing of their world, but it seems impossible. And if they were to unite, which princess would hold that throne?

Things I Liked:
I have to admit that was an awful summary, but I had a hard time coming up with anything.  This book induced some kind of delicious reading addiction for me.  I wanted to know what happened - I was dying for the ending and I wanted to see all my characters resolutions.  I liked the characters, they were interesting and flawed and so very different, though I admit I didn't much care for Ailsbet and prefered Issa.  I think the reading power of the book, it's ability to make you want to know what happens, is its best asset.  However, I was ultimately disappointed.

Things I Didn't Like:
I found the ending was not satisfying at all.  I felt like the entire book was building up to this great finale and then it just kind of fizzled.  I am not sure what I was expecting, which was one reason I was so eager to find out, but what I got left me feeling cheated.  I really can't put this into reasonable terms, but I didn't think it was quite good enough for the build up.  Also, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out if there were supposed to be modern-day parallels with the taweyr and neweyr and the ekhonos (people who are born with the "wrong" kind of magic).  When I finally stopped spending time wondering what the author was trying to say about it, I enjoyed it more.  I am also left wondering if there are sequels or if that ending was supposed to be so ambiguous.

Reminded me a bit of her other books, notably The Princess and the Hound

s-factor: none
that I recall

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
a very little bit of action

Overall rating: ***

Do you often read books that you really wanted to love, but didn't end up liking much?

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

Monday, April 29, 2013

Read-a-Thon: Updates and My Final Stats!

So, I decided last minute that I simply could NOT let Dewey's read-a-thon pass me by!  This may be my last chance in a while, because who knows where I'll be when my baby comes. :)  Of course, my day is looking extremely full already (I probably won't get to reading until this afternoon) and I lack the ability to stay up past 10pm, so I'm aiming low and hoping to read for 5-10 hours and maybe finish a book or two.  I am hosting the Book Puzzle mini-challenge again starting hour 6, so be sure to come by then.

I'm so unambitious too, that I don't have a pile of books to read either.  I guess I'll just grab whatever strikes my fancy and hope for something awesome.

Final Update:
Turns out, I pretty much crashed right about the time I did my second update.  So, yeah.  Not so great with the read-a-thon.  But, still glad I decided to try.  And yeah for all the awesome Book Puzzles y'all created!

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
This is so funny I just can't even.  All of them?  The few that I wasn't actually reading? :)

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Well, Bomb by Steve Sheinkin was the only one I read, but it was pretty darn exciting and fun!

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I think it runs very well, as always!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
Uh, I don't know that I have enough info to answer this.  It was fun to see all the winners each post, though!

5. How many books did you read? What were the names of the books you read? Which book did you enjoy most? Which did you enjoy least?
Just finished the one, Bomb by Steve Sheinkin, which I guess makes it the most and least enjoyed!

6. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? 
Well, I'm going to have a new baby next time, but I'm still thinking I might try to host the Book Puzzle mini-challenge again, because I just love it!

Final stats:
Title of book(s) read: I ended up only reading a few pages of Diverse Energies by various authors and I finished Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
Number of books completed since I started: 1
Pages read since last update: 5
Total pages read since I started: 273
Time spent reading since last update: ~10 min
Time spent reading since I started: 5 hrs (yeah, my minimum goal!)
Mini-challenges completed: 4 (Intro, Alexis' Turn the Page, and Andi's Six Word Celebration, End of Event)

Update #2: Hour 17
Well, good thing my goals weren't lofty, as I'm not sure I'll manage to get much more reading done today!  Still, it's fun to try:

Title of book(s) currently reading: Just finished Bomb by Steve Sheinkin, thinking about starting Loki's Wolves by Marr and Armstrong or maybe Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
Number of books completed since I started: 1
Pages read since last update: 147
Total pages read since I started: 268
Time spent reading since last update: 2 hrs 20 min
Time spent reading since I started: 4 hrs 50 min
Mini-challenges completed: 3 (Intro, Alexis' Turn the Page, and Andi's Six Word Celebration)

Update #1: Hour 10
Well, I've just managed to get in a little bit of (interrupted) reading time so far and I'm about to be interrupted again for a few hours.  Good thing my expectations were low! Here are my current stats:

Title of book(s) currently reading: I'm working my way through Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
Number of books completed since I started: 0
Pages read since last update: 121
Total pages read since I started: 121
Time spent reading since last update: 2 hrs 30 min
Time spent reading since I started: 2 hrs 30 min
Mini-challenges completed: 1 (just the intro)

Intro mini-challenge:
1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Sunny (and maybe a little bit too warm already) Arizona.  Hopefully I'll read in my hammock for a while.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
I haven't got a stack prepared, so I'm hoping to be surprised :)

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Give me some fresh fruit - I've got some yummy pineapple waiting to be eaten.  And probably some chocolate.  And whatever else I crave.
4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I'm hoping I can find a position comfortable enough to read in for a while - folks aren't kidding when they say that last trimester can be uncomfortable!

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today?
Care less about how much I read and doing every mini-challenge I possibly can. :)  In other words, be more laid back.

Welcome, read-a-thon-ers!  How's your day shaping up?

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

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge: Book Puzzle

Welcome reader-a-thon-ers!  I'm super excited to be hosting the Book Puzzle 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 an occasional 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 wherever, 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) and the winner will get to choose any two books from the photos below (sorry about the crummy photo quality - you can ask me about specific titles if you need to).  Unfortunately, since my funds are a bit slim right now, I can only send it to US addresses (though international participants are still welcome to create Book Puzzles).  You have until the end of hour 10 to enter.  Now go forth and create!

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

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien

Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan)
Publication date: October 2012
Pages: 295
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: Birthmarked, Book 3

*Spoilers are inevitable for the first two Birthmarked books*
Gaia is determined to lead the people from Sylum back to the Enclave, in hopes of saving them from extinction. But the Enclave isn't ready to take Gaia or her new people back. They've started new experiments and the stakes are higher than ever.

Things I Liked:
While I still enjoyed the genetics discussions and the ethical implications of decisions people make, I was overall not enthralled with the book.  I did like the way Gaia had to struggle with what she wanted and what she thought was not right.  She was a realistic character, making some good and some bad choices and then dealing with the consequences.  I thought she was an interesting leader and her struggles with what a leader must do versus what she wanted to do kept me invested to the end.  The ending is also rather unflinching and not everything turns out well for the characters.  An interesting look at an unusual society.

Things I Didn't Like:
As I said, I was disappointed overall.  I found it really rambling and the back and forth of Gaia began to grate on my nerves.  She made many stupid mistakes, often by not thinking something through or by just making stupid choices (in my opinion).  The ending, while not attempting to avoid the unfortunate, did not please me.  I found that there were too many last minute things that fell into place or that conveniently just happened, despite opposition to them previously.  And on a more personal note, sometimes Gaia seemed so superior in her ideas about motherhood and women's choices that I wanted to smack her.  This is probably because I have experienced infertility for over five years and it is something that if you haven't experienced it, you really won't understand all of it.  But, that's me projecting my experiences on the book, so take that with a big handful of salt.

A bit like
Wither by Lauren DeStefano
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

s-factor: !@
some, not a lot

mrg-factor: X
mostly implied, nothing on page

v-factor: ->->
a bit of violence, not too graphic

Overall rating: **.5

Do you tend to rate some books based on your personal experiences or are you much more objective than I am? :)

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Thought I'd Like More (or Less) Than I Did

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic was a rather sticky one for me: Top Ten Books I Thought I'd Like MORE/LESS Than I Did.  It seems there are a lot more books I thought I'd like more and not so many less.  I think this is in large part due to that wily thing called expectation.  To an extent, we go into every book with some level of expectation.  And generally I avoid those I expect not to enjoy, hence the longer first list.  The disclaimer, then is this: most of these are based entirely on whether or not a book met my expectations, which is definitely a subjective thing.  And on that note:

Books I Thought I'd Like More Than I Did:
Beta by Rachel Cohn
I was super excited to read this one, as it looked like an awesome concept.  It was, I just didn't enjoy it.

Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon
I admit my hopes were not too high, as I'd been burned out on paranormal romance when I got this.  Still, I was sorely disappointed in it.

Hallowed by Cynthia Hand
I was truly surprised by the first book in this series, Unearthly (see list below), and thus had hoped to like the sequel more.  Alas, it wasn't so for me.

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
I had very high hopes for this one and while it met some of those, it still wasn't quite as much as I thought.

Reckless by Cornelia Funke
I really enjoyed Funke's Inkheart series, but this one felt all wrong to me.

Sapphire Blue by Kerstin Gier
After that exciting and intriguing first book, Ruby Red, I expected to love this one.  Not so.

Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder
I guess I missed spending the time with Yelena, because I did not like Opal nearly as much.

Tris and Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison
Admittedly, after seeing a number of less-than-stellar reviews, my hopes were not high.  But, I wanted more from this retelling by a favorite author.

The Weepers by Susanne Winnacker
Another dystopian that I was hoping would be as awesome as Hunger Games.  It wasn't.

What Came From the Stars by Gary D.Schmidt
I adored everything I'd read of Schmidt's thus far, but this foray into fantasy was a miss for me.

And on a happier note:
Books I Thought I'd Like Less Than I Did:
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
I thought this one would be silly fun.  I was right, but it was so. much. more.

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood
I expected only a bit of silliness, but the audiobook of this was much more interesting than I first thought!

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Yes, I liked lots of Maggie's stuff, but I did not expect to fall so head over heals in love with those raven boys!

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
See my above comment about the sequel.  I had not had much luck with angel books, but this one surprised me with its refreshing touch.

With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo
This one sounded like it might be a bit too cheesy, but it turned out to be a really smart, thoughtful book!

What books made your list this week?

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

Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Review: Goblin Secrets by William Alexander

Goblin Secrets by William Alexander
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: March 2012
Pages: 240
Source: Library
For: Fun

Rownie has spent his childhood living with the witch Graba, doing chores and jobs for her and hoping that his older brother Rowan will return. But, since Rowan became an actor and acting has been outlawed, Rowan hasn't been seen in ages. Rownie decides to set out in search of him and takes up with a goblin troupe, dangerously toeing the line when it comes to acting. Will he be able to find Rowan in time?

Things I Liked:
This was a strange and fascinating story.  I was truly absorbed into the details and the world and I loved how the author used a few words that almost seemed like real words, but then there would be a letter changed and it would provide just enough of a different feel that you couldn't quite be sure if you were in his fantasy world or the real one.  (That probably made no sense and was a dreadful run-on sentence, but I can't figure out how to say it any differently.)  I was drawn into Rownie's fate and worried for him and wondered about him all the way to the end.  A strange and beautifully written almost-fairy-tale of a story.

Things I Didn't Like:
Looking back at it, the story itself was kind of not much.  It seemed like things were happening, and they were, but I'm not sure what the point was or where it was headed.  At the time, I was completely invested (that writing really draws you in, not to mention the world building), but I think the ending kind of disappointed me as well with its quick wrap-up.  Still, I think it would make a fun read-aloud!

Reminded me of Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann
Also, The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby 

s-factor: none

mrg-factor: none

v-factor: ->
some danger and fighting, but not really any violence

Overall rating: ****

Have you read this National Book Award winner?  I'm wondering about its appeal to kids, since I haven't heard much about it since it won.

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

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Book Review: Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: January 2013
Pages: 288
Source: ARC won during Lenore's Dystopian August
For: Fun!
Series: Memory Chronicles, Book 1

Felicia Ward is stuck in the sterile and changeless Level 2 of the afterlife. She spends her days reliving and rating memories of her former life, wishing she could have it all back. But, when she wakes up one day to find one of her friends dead and no one else remembers her, she discovers there is a lot more to Level 2 than she thought.

Things I Liked:
This was a unique and different feeling book.  I liked that it was set in the afterlife and that the action all pretty much takes place in someplace not among the living.  The action was pretty well-paced and the story took some exciting twists and turns, though I saw some of the surprises coming.  It was a solid story with interesting characters.  I was most interested in knowing about Felicia's life on earth (which sounds ironic, considering what I said about the setting) but the story set in the afterlife seemed very vague.  Still, because she seemed so obsessed with what she did, I wanted to know more.  I did really enjoy reading the annotated copy that I won from Lenore - that made it so much more enjoyable, I think.

Things I Didn't Like:
For some reason, the whole thing didn't seem to come together for me.  Perhaps the distracting placement of visiting her memories kept me from feeling like it meshed.  Or, it could have been that I just didn't think I had enough information about the Morati, what Level 2 was like, or why Felicia was so willing to go and do what random people asked her to.  The ending also left me with way more questions than answers to what happened.  It was almost like Felicia forgot what happened before with her Level 2 friends Virginia and Beckah.  Interesting and I'll likely pick up the next one, but didn't blow me away.

A little bit like Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

And for another afterlife aspect, the Riley Bloom series by Alyson Noel

s-factor: !@
a few here and there, one or two f-bombs

mrg-factor: X
some implied (and a seducing scene)

v-factor: ->
just one scene near the end kind of got me, but not really described

Overall rating: ***

What were your thoughts about this book?

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

Monday, April 15, 2013

I Actually NEED It, 15

I Actually NEED It is an extremely irregular feature where I express my desire, or rather need, for certain books that haven't come out or aren't available at my library yet.  To learn about the reason behind the name, check out my inaugural I Actually NEED It post.

The Fire Chronicle by John Stephens
This one is kind of a cheater, as it already came out in October 2012.  But, I still haven't gotten to it and I really enjoyed that first book, The Emerald Atlas.  So, I'm counting it as an anticipatory read all the same.

The Hero's Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy
I've been champing at the bit for this sequel since I heard there would be one!  I absolutely adored The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, laughing my way through the entire story, and I can't wait to get my hands (or ears) on this one.  Fortunately, it comes out later this month.  

Vortex by S.J. Kincaid
Insignia was one of my favorite reads from last year and I am super excited to see where this sci-fi adventure heads next.  Coming July 2013.

The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
The Girl of Fire and Thorns series is kind of one I almost wanted to keep to myself, I loved it so hard.  It's one of those that I hold close as a favorite fantasy series, but if you have to love it too, I guess you can :).  Coming August 2013.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Remember that review for The Raven Boys I posted last week?  I'm already eagerly anticipating what happens next with my favorite characters and delving back into this creepy, realistic, paranormal, rich world.  Coming September 2013.

The Whatnot by Stefan Bachmann
The Peculiar was such an interesting book, such a great story and the weirdness really got to me.  I've been unable to get some of the images from this story out of my mind.  I can't wait to have this happen again in September 2013.

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu
Breadcrumbs was an awesome book and a fabulous fairy tale retelling as well.  I can't wait to get more of Ursu's beautiful writing and more fairy tale adventures this September 2013.

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Does this even need an intro?  It is marketed as a companion to Code Name Verity, so I doubt it does.  Not sure what to expect, but since I adored CNV so much, I intend to love every second of it.  Coming September 2013.

The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer
I actually managed to snag an e-galley of this from Edelweiss and I am currently being swept up again in Matt's crazy life as the new Lord of Opium.  Considering my undying adoration for The House of the Scorpion, I wholly intend to love this as well.  Out September 2013.

Shadows by Robin McKinley
It's Robin McKinley, friends! I'll read it. Plus, science vs magic? Yes, please! Coming September 2013.

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White
Kiersten White is an author who intrigues me so much that I'll pretty much taste anything she puts out.  This one sounds so fun, especially with the Egyptian mythology aspect.  I tend to love mythological retellings.  Coming September 2013.

Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt
And speaking of retellings, I nearly cried when I saw that this collection of stories based on classic stories wasn't coming out until October 2013!  Seriously, you may have already guessed that I love retellings, so this collection is sure to make my heart happy.

Seems like September will be a month filled with so many fabulous books.  What can't you wait for?

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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Publication date: September 2012
Pages: 416
Source: Library
For: Fun
Series: Raven Cycle, Book 1

When Blue Sargent sees a boy in the churchyard, among those who will die the following year, she is shocked. Not only has she not seen anyone there before, as her mother does, but the boy tells her his name, Gansey. Things become even more complicated when Gansey, a rich student at the nearby boys' school, shows up in her real life, seeking something that Blue might just be able to help him find.

Things I Liked:
Is there really anything helpful I can add to the love this book got?  I think not.  But, I'll do a bit of gushing anyway.  I absolutely loved this book - the characters, the setting, the beautiful way Stiefvater writes - all of these things melded together and kept me invested in this book from beginning to end.  There were surprises and twists that I never saw coming.  The mix of the realistic and the paranormal was a perfect blend.  I began to think everything about it was real.  And I really love the characters, especially Blue and Adam.  But they are all very well drawn, though I had a hard time grasping Ronan.  This is just a book that will suck you in and spit you out wanting more at the end.

Things I Didn't Like:
One thing I kind of wished (and this is entirely me) is that it had been a stand alone.  I really wanted the book to wrap up right then and there at the end.  And while some things were resolved, I wanted it to be the end.  On the other hand, this means I get more Blue and Adam and Gansey and Noah and Ronan and more of the strange paranormal world she's created here, so there's that.

It reminded me of Stiefvater's Lament and Ballad

Also a little bit of a The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper feel for me too!

s-factor: !@#
pretty regularly, and a few handfuls of f-bombs

mrg-factor: none
at least that I recall

v-factor: ->
some fighting with some detail, but nothing graphic

Overall rating: *****

Anybody thoughts on why you loved (or didn't love) this book?

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