Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (147)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All the Way Home by Catherynne M. Valente (3/1/16):

Description on Goodreads:
The fifth and final book in the Fairyland series.
Why I’m Waiting:
So, that’s not much of a description, I know. But, I guess this book needs no description or preamble. I want it like mad. I have loved every book in this series to date, and I can’t imagine not loving the final installment. The writing is brilliant. The characters are amazing. The world is incredible. And can’t wait to find out what happened to certain favorite characters of mine.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hello, I Love You by Katie M. Stout

Summary (from Goodreads):
A teen escapes to a boarding school abroad and falls for a Korean pop star in this fun and fresh romantic novel in the vein of Anna and the French Kiss.

Grace Wilde is running—from the multi-million dollar mansion her record producer father bought, the famous older brother who’s topped the country music charts five years in a row, and the mother who blames her for her brother’s breakdown. Grace escapes to the farthest place from home she can think of, a boarding school in Korea, hoping for a fresh start.

She wants nothing to do with music, but when her roommate Sophie’s twin brother Jason turns out to be the newest Korean pop music superstar, Grace is thrust back into the world of fame. She can't stand Jason, whose celebrity status is only outmatched by his oversized ego, but they form a tenuous alliance for the sake of her friendship with Sophie. As the months go by and Grace adjusts to her new life in Korea, even she can't deny the sparks flying between her and the KPOP idol.

Soon, Grace realizes that her feelings for Jason threaten her promise to herself that she'll leave behind the music industry that destroyed her family. But can Grace ignore her attraction to Jason and her undeniable pull of the music she was born to write? Sweet, fun, and romantic, this young adult novel explores what it means to experience first love and discover who you really are in the process.
Again, I found myself reading a book I wasn’t quite expecting. I wasn’t expecting to have so much feels in this one. But, I had a lengthy, teary-eyed moment here. And I normally like some kind of warning of sadness so I can mentally prepare. Also, I was expecting this to be a little more about KPOP than it was.
I’ve also noticed that this book has some mixed reviews. A common opinion seems to be that Grace is almost too “American” and un-accepting of a new culture. And while I agree with this in the beginning, I’m not so sure about this by the end. Grace does a lot of growing up in this book. It takes her a long time to be able to see the beauty of Korea. There’s a lot of culture shock, and strong unwillingness to accept difference and change. But, I think this has more to do with Grace’s situation that she left behind than anything else.
Also, I like that Grace grows up. She learns to be a more accepting person. She sees her flaws and wants to fix them. She learns from her ignorance. And watching that happen was amazing.
I also kind of feel that a lot of the reasons people didn’t like this book had more to do with marketing. I was expecting a fluffy romance with KPOP elements. This is not what I got. It was more a coming of age story set in a foreign country, then it was romantic comedy. And KPOP was not the main focus. It wasn’t a major focus at all. In fact, a lot of the time, it’s mocked by the main character. So, I could see why someone (like a KPOP fan) would be super excited to read this, and super then disappointed.
I took a Korean class in high school, and I learned about the music and dramas then. I enjoyed them, though I’m by no means a huge fan. So, I guess some of the things that were said didn’t bother me too much. I’m not a big pop music listener, period. But, I can see why people might not like this because of what the book looks like it promises. It was more about coming to terms with change, sadness, and love then it was about the music or culture of a country.
I mostly loved it. I connected to Grace. I would also sweat my face off from all the walking, be ill-prepared to use chopsticks, and not know how to make friends, etc. I liked watching her grow. I loved her roommate and her sister. I loved watching her connect with Jason. And I loved that Jason was also learning how to live through his own problems. Jason didn’t fix Grace. But, he understood her. And that was fantastic.
Really, I wish I had some kind of heads up about the feels that came. I wish I could have prepped myself for the level of fluff this provided. However, I loved seeing Korea through Grace’s eyes. I want to go there so bad! Also, I loved the romance. I found the music and drama in the background to be a little addictive, as they should be. I give it an 8/10.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Summary (from Goodreads):
Aza Ray is drowning in thin air.

Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live.

So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn't think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name.

Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia.

Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?
This book was not at all what I was expecting. I knew it would involve a main character with a severe/fatal illness. And I knew there would be another world with ships in the sky. I was not expecting bird people. Or magical singing. Or little birds that pair with you and your heart. The world of Magonia is insane. The politics, the beauty, the power, and the adventure of it really make this book stand out. The world-building is remarkable.
It’s hard to compare this story to anything else. Aza makes a rather nice comparison, herself, in the middle of the book. “I feel like I’m in a book written by George Orwell. Except that this is nicer than Orwell. This is Animal Farm plus Peter Pan, plus…squallwhales and bird people” (144).
The writing is also pretty amazing. It read a bit more like an adult fantasy novel than a YA one for me. Some of the sentences were so well put together, so poetic, I commonly found myself stopping to re-read certain phrases.
I loved the romance in this too. It’s the slow-building best friends turned best soul-mates kind of love. It was so awkward and real feeling. It wasn’t all pretty. It was filled with hospital visits and ambulance rides. But, it also involved watching nerdy videos, a shared love for acquiring knowledge of all things, and such moments of adorableness that I found myself shipping these two from page one.
One of my few complaints about this book was that it was a little too easy to put down. It took me over a week to read. It moved rather slowly, like an adult fantasy novel. Also, a little too much time seemed to be focused on Aza’s illness on earth. And I kind of wish more time was spent in the sky.
I have never read anything quite like this story. I enjoyed being surprised by its uniqueness. I loved the world building. I enjoyed the characters. I shipped the romance. And I could not get enough of the adventure. The pace was a little too slow for my liking, and I’m not sure so much emphasis was needed for the main character’s illness in the beginning. I still loved it. I give it a 9/10.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (146)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl (10/13/15).

Description on Goodreads:
This novel features all the thrilling adventure readers will expect from the Marvel brand, backed up by the young-adult cred of #1 New York Times bestselling author Margaret Stohl. Uncover a new side of the Marvel Universe, accessible to old fans and new readers alike, as Stohl weaves an unforgettable story through the world of the Black Widow.
Why I’m Waiting:
Who doesn’t love Black Widow? I liked Margaret Stohl’s earlier YA series and I can’t wait to get a YA element to this amazing Marvel character. Frankly, I find it insulting that she doesn’t get her own movie. I mean even Ant-Man gets his own movie. Why not Black Widow? Any way, I have a feeling this book will be awesome. I can’t wait to read it.
What are you waiting on?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

Summary from Goodreads:
Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories--one in words, the other in pictures--come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.
I picked up an advanced copy of this at BEA. The finished book comes out in September. I’ve wanted it since I heard of it, and I was so unbelievably happy to get my hand on this so early. It’s one of the first books I read from BEA. I physically could not sit in the same room as this book at not read it. And well, this may be my favorite Selznick book yet.
This author is so good from switching back and forth between narrative prose and illustration. Telling the first half of this story in illustration though was new. There is no prose until the second half of the book! Technically, there are words. There are tidbits from newspaper articles, signs, and advertisements. But, I’ve never read anything like this. I had to put things together on my own because only so much can be revealed through pictures. I loved this. I loved that it wasn’t linear or easy. And oh, man, the artwork in here. It’s what you’d expect from a master like Selznick.
This book is not for everyone. It’s not the standard graphic novel you can hand to a reluctant reader. This is a book for readers who love to read. And there were some complexities in it that I’m not sure I would have fully grasped had I not read it as an adult. That being said, everything this book accomplishes in its complex webs of stories, actors, relatives, and uniqueness is just plain brilliant.
I read the whole 650 page volume in one day (granted, half of it is in picture). The story moved fast because you are trying so hard to fit all the pieces together and then to connect the two different stories. Selznick accomplishes here what David Wiesner does with picture books like Flotsam; he is able to tell so much just through images. And the other author I kept finding connections to here was the adult author, David Mitchell. The layers to all the stories and worlds and characters reminded me a lot of Cloud Atlas (my favorite adult book besides the works of Austen).
There’s all the good stuff that makes up a good middle grade book too: family drama, a theme of coming of age, an attempt at running away, making new friends, and acceptance. There’s a nice LGTQ element as well. And there’s also sadness, mental illness, and grief. I wasn’t the biggest fan of all the aspects of the ending, if anything, because I’m not really sure what it all did for the story at large, but that’s okay. I still whole-heartedly loved this book.
I have never read anything like this. This book accomplishes so much with so few words (in the beginning). The layers to the story, the fascinating characters, and the artwork really make this a unique book. I can’t wait to read more reviews for this once it is published. I give it a 10/10.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A Good Week in Books (111)

I had a nice, little book week. I received to new pretties for review. Don’t they all look so pretty this week? Thank you, Macmillan and Hachette. And don’t judge me, but I also pre-ordered the newest Fifty Shades of Grey book: Grey. They are kind of a guilty pleasure for me. I’m so excited to dig into some good books tonight.

The Heart of Betrayal
by Mary E. Pearson
Tangled Webs by Lee Bross
Grey by E.L. James
How was your book week?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Re-Read 2015: The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan and read by Jesse Bernstein

Summary from Goodreads:
All year the half-bloods have been preparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of a victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows.

While the Olympians struggle to contain the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

In this momentous final book in the New York Times best-selling series, the long-awaited prophecy surrounding Percy’s sixteenth birthday unfolds. And as the battle for Western civilization rages on the streets of Manhattan, Percy faces a terrifying suspicion that he may be fighting against his own fate.
I’ve changed my mind. Sorry, book 3. This is my favorite Percy Jackson book. I thought the other ones were hard to put down/stop listening to. This was the worst. It was literally non-stop action. The whole book was one attack by the Titans after another.
On top of the Titans V. Olympians war taking over Manhattan, there is also more trips to the underworld, humongous risks, prophecies being fulfilled, kisses that transpire, meetings with the Gods, the return of all your favorite mythological creature friends, the getting to know the old Luke, prophets, family drama, the worst of all monsters (that take all of the Greek gods to kill), and death.
I was impressed by Percy’s bravery. He went all out to be able help win this war. I was actually blown away by the bravery of all the side characters too.  Clarisse just owned the town with her fighting skills. Grover went all out too. Even Thalia comes back, along with the hunters, and shows off her mad skills. Also, surprising, were Percy’s mother and stepfather. I was blown away by their help. And I can’t forget about how brave Rachel Elizabeth Dare is either.
This is the book all the other ones lead up to. The moment of the prophecy is here. And It so easily could have been a major let-down. It wasn’t. It completely led up to all of my high expectations (both times)!
I remember being annoyed by some of the things it took Percy too long to figure out. Like, seriously, why was the next prophet a surprise? And the overall message of the prophecy wasn’t that confusting. This time reading/listening though, this didn’t bother me so much. Percy was never known for being the smartest or wisest. I liked that he wasn’t good at all things, and had to figure some of the important stuff out as he grew up.
I love the ending of the book too. What a fantastic ending. I kept thinking about what I would do if I were offered what Percy was offered. He clearly made the right decision, and I can’t wait to get into the next series (of which I have only read book 1 in the past…).  These books are fun, fast-paced, hilarious, adventure-filled, sentimental, and just plain good. I can’t believe I never re-read them until now. They combine Greek mythology with all the normal kid/teen stuff I read on a routine basis. Riordan does a fantastic job of mixing modern day NYC with ancient Greece. The characters are believable and fun. And I really can’t say anything bad here right now. This gets a 10/10.