Monday, February 29, 2016

A Good Week in Books (129)

Just as I was starting to wonder why I hadn’t received any books for review in a long time, all the books came from Macmillan. I had a nice, big box waiting on my steps when I came home today. Thank you, Macmillan. I need a bookish surprise.

Stars Above
by Marissa Meyer
Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance
The Killing Jar by Jennifer Bosworth
I See Reality by Grace Kendall
After the Woods by Kim Savage
The Rule of Mirrors by Caragh M. O’Brien
My Second Life by Faye Bird
The Last Place on Earth by Carol Snow

How was your week in books?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

Summary from Goodreads:
In a city divided between opulent luxury in the Light and fierce privations in the Dark, a determined young woman survives by guarding her secrets.

Lucie Manette was born in the Dark half of the city, but careful manipulations won her a home in the Light, celebrity status, and a rich, loving boyfriend. Now she just wants to keep her head down, but her boyfriend has a dark secret of his own—one involving an apparent stranger who is destitute and despised. Lucie alone knows the young men’s deadly connection, and even as the knowledge leads her to make a grave mistake, she can trust no one with the truth.

Blood and secrets alike spill out when revolution erupts. With both halves of the city burning, and mercy nowhere to be found, can Lucie save either boy—or herself?

Celebrated author Sarah Rees Brennan weaves a magical tale of romance and revolution, love and loss.
I am an insanely big Sarah Rees Brennan fan. I had no idea copies of this ARC would be available at ALA midwinter. I’m pretty sure some kind of loud screeching noise (of joy) subconsciously burst from my mouth when I saw a hug pile of these babies on the floor. It was one of those moments where I had to clutch the book to my chest and have a book hug for about 10 minutes. I seriously couldn’t even look at any other books for 10 minutes after picking this up. It took ever ounce of self-control I had not to just leave the conference then and go home and read this.
I also need to add that I love Charles Dickens. I was kind of that pretentious 11/12 year old who went to parties/family get-togethers with either a Dickens or an Austen book. While, A Tale of Two Cities is not my favorite (granted, I read it way before I knew anything about the French Revolution), I was beyond excited to get a magical retelling by Brennan.
I was not disappointed. I definitely loved Brennan’s version of Lucie so much more. I know we all hate when people compare all YA things to one of the few extraordinarily popular YA books like the Hunger Games. However, I couldn’t help but make Lucie/Katniss connections. She was such a good character. I loved that she wasn’t all good. She wasn’t always doing the right thing to do the right thing. She did what she had to do to survive and to protect her dad. And I love a main character that isn’t so good all the time. It’s just so much more real this way. Any way, she was a total Katniss type character. Also, both leading ladies played the symbol for a revolution.
I love how creative Brennan got with the setting. She made a light magic versus dark magic NYC, where the dark part was sort of quarantined off and always being compared to being buried underground. I was kind of picturing some kind of Holocaust level Jewish ghettos for the dark magicians. Also, the light magicians need the dark musicians to drain their blood when they use up their magic. They rely on the dark, but also segregate them and treat them poorly. Everything about this world was so genius. I could see the world being divided like this if light and dark magic were a thing.
And the parallels between this world and revolutionary France and London (during that time) are just remarkable. There were some Dickens quotes that Brennan took and then just expanded upon in such creative, unique ways. It was a bit of a sad story, but because I know how A Tale of Two Cities ends, I knew this ending was coming, and I actually never cried in it.
So much of this book can be compared to Dickens’ novel. Brennan, somehow incredibly, really does follow the same storyline. She twists in magic and modern technology and just fits it all together with this classic story that can never really be out-dated. I can’t help but make connections between the divisions of classes and magic types and the divisions of classes and races in the real world today.
The one thing that did kind of irritate me, just a little bit, was the repetitiveness of the light/dark metaphor. At first, I loved it. It made sense with the story and the quotes from Dickens. But, after a while, after all the skyline images and rooftop viewings, I was bored with the metaphor. I got it. If I were her editor, I’d just say to cut maybe half of the light/dark metaphors. Let readers pick that up on their own.
Otherwise, I loved this. I loved the modern versions of these classic characters. I loved the magical/political setting. I loved the references to the past classic. And I loved the new additions to the story. I love Brennan’s voice and all that she brought to the table here. There was one overdone metaphor that I wish it was cut loose a little earlier on, but otherwise, what a fantastic book! I give it a 9/10.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (177)

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 Aerie by Maria Dahvana Headley (10/4/16):

Description on Goodreads:
Where is home when you were born in the stars?

Aza Ray is back on earth. Her boyfriend Jason is overjoyed. Her family is healed. She’s living a normal life, or as normal as it can be if you’ve spent the past year dying, waking up on a sky ship, and discovering that your song can change the world.

As in, not normal. Part of Aza still yearns for the clouds, no matter how much she loves the people on the ground.

When Jason’s paranoia over Aza’s safety causes him to make a terrible mistake, Aza finds herself a fugitive in Magonia, tasked with opposing her radical, bloodthirsty, recently-escaped mother, Zal Quel, and her singing partner Dai. She must travel to the edge of the world in search of a legendary weapon, The Flock, in a journey through fire and identity that will transform her forever.

In this stunning sequel to the critically acclaimed Magonia, one girl must make an impossible choice between two families, two homes—and two versions of herself.
Why I’m Waiting:
Yes! I’m so ready for this book to come out. I absolutely adored the first book. It surprised me in so many good and interesting ways. This new one sounds like it could eve be better than the first one. I love that cover is consistent with book 1 too.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Carnivorous Carnival by Lemony Snicket and read by Tim Curry

Summary from Goodreads:
Dear Reader,

The word "carnivorous", which appears in the title of this book, means "meat-eating", and once you have read such a bloodthirsty word, there is no reason to read any further. This carnivorous volume contains such a distressing story that consuming any of its contents would be far more stomach-turning than even the most imbalanced meal.

To avoid causing discomfort, it would be best if I didn't mention any of the unnerving ingredients of this story, particularly a confusing map, an ambidextrous person, an unruly crowd, a wooden plank, and Chabo the Wolf Baby.

Sadly for me, my time is filled with researching and recording the displeasing and disenchanting lives of the Baudelaire orphans. But your time might be better filled with something more palatable, such as eating your vegetables, or feeding them to someone else.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

These books are getting better and better. I literally sat in my car, in my own driveway, after getting home from work one night for like 30 minutes, to continue listening to the story. 30 minutes is a long time when you are hungry and had lunch over 6 hours ago. This story kept me seriously captivated the whole time.
I also need to say that I tend to hate the circus and carnivals, and when books go that route, I will 9 times out of 10 hate them. I’m not 100% sure as to why that is. It just is. Maybe it’s rooted in my childhood fear of clowns. Maybe most circus related YA is just awful. I don’t know. Regardless, I was a little worried as to how I’d react to this installment, based of its title, alone.
This was one of those 1/10 good circus/carnival stories. Thank goodness. There were no clowns. There were some freaks, who really weren’t all that freak-ish. I love how the author kept playing with the fact that Olaf’s associates all looked freak-ish too. Audience members kept mixing up the hook-handed man with the people actually participating in the freak show. This made me laugh every time.
I love how Snicket can be so funny, but at the same time, so poignantly emotional. I can see this book being split open in a literature class discussing perspective and point of view.
I guess I’m also loving these later installments so much more than the earlier ones because the kids are smarter, braver, and finally taking things into their own hands. There hasn’t been another Poe sighting in quite some time. And the kids even went as far as to follow Olaf before he could follow them. The VFD/family mystery is getting juicier and juicer and there was another cliffhanger at the end that made so extremely grateful for already having ordered the next book from my library.
Also, I love all the continued literary references. The hunchback was named Hugo. And I thought that was smart. It makes me think back to the Orwell references in a previous book. Any way, I loved this one. I can’t wait to see where it all leads. This gets a 10/10 from me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (176)

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 Diplomatic Immunity by Brodi Ashton (9/6/16):

Description on Goodreads:
A standalone novel about a recent scholarship recipient who sets out to expose debauchery at her exclusive private school in Washington, D.C., only to find herself falling in love with the baddest boy of all.
Why I’m Waiting:
Yes! Finally, more Bordi Ahston. I know she’s co-writing another book to come out this year, but still… Another book just by her! I’m so excited. Plus, this sounds like it will be a lot of fun to read. And what better way to spend an election year than by reading a political YA book or two? I’m also a fan of the cover. I hope I enjoy this one as much as I have her past books.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Hostile Hospital by Lemony Snicket and read by Tim Curry

Dear Reader,

Before you throw this awful book to the ground and run as far away from it as possible, you should probably know why. This book is the only one which describes every last detail of the Baudelaire children's miserable stay at Heimlich Hospital, which makes it one of the most dreadful books in the world.

There are many pleasant things to read about, but this book contains none of them. Within its pages are such burdensome details as a suspicious shopkeeper, unnecessary surgery, an intercom system, anaesthesia, heart-shaped balloons, and some very startling news about a fire. Clearly you do not want to read about such things.

I have sworn to research this story, and to write it down as best I can, so I should know that this book is something best left on the ground, where you undoubtedly found it.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket
I have come to view all car rides where I am not listening to a book in A Series of Unfortunate Events to be sad, boring car rides. These books make my short commute to work every day, one of my moments I most look forward to. And this installment certainly did not disappoint.
The kids are on the run now. Unlike every book that has become before this one, the kids have no one to look out for them. They have no more guardians. And Mr. Poe was MIA. Also, for the first time, I thought they stood a fair chance of making it through alive with some more facts about their parents’ death.
This volume was also the scariest for me. There’s something about being knocked unconscious for an unwarranted, experimental brain surgery that had my pulse racing as I was listening to this story. I loved that the kids were willing to take risks in this one. They have learned to take matters into their own hands. And I love how easy it was for them to fool people, to disguise themselves, and to finally learn some small smidgen as to what is going on.
3 cheers for libraries! However, spoiler alert: I must warn readers who love libraries: the library of records in this book, while a little helpful, also did not escape the clutches of Olaf and Esme. I know I should probably be more disgusted by the pair burning down a hospital than I should be by them burning down the library, but yikes. It all made my heart ache.
I like that the children never cease to learn how incredibly absurd the world is. For instance, the VFD (volunteers fighting disease), go around to every hospital room to sing a song and give out heart-shaped balloons, but they won’t actually give patients things they need like glasses of water. And no one seems to question whether or not an infant can be responsible for murder. Or why 3 young children would volunteer without an adult present.
All that aside, I loved how different this book was from the rest of the series. The pace was fast and some of the plot was rather scary. The humor and absurdity of everything stood strong.  A little smidgen of a secret was learned. The children had the most daring, exciting ending yet. And I cannot wait to continue with this wonderfully fun story. I give this one a 10/10.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Rivals in the City by Y.S. Lee

Summary from Goodreads:
In a tale steeped in action, romance, and the gaslit intrigue of Victorian London, Mary Quinn’s detective skills are pitted against a cunning and desperate opponent.

Mary Quinn has a lot on her mind. James Easton, her longtime love interest, wants to marry her; but despite her feelings, independent-minded Mary hesitates. Meanwhile, the Agency has asked Mary to take on a dangerous case: convicted fraudster Henry Thorold is dying in prison, and Mary must watch for the return of his estranged wife, an accomplished criminal herself who has a potentially deadly grudge against James. Finally, a Chinese prizefighter has arrived in town, and Mary can’t shake a feeling that he is somehow familiar. With the stakes higher than ever, can Mary balance family secrets, conflicting loyalties, and professional expertise to bring a criminal to justice and find her own happiness?
These books are so amazing! It took me too long to get to this one. Seriously, every time I read them I’m just in love. I don’t consider myself much of a mystery reader. Occasionally, one will suck me in. But, for the most part, they don’t appeal to me. These Victorian London ones get me every time!
This installment did not disappoint. The mystery actually brought back the first mystery from book 1. I loved the return of a certain awful character. I needed to know what she was up to as much as Mary did. Also, it was so interesting and fun to see the much more humbled Angelica. Seeing the stuck up, snobby daughter of book 1 return as a much poorer and scandalized music student of book 4 was a dream.
Also a dream was the much more developed romance between Mary and James. I 100% understand why Mary is hesitant to get married and become any man’s “possession.” However, I love James. He sees Mary as his equal and I’m so in love with all the positive changes I’ve grown to notice in his character. He defends people of other races to his snobby dinner party. He trusts people Mary tells him he can. He trusts Mary enough to not mind her going away on dangerous jobs or to not care that she wants to dress as man to see a fighting match. They have such chemistry and witty dialog together too. They are a true team.
Also behind the reunions of old characters, the big job, and the romance, is the mystery of Mary’s past and heritage. So much is answered in this book. And I loved finally getting to learn a few things. I also loved that James was finally able to learn a few things too.
This book was great. The setting, the characters, the mystery, the action, the romance, the history, and the feminism all roll up nicely into one charming package. I wish these books had a little more hype. And I wish there were more of them. I recommend them all the time. This one gets a 9/10.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (175)

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 Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (3/8/16):

Description on Goodreads:
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.
Why I’m Waiting:
Well, this sounds kind of awesome. It has parts in that summary that vaguely remind me of one of my all time favorite YA books: Blood Red Road. But more than that, it just sounds new and different. I also have a couple of friends who were seriously talking it up to me at ALA Midwinter. The cover is pretty. The story sounds awesome. And I’m already hearing good things about it. I can’t wait to read it.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Vile Village by Lemony Snicket and read by Tim Curry

Summary from Goodreads:
Dear Reader,

You have undoubtedly picked up this book by mistake, so please put it down. Nobody in their right mind would read this particular book about the lives of Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire on purpose, because each dismal moment of their stay in the village of V.F.D. has been faithfully and dreadfully recorded in these pages. I can think of no single reason why anyone would want to open a book containing such unpleasant matters as migrating crows, an angry mob, a newspaper headline, the arrest of innocent people, the Deluxe Cell, and some very strange hats. It is my solemn and sacred occupation to research each detail of the Baudelaire children's lives and write them all down, but you may prefer to do some other solemn and sacred thing, such as reading another book instead.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket
I really love these books. I also have been super enjoying listening to them all on audio. I think this one may have been my favorite so far. The word play, the humor, the witty intelligence of it all, and the characters, just make for one remarkably fun series. Also, side note: I got into a long conversation about the series with an adult checking out one of the books at work! She also couldn’t get over how smart and amazing these books were. I love finding fellow fans to sing the praises of books over.
Any way, this book really takes the phrase: “it takes a village to raise a child,” very seriously. The orphans are now sent to a village, as compared to a guardian or a school. When given a list of villages to choose from, of course the children pick the one named V.F.D, in hopes of it providing some kind of clue into finding their triplet friends.
The vile village of V.F.D. proves to be rather vile. The kids are forced to follow an obscene list of rules put on the by the town elders. The town elders are very found of the many crows who inhabit the village and the most important rule is to not bother them. The children again aren’t given an education, but instead a profession. They are meant to follow the handyman around the village and to spend the day doing everyone’s chores.
Luckily, for them clues do come to pas in regards to their kidnapped friends. They have mysterious poetry they have to decipher. Too bad Olaf comes back and blames the children for murder. There’s an angry mob of villagers that plan on burning the children at the stake. There’s self-sustaining hot air mobile homes, murders of crows, mysterious fountains, secret codes hidden in couplets, exciting reunions, prison breaks, narrow escapes, and my all time favorite ending as of yet.
These books do have a repetitive nature and certainly a formula that can get a bit tiresome. However, the books are finally getting to the part in the series when they are branching out a bit differently. They aren’t all the same any more. And a larger orverarcing plot arc is finally coming into the picture.
This one also had a particularly sad moment when Klaus realized it was his birthday (as he was sitting in a prison cell, awaiting his burning at the stake). And I had a tear in my eye when he compared it to his previous year’s birthday. These books can be hilarious, absurd, and full of adventure, but they can all sneak in these emotional moments as well. Really, I was quite impressed with this installment. It’s definitely one of my favorites. I give it a 10/10.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Good Week in Books (128)

I had a nice little book week. I received one for review (thank you, Disney Hyperion). And I actually purchased one. I have worked hard to not buy a lot of books any more. And for the most part, I have become super successful at it. I receive so many for review and I pick up a lot at conferences. And I also work in a library…Every now and then something comes out that I know I’ll want to re-read again at some point though, so I’ll buy it.
The pretties:

Every Word
by Ellie Marney
Out of Abaton by John Claude Bemis
How was your week in books?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (174)

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 Heartless by Marissa Meyer (11/8/16):

Description on Goodreads:
Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.
Why I’m Waiting:
Oh my goodness, this sounds amazing! I love this author.  Her Lunar Chronicles is probably hands down one of my all time favorite YA series. I cannot wait to see what she does next. Also, I have such a soft spot in my heart for Alice in Wonderland retellings. I know Meyer will do this retelling like a pro. I love that it’s about the future Queen of Hearts too. And I love picturing the future Queen of Hearts just wanting to open a bakery with her best friend. Yes. Why is November so far away?
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Summary from Goodreads:
On a continent ruled by three empires, some are born with a “witchery”, a magical skill that sets them apart from others.

In the Witchlands, there are almost as many types of magic as there are ways to get in trouble—as two desperate young women know all too well.

Safiya is a Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lie. It’s a powerful magic that many would kill to have on their side, especially amongst the nobility to which Safi was born. So Safi must keep her gift hidden, lest she be used as a pawn in the struggle between empires.

Iseult, a Threadwitch, can see the invisible ties that bind and entangle the lives around her—but she cannot see the bonds that touch her own heart. Her unlikely friendship with Safi has taken her from life as an outcast into one of reckless adventure, where she is a cool, wary balance to Safi’s hotheaded impulsiveness.

Safi and Iseult just want to be free to live their own lives, but war is coming to the Witchlands. With the help of the cunning Prince Merik (a Windwitch and ship’s captain) and the hindrance of a Bloodwitch bent on revenge, the friends must fight emperors, princes, and mercenaries alike, who will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.
This book crossed my radar a long time ago. There was a lot of hype for this one at BEA last year.  I’ve never read a book by Dennard, but I’ve read so much of her praises and I do follow her on social media. This book just sounded so awesome. Basically it sounded a bit like a giant YA Avatar type fantasy that centered on friendship. How can that be bad?
For the most part, I did really enjoy this one. It did read like a giant YA Avatar type fantasy that centered on friendship. I love YA that has good friendships in it. It’s kind of my experience that if there are no good friends, too much emphasis is on the romance. And I love romance, really I do. I just like a few side dishes with my main course and my main course doesn’t always have to be the same. So, for that aspect of the book I’m so grateful.
I loved this world too. I found the different kinds of magic to be fascinating. I want to know so much more about it. I want to see more of the fire magic and iron magic and the bloodwitch. There’s just so much I don’t know yet, in regards to this world and the magic that I know I will have to continue reading the series to learn about it. This author is great at never info-dumping. She builds her world as she goes along. And while sometimes this can be frustrating, at other times I really respect her for it. She started right in the middle of an action sequence, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I like the idea of political powers going on crazy missions and risking it all to get their hands on the truthwitch. I do kind of want to know how everyone seems to know of her abilities despite the fact she’s lived with that secret her whole life. Was everyone knowing about her, part of her uncle’s plan? And how far did his plan reach exactly? So much I need to know!
There were two things that bothered me a little, while reading. One, I’m not sure I believed Safiya and Iseault’s friendship. And two, I really hated the romantic interest. So, I just said how much I loved that it was about friendship, and I did. I just wish there was more to go on than a past life-saving event that was quickly summarized and not ever shown. I wanted to see their friendship more than I did. They were always risking each other’s lives for the other and putting their friendship first above all else, which is great. But why? Why are they friends? Maybe if I saw them interact in any way that wasn’t running for their lives or fighting bad guys, I’d see it more. I guess their friendship felt kind of insta-love like, with no real development. I get that it might not make sense to see their history or how they first became friends in the story, but I did need to see more of their interactions/connections.
And the leading love interest was such a jerk. I’m not sure I could ever fall for a guy who chains up the main character (twice). Seriously, he has to punish his crew for disobeying and he can’t look like he’s treating her any differently, but really? How am I supposed to fall for a guy who practically tortures the main character on some weird/twisted type of principal? I though he was supposed to be different from his sister. Couldn’t part of that difference be a sense of compassion and humility?
All in all, this book was fun. I loved the idea of a fantasy based on two girl friends. I wish I could see more of that friendship than I did. I love the world the author created and all the unanswered questions I have are seriously making me need the next book already. There was a lot of action, which I love. I’m not a fan of the romantic interest. But, it’s only book 1. Maybe someone else will enter the picture later? I give it an 7.5/10.