Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2013

Hosted as always, by The Broke and Bookish

This is more of a top ten books I've read since April (as you know if you've read my 2013 read list I honestly can't remember almost anything I read before April for some reason).  The top five are absolute MUST reads for teen fiction. The rest of the list were books I loved, with a wider age range (I read grown up books too!)

1.  Linked - Imogen Howson:   This is the best sci-fi I've read in years.  Read it! Do it! Now!

2.  Graceling Series (Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue) - Kristin Cashore:  Oh my god I loved this series.  I know this is cheating as technically they're three books, but I just can't pick one.  I can not express how much I loved this whole series.  I'm hoping to reread them and review them all so I CAN let everyone know just how amazing the books are!

3.  Soulbound - Heather Brewer:  In a lot of ways this book reminded me of the Cashore books.  I love strong independent women in fantasies!

4. The Diviners - Libba Bray:  I honestly don't think there's another YA author who is as versatile as Libba Bray.  All her books are so different!  The Diviners has everything a girl could want - 1920's New York, rebellious teen, ensemble cast, dark and mysterious happenings, swoon-worthy boys - the list goes on.

5. Tiger Lily - Jodi Lynn AndersonAs Nafiza stated - this book took my heart and smooshed it together.  A retelling of Peter Pan from Tinkerbell/Tiger Lily's point of view (I promise that makes sense when you read the book), it is some of the most insightful and reflective writing I've ever seen.  And so, so, so beautifully written.

6.  Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name - Vendela Vida:  A novel exploring family secrets is always iffy for me.  It'll either be fantastic or it really drags you down.  This book is obviously the former, as it is on this list.  Another book with just fantastic writing.  Sometimes prose is all it takes to really sucker me in.

7.  Mao's Last Dancer - Li Cunxin:  I think it is so amazing that while the book is written in English, Li Cunxin manages to make everything sound so wonderfully alien to how we say things.  A memoir about dance before we got bombarded with them in the wake of Black Swan, it also explores the struggles of a young man trapped between Communist China and the United States

8.  The Particular Sadness Lemon Cake - Aimee Bender:  I know, I know I've said this about the last couple books, but it's just so beautifully written!  It's a very odd story, I can't say I've read too many surreal novels.  It was unsettling, but that just made me want to reread it all over again.

9.  Stay - Deb Caletti:  I honestly don't have much to say here.  It's Deb Caletti.  She has the most beautiful prose I've ever seen in a YA/teen author, and anyone who has read my other TTT posts knows how much I always love her novels.

10.  Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) - Jim Butcher:  Is it beautifully written, or have rich, developed characters, or a great romantic storyline?  No.  But those are all the reasons I loved reading it.  It's like Magnum P.I. except with wizards in Chicago.  It is simply put, a very entertaining read and I look forward to delving into the rest of the series!

That's it for this week's TTT.  What made it to your list?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Linked - Imogen Howson


Goodreads:  Elissa used to have it all: looks, popularity, and a bright future. But for the last three years, she’s been struggling with terrifying visions, phantom pains, and mysterious bruises that appear out of nowhere. Finally, she’s promised a cure: minor surgery to burn out the overactive area of her brain. But on the eve of the procedure, she discovers the shocking truth behind her hallucinations: she’s been seeing the world through another girl’s eyes. Elissa follows her visions, and finds a battered, broken girl on the run. A girl—Lin—who looks exactly like Elissa, down to the matching bruises. The twin sister she never knew existed. Now, Elissa and Lin are on the run from a government who will stop at nothing to reclaim Lin and protect the dangerous secrets she could expose—secrets that would shake the very foundation of their world. Riveting, thought-provoking and utterly compelling, Linked will make you question what it really means to be human.


Ok, first off I apologize, I had meant to have this up much earlier so I could persuade those of you who haven’t joined Pulse It yet to do so, if only just to read this book!  Unfortunately it’ll only be up for today, so if you’re a speedy reader, head over and join now!  Skip the rest of the review and just read it, trust me it’ll  be worth it.  Otherwise, let me convince you of all the reasons you should get your hands on this book as soon as possible.

This is the first teen/YA sci-fi (honestly I have such a difficult time with the distinction between teen/YA/ and apparently what is now New Adult?  Someone needs to give me some set guidelines!) I’ve read in a very long time.  I read plenty of fantasy, and I guess Level 2 is sci-fi?  I don’t know if it counts when you’re dead.  Anyways, getting seriously sidetracked.  My point being, if this is where teen sci-fi is going, count me in!  It actually reminded me in many ways of Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series, so if you liked those, you will like this.  And if you didn’t like them, don’t discount this book by that statement as the writing and plot are still very different.

We are introduced to Elissa who lives on a planet named Sekoia and is basically set up  how we would picture a future earth: snazzy flying things, moving sidewalks that are all different heights in the sky, everything is electronic, etc.  But Elissa isn’t like other teenagers here – she has graphic nightmares that physically appear on her body.  She’s lost all of her friends and is considered a freak because she appears at school with bruises so badly they can’t be covered up by make up, and she can’t explain them, as they are the results of her dream.

I’m going to do my best to not give spoilers, and the back cover gives up this much information.  Turns out she has a twin, and they have a mental link.  All the dreams she's been having and the bruises she gets are because of what the other girl goes through.  In this time twins have been extinct for centuries, so the other girl is seen as kind of a "spare".  The novel is a fast paced thriller where the girls have to find a way to escape from the people who have been testing Lin and others like her, avoiding security systems, cameras, and even epic space ship show downs! The sci-fi world is beautifully described, the space battles are intense, the escape through the city is fast-paced - it's really a thrilling read!

What I loved most about this book is how believable all the characters were.  All of the relationships and reactions are exactly how people usually work when confronted with new and stressful situations.  Elissa is freaked out by Lin’s appearance, since no one in her world looks exactly like another.  She feels protective of this girl who clearly has no knowledge of the workings of the outside world, but also scared and distrustful of her.  Lin lacks a lot of empathy people would expect from the other heroine of the story, but it makes sense with what she’s gone through and how she was raised.  If you were raised to believe you were not human, went through years of torture, and were not at any point assimilated to human culture, would you think twice about wanting to kill someone? In fact , Lin is positively normal considering what she went through.  Lin has also always known who Elyssa is, so I think it makes perfect sense that while Elissa is worried that she’s helping a psychopath escape, Lin trusts Elissa completely.  I love that neither sister is depicted as a Mary Sue.  Both heroines are flawed, and all of these flaws are clearly pointed out when they are put in comparison to each other, as there are stark contrasts in their personalities.

Then there’s Cadan, Elissa’s older brother’s hunky best friend.  She idolized him as a child, but now they’ve grown up and there’s a lot of friction.  Of course, Cadan is the only one around when Elissa is desperately trying to get off the planet with Lin.  I loved how their relationship unfolded.  When the truths came out, one or both of them would get unreasonably angry (at least in the eyes of the reader, who usually knew both sides of the story), but then they would apologize and say they needed some time to take it in, etc.  And honestly, isn’t that how people relate?  We overreact and get angry, even when we know we’re wrong!  We hate being thought of in a poor light.  We have a hard time in these circumstances seeing the other person’s point of view.  Most importantly both Elissa and Cadan misinterpreted information about the other person.  Both of them were wrong, and finding out this new side to the other person as well as their experiences fighting to escape.  It was this that prompted them to let go of what was holding them back from developing their feelings for each other – not some instant attraction.  Nor was it one character being perfect and the other building up dislike for no reason – they were both at fault.  I guess to sum up my feelings on how romance was treated in this book, I loved that it wasn’t the point, or even one of the main focal points of the book.  The focus was still the government conspiracy, Lin and Lissa’s relationship, and how on earth they were going to survive!  I loved that it wasn’t insta-magic love like most teen fiction these days (or really any fiction.  It makes me queasy).  There was no sacrifice on either part, they weren’t completely dependent on the other, and there was NO LOVE TRIANGLE!!!  It was exactly how I think a relationship SHOULD develop.  My only unhappy remark was that the switch from hate to love was a bit abrupt.  I would have liked some more build up there as they slowly realize their feelings - more romantic than respect which is what I think we see.  But if I had to pick the vomit worthy unexplained obsession I see in other books and what was here, I'd pick this romance hands down.  The love confession was a bit jarring, but from all accounts near death experiences have that effect, so I'm forgiving that.

I especially liked the ending (spoilers).  The best part of the ending?  Even though I think it IS set up for a sequel, no cliff hanger! I've come to realization recently that cliff hangers have become a part of my life (and I NEVER handle them well.  Seriously.  I spend days of my life online scouring for any morsel of news.  It's not healthy) as have series.  I get it, they're lucrative, but I think I've forgotten what it's like to read a book and love it just because it's amazing without worrying about a continuation.  Or to continue a series not because I HAVE to know what happens, but because I loved the first book so much.  So kudos to you Imogen Howson, I hope you start a new trend!  Fleshed out characters, no ridiculous romance, and no cliff hanger at the end, let's do it people!

Overall the book was extremely well written -  the characters are fleshed out, their relationships are all believable, there’s epic space battles, a dash of romance, government conspiracies, ESP, AND a potential set up for a sequel, although it ends in a place that could just end the book.  I could not recommend it more highly!



Uglies Review

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Books At The Top Of My Summer TBR List

So for this week's Top Ten Tuesday (courtesy, as always, of The Broke and Bookish), the subject is Top Ten Books At The Top Of My Summer TBR list.  I'm going to interpret this as top ten books I am most excited about being released this summer.  Here's my list:

1. The Thing About Luck - Cynthia Kadohata

2. The Moon and More - Sarah Dessen

3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane - Neal Gaiman

4. The Light in the Ruins - Chris Bohjalian

5. Stormbringers (Order of Darkness #2) - Philippa Gregory

6. He's Gone - Deb Caletti

7. Raven Flight (Shadowfell #2) - Juliet Marillier

8. The White Princess - Philippa Gregory (she's having a busy summer!)

And last but not least, two books that are NOT coming out in the summer but I am SO EXCITED for when they do come out:

 9.  In the Age of Love and Chocolate (Birthright #3) - Gabrielle Zevin

10.  And of course, the next book in the Abarat series, The Price of Dreams (Abarat #4)  by Clive Barker.  There isn't a cover set for this yet as it is projected to come out a year or so from now, but I will leave you guys with some of Clive Barker's artwork from the Abarat series!

That's it for this week's TTT!  What books made it to your list? 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Golden - Jessi Kirby


Publisher:  Seventeen-year-old Parker Frost has never taken the road less traveled. Valedictorian and quintessential good girl, she’s about to graduate high school without ever having kissed her crush or broken the rules. So when fate drops a clue in her lap—one that might be the key to unraveling a town mystery—she decides to take a chance.
Julianna Farnetti and Shane Cruz are remembered as the golden couple of Summit Lakes High—perfect in every way, meant to be together forever. But Julianna’s journal tells a different story—one of doubts about Shane and a forbidden romance with an older, artistic guy. These are the secrets that were swept away with her the night that Shane’s jeep plunged into an icy river, leaving behind a grieving town and no bodies to bury.

Reading Julianna’s journal gives Parker the courage to start to really live—and it also gives her reasons to question what really happened the night of the accident. Armed with clues from the past, Parker enlists the help of her best friend, Kat, and Trevor, her longtime crush, to track down some leads. The mystery ends up taking Parker places that she never could have imagined. And she soon finds that taking the road less traveled makes all the difference.


It's always hard for me to write about books that I found very satisfying, but didn't have anything that blew my mind or made me want to bash my head in.  It makes me feel bad because I don't want to give this review a lukewarm feeling - I really enjoyed the book! It's got a very engaging plot with likeable characters and just enough mystery to keep you going to the end without being ridiculous.  Sure there were a few things here and there I would have liked a little more of, but it was nice to just read through the book without stopping to take mental notes.

Here's what I loved:

- Every chapter begins with a quote from a Robert Frost poem.  I'm not a big fan of the man, and I'm more of a Shakespeare/Donne girl myself, but it was nice
- I love that the focus was NOT the main character's romance (although it was someone else's)
- (spoiler)
- I liked that Kirby depicted the mom as overly strict perhaps, but tried to still show how hard she tries, rather than as an antagonist. BUT....

 Here's what I could have had a little more of:

- I would have liked some more healthy interactions between mother and daughter.  Jessica states that her mom just wants what's best for her, but it's never shown, and they never have an open, meaningful, or loving conversation the entire book.
- I wish there had been a little more friendship explored.  Kirby definitely gave Kat a personality and very briefly touches on the issues of their pending separation, but it's sort of brushed over and I would have liked a little more time exploring their relationship.  In a lot of ways this book feels like a self-discovery story like a Dessen (or Caletti, but it feels more Dessen) novel.  Unfortunately Kirby's characters don't have the complex, detailed relationships that Dessen's do, but the characters themselves are very similar.
-Likewise I would have liked to know more about Trevor (or you know..anything other than he's been teasing her for 6 years).  How did they meet?  Why does he like her?  What is his family like?  What does he want to do? What are his interests?  Other than what he looks like and that he likes Parker we get zilch.  I also didn't like that (spoilers)

Overall I thought the book was a compelling story and a delightful read!  While I loved reading the book and was happy overall, it did wrap up a little too neatly for my taste and overall I would have liked just a little more time exploring the characters' relationships. It was like a less mature Sarah Dessen novel, and I mean that in all the complimentary ways.  Moonglass has been on my wishlist, and I'm definitely bumping it up to the top after reading this.

Just a reminder, but Pulse It still has the whole book online for free until the 16th, so if you don't have an account, join now!



Along For The Ride Review                             The Nature of Jade Review


Friday, June 14, 2013

House of Cards

Ok, ok I know I'm supposed to be reading books (and I am! I promise!).  I FINALLY got around to watching the pilot of House of Cards and...holy s***.  This show is amazing! I mean I never had doubts (Kevin Spacey has been my favourite actor since I was about twelve and saw The Usual Suspects and K-Pax in the same month).  I went to this show primarily because Kevin Spacey was in it (and because much of it was shot at my alma mater, Peabody), but I was surprised at all the faces and names I recognized.  The premise of the show is really intriguing - dark sneaky politics are always a draw for me as well as a sort of ensemble cast with lots of plotting and intrigue. I did find Kevin Spacey's character addressing the audience, although it's clear the audience is someone only he can see, a bit odd, but I stopped thinking about it too much after a while and hopefully I won't notice it throughout the rest of the season.

I know I am harping on Kevin Spacey a lot, but he is just so deliciously evil!  And Robin Wright, who plays his wife matches him - it's so satisfying watching her place this cold, calculating woman considering I grew up watching her as Princess Buttercup (seriously.  I watched The Princess Bride on practically a weekly basis throughout my childhood.  And at least once a year until...well I still do that haha), and then again as a childhood sweetheart in Forrest Gump.  And somehow..it's not even shocking or jarring having only seen her in more innocent roles - she OWNS this character.  That is clear from all of the cast even in just the pilot.    The script is just fantastic - it makes you want to laugh and shudder at the same time! But the best part of the whole show for me is Robin Wright and Kevin Spacey together.  They may be deliciously evil apart, but when they stand next to each other they are positively terrifying!  It gave me chills.  I am so, so excited to finish the rest of the season!

So without further ado, head to Netflix and WATCH THIS SHOW.  As if Kevin Spacey and Princess Buttercup weren't enough reason on their own.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

New Books!

My lovely, kind, wonderful brother brought me to a bookstore for my birthday so I have some new, exciting books to read!

I absolutely adore Robin McKinley - I've reread almost of all of her books countless times (although I just looked this up on goodreads and apparently there's a fairly epicly major cliffhanger.  Huh.  I don't handle cliffhangers well...and it's a bit unclear about sequel/not sequel.  That's a bit alarming).  I read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer in a matter of hours it hooked me so much!  So I'm very excited to read the sequel (and will likely be dying to read the next one..I must love to torture myself).  Gabrielle Zevin has written in such a wide range of settings - the afterlife, dystopian future, etc.  I've loved her writing so far (you can see my review for Elsewhere) so I am equally as excited for this (and eagerly awaiting her next book in the Because It Is My Blood trilogy).

In other exciting news, if Golden by Jessi Kirby has been on your wishlist (as it has mine), head over and join Pulse It which has the full book available online until June 16th!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Beach Reads

This is coming a bit late as I had to catch a flight home (Southern nights for a week - fireflies, watermelon, strawberries, peaches...so excited!) 

So I had a mind blowing discovery today.  The schedule for top 10 is posted for like...months (no wonder people get their lists together so quickly! They've got them planned!...geez I feel silly.  On the upside I can really think through my lists now!)  So head on over to The Broke and Bookish to check out their Top Ten and make your own list!

 1.  Pride and Prejudice - by Jane Austen (it wouldn't be a romance list without this at the top!)


  2.  Wuthering High (Bard Academy #1) - Cara Lockwood (I remember reading this in high school and thinking the idea of having authors who committed suicide teaching at a school as purgatory was AWESOME.  Also Heathcliff escapes and is a love interest, so there's that.  Unfortunately I never got my hands on the third book, Moby Clique, so I don't know if it was cancelled or if it was meant to be a trilogy and wrapped up nicely or not.  One day...)

3.  Hacking Harvard - Robin Wasserman (fun fight the system read with a smattering of romance)

4. The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti (or any other novel by Deb Caletti.  This one is just deals with a less heavy subject)


5.  Just Listen - Sarah Dessen (or any other novel by Sarah Dessen.  She comes hand in hand with Caletti for me, although I think Caletti has some of the most beautifully written prose I've read from a contemporary author)

6.  Daughter of the Forest (Seer of Sevenwaters #1) - Juliet Marillier (or any other Juliet Marillier novel - soulmates, a retelling of the Brother's Grimm Six Swans, strong female lead, there's just so much to like about this book)

7.  Cheet - Anna Davis (another author I'd recommend other novels as well although they vary significantly more in genre than the others.  This is an interesting and funny look on juggling men- very well written)

8. Watermelon (Walsh Family #1) - Marian Keyes (or any other novel by Marian Keyes.  I forget how much I love her books until I read another and I'm always caught up in the hilarity!  She's one of the funniest chick lit authors I've read - although take that with a grain of salt as I haven't read many)

9.  Finding Cassie Crazy - Jaclyn Moriarty (although I believe it's called something different in the states - The Year of Secret Assignments, maybe?  I picked this up abroad.  I loved the crazy things the girls got into!  Their friendship is a bit like Sisterhood, but a bit loonier)

10. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants - Ann Brashares (another classic beach read...girls in Mexico and Greece, everlasting friendship, and plenty of romance!)

I have to say almost all of these are absolute favourites of mine.  I think all the reviews are spot on about what I loved, didn't, and why - it's always nice to have validation of your opinions!  (Minus of course the goodreads links as those are many, many reviews).  Well that's it for TTT!  What's on your list?  What should be on mine?  Until next week on Top Ten...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Soulbound - Heather Brewer


Goodreads: Tril is a world where Barrons and Healers are Bound to each other: Barrons fight and Healers cure their Barrons' wounds in the ongoing war with the evil Graplar King. Seventeen-year-old Kaya was born a Healer, but she wants to fight. In Tril, and at Shadow Academy, where she is sent to learn to heal, it is against Protocol for Healers to fight. So Kaya must learn in secret. Enter two young men: One charming, rule-following Barron who becomes Bound to Kaya and whose life she must protect at all costs. And one with a mysterious past who seems bent on making Kaya's life as difficult as possible. Kaya asks both to train her, but only one will, and the consequences will change their lives forever.


*Fangirl squeal*!!! Can I just say how much I LOVED THIS BOOK?!?  There are so many reasons why I shouldn't automatically add this to my favourites list, but I just can't bring myself to care about things that usually turn me off.  The story is set in a fantasy world very similar to Kristin Cashore's if any of you are familiar with her writing (another author I absolutely ADORE).  Unlike Cashore's heroines, who are a bit more misunderstood, Kaya absolutely knows who she is and what she believes.  Kaya totally kicks ass, and what I loved most about this book is that despite the love triangle (it wouldn't be teen fiction without a love triangle these days, would it?  Here's hoping that trend burns itself out soon), Kaya's worth is not dependent at all on either man (boy?), and she is definitely not a damsel in distress needing a white knight to rescue her.  She clearly cares about each character and values their opinion, but if they have a disagreement she doesn't wallow in self-pity and try to commit suicide (Twilight anyone?).

Here's what I didn't like, but why it doesn't matter:

Trayton vs. Darius - I've been pretty clear I'm not a fan of the love triangle.  Ooh look, two hot guys vying for one girl.  Unfortunately it's a big hit with the teen audience these days, so it looks like for the forseeable future, most teen fiction is going to have this - especially if it has paranormal/fantasy elements.  BUT here's why I forgive it in this novel.  Despite feeling a connection with both men, Kaya doesn't consider herself in love with either.  Potentially in love, yes, but she has much bigger problems to worry about outside of her love life.  She doesn't spend the entire novel debating who she loves, how it is oh so morally wrong, etc, which seems to be a major plot point with teen novels.  In fact, she doesn't even admit more than a passing attraction to Darius - she finds herself attracted to him (honestly that's not strange at all.  He's terribly handsome - if I spent a lot of time next to a hot, hot man I too would probably be attracted.  But not in love, and that's the key here), and some time is spent on feeling a connection with him, but her focus is training.  Her source of guilt is that she is hiding her training from the man she's bound with, not that she's secretly shacking up with the other guy.  I didn't like that she allowed her issues with Trayton to be glossed over, but she wasn't agreeing with him - she just acknowledges he disagrees and there isn't a point in trying to fight over it.  It's a  little strange for someone so confrontational, but also probably exactly how I would act with someone I was just getting into a relationship with.

 Maddox - Another trend I hate in teen fiction is the tendency to create a best friend solely to move the plot forward - usually specifically for romance.  Best friend's are there to explain to the reader how the main character is feeling about the love interest/how she is pretending to feel.  Maddox has a little bit of that in the story.  She isn't used just for romance, but she is a big plot mover.  Luckily she isn't just a two-dimensional character who exists solely for Kaya to bounce ideas off of.  I have so many questions about her!  Why does she have a soft spot for Trayton?  Why is she so scared about fighting?  Why doesn't she just train with Kaya and Darius (this is touched upon, but not really explored)?  Why do the other Barrons seem intimidated by her if she doesn't have fighting skills?I have hope that her character will be developed more in the other books, because Brewer created a character in Maddox who is just as epically badass as Kaya is.

Setting - I'm a big fan of exploring the fantasy world.  It's a big part of why Harry Potter was so successful and why I am a big fan of Cashore's novels.  I don't even think this falls into the negative category really.  I would have loved to know more about the history of the war, but I have a feeling this is also coming in the next couple novels.  I also feel like the descriptions of the area were slightly glossed over.  On the flip side, this novel was extremely fast paced (I read it in about two hours despite the fact I am SO BUSY right now.  I just couldn't put it down!), and any sort of lengthy description wouldn't have fit in with the pacing of the book.  Brewer doesn't ignore the world, in fact I think she did a fine job with this novel (clearly as I'm pretty enthusiastic about it haha), I just have a weird predilection for very detailed settings.

Overall, if you are a fan of any sort of paranormal/fantasy teen books, you should definitely read this.  Even if you aren't...you should just read this!  I think fans of the Hunger Games and Kristin Cashore's novels will definitely love this book, and even the fluffier Twilight/Mortal Instruments lovers will easily fall into this as well.



Hunger Games Review                      Graceling Review

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that feature travel in some way

This was another post that I saw on other blogs that I really liked (if only to force me to post something..ANYTHING relevant to books).  I am taking my prompts from
The Broke and Bookish (don't use just love that name?  Or maybe it's because it is so, so applicable to my life right now).  So with no further ado, here's my Top 10 (although in no particular order other than being in my top 10...and with the exception of the first they're honestly going to be the first 10 I can think of)

In which there is travel by fish creatures:

1.  The Abarat Series by Clive Barker - Ok I got way to excited on this one so I will link it since I don't want to start a trend of writing loads.  Read here 

In which there is travel by life boat:

  2. The Life of Pi by Yann Martel - I feel like what with the movie adaption out fairly recently almost everyone knows this story and needs no explanation as to why it's on a travel list.

In which there is travel by steam punk and biological evolution:

3.  Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld - Set during WWI, this steam punk novel is a war between Darwin enthusiasts and machinists, all the while following the cross continental travels of Prince Aleksander, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.  Need I say more?

In which there is travel by magic wardrobe (and other strange events):

4.  The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - A childhood classic...featuring lots of interesting ways to get into Narnia (painting? magic wardrobe? train crash? It's got everything!)

In which there is lots and lots of walking:

5.  The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien - Another classic novel featuring dwarves, a dragon, and lots of snacks!

In which there is travel through space and time:

6.  A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle - Ok clearly I'm having some issues thinking of books involving travel as I'm resorting almost entirely to childhood favourites.  Again, a classic, and if you haven't heard of it shame on you, go read it!

In which there is travel using a towel:

7.  The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Travel throughout the entire universe for the sole cost of one towel!

In which there is travel through literature:

8.  The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde - If you are a fan of The Hitchhiker's Guide, you should definitely explore this series!  Written in the same style and humour of Adams, this instead explores the chaotic universe of characters escaping novels and terrorizing the general populace.  Chaos and general hilarity ensue.

In which there is a road trip:

9.  The Secret Life of Prince Charming by Deb Caletti - Let me make this clear.  I think Deb Caletti is quite possibly the best contemporary YA author out there.  She has such beautifully crafted characters, the plots are well thought out, and the most wonderfully heart wrenching prose I've ever read.  If you like Sarah Dessen and haven't read Caletti somehow...read this.  Or any other novel by her.

In which there is travel in and out of Death:

10.  Sabriel by Garth Nix - Series featuring a kick-ass heroine who travels to and from Death to make sure the dead stay dead (I swear this is not about vampires.  It's way more awesome)

Whew!  That was slightly exhausting...hopefully next week's one will be easier for me!  What about you?  Any suggestions for books to add to this list?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Tam Lin - Pamela Dean

Ok I lied.  I forgot I had a baked potato in the oven (and it is perfectly crispy!)...so eating isn't procrastinating (even if I am having dinner at midnight).  And now I'm reviewing, so that's good right?


Goodreads: In the ancient Scottish ballad "Tam Lin," headstrong Janet defies Tam Lin to walk in her own land of Carterhaugh . . . and then must battle the Queen of Faery for possession of her lover’s body and soul. In this version of "Tam Lin," masterfully crafted by Pamela Dean, Janet is a college student, "Carterhaugh" is Carter Hall at the university where her father teaches, and Tam Lin is a boy named Thomas Lane. Set against the backdrop of the early 1970s, imbued with wit, poetry, romance, and magic, Tam Lin has become a cult classic—and once you begin reading, you’ll know why. This reissue features an updated introduction by the book’s original editor, the acclaimed Terri Windling.


I'll be honest, I felt like I should have liked Tam Lin. And I tried, I really did.   First and foremost, you need to be a serious reader to get through the book.  The pacing is extremely slow and 80% of it is witty dialogue quoting literature and making obscure references.  It was also difficult to get into because it is set during college in the 70's, whereas I am currently doing my masters close to 40 years after this takes place, and it is amazing the changes between then and now.  It's not something I really thought much about until I was reading the novel and kept having questions about why things were being a certain way (like why she kept calling the dorm building...oh yeah...no cell phones.  And birth control was still in it's early stages as far as the pill form goes).

Here are my biggest complaints:

Janet is extremely smart, focused, and worldly for an eighteen year old.  She talks like she is a graduate or doctoral student as do all of her friends.  I can speak from experience that while many of my undergraduate conversations freshman year were very specific to music (as this is my major), they were less debates and usually involved drinking and the statements "word" or "that's like...so deep."  Not actual debates backed up with a variety of references.  At times this was like reading someone's thesis!  If they had made her about 5 years older at least I might have found this believable.  Despite the difference in era, teenagers haven't changed that much in my opinion.

It's clear who Janet is meant to be with: spoilers

The plot is extremely slow and so much time is spent on the first year - almost the whole book, and then everything else is brushed over.  However, Tor points out it is in following with the pacing of the ballad (you know the thing the entire novel is based on).

There are so many parts where the mystery is built up, but then it just disappears into another 50 pages of dialogue about Shakespeare.  It was so frustrating!  And then after all that build up, even after the pages and pages ignoring the mysteries, the resolution is so quick!  I think the climax and resolution are the most glossed over things I've ever read.

It was also very hard for me to relate to Janet.  She can be such a snob!  I felt bad for her poor roommate Christina who Janet really looks down upon just because she can't catch all the quotations from every obscure novel ever.  Or every Shakespeare line ever written.  I mean who CAN do that when they are 18?  I had an easier time relating to Christina who was much more like your average undergraduate student - smart, well-balanced, not necessarily rational 100% of the time.

What I did like was the witty dialogue (even if I found it pedantic at times) and the way Dean delves into literature and philosophy.  Even if I didn't like the balance (note: it was the entire novel) it was very interesting.  It was also refreshing to read a mature take on romance and sex after so many teen novels where it's the sudden unexplained attraction followed by loads of angst.  Even if I found Janet's rationality and maturity unconvincing for her age, it was nice to not have Mary Sues, etc.  That being said this IS a romance about a woman fighting for her man...and maybe the last 3 chapters are spent on that, whereas that is the subject matter for the whole ballad!  Overall, I would recommend this for more serious minded readers (or people like me who are REALLY into fairy tale retellings).  Otherwise I can't see this being for most readers due to the pedantic writing, slow plot, and very little real romance.

I will also add the disclaimer that I have enjoyed other works by Pamela Dean and this shouldn't deter you from exploring those!

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May Reading Wrap Up

I know, I know I am supposed to have actual reviews between my two wrap ups (admittedly I did post the last one like two weeks late).  What can I say?  Grad school has been crazy (I performed at the CSO's Symphony Center last week!! Which of course means even more insane rehearsal schedules.  Painful, but worth it...)

So with no further ado, let's look at the books I remember I've read:

Tam Lin by Pamela Dean (I was really surprised in not good ways about it.  I usually love retellings of classic fairy tales but...this one seemed to be more about pretentious literary debates.  I'll probably review this as I should probably start not just having excited reviews haha)

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George (A fun read, it stick much more to the simplistic format of fairy tales, which I enjoyed in contrast to Dean's book which I read directly before this one)

A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff (I'm torn on this one...it's a very charming read and parts of it I absolutely loved, but there were many moments I didn't love)

Spirited by Nancy Holder (A fun read - one of the more substance less fluff novels from the Once Upon A Time Series)

If I Lie by Corrine Jackson (I am having some issues with teen fiction right now.  Since when has the term slut become acceptable use throughout a novel?  It was an interesting story, but one that I couldn't connect to, in part because of my previous statement.  There will definitely be a follow up on this one.)

The Iron Fey Trilogy by Julie Kagawa (Ugh.  I loved it and I hated it at the same time.  The same issues I always have when teen fiction involves the faerie universe, and at the same time Kagawa didn't always fall into those traps.  It drove me nuts and made me want to thank her at the same time!)
The Iron King
The Iron Daughter
The Iron Queen

What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen (Dessen delivers again.  Along with Deb Caletti by far one my favourite authors of the YA/Teen fiction genre)

Two-Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt (I found the premise really unbelievable.  I thought it was a fun read at times, but just so, so unbelivable)

Someone Like You by Sarah Dessen (read above notes about Dessen)

Some Girls: My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren (I read nonfiction!  Well a memoir anyway, that counts right?  You should be proud of me.  And for someone who doesn't often wander away from just straight fiction, this was refreshing)

Stay by Deb Caletti (read above notes about Caletti)

I'll point out that I don't necessarily agree with all of these reviews (I'm much too lazy to spend more than a minute looking for a review post I agree thoroughly with...let's be honest, if I hadn't been so slack with my writing I'd have reviews up for some of these I could link to.  But...I didn't write, so there's that haha), but I do agree with most of them, and all of them have valid points.

And for those of you who are interested in other things I do (note: no one, but I'm going to post anyway), I caught up on a lot of manga chapters that came out the past month or two.

The One (...guilty pleasure)
Kaichou Wa Maid-sama (cute fluffy manga)
SkipBeat (one of the best things I have EVER READ EVER and if you are even considering reading manga, you should really read it.  DO IT NOW!  Although I'm not sure where the mangaka is going with this weird story arc recently)
Five 57 (cute fluffy manga more friendship focused than relationship.  A little reminscent of Ouran with the school's weird antics)

...and of course all my fictionpress and fanfic guilty pleasures.  I am a beta on both sites so some that is actual work though!

...ok my procrastination from cleaning and making reeds is making itself clear.  This post is entirely too long for what it is meant to be.  I'm off to be productive...just before midnight...

Until next time - where there WILL be reviews!