Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Weigh in Wednesday 10

Weigh in Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Lauren at Epilogue Review, and this week's topic is:

Reading one book at a time vs. reading multiple books at a time.

I definitely prefer to read one book at a time--I think it makes for a stronger reading experience, and I like to check my current book off my list before starting a new one!  However, if I'm reading a really long and/or difficult book and I'm thinking about giving up on it but not sure I should, I might put it aside and read something short and light (or something I've read before and know I'll like) to give myself a break.

Technically, though, I'm always reading two books at once, because I always have an audiobook on my iPod for when I'm working out/running errands/walking.  But the audiobook format is so different that it doesn't really feel like reading two books at once, and I've gotten used to balancing the two!

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme started by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week’s topic is…


Oh man, this is a hard one!  Don’t know if I can come up with ten, but let’s see…
First, characters that remind me of myself:

Jess Aarons from Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: I actually have very little in common with Jess—he likes to run, live on a farm with a bunch of sisters, and is a great artist.  I am none of the above.  But I think because of a loss I experienced when I was a young child (my infant sister died when I was 3), I really identified with Jess because of the loss he experiences during the book.  Crying while reading this book is one of my most vivid childhood memories of all time.

Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables: Like Anne, I spent my childhood hoping for a “bosom friend,” and I wanted to find a “Lake of Shining Waters” and a “Haunted Wood.”

Witch Baby from Witch Baby by Francesca Lia Block: Witch Baby is a sensitive teenage girl who has a hard time separating herself from the pain she sees in the world around her.  My eighth-grade yearbook page has a quote from this book: “What time are we upon, and where do I belong?”

Marianne from Sense and Sensibility: I actually don’t identify so much with Marianne anymore (I think now I’m a little more Elinor, or somewhere in between), but in high school I was a huge romantic and Marianne was pretty much my idol.

Laurel from Wings by Aprilynne Pike: Okay, I actually have nothing in common with Laurel, EXCEPT that like her, I can’t stand tight/constrictive clothing—I hate jeans and long-sleeved shirts and wear tank tops even in the winter, just with an open cardigan over them.  Do you think this means I’m a fairy???

Now, characters that remind me of people I know:

Maeve from Tallulah Falls by Christine Fletcher: Maeve reminds me a bit of my friend Tracy—wild and unpredictable, yet someone you can’t help wanting to spend time with.

Sophie from The BFG by Roald Dahl: Sophie reminds me of my sister because they’re both brave and plucky, and probably also b/c my sister loved Roald Dahl as a kid.

Gene from A Separate Peace by John Knowles: Gene reminds me a bit of my friend Matt—thoughtful, intelligent and sensitive.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Book Review: The Wood Queen by Karen Mahoney

Donna Underwood is in deep trouble.An ancient alchemical order is holding her accountable for destroying the last precious drops of the elixar of life. Never mind the fact that Donna was acting to free her friend, Navin, from the dangerous clutches of the Wood Queen at the time. But what the alchemists have in store is nothing compared to the wrath of the fey. The Wood Queen has been tricked and Donna must pay. Get ready for all hell - quite literally - to break loose...

Karen Mahoney’s Iron Witch series hasn’t gotten as much attention as many of the other YA series based on fairy mythology, and I think that may be due to the Iron Witch hitting shelves after the fairy trend had begun to run its course, not because the series isn’t interesting or worth reading.  As a lifelong lover of anything to do with fairies, I’m really enjoying Karen Mahoney’s take on fairies and the way she’s developed her mythos in this second volume.

As in the first book, I loved the way The Wood Queen combined fairies, alchemy, and the Maiden with No Hands fairy tale (there’s a good author’s note about the fairy tale at the back of the first book if you’re not familiar with it.)  We see further development of both the fairy tale and alchemy themes in this second volume, particularly as they tie in to Donna’s relationship with both her parents and the alchemists.  Hard to say more without spoilers, but I thought this was well done and intriguing.

As for the fairies themselves, I love the way Mahoney creates her own version of wood elves while still staying grounded in traditional fairy mythology.  Her fairies are scary yet alluring, and wonderfully described in a way that ties them to the natural world.  One of the reasons I like Mahoney’s books, particularly compared to some of the other YA fairy series, is that she includes evocative imagery without getting overly angsty/descriptive/romanticized the way some of the other books do.  I also love Mahoney’s use of names for people and places—they’re simple but still redolent with fairy tale and mythological imagery: Underwood, Ironbridge, Winterthorn, etc.

I really liked the new character, Robert, who was introduced in this installment, and I hope we’ll see more of him.  [Little thing, but why was his last name Lee?  Kept making me think of Robert E Lee…]  As another gay character, Robert reinforced Mahoney’s dedication to diversity of all forms in her books, which is nice to see, especially since she doesn’t place too much emphasis on it—it’s just there.  However, as in the previous installment, I found myself wondering if it would be easier to connect with Donna herself if the book was written in first person rather than third.  I’m really not sure, and on the bright side, the third person does cut down on some of the angst.  I also LOVED the brief mention of the clockwork birds—can we please have more of those in the next book?!

My one major problem with the book, however, had to do with the plot…


…Donna is given three days to save her mother from the Wood Queen’s curse.  Given that time frame, I never felt like Donna’s behavior was quite urgent enough.  When she should have been telling Xan what was going on and asking him for advice, she was kissing him and then watching him cook instead.  I wanted to yell at her, YOU'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!  Especially on the last day Donna has to save her mother, I felt like the pacing was off—for much of this day I was unclear on what time it was, which should have been crucial considering the hours were ticking down.


In the end, though, Mahoney did achieve some nice dramatic tension and set up an intriguing new drama for the third installment of the series.  If you’re a fan of fairy books and you haven’t checked  these out yet, I definitely recommend you give them a try!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Weigh in Wednesday #9

WEIGH IN WEDNESDAY is a weekly meme started by Lauren at Epilogue Review, and this week's topic is:

Action/adventure vs. romance (if the story has only one):

This is a hard one for me, but since I generally prefer character-driven stories over plot-driven ones, I'm going to go with romance.  I'd say that in general, romance tends to be more about character development and action/adventure tends to be more about plot (of course there are many exceptions to this rule, and most books contain at least a little of both).  However, I prefer a romance that is realistic and based on the way two people relate to each other rather than looks/some sort of paranormal-based attraction/reincarnation/etc.  I also don't think every romance has to have a happy ending, and I prefer if things aren't tied up in a neat little bow.  As far as action goes, I don't really enjoy reading action scenes just for their own sake--if I'm invested in an action sequence, it's because the author has made me care about the characters involved.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature at The Broke and the Bookish, and this is my first time participating.  This week's list is Top Ten Books on the Summer TBR List, and my list includes both already released books I haven't gotten around to yet and a few books coming out later this summer.  So here it is:

1. TIGER LILY by Jodi Lynn Anderson    
Peter Pan is one of my top-five favorite books of all time, so I'm really excited but also a little nervous to read this retelling.  I've heard that it's told from the POV of Tinker Bell, who is such a fascinating character, so that intrigues me as much as the idea of Tiger Lily as heroine.

2. MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH by Bethany Griffin
I read Bethany Griffin's contemporary YA, Handcuffs, awhile ago and really liked it (I'm actually hoping to reread it soon too).  I think a modern retelling of Poe's story sounds fantastic, and I'm eager to see what she does with it!

3. GRAFFITI MOON by Cath Crowley
I've heard that the writing in this one is fantastic--poetic and evocative.

4. INSURGENT by Veronica Roth
I have to admit I'm a little nervous about getting through this one--while I think Divergent was very well-written, I had a hard time relating to Tris (I'm such a wimp compared to her, I think she would have just kicked me under one of those flying trains or something!) and I wasn't crazy about some of the violence.  But the sequel is getting so much buzz that I'm super curious and I just HAVE to read it.

5. SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo
Another one I'm curious about because of the buzz--everybody seems to love it!

6. INDELIBLE by Lani Woodland
I just finished Intrinsical last week, so I'm dying for the sequel and more ghostly creepiness!

7. LONG LANKIN by Lindsey Barraclough
This one's been out in the UK for awhile, but it's coming out in the US in July.  It sounds wonderfully dark and atmospheric--a thriller based on a murder ballad.

8. THE WAYFARER by RJ Anderson
I read the first book in this series, Faery Rebel, so long ago and it's one of my all-time favorites--definitely one of my favorite fairy novels, and a lesser-known one.  I don't know why it's taken me so long to get to the sequel.

9. DARK COMPANION by Marta Acosta
I love a good gothic mystery!

10. FROM BAD TO CURSED by Katie Alender
Another sequel I've put off way too long after enjoying Bad Girls Don't Die.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Book Review: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

Mia Price is a lightning addict. She’s survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn’t who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

The setting and world-building of STRUCK, screenwriter Jennifer Bosworth’s fiction debut, was both my favorite and least-favorite aspect of the novel.  I live in LA, and I’m already terrified of earthquakes…seriously, Jennifer Bosworth, do you have to make it worse?!  Bosworth’s world-building is so successful because she clearly knows LA well, and she creates a very believable portrait of the city after a devastating earthquake—I can definitely see downtown LA as the Waste, a dangerous wasteland that’s also the center of a mysterious, dark partying movement.  And Venice Beach is the perfect place for both Tentville, home of those displaced by the earthquake, and Prophet’s stronghold.  Bosworth refers not only to general areas of Los Angeles but specific streets, neighborhoods, and landmarks, which made the book particularly fun for me as I recognized those places.

I also loved Bosworth’s dark, vibrant, and very cinematic imagery throughout the novel—there was one image involving the world cracking open like an egg that was just stunning in context.   The main characters were intriguing and likable.  I hope that if there’s a sequel, Bosworth reveals more about the past of mysterious love-interest Jeremy—I’d love to know more about his background, though I’m not sure it would have fit into this novel.  I do admit to becoming irritated with Mia’s mother—at many points I just wanted to reach into the book and shake her and tell her to snap out of it!  I do understand why she acted as she did, though, and her behavior was essential to the plot.

If you’ve read any reviews of STRUCK, you’ve probably noticed there’s a lot of discussion about religion in the novel.  As someone with a completely non-religious background, I wasn’t sure how I’d react to this aspect of the novel.  Most of the cult aspects didn’t bother me at all—I felt this was more a portrayal of one power-hungry individual who CLAIMED to hear God for his own benefit, rather than an actual statement about God or any one religion.  However, there was also a lot of religious imagery and references to the Bible, especially the Book of Revelations and Christ and the Apostles, throughout the book, and that was a bit thornier for me.  I’m not sure how accurate the Revelations references were, but I do find that stuff fascinating, the same way I’m fascinated by mythology and folklore.  However, with Prophet’s twelve Apostles and the suggestion that Mia might be intended as a martyr to die for their cause, I became a little uncomfortable. I think maybe I’ve just endured enough Christ-on-the-cross metaphors in high school and college English classes, and I don’t really want to think about that any more than I have to!

Plot-wise, there was a lot going on in STRUCK—Mia’s addiction to lightning, her mysterious stalker/savior Jeremy, the two opposing cult-like groups with their doomsday prophecies, and the disastrous earthquake and its social consequences.  While all of these plot threads came together by the end, it was a LOT, and at times I became overwhelmed and wanted to put the book down for a while.  However, I tend to prefer quieter, character-driven stories rather than cinematic, action-packed ones, so other readers may enjoy the plot more than I did.  I also wished we’d learned more about the roots of Mia’s lightning addiction—I would have loved a flashback to the first time she was struck, for instance, and more about how and when she realized the lightning was seeking her out.

Overall, STRUCK was definitely worth the read and left me with a lot to think about!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Weigh in Wednesday #8

Weigh in Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Lauren at Epilogue Review, and this week's topic is KINDLE VS NOOK.

Well, I've never used a Nook so unfortunately I can't give a totally fair response to this question!  I actually never intended to get an ereader at all, but my sister gave me her old Kindle when she upgraded to the Kindle Fire, and I have to say I like it a lot more than I thought I would.  One thing I do really like is the wide variety of free and low-priced books and special deals available for Kindle, and I don't think there's quite as much of that for the Nook?  I could be wrong, though!  Also, Barnes & Noble's website is reeeeaaally slooooow on my computer, so that would be annoying if I had to do my ebook shopping there!

Book Review: Intrinsical by Lani Woodland

Sixteen-year-old Yara Silva has always known that ghosts walk alongside the living. Her grandma, like the other females in her family, is a Waker, someone who can see and communicate with ghosts. Yara grew up watching her grandmother taunted and scorned for this unusual ability and doesn't want that to be her future. She has been dreading the day when she too would see ghosts, and is relieved that the usually dominant Waker gene seems to have skipped her, letting her live a normal teenage life. However, all that changes for Yara on her first day at her elite boarding school when she discovers the gene was only lying dormant. She witnesses a dark mist attack Brent, a handsome fellow student, and rushes to his rescue. Her act of heroism draws the mist's attention, and the dark spirit begins stalking her. Yara finds herself entrenched in a sixty-year-old curse that haunts the school, threatening not only her life, but the lives of her closest friends as well.

Lani Woodland’s INTRINSICAL is a wonderfully inventive and very creepy ghost story/mystery.  Just when I thought I had the story figured out, it took another turn…and another…and another!  I am in awe of Lani Woodland’s imagination and the way she fit all the different elements of the story together, all while surprising me up to the last pages.

Lani has a beautiful, smooth, imagery-laden writing style that really adds to the novel.  Here’s an example of a description I really liked (I read an ARC, so the final version may be slightly different):

“The events seemed like a chalk drawing in a rainstorm, important details being washed away by the water, leaving behind a smudged slate.”

Lani’s descriptive writing also amped up the story’s creepiness—I never knew swimming pools could be so terrifying!  There’s also a really scary scene involving a bathroom mirror that was very well done!

I loved the way Lani wove in aspects of Brazilian folk beliefs and herbal lore throughout the novel.  Her version of ghosts and other paranormal phenomena was interesting, unique, and multi-sensory—I particularly liked her descriptions of how different ghosts smell!

I also really liked the characterization of Lani’s heroine, Yara.  Yara refused to be a damsel in distress, yet she also thought before acting and developed an intelligent plan rather than jumping headlong into danger.
Finally, I appreciated the way the story ended, providing satisfying closure even though there’s a sequel (that I really want to read!).

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Weigh in Wednesday #7

Weigh in Wednesday is a weekly meme started by Lauren at Epilogue Review, and this weeks topic is GRAPHIC NOVEL VS TRADITIONAL NOVEL.

While I love graphic novels, I'm going to have to say that overall I prefer traditional novels.  While amazing things can be done with the graphic novel form, I've never personally read one that touched me as much as my favorite traditional novels have.  In addition, I think since I never read comic books growing up, and I tend to be more of a verbal person than a visual one, I sometimes have trouble following the plot of graphic novels when close attention to the pictures is required.  However, I do really enjoy graphic novels and I think they're a great break from more traditional reading.  Some authors also mix graphic novel sections with traditionally written sections in novels (The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult is one example), and I think that's a really cool idea as well.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.
Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.
Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.
Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN is a book EVERYONE should read.  It’s that simple.  Through the story of the gorilla Ivan, his human and animal companions, and the baby elephant he feels compelled to protect, Katherine Applegate tells a moving tale that illuminates animals, humans, and art.

Applegate writes in a very spare style, with short paragraphs separated by ample white space, that works perfectly for this story.  She’s crafted a unique and apt voice for Ivan, who tells us that “humans waste words” while gorillas do not.

Though there aren’t a lot of words in Ivan’s story, the ones he chooses are stunning, especially the imagery: a seal whose “voice was like the throaty bark of a seal chained outside on a cold night” and an elephant with eyes “black and long-lashed, bottomless lakes fringed by tall grass.”

The characterization in this novel is also great—the animals and humans have distinctive, vibrant personalities, and nothing’s black and white.  Even the “villain” of the story elicits a lot of sympathy from the reader.

As for the plot, I found myself racing through, nearly desperate to find out what happens to Ivan and Ruby and Bob…and without giving too much away, I’ll just say that the ending was very satisfying.

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN is a book that doesn’t take long to read, but it will definitely stick with you.  I highly recommend it!