Saturday, July 31, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (July 30-August 2, 2010)

Yay!  It's Book Blogger Hop time again.  Can you believe how many book blogs there are?  Awesome, right?  This meme is the brainchild of Crazy For Books.  Please check out her blog for complete rules.

This week's question is:  Who is your favorite new-to-you author?

Answer:  This is really embarrassing, but my answer is Mercedes Lackey.  That's right.  I have never read anything by this author until her book Gwenhwyfar: The White Spirit, which I really enjoyed.  My dad had tons of her books on his bookshelves, but I guess either nothing caught my attention enough to pick it up, or I just didn't get around to her.  It took a title relating to Arthurian mythology to finally intrigue me enough to read her work.  

Summer Blogger Award

Wow!  I got another award!  How cool is that!  Thank you so much to Bonnie at The Literary Gato (you know the one with the pretty cats on her page)!

The criteria for this award: (created by Book Lover's Review).

Simple rules:  Thank the person who passed the award on to you with a link back and pay it forward by listing four other rocking bloggers who deserve the award and post a note to them in their comments.  Here are the 4 I picked:

I picked these for their excellent and unique content and writing style.  
"Please realize that you are under no obligation to accept this award and that it is done in the spirit of recognizing and acknowledging really great book blogging!"

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Winter's Passage

Title/Author: Winter’s Passage by Julie Kagawa

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Source: Free download on Julie Kagawa's website.

Favorite character: Ash

Favorite quotes: “Ash’s voice was colder than the chill coming off his blade.”

“Instead, a cold breeze blew into the hallway, smelling of frost and bark and crushed leaves, and the gray, misty forest of the Nevernever stretched away through the door.”

This was a novella in the Iron Fey series that takes up where The Iron King left off. I loved the Iron King and am waiting anxiously for the Iron Daughter to come out in August. So, this was a nice bone thrown to me. It recapped the main points in the Iron Daughter and gave more romance fixes between Meghan and Ash. Ash still makes me sigh and his cold exterior is a great contrast for his inner struggles, the passion he feels for Meghan and his reluctant loyalty to his family and realm.

The imagery was beautiful if a little repetitive.  However, it was creepy beautiful! “Give in, the cold whispered in my ear.”

The Wolf, the iconic embodiment of all wolf stories was frightening and a powerfully symbolic. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of him.

Meghan's dream, when Evil Faerie Machina turns and it is her own face, reminded me of the Star Wars saga when Luke sees his own face on Darth Vader. Could this be some kind of foreshadowing?

The last chapter and line left me wanting more!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bad to the Bone

Title/Author: Bad to the Bone by Jeri Smith-Ready

Genre: Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Pocket Books

Source: Purchased through Amazon

Favorite character: Ciara & Shane

Favorite quote: “Wind rattles the leafless branches of a nearby tree, and it sounds like the bones of skeletons assembling themselves…”

“…the man in the sunshine is the same as the man in the moonlight.”

“Staccato chords in minor keys creep out of the speakers like a rat skirting the shadows.”

All in all: Exciting! I did not know what was going to happen next!

Very spoilery! (Sorry!)

What I liked: The style. Not only did Jeri Smith-Ready write beautiful and unique descriptions (see above), the details were great. Ciara kicking a doorjamb, nudging her toe in a hole in the carpet, or noticing a layer of dust on the table, really makes me see that world.

Ciara is still as clever and humorous as she was in Wicked Game. She tricks Ned to take her to the Fortress by coming up with hilarious excuses to any other suggestions he throws at her. At an “anti-vampire” meeting, she recounts, “The others give her a world of shit about it and she gets defensive, and then we all eat donuts.” This made me crack up! They way the supernatural and fantastic combined with the mundane of every cliché meeting was perfect.  I can just see the box of Entenmanns on a long folding table containing only the plain donuts that no one ever eats.

*BIG SPOILER: Her practicality is sometimes hidden from others but not from the reader. When Travis gets doused with holy water and wants them to leave him to die, her best friend Lori asks her “We can’t do that, can we?” Ciara replies, “Of course not.” To Lori, she comes off as sympathetic, but what she reveals to the reader is that he would die in a different way anyway. She can’t watch her friend Lori in pain, but she admits that she could watch Travis die. I love this honesty even if it just with herself. END BIG SPOILER*

Ciara also still has a problem with secrets vs. honesty. Although Shane tells her she can trust him no matter what, she has learned from her past that honesty can blow up in your face. Ciara still has a wall around her and she is still vulnerable and afraid, which makes her very relatable.

She also has to deal with one of her worst fears. Commitment. At one point in the book Lori, gets annoyed with her over a difference of opinion and tells her, “Fine…That way you’ll never owe anybody anything.” This is Ciara in a nutshell. She doesn’t want responsibility or commitment, but I think part of her doesn’t realize that she already has it and it is of her own making. She makes a deal with the Control for something that Shane wants, a total selfless act. She is responsible for keeping the radio station profitable so that the Vampires can have a productive life (or rather un-life). She has committed herself to this cause and it goes further when she risks her safety and her life for the people (and the vampires) that she cares about.

As much as I adore Shane, Ciara’s boyfriend, he has his quirks. Although they are a product of his Vampirism, you can see how they are causing tension between him and Ciara. It’s not an absolutely perfect relationship, vampirism aside, which also makes it realistic.  I really sympathized with her and as much as I adore Shane, part of me was like, “No way. I would never be able to deal with that.” But, Shane is still sweet and seductive and from his dialogue I felt he was smart and thoughtful.

Like Wicked Game, the last sentence of each chapter had me turning the page eagerly or pausing in contemplation. There were so many surprises in this book that I did not see coming and that is hard to do in a story. It kept it very fresh and exhilarating. Just when you thought you knew what was going on, another surprise was thrown in.

What I didn’t like: The parts that I may not have liked with a less skilled writer and a less exciting book did not bother me in this story. The twists, turns and surprises that may have had me groaning in another book – I just went with all of it.  Probably because I love the characters so much and they, and the story, are so alive for me, I was able to suspend any disbelief I had.  

I give this book 5/5 stars.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Childhood Thrills

Childhood Thrills is a feature that recalls books I read in my childhood or adolescence that were special to me or "haunt" me in some way.  I don't intend to re-read & review them, just simply share my memories and the feelings they evoke.  

The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

This was probably my favorite when I was a child and I read it over and over.  It’s about a boy named David Stanley and his 3 younger siblings whose mother has passed away.  Their father is getting re-married to a woman named Molly and they move into a new home which is actually an old house with a history (of course).  Soon, Molly’s daughter arrives. 

Amanda shows up with an elaborate braided hairstyle (which I tried to emulate), a gem in the middle of her forehead (nope, nothing in my mom’s jewelry box worked for this accessory), witch-like clothes and, it seems a talent for “knowing” things.  She brings a pet crow with her and books on the occult and most of all a superior attitude regarding her supernatural status.  The Stanley kids, sufficiently impressed, want to learn also. 

Soon after some ghostly activity starts occurring and they discover the house might be haunted.  To top it off, there is a legend about the missing Cupid's head banister.  The kids go through amusing trials while being apprenticed to Amanda’s brand of witchcraft, ESP tests and participate in a seance. 
I remember being in awe of Amanda, although she wasn’t the warmest of characters, which just gave her more of a mysterious air.  And if only I was one of the Stanley kids, maybe I could have learned from her!   For a kid who loved Halloween and anything spooky, this book totally delivered.  I remember wanting so bad to be in this family, to do what Amanda did.  If only I had a pet crow!  If only I had books on the Occult!  If only I was all knowing!

Even though I was the youngest of 5, my siblings were all much older than me, so technically I was sort of an only child.  And to read this story of all these brothers and sisters who were close to each other in age and emotionally was my dream.  Then to have someone else introduced into that dynamic in the form of a new mysterious step-sister was just thrilling to me!

*SPOILER ALERT:  Most of the incidents in the book turn out to have a logical explanation, perpetuated by Amanda, which totally disappointed me.  (Booo!)  However, there were definitely some supernatural elements in play, especially when relating to one of the kids which redeemed it somewhat.  (Yay!)  I think one of the reasons I constantly re-read this was even though I knew how it was going to end, I wanted to experience the start and middle of the story when the questions were still unanswered and there was a quality that the magic might be real.  It left me breathless!  END SPOILER ALERT*

I found the cover that I remember on Goodreads.  This book reminds me of reading under a giant ash tree in my yard after school in the Fall.  The smells of autumn in the air and colored leaves above me, I get nostalgic just thinking about it.  

Monday, July 12, 2010

Must Love Black

Title/Author: Must Love Black by Kelly McClymer

Genre:  YA

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Source: Purchased at Borders

Favorite character: Phillipa

Synopsis:  A teenage girl trying to escape her father and his new wife for the summer, answers an intriguing ad to become a nanny.   “Must love black” is one of the criteria, which fits Phillipa to a "t".

Favorite quote:  “Rainbows are for people who don’t know the dark side of life.” “On the contrary, rainbows are for people who do know the dark side of life.  Rainbows come after the storm, remember?”

All in all:  Very good.  Lots of layers.

Please note-This review has spoilers.

What I liked: One of the maine themes of this book is reflections.  The title is mirrored throughout the story with lines such as, “…people who liked black didn’t like being told that they handn’t quite gotten the hang of something yet.” And “I was a nanny who loved black.”

Rienne and Triste, the twins that Phillipa is hired to take care of, have lost their mother and their father has thrown himself into his work.  Phillipa also lost her mother when she was younger and feels disconnected from her own father.   Since she can relate, her goal for the summer is not just to take care of her charges, but to also bring them closer to their father.  Another reflection is that the chapters all start with quotes from her mother’s book, and it is soon apparent that it is a period piece about a nanny. 

Phillipa, or Pippa, as the twins call her, has a lot of humor and I enjoyed her voice.  She is a typical teen in that she feels that no one gets her.  I even remember thinking that as a teenager.  (Okay, I admit that sometimes I still think that.)  Pippa also knows that she shouldn’t do or say things but does so anyway in order to reach a goal.   I do like that she keeps trying and that she finds more diplomatic ways to do things in order to reach these goals.

And what summer job wouldn’t be complete without the love interest?  Geoff is the gardener at the place where she works and she is trying to figure him out.  In the beginning she is tongue tied and awkward around him.  But toward the end of her stay, she is able to look him in the eye and be honest with her feelings.  The whole summer is about her gaining confidence as she sees her plans for the twins come to fruition.  

There was also some symbolism that was interesting.  On the very first page Pippa wonders if there is such a thing as a black butterfly (and is disappointed that there isn’t).  Later in the story when she helps the girls take pictures of butterflies they find a gray one called a Mourning Cloak.  It comes into play a few times in the story as well.  One time it seems to remind Pippa that there is a middle road to take during a confrontation.  (Gray as opposed to black and white.)  The other time was when the Mourning Cloak seems to lead Pippa to the twins when the household can't find them.

What I didn’t like:  I think that the author could have gone a little deeper and opened up some scenes.   There was one scene when they were using the Ouija board, but I think it could have been more dramatic.  Even the decision to use the Ouija board could have been more so. 

Also, a major incident that could have been opened up was when Pippa told Geoff and the twins about her mother’s car accident.  It could have been a powerful, touching scene, but in my opinion it was sort of skimmed over.

I was also hoping the supernatural aspect was going to be developed more, but it never quite got there for me.  The spooky incidents left me with questions.  For example, when Pippa first arrives, there are tables in the game room, one with a Ouija board and one with tarot cards displayed.  But the only time this was utilized was when they used the Ouija board as mentioned above.  Pippa thinks she has a ghostly encounter the first night at her new job.  There is a legend about a sea captain’s wife who haunts the place.  In fact, the twins think her ghost was responsible for their mother's death.  Pippa, follows something through the woods one evening and almost has a deadly encounter, but with all these tidbits, nothing really ever comes of these ghostly encounters.   

I also thought that Pippa would become more accepting of her father’s marriage as she sees the twins and their father grow closer, but this didn’t happen either in the book. 

I give this book 4/5 stars.  Even though I think it could have been more dramatic, Must Love Black is a book worth reading and I feel YAs would really enjoy it.  It could definitely be the source of some great discussions.

My Very First Award

I got my first very first award today!  It was graciously bestowed upon me by Christine from Reading on the Darkside.  Please check out her blog, it's really well done.   So, I guess there are some rules and here they are.

1. Get really excited that you got the coolest award EVER!  
2. Choose ONE of the following options of accepting the OMB award:
(a) Get really drunk and blog for 15 minutes straight, or for as long as you can focus.
(b) Write about your most embarrassing moment.
(c) Write a "Soundtrack of your childhood" post.
(d) Make your next blog a 'vlog'/video blog. Basically, you're talking to the camera about whatever.
(e) Take a picture of yourself first thing in the morning, before you do anything else (hair, make up, etc) and post it.
3. Pass the award on to at least three, but preferably more, awesome bloggers. Don't forget to tell them.

1. Not only was I excited to get this award because I was told it's the coolest award EVER, but it's my very first one!  And that is very exciting!

2. (b) My most embarrassing moments (yes I've had more than one) usually have to do with me thinking that people have said one thing when they have really said another.  And unfortunately, what they are saying usually has to do with, well, shall we say, something risque.  They say something and I think they have said something like, "I love pizza."  And then I reply with  something like "Yeah me too.  With mushrooms."  And then I get strange looks.  I won't go into details here, but if you really, really, really must know.  Please feel free to e-mail me.

3. I´m passing the award to Angelique @ Vampiresandtofu. I love reading her honest and funny writing. She's got a lot of the same opinions I do and I really value her posts. The gang at For the Love of Reading because I always get lost on their site.  And, Lost in YA Wonderland, just because I went to their site over the weekend during the Book Blogger Hop for the first time and liked it.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren. It is meant to bring books to your attention. (Because I'm sure you don't have enough to read!)

So there I was visiting my friends in Massachussetts.  We were on our way to a barbeque, when I had to make a bathroom stop.  We see a Borders and I exclaim, "Borders have bathrooms!"  So, needless to say, we were in there for a little while.  I hit the Horror and YA section.  

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Book Blogger Hop-July 9-12

The Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Crazy for Books.
This week's question is: Tell us about some of your favorite authors and why they are your favorites.  (Remember, this is just some of my favorite authors!)

Answer:  Charles de Lint because he writes magical stories with beautiful words.  They have transported me to places that I only thought existed in my dreams and it seems he writes from an enchanted place in his soul.  His characters are like friends that I know somehow.  My favorite is Memory and Dream.

Douglas Clegg - He gives me that creepy feeling that I look for when reading a scary story.  His writing haunts me long after I put his work down.  I loved You Come When I Call You.

Stephen King - Mostly his earlier works, which are very eerie.  He wrote one of the only books that really scared me, Pet Sematary.

Robert McCammon - He has written some amazing stories, from Horror to Historical Fiction.  I get engrossed in all his work.  I think my favorite would have to be Swan Song.

Patricia McKillip - Her fantasy writing is some of the most ethereal I have ever read.  My favorite book of hers is Solstice Wood.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Wicked Game is wicked awesome!

Title/Author: Wicked Game by Jeri Smith-Ready

Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Publisher: Pocket Books

Source: Purchased through Amazon

Favorite character: Ciara & Shane

Favorite quotes:  “But moments like this last only as long as a pop song, and bear just as much truth.”
“Neil Young’s slow, reverbating guitar mourns with a keening violin.  They hold each other up like siblings at a funeral.”

Synopsis: Ciara, a marketing intern, is given the task of raising the revenue of a radio station or it will be sold to a communications conglomerate.  She soon finds out that the DJs are vampires that specialize in the era when they were turned.  Ciara is a former con-artist and comes up with a plan to utilize the vampire angle to boost ratings, justifying that hiding in plain sight is the biggest con of all.  Things get complicated when she develops a romantic relationship with one of the DJ's and another group of vampires wants to stop their marketing campaign.

All in all:  Awesome!

What I liked: When I was little I re-read books all the time.  As I grew older, I didn’t do this as much because there are simply so many books I want to read.  But once in a while, a story comes along that I can’t stop thinking about and I want to get lost in it again.  Wicked Game is one of them.  

I had read this book a few years ago and the story and characters lingered in my memory.  I was thinking about a scene in the book a few months ago (the part where Shane plays a song on his guitar for Ciara) and then I went to the Book Blogger Convention Reception and met the author.  Very serendipitous!  I didn’t realize there was a sequel (and the 3rd one is coming out July 27).  I wanted to re-acquaint myself with the first novel before I read the next ones and I also wanted to visit that world again.   

Not every book lets you live vicariously through the main character, but I really connected with Ciara and I loved imagining myself in her shoes.  She is clever and funny and shows this when she goes head to head with an enemy from college, when she drops a box of pencils to thwart one of the vampires and when she pulls cons.  When she opens up about her parents and her upbringing she exposes her vulnerable side, her flaws and her dark past.  She admits the mistakes she has made, intentional and unintentional.  Definitely not a Mary Sue.  Eventually (and ironically) she has to draw on her skills from the past to save the day.  I love her voice.  It was clever, funny and snarky.  I even loved the last sentence of soooo many chapters.  Whether they were humorous, sad or ironic, even reading it a second time, they had me turning the page with anticipation.   

Shane, her love interest, is not your typical heroic vampire.  There’s no uber-seductiveness and over the top vampire clichés.  He’s believable.  Hot, but believable.  I love the fact that he doesn’t play games with Ciara, he lets her know he wants to be with her.  He tells her, “I’d rather do whatever it takes to get you and keep you.  That’s what I’d rather do.”  (Sigh).  He’s honest and caring, but not syrupy.  And, he has his funny moments too.  The heat between him and Ciara is irrelevant of the fact that he is a vampire.  And speaking of sex scenes, I felt they aren't too mushy or too graphic and at the same time, provide just enough rock and roll to be steamy. 

The other vampires at the radio station are great characters as well and the way that they are stuck in the era that they were turned give them their quirky traits in today’s world.  A Rockabilly dude from the 50’s and a Hippie from the 60s, among others, must cope and live in the present.  They are funny, at times loveable and at other times very dangerous.   I felt the vampire mythology was original and kept me interested.  

I enjoyed that each chapter title is the name of a song or band and that the theme of music is so important to the author she includes a playlist in the beginning of the book.   The descriptions of Ciara’s feelings when listening to certain songs and how she described live music brought it alive for me. 

Oh and also, is it just me or did this kind of cover come out before all the other female protagonist covers?  This cover shows a normal looking woman, not a bombshell holding a crossbow, not that there is anything wrong with that, but it’s just something I noticed. 

What I didn’t like:  That I can’t be Ciara.

I give this book 5/5 stars, obviously since I took the time to re-read it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What the Dickens - What the...?

Title/Author: What the Dickens: The Story of a Rogue Toothfairy by Gregory Maguire

Genre: YA/Fantasy

Publisher: Candlewick, September 2007.

Source: Purchased

Favorite character: None

Favorite quote:  There were lots of pretty quotes despite my review.

Product Description from Amazon:
A terrible storm is raging, and ten-year-old Dinah is huddled by candlelight with her brother, sister, and cousin Gage, who is telling a very unusual tale. It’s the story of What-the-Dickens, a newly hatched orphan creature who finds he has an attraction to teeth, a crush on a cat named McCavity, and a penchant for getting into trouble. One day he happens upon a feisty girl skibberee who is working as an Agent of Change — trading coins for teeth — and learns that there is a dutiful tribe of skibbereen (call them tooth fairies) to which he hopes to belong. As his tale of discovery unfolds, however, both What-the- Dickens and Dinah come to see that the world is both richer and less sure than they ever imagined.

Opinion: Unfortunately, this was a book that I just couldn’t finish. I had high expectations because of the blurbs on the front and the cover looked promising, plus, I really liked Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and would definitely recommend them. But, I got halfway through What the Dickens and realized that there were just so many other books that I would rather be reading and I didn’t look forward to reading it. Books should be enjoyed! The writing was very lovely, the story was cute but it seemed to stagnate and I just couldn’t get into it. None of the characters grabbed me. I actually jumped to the end and read the last few pages, something I NEVER do, even when I don’t finish a book – which BTW is very rare. Even reading the ending, I didn’t feel I missed out on anything.

Sorry Mr. Maguire! But hey you’re a hugely successful author and one of your books was even made into a Broadway show (which I also liked a lot), so, you certainly don’t need one little reader’s approval for this book.
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