Monday, March 31, 2014

A Good Week in Books (70)

I had a wonderful week in books. I received one for review (thank you, Macmillan). Though, technically I was supposed to receive a box that weighed one pound from another publishing company, but I got a letter from the post office saying they damaged my package. When I called the number left to me, it was determined that nothing could be done because I’m not sure what the book(s) was/were supposed to be…Apparently, there are a lot of books sitting around that don’t make it to the right addresses and if you don’t know the titles, you most likely won’t be helped. Mystery book(s) you will be missed!
On a more positive note, I decided I deserved some new books from Amazon, and made a random 2-book purchase (technically 4 because I pre-ordered a couple that I will talk about when I get them). And then later when my friend from out of town was visiting, we went to my favorite local-ish used bookstore. Lucky for us, there was a huge sale because the store is relocating, and I bought four books. The books I got there were 50% off their already reduced price! Emma, I’m so glad we went there.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Panic by Lauren Oliver
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
The Alchemyst: The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott
Being Friends with Boys by Terra Elan McVoy
The Unnatrualists by Tiffany Trent
How was your week in books?

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Summary (from Goodreads):
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.
I don’t know why exactly that summary made me think this would be more of a dystopia than it was. I was surprised that it read more like historical fiction. I could easily see Kestrel’s world as my own, a couple hundred years ago. There were no scientific or fantastical elements to it. I kept waiting for these elements to come into play in the beginning, but eventually I just got so wrapped up the in the language that I completely forgot about what I was anticipating and just got lost in what was happening.
The idea of a slave rebellion is so beyond awesome to me. However, by the time serious stuff goes down in this book, I’m already loving the main character. Yes, she’s a slave-owner, but no I don’t want her to die. She sneaks piano lessons, buys slaves their freedom, and treats all those who work for her family equally. Though sometimes it’s hard to feel bad for her. Her problem is deciding between being a soldier for her dad and her country and being a wife. She keeps postponing figuring out her dilemma. So many people in her world would kill to have that as their major dilemma.
What Rutkoski does well is build. She builds this highly authentic world that revolves around war and freedom. She builds characters who were both heroic and seriously flawed, and she builds a romance between two very different souls. I felt like I was at the parties, and meetings with Kestrel’s friends myself. Rutkoski just had this way of making me literally feel as though I was there.
And the story is full of surprises. Just when I began to get comfortable in the direction it all was going in, bam, I get thrown for another loop. And I just loved Kestrel so much. She made decisions based upon what she needed to do, and was able to put important things first, above her romance. I’m so glad to have gotten to read about a main character that put her beliefs before her heart.
Has the love story been done before? Yes. But was the author able to accomplish something new with the classic star-crossed love story? Yes. This is a book of war, a book of slavery, and a book of bravery. I was sucked into the beautiful language and it was hard to ever put the book down. The relationship for the power couple was one that was built with a lot of time. There were plenty of games, guesses, and visits to town before either of them realized how they felt. And adventures, the mystery, and the death keep going till the very end.
Overall, I loved the writing style.  I thought there were some unique elements added to the classic love story. I was fascinated by the world these characters lived in. And at moments, I literally felt like I was in this world too. I grew to love the main character, though I never really understood her friendship with her best friend.  I give this a 9/10.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Summary (from Goodreads):
Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything.

So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to?

Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.
I have heard so many good things about A.S. King, and I’ve been wanting to read this one for a long time. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was expecting; I guess I was thinking this would be a quirky YA book that dealt with some serious topics. But, this was so much above and beyond that.
It read a little bit like The Perks of Being Wallflower. The writing style was both abrupt and also beautiful. I remember starting the book, feeling frustrated because here was another YA main character unwilling to talk about the important things she knew with people who could help. However, as the book went on, this made more and more sense. Vera was taught at an early age to ignore the big stuff that was happening around her. And it got to the point where I just didn’t understand why everyone was surprised that she was ignoring what happened to her friend.
Normally when books have as many point of view switches as this one does, I get angry. Too many points of view can actually take me out of a good story. But, here, it worked extremely well. It added a super creepy, almost magical realism element to the book. For starters, one point of view belongs to the dead best friend. And he apparently can do real life things like call the police…And another point of view belongs to the setting where a lot of important elements of the plot take place. I’m not sure I’ve ever actually read a book from the setting’s point of view.
I also normally am not a fan of YA books that shift to the parent’s point of view, but I loved it in this book. I loved Vera’s dad. He so badly wanted Vera to be more than he was. And it was nice to see where he was coming from. I got why he was strict about her having a job. And I understood a lot of things about the family dynamic because of him. Also, I kept waiting for Vera to come clean to him, knowing that it would be okay because he loved her so much.
There was also a plethora of darkness here. On top of the teen death, the mystery of the death, and the secrets Vera won’t admit, there’s also plenty of drugs, drinking, sex, and all that jazz. But there’s also perverts who pay kids for their underwear, and husbands who abuse their wives, and people who go to their front door to pick up their pizza completely naked.  There’s all kinds of abuse in this novel. There’s bullying and sexual harassment. There’s also Nazis and racists and a lot of seriously terrible people.
There was one point when I had to step back, and ask, “Where does this poor girl live? Can I make sure to never step foot there?” Also, pizza delivery sounds like the worst and most dangerous job possible for a teenage girl. This was not the easiest book to read. It might be one of the darkest YA books I’ve ever come across. Nothing was sugar-coated or left out for a young audience. And no one, not even the main character, came off as anywhere close to perfect. I kept waiting for her to get into a drunk driving accident.
I was reading this book at the wrong time. Dealing with a sudden death in my immediate family was probably a terrible time to be reading about Vera dealing with the sudden death of a best friend. But like with me, it’s not the death that defined Vera or the story; it was everything else and all the other characters that made this so authentic and true. It also kind of ended with an empowered feeling. People can change. Not everything big has to be ignored. And the world doesn’t stop with each bad incident; it keeps going and you have to go with it.
I related to the book. I was empowered by it. And above all, I was impressed. The writing style was unique. I might not have needed such a dark story at the time that I read this, but it certainly was an interesting, dark story. I wasn’t shocked by how it turned out, but I also didn’t totally predict it all either. I give it a 9/10, and I look forward to reading more by this author.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (86)

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 Fan Art by Sarah Tregay (6/17/14):
Description (from Goodreads):
Senior year is almost over, and Jamie Peterson has a big problem. Not college—that’s all set. Not prom—he’ll find a date somehow. No, it’s the worst problem of all: he’s fallen for his best friend.

As much as Jamie tries to keep it under wraps, everyone seems to know where his affections lie, and the giggling girls in art class are determined to help Jamie get together with Mason. But Jamie isn’t sure if that’s what he wants—because as much as Jamie would like to come clean to Mason, what if the truth ruins everything? What if there are no more road trips, taco dinners, or movie nights? Does he dare risk a childhood friendship for romance?

This book is about what happens when a picture reveals what we can’t say, when art is truer than life, and how falling in love is easy, except when it’s not. Fan Art explores the joys and pains of friendship, of pressing boundaries, and how facing our worst fears can sometimes lead us to what we want most.
Why I’m Waiting:
This sounds both totally familiar and totally different. I’m interested in seeing the role fan art plays in the book. And I’m already hoping for the main character to find true love –and this is just from the book summary. I love the cover. I love what it’s about. And I can’t wait to read it.
What are you waiting on this week?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut the Moon in Two by Catherynne M. Valente

So, I guess my praise for these books has yet to end. Seriously, I am in awe of Valente’s writing skill. And I have absolutely no idea why more people haven’t been talking, praising, and hyping these books. They are pure childhood wonderment and adventure. And I know I have never read anything else quite like them.
I kind of went into reading this one with a little hesitance because I wasn’t sure if it would be Valente’s last book in the series of not, and I still don’t know. (Does anyone know if this is the last one?) I hate not knowing if a book is the last. It’s like I wasn’t sure if I mentally needed to make my goodbyes or not. Eventually though, I forgot all about my goodbyes in preference for all of September’s adventures.
This time her adventures involve a car, the moon, a library, her old friends, a moon-yeti, a circus, fate, very life-like photographs, and growing up. How old does one need to be before there is no more fairyland for them? Will September have to end up with Saturday because of something that happened in book 1, or does she have a choice? And what if September doesn’t have her mind made up yet about anything –how old is too old to not know what you want from life?
In some ways I like this book the best. It became a little bit deeper. There were more philosophical moments than ever before. And the slight background theme of “growing up” took center stage here. I guess my feeling of not knowing whether I needed to say goodbye or not, never completely left me in my reading.
In other ways, this book didn’t hold the same level of magic for me, and I’m not 100% sure why. I think part of it is the description. Sometimes the length in which important things were explained took up too much time. I found myself trying to get through explanation quickly, so I could get closer to the story. And this isn’t good because the explanations in these books make the story.
Overall though, I loved this book. I really, really, really hope it’s not the last in the series. I rank fairyland with Narnia and Lyra’s Oxford. And I don’t know how better to compliment it. If I ever have kids, I will read these books to them. I give this a 10/10. And I have I to share my two favorite quotes:
“Everyone is hungry and not only for food –for comfort and love and excitement and the opposite of being alone. Almost everything awful anyone does is to get those things and keep them. Even the mites and the mussels. But no one can use you up unless you let them…The whole point of growing is to get big enough to hold the world you want inside you. But it takes a long time, and you really must eat your vegetables, and most often you have to make the world you want out of yourself” (102-103).
And my last favorite quote of course comes from the library:
“A silent library is a sad library. A library without patrons on whom to pile books and tales and knowing and magazines full of up-to-the-minute political fashions and atlases and plays in pentameter! A library should be full of exclamations! Shouts of delight and horror as the wonders of the world are discovered or the lies of the heavens uncovered or the world adventures of devil-knows-who sent romping out of the pages. A library should be full of now-just-a-minutes and that-can’t-be-rights and scientific folk running skelter to prove somebody wrong. It should positively vibrate with laughing at comedies and sobbing at tragedies, it should echo with gasps as decent ladies glimpse indecent things and indecent ladies stumble upon secret and scandalous decencies! A library should not shush; it should roar!" (109-110).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (85)

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 Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan (09/23/14):

Description on Goodreads:
Who will be the sacrifice?

Kami has lost the boy she loves, is tied to a boy she does not, and faces an enemy more powerful than ever before. With Jared missing for months and presumed dead, Kami must rely on her new magical link with Ash for the strength to face the evil spreading through her town.

Rob Lynburn is now the master of Sorry-in-the-Vale, and he demands a death. Kami will use every tool at her disposal to stop him. Together with Rusty, Angela, and Holly, she uncovers a secret that might be the key to saving the town. But with knowledge comes responsibility—and a painful choice. A choice that will risk not only Kami’s life, but also the lives of those she loves most.

This final book in the Lynburn Legacy is a wild, entertaining ride from beginning to shocking end.
Why I’m Waiting:
Jared has been missing for months, and presumed dead????
The first book in the series, Unspoken, was my favorite book of 2012. The sequel, Untold, was an Honorable Mention on my Best Books of 2013 list. The characters in these novels are real and heartfelt, and I am so beyond emotionally attached to them. These books are dark, romantic, hilarious, and suspenseful. They combine all the good things that exist to make a wonderful YA novel. I made a promise to myself that I would read no spoilers before this book’s release (like I did last time)…We’ll see if I can keep this promise…Any way, if you have not read these books yet, what are you waiting for? They are genius.  Though, I wish they stuck with the initial cover. The new covers are way too generic for my liking, particularly for such a unique story. But you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente

Summary (from Goodreads):
September has longed to return to Fairyland after her first adventure there. And when she finally does, she learns that its inhabitants have been losing their shadows—and their magic—to the world of Fairyland Below. This underworld has a new ruler: Halloween, the Hollow Queen, who is September’s shadow. And Halloween does not want to give Fairyland’s shadows back.

Fans of Valente’s bestselling, first Fairyland book will revel in the lush setting, characters, and language of September’s journey, all brought to life by fine artist Ana Juan. Readers will also welcome back good friends Ell, the Wyverary, and the boy Saturday. But in Fairyland Below, even the best of friends aren’t always what they seem…

I am in love with these books. Reading them is like eating a giant bowl of salad by yourself, after unknowingly not eating anything green for days. My brain is soaking up all the needed vitamins and nutrients this healthy dose of book salad has to give. I don’t really think about writing style too often, unless a book is written particularly poorly. These books though have such a unique, whimsical style that I can’t help but comment on their magic style. I had no idea how much my brain had been missing a beautifully written book, until I had my refreshing dose of this wonderful sequel.
Valente seems to have only grown as a writer since her first book in the series. September is a little older here, but just as brave and in need of a quest as ever before. The new characters were wonderful (especially the dodo). And on top of the all the crazy, yet remarkable places in Fairyland there is now a little philosophy added to the mix. There’s fairyland below. There’s captured and freed shadows. And there’s so much to do with the juxtapositions between light and dark, good and bad, and even fun and boring.
There’s purple kangaroos, shadow versions of all September’s friends, creatures afraid of being hunted and turned into wives, eel rides, goblin markets, stolen kisses, revels (which are insanely large parties), quests, scientists, cats, winds, and so much more. There’s also all the layering of what’s happening in the human world (with the war and September’s father). And one of my favorite things about the book was that I was never quite sure how it would end. Did I want the shadows to go back? Did they not deserve to be free? What would September decide to do?
And I loved that September is the kind of character who knows she has a lot to learn. She knows how she feels about the shadows one minute won’t necessarily be how she feels about them the next. And how can one want to punish and imprison oneself? Halloween is really just a more magical version of September, after all. The power of words made this book stand out too. Halloween took down all the rules of Fairyland Below, but the rules made themselves known the whole time. And the way to travel between so much of Fairyland Below was by jumping into pages of books!
I have never seen or ready anything like these books before. The language is beautiful. The characters read like old friends. The setting is probably one of the best settings I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. And there really isn’t anything negative to say. I already started book 3 (which seems to be the last one?). And I will most definitely be keeping my eye out for anything this author has to say. This gets a 10/10.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

A Good Week in Books (69)

It’s been another nice book week! I received 3 new (gorgeous and finished) books for review. Thank you Hyperion and Macmillan!
I decided a while back that I would not include books I borrow in this meme. If I did, my lists would be astronomical. I do work in a library, and on top of my bad book spending habit, and all the books I get to review, I do borrow a lot of books.
I will include some oldies, but goodies though. My parents are beginning to ship to me some of my enormous collection of books I (as a terrible daughter) have left in their possession in Chicago. Mostly, I could not fit them all in my car when I moved across the country and I also could not bring myself to donate these (like I did with a large number of other books). I’m not going to list them all, but I thought someone out there, besides me would get a kick out of where I decided to put them (after running out of shelf space…). They are on my dining/living room/eating table. Go me.
For Review:

The Winner’s Curse
by Marie Rutkoski (This one is so, so pretty!)
Burn Bright by Bethany Frennette (I loved the first one!)
Unforgotten by Jessica Brody (I still need to read the first one, but now I own both!)
My dining/living room/eating table:

Eventually I will get another bookshelf. Apparently 6 is just not enough…
And here’s a close-up of my oldies, but goodies:

How was your week in books?