Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Reading Room (23)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on books I'm reading and planning to read, and was inspired by the feature On Myshelf at the blog All By Myshelf.

I made a trip to the library earlier today, and found some books I'm really excited to read. The first one is Between the Lines, by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer. It's one of the new books and was on display, so I took a look at it, not expecting it to be that interesting. I was really surprised - it looks really good. Plus, I skimmed the book and the illustrations are amazing. I can't wait to start reading it.

The next book I spotted was The Serpent's Shadow, by Rick Riordan. I was elated. I love the Kane Chronicles, and have been dying to get my hands on a copy of the newest book in the series since it came out. One of my friends gave me her copy to borrow, but then I was distracted by her adorable baby goats and ended up leaving it at her house. Then I was distraught. Then I saw that the public library had finally gotten a copy, and I was delighted. I've been lots of adjectives beginning with d lately.

Finally, before I made my way to the circulation desk, I grabbed The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. I loved Garden Spells, and can't wait to read more by Sarah Addison Allen. I'm definitely planning to read as many of her books as I can get my hands on.


Book Review: The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for himself, his mother, and his sister, Mari. Ironically, the only thing of value he has is something he can't sell. For as long as Han can remember, he's worn thick silver cuffs engraved with runes. They're clearly magicked - as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off.

Han's life gets even harder after he takes a powerful amulet from Micah Bayar, the son of the High Wizard. The amulet once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece so powerful at stake, the Bayars will stop at nothing to reclaim it from Han.

Meanwhile, Raisa ana'Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. Although Raisa will become eligible for marriage after her sixteenth name day, she isn't looking forward to trading in her common sense for a prince with a big castle and a tiny brain. Raisa aspires to be like Hanalea - the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems that her mother has other plans - plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning new page-turner from best-selling author Cinda Williams Chima. 

From the first page, I was swept into the world of the Seven Kingdoms. It was incredibly vivid and detailed, with so much history and culture. I loved the dynamics between the clans, the flatlanders, the royalty, and the wizards, and although not a lot of time was spent on the relationship between the Fells and the other kingdoms, enough detail was given to make it seem incredibly lifelike. It was as if this book took pieces of all my favorite fantasy worlds and combined them into something truly amazing.

Then there were the characters. I absolutely loved Han and Raisa and the way their stories intertwined. They lived in such different worlds and had such different personalities, but at the same, time, were so similar - they're both trying to figure out what they're supposed to do, how to deal with the difficulties life throws at them, and who they can trust, and they both try to do what's right, even though their opinions on what that is differ.

Of course, the supporting characters can't be overlooked either: this was one of those rare books where absolutely every character was fantastic. I loved Fire Dancer from the start, and the relationship between him, Han, and Bird was incredible, and its complexity was handled well. Amon Byrne was so unique - he seemed pretty straightforward, but there were hidden complexities to him and I loved the way he interacted with Raisa. Willo, Elena Demonai, Margret, and Raisa's father Averill were all incredible characters with so many hidden depths. Even the antagonists, Micah and Gavan Bayar, were complicated and intriguing, and I loved reading about them - they became some of my favorite characters in the books.

The plot was also incredible. It was gripping and interesting without being over-filled with action, complex without being confusing and perfectly paced. The only flaw I found was the revelation of the history behind Han's cuffs - although it was great, I felt like it could have been a bit more foreshadowed. Still, with so much else going on in the book, it might have cluttered up the storyline, and looking back, there were definitely some hints I just didn't pick up on at the time. Other than that, the plot was fantastic - it made me laugh, it made my cry, and it kept me up way too late to finish "one more chapter", which always turned into a hundred pages or so.

Overall, I adored this book and would definitely recommend it. I can't wait to read the next in the series and check out Cinda Williams Chima's other books.


Monday, July 30, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. A new topic is posted each week, and bloggers post their top ten in the category. I love making lists, especially about books, so when I found out about Top Ten Tuesday, I had to participate. 

Top Ten Characters I'd Like to Switch Places With For 24 Hours

10. Rayne
Posessed and Consumed by Kate Cann

Okay, so Rayne definitely encounters some creepy things out in the country, but honestly, that sort of appeals to me. I like the idea of living on my own in a cottage near the woods, working in a tearoom in an old mansion, and when you add old magic and things that go bump in the night...well, it becomes irresistibly cool. I'd probably reach my limit on the weirdness eventually, but for a day? It'd be awesome. 

9. Briar
The Circle of Magic by Tamora Pierce

Out of all of the characters in Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic series, Briar gets into the most trouble - and also has the most fun. Sure, everyone else encounters their fair share of danger and excitement, but when you're Briar Moss, every day is an adventure, whether you're fighting off attacking soldiers, running with a street gang or simply antagonizing Crane and Rosethorn. 

8. Sophos
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

For a lot of the book, Sophos is just sort of along for the ride, which is why I'd want to switch places with him. It would be a dream come true to just follow along with this journey and meet the incredible characters - and listen to Gen squabble with the Magus. 

7. Cassandra (Cass)
The Secret Series by Pseudonymous Bosch

I'd love to be the keeper of The Secret for a day. Plus, Cass has two awesome grandfathers, hilarious and awesome friends in Max-Ernest and Yo-Yoji, and she's totally immersed in this world of mystery, suspense, and yes, even magic. Like I sometimes do, Cass always prepares for the unexpected, except she's lucky enough to have something exciting actually happen to her. 

6. Bitterblue
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

I want to spend a day in Bitterblue's world - it's thrilling, dangerous, and strange. Spending a day as Bitterblue would be the best way to experience it, I think; she has her own adventures, but also gets to witness the lives of people like Katsa, Death, Lady Fire, and Po. Plus - Saf and Giddon. Uh, yum.

5. Bailey
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I would love to spend a night as Bailey, exploring all the tents and attractions of The Night Circus. It would be so incredible to see it all. That's the reason I'd want to be Bailey and not one of the performers - I'd want the chance to wander throughout all the tents and exhibits and just experience them, instead of having to work to perform or create them. Experiencing The Night Circus is incredibly magical either way, but it's even more awe-inspiring if you have no idea what goes on behind the scenes. 

4. Tessa Gray
The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Oh my goodness. The world in The Infernal Devices is one of the worlds I'm dying to be a part of. I want to experience everything, meet all the characters, be a part of the Institute, learn how to fight demons, and be able to shift into other people. And I definitely wouldn't say no to the doting attention of both Will and Jem. One boy to play me the violin, the other to write love letters referencing my favorite novels? Yes, please. 

3. Tanya
13 Treasures by Michele Harrison

I. Want. To be. Tanya. I want to spend every summer in a house filled with fairies, next to a wood filled with even more. I want to visit Mad Morag and get into all sorts of trouble with Rowan and Fabian. I want to unravel deep, magical mysteries. I want to live in Tanya's world, if only for 24 hours. 

2. Dr. Watson
Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

And of course, what true Holmes fan wouldn't want to spend a day in Watson's shoes, following Holmes into adventure with no idea where it will lead and witnessing his brilliant feats of deduction? Of course, I almost feel like I'm looking right over Watson's shoulder when I read the Holmes novels and stories, because they're so well-written, but I'd still love a day to experience everything myself. 

1. Ananka Fishbein
Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller

Ananka basically is living my dream life. She lives in an apartment that's overflowing with books and has every opportunity for adventure from the very first moment she encounters one Kiki Strike - exiled princess and Central Park Vigilante. Although Kiki pulls Ananka into the dangerous and exciting situations, Ananka soon becomes just as much of a leader to the Bank Street Irregulars as Kiki. And really - who wouldn't want to lead a crazy group of friends on secret missions through underground Manhattan?


Friday, July 27, 2012

Tuned In To (6)

Tuned In To is a weekly feature discussing albums I've been listening to, songs that have been stuck in my head, or artists that I've discovered, and is posted on Fridays.

This week has been a pretty great week for music. To start off, I have another song that fits perfectly with a book I read recently. "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman was on the radio the other day when I was sitting on my grandma's porch; there were some other people there and I was talking, so I didn't really pay attention until about halfway through, when the lyrics caught my attention, and I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd heard the song before. I looked it up on Youtube that same day and have been listening to it ever since. I had heard it before, but I'd never realized what an awesome song it was.

The second or third time I listened to it, the same spot in the lyrics caught my attention again. This time, I realized how incredibly perfect this song was for the book I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak. I mean - wow. The lyrics, the situation, the emotion in the song mirrors that in the book. Both are very moving, and when I listen to the song while thinking of the book, I'm just blown away.

A lot of other awesome songs have come my way, too. I'll start with "One More Night" by Maroon 5. I caught the end of it on the radio on Wednesday, and it was extremely catchy - what I had heard of it stuck in my head for the rest of the day. When I looked it up, I found that not only did it have a catchy beat, it had awesome lyrics. I've always loved Maroon 5, and I can't stop listening to this song.

Then there's Passion Pit. I just came across their new album Gossamer (released on July 23rd) and...yeah, I'm already pretty obsessed. It's amazing. You can listen to the whole thing for free here. While the whole album is awesome, "Take a Walk" is definitely the best song. The meaning! The lyrics! The music and the beat! Somebody help me. I am addicted to this song and this album. A review of the album is definitely coming soon.

That's it for new music, although I've also been rocking out to the songs we're performing for Marching Band this year. I love our band teacher - he puts together a show made up of "Moves Like Jagger", "We Found Love", "On The Floor" and "Give Me Everything (Tonight)." When my friend Brianna - one of the drum majors this year - told me those were our songs, I literally jumped up in down in excitement. (And I was going running with her at the time, so it was pretty hilarious.) Not many people know this, but "Give Me Everything (Tonight)" is my jam. You should see me at school dances when it plays...actually, maybe it's better that you don't. I absolutely cannot wait for band camp.

Hoping this abundance in awesome music continues,

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Wish List (6)

The Wish List features one book from my wish list each week, along with why I want it. Thanks to Jill at Breaking the Spine and Ren at All By Myshelf for the inspiration.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
By Jennifer E. Smith

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

I honestly can't believe I still don't own this book. I've wanted to read it almost since it came out - it looks fantastic. It's an original idea and a classic theme, and I love the title and cover art. 


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Reading Room (22)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on books I'm reading and planning to read, and was inspired by the feature On Myshelf at the blog All By Myshelf.

Not much to post this week, I'm afraid. I finished Garden Spells and Keturah and Lord Death, both of which I liked, and am still working on the first volume of The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I've read most of the stories in it before, but they're definitely worth rereading. I've also moved on to Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, and while I'm not quite involved yet, I'm willing to stick it out and give the book a chance. Other than that, I don't have any new exciting book news; hopefully I'll have more next week.

In general news, I'm participating in Camp NaNoWriMo (www.campnanowrimo.org). It's a summer version of the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in one month, and I'm really excited. Definitely expect some blog posts about my writing adventures coming up throughout August. I also want to do a few album reviews over the next month - it's about time for another, don't you think?  And another book review needs to happen soon.


Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. A new topic is posted each week, and bloggers post their top ten in the category. I love making lists, especially about books, so when I found out about Top Ten Tuesday, I just had to participate.

Top Ten Most Vivid Worlds/Settings in Books

10. Setting - The Tiger's Wife
By Tea Obreht

The first thing that jumped out at me from this book was the setting. Even months after reading the book, I can still vividly picture the zoo with the tiger, the public restroom Natalia is standing in as the book opens, the restaurant where her grandfather encountered the deathless man and the village where the tiger's wife lived. The beautiful imagery is what brought this book too life, and the incredible opening descriptions are what got me hooked on the story. 

9. Setting - Akata Witch
By Nnedi Okorafor

I loved this book, although since I read it at the beginning of last school year, some events are a little hazy. What I do remember of the plot, I remember because of the setting. I remember the massive library, the bridge they had to cross, the mysterious hut, the soccer game because of the description of where it took place. The writing and the plot where amazing, but the unique and beautiful setting is what makes this book stick in my mind,

8. The Dells - Fire
By Kristin Cashore

I absolutely loved the setting Kristin Cashore created in Fire - I desperately want to visit The Dells. They're beautiful, strange, and unbelievable, and the writing in Fire portrays that perfectly, which is almost as impressive as The Dells themselves.

7. Setting - The Infernal Devices
By Cassandra Clare

Ah, Victorian London, with its dark foggy streets, endless rain, carriages, opium dens, mansions, and werewolves and warlocks...wait, what? Cassandra Clare creates an exquisite setting, and weaves her own inventions into it seamlessly. As an added bonus, the covers of the books perfectly fit the world - muted shades and grays that shimmer faintly with a hint of magic. 

6. The Inkworld - Inkheart Trilogy
By Cornelia Funke

Maybe it's just because I read these books over and over when I was younger, but to me, the Inkworld is sort of like home. I can close my eyes and I'm there - in the forest with the fairies and the Motley Folk, or in Ombra or the forest or Fenoglio's rooms with Minerva and Rosenquartz, or in the Adderhead's castle in Argenta. The Inkworld is and always will be incredibly real to me. 

5. Mirror World - Reckless
By Cornelia Funke

Or maybe it's just Cornelia Funke's amazing writing. Because one of the few settings that's as real to me as the inkworld is the mirror world in Reckless. The castles, the landscape, the creatures...it all comes to life in the pages. It's another setting that's so vivid not only because it's beautifully described, but because it's so unique, and it's continued to stand out to me and influence my own writing ever since I read the book.

4. Setting - The Old Man and the Sea
By Ernest Hemmingway

All of Ernest Hemmingway's books make you feel like you're right there with the characters, but The Old Man and the Sea is the most prominent for me. Just seeing or hearing the title leaves me immersed in an incredible sensory experience. I'm not exaggerating - when I think of this book, I can smell the fish.

3. Setting - Life As We Knew It
By Susan Beth Pfeffer

The picture this book paints of a post-apocalyptic world is scary real. I could go on for hours describing it, but I think it suffices to say that when I read this book, it took a lot of effort to pull me back into my own world, and even then, I was still thinking about it for a long time afterwards. This world was so vivid, I feel like I've lived there and experienced it, even though I've never been through anything remotely similar.

2. Thisby - The Scorpio Races
By Maggie Stiefvater

This is another place I'm dying to visit. It's just so incredible. The setting. The descriptions. The island, the cliff, the beach swarming with capaill uisce...and it's not just the land itself that's so rich and detailed. It's the culture, the tradition, and the people who inhabit the island. Maggie Stiefvater's incredible writing brings Thisby to life - to me, it's so much more than a backdrop for a story. It's a real place.

1. Middle Earth - The Lord of the Rings
By J.R.R. Tolkien

Of course, this one had to be number one on the list. This world is so detailed and beautiful it just takes my breath away. The amount of effort and creativity J.R.R. Tolkien put into this world - just, wow. There's history, there's culture, there's languages - it's so real. I can easily believe this place exists. I know a lot of people find Tolkien's long descriptions boring, but for me, they're what bring the book to life. He doesn't just tell you a story, he takes you on a journey, and lets you stop and linger as long as you want to take in the beautiful, terrifying, and impressive scenery. 


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Wish List (5)

The Wish List features one book from my wish list each week, along with why I want it. Thanks to Jill at Breaking the Spine and Ren at All By Myshelf for the inspiration.

Clockwork Princess
By Cassandra Clare

In Clockwork Princess, Tessa and her companions travel all over the world as they race to stop the Clockwork army before it's too late. As Jem's condition worsens alarmingly and his friends search desperately for a cure, can Tessa choose between the two boys she loves - even if it means never seeing the other one again?

I absolutely cannot wait for this book. The cover was revealed recently and it looks beautiful - I love the colors and Tessa's dress, and I know it'll look incredible on the shelf next to Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince. Plus, I'm dying to find out what happens next in the series! Clockwork Prince was even better than Clockwork Angel, and the ending left so much in suspense. Cassandra Clare is an outstanding author and The Infernal Devices is a wonderful and addictive series, which is why this book is instantly at the top of my wish list. The only problem? It won't be released until March. I'm not sure how I'll survive. 


Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. A new topic is posted each week, and bloggers post their top ten in the category. I love making lists, especially lists about books, so when I found out about Top Ten Tuesday, I had to participate. 

This week's topic is The Top Ten Books For People Who Liked [X] Book. I had a lot of fun with this topic, so without further ado I present: 

The Top Ten Books For People Who Liked The Hunger Games

10. Divergen
By Veronica Roth

Personally, I was just kind of okay with this book. I liked it, but I didn't love it. Several people I know who loved The Hunger Games really liked this book, though, and it wasn't horrible. So if you're like me and you can't get enough of dystopian novels, this isn't a bad choice. 

9. The Giver
By Lois Lowry

This book is what got me interested in the genre of futuristic society/dystopian novels. It's set in a world that is supposedly perfect, but one where people have lost all their freedom to choose in exchange for happiness. Although it's very different from The Hunger Games, I don't think I would have liked The Hunger Games as much if I hadn't read it. It's still one of my favorite books, and if you haven't read it yet, I would definitely recommend it. 

8. The Silver Door
By Holly Lisle

The second book in Holly Lisle's Sun & Moon series, The Silver Door was incredibly similar to Mockingjay. It involved a village being transported to a new location and organized into strict task forces kept on tight schedules, much like what the population of District 12 undergoes in Mockingjay

7. Brave New World
By Aldous Huxley

The Hunger Games is a great book not only because of the action and romance, but also because it makes you think - could our world really become like this? What would I do in this situation? If you loved this about The Hunger Games, you should definitely read Brave New World. Like The Giver, it's set in a supposed utopia, and the questions it raises kept me thinking about them for hours. We read this book for English class, and I filled it with sticky notes, and had more than enough material for my final essay. 

6. Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City
By Kirsten Miller

The Hunger Games would be nothing without its brave, ferocious, determined heroine, Katniss Everdeen. The Kiki Strike series aren't dystopian novels, but Kiki is just as kick-butt as Katniss, and Inside the Shadow City is as thrilling and action packed as The Hunger Games

5. 1984
By George Orwell

1984 is pretty much the original dystopian novel. The totalitarian government, the oppressed population, the war - it's all there, and it's George Orwell, so of course it's well-written and descriptive. If you need even more reasons to check it out, it has a lot of themes in common with The Hunger Games while being just as thought-provoking and mind-boggling as Brave New World. 

4. The Girl Who Was On Fire
Various Authors

I'll admit this one is kind of cheating, but if you're as obsessed with The Hunger Games as I am, you definitely need to read this series of essays on the trilogy. While some of the points made just collected a series of connected events in the book, others made fantastic insights into the book and pointed out things I didn't even realize were in there. I loved it, and it made me want to reread the books.

3. Wither
By Lauren DeStefano

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you might remember my inner turmoil over whether I was going to read Wither, which stemmed from my love-exasperation relationship with dystopian novels as a genre. I did end up reading it, and I'm really glad I did. Though it's not quite as good as The Hunger Games, it's still one of the best dystopian novels I've read. 

2. The Scorpio Races
By Maggie Stiefvater

I could go on for hours about how amazing The Scorpio Races is, but I'll restrain myself and talk about why you should read it if you like The Hunger Games. Let's face it: one reason we all loved The Hunger Games was because of the games themselves. The Scorpio Races takes a similar concept of a life-threatening competition, subtracts the dystopia, adds fantastic characters and Maggie Stiefvater's beautiful writing, and delivers it all in a stunning package. Everyone should read this book, but if you've read The Hunger Games, I think you'll especially love it.

1. The Hermit Thrush Sings
By Susan Butler

I read this book a few years before I'd even heard of The Hunger Games, and to this day it is still the best dystopian novel I have ever read. It's set in a post-apocalyptic North America that is divided into tightly controlled regions that the government works to turn against each other. The story of the main character as she discovers the truth about her world and herself is beautiful and timeless. I loved it. 

So that's my list for this week! Hope you liked it and found some books to take a look at. 


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Tuned In To (5)

Tuned In To is a weekly feature discussing albums I've been listening to, songs that have been stuck in my head, or artists I've discovered, and is posted on Fridays.

[EDIT: I wrote this on Friday, but for some reason, it didn't post. Sorry it's a day late!)

I've been pretty obsessed with "Party, Fun, Love & Radio" by We The Kings. It's off their new EP with the same name, and it's an awesome summer jam - I immediately added it to my ultimate summer playlist.

I've also been listening to a few songs by the band Paradise Fears, and I'm really liking what I've heard so far, so I'll definitely be checking out more by them.


Black & White

A brief list of amazing things that also happen to be black and white:

1. Old movies
2. The best episodes of The Andy Griffith Show
3. Pandas
4. Cookies & Cream ice cream
5. Whoopie Pies
6. The dogs we used to have, border collie/spaniel/God only knows what else mixes.
7. Words on a page. Whether they're in a book, on a computer, or handwritten, they're so powerful. They can create so many images for only being two simple colors, and because of this, they're what inspired my username


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kristin Cashore Book Covers

Incase you missed my earlier post, you can read my review of Kristin Cashore's newest book, Bitterblue, here.

When I was searching for an image of Bitterblue's cover to post along with the review, I realized there are two different versions of covers for Kristin Cashore's books - the hardcover versions, which are the version I own, and what I can only assume are the covers for the paperbacks.

I have to admit I prefer the hardcover versions - I love to look at them, and as I've mentioned before Bitterblue is an especially beautiful book. But, surprisingly, I also like the slightly more modern and streamlined paperback covers. They're just as eye-catching and do just as good of a job representing the books. 

Which covers do you like better?


Book Review: Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

Welcome to a glorious realm of mystery, magic, heroism and danger.

In a world where a small percentage of people have an extraordinary skill called a Grace, King Leck's Grace allowed him to tell lies that everyone believed.

When Bitterblue became queen at ten years old, she thought her father's murder meant the end of his violent, sociopathic influence.

She was wrong.

The intensely anticipated companion to the New York Times bestsellers Graceling and Fire is even more "rageful, exhilarating, wistful," and romantic. Now eighteen and believing her advisors are overprotecting her, Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle at night to walk the streets of her own city, disguised and alone - risking her life as well as her heart.

You don't need to have read Graceling or Fire to love Bitterblue. But if you haven't, you'll be dying to read them next. 

A few years ago, I spotted Graceling on a shelf at my library and loved it. When Fire came out in 2009, I got it that Christmas and had it read by New Year's. It was just as incredible as Graceling. So, of course, I was thrilled to find out that Kristin Cashore had written another book - and it's turned out to be even more stunning than the first two. 

Bitterblue is a remarkable book. I'm completely in awe of the plot - it had dozens of mysteries and struggles tangled together, but Kristin Cashore handled the complicated story beautifully. It was never too much to keep track of, and I was only confused when I shared in the characters' bewilderment at the problems they had to solve. The way it brought together events from Graceling and Fire was beautiful. And the ending was so perfect, several times I actually had to stop reading just to marvel at it. It revealed events that had been hinted at - I never saw them coming, but as soon as they appeared, all the foreshadowing made perfect sense. It also resolved all the major plot points while leaving enough open for readers to imagine the specifics of what happened after the final page. To summarize, it was flawless. 

While some of the characters had similar attributes or motivations, they were all dynamic and unique, and I loved all of them. There was no direct antagonist; instead, the book focused on the consequences of Leck's destructive reign and how the characters reacted. Many problems arose from this, of course, but the book did a stupendous job of showing the characters motives and conveying the shades of gray within them, without making it seemed forced. I loved the insight that was allowed into the hearts and minds of even minor characters, without ever venturing too far off track.

The writing was amazing. There were quotes that had me searching for something to write them down on, moments that made me laugh, scenes that left me almost in tears. Honestly, though, I don't even remember the way things were described - because when I was reading this book, I was there. The emotion was so raw, the world perfectly detailed. I wasn't hearing a story. I was experiencing it alongside the characters.

If you haven't read Kristin Cashore's books yet, I highly recommend them - you won't be disappointed. Chronologically, the books are Fire, Graceling, and then Bitterblue, though I'd advise reading them in the order they were written - Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue. Either way, you'll soon be swept up into a beautiful and thrilling story. 


The Wish List (4)

The Wish List features one book from my wish list each week, along with why I want it. Thanks to Jill at Breaking the Spine and Ren at All By Myshelf for the inspiration. 

Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn't Have)
By Sarah Mlynowski

2 girls + 3 guys + 1 house - parents = 10 things April and her friends did that they (definitely, maybe, probably) shouldn't have.

If given the opportunity, what sixteen-year-old wouldn't jump at the chance to move in with a friend and live parent-free? Although maybe "opportunity" isn't the right word, since April had to tell her dad a tiny little untruth to make it happen (see #1: "Lied to Our Parents"). But she and her housemate Vi are totally responsible and able to take care of themselves. How they ended up "Skipping School" (#3), "Throwing a Crazy Party" (#8), "Buying a Hot Tub" (#4), and, um, "Harboring a Fugitive" (#7) at all is kind of a mystery to them.

In this hilarious and bittersweet tale, Sarah Mlynowski mines the heart and mind of a girl on her own for the first time. To get through the year, April will have to juggle a love triangle, learn to do her own laundry, and accept that her carefully constructed world just might be falling apart... one thing-she-shouldn't-have-done at a time.

This book has been on my wish list for awhile now. The plot looks interesting, and I loved what I read of the free sample. Plus, I read Sarah Mlynowski's Gimme A Call and loved it - it was well-written, unique, and managed to avoid the many cliches that tend to arise in young adult novels. I can't wait to get my hands on this book to see what else she has in store. 


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Reading Room (21)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on books I'm reading and planning to read, posted on Tuesdays. It was inspired by the feature On Myshelf at the blog All By Myshelf.

I'm still working on some of the books from my last post, but I couldn't resist a trip to the library last week, which ended up being pretty productive. The first book I grabbed was Geronimo, by Joseph Bruchac. It's another book to add to my YA Historical Fiction challenge reading list, and it's set in a time period I haven't read a lot about, but it looks interesting. I also picked up Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, the first book in the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson. I loved his Witch and Wizard books, and while I've heard mixed reviews about Maximum Ride, I'm hoping it'll be just as good.

After some more intense searching, I managed to find another book that looked interested - Keturah and Lord Death, by Martine Leavitt. Occasionally I come across this sort of book in the library - I've never heard of the book or the author or even noticed it sitting on the shelves, but it looked incredibly interesting and unique. With these three books in hand, I made a quick stop in the adult fiction section to pick up Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. I'd originally gone looking for her book Sugar Queen, which one of my friends had read, but found out Garden Spells was the first book. I also discovered that Sarah Addison Allen has a lot of other books, so if I like Garden Spells, I'll definitely be checking out more from her.

Wishing these endless summer days full of reading would never end...

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. A new topic is posted each week, and bloggers post their top ten in the category. I absolutely love making lists, and making lists about books is even better, so when I found out about Top Ten Tuesday, I just had to participate. 
This week's category is a freebie, meaning participants can choose whatever topic they'd like. And so the topic I've chosen is...
Top Ten Literary Friendships

10. Frodo Baggins and Sam Gamgee
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

This friendship is a little one-sided (which is why it's number ten) - I always felt Sam was a better friend to Frodo then Frodo was to Sam, but that's another reason it's on the list at all. Sometimes, friendship means being there for someone when they need you the most, even if they can't   give you anything in return. Even when things looked hopeless, even when Frodo was turning on Sam because of Gollum and the ring, Sam never left Frodo's side, and without that support, he never would have made it as far as he did.

9. Sam and Frightful
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George

There's something incredible about two creatures being alone in the wilderness. Sam's love for Frightful is remarkable and clear throughout this book and the two that follow it - he loves her companionship, but he also wants what's best for her, even if that means letting her go. And Frightful, even though she can't express herself in words, is clearly devoted to Sam.

8. Soren and Gylfie
The Guardians of Ga'Hoole by Kathryn Lasky

Soren and Gylfie are perfect friends because they complete each other - they both benefit from the friendship. Soren is thoughtful and brave; Gylfie is intelligent and spunky. They balance each other's strength and faults, and throughout the books, their friendship spurs both of them to greater things than they could have accomplished on their own.

7. Gimli and Legolas
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

What makes Gimli and Legolas's friendship so remarkable is that it's so unique - there's certainly no overwhelming warmth between the elves and the dwarves. And it's not as though either of them, when they first encounter each other, have significantly different views from the rest of their people. It's only after their journey together as part of the fellowship of the ring they are able to look past any previous animosity and become friends. (And, of course, compete over who can kill the most orcs.)

6. Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I love these two. They're hilarious and just a little crazy, and although their friendship is complicated, to say the least, nothing seems to shake it. They get exasperated with each other, they argue, and they literally come from different planets, but all the way through the series, circumstances keep bringing them back together, and whether they admit it or not, they always seem glad to see each other.

5. Hilma and Meade
Quite a Year for Plums by Bailey White

There's not a lot to say about this friendship, except that it's the kind of friendship that I hope I can experience - having someone by your side as you grow older, through your adventures and difficulties, someone who will read a book aloud with you or carry a rocking chair into the middle of the woods and just sit. These two go through life together, which is the most beautiful kind of friendship.

4. Firestar and Graystripe
Warriors and Warriors: The New Prophecy by Erin Hunter

The loyalty these two have for each other is incredible. Even when they make mistakes, do things the other doesn't approve of, they never turn on each other. They grow together from mischievous apprentices to courageous leaders of their clan, supporting each other and being each other's voices of reason. Firestar's refusal to appoint a new deputy after Graystripe's capture because he is convinced Graystripe will return to the clan, and Graystripe's determination to make that journey to find his home again, though, is the moment that perfectly captures their friendship for me, and shows that nothing - not battles, danger, distance, or StarClan themselves, can come between these two.

3. Bartimaeus and Nathaniel
The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

When I was compiling this list, I debated considerably on whether to include Bartimaeus and Nathaniel, or Bartimaeus and Ptolemy. Both relationships were remarkable and very similar, but I chose to include Bartimaeus and Nathaniel's friendship for one reason: we got to see them work for it. At the beginning of The Amulet of Samarkand, they are an enslanved djinni and his magician master, and they cannot stand each other. By the end of Ptolemy's Gate, Bartimaeus is as close to Nathaniel as he once was to Ptolemy, and even though their conversations remain sarcastic, there's obvious affection there. This is even clearer in the last chapter of the book, which is one of the best endings I've ever read.

2. Will Herondale and Jem Carstairs
The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare

Will and Jem are friends, but they're also much more than that. They're parabatai, meaning they fight together and share an unbreakable bond; they have incredibly different personalities, but at the same time, they're so close it's almost the same person. Even Tessa is unable to separate them in her own heart, and realizes she is falling in love with them both. I have similar feelings - while many other fans of the series have a clear preference, I love them both. I don't want anything to come between their friendship, and so far nothing has - not even the many complicated and tumultuous events of Clockwork Angel and Clockwork Prince, which would be enough to break all but the strongest bond - exactly what these two have.

1. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I know - everyone who's so much as glanced at this blog saw this one coming. But none of the other friendships on the list even come close to this one. It's something too incredible for words. Holmes brings Watson into a world of adventure he never would have experienced - in the introduction to Volume One of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Kyle Freeman says, "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes could be subtitled and the Education of Dr. John H. Watson." Watson is one of the few people - maybe the only person - the distant, unfeeling Holmes ever shows any emotion for. And in every version I've ever read or watched, it's been just as fantastic. Even though it was predictable, there's no way these two couldn't be number one on my list.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Inspire (10)

Inspire is a weekly writing prompt or exercise, posted on Mondays. Anyone who's interested can participate, and you're more than welcome to share what you've written by posting a link in the comments.

Today's prompt is another one from my week at writing camp: write an American Sentence. Incase you're unfamiliar with it, an American sentence is sort of an American version of a haiku. It's made up of seventeen syllables, but it's not divided into lines - it's just one sentence - and it's related to something specifically American.

When we wrote these in class, we read them out loud, and while all of them were great, one definitely stood out as my favorite:

"I cannot write an American sentence or a haiku. Biscuit."

I love it for two reasons: First, it's hilarious. Second, it does summarize an aspect of American culture, even if it was accidental - because doesn't that perfectly describe the type of humor that abounds today?

Have fun with your own American Sentences!


Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review: Switched by Amanda Hocking

When Wendy Everly was six years old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. Eleven years later, Wendy discovers her mother might have been right. She's not the person she's always believed herself to be, and her whole life begins to unravel - all because of Finn Holmes.

Finn is a mysterious guy who always seems to be watching her. Every encounter leaves her deeply shaken...though it has more to do with her fierce attraction to him than she'd ever admit. But it isn't long before he reveals the truth: Wendy is a changeling who was switched at birth - and he's come to take her home.

Now Wendy's about to journey to a magical world she never knew existed, one that's both beautiful and frightening. And where she must leave her old life behind to discover who she's meant to become...

After the first few chapters of this book, I wasn't sure I would be able to finish it. It was extremely difficult to get a feel for the characters or the setting, and at least one sentence every few pages had me cringing and ready to go all Reasoning With Vampires on the entire book. Still, I stuck it out, and I have to say I'm at least somewhat glad I did.

The book improved a lot in the middle. The characters were more interesting and I actually started to like them. The plot developed more conflict. It wasn't outstanding, but it was readable. I actually enjoyed this section of the book.

Unfortunately, things started to go downhill again as we reached the end of the novel. (I hesitate to say "climax", because although there was an action-filled even near the end of the novel, it didn't really feel like a climax to me - the plot structure definitely needed some more defining.) It wasn't nearly as bad as the beginning of the book, but I started noticing flaws in the writing and the characters' emotions and actions seemed exaggerated. I didn't like the ending, either; without giving anything away incase you decide to read the book, I thought it was inconsistent with Wendy's previous choices, made the summary of the book seem misleading, and left me wondering what the point of the novel had been.

So the plot of the book definitely needed some work. It was a really interesting concept, and there were places where it was really interesting, but it wasn't well-executed overall. The characters were a bit better - their biggest flaw, as I've mentioned, was inconsistency, meaning I liked them at some points and disliked them at others. The supporting characters were more consistent, and I loved Rhys and Garrett all the way through. Willa was very dynamic, and the way her friendship with Wendy developed showed a lot about her character.

The more major characters had a few more flaws - though I liked Finn from the middle of the book onward, he came off as very strange and unpredictable for the first five or six chapters of the book, which made him hard to like. Wendy could come off as a little bratty or selfish, but the fact that she recognized those characteristics in herself and made some genuine efforts to change made it more bearable. Probably the character I liked the least was Elora; she was a good antagonist, but we just didn't get to see enough of her character, what made her tick. Other characters kept referring to her as "very complicated," but we never got to see why she was so complicated.

Overall, the book was decent - if I get the chance, I might read the rest of the series because I'm curious to know what happens, so the author must have done something right - and if you think you'd like to read it, I'm certainly not discouraging you. But if you haven't read Switched and weren't planning to, you're not missing out on anything too extraordinary.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Wish List (3)

The Wish List features one book from my wish list each week, along with why I want it. Thanks to Jill at Breaking the Spine and Ren at All By Myshelf for the inspiration.

Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King
By William Joyce

Before Santa was Santa, he was North, Nicholas St. North - a daredevil swordsman whose prowess with double scimitars was legendary. Like any swashbuckling young warrior, North seeks treasure and adventure, leading him to the fiercely guarded village of Santoff Claussen, said to be home to the greatest treasure in all the East, and to an even greater wizard, Ombric Shalazar. But when North arrives, legends of riches have riven way to terrors of epic proportions. North must decide whether to seek his fortune...or save the village.

When our rebellious hero gets sucked into the chaos (literally), the fight becomes very personal. The Nightmare King and his evil Fearlings are ruling the night, owning the shadows, and sending waves of fear through all of Santoff Claussen. For North, this is a battle worth fighting...and he's not alone. There are five other Guardians out there. He only has to find them in time.

Yes, I am still five years old at heart, and I am not afraid to admit it!

My inner child aside, this book looks fantastic. While looking up some information on the movie Brave (after watching it, I was really curious what kind of reviews it had gotten) I stumbled upon the trailer for the Dreamworks movie Rise of the Guardians, severely abused the replay button, discovered it was based on a book series, and rushed to the Barnes & Noble website to add it to my wish list. It looks so original, magical, and imaginative, and I love the thought of Santa Claus being an adventurous warrior. I still can't wait to see the movie, but once I get my hands on this book, it should help tide me over until then.


P.S. Here's the trailer for Rise of the Guardians:

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. A new topic is posted each week, and bloggers post their top ten books in the category. I absolutely love making lists, and making lists about books is even better, so when I found out about Top Ten Tuesday, I just had to participate.

This week's topic is Top Ten Books for People Who Liked [X] Author. I wasn't able to come up with ten books for one specific author, so my list has ten different authors, plus a book recommendation if you liked them.

10. If You Like: Tamora Pierce
Read: The Safe-Keeper's Secret by Sharon Shinn

I love both these authors. They both create incredibly detailed worlds and continue writing stories about them, carrying over characters and plots without their books being repetitive or boring. There's a lot of similarities between these two authors, and if you want to read Sharon Shinn's books, The Safe-Keeper's Secret is a good place to start.

9. If You Like: J.R.R. Tolkien
Read: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

One of the reasons people love J.R.R. Tolkien is because his books are so epic and he created such an incredible world, and that's exactly what's inside A Wizard of Earthsea. If you read J.R.R. Tolkien, or high fantasy at all, you HAVE to read this book.

8. If You Like: Liz Kessler
Read: The Frog Princess by E.D. Baker

Liz Kessler's books are fun, lighthearted, fairy-tale-esque fantasy, and I absolutely loved them when I was younger. E.D. Baker's The Frog Princess is another book I was a big fan of when I was around that age and they have a lot in common, so I remain firmly convinced that if you liked on, you'll love the other, too.

7. If You Like: Erin Hunter
Read: Swordbird by Nancy Yi Fan

Erin Hunter was another of my elementary school obsessions. I read all of her books in the original Warriors series, The New Prophecy series, the Power of Three series, and the first few books in her Seekers series. And while Erin Hunter's earlier books were pretty good, Swordbird is even more impressive, both because Nancy Yi Fan was so young when she wrote it and because it's an an amazing story with incredible themes.

6. If You Like: E.B. White
Read: Thunder From the Sea by Joan Hiatt Harlow

All I can say is that if you reread Charlotte's Web and The Trumpet of the Swan as many times as I did, you'll absolutely fall in love with Thunder From the Sea. 

5. If You Like: Kate DiCamillo
Read: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

This one might not make as much sense, but there's definitely a connection. Kate DiCamillo's books are filled with wonder, magic, and imagination, which also fuel the plot of The Night Circus. And like The Tale of Despereaux or The Magician's Elephant, The Night Circus is a book that will stick with you for awhile.

4. If You Like: Sarah Dessen
Read: Gimme A Call by Sarah Mlynowski

Just like in Sarah Dessen's novels, Gimme A Call portrays teenagers in an accurate, relatable way without being stereotypical and has great characters, who are consistent but grow throughout the novel without being predictable. If you're a fan of Sarah Dessen, Gimme A Call is the perfect read while you wait for her next book to come out.

3. If You Like: Gail Carson Levine
Read: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

Everyone loves a good fairytale retelling, and while no one does this better than Gail Carson Levine, Jessica Day George's Princess of the Midnight Ball comes pretty close. Its interesting take on the classic tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses was fascinating, magical, and fantastic, just like Gail Caron Levine's Ella Enchanted or Fairest.

2. If You Like: Rick Riordan
Read: The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

Most of us can agree that Rick Riordan's books are amazing, right? Well, Michael Scott's books are just as amazing, with lots of mythology and intense action. Rick Riordan got me interested in myths; Michael Scott kept me hooked. If you've enjoyed Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, or The Kane Chronicle, definitely check out The Alchemyst. You won't be disappointed.

1. If You Like: Lemony Snicket
Read: The Name of This Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch

The Name of This Book is Secret has so much in common with A Series of Unfortunate Events - the humor, the warnings that you shouldn't be reading this book, the secrets, and the incredible author/narrator; both are thrilling, suspenseful, and hilarious. If you're brave enough to have read A Series of Unfortunate Events, you're definitely brave enough to read The Secret Series - and love every minute of it.


Monday, July 2, 2012

The Reading Room (20)

The Reading Room is a weekly update on books I'm reading and planning to read, posted on Tuesdays. It was inspired by the feature On Myshelf at the blog All By Myshelf.

The past week or two has been incredible for book buying. I've collected a massive pile and spent far more money than I intended to, and it's been completely marvelous. It started with the trip to Barnes & Noble I mentioned in a previous blog post, and as soon as I walked into the young adult section, I realized it has been way too long since I've visited a bookstore. There were so many new books, and of course I wanted to buy them all. Since I didn't have the funds for that, I settled on three. 

The first was The Complete Sherlock Holmes: Volume One, which I already mentioned and was kind of an obvious choice. The second book I saw was I Am The Messenger, by Markus Zusak, which I snatched up the moment I saw it. Oh my goodness. I was thrilled to find this book. Markus Zusak is the author of The Book Thief, which beat contenders like The Lord of the Rings and To Kill a Mockingbird to become my favorite book of all time. It was original, chilling, and beautifully written, and I would be crazy to say no to the opportunity to read more by its incredible author. I can't wait to start this book. 

It took me awhile to make my final choice; there was a lot of rereading the inside jacket covers of books, flipping through the first few pages, and debating plots and authors, but I finally decided on Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore. Graceling and Fire were both fantastic, and Bitterblue looks just as interesting. Plus, it's a beautiful book, which made me glad I bought the hardcover edition instead of the eBook. I'm sure no one else except Mo Folchart from Inkheart would be excited about this, but - the end pages are gorgeous.

My Wonderful Week of Book Buying didn't end there, however. Have you ever been in a college bookstore? They're glorious places to be. As I mentioned in my last Inspire post, I spent last week staying at a college campus attending a writing program. What I didn't mention was that I spent at least a third of my free time with a group of other students in the bookstore, discussing what we'd read and liked and trying to restrain myself from buying everything. 

I did manage to limit myself to two books. The first was The Complete Sherlock Holmes: Volume Two, completing my collection of Sherlock Holmes novels, short stories, parodies, and essays. I also own a play adaptation (not written by Arthur Conan Doyle) and am considering having a Sherlock Holmes Marathon in an attempt to watch all the movie and television versions of Holmes and Watson. Yes, I'm a little obsessed. 

The other book I picked up was Night and Day by Virginia Woolf. I haven't read any of her writing before, but I've been meaning to, and this book looked interesting. Hopefully she'll be another author to add to my list of favorites.

Off to start in on this pile of books,