Sunday, April 29, 2012

Heads up

So I'm currently super addicted to the show Rizzoli and Isles and am watching the first two seasons during all my free time. Hence I haven't been reading. Hence I don't have any reviews to post. Hence I probably won't be posting till next week. That's all. The end.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Favorites: The Ordinary Princess

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not necessarily YA books I love.

Which book?
The Ordinary Princess, by M.M. Kay

Middle-grade fantasy

Summary? (From GoodReads)
Along with Wit, Charm, Health, and Courage, Princess Amy of Phantasmorania receives a special fairy christening gift: Ordinariness. Unlike her six beautiful sisters, she has brown hair and freckles, and would rather have adventures than play the harp, embroider tapestries- or become a Queen. When her royal parents try to marry her off, Amy runs away, and because she's so ordinary, easily becomes the fourteenth assistant kitchen maid at a neighboring palace. And there, much to everyone's surprise, she meets a prince just as ordinary (and special) as she is!

When did I first read it?
Elementary school

Why did I first read it?
I think it was just one of the countless books that were always floating around my house growing up. I probably read it as part of reading homework (you know, where you have to read 20 minutes a day or whatever), most likely out loud with my mom.

What did I think about it then?
The Ordinary Princess is the first book I remember being my favorite book. I loved Amy and her ordinariness—and I loved the grumpy old fairy who blesses her with it. I also loved Amy’s animal friends. For someone who even as a kid wasn’t that into animals, I really loved books where girls had animals that were their best friends. Plus, the book has a few illustrations per chapter, which won my heart when I was a kid (and, let’s face it, still does now).

What do I think about it now?
Basically, I still think it’s a perfect fairytale and that all the characters are wonderful. Amy’s just so gosh darn likeable. And every time I read it, I’m reminded how funny it is too. I’ve seriously read this book so many times (and yes, my original copy has the classy cover pictured above)—I mean, I don’t think I could even begin to count the numbers of times I’ve read it. My original copy has had the cover taped back on so many times and is still falling apart because it’s been read so much. I have a newer copy now, but I still like to keep my old one on my shelf for old time’s sake. And really, this is my favorite book to read out loud.

Have you read this book? What did you think? What was your favorite book as a kid?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: Cinder

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer. The GoodReads summary:
Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.
After finishing this book, I was struck with an almost overwhelming desire to burst into applause. It was just that good! I don’t know why, but I was not expecting anything great from this book. I think it was the fact that Cinder was a cyborg that turned me off--sci-fi stuff like that just isn’t my thing. But luckily for me, my awesome sister sent me a copy, so I decided to read it despite the fact that I wasn’t planning on reading it before. Good choice on my part.

The thing I loved most about this book, and the thing that drew me in from the first page, was how, I don’t know . . . friendly? . . . this book felt. It felt so natural and easy, and basically reading it was like listening to a friend. The writing style was just so accessible and fresh. And funny--don’t forget funny. This book made me smile so many times.

Cinder is endlessly likeable. She’s funny and self-deprecating and down-to earth. And my heart just went out to her for the prejudice against her for being cyborg and for the crappy life she has--but Cinder never lets that get her down. She’s so awesome. My favorite secondary character goes, hands down, to Cinder’s android friend Iko--she’s just so spunky and hilarious. But oh my gosh, the villains in this book are so well written! There’s the step-mother and the Lunar queen, and both are just so devious and passive aggressive and horrible that they made me want to pull my hair in frustration--which is probably actually a sign of an effective villain.

In case you didn’t pick up on it before, this book is a retelling of Cinderella, and it’s such a good one too. It keeps important elements of the original story (the step-family, the prince, the ball, etc.) while introducing new and completely awesome things, like Cinder being a mechanic, all the futuristic stuff, and the political tensions between the people of earth and the moon.

Overall, I really liked Cinder. It’s the first in a series, so I have a while to wait before I get to find out what happens next. But apparently the next book, Scarlet, is going to be another fairytale retelling, featuring Little Red Riding Hood. I can’t wait!

Rating: 4 / 5 (honestly, if this book had managed to be a standalone, I probably would’ve given it a 5--I’m too prejudiced against series)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: Dreamhunter

Dreamhunter, by Elizabeth Knox. The GoodReads summary:
Laura comes from a world similar to our own except for one difference: it is next to the Place, an unfathomable land that fosters dreams of every kind and is inaccessible to all but a
select few, the Dreamhunters. These are individuals with special gifts: the ability to catch larger-than-life dreams and relay them to audiences in the magnificent dream palace, the Rainbow Opera. People travel from all around to experience the benefits of the hunters’ unique visions.

Now fifteen-year-old Laura and her cousin Rose, daughters of Dreamhunters, are eligible to test themselves at the Place and find out whether they qualify for the passage. But nothing can prepare them for what they are about to discover. For within the Place lies a horrific secret kept hidden by corrupt members of the government. And when Laura’s father, the man who discovered the Place, disappears, she realizes that this secret has the power to destroy everyone she loves . . .

In the midst of a fascinating landscape, Laura’s dreamy childhood is ending and a nightmare beginning. This rich novel, filled with beauty, danger, politics, and intrigue, comes to a powerful crescendo, leaving readers clamoring for Book Two.
I’m not really sure what to say about this one. Mostly because even though I finished it yesterday, I still don’t know how I feel about it. So I’m just going to make a list of the things I liked and didn’t like, because I give up on trying to form coherent thoughts about it.

-The idea of dreamhunters--seriously, I think it’s a really awesome idea: people who can catch dreams with differing effects and share them with others.
-The Place--again, a really awesome idea. It’s where dreamhunters go to catch dreams, only not everyone can physically go there--only dreamhunters and rangers can. It’s kinda like an alternative reality that only some people can enter, only it’s a physical location not a state of mind or anything. It’s dry and vast and no one has ever completely explored it.
-The Rainbow Opera--yet again, a cool idea. It’s where famous dreamhunters go to perform their dreams for an audience. And I really want to attend.
-Rose--even though the summary makes it seem like the book is all about Laura, I think Rose is much more of a memorable character. She’s funny and strong and brave and so much more likeable than Laura.
-Chorley--he’s Rose’s dad and Laura’s uncle, and like Rose, he really jumped off the page for me. He totally gets the awesome-dad award (also the hot-dad award, but that’s beside the point).
-The time period--the book’s set in 1906. How awesome is that? That time period practically never crops up in YA fiction.
-The storytelling style--the whole story was told in such a dreamy way, which I thought was perfect considering that the book’s about, you know, dreams.

-Laura--that girl is such a doormat. I know the author did that intentionally for the sake of the story, but it annoys me nonetheless. Plus, pretty much everything she did grated on my nerves. I think it’s because I never really felt like I understood her or got in her head, so I had a hard time understanding her motivations.
-Sandy--okay, I didn’t necessarily dislike him, but he was a really flat character for me. Maybe he just comes off that way because he’s not in very many scenes, but for someone who I assume is supposed to be Laura’s love interest, he was a little lackluster.
-The setup--this book is book one of two and hence felt like it was mostly setup for the sequel. Things are pretty slow through most of the book and only really pick up at the end. Hopefully, this means that the second book will be a little faster paced.

Overall, there are just too many things that I liked to say that I disliked the book, but just enough things that I didn’t like to prevent me from really liking it. I’m still planning on reading the sequel, because this one intrigued me enough and the next one (Dreamquake) is a Printz Honor book, but my feelings are still pretty mixed about this one.

Rating: 3 / 5

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday Favorites: Best Laid Schemes

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not necessarily YA books I love.

Which book?
Best Laid Schemes, by Emma Jensen

Regency romance

Summary? (From GoodReads)
"Girls grow into ladies, dearest. It happens all the time."
"That is not a lady, madam. That is Sibyl Cameron."

So says Tarquin Rome, a rather stiff, superbly handsome earl who has been harassed by this irrepressible mishap-prone chit since boyhood. Why then would his mother invite Sibyl to his artfully planned house party?

Why, indeed. The lofty earl is hardly likely to notice that the beautiful Sibyl is no longer in pinafores and pigtails--especially since he has invited three Incomparables from which he will choose his bride. But when embarrassing and awkward moments transpire at his gathering, Tarquin can only blame Sibyl. Which hardly explains his increasing desire for her company--and her affection. . . .

When did I first read it?
Probably around age 14 or so

Why did I first read it?
I used to bug one of my older sisters all the time for books to read, and this was one of the ones she handed me.

What did I think about it then?
I’m pretty sure this was the first romance novel I’d ever read. It’s very PG and there’s nothing racy in it, but still, since I’d never read a book where the entire point was the characters’ romance, it was a new experience for me. Obviously, it was an experience I enjoyed because I borrowed the book from my sister all the time until I finally bought my own copy. Plus, the book is just so hilarious. It made me bust up laughing all the way through. And I really adored the characters—even the ones that aren’t supposed to be likeable still manage to be lovable.

What do I think about it now?
This book holds a place in my heart for introducing me to the genre, and I still enjoy a good romance novel every once in a while. I’m a sucker for a good love story, and this remains one of the books I turn to when I need a little vicarious romance.

Have you read any Regency romances? What did you think? What are your go-to romances?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Unspoken

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.

Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan
11 Sept. 2012

GoodReads summary:
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

While I think the summary sounds interesting and I know a lot of people love this author, I must admit that I want to read this book based solely on its cover. It's so ridiculously amazing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Review: Angelfall

Angelfall, by Susan Ee. The GoodReads summary:
It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels’ stronghold in San Francisco where she’ll risk everything to rescue her sister and he’ll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.
Although this book hasn’t seemed to have gained really widespread readership, the reviews I have seen for it have been really positive, so I was pretty excited for the chance to read it (thanks, Lan!). I knew going in that it probably wasn’t going to be my usual kind of book, so I was ready for that and I think it helped me like the book more than I might have otherwise, knowing my preferences.

First off, this is still only my second angel book that I’ve read, so I don’t have much to compare it to, but I thought the whole mythos and angel world was fascinating and really well done. I also loved that it combined dystopian with an angel story. Those two things wouldn’t necessarily seem to go together, but in this book they totally do and I loved it.

Penryn kicks butt. That’s all there is to it, really. She’s Tough, with a capital T, but she’s also insanely loyal. Sometimes it was a little hard for me to relate to her, because she was always fighting and refusing to back down in situations in which I totally would’ve been running away as fast as possible. But her actions definitely made the book more exciting, so I guess I can’t fault her that. Raffe was drop-dead gorgeous, and I’m probably in love. He’s also witty, so the hot + hilarious combo had me swooning pretty much from the beginning.

There were only two things that kinda bothered me about the book. The first is the lack of information we get about the angels and what’s going on with them. I know, as the reader, I’m only supposed to get as much information as Penryn knows (which is not much), but being the kind of reader I am, it drove me crazy. I like to know the whole backstory before going in, and I definitely didn’t get that here. I realize that’s totally a personal-preference problem, but still—it bugged me. The second thing that I didn’t like as much was the last few chapters of the book (the part when Penryn is in the lab). That lab was just so freaky and weird, and since we don’t get any explanation about what is going on and why, it just felt even freakier and weirder, and I was pretty much left thinking, What the eff?!?

Overall, if you’re a fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic or angel books, I think this one is for you. I’m not big on either of those categories, so I didn’t fall quite as in love with it as I might have otherwise. But I can totally see why it got so many good reviews, so if it seems like it’s your thing, give this book a shot!

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Monday, April 16, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. The GoodReads summary:
Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.
Okay, so don’t hate me for this review. Because while I found the book amusing and touching and whatever, I’m not joining the ranks of its raving fan club, nor did it make me get over my John Green prejudice like I hoped it would.

I think the number one thing I appreciated about this book was its humor. Hazel is a funny girl--realistic and self-deprecating, and just generally hilarious. And I think the humor was really important in this book to keep it from becoming a totally sappy cancer story. And it was well-written too. I’ll admit there were quite a few quotes that I underlined, and there were some really great observations about life in there.

I liked all the characters too. As I said, Hazel is great, and she takes what’s a really crappy situation and handles it with maturity and grace. Augustus is a lot of fun to read. He’s funny but pretty dang pretentious--but it’s an intentional pretentiousness that I can forgive him for. Hazel’s parents deserve a best-parents medal or something. They seriously were champs. It’s gotta suck majorly to have a daughter with cancer, but they deal with it and deal with it well.

So yes, there are plenty of things I admire about this book. But it never quite won me over. I guess I thought it was way too predictable and pretty cliché. Especially since it kept saying that Hazel and Augustus’s story was different than the cliché, but . . . it wasn’t really. I was hoping it would be so much more than it was, so I was let down by what it turned out to be. Which is kinda my own fault, but whatever. Plus, everyone kept talking about how it made them cry, but I really don’t know why--I didn’t find it that depressing or touching or whatever it was that made everyone tear up. Maybe I’m just heartless, I don’t know.

Overall, while I think there are some things that the book does really well, I thought it turned out to be too much of a cancer-story cliché. Plus, I’m not John Green’s biggest fan, so it had that working against it as well. I would still recommend it to people, though, because I think I’m just disappointed that I didn’t find it as awesome and moving as everyone else seemed to.

Rating: 3.5/5

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Favorites: The Sun Also Rises

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not necessarily YA books I love.

Which book?
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway


Summary? (From GoodReads)
The Sun Also Rises was Ernest Hemingway's first big novel, and immediately established Hemingway as one of the great prose stylists, and one of the preeminent writers of his time. It is also the book that encapsulates the angst of the post-World War I generation, known as the Lost Generation. This poignantly beautiful story of a group of American and English expatriates in Paris on an excursion to Pamplona represents a dramatic step forward for Hemingway's evolving style. Featuring Left Bank Paris in the 1920s and brutally realistic descriptions of bullfighting in Spain, the story is about the flamboyant Lady Brett Ashley and the hapless Jake Barnes. In an age of moral bankrupcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illustions, this is the Lost Generation.

When did I first read it?
The summer after my freshman year of college

Why did I first read it?
I was working my way through the classics section of my local library and eventually made my way to this one.

What did I think about it then?
Hemingway’s writing style blew me away. He seriously ruined me for all other writers for, like, two years afterward. It’s so stark and beautiful and effective. Gah! I love it! I’d never read author with a style like that, so it was a revelation. Plus, I loved Jake, and I envied Lady Brett’s effortless awesomeness so much. I wasn’t necessarily a huge fan of the bull fighting, but I could overlook it. Basically, this book got me reading all of Hemingway’s other books, and then branching out to every other 1920s writer I could find.

What do I think about it now?
I’m still so in awe of Hemingway’s style. Even after all the books I’ve read, I’ve found very few whose style speaks to me like Hemingway’s. Which I don’t know why, because Hemingway’s so much of a man’s man, and I’m not typically big on that. Also, his books are all a little bit of a downer, which I also don’t usually go for, but in Hemingway’s case, I totally do. Anyway, I’m still a little in love with Jake, although that was ruined a bit when I helped my brother write an essay on the book and I realized that Jake’s kind of pathetic and really passive. But I still hold some lingering love in my heart for him. And due to Hemingway, the 1920s is still my favorite era of classic literature.

Have you read The Sun Also Rises or any other Hemingway book? What did you think?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Review: Silksinger

Silksinger (Dreamdark #2), by Laini Taylor. The GoodReads summary:
Whisper Silksinger is the last of the secret guardians of the Azazel, one of the powerful Djinn who dreamed the world into being. Relentlessly pursued by bloodthirsty devils, she flees to the city of Nazneen to restore the Azazel to his temple. At the same time, Hirik Mothmage is also on a secret quest, to find the Azazel and restore his disgraced clan’s ancient honor.

And behind them all flies Magpie Windwitch, first champion of the new age of faeries, desperate to rescue Whisper and the Azazel alike before they fall in the clutches of a sinister hidden enemy.
I was looking forward to this sequel, honestly. The first book, Blackbringer, was so surprisingly intriguing and good that I really wanted to read this one. And that’s saying something because I’m not usually into middle-grade fairy novels. I think it’s just Laini Taylor’s writing skills that pull me through--she writes so deftly and her plots are pretty dang good for a kids book.

This book has Magpie and Talon and the crows, like in the first one, but it also introduces Whisper and Kirik as new characters. While Kirik fits right in with the rest of Laini Taylor's butt-kicking fairies, Whisper is different. She doesn’t quite jump off the page at you like the others do. I think it’s because she’s a shier, more naïve character and an artist not a warrior. But she does have courage--it’s just a quieter more subtle kind.

The villain in this one I thought was way creepier than the one in Blackbringer. In Blackbringer, the villain is so obviously and blatantly evil, but the bad guy in Silksinger is more devious and two-faced, which makes him worse, in my opinion. And guess what? Batch Hangnail, the lying, cheating scavenger imp is back in this book! I think he may be becoming my favorite character--he just has so much personality. Also he’s hilarious.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Silksinger. It’s a solid book with enough adventure and humor to go around. And the fantasy world that Laini Taylor has built never fails to intrigue me. I really hope she finishes the series so I can find out what happens. There’s absolutely nothing objectionable in this one, so I feel pretty confident in recommending it to anyone who can handle a fairy book.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Rebel Heart

Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we spotlight books we can't wait for.
Rebel Heart (Dustlands #2), by Moira Young
30 October 2012

The GoodReads summary:
The Tonton have been defeated. Lugh has been rescued.
The heartstone has brought Saba and Jack together.
Now, Saba and her family head west to meet him and start a new life. All should be well.
But shadows of the dead are stalking Saba.
And another kind of shadow is creeping over the dustlands.
Then a messenger shows up.
With news of Jack.

I was really surprised by how good the first book (Blood Red Road) was, so I'm looking forward to this next one. I kinda wish it were going to follow a different set of characters than Saba and Jack, not because I don't love them, but just because that's me and my personal preferences speaking. Also, P.S., the title sounds like a romance novel (doesn't it though? Rebel Heart? I think it sounds like there should be heaving bosoms on the cover).

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: Red Glove

Red Glove (Curseworkers #2), by Holly Black. The GoodReads summary:
Curses and cons. Magic and the mob. In Cassel Sharpe's world, they go together. Cassel always thought he was an ordinary guy, until he realized his memories were being manipulated by his brothers. Now he knows the truth—he’s the most powerful curse worker around. A touch of his hand can transform anything—or anyone—into something else.

That was how Lila, the girl he loved, became a white cat. Cassel was tricked into thinking he killed her, when actually he tried to save her. Now that she's human again, he should be overjoyed. Trouble is, Lila's been cursed to love him, a little gift from his emotion worker mom. And if Lila's love is as phony as Cassel's made-up memories, then he can't believe anything she says or does.

When Cassel's oldest brother is murdered, the Feds recruit Cassel to help make sense of the only clue—crime-scene images of a woman in red gloves. But the mob is after Cassel too—they know how valuable he could be to them. Cassel is going to have to stay one step ahead of both sides just to survive. But where can he turn when he can't trust anyone—least of all, himself?

Love is a curse and the con is the only answer in a game too dangerous to lose.
I think it’s safe to say that most people who read this blog regularly know that I’m not usually into sequels or series. Even if I love the first book, I won’t always pick up the second. But I saw this one at the library and thought, What the hey--I might as well give it a shot since I liked the first book (White Cat) well enough. And you know what? I liked this book well enough, too.

I don’t know what sets this series apart for me, but always ends up hitting the spot for me. The whole mob/con men aspect is fascinating and gives the book a really awesome tone. The back of the book calls it a “noir thriller” and a “dark fantasy,” and I think those descriptions capture the book perfectly. And the magic aspect is deftly worked into the story and such a unique take on the supernatural. This is no fluffy fairy magic--this is serious magic with serious consequences.

I think the major thing that allows me to keep reading the series is that the romance isn’t at all a sure thing. This is no insta-love, and romance isn’t even the main point of the story. It takes a backseat to the mystery/mob storyline, and I appreciate that. I hate it when the romance is resolved by the end of the first book--it means there’ll be zero tension in the next books, and I can’t stand that. But by the end of this second book, I don’t even know if--let alone how--the romance will work out.

Overall, I think this was a great second book. A LOT of second books fall flat for me, but this one could hold its own against the first. And it was good enough that I’ll be picking up third book, Black Heart.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Favorites: Graceling

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not necessarily YA books I love.

Which book?
Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

YA fantasy

Summary? (From GoodReads)
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away... a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

When did I first read it?
Two years ago

Why did I first read it?
Umm…I don’t remember for sure. But I’m pretty sure I read a favorable review on someone’s blog that totally sold me.

What did I think about it then?
I really loved how independent the main character, Katsa, is (I'm a total sucker for independent female leads). She can handle everything that life hands her and doesn't really need anyone's help. I especially loved how even though she falls in love, Katsa retains her sense of self and her independence. I really liked Po, as well--I think he's a good match for Katsa. He complements her without taking away from the strength of her character.

What do I think about it now?
I feel like recently a lot of people have been telling me how much they DON’T like Graceling, but I just don’t understand it. It has adventure and romance and fantasy and a kick-A heroine, with great writing to boot. I’m not sure what’s not to like about it. I’ll admit I’ve never been a super big fan of Katsa and Po’s relationship status at the end, but I do think it fits with Katsa’s character, so I like that she doesn’t become totally mushy and lame just because she’s in love.

Have you read Graceling? What did you think?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: How Green Was My Valley

"How Green Was My Valley," by Richard Llewellyn. The summary:
"How Green Was My Valley" is Richard Llewellyn's bestselling--and timeless--classic and the basis of a beloved film. As Huw Morgan is about to leave home forever, he reminisces about the golden days of his youth when South Wales still prospered, when coal dust had not yet blackened the valley. Drawn simply and lovingly, with a crisp Welsh humor, Llewellyn's characters fight, love, laugh and cry, creating an indelible portrait of a people.

This is one of those books I've heard of all my life but never read. Mostly because I had no idea what it was about and because I was afraid that since it was a classic, it would be horribly depressing. But I decided to pick it up last time I was at the library. And I'm glad I did.

When I read the summary before I started the book, I was like, "Well, that's vague. It doesn't tell me anything about the book." But since finishing it, I can attest that's actually a fairly accurate summary. The book's a collection of Huw's memories from his youth, tied together by the backdrop of the rise of a coal miners' union in his town.

There's so much I want to talk about with this book, but I'll limit myself to two things. First, I LOVE the strength of Llewellyn's female characters, especially Huw's mother, Beth, and his sister-in-law Bronwen. As Huw tells story after story about growing up, the underlying current to almost all of them is the quiet power women have to hold the family together and to take the lot that's given them and make it something good. The scene where Huw's mother crashes a union meeting to take all those men to task for threatening her husband behind his back gave me shivers. And Bronwen--I love Bronwen. She provides Huw with constant love and support but takes him to task when he unintentionally, or intentionally, does or says things that he shouldn't. Like Huw says, "So Bronwen showed me more of the strength of woman, which is stronger than fists and muscles and male shoutings."

The second thing is the sheer beauty of the language of the book. It's full of Welsh rhythms and speech patterns, and wit as well as serious observations. I can't do it justice by describing it, so I'll give you my favorite part of the book, when Huw's sister gets her head stuck in the window:
Angharad put her head in the window and Davy pretended to punch, and she shouted because her head was fast in the small space and her hair falling about her, making it worse.

"Mr. Gruffydd is in the house," she shouted, and the boys trying to pull her head out. "Will you crack my skull, David Morgan?"

"Too hard," Davy said. "Only a girl would put her old head in such a little place. Is there a door or are you blind?"

"I was looking through the window, fool," Angharad said. "Would I see anything through a door?"

"Your nose will have you in the toils, young woman," my father said. "Break the window and take it from her pin money."

"O, Dada," Angharad said, trying to look through her hair, and trying hard to cry, but laughing instead, "there is nasty you are to me. These old boys can do what they like but we shall have nothing only hard words and take it from her pin money. Huw has had more punches than I have had for six weeks. I wish I had been born an old boy. I would have punches all day, indeed."

"Leave her there," my father said, "and let her think over what she has said."

So poor Angharad was left with her head in the window, trying to cry, but laughing instead, and Davy pinched her bottom as he passed, but he got such a kick that he was limping all night with him.
See? The language is just so amazing.

And one last thing I'll mention to recommend the book: it wasn't nearly as depressing as I thought it was going to be . . .

Rating: 4 / 5

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: Blood Red Road

Blood Red Road, by Moira Young. The GoodReads summary:
Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.
I don’t know what I was expecting going into this book, but whatever it was, this book was so much better than that! I’ll deal with the thing that bugged me the most first off, because it’s super noticeable right away and, honestly, it almost made me put down the book. I’m talking about the dialect Saba uses to tell her story. It’s always “an” instead of “and” “ezzactly” instead of “exactly” and tons of things are misspelled. It’s supposed reflect the fact that Saba is completely uneducated and from the middle of nowhere, but it drove the grammarian in me crazy—at least it did until I got so sucked into the book that I stopped noticing it. And that’s saying something since it’s an inherent part of my nature to notice bad grammar.

This book was an adventure from start to finish. There really isn’t ever a dull moment. This book is definitely dystopian, but I thought it kinda had a high fantasy feel to it—not that there’s any magic or anything, but the story’s all about Saba’s quest and the band of friends she picks up along the way, and those are elements I attribute to high fantasy. Anyway, back to my point about it being an exciting book, I’m not kidding. I mean, there’s CAGE FIGHTING, for pete’s sake.

Saba is, no joke, the toughest heroine I’ve ever read about. She could take Katniss on with her hands tied behind her back and her eyes closed and still win. And admittedly, it was a kinda hard to like Saba sometimes. She’s prickly and standoffish and really doesn’t know how to interact with people. But considering her upbringing, it’s not really surprising, I guess. Sometimes I had a hard time with how mean Saba could be to her little sister, but their developing relationship is a big part of the story, so I could deal with it. Strangely enough, despite Saba being so pissed off and grumpy all the time, I didn’t have any trouble connecting with her (oh, wait—maybe it’s BECAUSE she’s so pissed off and grumpy that I could relate to her). Anyway, what I’m saying is don’t let my description of her personality dissuade you from reading the book, because Saba’s actually pretty kick-A.

Jack is awesome and the complete opposite of Saba, personality-wise. Which is why they’re so freakin’ perfect for each other. And let me tell ya, there is no insta-love going on here. Their relationship is a really rocky road, to say the least.

And can I just say that I really hope DeMalo shows up in the next book? He’s only in this book for a total of, like, 5 minutes, but I’m already convinced that that man is too ridiculously sexy. I NEED to know more about him!

Overall, this book kicks butt. If you’re a fan of action-y dystopian books like The Hunger Games and Divergent, I think you’ll like this one. Even if you not a fan of action, I still recommend it on account of it’s so surprisingly awesome.

Rating: 4 / 5
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