Books I've Read

Two for the Price of One

Since I missed doing a review yesterday (stupid stomach virus), you get two reviews today. That sounds fair, doesn’t it?

GracelingFirst up – Graceling by Kristin Cashore. This was a book recommendation from my podcast co-host, Jess. We discussed it on an episode not too long ago, but I haven’t had a chance to talk about it here. The story is about Katsa, a young girl living in her uncle’s castle. She has a Grace, which is an innate talent that some people in this land are born with. You can tell the Graced by their eyes, which are two different colors. Katsa has one green eye and one blue eye. Graces can be simple, like a strong talent for cooking or navigating a ship. But Katsa’s Grace is killing. Her uncle uses her as his enforcer to bully the various nobles in his kingdom into following his orders. Katsa hates this and organizes her own group, the Council, to try and counteract some of the injustice in the land.

Then the father of a neighboring king goes missing. Katsa and her people set out to rescue him, but find someone else trying to do the same thing – Po, the grandson of the kidnapped man. Po is a prince, but he’s also Graced. Katsa believes that his Grace is also fighting. Together, they set out to discover the reasons for the kidnapping and, in the process, discover a dark conspiracy lurking in another kingdom that is growing. They also discover that their Graces are not what they thought they were.

The book was very well written. I liked how the Graces worked. Katsa is a tough character with a very hard exterior, but that makes it all the more sweet when she falls in love with Po and learns how to let someone into her heart. There are two other books in this series, and I will be getting them as soon as I finish a few other books on my to-read pile.

parishNext review – The Parish and the Hill by Mary Doyle Curran. This is a book that I read for school and thoroughly enjoyed. The book tells the story of Mary, a young girl growing up as an Irish immigrant to America at the turn of the century. She talks about her family and their traditions, but also what coming to America has meant to them. They live in a small town called Irish Parish, where her grandfather is a pillar of the community. Each member of her family has different ways of coping with the changes in their lives, with the discrimination they all face because they are Irish. They go through poverty, barely scraping by, but deep down, there is a strong connection that keeps them together. Eventually they move to Money Hole Hill, another town that is a bit more upscale. Mary’s family has a hard time fitting in, due to the tensions between the “shanty Irish” (the ones who keep the Irish traditions alive) and the “lace curtain Irish” (the ones turning their back on their roots and trying to become like their Yankee neighbors).

This book is autobiographical and very good. I learned a lot reading it and it really makes you think about the bonds that tie people together, whether it’s family, community, or a shared heritage or tradition.

 

Top Ten Tuesdays

Top Ten Tuesday – Frustration Edition

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This week’s Top Ten list is one that we discussed a few episodes back on Bibliophiles Anonymous – the most frustrating characters we’ve ever read. And thanks to the lovely folks at “The Broke and the Bookish,” I get to vent a little bit more.

For the most part, I don’t get frustrated with characters. I try really hard to understand what they’re going through and why they might be in a snit. But sometimes that just isn’t possible. I can still appreciate them as characters, but they frustrate me to no end.

Top Ten (or Five) Most Frustrating Characters

1. Bella Swan (Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer) – I swear, this girl made me want to throw books across the room. I have never read about a more co-dependent, mopy, teenage-angsty character in my life. I get it. You met a beautiful boy who happens to be a vampire and you’re madly in love with him. He goes away, and now you’re going to die? And then put yourself in dangerous situations because you think you hear his voice? Get over it! He’s a boy, and you’re only sixteen. You’ll live.

2. Quentin Coldwater (The Magicians by Lev Grossman) – Quentin is another angsty, “my-life-is-s0-horrible” type who really has nothing to complain about, yet does nothing but complain. Wouldn’t you be happy if you found out that magic is real and that you are going to the best magic college in the country? Oh yeah, and that Narnia (or Fillory, as Grossman calls it) is a real place that you can go visit and have adventures in? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Quentin never seems to think so. I wanted to slap him and yell, “Appreciate something!!!!”

3. Severus Snape (the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling) – This one is a bit different for me, because I find this character very intriguing. It doesn’t hurt that the actor who plays him in the movies is one of my all time favorites either. But Professor Snape is also a very frustrating character, because I want so badly for him to see something good in Harry – and he never does! I get it. The girl you loved beyond all reason ran off and married your worst enemy. That’s terrible. And sure, seeing their son, who looks like James, but with Lilly’s eyes, has to be painful. But it’s not Harry’s fault. He’s not doing it on purpose! He’s a good kid and you’re a grown man.

4. Albus Dumbledore (the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling) – While we’re on the subject of Harry Potter, let’s talk about the man who held all the answers, and then NEVER BOTHERED TO TELL ANYONE ANYTHING! So many things would have been easier for Harry if Dumbledore would have trusted him with some information. Instead, Dumbledore keeps it from Harry (for his own good, apparently) and makes Harry’s journey even more difficult that it needed to be.

5. Merit (the Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill) – Granted, I’m only in book two of this series, but Merit is starting to get on my nerves just a tad. She’s upset about being turned into a vampire (fair enough) and she’s attracted to the man who turned her (complicated, sure). But she’s finally accepted her new life and moved into Cadogan House. Why is she still fighting getting together with Ethan? Why? You like him, he likes you. Will you just get on with it!

That’s it for right now. I’m sure I’ll come up with more later.

Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves

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Being sick has really crimped my blogging style. Now that everyone in my house is on the mend, I need to get back down to business!

Today I will give you a “Stacking the Shelves” post, hosted by “Tynga’s Reviews.” I might have mentioned before that I had received the first six books of the Chicagoland Vampires series by Chloe Neill as a present from my podcast co-host, Jess. Well now, thanks to her, we have received the ARC for the seventh book in the series, due out February 4th, House Rules. Now this may not be on my shelves yet, since this is an actual, physical copy and Jess still has it, but it will be shipped to me soon so I can read it and we can review it for the podcast. This is exciting!

Another book added to my shelves this past week is Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. This book looked so cute and romantic, but I never got around to reading it. Then I found out via Twitter yesterday that Stephanie Perkins was putting the ebook on sale, one day only, for $2.99. Sold! Sadly, the sale was only for Sunday. I got lucky when I saw the post about it. You can be sure that I will review it here once I finish the Chloe Neill books. Those have to take priority for the podcast.

Anyone else get some good deals over the weekend?

Books I've Read

I just want to know his name . . .

This past weekend, I recorded a podcast episode discussing the book Sabriel by Garth Nix. I thought it only fitting that I talk about it here as well.

This book was recommended to me by the book club over at the Mallorean Tavern (which I moderate, by the way – come see us!). I’m so glad it was nominated, otherwise I probably would have never picked this book up. I had never heard of it before, and I had never heard of the author either. Now, I feel obliged to go find the other books in this series immediately.

Well, not immediately. The library isn’t open yet. But I’m stopping there after work!

SabrielThe story follows a young girl named Sabriel, who was rescued from death as a baby by a strange man called Abhorsen. He says that he saved her because she is his daughter. It’s all very mysterious, right at the beginning, and you do wonder who this man is and whether or not he is truly her father. But that turns out to be the case. It also turns out that Abhorsen is a necromancer, charged with keeping the land of Ancelstierre free from the spirits of the Dead who wander over the Wall from the Old Kingdom.

When Sabriel is in her last year of school, she receives a messenger who delivers to her Abhorsen’s sword and his bandolier, which holds the different bells that are used in necromancy. Sabriel realizes that he has been captured and imprisoned in Death and sets out to travel to the Old Kingdom to find out what happened. Thus begins the big journey, where she learns many things, not just about the Old Kingdom, but about herself.

For starters, her father’s name is not Abhorsen. Abhorsen is his title. Several times, Sabriel is referred to as “the Abhorsen,” which she hates. For some reason, this bothered me. It’s a small detail, but I wanted to know what her father’s name was. You know, before he became “the Abhorsen.” I suppose it doesn’t matter in the long run, but I still want to know!

While traveling through the Old Kingdom, Sabriel discovers that the great Charter Stones, set in place to regulate magic, have been damaged. At one of these broken stones, Sabriel finds that she is being pursued by a being called a Mordicant, sent from Death to stop her. She rushes to her father’s house in the Old Kingdom, where she is safe, and where she meets one of my favorite parts of the book – Mogget. Mogget is a cat. Except that he’s not. He wears a collar which keeps him nice and subservient, but Sabriel learns his true feelings once the collar is taken off. Mogget is no ordinary housecat, but a strange being made of pure Free Magic. And he’s none too happy about being chained and serving generations of Abhorsens. Once Sabriel gets the collar back on, he’s a perfectly calm housecat again, but it was very tense having this quiet kitty along, knowing full well that all he wanted to do was rip Sabriel’s head off. As they escape the Abhorsen’s house, they discover Touchstone, a young man who was trapped half in life, half in death for 200 years. I won’t give anything away about his story, but together with Sabriel (and reluctantly, Mogget), they go forth to find Sabriel’s father and try to defeat a Greater Dead by the name of Kerrigor.

There were so many cool things about this book. I loved the way they did the necromancy, with several bells of varying size and sound. The magic system was very interesting, with the variations between Charter Magic and Free Magic. There was also the contrast between the modern Ancelstierre, with it’s electricity and automobiles, and the Old Kingdom, with it’s castles and magic stones. My library has the next two books, Lirael and Abhorsen, and I will be picking them up this afternoon if at all possible. This was a very exciting read and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Top Ten Tuesdays

Top Ten Tuesday – Settings Edition

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, from the folks over at “The Broke and the Bookish,” was a difficult one for me. It’s all about settings this week, trying to think about places that you would like to see more stories take place. To be honest, there are very few books where the setting is a big thing I pay attention to. I’m usually more drawn to characters – if the characters are good, I don’t usually care where they are exactly. An exception to this would be something like Hogwarts Castle from the Harry Potter books. The castle there is practically another character in the story and gets a lot of attention devoted to it. So this topic took some thought, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

Top Ten (or Eight) Settings I’d Like to Read More Of

1. The Servant’s Quarters – Maybe this is just because of watching Downton Abbey, but I have been fascinated by juxtaposition of the cultured, high society living of the aristocrats and the simpler, more common lives of their servants. Both have plenty of drama, to be sure, but there is something about seeing the family through the eyes of the servants at times that is very interesting.

2. Train Stations/Bus Depots/Airports – I think these transportation hubs are  good places to throw characters together, most of which would never be together otherwise, and see what they do. Put that together with all the different destinations available and the inevitable culture clashes, and the possibilities are endless.

3. Theaters – As most of you know, I am a theater lover. A Broadway baby. I’ve attended performing arts high schools and university programs. I’ve taken part in all kinds of shows, from church reviews to professional opera and just about everything in between. Lots of cool stuff happens behind the scenes in the theater.

4. New York City – As most of you also know, I am in love with New York. It has been a while since my last trip and I am desperate to go back. But I’d make due with a really good story set there.

5. London – I’ve never been to London, but it’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit. For some reason, despite this, I haven’t read very many stories set in London.

6. Jails or Prisons – This one will strike people who know me as odd. I’ve never been one for cop shows or detective procedural stories, but I do like hearing about crime from the criminal’s perspective. If I’m flipping channels and there is an interview with someone who is behind bars, I will almost always stop to watch.

7. Libraries – This proves just how much of a nerd I am. I enjoy reading about libraries almost as much as I enjoy visiting them.

8. Las Vegas – This is another one that would probably surprise people. I’ve only ever been to Las Vegas once and didn’t really enjoy the experience (it’s waaaay too loud). Still, something set in that city, something showing the true stories behind all the glitz and flashing lights, would be very interesting.

And there you have it. All you authors out there, start writing!

Drabbles

Weekend Update

Hello all! Last week was a tough one, which is why I disappeared for three days. The stomach flu hit our house pretty hard. Everyone is back up and around again, thank goodness, so we can all get back to normal. Or what passes for normal around here.

Some updates from the past weekend:

  • Uploaded the 17th episode of Bibliophiles Anonymous, where we discussed the book Sabriel by Garth Nix. What was really exciting about this was that when we updated our Twitter with a link to the new episode, Garth Nix RETWEETED IT TO HIS FOLLOWERS!! It’s so exciting to receive replies from authors with what we do! Luckily we really enjoyed the book, so his fans won’t be angry with us. I’m planning to run to the library and see if I can find the other books in that series this afternoon.
  • I have officially survived week two of grad school. This past week was harder than the first one, but I think this week looks a little easier. The calm before the storm, probably.
  • Against my better judgement, I started watching a TV show and now I’m hooked. Like I have the time to devote to a TV show these days, but that’s why I like being able to watch episodes online and on my Kindle. And it is great. I can now say that I understand what all the fuss was about, and I am now a huge fan of Downton Abbey. It’s such a good show! I’ve been a big Maggie Smith fan for years, and she is wonderful, but the whole cast is great. I love these characters (except for the few that I really hate) and since many of them are fighting in World War I right now, I’m on pins and needles.
  • I’ve been playing a little bit of Lord of the Rings Online (again, because I have sooooo much free time). I’ve had two characters on there and both of them finally got to level 25, which is pretty good, I think. So much so that I’ve started a third character, who is now at level 13. She’s a little hobbit girl and she’s so cute!

I think that’s all the news fit to print from this neck of the woods. My regular blog schedule should continue through this week, barring any catastrophe.

Top Ten Tuesdays

Top Ten Tuesday – 2013 Edition

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Greetings one and all! This week, the lovely folks over at “The Broke and the Bookish” are talking about the debut books coming out this year that they can’t wait to read. This was a bit harder for me than I anticipated, mostly because I don’t usually pay attention to new books coming out. I know. Shocking, right? There are so many books out already that I can’t wait to read, keeping an eye out for new releases as well would probably drive me bonkers. Most of the books I’m looking forward to reading this year are continuations of series already out there, so this took a little bit of digging. Here’s what I’ve found:

Top Ten (or Six) Debuts for 2013

1. My Name is Rapunzel by K.C. Hilton – I have no idea why I am so intrigued by this book. There is next to no information on Goodreads, other than two sentences and a gorgeous book cover. Still, I love new takes on fairy tales, so I have high hopes for this one.

2. A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz – Admittedly, I could go ahead and read this one, since the podcast got it as a digital ARC. We’re trying to wait to read it closer to the release date, which is in March.

3. The Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd – The Internet is raving about this book release, which is later this month. Can’t help but get caught up in the excitement.

4. In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters – I love the title and the premise sounds so spooky! Plus, the description says that they used a lot of old photography in this, which I like as well.

5. In the After by Demitria Lunetta – This is another one that sounds like a really good premise. The “Them” sound an awful lot like zombies to me, and ever since reading Mira Grant’s Newsflesh series, I’m starting to like zombie apocalypse books.

6. The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett – Another good premise, telling the story from the point of view of a nightmare, who happens to be a girl named Dusty.