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The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There (2012)
Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Pages: 272 (hardcover)
Series: Fairyland #2

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: The first book in the Fairyland series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of a Her Own Making, was one of my favourite reads last year. It's one of the best MG titles I've ever read, hands down, and is also just a perfect example of how to modernize classic fairytales for current and future generations. Almost as soon as this book was released I picked up a copy. Sadly, I didn't have time to read it until the holiday season, but better late than never, amirite?

REVIEW: no spoilersCollapse )

Final Verdict: Valente's first Fairyland book was one of my favourite reads of 2011, and I can safely say that this sequel will end up on my Favourites of 2012. Readers will get to return to Fairyland (though it won't be quite the same as before), and the story and world show growth that parallel that of the main character September. This makes for a wholly new experience while also being just as charming and whimsical as the first novel. One of the more prevalent themes, that of growing up, was probably my favourite aspect of the novel and was dealt with in a way that had me doing happy dances -- I'm excited to see where Valente brings this in future novels in this series. Valente's writing continues to be amazing, and I love her fusion of the old and the new: she's clearly inspired by classics of Children Fantasy, but she takes them and puts her own distinctive twist on them. I highly recommend this to Fantasy fans of all ages: there's something here for everyone. I do however advise one to start with the first book in the series before diving into this one.

Bray, Libba: The Diviners

The Diviners (2012)
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy/Paranormal/Supernatural, Mystery, Young Adult
Pages: 592 (hardcover)
Series: The Diviners #1

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: I've been doing my darndest this year to read as many new releases that catch my eye as possible. I haven't nearly as well as I'd hoped, but I was lucky enough that my friend Avery over at Avery's Book Nook had received this book from the publisher and was nice enough to lend it to me. What attracted me to this book in the first place though was: a) its cover, which is quite different from the typical YA fare; b) its premise; teenagers with superpowers a la X-Men in the 1920s in New York City and cults and serial killers are involved? That sounds hella awesome; and c) Libba Bray; I've only read A Great and Terrible Beauty and while I wasn't particularly impressed, I have been meaning to read more of this author's work as its all so eclectic and different with every title she publishes.

REVIEW: no spoilersCollapse )

Final Verdict: While this certainly isn't my favourite read of the year, I think The Diviners is a really fun fantasy/paranormal/murder mystery/historical fiction novel that will resonate with many readers who are looking for something different than the current dystopian/romance or paranormal romance trends happening right now. The book certainly has its faults -- I personally find it overly long, it has a tad too many POVs that dilute the focus, and it has too much 1920s slang and staples for my tastes -- but it also does many things right. I think it meshes many genres together very well and does justice to each one, and while the characters are flawed, I largely thought they were likable and interesting in different ways. They were also very distinct from one another which is a feat, considering just how many of them there are. I will definitely be back for book 2 and I'm excited to see what Bray has in store for her readers.

Palacio, R.J.: Wonder

Wonder (2012)
Author: R.J. Palacio
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 313 (hardcover)
Series: Stand Alone

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: This book has been garnering a lot of good reviews since it was first published in February which put it on my radar. I also like the cover quite a bit (shallow, I know. But you all know how it goes.) Review is spoiler-free.

You'll have to apologize for this less-than-awesome review; I actually read this title awhile ago and forgot to include it in my Reviewlettes posts that I put up earlier this month.

REVIEW: no spoilersCollapse )

Final Verdict: Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I do think, however, that people should be aware of some of the underlying problematic aspects of the novel which really drive the Main Message. For me personally, this is really what kept this book from being OMG AMAZING. Of course, your mileage may vary as this is purely personal/subjective thing. Other than that though, I do recommend this novel, just with those reservations. Some of the POVs felt kind of pointless and I think the novel could have done without them. However, the story really is very good; I loved the characters wholeheartedly and I really quite invested in seeing them succeed and come out all right.

Reviewlettes!! pt. 2

Here is the second part of my Reviewlettes. After this I'll finally be completely caught up in my reviews. :D
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The Giver (1993)
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: Laurel-Leaf Books
Genre: Science Fantasy, Dystopia, Young Adult
Pages: 179 (mass market paperback)
Series: The Giver Quartet #1

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: Lowry recently released the last book in her Giver Quartet, Son, and while I've never had any interest in reading the sequels to The Giver before, this recent release changed my mind for some reason. So, I went ahead and bought Son and then tasked myself with reading the rest of the series.

I've actually The Giver already, waayyy back in high school when I was 16- or 17-years old. It blew. My. Mind. Seriously, I loved this book so hard -- I was totally taken in by this dystopic society and I remember thinking "Oh, well, things are run rather efficiently here, aren't they?" (I don't know if I was some kind of robot to not notice how creepy it all was, but I actually thought the whole setup was rather appealing at first.) So when Jonas started seeing just how flawed and soulless the society he grew up in is, it felt like some kind of revelation to me. Since then, I had considered it one of my favourite books of all time. But it had been so long since I had last read it that this re-read made me really nervous; would I enjoy it as much the second time? Would I find all kinds of flaws now that I knew the story? Thankfully, this wasn't the case at all. I still love this book.

One  thing I noticed that I hadn't really realized during my first read was how many fantasy-esque elements this story and world has. The transferring of memories between The Giver and Jonas didn't really feel based in any kind of science, though I could be wrong; the dealio with The Giver not being able to leave because all the "memories" would be released or whatever was kind of weird too, and definitely felt more Fantasy than Science Fiction. So yeah, that was a new relevation for me. It was still very easy to fall into this story again and be wrapped up in the details of this neat dystopic society.

Also, sort of unrelated, but I do want to note that this could potentially be considered Middle Grade as well as Young Adult. I classify it as YA because that's where it's shelved in the bookstore, but it has won the Newberry Medal, which is supposed to be for Middle Grade books. But that discussion is neither here nor there.
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Gathering Blue (2000)
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: Ember
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 215 (hardcover)
Series: The Giver Quartet #2

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: See The Giver above.

I don't have much to say about this one because I honestly don't remember much about it. It was all right and I remember liking it okay, but it was nowhere near as good as The Giver. Lowry expands the world she created in The Giver and we get a look of what the societies outside the ones where Jonas lived are like, but it frankly didn't fit together very well for me. This novel definitely treads much more in Fantasy territory than its predecessor did by having Kira and her buddy she lives with (I'm so bad with names -- I think it was Thomas? maybe?) possessing "gifts" (Kira the weaving and what's-his-face and his carving.) The setting sort of reminded me of what I know about the movie The Village (which I haven't seen, but I know the twist-ending and everything), but again, it was no Giver, so I felt kind of underwhelmed. My favourite part of the story was probably little Matthew. I liked his relationship with Kira and how the two are such good friends, and how her and Thomas take him in and take care of him in a way Matthew's mother won't. I was quite pleased when I found out he was the main character of the next novel in the series, Messenger.
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Messenger (2004)
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: Ember
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 169 (hardcover)
Series: The Giver Quartet #3

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: See above.

Like Gathering Blue I don't have much to say about this one. It's all right, but it's nowhere near as good as The Giver. We once again tread into more obvious Fantasy territory, but it's a lot weirder in this one than Gathering Blue. The whole "sentient forest" thing was bizarre to say the least, and a tad creepy. And then there's the person giving everyone in Village whatever they want at the cost of them becoming assholes (or losing their soul -- same difference. To be fair, I don't remember that plot point very well...) But Matthew is the main character, which I liked. His relationship with Kira and her father was touching, especially when you consider his past and the lack of parenting that took place. I also liked how disability was handled here, with both Kira's bad leg and her father's blindness; Matthew could potentially heal them, but Kira doesn't want to be healed because she doesn't see her bad leg as a disability, or something that needs to be fixed -- it's just a part of who she is.  That ending though? It felt like it came from left field, and was akin to a slap to the face.

Overall, if you loved The Giver, I don't think I would recommend reading these sequels on that basis alone. Not only does it tarnish the beautiful ambiguity of the ending in The Giver (which some people hate but I loved), but the world-building that takes place in them felt odd and not as tight as in The Giver. The characters are likable and easy to root for, so they're not wholly unpleasant reads, but they didn't feel like they added to the series as a whole. It'll be interesting to see what Son has to offer.
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The Brides of Rollrock Island (2012)
Author: Margo Lanagan
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 305 (hardcover)
Series: Stand Alone

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: I've been meaning to read Margo  Lanagan for AGES,  and when this was released in Australia (as Sea Hearts) and the UK, the reviews that were pouring in were nothing less than glowing. Thankfully, my librart system had this in stock so I signed it out.

I really don't think I can do this novel justice. There is so much subtlety, so much nuance, so much beauty and sadness between in these pages that nothing I could say would convey that to anyone who reads this review in a satisfactorily way. It is books like these to really set the bar for YA literature, and it is these kinds of books that I want to shove in people's faces and say: "SEE!! Teen books can be MATURE and it's not all SPARKLY VAMPIRES and insepid teen romances." Seriously though, this book could be shelved in any "adult" section and I don't think people would notice the difference.

Brides is a great example of setting-as-character and will likely remind a lot of readers of the island setting is Thisby from Stiefvater's Scorpio Races, due to the vibrancy of the setting and the inclusion of mythical creatures that reside on these islands. However, do keep in mind that Brides is a VERY different story from The Scorpio Races. The story is told from multiple POVs, which allows the readers to get the full picture of what is happening to Rollrock Island, and it makes for a VERY sad story indeed: from the treatment of Miskaella, to the inevitable conclusion of Dominic's story, to the revelation of the true sentiments of the sea wives. Speaking of, how the text treats the sea wives is worth an entire post of its own (in short, I loved what Lanagan did with them. It's so so good and if you want to read further on it, I will direct to Ana's review from things mean a lot -- her analysis is wonderful.) Anyway, I'm going to cut this short here, lest I decide to ramble further, but needless to say that I highly recommend this.
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Splendors and Glooms (2012)
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Publisher: Candlewick
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 384 (hardcover)
Series: Stand Alone

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: This received a favourable over at The Book Smugglers, so I tacked into onto my "TBR 2012" list (books released in 2012 I want to read.)

I largely enjoyed this one, but I did find it a little overly long. It could be that I've become a more impatient reader now that I find myself with consideraly less time to read, but while I reveled in the details of the Victorian setting, there were several moments where I thought to myself: "I wish things would just get going." However, I would still whole-heartedly recommend this, for a few reasons: the setting really is well-researched and brought to life, and it is NOT pretty. It is grimy and dirty, and not at all pleasant or romantic. The characters are incredibly well-realized; they are flawed -- sometimes in more obvious ways like Parsefall, and in more subtle ways like Lizzie -- and downright unlikable at times but ultimately redeemable (like Clara's parents -- I really felt for them, especially her father.) Schlitz's also included a very well-developed villain who has an emotional depth to her that isn't always present in stories for younger readers. Also, if the cover wasn't any indication, this story has a good dose of creepiness added in for goo measure. It really adds to the grimy Victorian setting and adds to the atmosphere.
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The Crown of Embers (2012)
Author: Rae Carson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 410 (hardcover)
Series: Fire and Thorns #2

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: I loved the pants off of The Girl of Fire and Thorns and knew I need to read this sequel as soon as I could.

AAHH THIS BOOK!! I loved this book!! I love this series! This sequel met my expectations and then some. Middle books are always tricky business because it can be too easy  for them to be "transition" novels, or novels that are merely setup for the finale, but Carson managed to avoid that with this fantastic sequel. Even when most of the action (for the first 3/4 at least) of the novel takes place in the castle and is mostly political intrigue and tiptoeing on Elisa's part as she gets used to her new position as Hero and Queen, I still couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

This book also cemented my love for Elisa. Gawd I love that girl. She's smart, and strong-willed, but also incredibly unsure of herself (though she does everything in her power to hide it lest people take advantage of her) and vulnerable. She's hyper-aware of just HOW vulnerable she is, but she also does everything in her power to be the best ruler she can be despite these weaknesses. She makes mistakes, and sometimes it takes her awhile to realize it, but I found myself not caring because I was too busy fangirling over how awesome she is and just OMG. I love her.

And the romance. GUYS THE ROMANCE. I can't even. I don't want to say anything for fear of ruining it for others, but  the romance had me swooning and cheering and that's hard to do -- when it comes to romance I'm terribly picky (potentially to a fault), so kudos to you Carson.

Oh yeah, and the ending. I don't even want to talk about how bad I want the third book in my hands. How about yesterday? Yeah, that.
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Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version (2012)
Editor: Philip Pullman
Publisher: Viking Adult
Genre: Fairy Tales
Pages: 405 (hardcover)
Series: Stand Alone

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: This also received a favourable review from The Book Smugglers, though my interest had been piqued beforehand anyhow. I've actually NEVER read any of the original fairy tales from the Grimm brothers -- I've only ever seen Disney adaptations. So I thought this would be a great primer and place to start.

Before continuing, it should probably be made clear that this collection of fairy tales is NOT a collection of re-interpretations or re-tellings. They are the original tales and have simply been re-translated by Pullman. This may disappoint some people (I have a friend who was under the impression these were re-interpretations and was annoyed when I told her otherwise), but I was more than happy for this. I've always wanted to read these original tales, and this collection is a great place to start for the unseasoned fairy tale reader. The translation by Pullman is fantastic, and his writing really does have its own style, which he applies differently and accordingly for each tale. Because of this, they all stand out on their own and are memorable instead of stringing together and becoming one big jarbled mess in my memory. Pullman also includes notes at the end of each tale, with lists of which tales from other cultures and languages are similar, as well as his own observations. In these notes, he'll usually remark upon something that has stuck out for him from a tale, point out any changes he may have made to the tale, the history of the tale and how it's changed over time, and sometimes he offers his personal opinion on the tale. They're nice and short, and provide useful insight, once again making this a great primer for new fairytale readers while also offering something for the seasoned reader as well. I highly recommend this tome to new fairy tale (being one myself and enjoying this collection greatly), and while I can't say for sure, I do think the seasoned reader will want to get their hands on this new English collection as well.
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The Lost Girl (2012)
Author: Sangu Mandanna
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: Sci-Fi/Futuristic, Young Adult
Pages: 432 (hardcover)
Series: Stand Alone

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: I initially hadn't heard much about this novel at  all, but then I stumbled across a few fushing reviews that convinced me I should give this a shot. Luckily for me, one of my MLIS friends who is also a book blogger (Avery @ Avery's Book Nook) had received an ARC from the publisher and was nice enough to lend it to me. (:

While this book hit home for me as far as emotions go, I found myself having to suspend disbelief at times which was immersion-breaking. I'm going to be stepping into Spoiler Territory here, so if you haven't read this book and are planning to, turn away now.

For one, Eva spends LITERALLY her entire life training to "become" Amarra and when she finally has to take her place, she messes up after only a few months? I found that a little hard to believe. Now, this could be explained away quite easily: Eva always rebelled and railed against having to be Amarra because she always wanted to be her own person and resented Amarra; her guardians allowed her things she wasn't supposed to have, such as her own name; Ray already knew that Amarra had an Echo, so he was already suspicious to begin. And I would say yes to all those things, but there was also other factors at play here that could have been avoided, and which I had a hard time believing. Why wasn't Amarra raised in India instead of London? If she was supposed to BE Amarra, wouldn't it make sense for them to at least live in the same country? It would have saved some trouble that was brought up later on (Eva saying "crisps" instead of "chips") And what the hell was with the mark on the back of Eva's neck that marked her as an Echo? Yeah, the Loom wanted to make sure she never forgot that they owned her or whatever, but it was ridiculously inconvenient and stupid on their part if they didn't want their "products" to be discovered in countries where they've been banned.

But despite these suspensions of disbelief, I found myself enjoying the novel overall and that lays mostly in the strength of its emotions brought on by Eva's relationships with those around her. Some that particularly struck home for me were the ones she had with her familiars and Ray. Her friendship with Ray is complex, layered, and very complicated for the both of them; emotions are messy things and they're hard to untangle once they've unraveled and they demonstrate this beautifully. I wasn't as keen on her relationship with Sean -- there's nothing wrong with it, but it lacked the substance that I found in her other relationships -- but I suppose many other readers will enjoy the romance. Overall, I recommend it, albeit with some reservations.
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And that's it! I've finally caught up on reviews. :)  Now I just need to catch up on my Monthly Round-Ups (*shudder* so manyy..) and then I'll need to start considering my favourite reads of 2012 (!!!!)

Reviewlettes!!

So you all know I'm behind on reviews because of my hiatus. I've already posted a few reviews from all the way back in September, but quite frankly, it's been difficult remembering important details about these books which in turn has made it difficult to write coherent reviews. So, to remedy that, calico_reaction suggested I do "Flash Reviews" for the books I've read in the past couple of months to catch up and start fresh. I think this is a great idea, so I bring to you Reviewlettes (a term I stole from Raych from books I done read). I'm still going to provide info about the book (title, author, summary, etc.) but the reviews are going to be considerably shorter and more like gut-reactions/recollections I have about the book. For now, I'll start with half of my backlog, and will post the second half later on this week.

Without further adieu, onwards!!


Eona (2011)
Author: Alison Goodman
Publisher: Firebird
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 637 (trade paperback)
Series: Eon #2

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: I liked Eon so much that I decided to dive right into Eona.

This was a great sequel, and it really wrapped up everything that happened in Eon. Can I just say that I appreciate duologies? Nothing against trilogies or longer series, but reading duologies makes me feel a lot more productive. Anyway, this book brought up some of the issues that were presented in the first, such as the gender and disability themes, and further built on them: Eon has let herself become Eona and now accepts that she's female but still capable; Eona's healing that occurred in the first book has brought with it consequences for this second installment, and the issues I had with how disability was handled in the first book were addressed in a satisfactory manner. I had mixed feelings about the romance; I liked that it was never easy for Eona and the Emperor because they both had different priorities and things to consider, and their positions as the Last Dragoneye and the Emperor certainly brought its own baggage with it. I wasn't so keen about the love-triangle angle that was taken though, but mileage may vary. There was ton of action though and I remember the pacing feeling very brisk which kept the pages turning and made this one feel shorter than the first volume (though it was actually longer in page-length.) Overall, this was a very strong duology and I really enjoyed it! I definitely need to check out Goodman's The Dogstar Blues (which I already own, yay!)
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Clementine (2010)
Author: Cherie Priest
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Genre: Science-Fiction, Steampunk, Alternative History
Pages: 201 (hardcover)
Series: The Clockwork Century #2

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: I really like Priest's Clockwork Century series. I thought I would have to buy the paperback edition of this off Amazon.com to be able to read it, but the library system in my new town that I recently moved to had the limited edition Subterranean Press hardcover! I was super pumped and checked it out and read it promptly.

This novel is slim, but it's chock-full of action and awesomeness. In typical Cherie Priest style we have a kickass heroine (who's an older retired spy no less -- I love how Priest features women of different ages and races in work; you don't need to be young to be a badass) and madcap adventures. The airship fights in this novel were definitely some of the highlights for me. They were very well-written and I was able to imagine them like a movie in my mind. The steampunk elements are still very strong and have an awesome gritty feel to them that really build atmosphere. The world-building is also topnotch, but having read all the books in this series I expected nothing less. I also love that you can read each book in this series individually and still understand what's going on, you'll just get more out of it if you read them in order. Same goes for this volume, so while it can be a bit of a pain to get your hands on it, I definitely recommend it to fans of this series and fans of steampunk in general.
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Incarnate (2012)
Author: Jodi Meadows
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: Science Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 374 (hardcover)
Series: Newsoul #1

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: It initially caught my eye because of the cover (though I'm not sure if I like it or not -- it's kind of pretty on the one hand, but really tacky and garrish on the either), but the sypnosis intrigued me as well. People being reincarnated over and over again?? That could be interesting.

Despite this interesting premise, the novel ended up being a giant pile of 'meh' for me. The people of Heart didn't read or feel like people who were thousands and thousands of years old. The relationship between Sam and Ana was kind of fast, in that I found it hard to believe that Sam would be the ONLY person is ALL of Heart to not judge Ana. Yes, she makes other friends, but Sam, the super hot beautiful Sam, is the first one to come running to the rescue, obvs. Their romantic relationship was also a bit of a turn off -- Ana is something like eighteen years old, so her crush on Sam was understandable and easy to swallow, but the fact that he might reciprocate them kind of skeeved me out. He's over 10,000 years old and has most definitely had loved before.

The worldbuilding, which I thought would be the most interesting part, was shoddy at best. I can't remember any specific details, but I do recall the mishmash of science fiction and fantasy elements feeling kind of odd and disjointed. I'm not opposed to Science Fantasy in the least -- I think it's a very interesting genre that can bring about neat things -- but here it just didn't work for me. I'm still on the fence about whether I want to read the sequel or not. I'm not terribly interested, but a part of me is still curious, and I always like to see if a series will improve, especially considering this is Meadows' debut novel.
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Audrey's Door (2009)
Author: Sarah Langan
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Horror
Pages: 412 (mass market paperback)
Series: Stand Alone

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: This was for calico_reaction's Theme Park book club for the month of October. Prior to it being chosen, I had never heard of it or Sarah Langan before.

This one ended up being a DNF for me. I just couldn't stand Audrey. She was totally unlikable (or at least, she was during the first 100 pages I read), but of COURSE she's just misunderstood, and she's actually very pretty if you just take the time to look real close, and oh yeah, she's an amazing architect (or something) and was able to get co-ops and hired right out of school when no one else could because she's sooo amazing. Blech. Those first 100 pages were just a tedious account of Audrey's life prior to moving, and that also did nothing to endear me to her. I get that she was probably not *supposed* to be a likable character, and I do like my characters to be flawed, but arrggg she was insufferable! It was also just really boring reading about her life with her boyfriend and stuff. Oh, and the whole OCD thing? It felt left-field when I was reading. Prior to it being brought it up, there was ZERO indication at all that Audrey suffered from OCD. And this brings me to my next problem, which was the writing. There was way too much telling and little to no showing (such as Audrey's OCD).

It's also worth noting that I still getting used to grad school and my new busy schedule, so my patience for books that weren't holding my attention was much worse than normal. I really wanted to finish this because it was a book club pick, but I decided that since I already had such little time to read for pleasure, I didn't feel like doing it with books that weren't grabbing me. After reading the reviews of other people participating in the book club, it looks like I didn't miss too much anyway, so in the end, I don't feel too bad about putting it down.
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Roses and Bones: Myths, Tales, and Secrets (2010)
Author: Francesca Lia Block
Publisher: HarperTEEN
Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Young Adult
Pages: 400 (trade paperback)
Series: Stand Alone (actually, it's an omnibus of three of Block's novellas: "Psyche in a Dress", "Echo", and "The Rose and the Beast")

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: I picked this up when it was released a few years ago because I love FLB. Her work is very different from what else is out on the YA market and she has a very distinct style. She can be a bit hit-and-miss at times (evidenced by my review of Pretty Dead), but by and large she's a reliable author to brin me work I enjoy.

I'm sad to say that I really, really didn't like this little collection at all. Since I had already Psyche in a Dress a few years before, I thought that I would love this book, but the story didn't really do well as a re-read. I think 16-year old Michelle would have enjoyed these stories, but for 22-year old Michelle they were too melodramatic, over-the-top, and at times hard to follow. Block writes in a very florid and dream-like style, and while this can serve her stories wonderfully much of the time (like with Weetzie Bat), I had no patience for it here. It mostly felt bloated, and kept a barrier between me and the story she was trying to tell.

Another distinct feature of Block's writing is that almost everything she writes is short. Again, I don't usually mind this because she usually gets to the core of the story and extrapolates from there -- while the writing can be fluffy and descriptive, she gets to the heart of the story which keeps it focused. In these stories, all I remember is being thrown around all the place (chronologically, geographically.. every sense of the word) in all three tales. I never felt grounded and it felt rushed, like Block had this great tale she wanted to tell, but restricted her page count too much. I think if more time had been spent working on characterization and plot, these stories could've been more effective. Also, another minor complaint, but in Psyche in a Dress and Echo, the main characters go by several different names which at times made it uselessly confusing. Overall, it was a frustrating experience and I didn't find myself enjoying it at all. This collection is good for getting a feel for Block's style, but I wouldn't recommend it for first-time FLB readers -- start with Dangerous Angels (a collection of her Weetzie Bat books) instead.
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Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl (2012)
Author: Jesse Andrews
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 295 (hardcover)
Series: Stand Alone
Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: Look at that cover! It's so pretty and eye-catching and awesome. Also, I had read several glowing reviews for this book.

Did you ever think that books about someone with cancer could be funny? I was unsure at first, but after reading this, I can assert that yes, books that deal with cancer CAN be funny. Seriously, this book had me laughing out loud several times. However, Greg (our protagonist and narrator) keeps his promise when he tells us that this isn't a story that's going to present us with lessons about life and death, so if you're diving into this expecting something like that, you will not get it. Some people might be turned off with how Greg deals with Rachel's leukemia; they've hardly ever really talked, but when she's diagnosed, Greg's mother more or less guilts him into spending time with Rachel. And again, instead of gaining any insight into what it means to be alive (or something inane like that), Greg just realizes how human he is ... he feels uncomfortable spending time with Rachel and really doesn't want much to do with it all. This may potentially come across as distasteful, but it felt very honest and true-to-life for me. Andrews doesn't shy away from presenting less-than-pleasant truths about people. Rachel and Earl, our two other titular characters, are similarily realistic (especially Earl -- Rachel is more of a side-plot than anything actually), Overall, it was a good read and recommended to people looking for humorous reads for books that break the mold of typical books about illness.
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The Killing Moon (2012)
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Publisher: Orbit
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 440 (trade paperback)
Series: Dreamblood #1
Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: This was the November pick for calico_reaction's Theme Park book club. I had also heard a lot of great buzz about this title, so I was more than happy to read it.

Wowowow, Jemisin's first book (of two) in her Dreamblood series was so so good. Seriously. Where Eon and Eona did an excellent job at creating an Asian-inspired fantasy world, Jemisin has done the same with her Egypt-inspired one. There are no elements in this that are like "LOOK LOOK SEE ITS LIKE EGYPT" -- rather, it's subtly and eloquently done and I loved it to bits.

The Egypt-inspiration is mostly evident in the magic-system. This is one that is based in dreams and the way it draws on both the psychological and physical worlds. I appreciated the extra insight into the magic system that Jemisin provides at the end of the book in the interview she conducts with herself (which is quite humourous as well as informative -- definitely check it out if you can!) The characters are equally inspired -- they are beautifully fleshed out people (I especially liked Ehiru and Nijiri's layered and complex relationship). Needless to say, I'm very excited to read The Shadowed Sun which I've already bought and is waiting for me in my immediate TBR. Highly recommended. :D
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So that's for now!! Look for my second half of my Reviewlettes sometime this week. :)

Goodman, Alison: Eon

Eon (2009)
Author: Alison Goodman
Publisher: Firebird
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 531 (trade paperback)
Series: Eon #1

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: This is kind of embarassing to admit, but this was the September pick for calico_reaction's Theme Park book club, which was the month *I* sponsored. I did manage to finish the book before the end of September, but I didn't get a review up. I'm embarassed that I'm getting this up so late, but I suppose it's better late than never. :)
REVIEW: no spoilersCollapse )

Final Verdict: Overall, this is a very satisfying Fantasy read, with an interesting and original Asian-inspired world that never resorts to cultural appropriation. The novel raises all kinds of interesting questions and discussions about gender and disability which made for a richer reading experience for me, and would be a great fodder for discussion with other readers. My only complaint was that the novel sometimes felt long, but considering I dove into Eona right away is proof enough of how much I enjoyed it overall. Highly recommended to fans of Fantasy who are looking for titles that do something different from the typical European/Medieval inspired Fantasies.

Cover Commentary: I looove this cover. It's very colourful and  the silhouette on the front is very striking. I think it's much better than the hardcover version released in North America.

Stiefvater, Maggie: The Scorpio Races

The Scorpio Races (2011)
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 409 (hardcover)
Series: Stand Alone

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: It felt like the blogosphere exploded when this book was released. I read review after review that sang this book's praises, and while I've had little interest in reading The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, the synopsis of this book and the positive reviews caught my eye -- there was something about it that caught my attention and wouldn't let go. So, in December 2011, I bought this when the Chapters I worked at had their employee sale.

Even though it's been over three months since I read this, I still remember it quite vividly. I think that's a testament to how evocative and striking this story is. It really is something else.

As any praising review will tell you, what really makes this book so great is the atmosphere. The island of Thisby felt so real, and setting-as-character can really bring a story to life when done well. The characters' attachment to the island also helped bring the setting to the forefront. Despite the sad situation that Puck is in, she stubbornly holds onto Thisby as her home and she can't imagine being anywhere else. Likewise, Sean's connection to Corr has forged a connection between him and Thisby that's palpable. From a genre perspective, the way that Thisby straddles the line between Contemporary and Fantasy was quite interesting as well. It's hinted that Thisby is somewhere near Ireland/Scotland/somewhere like that (which is also evident if you're at all familiar with lore behind killer-water-horses), and there's modern technology such as cars and whatnot, but the presence of the water-horses clearly make it Fantasy.

Speaking of Sean and Puck, I loved them both. They're both quiet and more introspective characters, though in different ways. I was pleasantly surprised because I normally don't enjoy quiet Mysterious Loner Dudes like Sean, but he was layered and had depth (and was not a douche, like a lot of other MLDs in literature.) Like their characters, their developing relationship is very slow-burn, very insular, and very intimate. They don't share many words, but when they do, every single one counts. I can be very stingy so it's sometimes difficult to get me excited about romantic relationships in novels, but I loved watching these two. And because I loved both of them so much, the tension and the stakes in this novel felt high; I wanted both of them to win the race, though I knew that couldn't happen. Both of them needed it, and neither needed it or deserved it more than the other. It kept me turning the pages to get to the ending because I needed to know how it was all going to be resolved. I don't want to say anymore, but I will say that I was happy with the resolution. (:

I know some of the less-than-stellar reviews of this book lament that the titular Scorpio Races don't happen until the very end of the novel and that the rest of the plot feels like it meanders and treads water, but I myself enjoyed this slow and deliberate pace. It allowed me to immerse myself in the setting, and because I loved Sean and Puck so much I was more than happy to follow them around on their quiet and contemplative journey. It is something to keep in mind before reading though -- if you want lots of action and high-adrenaline, you won't find it here.

Final Verdict: I really enjoyed this novel. The setting is beautiful and one of the most evocative instances of setting-as-character that I've come across in awhile. Our leads, Sean and Puck, are wonderful characters and I wanted them both to get their happy ending, though it feels impossible. This, however, kept the tension high throughout this quiet and contemplative story (though the ending was definitely exciting.) For those who like their romance, the relationship between Sean and Puck is very slow-burn and doesn't have the drama found with a lot of other YA couples, but it's exactly because of this that it's so poignat and gripping. Highly recommended to readers who enjoy quiet stories with a focus on character and setting, and a notable read of 2012 for me.

Cover Commentary: I like that the North American cover (pictured above) depicts the contents of the story (Puck riding her horse), but other than that and the lovely deep red/burgundy colour, it's kinda eh. The UK one is pretty cool.

Rowland, Diana: Mark of the Demon

Mark of the Demon (2009)
Author: Diana Rowland
Publisher: Bantam
Genre: Mystery, Paranormal Fantasy
Pages: 370 (pocket paperback)
Series: Karen Gillian #1

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: This summer, I read My Life as a White Trash Zombie and Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues, both by Rowland. I enjoyed them so much that I decided to try out her Karen Gillian series as well.

REVIEW: no spoilersCollapse )

Final Verdict: If you're into UF, this may be worth checking out though it definitely didn't wow me. It was good fun, but I've forgotten almost everything about it (which is why this review is so sloppy. Sorry!) I remember it having a decent mystery, the police procedures are described realistically, Kara is a likable MC and watching her push her struggles made it easy to root for her. I may check out the rest of the series one day, but I'm in no particular rush to do so at the moment.

Cover Commentary: I actually really like this cover, despite it looking kind of generic and like a lot of other PNR books (though I wouldn't consider this book PNR). It has a nice matte finish as well, which has kind of a swirly design overlapping the image.
OMG GUYS I'M ALIVE!! Before jumping into this post, I just want to give a quick update for what's going on with this poor neglected blog.

The truth of the matter is, grad school has been kicking my ass. The assignments are a lot easier, but the work-load is 10000x heavier. Also, I was ridiculously home-sick for the first little while after moving, which impeded my motivation to blog. And then things got busier and busier with school and before I knew it, I was completely swamped.

Anyway, I saw this week's theme for Top Ten Tuesday (run by The Broke and the Bookish) and thought it was a really fun theme, and this week is actually quiet for me (the calm before the storm -- last week is my last week this term and everything is due then), so I decided to take advantage of this chance to actually post something!!

Now, I don't expect to get back to blogging regularly until the holiday season. I finish school on December 7th (SO EXCITED), and I definitely plan on catching up. Because of school, I haven't had a chance to read a whole lot (I've read 13 books [one DNF])since moving -- I used to be able to read that many books in a single month!!) so it shouldn't be too hard. I'm hoping that now that I know what the LIS program is like I'll be able to work around it much more effectively next semester in January.

Anyway, on to this post. I decided to do something a little easier and that would require less thinking. Also, the end of the year is almost upon us, so I thought it would be fun to go over the books that I'm most anticipating in 2013. :) Without further ado, here they are (listed in a pseudo-chronological order, not order of preference -- also under a cut due to length):


My Most Anticipated Titles of 2013!Collapse )

And that's it! Of course there are other books that I'm excited to get my hands on, but I wanted to keep this list at ten items. I als noticed that these are all YA books -- I'm wondering if my list will change over the course of 2013 because there must be some non-YA books out there I really want.

So what are your most-anticipated books of this upcoming year? Let me know so I can add more titles to my (ever growing) wishlist. :D
Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues (2012)
Author: Diana Rowland
Publisher: DAW
Genre: Contemporary Fantasy, Mystery
Pages: 312 (mass market paperback)
Series: White Trash Zombie #2

Summary (from Goodreads.com)Collapse )

Why I Read It: I recently read and enjoyed My Life as a White Trash Zombie (my review is here), so I went out shortly after and bought this and put it on top of the reading queue. No spoilers for this book, but there will be spoilers MLaaWTZ.

REVIEW: spoilers for MLaaWTZ, but not EWTZGtBCollapse )

Final Verdict: I liked the direction that this second book took, and it felt like a natural progression from the first. Angel continues to be a likable character who I can't help but root for, and I enjoy watching her succeed and overcome the challenges she faces. Her character arc continues to be surprisingly touching and emotional, and is easily my favourite aspect of this series. The mystery in this book is on a much grander scale than the first, and was overall satisfying and kept me guessing, even when Angel made some leaps in logic to come to some answers. This series is a lot of fun, while also having some emotional heft, and I can't wait to read the third book, White Trash Zombie Apocalypse, due out in 2013.

Cover Commentary: I like this cover considerably less than the first. It's sort of the same style as the first, but way less aesthetically appealing. I'm also wondering why they wanted this kind of picture... Angel sitting on a toilet (with no toilet paper no less); I get that it represents things not going so well for Angel but.. I don't know. It just doesn't really work for me.

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