Saturday, February 27, 2010

On My Wishlist (1)

On My Wishlist is a meme hosted at Book Chick City.

As you can see from the widget in my sidebar (if you're patient enough to watch all the covers cycle through), I have quite a few books on my wishlist. Here are a few that I can't wait to get my hands on:

The Puzzle Ring
by Kate Forsyth

Hannah Rose Brown is twelve years old when she finds out that her family is cursed. Desperate to find the truth about her father's disappearance, she travels to her ancestral home in Scotland, and discovers a chain of dark secrets that plunge her into different worlds, timeframes and dangers...

This one looks so good! And I've heard good things about it, too. At the moment, it appears to be most readily available in the UK. I did find it for sale on, but it's got one heck of a wait time. So I think I'll wait until it's released in the U.S.A. Does anyone have any idea when that'll be?

by Rosemary Van Deuren

In the world of the rabbits, she is hailed as a savior.
In the world of men, a holy man wants her dead.
She is twelve years old.

In an isolated European farm town in 1906, a Pastor known as 'the rabbit killer' is preaching that the overrun of rabbits is a parallel for sin and corruption. But when Cora - a farmer's daughter - befriends a rogue rabbit named Basajaun, she becomes enmeshed in a hierarchy of sentient rabbit armies and ceremony. Soon the secret behind the rabbits plight is unraveling, and Cora is fighting to save the lives of those she loves - as well as her own.

I'm not usually drawn to self-published books, but this one looks pretty interesting (and the cover's not bad, either). The reviews I've heard are pretty positive, too.

Charlotte Sometimes
by Penelope Farmer

It's natural to feel a little out of place when you're the new girl, but when Charlotte Makepeace wakes up after her first night at boarding school, she's baffled: everyone thinks she's a girl called Clare Mobley, and even more shockingly, it seems she has traveled forty years back in time to 1918. In the months to follow, Charlotte wakes alternately in her own time and in Clare's. And instead of having only one new set of rules to learn, she also has to contend with the unprecedented strangeness of being an entirely new person in an era she knows nothing about. Her teachers think she's slow, the other girls find her odd, and, as she spends more and more time in 1918, Charlotte starts to wonder if she remembers how to be Charlotte at all. If she doesn't figure out some way to get back to the world she knows before the end of the term, she might never have another chance.

This is a bit of an old one (first published in 1969), but I've never read it and it looks really good. I love a good time-travel story.

Brightly Woven
by Alexandra Bracken

When Wayland North brings rain to a region that's been dry for over ten years, he's promised anything he'd like as a reward. He chooses the village elder's daughter, sixteen-year-old Sydelle Mirabel, who is a skilled weaver and has an unusual knack for repairing his magical cloaks. Though Sydelle has dreamt of escaping her home, she's hurt that her parents relinquish her so freely and finds herself awed and afraid of the slightly ragtag wizard who is unlike any of the men of magic in the tales she's heard. Still, she is drawn to this mysterious man who is fiercely protective of her and so reluctant to share his own past.

The pair rushes toward the capital, intent to stop an imminent war, pursued by Reuel Dorwan (a dark wizard who has taken a keen interest in Sydelle) and plagued by unusually wild weather. But the sudden earthquakes and freak snowstorms may not be a coincidence. As Sydelle discovers North's dark secret and the reason for his interest in her and learns to master her own mysterious power, it becomes increasingly clear that the fate of the kingdom rests in her fingertips. She will either be a savior, weaving together the frayed bonds between Saldorra and Auster, or the disastrous force that destroys both kingdoms forever.

This one hasn't been released yet, but it's close. Only a few more weeks to go! It sounds like the type of fantasy story I'd like.

Of course there's more on my wishlist. But I need to save some books for future weeks!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Word verification Balderdash (24)

This fun meme was started by Sheila over at One Persons Journey through a world of Books, and is now hosted by Ryan G of Wordsmithonia.
This is the weekly meme where anyone who wishes to play along can take those crazy word verifications they have had over the past week and apply a fake definition to them (much like how you play the board game Balderdash).

Here are this week's words:

barybro - noun - a slang term, used mostly by medical professionals, that refers to an obese male sibling

coshid - noun - a type of insect that was named after its distinctive nocturnal call of "coshhhh"; coshids are pale peach in colour, have a segmented exoskeleton, and are about two inches long, an appearance which leads them to be mistaken for severed human pinky fingers

gradnest - noun - a cocoon of dirty clothes, food-encrusted plates, and university course catalogs that is assembled (usually in a bedroom) by a recent high-school graduate

oppeg - noun - an opportunity to pass the blame to another person

tortingl - noun - the characteristic high-pitched squeal given off by some pastries when they are cooked at a high temperature

unguhho - noun - a type of throat phlegm that is produced by eating a certain food (rather than by illness); in some people, food allergies can make unguhho quite copious and problematic

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Teaser Tuesdays (13)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Today's Teaser:

The warmth of the sun on her face brought Sophie three-dimensional again. She blinked and breathed deeply, the pungent smell of fresh-cut grass cutting through the fug of waterproofed raincoats and formaldehyde.

~ page 1 - The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson

I haven't actually started this book yet, hence the teaser from page 1. I don't want to spoil it for myself!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Review - Darklight

Darklight (Wondrous Strange #2)
by Lesley Livingston
Date: 2009
Publisher: HarperTeen
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 310
Format: paperback
Source: Indigo

Much has changed since autumn, when Kelley Winslow learned she was a Faerie princess, fell in love with changeling guard Sonny Flannery, and saved the mortal realm from the ravages of the Wild Hunt.

Now Kelley is stuck in New York City, rehearsing Romeo and Juliet and missing Sonny more with every stage kiss, while Sonny has been forced back to the Otherworld and into a deadly game of cat and mouse with the remaining Hunters and Queen Mabh herself.

When a terrifying encounter sends Kelley tumbling into the Otherworld, her reunion with Sonny is joyful but destined to be cut short. An ancient, hidden magick is stirring, and a dangerous new enemy is willing to risk everything to claim that power. Caught in a web of Faerie deception and shifting allegiances, Kelley and Sonny must tread carefully, for each next step could topple a kingdom... or tear them apart.

With breathtakingly high stakes, the talented Lesley Livingston delivers soaring romance and vividly magical characters in Darklight, the second novel in the trilogy that began with Wondrous Strange.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I know I usually start off my reviews with a quick summary of the story, but this time I'm truly at a loss. And that's not a good thing.

I enjoyed Wondrous Strange enough to want to search out the sequel. Unfortunately, Darklight falls victim to the second-book curse. The writing is fairly good, but the plot is sorely lacking. I was more than halfway through the book when I realized that I had no idea what the plot was. After finishing the book, I'm still not sure. It seems to be a series of seemingly unrelated incidents that lead up to a major revelation about one of the characters and a cliffhanger ending.

Fans of the series will want to find out what happens next, of course. I'm going to be on the lookout for the next book so I can find out what happens to Kelley and Sonny. But I wasn't impressed with this part of the trilogy. I'm sure what happened in Darklight will turn out to be an important and integral part of the story... but at the moment it's left me unsatisfied and a little frustrated.

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Originality: 3/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

In My Mailbox (10)

What's the only thing better than getting a bunch of new books? Getting a great deal on those new books, of course! I found some absolutely phenomenal deals at the bookstore yesterday. I got five new books for under $25. At regular price, those five books cost $125. Now that's what I call a bargain!

Here's what I got:

The Gargoyle
by Andrew Davidson

An extraordinary debut novel of love that survives the fires of hell and transcends the boundaries of time.

The narrator of The Gargoyle is a very contemporary cynic, physically beautiful and sexually adept, who dwells in the moral vacuum that is modern life. As the book opens, he is driving along a dark road when he is distracted by what seems to be a flight of arrows. He crashes into a ravine and suffers horrible burns over much of his body. As he recovers in a burn ward, undergoing the tortures of the damned, he awaits the day when he can leave the hospital and commit carefully planned suicide—for he is now a monster in appearance as well as in soul.

A beautiful and compelling, but clearly unhinged, sculptress of gargoyles by the name of Marianne Engel appears at the foot of his bed and insists that they were once lovers in medieval Germany. In her telling, he was a badly injured mercenary and she was a nun and scribe in the famed monastery of Engelthal who nursed him back to health. As she spins their tale in Scheherazade fashion and relates equally mesmerizing stories of deathless love in Japan, Iceland, Italy, and England, he finds himself drawn back to life—and, finally, in love. He is released into Marianne's care and takes up residence in her huge stone house. But all is not well. For one thing, the pull of his past sins becomes ever more powerful as the morphine he is prescribed becomes ever more addictive. For another, Marianne receives word from God that she has only twenty-seven sculptures left to complete—and her time on earth will be finished.

Already an international literary sensation, The Gargoyle is an Inferno for our time. It will have you believing in the impossible.

The Explosionist
by Jenny Davidson

A series of mysteries.

An explosion of truths.

The Explosionist: Someone sets off a bomb outside fifteen-year-old Sophie's boarding school, but no one can figure out who.

The Medium: Soothsayers and séance leaders are regular guests at her great-aunt's house in Scotland, but only one delivers a terrifying prophecy, directed at Sophie herself.

The Murder: When the medium is found dead, Sophie and her friend Mikael know they must get to the bottom of these three mysteries in order to save themselves—even as the fate of all Europe hangs in the balance.

Set in a time of subversive politics, homegrown terrorism, and rapidly changing alliances, The Explosionist is an extraordinarily accomplished debut novel for teens that delivers a glimpse of the world as it might have been—had one moment in history been altered.

The Summoning
by Kelley Armstrong

My name is Chloe Saunders and my life will never be the same again.

All I wanted was to make friends, meet boys, and keep on being ordinary. I don't even know what that means anymore. It all started on the day that I saw my first ghost—and the ghost saw me.

Now there are ghosts everywhere and they won't leave me alone. To top it all off, I somehow got myself locked up in Lyle House, a "special home" for troubled teens. Yet the home isn't what it seems. Don't tell anyone, but I think there might be more to my housemates than meets the eye. The question is, whose side are they on? It's up to me to figure out the dangerous secrets behind Lyle House . . . before its skeletons come back to haunt me.

The Awakening
by Kelley Armstrong

If you had met me a few weeks ago, you probably would have described me as an average teenage girl—someone normal. Now my life has changed forever and I'm as far away from normal as it gets. A living science experiment—not only can I see ghosts, but I was genetically altered by a sinister organization called the Edison Group. What does that mean? For starters, I'm a teenage necromancer whose powers are out of control; I raise the dead without even trying. Trust me, that is not a power you want to have. Ever.

Now I'm running for my life with three of my supernatural friends—a charming sorcerer, a cynical werewolf, and a disgruntled witch—and we have to find someone who can help us before the Edison Group finds us first. Or die trying.

The Head Trip: Adventures on the Wheel of Consciousness
by Jeff Warren

A world at once familiar and unimaginably strange exists all around us, and within us – it is the vast realm of consciousness. In The Head Trip, science journalist Jeff Warren explores twelve distinct, natural states of consciousness available to us in a twenty-four-hour day, each state offering its own kind of knowledge and insight – its own adventure. The hypnagogic state, when our minds hover between waking and sleeping, can be a rich source of creativity and even compassion. Then there’s the Watch, an almost magical waking experience in the middle of the night that has been all but lost to electric light and modern sleep patterns. Daydreaming and trance, lucid dreaming, the Zone, and the Pure Conscious Event – from sleep laboratory to remote northern cabin, neurofeedback clinic to Buddhist retreat, Warren visits them all. Along the way, he talks to neuroscientists, chronobiologists, anthropologists, monks, and many others who illuminate his stories with cutting-edge science and age-old wisdom.

On this trip, all are welcome and no drugs are required: all you need to pack are a functioning cerebrum and an open mind. Replete with stylish graphics and brightened by comic panels conceived and drawn by the author, The Head Trip is an instant classic, a brilliant and original description of the shifting experience of consciousness that’s also a practical guide to enhancing creativity and mental health. This book does not just inform and entertain – it shows how every one of us can expand upon the ways we experience being alive.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Canadian Teen Picks

I got an interesting e-mail today from (which is, for those who might be unaware, a bookselling chain similar to the U.S.'s Barnes & Noble... it even has the in-store Starbucks). The e-mail linked to a list of 50 books, favourites from a group of 1000 Canadian teens. I thought some of the choices were quite interesting. The top 10 were:

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
  2. Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer
  3. The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien
  4. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
  5. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  6. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
  7. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
  8. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
  9. The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
  10. Holes by Louis Sachar

I found the list intriguing. I have a feeling some of the titles ended up on the list simply because they're new and popular (and fresh in the readers' minds). However, the inclusion of some older titles (such as The Outsiders and Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl at #19) shows that teens are still reading and enjoying some of the older "classic" books. Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Hobbit also made the list.

I don't really understand #1 (I didn't enjoy the last Harry Potter book; the first three titles in the series are the best, in my opinion). I think I understand #2; it's probably partially a backlash against Breaking Dawn, which a lot of people hated... but I'm not sure why Eclipse would have beaten out Twilight as a favourite. I can't speak for #5, as I haven't read either of those books yet... but it's interesting that the second book was picked over the first. Was Catching Fire really better than The Hunger Games? Or was it just fresher in the reader's mind?

I can't really remember what I was reading when I was a teen. I don't think I read that much. I've always enjoyed reading, but when I had to read so many god-awful, boring books for school, I tended not to want to pick up any other books. (During my first year of university, I kind of went on a reading blitz. I read a ton of stuff... mostly classics, if I remember correctly. I was kind of like a dehydrated man in the desert who'd finally found a water source!) So while I couldn't really tell you what my list of top books would be if I'd actually made it as a teen, I could probably make a pretty good list today of books that I wish I could have read back then:

  1. Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones
  2. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  3. A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
  4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  5. Trader by Charles de Lint
  6. Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery
  7. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  8. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  9. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  10. The Giver by Lois Lowry

Oh, and there are so many more...

What would be your top 10 books to recommend to teens?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Word verification Balderdash (23)

This fun meme was started by Sheila over at One Persons Journey through a world of Books, and is now hosted by Ryan G of Wordsmithonia.
This is the weekly meme where anyone who wishes to play along can take those crazy word verifications they have had over the past week and apply a fake definition to them (much like how you play the board game Balderdash).

Here are this week's words:

dionster - noun - a mythical beast from Canadian folklore; the dionster has a deceptively beautiful voice that it uses to afflict its victims with earworms, leading to eventual insanity

ducon - noun - a person who has been conned twice by the same conman; ducons have never heard the saying, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

mesupe - verb - to fail with a certain amount of grace and class

outewn - verb - to have grossed someone out more than the last person who tried to do so

siakiero - noun - a spectacular fall during a downhill skiing race

somoopt - verb - to be physically exhausted by an activity that is not generally physically exhausting (such as wine-tasting or playing World of Warcraft)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

"Waiting On" Wednesday (4)

"Waiting On" Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Prophecy of Days - Book One: The Daykeeper's Grimoire
by Christy Raedeke
coming May 1, 2010...

When her safe-cracker mom and code-breaker dad inherit a Scottish castle on the Isle of Huracan, sixteen-year-old Caity Mac Fireland is the only one in the family who's not happy about it. Ripped from her cushy life in San Francisco, taken away from her best friend Justine whom she's known since preschool, and relocated to the dreary island fortress, Caity's secret fantasy of being discovered by a Hollywood agent, talent scout, or even just a pageant coach seems more unlikely than ever.

But when Caity stumbles across a hidden room in the castle, its walls covered in strange symbols, her life takes a bizarre turn. She finds herself center stage in an international conspiracy involving warring secret societies (complete with their own scouts, double agents, and assassins), the suppressed revelations of the Mayan Calendar and the year 2012, plus the fate of humanity. With the help of her friend Justine back home, and Alex, the mysterious and gorgeous boy next door, Caity must rely on her own courage and creativity as she races to decipher the code and reveal its message to the world before time runs out.

I think this sounds pretty darn cool. Of course, I'm kind of a sucker for stories set in Scottish castles...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Strange moments in the world of book blogging/marketing...

People really, really want to win a copy of Linger, don't they? When I had a look at my subs this morning, it looked like about a third of the posts were about Maggie Stiefvater's upcoming Linger (the sequel to Shiver). So I followed the provided links and discovered that all of these posts are basically just contest entries (post an ad, maybe win a book).

From a marketing perspective, this is pretty smart. You're getting publicity for your book all over the book blogosphere, and familiarizing readers with the cover so that, when it's released in stores, people will know what to look for. Giving people extra entries for using the book cover as their profile pic on social networking sites? Genius.

From a book blog reader's perspective, though, this is all kind of annoying. Hence my mixed feelings about this. I understand why it's being done, but that doesn't mean it's any less frustrating to sort through my subs to find something to read that isn't -- let's face it -- a form of spam.

I'm curious about how this might relate to the new FTC guidelines. After all, there is an advertising relationship here: people are being compensated (albeit with contest entries) in exchange for posting advertisements. That sounds awfully similar to the main issue that these guidelines were created to address:

... Engle said the revised guidelines are aimed at advertisers and marketers, not individual bloggers. She cited a Procter & Gamble campaign called “Vocalpoint,” which provided “400,000 moms” with free products in exchange for endorsements made via blog posts and tweets.

I don't know. Maybe I'm just getting jaded. It seems the publishing industry has gone from an industry that once provided a mouthpiece for genuinely talented storytellers into a money-focused industry that will publish just about anything as long as they think people will buy it. Perhaps it's always been that way, but I certainly don't remember reading as many bad books in the past as I've read lately. Typos, plot holes, questionable messages for the target audience... and that's not even taking into account the self-published stuff!

What do you think? Do you like contests that basically force you to become an advertiser? What about publishing today? Have you noticed a downward spiral as of late... or were things always this shoddy and avaricious in the publishing industry?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'm Having A Bad Day

This is not a great day. It's not the worst day, but it's making me wish there was a reset button.

First, my computer got infected with multiple Trojans. I've now spent the better part of five hours fixing the problem. Or trying to fix it. Something is still trying cause a buffer overflow.

Second, I woke up at some ungodly hour this morning and couldn't get back to sleep. So I'm bleary and cranky and my brain is half asleep (but I know that if I have a nap, I won't sleep at all tonight; my body likes to be inconvenient like that).

Third, a telephone appointment that I had to wait weeks to get was cancelled at the last minute. Goodness knows when that'll be rescheduled for. With my luck, probably July.

It's days like this that make me wonder if the universe is trying to send me a message (namely: "Just give up, curl into a ball, and die, please.")

Where's a graphic of a ladybug blowing raspberries when you need one?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Review - Savvy

Savvy (Savvy #1)
by Ingrid Law
Date: 2008
Publisher: Dial
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 342
Format: hardcover
Source: Indigo

For generations, the Beaumont family has harbored a magical secret. They each possess a "savvy" -- a special supernatural power that strikes when they turn thirteen. Grandpa Bomba moves mountains, her older brothers create hurricanes and spark electricity... and now it's the eve of Mibs's big day.

As if waiting weren't hard enough, the family gets scary news two days before Mibs's birthday: Poppa has been in a terrible accident. Mibs develops the singular mission to get to the hospital and prove that her new power can save her dad. So she sneaks onto a salesman's bus... only to find the bus heading in the opposite direction. Suddenly Mibs finds herself on an unforgettable odyssey that will force her to make sense of growing up -- and of other people, who might also have a few secrets hidden just beneath the skin.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I started reading this book last year... but I got sidetracked. It wasn't that I wasn't enjoying what I was reading. This book just got pushed down the list of priorities. But I've finished it now, so here are my thoughts.

Mibs Beaumont belongs to a very special family. She and her siblings all have a savvy, which is a special sort of power that manifests on their thirteenth birthday. Her older brothers can manipulate electricity and cause hurricanes. Mibs is looking forward to her birthday and finding out what her savvy might be. But on the eve of the special day, her father is in an accident. Mibs thinks that she might be able to do something to help, so along with the pastor's kids and two of her brothers, she stows away on a pink bus, hoping to make her way to the hospital and put things right.

My favourite part of this book was the way it was written. Mibs's descriptions were evocative, sometimes funny, and very age-appropriate. You never quite forget that a 13-year-old girl is the narrator. She has a voice all her own, one that is quite distinctive. She makes up quite a few words, but it's not as annoying as, say, Georgia Nicolson's habit of continually using made-up words ending in "-osity".

I do have a couple of issues with this book, however. This is a middle grade read intended for kids aged 9 to 12. I question whether showing children (some as young as seven) stowing away on a strange man's bus is a wise idea... no matter how good the children's intentions were.

My other issue was with the ending. In my view, the author blew it (for me, anyway) on literally the second-to-last page. It wasn't so much what happened that bothered me; it was that the rather disgusting lack of responsibility on the part of the parents -- given the current circumstances -- was not addressed at all. (Sorry if that sounds cryptic. I don't want to spoil the ending for people who might want to read the book.)

So, overall, I quite enjoyed Savvy... up until the penultimate page, which kind of soured me on all that came before. Not everyone will be put off by the issue that annoyed me, though, so I'd recommend reading this book anyway, if only for the unforgettable characters and Mibs's unique voice.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Originality: 5/5

Overall: 4 out of 5 - minus one bug for the ending

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Word verification Balderdash (22)

This fun meme was started by Sheila over at One Persons Journey through a world of Books, and is now hosted by Ryan G of Wordsmithonia.
This is the weekly meme where anyone who wishes to play along can take those crazy word verifications they have had over the past week and apply a fake definition to them (much like how you play the board game Balderdash).

Here are this week's words:

alids - plural noun - a type of insect that manages to get into closed containers, no matter how tightly you screw on the tops

comperpi - transitive verb - being an accomplice perpetrator to a crime

cotio - noun - a patio that has been enclosed and converted for use as a temporary bedroom with cots instead of beds

ingrubro - adjective - refers to having the skin covered with a seemingly indelible layer of dirt; the female equivalent is ingrubsis, but this is more rare

millneap - noun - a dusty waste product that is found on the floors of flax mills

upega - magical exclamation - a word used to compel Pegasi to take flight