Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Top Ten Picks: Favorite Reads So Far This Year

Top Ten Picks is hosted by Jillian at Random Ramblings. This week, the topic is "Favorite Reads So Far This Year".

I knew I'd hit one of these Top Ten Picks that I couldn't make a complete list with. That's the case this week. I don't think I've even read ten books so far this year... let alone ten that I really liked! In fact, there are only four books that I reviewed and liked enough to give four or five ladybugs (stars) to:

Before I Fall
by Lauren Oliver

This was probably my favourite read of the whole year (so far, anyway). I really enjoyed the story and I loved the writing. If I had to choose just one book to recommend, it would be this one.

The Book of Lost Things
by John Connolly

This is a bit of a darker story (and classed as an adult book), so its appeal might not be as broad as some of the other titles on my list. But I really enjoyed this one. Sometimes it's nice to read something so creepy that it makes you shudder.

M Is for Magic
by Neil Gaiman

This is actually a collection of short stories rather than a novel, but I enjoyed it enough to give it a pretty good rating. While the collection as a whole is a bit hit-or-miss, there are a couple of real gems that make reading this one worthwhile.

The Summoning
by Kelley Armstrong

My most recent read, and my second-favourite YA title this year (after Before I Fall). A pretty good story and better-than-average writing make this one a treat for fans of paranormal fiction.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I just realized that, as of yesterday, I've had this blog for one full year! It sure doesn't seem like that long. I've reviewed 24 books, participated in quite a few memes, and met lots of lovely fellow book bloggers. I hope the coming year of blogging is as pleasant as the previous one has been.

Happy blogoversary to me! Now I need to go find something sweet to eat because that picture is making me hungry...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Review - The Summoning

The Summoning (Darkest Powers #1)
by Kelley Armstrong
Date: 2008
Publisher: HarperCollins
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 390
Format: paperback
Source: Indigo

When Chloe Saunders hits puberty and starts seeing ghosts, of course everyone thinks she's crazy. Before she knows it, she's been sent to Lyle House, a group home for troubled teens. But things are not quite what they seem, and Chloe must uncover the truth about Lyle House and its inhabitants.

I picked up The Summoning and The Awakening for $10 each a while back. I've only now gotten around to starting the series.

It's odd; I quite enjoyed The Summoning, even though I can't quite figure out what the plot was. I guess it was mostly to do with Chloe figuring out who (and what) she is.

I quite liked the characters. They were, for the most part, well-defined and interesting. In some books, all the characters are so similar that you can't quite figure out who's doing what. That's not the case here.

Kelley Armstrong is obviously not a brand-new writer, and it shows in the quality of her writing. Aside from a few weird typos, I didn't have too many problems with the text itself.

As for the story... Well, the pacing did seem a bit strange to me. For the longest time, it was just Chloe hanging around the group home, trying to make sense of her new powers and her new neighbours (although there was one wonderfully creepy scene in the basement that was pretty exciting). When things finally started happening toward the end of the book and questions started being answered, my reaction was, "Oh! Now we're getting somewhere." Unfortunately, we didn't really get anywhere before we were treated to a cliffhanger ending. I'm glad I've got The Awakening on hand, ready to read!

All in all, I found The Summoning to be an enjoyable read. Fans of paranormal fiction will eat it up!

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

Overall: 3.6 out of 5

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Top Ten Picks: Favorite Writers

Top Ten Picks is hosted by Jillian at Random Ramblings. This week, the topic is "Favorite Writers".

10. Kit Pearson
A Handful of Time; Awake and Dreaming

The first Kit Pearson book I read was A Handful of Time, which I really enjoyed. Then came the Guests of War trilogy. There's just something about this author's writing that transports you to another time and place. Though she writes mostly middle-grade fiction, her books can easily be enjoyed by other age groups.

9. Gail Carson Levine
Ella Enchanted; The Two Princesses of Bamarre

This middle-grade author is one of my favourites. Her fairytale-based stories are just so much fun... and her characters are unforgettable. Even if you've seen the movie version of Ella Enchanted, I recommend reading the book as well; they're so different, they can't really be compared.

8. Michelle Magorian
Goodnight Mister Tom; A Spoonful of Jam

Many people have probably heard of Goodnight Mister Tom. But this writer has authored a number of other highly enjoyable books. Many are set during or just after World War 2, so if you like recent historical fiction, you may enjoy Magorian's books.

7. Laura Whitcomb
A Certain Slant of Light; The Fetch

Though this author has only authored two novels so far, she's one of my favourites. Her style of writing is just... delicious. Very evocative without degenerating into purple prose. If I could read one book just for the writing itself, it would probably be A Certain Slant of Light. I was hooked by the prose from the very first page.

6. Lucy Maud Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables; Emily of New Moon

Historical Prince Edward Island, unforgettable characters, and a bit of romance. Do I really need to explain why this author is on the list?

5. Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility; Pride and Prejudice

This author is on my list even though I've never actually finished a Jane Austen novel (though I did make it more than halfway through Sense and Sensibility and I'm slowly -- very slowly! -- working my way through Pride and Prejudice). I have, however, seen most of Austen's works as movie adaptations, and I like the stories. It's wonderful to be able to experience a distant time and place through the writings of someone who was actually there.

4. Alison Baird
The Hidden World; The Witches of Willowmere

I loved The Hidden World, with its melding of present-day Newfoundland with a Celtic myth-based fantasy world. And then came the Willowmere Chronicles, which is probably my favourite YA book series of all time (well, so far). This Canadian author's books may not be that easy to find, but they're definitely worth checking out.

3. Charles de Lint
Yarrow; Trader

Here's another Canadian author that I really like. While I haven't been that crazy about some of his recent works, his older books are completely awesome. This guy is the king of urban fantasy. Most of his books are for adults, though he has written a few for younger readers. I highly recommend The Blue Girl, one of his YA titles.

2. Beverly Cleary
Ramona the Brave; Ramona's World

How could I have a list of favourite authors without Beverly Cleary? This writer was one of my favourites when I was a kid. I eagerly read all of the books about Ramona Quimby and her family. And then I read many of her other titles as well, getting acquainted with Henry Huggins and Ellen Tebbits and Leigh Botts. Cleary's books are classics, and I hope kids will be reading them for generations to come.

1. Diana Wynne Jones
Fire and Hemlock; Howl's Moving Castle

If I had to pick one author who wrote the largest number of books that I enjoyed the most, it would have to be Diana Wynne Jones. This fantasy author has been writing for years, so there are many stories to choose from. My favourites are Fire and Hemlock and Howl's Moving Castle... but Dogsbody, The Homeward Bounders, Hexwood, and Deep Secret are all highly entertaining as well.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What should I read?

Hey, fellow book bloggers! I've got a ton of stuff in my TBR pile, and I have no idea what to read next. I know that a lot of people have read these particular books, so I'm hoping for some recommendations. I don't want to be disappointed (as has happened so often lately), so I'd like some advice on what I should read next. Here's what's in the pile (well, some of what's in the pile -- I'd like to concentrate on completing some challenges); let me know if there are any books that I just have to crack open ASAP:

Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox
Evil? by Timothy Carter
The Faerie Door by B. E. Maxwell
Ice by Sarah Beth Durst
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Storm Glass by Maria V. Snyder
The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong
Wicked by Gregory Maguire

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Top Ten Picks: Literary 'Crushes'!

Top Ten Picks is hosted by Jillian at Random Ramblings. This week, the topic is "Literary 'Crushes'".

To save you the disappointment, I'm going to say up front that nobody named Edward, Jacob, or Patch appears on this list. Okay... now that that's out of the way, here we go!

10. Howl from Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Let's be clear here: I like Howl from the book... not from the movie. Seeing the moviemakers turn such a fun, complex character into a brooding, effeminate emo was rather devastating. I must admit that I did develop a bit of a crush on Howl while reading the book; he was mysterious, funny, and occasionally sulky, but underneath it all he really did have a good heart.

9. Stephen from I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Stephen wasn't even one of the main love interests in this wonderful story, but he pretty much stole the show (and a lot of female readers' hearts). You can sum up Stephen in one word: sweet. And when it seems like all the leading men in today's books are of the "bad boy" type, it's refreshing to read about someone who's pretty much the opposite.

8. Tom from Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

I'm a bit of a sucker for a tragic figure (as you can probably tell by this list). Tom was a nice guy... with one heck of a life-complicating secret. He's also a classically trained musician, so he gets extra points in my book. And, unlike many of today's older male love interests, he doesn't actively pursue the underage girl (it would have been rather icky if he had, considering he met Polly when she was only 10).

7. Josef Kavalier from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon

Here's another of those tragic characters. Joe certainly never had it easy. After all that happened to him during the course of the story, you just want to give him a big hug and tell him everything will be okay. He's a talented artist as well as an amateur illusionist (with Houdini being one of his heroes), and I thought that made him all the more interesting.

6. Silver from The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee

Silver is actually a robot. A very lifelike robot. I'm not usually into science fiction, but The Silver Metal Lover is, at its heart, a romance. It's one of those stories that you can't stop thinking about... and Silver is a big reason why. He's got a better personality than most of the human characters in the story, and he seems a heck of a lot kinder, too... which ultimately makes you question what being human is really all about.

5. Frederick Garland from The Ruby in the Smoke and The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman

Oh, Fred. What can I say about Fred? He's a kind-hearted photographer who has quite a bit of respect for women (these books take place in Victorian England). I wouldn't mind having Fred all to myself...

4. Henry DeTamble from The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I know this book is not a favourite of some, but I loved it. And I really liked Henry. I thought he was a good, strong character. He had to be, going through life knowing what was to come (good and bad). The way he handled it all made me like him even more.

3. Argul from the Claidi Journals by Tanith Lee

Argul is mysterious, teasing, and a fierce protector. I quite liked this guy from the first moment he stepped onto the page. Unfortunately, Claidi spends much of the series separated from Argul and trying to get back to him, so we don't see all that much of him (which is kind of disappointing). He's such a neat character that it would be cool to see a story just about him (perhaps regarding his formative years).

2. The Prince from The Light Princess by George MacDonald

I don't think this character even has a name, other than "the prince". He came from a far-off land to try to find a wife... and instead found a princess with no gravity (literally or figuratively). This guy makes my list because he's willing to make a huge sacrifice for the woman he loves.

1. Eugenides from The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

I love this character! He's probably one of my all-time favourites, literary crush or not. He's just such a fun, cheeky character, and seems like he'd be an absolute blast to be around. Of course, as happens in real life, people change... and not always for the better. My literary crush only applies to Gen as he appeared in The Thief... and not in the sequels.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Review - M Is for Magic

M Is for Magic
by Neil Gaiman

This is a book of short stories, so I can't really summarize much. Overall, it was sort of a mixed bag for me. Some of the stories I really liked... and some of them I really didn't.

M Is for Magic is classified as a middle-grade book, but I'm not sure that all parents would find all of the stories suitable for their kids. There was a bit of bad language (though I can't remember what it was at the moment), and a naked troll who is described... well, in detail. If you don't want your 10-year-olds reading about mythological creatures with hairy penises, then you should probably give this book a pass.

I'm not normally a huge fan of short stories. They make me feel like I'm in high school again, and I always feel like there's going to be a test later. For me, a short story is too short. I don't really get a chance to care about the characters or what happens to them. So I have to give Gaiman some credit here: he managed to make me care about a few of the characters in a couple of the stories.

The highlights here are "Chivalry", about an old lady who finds the Holy Grail at the Oxfam shop, and "The Witch's Headstone", a story about a boy who lives among the ghosts in a graveyard, which later went on to form part of The Graveyard Book (and now I must read that!). Other stories, such as "The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds" and "Don't Ask Jack" didn't hold my interest at all.

I'm not really sure how to rate this one. Gaiman writes well, and when he's good, he's very good. In any case, I think I'll have to alter my ratings a bit to reflect a book of short stories.

Enjoyment: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Originality: 5/5
Selection: 3/5

Overall: 3.75 out of 5