Sunday, October 31, 2010

In My Mailbox (25)

The Dark Divine
by Bree Despain

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared -- the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in his own blood -- but she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night held.

The memories her family has tried to bury resurface when Daniel returns, three years later, and enrolls in Grace and Jude's high school. Despite promising Jude she'll stay away, Grace cannot deny her attraction to Daniel's shocking artistic abilities, his way of getting her to look at the world from new angles, and the strange, hungry glint in his eyes.

The closer Grace gets to Daniel, the more she jeopardizes her life, as her actions stir resentment in Jude and drive him to embrace the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind the boy's dark secret... and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it -- her soul.

I know, I know.  I shouldn't be buying more books.  But I couldn't say "no" to the Kindle edition of The Dark Divine for $2.39!  For that price, I don't care that I'll have to read it on my computer screen.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Review - Mockingjay

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3)
by Suzanne Collins
Date: 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 390
Format: e-book
Source: bought from Kobo

Katniss has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now the Capitol is furious, and it will do everything in its power to stop the revolt that Katniss has unwittingly set in motion. Katniss joins the rebels, becoming their inspirational Mockingjay in an attempt to overthrow the corrupt and decadent regime headed by the evil President Snow.  It's a dangerous mission... but the people of Panem have had enough, and the rebellion grows stronger by the day.

Will Katniss be able to protect those she loves? Or is the Capitol still powerful enough to destroy everyone and everything she cares about?

And after all that... I have to say I'm pretty disappointed.

Beware of spoilers ahead!  Stop reading if you do not want the ending ruined!

I did not enjoy this book.  After flying through the first two installments in the series, I thought I was in for another treat.  I was wrong.  Instead of the rather unique and unusual circumstances of the first two books, we're instead given this mish-mash of combat scenes and Katniss crawling into various corners to hide.  The whole book seemed slapdash to me, thrown together at the last moment just to make a trilogy.  The tight plotting of the first book was gone.  The pacing was off.  And the characters grated on my nerves.  I think what bothered me the most was the lack of character development of Katniss.  But it's understandable because, when you get right down to it, she's really not that great of a main character.  She doesn't really do anything; she's basically used, abused, and kept in the dark throughout much of the series.  Things happen to her... but she doesn't really have much control over the situation.  She doesn't even handle these things very well.  That's not exactly what I like to see in a main character.

There were some things that I would have liked to see in this series.  One major thing that I wish Collins had written about was what went on behind the scenes of the Hunger Games.  Instead of Katniss going back into the arena for a second time (as she did in Catching Fire), I would have liked to see her act as a mentor to another tribute... and then perhaps proactively do something to start bringing down the government from the inside.  That would have been an interesting story.

Instead, we got a very depressing, very graphic depiction of war and resistance.  I finished the book last night and then had nightmares about watching people die for entertainment on reality TV (I'm not kidding).  While I get the underlying messages of the books, I just wish this third book had been a little more interesting (and perhaps a bit more optimistic).  It reminded me a lot of John Marsden's Tomorrow, When the War Began... only it didn't hold my interest nearly as well.

All in all, I quite liked the first two books, but if I had to do it over again, I would have stopped reading after The Hunger Games.  I probably would have been more satisfied than I am now... even with that first cliffhanger ending.

Plot: 1/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Overall: 2.4 out of 5

Share-A-Book Saturday (25)

This is something I found over on Just Another Book Addict =), and I thought I'd do my own. There are so many great books out there that get overlooked (especially if they've been out for a while)!

Every Saturday, you share (recommend) a book, preferably one that you haven't reviewed yet. It's just a way to get other books out into the blogging world. This is NOT a review.

Today I'm going to recommend The Princess in the Tower by Sharon Stewart.

Previously published as The Dark Tower, this riveting novel is written as the diary of Princess Marie Thérèse Charlotte of France, daughter of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, who was imprisoned during the French Revolution.  One by one her parents and her brother were taken from her - Louis and Marie Antoinette beheaded, her brother dead of neglect.  Though she lost everything, Mousseline, as she was called, was determined to be as brave and honourable as she could be during a time of tragedy and upheaval.  A gripping story about a real princess that history nearly forgot!

I read this book years ago, when it was published as The Dark Tower (which has a weird cover that makes you think the story is about ancient Greek or Roman royalty... not 18th-century French royalty!).  I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction, but I do enjoy it if it's good.  And this one was good.  It made an impression on me, because I remember it all these years later.  It was so interesting to see these well-known historical figures from the point of view of someone who knew and loved them.  And, even though we all know how this story must end, it's still heartbreaking when the inevitable events happen.  All of this took place before Marie-Thérèse's seventeenth birthday... and it's hard to imagine a teenager having to cope with so much.  The diary-style narrative sucks you in, making you feel like you're right there with the princess as she lives through some of the darkest days in French history.

If you enjoy historical fiction, this is definitely a book you should check out!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (8)

Book Blogger Hop

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

What is the one bookish thing you would love to have, no matter the cost?

I'd like my own Espresso Book Machine.  I think it would be a very fun thing to have.  You could self-publish all your own short stories, novellas, or novels in the comfort of your own home!  But at almost $100,000 (plus shipping), I don't think I'll be getting one of my own any time soon!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

WWW Wednesdays (3)

WWW Wednesdays is hosted at Should Be Reading.
To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
My answers:
What are you currently reading?

I'm reading Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.
What did you recently finish reading?

I recently finished Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick.  I also recently gave up on Alchemy and Meggy Swann because it was very boring.
What do you think you’ll read next?

I'm think I'm going to read The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell.

Review - Draw the Dark

Draw the Dark
by Ilsa J. Bick
Date: 2010
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Source: NetGalley

Seventeen-year-old Christian Cage is the outcast. The weird kid. People around him tend to die under mysterious circumstances, and Christian seem to be involved. Because he can tap into their worst nightmares... and draw their deaths.

In the tiny village of Winter, Wisconsin, everybody knows everybody else's business. Or so they thought. When Christian stumbles across a decades-old mystery, he becomes consumed by forces that he can't control.  Will he be able to follow the clues and put together the pieces before yet another person falls victim to his strange artistic talent?

(see it on Goodreads)

I didn't realize that the climax of this book would take place on Halloween.  Is that perfect timing or what?

When I first read about this book, I thought it sounded pretty interesting.  And it was.  It was pretty different from anything I'd read before, not least because the narrator is a 17-year-old boy (an unusual choice in young adult fiction, it seems).  But I quite liked Christian and his take on what was happening around him.  He seemed pretty real, and I was impressed that a female author could take on the voice of an adolescent boy and have it ring true.

As for the story, it was engaging enough to keep me reading, but I will admit that I hoped for a bit more of a payoff at the end.  There are so many loose ends that I'm wondering if there's going to be a sequel.  The story was pretty ambitious, incorporating some supernatural elements, and really had two major threads running through it: the first was the question of Christian's artistic powers and what they had to do with his mother's disappearance when he was small; the second was the 1945 murder mystery.  Only one of these was satisfactorily dealt with.  Overall, I'm not sure that both were needed.  And unless there's actually going to be a sequel, the ending was not that satisfying.

The writing was fairly solid, but there were some odd quirks that had me raising my eyebrows.  What on earth is a "hair's breath"?  There were a few things like that that the editor didn't catch.  But I did like the style that was used.  The story was told in the first person, in almost a stream-of-consciousness style at times.  It fit quite well with the atmosphere of the story.

There are some instances of foul language and graphic descriptions of violence.  Based on this (and on the subject matter itself), I'd say this is probably a book for older teens.

I don't think I've read anything quite like this before (although one particular element of the plot reminded me of Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr).  If you're looking to read some engaging young adult fiction with just a bit of a supernatural twist -- but you're tired of vampires, werewolves, and fairies -- you might really like this book.  I was certainly pleasantly surprised.

Thank you to NetGalley and Carolrhoda Books for providing a digital ARC.

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

Overall: 3.6 out of 5

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books for Halloween

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Books for Halloween:

10. Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey - It's got a vampire who hands out Halloween candy.  This is definitely a lighter take on the vampire myth, but a great choice for those who prefer flair over fangs.

9. Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston - It takes place in the days before the opening of the Samhain Gate (roughly around Halloween).

8. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson - This one features a doctor with an insane alter ego.  What's not to fear?

7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - Because the idea of not being allowed to read books is terrifying.

6. The Witches of Willowmere by Alison Baird - It's about witches (modern ones and historical accused ones).  While not particularly scary, this book does have an old stone mansion and enough supernatural elements to get you in the Halloween mood.

5. The Witches by Roald Dahl - This one is more amusing than truly scary, but it's a great book for younger readers looking for a spooky read.

4. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly - There were plenty of things in this book to give a person nightmares.  The Loups and the Huntress are enough to make you keep the lights on for weeks.

3. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield - In the tradition of creepy Gothic novels comes this tale of secrets.

2. Coraline by Neil Gaiman - The Other Mother.  Need I say more?

1. Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr - This is a deliciously creepy tale for young readers with a similar feel to Coraline.  Heck, it's kind of creepy for older readers, too; it gave me goosebumps.

Honourable mention:

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer - The birth scene reads like something out of a horror novelist's "too disgusting for publication" reject pile.  Do not read it on a stomach full of Halloween candy.  You'll be sorry.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Musing Mondays (24)

Musing Mondays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

About how many books (roughly) would you say you own? (If you don’t have a clue how many, do you care to know? Why, or why not?)

I have... way too many.  They're not all novels, though.  In fact, novels probably make up only half of my total collection.  I have a bookshelf full of books on everything from writing and collage to baking and spirituality.  Novels only take up one shelf.  But then I have a closet with a shelf full of more non-fiction titles, plus my TBR pile (which is actually a plastic drawer/bin that I keep beside my bed).  And let's not forget all the e-books that I have on my Kobo (which came with 100 free books to start with)...

So, yeah.  Way too many books.  I couldn't begin to guess at a number.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

In My Mailbox (24)

by Becca Fitzpatrick

Nora should have known her life was far from perfect.  Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up.  Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar.  Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.

The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl.  Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own.  Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again.  But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

by Emma Donoghue

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world.  It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play.  At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years.  Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack.  But she knows it's not enough... not for her or for him.  She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck.  What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

I have got to stop buying books! If only I could resist the temptation of sales and coupons. (It's not like I wasn't going to buy these two at some point, anyway. I just thought I would have gotten through a bit more of my TBR pile before I went and added stuff to it!)

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

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

Friday, October 22, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (7)

Book Blogger Hop

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week's question comes from:
Becky @ Becky's Barmy Book Blog

Where is your favorite place to read?  Curled up on the sofa, in bed, in the garden?

I do most of my reading in bed or sitting at the computer.  I much prefer the bed, snuggled under the covers, with either a brand new paperback or my Kobo.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Friday Fill-Ins (22)

Friday Fill-Ins:

1. One of my strongest beliefs is not shared by a lot of people... at least, not in this part of the world.

2. It's huge!

3. The sky is cloudy with a threat of rain and wind and cold, so I must be living in the Pacific Northwest.

4. A soft blanket is comforting to me.

5. I always thought I'd be happier.

6. I felt my werewolf genes start to kick in, and then I went outside to look at the full moon.  That was probably not the best idea.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to reading, tomorrow my plans include sitting around and Sunday, I want to go unicorn hunting (weather permitting, of course)!

Booking Through Thursday (22)

Booking Through Thursday asks:

Name a book (or books) from a country other than your own that you love. Or aren’t there any?

Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis.  It's a story set in British India, written by a German author, and translated by a British translator.  I'm Canadian... so that's all pretty foreign to me!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WWW Wednesdays (2)

WWW Wednesdays is hosted at Should Be Reading.
To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
My answers:
What are you currently reading?

I'm reading Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick and Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman.
What did you recently finish reading?

I recently finished 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson.
What do you think you’ll read next?

I'm going to read Mockingjay, of course.

Review - 100 Cupboards

100 Cupboards (100 Cupboards #1)
by N. D. Wilson
Date: 2007
Publisher: Yearling
Source: bought from Chapters

Twelve-year-old Henry York is sent to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm after his parents disappear.  The town of Henry, Kansas is small... but it's been keeping some big secrets.

One night, in his attic bedroom, Henry discovers a bunch of tiny cupboards under the plaster of the wall.  There are 99 of them, plus two compass knobs that spin.  Henry soon discovers that these are no ordinary cupboards: they actually lead to other worlds.

I started this book ages ago, then got sidetracked by a few other things (including The Hunger Games series) and only just finished this one this morning.  There's a reason: the pacing was awful.  This was a middle grade title, and I have a hard time believing that an 11-year-old kid would bother to slog through the boring first half of the book.  Not a lot seemed relevant.  The whole tumbleweed episode just seemed to take up space and didn't really have anything to do with the plot about the cupboards.  I was actually past the halfway point before the story really got going... and then I couldn't put it down.

Once Henry went through the cupboards for the first time, I was hooked.  There's a nifty little drawing in the front of the book with a key to the 99 cupboards (plus the compass knobs).  That aspect of the story reminded me a bit of the Myst video games, which is kind of cool.  All those worlds -- some good, some not so good -- have the potential for so many story angles.  100 Cupboards is actually the first book in a trilogy (the remaining books being Dandelion Fire and The Chestnut King).  I'm kind of curious to read the whole set now... as long as the other books have better pacing than the first one.  I guess a lot of the nonsense in the first half of 100 Cupboards was to set up certain aspects of the plot, but still... it was too long.

I wasn't crazy about some of the characters, either.  I'm guessing this book is geared toward boys, because the girls were portrayed as kind of stupid, weak, and reckless.  I did not like Uncle Frank.  He gave me the creeps.  Between the sexist way he treated his daughters (by favouring Henry over them), his violent poetry outbursts at the breakfast table, and the way he talked to yelled at his wife ("Quiet, woman!"), I wondered if he wasn't one of those men who beats his wife and kids when nobody's looking.  No, I did not like Uncle Frank.  I didn't mind him so much by the end of the book, but I still wasn't impressed with him.

The writing was fairly solid, though, and Henry was likable enough (even if he had been sheltered to the point of being an outright sissy by his parents).  There was some decent (albeit somewhat unrealistic) character growth in the main character, which is about all you can ask for (especially in the first book of a trilogy).  I'm not sure if middle graders would actually stick it out until the story got going.  But in the end, it turned out to be a pretty good fantasy story.

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

Overall: 3.4 out of 5

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Fictional Crushes

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Fictional Crushes.  (I actually did a similar post for Top Ten Picks, which you can see here.  It's been a while, though, and I've read more books, so I thought I'd update my list.)

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

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

8. Argul from the Claidi Journals by Tanith Lee

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

6. Daniel from My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

5. Tom from Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones

4. the prince from The Light Princess by George MacDonald

3. Farhad from Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis

2. Gale from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

1. Gen from The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Monday, October 18, 2010

Musing Mondays (23)

Musing Mondays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

Do you prefer hardcovers, trade paperbacks (the bigger ones), or mass market paperbacks (the smaller ones)? Why?

Good question.  I think it's a toss-up between hardcovers and trade paperbacks.  I hate mass market paperbacks (they smell funny).  Hardcovers are nice, but they can be heavy (and since I read in bed, it can be hard on the hands to hold a 600-page tome over your head).  Trade paperbacks are lighter, but some of them have the sort of cover that wants to curl like you've stuck it in a curling iron even though all you've done is hold the pages open (and that drives me crazy).

I'm kind of liking e-books at the moment, though.  They all weigh the same on my e-reader, there are no covers to curl, and they don't smell like anything at all.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

In My Mailbox (23)

by Suzanne Collins

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice.  But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe.  The Capitol is angry.  The Capitol wants revenge.  Who do they think should pay for the unrest?  Katniss.  And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either.  Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12.

From NetGalley:
The Vespertine
by Saundra Mitchell

The summer of 1889 is the one between childhood and womanhood for Amelia van den Broek — and thankfully, she’s not spending it at home in rural Maine.  She’s been sent to Baltimore to stay with her stylish cousin, Zora, who will show her all the pleasures of city life and help her find a suitable man to marry.

With diversions ranging from archery in the park to dazzling balls and hints of forbidden romance, Victorian Baltimore is more exciting than Amelia imagined.  But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset — visions that offer glimpses of the future.  Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies.  Newly dubbed "Maine’s Own Mystic", Amelia is suddenly quite in demand.

However, her attraction to Nathaniel, an artist who is decidedly outside of Zora's circle, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore.  This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own — still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.  And while she has no trouble seeing the futures of others, she cannot predict whether Nathaniel will remain in hers.

When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia's world is thrown into chaos.  And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.

I finally got Mockingjay!  Now I just have to get a chance to read it.  And doesn't The Vespertine sound cool?  I can't wait to read that one.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

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

Friday, October 15, 2010

Review - The Puzzle Ring

The Puzzle Ring
by Kate Forsyth
Date: 2009
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Source: bought from Dymocks

Hannah, a 12-year-old girl from Australia, discovers that she is the heir to a Scottish title, castle... and curse.  When she was just a baby, her father disappeared, and it was all thanks to the curse that has plagued the family for generations.

Hannah convinces her mother, confirmed skeptic Roz, to travel to Scotland so that she can investigate and perhaps figure out a way to break the curse.  Along with her new-found friends, Hannah journeys back in time to the 1500s in an attempt to find the four pieces of the puzzle ring... because only when they are joined together once more can the curse be broken.  But in her rash decision to try to break the curse, Hannah didn't consider one important question:  How will they ever get home again?

I'm a bit conflicted about this book.  I've been wanting to read it for ages, and when I got an e-book reader, I finally had a chance to do so (the paperback edition is not easy to come by in North America, so I read this book as a PDF).  At first, I thought it was going to be an interesting fantasy, full of fairy myths and legends and historical goodies.  The book did have all of those things (especially in the author's note at the end)... but it just didn't hold my interest, and I couldn't wait for it to be over.

I think the main issue that I had was that, going into it, I thought it was a young adult book.  It's not.  It falls squarely in the middle grade category.  Even then, it wasn't as good as I thought it could have been.  Certain passages had me cringing.  Adverb abuse was obvious.  The characters were one-dimensional, and the foreshadowing was pretty heavy handed.  Aside from Hannah needing to find the pieces of the puzzle ring, she also had to figure out which one of her friends was the "child of true blood".  I figured it out so early that the rest of the book didn't hold many surprises.  I also thought there were too many characters.  Max, for example, seemed like an afterthought, and I often wasn't sure where he was half the time.  I didn't particularly like any of the kids, and Roz's stubborn skepticism was particularly aggravating.

As for the plot, I felt it dragged on for far too long.  I know I should have expected a long story when the plot involves finding four pieces of a ring that were flung in the four directions of the compass, but still...  The sub-plot about Mary, Queen of Scots was almost unnecessary and only added more pages to an already overlong novel.  I think it could have worked just as well as a plain fantasy story.  Include the time travel, by all means, but leave out the political and historical intrigues; they weren't really needed.

I might have loved this book when I was about 11, but reading it as an adult was a bit excruciating.  Some middle grade books can be done really well and show the immaturity of the child protagonists without making you want to slap them.  Unfortunately, this book failed to do so, and didn't live up to my high expectations.  Unless you're actually in middle school and like historical fiction, I'd say give this one a pass.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 1/5
Writing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Overall: 2.4 out of 5

Book Blogger Hop (6)

Book Blogger Hop

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week's question comes from:
Christina @ The Paperback Princesses

When you read a book that you just can't get into, do you stick it out and keep reading or move to your next title?

Funny you should ask.  At the moment, I'm reading a book that I really haven't gotten into.  It's not so bad that I'm going to give up (which I will do if the book is bad enough... but it has to be pretty bad).  Generally, I try to finish all the books I start so I can review them honestly (and warn people away from them, if necessary).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review - Hunger

Hunger (Riders of the Apocalypse #1)
by Jackie Morse Kessler
Date: 2010
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 177
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Lisabeth Lewis, 17, is anorexic.  In the midst of a suicide attempt, she gets a visit from Death, who gives her an old set of scales and tells her to "go thee out unto the world" as Famine, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

As the eating disorder destroys her life, she travels on her black horse to the far corners of the earth, seeing the effects of hunger firsthand.  Determined to do something about it, Lisa unwittingly makes herself an enemy.  Can she overcome this new challenge as well as save herself?

(see it on Goodreads)

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this book.  I thought the premise sounded interesting (an anorexic teenager who becomes Famine... how fascinating!)... but ultimately, I wasn't that impressed.

I could never relate to Lisa, or to any of the other characters in the book, for that matter.  I think part of the problem was the writing.  It was third-person omniscient, and there was way too much telling (and not showing).  As a result, I always felt there was too much of a distance between the character and the reader... and that made it hard to care.  Most of the minor characters came off as caricatures, one-dimensional beings that I constantly felt like rolling my eyes at.  And I couldn't figure out the time period for a while.  Tammy, Suzanne, and Lisa?  I don't know any 17-year-olds with those names; I figured they were all born in the 1970s, until there was a mention of cell phones.  All told, the only character I really liked was Famine's horse, Midnight, with its penchant for pralines and rhododendrons.

Probably the most interesting part of the book for me was the author's note, but it also seemed a bit contradictory.  In one breath she mentions having briefly had bulimia and then getting over it without any sort of therapy... and in the next breath she says, "[eating disorders] sure aren't something people can just turn on and off.  Eating disorders are a disease."  I'm not sure what a person with an eating disorder is supposed to take from that apparent contradiction.  That the author didn't really have bulimia?  That she did have an eating disorder, but could turn it off?  I don't know.

All in all, I don't think I'd recommend this book.  The premise was interesting, but the whole book was light on plot and I just didn't find the characters engaging.

Thank you to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a digital ARC.

Plot: 1/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Overall: 2.4 out of 5

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

WWW Wednesdays (1)

WWW Wednesdays is hosted at Should Be Reading.
To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…
  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?
My answers:
What are you currently reading?

I'm reading 100 Cupboards by N.D. Wilson, Hunger by Jackie Morse Kessler, and The Puzzle Ring by Kate Forsyth.  I do not like reading three books at once.  Remind me not to do so again.
What did you recently finish reading?
I recently finished Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.  And now I really want to read Mockingjay... but I've got other books I need to read first!
What do you think you’ll read next?

After my current reads, I think I'll probably read Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick (simply because it's a time-sensitive galley and I want to read it before the clock runs out!).

Wishful Wednesdays (4)

Wishful Wednesdays is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

This week, I'm wishing for a couple of books by Suzanne Selfors.  They're not new new, but they're fairly recent (and I haven't read them yet!).  Coffeehouse Angel and Saving Juliet look like fun reads.  I hope I get a chance to read them soon!

What are you wishing for this Wednesday?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I'll Never Read

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Books I'll Never Read:

10.  The Second Short Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer - Seriously... Doesn't she have enough of our money yet?

9.  The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis - I read the first two books when I was younger, but I couldn't get into the rest of them.  And, quite frankly, finding out that they were Christian allegory made me feel like I'd been tricked.  I have no desire to read the rest of the books now.

8.  The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien - I tried to read the first one, but it was so boring.  Even the movie seemed too long and dull.  They may be classics, but I just can't get into them.  I did enjoy The Hobbit, though.

7.  anything self-published, even if it has a 5-star rating on Amazon - Been there, done that, wanted to gouge my eyes out and bash my head against the wall.  After my experience with Basajaun, I've developed a phobia of self-published novels.  (Okay, never say never.  I might one day read another self-published novel.  But I need to first figure out how tell what's good and what isn't.  The star ratings certainly don't help!)

6.  Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding - This was required reading in university.  Worst book ever!  Seriously.  I couldn't get past the first 20 pages.  I was, quite literally, bored to tears.  I used Coles Notes to write my essay and pass the course.  I have no desire to ever pick this up and read the whole thing.

5.  anything by Ernest Hemingway - He's overrated, in my opinion.  I had to read The Sun Also Rises in high school.  I hated it.  My mom had to read The Old Man and the Sea.  She hated it.  Maybe we have some sort of anti-Hemingway gene...

4.  anything by Shannon Hale - Her books may be good; I don't know.  But I found her attitude toward people who didn't enjoy Breaking Dawn to be condescending and rude.  It's one thing to stick up for a fellow author... but you shouldn't insult intelligent readers when you do so.

3.  Emma by Jane Austen - I've tried to read this book, but I just can't get into it.  It's probably my least favourite of the Austen stories.  I don't mind the movie versions (the newest one produced by the BBC was really good), but I don't think I'll ever actually read the book.

2.  Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë - I just don't understand the appeal.  I tried to read this book twice, and gave up both times.  I've seen the movie, so I know I'm not missing much except creepy family dynamics and dysfunctional romantic relationships.  No wonder this is Bella and Edward's favourite book.

1.  The Da Vinci Code - I've got it sitting on my bookshelf, mostly unread.  It seemed like they were never going to escape from the Louvre.  So I quit.  When you want to yell at a book, "Get on with it, already!" you know it's time to give up.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Monday's Question of the Day (21)

Monday's Question of the Day is hosted by Eleni at /-LA FEMME READERS-/

Despite numerous complaints, why do authors continually create YA heroines who fall for the jerk hero?  (Credit goes to: Tori from Book Faery)

My Answer:
That's a really good question.  Personally, I can't stand heroines who fall for the jerk.  I feel like slapping some of them (*cough*BellaSwan*cough*).  Maybe YA heroines are written that way because so many teenagers have fallen for jerks.  I really don't know; that wasn't my experience.  Jerkiness was a big turn-off for me.

Perhaps there's a touch of Schadenfreude in there, too.  Sometimes it's sort of fun to watch the heroine crash and burn because of her taste in men.  But why this is so popular that it pervades most of YA fiction... I really couldn't say for sure.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

In My Mailbox (22)

by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

Joey Harker isn't a hero.

In fact, he's the kind of guy who gets lost in his own house.

But then one day, Joey gets really lost.  He walks straight out of his world and into another dimension.

Joey's walk between the worlds makes him prey to two terrible forces — armies of magic and science who will do anything to harness his power to travel between dimensions.

When he sees the evil those forces are capable of, Joey makes the only possible choice: to join an army of his own, an army of versions of himself from different dimensions who all share his amazing power and who are all determined to fight to save the worlds.

Master storyteller Neil Gaiman and Emmy Award-winning science-fiction writer Michael Reaves team up to create a dazzling tale of magic, science, honor, and the destiny of one very special boy — and all the others like him.

From NetGalley:
Alchemy and Meggy Swann
by Karen Cushman

Fans of Karen Cushman's witty, satisfying novels will welcome Meggy Swann, newly come to London with her only friend, a goose named Louise.  Meggy's mother was glad to be rid of her; her father, who sent for her, doesn't want her after all.  Meggy is appalled by London, dirty and noisy, full of rogues and thieves, and difficult to get around in — not that getting around is ever easy for someone  who walks with the help of two sticks.  Just as her alchemist father pursues his Great Work of transforming base metal into gold, Meggy finds herself pursuing her own transformation.  Earthy and colorful, Elizabethan London has its dark side, but it also has gifts in store for Meggy Swann.

Draw the Dark
by Ilsa J. Bick

There are things in Winter, Wisconsin, folks just don't talk about.  The murder way back in '45 is one.  The near-suicide of a first-grade teacher is another.  And then there is 17-year old Christian Cage.  Christian's parents disappeared when he was a little boy, and ever since he's drawn and painted obsessively, trying desperately to remember his mother.  The problem is Christian doesn't just draw his own memories.  He can draw the thoughts of those around him.  Confronted with fears and nightmares they'd rather avoid, people have a bad habit of dying.  So it's no surprise that Christian isn't exactly popular.  What no one expects is for Christian to meet Winter's last surviving Jew and uncover one more thing best forgotten the day the Nazis came to town.

Based on a little-known fact of the United States' involvement in World War II, Draw the Dark is a dark fantasy about reclaiming the forgotten past and the redeeming power of love.

by Jackie Morse Kessler

"Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world."

Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine.  How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home — her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her.  But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power.  Can Lisa find a way to harness that power — and the courage to fight her own inner demons?

A wildly original approach to the issue of eating disorders, Hunger is about the struggle to find balance in a world of extremes, and uses fantastic tropes to explore a difficult topic that touches the lives of many teens.

I got my first books from NetGalley!  I can't wait to get reading!

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

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