Sunday, January 23, 2011

E-Book Freebie for Kobo & Kindle!

Right now, you can download a free copy of Angie Sage's Septimus Heap - Book One: Magyk for your Kobo or Kindle (or the respective apps, if you don't mind reading on your computer).

Download Magyk for Kobo here.
Download Magyk for Kindle here.

In My Mailbox (33)

From the library:
by Lurlene McDaniel

What is the toughest request anyone can be asked to fulfill?

Travis Morrison is a champion diver and one of the most popular kids at school. On the first day of summer vacation, while boating on the lake with his friends, Travis attempts a silly stunt dive that goes wrong. He fears he has broken his leg. Instead, his trip to the hospital reveals he has a rare form of cancer, and to save him, the doctors tell his parents they must amputate. In an instant, Travis’s life and the lives of everyone around him are forever changed.

Travis is determined that he and only he should decide the course of his life. He has a plan, but he can’t carry it out alone. Will he convince one of his friends to fulfill his most important request?

Lurlene McDaniel tackles a controversial subject, probing the issues of personal choice and quality of life.

The Vampire Diaries: The Awakening
by L. J. Smith

A deadly love triangle

Elena: beautiful and popular, the girl who can have any guy she wants.

Stefan: brooding and mysterious, desperately trying to resist his desire for Elena... for her own good.

Damon: sexy, dangerous, and driven by an urge for revenge against Stefan, the brother who betrayed him.

Elena finds herself drawn to both brothers... who will she choose?

From Kobo:
The New World
by Patrick Ness

In this dramatic prequel to the award-winning Chaos Walking trilogy, author Patrick Ness gives us the story of Viola's journey to the New World. Whether you're new to Chaos Walking or an established fan, this prequel serves as a fascinating introduction to the series that Publishers Weekly called "one of the most important works of young adult science fiction in recent years."

by Rachel Vincent

Tod Hudson was a typical teenager. He liked girls, sports, food and tolerated his younger brother, Nash. In fact, he had his whole life in front of him -- and due to his bean sidhe heritage, it was going to be a very long life indeed. And then the car accident occurred.

Suddenly Tod's future wasn't so sure, and he had to make a choice. Life... Death... or something Between....

Four books this week! Well, two novels and two novellas. And I didn't have to spend a dime...

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

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

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review - Dash & Lily's Book of Dares (DNF)

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Date: 2010
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Reading level: YA
Pages: 272
Source: library

When Dash finds a red Moleskine notebook in one of New York City's most famous bookstores, he doesn't realize that he's about to get sucked into a scavenger hunt that will take him around the city. As he and Lily (the girl on the other side of the Moleskine) pass the notebook back and forth, they share information and insights about their lives, as well as send each other to significant places around the city during one of the busiest times of the year.

I've still got a couple of weeks with this one (it's a library book... thank goodness), but every time I try to pick it up and read it, I set it back down again.  It feels like work.  Actually, it feels like high school all over again, when you had to read an awful, boring, horrible novel just because it was a "classic" and everybody should read it at least once.  I'm going to invoke one of my New Year's resolutions and allow myself to abandon this one.  While I do want to know what happens -- and why everybody has gone gaga over this book -- I don't want to know that badly.

Was the premise bad?  No... actually, the premise is pretty cool.  Was the writing bad?  Not really; in comparison to some other YA books out there at the moment, it was practically a literary masterpiece.  For me, there was one main problem... and it's one I just can't get past: I simply loathe these characters.

Dash and Lily are extremely annoying.  They both remind me of that stereotypical angst-ridden kid that was in your homeroom in high school, the one who walked around with a Moleskine and thought they were smarter than everyone else, who secretly longed for friends but had none because they were paradoxically too stupid to realize that nobody wanted to be friends with someone who looked down on others and thought they were morons.  Dash has one friend, Boomer, and this friendship makes no sense to me because Boomer seems almost mentally challenged, and I have a hard time believing that Dash would deign to be friends with someone not on his intellectual level.  Lily apparently has no friends, and it's not surprising because she's kind of unstable and very immature (she actually shrieks at some women in the movie theatre who dare -- oh, horrors! -- to compliment her shoes).

Through these characters, the book tried to be clever, insightful, and funny... but it came off as pretentious, distasteful, and annoying.  Macy's probably has a case if they want to sue for libel after the implications that their bedding department is full of dead vermin and they hire pedophiles to play Santa Claus.  (That was probably the beginning of the end for me.  The scene was probably supposed to be funny, but I found it disturbing and disgusting.  No, Lily, your Uncle Sal isn't just "huggy".  He should be in jail.)

For the sake of full disclosure, I'll say that I only got about a quarter of the way through this book.  But I just can't take any more.  At this point, I'm not enjoying the book.  At all.  It could have been good... but the characters are just too annoying to put up with for even one more page.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 0/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 0/5

Overall: 2 out of 5

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Most Inspirational Characters

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

This week's topic is Top Ten Most Inspirational Characters:

10. Joe from The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon - He made a lot of sacrifices and endured a lot of hardship, all for the sake of his family and those he cared about.
9. Katniss from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - She impressed me with her initial self-sacrifice to save her sister, even though it meant almost certain death for herself.
8. Mary from The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett - She was instrumental in helping to heal the garden and, by extension, the Craven family.
7. Jane from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - Jane is inspiring because she's strong, competent, and independent... but not so stubborn that she can't forgive and open her heart to love.
6. Chris from What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson - He braved hell (literally) for his wife.  If that's not inspirational, I don't know what is.
5. Sara from A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett - Wise beyond her years, this little girl endured hardships and unfairness with a grace and maturity that was very endearing.
4. Marnie from The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan - It's sometimes difficult to stand up for what you know is right, especially when it puts your own well-being at risk.  Marnie went against the grain and suffered for it... but ultimately triumphed because she stayed true to her heart.
3. Emily from Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery - Emily always wanted to be a writer, and she never gave up on that dream.
2. Birdy from Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman - Standing up against your parents is something most teenagers do.  But standing up against your father in the year 1290 when he wants to marry you off to a middle-aged man (when you're only fourteen!) is pretty impressive.
1. the very strange enchanted boy from "Nature Boy" (song) by eden ahbez - "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return."  Need I say more?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

In My Mailbox (32)

From the library:
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares
by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.

I didn't think my hold would come through so fast, as there was a waiting list and the library only had one copy!  This one looks really cute.  I hope it's good!

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

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

Saturday, January 15, 2011

E-Book Freebies

Want some free, quick reads for your e-reader?  Here are a couple of novellas that you might enjoy:

Reaper by Rachel Vincent - A Soul Screamers Novella

Download it from Kobobooks
Download it from Barnes & Noble
Download it from Amazon

The New World by Patrick Ness - Prequel to the Chaos Walking Trilogy

Download it from Kobobooks
Download it from Barnes & Noble
Download it from Amazon

I haven't read any books from either series, but these short e-books sound like a great introduction.  Happy e-reading!

(Don't have an e-reader?  If you live in the U.S., here's a coupon good for $20 off any Kobo wireless eReaders with code KOBO20.)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review - The Diamond Tree

The Diamond Tree
by Michael Matson
Date: 2010
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publishing
Reading level: MG
Pages: 21
Source: Untreed Reads

Prince Dall is the youngest of four brothers. On his eighteenth birthday, he rides out into the world to seek his own adventure, only to find that his brothers have already had them all. There are no more dragons to slay, no more wizards to outwit, and no more princesses to rescue.

But then Prince Dall meets a mysterious old woman who tells him of a mysterious tree that weeps diamonds. Spotting an opportunity for an adventure of his own, the prince embarks upon a long quest to discover the secrets of the diamond tree.

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the length of some of the books in my TBR pile at the moment. So The Diamond Tree fit the bill nicely as a quick (but entertaining) read.  The publisher's site states that the story is for ages 6-12... but with the vocabulary involved, I think this book falls more squarely in the ages 9-12 (middle grade) category.

It's a fairly standard fairy tale, relying on repetition and the usual tropes found in the genre.  I did like the short, heavily bearded man, and the Prince of Rage was rather amusing (and a character that would translate really well into a cartoon).  Prince Dall, on the other hand, was somewhat weaker; but I'm not really sure what else you can do with a generic fairy tale prince that would make him much more interesting.

The writing was somewhat uneven.  There were some lovely descriptive passages like this one:

The daylight folded itself in half and then divided again to become a faint mystical glow that hung about them like a gray and gloomy net.

But the narrative was also plagued by "said bookisms" and some non-speech actions that were used as speech attributions (this drives me nuts).  On the one hand, it's somewhat forgivable because the story is so short.  On the other hand, because the story is so short, there's really no excuse for not editing it more carefully.

I also wasn't too impressed with the ending.  Too much was glossed over and explained after the fact.  A few more pages wouldn't have hurt (and I wouldn't have minded reading more about the wizard's strange caverns).

All in all, though, this was a fairly good story and I can't say that I didn't enjoy it.  It's something that I can easily imagine a parent reading aloud to a child.

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

Overall: 3 out of 5

Friday, January 7, 2011

Need some e-books?

I've just been contacted by Untreed Reads with an exciting offer for everyone who's participating in the 2011 E-Book Reading Challenge!  Untreed Reads Publishing offers novels, novellas, and short stories in a variety of digital formats at great prices.

And now you can get 25% off your order by doing the following:

1. Visit and select from any of their 100+ titles, as many as you'd like.
2. Add titles to your cart.
3. Enter coupon code EBOOKCHALLENGE
4. Update your cart.

The coupon is good for the entire year. Since the company is continually releasing new titles, be sure to check the site regularly to see what's new.

25% off e-books and some potentially great new reads. What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

WWW Wednesdays (7)

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 The Lost Hours by Karen White.
What did you recently finish reading?

I recently finished You Wish by Mandy Hubbard.
What do you think you’ll read next?

I'm think I'm going to read The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black by Eden Unger Bowditch.  Yeah, I know I said that last week... but I really wanted to read a paper book this week.  I've been reading so many e-books recently that it feels weird (but good) to have pages in my hands!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Update to the 2011 E-Book Reading Challenge!

Don't worry... it's nothing major.  But for those who were lamenting that reading 20 e-books wasn't much of a challenge, you're in luck!  I've created three new categories for those who really love their e-readers:

-- Possessed – Read 50 e-books.

-- Fanatical – Read
75 e-books.

-- Monomaniacal – Read
100 e-books.

All seven categories (including the three new ones) are now listed on the main sign-up page.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Review - You Wish

You Wish
by Mandy Hubbard
Date: 2010
Publisher: Razorbill
Reading level: YA

Kayla McHenry's life kind of sucks. Her father's left the family, her best friend is spending too much time with her new boyfriend, and her mother's throwing her a sweet sixteen birthday party that she doesn't want. When she makes a wish on her birthday candles -- that birthday wishes really did come true -- she never expects that anything will come of it.

But Kayla's birthday wishes do start coming true and she wakes up each day to find that a wish from a past birthday has been granted. Realizing this, Kayla is desperate to find a way to stop the wishes... because when she turned 15, she wished that Ben would kiss her. And Ben just happens to be her best friend's new boyfriend.

I will admit that I thought the premise of this book sounded so cute and funny.  And the premise was a good one.  Unfortunately, the book was so full of mistakes that I was too distracted to really enjoy the story.

The first major boo-boo was that Kayla and her friends were supposed to be starting their sophomore year of high school.  Apparently, at their particular school, everybody is held back a year, resulting in a bunch of 16-year-olds in the tenth grade.  (I did the math a few times to be sure.  If these kids were all 16, they should have been starting their junior year.)

And that was just the start of things to come.  I couldn't figure out how Kayla and her brother ended up with hair that's "something between that and blond, which is completely blah" if their mother had "beautiful deep-brown hair" and their father was a dark-haired Italian.  Kayla's hair did change to dark brown on page 66, which threw me yet again.  And what the heck was up with her father?  A born-and-bred Italian with dark hair and an accent to boot... and his last name is McHenry?  And his middle names are Preston and Lewis?  That sounds more Scottish than Italian to me.

Then there's the bane of my existence as a reader: the first person, present tense point of view.  I dislike it at the best of times, even when it's done really well.  But here, there were some tense issues that made for a few really awkward turns of phrase.  I really don't understand the appeal of this point of view and why it's used so much in young adult books.  The story could have been told just as well in the past tense... and there wouldn't have been as much awkwardness.

I also wasn't impressed with the character dynamic between Kayla and her supposed best friend, Nicole.  I say "supposed" because we don't really see them acting as best friends.  By the beginning of the story, Nicole has already grown distant, so we only have Kayla's word that they were once really close.  It's almost as if the narrative started a bit too late.  As a result, instead of being shown these things, we have to be told about them instead.

While the story was cute and pretty funny in places, I found that all the errors broke the flow and detracted from the story too much for me to really enjoy it.  If you don't notice that kind of thing, you'll probably like You Wish.  But I just couldn't get past all the lapses in editing, which sort of soured me on the whole thing.

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

Overall: 3 out of 5

Weekly Recap - December 26, 2010-January 1, 2011

Here's what I managed to blog about over the last seven days:

Sunday - I shared the two books I got In My Mailbox.

Wednesday - I participated in WWW Wednesdays.

Friday -I wrote an end-of-2010 wrap-up post.

Saturday - I shared my book blogging resolutions for 2011.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Book Blogging Resolutions for 2011

1. I will try to cut back on buying books.  I've already got a crazy TBR pile, and I really don't need any more books until I get through what I have.  I am going to make exceptions for two books, though: Tempestuous by Lesley Livingston (because I love the series and I was going to buy it anyway) and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (which I had from the library and couldn't finish before it was due).

2. I will give myself permission to stop reading a book if I'm just not loving it.  I'm not sure what rule I'm going to impose for myself yet (a 50-page rule?  a 1/3 rule?), but I think I need to do this so I don't end up completely hating books by the end of 2011.  If I do give up on a book, I will still review it, but it will be clearly marked as a DNF and I'll explain why I couldn't finish.

3. I will try to expand my reading horizons a little bit and choose some different books to read.  This may be a little difficult to do (see resolution #1), but I'm hoping that the library and NetGalley can provide some interesting reads to help me branch out a bit.  I'm still going to read mostly YA, but maybe not so much YA fantasy (I could try some YA contemporary stuff, for example).