Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From

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

This week's topic is Ten Authors I Own The Most Books From.  One of these is going to be a little embarrassing... but that's just because I couldn't come up with any others.  I have lots of different books by lots of different authors; I don't have lots of books by lots of the same authors:

Kelley Armstrong - I read The Darkest Powers trilogy (The Summoning, The Awakening, and The Reckoning) and I own all three books.  It's one of the few YA trilogies I've actually finished.

Alison Baird - This is the author of my favourite YA trilogy, The Willowmere Chronicles.  The three books are The Witches of Willowmere, The Warding of Willowmere, and The Wyrd of Willowmere.

Diana Wynne Jones - There are five of her books sitting on my bookshelf: Eight Days of Luke, Fire and Hemlock, Hexwood, The Homeward Bounders, and Howl's Moving Castle.  I also owned The Game and The Time of the Ghost at one point... but I got rid of them (they didn't match the covers of all the others, anyway).

Gail Carson Levine - I only own four of her books (Ella Enchanted, Ever, Fairest, and The Two Princesses of Bamarre), but I've read more than that.  Her fairytale retellings are so cute!

Lesley Livingston - I've only read three books from this author, a trilogy which I own in paperback: Wondrous Strange, Darklight, and Tempestuous.

Ann M. Martin - She wrote The Baby-Sitters Club series (well, her name was on them, at least).  These are packed away somewhere, so I'm not sure how many I have... or if I got rid of them at some point.  But I know that I had quite a few!

Stephenie Meyer - Yes, I own the four books of the Twilight series (I refuse to call it a saga) in hardcover.  Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn are my "how-not-to-write-a-book" books.  That's my excuse for why they're sitting on my bookshelf.

A. A. Milne - I have four of his books, part of a set: Winnie-the-Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, When We Were Very Young, and Now We Are Six.  I've had them since I was a baby, and they're still sitting on my bookshelf.

L. M. Montgomery - These ones are packed away somewhere, and I'm not sure I could find them if asked to do so!  But I know I had, at some point, at least ten of her books: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island (which I never finished; hey, I was nine... give me a break!), Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, Emily's Quest, Pat of Silver Bush, Mistress Pat, Jane of Lantern Hill, and Chronicles of Avonlea.

Maggie Stiefvater - I have Shiver in hardcover, Linger as an e-book (which I've never read), and The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves as Kindle editions.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

In My Mailbox (73)

This week I'm playing catch-up.  I haven't done an In My Mailbox post in a couple of weeks, and it's caught up with me.  I should call this feature "Really Amazing Book Bargains" or something along those lines...  The most I paid for any of these e-books was $2.99.  Most were less than that.  And I got a lot of freebies, too (including two audio books).

Borrowed from the library:
Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #2)
by Laini Taylor

Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love and dared to imagine a world free of bloodshed and war.

This is not that world.

Art student and monster's apprentice Karou finally has the answers she has always sought. She knows who she is—and what she is. But with this knowledge comes another truth she would give anything to undo: She loved the enemy and he betrayed her, and a world suffered for it.

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Karou must decide how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, secrets and impossible choices, Days of Blood & Starlight finds Karou and Akiva on opposing sides as an age-old war stirs back to life.

While Karou and her allies build a monstrous army in a land of dust and starlight, Akiva wages a different sort of battle: a battle for redemption. For hope.

But can any hope be salvaged from the ashes of their broken dream?

Bought from Amazon.ca:
Homeless Bird
by Gloria Whelan

Like many girls her age in India, thirteen-year-old Koly is getting married. Full of hope and courage, she leaves home forever. But in a grim turn of events Koly finds herself cast out into a current of cruel tradition. Her future, it would seem, is lost. Yet this rare young woman, bewildered and brave, sets out to forge her own exceptional future.

Princess of the Midnight Ball (Princess #1)
by Jessica Day George

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

Swipe (Swipe #1)
by Evan Angler

Everyone gets the Mark. It gives all the benefits of citizenship. Yet if getting the Mark is such a good thing, then why does it feel so wrong?

Set in a future North America that is struggling to recover after famine and global war, "Swipe" follows the lives of three kids caught in the middle of a conflict they didn't even know existed. United under a charismatic leader, every citizen of the American Union is required to get the Mark on their 13th birthday in order to gain the benefits of citizenship.

The Mark is a tattoo that must be swiped by special scanners for everything from employment to transportation to shopping. It's almost Logan Langly's 13th birthday and he knows he should be excited about getting the Mark, but he hasn't been able to shake the feeling he's being watched. Not since his sister went to get her Mark five years ago... and never came back.

When Logan and his friends discover the truth behind the Mark, will they ever be able to go back to being normal teenagers?

Umbrella Summer
by Lisa Graff

Annie Richards knows there are a million things to look out for -- bicycle accidents, food poisoning, chicken pox, smallpox, typhoid fever, runaway zoo animals, and poison oak. That's why being careful is so important, even if it does mean giving up some of her favorite things, like bike races with her best friend, Rebecca, and hot dogs on the Fourth of July. Everyone keeps telling Annie not to worry so much, that she's just fine. But they thought her brother, Jared, was just fine too, and Jared died.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (Mara Dyer #1)
by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger than waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there.

It can.

She believes there must be more to the accident she can’t remember that killed her friends and left her mysteriously unharmed.

There is.

She doesn’t believe that after everything she’s been through, she can fall in love.

She’s wrong.

The Watcher
by Lisa Voisin

Fascinated with ancient civilizations, seventeen-year-old Mia Crawford dreams of becoming an archaeologist. She also dreams of wings—soft and silent like snow—and somebody trying to steal them.

When a horrible creature appears out of thin air and attacks her, she knows Michael Fontaine is involved, though he claims to know nothing about it. Secretive and aloof, Michael evokes feelings in Mia that she doesn’t understand. Images of another time and place haunt her. She recognizes them—but not from any textbook.

In search of the truth, Mia discovers a past life of forbidden love, jealousy and revenge that tore an angel from Heaven and sent her to an early grave. Now that her soul has returned, does she have a chance at loving that angel again? Or will an age-old nemesis destroy them both?

Ancient history is only the beginning.

Freebie from Amazon.ca:
A Death Displaced (Lansin Island #1)
by Andrew Butcher

Nicolas Crystan, struggling to cope with his traumatic past, shuffles through life keeping mostly to himself... until he has a disturbing daydream of a woman's death. At first he tries to forget it, but when real life mimics the daydream, he realises it was no ordinary fantasy—it was a vision of the future. To save a life, he must act fast.

When Juliet Maystone escapes death, defying fate, she becomes 'displaced' in this world. All she wants is to return to her bustling day-to-day routine, successfully running her own business, but as hard as she tries, she can't ignore that things have changed for her. She has to face up to the fact that being 'displaced' comes with an unexpected ability.

On Lansin Island, a quaint place with a dark history of its own, Nicolas and Juliet must learn to use their newfound abilities and work together to unravel a mystery more connected to Nicolas than he could ever have imagined...

Magic Unbound (Fae Unbound #1)
by Jill Nojack

Not-quite-sixteen year old Lizbet Moore expects a boring last month of summer vacation -- and she gets what she’s expecting until a fifteen hundred year old Fae named Eamon shows up in her backyard disguised as a down-on-his-luck garden gnome. When Eamon slips an ancient amulet around her neck, the memories of Lizbet’s many past lives come slamming back to her to change her summer plans in a way she could never have expected.

Forced to go on the run when murderous monks show up at the back door, Lizbet hops a plane to Scotland accompanied by Eamon, the whispering voices of her past lives, and geekily cute James, the college boy from next door. Not only does she have to dodge the monks, but she’s racing against time and greedy land developers to prevent the entire race of the Fae from being destroyed.

The only thing Lizbet knows for sure is that if she fails and can't produce a few live fairies at the end of her journey, she is going to be grounded for life... and probably for her next life, too.

Open Minds (Mindjack Trilogy #1)
by Susan Kaye Quinn

Sixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can’t read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can’t be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her.

Princess Callie and the Totally Amazing Talking Tiara (Callie Chronicles #1)
by Daisy Piper

Despite her highly abnormal name, Calandria Arabella Philomena Louisa Anastasia Richards tries very hard to fly under the radar. So she knows her life has gone crazy when she passes a note to her best friend:

"Lewis—something strange happened to me this morning.I got a message in my Alpha Bits that said I was a princess and I had to help this place called Albion in their fight against an evil queen.


P.S. Dad says you can come for pizza tonight."

On her quest to stop a bloodthirsty queen, Callie will have to steer a near-sighted dragon, decipher an ancient riddle, and learn to command a tiara that talks back! And to save this magical world she only just discovered, Callie must risk more than she ever thought possible...

Prisoner of Glass
by Mark Jeffrey

It starts with a kiss from the Dolphin Queen...

When the freakishly tall -- yet elegant -- Doctor Elspeth Lune is abducted from the airport, she awakens in the mysterious Glass Prison.

Location: Unknown. Reason: Unknown.

Odd things happen in this dark, circular facility - her severed pinkie grows back overnight and chess games end exactly the same way each time. To top it all off, Elspeth mysteriously finds herself assigned to cell block 1515: the exact same number as her ATM PIN and cell phone unlock code...

But when she encounters the Order of the Black Dove and the Vizier, an inmate with an inordinate amount of power, she finds that she must crack the mystery of the Prison with even more urgency. Who built this — the NSA? Al-Qaeda? The New World Order? And why is she – and everyone else - here?

In the prison's central axis is the Panopticon, from within which the guards see all — and is undoubtedly where the answers lie...

Freebie from Kobo:
Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue (The Bern Saga #1)
by Hugh Howey

When Molly gets kicked out of the Naval Academy, she loses more than just another home, she loses the only two things that truly matter: flying in space and her training partner, Cole. A dull future seems to await, until a marvelous discovery changes everything. Her father's old starship, missing for a decade, turns up halfway across the galaxy. Its retrieval launches Molly and Cole on the adventure of a lifetime, one that will have lasting consequences for themselves and billions of others. What starts off as a simple quest to reconnect with her past, ends up forging a new future. And the forgotten family she hoped to uncover becomes one she never foresaw: a band of alien misfits and runaways--the crew of the starship Parsona.

Freebie from SYNC AudioFile:
The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline (Enola Holmes Mysteries #5)
by Nancy Springer

Other than her occasional run-ins with her brother Sherlock, and missing her mother, Enola has little friends and family. While kind, homely Mrs Tupper is nearly deaf and cannot cook to save her life, the landlady is her nearest and dearest - and kidnapped. And somehow Florence Nightingale is involved. Enola is on the case.

Torn from Troy (Odyssey of a Slave #1)
by Patrick Bowman

Two-and-a half millennia after it was created, Homer's Odyssey remains one of humanity's most memorable adventure stories. In this re-creation of Homer's classic as a young adult novel, we see the aftermath of the Trojan War through the eyes of Alexi, a fifteen-year-old Trojan boy. Orphaned by the war and enslaved by Odysseus himself, Alexi has a very different view of the conquering heroes of legend. Despite a simmering anger towards his captors, Alexi gradually develops a grudging respect for them. As the Greeks fight off the angry Cicones, weather a storm that pushes them far beyond charted waters, and nearly succumb to the blandishments of the bewitching Lotus-eaters, he realizes that they are not the demons they were said to be, but people like himself.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?  Let me know in the comments!

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

Weekly Recap - July 20-26, 2014

Here's what I blogged about over the last seven days:

Tuesday - I participated in the Top Ten Tuesday meme.  This week's topic was characters we'd want with us on a deserted island.

I also reviewed A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz and gave it two-and-a-half ladybugs.

Also over the last week, I changed my rating system a bit, combining a couple of the criteria and doubling the weight of the enjoyment score (in case anyone is wondering how I ended up with the final rating).  I'm also in the process of changing the ratings on my previous reviews.  Actually, it's not changing the ratings so much as making them reflect my new half-ladybug system.  So some books that were previously in the four-ladybug section might now have a three-and-a-half ladybug graphic and will have been moved to the three-and-a-half ladybug section on this page.  Adding that half ladybug really seems to better help reflect my feelings about a book.  I've got a lot of old reviews to go through, so this process may take some time!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review - A Tale Dark and Grimm

A Tale Dark and Grimm (A Tale Dark & Grimm #1)
by Adam Gidwitz
Date: 2010
Publisher: Puffin
Reading level: MG
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 256
Format: e-book
Source: Amazon.ca

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

While I do like a good fairytale retelling, and I appreciate what the author tried to do here, I just wasn't feeling this one.  Perhaps it was just too young for me... or perhaps the moral fell flat for me (because this book comes across as a little preachy at times).

The author took the story of Hansel and Gretel and wove it together with a number of other stories by the Brothers Grimm.  That was an interesting idea, and I'll give the author credit for that.  However, I do sort of question the appropriateness of Grimm stories as the basis for a middle-grade novel.  There is a lot of blood and gore.  Beheadings.  Amputations.  Boiling in oil.  Add to that the fact that the framing device is the story of two murderous children, and I'm kind of scratching my head as to why anyone would think this was a good idea.

It's not a long book, but it seemed to take forever to get through.  The writing is okay, but nothing special.  The author is a fan of said bookisms, while I'm most assuredly not.  The story is supposed to be like an old-fashioned fairytale, and yet there were numerous instances where very modern expressions popped up, which were distracting.  And, through it all, the author repeatedly interjects, usually to tell the reader to remove young children from the room because something gory is coming up.  I'm not sure whether I liked that or not.  On the one hand, it disrupted the flow of the narrative.  On the other hand, it provided some much-needed relief from the tiresome characters.

The characters are the book's biggest weakness.  You know how in fairytales you don't generally know much about a character, other than one or two personality traits and their basic physical appearance?  Well, that's what we got here.  In fact, I think my favourite character in the whole book is the Devil's grandmother, simply because she's unexpected and provides some comic relief.  The king and queen (Hansel and Gretel's parents) are awful people.  Murderers, in fact.  Hansel does little but make a mess of things and not listen to his sister.  Gretel is the voice of wisdom and reason, but she quickly becomes tiresome.

The moral of the story (that children's lives are more valuable because they are innocent and wise and adults' lives are expendable because they're evil and stupid) makes no sense, especially in light of how the story ended (psst, Mr. Gidwitz... children do eventually grow up).  I guess kids might like such a sentiment, but as an adult, I found it absurd -- and just a bit insulting.

When I was a child, my mom used to read to me and my sister all the time.  She never liked reading us the story of Hansel and Gretel, though.  She'd always say it was a story about a couple of thieves and murderers.  Adam Gidwitz has managed to take that to a whole new level with this book!

Quotable moment:

But before he left, the Devil announced that he could not find his glasses.  He was furious, for he could barely see without them.  "I hardly recognize you, Grandmother!" he shouted.  "Where in Hell did I put them?"

"Devil knows!" his grandmother said.

"No, he doesn't!" he shouted.  Eventually he stormed out of the house without his glasses, grumbling about telling one sinner from another and wasting a perfectly good day of damnation.

Recommended to: die-hard fairytale retelling fans

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall Rating: 2.57 out of 5 ladybugs

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island

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

This week's topic is Top Ten Characters I Would Want With Me On A Deserted Island.  I actually can't think of anything less appealing than being trapped with other people on a deserted island.  We probably wouldn't get along, there'd be tons of drama, and someone would undoubtedly go all Lord of the Flies and I'd end up crushed by a boulder.  But I guess it wouldn't be so bad if I got to choose my companions...

Penryn from Angelfall by Susan Ee - She's used to scavenging in post-apocalyptic settings and kicking butt when the need arises.  Surely some of those skills would be transferable to a deserted island.  Especially if there are scorpions...

Ronan from The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater - Let me preface this by saying that I do not really like this character, and I probably wouldn't enjoy having him around.  However, his skill of being able to take objects out of dreams would be very useful in a situation with limited resources.

Laura from Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox - I'm assuming we wouldn't have TV or the Internet on this deserted island, so we'd need some form of entertainment.  Laura can harvest dreams and then "perform" them for a sleeping audience... so having her around would be pretty interesting!  (Too bad it probably wouldn't work, though, since she can't access the Place from just anywhere...)

Katniss from The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - I shouldn't even have to explain this one: mad bow skills and strong survival instincts put her on the list.

Newton from Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for Survival by Arthur Slade - The kid goes to a survival school.  I don't know how you could find a much more appropriate person to be stranded on a deserted island with!

Daniel from My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares - Since Daniel can remember all of his past lives, presumably he remembers how to survive in less-than-ideal conditions.  He'd be useful to the group... but I'm not sure if he'd be very happy if Lucy wasn't also on the island.

Ty from Stolen by Lucy Christopher - Yes, I know he's technically a villain.  But he also knows insane amounts about survival situations.  If the deserted island was similar to the Australian Outback, we'd be set.

Gen from The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner - He proves himself to be resourceful and crafty, which is just the sort of person you'd want around if you were trapped on a deserted island.  Plus, he's witty and charming, and seems like he'd be a fun guy to have around.

Nitish from Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis - This is a sentient, white tiger who can communicate telepathically.  He's kind of naive and amusing, but he could also be pretty useful.  He could climb trees to get at the coconuts there, and he could hunt for meat as well.

R from Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion - I know, I know.  I, too, questioned the wisdom of having a zombie on an island with an already-limited population.  But think of it this way: he's one less person that needs actual food, and if we get tired of any of the others, we can just let him have at it!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Can I get a half ladybug, please?

I've been thinking about revamping my ratings system a bit.  I'm finding that my ratings don't always reflect my overall impression of the book and how much I enjoyed it.  Take, for example, one of my recent reads, The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M. G. Buehrlen.  With my current criteria, I ended up giving it 3.57 out of 5 ladybugs, which I rounded up to 4 (because the idea of chopping a ladybug in half seemed just plain wrong).  But that 3.57 doesn't really take into account my overall impression or how I felt while I was reading the book; I do have a rating for enjoyment that factors into the total, but it often seems not to make enough of a difference (and that also applies when I haven't enjoyed a book that was otherwise well written but maybe wasn't my cup of tea).  Had I rated the aforementioned book without doing all the math, I probably would have given it a solid 4, just based on my overall impression.

I'm going to figure out a way to have my numerical ratings better reflect how I really felt about what I read.  I'm not sure if that'll involve somehow giving the enjoyment number more weight, or reworking the criteria altogether.

Beyond that, I'm going to have some half-ladybug ratings.  But, don't worry!  No bug abuse was involved.  The icons will look like this:

Then maybe books like Eat, Brains, Love won't end up with a misleading 3-ladybug rating in my review archives when my enjoyment rating was only a 2 (it got 3 points for pacing and originality, which skewed the final outcome).

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Weekly Recap - June 29-July 5, 2014

Here's what I blogged about over the last seven days:

Sunday - I shared what I got In My Mailbox.  I got quite a few freebies this week!

Tuesday - I participated in the Top Ten Tuesday meme.  This week we talked about our favourite classics.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Favourite Classic Books

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

This week's topic is Top Ten Favourite Classic Books.  How does one define a "classic"?  I have no idea.  For the purposes of this post, though, I'm going to define a "classic" as a popular, well-written book that's more than 50 years old.  Here we go:

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare (1600) - This was the first Shakespeare play that I read just for enjoyment.  It's also my favourite.  Its dialogue seems somehow modern at times, even though it was written more than 400 years ago.  The banter between Beatrice and Benedick is great.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847) - I didn't read this classic novel until my first year of university.  I hadn't seen any movie versions of it up until that point, either, so the story was entirely new to me.  Even though my professor spoiled the ending for me (I wasn't reading fast enough), I truly enjoyed the book and it immediately went on my list of favourite classics.

The Light Princess by George MacDonald (1864) - This story has to be my all-time favourite fairytale.  There's not really any gore or scary bits.  It's just a sweet story about levity, love, and sacrifice.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868) - I read this, plus a number of the author's other books, when I was on a classics kick a few years back.  I really loved the characters of the girls; they were so different, yet wonderful in their own ways.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (1901) - While I never had my own copy of this book, I borrowed it from the library too many times to count.  The story of a disobedient rabbit and his exploits is fun enough... but the charming illustrations just make it that much more of a must-read.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne (1926) - This book was part of a set that was given to me when I was born... so it's one of the first books I ever owned.  I grew up having it read to me, so I was very familiar with the Hundred Acre Wood.  A few years ago, I read the book again as an adult.  It's still charming, and it's easy to see why it became a beloved classic.

Pat of Silver Bush by L. M. Montgomery (1933) - I knew I had to include at least one L. M. Montgomery book on this list, but I couldn't decide.  I also like Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon and Jane of Lantern Hill... but, for some reason, Pat is probably my favourite L. M. Montgomery heroine.

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (1947) - This was another book I had as a very young child, and it was one of my favourites.  Despite the simple illustrations and the weak paperback binding that eventually fell apart, it was a well-loved and often-read classic in my house.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948) - This might be one of my very favourite books of all time.  I really don't know why; it has none of the fantasy elements that I usually find myself drawn towards.  But it's charming and sweet, with a wonderful protagonist and a varied cast of engaging secondary characters.  If you haven't read it already, I highly recommend that you do so!

Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary (1955) - This is the only one of the Ramona books that's more than 50 years old, but let's face it: they're all classics.  Ramona Quimby is one of my favourite child characters of all time.