Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top 10 books of 2011

2011 wasn't as prolific of a reading year as 2009 & 2010, but in other news, I did graduate from college - finally - and get certified in two subjects! So while I didn't read/blog as much as the other years, I didn't mind so much!

But here are my ten favorite books of the year - in no particular order...

1. Jellicoe Road - Melina Marchetta

Twelve months later, I still can't explain why this book affected me as much as it did. I rarely ever think about characters after I close their book, but Taylor, Jonah, and the others have somehow stuck with me. I may not like Marchetta's fantasy books, but I adore this novel.

My favorite standalone novel EVER, at this point. Plus, my grandma liked it :)

2. The Cabinet of Wonders - Marie Rutkoski

My review of this novel is coming up this week, but I'll quickly say that I found this first installment of the Kronos Chronicles absolutely delightful. Steampunk meets fairytale in this beautifully simple story of a girl in early-modern Prague, a wicked-legit clock, and a mechanical spider.

3. Divergent - Veronica Roth

One of the highlights of my reading year was this extremely well-written and evocative dystopian novel. I also have a very high respect for the author, as well. This story of a futuristic Chicago, divided into virtue-based factions, is an excellent example of how a modern dystopian ought to be. Sure, the violence got a little heavy at times (even for me), but Divergent was ultimately a major hit with me.

4. Unwind - Neal Shusterman

One of the first of the YA dystopian genre, Unwind still is "the one to beat," as far as I'm concerned. Despite a lackluster ending (for me at least), Unwind was filled with tension, adventure, and thought-provoking questions and scenarios. I also have a major respect for Shusterman's storytelling ability - for asking questions rather than spooning out answers.

Plus that unwinding scene was C-R-E-E-P-Y!

5. Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi

To be honest, I didn't *like* Ship Breaker so much as I was quietly and respectfully in awe of it. It was a little too dark and bummer-depressing for my cup of tea, but the reason Ship Breaker makes my list is because of Bacigalupi's heartfelt writing style - just enough detail to hook the reader into the action without overpowering the narrative with weighty and pace-slowing descriptions. Plus, this is a good example of a *real* dystopian. This definitely had enough realism in it to seem relevant to me (in a way that other dystopians like The Hunger Games, never was)

6. Once Every Never - Lesley Livingston

This book was just a DELIGHT. Still not sure if it was released in the United States, but wow, I just adore Lesley Livingston. In my opinion, she is one of the best, most talented Young Adult authors today. She took a very obscure part of history - Roman Britain - and made a solid story around it. As usual, she showcased her strong knowledge of history and Celtic mythology.

I cannot wait for the sequel!

7. The Queen of Attolia - Megan Whalen Turner

With this novel, I was more enamored with the story than the writing, but Queen of Attolia makes the list because it was a fun read but also an inspiring one. Megan's world seemed so effortlessly real, and that's something I'd love to replicate in my own writing. Her worldbuilding is not easily matched and her characters are rich and thoroughly interesting. There are very few characters I've encountered in YA who can match the overall appeal of Eugenides the thief.

Steampunk quickly replaced dystopian as the genre of my fascination. I could not get enough steampunk this summer, and Kady Cross' Girl of the Steel Corset appears to be the most promising steampunk novel/series for Young Adults currently in print. I still stand by the prediction I made in 2011 that steampunk will surpass dystopia as the 'next big thing' in YA lit.

I found Finley Jayne to be a fun protagonist to root for and follow, and I am eagerly anticipated the sequel.

9. Daughter of Smoke and Bone - Laini Taylor
Ahh, I found a real winner with this one. Besides the beginning (too much modernity and a few useless characters) and the ending (didn't like the 'big reveal' and am more than a little apprehensive about the sequel), Daughter of Smoke and Bone was the strongest debut I read this year - along with Divergent. Taylor's worldbuilding was absolutely astonishing, and her characters (except Karou, who still leaves me divided in my opinion of her) were brilliantly crafted. Akiva and Brimstone were easily my two favorite characters of the year (with Eugenides from Queen's Thief solidly in 3rd). Laini is easily one of the most skilled writers I've ever encountered. Her work is both inspiring and intimidating.

10. Chronicles of Prydain (whole series reread) - Lloyd Alexander

I finished the year rereading this beloved series, so I had to include them on this list. One of these days I'm going to hunker down and actually write a review of the Chronicles of Prydain, one of the best young adult series ever written. I've referenced Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper, the hapless bard Fflewddur Fflam, and the flighty-but-spirited Eilonwy before, but they deserve a review of their own. And they'll get it, one of these days. But these books mean so much to me, and it's because they are the books that, way back in 4th grade, really got me excited about reading. They are the books that got me thinking about creating my own stories, and writing them down. So it's only appropriate that I closed out 2011 with a reread of my favorite series.


My reading goal for 2012 is slightly less than last year's - only 50 books. Hopefully it'll be a number that I'll be able to reach. Either way, I'm excited to begin my 3rd year blogging and hope that anyone who's reading this will stick around with me for another great year.

What was your most memorable read of 2011?

a much-needed rant on 'middle grade' literature

Let me be very clear about something: I hate the term 'middle grade.' I can't stand it. I rarely use it. It's because, let's be honest here, there seems to be some judgment associated with the term. I can't tell you how many times I've read a review on Goodreads where 'middle grade' is used derisively in a review, normally in the context of "I don't usually read middle grade books' or 'this book is probably better suited to a middle grade audience.' Even at BEA last May, a gathering place for book enthusiasts, I heard so many people say, 'Oh wait, I think this is a middle grade book.'
In the great universe of non-adult-marketed literature, the 'middle grade' novels are often treated like second-class books (argument not necessary).
As far as I'm concerned, the term 'middle grade' should not exist - at least, not to the extent that it's being thrown around in the literary community, and it's because I rarely EVER see a distinction applied anywhere but the literary community. I see 5th graders reading The Hunger Games and I see high schoolers fawning over the Percy Jackson series, yet one of those titles is often lumped in with the 'middle grade.'
I try very hard not to make the distinction between 'middle grade' and 'Young Adult,' because it my literature classes, it was drilled into me that 'Young Adult' was an umbrella term used for any novel geared toward 10-year-olds through...well, young adults. The only time I make distinctions between middle-school reads and high school reads is when it comes to content, or basic appropriateness. There are a great many novels that I love, that seem better suited to older audiences (sometimes for content but mostly for reader maturity - would they be able to "get" the story), but I can't say the same is true about the opposite scenario. As radical as the idea may be, I don't think there's an age maximum on any youth-geared novel. The legacy of Harry Potter is that it's a successful "Young Adult" novel that is taken seriously by the majority of the literary and commercial world, yet it is a story that initially follows the adventures of an 11-year-old...
so why must there still be this distinction among novels with other young protagonists?

I get the fact that a novel with a 12-year-old MC is going to be different, tonally, than a novel with a 16-year-old MC. Call it all 'YA' and label the other book 'teen fiction,' which is a label I like to use because it seems more accurate. But 'YA' is 'YA,' in my opinion. Just because a book has a younger protagonist doesn't mean it's any less quality fiction. It deserves to be taken seriously as a novel as well.
For me, the following is true: aside from picture books and short, beginning chapter books (i.e. children's fiction), novels - full-length novels geared to non-adults capable of abstract reasoning and the ability to follow multiple plot-lines and keep up with character development - are 'Young Adult' novels. Plain and simple.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas wishes & inspiration!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

my Christmas Eve present to you: more HOBBIT!

Oh, it was with barely-contained glee that I read through your comments from my last post.
I cannot wait for this amazing film to come to the big screen, and I can definitely say that I'm not looking forward to any movie like I am to The Hobbit! (still too annoyed by casting choices on The Hunger Games, so I probably won't be catching that one in theatres)

So once a week for...awhile...I will be posting Hobbit updates in the form of production videos, because I actually like the "making-of featurettes" and geek out over them as much as the actual video.

So here's production video #1, for those who are interested!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Must. Post. HOBBIT trailer!

Just think,
next year at this time, The Hobbit will be playing in theatres!!

I loved experiencing the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 8th, 9th and 10th grade and it's about time we had another Tolkien adaptation (all we've had in the meantime are...Harry Potter movies, haha)

I'm so happy about the cast. Martin Freeman is amazing - loved him in "Sherlock" and he'll make an exceptional Bilbo! :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

What Are You Reading Monday [Dec. 19]

This Monday, I'm reading two books and I swap between them depending on my mood.

The Grimm Legacy - Polly Shulman
When the magical objects start to disappear, Elizabeth embarks on a dangerous quest to catch the thief before she can be accused of the crime—or captured by the thief.Elizabeth has a new job at an unusual library— a lending library of objects, not books. In a secret room in the basement lies the Grimm Collection. That's where the librarians lock away powerful items straight out of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales: seven-league boots, a table that produces a feast at the blink of an eye, Snow White's stepmother's sinister mirror that talks in riddles.

^owned it since May & finally getting around to reading it

The Faerie Ring - Kiki Hamilton
The year is 1871, and Tiki has been making a home for herself and her family of orphans in a deserted hideaway adjoining Charing Cross Station in central London. Their only means of survival is by picking pockets. One December night, Tiki steals a ring, and sets off a chain of events that could lead to all-out war with the Fey. For the ring belongs to Queen Victoria, and it binds the rulers of England and the realm of Faerie to peace. With the ring missing, a rebel group of faeries hopes to break the treaty with dark magic and blood—Tiki’s blood. Unbeknownst to Tiki, she is being watched—and protected—by Rieker, a fellow thief who suspects she is involved in the disappearance of the ring. Rieker has secrets of his own, and Tiki is not all that she appears to be. Her very existence haunts Prince Leopold, the Queen’s son, who is driven to know more about the mysterious mark that encircles her wrist. Prince, pauper, and thief—all must work together to secure the treaty.

^Although this is an ARC, I'm not reading it "for review." Haha, I remember back in the day when I actually read books according to a deadline. Now I just read them when I don't come home and instantly pass out!

Still on my shelf, but haven't picked up in awhile...
Prophecy of the Sisters - Michelle Zink
In Michelle Zink's debut novel, orphaned twin sister Lia and Alice Milthorpe are yoked together in an ancient prophecy that makes them enemies and could destroy them both. If Lia can break this familial curse, she can not only save her relationship with her beloved boyfriend; she can finally resolve the mystery behind her parents' death.

^I don't want to pooh-pooh this book just yet, but I'm having a hard time getting into it because it's so slow! Who'd think a seance reading scene would be so yawn-worthy?
Also...not sure young women had "boyfriends" in the 19th century. Beaus, perhaps, but not boyfriends. That's a little too modern for my anachronistically-sensitive tastes.

Although I pledged to avoid memes, I think they'll help me get back into the swing of blogging.
What are you reading this Monday?

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Poison Study (Study, #1) - Maria V. Snyder
Genre: Alternate/Fantasy
# of pages: 409 (pb)
Publisher: MIRA
Recommended for: Upper HS & Beyond

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She'll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace-- and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly's Dust and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison. As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can't control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren't so clear....


Finally I can add my name to the long list of YA bloggers who have read and reviewed Poison Study, which is one of the few high fantasy novels in the genre. It definitely came highly recommended, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this first book in the Study trilogy. I'm a big fan of high fantasy, although this book really seemed to push the envelope as far as a "high fantasy" label is concerned. For one thing, I was never able to figure out what time-period Snyder's world took place in - the country of Ixia seemed like a conglomeration of a medieval setting and a Cold War-era setting. I tend to favor more traditional-style fantasies (and some of the technologies in here seemed anachronistic, even if the storyworld is ultimately made up), but the further I delved into the story, the more I warmed up to Snyder's world. Ixia and its military divisions certainly was interesting, but the Commander reminded me of a Soviet Premier, and the world Yelena lived in reminded me of a medieval/1960s Communist society (which, I guess, would make Valek a KGB member).

I absolutely commend Snyder on creating likable, well-rounded characters all across the board. Every character in Poison Study has a purpose and a secret motivation. And out of all the many female leads I've read since I dived into YA fiction two years ago, Yelena stands out as one of my favorites. Why? Because she's not a perfect, kick-ass, take-no-prisoners type of character. She begins the novel as an extremely broken and desperate girl incapable of defending herself. Her change is slow and gradual, and that makes her more cheer-worthy. Like I said, the supporting characters - particularly Janko and Ari - were entertaining and brought a certain spunk to the story. On the subject of everybody's main character (it seems), Valek, I'm somewhat divided. On one hand, he was 100% entertaining in every one of his scenes, but on the other hand... I'm not really sure that there's anything particularly special about him. There's a lot that's special about Yelena, but Valek seems like YA's stereotypical "hunk with spunk" character. Not that there's anything wrong with that, does get a bit old. You know that they're going to end up together eventually. What I never appreciate is when a story's love interest tries - at any time - to cause physical harm to the person he ends up "falling in love" with. I mean, seriously? For most of the story's duration, Valek gives off the impression of being ambivalent to Yelena's safety or well-being. And call me old-fashioned, but that just doesn't say "sexy" to me.

The premise of Poison Study seemed riveting to me: food testing, poisons, political intrigue...oh my. The only thing is, there wasn't a whole lot of poison study...the studying of poisons. I was under the impression that most of the book would be spent on Yelena learning the tools of her trade, but she was trained and ready to go in just under 100 pages. The rest of the novel focused on spy stuff and the aforementioned political intrigue. I guess that stuff just isn't for me.
One thing I didn't really care for was the inclusion of magic in the story. It may seem like a strange complaint for a fantasy novel, but I just felt like adding magic into the mix made the story seem too "busy." There was enough plot going on to keep Yelena busy without adding magic, which seemed too convenient and was never explained efficiently. I know that stuff will be explored more in the sequel - Magic Study - but I'm not interested enough to pursue it. And I guess that's the only real complaint I have with this otherwise stellar novel. Poison Study started out just riveting, but the last half was just "meh" for me. The plot got more complicated, but in a muddled, overly dramatic sort of way, and I'm sorry to say that I ended up rightly guessing 1) who the bad guy was, 2) the Criollo "mystery" and 3) how the novel would end. And some things were just downright weird. The thing with the Commander...I cannot comprehend in what universe that particular plot revelation would go over well. It was so out of place with a fantasy novel and serves as an example of what happens when an author abandons all reason and goes for shock factor.

So...Poison Study was a fun novel and I'm glad I read it. But I don't feel drawn to any of the sequels, especially since I've seen so many reviews that say that the series goes downhill. I agree that it's pretty mature for the YA*** category, so I'd suggest this book to older high school readers only.

**While Poison Study was not initially meant to be a Young Adult book (the main character, Yelena, is 19 and Valek is in his 30s), it seems to be marketed as one. I do want to make the point that I know Poison Study isn't an actual YA book, but that it is often grouped into YA lit for some reason


Sunday, November 6, 2011


Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown (Hachette)
September 27, 2011
Daughter of Smoke & Bone @ Parental Book Reviews

One of the only times I've been able to venture out into the blogosphere this fall was to write my incomplete review/thoughts of Laini Taylor's newest book.
I've been finished with it for over about a month, and just going off the top of my head, all that comes to mind is "WOW."

I've been in a reading slump for...basically this whole year. A couple of gems have crossed my path, including Jellicoe Road, Divergent and Unwind, but most of the books I've read lately haven't left much of an impression.
This was the kind of book, though, that made reading *fun* again. I felt completely grossed in the story and constantly wondered what would happen next. I haven't felt this excited about a book in a long while.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone has quite a few strengths, and the first thing I should mention is Laini Taylor's exquisite writing style. Her prose is lovely, but it's also intimidating, and apart from making me feel just a tad inadequate about my own writing abilities, it was as close to a perfect experience as I can imagine. There was an underlying simplicity to it that, in actuality, is probably really hard to accomplish. But she makes it all seem so effortless.

As far as the story goes...WOW again. Look, I've read more than my fair share of angel books over the years. In fact, I try and stay as far away from angels in YA as I can. But I've never encountered a book that made the antithesis of angels - demons - so prominent. As an aside, I liked that the so-called "demons" were referred to as chimaera. So how to describe the setup of this story? I would hate to compare it to Romeo and Juliet because, as I've said before, I think Romeo and Juliet is one of the least romantic, pathos-heavy stories out there (but not West Side Story, which is one of the thoroughly *coolest* stories). But sure enough, there's a star-crossed love story featuring an angel and a chimaera, set against the backdrop of an otherworldly war. Akiva wasn't your typical YA love interest-useless-studmuffin, but he wasn't your (also typical) YA love interest-angry-jerk, either. And for the most part, I thought Karou was a lovely main character. A nice combination of strong/independent, but vulnerable/humble as well. I'd have to say, though, that my favorite character was good old Brimstone. Too bad we don't get to see that much of him. :/

The concept of teeth & wishes (won't elaborate further) was so ingenious and original, I marvel at how Laini came up with it all. And probably my favorite aspect of the story is, once again, something that will most likely go unmentioned in other reviews: Laini's fantasy universe is so brilliant because of her ability to make it all seem so realistic. I'm often distracted by fictional place-names that *sound* too fictional. But some of her places within that otherworldly universe - Loramendi, Astrae - sounded like they could be actual places. Also, the basic languages of the angels and the chimaera didn't sound particularly "made-up" either. That is something that is really hard to do - take a 100% fictional idea and make it sound like it could *actually* be real.
So yeah, it was a little thing, but it was a little thing that made all the difference to me.

There were really only two things about Daughter that I didn't find enjoyable, and I'm just going to mention them briefly. #1 - the first two chapters of this book could have been omitted, in my opinion. Daughter transforms into more of a fantasy, but the opening chapters read like your average paranormal: we see Karou deal with her loser ex-boyfriend, we hear her internal thoughts about all the regrets she has over said ex-boyfriend, Karou goes through a couple days as a "normal" teenager as an art school student, Karou and an almost-stereotypical "best friend" character wander around Prague discussing various really seemed like I was reading two stories packed into one. What I'm trying to say is that there were parts in the beginning of Daughter that I found unnecessary because it just seemed so average. Karou is such a butt-kickingly cool character, and the world of the angels-chimaera and the mysteries of Brimstone's teeth shop are so EXHILARATING that I didn't need that averageness. I don't want Karou to be "just like everybody else" because she's not! But once I got about 50 pages in, then things started looking up and changed for the better. Also, Kazimir - Karou's loser ex-boyfriend - was completely unnecessary. He added absolutely nothing to the story, and in my opinion, he even hindered it, because he made me wonder, "If Karou is so smart and resourceful and she lives with a FREAKING demon-"Godfather"esque Brimstone, why in he world would she get sidetracked by this idiot? She must not be so smart after all!"
Anyway, besides that...I didn't particularly like the ending. The last "big reveal" about Akiva just had me shaking my head, muttering, "Oh gee wiz." After such an amazing read, the ending bordered on "melodramatic" and makes me a little apprehensive about the direction of the sequel.

So...going by just the story alone, Daughter of Smoke and Bone would get a nice 4/5 from me. But Laini's beautiful-but-unpretentious prose, coupled with her extraordinary creativity and sheer originality bolstered the rating to a 5/5. For more mature readers, this is DEFINITELY a book I can recommend! Just skim over the first 40 or so pages :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Mailbox [17]

This mailbox post goes all the way back to August. :)

So...the last thing I need is more books, but I've accumulated a few since August -
This Dark Endeavor - Kenneth Oppel
The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus, #2) - Rick Riordan
Witchlanders - Lena Coakley
The Faerie Ring - Kiki Hamilton
In the Forests of the Night (Goblin Wars, #2) - Kersten Hamilton
Bruiser - Neal Shusterman
Heist Society (Heist Society, #1) - Ally Carter
Uncommon Criminals (Heist Society, #2) - Ally Carter
Circle of Fire (Prophecy of the Sisters, #3) - Michelle Zink

Yay! Now if only I could read faster and get through all of that...
No more buying books till Christmas :)
And more books till ALA! :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

What have I been up to?

*taps glass*
Hello, guys! Anybody out there?
I apologize for my extreme absence these few months. I promise that I've been lurking around here, checking out y'all's updates. This new job hasn't really given me a lot of downtime, but I HAVE been able to read a few books!

What I've read

Sweetly by Jackson Pearce
Heist Society by Ally Carter
The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab
and I FINALLY finished Daughter of Smoke and Bone - ahhh!

What I'm currently reading

Poison Study - Maria V. Snyder. For all of you who encouraged me to pick this up, I'm glad you did! So excited to read this one.
The Grimm Legacy - Polly Shulman

What I'm "reading"

as in...what I'm trying desperately to finish, but can't seem to bring myself to pick it up anymore:
Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon. I'm sorry, y'all, I'm just having the worst time getting through this... :S

I'll have some reviews up here shortly :)
Don't forget, my giveaway of Tyger Tyger AND In the Forests of the Night is still open!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Ship Breaker - Paolo Bacigalupi
Genre: YA Dystopian
# of pages
: 326 (hb)
Publisher: Little Brown
Recommended for: 8th & Beyond

Set initially in a future shanty town in America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being dissembled for parts by a rag tag group of workers, we meet Nailer, a teenage boy working the light crew, searching for copper wiring to make quota and live another day. The harsh realities of this life, from his abusive father, to his hand to mouth existence, echo the worst poverty in the present day third world. When an accident leads Nailer to discover an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, and the lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl, Nailer finds himself at a crossroads. Should he strip the ship and live a life of relative wealth, or rescue the girl, Nita, at great risk to himself and hope she'll lead him to a better life. This is a novel that illuminates a world where oil has been replaced by necessity, and where the gap between the haves and have-nots is now an abyss.

I tell you what, I am getting TERRIBLE at writing reviews in a timely manner. I read this book way back in the beginning of August and I'm just now getting around to writing my review... The thing is, I actually remember a lot about this book, so that really speaks volumes to its memorability.
I'd almost given up on dystopians when I picked up Ship Breaker. Dystopian worlds were either interesting-but-improbable (Wither), too-improbable-to-be-interesting (Delirium), or clean-but-just-not-interesting (Matched). And then along c
ame Ship Breaker.
BAM! There's a dystopian, post-apocalyptic world that seems like it could actually happen.
BAM! It's a world that's scary, urgent, and one to be taken very seriously.
BAM! A character who's likable but definitely an underdog
BAM! Action and Suspense!
Ship Breaker begins with a look in the day in the life of a ship-breaker (or scrapper) named Nailer, who lives somewhere along the Gulf Coast in a run-down community of workers who scavenge and salvage along the beach. He has dreams and high aspirations, but the bleak nature of his existence makes those dreams seem impossible to reach. That is, until he happens upon a wrecked clipper ship and finds a wealthy girl, the ship's lone survivor. Suddenly Nailer is faced with several choices about what's right, what's wrong, and how t
he rest of his life is going to play out.
What sets Ship Breaker apart from the other dystopians out there is not only its creativity, but also its substance. There was something about this book that was just...important. I actually cared about what was going to happen next, and I wanted to keep reading. Sadly, I don't always feel that way about the books I read. Bacigalupi also raises interesting questions about our world but doesn't ever get obnoxious with trying to push some agenda. I'd rather have authors probe, rather than push.
Nailer was a good protagonist, but good lawwwwd what a nam
e! The only thing about Ship Breaker that I didn't really like was the character's name because it didn't really sound like a name at all. But anyway. That, and I wasn't particularly fond of the character Pima. She's what I like to call 'filler characters.' When she showed up at the end of the novel, I was like, 'ahhh nuts!'
Other than those two itty-bitty things, the only setback with Ship Breaker was its tone.
Folks, this is a very bleak book. A very bleak, dreary book. I mean, it's practically an emo book. So much doom and gloom and the badness of human nature and negative, negative, negative!
Now yes, dystopians are kind of like this general, but what separated Ship Breaker from - say - The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking series) - was basically a lack of hope. Nailer's world...really, the world in general as it's presented so ugly and so base and just so dark, there's very little light or goodness to counter that.
As much as Nailer seemed like a good character (and he was), I got the feeling that he was almost always motivated by external factors, as oppose to an innate sense of what's right. That began to change towards the end of the novel, but it was enough to make me wonder how many of his choices were for personal gain only. In contrast, I thought The Knife of Never Letting Go had just enough hope and innate goodness in the characters to compensate for the extreme intensity that dominated the novel (and the rest of the series). Same with Unwind or Divergent.
I definitely enjoyed Ship Breaker, and I don't want to sound like I didn't, but it was kind of hard to get through at times, just because it was soooo BLEAK. That is ultimately why I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5. That, and Pima came back at the end of the story. Boo.
But like I said, as far as dystopians go, Ship Breaker is DEFINITELY one of the better ones.
I can't wait for the sequel, The Drowned Cities

Discretion: there is a high amount of violence, incl. domestic abuse, and moderate-level language.
Vague references to prostitution and drugs

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In My Mailbox [16]

Got some stuff these last few weeks!

The Lost Hero (Heroes of Olympus, #1) - Rick Riordan
^^I went almost a year without getting a copy, but...I couldn't wait any longer

The Space Between - Brenna Yovanoff
^thank you Christie

The Near Witch - Victoria Schwab
^thank you Abigail

Currently Reading

The Carrier of the Mark - Leigh Fallon
Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor
The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson
^^I'm reading a LOT slower these days, but I still try and get at least 50 pages a day :P

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

please excuse

Dear bloggies,
Please excuse my absence for the next few days. I'm starting a new job in education and it may be a few days or a week for me to adjust to a new routine, but I promise, I'll still be featuring reviews throughout the semester!

Friday, August 19, 2011


The Seven Realms Series - Cinda Williams Chima
(The Demon King and The Exiled Queen)
Publisher: Hyperion (still can't believe they published this)
Genre: YA fantasy
The Demon King @ Parental Book Reviews
The Exiled Queen @ Parental Book Reviews

I actually read The Exiled Queen first, then went back and went through The Demon King, so my reading experience with this trilogy is a little different from most of the novels I go through.
Here's the thing...this series really frustrates me. This is the kind of series that screams 'READ ME AMELIA! You're going to LOVE ME!' Because, see...I lovelovelove high fantasy, probably more so than any other genre/subgenres. Most books that deal with magical and/or fantastical elements are set in the modern world, so true high fantasy novels get my attention faster than cake with icing and the smell of popcorn.
Plus...look at those covers. LOOK AT THEM. I think that out of all the authors with books currently in print, Cinda Williams Chima has been the one with the most consistently beautiful, snazzy, and attention-getting covers (her Heir books, plus these two, and the cover for Grey Wolf Throne are easily the finest I've ever seen).
So all these things said, I really wanted to like these books. I wanted so much to enjoy them, love them, and recommend them. But...I didn't.

There were some things, plot-wise, that I think could have been done differently. There are a lot of subplots and loads of information to keep track of that could have been refined. But what really killed this series, for me, were the characters. The two "protagonists," Han and Raisa, were yet more examples of characters that I felt obligated to care about, but really disliked.
Raisa is yet another of those "kick-ass heroines" (not my term, and I don't much care for that term, as it is sounds incredibly crass) who thinks that the world revolves around her and whose sense of self-preservation borders on extreme, and Han...oy. The supporting characters didn't leave much of an impression, and I really wish that three characters in particular - Amon, Micah, and Bird - would have been axed entirely.
It seems like fantasies, more than any other genre, are the most removed from reality and the reaches of real-world restrictions. They are the most magical, and traditionally, the most epic. And I guess what really disappoints me is the lack of 'epic-ness' with this series. Plus...there's another quality that traditional fantasy characters have possessed that sadly seems to be rapidly diminishing: "good guys."
In the past, fantasy characters (more than characters in any other genre, it seems) were noble. They were virtuous. Yeah okay, maybe a little innocent, but still...they were very cheer-worthy. A lot of times the protagonist went through a rite-of-passage motif, and they represented innocence, integrity, and I don't know...just goodness. No, Frodo Baggins was not 'street-wise.' He wasn't snarky, smooth-talking, and provocative. Neither were any of the hobbits, really, unless you consider Pippin and Merry's ability to persuade Treebeard to fight against Saruman "smooth-talking." One of the greatest young adult fantasy series of all time is the Chronicles of Prydain, and its protagonist, Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper, didn't have any of these personality traits, either. I guess what disappoints me is how common the "sassy bitch" and "smooth-talking bad boy" characters have become, even in high fantasy stories. Again, sorry for the crass vocabulary. The tone of this new series, one of the few true high fantasies of current YA lit, is just so different from traditional fantasies and so similar to the majority of other YA subgenre books out there. It's just a little sad. And I guess what didn't sit well with me, either, was Chima's puzzling need to remind readers how "experienced" her characters are (Han and Raisa); the innuendo in both of these books, but especially the second one, was hard to ignore, to say the least (I mean, for goodness sake, there's even talk of a fantasy equivalent of "the pill." Whaaaaa...?)
And I think that is what really disappointed me about this series more than anything else, including the characters. I'm just tired of everything having to be so dadgum provocative. It seemed very unnecessary for a high fantasy series. And it really irks me to know that this series is being thrown at middle schoolers. That a sixth grader I know could pick up one of these pretty-looking books, read through it, and be treated to reference upon reference of innuendos and characters' excessive exploits. Not cool.
To be fair, nothing I've mentioned here is exclusive to this series alone. Quite a few YA books I've read recently have had one or several of these elements, too. So while I love the explosion of YA literature in the last 10-15 years, and while I am glad that "kids today" have more options than when I was a kid/middle-schooler, I wish that they could experience the kind of high fantasy characters I grew up reading and loving.

In my opinion, Chima's Seven Realms series is the YA equivalent of George R.R. Martin's books ("edgy fantasy."), and therefore, they are not books that I would recommend - either to my friends, students, or family members. After all, a book's cover doesn't tell the whole story...
Please let me say again that this is just my opinion, and just my thoughts.

Monday, August 15, 2011

[Updated] books for TRADE! (yes, trade!)

I try and do posts like these every few months, just because there's such a high turnover.
And now, I'm doing books for trade! As in, actual trade!
As of right now, I cannot ship internationally.

If you see something you're interested in, please email me at
& we'll talk!

These are the current books I have -


I have extra copies of -
  • Wonderstruck - Brian Selznick
  • Blood - K.J. Wignall
  • The Rivals - Daisy Whitney
  • Rock On - Denise Vega
  • Ashes - Ilsa Bick
  • A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
  • Sweetly - Jackson Pearce
  • Underdogs - Markus Zusak (HB)
  • Candor - Pam Bachorz (HB)
  • Pastworld - Ian Beck (HB)
  • Pretties (Uglies, #2) - Scott Westerfeld (PB)
  • Beastly - Alex Flinn (PB)
  • Timeriders - Alex Scarrow (HB)
  • Secondhand Charm - Julie Berry (HB)
  • The Darlings are Forever - Melissa Kantor (HB)
  • Viola - Adriana Trigiani (HB)
  • Awaken - Katie Kacvinsky (HB) - 2 copies
  • Lock and Key - Sarah Dessen (PB)
  • Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta (PB) - slightly worn
  • The Cinderella Society - Kay Cassidy (HB)
  • Life as We Knew It - Susan Beth Pfeffer (PB)
  • The Secret History of the Pink Carnation - Lauren Willig (PB) - adult
  • The Masque of the Blak Tulip - Lauren Willig (PB) - adult
Some of the titles I'm looking for:
What Happened to Goodbye
- Sarah Dessen
Between the Sea and Sky - Jaclyn Dolamore
The Forgotten Locket - Lisa Mangum
The Death Catchers - Jennifer Anne Kogler
Circle of Fire - Michelle Zink
Under the Never Sky - Veronica Rossi
This Dark Endeavor - Kenneth Oppel
Shatter Me - Tahereh Mafi
The Faerie Ring - Kiki Hamilton
Hereafter - Tara Hudson

I'm also looking for:
Hardback covers of The Sea of Monsters and The Titan's Curse
Heist Society & Uncommon Criminals - Ally Carter
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