Saturday, February 25, 2012

My mailbox this week!

This was a busy, busy week for my mailbox and me!
I received a big box of books from Hachette (Little Brown) from a request I made at ALA. 
I was absolutely ecstatic when it showed up this past week, because I've never gotten a box of books from a publisher and it was a really special feeling!
Revived - Cat Patrick
Purity - Jackson Pearce
Ghost Knight - Cornelia Funke
The Last Princess - Galaxy Craze
Girl in the Clockwork Collar (Steampunk Chronicles #2) - Kady Cross
Across the Universe - Beth Revis
Cybele's Secret (Wildwood #2) - Juliet Marillier
Between Shades of Gray - Ruta Sepetys
 Also, I found out of a bit of exciting news on Friday - there was a job I'd been offered that I really wanted, and I got it! I'm so excited to start this professional chapter of my life, but I may not be able to update as often as I have been. Please hang in there with me and keep me on your blog roll. I'm not entirely gone, and I'll be posting when I can!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

YA Paranormal Activity Hop!

Welcome to my stop on the YA Paranormal Activity Giveaway Hop!
This hop is hosted by Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer
Up for grabs is an ARC copy of Incarnate by Jodi Meadows. If I hit 100 entries, I will double the prize and throw in a copy of Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes as well! So that's two possible books that you can win!
To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter. 
(also, if you choose to do the extra entry and 'follow' this blog, please be sure to click on the GFC button on the right-hand side!)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

9 of my favorite literary characters (so far)

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I define a 'good character.' I think about several of my favorite characters from years of reading and I wondered if they had anything in common - any physical traits or behaviors or backgrounds. Looking at this list I've created, I'd say that they most, if not all, exemplify bravery in some way, and are loyal to friends and/or a cause. They've got spark, heavy personalities, and are never, ever boring!

So out of my long list of favorite and highly memorable characters, I wanted to take the time to write about 10.

These are not ranked in any order.

Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings trilogy
+ honorable mention to Ian McKellen's portrayal in Peter Jackson's film series
(J.R.R. Tolkien, 1954-1956)
Quick character info:
Why he makes the list: Gandalf is the quintessential 'wise old sage' character type. He predates Albus Dumbledore by nearly forty years (and I'm absolutely convinced that Gandalf is at least part of the inspiration for Dumbledore) and did you know that Gandalf is an Istari, a being most similar to our concept of an angel? And he battled a balrog - and won. And he battled Saruman - and won. And, in the movies, he whacked crazy old Denethor upside the head with his staff. And he talks to eagles! 
Yes, how could Gandalf not be part of this list?!
Also, I definitely agree with author Mary Hoffman, who said that Gandalf is "the best white wizard in fiction."

Standout quote: [Frodo has said, "I wish it need not have happened in my time."]
"So do I," said Gandalf. "And so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide.All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."

Fflewddur Fflam from the Chronicles of Prydain series
(Lloyd Alexander, 1964-1968)
Quick character info: Fflewddur Fflam is a fun but hapless bard who joins the protagonist on many adventures throughout the series. His most prized possession, an enchanted harp, breaks its strings every time he, colors the truth.
Why he makes the list: Fflewddur has such a fun personality: he's witty and incredibly eccentric, but he also has moments of great depth and insight. You can always count on good ol' Fflewddur to lighten a somber mood or provide non-preachy words of encouragement.

Standout quote: "By all means," cried the bard, "A Fflam to the rescue! Storm the castle! Carry it by assault! Batter down the gates!"
"There's not much left of it to storm," said Eilonwy.
"Oh?" said Fflewddur, with disappointment. "Very well, we shall do the best we can."

Reepicheep from the Chronicles of Narnia series
(C.S. Lewis, 1950-1956)
Quick character info: Reepicheep, who first appears in the fourth (by chronological) book, Prince Caspian, is a talking mouse, one of the descendants of the mice who chewed the ropes off Aslan's body in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. He provides counsel to Caspian, and makes further appearances in Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Last Battle.
Why he makes the list: Reepicheep is feisty, fierce, and, let's face it, has a wicked awesome name: REEP.Ih.CHEEP. Know what else? He's a freaking warrior. With a sword. And he wears a red plume. Legit. I'm also willing to bet that Reep played a role in inspiring Brian Jacques' Redwall series, which is populated with all sorts of battle-savvy mammals. Plus, I like that Reep is descended from noble mice who served Aslan (gives some color to his lineage). But what I like best about Reepicheep is that he is loyal and always attempts to stand for what he believes to be right.
And - personal opinion here - there is something dadgum awesome about a talking mouse. Seriously.
Standout quote: "My friendship you shall have," piped Reepicheep. "And any Dwarf - or Giant - in the army who does not give you good language shall have my sword to reckon with." (Prince Caspian)
"Stop it," sputtered Eustace, "go away. Put that thing away. It's not safe. Stop it, I say. I'll tell Caspain. I'll have you muzzled and tied up."
"Why do you not draw your own sword, poltroon!" cheeped the Mouse. "Draw and fight or I'll beat you black and blue with the flat."
"I haven't got one," said Eustace. "I'm a pacifist. I don't believe in fighting."
"Do I understand," said Reepicheep, withdrawing his sword for a moment and speaking very sternly, "that you do not intend to give me satisfaction?" (Voyage of the Dawn Treader)

Percy Jackson from the Percy Jackson series (& Heroes of Olympus spinoff)
(Rick Riordan, 2005-2009; 2010-ongoing)
Quick character info: Percy Jackson begins the series as a troubled 12-year-old boy (and ends the first series as a 16-year-old), dyslexic and with ADHD. At a mysterious summer camp, he learns that all the gods, heroes, and monsters from Greek 'mythology' are real, and that he is the son of Poseidon, god of the sea. Powers are recognized, quests are undertaken, friendships are forged, chaos ensues, and hilarity is ever present as Percy narrates his adventures over five books.
Why he makes the list: In all my years of reading, Percy's character stands out to me for a number of reasons. What gives him an edge over all the other good, noble, and virtuous characters I've read is his voice. It's snarky, sardonic, incredibly witty (sometimes bitingly so) and refreshingly youthful. And yet, rarely ever is he flippant or careless. There's an underlying sensitivity to him that I think is an excellent quality in a boy. If Percy's commentary could make college professor snort, that's proof enough that this is way more than just a 'children's series.'

Standout quote: There are so many hilarious Percy quips, but for this post, I'll pick his commentary on the appearance of one of the series' antagonists: He'd changed since the last summer. Instead of Bermuda shorts and a T-shirt, he wore a button-down shirt, khaki pants, and leather loafers. His sandy hair, which used to be so unruly, was now clipped short. He looked like an evil male model, showing off what the fashionable college-age villain was wearing to Harvard this year.

Todd Hewitt from the Chaos Walking trilogy
(Patrick Ness, 2008-2010)
Quick character info: Todd Hewitt is the youngest boy in a remote village of a newly colonized world. The Knife of Never Letting Go, the first book in the trilogy, focuses mainly on Todd on the run from the men of his town, who desire to add him to their 'perfect' army. The later books of the series revolve around Todd's physical and mental growth as he tries to resist the power and corruption around him, against the backdrop of war.
Why he makes the list: Todd makes the list of best characters largely because of his powerful narrative voice. The first thing you notice when you read the Chaos Walking trilogy is that Todd's narrative is written in the vernacular. Though hard to understand at first, it also adds a strong element of reality to Todd's character. But more than Todd's narrative, I loved his inner goodness and humanity, even when faced with some outright brutal situations. In fact, Todd Hewitt is everything that Ender Wiggins from Ender's Game should have been, but wasn't (and that might only make sense for those who have read Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card). And the way Todd interacts with the other major character, Viola, is just about as heartfelt and genuine as can be expressed in literature. Their relationship progression was like seeing the steps to a perfectly solved equation (if that makes any sense). I could go on for hours about all the inherently good qualities that make up Todd Hewitt...but I won't.

Standout quote: "Here's what I think," I say, and my voice is stronger and thoughts are coming, thoughts that trickle into my noise like whispers of truth. "I think maybe everyone falls," I say. "I think maybe we all do. And I don't think that's the asking." I pull on her arms gently to make sure she's listening. "I think the asking is whether we get back up again."

Samwise Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings series
+ honorable mention to Sean Astin's portrayal in Peter Jackson's film series
(J.R.R. Tolkien, 1954-1956)
Quick character info: Samwise Gamgee is the hobbit gardner of Frodo Baggins and accompanies him from the Shire all the way to Mordor and back again. After the One Ring is destroyed and the Shire is restored to order, Sam marries and becomes Mayor of the Shire. Eventually, as the last of the Ring-Bearers, Sam leaves Middle-Earth to join Frodo and Bilbo in the Undying Lands.
Why he makes the list: If ever there was a character who epitomized the concept of "loyalty," Samwise Gamgee would be it. Sam is definitely my favorite character in the Lord of the Rings film trilogy (brilliantly acted by Sean Astin), and now that I'm re-reading the Lord of the Rings series, I'm experiencing Sam from the books, and he's just as loyal and servant-hearted as on the big screen. His bravery and unfailing loyalty to his friend, Frodo, and to his cause, makes him the most moving and inspiring character I have ever, ever encountered in a fictional work.

Standout quote: "Come Mr. Frodo!" he cried. "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo. Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he'll go."

Eugenides from the Queen's Thief series
(Megan Whalen Turner, 1996-ongoing)
Quick character info: Eugenides is the eponymous thief of the series. As an extended member of the royal family of Eddis (a fictional realm similar to a Greek city-state), though, he functions more as a spy than a common street thief. He usually finds himself firmly placed in the midst of political intrigue and upheaval, and as a result, reading about his adventures is usually entertaining.
Why he makes the list: As I'm finding out, I appreciate characters with a good sense of humor but also a little bit of snark. Not too much snark, and I usually don't like snark in girl characters, but more to the point, Eugenides almost always knows exactly what to say to make his point and get what he wants. And the few times when his circumstances render him speechless, those scenes are probably even more dynamic. Plus, there's the whole name thing going on. Eugenides. EU-GEN-ih-DEEZ. Now that is a wicked awesome name.
Standout quote: "This is the stupidest plan I have ever in my career participated in," Xenophon said.
"I love stupid plans," said Eugenides.

Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series
(J.K. Rowling, 2003-2007)
Quick character info: Luna Lovegood first appears in the fifth book of the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. She is known as "Loony Luna" and has a reputation for being, to say the very least, socially awkward. Despite her seriously unconventional nature, Luna forms a strong friendship with Harry Potter and is one of the only people to believe his claim that the Dark Lord Voldemort has returned. She rises to prominence (and social acceptance) in the series as she joins the student-led Order of the Phoenix and plays an important role in the two novels that follow, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Why she makes the list: Loony Luna is my absolute favorite character in the whole series (slightly ahead of Professor Snape) and she is basically the reason I picked up the series again and finished it (I'd initially stopped reading the series after the fourth book's publication). I saw Evanna Lynch's Luna on screen and thought, "that girl is seriously legit," and I had to find out more about her. To be absolutely honest, I see a lot of my adolescent self in Luna. Like her, I had different interests and styles that made me feel at odds with my classmates. But I love her gentle spirit and her quiet determination to do what is right. As zany as she is, Luna is one of the bravest of Hogwarts' students, and she continually proves her worth. Plus, I have to love a character JK Rowling describes as the "anti-Hermione." After all, I have never liked Hermione (though I'm probably one of the only readers who doesn't), and I like a character who's not so boringly and bossingly logical. Luna's whimsy, coupled with her fierce loyalty and bravery, are what make her my favorite Harry Potter character.

Standout quote: "Mistletoe," said Luna dreamily, pointing at a large clump of white berries placed almost over Harry's head. He jumped out from under it.
"Good thinking," said Luna seriously. "It's often infested with nargles."

Peeta Mellark from the Hunger Games trilogy
(Suzanne Collins, 2008-2010)
Quick character info: Peeta Mellark is the baker's son who, along with Katniss Everdeen, ends up as the tributes from District Twelve (and we all know that the 'tributes' are the designated two children/teens from each district who compete in the deadly Hunger Games). As the series progresses, he becomes a key member in the rebellion against the capital and is one of two guys who compete for Katniss' affections (the other guy, Gale, will never make a 'favorite character' list on this blog. EVER).
Why he makes the list: Okay, let me get one thing straight: I had a weird reading experience with this series. I absolutely adored the first book, somewhat liked the second one, and loathed the final one. And I'll just go ahead and say that I despise Katniss Everdeen as a character and if I ever made a WORST literary characters, she'd be on the list. Yeesh. Oh, and I'm not impressed that he's going to be played by Josh Hutcherson in the movie, and in all likeliness, I will not see the movie.
So why on earth does Peeta make this list? Because he was really the only thing that kept me going through Catching Fire, and the only reason I picked up Mockingjay at all. I hated what happened to him in that book, and I felt sorry for the guy that he got stuck with sad-sorry-excuse Katniss.

So that's my list! Stay tuned, because I'll likely post 10 more favorite characters in the future.
Which literary characters would make your list of favorites? If anybody has a post about favorite characters, leave the link so I can add it to the end of this post!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Dragonswood - Janet Lee Carey
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin 
# of pages: 407 (hb)
Recommended for: All Ages

Wilde Island is not at peace. The kingdom mourns the dead Pendragon king and awaits the return of his heir; the uneasy pact between dragons, fairies, and humans is strained; and the regent is funding a bloodthirsty witch hunt. Tess, daughter of a blacksmith, has visions of the future, but she still doesn't expect to be accused of witchcraft.
 Like many other novels, Dragonswood ended up being different than what I expected. The Goodreads synopsis, in my opinion, doesn't accurately assess the plot. 
It's not like there's anything wrong with the novel; rather, I just didn't find it very enjoyable. For one thing, Dragonswood is very oddly paced and plotted. What is this novel about? A girl accused of witchcraft running from her persecutors? A mysterious wood made up of dragons, fairies and witches that is now endangered? An imposter seizing control of the island? A half-fey child trying to usurp power from the royal family? WHAT, exactly?! All these elements came together in a very sloppy sort of way, in my opinion. The plot changed directions so many times and it wasn't until about halfway through the novel that one unified plot came together. Judging by the other reviews, I'm one of the only reader who has noticed this. But Dragonswood, for this main reason, was a very disjointed and odd read.

As far as characters go, everyone was fairly ordinary. I'm getting annoyed, though, at every single female character in a medieval setting being a caricature of a modern, 'enlightened' woman. If I read one more novel about a girl complaining about marriage and being a man's 'property,' I'm gonna lose it.  Were there medieval trailblazer women who went against the norm? Sure, but it's like the handful of them have all been cast over and over again as protagonists in these novels! Take a hint from Juliet Marillier, who knows how to tow the line right down the middle: her heroines want more out of life and strive to be more than simpleton housewives, yet they're not against love and marriage if the right guy comes along. So when they do meet Wonderful Love Interest, they don't sound like a bunch of hypocrites. But poor Tess spends about 1/3 of the novel complaining about men, then all of the sudden decides she's in love. It was rather sudden. And kind of silly, given her numerous protestations. 
On the subject of Tess, also, I didn't really connect with her. Tess is also one of the most jaded characters I've seen in a while in YA lit, and while I'm actually intrigued by jaded and cynical characters (for obvious reasons, hur dur dur), in this situation, I felt like the author was shooting for 'jaded' and ended up with 'annoying.'
But even saying that, I still felt bad for Tess and I cared enough about her story to see this through to the end. And if Tess annoyed me at times, the supporting cast of characters was near infuriating. Tess' two friends Meg and Poppy end up on the run as well after Tess is forced - under torture - to out them as 'witches.' Okay, I'm sure this was the author's intention, but it absolutely infuriated me how much Tess was blamed and scapegoated for what happened.
So why am I giving this novel 3 stars? Well, because with all its faults, Dragonswood still did at least half of what I expect books to do: it entertained me, and I was thoroughly interested in what was going to happen next. Even if I was never 100% on board with the rather sloppy plot or 100% rooting for the characters, I was entertained. Also, I liked Janet Lee Carey's writing style and I like her historical fantasy setting of Wilde Island, which supposedly borders England.
Dragonswood is a decent read, and while I do recommend it, I'm not in any hurry to schedule a re-read.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Mailbox this week

This week I got two titles I'm really eager to read!

A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2) - Beth Revis
Masque of the Red Death - Bethany Griffith 
For those who have read Across the Universe - what were your thoughts on it? And did you catch the sequel? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Follower Love Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to the Follower Giveaway Hop! This hop is hosted by Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer.
Up for grabs this time is a copy of Kiss, Crush, Collide by Christina Meredith. It seemed like a good pick, since Valentine's Day is coming up and this book has the word 'kiss' in it...
So just enter using Rafflecopter!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Mailbox [2]

Here are the books that I either bought, traded, or received for review this past week.
For Review
A Temptation of Angels - Michelle Zink
^^ thank you Penguin Group! 
Forgotten - Cat Patrick
^ I heard this was going to be a movie with Hailee Steinfeld (or is that just a rumor?), so I'm definitely interested.
Dragonswood - Janet Leigh Carey
Graceling - Kristin Cashore
 ^ Yes, I am now in possession of another copy of Graceling. When I got Bitterblue at ALA two weeks ago, I figured I needed to do a reread. I've needed to re-think my assessment of this novel.

Blood Red Road (Dustlands #1) - Moira Young
^ had an ARC copy, but when I saw the new PB version, I had to make the switch! The cover design is so much prettier!  
Has anybody read any of these yet?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

re-read Review - HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE

Howl's Moving Castle is one of those strange books that I love, without knowing why exactly I love it. Even after I finished my second reading, I still can't quite put my finger on what it is that Howl has that is so memorable, but it's something all right.

I originally read this book back in the fall of 2009. I liked it, thought it was pretty cute, but it wasn't my favorite read of the year or anything. Flash-forward to this year: quite by accident I happened across Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki's Academy-Award winning film version...  The film version, to say the least, is WEIRD. Like, blotches of brilliance mixed with the incoherent. At least, that was my interpretation.
I will go out on a limb and confess that anime has never done much for me. My early formative years took place during the early part of the Disney Renaissance, so when I think of animation as art, I think of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King. Anime, thus, always seems to fall short for me. BUT even Miyazaki's version was dynamic enough to make me watch it twice. Anyway, watching that adaptation prompted me to reread the book, and I'm glad I did. Although Miyazaki's version has little in common with the original source material. Moving on...

So...what exactly is it about Howl's Moving Castle that resonates with me? I'm not exactly sure. I can't say it's the characters - no one (Sophie, Michael, Calcifer, or the eponymous Howl) seemed very fleshed out or well-rounded, yet they were still shockingly memorable. I can't really say it was the plot - mostly I felt like I was just along for the ride, observing things from the sidelines rather than being down in the trenches, with the characters, where the action was. It wasn't the writing style, which wasn't very descriptive, but wasn't overly bland, either. I...I don't know. But there is something about this book that is completely unique and memorable.

Specifically, there's something about Howl that has stayed with me. He is an incredibly dynamic character, but I'm not exactly sure why. As I was reading the second time around, I noticed that he doesn't really have that many scenes, as readers spend more time following Sophie around as she cleans and whatnot. I found myself searching and searching for clues to his inner nature or motivations. I'm still a bit underwhelmed by his relationship with Sophie - the few times they were actually together in a scene, they were bickering. Doesn't say 'I heartily love you' (no pun intended). But still...all these things said, Howl's Moving Castle and its characters are among the most memorable. It's been a day since I finished my reread, and I've found myself still thinking about the characters. That's definitely power, right there.
 Howl's Moving Castle was originally published in 1986, making it an example of older, "classic" YA lit. It's definitely written differently than many/most YA novels now that are heavy on exposition and are mostly character-driven. But it's a fun read, it's a quick read, and like I said, there's just something downright memorable about the story.

Blog designed by Dreamy Blog Designs using Joifa Designs Birght Night and Cozy kit