Thursday, March 28, 2013

Book Review: Jane by April Lindner

Title:  Jane
Author:  April Lindner
Genre:  YA romance/retelling
Pages:  373

Rating:  A

Synopsis from  Forced to drop out of an esteemed East Coast college after the sudden death of her parents, Jane Moore takes a nanny job at Thornfield Park, the estate of Nico Rathburn, a world-famous rock star on the brink of a huge comeback. Practical and independent, Jane reluctantly becomes entranced by her magnetic and brooding employer and finds herself in the midst of a forbidden romance. 

But there's a mystery at Thornfield, and Jane's much-envied relationship with Nico is soon tested by an agonizing secret from his past. Torn between her feelings for Nico and his fateful secret, Jane must decide: Does being true to herself mean giving up on true love?

An irresistible romance interwoven with a darkly engrossing mystery, this contemporary retelling of the beloved classic Jane Eyre 
promises to enchant a new generation of readers.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I've been really lazy about writing this review, even though I loved the book.  I read the book on Sunday and waited til now to work on the review, so if it seems shorter than my other reviews, that's why.

Jane is a modern retelling of Jane Eyre, one of my all-time favorite books, and I was sure that modernizing the classic wouldn't work well.  I was wrong.  I loved how Lindner was able to capture the essential story and characters in a contemporary way.  Jane Moore is a recently orphaned college student who has to drop out of school and look for work as a nanny.  Nico Rathburn, this story's Mr. Rochester, is a world-famous rock star with a brooding, gruff manner and a bad-boy past.  Both characters reflected the personas of the originals while also adding their own unique traits.

The story itself is almost identical to the original, so if you've read or seen Jane Eyre, you pretty much now how the story ends.  The major difference between the two stories, besides the modernization and setting in America, is the passion between the two main characters.  Taking place in the present time, the romance is much more physical and charged.

If you like adaptations that don't stray too far (in this case, barely at all) from their original story, then Jane is a must-read.  It has all the same elements as Jane Eyre with a modern twist.  I'm looking forward to seeing how Lindner handles Wuthering Heights in her new book, Catherine.  A

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #17

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is book recommendations.  What are the top ten books I recommend to people the most?

This topic actually wasn't as easy as I thought it would be.  I love recommending books, but I rarely ever recommend the same books to different people.  I usually choose the book based on what I know about the person I'm recommending it to - their reading habits, their favorite genres, their likes & dislikes.  So I had a hard time figuring out which books I tout the most, but I think I've done it.  I'm pretty sure the following are the ones I've pushed more than any others.

Top Ten Books I Recommend the Most

  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen  -  A classic love story that all other romances try to live up to.  Witty, romantic, and engaging, this is one of my favorite books of all time.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte  -  Another one of my favorites, this Gothic novel has romance and mystery and intrigue.  Plus, I love the gruff, anti-hero Edward Rochester.
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien  -  I am always telling people to not just watch the movies, but to read the books for the best Middle-Earth experience.  Tolkien's writing is rich and detailed, and his characters practically come to life in those pages.  This is also probably my favorite trilogy... ever.
  • Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier  -  Mysterious, romantic, full of secrets and betrayal, Rebecca is a must-read.  It's the perfect book to curl up with during a thunder storm.
  • The Fault in Our Stars by John Green  -  I always warn people to have a box of tissues at hand when reading this book.  Beautiful and heartbreaking, this is definitely the book I recommended the most in 2012.
  • The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer  -  If you're like me and like sarcastic banter, then you would love this book.  I already love Heyer's witty dialogue in her other books, but she really outdid herself in this novel.  And it's also a mystery, which is a plus for me.
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins  -  This is another trilogy I always tell people to read if they enjoyed the movie.  The movie can only cover so much, and these books have so much more to offer.  Team Peeta!
  • The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan  -  I love Rick Riordan and his mythology series, but I prefer his Greek/Roman series to the Egyptian one.  I recommend this to anyone who loves mythology or fun adventures or reading in general.
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale  -  The idea of a resort where you can live like an Austen character sounds amazing to me.  Add in some romance and humor, and you've got this awesome book that I'm so in love with.  I just hope the movie adaptation does it justice.
  • Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones  -  I love both the book and the movie adaptation, and I recommend them both.  But the book is definitely my favorite.  The way it pokes fun at classic fairy-tales, as well as its humorous story and dialogue, makes me readily lend this book to anyone looking for a laugh.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Once Upon a Time VII

Spring is here... sort of.  The snow falling outside and the winter weather advisory for my town make me question this, but according to the calendar, it's supposed to be Spring right now.  And with Spring comes the Once Upon a Time VII Challenge.  This is my first year participating in this challenge (it's actually the first time I ever heard of it), and I'm super excited for it.

The purpose of this challenge is to use the Spring season to enjoy books from four different genres - fantasy, mythology, fairy tale, and folklore.  There are different ways to participate in the challenge, each with its own set of specific rules.  I chose two options - Quest the Second and Quest the Third.

The rules for Quest the Second are simple.  You have to read at least one book from each of the challenge genres.   I think I've figured out exactly which four books I'm going to read too.

  1. Mythology - The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter
  2. Fantasy - A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
  3. Fairy tale - Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  4. Folklore - Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

Quest the Third is kind of like an add-on to one of the other quests.  In June, after finishing the requirements for Quest the Second (or The Journey or Quest the First), you also read A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare or watch a theatrical version of the play.  I love this play and its adaptations so I definitely wanted to do this quest as well as the other.

So I'm psyched to take part in the Once Upon a Time Challenge.  It's going to be a lot of fun (the first rule of the challenge), especially since it involves my four favorite genres ever.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Book Review: The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

Title:  The Brides of Rollrock Island
Author:  Margo Lanagan
Genre:  YA fantasy/mythology retelling
Pages:  305

Rating:  C

Synopsis from  On remote Rollrock Island, men make their living--and fetch their wives--from the sea.

The Witch Misskaella knows how to find the girl at the heart of a seal. She'll coax a beauty from the beast for any man, for a price. And what man wouldn't want a sea-wife, to and to hold, and to keep by his side forever?  But though he may tell himself that he is the master, one look in his new bride's eyes will transform him just as much as it changes her. Both will be ensnared--and the witch will look on, laughing.  

In this magical, seaswept novel, Margo Lanagan tells an extraordinary tale of desire, despair, and transformation. With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also of unspoken love.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I've always been fascinated with selkie mythology, so when I heard about The Brides of Rollrock Island, I was really excited to check it out.  But I thought the book was just blah over all.  There was no real plot, only a couple of the characters got any development, and the narration was choppy and disjointed.

The book is split into a group of short stories about Rollrock Island, each told by a different character.  Usually I like split narration, but in this case, having so many narrators took away from the story.  The phrase "Too many cooks spoil the broth" was true here.  It made the story seem very choppy and all over the place.  And it made the fact that there was barely a plot much more noticeable.

I think I might have liked the story a little more if some of the narration had been done by one of the seal-wives.  Considering that the book is called The Brides of Rollrock Island, you would have thought the story might have been told from their point-of-view, at least a little.  Instead, all of the narrators are the non-selkies.  So the seal-wives barely had any character development; their personalities were very flat and boring.  One of these days, I'd like to read a book about selkies that's told from their POV, about how it felt to be pulled from their skins and what it was like to be trapped on land and how they justified leaving their children behind if they found their skin again.  That would be a great book.

The Brides of Rollrock Island disappointed me because I was hoping for something different, something more than what I got.  I expected a more mysterious story, a story that focused mostly on the selkies and less about the islanders.  I guess my biggest problem with the book was that it didn't fit my expectations.  C

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #16

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is the top ten books you just HAD to buy... but are still sitting on your bookshelf unread.  I thought that this would be such an easy topic.  After all, I just need to look through the books on my bookshelves, but almost all my books are currently packed up because I'm in the (very long) process of painting my room.  So I chose the books that I could remember off the top of my head.

Top Ten Books I HAD to Buy... but Still Haven't Read Yet
  • Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale  -  I loved Austenland, so when I heard that Hale was writing another book, I pre-ordered it and couldn't wait to read it.  And I haven't touched it since it came.  I just got distracted by lots of other books and series.
  • The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore  -  I really like the Lorien Legacies series, but this has happened with all three of the books.  Each time I bought one, it sat on my shelf for ages before I finally read it.  I don't know why.  It's just a weird pattern.
  • Crossed and Reached by Ally Condie  -  As soon as I finished Matched, I told my dad, "You have to order these for me now" (he works for the publisher).  But I've just been distracted, and now Crossed is packed up somewhere while I paint.
  • North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell  -  So my motivation for picking this book up was simply because I loved the miniseries, and I loved the miniseries simply because Richard Armitage.
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill  -  I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie, but I never saw the movie or read the book.  I chickened out of both.
  • Inheritance by Christopher Paolini  -  I couldn't wait for the finale of the Inheritance Cycle, and when I got this book, I immediately started to read it... only to discover that it had been so long since I read the earlier books, I had no idea what was going on anymore.  So the final book has to wait until I have enough time to reread the first three (ginormous) books.
  • Sapphique by Catherine Fisher  -  I ordered this book while I was still in the middle of Incarceron, because I was loving that first book so much.  And then I lost the book for about a year.
  • A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick  -  I went through this phase where I was reading all of Dick's short stories, so I picked up a couple of his books too.  But after reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and thinking it was really weird, I decided to put A Scanner Darkly on hold.
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi  -  So this book hasn't been sitting on my shelf for that long, but it's definitely one that fits here.  Lots of bloggers built up a lot of hype for this series, and I was dying to read it.  I ordered it with a bunch of other books and decided to save the best for last.  And then I ordered more books, and then I went to the library, and so the book is still sitting there, waiting until I finish everything else.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

So after stuffing my face with way too much yummy food - corned beef and cabbage, potatoes, Irish soda bread, M&Ms - the last thing I wanted to do was sit down and write a blog post.  Honestly, what I really want right now is to slip into a food coma and pretend that everything I ate was only a few calories.

But I decided to write anyway, because I want to share some of my favorite Irish (or Celtic) books and movies.

My Favorite Irish Movies
  • The Quiet Man  -  John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara star in this film about a Pittsburgh man who returns to the home he was born in, in Ireland, and must navigate through the Old World rituals that are still followed.  Beautiful and humorous, The Quiet Man is one of my family's favorites.
  • The Secret of Roan Inish  -  An interesting movie about life on the small isles off the Irish coast and Irish selkie mythology, I've loved The Secret of Roan Inish since I was little.  It tells the tale of a family ripped apart by the sea, and it's both mysterious and sweet.
  • Darby O'Gill & the Little People  -  Yes, this movie is cheesy, and the special effects are outdated, but it's fun and lighthearted.  It's an annual tradition in my family to watch this every St. Patrick's Day, and we've been doing it ever since I was little, so it will always hold a very special place in my heart.
  • My Left Foot  -  I first saw this in my cinema class in college, and I loved it.  Based on a true story, My Left Foot tells the story of Christy Brown, a quadriplegic who can only control his left foot.  His tale is touching and emotional, and Daniel Day-Lewis gives an amazing performace as Brown.
  • Evelyn  -  A definite tear-jerker, this movie is about a single father fighting for the right to raise his children on his own.  With great actors like Pearce Brosnan and a beautiful story, I highly recommend this movie to anyone who's looking for something both bitter and sweet.
My Favorite Irish Books
  • Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes  -  One of the few chick-lit books I like, and not just because one of the main characters shares my name.
  • The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer  -  I love this series and am still so sad that it's over.  Artemis Fowl's journey from genius criminal mastermind to a hero is full of fun, adventure, and magic.
  • The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater  -  While this book isn't specifically set in Ireland, it feels very Irish.  When I read it, I just kept picturing the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland or the movie The Secret of Roan Inish.  It has a definite Celtic feel, and since my heritage is mostly Irish, that also affects my perception of the book as Irish.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Finds - March 15th

FRIDAY FINDS is hosted by Should Be Reading and showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (They're not necessarily books you purchased.)  There are a lot this time because I discovered so many through this week's Top Ten Tuesday, so I'm sorting them by genre.

Here are this week's finds:


Fairy-tale Retellings
Historical Fiction

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book Review: The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson

Title:  The Crown of Embers
Author:  Rae Carson
Series:  Fire and Thorns #2
Genre:  YA fantasy
Pages:  410

Rating:  A

Synopsis from  In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.

Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson was incredible!  I'm not sure if I love it as much as the first book or if I love it more.  This book definitely didn't follow the usual pattern with middle books in a trilogy.  It stands on its own as an exciting and romantic adventure.  (Now to attempt to review this without spoilers.)

Elisa is an even better character in this book.  She's more mature and sure of herself, quick-thinking, and diplomatic.  In her heart, she sometimes feels like an insecure seventeen-year-old, but she doesn't allow her insecurities to rule her or to affect her judgment.  I think Elisa's such an amazing person because of her strength.  She's willing to let go of love, happiness, and life for the sake of her kingdom and its people.

There are both old and new characters in The Crown of Embers.  Each one gets a chance to shine, as well as some great character development and background.  None of them ever seems two-dimensional.  But sometimes they did frustrate me (I despise Ximena!).  I wanted to just shake them all and say, "Don't you see the answer's right there in front of you?!"  But of course, if they had seen it, the story would have been very short, and the tension (romantic or hostile) between the characters wouldn't have happened.

The plot and writing were great.  I felt swept up into the story, the drama, the politics, the intrigue, the action.  I couldn't wait to start the next chapter and see where the story went.  And Carson definitely threw in some twists I wasn't expecting, which made the story even more exciting.

The best and most frustrating part of the book - the romance.  It's so obvious that Elisa and the man she's in love with (not telling) are meant to be together.  And the tension between them is spine-tingling.  It's also frustrating too, because you can see that they love each other, but it takes so long before they both come to that realization too.  Can't wait to see what happens with their relationship in the final book.

And then there was ... the cliffhanger.  OMG that ending killed me!  And now I have to wait to see how it all will end.  I am definitely excited for The Bitter Kingdom (out August 27th).  I hope it is as good as the first two books, because they were both awesome.  A

Book Review: Cloaked by Alex Flinn

Title:  Cloaked
Author:  Alex Flinn
Genre:  YA fairytale retelling
Pages:  341

Rating: C+

Synopsis from  I’m not your average hero. I actually wasn’t your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all.

It all started with the curse. And the frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission.

There wasn’t a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I’ve ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Keys.

Don’t believe me? I didn’t believe it either. But you’ll see. Because I knew it all was true, the second I got CLOAKED

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I loved Beastly by Alex Flinn so when I saw that my library had a few more of her books, I couldn't wait to read them.  But Cloaked did not live up to my expectations.  While I did enjoy the fact that Flinn adapted lesser known fairy-tales in this book, it didn't change the fact that the story was corny, full of stereotypes, and horribly cliched.  Now, I realize fairy-tales themselves are often cheesy, stereotypical, and cliched, but as an adaption, Cloaked could have avoided some of the cliches and given the characters more development (I'm not sure there's a way to remove the cheesiness from this plot).

The main character, Johnny, is the only character with any sort of depth to him.  He's your typical, hard-working American teenager... who wants to be a world-famous shoe designer.  His attraction to the hot princess and her money lead him on a crazy adventure, and his cynicism and baffled reactions towards the magic and events surrounding him is real and believable.

The rest of the characters are two-dimensional stereotypes.  The prince and princess are spoiled brats with ridiculous accents and Disney-princess/prince looks; the girl-next-door is obviously into Johnny but nowhere near pretty enough to tempt him; the villains are either bumbling idiots or wicked witches, all with stupid "Zalkenbourgian" accents.

What kept me from really disliking the book were the magical animals and the lesser-known fairy-tales.  The talking animals were funny, sarcastic, and a breath of fresh air.  I think I would've preferred an entire book about just them.  And the use of other fairy-tales besides the typical ones (Cinderella, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, etc.) was refreshing and fun.  I especially loved the story of the six swans who are rescued by their sister.

According to other Flinn fans, Cloaked is not her best work so I still intend to check out her other books (especially since I loved Beastly).  I'm just really glad this wasn't the first book of Flinn's I ever read, because I would have never given her other books a chance.  C+

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #15

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is the top ten books at the TOP of my Spring TBR list.

The TOP Ten Books of My Spring TBR List
  • The Elite by Kiera Cass -  I loved The Selection, and I cannot wait to see what happens to America next!
  • Scarlet by Marissa Meyer -  A fairy-tale retelling and the sequel to Cinder? I just got this from Amazon, and I'm so psyched to read it.
  • The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter -  I'm actually really surprised at my self-control with this book, because after the crazy cliffhanger of the second book, you'd think I would have put aside everything to read this right away. 
  • Pantomime by Laura Lam -  Also got this from Amazon recently, and it looks interesting.  Plus, the cover intrigues me.
  • Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi -  Another book from Amazon that is still waiting to be read.  I've heard tons of awesome things about this series from other bloggers, so I'm looking forward to reading it for myself.
  • Taken by Erin Bowman -  This book's premise not only sounds awesome, but it's also garnered a lot of attention and interest from other book bloggers, which is how I heard about it.  (I'm so jealous of all you who got ARCs!)
  • Let the Sky Fall by Shannon Messenger -  A mythology retelling about wind spirits?  Sign me up.  I love mythology retellings, especially when the stories focus on the lesser known myths.
  • Awaken by Meg Cabot -  It's the final book in the trilogy, and I'm super excited for it!  I love almost all Hades/Persephone stories, and while the first book wasn't my favorite, the story definitely improved with the second book. So if Cabot follows that pattern, Awaken should be amazing.
  • Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson -  This book really intrigues me because it's a retelling of the Bluebeard story.  I'm hoping that there's some fun new twists to his legend.  Can't wait!
  • Son of Sobek by Rick Riordan -  And now to let out a fangirl squeee!  I love Riordan; I have yet to read anything of his that I didn't love.  And both his Percy Jackson series and Kane Chronicles were amazing.  I kept hoping that somewhere in the books they would do a crossover, especially since they kept hinting at the Olympians' existence during the Kane Chronicles.  And it seems Riordan heard his fans' wishes because now he's written Son of Sobeck, an official crossover that has Carter Kane and Percy Jackson teaming up.  SQUEEEE!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Movie Review: Oz the Great and Powerful

Where to begin?  I neither loved nor hated Oz the Great and Powerful.  It was fun and entertaining, and James Franco was definitely the best-looking wizard of Oz I've ever seen.  But for the most part, the movie was just cheesy, from some terrible CGI and 3-D gimmicks to over-the-top acting.

That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy the movie, because I did.  There were plenty of funny moments that had us all laughing, as well as a couple of secondary characters that provided both humor and cuteness.  Oz's adorable flying monkey bellhop-turned-sidekick was probably my favorite character during the whole movie.

The coolest part of the movie was the Land of Oz.  This film's very bright and colorful depiction was reminiscent of the original movie, while adding some fun new elements and incorporating other parts of Oz that we didn't get to see in the original.

Now for the stuff that kept me from considering this a fantastic movie.  First, not all of the actors in this movie can... well, act.  Others can act, but the script made it hard for me to take them seriously.  Then there were the moments when it became super-obvious that characters had changed from actors to CGI as they were running through the landscape.  But I can forgive all that because none of it bothered me as much as the stupid 3-D gimmicks.  I really hate the 3-D craze in Hollywood right now.  It doesn't impress me; it just gives me headaches.  And the biggest reason I hate it is because of the gimmicks the filmmakers throw in, gimmicks that don't translate to the 2-D version.  Things popping out at you and the "roller coaster effect" that's supposed to make you feel like you're moving too - none of those work in 2-D, which is the version I always watch.  It's the version most people will watch when they buy the DVD.  So throwing in all those "special effects" that only work in 3-D just ruins a movie for me, because it looks cheap in 2-D.

So, Hollywood, make as many 3-D movies as you want, but please remember to consider the people who will only be watching the 2-D version.  It would have made Oz the Great and Powerful a much better movie, in my opinion, if you'd simply avoided the gimmicks.  B

Friday, March 8, 2013

Library Haul - March 8th

Being sick absolutely stinks.  It throws your whole life out of order.  Blogging, reading, writing - all of it takes a back seat when you're not feeling well.

Which is why this post will be short and sweet.

This Week's Library Haul

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #14

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is the top ten series I'd like to start but haven't yet.  And here's mine:

Top Ten Series I'd Like to Start but Haven't Yet

Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Title:  The Scorpio Races
Author:  Maggie Stiefvater
Genre:  YA fantasy/mythology retelling
Pages:  409

Rating:  A+

Synopsis from  It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Opening line:  "It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die."

I just knew when I started reading The Scorpio Races that I shouldn't have started it so late at night.  From the opening to the closing line, I was sucked in and unwilling to stop reading despite knowing I'd hate myself for staying up so late.  And sure enough, I'm soooo tired today, but that book was worth it.

One of the coolest aspects of this story was that it could just as easily have been Celtic historical fiction, not fantasy.  It could have simply been a story about an Irish girl deciding to ride in a male-dominated sport and her struggle with both the training and the prejudice against her, and about a boy who wants to own the horse that belongs to his boss, even though he's the one who's been training and riding it for the past six years.  I actually kept thinking of two movies when I read this book - The Quiet Man (because of the racing scene and the fight scene) and The Secret of Roan Inish (because of its depiction of the Irish island dwellers and their mythology).  Everything in The Scorpio Races seems very realistic, from the American tourists to the descriptions of the fields and cliffs.  The only thing that makes this book fantasy is the fictional island of Thisby and the surrounding Scorpio Sea, and the fact that the racers ride wild, carnivorous water horses (the Capall Uisca) from the sea that would do anything to escape, including eat their riders.

The characters in the book were great too.  Kate "Puck" Connolly is the determined island girl who needs to ride to try to keep her home and family together.  Since being orphaned thanks to the water horses, she's had to become tough and self-reliant, but she's also got a vulnerable side that she only lets slip when she thinks she's alone.  I thought she was great because she wasn't a Mary-Sue; she's a fierce competitor but she also makes mistakes.  She's one of two narrators in the book; the other is Sean Kendrick.  Sean was also orphaned by the water horses, but he still appreciates and loves them, training them to run the races.  He has a very calming and commanding presence, but there's also a wildness to him, especially when he's with Corr, his water horse.  My favorite secondary characters are the American horse-buyer George Holly and Puck's younger brother Finn.  Both add some elements of humor, and they also each help Sean and Puck reach their goals.

Everything about The Scorpio Races drew me in- the beautiful writing, the characters, the setting, the horses, the story.  I felt like I was there the entire time, standing next to Puck or riding the Capall Uisca, and I only wish that Stiefvater would write another book about Thisby and the races so I could experience it all over again.  A+

Monday, March 4, 2013

Book Review: Pure by Julianna Baggott

Title:  Pure
Author:  Julianna Baggott
Series:  Pure trilogy #1
Genre:  Dystopian
Pages:  431

Rating:  C-

Synopsis from  Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her

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I really wanted to like this book more than I did.  It had an interesting (if not original) concept, an exciting plot, and pretty good characters.  But it was just too... icky.  There were several moments/descriptions throughout the book that made my stomach do somersaults.  I actually had to force myself to finish the book, skimming over the gross stuff as much as possible.  It's making me sick just thinking about it now.

The story takes place in post-Apocalyptic America, where the privileged few that escaped the nuclear radiation are living in the Dome, and the survivors live as wretches outside.  Most of the survivors have fused to the things they were near or holding when the bombs went off, which is where most of the grossness arises.  The descriptions of the human-animal, human-human, or human-object fusings are intense and meant to disturb.  Also, some of the creatures have become very zombie-like, and I already don't like the zombie craze, so that certainly didn't help with my opinion of the book.

Which is a pity because if the ick had just been toned down, I would have loved Pure.  The characters were easy to connect to, and they drew me in to the story.  Pressia is a great main character.  She's an atypical heroine in that she's very honest about her feelings and how much she's tempted by the comforts the "bad guys" provide.  She's not some untouchable creature who doesn't feel the slightest pull towards the opposite side.  She's gruff and independent but also scared out of her wits.  Her love interest, Bradwell, is pretty cool too, if a little stereotypical.  He's the loner conspiracy theorist, living in a basement surrounded by papers proving his theories.  The other main character of the story, Partridge, is a little wooden in the beginning, but his character developed a lot during his adventures.  I actually enjoyed his story more than Pressia's.

Overall, Pure had so much potential, but it lost me with all the creepy imagery.  C-

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Random Thoughts - March 2nd

So I know I was originally going to read Pure today, and write a review, and then start The Scorpio Races (as well as clean, do laundry, run to the bank, etc). But something happened today to ruin all that.  Two people completed screwed up my plans to be productive and accomplish something, and their names are Hank and John Green.

I thought by giving up TV for Lent (along with bacon and Bejeweled Blitz), I would be giving myself more time to focus on reading and blogging.  Instead, my TV watching has simply been replaced by vlogs.  With all this free time available, I decided to catch up on the Brotherhood 2.0/Nerdfighter/Vlogbrother obsession by watching the Green brothers' videos, starting from the very beginning- January 2007.  I told myself I would watch a "few" videos a day so I'd still have plenty of time to read too.  Yeah, right!

Instead of reading today, I watched the Brotherhood 2.0 archives from May to October (and browsed Ikea's website to furnish a semi-imaginary apartment, but that's a different story).  It certainly didn't help that I disliked the little that I have read of Pure so far, or that ever since we got a new router (go Netgear!), my iPod stays connected to the internet so I can now actually watch YouTube videos on it.  It also didn't help that the Green brothers are just so... awesome!  Witty, smart, outspoken, goofy- what's not to love?  Of course, I don't always agree with their political opinions (about which they're very vocal), but they talk about them very intelligently and with only a little jabbing at the opposite party, so that even if I don't agree, I'm able to respect their opinions.

It's just so easy to get caught up in the videos without realizing how much time has passed.  Or I keep telling myself that the next video will be the last, over and over again.  This is most definitely not good.  I have a TBR list that keeps growing, and books that need to be returned to the library, and errands to run, and excersise workouts to start, and a sleep-deprived body to put to bed.  So much to do!  And yet...

It's not midnight yet, so I can watch a couple more videos before bed.  Just a couple, I swear... maybe a few... there's even time for several.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I'll probably finish the 2007 archives tonight and hate myself in the morning.  To my fellow nerdfighters - DFTBA!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Library Haul - March 1st

I told myself that I would be good this week, and I wouldn't borrow any more books until I finished the ones I got last time and the ones I just got in the mail.  But then my sister and I took our weekly visit to the library, and I caved into temptation.  Fortunately I had enough self-discipline to only get two books, even though my library just got a ton of new books that are all on my TBR list.

So once I finish my original library books - Pure by Julianna Baggott and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater - and my new books from Amazon - The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter, Scarlet by Marissa Meyer, and Pantomime by Laura Lam - I will be starting on these next two books:

This week's Library Haul