Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #22

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's TTT is words/topics that make you instantly buy/pick up a book.  I've decided to not only list my Go-To words/topics, but also some of the books that I did actually buy/pick up because of them.

Top Ten Words/Topics That Make Me Instantly Buy or Pick Up a Book

  • Retelling/Revamping/Adaptation
    • Splintered by A.G. Howard
    • Jane by April Lindner
    • Beastly by Alex Flinn
  • Mythology (especially Hades & Persephone)
    • Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
    • Abandon by Meg Cabot
    • The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
  • Love Triangle (I know, I know; cue the groaning & eye-rolling)
    • Matched by Ally Condie
    • The Selection by Kiera Cass
    • The Host by Stephenie Meyer
  • Dystopian
    • Dualed by Elsie Chapman
    • Birthmarked by Caragh M. O'Brien
    • Eve by Anna Carey
  • Regency/Historical Romance
    • Georgette Heyer's novels
    • Seeking Persephone by Sarah M. Eden
    • A Gown of Spanish Lace by Janette Oke
  • Dragons
    • A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan
    • The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey
    • The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman
  • Jane Austen
    • Austenland by Shannon Hale
    • Lost in Austen by Emma Campbell Webster
    • A Memoir of Jane Austen by James Edward Austen-Leigh
  • Mystery/Suspense
    • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
    • The Hercule Poirot series by Agatha Christie
    • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • Epic/High Fantasy
    • The Cadet of Tildor by Alex Lidell
    • The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander
    • The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini
  • Travel and/or Cooking Memoir (especially set in Italy)
    • A Thousand Days in Tuscany by Marlena de Blasi
    • Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
    • Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

So what do you think?  Are you a fan of any of these words or topics?  Are you wondering how I could possibly like love triangles?  And what are some words or topics that make you grab up a book without a second thought?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Random Thoughts - Reading Slumps

Reading slumps... I hates them.  Unfortunately, I'm in the middle of one right now.  It just feels like a chore to pick up a book and read it right now.  All I want to do is turn on the TV and veg and be completely unproductive.  Which also extends into my blogging.  I just don't feel like updating or posting.  Especially since I don't have anything to write about anyway.  Blah.

Perhaps the biggest reason I'm in a slump is because pretty much all of my new books to be read are the same genre.  Dualed, Under the Never Sky, Crossed - they're all dystopian, and as much as I love that genre, sometimes you have to take a break.  

Then there was the fact that the last two books I read were really disappointing, and that can always make it hard to pick up another book.  What if the next book is just as disappointing or gross?  What if I absolutely hate it and it feels like a waste of time?

I also think it's because I signed up for this Goodreads Reading Challenge.  My goal is 150 books this year, and that stupid site doesn't just keep track of your progress, it also feels the need to inform you of how well you're doing.  Right now, it says that at my current rate of reading, I'm three books behind schedule.  Behind schedule???  I have a whole year to reach my goal.  How can I be "behind schedule"?  There is nothing that can take the joy out of reading faster than a deadline.  Or worse, a nagging deadline.

So how to break this slump?  I've decided to try a couple of things and see which works best.

  • Re-read old favorites
    • By re-reading some of my old favorites, I'm hoping to just give myself a reminder of how much I love reading and books.  It will also hopefully renew my confidence that there are good books out there that aren't going to disappoint me.
  • Switch genres
    • I really need to stop reading nothing but dystopian.  For one thing, it can get kind of depressing.  For another, they all start to blend together.  So I need to read something completely different, like historical fiction or contemporary or memoirs.
  • Visit the library
    • I'm going to the library with my sister tomorrow.  I'll be able to pick up some new books that look interesting and actually gain my attention.  I could also find some sequels to books that I know are good.
  • Ignore Goodreads
    • I just need to accept that there are going to be weeks where I read like a crazy fiend, and others where I read one book and that's it.  And Goodreads can't determine whether or not I'm going to accomplish my goal at the rate at which they think I should be reading.  Just forget the deadline and have fun!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: Master of Many Treasures by Mary Brown

Title:  Master of Many Treasures
Author:  Mary Brown
Series:  Pigs Don't Fly #3
Genre:  Fantasy
Pages:  384

Rating:  F

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  The good news was that Summer had found true love. The bad news was that, while the object of her affections was sometimes in human form, he was last seen in dragon form flying east. So she undertook yet another arduous quest...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I cannot think of anything good to say about Master of Many Treasures.  I really can't.  All I can think of was everything I hated about this book.

  • Profanity  -  The last book had hardly any swearing in it at all.  In this book, the F-word is used frequently.  I just couldn't deal with how many times it was said.
  • Sex  -  I stopped actually reading the book and just skimmed the rest of it when the author just kept bringing up sick/disgusting references.  I don't even want to mention/think about what was in the book.  I was so grossed out; I almost didn't finish the book at all.  But since I wanted to know if Summer and Jasper ended up together, I pretty much just kept jumping ahead every 10 pages, skimmed to see what happened, and then jumped ahead the next 10 pages until the end.
  • Dickon  -  I hated this character so much, I wanted him to die.  Most of the profanity is from his dialogue too.
  • The ending  -  Probably one of the worst endings ever.  I finished the book and was like, "I wasted my time reading/skimming this book for it to end like that?!"
Don't bother reading this book at all.  Even if you've read Pigs Don't Fly and want to know what happens next, it's not worth reading this garbage, which is exactly where my copy of this book is headed.  F

Book Review: Pigs Don't Fly by Mary Brown

Title:  Pigs Don't Fly
Author:  Mary Brown
Series:  Pigs Don't Fly #2
Genre:  Fantasy
Pages:  384

Rating:  C+

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  Left an orphan with a small dowry and a magic ring, all Summer wanted was to find a husband. But first, a raggle-tail assortment of creatures needed her help--particularly the flying pig and the handsome amnesiac blind knight...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I first heard about Pigs Don't Fly while browsing through Barnes & Noble's website.  The book was out-of-print, so of course they didn't actually carry it, and I forgot about it for years.  Then I found it on paperbackswap.com recently, and I was so excited to read it.  Perhaps my expectations were too high, because I thought the book was just okay.

The characters are interesting and different.  Summer is an educated peasant girl, almost unheard of in her world, and she's compassionate and caring towards others.  But she's also obese, naive, and stubborn.  She gets a crush on a blind knight (which she's happy about because he can't see how fat she is) who needs her help to find his way home, and she picks up a ragtag crew of misfit animals on the way.  The animals are actually more interesting characters than the humans.

The story itself is all-over-the-place with a very thin plot.  But it had lots of small, fun adventures that were entertaining.  The biggest problem with the story as a whole was the ending.  It felt rushed and thrown-together at the last minute, like the author had no more ideas and just needed an out.

And then there's the insta-love.  These two characters had nothing between them at all (they're not even the same species during most of their adventures), and once they kiss, they magically fall madly in love with each other. Hates it!  And I was actually thrown by all the sexual references made throughout the book.  There was nothing explicit fortunately, but there's still a lot more than I expected.

Pigs Don't Fly is an okay book.  It's moderately entertaining; the animals are the story's saving grace.  It would have been better as a series of short stories rather than one book.  C+

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #21

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is books I liked more/less than I thought I would.  Of course it was really easy to think of books I liked less, so that half of the list is longer.

Top Ten Books I Liked More/Less Than I Thought I Would


  • Nerilka's Story by Anne McCaffrey  -  I love Anne McCaffrey and her Dragonriders of Pern series, but this book was terrible, not only as a Pern novel but also as a story in general.  The characters and the romance were awful.  It just sucked overall.
  • Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes  -  I picked up this book because I loved the movie, and the movie's so much better.  The book is boring, and the Polish workers who provided so much humor are a small chapter in an otherwise drab book.  I didn't even bother to finish it.  If I had to read about them finding one more well on the property, I was going to cry tears of boredom.
  • Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes  -  The premise sounded interesting; they were calling it Game of Thrones for teens.  And that's pretty much what it was - a watered-down copycat trying to ride the coattails of the HBO series' success.  Plus the wooden characters, mediocre writing, and cliches didn't help either.
  • Pure by Julianna Baggott  -  I really wanted to like this book.  The characters were good, and the story was interesting, but it was just too... icky.  I don't like things that are gross or gruesome (like zombies, for example), and this book just had too much of it for me to stomach.  If you're reading a book, and your main reaction is that you feel like you're going to be sick, it's not the right book for you.
  • The Dragon Princess by E.D. Baker  -  I loved most of Baker's Frog Princess series, so this book was a disappointment.  The characters are too annoying to like, and the constant recapping of all the previous books/storylines drove me nuts.  I know what happened in the last book; you don't have to tell the whole story over again.
  • That Summer in Sicily by Marlena de Blasi  -  De Blasi's other memoirs and travelogues are beautiful, sometimes romantic, and well-written.   This book was just terrible.  It had nothing to do with her travels in Sicily or with her at all.  The book was just de Blasi recounting someone else's (uninteresting) life story as she heard it when she was in Sicily.
  • House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones  -  It is so hard to admit this, but yes, there is a Diana Wynne Jones book that I didn't love.  The main character is frustrating, and the story itself is only so-so.  I loved all the other books from this series, but this one just didn't live up to what I've come to expect from Jones' work.
  • The Talisman Ring by Georgette Heyer  -  When I read the description for this book, it didn't catch my interest.  It sounded silly and nothing like Heyer's usual work.  But this book is epic!  The dialogue is some of her best and wittiest.  The characters and the story are amazing and hilarious.  I couldn't stop laughing out loud while reading it.
  • Austenland by Shannon Hale  -  Chick-lit and I do not usually get along, so I was very skeptical about this book.  But since it involved Jane Austen, and I love all things Austen, I decided to try it out anyway.  I'm so glad I did.  I'm in love with everything about this book - the romance, the characters, the setting, the story.  I just want to get swept off to Austenland and fall in love with my own Mr. Nobley.  **Sigh**
  • Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale  -  When I heard Hale was writing a sequel to Austenland, I grabbed it as soon as it was released.  But when I read the blurb, I thought it sounded nothing like the first book.  In fact, I didn't think it sounded good at all, so I put off reading it for months.  Then I read it last week, and it's so good.  It really is nothing like the original; it's an outrageously comical murder-mystery.  It's not meant to be taken seriously; it's just so over-the-top and ridiculous.  The romance is sweet too, and the villain was not who I expected it to be.  But it was really the humor and the craziness that made me love this book.

Monday, April 22, 2013

RIP, E.L. Konigsburg

I was catching up on all my entertainment news from the weekend when I saw the announcement that E.L. Konigsburg passed away on Friday, April 19th.  For those of you who don't know, Konigsburg wrote one of my favorite childhood books, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.  I read that book after my mom recommended to me; it had been one of her favorite books as a kid too.  So I just wanted to say Rest In Peace, E.L. Konigsburg, and thank you for your wonderful book.  I will be reading it as soon as I get home tonight.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson

Title:  Strands of Bronze and Gold
Author:  Jane Nickerson
Series:  Strands #1
Genre:  YA folklore retelling/historical fiction
Pages:  352

Rating:  B+

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  When seventeen-year-old Sophia Petheram’s beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation—on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting—from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi.

Sophie has always longed for a comfortable life, and she finds herself both attracted to and shocked by the charm and easy manners of her overgenerous guardian. But as she begins to piece together the mystery of his past, it’s as if, thread by thread, a silken net is tightening around her. And as she gathers stories and catches whispers of his former wives—all with hair as red as her own—in the forgotten corners of the abbey, Sophie knows she’s trapped in the passion and danger of de Cressac’s intoxicating world.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Creepy, suspenseful, and mysterious, Strands of Bronze and Gold is an interesting retelling of the Bluebeard folktale.  Instead of the story being set in France, where the tale originated, it now takes place in Mississippi, on a Southern plantation.  It's told from the POV of Sophie, the newest conquest of Monsieur de Cressac, as she leaves her home in the Northeast to join him.

While the writing is good and the setting beautiful, the story, specifically the ending, could have been better.  I felt like the book excelled at building the tension and the suspense.  I couldn't go to sleep without seeing how everything ended.  But the final climax and following conclusion don't live up to the rest of the book.  I guess I was expecting something way more spectacular and well-written, but it all happens so quickly that it just feels rushed and thrown-together.

It also would have been nice if the story didn't stick so closely to the original tale.  The biggest difference is the plantation setting and the anti-slavery subplot.  Other than that, the story is pretty much the same, just drawn out.

I still enjoyed Strands of Bronze and Gold though, because the characters have depth, the writing itself is good, and the tension is spine-tingling.  And I intend to read the next book in Nickerson's series (which is based on the Scottish "Ballad of Tam Lin") because it sounds cool, and I do love her writing style.  B+

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Book Review: Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

Title:  Midnight in Austenland
Author:  Shannon Hale
Series:  Austenland #2
Genre:  Chick-lit/Mystery/Romance
Pages:  288

Rating:  A-

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  Charlotte Kinder is in need of true escape when she heads from Ohio to Pembrook Park, a Jane Austen-themed retreat in the British countryside. But as it turns out, this vacation is no time to relax. Hearts are racing and stomachs fluttering in a tangle of intrigues-real and pretend, sinister and romantic-increasingly tough to sort out. It's midnight in Austenland, and Charlotte is about to prove herself a heroine worthy of Austen herself.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

If you picked up Midnight in Austenland because you loved Austenland and thought this book would be just like it, you're in for a surprise.  This book is nothing like the first.  The original book is a cute, fun romance, while this sequel is a crazy romance and murder-mystery.  At first, I wasn't sure I was going to like it, because it was so different and outrageous.  But it turns out that the book is SO melodramatic and over-the-top and ridiculous that it's good.

Midnight in Austenland focuses on Charlotte Kinder, a recently-divorced woman in her thirties who needs an escape to help get her back on her feet.  In the beginning, she seems really wishy-washy, but throughout the book, I started to connect with her.  She's lonely and vulnerable, and she's trying so hard to fit into this strange Regency world.  Her fellow Austen-lovers include both old and new characters.  Miss Charming, Colonel Andrews, and Mrs. Wattlesbrook all return, and Charming & Andrews provide lots of humor and fun, just as they did in Austenland.  The new characters - Eddie, Lydia, and Mallery - are interesting additions, each one completely different from each other.  Eddie is supportive and fun, Lydia is sickly but sweet, and Mallery is intense and brooding.

The plot is, as I said before, completely outrageous with its murder-mystery and villain, but I think that's what Hale was going for.  I think the book is supposed to be over-the-top and humorous.  There are also plenty of unexpected twists that I didn't see coming (like who the villain really is), and I enjoyed every minute of the crazy adventures these characters had.

So if you're like me, and you picked up this book because you loved the original, expect to be thrown for a loop.  But also keep an open mind.  Even though I knew early on that this wasn't going to be another cute romance, I gave Midnight in Austenland a chance anyway and was delightfully surprised to discover that the book stands on its own as an incredibly hilarious romantic comedy/mystery that kept me laughing.  A-

Book Review: Once by Anna Carey

Title:  Once
Author:  Anna Carey
Series:  Eve #2
Genre:  YA dystopian
Pages:  354

Rating:  A-

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  In the second book of this thrilling dystopian adventure, Eve will come face to face with the king who has been ruthlessly hunting her and learn the shocking truth about who she really is.

Having managed to evade the soldiers hunting her, Eve finally reached Califia, a haven for women determined to live outside the oppressive rule of the King of New America. However, Eve's freedom came at a price: she was forced to leave Caleb, the boy she loves, wounded and alone at the city gates. When Eve learns that Califia may not be as safe as it seems she sets out once again in the hopes of being with Caleb only to fall into a trap that sends her to the City of Sand and directly into the hands of the King. 

Once at the stronghold of the King, Eve will uncover the real reason he was so intent on her capture, and the unbelievable role he intends her to fill. When she is finally reunited with Caleb inside the city walls, Eve will risk everything to be with him.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Once is an emotionally draining book.  It's riveting and romantic, but the ending is just so heartbreaking.  As soon as I finished reading it, I just wanted to read something lighthearted and fun.

Eve is a much stronger character in Once.  I like how her character has progressed from a naive and bossy know-it-all to a strong, confident, and compassionate heroine.  And if you didn't fall in love with Caleb in the first book, you definitely will now.  He's such a great love interest; his idealism, his convictions, and his passion all contribute to his growth as a character.  Eve and Caleb's relationship is passionate and intense, making the ending (which I won't spoil) all the more emotional.

The story itself is interesting, especially since it continues to build the world Carey created.  Besides the school and the wild, the book also shows what life is like in Califia and the City of Sand.  There are new characters too - Charles, Clara, the King - and each added something new to the story.  The king presents a very conflicted character.  Part of me hates him for all of the things he's done to re-establish New America, but another part of me sees how much he struggles with his position, his actions, and his place with Eve.  And you can see how Eve feels the same way about him.

Once is a great second book to a trilogy.  It has its own unique storyline, introduces some new and interesting characters, and provides non-stop action that kept me glued to the book.  Just be ready for an ending that will break your heart and leave you feeling drained.  A-

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #20

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is actually a Rewind, which means you can pick any past topic that you might have missed or want to continue.  Since I've only been doing this for a few months, there were a lot of topics that I could choose from, so I took two and meshed them.  I'm doing both Books from Before You Were a Blogger and Childhood Favorites.  These are the books that I loved as a kid and read over and over again, and when feeling nostalgic, I will still pick them up and read them now.

Top Ten Books I Read Before I Was a Blogger - The Childhood Favorites Edition

  • Make Way For Ducklings by Robert McClusky  -  A sweet story about ducklings traveling through Boston and how the police stop all the traffic in the city to let the ducklings pass.  It's cute and based on real events.  There's even a bronze statue commemorating the book in Boston.
  • Andrew Henry's Meadow by Doris Burn  -  The book is about a boy who loves to build things but he never gets any attention or appreciation for it, so he runs away to a meadow where he builds himself a house.  Other children join him, and he builds each one a house that matches their interests and personalities.  As a kid, I always wondered what kind of house Andrew Henry would have built for me.
  • Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall  -  I love history and historical fiction, and I think this was the first book I ever read that fit into those categories.
  • Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett  -  Not to be confused with the absolutely terrible movie adaptation.  This book is cute and whimsical and fun.  It just made me laugh.
  • The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White  -  My mom read this aloud to my brother and me, and I loved it.  It's about a swan that can't "speak" so a boy teaches it to play the trumpet to find a mate.  So adorable.
  • The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary  -  I love so many of Beverly Cleary's books, but this one's my favorite.  And I've just realized that my little sister has never read it, which will have to be remedied right away.
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein  -  I know so many people hate this book because that kid is just so ungrateful.  But I still really liked it and read it all the time when I was little.
  • Itsy-Bitsy Giant by Melanie Martin  -  I don't think you can find this book anywhere now.  It took me forever (with some help) just to remember the title.  It's a great story about a giant who bullies the people around him, until a magician changes him to the size of a grasshopper and he has to learn a lesson in being nice.
  • The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone  -  This book is one of my all-time favorite from my childhood, and the reason for that is my dad.  My dad is great with voices; he can do Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Kermit the Frog, and of course, Grover.  So he used to read this in Grover's voice, making the book that much more awesome.
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg  -  My mom recommended this to me because it was one of her favorite books as a kid, and I love it.  A brother and sister run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where they discover and have to solve a mystery.

Now how about you?  What were some of your favorite books as a kid?  I'd love to know.

Book Review: The Goddess Inheritance by Aimee Carter

Title:  The Goddess Inheritance
Author:  Aimee Carter
Series:  Goddess Test #3
Genre:  YA mythology retelling
Pages:  283

Rating:  A-

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  During nine months of captivity, Kate Winters has survived a jealous goddess, a vengeful Titan and a pregnancy she never asked for. Now the Queen of the Gods wants her unborn child, and Kate can't stop her--until Cronus offers a deal.

In exchange for her loyalty and devotion, the King of the Titans will spare humanity and let Kate keep her child. Yet even if Kate agrees, he'll destroy Henry, her mother and the rest of the council. And if she refuses, Cronus will tear the world apart until every last god and mortal is dead.

With the fate of everyone she loves resting on her shoulders, Kate must do the impossible: find a way to defeat the most powerful being in existence, even if it costs her everything.  Even if it costs her eternity.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

How do you review a final book without giving anything away?!  The Goddess Inheritance, the conclusion of the Goddess Test trilogy, is an amazing end to a good series.  It's exciting, dramatic, and romantic.  And in order to keep this spoiler-free, I'm not going to discuss anything in detail or any specific parts of the book.

  • The story is fast-paced and full of action.  There are battles, arguments, disasters, and escapes.  It kept me on the edge of my seat, and I didn't want to the book down once.
  • Kate and Henry's romance has finally grown into something beautiful and strong.  In the earlier books, especially Goddess Interrupted, their relationship was always in this state of "How do you really feel?!"  Now, Kate and Henry have no doubts of their feelings, and because of this, their romance has evolved into a sweet and passionate marriage that can stand against the obstacles thrown at it.
  • Henry's character is so much better than in the second book.  I just wanted to hit him over the head constantly during that book, but I actually loved him in this book.  He's become more open and affectionate, and his emotions and love are so intense.  I also love how much he's willing to sacrifice to keep his family together.
  • Kate makes some of the same stupid mistakes over and over again.  That hasn't changed at all.  She still keeps doubting herself and whines way too much.  As usual, she pulls herself together in the end.  If Kate had just done a little less whining, I'd probably have given the book a higher rating.
  • The ending is well-written and satisfying.  Nothing is rushed or seems thrown together at the last minute.  It's an exciting and dramatic finish, and Carter even surprised me with an unexpected twist at the end.
I'm so happy about how this series progressed and ended.  I was concerned by other people's reviews, but I should have known better than to listen to the haters.  The Goddess Test trilogy is a great mythology series, and this final book is probably the best book of the three.  A-

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book Review: Seeking Persephone by Sarah M. Eden

Title:  Seeking Persephone
Author:  Sarah M. Eden
Series:  The Lancaster Family #1
Genre:  Romance/historical fiction/mythology & fairy-tale retelling (?)
Pages:  288

Rating:  B+

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  The Duke of Kielder has more influence than Parliament, higher social standing than the Royal Family. No gentleman dares face him on the dueling field, nor risks testing his infamous temper. But His Grace is in need of a wife. Combine his fearsome reputation with a terribly scarred countenance and finding a lady willing to accept his hand becomes all-but impossible. When the Duke manages to secure a bride through a bit of trickery and an obscene amount of money, he is certain his problems are behind him. Except his purchased bride proves to be nothing like he expected. What is a man like the Duke to do with a bride who is gentle, loving and absolutely impossible to live without?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

So I'm not sure if I should classify this as a mythology retelling or a fairy-tale retelling or both.  Seeking Persephone is first and foremost a historical romance, but the Hades/Persephone storyline was also there, as well as Beauty & the Beast.  But I guess you could also argue that most Hades/Persephone romances are essentially Beauty & the Beast in the Underworld.  Whatever.

What I Enjoyed
  • The characters  -  This book has a great cast of characters with depth and personality.  Persephone and Adam are wonderful main characters that I was able to connect with because the author gave them good emotional depth and development.  Persephone is believable as a sweet and vulnerable young bride who decides to make the most of her marriage.  Adam is so cranky that it makes him both humorous and lovable.  His scars and past have left some deep personal wounds that he deals with by never letting people in.  The two of them are so perfectly matched for one another; I loved that the story is told from both of their points-of-view.  The secondary characters are mostly much smaller parts and only there to provide necessary insight to Adam and Persephone when needed.  Except for Adam's best friend, Harry.  Harry is a great secondary character; he's funny and kind and unafraid of Adam's temperament.  He provides the comic relief, and his banter with Adam is hilarious.
  • The romance  -  The romance between Adam and Persephone is sweet and endearing and believable.  There's no love-at-first-kiss or ridiculously fast-paced relationship; instead, their love grows over time and after facing obstacles.  Because the romance is slow-building, it's filled with emotional and physical tension that's spine-tingling.  It's also full of those frustrating moments (the misinterpretations, the keeping distances, the not telling each other anything) that make you want to scream but also make the romance that much more satisfying when they finally get it together.  I definitely think this is one of the best versions of the Beauty & the Beast theme, even if it's not what the author intended.
What I Disliked
  • The mediocre writing  -  This book would have definitely gotten an A if it had not been for the quality of the writing and the tendency at the end for melodrama.  Eden was able to create interesting characters and a beautiful romance, but her writing often broke the "show; don't tell" rule.  It felt like she could have used a good editor to weed out the cliches and overly dramatic moments.  But even though the writing wasn't spectacular, I still loved the book.

Seeking Persephone is a sweet historical romance with a fairy-tale feel to it.  It has humor, tension, drama, and heart.  I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good love story or regency romance or the story of Beauty & the Beast.    B+

Friday, April 12, 2013

Some Fun Finds - Reading/Writing T-Shirts

Etsy, how I love you.  Exploring Etsy is by far one of the most fun and frustrating things ever - fun because of all the cool stuff they have and frustrating because I can't afford to buy all of it.  For example, I was browsing through their t-shirts today and found so many that I want, but instead of getting them, I'm just going to share a few of them with you.  (If you click the shirt, it will take you to its Etsy listing).

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Title:  Scarlet
Author:  Marissa Meyer
Series:  Lunar Chronicles #2
Genre:  YA dystopian/Fairy-tale retelling
Pages:  452

Rating:  A+

Synopsis (goodreads.com):  The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...  Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner
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Aaaa!!  I don't know even know where to begin!  Scarlet is a phenomenal book; I only put it down once and that was only because it was my dad's birthday.  I really enjoyed the first book of the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder, but I think Scarlet is so much better.  That could be primarily due to the addition of Wolf, and I'm not ashamed to admit that, but there was just so much more action and drama and romance and everything!  I just feel the need to gush about this book.

The action is fast-paced and almost non-stop in Scarlet.  I felt like I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.  And I never felt like the story got jumbled or confusing, even though there were several new characters' storylines being interwoven with the original characters'.  The introduction of new people was one of my favorite parts of the book.  Cinder and Kai are both great characters, but Scarlet and Wolf added a lot more depth and layers to the story.  And "Captain" Thorne provided some much-needed humor to break the tension in this gripping book.  I especially enjoyed the way each person's unique personality and background worked and blended together, or even better, the way they sometimes clashed.

If only last week's Top Ten Tuesday topic (favorite fictional crushes) had been for this week instead.  I would totally have bent the rules and added an eleventh entry for Wolf.  Loves him!  Another blogger mentioned that his personality reminded her a little of Wolf from The 10th Kingdom, and I definitely see where she got that.  They share so many character traits, but Wolf (from Scarlet) is so much more intense.

Overall, I think Scarlet is an incredible sequel.  I loved how it used the Red Riding Hood fairy-tale with Scarlet's red hoodie and her grandmother being missing.  And the continuation of Cinder and Kai's story was also really interesting too, although I preferred Scarlet and Wolf's.  I also loved that the book left me breathless at points from all of the excitement and danger.  Any time a book grips me like this, where I don't want to put it down unless I absolutely have to, it's a success in my eyes.  If the rest of the series is like Scarlet, then the Lunar Chronicles will be one of my favorite series ever.  A+

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Review: Eve by Anna Carey

Title:  Eve
Author:  Anna Carey
Series:  Eve #1
Genre:  YA dystopian
Pages:  336

Rating:  A+

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her. 

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust...and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

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So much love!  I absolutely loved Eve.  I've been seeing it all over other people's blogs and decided to check it out, and I'm so glad I did.  It was fast-paced, exciting, and romantic.  I couldn't put it down.

The characters and storyline are fantastic.  I was a little concerned at first because Eve starts out kind of bossy, but fortunately she grows out of that and lost some of her annoying traits.  I ended up really liking her as a heroine and main character by the end of the book.  Her naive outlook on life and the world led to some amusing conversations and situations too.  Her friend Arden also starts out as an annoying character, for entirely different reasons, but ends up being a really cool secondary character.

The romance is beautiful.  Caleb is the perfect match for Eve.  He's just amazing in general.  His strength of character, his quiet helpfulness, and his selflessness make him such an incredible love interest.  I love him and Eve together.  And Eve's thoughts as she reconciles her feelings for Caleb with what she was taught in school (they're taught to fear men and emotional attachments to them) are both hilarious and endearing.

Carey's dystopian America and plot are gritty and believable.  One of the coolest aspects of the book is when the characters interact with something that's an ordinary part of our lives now but to them is something new and exciting or completely unheard of.  The references to books, movies, and locations help the realism of the story.  I really enjoyed the interesting twists in the book as well.  There were some things that I definitely didn't expect to happen.  And that ending is gut-wrenching.  I just wanted to cry.  I think that's one of the things most of these dystopian authors have been doing really well.  They've been writing some of the most heartbreaking, stomach-twisting endings lately.

Eve is a great start to a series with a fast-paced story, a sweet romance, and a great cliffhanger ending.  As soon as I finished it, I ordered the next book, Once.  And the third and final book of the trilogy, Rise, just came out last Tuesday, so I'm psyched to see what's ahead for Eve, Caleb, and New America.  A+

Top Ten Tuesday #19

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is the top ten books you read before you were a blogger.

Aaaa!!  I only started blogging in 2009, and I read A LOT of books before then.  My high school reading list alone was seven pages long (please note I'm not trying to brag; just showing how difficult this TTT is for me).  And I'm supposed to pick the top ten of all those books?  HOW?!

The only way I think I can pick ten is by focusing on specific years or genres.  I read a lot of classics in high school & college, but have only read one or two since becoming a blogger so I think I'll focus on that genre only.

Top Ten Books I Read Before I Was a Blogger - The Classics Edition

  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen  -  Not only one of my favorite pre-blogger books, but also one of my all-time favorite books ever.  Witty dialogue, a great romance, and amazing characters, P&P was my first Austen novel and, in my opinion, the best.
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte  -  Another all-time favorite book.  It has forbidden romance, Gothic mysteriousness, jealousy, attempted murder, and Mr. Rochester.  I re-read this book constantly.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas  -  I read an abridged version as a kid so when I read the full-length book, I was surprised at how much of the story was left out.  There's so much depth to the characters; Edmund's emotional turmoil and desire for revenge is palpable.
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy  -  I love this book for its romance and its humor.  Sir Percy Blakeny is so funny when he decides to play the fool, you'd never guess his real intelligence or his passionate nature.  This book also has one of the most amazing romances ever.
  • Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen  -  I read the book after seeing the 1995 movie with Emma Thompson, and the book is way better than the movie.  Marianne's over-the-top reactions and Elinor's hidden emotions are so much more intense and real.
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen  -  If I had to pick a second favorite Austen novel, Persuasion would be it - the story of a romance that's faced family opposition, separation, and misunderstanding.  The letter Captain Wentworth writes to Anne is one of the most beautiful and romantic love letters.
  • Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier  -  I'm in love with both the book and its 1940 movie adaptation.  It's romance and mystery and murder and creepiness and secrets and suspense all wrapped up in one incredible story.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  -  This is the book that started it all.  My 5th-grade teacher recommended it, and as soon as I started it, I was hooked on reading for life.  Because of that, Little Women will always hold a special place in my heart.
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens  -  I've read several of Dickens' novels, but this is my favorite.  The backdrop of the French Revolution, the hatred of Madame DeFarge, and the ultimate sacrifice of Sydney Carton all work together to make a great historical novel.
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank  -  I read and re-read this book so many times in high school because Anne was an amazing writer for her age, who beautifully shared her thoughts, dreams, and insecurities.  It can be heartbreaking to read though, knowing that it's an actual diary, not fiction, and the girl who wrote this and her family suffered tremendously and died in concentration camps.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review: The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull

Title:  The Candy Shop War
Author:  Brandon Mull
Series:  Candy Shop War #1
Genre:  Middle-grade fantasy
Pages:  370

Rating:  B

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  What if there were a place where you could get magical candy? Moon rocks that made you feel weightless. Jawbreakers that made you unbreakable. Or candy that gave animals temporary human intelligence and communication skills. (Imagine what your pet would say!) Four young friends, Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon, are befriended by Belinda White, the owner of a new candy shop on Main Street. However, the gray- haired, grandmotherly Mrs. White is not an ordinary candy maker. Her confections have magical side effects. Purposefully, she invites the kids on a special mission to retrieve a hidden talisman under Mt. Diablo Elementary School. However, Mrs. White is not the only magician in town in search of the ancient artifact rumored to be a fountain of youth. She is aware that Mr. Stott, the not- so- ordinary ice cream truck driver, has a few tricks of his own.

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I wish I had more to say about this book, but I read another one right after it so this review will be short and straightforward.  I enjoyed The Candy Shop War; it's definitely a book I would have loved even more when I was younger.

  • The book had a fun story.  An old-fashioned ice cream shop that sells candy that grants magical powers to kids?  A war between magicians that these same kids get caught up in and must resolve?  It's a great premise and made a fun read.
  • There were also good main characters.  Each one had a unique personality, and the main villain was exceptionally well-done.  However, the bullies the kids face at school are bland and stereotypical.  
  • The writing was OK.  At points it was jumpy and jumbled, and I had to reread stuff to figure out if I'd missed something.
  • My biggest problem with the book, and what kept the rating from being an A, was the author's obsession with race.  He brings it up so much, in very unnecessary ways, that it bugged me and made me want to put the book down at times.  And worse were the times when he said things that bordered on racist.  It kept me from completely enjoying the book.
As I said before, I would have loved this book a lot more when I was younger because the writing style wouldn't have bothered me, and I never would have noticed the constant racial references.  But now that I'm older (and hopefully wiser), these things got under my skin and made me uncomfortable.  I'd hesitate to recommend this to kids without warning parents first.  B

Book Review: A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Title:  A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent
Author:  Marie Brennan
Genre:  Fantasy
Pages:  336

Rating:  A-

Synopsis from goodreads.com:  You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart—no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon’s presence, even for the briefest of moments—even at the risk of one’s life—is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . .

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world’s preeminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.
Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.
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So A Natural History of Dragons was nothing like I expected, and not in a bad way.  I was expecting something more on the fantastic side, with lots of dragons and creatures.  But the dragons played a very minor role.  The story was mostly a memoir about Isabella Camherst, her marriage, and what led her to become a dragon naturalist.  It's implied that there will be at least one or two sequels to this memoir since it only covered the first nineteen years of Isabella's life.  Plus, in the book, Isabella discussed "future volumes" of her memoirs, and I'm hoping Brennan really does write more because I enjoyed this first one.

Overall the book had good dialogue and an interesting story.  It does get slow at points when it gets bogged down with scientific details.  The story isn't very action motivated at all, at least not until the end.  Then all the action seems to happen at once.  It took me a little longer to get through this book than others, but it was worth trudging through the slow parts.

One of the reasons I really liked the story was because Isabella was a very different heroine.  She's bookish, not sentimental, and very straightforward.  Her husband, Jacob, is the perfect match for her, and I fell in love with him myself.  The other characters are good too, with enough character development to keep them from being two-dimensional, but Jacob and Isabella have the most depth and realism.  A-

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday #18

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.  This week's topic is fictional crushes.  I actually did this topic before, on a freebie week (read it here), so instead of repeating those, I'm going to do my top ten most recent fictional crushes.  Let the crushing begin!

My Top Ten Most Recent Fictional Crushes

  1. Leon Grey from the Birthmarked trilogy -  I think I talked about him more than anything else when reviewing O'Brien's books.  He's rough around the edges, but he's great with kids, and he'd do anything for the woman he loves.
  2. Four/Tobias from Divergent -  He's so awesome!  He's strong and talented but also an idealist who holds on to his beliefs about courage and selflessness.  Plus, he's got sexy knife-throwing skills.
  3. Augustus Waters from The Fault in Our Stars -  I'm not sure I really need to explain this.  If you don't understand it, read the book (and be ready to cry) to see why Gus is one of the sweetest and funniest guys ever.
  4. Jeb from Splintered -  I love Jeb because he's the atypical hero with his lip piercings and scars and punk skater look.  He's the perfect combination of overprotective boyfriend and "bad boy".
  5. Daniel "Day" Altan Wing from Legend -  Anyone who would go above and beyond the way Day does for his family is pretty awesome.  Then you add in the fact that he's super intelligent and can climb & jump off buildings with ease, and he becomes twice as awesome.
  6. Hector from The Crown of Embers -  I started to crush on Hector in the first book of Carson's trilogy, but it was really in Crown of Embers that everyone got to see how sweet and supportive and passionate he is.
  7. Ian O'Shea from The Host -  I love Ian because he falls in love with Wanda and who she is, not with Mel's body.  He doesn't care what Wanda looks like, what body she occupies, just so long as it contains her "soul" and personality.
  8. Percy Jackson from The Mark of Athena -  I have always thought that Percy was a great character, but it wasn't until I read The Mark of Athena that I fell in love with him.  That ending just proved that he'd make the most awesome boyfriend ever.  So jealous of Annabeth!
  9. Peeta Mellark from the Hunger Games trilogy -  I know he's in my original top ten crushes list, but he's still recent enough to be here.  He's strong and sweet and always there for Katniss, and he never gives up on his ideals, despite everything he goes through.
  10. Loki from Thor & The Avengers -  Ok, yes, he's from a movie, not a book, but I've been seriously crushing on him lately.  Besides being a villain (I have what my mom calls an unhealthy love for the bad guy), he's played by Tom Hiddleston, with his sexy voice and blue-green eyes.  I just want to listen to him talk all day while staring into those eyes.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Random Thoughts - April 1st

I thought about posting an April Fool's post, something silly or surprising to commemorate the day, but I sadly lack the energy to come up with anything funny.  Then I thought about writing a post I've been meaning to write for a while about the unfairness of ageism in libraries, but I just don't have the time for that.  Then I thought about posting some links I found interesting, but there was only one that I found.

SO I'm going to post about my insane schedule these next couple of months.  This will not only explain why I'm broke and behind on... everything really, but also what to expect as far as updates are concerned in the next few months.  (Honestly this entry is simply here right now because I feel like it's been too long since I last posted anything.)

  • April 6th & 7th - My dad's birthday weekend.  Includes dinner to Cracker Barrel on Sunday evening.
  • April 13th & 14th - Free as of right now, but I have plans to fill this weekend with much-needed friend time.
  • April 20th - Seeing Thoroughly Modern Millie at Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, NJ.
  • April 27th - Ladies' Spring Conference featuring Pasty Clairmont at Hawthorne Gospel Church.
  • May 4th & 5th -  Food Book Fair in NYC.  Not definite yet that I'm going, but it's a possibility.
  • May 9th - Lindsey Stirling concert at the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, NJ.
  • May 10th - Brian Regan comedy show at Bergen PAC in Englewood, NJ.
  • May 12th to 19th - Vacation in Disney World.
  • May 24th to 26th - Dan Stone retreat in Dalton, PA.
  • May 29th to June 1st - Book Expo America in NYC.
I'm sure I'm missing something.  And there are always the last-minute, not-set-in-stone things that will come up each week.  But as excited as I am for the awesome things happening these next two months, I'm honestly looking forward to June, a month I hope to use to recover from April & May.  And to do some serious catching up on my TBR list.