Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I've Added to My TBR List

This is a weekly meme hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic: Books Recently Added to the TBR List

Okay, this is kind of a loaded question for me. I have a constantly updating TBR list that includes books in series I need to finish, books I want to read, books I've seen on book lists that sound cool, to classics I need to read. All in all, it's currently at about five hundred books. Yeah. I've got ways to go. But, here are ones I've added this past week:

1) TITLE: The Tiger's Wife
AUTHOR: Tea Obrent
FOUND: via a book list

2) TITLE: Mechanica
AUTHOR: Betsy Cornwell
PUBLISHED: to be released in August
FOUND: browsing Goodreads, check out that readers also enjoyed box, you can find all sorts of goodies.

3) TITLE: Twisted Tales 1: A Whole New World
AUTHOR: Liz Braswell
PUBLISHED: to be released in September
FOUND: browsing goodreads

4) TITLE: Soundless
AUTHOR: Richelle Mead
PUBLISHED: to be released in November
FOUND: browsing goodreads

5) TITLE: The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales
AUTHOR: Franz Xaver von Schonwerth
CATEGORY: Classic (newly discovered, but a classic)
FOUND: article on the Mary Sue that had an interview with the editor. It made it sound really cool.

6) TITLE: Ready Player One Book 1
AUTHOR: Ernest Cline
CATEGORY: seems to be torn between YA and adult, people can't seem to agree.
FOUND: by word of mouth. Apparently it's being made into a movie by Spielberg.

7) TITLE: iZombie Vol. 1
AUTHOR: Chris Roberson and Mike Allred
CATEGORY: Graphic Novel
FOUND: I just started the iZombie series on CW and it's awesome. I hope to read the graphic novel it's based on soon.

8) TITLE: Decoded
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
FOUND: via a book list.

9) TITLE: A Writer's Diary
AUTHOR: Virginia Woolf
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
FOUND: article about diary books

10) TITLE: Serafina and the Black Cloak
AUTHOR: Robert Beatty
PUBLISHED: to be released in July
CATEGORY: Middle-grade
FOUND: browsing goodreads

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reading Through the Classics: Sense and Sensibility

TITLE: Sense and Sensibility
AUTHOR: Jane Austen
GENRE: Romance
PREMISE: The Dashwood sisters struggle against poverty and with romance.
THOUGHTS: This is the first of Jane Austen's books that I will be reading this year. It is a goal of mine to read all the ones I haven't, which means all her books except for Emma and Pride and Prejudice. Pride and Prejudice I read back in high school, and Emma I read a few years ago when I first got my kindle.
Like all Austen books, this one has familiar themes. It has a strong sister relationship, there are issues about class and money, and there are romantic misadventures. I'm probably going to commit some taboo here, but I actually kind of liked this one more than Pride and Prejudice ;ducks from the Darcy fans; I'm not saying PandP stunk or anything! I love that book and rewatch the movie every so often. But I just like this story slightly better for some reason. It's more...realistic to me. I don't know why, it just is. Next Jane Austen I'm tackling is Mansfield Park.

Movies to watch:
The PBS version (do all the PBS Jane Austen productions, they're fab)
Sense and Sensibility movie with Emma Thompson/Hugh Grant/Kate Winslet/Alan Rickman

Retellings to check out:
Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope-Modern retelling of the story
Sense and Sensibility Mysteries series by Anna Elliott-about adult little sister Margeret who solves mysteries
Sass and Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler-YA modern retelling of the story

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Thematic Sunday: Humorous Books

Since April Fools Day is this week, I thought this week, I'd focus on funny books. I'll be doing all sorts of funny books from parody to funny memoirs to joke books. Strap yourselves in and prepare for laughs.

1) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams

Looking for funny Sci-fi? You don't get much better then Douglas Adams. I read the first book awhile ago and am finally getting to the second via audiobook and it's just as hilarious.

2) Discworld series by Terry Pratchett

If you're in the bookternet, you've likely heard about this series recently as Sir Terry Pratchett died recently (I'm still in mourning). If you want to know why his loss is such a blow to fantasy fans, check out this series immediately.
Good books to start with: The Wee Free Men
The Color of Magic

3) America: The Book by Jon Stewart and The Daily Show

This is a joke text book that was written by the great people of the Daily Show. Honestly though, I think it's more accurate then most of the textbooks I had in school. It doesn't sugarcoat the founding fathers and make our country out to be the one true great nation and everyone else go home.
Also check out the other text book they did: Earth.

4) Team Human by Justine Larbelestier and Sarah Rees Brennan

Wonderful metaish/parody book about vampires.

5) Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

This book is not necessarily a parody or even a meta book. The narration however is pretty damn hilarious. Jones had that classic sly English humor about her books and it made them all a joy to read.

6) Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Yes, Terry Pratchett again. Just read all his books. They're hilarious. If you aren't getting a few chuckles out of this book, check your pulse, you may be dead.

7) Bossypants by Tina Fey

To all who say women can't be funny, I laugh at you. Hard. Tina Fey does as well and probably in a much funnier manner.

8) Yes, Please by Amy Poehler

Amy Poehler also laughs at you.

9) Insatiable series by Meg Cabot

Another hilarious vampire parody. This is two books and they both lovingly poke fun at the vampire genre but also have a rather story in it.

I would also check out pretty much all of Cabot's books. They've all got some pretty hilarious scenes in them.

10) Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

What happens when a group of beauty queens get stranded on an island together? Some pretty damn hilarious stuff.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Book Review: All the Bright Places

TITLE: All the Bright Places
AUTHOR: Jennifer Niven
PUBLISHED: January 6th, 2015
GENRE: Realistic Fiction/Romance
PREMISE: A depressed girl and boy meet as she saves him from suicide.
MY REVIEW: I think it's safe to say that this book is this year's Fault in Our Stars. It's been everywhere since it was released. There was huge hype when it came out. I don't anticipate it going away anytime soon either. I suspect it'll end up on a lot of favorites this year, particularly from those who love contemporary.
Me...I'm sort of meh on it. But that is absolutely me. I don't think this book horrible. Far from it. It's wonderfully written and packs a punch at the end. But as I've said many times, sad contemporaries like this as a rule, aren't my cup of tea. There are a few exceptions sometimes like Eleanor and Park. But this one, while I definitely get why it's big and recommend it to contemporary fans, it just wasn't my thing. I think I maybe just wasn't in the mood for it when I read it. Sometimes I have to be in the mood for contemporaries.
But again, this is me. If you are in fact a huge contemporary fan and love the sad romances, you'll probably love this. It definitely is one of the stronger debuts this year.
WHO SHOULD READ: John Green fans, Eleanor and Park fans, Thirteen Reasons Why fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five tissue boxes

Book Review: The Case of the Missing Moonstone

TITLE: The Case of the Missing Moonstone
Book 1 in the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency
AUTHOR: Jordan Stratford
PUBLISHED: January 6th, 2015
CATEGORY: Middle-Grade
GENRE: Steampunk/Mystery
PREMISE: The daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and the daughter of Lord Byron team up together to solve a mystery.
MY REVIEW: Middle-grade can often be a mix of perfect for tweens and then perfect for tweens and readers of all ages. This one I think falls in the category of perfect for tweens. Some adults may like all the history references in it, but if you're an adult who doesn't have a kid to read this with...it may not be for you.
But if you've got a kid who wants a mystery adventure and is tired of Nancy Drew this is definitely something to give them. The girls are great fun and spunky. Kid me would have been all over this series. Plus, it's even a good way to introduce some history to them, because there are many many history references. If you have an American Girl fan who loves the history part of that series but has maybe grown out of the series, definitely pick this up for them.
This was a fun steampunk mystery for the tween set. I hope it takes off because middle-grade could use some more spunky girl sleuths.
WHO SHOULD READ: tweens, middle-grade book fans, Nancy Drew fans, American Girl fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five hot-air balloons

Book Review: The Conspiracy of Us

TITLE: The Conspiracy of Us
Book 1 in new series
AUTHOR: Maggie Hall
PUBLISHED: January 13th, 2015
GENRE: Adventure?/Mystery
PREMISE: A girl finds out she is a part of a prophecy that has two powerful families fighting over her future.
MY REVIEW: Well...this was...fast. Like really fast. I actually read this one in about three hours in one sitting, that's how fast a read it is. It's definitely readable and certainly page-turning. Whether or not it's good...is kind of up in the air for me.
It is certainly entertaining. There's tons of stuff happening and that's what makes it such a fast read. There's is a certain need-to-know-what-happens feelings to it. But I just keep getting side-tracked by the plausibility issues. Because there are so many plot holes in this book. So. So many. It doesn't ruin the book or anything. It's very clear that the author is just trying to spin an entertaining yarn and she definitely succeeds there, it's just...a very safe sort of entertaining yarn. There are a bunch of very familiar tropes in this book complete with love triangle, girl being special but not realizing it, and forbidden love aspects.
Honestly, I'm torn about how I feel about this one. It's not horrible. I'll probably even be reading the next one. The author definitely delivers an entertaining book. It's just...very very safe and not exactly a ground-breaker for YA.
WHO SHOULD READ: YA fans who don't mind cliches, fans of SyFy movies, fans of light-hearted action flicks
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five prada dresses because prada was mentioned an awful lot

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I'd Revisit From My Childhood/Teen Years

This is a weekly meme hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week: top ten books from our childhood that we'd like to reread again.

1) The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I loved this book as a kid. I still sometimes rewatch the 90s movie with Maggie Smith (my favorite version and I'm sorry, vastly superior to the old black and white one). I do need to reread it, it's been several years.

2) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I first read Jane Austen outside of school (because my teachers were all firm believers of the dead white man only canon ;sigh;) and while I got it...I think there was some stuff I missed. I'm currently in the midst of reading all the Austen books I haven't read and I'm loving it. Jane was a snarky little thing wasn't she? I think after I finish the rest of them I'm going to go back and reread it because I suspect there was much humor in it that I missed as a teen (for those wondering, I've got Sense and Sensibility done, and am now onto Mansfield Park, and need to do Persuasion/Northanger Abbey and Lady Susan. I've already read Emma as an adult)

4) The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot

Since there's going to be a new PD book and apparently a spin-off series coming I really do think it's high time I reread the Princess Diaries from the beginning. I adored these books as a teen. I'm fond of the movie as well, but don't think it's nearly as awesome as the books (Grandmere was quite different, and Tina Hakim-Baba was no where to be seen which is sad because Tina is AWESOME).

5) Sweet Valley High series by Francine Pascal

Like most kids growing up in the 80s/90s, I devoured this series. I adored it in all its corny and unashamed soap operaish splendor. I knew they weren't what one would call good, but damn if I wasn't addicted to them. Recently I read Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay (which you all should totally read btw) and she talked a bit about loving these books and it kind of made me want to go back and re-read them. Especially as I hear they revamped them for a newer generation and added things like cell phones. I wonder if they've done the thrillers yet. Those were the BEST.

6) To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

LOVED this book though again, I didn't read it in school (can you tell I grew up in the bible-belt of the Midwest yet?). The recent announcement of the sequel (I still can't quite believe it's happening) has made me want to pick up my copy again. I'll probably reread it sometime this year to refresh my memory for the sequel.

7) The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

Once upon a time I read the first book in this series back in high school as I was pining for the release of...one of the Harry Potters. I don't remember which. I liked it well enough but never got super attached like I know a lot of people did and thus never read the rest of the series. I've always felt guilty about that because I've liked Colfer's other stuff a lot. I feel like I need to reread the first and then go and binge-read the rest.

8) Circle of Magic series by Tamora Pierce

I adore Tamora Pierce's books. Her books are pretty much what got me into fantasy. I have recently reread some of the Tortall books and I'm thinking of getting back into this series as I pine for the Tris goes to magic school book.

9) The Diary of Anne Frank

So I recently saw a version of the play on Netflix and it reminded me that I actually haven't read this since middle-school. That was....a while ago. I should really reread it. Especially as I know so much more about her now then I did as a thirteen year old.

10) Beauty by Robin McKinley

I first read this in middle-school and reread it every few years or so. I'm thinking I'm about due for another reread....

Friday, March 20, 2015

Book Review: Foxglove Summer

TITLE: Foxglove Summer
Book 5 in the Peter Grant series
AUTHOR: Ben Aaronovich
GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Mystery
PREMISE: Peter goes outside of London to help with a missing girls case.
MY REVIEW: So I've now fully caught up with this series. I love it just as much as when I read the first book, Midnight Riot. Some long series can lose steam as the books go on, but this one has remained fun and charming.
This one does not deal with what happened with Leslie in the last one. It's very much a business as usual/case of the week type of book. However, Leslie's absence and the consequences of her actions are felt throughout it. I sort of think this case was Nightingale's inadvertent way of giving Peter a vacation. I know a kidnapping case is hardly a vacation, but this is Nightingale we're talking about. He probably went: oh hey, out of town case. Peter needs to get out of town for awhile. Two birds with one stone!
If you've read the first book, you probably already know whether or not this series is for you. If you have not read Midnight Riot, seriously do so. Especially if you're a Dresden Files fan or urban fantasy fan of any sort.
WHO SHOULD READ: those that have read the first four Peter Grant books, Dresden File fans, Harry Potter fans, urban fantasy fans, police procedural fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five snarky magicians

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review: The Miniaturist

TITLE: The Miniaturist
AUTHOR: Jessie Burton
GENRE: Historical Fiction/Magical Realism
PREMISE: A woman goes to live with her new husband and discovers dark secrets about the family.
MY REVIEW: I have so many mixed feelings about this one that I honestly don't know HOW I rate it. If I could rate it based on writing style alone, it'd get a full five stars from me. The writing is gorgeous. The blurbs are not hyperbole where that is concerned.
I will also admit, there's something that is absorbing about it. The author manages to draw you in and is a wonderful story teller. It's just that the story...is rather boring. The thing with the miniaturist is never really given the attention it should have been given (because a) the title is the miniaturist so you would think that'd be the focus, and b) that was the most interesting thing going on). While some of the character dynamics are definitely interesting, ultimately this is a slow and rather dull book. It's not a bad book. I do think there are many things here worth pondering on and discussing. It's just...boring.
Like I said, if I could rate it based on writing style and creation of mood/setting alone, it would get a full five stars from me. But I look at the whole book from characters, to writing, to story. When it came to things like pacing and story...the book fell a little flat. Which unfortunately seems to be a thing when it comes to magical realism.
WHO SHOULD READ: Magical realism fans, patient readers, literature readers
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five miniatures

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR List

This is a weekly meme hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish. This week is top ten books on my Spring TBR list. As always, to help narrow it down, I'm doing books that are coming out during April, May, and up to June 21rst.

1)Rebel Belle Book 2: Miss Mayhem by Rachel Hawkins

Why: I love Hawkins' books. She's never disappointed me. I loved Rebel Belle and can't wait to get my hands on the sequel.

Released: April 7th

2) Night and Fog Book 2: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke by Anne Blankman

Why: Loved Prisoner of Night and Fog last year, so underrated. I can't wait to read the sequel.

Released: April 21rst

3)Sekret Book 2: Skandal by Lindsay Smith

Why: Another awesome sequel I'm looking forward too. Last year was a good year for new series.

Released: April 7th

4) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Why: This just sounds so cool. A fantasy series based on Rome? Yes, please. Plus, it's gotten lots of good buzz.

Released: April 28th

5) Illusionarium by Heather Dixon

Why: I loved Entwined. It's one of my favorite 12 Dancing Princesses retellings, next to Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. I'm so glad Dixon hasn't disappeared and is indeed writing still. Plus, this one is steampunk. I'm so weak when it comes to steampunk.

Released: May 19th

6) Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham

Why: Cool sounding mystery about a girl discovering family secrets that may solve her father's murder. I'm weak to girl sleuths. The fact that she's Muslim American just furthers my interest in this one.

Released: May 19th

7) Stranje House Book 1: A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

Why: It sounds right up my alley. Girls who don't fit into regency society get sent to a school that does in fact train them for things like spying. A little Agency series sounding and that is not at all a bad thing.

Released: May 28th

8) Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly

Why: Fun looking book about the daughter of a wicked witch who doesn't exactly want to go into the family business.

Released: May 5th

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reading Through the Classics: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

TITLE: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
AUTHOR: Maya Angelou
CATEGORY: Non-Fiction
GENRE: Memoir
PREMISE: Author Maya Angelou tells about the first part of her life from her earliest memories on up to her late teens.
THOUGHTS: So, in the past when I've read a classic, I haven't reviewed it here. I'm of the firm opinion that when it comes to classics I probably don't have anything new and insightful to add. Some of these books have literally been around for HUNDREDS of years. In this book's case, decades, which is still a lot of time. Probably anything that could be said about the book, has already been said about the book. When it comes to classics, people are either going to pick it up because they want to, or they just won't bother. So me encouraging people to read something probably would be preaching to the choir because you likely already know if you'll be reading a classic or not.
So, instead of my usual ratings with classics, I'm just going to post on why I think this has endured and gone on to be a classic. In this book's case, I suspect it had a lot to do with timing. Sometimes, it really is all a matter of timing. This book came out just at the right time that people would embrace it and be willing to read it.
It's endured as a classic, because it's damn good. Angelou actually made me forget a few times that I was reading memoir. To me, those are the best kind of memoirs. The ones where you have to remind yourself that this isn't fiction, this was a real person. It's just one of those memoirs that makes you think and feel. It ends somewhat abruptly because this is only the first part of her life. But otherwise, this is a spectacular memoir. I definitely plan on reading the others. For those interested in the rest they are:

Gather Together in My Name
Singin and Swingin and Gettin Merry Like Christmas
The Heart of a Woman
All God's Children Need Traveling Shoes
A Song Flung Up to Heaven
Mom and Me and Mom (not technically apart of the autobiography series, but does go into her complicated history/relationships with her mother(s))

Also check out her poetry if you're not like me and you know a thing or two about poetry:
Phenomenal Woman: Four Poems Celebrating Women
The Complete Collected Poems

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thematic Sunday: Books about Dance

So my ultimate guilty pleasure Dancing with the Stars is back this week. Therefore I thought a fitting topic for this week's theme would be dance. I'll be covering everything from books about dancing/dancers specifically, books that have characters that like to dance, and this will cover all styles of dancing from ballet to contemporary to twerking.

1) Bunheads by Sohpie Flack

Why: I have to include this book about a group of ballet dancers. If only because it was popular enough to spawn a short-lived TV show on ABC.

2) Shoes series by Noel Streatfield

Why: classic kids series about a group of orphans who enter a school for dancing and theater.

3) Marie, Dancing by Carolyn Meyer

Why: historical fiction book about the girl who was the model for Edward Degas' famous ballerina statue

4) Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Why: has a ballet dancer going through tough times

5) Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin

Why: Autobiography of a dancer who was trained in China and came to perform in America and after many obstacles, defected to the US.

6) Fosse by Sam Wasson

Why: Biography of the legendary Broadway star. If you have no idea who Bob Fosse is, I'll give you a hint: he was involved in the dance numbers for such musicals as: Chicago, Pippin, All That Jazz, and The Pajama Game. He's a big deal on Broadway.

7) Taking the Lead by Derek Hough

Why: Part biography/part help book by Derek Hough, my favorite dancer on Dancing With the Stars.

8) Dancing For Degas by Kathryn Wagner

Why: Another historical fiction about the dancers that Edward Degas painted. Look, it's a popular subject okay? I'm not immune to the fascination.

9) The Flamenco Academy by Sarah Bird

Why: About 3 adults who get swept up in each others lives as they get into the flamenco dance revival.

10) The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances by Mark Knowles

Why: An interesting looking little history book going into the background of couple dancing. What would these people think of twerking, I wonder?