Saturday, August 29, 2015

Book Review: Uprooted

TITLE: Uprooted
AUTHOR: Naomi Novik
PUBLISHED: May 19th, 2015
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: A girl from a village is taken to be a dragon's servant for ten years.
MY REVIEW: Confession time: I've never read the Temeraire series, which is the series this author is known for. No reason I haven't read it. I just never got around to it. After reading this one though...I think I may have to give it a look sooner, rather than later. Because I kind of loved this.
Most of the reason I loved this came down to the storytelling. This is an author who knows how to weave a tale to keep you hooked. I loved the imagination going on in the world. It's one of those worlds you just want to spend more time in. There are complicated characters, but it never goes overboard with how messed up they are, like some of these dark fantasy books can sometimes do (hey there, Game of Thrones). I mean the dragon in this has issues, but he's also kind of endearing in the way he gets so miffed when Agnieszka does magic in a way that magic is not supposed to be done.
This was just an enjoyable old school type of fantasy book. It's absorbing and readable and I really liked it. I'm definitely looking into the Temeraire series now. Maybe not this year because I'm still trying to do the Thursday Next series and the Others series and those books are huge. But definitely next year.
WHO SHOULD READ: Temeraire series fans, dragon book fans, fantasy fans, Diana Wynne Jones fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five pissy dragons

Friday, August 28, 2015

Book Review: A School For Unusual Girls

TITLE: A School for Unusual Girls
Book 1 in the Stranje House series
AUTHOR: Kathleen Baldwin
PUBLISHED: May 19th, 2015
GENRE: Historical Fantasyish
PREMISE: In 1814, a young girl with a gift for science gets sent to a reform school, which turns out to actually be a school where girls are trained for spy work.
MY REVIEW: If that summary sounds an awful lot like Y. S. Lee's Agency're not totally off. This series is pretty much that, just a little more fantasy oriented, more female character interaction, and more romance focus.
This was a bit of a mixed bag for me to be honest. I loved the concept and the author runs with it fairly well. The romance...was your typical stock romance but it was fun stock romance if nothing else. Turns out that apparently this writer writes adult romance and this is her first YA book and after knowing that, a lot of this book suddenly made sense. It's very much in the vein of category historical romance novels.
For the most part, it's enjoyable. I don't particularly find it original, but it was at least a fun read. If you can't be original, at least make your idea fun and the author definitely accomplished that.
WHO SHOULD READ: Agency series fans, historical romance fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five spy schools

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Where to Start: Modern Classics

This week, I'm doing Modern Classics. For the sake of this post, I'm counting modern classics as any still relevant book published between 1950 to 1990. Again, this still gives everyone lots of overwhelming options to choose from. My advice from the where to start with classics still stands: start with books that happen to fall under genres you already like/are familiar with.

General Choices:
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
East of Eden by John Steinback
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

If you like Romance:
The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (or any of her other numerous books)
The Princess Bride by William Goldman (also counts as fantasy, but I say it's perfect for romance fans)
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

If you like Sci-Fi:
Fahrenheit 451 or the Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
A Wrinkle in Time (and sequels) by Madeline L'Engle
Dune series by Frank Herbert
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams

If you like Fantasy:
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Earthsea Cycle series (and others) by Ursula Le Guin
Howl's Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones
Discworld 1: The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

If you like Mystery:
Kay Scarpetta 1: Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
Patriot Games by Tom Clancy

If you like Action/Adventure/Thrillers:
James Bond Book 1: Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre
Jake Brigance series 1: A Time to Kill by John Grisham

If you like YA:
Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

If you like Childrens:
Charlotte's Web (and others) by E. B. White
James and the Giant Peach (and others) by Roald Dahl
Ramona series by Beverly Cleary

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn

TITLE: The Wrath and the Dawn
Book 1 in the Wrath and the Dawn series
AUTHOR: Renee Ahdieh
PUBLISHED: May 12th, 2015
GENRE: Fantasy, Retelling
PREMISE: A fantasy retelling of A Thousand and One Nights.
MY REVIEW: I wanted to read this one the minute I heard about it. Fantasy involving A Thousand and One Nights? Awesome concept. Plus, I'm always up for retellings. Luckily, the author managed to deliver on the awesome concept.
I will admit, the romance....iffy. It's a bit insta love for my taste, but the author does try, I'll give her that. She also doesn't try to ignore the more problematic aspects of this tale so that was nice. What mostly sold me on this book was the lovely prose and imagination for the world. Both are great.
Like many YA novels, this one is a page turner. Despite the page count, I actually managed to finish it in two days. It's very absorbing and very entertaining. I say, job well done, and I look forward to the rest of the series.
WHO SHOULD READ: Retelling fans, fantasy fans, fans of the story A Thousand and One Nights
MY RATING: Four out of Five storytellers

Friday, August 21, 2015

Book Review: The Witch Hunter

TITLE: The Witch Hunter
Book 1 in the Witch Hunter series
AUTHOR: Virginia Boecker
PUBLISHED: June 2nd, 2015
GENRE: Fantasy
PREMISE: In world where witches are hunted, a hunter gets accused of having magic and is saved by the very people she used to hunt.
MY REVIEW: Honestly, I don't really have a lot of feelings on this book. It was a perfectly decent book that did everything it set out to do, which mainly was to entertain.
The world building is a bit thin, but adventure wise this book is great. It's a rapid page-turner for sure. I believe I finished it in an afternoon. It's very readable. It did suffer a bit from the protagonist magically being the only competent female character, which was kind of annoying, but other then that it was a perfectly adequate book.
This was a perfectly fine debut. Not a ground breaking book or anything, but there are certainly worse ways to spend a few hours.
WHO SHOULD READ: fantasy fans, adventure fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five witches

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reading through the Classics: Weetzie Bat

TITLE: Weetzie Bat
Book 1 in the Weetzie Bat series
AUTHOR: Francesca Lia Block
GENRE: Magical Realism
PREMISE: A girl's life takes shape as she finds a genie.
MY THOUGHTS: This book was published way back in 1989 so as far as I'm concerned, it's a modern classic. People still talk about it now over twenty-five years later.
I'll be honest I....just don't get it. The prose were lovely but the story was just bizarre, and didn't really seem to have much of a plot. It also was a wee bit dated. I hope nowadays that authors realize that characters wearing Native American headresses, who aren't Native American, are not cool. That is called cultural appropriation. Please, don't do it.
The thing is nowadays, I suspect this book wouldn't register much, because there are a lot of YA books out there that do the things it did. When it was published however, I can see why it made waves. It did a lot of things that back in 1989 you just weren't supposed to talk about. Such as the clear reference to AIDS. For you young ones, in 1989 there was a big stigma surrounding people with AIDS and people refused to talk about it, despite how many people were dying from it. So for this book to mention it at that time...well, it was kind of a big deal.
Personally, I couldn't get into it much. But it is magical realism and magical realism and me don't get along much. However, if you love magical realism and would like to see one of its classics, this is a book to check out.
WHO SHOULD READ: Francesca Lia Block fans, Magical Realism fans

Where to Start: Classics

Welcome to the first, of what I hope to be many, Where to Start feature. This feature is going to be my way helping people who have decided to explore new genres/types of books but have no idea where to begin. Trust me, we've all been there. There are so many books out there, it can sometimes be overwhelming. By dividing it up by genre/type of book I hope to make things a little bit more easier for everyone.

Where to Start: Classics

So you've decided you want to read more classics. Now, the term classic tends to be different for everyone, but I personally categorize classics as any book that has remained relevant that was published before 1950. Some do the cut-off at 1945, some at the thirties. It depends. I just personally do it at 1950.
Now, this still gives us a LOT to choose from. My best advice is to start with classics that happen to fall under genres/types of books that you already enjoy.

If you like Romance:
Jane Austen-Your best bet is probably Pride and Prejudice.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

If you like Fantasy:
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis
The Oz series by Frank L. Baum

If you like Sci-Fi:
H. G. Wells-I would go with either The Time Machine or War of the Worlds
Brave New World by Alex Huxley
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (there's going to be a movie this fall so good idea to do this one first!)

If you like Mystery:
Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle
Hercule Poirot series or the Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie
Lord Peter Wimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers

If you like Middle-Grade/YA:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

If you like Childrens:
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
The Secret Garden or A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Again, this is by no means a comprehensive list. This is just to give people a starting off point. Next week: where to start with Modern Classics

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Book Review: Prudence

TITLE: Prudence
Book 1 in the Custard Protocol series, Spin-off of the Parasol Protocol series
AUTHOR: Gail Carriger
PUBLISHED: March 17th, 2015
GENRE: Steampunk/Adventure
PREMISE: Alexia's daughter is now all grown up and is off on the start of her own adventures in India.
MY REVIEW: This will probably come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog: I adored this. I've enjoyed pretty much all of the Parasol Protectorate world books and this new addition to the world is no exception.
Prudence is just as fun as her mother, yet she's not a carbon copy of Alexia. This new generation is fun to hang out with because unlike the first one, they all knew each other from when they were kids so it's like hanging out with a bunch of best friends on a flying ship. I will admit, the story itself is a bit slow, but that's mostly because it's a first book introducing characters and plots that are to be developed later in the series.
But as an intro to a series, it does its job. I can't wait to spend more time with Prudence and see more of this great world that Carriger has created.
WHO SHOULD READ: Parasol Protectorate fans, steampunk fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five promising starts to a fun series

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors on my Auto-Buy List

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

This week: Top Ten Auto-Buy Authors

Well, due to budget constraints, this is usually a auto-read instead. But when I have money for books? Absolutely, I'll buy these author's books.

1) Tamora Pierce

I've been invested in Tortall and Circle of Magic for YEARS now. Word on the street is that there's a Tris book coming and a book about Numair and I can't wait.

2) Meg Cabot

Meg's books are always enjoyable. Even if they're just okay, they're an okay good time to be had. If I ever need a pick me up, I always go for Cabot.

3) Libba Bray

You ever have an author whose books you read and you feel like the author specifically wrote it to suit your tastes? That's how I feel about Bray. I've loved pretty much all her books and I can't wait to get my hands on Lair of Dreams.

4) Neil Gaiman

It's Gaiman. Nuff said.

5) Terry Pratchett

Sadly, there's just one book of his left to auto-buy, may he RIP. But I still have a majority of Discworld to get through so it'll be awhile before I run out of Pratchett books to read.

6) Sarah Rees Brennan

Between Demon's Lexicon and the Lynburn Legacy this author has cemented herself as my favorite.

7) Gail Carriger

Love the Parasol Protectorate world. I just finished Prudence (review forthcoming) and as always, I adored it.

8) Holly Black

I never know what I'll get with Holly Black. I do know I'll always get something wonderfully creative though.

9) Rick Riordan

Honestly, I really need to get caught up on the Heroes of Olympus series. But I really can't wait to read this new Norse Gods series.

10) John Green

Green is mostly an auto-read because I only like some of his stuff (Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska). However, whenever he publishes his next book it'll likely get lots of attention and if I don't read it I'll get several what's wrong with you looks. So he's an auto-read mostly for survival. Luckily, I like most of what he does, so it won't be a big hardship or anything.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Thematic Sunday: Books from the 80s

There are so many milestone years happening for things from the eighties. As someone who was born in the eighties I kind of resent this because it means I'm old, but it has given me a nostalgia trip. So this week's theme is books from the eighties.

Books from the Eighties:

1) Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Published: 1986

I have to put at least one personal favorite book on here. If you haven't read any of Diana Wynne Jones' things yet, you really really should.

2) The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Published: 1985

Long before there was Hunger Games, Atwood already made us all fear the future. Well, she definitely made women fear the future. Sadly, thirty years later, the things talked about in here are still very much relevant.

3) The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Published: 1982

Confession: I've never read this. But I've seen the movie and have the ebook on my Kindle, does that count?

4) Matilda by Roald Dahl

Published: 1988

Show of hands: who tried to read every book in the library like Matilda did?

5) The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Published: 1989

Read all the Amy Tan.

6) Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Published: 1985

I will read this book one of these days.

7) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Published: 1988

See above.

8) Brian's Saga Book 1: Hatchet by Gary Paulson

Published: 1986

You know I'm positive I read this for school at some point but I'll be damned if I remember any of it.

9) Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark Book 1 by Alvin Schwartz

Published: 1981

Man I loved this book when I was a kid. This and R. L. Stine cemented my love of spooky and weird stories.

10) Jack Ryan series 1: Patriot Games by Tom Clancy

Published: 1987

I hear this Clancy guy has made a name for himself these days ;)

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Book Review: Shadowshaper

TITLE: Shadowshaper
AUTHOR: Daniel Jose Older
GENRE: Urban Fantasy
PUBLISHED: June 30th, 2015
PREMISE: A girl discovers strange goings on in her neighborhood and needs the help of her friends and local graffiti artist to help combat this new evil.
MY REVIEW: I love creative urban fantasys and this book was that in spades. The idea was clever and the plot was fast paced and fun.
I will admit, sometimes I felt like the slang was piled on a little too thick sometimes. But for the most part this was just a fun snappy urban fantasy and I haven't had one of those in awhile so it was kind of refreshing.
Turns out this author has another adult series out and I think I'm definitely going to be checking that one out.
WHO SHOULD READ: Urban fantasy fans, Summer Prince fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five spray cans

Friday, August 14, 2015

Book Review: Daughter of Deep Silence

TITLE: Daughter of Deep Silence
AUTHOR: Carrie Ryan
PUBLISHED: May 26th, 2015
GENRE: Mystery
PREMISE: A girl vows revenge on a Senator when he covers up an attack that caused the death of her family and best friend.
MY REVIEW: I wanted to like this one way more then I did. I have a fondness for Carrie Ryan for the Forest of Hands and Teeth series. Hands and Teeth was actually one of the first books I reviewed for this blog way back in the day (FIVE YEARS, still processing that...).
To be sure this still had Ryan's great writing style and snappy pace. It still had complicated characters and everything. But I can't ignore the fact that I was getting major deja vu reading this because this book is basically the TV show Revenge, told in YA form. Circumstances are a wee bit different, but if you tilt your head and squint, it's basically the same plot. The ending is different from the show, and actually in my opinion, far more fitting then the show's, but that's a matter of opinion. I love Revenge and am mostly happy with the ending, but I felt everything happened way too happily for Emily/Amanda in the end considering all the things she did.
So...this isn't a bad book. It's well done and a good's just a story that's already been done and honestly...Revenge did it better.
WHO SHOULD READ: Revenge fans (who don't mind repeat stories), fans of revenge stories
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five I've seen this before feels

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Book Review: The Leveller

TITLE: The Leveller
Book 1 in a new series
AUTHOR: Julia Durango
PUBLISHED: June 23rd
GENRE: Sci-Fi/Adventure
PREMISE: In a world where everyone enjoys virtual reality gaming, a girl makes a living bringing junkie gamers back to real life. Her next case turns out to be somewhat difficult...
MY REVIEW: This book was very much a case of liking the concept more then the actual book itself. The concept is very awesome. The author has so much fun with the gaming world and the action in it is what makes this book, really. Concept wise, this is very creative.
Plot's kind of business as usual for YA. So far there's no love triangle, but I suspect one is being developed for later on and I really hope not, considering what happens at the end with that guy. The heroine is fun and not annoying, the romance was...there because it's YA. So plot-wise...not very creative, though I do see potential for a stronger one developing later in the next books.
Honestly, this was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I definitely sense promise though and will probably take a look at the second book. I think whether you like this one will depend on how much into gaming you are. There are a lot of fun things in it for gamers.
WHO SHOULD READ: .hack//Sign fans, gamers, sci-fi fans
MY RATING: Three and a half out of Five game controls

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Book Review: Chocolat

TITLE: Chocolat
Book 1 in the Chocolat series
AUTHOR: Joanne Harris
GENRE: Magical realism, drama
PREMISE: A woman and her daughter come to a small town and cause a stir with her chocolate store.
MY REVIEW: This is one of the few instances where I saw the movie before I saw the book. I've seen the movie dozens of times, it's actually one of my favorite films. I don't know why I've put off reading the book for so long. But recently the movie was available on Netflix, it reminded me there was a book, and Joanne Harris has been busy being awesome on Twitter lately so I thought it was high time I read it.
This is one of the few instances where a book hasn't ruined a film for me. True, there are a few things different in the film. But for the most part, they keep the main plot of the story and issues of the story the same. The book also takes care of the one issue of cultural appropriation that I had with the film because in the book, it doesn't exist. Vivienne just has a gift with chocolate and it's never made into the slightly racist stereotyped route that the film went into. I love the movie, but those bits have always bothered me.
The book more or less follows the plot of the movie, with just a little less romance and more character focus. Personally, I found the book's version of the story more realistic then the movie but that generally tends to be the way. Apparently there is a sequel out there. I'm not sure if I'm going to read it or not. We'll see.
WHO SHOULD READ: Chocolat movie fans, Sarah Addison Allen fans, magical realism fans
MY RATING: Four out of Five chocolates