Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (3)

Teaser Tuesday, a meme hosted by Should Be Reading is really easy and fun to participate in. All you have to do is:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

 Crossed by Ally Condie

We run forever. I say the words from the poem over and over to the beat of my feet. It almost sounds like someone else's voice. I don't know where I find the air and I keep getting the words wrong: From out our bourne of death and space the flood will wash me far but it doesn't even matter. I never knew that words might not matter.

"Are you saying that for us?" the boy gasps out, the first time he's spoken in hours.

"We're not dead," I say.  No one dead feels this tired. 

So far, Crossed is decent.  One of my big problems with it is that I can barely differentiate between Cassia's voice and Ky's.  Just looking at the excerpt I posted, that could be either one of them.

What're you reading this Tuesday?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Night Circus

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. 

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

I'm really not sure what the heck to say about this book.

That . . . for a while I thought I'd give it a million stars, and for a while I thought it'd only be 3 or 4.
That . . . I should read more adult fiction if it's like this.
That . . . the cover is incredible and shiny and perfect.
That . . . it was beautiful.

I didn't know what I'd think about this book.  I'd heard some people sing praises about it, especially about the writing, and we all know how I love good writing. But I'd also heard some very negative things about it. I just didn't know.

I started it, and fell in love.  With the gorgeous writing, so old and elegant and beautiful.  With the intriguing, mysterious plot.  The feel of the whole thing.

And as it went on and on, I realized something.  Something besides the fact that while this book is technically 387 pages it's more like 700.

The pitch is a big fat lie.

Oh, some parts are true enough.  The parts about the circus, at least. But the parts about Celia and Marco?  Well, if not lies, they are certainly misleading.  When I hear about the fierce competition between two magicians, you know what I picture? I picture a duel. Two magicians actually confronting one another in a test of magic.

And that is really not the case with this book.

Am I saying that this is a bad thing? No. It worked for the book, and I think the plot of this book is absolutely brilliant.  But there is no dueling, no confrontation.  Their "fierce competition" is the two of them adding tents and attractions to the circus.  That's it.  So if you are entering this book expecting a bunch of action and fighting, I'd suggest you set your mind straight.

But aside from the fact that the publishers mispitched this, I had only a few minor complaints.  Most of it was incredible. The plot was so complex and well thought out that I can only wonder how long it took Ms. Morgenstern to craft something like this.  The writing was beautiful and enchanting and absolutely perfect for the story.  Most of the characters were mysterious and intriguing and well-portrayed.  The whole setting and idea of this book was incredibly original and incredibly alluring.

My minor complaints were just that: minor.  I wasn't always crazy about Marco.  Sometimes I really liked him, and sometimes I wanted to smack him.  If he hadn't strung Isobel along for so long a lot of things might never have happened.  But in the end, he was who he was, and that was enough for the story.  Sometimes, I wished the story would move just a bit faster.  It never bored me so much as I just felt frustrated because the pages were so big and made me feel like I was making no progress in this huge story that spanned over thirty years.  I entered this story filled with misconceptions born from the pitch, and the slow and stately pace was just not what I expected.  And finally, there were a few things that were never fully explained. Obviously some things the reader must pick up, but there are the context clues there for the reader to piece together.  For some things, though, there was never any real explanation, and that just frustrated me a bit. I like to understand things by the end of a story.

But that aside, the fact is, this is incredible.  It is magical and haunting and gorgeous and a bunch of other lovely adjectives.  Some might argue that I shouldn't give a 5 star to something if I had that many complaints, however minor, but truthfully, this is too fantastic for me to give it anything else.

5 stars.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

In My Mailbox (1)

So, you may notice this is my first IMM. You know why? I barely ever get books. Because I'm broke. :D

However, in my family, we typically give Chanukkah gifts on Thanksgiving because we can never get together over Chanukkah. And all I asked for this Chanukkah is books.


Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Frostbite by Richelle Mead

Shadow Kiss by Richelle Mead

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Rebel Angels by Libba Bray

The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Crossed by Ally Condie

and Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Very very very excited to dig into these.  As soon as I finish The Night Circus, I'm going to start with VA and go from there.  Also, another book that I did not put up because if I don't know if it is literally in my mailbox(haven't been home for a few days) is The Space Between by Brena Yovanoff. But that's another that, if it hasn't already arrived, should be arriving soon.

What's in your mailbox this week?  And what's on your Chanukkah/Christmas/Kwanza/holiday wishlist?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, Guys.

As cheesy as it sounds, I have so much to be grateful for this year.  I'm grateful that not only am I alive but I'm doing pretty well after all my health problems.  I'm grateful for my wonderful friends, offline and on.  I'm grateful for all those little things I don't really realize I'm grateful for until it's Thanksgiving.  I'm grateful for books, because without them, I wouldn't be me, and I'm grateful for writing, because without it, I'd never put my thoughts on paper.  I'm grateful for the whole great book blogging world, even though I've just recently joined it, because it is full of awesome people that constantly make my day better.  I'm grateful for all the little people and places and things that make this world an awesome, awesome place.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (2)

Teaser Tuesday, a meme hosted by Should Be Reading is really easy and fun to participate in. All you have to do is:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

In truth, Chandresh prefers not to know all the ingredients, not to understand each technique.  He claims such ignorance gives each dish life, makes it more than the sum of its parts.

("Ah," remarked one guest when the topic arose.  You prefer not to see the gears of the clock, as to better tell the time.")

The writing in this one is so gorgeous. It's great.  I know it's not YA, but I'd highly recommend it.

What's your read this Tuesday?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shatter Me

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days. 

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color. 

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now. 

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior. 

In this electrifying debut, Tahereh Mafi presents a world as riveting asThe Hunger Games and a superhero story as thrilling as The X-Men. Full of pulse-pounding romance, intoxicating villainy, and high-stakes choices, Shatter Me is a fresh and original dystopian novel—with a paranormal twist—that will leave readers anxiously awaiting its sequel.

I literally devoured this book.

I wasn't supposed to. I was supposed to be saving it for school tomorrow.  I was supposed to be doing something PRODUCTIVE today. But, well, that didn't happen.

This book was pretty fabulous.  I wanted it for weeks and weeks because the cover was awesome and the premise was awesome and the author was awesome, so what was there not to want?  And as the weeks passed and the positive reviews came pouring in, I built a pretty high pedestal for this book.  I was so excited to read it. So afraid that it wouldn't be as amazing as I hoped.

But I think it was.

First off, the writing.  I feel like saying it's beautiful, or saying that it's like poetry, just doesn't express this well enough.  When I read Tahereh Mafi's writing, I was Juliette, a broken, lonely, slightly-crazed girl and my thoughts would run on and contradict themselves and repeat repeat repeat and it just swallowed me into the story.  That is why I read this so quickly. Because I was not reading about Juliette. I was her.  And the imagery and the emotion and the metaphors are so vivid, so gorgeous, that I feel like I could just quote the entire book at you. Here are some examples:

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books. 
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.” 

“Raindrops are my only reminder that clouds have a heartbeat. That I have one, too.” 

“Hope is hugging me, holding me in its arms, wiping away my tears and telling me that today and tomorrow and two days from now I will be just fine and I'm so delirious I actually dare to believe it.” 

“Someone picked up the sun and pinned it to the sky again, but every day it hangs a little lower than the day before. It's like a negligent parent who only knows one half of who you are. It never sees how its absence changes people. How different we are in the dark.” 

Tell me that isn't beautiful.

And there's the world.  A dark and cracking world, the epitome of what we think of when the word "dystopian" is used.  The setting more than intrigued me, and I'm eager to learn more.  

But last, we have the characters.  I really liked Juliette as a main character.  She was complex and real and I felt everything as it happened to her.  Maybe most importantly, she wasn't a useless damsel in distress. Yes, she had weak moments, yes, she got scared a lot, and yes, she cried. But after all she's been through, that's more than understandable.  I'd probably be a wreck.  Juliette isn't.  She fights.  She fights against those who try to hurt her and she fights for what she cares about and she doesn't just back down.  I loved that.  I really, really loved that.

Since I don't want this to turn into a huge ramble, I'm going to say that I liked all the other characters and Mafi developed them well and skip to the other one that I really loved.


Yes, that's right. Not the love interest, the villain.

A big mistake authors make in YA these days is to think that the villains cannot have feelings.  That they must be pure evil, and that's why they're doing what they are.  If they're pure evil, then the readers won't ever question the MC's need to stop them, right? Win win!


If a villain is a demon, then fine, make them pure evil.  But when you come down to it, a human is a human.  No matter how twisted and warped and crazed they are, they are still human and they still think and feel and desire.  They still care. It may be a sick sort of caring, but they care, and you can never forget that.  That even the cruelest of villains have some humanity.  That there's still a heart beating inside them.

I think it's their humanity that makes villains both wonderful and terrifying.

And Warner had humanity.  He was a terrible human being, let it be said.  Warner needs serious psychological help. Warner is the bad guy.  But he is not just the bad guy.  He is the nineteen year old boy who's been molded into something terrifying by a horrible upbringing.  He's the nineteen year old boy who still wants a girl, no matter that it's part obsession, that she'll never want him.  When I really look at Warner, I don't see some ruthless villain.  I see a sick boy.

I really love that.

There are only two reasons that I am giving this a 4 and not a 5, and I was really torn on which rating to give.  The first reason is the romance.  I do understand why Juliette fell for him so hard--after being isolated for so long, how could she not love the only person who ever cared? And I understood why he cared for her, too, and I appreciated that Tahereh did not make them chaste little angels as is the current trend and she expressed their emotions beautifully.  The fact is, when it comes down to it, I am just not a romance girl.  So while this was very well done, heavy romance just doesn't sit that well with me. Romance fans will gobble it up.

The second reason is that I just wish I knew a bit more.  I'm aware that it's a trilogy, so obviously she can't give everything away right from the start, but I still feel almost completely in the dark. I just want to know a bit more: about the Reestablishment, about her powers, about the world in general.  Basically, I need book two a.k.a. Snuggle Me to come out in the near future.

Despite my minor problems with it, Shatter Me was a really excellent book, and I'd recommend it to pretty much everyone.  With the warning that they will probably be unable to do anything but read on when they finally start it.  

4 stars.

Paper Towns

You will go to the paper towns, and you will never come back.
When Margo Roth Spiegelman beckons Quentin Jacobsen in the middle of the night—dressed like a ninja and plotting an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows her. Margo’s always planned extravagantly, and, until now, she’s always planned solo. After a lifetime of loving Margo from afar, things are finally looking up for Q . . . until day breaks and she has vanished. Always an enigma, Margo has now become a mystery. But there are clues. And they’re for Q.

Printz Medalist John Green returns with the trademark brilliant wit and heart-stopping emotional honesty that have inspired a new generation of readers.

I think this is my favorite John Green novel yet.

I was well aware before I even started this that I would at the very least like it.  John Green's writing and characterization and dialogue are too brilliant for me to not at least like a book of his. But this was so much more fantastic than I thought it would be. It was just more.

This is one of those books where I don't want to do a really in-depth review, because I almost feel like I'm soiling the book by trying to pick it apart. No.  This is too good for that.

There are many things I loved about it: the incredible characters, the hilarious dialogue, the stunning writing that John Green gives us again and again.  The quotes that linger in your head for hours after reading them because they're just that damn good.

But what I really, truly loved about this book was the whole idea behind it.  The idea that we create paper images of those around us, and that we fall in love with these images, not the people themselves.  And that we can do our very best to understand a person, but we can never be that person. In the end, we can be no one but ourselves.

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.” 

Every time I read a John Green book, I'm reminded of the fact that he's not just my favorite author because he is made of awesome. He is my favorite author because he has this way of digging straight to the core of things and exposing these truths in such a breath-taking, memorable way that they can never be forgotten.

5 stars.

Here's to you, John Green.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Scorpio Races

It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. 

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

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

I did not love this book from the start.

There are some books that you fall in love with from page one, that you love at the beginning and you love at the middle and you love at the end and it's all just a great circle of love.

But then there are some books that creep up on you, that work their magic on you so slowly that it's not until you're almost finished, or you've closed the book, that you realize, Hey. That was pretty fantastic. 

This was one of those books.

At the beginning, I was not wild about it.  Sure, Maggie's writing was as gorgeous as ever, but I wasn't quite connecting with the characters and there were so many names being flung about it and I just didn't get it.

But the characters, like the book as a whole, grew on me.  And not just the humans. The horses, too.  By the end of this book, I was completely, entirely in love with Sean, Finn, Dove, Dori, George Holly, Peg Gratton, and even Puck, with  her fiery temper.  I never grew to like Gabe because I still feel like he's a terrible person for what he's doing, but I didn't hate him, because despite it all, I understood him.  I loathed Mutt Malvern, as I was supposed to, and then there were the characters who I didn't love or hate, because they weren't lovable or hatable, they were just them, and that was all they needed to be for this story.  They were lovely and complex, coarse and simple, all entirely different people united by the thread that is Thisbe and horses.

And that's really what it comes down to: the horses.  Maggie Stiefvater wrote a book about an island of savage, carnivorous horses that come from the sea, and she made it beautiful.

The magic of the horses is so wild and gorgeous and real, and it is woven through every word of this book.  The capaill uisce are vicious, untamed creatures that would as soon bite your arm off as let you ride them, but you can't hate them for it, because it is what they are, what the ocean made them.  If you're thinking practically, you might read this book and wonder how on earth the people of Thisbe manage to live and love and fear these horses as they do, but I get it.  Because of Sean and Corr, I get it.  I really do.

The plot of this book is rather slow, and despite the title, the race itself doesn't start till about page 370-something.  But that never really mattered to me.  I don't think it could've been plotted any other way. I don't think anything else could've led to an ending that perfect and beautiful.

This is a 5 stars, ladies and gentleman.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday(2)

I don't always do memes, but there are some books that I really want, so I'm probably going to be doing this one for the next few weeks. "Waiting on Wednesday"  is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This weeks WoW is . . .

Everneath by Brodi Ashton!

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever. 

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists. 

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen. 

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...

 Not only is the cover absolutely stunning, and not only does the premise--a retelling of Persephone!--reek of awesomeness, but it's actually getting really positive reviews!  HarperCollins may spew out a lot of crap, but when they're good, they're good.  I don't want to wait till January for this one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

To Read or Not to Read

Alright. So, I go to bookstores as often as I can, which isn't very often.  When I do get there, this makes me slightly stir crazy and I'm seized with a sudden urge to buy every book in the entire store even if this would put my entire family in serious debt.

Since that would be a bad thing, there's something I've started doing.  It's really quick and easy and it usually makes the stack in my hands go from about fifty to no more than, oh, twenty.

A rating system.

Here's how it goes, essentially:

First, the book cover.

I know, I know.  "Don't judge a book by its cover" and all that.  I'm sorry, but that is the first thing that catches my attention and I enjoy having pretty covers on my shelf.

I could've made that with Picnik.


Hmm . . . kinda pretty.

Now THAT would look nice on my shelf.


Second, the summary.

Covers are fabulous at catching my attention, but now I need something to hold it, something to scream at me that this is worth reading.

I could find this shit online.

Next time, publishers, please try just a little bit harder.

This might be okay.

Pretty interesting.  -strokes chin-


Third, the first excerpt.

So I've got the cover, I know the general idea.  Now I want to see what the author is like in action.

. . . -gingerly closes novel-

Next time, editors, please try just a little bit harder.

Not perfect, but . . . -flips page-

This person may possibly have a lot of talent.


Fourth, the second excerpt.

We all know that some books have a couple really awesome parts and then the rest just . . . falls flat. It's like a movie trailer, taking all the best moments when in reality it might be boring as hell.  So I try it again. Flip to a new page.

Someone tell me why I'm still reading this.

Whether or not the author is okay, I am going to murder this editor in their sleep.  

I am still reading this, so it must not be too mind-numbingly horrible.

I could buy this.


Fifth, the author bio.

Some of you might look at me a little funny for these next two. But I have found that if something has a really cool and funny/in-depth/interesting author bio it very rarely sucks, and vice versa. Try it. Be amazed.

Insert Name is well known for their sexy Trilogy of Sexiness, has interests, and is too busy to write anything else.

Insert Name is well known for their successful and heart-wrenching Awesome Novel of Awesomeness and apparently has no interests and no face.

Insert Name has a sexy picture and many sophisticated interests that you are clearly too mundane to understand. But they have interests! And a family! And they exist!

Insert Name is clearly trying very hard to do something besides advertise themselves and their sexiness and will probably get it right with a few more tries. Good effort.


Finally, the Acknowledgments.

Like I said, you're probably looking at me funny. I mean, Acknowledgments? Who reads those?
The answer is, well, me.  And similarly to the author bio, I've found that those books where I actually ENJOY reading the Acknowledgments are typically books where I enjoy reading the novel itself.

My publisher said to write Acknowledgments.
Thank you Mom and Dad and Booboo and Insert Name Agent.  You are all wonderful people.

Thanks. To my family. And my agent. And my publishers. And other people.  I am in your debt and love you all.

Thank you to everyone who helped in the making of this novel even though I will name none of you.  I truly appreciate all of you and thank you for all your help even though I will not mention any ways in which you helped.  I love you.

To my editors, to my agents, to my friends, to my family, thank you.  You are all an inspiration to me.  You've seen me through the good and the bad, the crazy and the why-isn't-she-in-a-straightjacket.  This book could not have been possible without every one of you, and I honestly care about all of you and would've thanked you even if my publisher did not require there be an Acknowledgments.


When I'm done with this, I just add up my total and divide it by three.  I eliminate all the ones below a seven unless there is a reason that I really want that specific book.  And if a book is a nine or ten, needless to say, I buy it.

So how about you guys? Am I the only one that does this? How do you choose which books are worth buying and which aren't?

Monday, November 14, 2011

2012 Debut Author Challenge

So, this is the first challenge that I'm taking part in.  Exciting? I think yes.

2012 DAC is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren.  The objective of this challenge is to read at least twelve young adult or middle grade books debuting in 2012. It runs from January 1,2012 to January 31,2013. The extension into 2013 is so that books debuting in December can still be read.

The sign-ups are here, more info can be found here, and if you want to grab a button go here.

Go join! It'll be a lot of fun.


You know that feeling?  When you have absolutely NOTHING to read and you feel like crying because, really, who are you without a book in your hands? What are you supposed to do when you have free time? Where has your life gone?

I hate that feeling.  I think this is why I am determined to constantly have an available line of books waiting to be read.  I drag my parents to bookstores, pop in and out of the library every day, just to avoid said feeling.

I've now come to realize that there is another feeling, and while it is far less painful, it's still more than a little frustrating.  That feeling when you have SO MANY AWESOME BOOKS that you can read, that you either own or that are sitting all nice and pretty in the library, but you can't read them all at once, because you're not superhuman.  And you're like, "Well, maybe I should read this one first.  But no, no, I've heard that one is amazing.  That one too.  But look at that cover!  I know, but that description . . . "

And you find it hard to concentrate on one awesome book because you're just thinking about how great it'll be to read the other awesome books and your mind slowly starts to resemble that of a monkey on crack as it runs through a bookstore screaming, "BOOKS! BOOOOOOOOOOOOKS!"

Yeah. I have that feeling right now.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How to Save a Life

Jill MacSweeney just wants everything to go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she's been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends--everyone who wants to support her. You can't lose one family member and simply replace him with a new one, and when her mom decides to adopt a baby, that's exactly what it feels like she's trying to do. And that's decidedly not normal. With her world crumbling around her, can Jill come to embrace a new member of the family?

Mandy Kalinowski knows what it's like to grow up unwanted--to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, she knows she wants a better life for her baby. But can giving up a child be as easy as it seems? And will she ever be able to find someone to care for her, too?

Critically acclaimed author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a heart-wrenching story, told from dual perspectives, about what it means to be a family and the many roads we can take to become one.

I wasn't really sure what I'd think about this book.  I got it because I'd heard great things about it, and I loved the cover--it's not one of those covers I'd necessarily call "gorgeous," it's just so simple and neat and completely fitting.  

But the description didn't sound like my normal type of read. And when I first started reading it, I was a little "Ehhh, not sure about this."  

I kept reading. And I'm really glad I did.

Sara Zarr's writing, her characters, the plot, and this book in general can be described by two words: simply beautiful.  Zarr doesn't go extravagant; her writing is simple, her world is simple, her plot is simple, and her characters . . . they're not simple so much as they don't have that glossy "otherness" to them that many fictional characters do.  Zarr's characters are real, honest-to-G-d people.

But it was perfect. Because this book didn't need fanciness. It didn't need beautiful prose or a hugely complicated plot or characters designed to make readers fall in love with them.  It needed a sort of frankness to it, a realness, and that's what it had.

While I loved this whole book, my favorite part was Zarr's characters.  I loved Mandy almost from the start, and I adored Robin, and Ravi(<3), and Dylan.  But I wasn't so sure about Jill.  In fact, I thought I was going to hate her.  I mean, she was cruel, she was mistrustful, she shut everyone out, even when they were trying to help. Why would I like that?

Because Jill was a real person. A real, broken person just trying to cope with loss and change and who she was.  Because beneath the cruelty and mistrustfulness and all the angry words and actions, there was beauty and determination and the strength to keep going.

Then there's Mandy.  I just . . . I was torn this whole book between wanting to hug her and high five her.  She is also a broken character, though for a very different reason, and despite everything she's been through, she still has such an . . . innocence about her, this child-like wonder and, as Jill called it, "kookyness" that was just so beautiful and adorable and fantastic.

Usually it's hard to like two love interests, but I managed to love both Ravi and Dylan(though I happened to prefer Ravi).  Just like with Zarr's main characters, these are not the type of people you dream about at night.  They're not ridiculously gorgeous with supernatural powers and snappy one-liners and awesome accents.  But they're real.  I feel like that's the word I keep using: real. Zarr understands how humans really are better than almost any author I've seen.

And lastly, Robin.  All I will say is that I wish I had a mother as awesome as her.

This story is told in dual POVs--Jill and Mandy.  I'm a little iffy on multiple POVs in stories. Sometimes it really works, sometimes it really doesn't.  In this book, it really worked.  Even if they weren't in different fonts, I could've flipped to any given page, read a paragraph, and told you without a doubt who was the narrator.  The voices were incredibly distinct, and I never looked forward to one POV more than another.  Both were great to read and critical to the plotline.

As far as the plot is concerned, well, I don't really want to say much.  I feel like it's the sort of thing you should just read for yourself.  All I'm gonna say is  that I loved the ending. You all know I'm a sucker for happy endings.

This book is most definitely five stars. Go read it.

Huuuuuuuge Giveaway at Justin's Book Blog!

Okay, so Justin is holding a huge holiday giveaway at his blog, right here:

If he reaches 750 followers by the end of this giveaway, he'll be giving away--wait for it--ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS towards The Book Depository AND 3 ARCs: Everneath, Incarnate, and Truth.  Now how awesome is that?

Go enter, because I'm assuming if you follow a book blog that you love free books.  Perfect opportunity!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

LC's 1,000 Follower Giveaway

LC just reached 1,000 followers, and she's got an awesome giveaway on her blog.  Enter, and you can win either an entire set of books or an individual book of your choosing.
Go go go!

Which do you like better?

My sectioned reviews or my big ramble reviews?

I'm trying to decide which one to stick with. On the one hand, the sectioned reviews sort of force me to stay on track and comprehensible, but they're also a little bit limiting. Whereas, with the big ramble reviews, I can say whatever I want--whether or not it fits in one of the sections--but it tends to be just that: a ramble.

So which one do you guys like better?  That'll probably be the deciding factor.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dark Inside

Since mankind began, civilizations have always fallen: the Romans, the Greeks, the Aztecs…Now it’s our turn. Huge earthquakes rock the world. Cities are destroyed. But something even more awful is happening. An ancient evil has been unleashed, turning everday people into hunters, killers, crazies.
Mason's mother is dying after a terrible car accident. As he endures a last vigil at her hospital bed, his school is bombed and razed to the ground, and everyone he knows is killed. Aries survives an earthquake aftershock on a bus, and thinks the worst is over when a mysterious stranger pulls her out of the wreckage, but she’s about to discover a world changed forever. Clementine, the only survivor of an emergency town hall meeting that descends into murderous chaos, is on the run from savage strangers who used to be her friends and neighbors. And Michael witnesses a brutal road rage incident that is made much worse by the arrival of the police--who gun down the guilty party and then turn on the bystanding crowd.
Where do you go for justice when even the lawmakers have turned bad? These four teens are on the same road in a world gone mad. Struggling to survive, clinging on to love and meaning wherever it can be found, this is a journey into the heart of darkness – but also a journey to find each other and a place of safety.

This was a really fantastic read.
I've been wanting this book for months.  I mean, Jeyn is awesome, the premise is awesome, the cover is awesome, the reviews were awesome, so that all led me to think this would be a pretty freaking awesome book.  And I was not wrong.
There are many things I liked about this book.  It was horrifying and haunting and thought-provoking.  The writing was powerful and even beautiful in certain places. 
But possibly the thing I liked most about this book is one of the reasons I like dystopian/apocalyptic novels in general: I loved seeing just how people, real people, reacted to such a horrible and devastating situation.  Jeyn really took us to the heart of the human spirit and showed us how some can be so courageous in the face of danger, and others so cowardly, and how sometimes, they can be both.  Not all of our characters are heroes.  One of the main characters even commits an extremely selfish act that hurts many others, but the thing is . . . I didn't hate him for it. I thought I would, but I didn't.  Because when I think about it, really think about it, if I had been in that situation . . . would I have done any differently?
The answer is no. No, I probably wouldn't have.
And that's what's so great about this.  There is no pretty sheen to Jeyn's characters.  They are real, intensely flawed human beings, and I love them for it, and I loved seeing just how people changed when tragedy came calling.  Who became the leaders, who became the followers. Who became the heroes, and who became the cowards.  Who couldn't be quite sure what they were.
I only had two problems with this novel.  The first is that some of the dialogue was a bit awkward. The majority of it was actually very realistic, but there were a few lines--mostly ones by Daniel or Chickadee--that just sounded awkward when I tried to say them.  However, I'm going to be lenient here, because despite being unrealistic the lines were really powerful/intriguing.
The second problem is that I still feel a bit left in the dark.  I mean, it's made 100% clear on the last page who Nothing is, though it isn't directly spelled out, but we still have very little information about the Baggers and the evil that's possessed them.  I realize this is only the first book in a series, I just would've liked a bit more information.
But really, overall, this was a stunning debut novel. Harsh, gritty, and surprisingly deep, Dark Inside is a book I would recommend to anyone who likes their books dark.  (That makes me think of coffee.  "Harsh, gritty, in a surprisingly deep cup, Parkland Coffee is a coffee I would recommend to anyone who likes their coffee dark.")
Final note--the cover! I freaking love the cover.  It's so, so fitting.  With the fading, dusty city in the background, the shaded forms, the deep earthquake cracks, the eyes with black veins like the Baggers--it's perfect, and very eyecatching. Bravo, Simon & Schuster!
4 stars.

Friday, November 4, 2011

City of Glass

To save her mother's life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters -- never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight. 

As Clary uncovers more about her family's past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadow-hunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadow-hunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he's willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her new found powers to help save the Glass City?

Whatever the cost?

Warning: here there be many spoilers. Read at your own risk.

So.  City of Glass. My last TMI re-read.  You know what?
I'm glad I re-read these.

There are some things I really liked about City of Glass, and some that I really didn't.  Just like there are some things I really like about TMI in general, and some things I really don't.  I'm going to mention the biggest dislikes first, so I can just get those out of the way.

1. I feel like Clare was not thinking of the whole "two boys" thing when she wrote CoB and CoA.  Because I don't recall Jace mentioning even ONCE that Valentine would disappear on him for days at a time, and I think that's something someone would mention, especially considering how often he's brought up.  There was just no foreshadowing to that.

2. Possibly my biggest problem with Clare's writing: the repetition.  I know you were thinking the similes, and those are my second biggest problem, but she did get ever-so-slightly better with those in this one.  But it's the repetition that kills me. She recycles the same phrases over and over and over again.  It's like she thought of a cool description and decided to describe everything that could possibly be described that way with those words.  I can't even count how many times I stumbled on a phrase and realized, "Hey, I've read that before. Six or seven times."

3. THE FACT THAT CASSIE CLARE FREAKING SOLD OUT.  Read the ending. Look very carefully at the ending.  Is there something you notice? Like the fact that everything's ALL TIED UP AND THERE'S A STRONG SENSE OF CLOSURE? LIKE THE END OF A TRILOGY? 
Oh, but my mistake. This isn't a trilogy anymore, it's a series.
Really. I'm sorry, but I hate when authors do that. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.  Cassie Clare, why did you accept? Why?
I'm just going to pretend that this is the last book. I don't ever intend to read City of Fallen Angels, because in  my mind, this is the end. This is it.

Alright, so I had other problems, but I'm too tired to mention them right now. Most of them have already been mentioned in my previous reviews, and the rest are just nitpicks.

There were actually a good amount of things I liked about this book, and if asked, I will name them.  But the only thing I'm going to tell you in this review is the reason I gave it four stars, not three like the others.

It made me cry.

I know. Weird, isn't it? TMI . . . and crying?  Those aren't two things I usually think of together, and I'm about 99% certain I didn't cry the first time around.

But I did this time.

After Jace was stabbed, when Valentine drew him onto his lap and rocked him like a little kid.  I cried.  It wasn't just a faint sting in the eyes, it was actual, honest crying.

And the thing is? I wasn't crying for Jace, or at least I'm pretty positive I wasn't.  I already knew he'd be back and better than ever in a couple pages. No, that's not it.

I was crying for Valentine.

And that is why I gave this four stars.  Not only did it make me cry, but it made me cry for the villain.  In most books, I am happy when the villain dies. Triumphant. Gleeful.  And while there was a faint sense of triumph, mostly what I felt was just . .  . sadness. Because yes, Valentine's moral compass was skewed beyond repair, and yes, he had done and intended to do terrible things, but in the end, he still had a soul. He was still human.  And he truly thought that what he was doing was the right thing, a noble cause.

4 stars.

The Mortal Instruments series is not stunning. It is not life-changing. It is not one of those series where I will poke you in the virtual face until you pick it up and read it and love it and reread it and love it again.  But the books are good, engaging reads that captured both my attention and my imagination.  If you're just looking for some easy, action-filled books to read, or you're a fan of urban fantasy, or both, I'd recommend you pick up this series.