Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday 6 - Ruins





Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, where bloggers pick a book that hasn't been published yet that they are excited to read.

The funny thing about this week's pick is that it shares the title of the second book in the Pathfinder series by Orson Scott Card (my review of that one here), but today I'm talking about the third book in Dan Wells' Partials trilogy.

Title: Ruins
Author: Dan Wells
Genre: Science fiction, dystopian, YA
Publishing date: March 11, 2014

Goodreads summary:
(not yet available - I'm posting the summary for the first book, Partials, so that you get an idea of what the series is about)

The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.

Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what's left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she's not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.

Dan Wells, acclaimed author of I Am Not a Serial Killer, takes readers on a pulsepounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in question—one where our humanity is both our greatest liability and our only hope for survival.

Why I want to read it:

As you can probably tell if you read my review of Partials, I really liked the original concept and characters of this series. I haven't gotten around to reading the second book yet, but if it lives up to the potential the first book hints at, I am going to be one happy reader.

Kira is an amazing main character, since not only is she intelligent and determined to do what is right, she is also very compassionate and just so human (people who have read Partials will be smirking to themselves - but it's true isn't it??). She's already shown how far she's willing to go and how much she is willing to risk to save the lives of the babies that are dying of the RM virus. The second book is supposed to be about Kira discovering the master-plan behind the Partials and RM - as well as her own past. I can only imagine that the third book will involve an earth-shattering calamity of some sort that forces Kira to make even harder choices and face even more shocking discoveries (is that even possible?)

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Review: Partials


Title: Partials
Author: Dan Wells
Genre: YA, dystopian, science fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
The human race is all but extinct after a war with Partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by RM, a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island while the Partials have mysteriously retreated. The threat of the Partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to RM in more than a decade. Our time is running out.
Kira, a sixteen-year-old medic-in-training, is on the front lines of this battle, seeing RM ravage the community while mandatory pregnancy laws have pushed what's left of humanity to the brink of civil war, and she's not content to stand by and watch. But as she makes a desperate decision to save the last of her race, she will find that the survival of humans and Partials alike rests in her attempts to uncover the connections between them—connections that humanity has forgotten, or perhaps never even knew were there.
Dan Wells, acclaimed author of I Am Not a Serial Killer, takes readers on a pulsepounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in question—one where our humanity is both our greatest liability and our only hope for survival.

This book really put the science in science-fiction! The main character is a medic and researcher, and there are a lot of medical terms and discussions involving virology. I'm really glad that there are so many more biotech/biopunk dystopias cropping up, and that they aren't all just about genetic engineering. Sure, the Partials are genetically engineered, but there is a lot about nanotechnology and virology too. My inner science geek was enthralled (what else would you expect from a bioengineer in training?):)

Partials is about a post-apocalyptic world where most of the world has succumbed to a deadly virus called RM, said to be released by the Partials. Partials are factory-made humanoid creatures that were manufactured to fight wars but eventually turned on the humans that made them. The Partial war that decimated most of the human world has been over for over a decade, but the Partials are still at large and the humans are still reeling from the repercussions. The RM virus attacks as soon as babies are born, killing them within days. This leaves the remaining survivors with a terrible time-bomb - will they find a cure before all the remaining people on earth grow old and die?

You can imagine that this sort of situation would bring out desperate measures. The Hope Act is one such measure, one that demands all women over a certain age to have children every year in hopes that children with immunity like the survivors will be born. Of course, the age for pregnancy continues to drop as more babies succumb to RM. It's a painful situation, made even more so because you see it through the eyes of Kira, a very compassionate and dedicated medic.

When Kira takes it upon herself to do more research and find a cure for RM, she discovers that she has bitten off way more than she can chew. There are a lot more conspiracies and a lot more danger than she bargained for; by the end of the book, her whole worldview has been turned on its head more than once, and each time the revelations are even more shattering.

I really liked how serious the author was about showing not only the biological effects of the virus, but also the effects on morale and the human spirit. You see what happens when people are desperate, and the author doesn't flinch from showing the uglier side of what people do to protect themselves.
The government for one stages attacks on its own citizens to pull everyone together against a "common enemy" - the scariest thing is that the people involved firmly believe they are doing the right thing! It's the sort of twisted logic that I first encountered in Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood, and I love when authors are able to pull this off.

Another thing I really appreciated about this book was the diversity of the characters (mostly ethnic and a bit of socio-economic). Most novels are about a bunch of white people, with an obligatory background character of another race. If not, the story uses the characters' race or culture as a plot point. Not so here - almost everyone is multi-cultural, and it's just a fact of life. That was refreshing!

Speaking of characters, I really liked Kira. She really was a strong protagonist, and I never felt like the author was trying to beat me over the head with it (unlike some other "strong" YA protagonists...cough cough Katniss cough). Not only was she intelligent and determined, she was incredibly compassionate. She has the sense to see that she's not ready to get married yet, even if the government keeps dropping the pregnancy age. She has an open mind, and is willing to listen even if she doesn't completely believe what she's told. And best of all, she doesn't spend half her life choosing a guy to be with in the face of greater calamities. The greater calamities always got preference (yay for sensible characters and sensible authors!).

I admit I raised my eyebrows more than a little when Kira came up with her brilliant plan to cure/study RM. I mean really? No one else thought of that? It's also very unrealistic that she discovered so much in mere days - that kind of research takes years when hundreds of people are working on it. It was also a bit unbelievable that Kira never had the smallest inkling about her heritage...you would think with all the paranoia there would have been some form of testing as the community was formed. Ah well, these were minor enough that I can slide them to the back of my brain and not think too much.

All the other characters were really interesting too. They all had their flaws, but they were all so lovable too (with the exception of some of those government officials...)! Especially Samm - I'm really interested in learning more about his story.

Wow this review got really long. Anyways, I'd recommend this series to anyone who's not afraid of the science in science fiction, and anyone who loves a good dystopian novel. I am looking forward to reading Fragments!

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock




Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Author: Matthew Quick
Genre: contemporary, suicide/drugs/issues

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

That was so tragic and terrible yet oddly beautiful at the same time.

A rather strange coincidence is that I watched Silver Linings Playbook over the weekend, and really enjoyed it. The next week, I received an invitation to read this novel via Netgalley. The blurb read, "From the author of The Silver Linings Playbook, this powerful novel is one of our in-house favorites." You can probably guess that I jumped at the chance to read this book.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is the story of Leonard Peacock on the day he decides to shoot his ex-best friend, Asher, and then kill himself (it just so happens that this day is also his birthday). Leonard has been planning this day for a while now, and he has four presents to give to the people who are special to him - Walt, the old man next door with whom he's bonded over Bogart movies; Babak, the once-outcast who has helped heal Leonard with his prodigious violin playing; Lauren, the Christian girl who he has a crush on, but who doesn't return his feelings; Herr Silverman, his off-the-beaten-path history teacher and role model. You could say that some of these gift-giving incidents go better than others...

Leonard's mother is AWOL as usual, and no one else seems to hear his silent cries for help. As Leonard goes through the day, you are both horrified by and strangely sympathetic towards this very insightful yet broken young man. When you finally find out what "that stuff with Asher" is, it's pretty horrifying. I'm not saying it justifies homicide, but I think it is sufficient trauma to explain (again, not justify Leonard's extreme reaction.

This is definitely a difficult read, because of all the trauma and intense emotion associated with abuse and suicide. Still, there are plenty of beautiful observations about life and a few characters who do care, and you see how the smallest gestures make the biggest difference (both in pushing someone towards suicide and helping them step away).

I can't say I enjoyed this book, but I am glad I read it. My emotions when I finished this were a melting puddle of I-don't-even-know-what-to-say. It's not a happy ending, but it definitely could have been worse...in any case, this whole book is bittersweet with a side of sadness. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but if you're ever in the mood to deal with some heavy yet insightful stuff, discover Leonard Peacock's story for yourself.

*An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Feature and Follow #5



Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! The Feature & Follow is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee's View.

This week's question: What do you do with your books after you are done reading them?

Well, most of the time I read right before I go to sleep, so I put it reverently back on my giant pile of bedside books. If a book is particularly good, sometimes I'll just close it and stare at it while I try and gather my thoughts and overwhelming "ohmygoodness that was amazing" feelings :) And if I don't like the book I've just finished, I just let it thunk to the ground (terrible, I know!).

I have rarely felt the urge to hurl my books at a wall - the most recent time this happened was after I finished Storm of Swords, but I was reading an ebook and I definitely did not want my precious laptop to shatter into a thousand pieces.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Prodigy

Title: Prodigy
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: dystopian, YA

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This boosted my opinion of the series from "not one of my favorite dystopias, but still good" to "DEFINITELY one of my favorite dystopias."

Prodigy picks up where Legend ended, with June and Day fleeing from Los Angeles. They need help, and they decide to join the Patriots in order to get the resources and safety they need. The only catch is that in exchange, June and Day must assassinate the new elector, Anden. Killing in cold blood isn't June or Day's style, and things get even more complicated when Anden seems to be more than just a power-hungry tyrant like his father. There are also more personal struggles - Day feeling insignificant and wondering about the sincerity of June's feelings towards him, and June continuing to grapple with the loss of her brother and who to trust.

A lot of people have pointed out that Legend lacks a lot of world-building. I agree, and what is a dystopia without world-building? Still, I felt like since June and Day knew very little about how their own world worked, it was only natural that the reader would be kept in the dark too. In Prodigy, June and Day learn a lot more about their world and we even get a look at the Colonies. The world of this novel is much more firmly established, and it is pretty darn twisted. I loved learning more about the origins of the Republic and seeing how it changed from its original intention. I also really liked seeing the darker side of the Colonies. I appreciated that there were two societies with their own good and dark sides instead of just having an evil regime and a benevolent one. The solution to cleaning up America isn't as clear cut anymore, and I can't wait to see how this pans out.

I love intelligent characters, and both June and Day continue to think fast on their feet and out-think their enemies. I thought both main characters developed more distinct voices in this book, so it was easier to get in their heads and contrast June and Day's different outlooks. I absolutely love June and her ridiculously logical self - she always had these parentheticals about the grade of steel or the dimensions of her room, and it really shows you how observant and resourceful she is. I thought her blabbering about the good quality material of the paperclip ring was adorable (and then internally scolding herself "why don't you just punch him in the face?"). The paperclip ring itself was adorable too!

The relationships get way more complex in this book - not just between characters (oh my goodness, the jealousy needs to stop), but between groups and governments. There is a lot of mistrust and not really knowing who the "good guys" are. Until the end, I really didn't know who to root for or what the main characters would do. Some of the secondary characters have a larger role in this book too - Kaede, for one, continues to be awesome.

There were a couple of revelations in this book that made me see the events in Legend in a new light. For one thing, I want to punch Thomas in the face way more now that I know how much he meant to Metias. HOW COULD HE? AGH.

The end of this book is conclusive and empowering, but also shattering. I was very happy with the way things were going until Day's hospital visit. (view spoiler)[ How could he just tell June that "things wouldn't work out between them" without telling her that he was DYING? He really didn't give her a fair shot at working things out or letting her show how much she cared. You don't do that to friends let alone people you (think you) love! (hide spoiler)].

I am looking forward to seeing how everything gets wrapped up in Champion!

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday 6 - Dreams of Gods and Monsters



Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, where bloggers pick a book that hasn't been published yet that they are excited to read.

My pick this week is a book I've already blogged about, but I'm so excited for it I'll do it again :)
Dreams of Gods and Monsters, the final book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy.



Title: Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Publishing date: April 29, 2014

Goodreads summary:

Dreams starts where Days left off, with Karou and Akiva discovering each other alive — although Karou is still not ready to forgive Akiva for killing the only family she’s ever known. And now, through an act of staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance.

 When Jael’s brutal angel army trespasses into the human world, Karou and Akiva must ally their enemy armies against the threat. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope that it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves – maybe even toward love. But there are bigger threats than Jael in the offing. From the streets of Rome to the caves of the Kirin and beyond, humans, chimaera, and seraphim will fight, strive, love, and die in an epic theater that transcends good and evil, right and wrong, friend and enemy.

Why I want to read it:

Laini Taylor is one of my favorite authors, because her writing style is SO GORGEOUS and she always writes lovely stories that are both epic in scale and yet incredibly focused. I love the dark undertones that color this series, since it's about more than a love story - it's about war and retribution, genocide and forgiveness. For all its incredible insights into the good and ugly sides of people, this series is also funny and heart-warming. I know it doesn't seem possible, but I promise you it is.

I am so excited to read this book. "Excited" doesn't even begin to cover it!

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

WATCHMEN.


This is the summer of my reading things that I wouldn't normally pick up. I've been asking friends who read all sorts of things from medical nonfiction to classic literature to steampunk for recommendations, and the recs have been quite eclectic!

Technically, no one in particular recommended Watchmen to me, but seeing as it's so iconic and I don't usually read graphic novels, I grabbed it at the library. I've heard so much about it - "best graphic novel of all time", "incredibly complex", "way more than a superhero story" - and my English professor even used to teach it as part of his American Novels course (graphic novel, right? haha).

I'm really excited to read it, and hopefully watch the movie when I'm done.

Has anyone else heard of/read Watchmen? I'd love to discuss it with people once I'm done reading.



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Sunday, July 21, 2013

Review: If You Could Be Mine

Title: If You Could Be Mine
Author: Sara Farizan
Genre: Contemporary

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went a bit out of my comfort zone by reading this, and I'm very glad I did. If You Could Be Mine is a very honest portrayal of what it's like to be LGBTQ in modern day Iran. The story is told from the point of view of Sahar, a girl who is in love with her childhood friend Nasrin. When Nasrin's parents arrange her marriage, Sahar feels trapped - she knows there is no way for her to openly be with Nasrin, since it is a criminal offense. There is another way - one that will ask Sahar to sacrifice her very identity.

The reasons I picked this book up (quotes from the back cover):

"In this stunning debut, a young Iranian American writer pulls back the curtain on one of the most hidden corners of a much-talked-about culture."
- I really don't know much about Iran, so I was curious to learn more about their culture and how the often severe social rules affect different people

"Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?"
- I love stories about identity, and most of the stories I write are about shifting identities/perspectives. This question is one that I really don't have an answer to, and I was really curious as to how this situation would be resolved.

My thoughts:

This very much a story of identity, and I liked how honest the author was about different communities and how they perceive one another. In Iran, the operation for transsexuals is approved and even partially paid for by the government, since it is seen as God's mistake that you are born in the wrong body. This doesn't mean that transsexuals don't face prejudice - they very much do - but I found it interesting that these people might think themselves superior to people who are gay or lesbian, because homosexuality is considered a sin under the Quran.

I also liked how the author avoided labels. Sahar says something about not knowing if she were "gay" but knowing that she loved Nasrin more than anyone else. All the characters are portrayed in a similar way - they strive to be more than their label, and you see them as people instead of just "the lesbian one".

I had a bit of trouble with Sahar and Nasrin's relationship though. It seemed like Sahar loved Nasrin a lot more than the other way around, and Sahar was constantly making comments about how selfish and spoiled Nasrin was. Sahar was willing to live a lie and sacrifice her identity for Nasrin, but Nasrin wouldn't even make a fuss about getting married to Reza (who ironically is a doctor who helps people transition genders!). When a friend asks Sahar if Nasrin is worth it, my instincts were screaming NO! I appreciated the ending, since Sahar seemed to be getting back on her feet.

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Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review: A Study in Sherlock

A Study in Sherlock: Stories inspired by the Holmes canonTitle: A Study in Sherlock: Stories inspired by the Holmes canon
Editor: Laurie R. King (authors of each short story are next to the titles below)
Genre: Anthology, mystery, speculative fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sherlock Holmes has always been a part of my life - from the time I was little, my parents introduced me to this mystery-solving madman, and I have continued to be intrigued and awed by this eccentric character. It's clear that I'm not the only one, as many of the authors here say the same things. This anthology is quite an eclectic collection of stories based on Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - from the usual murder mystery to stories with a hint of the supernatural to conspiracy theories to contemporary adaptations, this book really does have it all. Unfortunately, because of this incredibly wide mix, some stories were pretty dull in comparison to the others. Here are a few thoughts on each of them:

- You'd Better Go in Disguise, Alan Bradley (****)
This first story was very clever and I liked the familiarity of the Holmes character. An interesting twist: (view spoiler)[ LOVED how the guy Holmes was talking to was actually the killer. Unreliable narrators whoohoo (hide spoiler)]

- As to "An Exact Knowledge of London", Tony Broadbent (**)

The writing style was melodramatic and very tedious, especially at the beginning. I didn't enjoy this one as much, especially the narrator's preoccupation with technology and going on about modern adaptations of Sherlock. It was almost like the author wanted to prove that he knew all the major adaptations of Sherlock Holmes (everything from the BBC show to Robert Downey Jr.) It just tried too hard to be modern retelling. I appreciated twist at the end though (view spoiler)[ where the fumbling man that the cabbie thought was a Watson impersonator was actually Watson pretending to be an impersonator, and Holmes and Watson were hundreds of years old and trying to avoid being discovered. (hide spoiler)]

- The Men with the Twisted Lips, SJ Rozan (**)

This story had an interesting idea - that Sherlock Holmes isn't the mastermind, only a tool that other masterminds used for their own means. I liked the concept a lot, but I was generally very confused about the explanation of how using Sherlock Holmes helped the opium traders. That might have been me being really tired when I read this one though.

- The Adventure of the Purloined Paget, Phillip and Jerry Margolin (****)

This one was a very inventive way of including Sherlock Holmes and his famous deductions. It centers on a newly discovered Paget painting and a bunch of friends that bid on the priceless possession. Of course, there is some foul play involved with such a high prize to win. I enjoyed the mystery of the Paget!

- The Bone-Headed League, Lee Child (*****)

This was one of the best stories in this anthology. My reaction as I finished was literally a gasp followed by a "wow." What a chilling and clever way to incorporate Sherlock Holmes into the story! The ending atually did made me gasp: (view spoiler)[ Sherlock trivia as a decoy for the FBI agent, distracting him long enough to allow terrorists access into America. Less than 24 hours of following red herrings, and the FBI agent's whole life (and countless others) destroyed! (hide spoiler)]

- The Startling Events in the electrified city, Thomas Perry (**)

A very dull conspiracy theory about the assassination of President McKinley, and hardly included Holmes. I didn't see why Holmes was necessary for this plan, nor did I enjoy the story.

- The Case of Death and Honey, Neil Gaiman (*****)

My favorite story in the anthology, and actually the reason I picked up this anthology in the first place. This is a fantastical reimagining of Sherlock Holmes, and is about what happens once Sherlock Holmes has retired from solving criminal cases. He turns instead to larger, more abstract mysteries...
This reimagining was both realistic and satisfyingly preternatural. The secret of the bees was very interesting indeed!

- A Triumph of Logic, Gayle Lynds and John Sheldon (****)

This story is about an American judge and lawyer who discover something unsettling about a fellow lawyer (and friend). This story really pits logic against loyalty, and the characters were quite witty and fun.


- The Last of Sheila-Lock Holmes, Laura Lippman (*)

I really didn't like this story. I thought it was subpar as loss of innocence story, and even worse as a Sherlock Holmes adaptation.

- The Adventure of the Concert Pianist, Margaret Maron (****)

I liked this story, which is told from the POV of Holmes and Watson's landlady, Mrs. Hudson. The mystery is about Mrs. Hudson's niece, the wife of a concert pianist. I thought the conclusion of this mystery was inventive in some aspects yet predictable in others. I loved Mrs. Hudson's POV though!

- The Shadow Not Cast, Lionel Chetwynd (****)

This one was very clever (the title is very significant, actually), and I liked the mentor/mentee relationship between Maggie and Jackson; I also liked that it was only loosely based on Sherlock - there weren't any forced allusions, so that was refreshing.

- The Eyak Interpreter, Dana Stabenow (***)

This story is really interesting in that it is formatted as a series of blog posts (comments are included too!). I thought the mystery was interesting, and some of the comments were really funny, but I felt like the ending wasn't much of an ending.


-The Case that Holmes Lost, Charles Todd (****)

This one isn't directly about Sherlock Holmes; instead, it is about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I thought the concept of this one was really cool, since it's about someone suing Doyle for his interpretation of how Sherlock would solve an existing case.


- The Imitator, Jan Burke (***)

I was very confused when I read this (I was very sleepy at the time - probably lost half the details in the half-asleep fog) so I don't have much to say about this one. It's about a guy who thinks himself Sherlock Holmes (the reasons for this are very sad - it has to do with a childhood trauma and wanting to make sense out of the little things in the world) who tries to explain the strange occurrences around the area. The mystery itself wasn't that hard to figure out, but I thought the characters were interesting.

- A Spot of Detection, Jacqueline Winspear (****)

This is a cute story about a boy who reads a Sherlock Holmes story and decides to put his own deductive reasoning to the test. He finds all these clues in an attempt to help the police with a case, but... (view spoiler)[ and in the end, the shots he heard and the sentences that were spoken were all part of rehearsal for a local play! (hide spoiler)].

The anthology closes with a conversation on twitter between the editor and Mary Russell, Sherlock Holmes' wife. It was pretty entertaining!

Overall, a four-star anthology.


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Friday, July 19, 2013

Feature and Follow #4


Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! The Feature & Follow is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee's View

This week's question: Book Vacay: Where is the best destination reading spot for you? (Where do you like to go to read other then your home)

I almost always read curled up on my bed or on the sofa, so this question is kind of hard!

This is kind of weird but I kind of like reading in the receptions of doctor's/dentist's offices - it's always quiet and they usually have comfy chairs :) I've had a couple of interesting conversations with people who asked what I was reading while we were all waiting for our appointments, so it's kind of fun.

I know my "destination" reading spot isn't much of a destination...what about yours?

Please follow via Bloglovin or GFC. I will follow back for sure - just remember to leave me a link!

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday 5 - Allegiant



Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, where bloggers pick a book that hasn't been published yet that they are excited to read.

My pick for this week is the finale of the Divergent trilogy, Allegiant.

Title: Allegiant
Author: Veronica Roth
Genre: YA, dystopian
Publishing date: October 22, 2013

Goodreads summary:
What if your whole world was a lie? 
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything? 
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected? 

 The explosive conclusion to Veronica Roth’s #1 New York Times bestselling Divergent trilogy reveals the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

Why I want to read it:

Divergent was one of the better YA dystopias I have read (my full thoughts here), and I was really excited for the second book. Insurgent let me down a bit, but I'm hoping Allegiant will answer some of the questions I had at the end of Insurgent. Even with Insurgent not being as good as I expected it to be, this is still an amazing series, and Tris is such a strong character. I'm hoping Tobias finally gets his act together in the last book, and that we learn more about the mysterious outside. Hoping for a strong finish - fingers crossed!

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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review: Quintana of Charyn

Title:Quintana of Charyn: The Lumatere Chronicles
Author: Melina Marchetta
Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Now that's how you end an amazing series. Not quite as good as Froi, but still beautiful, poignant, heart-wrenching, and eye-opening.

I have come to the conclusion that there is a secret portal to the world of Lumatere that only Melina Marchetta has access to, because how else do you explain characters that are so real? I have said this about every Melina Marchetta book I have read, and I'll say it again - I have to constantly keep reminding myself that these characters that I have grown to love and care about aren't real, because otherwise it would hurt too much when things get ugly for them (and that happens. Quite a bit, actually). Even when I've been reminding myself, it still is painful for me to see them struggle through disappointment and heartbreak.

In the final installment of the Lumatere Chronicles, Charyn and Lumatere are at the brink of war. Quintana is hiding in a cave with Phaedra and other women who are presumed dead by the rest of the world. A broken Froi is trying to find his footing with his newly found family, but he never loses sight of what he must do - protect Quintana and the Little King at all costs. Isaboe and Finnikin must address the growing threat of Charyn invasion, and are poised to take down the one they believe responsible - Gargarin. Lucian grieves the loss of his wife and struggles to be the leader of the Monts. Meanwhile, Charynites are clamoring for a leader and chaos begins to brew in the valley between Charyn and Lumatere.

There were so many tense moments where characters that I loved and respected would perceive one another as enemies. There was so much conflict and confusion, and it was very hard to imagine what characters with multiple loyalties would do. It's hard to see people who you think of as just and extraordinary holding a blade to people who are also equally extraordinary and good. Those books where you know nothing bad will happen to a main character? This is not one of those books.

Quintana of Charyn is full of twisting loyalties and shifting perspectives. It's gripping, but also beautiful. As in all of Marchetta's books, there is a lot of ugliness and hatred, but also much love, beauty, and strength.
In the end, after Isaboe lost her child, I was so sure she was going to attack Quintana, especially since Isaboe resented her so much. Instead, she pretended that Quintana's child was her own in order to save the Little King whom she once believed would be end of her kingdom. That was simply incredible! I also thought Phaedra and Quintana's relationship was wonderfully done - they don't seem to like each other at all at first, but they grow to respect and protect each other like sisters. Of course, Froi was the character that stole the show for me - he, like the reader, loves and is loyal to all the other characters from both Lumatere and Charyn. The lengths he goes to save the people he cares about is extraordinary.
I absolutely loved the ending! Melina Marchetta really makes you wait for the ending, and you don't know if it's going to be a happy one or not until almost the very last page. I was grinning nonstop, and almost burst into laughter when I found out the reason for the whole fiasco
Isaboe's daughter likes "shiny things"! haha
Highly highly recommended!

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: A Thousand Perfect Things

Title: A Thousand Perfect Things
Author: Kay Kenyon
Genre: Alternative history, fantasy, adult fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoy alternative histories and fantasy novels, and as an American anglophile of Indian origin, this book seemed like it was written for me! I can safely say I liked this novel, but it wasn't as good as I hoped or expected it to be.

The story is set in an alternate world that is separated into two main regions - Anglica, the seat of science and logic, and Bharata, the region of mysteries and magic. As in our own world, Anglica has attempted to colonize and "civilize" Bharata, although to little success. The story follows Tori, a spirited Anglican woman with a club foot, as she ventures to Bharata in search of a mythical plant that would bridge the gap between science and magic. Her grandfather once found and took a clipping of this mythical thousand-petaled golden lotus; Tori searches for the same flower in hopes of furthering her scientific career and discovering enlightenment.

I really liked Tori as a main character. She was very loyal to her grandfather's vision and worked to pursue her own dreams instead of societal expectations. Her club foot is almost a blessing in disguise, because it makes her "unworthy of marriage" and thus free to pursue her own scientific inquiries. I thought it was interesting how she could be logical yet open to magic and spirituality. She was also a very strong character who fearlessly spoke her mind and followed her heart.

I also enjoyed the storyline for most of the book, since it was both a journey of self-discovery for Tori as well as a story of political intrigue and cultural awareness. The ending got a bit convoluted, though, and after all the chaos of revolution, I thought Tori's choice in the epilogue was rather anticlimactic.

And now to the aspects of the book that made it a little less enjoyable. There were a lot of Indian words in the book, and I was familiar with many of them, so this didn't bother me terribly, but I felt like someone who wasn't familiar with them would find certain phrases hard to understand. There were also cases were these words were spelled in a nontraditional way or misused (spelling rani as ranee and jalebi as jellabie; calling someone yuvraj prince instead of simply yuvraj , which already means "crown prince").

A stronger annoyance was that both cultures presented in the novel seemed very stereotypical. The Anglicans were very prim and proper, and their speech patterns were stilted to the point of being laughable at times. Bharata also fell prey to the usual sexualization of eastern cultures. I had to keep reminding myself that Bharata was only loosely based on India (a point the author makes clear, so thank you for that) in order to keep myself from getting really offended.

While I thought this book had an interesting and original concept, I didn't think it delivered as much as it could have. It was still a fairly enjoyable read though.

*An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Feature and Follow #3



Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! The Feature & Follow is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee's View

This week's question: PHOTOBOMB!!!! Photobomb a picture with your favorite book. Share it of course.

So...as you can tell by the little "favorite books" tab right under the header, I have more than one favorite book! Unfortunately I don't own all my favorites (working on changing that - it's hard to find books by international authors though!).

 My books from top to bottom are:
 1)The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
2)The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
3) Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky
4)Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
5)UnWholly by Neal Shusterman (standing in for Unwind, the first book in the series)
6) Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor


Disclaimers:
  • I don't own Unwind, so UnWholly (the second book in the series) is my stand-in for that. 
  • The little blue square has a quote from The Knife of Never Letting Go, and I plan on ordering the whole Chaos Walking trilogy ASAP. 
  • I don't own any of Melina Marchetta's books because they're so expensive but they all are amazing. My favorite of hers is Froi of the Exiles (book two in the Lumatere Chronicles). 
  • I can't seem to find my copies of Speaker for the Dead (Ender #2) or Ptolemy's Gate (Bartimaeus #3) - probably somewhere under the endless pile of overflow books that don't fit on my bookshelf!
  • While technically Days of Blood and Starlight isn't a favorite favorite book, I still loved it and Laini Taylor is one of my favorite authors, so I thought I'd include that one.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Review: Abandon


Title: Abandon
Author: Meg Cabot
Genre: YA, fantasy, retellings

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

So...I'm abandoning Abandon (oh the irony!). I sat through about 100 pages, hoping things would get better, but they didn't. Sorry Pierce - frankly, you could just die and I wouldn't care. Oh wait, you already did...

I haven't read any Meg Cabot books, but I have heard many good things about them, especially about their smart and spirited main characters. Pierce is no such character. She's spoiled, vapid, filthy rich, and has the "traumatic experience that alienates her from the rest of the world and thus makes her super special." I usually like sarcastic characters, because I'm pretty sarcastic myself (can you tell?). Pierce just grated on my nerves with her constant allusions to how beautiful she is and how special she is and how she can get her dear old daddy to pay for anything by guilt-tripping him about how it's entirely his fault she drowned in a pool and died for an hour. This last point especially annoyed me, since not only was Pierce expecting to have her every whim paid for by dear old daddy, she was taking advantage of him (and her mom) in order to do so.

I was hoping Pierce would snap out of it and get some sense knocked into her, but as I read, things just got worse. Apparently she got herself into all sorts of messes, was saved by an overprotective, mysterious, and apparently very attractive guy (the same guy who she abandoned in the underworld, and who has every right to want to rip her head off instead of saving her pretty little face multiple times). After being rescued by said guy (who goes by the name of John. What kind of mysterious guy from the underworld is named John? I felt like the author was trying too hard to be ironic here.), Pierce promptly proceeds to lash out at him. I know Pierce wasn't exactly taken to John's corner of the underworld by informed consent, but she escaped, didn't she? What right does she have to keep on bashing on the poor guy?

Yes, Pierce aggravated me beyond words. None of the other characters were particularly interesting enough for me to put up with her and continue the story. The story itself had a lot of potential - a reimagining of the Persephone myth? That could have been very cool and very insightful - but I didn't have the patience to see if it ever met that potential. Judging by the way things were going and other goodreads users' reviews, I don't think I'm missing much.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Cabot is a terrible writer, and this book won't stop me from trying some of her other books. There are very few books that I don't have the patience to finish, and I was really looking forward to this story, so I'm incredibly disappointed that this had to be one of the unfinished few.

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Waiting on Wednesday 4 - Champion



Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, where bloggers pick a book that hasn't been published yet that they are excited to read.

This week, I'm looking forward to the final book in the Legend series, Champion!

Title: Champion
Author: Marie Lu
Genre: dystopian, science fiction, suspense, YA
Date published: November 5, 2013

Goodreads summary:

The explosive finale to Marie Lu’s New York Times bestselling LEGEND trilogy—perfect for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and DIVERGENT!

 He is a Legend.
She is a Prodigy.
Who will be Champion?

 June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps Elect while Day has been assigned a high level military position. But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them once again. Just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything he has. With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

Why I want to read it:

First of all, look at that stunning cover. It's gorgeous! I can't stop staring at it. Or babbling about it, apparently...

Anyways, dystopian novels have a soft spot in my heart, and it makes me very happy when I find a good series (especially since there are so many YA dystopian novels lately...it seems as though everyone has some horrifying - or not so horrifying - alternate future for our world). I have really enjoyed the Legend novels because of the fast pace and intelligent characters. I've just finished reading Prodigy, and it was AMAZING. It moved my opinion of the series from "not a favorite dystopia" to "definitely a favorite dystopia" - it was that good. I really liked learning more about the world that this story takes place in, and I love Day and June even more now that I've seen more of them. I can't wait to see how their story ends!

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review: Ruins


Title: Ruins (Book 2 in the Pathfinder series)
Author: Orson Scott Card
Genre: Science fiction, fantasy, YA

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While this book had a shaky start, I ended up enjoying it more than Pathfinder (despite that very random ending...more on that later)!

This book picks up almost immediately after the previous book, which made it a bit confusing for me because I was fuzzy on the details. Of course I remembered Rigg, Param, and Umbo, but I was a little shaky on who Olivenko was and whether Loaf was the innkeeper or the innkeeper's wife. I figured it out quickly enough (thanks Wikipedia!), but I wish there had been the slightest bit more recap/reminder of what had happened at the end of Pathfinder.

While the first book picked up the pace and got going at page 10, this one took a good 200 pages before anything really happened. This was frustrating, especially since most of these 200 pages were spent with this infuriating recurring theme: "I don't trust Vadesh but I will go along with this anyway because he knows I know that he isn't trustworthy and he hasn't pulled anything yet...but I still don't trust him." There was also a lot of petulant "I want to be leader!" "No me!" "Move over, idiot, it should be me!". I thought it was a good idea to bring up why Rigg was the implied leader when Rigg, Param, and Umbo all had time manipulating abilities, but by the end of this jealousy fest, I was so sick of the argument that I wished it hadn't been brought up at all. I suppose it was thrown in there to show character growth or something but it was just annoying.

Anyways, after the said infuriating 200 pages, things got much more interesting. There is a lot more science fiction thrown into this story than the previous installment, since there isn't another mini-story being told at the chapter headings (those were my favorite parts of Pathfinder! I was disappointed that there wasn't another Ram/expendable story included in this story, but I see why that would be problematic considering the events of the end). This, for me, was a turn for the better, but fantasy lovers might consider it a turn for the worse.

I don't want to say too much about this story for fear of spoilers, but you get to see more folds in this book - Odinfold is SO COOL. I loved the explanation that the Odinfolders had about the time travelers and the new conflict that was introduced there. Also, mice are cool.

And now for the ending.

(view spoiler)[ I was puzzled as to why Rigg needed to get himself a facemask - I suppose it's a case of curiosity killed the cat, although technically the facemask saved him from Ram by giving him faster reflexes. There's something fishy about those facemasks...

I thought it was kind of cool that Ram was still alive somehow. I'm a little annoyed by the appearance of two Riggs though. I feel like that is going to make the third book unnecessarily confusing.

What I'm most annoyed about is the way the book ended so abruptly. The conflict of the outsiders blowing up Garden was introduced, and everyone studied up on starships and history and Earth. They visited other folds, discovered more about the expendables, and observed the outsiders. They even tried to alter the future by altering history a few times. All of that for what, though? By the end of the book, they've accomplished absolutely nothing. I wish there had been a bit more closure at the end of the book - just ending with Vadesh commenting on how humans clutter everything up was so anticlimactic after all the discoveries in the previous few hundred pages. (hide spoiler)]


So even though I'm annoyed with the beginning and the very end, there were enough new discoveries and interesting twists to balance the annoyances out and then some :)


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Friday, July 5, 2013

Feature and Follow #2


Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! The Feature & Follow is hosted by Alison Can Read and Parajunkee's View

This week's question: Today’s is the US’ Independence Day. Share your favorite book with a war in it, or an overthrow of the government. 

I'm afraid I can't just pick one, so I will list them out (no particular order) and why I like them:

  1. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien - I had to read this for an English class, and although there were some very disturbing moments (baby buffalo and lemon tree made me cry), this story was so beautifully told. I am a sucker for unreliable narrators, and this book definitely had one of those. I love the idea of a "true war story" being one that has the right emotions and ironies, which may or may not be what actually happened.
  2. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi - This is one of my favorite books (you can read my full review on goodreads here. This book was just so well-written and thought-provoking; it talks about ideas from the future that might not be so far away, like genetic modification of food leading to famine and wars being fought over something as simple as a bunch of seeds. The novel has a grand vision and talks about global issues, but it also focuses in on very personal stories, and that is what made it stick with me.
  3. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness - Another one of my favorite books (again, here's my review on goodreads). This is the third book in the Chaos Walking trilogy, which is one of the best trilogies I have ever read. It deserves a lot more popularity and recognition than it has, so this is me doing my part by telling you GO READ THIS. Quoting from my review, "[Patrick Ness] creates such complex characters, relationships, and story lines. Nothing is quite as it first appears, and I'm sure I could reread the series and find tons of bits of wisdom that I didn't catch the first time. Ness knows so much about people. He knows how much potential we have, as well as how much evil we can create. He is unafraid to let mayhem and violence loose on his reader, but he never glorifies death or killing. "
  4. Divergent by Veronica Roth - Perhaps the most "mainstream" book on this list, I really liked this action packed story. Triss was such a strong character, and the author wasn't afraid to take risks with this book and let bad things happen to her characters (and then let those characters grow into stronger people after facing these "bad things"). My full review - this is a long one - can be found here.
  5. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta - If you haven't read anything by Melina Marchetta yet, there is a void in your life that needs filling. All her characters are so real and their stories are so tangled and heartwrenching yet so so hopeful and beautiful. This is the second book in her Lumatere Chronicles trilogy, and it shattered my heart into a thousand pieces and barely stitched it back up again. This book is very powerful - I'd highly recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy or books driven by characters in general.
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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday 3 - The Dream Thieves



Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine, where bloggers pick a book that hasn't been published yet that they are excited to read.

This week I am looking forward to Maggie Stiefvater's The Dream Thieves, the second book in the Raven Cycle.
Title: The Dream Thieves
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA, fantasy
Date published: September 17, 2013

Goodreads summary:

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...

Why I want to read it:

Maggie Stiefvater is an amazing author. Although I usually don't like paranormal romance novels, I enjoyed her Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy (Shiver, Linger, and Forever) simply because of her writing style. It's just so gorgeous and makes everything ordinary seem beautiful. The first book in this trilogy, The Raven Boys, was my favorite Stiefvater book so far. I loved the eccentric, quirky characters, the mysterious supernatural element, and the fact that it borrowed from Welsh mythology. Of course, I also loved the writing! You can read my review of the first book here.

Raven Boys ended on such a mysterious note that I had so many unanswered questions. I am looking forward to some answers in The Dream Thieves.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Review: What's Left of Me

What's Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles, #1)Title: What's Left of Me
Author: Kat Zhang
Genre: Science fiction, dystopia, YA

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book had such a cool concept - everyone is born with two souls, and the recessive soul "fading" away as the child grows older. But what happens when the recessive soul doesn't really go away?

That's situation that Addie and Eva face. The story tells their journey from hiding the fact that they are a hybrid ("hybrid" being the term for people who maintain both souls) to discovering fellow hybrids to uncovering the truth of why America stigmatizes hybrids while the rest of the world is mostly made up of people who continue to have two souls. There are a lot of questions raised about identity and sacrifice - who are you when you are so inextricably tied to another soul that you can't always tell the difference? How much should you sacrifice for your sister soul, and how much should you stand up for yourself? Should you hide who you are in order to protect the people you love?

I really liked how the story was told from the point of view of Eva, the recessive soul. It was interesting seeing her viewpoint because most of the world doesn't know she exists. She has spent her life hiding, losing physical control of the body she and Addie share as the world denies her existence. While Addie is caring, she doesn't always realize that Eva has hopes and dreams of her own. This comes to a head when they discover that they aren't the only ones who still have two souls, and they learn that there is a way for Eva to become stronger.

I don't want to say too much about the second half of the book (or is it more the last third?), but things take a turn for the worse and Addie and Eva have to make some difficult choices. I wish more of the book had been devoted to this part of the book, since it dealt with the meatier questions and had more implications for the world in this book. This section was pretty intense, and there were a couple of heartbreaking moments. (view spoiler)[ When Addie discovered that Eli wasn't actually Eli at all, I felt so terrible. It must have been so hard to take on the identity of his other soul, knowing that his other half was gone forever. (hide spoiler)]

I enjoyed the book and the ethical questions it raised, but I have a few reservations (hence four stars instead of five). While Addie and Eva were definitely strong and realistic characters, somehow I didn't fully connect with them. I didn't really know who to root for, so I wasn't as invested in their story as I would have liked. I also felt like the last third of the book could have been more intense and wrenching. There were definitely some disturbing moments, but what was going on was quite sinister and that could have been emphasized more. Also, the concept of a romantic relationship when there is only one body with two souls baffles me. How can the same body be attracted to different people? It's a little weird - you would expect the hormone thing to make both girls feel the same way (or at least empathize), but Addie seemed to recoil at Eva's kiss. I understand that they were different people, but this raises the question of how anyone outside of America - where most people are hybrids - has romantic relationships and children.

I enjoyed this book, but I'm not sure I'll be reading the second book. While this one was interesting, I don't think it was quite engaging enough to make me grab the second novel.


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