Monday, March 31, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday 20 - Gateway books






Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top Ten Gateway Books




The magic tree house books are the first chapter books I remember reading, and I loved them! They are probably what also got me into fantasy and historical fiction, two genres I still love.


These are also one of the first few chapter books I remember reading, and they got me into mysteries.

I read the Redwall series around grades 5-8, and loved them! These books made me less intimidated by large books with multiple narrators.



This book was the first science fiction book I read (I was 10 at the time), and I think I was too young because I didn't understand it very much.



But this book made me love science-fiction (read it when I was 14):



This book got me back into fantasy this year after years of on-again-off-again:


This book wasn't the first graphic novel I've read, but it made me want to read a lot more of them:

I know, I know, I don't have Harry Potter on my list. The thing is, I was already a bookworm before I started reading them, and while I loved those books as a kid, they weren't particularly significant or a gateway to anything. 
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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Review: A Visit From the Goon Squad


A Visit from the Goon SquadTitle: A Visit from the Goon Squad
Author: Jennifer Egan
Genre: Literary fiction, contemporary

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Goodreads Summary:
Bennie is an aging former punk rocker and record executive. Sasha is the passionate, troubled young woman he employs. Here Jennifer Egan brilliantly reveals their pasts, along with the inner lives of a host of other characters whose paths intersect with theirs. With music pulsing on every page, A Visit from the Goon Squad is a startling, exhilarating novel of self-destruction and redemption.

I think the best way to describe this book is one of those color-by-number puzzles with math problems on each spot - you have to solve each math problem before you can color it in, and it's only after you've colored everything in that you know what the final picture is. This book takes fragments from different characters' lives at different time periods and throws them all together. You have everything from journal entries to third person narration to powerpoint slides (yes, powerpoint slides) working together to tell the stories of a few interconnected lives. You don't always see the connections at first, and sometimes it takes a lifetime to see where pieces click together, but in the end it does click.

The story opens with Sasha in her mid-thirties, a rather cynical kleptomaniac. Then you find out that she's the assistant of a music producer who happened to be rivals with this other guy back when they were teenagers and this other guy's girlfriends ends up being involved in such-and-such's life later on and the story just goes on from there. It's confusing at first, but I promise everything will start coming together. I really enjoyed the different narrative styles - they were very appropriate for whichever character the book was following at the time. I also really liked the focus on music and its power to heal and bring people together. One of my favorite parts of the book was the section of powerpoint slides on pauses in music. It was an idea I'd never thought of before, but it was so poignant and beautiful. Here's a slide to illustrate (kind of...I don't want to spoil the actual beautiful idea so here's something related):



This is a pretty fast but very thoughtful read. I highly recommend it!

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: Moon Dwellers



13931214Title: The Moon Dwellers
Author: David Estes
Genre: YA, dystopian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:
In a desperate attempt to escape destruction decades earlier, humankind was forced underground, into the depths of the earth, creating a new society called the Tri-Realms.
After her parents and sister are abducted by the Enforcers, seventeen-year-old Adele, a member of the middle-class moon dwellers, is unjustly sentenced to life in prison for her parents' crimes of treason.
Against all odds, Adele must escape from the Pen and find her family, while being hunted by a deranged, killing machine named Rivet, who works for the President. She is helped by two other inmates, Tawni and Cole, each of whom have dark secrets that are better left undiscovered. Other than her friends, the only thing she has going for her is a wicked roundhouse kick and two fists that have been well-trained for combat by her father.
At the other end of the social spectrum is Tristan, the son of the President and a sun dweller. His mother is gone. He hates his father. Backed by only his servant and best friend, Roc, he leaves his lavish lifestyle in the Sun Realm, seeking to make something good out of his troubled life.
When a war breaks out within the Tri-Realms, Tristan is thrust into the middle of a conflict that seems to mysteriously follow Adele as she seeks to find her family and uncover her parents true past.
In their world, someone must die.

This is the second book by David Estes that I have read (the first being Fire Country), and it is even better than I was expecting!

First of all, I have to say I'm partial to the main characters because they have two of my favorite names - Adele and Tristan. But aside from their beautiful names, I really liked both characters. Adele is fiercely protective of her family, and is willing to do anything for them. She is stubborn and strong, which more than makes up for her rather small size. Tristan is the son of the President, and should be a spoiled brat and his father's lapdog - but his loyalty is to his disappeared mother, and he takes a lot of risks to undermine his father's unfairness.

The story opens with Adele and Tristan laying eyes on each other, and both of them are wracked with spasms of searing pain. I really liked this twist on the usual "love at first sight" trope - this isn't love, at least not at first. Both characters are more focused on justice and freedom than a whirlwind romance, which was refreshing. Along the way, Adele is joined by Cole and Tawni while Tristan is accompanied by Roc. I loved seeing their respective friendships develop - again, it was refreshing to read a YA dystopian novel that put so much emphasis on friendship and family.

As much as I liked the characters, the world was a little all-over-the-place. The Earth has been hit by a large meteor, and people in the United States have been evacuated to underground tunnels via a lottery system. We are told that the fate of the rest of the world is unknown, which is a little ridiculous since the US couldn't possibly be the only country that knew about a giant meteor and dug tunnels beforehand. We are also told that humans have evolved to be more resistant to the ash under the earth and less dependent on sunlight, and I find it hard to swallow that evolution has happened over the course of decades rather than millenia. I did appreciate the social hierarchy of the Sun, Moon, and Star dwellers - I can definitely see people stepping on the backs of others in order to make themselves more powerful.

The plot is very fast-paced and suspenseful; I enjoyed the fast pace, and I appreciated that bad things really happened to people instead of the main characters being magically invincible. Revolution is brewing, and there is an urgency that carries through the entire book. The many fight scenes towards the end got a little annoying though, but that's just a personal preference.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I'm interested in seeing how the revolution plays out!

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday 19 - Bookish bucket list





Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's theme: Top Ten Things On My Bookish Bucket List


  1. Meet an author - any author, really, but I'd be most excited if it were Laini Taylor, Patrick Ness, Markus Zusak, Melina Marchetta, Marissa Meyer, or Brandon Sanderson. I'm going to college in Los Angeles, too, so you would think there would be plenty of authors stopping by - I need to get more on top of finding out about book tours and meeting them!
  2. Read 100 books this year - my Goodreads goal is set to 80 right now, because that's a more realistic goal, but 100 is such a beautiful number and fingers crossed that I get there!
  3. Read at least 75 of the Time 100 Best Novels of All Time - so far I'm at 17. I have a loooong way to go
  4. Host a giveaway - I've had my blog running for a little under a year now, and I've never hosted a giveaway. I'll probably be doing that for my blogversary in a couple of weeks, so look out for that :)
  5. try a book in a genre I don't normally read - I usually read sci-fi/fantasy or historical fiction, and sometimes an occasional mystery or thriller. I tried a graphic novel on a whim, and ended up really liking it. I'm open to suggestions in any genres I don't usually read - maybe I'll like them!

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Fantasy Friday 3 - Paranormal creatures


This is a meme hosted by Rinn Reads where anyone can join in and talk about anything Fantasy!

It seems like there's been an explosion of Zombie/Vampire/Werewolf/Angel-Demon/Fae fiction recently (especially under the "Paranormal Romance" heading - which in my opinion does not need to exist!). I'm not much a romance reader, and I get so annoyed when protagonists put their love interests before their other obligations (family? friends? saving the world? You know, no big deal). But when there's a great story with a dash of romance on the side, I'm a happy reader.

I think in general I enjoy books about the Fae folk more than any other type of paranormal creature. I'm a little tired of the vampire books, and I haven't read many books that involve werewolves. Considering the fact that I don't like gore, I've read a surprisingly large number of zombie books.

If I'm going to read a book involving paranormal creatures, I prefer books that invent their own creatures or ones reimagine existings ones. I've read so many books that involve a clueless protagonist who finds out s/he is actually somehow related to these creatures. Some of these books did a really great job of turning tropes in their heads and adding a new spin on the old lore, and others...didn't. So here's my take on the good and the bad of paranormal creatures:

Zombies

Great:

Literary and zombies. Never thought those two would ever go together did you? This book by a MacArthur Grant (aka "genius award") winner is just that. It's a zombie book that's not about the zombies, and the writing is brilliant!

10365343

I guess I'm cheating a bit because I haven't actually finished this one yet, but I'm reading it right now and so far it's great! It combines journalism and zombies, which is pretty crazy - it's also super snarky and intense!
7094569

Not So Much:

This sounded really awesome - imagine those proper Victorian ladies waving parasols at a horde of filthy zombies! I didn't like this as much as I thought I would, though. There were just a lot of historical inaccuracies and really confusing aspects of the book. It was so convoluted that by the end it just seemed like a random jumbled mess.
9859436

Vampires

Great: I really liked how the world in this series isn't humans with a few secret clans of vampires, bur rather vampires with some humans on the side as blood cattle. It's really intense, and it's interesting to see how the MC adjusts to being the creature she hates the most.

15803761

Not So Much: 

353016

Werewolves

Good: Love love love Stiefvater's writing style - it's gorgeous! I also thought the way she related changing into a werewolf with temperature was really cool. 

6068551

Not So Much:

This is another book that could have been really cool - werewolves on the Titanic! - but didn't live up to my expectations.
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Fae folk

Angels/Demons

Great:

This one twists the Angels and Demons into Seraphim and Chimaera, but the concept is generally the same. I loved how both races are given such interesting mythology and I absolutely love Taylor's writing style. This book is funny at times, intense and even heartbreaking at others.
8490112

This is an excellent example of a "paranormal romance" that is about a lot more than the romance. It's about Clara learning her purpose and deciding whether to do her duty or follow her heart. It's about family and loyalty and friendship; Clara's mother is epic, and Clara never forgets about her family when she has other things to worry about.
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Not So Much:

There are just soooo many things wrong with this book, the most bothersome being how much it reinforces rape culture. I'm no expert, but if someone is stalking you, publicly humiliating you, and threatening to kill you, I'd say STAY AWAY. 

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What paranormal creature books have you read? Do you love them? Hate them? Any recommendations?


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Monday, March 17, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday 18 - Top Ten Spring TBR




Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme:  Top Ten Spring TBR books
Here's a list of books I want to read in the spring - not necessarily ones that are published in the spring (although some of them are!). Just click on the covers to see their descriptions on Goodreads :)

A lot of these are series that I'm really excited to start or books that have been on my TBR forever and I think it's time for some *Spring cleaning*
 13618440
 7235533
7094569 
13638125 
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887877 
8520610 
18423 
 17607716
18222768 




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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora



11515875Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora
Author:Scott Lynch
Genre: Fantasy, mystery, cons

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Summary:They say that the Thorn of Camorr can beat anyone in a fight. They say he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. They say he's part man, part myth, and mostly street-corner rumor. And they are wrong on every count.
Only averagely tall, slender, and god-awful with a sword, Locke Lamora is the fabled Thorn, and the greatest weapons at his disposal are his wit and cunning. He steals from the rich - they're the only ones worth stealing from - but the poor can go steal for themselves. What Locke cons, wheedles and tricks into his possession is strictly for him and his band of fellow con-artists and thieves: the Gentleman Bastards.
Together their domain is the city of Camorr. Built of Elderglass by a race no-one remembers, it's a city of shifting revels, filthy canals, baroque palaces and crowded cemeteries. Home to Dons, merchants, soldiers, beggars, cripples, and feral children. And to Capa Barsavi, the criminal mastermind who runs the city.
But there are whispers of a challenge to the Capa's power. A challenge from a man no one has ever seen, a man no blade can touch. The Grey King is coming.
A man would be well advised not to be caught between Capa Barsavi and The Grey King. Even such a master of the sword as the Thorn of Camorr. As for Locke Lamora . . .

Go read this book!

I had huge expectations going into this, since I'd heard nothing but good things about it. The premise itself was so exciting - the story of a con man in a Victorian-inspired world, caught in the middle of a power struggles between a criminal mastermind and a legendary "king"! I was a little nervous about it, since when you have such high expectations, sometimes the book is good but just not good enough. I shouldn't have doubted it; I ended up buying myself a copy before I was even halfway through my library copy!

Locke Lamora is the leader of the Gentlemen Bastards, a group of young con-men. Together they pull off various heists in order to pay off a debt of enormous personal significance to Locke. He's ambitious, arrogant, and clever, and he knows it. It's so much fun to see him come up with new plans and pull off his heists, with witty banter to boot. The best part is that you really don't know if things will work out or not. Sometimes things don't go according to plan; there are no magical "oh look, it worked out perfectly after all!" moments. I honestly couldn't believe some of the turns that this book took. There were some points where I was just staring at the pages of this book in disbelief, and others when I just wanted to roll into a ball and cry. I didn't realize how emotionally invested in the characters I was until bad things started happening to them.

This book is definitely witty and clever, but it is also dark and disturbing. There were plenty of scenes where I was gagging or hyperventilating. This is by no means a book for the faint of heart! Also, If you're offended by strong language, consider yourself warned. This book has some pretty foul-mouthed characters, but I never felt like they swore just for the sake of it. All things considered, I'd find swearing perfectly warranted if I found myself...well I don't want to spoil anything, but let's just say that there are some pretty ugly situations in this book.

I highly highly recommend this book for people who like fantasy and/or stories about cons - this is one of the best books I've read in either genre. Actually, even if you don't like fantasy, I think you should give this a shot - it might change your mind!

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