Monday, April 30, 2012

Review: Paranormalcy

Author: Kiersten White
Publish date: 2010
Source: Library
"Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal. 

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
" (Goodreads)

Paranormalcy has been on my TBR list for a long time. EVERYONE seems to love it and the summary made it sound pretty fun, so I picked it up for the readathon and finished it in about 3 hours. It was a PERFECT choice for that day: fun, quick, and entertaining!

First of all, let me just announce that I LOVE Evie. Her voice was so sarcastic and perfect for this kind of book. There was a lot going on in Paranormalcy and I think it could have easily delved into a confusing and/or boring book, but Evie's voice and narration kept everything perky and fun. I am a very sarcastic person myself, so I think Evie and I would definitely get along, which just made reading the book even more fun.

Before I started Paranormalcy, I decided not to take it too seriously (mostly because everyone said it was FUN), but I really enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. The plot was entertaining and kept me engaged for the 3 hours that I read it plus I found myself invested in the plot and characters. I will most definitely be reading Supernaturally and Endlessly, which comes out this summer. ADDITIONALLY I have discovered Kiersten White on twitter, who is quite hilarious. I suggest you follow her if you want to laugh :)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

In My Mailbox (2)

In My Mailbox is a weekly feature hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren. The goal of IMM is to bring attention to books that people have procured over the past week, whether they are purchased, sent by publishers, or borrowed from the library.

This week in my mailbox, I got:
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (currently reading)
Vanish by Sophie Jordan 
Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty (already read)

Clearly, I LOVE LIBRARIES. Look for a review of Sloppy Firsts later this week! Hope everyone had a good week of books!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: Firelight

Author: Sophie Jordan
Publish date: 2010
Source: Purchased and signed at RT
"Marked as special at an early age, Jacinda knows her every move is watched. But she longs for freedom to make her own choices. When she breaks the most sacred tenet among her kind, she nearly pays with her life. Until a beautiful stranger saves her. A stranger who was sent to hunt those like her. For Jacinda is a draki—a descendant of dragons whose greatest defense is her secret ability to shift into human form.

Forced to flee into the mortal world with her family, Jacinda struggles to adapt to her new surroundings. The only bright light is Will. Gorgeous, elusive Will who stirs her inner draki to life. Although she is irresistibly drawn to him, Jacinda knows Will's dark secret: He and his family are hunters. She should avoid him at all costs. But her inner draki is slowly slipping away—if it dies she will be left as a human forever. She'll do anything to prevent that. Even if it means getting closer to her most dangerous enemy.

Mythical powers and breathtaking romance ignite in this story of a girl who defies all expectations and whose love crosses an ancient divide.
" (Goodreads)

Before going to RT a couple weeks ago, I'd kind of heard of Firelight, but not enough for me to have thought about reading it. After looking through the authors that would be there and hearing some recent blogger love for the lovely Sophie Jordan, I decided to bite the bullet and try Firelight. I bought a copy from Sophie at RT, which she graciously signed. Fast forward to the readathon...I read Firelight first and pretty much loved it. So glad I bought a copy!

I've never read a book quite like Firelight because it deals with...wait for it...dragons! Or at least a descendant of dragons called draki, which can take both human and dragon form. Right off the bat, I was really intrigued simply because, to me at least, Sophie took a not often used idea in YA fantasy and made it WORK. I liked learning some of the background of dragons and feel like there is more coming in the next two books. Based on how this book ended, I think Vanish and Hidden HAVE to be pretty amazing to tie up Jacinda and co.'s story.

At first I thought Firelight had a case of insta!love, which is does, in a way. BUT this is kind of explained by the end and as a pretty harsh critic of insta!love, I was pleased with how that was taken care of/explained. I also had mixed feelings toward how both Jacinda and Tamra acted, but I can understand both characters. They each wanted to fit into life in their own unique ways. Who doesn't, right?

If you haven't read Firelight and you enjoy fantasy, try it! It was a fun and quick read and I already have Vanish on hold at the library :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine to showcase books that are not out yet. I decided to start taking part in it this week because there are so many great books coming out that I am having a hard time waiting for! My WoW this week is:

Promised by Caragh M. O'Brien (Birthmarked #3)
Publish date: October 2, 2012
"After defying the ruthless Enclave, surviving the wasteland, and upending the rigid matriarchy of Sylum, Gaia Stone now faces her biggest challenge ever. She must lead the people of Sylum back to the Enclave and persuade the Protectorat to grant them refuge from the wasteland. In Gaia’s absence, the Enclave has grown more cruel, more desperate to experiment on mothers from outside the wall, and now the stakes of cooperating or rebelling have never been higher. Is Gaia ready, as a leader, to sacrifice what—or whom—she loves most?"

The Birthmarked series (Birthmarked and Prized) is one of my favorite series and I wish it got more attention! They are beautifully written and the subject matter is fascinating! Can't wait for this one to come out in October!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Review: The Springsweet

Author: Saundra Mitchell
Publish date: April 17, 2012
Source: Purchased and signed at RT :)
"Heartbroken over the tragic death of her fiancĂ©, seventeen-year-old Zora Stewart leaves Baltimore for the frontier town of West Glory, Oklahoma, to help her young widowed aunt keep her homestead going. There she discovers that she possesses the astonishing ability to sense water under the parched earth. When her aunt hires her out as a "springsweet” to advise other settlers where to dig their wells, Zora feels the burden of holding the key to something so essential to survival in this unforgiving land. Even more, she finds herself longing for love the way the prairie thirsts for water. Maybe, in the wildness of the territories, Zora can finally move beyond simply surviving and start living." (Goodreads)

The Springsweet is a companion novel to The Vespertine, and is told from a different character's POV than the first book. I stupidly did not realize this until AFTER I read the chapter. Everything made a lot more sense after that. (Duh, Kyle.) Anyway, I loved The Springsweet even more than The Vespertine and think everyone should read it!

Zora is the wonderful narrator of this book and I pretty much thought she was awesome. She is trying to work through some traumatic events and decides to move to Oklahoma to live with her aunt Birdie, who is only a few years older than Zora. I LOVED the setting. Maybe it's my love of the Little House books shining through, but I adore books that take place on the prairie like this. PLUS they lived in a sod house. On the Banks of Plum Creek, anyone?

The characters here were great, especially Emerson. I liked that he was so mysterious at the beginning and then his character was unraveled as the story progressed. I liked Zora as a narrator more than Amelia, who narrated The Vespertine. Since this is a companion novel, you don't HAVE to read The Vespertine first, but I would suggest it so you have more background info.

Saundra Mitchell's writing continues to be superb. She definitely has a way with words, but not in a flowery or overwrought way. The length of The Springsweet seemed perfect: concise, but satisfying. Suffice to say, I loved meeting Saundra Mitchell at RT. She was so nice and we even talked about how great libraries are :) 

Thanks, Heidi, for reviewing this series so enthusiastically and making me want to read them! I can't wait for Aetherborne!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Read-a-thon Updates April 2012

Final Update: That 11pm update was pretty telling for how the rest of the night would go--not very productively! I fell asleep for about an hour at 11 and when I woke up at midnight, decided I was done for good. I think if I didn't have this sore throat/cough, I would have made it longer, but not too much. Definitely not an excuse...I must make it longer in October!!

Firelight by Sophie Jordan (FINISHED)
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (FINISHED)
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (read 100 pages, then set aside)
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (read 100 pages before falling asleep)

Overall I am pretty proud of myself, considering this was my first readathon. I liked my reading choices for the day for the most part; I tried to start with something fun and I ended up enjoying both Firelight and Paranormalcy. Under the Never Sky just did not work for me, although I'll probably attempt to read more later. I'm really digging Poison Study so far, but I was too tired to keep going. I wish I had started that one earlier.

Looking forward to October!

11pm: Not a very productive 3 hours! I read a bit of Poison Study, but was distracted by the Tigers' game on TV and some general sleepiness. I'm going to do my best to read more!

8pm: I finished Paranormalcy around 7 and then took a dinner break (homemade chicken noodle soup--YUM). I'm going to read a few more chapters of Under the Never Sky to see if I can get back into it, and if not, I'll try Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder. 

Paranormalcy was a quick and fun read. I'll probably read the sequel, Supernaturally, at some point in the next few months. I'm pretty sure the third book is coming out soon, too.

5pm: Currently on page 150 of 335 of Paranormalcy. It's a little different from what I normally read, but pretty fun so far. I took a break for lunch and a shower around 2:30, so I should be full speed ahead for a while! 
2pm: I set aside Under the Never Sky after 100 pages and am starting Paranormalcy by Kiersten White instead. 

My lovely sore throat is getting worse, however...I really hope this doesn't interfere with reading today. I'm thinking I may need a nap later this afternoon, which normally I would have no problem with, but come on! I want to read all day! Damn you, sickness!
12pm: Finished Firelight at 11:45 and will be starting Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi next. 

11am: On page 222 of 323 of Firelight. I had to take a couple breaks to eat breakfast and wrap a gift (random, but I completely forgot about it!), but think I will be finished within the hour. I really like it so far; definitely the right book to start the morning with. 
8am: Began Firelight by Sophie Jordan, which I purchased at RT last weekend. She signed it and was quite lovely to meet. Also consumed massive cups of coffee.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dewey's Read-a-Thon April 2012

Dewey's 24 hour Read-a-Thon is finally here! I was sad to not be able to participate in October 2012 due to family obligations, so I'm excited to finally be able to participate! Reading starts at 8am my time, so I plan to be reading and drinking coffee by then. I specifically have no plans for the day and will try to read as much as I can without feeling guilty for putting off grading and other work. Love it!! Can we do this once a month??

When choosing books for the day (which basically took over my LIFE this week), I tried to go for ones that I thought would really hold my interest and that weren't too long. Therefore, I have...

Firelight by Sophie Jordan (signed from RT!)
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi (signed from Anderson's!)
Paranormalcy by Kiersten White (library)
Graceling by Kristin Cashore (bought on sale!)
Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (library)

My goal is to start with Firelight, then Paranormalcy, then who knows after that. I get the feeling I won't get to Graceling, as it's fairly long, and I'd like to stick to shorter books to feel more accomplished =D

I will be updating this post with my progress, so check back! Let me know if you are read-a-thoning!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Review: Shine (Shade #3)

Author: Jeri Smith-Ready
Publish date: May 1, 2012
Source: Publisher
"Life can change in an instant, and no one understands that better than Aura. It’s been almost a year since her boyfriend tragically died. She’s finally letting go of Logan’s violet-hued ghost, but not her search to uncover the truth about her past.

As the first in a generation that can see ghosts, Aura is convinced she has a connection to the Shift. She’s trusted Zachary, ever patient and ever by her side, with all that she knows. But when the government threatens his life in an attempt to learn Aura’s secrets, she will stop at nothing to protect herself and the one she loves...even if that means betraying her own heart." (Goodreads)

Oh my goodness, this series... Seriously, it is awesome and I do not say that lightly. I am a pretty critical reader (and I don't mean I write critical reviews, I'm just a picky person) and I freakin' love this series. And paranormal, no less! If you know me, I am NOT a paranormal person whatsoever. In fact, I can only think of this and the Unearthly trilogy as exceptions. Bravo, Cynthia Hand and Jeri Smith-Ready.

Anyway, this book. Fantastic ending to an amazing and original series. It tied up a lot of loose ends and answered all of my questions that were still lingering after Shade and Shift. I don't want to give anything away, since I pretty much hate spoilers, but I feel very satisfied right now. I am in the midst of many series right now and I hope all the other concluding books can live up to what Jeri has done here. Not to say this is a work of perfection, obviously, but I lurved it and you will too.

If you haven't read Shade, Shift, and Shine, what are you waiting for?!?! I got the first two at the library and was lucky enough to have Simon Teen send me Shine. I pretty much exploded in glee when I opened the package, to the point where my boyfriend was like, "What is WRONG with you?" I also had the pleasure of meeting Jeri at RT in Chicago. She is AMAZING. So nice and friendly and seemed so happy to meet her readers. Authors like her are the BEST.

In conclusion: READ THIS SERIES. It is what all paranormal novels should strive to be.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Blogging Tips

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted The Broke and the Bookish and was started by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner. This week's topic is:

Top Ten Tips for new book bloggers! I definitely still consider myself a new book blogger, but here are some things that I've learned during my 10 months of blogging:

1. Be Yourself. If you let your personality shine through on your blog (and it's likable), people will want to read it. I am still in the process of finding my voice in my reviews, but when I do, I think the reviews are better and people like them more. Be yourself.

2. Blog for the Right Reasons. I started blogging last June because I wanted to share my love for YA/reading and reach out to others like me. I didn't even know ARCs existed or that people got free books sometimes. (Clearly I have learned a lot since then.) Do it because you love reading.

3. Don't Worry About Stats. If I worried about stats and how many people came to my blog, I probably wouldn't be typing this right now. I know I don't get a lot of visitors, but it doesn't matter! I write about what I love, interact with other bloggers/readers, and enjoy myself. That's all. Who cares how many visitors you get per day?

4. Read Whatever You Want. My blog is mostly about YA books, but I still read and review whatever I want because it's my blog! There are definitely some non-fic and adult books in there and that's okay! Don't feel like you have to stick to a certain genre or type because other people might.

5. Go to the Library. That's where I get most of my books because I am poor. I see people ask bloggers "Where do I get books to review?" Um, duh. The library, the bookstore, friends? You don't need to receive ARCs to review a book. I almost always review older books and guess what? That's fine too.

6. Use Twitter. Find other bloggers, authors, and readers on twitter and follow them! I absolutely love having conversations on twitter! I talk to people every day that I have never met in real life and I love it. Promote your reviews or blog posts, tweet to authors, do anything you want! (except spam.)

7. Don't Let Blogging Turn into Another Job. Most of us who blog also have full time jobs, so if blogging ever feels like a chore or takes up way too much time, take a break! When I only post once a week, you can probably assume I am busy with school and have lots of grading to do. Sadly, the paying job has to come first :(

8. Go to Events. I went to a signing last fall (we don't get too many here, unfortunately) and went to RT this last weekend. I met some wonderful authors and bloggers and although I was nervous, it was really great to meet everyone in person. So do it! Go to events and talk to people who love reading as much as you do.

9. Comment! Comment on other people's blogs whenever you can. I love getting comments and I think I can safely assume everyone else does too. I don't comment just to comment, though; only when I have something genuine to say (or things like, OMG I LOVED THAT BOOK).

10. Have fun! Blogging is fun! You get to meet great people, read books you would have never even heard of before, and have a sense of belonging in this huge online world of ours. I love blogging and now I can't imagine not doing it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Anderson's Bookshop/RT Teen Day

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a signing at Anderson's bookshop in Naperville, IL, and RT Teen Day in Chicago! I got to meet some of my favorite authors and bloggers, including Jen, Jamie, Tara, Anna, and Kristi. It was a fun and crazy weekend and I can't wait to hopefully see everyone again!

Friday morning we woke up really early and made it to Chicago by about 11 am. We headed to the Field Museum for a couple hours, then had some Chicago style pizza and walked around Michigan Ave for a while. After checking in at the hotel and resting a bit, we went to Anderson's bookshop in Naperville so I could attend the Spring into the Future author tour. 

Taherah Mafi, Cynthia Hand, Anna Carey, and Veronica Rossi were at the tour stop, none of whom I had met before. They were all hilarious and smart and I'm so glad I went! I brought my own copy of Hallowed for Cynthia to sign, then purchased Shatter Me and Under the Never Sky for Taherah and Veronica to sign. I loved Shatter Me, but didn't have my own copy; I've never read UtNS, but plan to tackle it this weekend during the readathon.

RT Teen Day was INSANE but AWESOME. The giant book fair/signing opened at 11 and I think I was in line by 9:30 am, having seen on twitter that people were already waiting. The line went pretty quickly, plus I brought a book to read while waiting (seemed like the appropriate thing to do).
The adorable Stephanie Perkins

I met/got books signed by:
Beth Revis
Stephanie Perkins
Jeri Smith-Ready
Veronica Roth
Saundra Mitchell
Sophie Jordan

After the book fair, there were 6 panels to choose from, 2 during each time frame. The first was called From Spark to Fire and featured Kelley Armstrong, Nancy Holder, Veronica Roth, Beth Revis, Margaret Stohl, and Cinda Williams Chima. It was moderated by the amazing Melissa Marr, who organized Teen Day. The whole panel was really inspiring and makes me want to write!

Panel 2 was author speed reading, which featured a snippet of Insurgent (eeek!). That was the highlight, although it was nice to hear Cynthia Hand and Stephanie Perkins read from books I love.

The fantastic Jeri Smith-Ready
The last panel was Tending the Inferno: Series, Stand-Alones, and Genre in YA Novels. It was HILARIOUS. Everyone was tired and slap happy and just fantastically funny. Margie Stohl moderated in place of Melissa Marr and I think I had stomach cramps from laughing so hard. Authors on the panel were Franny Billingsley, Rachel Caine, Ally Carter, Kimberly Derting, Stephanie Perkins, and Carrie Ryan. Beth Revis was in the audience too, which I thought was so cool. 

The teen day party was pretty great as well, though by that point I was really tired and slightly cranky (who, me??). I wish I wasn't as shy as I am/was and had gotten some pictures with authors. Next time! I was able to get a goody bag from the party, which was full of 8 books donated by various publishers. I brought the books to my classroom this morning and 5 were already borrowed by students! Thanks RT!!

There are so many great books out there that I haven't read yet and I can't wait to dive into some. Some authors I'd like to try based on this weekend, either from listening to the authors themselves or from blogger love, are Melissa Marr, Kelley Armstrong, Kiera Cass, Cinda Williams Chima, Richelle Mead, and Ally Carter. I sadly have not read anything by these authors, so any suggestions?

Warning: sappiness follows

I came away from this convention realizing just how great the YA community really is. I left Saturday night, especially from the panels, feeling so inspired to read, write, and blog. People in YA, whether they are readers or writers, are just amazing and some of the best people to be around. Being with so many enthusiastic readers and YA lovers just felt like coming home :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Review: Hallowed (Unearthly #2)

Author: Cynthia Hand
Publish date: January 2012
Source: Purchased
"For months part-angel Clara Gardner trained to face the raging forest fire from her visions and rescue the alluring and mysterious Christian Prescott from the blaze. But nothing could prepare her for the fateful decisions she would be forced to make that day, or the startling revelation that her purpose—the task she was put on earth to accomplish—is not as straightforward as she thought. 

Now, torn between her increasingly complicated feelings for Christian and her love for her boyfriend, Tucker, Clara struggles to make sense of what she was supposed to do the day of the fire. And, as she is drawn further into the world of part angels and the growing conflict between White Wings and Black Wings, Clara learns of the terrifying new reality that she must face: Someone close to her will die in a matter of months. With her future uncertain, the only thing Clara knows for sure is that the fire was just the beginning.

Hallowed is the follow-up to the surprisingly excellent Unearthly. I read Unearthly on a whim last year and loved it, so I knew I needed to read Hallowed. I bought it because I will be seeing Cynthia Hand at a signing at Anderson's Bookshop tonight and would like to get it signed! I'm sure I'll be tempted to buy a copy of Unearthly too...

I thoroughly enjoyed Hallowed and am happy to report it does not suffer from second book syndrome. We are able to find out much more about Clara's background in Hallowed, clearing up most of the unanswered questions from Unearthly. There was still a fair amount of action, but I really liked learning more about the family and how they all came to be. Hallowed was also much more emotional than Unearthly; Clara is struggling with what she is "supposed" to do and what she wants to do aka rules vs. heart. Don't we all struggle with that??

I am normally not a fan of paranormal novels, but I love this series. Cynthia Hand is a great writer and I am happy that there is one more book in this fantastic series. I can't wait to meet her in person tonight!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Review: The Vespertine

Author: Saundra Mitchell
Publish date: 2011
Source: Library
"It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause."

I discovered The Vespertine after doing some research about the authors attending the RT Booklovers Convention this upcoming weekend (Are you going? Let me know!!). Saundra Mitchell will be signing, so I decided to give The Vespertine a try and ended up enjoying it for the most part. I got it from the library, but I heard the sequel, The Springsweet, will be for sale at RT, so I plan to buy that one and get it signed.

I love historical fiction novels, so I was really intrigued by the combination of that genre with paranormal. I was also a little leery, since that combo isn't too popular, but I liked what Saundra Mitchell did. I adore the old timey customs that she included, like calling cards. I remember learning about those in the Little House series and thinking they sounded pretty awesome. Apparently my love for 19th century calling cards has been rekindled.

Ms. Mitchell's writing style was certainly beautiful too, in addition to the premise of the novel. Everything flowed well, although there were a few times that the writing felt a bit gimmicky, like she was trying too hard. That didn't happen much, though, and I was mostly impressed. I was a bit confused by the switching of the time frames of the narrative, but was able to figure it out fairly quickly.

Other than a few nitpicky things about the writing itself, I enjoyed The Vespertine and look forward to hopefully buying The Springsweet and meeting Saundra Mitchell this weekend! I have a lot of unanswered questions about Amelia and am hoping they are answered in the next book!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

RT Teen Day in Chicago

This weekend I will traveling to Chicago to attend part of the RT Booklovers' Convention, RT Teen Day. My boyfriend is coming too, so we can be tourists on Friday, then he will leave me alone on Saturday :)

RT Teen Day is NOT just for teenagers (seeing as how I'm 24 and all) and it only costs $25 to attend a HUGE YA author signing, your pick of six panels featuring YA authors, and then a cool party where you can mingle with authors, INCLUDING FRANCINE PASCAL. It sounds amazing and I am so fortunate that it is in Chicago, which is only about a 5 hour drive from where I live.

Some authors that I am looking forward to meeting are:
Jeri Smith-Ready (eeeeek!!)
Beth Revis (another eeeeek!!)
Stephanie Perkins (let's be honest, they are all eeeeek!! worthy)
Veronica Roth
Cynthia Hand
Saundra Mitchell
Sophie Jordan

There are lots of other authors who will be there and I would like to meet, but I haven't read their books yet. Hoping that it won't be weird to pop by, say hi, and maybe buy a book without having read it first.

I can't wait to meet bloggers that I have been interacting with and admiring from afar for the better part of a year! If you are going to be at RT, PLEASE let me know! I would love to meet people, despite how quiet I might seem in person. I'm short, slightly blonde, and answer to Kyle :)

Can't wait for the weekend! YAY bookish events!!

Friday, April 6, 2012

TGIF: Series Finales

TGIF is a weekly feature hosted by Ginger at G Reads in which she proposes a question and wraps up the week's posts. This week's question is:

Book Series Finales: Which book, from any series, has had your favorite ending? Least favorite?

No spoilers, don't worry! I feel like I am in the middle of a lot of series right now, but of the ones I've finished, Harry Potter reigns supreme. Great ending to an amazing series of books. I also loved the most recent, and final, book of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. If you read the first four in middle or high school, I highly recommend reading Sisterhood Everlasting, which I reviewed last year.

Least favorite? I'll be honest, I didn't like Mockingjay very much, although I understand why Suzanne Collins did what she did. I am in the middle of a lot of series right now and hope that books like Shine, Requiem, and Clockwork Princess don't end up on my least favorite list!

Posts this week

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Review: The Birth of Venus

Author: Sarah Dunant
Publish date: 2004
Source: Purchased
"Alessandra Cecchi is not quite fifteen when her father, a prosperous cloth merchant, brings a young painter back from northern Europe to decorate the chapel walls in the family’s Florentine palazzo. A child of the Renaissance, with a precocious mind and a talent for drawing, Alessandra is intoxicated by the painter’s abilities.

But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when Alessandra’s parents arrange her marriage to a wealthy, much older man. Meanwhile, Florence is changing, increasingly subject to the growing suppression imposed by the fundamentalist monk Savonarola, who is seizing religious and political control. Alessandra and her native city are caught between the Medici state, with its love of luxury, learning, and dazzling art, and the hellfire preaching and increasing violence of Savonarola’s reactionary followers. Played out against this turbulent backdrop, Alessandra’s married life is a misery, except for the surprising freedom it allows her to pursue her powerful attraction to the young painter and his art.

The Birth of Venus is a tour de force, the first historical novel from one of Britain’s most innovative writers of literary suspense. It brings alive the history of Florence at its most dramatic period, telling a compulsively absorbing story of love, art, religion, and power through the passionate voice of Alessandra, a heroine with the same vibrancy of spirit as her beloved city.

I wish I could remember where I got this book! I'm pretty sure it was at a library sale, but it could have been at one of the few used book stores that I peruse around town. Regardless, it was cheap and looked like an interesting historical fiction, so I picked it up. As you'll soon find out, I had mixed feelings about it.

The thing I liked most about The Birth of Venus was the setting of Florence. I love books in which the settings are like characters and this was no exception. I had never read a book set in that time period before and it was like everything I learned in my college history class come to life. Descriptions of art and architecture were fantastic.

It's hard to pinpoint specifically what I didn't like about the book, but I think it has to do with the length and how conveniently simple everything turned out to be. I think about 100 pages could have been shaved off, mostly from the lavish description of the most mundane parts of the novel. I was bored during some chapters, to be honest. Everything also seemed too easily wrapped up by the end, in terms of what happened to the characters. I suppose I was just disappointed with the actual plot.

Has anyone else read this? I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially since I feel that I just rambled on and on here.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Review: Austenland

Author: Shannon Hale
Publish date: 2007
Source: Library
"Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane's fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined. 

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It's all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

I had no idea what to expect going into this book. It was a lot shorter than I imagined (only 197 pages!), so I knew there had to be a lot of goodness packed into a small book. It ended up being a lot of fun and the perfect kind of read for spring break.

If you've ever read Jane Austen or even seen adaptations of her novels, you know that she concocts some crazy stories with generally handsome leading men. The main character of Austenland, Jane, knows this all too well and she essentially gets to experience it firsthand when she spends 3 weeks in England at a type of regency resort. How fun does that sound?!?!?! I'll be honest, at first it was vaguely creepy (to me, at least). Everyone there is an actor; you are playing the role of a person from 1816, all the way down to manner of speaking, undergarments, and food. After a few of Jane's days there, I got into it and had some fun with the characters.

Like I said, I didn't know what I was getting into before reading Austenland, and when I finished, I knew I would classify this as a fun book. Shannon Hale is not trying to emulate Austen at all here; she is just taking a female's fantasy of Mr. Darcy (sound familiar to anyone?) and creating a delightfully fun book out of it. The book was fairly predictable, but not in a bad way, although I was slightly surprised by the ending. I'll definitely be reading the sequel, Midnight in Austenland, and will be looking into more of Ms. Hale's work!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Spring Break To Do List

As some of you know, I'm a teacher and last Thursday marked the unofficial start of spring break (for the students; teachers had conferences for 2 days). This week, I plan to relax, read as much as I can, and do a little work.

 These are the books I'd like to read (or have read) over break:

1. The Fault in Our Stars- DONE and reviewed here

2. Austenland by Shannon Hale- Currently reading. Fun book! Finished Monday night. Review here

3. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant- Also currently reading, though it is taking longer than I initially imagined. Hope to finish soon. Finished Thursday afternoon.

4. Hallowed by Cynthia Hand- Must read for RT in 2 weeks!

5. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

6. Lay that Trumpet in Our Hands by Susan Carol McCarthy

7. The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell- Finished and plan on buying The Springsweet at RT (if it's available)

8. Born Wicked by Jessica Cahill- Waiting for it to arrive from MeL Don't think I'll be reading it this week.

9. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly McNees- Also waiting on MeL

10. The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness- Current audio book. I am visiting a friend Tuesday, so I hope to listen to a big chunk of this during the drive.

It's a big list, but I am confident I can read most of them! I plan to read the books in this order and will keep the list updated as I finish!