Sunday, January 30, 2011

Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell

I wasn't really sure how I was going to feel about this book. Other reviews I read seemed to be split down the middle, either they loved it or hated it. And the movie probably didn't help any. Julie was portrayed in a less then flattering light in the movie as inconsiderate and annoying. After reading the book I can honestly say that she is actually pretty inconsiderate particularly of her husband and she is also extremely whiney, but somehow I did find it less irritating in print. Although I did wonder if after she saw it in print maybe she started treating Eric a little bit better or at least bought him something nice with her royalties.

However when she talks about the food it's great. Shopping for the food, making the food and eating the food all sound great. She's very descriptive about the whole process and it all sounds great. I just wish there was more of it, and sometimes she will interrupt herself with another story about food or something else and it kind of takes you a minute to get back on track.

Her intermitent vignetes about Julia and Paul were okay. I actually think she may have been better of trying to get excerpts from Julia's biography or someone else's writings because after reading Julia's biography I felt like it didn't ring true.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts

Luke is just a kid when he runs away from a home where he is regularly beaten by his stepfather. At a traveling carnival he meets Max a master magician who takes him in and raises him with her daughter, bringing him into all the family businesses (not only are they master magicians, they are also thieves.) Max's daughter Roxy grows up with Luke and over time they fall in love. Then their past catches up with them and they are separated for years.

I liked watching Luke and Roxy grow up, but this is another one that I had a hard time getting into. Nora Roberts books tend to be on the lighter side and sometimes I just feel like I need to be in the mood for them and right now I guess I'm just not.

You get to see Luke and Roxy from the point of view of so many different characters. I really liked the whole family. It was interesting to see how they related magic and thievery and some of this reminded me of a girly Ocean's 11, 12 and 13. Sometimes I wasn't a big fan of Roxy. I understand that she didn't know there were good explanations for things that Luke did but come on, give a guy a chance.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder

At first I couldn't get into this book, I'm not entirely sure why. I think it might be because in the beginning Trella is not the most endearing character. Trella is a scrub, a lower level worker known as "The Queen of the Pipes". She is standoffish and doesn't have many friends (okay she has one friend) because she prefers solitude which is difficult to get among the thousands of Scrubs she is forced to live with in dorms. But once you see Trella really interact with Cog and she accidentally begins the rebellion, she softens a lot and I really started to like her. I also really loved how everyone came together to help her, so often in a book like this I feel like someone always betrays in a mean spirited way. Yes there was some betrayal but most of it was under duress.

There were also a lot of really great surprises in this book that made it an even better read (I'm going to be as general as possible so I don't give anything away). Particularly how Trella met her mother. I always knew that she would eventually meet one of her parents but I wasn't expecting it to come about the way it did. I also really liked getting more specifics about Inside and how it actually worked.

There was so much I going on in this book that we didn't get to know a lot of characters besides Trella, Cog and sort of getting to know Riley. (Although I loved Sheepy and I thought it was a great way of developing Riley and Trella's relationship.) The book was self contained and doesn't need a sequel but since there is one coming out I am hoping we get to know some of the other characters better like Logan and Anne Jade.

Monday, January 24, 2011

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

This meme is hosted by Shiela at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books. The point is basically to share what you've reading, what you're reading and what you think you're going to read.

Read This Week:
The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines
Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Devoured by Amanda Marrone
Insatiable by Meg Cabot
Inside Out by Maria V. Snyder (Review Forthcoming)

Currently Reading:
Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts
Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey (on audio book)

To Be Read:
Julie & Julia by Julie Powell
The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
Out for Blood by Alyxandra Harvey
Outside In by Maria V. Snyder

I'm still trying to read off my book shelf, and I think I did pretty good this week. The first three titles were mine and the second two were library books. Insatiable I had taken out for a friend and when she gave it back she recommended I read it. Inside Out got the e-book copy of the sequel from Netgalley so I wanted to read the first so I wouldn't be confused. What are you reading this week?

Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Okay so it wasn't until I was like a quarter of the way through the book that I realized that this is JUST LIKE TRUE BLOOD. Mind reader meets vampire and they fall in love. Well Meena can't read minds, just tell you when you're going to die. She works for a soap opera as a dialogue writer and she's having a very bad week. She was passed over for a promotion and the prince of darkness is in love with her and she with him, wreaking all kinds of havok in her life.

Short chapters usually mean that pacing will be quick but honestly this book just felt like it dragged a little bit. I may have liked it better if it had been a little bit pared down. It felt like it took way too long for Meena and Lucien to meet and then it took way too long for them to find out each others secrets.

The characters were mostly all likable (except for Meena's brother Jon he was kind of a pain in the butt and I frequently found myself wanting to strangle him.) There were also some minor characters I would have liked to have gotten to know a little bit better. But it was mostly fun and I laughed a lot because of how over the top things got (Is everyone I know a vampire?) I also really like Lucien and Meena. Meena isn't passive about her powers, she makes it a point to try and help people once she has seen their future, even if (Although sometimes Meena spent a little too much time going on about things...this would have been a good thing to pare down, I'm just sayin'.) Alaric Wulf was sometimes likable and other times I just loathed him. He ran the gamut from complete jerk to kind. I find myself wondering if there is going to be sequel because it was left very open, particularly in the love triangle department.

There was one thing I was a little bit confused about(I'm going to try and be vauge cause I don't want to cause a spoiler). Knowing who Lucien is descended from and due to several brief mentions of a great grandmother named Wilhemina Harker I find myself wondering if all of these characters are supposed to be direct descendents of the characters from their Dracula counterparts or if the writer was just doing an homage.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Devoured by Amanda Marrone

I couldn't sleep last night so I decided to start reading this book and it's a good thing I couldn't sleep because I didn't want to put it down. This book is actually a modern day continuation of the Snow White tale that takes place many generations after the original. I never would have figured out based on the description although after the fact I do see some hints on the cover.

Megan has had a difficult life, when she was 8 she was in a car accident with her twin sister Remy and her father. Remy died and her father is in a coma and ten years later Megan is still seeing Remy's ghost, and lately she's getting more and more violent and Remy's visits are getting harder and harder to stop/ignore. To add to Megan's issues she also gets a job at The Land of Enchantment, a local fairy tale themed amusement park to keep an eye on her boyfriend Ryan and his best friend (who has professed her undying love to him) Sammy. Megan's first day at the park she meets Luke, who can also see Remy and hopefully help Megan help Remy to move on.

There is a lot going on in this book and the frenetic pace can make it difficult to keep up at times (especially at the end) but it is well worth the read. I kept reading because I wanted to know what happened next. I really liked how the author wove the different elements of Snow White into the story. The description of the book sounds so much like a paranormal romance love triangle type thing, but really it's more of a murder mystery and I think that is what really keeps the plot going. Now I'm kind of torn because I want to go further into why I like the book but I don't want to give anything away.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Mermaid's Madness (Princess Novels # 2) by Jim C. Hines

I realized yesterday that somehow I forgot to post this to the blog so I thought I should get it up here quickly since I love this series and am hoping that it doesn't end with just the three books that are out now.
Lirea the undine (mermaid) princess has gone mad. She is attacking everyone, undine and human alike and breaking treaties that have stood for years. At an annual ceremony she attacks Queen Beatrice and traps her soul in a knife. The Princesses (Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty) go on a high seas adventure to try and get the knife, save Beatrice and help the undine princess.

This was just as good if not better then the previous Princess book. Through out the book we once again get details regarding the "real stories" of the lives of all of the princesses and get to meet some new, interesting characters.This book is delves more deeply into the feelings and pasts of each of the princesses, especially Snow White's relationship with her mother and Talia's coming to the castle and feelings regarding Snow White.

The Mermaid's story is made darker as well with evil witch being her grandmother who is pursuing a very different agenda reminiscent of a mad scientists experiments reminiscint of Josef Mengala's. The book is fun but maintains an aura of darkness that keeps it from getting to silly. This is a great book about a sisterhood of women who are tough and smart. Hopefully the series maintains its drive.

Also I love the covers for these. The girls look the way they are described and you can figure out who is who which I really appreciate, and you can clearly see their personalities in the way they are drawn which I think is awesome. When I read the first one I had a lot of fun figuring out who was who.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Cinderella has left her Stepmothers house to give live in the castle until the wedding and she's having trouble fitting it. She also never gets to speak to the Prince alone so she's having trouble connecting with him. The only people she's getting along with are her tutor Jed and Mary a servant. At the castle women are considered too delicate for everything, and for a girl like Cinderella who took her fate into her hands it's just against her nature.

I really wanted to like this. I love tales that are based on or twist fairy tales and Margaret Peterson Haddix is such a prolific teen author, but alot of the time I just felt frustrated when I read it. To me a lot of the characters felt like one demensional stereotypes, like they were never fully fleshed out. None of the characters ever did anything surprising, I could figure out what was going to happen based on their archetype.

I was also a little bothered by the ending. If Jed continues working for the Charmings, how are him and Ella supposed to end up together. I understand that it's important to stop the war; and a big part of the theme of the book was taking responsibility and doing something to change your situation not just being impassive but if felt like the author was setting up an impossible road block for them.
***End Spoiler***

However it wasn't all bad, I did like the way the Charmings chose to handle Cinderella's disapearance. I thought it was funny and I do hope that everyone involved got what they deserve out of the relationship.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Last week the Printz Award winners were announced and Please Ignore Vera Dietz was one of the honor books. Last year I decided that since the Printz award is the teen award as a teen librarian I need to make sure that not only do I know who the award winners are and have read all of the books. Last year I managed to read all of 2010's winners and honor books and three previous award/honor books. (I have read more then that total but I want to read and review all of them so I have them on my goodreads and can call them up when I need to.) So here is my first Printz review of the year.

I love A.S. King, she is becoming one of my favorite authors. Vera's best friend Charlie died and she isn't really dealing. She is just trying to keep going with her life, good grades in school and her full time job delivering pizza. But Charlie knows that she can clear his name so he keeps trying to influence Vera into telling the truth.

The story alternates between Vera in the present, Vera and Charlie's history, Charlie in death, Vera's dad and the Pagoda, a structure built in t...moreI love A.S. King, she is becoming one of my favorite authors. Vera's best friend Charlie died and she isn't really dealing. She is just trying to keep going with her life, good grades in school and her full time job delivering pizza. But Charlie knows that she can clear his name so he keeps trying to influence Vera into telling the truth.

The story alternates between Vera in the present, Vera and Charlie's history, Charlie in death, Vera's dad and the Pagoda, a structure built in town that kind of presides over everything. Charlie and Vera both had difficult home lives for different reasons. I loved getting all the different points of view of the story. I liked being able to find out how Vera's dad felt about what was going on, what happened in the past and his wife Sindy. I also liked learning Charlie's thoughts on what you learn upon your death. The Pagoda also provided a few laughs in a fairly dark book. I love the language the author uses to describe everyone's feelings and thoughts, it just sounds so appealing. I also really liked Vera and her dad, it was nice to watch them become stronger and learn to pay attention to each other, themselves and others.

It's so easy to love King's characters. I loved Vera's quiet strength and she honestly sounded like a cute kid. She was so responsible but by being so responsible she was kind of missing out on the point of being in high school. I also really felt for Charlie. He had a very difficult life and did what he thought he needed to do to survive and protect Vera. But he allowed many people to manipulate him, from the man in the white car, to Jenny Flick, and to his father. Between Vera and Charlie I think that readers can easily find someone to relate to.

My only complaint is a little bit spoilery. We never find out what is in the envelope. We get Charlies notes on the napkin to Vera and we get an inkling of what's on the cd/dvd, but I never really figured out what it was that Charlie thought Vera could never forgive him for. I have a guess as to what it might have been but some confirmation would have been nice (I'm a little slow on the pick up sometimes.) Because what I thought it was I don't think is something that could really be blamed on Charlie so there is no reason for him not to be forgiven. Of course I read an arc and there is a chance that this part of the book was changed.
***Spoiler Ends***

It was a great read and I'm glad this won a Printz Honor book. While it was dark it also had an uplifting ending

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dream Life by Laura Mechling

Claire is just as quirky as ever but at the end I found myself not liking her as much. Claire still has the black and white dreams that draw attention to her future, but Becca seems to be growing apart from her and Andy seems to be avoiding her so she feels left out. In her efforts to deal with her issues, she ends up not talking to practically any of her friends. Then she gets let in on Becca's big secret, and involved in a new mystery.

I didn't like that the cameo punished Claire for going out with Alex. Andy wasn't behaving well this book and she was extremely patient with him. She had every right to take someone else when he refused to go.
***Spoiler ends***

I also thought that Claire was being extremely naive not to realize that the Blue Moon's activities reflected well on the girls parents and were repayed with favors. The mystery was interesting and I was surprised when I found out who was really responsible for all the trouble. The dreams were a lot clearer and it was much easier to see how they fit into the bigger picture. I liked that Claire's powers did develop in the second story and she wasn't still stuck being frustrated.

It's Monday What Are You Reading?

I haven't done one of these in a while and since I'm reading off of my bookshelf right now I thought it would be a good way to focus in on what I feel like reading. This meme is hosted by Shiela at One Person's Journey Through a World of Books. The point is basically to share what you've reading, what you're reading and what you think you're going to read.

Read This Week:
Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan
Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Dream Life by Lauren Mechling
Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King (Review Forthcoming)

Currently Reading:
The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines
Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey (on audio book)

To Be Read:
Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Devoured by Amanda Marrone
Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts

As I've mentioned before I am moving in a month and if I want my friends to continue to like me I need to trim my book shelves down a little bit. Which is why everything I'm reading now is coming off of my book shelf from home. So far so good. What have you been reading?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

I really loved Will Grayson, Will Grayson. It made me laugh and it made me cry (God, I'm such a sap). This book is all about the characters and lately I've finally noticed that I really love character driven novels more then anything. Two young men named Will Grayson meet on a street in Chicago one night. You follow both characters as they try to figure out love and friendship. The Will Grayson's are alike in that they allow life to happen to them rather then being involved; however that changes for each of them over the course of the novel.

I feel like I have to comment on Tiny Cooper because everyone either loves him or hates, and he seems to be a big part of a lot of the reviews I have read. Tiny is an interesting character and a lot of fun, but truthfully the novel isn't about him and what really made this novel great for me was learning about the innerworkings of the two Will Grayson's watching them grow and develop, and start to take part in their own lives. Tiny was a good counterpoint for the two boys and provided a lot of the books humor, but at the end of the book it was the two Will Grayson's growth that really made me enjoy the book.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan

I really really wanted to like these short stories but I just couldn't get into it. I love Margo Lanagan's writing, I think it's absolutely beautiful, and the language in these stories is absolutely gorgeous. One of my favorite things about Margo Lanagan's writing has always been her ability to really set a mood in a story, and these stories evoke many different moods from the down right disturbing to a sense of satisfaction. Unfortunately all of the stories felt unfinished to me. Each tale felt like an excerpt from a larger tale that I (mostly) wanted to hear the rest of. This left me feeling frustrated and unsatisfied as a reader.

I read an arc that I got from work and at the end of the arc there was a two page note from the author dealing with where the inspiration for each story. I hope that made it into the final copy because I thought that was really interesting. The stories I liked the best were Baby Jane; A Feather in the Breast of God; Under Hell, Over Heaven; Forever Upward, and Daughter of the Clay. Unfortunately, these all left me feeling the most frustrated as well. It just felt like I was missing out on getting to know characters, endings and even beginnings.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Stolen One by Suzanne Crowley

Kat has no idea who she is. All she knows is that Grace has raised her along with her own daughter Anna. When Grace dies Kat leaves everything behind and goes to London to try and find out her past.

It's an interesting take on what could have happened to Katherine Parr's daughter. However this mystery was really only a small aspect of what made the novel interesting for me.

In the beginning I was afraid it would be full of back stabbing and cruelty but while it is a sad story and some of the sadness is brought on by people's cruelty it isn't all because of the things people do to each other, a lot of it is just brought on by situations, particularly people's stations in life.

The author beautifully captures just how both the low born and the high born have very little say in their lives. It's interesting to see how Kat's life, which in many ways changes drastically when she becomes one of Elizabeth's ladies in waiting, doesn't really chane at all when it comes to her personal freedoms. She still has no say in who she marries, she still must do as she is told.

I really wish we had found out what Rafael came home for and whether he really just wanted Kat or whether his desires were more sinister then that.

The discriptions of clothing are gorgeous and I can imagine the beautiful embroidery that Kat does. I loved that the dress she embroidered for Queen Elizabeth, it sounded like such a beautiful piece. The description of the piece helped set the tone and mood of the story for me.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Discord's Apple by Carrie Vaughn

This book brought together several genres that I didn't necessarily think would come together nicely. The world is ending, every country is at war with each other but Evie is more concerned with going home to see her father who is dying. Once she arrives she starts learning about the store room in her father's house. It's filled with magical items from every world mythology and fairy tale. It is now Evie's turn to become the caretaker. Meanwhile Hera is trying to take advantage and get Discord's apple so that she can use the world's strife to make the world the way she wants it. Weaved into this story there are short tales of how Evie's family acquired some of the items in the store room and Alex's story. Alex has been alive since the Trojan war and the reader learns how he became immortal and what his time was like after the war. There is also another story being told. Evie is a graphic novel writer and you also get the story that she is writing about a military team.

All of the stories, including the stories within the stories are beautifully written. Normally I'm not a big fan of the story within a story because it can be difficult to keep them straight but it was always very clear which story was being told. The world building in this book is wonderful and I really loved all of the characters. I felt invested in how things were going to end with them. My favorite character was probably Alex, at first his story annoyed me because I wanted to know what was going on with Evie. However as she got more and more wrapped up in her sadness and panic about dealing with the store room his story became the more interesting one. I was especially intrigued by his meeting with Oddyseus after forty years. I also liked the fact that Alex was tied to the storerooms beginnings, and I liked how parts of the end were tied to Evie's graphic novel and the beginning of the Trojan war (won't explain how cause that would be a big spoiler).

The part where the world actually ends is skipped. I appreciated that because it would have made the book drag on too long, but I kind of wonder if it would be interesting to learn how Hera was able to reshape the world with the apple. I think it might have been a good topic for another book, except then Hera would have to be the heroine and I'm not sure that she is likable enough to be a main character.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Off the Shelf Reading Challenges

So once again I find myself having to move and my fiance and I are realizing that we have a lot of stuff. So I have once again returned all my library books and I am once again trying to read off the shelves. I did a challenge like this one last year and I was only trying to read 30 books which was 10 more then the previous year and I bombed miserably. This year things have got to go, so I went looking for a challenge and found Book Ardour's Reading Challenges where she is hosting the Off the Shelf Challenge. You don't have to do anything with the books after you read them, the point of the challenge is just to read, but since I already have too much whatever I read that I am not head over heels in love with will get donated to my local library.

Since I am really trying to only read off my shelf for at least the next month and a half I am going to go for On a Role which is 50 books. (I know this seems silly what with last years fail, but I have four book cases worth of books and my friends are going to kill me if I don't do something about my problem, most likely sometime around loading it all into the moving truck.) Of course I'm moving in the middle of February and I don't see myself reading 50 books between now and then I figure with the added boost by reading as much off the shelf as possible now I can do 50 books by then but at least this big push in the beginning will be a good start.

2. Red Spikes by Margo Lanagan
3. Will Grayson Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
4. Dream Life by Lauren Mechling
5. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
6. Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
7. The Mermaid's Madness by Jim C. Hines
8. Devoured by Amanda Marrone
9. Honest Illusions by Nora Roberts
11. The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley
12. Secret Society by Tom Dolby
13. The Season by Sarah MacLean
14. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rose Sees Red by Cecil Castellucci

What a phenomenal book. I absolutely loved it. Rose goes to the performing arts high school in Manhattan. Making this decision seperated her from her best friend Daisy (who wasn't really a good friend) and made her feel like having friends was too hard. So she has closed herself off, until the day two girls at school reach out to her and her next door neighbor comes in through her window. The book chronicles Yrena and Rose's night in the city.

But it's sooo much more then that. The book takes place during the Cold War and Yrena is from the Soviet Union. It really brings home how people from all over can be the same and yet so different. Both girls are ballerina's, the same age and living in the same city, yet they approach things with completely different attittude and points of view. There is a lot of great symbolism here and it's a book that has a story that will really make you think. The characters are interesting and with the current political state of the world I think teens today could really relate to this book.