Monday, July 23, 2012

It's Monday!

What are you reading?

Thanks to Shelia at Book Journey for hosting this weekly meme.

Well, I've literally posted nothing on the blog since last Monday. Don't ask me what I was doing instead--I have no idea. Obviously, I forgot to turn my brain back on after the weekend. I have a number of reviews I need to write. Last week I finished rereading The Amulet of Samarkand (Book 1 of the Bartimaeus Trilogy) by Jonathan Stroud (which wasn't originally on my upcoming list but I saw it in the library and just really wanted to reread it so I could read the rest of the series--I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time.). I also finished Slow Love: How I Lost my Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness by Dominique Brown, which I read for book club. I'm still reading The Angel's Game and Hell or High Water.

I'm currently reading The Dark Mirror by Juliet Marillier, a fantasy/fairytale retelling writer who I learned about on Goodreads last week through Tatiana from the Readventurer. She actually reviewed a different book, but as looked through the different series the author has written, I decided to start with this one.

I picked up Eon  at the library as well after seeing several good reviews on Goodreads for the second book in the series.

What are you reading this week?

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's Monday!

What are you reading?

Thanks to Shelia at Book Journey for hosting this weekly book meme.

Last week was a crazy week, and, unfortunately, not for good reasons. The week started off normally and I was participating (although lightly) in the Once Upon a Read-a-Thon.

But on Wednesday, a coworker's husband passed away very unexpectedly. She got a call in the morning that her husband was being transported to the hospital, but by the time she got, there he had already passed. Needless to say, it was a rough couple of days and I haven't felt much like blogging since then.

However, I was able to read two books last week: Circle of Fire (The Prophecy of the Sister's #3) by Michelle Zink and The Calling by Kelley Armstrong. I haven't posted reviews yet, but hopefully will soon. I also need to post a review of Grave Mercy, which I read the previous weekend.

I'm still working on The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which I had purposefully set aside to read shorter books for the read-a-thon. I'm about 36 percent in to it and I'm quite enjoying it, I just need to find my reading concentration again. It's not the kind of book I can read while thinking about something else. Once I finish that I hope to start the next in that series, The Prisoner of Heaven, which I received through Edelweiss.

As far as what else I have to pick up...the easier question would be what am I NOT going to pick up! But here are some I have to choose from:

Hell or High Water Joy Castro


I got this one for review through NetGalley. It will be published on July 17 (tomorrow), but I definitely won't be finished by then!

Cold Light Jenn Ashworth

I got this one for review through Edelweiss. It's being published in paperback on October 16, though it it was originally published in April 2011.

Sisters Red Jackson Pearce

This is just one I've been wanting to read, and it was discounted on Amazon, so I got a copy for my kindle.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon Update and Mini-Challenge

I hadn't really set any goals for this read-a-thon since I have to work all three days and work my second job tonight. Also, this crazy weather has been messing with my head, I spent most of Sunday night with a migraine and I spent most of yesterday hoping it wouldn't come back.

Despite that, I did manage to finish one book yesterday: Circle of Fire, the final book in the Prophecy of the Sisters Trilogy. I'll write a full review later, but basically this book was a disappointing for me as the last one was. Michelle Zink had some interesting ideas, but the books are plagued with "nothing-is-actually-happening" syndrome. Yes, the final book wraps up the loose ends, but meh.

I think I'm going to start on The Calling in a bit. Since I have to work tonight, I doubt I will finish it.

Today I'm participating in the mini-challenge hosted at Kindle Fever by Bex:


Once upon a time there was a bookish fight…
As the story teller, I now want you to tell me which two characters are fighting and WHY! If you want to, you’re also more than welcome to guess the outcome. ;)
It doesn’t have to be anything too detailed; we’re here to have fun!


I'd like to see Harry Dresden (from Jim Butcher's Dresden files) and Jill Kismet (from Lilith Saintcrow's Kismet series) in a showdown. But they wouldn't be fighting because they are angry with each other, since they both fight to protect their cities, this would be an opportunity for them to practice their skills. Both of them kiss major paranormal ass, so I'd like to see who would come out on top--or would this fight just never end?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Read-a-Thon Mini-Challenge

I'm going to participate in Bailey from IB Book Blogging's mini-challenge--mainly because it's a fun challenge, but also because I've only read one of the books that Loretta from Between the Pages asks about in her challenge. Bad blogger!

If you're participating in the read-a-thon and want a chance to win a book from Bailey's ARC pile, create your own post answering these questions and link up your post to the linky.

Question 1:

What is your favorite cover that has been revealed this summer and why?

I have to say that my favorite cover reveal has been J. K. Rowling's book The Casual Vacancy. Not because the cover is amazing, but because it is so NOT what anyone expected.
Even the blurb is kind of meh, so I can't help but wonder what is up her sleeve.

Question 2:

Do you rely on the cover to help you choose whether you want to read a book or not?

I definitely rely on covers to decide what to read--especially when I'm at a bookstore and mainly because it attracts my attention. I would say that covers probably sway me more for YA books than for regular fiction, since the designs are often so different. There's a reason so many YA books have girls in pretty dresses---it's because pretty dresses attract my attention!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Once Upon a Read-a-Thon

Yay! A read-a-thon! Three lovely ladies are hosting this one: Angela from Reading Angel, Candace at Candace's Book Blog, and Lori at Pure Imagination.

Unlike the one I participated in years ago, this one is over three days from 12:01 AM on July 9 to 11:59 PM on July 11. I'm obviously not going to be reading for three days straight as (sadly) I have to work both of my jobs during that time. HOWEVER, I hope to get through a few books during that time and participate in some of the challenges.

Here are some of the books I have to choose from:

Hell or High Water Joy Castro

Summary from Goodreads: Nola Céspedes, an ambitious young reporter at the Times-Picayune, finally catches a break: an assignment to write her first full-length feature. While investigating her story, she also becomes fixated on the search for a missing tourist in the French Quarter. As Nola’s work leads her into a violent criminal underworld, she’s forced to face disturbing truths from her own past.

Vividly rendered in razor-sharp prose, this haunting thriller is a riveting journey of trust betrayed—and the courageous struggle to rebuild. Fast-paced, atmospheric, and with a knockout twist, Joy Castro's Hell or High Water features an unforgettable heroine as fascinating and multi-layered as New Orleans itself


The Calling Kelley Armstrong

Summary from Goodreads: Maya and her friends--all of whom have supernatural powers--have been kidnapped after fleeing from a forest fire they suspect was deliberately set, and after a terrifying helicopter crash they find themselves pursued by evildoers in the Vancouver Island wilderness.

 The Angel's Game Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Summary from Goodreads: In an abandoned mansion at the heart of Barcelona, a young man, David Martín, makes his living by writing sensationalist novels under a pseudonym. The survivor of a troubled childhood, he has taken refuge in the world of books and spends his nights spinning baroque tales about the city’s underworld. But perhaps his dark imaginings are not as strange as they seem, for in a locked room deep within the house lie photographs and letters hinting at the mysterious death of the previous owner.

Like a slow poison, the history of the place seeps into his bones as he struggles with an impossible love. Close to despair, David receives a letter from a reclusive French editor, Andreas Corelli, who makes him the offer of a lifetime. He is to write a book unlike anything that has ever existed--a book with the power to change hearts and minds. In return, he will receive a fortune, and perhaps more. But as David begins the work, he realizes that there is a connection between his haunting book and the shadows that surround his home.

Once again, Zafón takes us into a dark, gothic universe first seen in The Shadow of the Wind and creates a breathtaking adventure of intrigue, romance, and tragedy. Through a dizzingly constructed labyrinth of secrets, the magic of books, passion, and friendship blend into a masterful story.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Review: Seraphina

Seraphina Rachel Hartman

ISBN13: 9780375866562

464 pages, Hardcover

Series: Seraphina #1

Scheduled Release Date: July 10, 2012

**I received an ARC copy for my kindle through NetGalley.**


Summary from Goodreads: 


Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.


My thoughts:


This is one of those books that I could have read in one day if I didn't have other obligations that I have to tend to (such as work, the Librarian, and friends). Each time I had to deal with one of those things, I begrudgingly put this book down. The biggest strength of this book is Hartman's world building, and if you've read any of my previous posts, you'd know that this will either make or break a story for me.


The underlying premise isn't particularly groundbreaking, yet it speaks to the insidious ways bigotry and prejudice can undermine society. Essentially, Seraphina secretly exists as a half-dragon in the midst of a tenuous peace between dragons and humans. Dragons are able to coexist with humans by transforming into their saraantras form, which makes them  generally passable as humans except for the bells they are required to wear on their clothes (and behavioral oddities for newer saraantras). Humans and dragons alike do little to veil their disgust and contempt for the other species, so consorting with--and, most definitely, falling in love and procreating with--each other would be considered a horrific act. But Seraphina must exist among humans and saraantras in Goredd as a product of this horrific union.


Seraphina spends her childhood keeping her secret as taught by her father and her dragon uncle, Orma. When she finally breaks out on her own and joins the musician team at court, she draws the attention of the royal family by playing her flute at the funeral of the recently murdered prince. From there, the story unfolds in two major prongs: we get to see how Seraphina is different and how she struggles to maintain her secret and we see Seraphina become more involved in solving the mystery of the prince's death and the subsequent threat on the royal family and the Comonot (the dragon's leader).


This is unlike many other YA fantasies in that it is a slow build. There isn't a race to the finish line, so readers looking for a fast-paced read may be tripped up or bored. But patient readers are rewarded. The twist wasn't particularly surprising. There was one clue in particuar that was so bold-faced, I was kind of like...really? But by that point, it really didn't matter, I was smitten.


My absolute favorite idea to come from this story is Seraphina's garden of grotesques. I won't give it all away, but basically dragons are able to partition their minds and Orma teaches Seraphina to do this as a way of controlling debilitating, epileptic visions. In order to do this, Seraphina puts the recurring grotesques (all with appropriate nicknames such as Loud Lad who plays pipes and Miss Fusspots--which is kind of self-explanatory) in different spaces in a garden in her mind that she must tend to in order to stay "healthy" and control the onset of these visions.


The language in the book is beautiful as well. Hartman's writing can't be argued with (quote is from the ARC and subject to change for final publication--but hopefully not!):


"There are melodies that speak as eloquently as words, that flow logically and inevitably from a single, pure emotion. The Invocation is of this kind, as if its composer had sought to distill the purest essence of mourning, to say, Here is what it is to lose someone."


There is also some subtle humor that had me laughing out loud (again, quote is subject to change):


"Orma moved a pile of books off a stool for me but seated himself directly on another stack. This habit of his never ceased to amuse me. Dragons no longer hoarded gold; Comonot's reforms had outlawed it. For Orma and his generation, knowledge was treasure. As dragons through the ages had done, he gathered it, and then he sat on it."


I highly recommend this book to readers of YA fantasy.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

SO MUCH ARC Angst

Emo pony can't deal with your angst, he has his own.
So, I don't know how many of you have been keeping up with the #ARCgate that (sort of) started with a well-thought out, but passionate (and therefore very opinionated), post by a librarian who attended the ALA conference and was unable to get certain ARCs because the vendors were out by the time she was finished with her professional obligations. Understandably frustrating. Anger was then sparked by a 22-minute long video of an ALA book haul from a blogger and her sister, who appeared to have come away from the conference with upwards of 200 books--including books the librarian in question wanted, but couldn't get. By the time I caught up to this the video had been taken down, but I suspect that in their excitement, the girls probably made themselves look pretty bad. The original post, and then two subsequent posts are very much worth reading. If you read what some of her critics have to say, who she links to, the conversation quickly devolves. Apparently the conversation also got very heated on Twitter (which I rarely if ever participate in) and it once again became a question of blogger legitimacy and blogger access to ARCs in general. And this, really, is where my brain starts to warm up.

I know my voice is just one among many in all of this, and a small one at that. But, there are a few things coming out of this drama that strike me as very important to both librarians and book bloggers as well as our readers (since we are all part of an overarching COMMUNITY of book lovers). Amy said it best: " the really true and valuable work that a book blogger does is to sustain a culture of literacy." Is this culture of literacy not a common goal between bloggers and librarians? Her post is also worth reading in full. I'll repeat part of what I said there: "are the majority of book bloggers blogging BECAUSE they sell books for publishers they don't even work for? I doubt it. We're here because we love books, we love talking about books, and we love sharing opinions and ideas."


I've said it before and I'll say it again, I blog because I love to read and love to be a part of a community of people who love to read. I've always seen ARCs as a fun perk of blogging. ARCs are fun to get. I COMPLETELY understand why those girls seemingly got carried away (I say seemingly...she posted a very well-written explanation post of what was actually going on). First of all, free shit is awesome. I'm sorry, anyone who tries to deny that is a LIE-TELLER! We are all strapped for cash--blogger and librarian alike--I know it because I live it, I'm a blogger living with a librarian. Secondly, getting your hands on something before other people is exciting! Again, let's not deny these basic truths of humanity--they hold for both bloggers and librarians.


I accepted ARCs back when I first started--back before NetGalley--and I have accepted them now that I'm back. Hell, I sought them out. But I did and I do that because I was excited to read those books and to participate in ongoing discussions. Does that contribute to a profession (librarian or otherwise)? Does that contribute to a publisher's sales? Do I care? Truly, no. I'm not a marketing tool. I'm a person who likes to read and write and force my opinions on the unsuspecting masses. One of those opinions is that I'm not here to make myself legitimate in the eyes of the publishing industry. I'm here to talk about books. Dammit. (And if the only people that end up reading my blog are my friend Maggie Cats, my boyfriend, and my parents then so be it!)

And I think bloggers, such as the girl from the video, who obsess about ARCs will eventually realize that they can become a burden. When I was doing this blog before, I was accepting ARCs and quickly became overrun--I found myself unable to read books simply because I wanted to read them. Reading became horribly close to being a job and my dedication to this blog fell off very quickly in response (among other factors). And seriously the only thing worse than having a job is having a job that you're not getting paid to do! There is more to reading than ARCS, there is more to blogging than ARCs, and there is more to being a librarian than ARCs. It is so easy to get caught up in the books that are being published RIGHT NOW. I'm completely guilty of it. But looking backward can be so damn rewarding.

Monday, July 2, 2012

It's Monday!

What are you reading? 

Thanks to Shelia at Book Journey for hosting this weekly book meme.

So I only managed to read two books last week: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness, the second book in the All Souls Trilogy, which took me almost all week to get through because MY GOD it was LONG. I also finished Seraphina by Rachel Hartman this weekend and I hope to post a review of that today. I also reviewed The Shadow of the Wind, which I read the previous week. Lot's of shadows!

Since both of those were ARCs from Netgalley, I'm going to take a break and read some non-ARCs:

Grave Mercy Robin LaFevers

I just love the cover of this one. She's holding a crossbow people. Your argument is INVALID.

The Angel's Game Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I read the first book in this series, The Shadow of the Wind, and freaking loved it, so I'm going to read this one before delving into the next one, The Prisoner of Heaven, which I got from Edelweiss. (It is scheduled to be released on July 17 according to Amazon. We'll see if I can get through both by then.)

Friday, June 29, 2012

TGIF: Best I've Read so Far

Thanks to Ginger at GReads for hosting this weekly meme.

Best I've Read so Far: We're halfway through the year (crazy how time flies), which top 3 books are the best you've read so far?

Instead of doing top 3 (because I HATE choosing!) I'll list the books to which I've given 5 stars this year.

Madapple, Christina Meldrum

This one completely surprised me. I loved the writing style and the way Meldrum handled complicated and taboo topics.

Before I Go to Sleep, S. J. Watson

I read this one in one day, I couldn't put it down!

Insurgent, Veronica Roth

Do I even need to explain?

Ship Breaker, Paolo Bacigalupi

I was happy to finally have found a YA dystopia that actually made sense and was well-thought out.

The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon


This book reminded me of why I love to read. Can I really say much more than that?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: Shadow of Night

Shadow of Night Deborah Harkness

ISBN13: 9780670023486

592 Pages, Hardcover

Series: All Souls Trilogy #2

Release Date: July 10, 2012

I received an advanced copy of this for my Kindle from NetGalley. (Yay!) 

Summary from Goodreads: 

Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.


My Thoughts: 

Let me just say that if I hadn't been reading the first book, A Discovery of Witches, on my kindle, I would have thrown the book across the room when I finished. Somehow, I didn't know that it was the first of a series (I guess I just wasn't paying attention), and I was SO MAD that it ended in such a cliffhanger. At the time, I was feeling frustrated that every thing I was reading was part of a series and I had picked it up to just read one book. Despite that, I was very happy when I was able to get my hands on this one. I didn't feel the need to throw a book at the end of this one, but I'm not 100 percent sure if that is to this book's credit or not.

I didn't not enjoy this book. That's terrible grammar, but it's accurate. I enjoyed reading it, I never felt as if I didn't want to finish it and it maintained my interest throughout. I really do like the premise of the series. The forbidden romance between different creatures, the mystery and possibility surrounding Ashmole 782, the focus on the genetics of creatures---all these things are what have kept me reading.

However, if I had to boil Shadow of Night down into one word it would be "heavy handed". This book needed an editor that wasn't afraid to tell Harkness to ease up on the name-dropping and stick to the story. The first third of the book felt mostly unnecessary as it was filled mainly with references to major Elizabethan characters such as Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. The best characters were the ones she made up: Phillipe, Gallowglass, Annie, and Jack. Don't get me wrong, Tudor England was always my favorite time period to study in school. But Matthew's relationship with all these characters felt overly convenient and just an excuse for Harkness to get to play with favorite literary and historical characters. I understand that she had to establish Matthew's importance in Elizabethan society, but why did they even go to that time period in the first place? I thought the idea was they were trying to hide, but Matthew takes Diana to a time and place where they are hunting witches! It makes no sense.

My other major problem is that literally nothing pertaining to the main story arc happens until about half-way into the book. Yes, I do think that it was necessary to establish the romance between Diana and Matthew, since their coupling happened so fast in the first book. Insta-love is a pet peeve of mine---and this book is just RIFE with it. However, I can set that aside---some books have it and let's just move on from there, after all some people really love that and that's fine. But to dedicate 50 percent of the book to the romance and then never throw any obstacles in their way? I mean, the biggest conflict between them is that Matthew is acting angsty and Diana can't figure out why. Come on, give me something that will cast some doubt over the relationship (for longer than a paragraph!). Ugh! I get it, they are in LURVE and NOTHING will break them apart. Flashes of Twilight.

Having said that, once Diana FINALLY starts learning about her abilities and they go looking for Ashmole 782 the book took an upswing. This is the part of the book where all the questions you had from A Discovery of Witches finally start to be acknowledged and answered. I don't want to give anything away, as this is what makes the book worth reading, but I did enjoy Harkness' take on witches' powers (especially the weaving/thread ideas) and the few secrets revealed about Ashmole 782. 

It just wasn't enough. This is a problem that happens all the time with series: many authors do not know how to properly pace the flow of information. You don't have to give it all away in the beginning, but you can't hide it all until the end either. We need just enough information so that the story retains suspense but still MAKES SENSE. Yes, it IS a difficult and delicate balance, but the ability to do that right sets the best authors apart. Unfortunately, Harkness did not accomplish that in this book. Everything that moves the plot forward happens at the end of the book, and truly the plot barely moves. And in an attempt to create a cliffhanger ******<spoiler alert>we find out something terrible about Emily, but we are given zero indication about what happened other than it had to do with the birth of the daemon/witch baby plot arc that was briefly touched on in the first book. I literally had to stop reading and backtrack through the book because I thought I had skipped something, that I had somehow managed to forget a major plot point, or that my copy was missing pages. Nope. It made no sense, and seemed to only be included for shock value and an attempt to create a cliffhanger, which seriously annoyed me. Tell us what happened and leave Diana's reaction to it for the next book. I'm invested in Diana, as both books have been centered on her. It's Diana's reaction that will make or break my heart, not Sarah's.</spoiler alert>******

If the reviews on Goodreads are any indication of how this book will be received with a wider audience, then most people won't be bothered by these weaknesses. Readers who are already heavily invested in the romance aspect of the book will most likely love it. Readers who are more heavily invested in the fantasy aspect will probably be left feeling frustrated. I would recommend Shadow of Night to people who loved the first book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.