Monday, 31 December 2012

13 Books I Should've Gotten to in 2012

A LOT of excellent sounding books came out this year that I didn't get to, even though they made my TBR pile. Tragic, isn't it? So, here's (some) of those books. Feel free to comment and yell at me so I know which books to get in first in 2013!

Last Rite by Lisa Desrochers: The last book in the series! I think I've had this book since the very beginning of the year, maybe even 2011. Despite this, never got to pick it up.

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver: I know, I know, and I LOVED Delirium too! Especially with that ending! I only just got a copy for Christmas, so I'm one step closer!

Fever by Lauren DeStefano: Another sequel to a book I adored that didn't get to be read. Lanna even sent me a copy from the UK earlier this year then I bought a hardcover at Strand and STILL not read. *sigh* I know.

Through to You by Emily Hainsworth: I was so psyched for this debut, I think I even have an egalley. It sounded so awesome! But...didn't happen.

The Story of Us by Deb Caletti: I've read some Caletti books and really liked them. Most of her story lines don't really appeal to me, but this one did. I was even able to pick up an ARC at Strand! But still, it sits, unread.

A Million Suns by Beth Revis: I know, I know, another sequel! I'm so bad at sequels. I got a signed copy of this at ComicCon and I HAVE to read it super soon because I also got a copy of Shades of Earth while there...yeah.

The Lost Prince by Julie Kagawa: Again, I LOVE Julie's books and I was psyched to read this one. I got an egalley, I got an ARC, I was on the blog tour, yet still it sits, neglected, on my TBR pile.

In Honor by Jessi Kirby: I absolutely adored Moonglass and that wasn't my kind of book. But In Honor? TOTALLY IS my type of book. So add in my kind of book with a writer I already love...why isn't this book in my brain yet?!?

Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill: This was one of those contemporaries that was kind of under the radar but I was super psyched about and got an egalley for and then...never read. I'm pretty sure Mitali wanted to crucify me when I told her.

Every Day by David Levithan: So...I had started the egalley I had for this one and for some reason I can't remember, I had to stop like half way through. Then I went to his signing, got a nice, signed, finished copy, and still haven't picked it back up. I might have to start over by time I actually do.

The Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone: I wanted this book soooooooo badly. Comparisons to The Time Traveler's Wife were thrown around and it's a little known fact, but that is one of my FAVORITE books. I was thrilled to pick up a copy at Strand a few weeks before release. Still...haven't...read it...*sigh*

Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt: YET AGAIN. I have an egalley. I met Tiffany at her signing and have a pretty, finished copy. Still, this book goes unread. WHY? I don't even know! SO MANY PEOPLE I trust adored this book. It's a tear-jerker, which is always a bonus for me. But...nope. Didn't happen this year.

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken: I LOVE Brightly Woven and was so stoked to get a signed ARC at ComicCon. I started reading this early this month but then finals started happening and I needed lighter, cheerier books to get my brain through the stress and I had to stop like 1/3 of the way through. MUST FINISH SOON. I was loving the book when I stopped, I just...couldn't deal with dark and bleak and slow going earlier this month.

So, there it is. My list of shame. Just looking at this list, plus the many, many other books I didn't get to this year, fills me with shame. I have to look on the bright side and remember that I still read 160 books plus some others I probably forgot to put on goodreads but...it doesn't make me feel better.

What books did you shamefully not picked up this year? And which of these (and other 2012 books) do I need to pick up ASAP in the new year?

--Julie

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Book Haul 143

So...I got a few books...this week...yay for holidays?

Christmas Gifts:
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver
The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Purity by Jackson Pearce
Dearly, Beloved by Lia Havel
Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Something Like Normal by Trish Doller
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
From What I Remember... by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala
Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

Review Books:
Rapunzel Untangled by Cindy C. Bennett (egalley from NetGalley)
13th Sign by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb (ARC from Macmillan)
Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans (finished copy from Simon and Schuster)

Purchased:
Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Beauty and the Beast by Jenni James (ebook purchased from Amazon)
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (ebook purchased from Amazon)
Between the Lines by Tammara Webber (ebook purchased from Amazon)
These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer (ebook purchased from Amazon)

A lot of the Kindle books may still be on sale, though I know a couple were Daily Deals. If you're interested in any, you should definitely check. 

So, what did you get in your mailbox?

--Julie

Saturday, 29 December 2012

New Adult: Nuisance or Necessary?

So, some of you may have heard about this new category of books: New Adult. It's been the topic of several articles, like this one and this one, and caused quite the kerfuffle on twitter as people try to define this new category and what to do with it.

Let's break down this new category, shall we?

What is New Adult anyway?

Well, that's the million dollar question.

Many media outlets and even some publishers are trying to call New Adult a "steamier" version of YA. Some people are going so far as to say Harry Potter meets 50 Shades of Grey. As mentioned in the articles, Simon and Schuster even released an uncensored version of one of their "New Adult" books.

But many others are crying foul, saying that is totally not New Adult, what the hell is the deal?

So, let's ask a better question.

What can New Adult be?

Here's the thing. I, personally, don't believe New Adult should just be YA with sex. Because YA already has sex. Looking for Alaska, Forbidden, The DUFF, for some examples. Maybe it's not explicit sex, but it's not subtle in the least. It's been a long time since young adult authors shied away from sex (umm, hello Forever by Judy Blume? When I read it, my mom told me about when SHE read it as a teen). And sex isn't necessary to tell a story about college-aged people because not everyone has sex all the time at that age.

What do I think New Adult can be? I think this is a category that has so much potential, more than I would have imagined before I started college.

I still love YA with every fiber of my being. I still read it often. But, I'm not in high school anymore. And I'm also not a grown up.

I have a pretty good grasp on who I am and what I want from life. Not perfect or set in stone or anything, but I'm mostly past that stage of figuring out who I am. But I wouldn't call myself an adult, either. I still have way too many stuffed animals and can't fathom the idea of paying my own bills and I'm prone to buying anything that interests me, like the many, many Disney prints that now adorn my dorm wall.

On the other hand, I do have to start cleaning up my resume and making cover letters for internships and possible jobs in the next coming months. My winter break will consist largely of that task and deciding where to apply and starting the apartment hunt. I'm slowly phasing into being an adult-like-person. And I plan on taking full advantage of my remaining three and a half years of college to work my way towards adulthood.

And I think that's what New Adult should be and could be. Not exploring the supposed massive sex drive and drugs and drinking college students supposedly do, especially since that's not even a real thing. Of everyone I know who's a college student, drinking/drugs may have increased minimally and either they were having sex before coming to college anyway, or they still aren't having sex. None of these factors are necessary for college students or maturing. If they happen, they happen. The first parts of adulthood are about maturing and, you know, doing what has to be done to be considered an adult.

Why does there need to be a New Adult?

What's the point? Slight voice differences, different settings, older, more mature characters, can't that just be an upper YA?

Well, technically, yes. It could be. In some cases, that might be all the book is: an older teen in college. But as I mentioned, the big difference is what journey the character is on. YA is about figuring out who you are, experiencing a lot of firsts, maybe even figuring out what you want from life. "New adulthood" is a time to refine that, experience a couple of more firsts, nail down where you're going and with who. It's a time of independence and freedom and responsibility and learning how to balance it all.

But to be frank, it's also a terrifying time. Grocery shopping and other necessity shopping and trying not to spend all your money on books and things I find on Etsy, but how do I know how much I can spend when my needs change? And what should I even be looking for an apartment? What the hell is a cover letter anyway? And because many people in this "new adult" stage are still insecure and confused and many of us are now surrounded by people we haven't known our whole lives for the first time, we're not really going to talk about how we feel all the time. Because we can still have our fears belittled and rejected. Because maybe others aren't where we are. Because maybe we're just weird for feeling that way. And because maybe we aren't all that grown up, because aren't adults supposed to be confident and know what to do?

I'm not saying these are things that are true for every person in the strange time of "new adulthood," but they're true for me and I've found that my feelings and opinions usually aren't just mine, even if it feels that way. 

On the surface, college-aged years sound a lot like high school-aged years. More independence, new responsibilities, insecurity, fear. But the reasons behind them are so different and that difference is significant. That difference is why a nineteen year old can be deemed an adult when a sixteen year old is not. It's also why people see a nineteen year old and a sixteen year old in relationships and wonder how it can work. It's a relatively small age difference, especially compared to some larger age gaps between older couples, but those two people are in different places in their lives.

Many readers who are now the same age as new adult characters grew up with Harry Potter and Cam Jansen and the Magic Tree House. We turned to middle grade and young adult books to explore territories that made us uncomfortable or to know we weren't alone in how we were feeling and in what we were experiencing. I could sit in my room and feel insecure and crack open a YA book and find a girl in that book like me. I related to her and felt better. And I think New Adult books are a way for many in my generation to continue knowing there's a character, a book, a series we can turn to when we need to.

Then, Julie, what should we read to test this idea?

Well, actually, I can't tell you. As far as I know, I haven't read any New Adult books. I know Abbi Glines and Tammara Weber both write in that category, but beyond that? I'm not really familiar with it.

So, if you have any recommendations, I definitely invite them below. I do have one of Tammara's books on my Kindle (not Easy, the first in her other series?), but other than that, I'm not sure what there is besides maybe Gayle Forman's books (i think it can be debated: is it really YA or would NA be a better category?).

Let's discuss this, guys. What NA books will win over the non-believers and people who don't love NA yet? What books that are called YA might actually be NA? Or have you given up on NA books all ready?

And for a slightly different opinion on New Adult from someone else in the age group it's being aimed at, Nicole and Word for Teens did a most excellent post.

--Julie

Friday, 28 December 2012

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

The Wicked and the Just
J. Anderson Coats
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
[April 17, 2012]

Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.

Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.

While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.

I only had a vague idea of what this book was about and I wanted it that way. This book is set in a time period and a place that I don't normally read, so I wanted to try it out. I'm pretty glad I did.

Cecily and Gwenhwyfar both had some major flaws, enough to make them somewhat unlikable to me. There were times when they would start to change and turn things around, but then they'd go back to where they started. I kept waiting for the two to move past their prejudices instilled by the different backgrounds they had and create a bond, but it never really happened. There wasn't as much character development for either character as I would've liked to see.

On the other hand, I really loved how J. Anderson Coats dropped you in the middle of this time period and this place and was unforgiving with it. Slang and terms and the Welsh language were all used. If you didn't understand something, it was rarely explained. It really helped immerse me into the setting. She was also very descriptive, so I could easily imagine everything going on and I had to figure out what different things meant for myself. 

Coats is also an excellent writer, though it was hard to tell at times if this was a middle grade or a young adult book. The characters could be as petty and bratty as a character I would expect to read about in an MG book, but some of the descriptions and words and ideas were more like a YA book. That was a bit of an issue, but otherwise, it was just good writing that I enjoyed.

The story was really interesting, covering a topic I knew nothing about. I'd known there was some issues between the Welsh and the British, but I hadn't known any details or times or places. The reality was much darker and more intense than I would've realized. The treatment on both sides was nasty and disturbing. It was a learning experience as well as being entertained.

Overall, The Wicked and the Just was a really good book, but I wasn't as satisfied as I wanted to be with it. However, this is definitely a book for those who love historical fiction and rebellions.

--Julie

Monday, 24 December 2012

Top Books of 2012

Lanna's Top 12 Books of 2012
So, since it's near the end of the year, it's time for this post again. I think in previous years that we've done this, we just chose our top books released that year, but I haven't read many books this year that have left me with a lingering wow feeling, so I'm just going to choose from all of the books I've read this year, regardless of their release dates (plus, older books deserve attention too).

There are some books that I've read this year that I enjoyed at the time, but in hindsight, they haven't stuck with me as much as I thought they would, these ones are the ones that still impress me as much as they did when I initially read them (the list is in no particular order):

Note: A few of these are sequels and will have summaries that spoil earlier books in the series, so if the listing has "(sequel)" after the authors name...well, you know to be careful of spoilers if you've not read the series yet.


1. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
3. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta (sequel)
4. Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta (sequel, actually a sequel to #3 - it's the 3rd in a trilogy)
5. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
6. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaqueline Moriarty
7. Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
8. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
9. 1-800-Where-R-You series by Meg Cabot
10. Foretold by Jana Oliver (sequel)
11. An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
12. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Normally I'd give my reasons for each choice, but I think I'll skip that this year (if you want to know, just look up my review). Really, each reason could just be summed up with one/a combination/all of these gifs:


What'd you guys think of these books (if you've read them)? And what are your top books of 2012?

Later.

Julie's Top 12 Books of 2012:
Unlike Lanna, this was probably a record year in books for me, already over 150 and still going (if goodreads counted manuscripts, it would probably be like 160). Picking just 12 books is hard. So, I'm breaking this up into CATEGORIES.

YA Debut Novels
1.) Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
2.) Definace by C.J. Redwine
3.) The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna
4.) My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
5.) Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry 
6.) Gilt by Katherine Longshore
7.) Everneath by Brodi Ashton 
8.) Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
9.) Cinder by Marissa Meyer
10.) Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
11.) Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
12.) If I Lie by Corrine Jackson

2012 YA Releases (Not Sequels)
1.) The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
2.) Grave Mercy by R.L. LaFevers
3.) A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger
4.) Don't Breathe a Word by Holly Cupala
5.) The Diviners by Libba Bray
6.) Such a Rush by Jennifer Echols
7.) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson
8.) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Sequels:
1.) Timepiece by Myra McEntire
2.) Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
3.) Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

Pre-2012 YA Release:
1.) The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder
2.) Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
3.) Legend by Marie Lu
4.) Julie Immortal by Stacey Jay
5.) How to Ruin... series by Simone Elkeles

Non-YA:
1.) The Ugly Duchess by Eloisa James (romance novel)
2.) A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean (romance novel)
3.) Splendid by Julia Quinn (romance novel/non-2012 release)
4.) Size 12 and Ready to Rock by Meg Cabot (adult novel)
5.) Thunder and Roses by Mary Jo Putney (romance novel/non-2012 release)
6.) Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (memoir)

So...yeah...I read a lot of books. I also have more, mostly shorter lists, of books that I'll be talking about in the future. And I'll actually talk about them instead of just listing because I won't have as many books. Any books you agree with me on? Anything you didn't get to? Disagree with me on anything? Let me know!

--Julie

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Book Haul 142

Lanna:
I have been so terrible at blogging these past few months, and it's really bugging me. Or maybe it's the reading funk that is bugging me. Either way really, I miss reading/blogging and I hope that next year will be better as far as that goes. Anyway, onto the book haul.

These books are all the ones I've gotten since the beginning of December/end of November, I think. Well, except for e-books, I've gotten a couple of those but I don't feel well and kind of can't be bothered trying to find which ones it was, so:

For Review:

Undone by Cat Clarke - I loved Entangled by Cat Clarke (in that, "OMG, Cat, I hate you! You put my heart through a shredder! I really, really hate you, you awesome author you!" kind of way) and I think I really enjoyed her second book at the time - it hasn't stuck with me the way her first did, but it was good. I didn't even know she had another book coming out until this one showed up.

Won:

Forbidden and From Where I Stand by Tabitha Suzuma - I actually won these in early November? I think? But Tabitha had a lot of stuff going on so, understandably, they didn't get to me for a while and I was all flkjldkfjhlkdj when they did. I already own (and adore) Forbidden, but this one is the US edition and it's signed, and I didn't have the other book (also signed). I won it in a cover design contest for her next book.

Bought:

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner - I actually got the sequel to this one, too, but it hasn't arrived yet because post at this time of year is annoying. I think it was Melina Marchetta that recommended this series, not sure. I've heard mixed things about the first book, but people say the second book is amazing and it's worth it reading this one just to get to the second.

Ruby Red by Linzi Glass - I think I just stumbled across this one by accident on Amazon and it sounded interesting. *shrugs*

Blood Red, Snow White by Marcus Sedgwick - Missxrojas on youtube recommended this one, I think. It sounded interesting when she described it and it was really cheap for this one and the cover is really pretty in person and...yeah.

What'd you guys get? And have you read any of the ones I've mentioned? What'd you think of them, if you have?

Later.

Julie:

It's late and I need to be up in 4 hours, so just a really quick version. I'm pretty sure I'm missing an ebook or two, but I'll mention them next week.

The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar (ARC borrowed from Mitali)
Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (paperback purchased from Strand)
Secrets of My Hollywood Life by Jen Calonita (paperback purchased from Strand)
When You Give a Duke a Diamond by Shana Galen (ebook purchased from Amazon)
The FitzOsbornes at War by Michelle Cooper (ARC "purchased" from Random Buzzers)
Kiss Me Again by Rachel Vail (hardcover for review from Harper)
Witch World by Christopher Pike (hardcover for review from Simon and Schuster)
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (hardcover for review from HarlequinTeen Panel)

What's in your mailbox this week?

--Julie

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh

Note: This is the second book in a series (and, I actually think the summary is pretty spoilery).

Enshadowed
by Kelly Creagh
Summary: While Varen remains a prisoner in a perilous dream world where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life, Isobel travels to Baltimore to confront the dark figure known throughout the world as the Poe Toaster. This man, the same man who once appeared to Isobel in her dreams and abandoned her in Varen’s nightmare world, holds the key to saving Varen.

But when Isobel discovers a way to return to this dream world, she finds herself swept up in a realm that not only holds remnants of Edgar Allan Poe’s presence, but has also now taken on the characteristics of Varen’s innermost self. It is a dark world of fear, terror, and anger.

When Isobel once more encounters Varen, she finds him changed. And now Isobel must face a new adversary—one who also happens to be her greatest love.
So, I really loved the first book in the series - it's sitting on my favourites shelves right now. Obviously, because of that, I had high hopes for this one. And it was sort of a let down...and sort of not, too.

This book was just so, so, so slow. It felt like barely anything happened. It only started to get good in the last 50-60 or so pages (and the book is over 300 pages long). Up until that last little part of the book, it dragged and seemed to just be a whole lot of filler stuff.

Now, the filler stuff was well written and every now and then there were little details that seemed important and every couple of chapters there was something that captured my interest. But then it would abruptly stop and go back to being kind of dull - most of the book had me feeling that way you feel when you're waiting to go somewhere, and you're all ready to leave but you can't just yet and time seems to drag on so slowly, and that's such a frustrating feeling.

Varen was probably one of my favourite characters--if not my actual favourite--from the first book. So maybe the lack of his presence through the majority of this book had an impact on how much--or how little--I enjoyed the book, but even ignoring that...it still felt lacking something in the plot, like a lot could've been cut out without it being missed.

Sorry, I'm very clumsily trying to explain why the book didn't really work for me and I'm not doing very well. Basically, it felt like a filler book, like it's just there to be a bridge between the first and third books while not really doing much on its own. It's only the last few chapters that saved it for me as far as the plot goes; the writing, the characters, the setting, the atmosphere...all of that was still really good.

In that last part of the book, it was back to being almost as good as the first book was. It had me hooked and it made me acutally feel things (other than frustration, annoyance and boredom), while the rest of the book was just kind of underwhelming and took me a couple of weeks to drag myself through. But that last part, that good part, it made it all worth it and I can't wait for the next book.

I still love this series, even if this book was a bit of a disappointment. The first book was a 5 star book to me, this one was more of a 2.5 star book because of the plot, with a 4 star ending.

I wish this review was better, but that's the best I can do. I really recommend this series though, it's awesome and genuinely one of the most original YA paranormal books I've read.

Later.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Discussion/Rant - In Defence of YA

This post was actually just something I found in the drafts of our tumblr for the book blog. It was a response to someone who was basically saying that YA books are trash, making sweeping generalisations about an entire category of books based on a few bad examples from that category (another fact about this person: she had many posts on her blog fangirling TV shows like Gossip Girl, Glee, and Pretty Little Liars - which is fine, but it is a relevant fact for this post).

The thing that provoked the post is over with now but I still see a lot of people being judge-y of YA books and the people that read them, so I figured I'd post this even though if you're following this blog, you're obviously someone who likes YA - but discuss it with me. Do you agree or disagree with what I (am about to) say? Do you have any other things to say in defence of YA books?

Don't Judge A Book By It's Category

Young Adult literature has a bad reputation. Some people think it’s all trash (thanks for that, Twilight), some people think it’s all terribly written (still lookin’ at 'choo, Twilight) and just - a lot of people think it’s bad in general. And the more annoying, pretentious ones, look down on other people for reading it.

I have no issue with people not being into reading YA. Or with people not liking books that I do (opinions are subjective and if anyone looks up their all time favourite book, they will find some negative reviews because no book is universally loved). I don’t mind if people think that specific books are trash or poorly written, because honestly, some are. There are probably a lot that are, and then there's a lot that will be trash to some but wonderful to others and they just have to agree to disagree. And that's fine.

But I have an issue with people making generalisations that apply to an entire category of books, because everything they accuse YA books of, adult books can be just as guilty of. People didn't start saying that Adult books were all trashy upon the release of 50 Shades of [Terrible] Gray, did they?

I’ve read YA books about depression, about grief, about love, about death; books that are beautifully written, with great characters; books that manage to explain certain feelings and experiences perfectly without falling back on cliches. And I’ve read adult books that have mediocre writing and seemed to stumble their way through those same subjects in a way I just couldn’t relate to, and I should be able to because of things I’ve experienced in my life. So for anyone to say that a book bad or badly written just because they’re YA, instead of what is actually in the pages… It’s annoying.

One of my best friends used to have an aversion to certain books (mostly YA books and ones that seem "chick lit"-ish), but she lets me give her big stacks of books to read and gives them all a chance. She ended up loving so many of them, some even became her favourite books, very few of them turned out to be ones she didn't enjoy. She was initially put off by the genres or the catagory the books were in and she would've missed out on so many amazing books if she hadn't be so open minded about giving them a chance.

My other best friend? He was one of the people that kind of looked down on YA books as not having much merit, but I got him to read three books (Paper Towns, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Perks of Being a Wallflower) and he changed his mind. He may not have converted to being a lover of YA, but he did give them a chance and saw they could be more than just trashy, mindless entertainment (he loved PoBaW).

I guess my point with that is that if you judge books purely by which shelves you'd find them on in a book store then you could end up missing out on some really great books. And even if you don't want to give those books a chance, don't go around claiming they're all trash.

While I'm on the subject of trash: Not every book has to be a literary masterpiece. I love to read, and I lovelovelove it when I find a book that wows me and gets under my skin or breaks my heart, but sometimes I do just crave some mindless entertainment. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I hate the double standard there is between TV shows and books (or movies and books). People who are okay watching "trashy" TV shows (or shows that are considered trashy by a lot of people) insulting YA books when the TV shows are just as guilty of all the flaws they accuse the books of, some even worse…seems pretty hypocritical, right? (Also, for the particular person who inspired this post, a lot of the TV shows she loves are actually based on books from a category that she judges other people for loving.).

They watch those shows and gush about all the couples they ship and all that fangirl/boy stuff. And that's fine, but why is it okay for TV shows to just be entertaining but books can’t be?

Twilight is terribly written. The characters are terrible, the plot is terrible. (Feel free to disagree on that, or even if you agree but love it in spite of that, that's cool too.) But, I am glad it got published. For a lot of people who weren’t really readers before, it was like a gateway book that lead them to read more (and eventually, read better) books… I never consider that a bad thing. If "trashy" books can get people reading, bring on the trashy books.

I don't really mind what people read, so long as they read. I love books. Seriously, if you put me in a room with books I will be happier than if I'm in a room without them - just being near books makes me happier. Which may be weird (I dunno, that apply to anyone else too?), but it's true and I love it when other people read too.

There are always good books to be found, even if you have to read a bunch of bad or mediocre books to get to them. I like that - it makes me appreciate the amazing books more when I do find them, and until I do find them, the other books are entertaining enough and if they're entertaining then they definitely have at least some worth.

This post has been a bit on the rambling side, so the tl;dr version:
  • Double standards are annoying.
  • Generalisations, again, are annoying.
  • If you don’t want to read YA, that’s cool, but don’t be pretentious about it.
  • YA or adult: you’ll find amazing books and crappy books in both categories, neither is perfect.
  • People should read what they want and love whatever books they want without having people look down on them for it. If Twilight is your favourite book, then that's great. If your favourite book is Pride and Prejudice, that's great too. If you have a favourite book at all, no matter what it is, then that is great.
And I'm done rambling now.

Later.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

Breadcrumbs
by Anne Ursu

Summary: Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. They had been best friends since they were six, spending hot Minneapolis summers and cold Minneapolis winters together, dreaming of Hogwarts and Oz, superheroes and baseball. Now that they were eleven, it was weird for a boy and a girl to be best friends. But they couldn't help it - Hazel and Jack fit, in that way you only read about in books. And they didn't fit anywhere else.

And then, one day, it was over. Jack just stopped talking to Hazel. And while her mom tried to tell her that this sometimes happens to boys and girls at this age, Hazel had read enough stories to know that it's never that simple. And it turns out, she was right. Jack's heart had been frozen, and he was taken into the woods by a woman dressed in white to live in a palace made of ice. Now, it's up to Hazel to venture into the woods after him. Hazel finds, however, that these woods are nothing like what she's read about, and the Jack that Hazel went in to save isn't the same Jack that will emerge. Or even the same Hazel.

Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen," Breadcrumbs is a story of the struggle to hold on, and the things we leave behind.

I read this book because I was looking for a light read that would give me that sort of magical Christmassy feeling, and the book almost delivered. Almost.

I love The Snow Queen, so this being a retelling/a story inspired by The Snow Queen appealed to me but it wasn't amazing. As a retelling, it was kind of mediocre really.
I loved the writing. I think the writing was the best part of the book and there are quite a lot of scraps of paper littered throughout my copy of the book to mark all the pages with quotes that I like. The book is worth reading even just for the writing. A few examples:

“I believe that the world isn't always what we can see. I believe there are secrets in the woods. And I believe that goodness wins out. So, if someone's changed overnight - by witch curse or poison apple or were-turtle - you have to show them what's good. You show them love. That works a surprising amount of the time.” 

“She understood. They were plastic flowers of words—but they looked nice on the surface.”  

It’s all going to be okay. She would like to hear that now, even if it was a lie. Because some lies are beautiful. Stories do not tell you that.”

The characters...I liked them. I wasn't particularly attached to them and didn't feel emotionally invested at all in what happened to them, but I liked them.

I also really liked that Hazel was a little girl whose best friend was a boy and that she liked stories and ballet and superheroes and dragons and knights - I liked that the story showed a girl who was somewhere in between being a girly girl and being a tom boy, because I was like that when I was little (I was the girl who climbed trees wearing dresses, who had more male friends than female, who played with dolls and the games that the boys played too). Most stories I've read have the girl be one or the other, but Hazel was a lot like I was.
I think the worst part of the book, the part that really held it back from being really good, was the length and pacing of it. It felt like the uninteresting parts of the book were really drawn out to the point where sometimes they started to drag and I just wanted to rush through them to get to the interesting parts. And the interesting parts...well, they felt rushed. I wish less time was spent on the build up and more on the action/adventure.

The book did give me the wintery sort of feeling I was looking for, but the negative aspect I just mentioned kind of dampened the magical feeling I wanted.
It was a sweet book, and it was good and I'm glad I read it, it just left me feeling a little underwhelmed when I finished it and kind of unsatisfied because of the best parts being rushed and the dull parts being longer than it felt they needed to be. I'd rate the book 3 stars out of 5 - would have been higher if not for the main issue I mentioned.
Later.

p.s. I lovelovelove the cover of this book. It's lovely and I love that it didn't whitewash Hazel. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Book Haul (141)

Well hello there! My semester is winding down, just one week of classes and then two days of finals for me, then I'm on break for about 5 weeks. During that time, I'll be reading and blogging my heart out, as well as working on getting an apartment in the summer, doing some math to see what my parents can reasonably afford, cleaning up my resume and cover letter for summer internships, and doing some other things that I can't talk about yet.

So basically, starting sometime around Christmas, you can start expecting ALL of the reviews because I've got like 20+ to write. And then I'll be reading a lot to stock up for the future.

In other news, while this book haul DOES look bad, it's not horrendous. The ebooks were either free normally or they were on sale and I was using gift cards, four of the books I bought were for a signing, and all but three of them were at least half off. So...go me?

Purchased:
Dangerous Voices by Rae Carson (ebook available for free from Amazon)
An Affair Before Christmas by Eloisa James (ebook purchased from Amazon with gift card)
Passion and Pleasure in London by Melody Thomas (ebook purchased from Amazon with gift card)
The Countess by Lynsay Sands (ebook purchased from Amazon with gift card)
The Bride Wore Scarlet by Liz Carlyle (ebook purchased from Amazon with gift card)
Drink, Slay, Love by Sarah Beth Durst (paperback purchased from Strand)
Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson (hardcover purchased from Strand)
Touching the Surface by Kim Sabitini (hardcover purchased from Strand)
Shift by Jeri Smith-Ready (hardcover purchased from Strand)
Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris (hardcover purchased from Strand)
Send Me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt (hardcover purchased from Books of Wonder and signed)
Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNara (hardcover purchased from Books of Wonder)
Fair Coin by E.C. Meyers (hardcover purchased from Books of Wonder)
What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton (hardcover purchased from Strand and signed)

For Review:
Hallowed by Cynthia Hand (paperback received from HarperTeen)

So, that's it for me this week and I may or may not have another haul for you next weekend!

--Julie

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

Note: this is the third and final book in the Lumatere Chronicles series. My review will be spoiler-free, but the summary may not be.
Quintana of Charyn
by Melina Marchetta

Summary: There's a babe in my belly that whispers the valley, Froi. I follow the whispers and come to the road . . .

Separated from the girl he loves and has sworn to protect, Froi must travel through Charyn to search for Quintana, the mother of Charyn's unborn king, and protect her against those who will do anything to gain power. But what happens when loyalty to family and country conflict? When the forces marshalled in Charyn's war gather and threaten to involve the whole of the land, including Lumatere, only Froi can set things right, with the help of those he loves.

I don't even know how to explain just how much I love this book.

I've said, more times than I can count, that Melina Marchetta is one of my favourite authors. She has yet to write a book that I didn't love and most of them make it onto my list of favourite books ever. This book is no exception. This series is excellent.

I love high fantasy TV shows and movies, but I didn't really have much desire to read high fantasy books until I read this series and, with each book in the series, it just left me craving more.

...And I'm getting to a terrible start to this review, because the more I love a book, the more my reaction tends to be along the lines of this:
Or this:
Or this:

And the words just don't want to happen, or don't quite do my feelings justice.

Maybe a list would help. Reasons to love this book (and all Melina Marchetta books):
  • Melina Marchetta writes beautifully. Some of my favourite quotes ever are from her books.
  • She creates characters that I can't help but adore. I feel emotionally invested in the relationships in the book, and not just the main ones, even the little side characters who are often overlooked in other books have the ability to turn me into a quivering ball of emotion or have me grinning like a total idiot as I turn the pages.
  • Re: characters and writing - She writes the characters and their relationships (as in, all relationships, not just romantic ones) with the same realness that she does in her contemporary stories and even though the story is set in this fantasy world with bizarre, unreal things happening, it feels real. Her characters aren't perfect, they have flaws and unique personalities and I adore them for that. For example, I love Isaboe as a character - but in this book, she said and did some things that pissed me off...but at the same time, it made her seem more human and she can't be perfect and all of the characters have that humanity to them.
  • And another character thing: she manages to redeem characters from things that I hadn't thought it would be possible to come back from. Froi does thing in the first book that is awful, and she made me understand him, and care about him and in the end I loved his character even though he tried to do this awful thing...she never made what he did okay, but she makes it so the reader can forgive him and understand how the other characters can forgive him.
  • She's one of those authors that seems to have thought out every detail. She'll mention something in passing that seems insignificant and then it can pop up again later as a loose end being tied that you didn't even realise was still hanging. She weaves it all together so that, in the end, it feels like the story is like a beautifully crafted web where everything ties together perfectly and everything is connected in ways you couldn't see until the end.
  • The way she ends books. She writes endings that are just right. Just the right amount of closure, just the right amount of detail given, just the right amount of stuff  left unsaid, just the right amount of happiness and hope. Just right in every way.
  • The way she writes love stories. There are so many within the pages of this book and the previous two and I internally fangirl just a little bit for each and every one of them and they're each unique in their own ways. (Okay, so maybe I was fangirling more than just a little at parts of this book...)
There's more, but my brain is just not co-operating.

Basically: the book was brilliant; as an ending to a series, like the endings of her books, it was just right. If you haven't read a Melina Marchetta book yet, go read one (Jellicoe Road is my favourite, The Pipers Son and this series are tied for second).

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Later.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

13th Sign Blog Tour: SAGITTARIUS (Pre-Ordering, Possible Prizes, and Giving Back!)

Welcome to DAY SAGITTARIUS of 13 Days of THE 13TH SIGN Preorder Contest! SAGITTARIUS is traditionally considered to be the ninth sign of the zodiac. 
SAGITTARIUS characteristics include: cheerful, optimistic, generous, restless, controlling, and logical.

(Want to learn more about your 12-sign horoscope, your 13-sign horoscope, and which horoscope sign you ACT like? Take THE 13TH SIGN quiz!)

We are happy to host Day Ten of this contest!

So. What is this contest all about?
If you preorder a copy of THE 13TH SIGN by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, you will be entered into a contest! Where you can WIN THINGS! And there are new prizes every day!

And EVERY pre-order will be *matched* by a $1.00 donation to RIF, a literacy program committed to placing books in the hands of kids who need them most.

About the book:

What if there was a 13th zodiac sign? 


You’re no longer Sagittarius, but Ophiuchus, the healer, the 13th sign. 


Your personality has changed. So has your mom’s and your best friend’s. 


What about the rest of the world? 


What if you were the one who accidentally unlocked the 13th sign, causing this world-altering change, and infuriating the other 12 signs?  


Jalen did it, and now she must use every ounce of her strength and cunning to send the signs back where they belong. Lives, including her own, depend upon it.

What can I win TODAY?
If you preorder THE 13TH SIGN today, Sunday, December 2, you could win:
-key charm
-signed THE 13TH SIGN swag
-pink hair extension
-hardcover copy of MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH by Bethany Griffin
-signed paperback of AUTUMN WINIFRED OLIVER DOES THINGS DIFFERENT by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
-a 13th SIGN tshirt

How do I enter?
Preorder THE 13TH SIGN! You can preorder it through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, or through your local independent bookstore. Then email your receipt TO KRISTIN at ktubb@comcast.net. You will be entered into that day’s drawing, the grand prize drawing, and your purchase will be *matched* by a $1.00 donation to RIF!

Are there other ways to enter the contest?
Yep!  You can be entered into the daily prize drawings by doing one or more of the following:
-Each preorder of THE 13TH SIGN = 10 entries into grand prize drawing and 10 entries into that day’s drawing
- Each person who blogs about the contest = 10 entries into that day’s drawing
-Each person who changes Twitter or Facebook avatar to cover = 5 entries into that day’s drawing (for each day it is present)
-Each Tweet or Facebook status mention of the book and contest = 2 entries for that day’s drawing (must include hashtag #the13thsign)
-Each RT of book and/or contest = 1 entry for that day’s drawing

BUT. You have to pre-order THE 13TH SIGN to enter to win the grand prize and to have your purchase matched with a RIF donation.

ALSO. To make sure you get the correct amount of entries, please let Kristin know if you’ve done any of the above! You can email her at ktubb@comcast.net with everything you’ve done to enter.

What is the grand prize?
A Nexus 7 ereader! BOOM. The grand prize winner will be announced on Kristin’s blog on Friday, December 7.

How long does the preorder contest last?
13 days total! You can visit these other blogs for each day’s prizes:
DAY ARIES: The Book Vortex
DAY TAURUS:  The Housework Can Wait
DAY GEMINI:  Magnet 4 Books
DAY CANCER:  Abby the Librarian
DAY LEO:  Mother Daughter Book Club
DAY VIRGO: S. R. Johannes/Market My Words
DAY LIBRA: Elizabeth O. Dulemba
DAY SCORPIO:  Citrus Reads
DAY OPHIUCHUS: Young Adult Books Central
DAY SAGITTARIUS: Bloggers [heart] Books
DAY CAPRICORN: - Middle Grade Mafioso
DAY AQUARIUS: Smack Dab in the Middle
DAY PISCES: From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors

Good luck! And don’t forget to take THE 13TH SIGN quiz


--Julie

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