Friday, August 29, 2014

Gallagher Girls 1

Title: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You (TOO LONG TITLE!)
Author: Ally Carter
Rating: 3/5
Age Group: Grades 8 and up

GoodReads Run down: 
 Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly
typical all-girls school-that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but it's really a school for spies. Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real "pavement artist"-but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?

Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she's on her most dangerous mission-falling in love.

Review: This was a free audio book from SyncYA - you know, the group I've pushed all summer - they are awesome! It had pretty solid reviews on GoodReads and a great premise. In the long run this was just okay for me. Cammie and her brilliant friends pose as rich girls at a prestigious school while really they are spies in training. Yes, yes, I know, it sounds so cool. Only, in real life, it just plays out as meh.

One thing though is this - I thought the book was for high school but it's more of a middle school book. If I had a daughter or my little sister was still that age I would encourage her to read this because the females are strong, smart, independent, and there's romance from a few angles - just enough to make you happy but nothing graphic. 

Cammie goes on a mission with her friends and meets a boy. He's a pretty average boy but Cammie's zero experience with boys makes him a fallen star and her world is consumed by him. I, on the other hand, have a hard time remembering his name.

The girls at the academy are fun though. Brilliant and starting to explore the world beyond the massive walls that protect them. Each smart in a different area but good at teamwork and always having each others back - that is awesome.  Even the girl they don't like, the girl who is forced to join to their crew but is still an outsider, well, you like her in the end. I'm a difficult person to win over, I get this strange overly, somewhat misled, loyalty thing and characters who start bad in my eyes have a VERY long road to redemption but Carter pulls it off. That alone makes make like this book more than I typically would.

 I did like the end though, it was fulfilling and Carter makes you happy with things that might not always rock your boat but do here. I've heard the books get better so I might give them a try later, when I'm not as loaded down with things. I will not listen to these though - ugh, the reader changed her voice to make all the girls sound like they were in elementary school and whiny.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Booker's Long List 2014

A few years ago I took a class centered around the Man Booker Prize. It was the only class with openings that fulfilled a requirement and I thought the class would be dull (though upon reflection I'm not sure why). I was so wrong. The class was great. I read books that changed my life and I'm now a life-long Atwood and Ishiguro fan. Not to mention, the Man Booker Prize itself is a really interesting prize.

Why is it interesting? So many reasons. I'll name a few but understand that this is a strange, rouge unicorn of a prize and there are many complexities.

1. The prize began of James Bond. Yes. Look it up. Long story short  -  Flemming was worried about his family's financial well being because he was getting old and didn't want to leave them in a lurch when he died. In the UK, and most countries, once an author dies their books have a few years where the profits go to the family of the author then the rights move around. Many things can happen to them but the author's family doesn't normally get the money.

So, one day, while golfing with a wealthy business friend, Flemming had this conversation and the friend ended up buying the rights to all the Bonds and more. This bloomed into the company acting as a shelter for authors. Which led to the creation of the Booker-McConnell Prize. *Please note that's a VERY abbreviated version.*

2. The prize eventually became the Man-Booker (another company bought in, then it became it's own thing, etc.). The rules though, for the longest time, were that any novel from a British Commonwealth could be nominated by a publisher. The rules this year have changed, it used to be that publishing houses could nominate around two authors who had never made the long list before and any author had had, at minimum, made the long list. This gave established publishing houses a BIG leg up because they could nominate a number of people after a while.

The rules changed this year. It feels like ALL the rules changed. Now these are the submission numbers:

1 submission - publishers with no listing
2 submissions - publishers with 1 or 2 longlisting(s)
3 submissions - publishers with 3 or 4 longlistings
4 submissions - publishers with 5 or more longlistings

AND! ANY NOVEL FIRST WRITTEN IN ENGLISH IS ALLOWED (*self-published not included) This is huge. Now the Americans can get in on the action. Now ANYONE can get in on the action.

I'm conflicted.


Now they've let the Americans in and I'm not sure how to react. Ok, yes, we were once part of the UK and I always wondered if they just didn't let us in because they were a bit bitter. Yes. Expanding to allow more people in is cool. The more the merrier, right? Well, I'm not sure.  

The Booker is HUGE in UK and the countries originally allowed to submit.  The judges, a group of writers, editors, celebrities, and anyone with any soft of name recognition, are always watched by the public, in the news, and stirring up drama. People place bets - YES! This is a big betting event. The newspapers write about, the gossip columns twitter, and bookies are in the spotlight. Book-bookies. YES!

Will it be as big here? Does it matter if it is? I don't know. I do know I don't want the prize dominated by the Americans. I also worry because the prize, while still dominated by white men, did have a number of authors of color on the list and as winners. Will this still happen? I ask because the books sells there probably don't compare to the book sells here and what if the prize picks more Americans because we have a bigger book market? Do we have a bigger book market?

UGH! I just don't know! So many questions. I need to do research.

Anyway, here is the long list - list borrowed from the Guardian because it had pictures and I didn't have to gather them myself as I'm already running late for work (yes, it a bit late, oh well. I'll publish the short list on time) (http://www.theguardian.com/books/gallery/2014/jul/23/man-booker-prize-2014-longlist-in-pictures)


Joshua Ferris: To Rise Again at a Decent Hour
Dentist Paul O'Rourke cannot face the thought of his own mortality, and swings between religions and relationships for solace. When someone adopts his identity online, he worries that the online "Paul" may be a better version of himself. The Guardian’s Alex Clark called it “enormously impressive”.
Richard Flanagan (Australian) The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Chatto & Windus)
Richard Flanagan: The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Alwyn Evans leads J Force, a group of second world war PoWs working for the Japanese on the infamous Burma Railway. The novel looks at the men on both sides, and circles through decades to explore the war's impact. The Observer's review declared it “a classic in the making”.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Karen Joy Fowler: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Upon its release, this novel tied reviewers in knots trying to avoid spoiling Fowler’s shocking novel about a 1970s Midwestern family torn apart by a behavioural psychology experiment. The Guardian called Fowler’s 10th novel an “achingly funny, deeply serious heart-breaker”.
Siri Hustvedt: The Blazing World (Sceptre).
Siri Hustvedt: The Blazing World
Presented as an academic paper, The Blazing World explores the cruelty of the art world through the eyes of a bitter painter who believes her lack of success is due to entrenched misogyny. She tests this theory by persuading three men to show her work under their names, and guess what happens?
Howard Jacobson: J
Howard Jacobson: J
Set in a brutal future where the past cannot be spoken of and the present is shadowed by a catastrophe referred to as “What Happened, If It Happened”. Two people fall in love, not knowing if they have been manipulated into the relationship. A big departure for the author of the Booker-winning Finkler Question.
Paul Kingsnorth: The Wake (Unbound).
Paul Kingsnorth: The Wake
“With my scramasax i saws up until his throta is cut." Eco-activist Kingsnorth crowd-funded his debut novel, a story of 11th-century English guerrillas fighting the Norman invasion written in a “shadow” version of Old English. The Guardian review declared it “a literary triumph”.
David Mitchell: The Bone Clocks (Sceptre).
David Mitchell: The Bone Clocks
Quasi-immortals battle at the margins of the everyday world; “bone clocks” are the human herd, doomed to run down and die. It’s a fantastical ride as we follow Holly Sykes, from runaway teenager to an old woman watching civilisation fail. We also meet a novelist who is cheekily reminiscent of Martin Amis.
Neel Mukherjee: The Lives of Others  (Chatto & Windus).
Neel Mukherjee: The Lives of Others
Set in Bengal, Mukherjee's novel focuses on the affluent Ghosh family and the social divisions of the 1960s. While the young Supratik becomes a communist, the rest of his family clings to an older order. Ranging over a large cast, it was praised by AS Byatt as "very ambitous and very successful".
David Nicholls: Us (Hodder & Stoughton).
David Nicholls: Us
After the huge success of One Day, takes on marriage and parenthood. Douglas Peterson faces life alone, as his son is about to leave for college, and his wife for good. But Douglas is devising a plan to use a family holiday around Europe to win back their love. Due in September, this is bound to be the bestseller of the list.
Joseph O'Neill: The Dog by (Fourth Estate).
Joseph O'Neill: The Dog
Due in September, this darkly comic novel is O'Neill's second Booker nomination, following 2008's Netherland. In 2007, a New York lawyer takes a job in Dubai, managing a huge family fortune. Hoping for a fresh start after a failed relationship, O'Neill's cerebral protagonist finds his gilded new world is not what he hoped.
Thomas Powers Orfeo Booker
Richard Powers: Orfeo
An elderly composer reads about the DIY biology movement – people tinkering with DNA at home – and orders the kit from the internet. Els accidentally becomes a wanted man, a bioterrorist on the run. The Guardian review found the book – much more about music than terror – "formidably intelligent" and "ecstatically noisy".
Ali Smith: How to Be Both
Ali Smith: How to Be Both
The Orange and Booker prize-shortlisted author publishes her new novel, a celebration of art and versatility, on September 4. In typically playful style, it spins two stories – about a 15th-century Renaissance artist, and a “child of a child of the 1960s” – into a double narrative.
Niall Williams: History of the Rain (Bloomsbury).
Niall Williams: History of the Rain
Williams is best known for Four Letters of Love. This new novel features a bedbound Irish woman reading her way through her dead father’s books, as she listens to the rain on the roof. It’s a celebration of books, love and “14 acres of the worst farming land in Ireland”.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ruin and Rising Review

Title: Ruin and Rising - Grisha 3
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Rating: 4/5
Age Group: YA

GoodReads Run down: The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.



Review: Third/concluding books are always difficult. They are difficult to wait for, difficult to write, really good. You know?
and difficult to read. There are so many things attached to them - the hopes and dreams of the characters, the world, the desires of the readers, and the pressure and loss of the writer. It's rare that I read a concluding book, especially that of a trilogy, and feel really good about it when I'm done. I mean, sometimes I feel good, but not

The only trilogy I can remember finishing and feeling really good about it, breathing a beautiful sigh of relief and happiness at how everything turned out, and even feeling like, wow, that was rocked, was the concluding book in the Casting Trilogy. Freeman nailed it. It's been a couple of years since I read it but every now and then I relive the ending and my mind is blow again.

Ruin and Rising had me a bit nervous but not as nervous as I could have been. The first two books were good, solid reads, worth the time and enjoyable. These books didn't blow me away though, they didn't make me long, so I didn't press getting the book. I don't own any of them and I'm really okay with that. So it took me a while to get to read this one because the library always gets books a bit after they come out and then someone actually beat me in line (yes, I could have cheated and gotten it first as I work at the library but I didn't).

When I finally sat down to read this I did in three days. That was the perfect amount of time for me too. Not so fast I forget it in a couple of months and not so slow I didn't want to read it. Bardugo's pace was good and her characters stay true. There are twists in the right places and her voice is so strong it felt like she was reading it to me.

This book actually had me loving a character as well. The other books were good, they had characters I really enjoyed and had some affection for, but not love. This time I did love Harshaw. Harshaw and Oncat (yes, I know, it's a typical J-book trope, the pet) made me love them. I laughed out loud many times and reveled in their small scenes.

"I want one!" called Harshaw
Zoya blew a damp curl from her forhead. "Oncat has a better change than you."
Harshaw held the little tabby above him. "Why, Oncat," he said. "You rouge."

 That was one of the best moments in the book. Page 290 was my favorite page I think, because the whole interaction was great but that was my favorite exchange.  I was all warm and fuzzy and giggling. These small slices of life, moments of lovely life, are Bardugo's magic in this book. I guess the first two books had those moments but they didn't strike me the way this one did. 

Bardugo handled the ending well, overall. I wasn't thrilled but I thought it was pretty cool. She pulled a JKR - did what was needed without being Veronica Roth. Well done. 

One thing about this book though - I forgot they were teenagers. Did anyone else feel like this was an adult book, just without the intense detail of typical, adult, high-fantasy and abundance of sex that plagues those books? I felt like the line between YA and Adult was especially blurred. I almost wonder if this was more of a YA written for adults book. I mean, I'm not complaining, but it just felt different, felt like adults were living this and not teens. ** Disclaimer - this has been on my mind recently. I read something about keeping YA for teens and I've been consumed with it since. Maybe that's another blog post though. **

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Fire Wish Review

Title: The First Wish
Author: Amber Lough
Rating: 2.5/5
Age Group: YA - even late middle school

GoodReads Rundown: A jinni. A princess. And the wish that changes everything. . . .

Najwa is a jinni, training to be a spy in the war against the humans. Zayele is a human on her way to marry a prince of Baghdad—which she’ll do anything to avoid. So she captures Najwa and makes a wish. With a rush of smoke and fire, they fall apart and re-form—as each other. A jinni and a human, trading lives. Both girls must play their parts among enemies who would kill them if the deception were ever discovered—enemies including the young men Najwa and Zayele are just discovering they might love.


Review: I should start that I was really excited about this book, so excited I got nervous it wouldn't
live up to my expectations. So I avoided reading it for a couple of weeks. Finally, I needed something quick and easy for my vacation (reading in airports can be distracting and planes as well but this was a good fit).

The world is cool. The underground city of the Jinn is interesting and the rules of the Jinn are a good adaptation of the traditional mythology. I even liked how the bottles were used. Also, how exciting is it that this is a book in the Middle East?! I was pumped about this part, because it's in an interesting part of the world we don't see much often in YA and since it had the fantasy element it wasn't straight depressing treatment of women. Buzz word alert, buzz alert, buzz alert - diversity in YA!

That said, the characters weren't amazing for me. Najwa was pretty cool - a Jinn spy who is captured and must live as a human or be killed. Yes, awesome idea. Only, she didn't have much umph. She was kind and cool and adapted well but I didn't feel much spark from her, which is ironic as she's party made of smoke and fire. She almost instantly feel in love with the Prince, which, ok, not that big of a deal because he's a prince, he's cute, he's smart, and he's forbidden. I am fine with it, only, I wanted more development. There were so many moments between them that were close to greatness then fell short. They could have really connected but it didn't happen as intensely as the ending called for.

Zayele, on the other hand, had spark but I really disliked her. She sets the entire story into action. Her relationship with her brother is pretty cool until you find out more of the back story and then I disliked her even more. She's so selfish and I know that's a typical problem - with teenagers and adults. Some selfish characters don't bother me and some do. She's one of the ones who did. I think in big part because she is so selfish she abandons people and has blinders on so she doesn't pick up on obvious clues. She's a bit dense. As in, there were things that were so obvious she should have figured them out and she didn't until she was flat out told.

The supporting cast has potential. The best friends were cool and I would love to see more of them. The adults weren't awful either but none of these people got much screen time to really develop. It felt as though every moment was an obvious push to move the story. Every moment should move the story but it shouldn't always feel like their only role is to move the story along, they should be complex and interesting too. I didn't feel like that here.

This is the first in a series but the ending of this book was enough for me. I doubt I'll read on in the series.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Meeting your Political thriller and action needs

People are heading back to school this week in the good ol' South but summer isn't over yet! Something all those procrastinators keep telling themselves. Those great people at SYNC YA have provided us with two more awesome listens - because they aren't letting the summer go gently either.
We've got two weeks (including this one) left until they finally close down for the summer.

So, the best news - those of you who didn't get all your summer reading done, well here's a book that's on many The Red Badge of Courage:


And, when that's done, if you're still in the mood for some awesome boys becoming men in the heat of battle here's another great listen.


 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Magic Breaks Review

Title: Magic Breaks - Kate Daniels 7
Author: Ilona Andrews
Rating:  4.5/5
Age Group: Adult

GoodReads Rundown:
No matter how much the paranormal politics of Atlanta change, one thing always remains the same: if there’s trouble, Kate Daniels will be in the middle of it…

As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from
Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…


Review: 
The Andrews are great. Solid story tellers who create some of my favorite urban fantasy. Their characters are among my favorites and I want to live in Kate world. They are good to their readers when go on tour, the post great free reads, and often times they attach short stories to their novels. The short stories are always great and really, they are just good people. No, I've never met them but they just feel like good people and if they aren't, well they do a really good job of seeming like it.

Also, I want to be a bouda.

 Typically theses books get 5 stars from me but this one lost half a star. I'll round up on GoodReads but here, where I'm the most honest I'm taking away half the star - damn it.

This book should be at the top of your reading list because it's a great, my following rant addresses the half-star penalty but does so by giving way too much away so if you've not read the book stop here, go read it, and come back to chat. It'll take you a day or so because it's sooo good you'll fly through it. I'll wait. Go. Go read it. 


This is chocked full of spoilers. Sorry. STOP HERE - THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!


Ok, you're back? Good. Let's go. 

Things I LOVED about this book:


Aunt B was an Agnes Scott girl - just like me! I didn't graduate from Agnes but I was there for two years and ASC says that means you're an Agnes girl. LOVE IT! Aunt B was my favorite character while she lived and it makes me all happy inside to know she was a Scottie.

Ascanio was loud, proud, and in a good half of the book. His interaction with the other characters is so funny it makes me giggle and laugh out loud so my husband gives me funny looks. His interactions with Derek and Desandra were classic. SO good.

Doolittle and Kate have the heart-to-heart they needed and I'm not mad at Doolittle anymore and I'm so glad they are back on the best of terms.

Desandra. Hell yes. She is funny, smart, a bit mean, and ready to protect her people. LOVE IT! She is a bit like Andrea and I love Andrea so there ya go.

Andrea is having a baby! So exciting. I can't wait to know more. I wonder if Kate will actually have time to have a baby....hmmm...

We saw the witches a little. I hope we see more of them soon.

The Wererats were fun. Robert and Thomas provided a realistic view of Pack alphas and were cool.

Kate meets her grandmother. Yes. That was awesome! Though I think we'll all miss Slayer. The death of Slayer was the birth of a new Kate. It'll be interesting to see how that goes.

Roland. The way they handled Roland was perfect. Kate wasn't ready to win a big battle with him and instead of making something cheesy happen, like him have some blaring weakness that would everyone else has missed for centuries, they kept the battle from happening. That was cool. Kate was able to step and show off some crazy power she shouldn't even have, impress everyone, Roland included, and still everyone walked away.

My problems with this book:


I really disliked Kate in the prison. That whole thing took forever. I wasn't a fan of the water prison, it seemed odd and didn't match the pace of the rest of the book. Wasn't that big of a deal but it was strange. My real issue was getting out the prison. OH MY BOOK! Why did we need to know about all those different rooms? I didn't need to know. That took forever. So would have done better to have that down to one chapter.

The Pack without Kate - Kate without the Pack. Don't like it. Leaves them both too open. I'm not sure Jim can hold it. Gah! I dislike this.

We heard nothing of Dahli from Jim or anyone. It's like she doesn't exists anymore. I dislike that. She would have been there in the mist of the first standoff if nothing else.

Curran's role. I was conflicted with the Hugh v. Curran fight. Curran is great and I think the Andrews write their relationship beautifully - both couples seem like true teams. I value that and it makes me want to read more. My problem is that the fight on the bridge, between Huge and Curran was...hmmm...I guess high school feeling? I don't know. It just seemed like the classic - fighting over the girl scene. I care for those. The girl can fight for herself. I get it was more than that and don't begrudge Curran the anger he felt for Hugh, but it just felt like a bit wrong. If they had done it together I might have felt better. I'm not sure. This just rubbed me the wrong way.


The Knight was Kate's friend died. That bummed me out more than it should have since we didn't know him well but he seemed really interesting and his powers beyond cool! I wish he had been on the brink and Kate saved him. Ugh. Sadness. ** This isn't really a problem as much as a bummer.**

Things I want to know:

Will the next books be Kate books or will they just be in the world? Are we going to see people attack/answer the "challenge" she didn't mean to make?

Is Dahli now the Consort? Will she be able to hold that job?

Is Derek head of security or does he work with/for Curran? 

Why is Hugh still alive?

So Kate is married to a member of the Pack but isn't part of the Pack? I don't like this. I liked Kate being part of the Pack even though they were jerks to her. The support they provided, the power that it gave her made me happy. Now she, Curran, and Julie are on their own and I worry for them. How are they going to fight without backup? How are they are going to make money? No one goes to Cutting Edge...ugh! My Capricorn side is flipping out here people!!!!

What kind of cookies were on the counter and did they eat them?


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday

It's been a while but my love for lists has won out again - another list for Top Ten Tuesday.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and Bookish
It's all about my favorite things - bookish lists!


Ten Authors Whose Work Fill My Shelves

(I changed it a bit because the wording was so awkward)


1. Patricia Briggs: 

I own almost every book she's published. There are a couple of exceptions but that's because I'm saving them for a time when I'm desperate for a new Briggs book. She has her own shelf in my favorite's bookcase.

2. Seanan McGuire

True,  I don't own her Mia Grant books, but I own almost all her McGuire books.

3. Sarah Addison Allen

There really aren't that many yet, but I own everything Allen has published. I LOVE her and get her books the day they are released. Such happy, sweet, light reading. 

4. Sarah Morton

Once again - I find out one of her book is being released and I'm at the door of the store. She is brilliant and I adore her work. You MUST check her out if you've not read her yet!!!


5. Ilona Andrews

I have to confess, I don't buy everything that this couple releases but I buy a good portion of it. I'm not totally sold on their heavy romance books but I will most likely give one a try because they are such fun writers. 

6. Maggie Stiefvater

I grab her books up as fast as I can. She's brilliant, a certain kind of magic that most don't have. She will have her own shelf soon too. 

7. Charles de Lint

He's brilliant and prolific - I own tons of his books, they take up more than a shelf and I've given some of them away because they too wonderful to keep to myself. 

8. C.S.Lewis 

Between my husband and I, we own a heaping amount of Lewis. He's just so good!

9. Neil Gaiman 

Sigh. He's good, not brilliant but good and I own a heaping number of his works. (Which aren't that many unless you include the comics. As a comic girl I own a number of them.)

10. Shakespeare 

I own his complete works then still have a number of my favorite plays in paperback for easier access. I also own some academic pieces discussing his work so I'm counting that. 

My top ten is a little fluffier than I thought it would be but it's all good stuff. What's your top 10?