Thursday, April 30, 2015

Crimson Bound

Last year's Cruel Beauty was one of my favorite reads of 2014. I had rather high expectations for Crimson Bound as a result, and they were well and truly met.

Rachelle was her aunt's apprentice, learning the trade of a woodwife and how to protect her village from the forestborn. Rachelle is obedient but also restless and annoyed with her aunt's lack of determination to fight the Devourer she knows is rising again. Overconfident and thinking she can control the situation, Rachelle strays from the past and begins conversing with a forestborn. This leads to her downfall and her becoming a bloodbound-a murderer with blood on her hands bound to become a forestborn herself. Before that fate can befall her, Rachelle is determined to take as many forestborn down as she can and joins the King's elite guard of bloodbound soldiers. She immerses herself in fighting as many forces of the forest as she can, but she knows time is running out. The world is growing dark. The Devourer is returning. When she is put in charge of one of the king's illegitimate sons and discovers there is a chance to recover a fabled sword that can defeat the Devourer forever, she knows this is the final chance there is to free the world of the Devourer forever and atone as much as she can for the sins of her past.

Rosamund Hodge has a way of just sweeping me into her story and world that is rare. This was definitely a read I experienced every emotion and element of. My children found themselves quite neglected. The world-building here is fantastic. It's not quite as complicated as the world of Cruel Beauty,  but it's no less intricate. There's a magical forest overlapping the known world made of myth and shadows and ruled by cruel, heartless beings who hunt humans for sport and delight in tricking and coercing them into their dark world. It brings to mind the best and darkest stories of the Fae. The world of the humans is very like that of France in its royal heyday with vain, selfish royalty hidden away from the harsh realities of the world, bastards fighting for the throne, a bishop warning against coming judgement, and revolt on the horizon. There is intrigue, treason, betrayal, and horror waiting around every twisted corridor of the palace and gardens.

Rachelle is a focused and determined heroine. She is overcome by guilt for the sins of her past, but determined to help as many people as she can before she is forever damned. She desperately wants to be removed from everyone and everything, but she just doesn't have it in her. As much as she wants to be cynical and heartless, she desperately clings to what human companionship she has and any sense of belonging and love she can find. And this is completely her story. It's the story of a girl desperate for redemption even though she believes herself to be far beyond its reach. The far reaching consequences of the deeds she has committed separate her from everything she ever knew and loved, but she is resourceful, clever, and strong-willed. All these traits serve her well as she goes on her quest to rid the world of evil. She is a well rounded heroine as well, making plenty of mistakes from trusting the wrong people to not fully trying to understand the workings of the court around her and how important it is.

 Despite being a bloodbound with an unhealthy dose of self-hate, Rachelle is not without people she feels close to. Amelie is a girl whose life Rachelle once saved. The girl made her a friend and is quite an amazing one. I really enjoyed this aspect of the story and how their friendship was so solid despite how little they could truly share with each other because of Rachelle's position. Justine is another female friend, a fellow bloodbound, but one who works for the Bishop. Justine is determined to help an save Rachelle because she sees more in her. Both of these friendships reflect different aspects of Rachelle's personality and play important parts in her journey. In addition to these three girls, the books has several other very powerful women who do not shrink from doing what they need to do even when it is incredibly difficult and requires a hardened strength.

Then there are the two main male characters in the story. Erec is the captain of the King's bloodbound, one of his illegitimate sons, and the person who trains Rachelle in fighting and gives her the will to keep living. Armand is another of the King's bastards, sainted for not becoming a bloodbound when marked, and the person Rachelle is assigned to guard. Rachelle and Erec are friends but she doesn't completely trust him. They have fundamental philosophical differences that don't allow for them to be close despite Rachelle's attraction to him. Rachelle doesn't like or trust Armand at first, but gradually learns to appreciate and understand him. I have a feeling some may not want to read this due to fear of the dreaded love triangle. There is nothing to worry about there. Love triangle is not what this is. There's a fair amount of lust, confusion, treachery, and conflict in a tangled web of lies and double-crossings, but little of it has anything to do with love. There is a romantic love element that develops with one, which is my one major quibble with the book. Unfortunately it rather largely impacted my full enjoyment of the story. I didn't complete buy the romantic love aspect of this. There was too little organic development of it for me to completely believe it, which is unfortunate given that it is rather important to how the plot works out. I do like how that wrapped up though and how much confusion surrounded it for both characters.

What I really loved about this book were the themes of redemption, mercy, and justice Hodge worked into the story. Rachelle's story is mostly about that. It's hope overcoming despair, light overcoming darkness, emptiness being filled. It completely captured me.

I read an e-galley provided by the publisher, Balzer & Bray, via Edelweiss. Crimson Bound is on sale May 5th.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

TTT: Girls Who Run Their Worlds

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This Week's Topic: Books Which Feature Characters Who___________

I'm choosing to fill in the blank with "Girls Who Run Their Worlds"

Whether they are countries, businesses, homes, wherever these girls have made a place for themselves in the world, they own it and run it beautifully.

The Queen of Attolia and the The Queen of Eddis from Megan Whalen Turner's Queen's Thief Series: These queens and the way they rule their countries are incredibly different, but they are both incredibly good at what they do, are dedicated to the well-being of their people, and want to see their countries prosper. 

Princess Eilonwy from The Chronicles of Prydain: Whether it's keeping house from one old man and his pig keeper, practicing magic, or learning to be a princess, Eilonwy is the master of everything she does and controls her own destiny.

 Queen Elisa from the Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy: There is a lot to be said for the way Elisa grows into herself and her role as this trilogy unfolds.

Fer (The Lady of the Summerlands) from Winterling Trilogy: Fer is young and she makes a lot of mistakes, but how she learns to atone for that and her desire to learn how she can best serve her people. 

Tiffany Aching: She's a witch and she does it better than anyone could protecting the people who need even when they don't always appreciate it. 

Alunna from Above World Trilogy: Alunna's devotion to righting her world and saving her people is admirable.

 Natividad: At first Natividad's power might seem limited and her choices all but made for her, but she has a quiet strength and knows how to use the power she has to turn the tide of events.

Sophie Hatter: No one could run this hodgepodge house with its cranky vane owner, his mischievous fire demon, and awkward apprentice like Sophie does.

Lydia Reales: Her dream is to someday run a national campaign and she will do her job better than everyone else around her to make it come true. Don't get in her way. 

Kiki Strike: When Kiki decides something is going to happen, it happens. Whether it is in the Shadow City or in her friends' lives on the surface of NY, she will make it come to pass.

Who would you add to this list? 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Birthday Books

 My kids birthdays are coming up in May. Here are some of the books they will be receiving as presents.

For Bit (turning 11):

For LM (turning 7):

Looking forward to the celebrations, and can not believe my kids are both this old. Time flies.

I also have a birthday in  May that will hopefully yield some bookish joy for me. I'll keep you posted. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TTT: All Time Favorite Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This Week's Topic: All Time Favorite Authors

Keeping this at 10 was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.

ETA: OKAY. I don't know how I managed to do this and leave Dorothy Sayers off of it, but that is all kinds of wrong. It's probably because I was distracted watching Parks and Recreation while I was making it. But Dorothy Sayers belongs on it. So if I were doing it properly again the first time, Connie Willis would be moved off as honorable mention. I seriously don't know what happened there. I KNOW I added an image of Gaudy Night to this post when I was doing it. Sigh.

What are your favorite authors?

Monday, April 20, 2015

My Life in Dioramas

My Life in Dioramas by Tara Altebrando is a wonderful heart-warming MG story about change, friendship, and family told with humor and realism.

Kate has lived her entire life in Big Red, the old farmhouse her parents own. Now half way through her 7th grade year they tell her they are moving. Worse, they are moving in with her grandparents because they are in financial trouble. Kate has to leave her school, dance class, friends, and the only life she has ever known. But Kate isn't going down without a fight. She hatches a number of schemes to turn off potential buyers, everything from causing a terrible stench to having her teenage neighbor play loud music. As time goes on, Kate realizes that more might be at stake than just her house though, and as she begins to feel more desperate and lost she makes a series of dioramas illustrating her life in the home she loves.

Kate's voice is absolutely perfect for the story being told here. She is a wonderful combination of vulnerable, sarcastic, bossy, and lost. She is a typical middle schooler. The plans she comes up with to save her home border on brilliant and ridiculous. Even thought they clearly have little hope of working, she attacks them with all the enthusiasm of her dwindling childhood. The house is not the only change on Kate's horizon though. Her relationship with her best friend, Stella, is changing. Stella seems more and more interested in boys and popularity than the interests they used to share. Then there are the boys themselves. Kate doesn't want to be noticing them, but darn it if they are making themselves more noticeable.

Kate's parents are incredibly important to the story too. Kate learns a great deal about her parents through the course of the story. She is in that stage when a child is really discovering their parents have a much wider life extending beyond the life of the child. Kate's parents have made some foolish financial decision, and she is furious with them. At the same time, she can see that they are mourning these as well. And Kate's mom is suffering from depression. I really like the way this is dealt with. Kate only knows the bare minimum of what is going on, but it she overhears things and has uncomfortable conversations with her mother. I felt this was realistically dealt with and is a situation many readers will be able to identify with.

My Life in Dioramas is a great pick for MG readers who enjoy realistic fiction. It is a short read and wonderfully illustrated too.

I read ARC provided by the publisher, Running Press Kids, via the mail. My Life in Dioramas is on sale April 28th.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Omega City

Omega City is Diana Peterfreund's first MG novel. Billed on Goodreads as City of Ember meets The Goonies, my expectations were pretty high. The Goonies is one of my all time favorite movies. And this book delivered on that promise. Big time.

Gillian's father is in disgrace. He wrote a book about famous scientist Aloysius Underberg that was immediately discredited and that he couldn't back up because a broken pipe destroyed all of his research. Now the only job he has is teaching conspiracy theory nights. When Gillian discovers mysterious files on his new girlfriend's computer that have too much to do with her father's research, she knows something is terribly wrong and she begins to attempt to solve an old code that Underberg left behind. With the help of her brother, Eric, her best friend, Savannah, and an astronomy obsessed classmate named Howard, they figure out where Underberg buried his final gift to humanity. They magnate to convince Howard's older brother, Nate, to drive them out it to it. But the plotting girlfriend is right on their heels. Trying to escape her and her goons with guns, the kids find themselves in an abandoned, ruined underground city with a limited time to find their way back out.

The characters in this book are amazing. Gillian is deeply loyal to her father, ready to fight for what he (and she) believes in, and is determined to find the truth at any cost. Eric is skeptical and wants a normal life, but he's also loyal to his family. Savannah is a math whiz who disguises her abilities in a misguided notion that her ditziness makes her more attractive to boys, but she stands by her friends and knows how to be brave. Howard is focused on NASA and astronomy to the point of true obsession. There is an implication that he is somewhere on the Autism spectrum. He is an important part of the team and the others come to appreciate him and rely on him as the story unfolds. Nate is the older brother, protector, and highly frustrated person who knows he will ultimately be held responsible if anything happens to his young charges. The five of them together are awesome. They all have abilities that make them crucial to the team and get them through their adventure.

The different relationships exhibited within the team are essential to the story too. There are two very different sibling relationships. I love a great sibling story. Gillian/Eric and Nate/Howard exhibit the finest aspects of why. They have very different relationships affected by what they are and their different age spans, but both show what loyalty, love, and understanding for a sibling you don't always like or want to be with looks like. The friendship aspect is important too. Gillian and Savannah are very different and often frustrated with each other, but they adore each other. The evolving friendship all of them have with Howard as the book progresses is incredibly well done, particularly the bond he and Gillian develop.

As far as adventure books for MG go, Omega City stands out. It is fast-paced, well plotted, surprising, and funny. Peterfreund balances humor and peril perfectly. The action never felt like it was too unrealistic either. These are all things I could see kids their age being able to do and succeed at. As science-fiction it works incredibly well too, being just believable enough to feel real but with enough out of the ordinary to spark the imagination.

I adored everything about Omega City and can not wait for the next book in the series.

I read an ARC made available by the publisher, Balzer & Bray, at ALA Midwinter. Omega City is available for purchase on April 28th.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

TTT: Inspiring Quotes

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This Week's Topic: Inspiring/Meaningful/Challenging/ Quotes

"Safety is an illusion."

"Oh, that," said the king, "That isn't your honor, Costis. That's the public perception of your honor. It has noting to do with anything important, except perhaps for manipulating fools who mistake honor for its bright shiny trappings. You can always change the perceptions of fools"

"Do you find it easy to get drunk on words?"
"So easy that, to tell you the truth, I am seldom perfectly sober."

"Fight with realistic hope, not to destroy all the world's wrong, but to renew its good."

"And how could we endure to live and let time pass if we were always crying for one day or one year to come back-if we didn't know that every day in a life fills the whole life with expectation and memory and these are that day."

"If you say a word, it leaps out and becomes the truth. I love you. I believe it. I believe I am lovable. How can something as fragile as a word build a whole world?"

"Change is necessary and, deny it as we may, in the end change is always inevitable."

"Sometimes the truth has difficulty breaching the city walls of our beliefs. A lie, dressed in the correct livery, passes through far more quickly."

"If you trust in yourself...and believe in your dreams...and follow your still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy."

"Joy is to fun what the deep sea is to a puddle. It's a feeling inside that can hardly be contained."

Monday, April 13, 2015

Roller Girl

I don't review graphic novels on the blog very often, which is in no way a reflection of their importance in the Painter home. Bit is a huge fan of graphic novels. Baby Mouse was integral in her early chapter book reading years. She owns and reads the Amulet books, anything by Raina Telgemeier, and the Zita the Spacegirl books regularly. She has declared Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson the best graphic novel she's ever read. She insisted I read it. Then she proceeded to plop it in my lap every time I sat down. And constantly asking if I read it yet. My own child was stalking me with a book. So I read it and I wholeheartedly concur. This is a fabulous book.

Astrid's mom takes her and her best friend, Nichole, to a roller derby match one night, and Astrid comes away with stars in her eyes. When she discovers there is an opportunity to go to a derby summer camp, she jumps at it. Astrid assumes Nichole will be there with her, but Nichole has already made plans to go to ballet camp. Worse, Nichole seems to want to spend more time with Astrid's worst enemy talking about make-up and boys. As the summer begins, Astrid's life seems to be spiraling out of control. She has lost her best friend and roller derby doesn't come as naturally as she assumed it would. But Astrid sticks with it, and learns just as much about friendship and teamworks as she does about skating.

Astrid's story is one of discovering passion, persevering when things get hard, learning to atone for mistakes, and friendship. It's also an empowering book. Astrid is brave and hardworking, but she is also selfish and headstrong. She steamrolls Nichole a lot and doesn't realize it. She also mocks the things Nichole is interested, not realizing this is as belittling as when she is mocked by Nichole's ballet friend. I liked the way the book highlighted the different interests of the girls without making one better or worse than the other. Yes, this book has a lot of roller derby in it, but Nichole is as strong and sympathetic a character as Astrid is and her interest in ballet is shown as important and valuable too. The feeling of fear about entering middle school, their changing relationship, and what the future holds are realistically demonstrated in both girls. But this is Astrid's story and it is through her mistakes and bold action, defeats and victories, that Jamieson tells an amazing story of the power of teamwork and forgiveness.

The way Jamieson explains roller derby is brief, through, and folds well in to the rest of the story. The art is vivid and colorful. The whole book is a treasure from start to finish. It's a must have for MG readers.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Gone Crazy in Alabama

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams Garcia is the final book in the trilogy about the Gaither Sisters of Brooklyn, NY.

Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern and are spending the summer in Alabama with Big Ma. Cows, chickens, and encounters with the KKK are far cry from the streets of the city they're used to. It's also a far cry from their last summer experience in Oakland, CA. It's not entirely bad though as the girls learn more of their family's history. But things in the family are far from perfect. There are many divisions, rivalries, and long-standing resentments that need to be faced and dealt with. It will take a tragic turn of events to bring everyone together again.

Delphine is still trying to adjust to the changes in her life the past year has wrought. Things are changing more than ever now as their dad's wife is pregnant, and she will be entering junior high. The conflicts between her and Vonetta are becoming more frequent too. Despite the lessons learned in the previous book, Delphine is having a hard time letting go of being in charge of her sisters, and Vonetta is fighting hard against it. Delphine is constantly mad at her for the way she treats Fern, oblivious to how she treats Vonetta the same way. This conflict is the center of the story and is mirrored in the sibling rivalry between their great grandmother and her sister.

The family history the girls learn is an interesting one, and the way it is injected so organically into the story keeps things interesting and funny. The humor in the rivalry between the elderly sisters is a humorous balance to the more fraught parts of the story. Uncle Darnell is getting back on his feet after his issues in P.S. Be Eleven, but Vonetta is determined to never forgive him. Big Ma is as sour as ever towards life in general and, often, the girls in particular. She seems to see them as the evidence of everything that is going wrong with the world. All of these are dealt with beautifully and realistically. And we get to see Cecile again too. There is a few chapters where everything is just awful, but even in these chapters Garcia adds enough humor to take the edge of it without detracting from the horror of the situation.

P.S. Be Eleven is still my favorite of the trilogy, but I like the way Gone Crazy in Alabama resolves a lot of the issues that hadn't yet been dealt with and looks toward a bright and hopeful future.

I read an ARC received from the publisher, Amistad Press, at ALA Midwinter. Gone Crazy in Alabama is on sale April 21.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

TTT: Characters I Want to Check in With

Top Ten Tuesday is a Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This Week's Topic: Characters I Want to Check in With

I love characters and here are some I would really love to glimpse how their lives are going.

Melina Marchetta writes the best characters and I find myself thinking about them a lot. Taylor and Jonah in Jellicoe Road are a lot of people's favorites, but I want to know what is going on with Chaz and Raffy. I would pretty much give anything for a Chaz and Raffy book. I also want to know how all the characters in Saving Francesca/The Piper's Son are getting along as adults. Know I'm not alone here.

R.J. Anderson is another author whose characters I can't get enough of. I want to see how Tori, Milo, Alison, and Sebastian are faring even if it would hurt my heart. And I could read as many of her faery books as she wants to write, but I would love for a glimpse into the future of the all the characters from the five books written that I love. (Particularly Ivy and Martin.)

This is a book you can't have a sequel to, not without ruining it. But I would love to just have a little glimpse at Briony's future life.

This is obviously impossible, but I've always wanted the Aravis/Shasta as bantering falling in love teenagers story. One sentence towards the end wasn't nearly enough!!!

Another impossible one. *SOBS* But really I would just love the tiniest of looks into Cat's future. (And Marianne's, of course.)

This is one of the hardest because I know there are more books. They already exist. They just haven't been published yet. Doing this list is sort of heartbreaking. 

This one is coming!!! RIGHT???? Like we will know something ANY DAY. Please. 

What characters would you like to check in on and see how they're doing?