Tuesday, May 26, 2015

TTT: Ten Books I Plan to Have in My Beach Bag

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

This Week's Topic: Books I Plan to Have in My Beach Bag

Books I want to read and haven't yet:

Books I've Already Read and Plan to Reread:

*And by The Queen of Attolia, I mean the entire series. I reread it every June. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An Unexpected Hiatus

Hello Everyone,

It's been kind of quiet around here for the last week due to an unplanned and unexpected hiatus brought on by a massive reading slump. I don't have reading slumps often and I've never had one that has lasted this long. But this is how all new to me books are making me feel right now:

It's rather terrifying because while a normal reading slump for me lasts a few days, I've been feeling this way for almost two weeks now. To snap out of my slump, I started reading Every Breath which so many of my book loving friends have adored. I've been reading it for three days and am only half way through. It never takes me that long to read a book of that length. But I am not invested in it or the characters.

Every book I've tried to read to get out of this slump has failed me. Now I'm terrified to try any new books because I don't want to hate them due to the weirdest reading mood I've ever experienced. 

It really is my worst sort of nightmare. Books are not supposed to fail me. Books are always supposed to be there. I'm actually to the point where I'm kind of scared to even reread my old favorites. What if this terrible mood I'm in makes me hate them too??? This slump is spilling into everything else. I haven't even wanted to touch the blog because I write about books and right now I hate all the books. Also books have kind of always been my outlet for stress and frustration so without them....I'm feeling kind of overwhelmed and shut down.

Anyone out there have any suggestions? I know plenty of other bloggers have experienced slumps. What are some tried and true ways of getting out of really bad ones? This is my first experience with a truly bad one and I'm not enjoying it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

TTT: Authors I REALLY Want to Meet

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

This Week's Topic: Authors I REALLY Want to Meet

This list was not at all a hard one to make.

Here are the authors I've become friends with thanks to the magic of Twitter I would really really love to meet in real life someday:

R.J. Anderson, author of the Faery Rebels series and Ultraviolet duology

Sage Blackwood, author of Jinx trilogy

Stephanie Burgis, author of Kat Incorrigible trilogy (I've technically met her once, but it was super fast. I want more time to talk to her.)

Laura Florand, author of Amour et Chocolat series and other awesome romances

Rachel Neumeier, author of Black Dog trilogy and other amazing fantasies

Sarah Prineas, author of The Magic Thief series and Winterling trilogy

Jenn Reese, author of Above World trilogy

Then there is the one author I would love to meet, but am also scared to meet:

Megan Whalen Turner, author of Queen's Thief Series (aka my favorite author OF ALL TIME)

Bonus author I've met already, but would love to meet up with again because she is delightful:

Emma Barry, author of The Easy Part trilogy

Monday, May 11, 2015

Black Dog Short Stories

Last year's Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier was one of my favorites, and I was excited to explore more of the fascinating world she created in this anthology which includes four short stories set in the world peopled by werewolves and the people with the Pure magic to make their lives slightly less violent. (Slightly.)

The first story centers on Natividad so readers familiar with her and her voice from the novel will feel  like they've come home again. It is a mostly fun, fluffy story about a shopping trip for Christmas presents that involves the unlikely team of Natividad and Keziah-neither of them together by choice but at the order of the Master of Dimilioc. There is some minor violence, but it's really just about the girls getting to know each other a little better, bonding just a little bit, and gaining some more respect for each other. This is a good story, but nothing spectacular.

The second story focuses on Miguel. I enjoyed this as we didn't see as much from his point of view in Black Dog. Being a human who has to live amongst the violent black dogs is no simple thing, and Miguel has to walk very carefully. He is the focus of one of the new Dimilioc Dogs. Etienne likes to practice his feelings of superiority on Miguel. This is about Miguel trying to manipulate things to move Etienne out of his way. He finds an unlikely ally in Cassie, who is a moon shifter who must be carefully contained during the full moon. I liked this story for what it revealed of Miguel and Cassie.

The third story focuses on Thaddeus, a stray who joined Dimilioc in the novel. Since this is the first time to see his life from his perspective, it was fascinating. The story chronicles a trip he is on to Chicago with Grayson, Dimilioc's Master, to round up strays. Of course, if you're on an outing with Grayson, it isn't going to be anything so simple. This is a test of both Thaddeus's strength over his shadow and his loyalty to the Dimilioc Master. The story gives us a glimpse at another fascinating character who I hope we will see return later. I enjoyed this one for Thaddeus's back story, what his actions reveal about his humanity, and the intriguing elements that may come up again later.

These first three stories all take place between the action in Black Dog and the beginning of the upcoming sequel, Pure Magic. I liked each one a little more than the one that came before it, but none of them have anything on my love of the last story. If you are a fan of  Black Dog, this book is worth the price simply to read the final story, which is the only one that goes back and takes place not only before the beginning of the action in Black Dog, but before the war between black dogs and vampires.

The fourth story in this volume is told from the perspective of Ezekiel and shows how Grayson became the Master of Dimilioc. It is FASCINATING. Ezekiel is the Dimilioc Executioner. It is what he was trained for from a very young age and he is brilliant at his job. He follows orders well too and doesn't stop to question much. Until suddenly he does, and then he has to make some decisions about what do to with that quickly because the fate of many people are at stake. This story showcases exactly how much control and power Ezekiel actually wields. It also gives insight into the sometimes fraught relationship between him and Grayson. The entirety of the story is fascinating. It does reveal some troubling aspects of both Ezekiel and Grasyon's personalities.

All four stories are good and gave me exactly what I wanted-more insight into this fascinating world and all the characters who inhabit it. It is a good bridge between Black Dog and Pure Magic (which I have read as an ARC and will review later this week), but is not necessary to understanding either. I do highly recommend it though.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Cover Love: A Pocket Full of Murder

Cover Love is a meme hosted by Shae at Shae Has Left the Room.

In the spell-powered city of Tarreton, the wealthy have all the magic they desire while the working class can barely afford a simple spell to heat their homes. Twelve-year-old Isaveth is poor, but she’s also brave, loyal, and zealous in the pursuit of justice—which is lucky, because her father has just been wrongfully arrested for murder. 

Isaveth is determined to prove his innocence. Quiz, the eccentric eyepatch-wearing street boy who befriends her, swears he can’t resist a good mystery. Together they set out to solve the magical murder of one of Tarreton’s most influential citizens and save Isaveth’s beloved Papa from execution.

But each clue is more perplexing than the next. Was the victim truly killed by Common Magic—the kind of crude, cheap spell that only an unschooled magician would use—or was his death merely arranged to appear that way? And is Quiz truly helping her out of friendship, or does he have hidden motives of his own? Isaveth must figure out who she can trust if she’s to have any hope of proving her Papa’s innocence in time. . .

This cover is basically everything I look for in a MG cover. I love how it captures an action scene, and that it's one that sparks curiosity and a desire to know exactly what is going on. I also love the details: her billowing skirt, his determined expression, the lamp that acts like a headlight on the bike. I really appreciate how the cover artist used light overall. The light wherever it shines makes for a bright cover, but also highlights the darkness they are coming out of and going into. Also the colors are just gorgeous.

And I can not wait to read this book. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cuckoo Song

I love Frances Hardinge. She is one one of those writers for children that doesn't talk down to her audience and is unafraid to confront harsh truths and darknesses in her plots and characters. She is an auto-buy author for me and I anticipate her books so much. It is unfortunate that in the US we often have to wait even longer for them. (And even then may never get them. Seriously, how has A Face Like Glass not been published here yet???? It is amazing.) Hardinge's newest US release is Cuckoo Song, a book that came out in the UK last year to rave reviews from everyone I know who read it. I'm happy to add my voice to the chorus singing its praises.

Triss wakes up after a dunking in the river on holiday. Her mind is muddled and memories hazy. She is missing all the hours leading up to her accident in the river. Her sister Penny is resentful toward and angry at her, but that is not a new development. The level of Penny's rancor and distrust is new however. Wrapped in the love of her mother and father, Triss takes comfort in knowing they are there for her and support her. But this is not a typical illness. Triss is overcome with an insatiable hunger. Then her doll moves its head and begins to rage at her. Fearing she is going insane, Triss attempts every means possible to bury her growing fear and horror at what is happening to her. When she can not deny the obvious any more, Triss begins to investigate what may be wrong and discovers her family's darkest secrets and the villain who is bent on destroying them all. Triss and Pen will have to put aside their differences and face untold dangers together if they want to undo the terrible horrors moving to destroy everything they know.

It's really hard to discuss Cuckoo Song in any detail without spoilers. Basically all I really want to say is READ THIS AS SOON AS YOU CAN. Like all of Hardinge's books, Cuckoo Song has layered, three dimensional characters brought to full life. There is so much to explore and experience with these characters. Triss, Pen, their parents, Violet (the sisters' closest ally), and even the multitude of people who work against them are all fully rendered characters with stories and personalities. The journey Triss goes on through the course of this book is a fascinating one that brings out a multitude of themes and complexities that I have to be frustratingly vague about due to spoilers. But that's okay, because this is really a book that you need to experience from start to finish.

And experience is the perfect word for the act of reading this book. From the first page, Hardinge draws her reader in. She slowly builds the horror and creepiness of the story she is telling. Page after page the book is impossible to put down and walk away from. I may have growled at some people who tried to get my attention while reading. (Sorry, family.) It is a tangled web that will have you twisted up and yet still pushing on for more.

I can not recommend this book enough. (And every other Hardinge book. If you haven't experienced her yet, you are missing out. Cuckoo's Song is an excellent starting point.

I read an ARC made available via the publisher, Amulet Books, at ALA Midwinter. Cuckoo's Song goes on sale May 12th.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Fill-In Boyfriend

I have enjoyed Kasie West's books in the past. She is a wonderful voice to have in the world of female YA writers who write about the experiences of girls. Her books are always enjoyable, but The Fill-In Boyfriend was particularly excellent.

Gia is about to walk into her senior prom and prove to her friends, once and for all, that her college boyfriend, Bradley, really does exist. The problem is Bradley breaks up with Gia and leaves her standing in the parking lot. In a desperate move to ensure her friends believe her, Gia conscripts the assistance of a random boy sitting in his car who just dropped off his sister and her date. But Gia's Fill-In boyfriend, Hayden, is quite intriguing in his own right. When his sister forces Gia to go to a party with him thrown by his ex-girlfriend, Gia becomes even more convinced he is a truly good guy and she genuinely begins to like him. She also begins to develop a friendship with his sister as she starts to realize that her family relationships and friendships are lacking in depth. Then her brother does something that causes her to question her life, her need for validation, and how she's contributed to the shallowness of the relationships in her life.

The Fill-In Boyfriend is one of the best teen romances I've read. The chemistry between Hayden and Gia sparks and fizzes from their first sentences spoken to each other. The banter between them is truly fantastic, but also realistically teen in nature. I also enjoyed how both of them have some growing up to do, and they have a positive effect on each other. At first I was worried that Hayden might be a little too awesome of a hero. He's easy to fall for, but West did a good job of showing his weaknesses too. Gia is the star of this story as it is told from her point of view. Her growth in this book is excellent as well and is a realistic look at how one might come to see the need to reevaluate one's life approaching a major milestone.

As much as I loved the relationship between Hayden and Gia, it was the portrayal of female friendship that made this book shine for me. Gia has three close friends and their group is super popular, but Gia is always playing a part when she is with them. Jules, a newer member of their group, seems focused on ousting Gia. I really liked the way this entire dynamic was handled. West showed how people can grown away from each other and face roadblocks in a friendship that seem insurmountable without resorting to cliches or cutout caricatures. Every single one of Gia's friends have motivations and layers that are evident (including Jules), and Gia is certainly not completely innocent of the wrongs her friends become upset over. And I love how messy and complicated this situation still was in the end. Gia's growing friendship with Hayden's sister, Bec, is also a plus to the story. It is a newer friendship, but the two of them bonding is fun reading. I enjoyed that almost as much as the Hayden/Gia scenes.

I also liked how the family dynamics played out as the contrast between Gia's family and Hayden's family is important to her journey of self discover as is her fraught relationship with her brother.

This novel is perfect for anyone who enjoys stories of human growth and questioning, friendship, family, and, of course, romance.