October 28, 2008

Libba Bray: A Great and Terrible Beauty

I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty. I knew it was a Young Adult Victorian and Gothic novel. Reading another book that I am now, I ashamingly wonder and feel that I should already know if Victorian and Gothic tales go hand in hand. I would most definitely like to learn more about different times in literature and now want to explore them more.

We first met Gemma Doyle when she has the sort of characteristics one would not want others to see in them. She is a sixteen-year-old girl who is rude and sometimes obnoxious. It is something no one wants to admit to being themselves so because Bray begins the first book in this series with such characteristics for Gemma I was surprised but soon saw where the change would come.

When Gemma is sent to a finishing school for reasons I will not give away, visions of experiences such as within The Little Princess appeared to my mind. Perhaps it was because like the main character in that book, Gemma is also from India. Both girls have lost a parent and there is a touch of seeing what others do not as well as something magical to both their stories. Both characters do not have a completely shared experience in their different books and schools, however. While similarities exist they are also very different stories.

Ever since an event at the start of the book, Gemma has been seeing visions that change the course of her life at Spence, the finishing school in England she is taken to. She forms what would have been an impossible small group of friends. Gemma learns there is a secret hiding about the fire that burned a wing of the school down which connects to there not being a class photograph for the class of 1871. As she enters her visions and leads others in them as well, Gemma learns there is a great connection between her visions, a forgotten diary the visions lead her to, and the fire that killed at least one student from the class of 1871.

There are many more secrets to this book but I wish to not give them away. I really enjoyed this book and am very eager to read book two, Rebel Angels. There are three books in this series to date with none expected after the third. The paperback for book three is not due out until May 12, 2009. Random House has a very nice site for the Gemma Doyle trilogy but beware - spoilers lurk everywhere.

54 / 70 books. 77% done!

October 21, 2008

Books and More Books

I have books coming out of my ears, or I would, but they're a bit large for my ears. I could walk with a pile of them on my head but I suppose they would all fall down rather quickly. What I mean to say is that I simply have too many. They are everywhere and cover so much of my space, and yet I love them so much and can't part with many of them. My TBR pile has grown to 137 books as of today. I realized it had been a while since I posted a picture of recent books I've received or bought and found there was a big list of them. These are books that are newly in my possession as of September 25th.

I think it would be wise to decrease the amount of these that I purchase new. Lucky enough two had a coupon, one was thirty percent off, and another was completely purchased with Borders Bucks, a system I don't quite understand.

Where They Came From
Early Reviewers: A Friend at Midnight
Book Mooch: Elsewhere, Castle in the Air, and One for Sorrow, Two for Joy.
Paper Back Swap: Outside Beauty, East, Queen of Camelot, and Od Magic.
Bought used: Tantalize
Bought new: Untamed, The Neverending Story, plus four from a book shopping trip with a friend from LibraryThing: Winter's Tale, The Name of the Wind, The Titan's Curse, and Brisingr.

I hope it will be soon that I will have my new bookshelf. Not only would each book at last have a home but I could finally organize them once more at last, something that has been driving me mad with so little book space available at the moment.

October 20, 2008

Rick Riordan: The Sea of Monsters

It was eight months ago that I read the first book of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. I had spent too much time on it from being busy and so had grown tired of it while reading The Lightning Thief. I had felt the book was very funny but that, at a time when I was trying to not buy any books because of my summer trip, that I wouldn't read any other books in the series for quite a while. Seven months later, I found a copy of book two available on PaperBack Swap, and a month later than that I read it.

The Sea of Monsters suggests a journey in the ocean, a place which seems natural for hero and Half-Blood Percy Jackson who should feel right at home and find more strength in the ocean since he is the son of sea god Poseidon. His first journey of course is meeting up with those tied to the mythological world in the first place after Percy has spent the school year away from Half Blood camp while living with his lovable blue-pancake-making mom.

It's the last day of the school year and Percy has been having some strange dreams about his four-hoofed satyr friend, Grover. His mom seems to know something that she is holding back but promises to tell all at the end of the day. Percy meets a friend and heads to school. . . Trouble surrounds those Percy knows from Camp Half Blood and despite warnings his intention is to do the best he can to help. Two friends accompany Percy as he goes off on a quest in the sea of monsters.

I find myself regretting that though I took two mythology classes in college that I've forgotten some stories over the years. Thankfully this book does well to hint and explain them. Like the first book this one is very funny and I laughed out loud a few times wishing there was someone right there beside me that I could discuss it with. I can't wait to find out what happens next.

The end of this book had such a huge surprise that I want to jump into book three right away, a book I bought early before reading this one. I had decided against it because I would then want to read book four while I really wanted all my books to be a matching paperback set. A search online didn't have good news for me in the way of a release date for the paperback. It did, however, tell me something else. The release of book five of this series whose title suggests it may be the last is to be released on May 5th, 2009. Whether I give into hardcover or not is still a question at large.

53 / 70 books. 76% done!

October 18, 2008

Gabrielle Zevin: Elsewhere

I knew right from the beginning that this book was a Young Adult book about a girl who begins her tale after becoming newly dead. I began reading it perhaps expecting something a little different from what I got, so while Elsewhere had a story unique to itself perhaps I was very frustrated with it. There were a few times I closed the book thinking I wouldn't continue reading it and that I would trade it away.

I think my biggest problem with Elsewhere had been Zevin's capture of an almost sixteen-year-old teenager. I felt Liz seemed much less mature than she should be at her age and even that Zevin was writing to capture an audience range of adults reading to children, to kids reading the book on their own only up to thirteen years old. At the same time it was definitely funny and she was often trying to be humorous, but some of the jokes just fell flat to me. A parrot making jokes about being "dead, dead, dead" just didn't seem like what I wanted to be reading.

I kept reading and luckily it was actually good that I did because things began to change. Main character Liz had been mopping about because of her death and not making anything out of her death. She had opportunities to go have hobbies, do things with friends, and spend time getting to know her never-before-met dead grandmother, Betty, but Liz had bored me to tears instead.

Liz finally decides to start living as someone dead rather than just being dead, and that's when the story picked up for me. At that point I decided to just finish it hoping the book might improve more. Surely Liz had important lessons to learn about death and would see something that would change everything to her much more at some point. Something does.

Liz makes much more out of her death and things happen for her that she had been sad about because some were things she had never gotten to experience during her life while some where things involving getting to reconnect with some lives that she misses. I would not reread this book but rather would recommend it to teens up to fifteen years old.

52 / 52 books. 100% done!

October 16, 2008

Ibi Kaslik: Skinny

I recently finished reading Ibi Kaslik's Skinny, a book not just about the relationship between two sisters but also about how one's struggle with eating disorders affects each of them differently.

The two main characters of Skinny are college-age Giselle and fourteen-year-old Holly. One sister is a medical student, naturally bright who buries herself in studying, the practices of anorexia and bulimia, and trying to learn more about her family's past. The other sister is strong and lives for sports while struggling through junior high, having her own problems connected to being partially deaf and having a slight learning disability. Both sisters mourn for their father who was lost some years ago. They hold onto each other and their mother, trying to get by and keeping their small family knit together through their own traumas.

Giselle wants to be skinny like her baby sister who has everything she wants, which when it comes down to everything, is the love of their dead father. In his absence as she tries to make sense of the past, something leads her on a chase with many questions. Holly wants her looked-up-to big sister's life to be turned around and saved, never knowing the reasons why her sister struggles with her eating disorders. In her sister's absence she runs for something she can never reach: a healthy world for her sister.

Tomorrow marks one year since I finished reading Marya Hornbacher's Wasted (blog entry here) and I wonder if I made a very big mistake by wondering out loud to someone if they should skip reading that book or not, causing them to not read what I worried would give them tips rather than help them in a positive manner. After reading Skinny I had hopes it might by chance find the hands of the person I know who struggles with this so they will see they are not alone, that it is something serious, that people they don't even realize do love them much, and that they will stop themselves from the very horrible end that was this book. I am very sad to say that while the person has read it, they thought the whole thing was a joke, that it was funny.

I am not laughing. I have cried for them so many times. I hide it because what else is there to do. I will never forget the time I broke and couldn't lie. "Why are you crying?" "Because you didn't eat anything yesterday or today, and you don't want to tomorrow or the day after that, either." Because you want to starve. To die. There is so much more to life than being thin. It's one of the ugliest words I know. It is a word I have only hate for because of how it affects them. Skinny is a word likewise just as bad. "Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels." I see this quote on my own grandmother's mirror. Maybe it's famous, maybe it's not. But I don't believe in it. How many people out there can't taste? My own step sister cannot because of a car accident after being hit by a drunk driver. She's eighteen and has been naturally thin all her life but would give the world to be able to taste again.

Ending note: 'skinny' sucks. Skinny was a good book but also very sad. Maybe there is another person out there who it will help, just not the person I'm thinking of. I suggest kleenex.

51 / 52 books. 98% done!

October 14, 2008

Cinda Williams Chima: The Dragon Heir

I was incredibly eager to get into the third of Cinda Williams Chima's The Heir series that I wouldn't even read the jacket for fear of any sort of spoilers, worrying that it was the last in the series. It turns out that I was worried with good reason. The series ends here with The Dragon Heir, the last in a Young Adult fantasy trilogy some might describe as Harry Potterish but not really quite at all.

Everyone has their different class in The Heir trilogy from the bottom, warriors, to the top, wizards. Throughout the series those who are from different classes struggle and work together against those feeling they are justly dominate for much wanted and deserved peace and equality. In that aspect it's not fantasy at all. Bringing in the predicted magical battle following the events in The Wizard Heir is, however. The territory once deemed safe of dominance and injury now serves as the major setting and place of the final show down.

Just as the other books in this series this one switches points of view, the most interesting two being from Jason Haley's and Madison Moss's points of view. We learn a little more about each of these two characters between Madison's past and future as well as Jason's secret missions. We also learn more of the history to do with the Weir people (non-Anaweir, or for another word, non-Muggles). I didn't have a favorite point of view in this series unlike some other books I've read but ended a point of view to be just as satisfied to read the other's when the time would come.

I was not dissatisfied at all in my reading but remained eager to discover how it would end. I often wondered why the presence of Linda Downey and Hastings were away for so much as they were but see now that it wasn't their story. This tale would have been much different were they not away. I cried for someone as they reached their end, something that came as a surprise to me. There were a few other surprises as well.

SPOILER WARNING: Please do not read the section below about this book unless you have read J.K. Rowling's complete Harry Potter series. Thank you.

I met one of my friends from LibraryThing over the weekend and when we discussed this series which they had not yet read, they asked me if it was like Harry Potter. There are Anaweir similar to Rowling's Muggles. Like Rowling's created world, there are not just magical folk on the magical side (wizards, sorcerers, etc) but those with merely connections to what is magical (warriors, etc). There is a magical school, however, you can compare it not to Hogwarts but to Durmstrang or something worse like Hogwarts taken over by He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. There isn't a set individual as the bad guy but a few magical people hoping to lead the world for the worst. These bad seeds will fight to the death but they are not nearly as horrible as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, an ultimate bad guy. There is not one set main character but many and though this series is merely three books and not seven, you become attached to normally-seen-as side characters. Chima didn't have to work that up over seven books time, or however many you read of the Harry Potter books before the first time you were crushed and sad by the turn of events in the books. I got teary and cried a little, but nothing has ever made me as much as the Harry Potter books, real tear-jerkers, the seventh and final of which had my eyes not simply leaking lightly but bawling for most of the time I read and times when I was couldn't read. The Heir is a very good series and I enjoyed it very much, more than many of the books I've read this year. I don't see it as another Harry Potter series. In my mind nothing can take it's place. It was more intense and further connected to some of our hearts.

50 / 52 books. 96% done!

October 5, 2008

Wendy Moss: A Mango-Shaped Space

I took a short break from the series I've been shuffling around lately to read Wendy Mass's A Mango-Shaped Space this weekend.

I've been interested in reading The Man Who Tasted Shapes for years. I got very excited when I clicked the link of A Mango-Shaped Space from another LibraryThingers recently added books to read what this book is about to learn it deals with synesthesia as well.

Through my reading I focused on Mia's sense of colors having to do with letters, numbers, words, names, and sounds. A brief excerpt at the top of the backside to the book will tell you this:
"Everyone thinks I named my cat Mango because of his orange eyes, but that's not the case. I named him Mango because the sounds of his purrs and his wheezes and his meows are all various shades of yellow-orange..."

Mia was eight years old when, in a third grade classroom trying to solve a math problem on the chalkboard, she learned that no one else in her class saw numbers in colors as she did. Ever since then Mia has kept it a secret to herself, not even telling her parents or best friend for fear of the reactions she will get from others who called her a freak for the math incident in third grade. People will find out sometime, right? Mia struggles in school and the day comes that her secret becomes known.

I really enjoyed reading about things taking on colors that are ordinary, or for another word, plain, to many of us. Though this is a work of fiction, it still strongly held my interest. There is so much more to this story than merely colors. My heart reached out to Mia particularly toward the end when, as the back cover of the book will tell you, she looses something very special to her. It's a precious story that left me rather sniffly.

I'm passing my book along to someone else who wants to read it. I want to warn her about things that are to come because it will have a similar affect on her as it did me but I am trying not to.

Mango for the book challenge counter.

49 / 52 books. 94% done!

October 2, 2008

P.C. and Kristen Cast: Untamed

The latest and fourth book in PC and Kristen Cast's House of Night series was enjoyable though not quite what I'd expected. Leaving off with a new powerful enemy, hungry young fledgings, and some angry characters, I imagined Untamed to have more conflicts as well as, well, untamed fledgings.

A fledging is a vampire in the making. In this version of vampire stories, it takes years to become a full fledged vampyre. This makes our main character, Zoey Redbird, a fledging, though she is not like any other. Zoey has been marked as a fledging for merely two months. However, the goddess, Nyx, has given Zoey some extremely unique gifts and talents.

The title of this book seemed very suitable to me before I even began to read. Sure enough, some fledgings were untamed, though not to the point I'd thought they would be. A character was very impressive in working on that. It also made me think about other untamed characters. Zoey, who seems to have problems falling for too many guys at the same time. Aphrodite, who was deemed a 'skank' and selfish - um, something - from book one. And so many others!

School is on break when this book begins, but it isn't for much time. Things are changing around the House of Night, and people are changing, too. There are new things to be discovered. An evil lurks by ever often and fiercely tries to strike, failing, failing, hitting it's target. Read the book and you'll see I've played on words. I like to do that when I write about them. I end with my spoiler free bit with a brief comment to establish that I hate crows and ravens. They're simply terrifying. Oh, and one last thing!

If anyone wants to know if these books are good, you not only have my word for it, but a stranger approached me today while I was reading with the words, "That's the other vampire series!" Talking to him, I learned this was the series many Twilight fans have turned to and are passing around to read. It seems to be vampire series #2. How's that for a recommendation? Book five is on release in March of 2009.

Spoilers below!

As I read this book during scenes such as when a fledging-newly-made-human teen drew on a fake Mark on her forehead, and times that she smeared it off, I couldn't help but think...Even though she is friends with Zoey, how easy would it be for a character to put on their fledging make-up they ordinarily wear over their marks around humans on their Mark, pretend the clear forehead was natural to a select few in the vampyre community, and then draw a fake Mark to 'fool' the rest of the community? Silly thought, I know, as I think this character is trusting. Still, this thought entered my mind. If one is sneaky one way, . . . Since this is still about spoilers, my complaint is this: Why did Zoey's grandmother have to get dragged in? I see now that she had to be in order to be protected later on, though.

48 / 52 books. 92% done!