Friday, September 28, 2012

Fall Reading List

I'm trying to be more organized about what I read and maybe a bit less gluttonous, so I've made a list of the books I want to read this fall. Hopefully It'll help me be a bit more well-rounded as a reader (I'm trying to include more classics and such in my diet :D)

Books for Halloween:

Read 3 - 5

My options are:
 It's a classic, right? I've never read it.

 My husband (the German scholar) is a huge Faust fan and is always telling me I should read a translation. It's totally creepy and would be perfect for Halloween. If only it wasn't so long...
 Frankenstein would be a reread for me, but I loved it so much I really should read it again.
 These two are Frankenstein prequels, YA style. They've been on my radar for a little while and are currently both waiting at my library for me to pick up. Will definitely be reading them!

 I love Agatha Christie! I haven't read this one yet, but I own it, so I think I'll pick it up soon.
 My favorite Agatha Christie! Time for a reread.
 A new YA retelling of And Then There Were None. I'm really looking forward to seeing how it translates into a modern story. The reviews on Goodreads are pretty polarized (seems people either hate or love it) so I guess I'll have to see where I fit into the mix.
 Creepy and highly recommended to me by several friends. I think it's a must for this year.
 I've already read it but I can't think of a more perfect Halloween book!
 More Flavia. Need I say more?
This one makes the Halloween list since it is a murder mystery. I'm so worried about it! The blurbs all sound so boring. But.... it's J.K. Rowling. How can I not read it? I'm right in the front of my library's hold line for it, so I think I'll be getting it soon.

Classics I Own (both rereads and first reads):

Read 1 - 2


 It's been years since I read it, but the movie trailers are making me want to pick this classic back up.
 It's a favorite. And it's been too long.
 1. I've never read it. 2. I'm dying to see the movie. Pretty good reasons, no?
 I bought this a while ago and have been meaning to read it ever since. I love Arthurian legends and Disney's The Sword in the Stone. It's high time I actually got around to it.
 It's about rabbits. I know. But I keep hearing amazing things and I think I really ought to read it once in my life and I've been putting it off too long.
My least favorite Austen. She deserves another chance.

Georgette Heyer:

Read 1

Georgette Heyer is an author I've been meaning to read FOREVER. It seems like I really ought to like her books, but I've never gotten around to it. So, I've been researching blog posts and goodreads listopia and I've finally made a list of potential Georgette Heyers to try. These are supposed to be her best. Please, PLEASE tell me if you have a favorite. Here are my options:
The Grand Sophy
The Talisman Ring
The Convenient Marriage
A Civil Contract
These Old Shades
The Devil's Club
The Masqueraders
False Colours
Friday's Child

Writing Books:

Read 1

I'm trying to read more about writing, and this is supposed to be one of the best. Also, being by Stephen King, it puts off a sufficiently creepy vibe for October reading. :D

YA/MG New Releases (and others):

Read lots :D

 Out October 2nd! I've already pre-ordered it and can't wait to dive in.
 Sequel to Ruby Red, which was a favorite from last year. Wonderful time travel!
 I'm a little behind on this one; most everyone I know (in the book blogging world) has already read it since it started much-hyped. The hype has died down a bit and this book disappointed a lot of people, but I'm still looking forward to reading it myself.
 Another much-hyped recent release. Most reviews I've seen are alarmingly positive. I'm excited to check it out!
 Girl of Fire and Thorns would be a reread. I really liked it last year, but I was so heartbroken by the ending. From what I'm hearing about the sequel, I'm in for some serious goodness. The Crown of Embers is already released too! I need to get on it!

 Pirates. Assassins. Curses. Magic. Romance. YES!!! Out October 2nd.
 Sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I loved. Can't wait to read this! Out November 6th.
Final book in the Matched trilogy! Out November 13th. I can't wait!

I think that might keep me busy for a bit. :D

What's on your to-read list this fall? Do you like reading classics? Any YA releases out soon I missed? Any Georgette Heyer or Halloween recommendations for me? Too many questions? ;)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Treachery of Beautiful Things

From Goodreads
A darkly compelling mix of romance, fairy tale, and suspense from a new voice in teen fiction

The trees swallowed her brother whole, and Jenny was there to see it. Now seventeen, she revisits the woods where Tom was taken, resolving to say good-bye at last. Instead, she's lured into the trees, where she finds strange and dangerous creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with secrets of his own. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack's help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where stunning beauty masks some of the most treacherous evils, and she's faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice--and not just her own.

My Rating: ****

So beautiful. I really enjoyed this and clearly, Ruth Frances Long is a kindred spirit. This book is packed with references to all sorts of fairy tales and mythologies and cool fairy stuff and monsters, even a dragon! I got right into this fantasy world, it was so perfectly drawn, and I've always had an obsession with creepy forests. This is my kind of book.

The story clips right along and I cared about where it was going every moment. There were all sorts of cool revelations and shocking twists and I kept gasping out loud. I really liked Jenny for the most part. She's the perfect modern incarnation of Snow White, whose story she kind of follows. Except sometimes... well, she drove me a bit crazy. All those revelations and twists I talked about? She was the last one to figure out any of them. She seemed a little slow and I just wanted to scream at her, "CAN'T YOU SEE????? ARE YOU TOTALLY BLIND???!!??" Sheesh, people had to straight up tell her things that I'd figured out chapters before (with the same info she had). The foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed and the heroine was still not figuring things out fast enough AT ALL.

Then her little romance with Jack wasn't quite as believable as I wanted it to be. It happened kind of fast and I just didn't buy it at times. And I will not talk about the resolution to that or the end of this book. I WILL NOT TALK ABOUT IT. Okay, except maybe just to say that I hated it. So sudden, completely unexplained, thoroughly unsatisfying. All I'm going to say.

For me, the writing wavered between gorgeous and way too flowery. This book is very descriptive and sometimes I liked that. And other times I skimmed. My eyes would jump ahead and I'd force myself to go back and read what I'd missed only to find out that I hadn't missed much of anything.

So, to sum up, I loved the magic, the villains, the whole setting, and the story. I struggled a bit with the characters, the love story, the resolution, and the writing. But apparently I love the magic and story enough that I can't bring myself to give it less than four stars. :D

Recommended for fans of fairy tales (the darker kind), magic, monsters, scary forests, and fairies.

Monday, September 24, 2012


From Goodreads:
16 year old Anna Rogan has a secret she's only shared with her best friend, Rei; she can astrally project out of her body, allowing her spirit to explore the world and the far reaches of the universe.

When there's a fatal accident and her classmate Taylor takes over Anna's body, what was an exhilarating distraction from her repressive home life threatens to become a permanent state. Faced with a future trapped in another dimension, Anna turns to Rei for help. Now the two of them must find a way to get Anna back into her body and stop Taylor from accusing an innocent friend of murder. Together Anna and Rei form a plan but it doesn't take into account the deeper feelings that are beginning to grow between them.

My Rating: ****

Better than I expected it to be! I'll admit that sometimes it got a bit new-age-y on me, all karma and yoga and herbs and nutrition and reincarnation and you know what I'm talking about. It seemed to get a little preachy at times, but not enough to really get on my nerves.

But WOW! What a cool power. I was in love with Anna's ability to astrally project. Sure, I think I'll just pop my spirit out of my body and travel the world, nay the universe! Cool supernova? Front row seat. How about a sunset marathon, following the sun's setting around the earth. Not the mention all the awesome spying possibilities. :D

And the plot was intensely cool. Anna is trapped outside of her body while jerk-of-the-world Taylor takes over and makes herself at home, claiming amnesia and somehow fooling everybody except Rei (who I loved). There are some fabulous sequences with Anna vs. Taylor (since Anna can manipulate objects to a certain extent) and some really funny haunting going on. Anna and Rei have great friend chemistry which translated into great more-than-friend chemistry and the whole ride through this book was exciting and interesting.

The end left me a little unsatisfied, partially because there were several plotlines wrapped up too hastily and sloppily (and some not resolved at all). That's really the main reason I denied that last star, because other than that Auracle delivered and was a thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable read.

Recommended for fans of out-of-body stories, and those who like a funny and intense plot.

Friday, September 21, 2012

These Is My Words

From Goodreads:
In a compelling fiction debut, Nancy E. Turner's unforgettable "These Is My Words" melds the sweeping adventures and dramatic landscapes of "Lonesome Dove" with the heartfelt emotional saga of "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All."

Inspired by the author's original family memoirs, this absorbing story introduces us to the questing, indomitable Sarah Prine, one of the most memorable women ever to survive and prevail in the Arizona Territory of the late 1800s. As a child, a fiery young woman, and finally a caring mother, Sarah forges a life as full and as fascinating as our deepest needs, our most secret hopes and our grandest dreams.

Rich in authentic details of daily life and etched with striking character portraits of very different pioneer families, this action-packed novel is also the story of a powerful, enduring love between Sarah and the dashing cavalry officer Captain Jack Elliot. While their love grows, the heartbreak and wonder of the frontier experience unfold in scene after scene.

Sarah's incredible story leads us into a vanished world that comes vividly to life again, while her struggles with work and home, love and responsibility resonate with those every woman faces today. "These Is My Words" is a passionate celebration of a remarkable life, exhilarating and gripping from the first page to the last.

My Rating: ****

What a raw, emotional book. I was only fifteen page in when a child had already died tragically, a girl had been brutally raped, and I'd seen plenty of blood and gore. At that point I was feeling depressed and really did not want to continue. I was just not in the mood for "that" kind of book.

But I pushed through it. And it was worth it. This book isn't raved about for nothing. Sarah's courage and bravery and epic love story are worth every bit of sadness and horror. But sometimes it felt like it was just too much. She went through a horrible amount of tragedy and it just seemed like way more than any one person could possibly experience in her lifetime. But maybe I'm wrong.

Anyway, those are my only complaints. Everything else was amazing. I loved learning about Sarah's life as one of the early settlers in Arizone. Everything from Geronimo to rattlesnakes. The plot is action-packed and non-stop. I have to admit that, as a mother, I found all the info about child-bearing totally engrossing. I read a book like this and just breathe a sigh of relief that I have doctors and hospitals and epidurals. Good grief. Also, I loved that as a character Sarah was such a wonderful mother.

And then there's Jack. The romance in this book is just lovely. Nothing detailed and smutty, just pure love and wonderfulness. There's a letter that Jack wrote to Sarah in this book that I about died over. I was crying it was so beautiful. Anyway, maybe I'm just being silly, but I'm a sucker for this kind of romance. It's long and enduring and true. Perfect.

So, if you like memoir books and history and true love and aren't afraid of a fair amount of tragedy, well, this is your book.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag

From Goodreads:
From Dagger Award–winning and internationally bestselling author Alan Bradley comes this utterly beguiling mystery starring one of fiction’s most remarkable sleuths: Flavia de Luce, a dangerously brilliant eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders. This time, Flavia finds herself untangling two deaths—separated by time but linked by the unlikeliest of threads.

Flavia thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacy are over—and then Rupert Porson has an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. The beloved puppeteer has had his own strings sizzled, but who’d do such a thing and why? For Flavia, the questions are intriguing enough to make her put aside her chemistry experiments and schemes of vengeance against her insufferable big sisters. Astride Gladys, her trusty bicycle, Flavia sets out from the de Luces’ crumbling family mansion in search of Bishop’s Lacey’s deadliest secrets.

Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What of the vicar’s odd ministrations to the catatonic woman in the dovecote? Then there’s a German pilot obsessed with the Brontë sisters, a reproachful spinster aunt, and even a box of poisoned chocolates. Most troubling of all is Porson’s assistant, the charming but erratic Nialla. All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head?

My Rating: ****

This is a sequel to The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, a book you absolutely must read if you like any kind of murder mystery at all, and once again Flavia de Luce delivers!

It took me a while to get to this sequel, but I don't think I'll wait quite so long to read the third book. Flavia. Oh Flavia. She is such a ridiculously enjoyable narrator, I don't think I could rave about her enough to do her justice. She is a complete genius - practically Sherlock level - but she's also a bit of a mad scientist and you do not want to get on her bad side. Her constant feud with her sisters is so hilarious, and I don't know why they mess with her, considering Flavia's chemistry skills and obsession with poison!

I love the way Flavia manipulates people without their knowledge and how she can get away with all sorts of ridiculous things and poking and prying into people's lives, just because she can pull off innocent 10 year-old. I also love that she does NOT fool Dogger or Inspector Hewitt. Another thing I really enjoy is the small town setting of Bishop's Lacy and the way everyone knows everything about everyone. It's the perfect setting for mystery.

Flavia really is the star attraction here. The story was pretty good, but not quite as engrossing or shocking as the first book's. It hardly mattered, like I said, because Flavia is so delightful. I laughed and snorted the whole way through. I often read while running, but that did not go so well while reading this because my breathing groove kept getting thrown off while I paused to laugh out loud.

I really enjoy these. Read if you love a good murder mystery, a precocious heroine, and an idyllic English country setting.

And now, off to request The Red Herring Without Mustard from the library!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Palace of Stone

Coming down from the mountain to a new life in the city seems a thrill beyond imagining. When Miri and her friends from Mount Eskel set off to help the future princess Britta prepare for her royal wedding, she is happy about her chance to attend school in the capital city. There, Miri befriends students who seem so sophisticated and exciting . . . until she learns that they have some frightening plans. They think that Miri will help them, that she "should "help them. Soon Miri finds herself torn between loyalty to the princess and her new friends' ideas, between an old love and a new crush, and between her small mountain home and the bustling city. Picking up where "Princess Academy "left off, this incredible stand-alone story celebrates the joys of friendship, the delight of romance, and the fate of a beloved fairy tale kingdom.

My Rating: *****

Oh wow. At the risk of sounding cliche I just have to tell you that this was everything I wanted it to be and more.

THIS is Shannon Hale's genre. Her YA fantasy novels are where she shines. I gave Midnight in Austenland five stars, and I really did love it, but Palace of Stone was beyond love for me. Sheer devotion.

Sorry. I'll stop trying to be poetic.

First, let me say that if you have read Shannon Hale then you know her gorgeous writing style. Palace of Stone does not disappoint. Every word is obviously chosen with care. Shannon is a true wordsmith.

And I loved being back in Miri's world so much! Miri herself is a wonder and her adventures in the capital are thrilling. Everything is more in this book. More excitement, more romance, more thrills and danger, even quarry-speech is taken to a whole new level.

Palace of Stone doesn't have that soft, subtle, quietness that Princess Academy has, and I liked it better for it. That said, I would be surprised if it won the Newbery because it doesn't have that same quiet Newbery flavor that Princess Academy had. Which is a shame.

So delightful! I was completely engrossed, and my husband was awesome and let me have a reading day so I got to read it all in almost one sitting. It was perfect.

I loved that Miri was caught in between right and wrong. It was so realistic the way she tried to do the right thing but often found herself getting deeper and deeper into messes. Miri is so brave and so young and the plot is so twisted up and desperate at one point and I loved watching her learn and figure things out and embrace the consequences of her actions, both good and bad. Am I making sense? I'm probably rambling. Sorry!

There were so many little touches that I thought Shannon Hale did particularly well. I liked how well the first book carried over, continuing to develop the plots of some of my favorite characters, particularly Britta (who faces some serious consequences from her actions in the first book - that surprised me!), but also Frid and Esa and Lana and Peder and more. Plus! New characters! Shannon Hale balanced them all with ease and flair. Oh she has talent. I also liked random things like the Queen's Castle University and how a particular painting is different to Miri each time she looks at it, depending on what's going on in the book.

I could go on and on, but I'll just leave it with this: READ Palace of Stone!!!

Recommended for Shannon Hale fans and fans of any gorgeously written fantasy adventure.

Friday, September 14, 2012


From Goodreads:
I won't describe what I look like. Whatever you're thinking, it's probably worse.

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He's about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you've ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie's just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he's just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels.

My Rating: *****

On principle I know I have to give any book that can make me cry like this one did five stars. This story really touched my heart and has been the first book in a long time (okay, not counting Palace of Stone, which I already knew I would love) that I sacrificed everything to read. I couldn't put it down and I wouldn't read it while trying to run on the treadmill because I knew it would make me cry. :D So, I missed a run for Wonder, but it was completely worth it.

What a beautiful story. I think everyone should read it. Auggie was so lovable and funny and it was amazing to get into his head and see things from his perspective. I also liked that the story was told from his family and friends' points of view at times, because dealing with that kind of issue affects everyone in a person's life.

There are so many hard issues dealt with here, but it's all done in a light-handed way, somehow making it more powerful. It really had that quiet Newbery flavor to it. Definitely recommended to fans of recent Newbery-type books like Okay For Now.

Simply sweet (but not sappy) with lots of real, flawed people. I came away from it feeling all warm and fuzzy and teary and wanting to recommend it to everyone I know. Go read it!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

My mother is always right when it comes to books...

I have a daughter, seven years old (eight in just a couple more months here), and she's an awesome reader.

Problem is, I can rarely get her to finish books. She loves Junie B. Jones and Magic Treehouse and A to Z Mysteries and such, but she skims and jumps around and reads whatever looks interesting at the moment. She will read a book from start to finish, but I have to sit her down and make sure she does it.

I've been working on her with this and I keep telling her, "It's more fun to start a book and read all the way to the end."

Lately she's become obsessed with Harry Potter. I read her the first book, and then she picked up the second and read it all by herself.

But the magic happened in the third book.

When she started it, I just looked at her and grinned. "That is one of my favorites," I told her, "and the ending is AMAZING!!!"

And she loved it. When she read the last few chapters, she interrupted every couple pages to tell me something she'd just read.

"MOM! Ron's rat is... is... is a WIZARD. He's been in disguise this whole time!!!"

"Mom!!! Hermione can go back in time!"


And so it went.

I've got her. She's totally hooked.

I'm so proud. :D

And I told her when she was finished, "Your mother is always right when it comes to books. Trust me."

It made me laugh because I remembered that my mom said the exact same thing to me years ago. She's an elementary school teacher and always read to us and filled our home with amazing books. We lived at the library during the summer (that would be the Orem Public Library in Utah - I miss it!) and I was a book devourer. And I read a lot of amazing books, but also a bunch of not-so-amazing books (like every single goosebumps). But one summer I learned to always trust my mom's recommendations.

We were in Venezuela, spending the summer with Italian relatives (don't ask; it's complicated) and I was so bored. I'd read all the books I'd brought and my mom kept telling me to try some of the books she'd brought for me, promising I'd love them. I was skeptical. But I was desperate. She gave me The Witch of Blackbird Pond.

And I have never gone back. :D

And I know that if my mom recommends a book, it will be perfect and I will love it! Thanks mom. I'm glad we can be book-obsessed together.

Do you have someone whose book recommendations you trust absolutely?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Goodreads summary for Incarceron:
Incarceron -- a futuristic prison, sealed from view, where the descendants of the original prisoners live in a dark world torn by rivalry and savagery. It is a terrifying mix of high technology -- a living building which pervades the novel as an ever-watchful, ever-vengeful character, and a typical medieval torture chamber -- chains, great halls, dungeons. A young prisoner, Finn, has haunting visions of an earlier life, and cannot believe he was born here and has always been here. In the outer world, Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, is trapped in her own form of prison -- a futuristic world constructed beautifully to look like a past era, an imminent marriage she dreads. She knows nothing of Incarceron, except that it exists. But there comes a moment when Finn, inside Incarceron, and Claudia, outside, simultaneously find a device -- a crystal key, through which they can talk to each other. And so the plan for Finn's escape is born ...
My Rating (for both books): ****
I enjoyed this series, but it took me a little while to get into it. It was darker and stranger than I was expecting. And in fact, everything about this plot is unexpected. There were some fabulously huge surprises at the end of book one that I really enjoyed. But it took that to make me want to read the second book.
I started it expecting to love it because I've seen such rave reviews everywhere. It sounded like exactly my kind of book, so I was surprised by how much of a chore it was to read it. I never wanted to and so it took me forever to read this series.
My problems:
I kept waiting and waiting for Claudia and Finn to discover each other, but it took a solid first half (almost three quarters) of Incarceron for it to happen. I hate it when I come to expect something from the synopsis, but then it takes forever to happen.
I didn't like Claudia for the longest time. She's so stuck-up and bossy and haughty and rude to everyone it takes probably until the second book before she shows redeeming features. At least in my opinion.
I still gave the whole series four stars. Why?
I loved Finn. What an amazing character. I was hanging on throughout the whole series, because I was completely devoted to him and desperate to find out the truth and what his fate would be. Finn is likeable and full of depth. And there are a whole host of other truly interesting characters, like the Warden of Incarceron (Claudia's father - NOT likeable, but very fascinating), and Jared (Claudia's tutor and friend), and Keiko (Finn's blood-brother - was never really sure which side he was on). One thing I thought the series needed more of? Comic relief. It was so serious and the whole time the mood was dark and heavy. I think a little laughter would have balanced it nicely. Again - totally my opinion.
And then there's the plot. I'll admit that once I finally got into this, I raced through. I had to find out what was going to happen next and how it would all unfold in the end. I love that the series was only two books long and that both books were out when I started it. The story is a real mind-bender in places and I enjoyed it.
Recommended for: fans of dystopian fantasy.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Night Circus

From Goodreads:

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

My Rating: ****

Grudgingly, I have to admit that it was gorgeous writing and that I loved reading it.

This is a book that I avoided reading. Maybe it was just too trendy and I don't like to read a book just because everyone else is reading it. I like to read because, well, for a million reasons, but to impress other people is not one of those reasons. Or if it is, it's certainly not very high on that list. :D

Anyway, The Night Circus is one of those books that people don't hide when they're reading it out in public. They proudly make sure the cover is facing out and think to themselves, "Look at me. I'm so sophisticated. I'm reading The Night Circus." Or that's my opinion anyway.

But there's something completely magical that happened to me from the first page and I was instantly whisked off and into tents where Le Cirque des Rêves (circus of dreams) doused me in acts that were not illusion or tricks for entertainment, but real power and magic. The writing is vivid and detailed and luscious and pure frosting. I wanted to get out a spatula and scrape every last bit from the book. And somehow it never got too rich.

I'd recommend it for the experience alone, but there's not a lot else in this book that I will rave about.

The plot is sort of vague and the magic system isn't described all that well. I wish it had been. I think it would have added some nice depth to the story. Add to my list of complaints the fact that I didn't love Celia the main character. I wasn't sold on the love story either and the resolution was just so strange and sudden.

High marks for some of the side characters, though. Loved the twins and Bailey. I almost wish their story had taken up most of the time spent on Celia and Marco.

Overall, I wandered along, feeling totally lost in the beautiful dream world that is The Night Circus. Maybe it just needs a rereading for me to get a better handle on the plot. Maybe? I don't know.

Content: This is an adult book, but it's quite clean. There's one sensual scene, but it's short and non-descriptive. Other than that nothing to complain about. Unless tarot cards make you uncomfortable, because there's plenty of that in here.

Recommended for: I don't know; it's so unique! But if you love magic and stories with prophecies and foreshadowing and beautiful atmospheric writing (think Laini Taylor) you will like The Night Circus.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Throne of Glass

From Goodreads
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

My Rating: ****

Throne of Glass is a book that has gotten a ridiculous amount of hype. It's been on my radar for several months and I was first in line at my library to read it. Turns out the hype is for good reason. Female assassins, an intricate magical system, a cool castle with loads of secret passageways, mystery and suspense, romance, fighting, awesomeness....


It was not all I wanted it to be and I had two major problems.

One - Celaena. Yeah. When one of your main problem is the MC herself it's never a good thing. Every time I think of her that lame song pops into my head... "You're so vain. You probably think this [book] is about you..." Anyone? Anyone?

Anyway, Celaena is annoyingly vain. She thinks she's amazing and gorgeous and she's always telling herself how awesome she is and how great she looks. She's obsessed with physical appearances. I wasn't two or three pages in and I realized she'd mentioned her own appearance four times and had already established that the two men she was facing (crown prince and captain of the guard) were deliciously attractive.

I like having attractive characters, but a little more subtlety would have been appreciated. In every aspect. Not only is Celaena gorgeous, but she's the best assassin, ridiculously smart, unbelievably fluent in mutliple languages, surprisingly musical, and it goes on and on. It was just too much. Nothing seemed to ground her and make her real. I love it when my characters are super talented, but without humility it gets ridiculous.

Enough about Celaena. Beef #2 is the love triangle. It was also just too much. An equal amount of time seemed to be spent on developing both of them, so much so that I could never decide which I liked more or wanted to root for more and that annoyed me. In my opinion, there should always be a reason for a love triangle, but in Throne of Glass the only reason seemed to be to prove that Celaena has no trouble attracting any and all males she wants and making them fall in love with her.

Okay, maybe I'm getting a little too negative. And don't forget that I gave this four stars. I was completely into the story; it's un-putdownably good. I will definitely be looking for the sequel, but this isn't immediately on my to-buy list or my recommend-to-everyone-I-meet list.

Recommended for fans of assassins, great fantasy and magic, and people who liked Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study books.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Hobbit

From Goodreads:
"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort."

Written for J.R.R. Tolkien’s own children, The Hobbit met with instant critical acclaim when it was first published in 1937. Now recognized as a timeless classic, this introduction to the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, Gollum, and the spectacular world of Middle-earth recounts of the adventures of a reluctant hero, a powerful and dangerous ring, and the cruel dragon Smaug the Magnificent.

My Rating: *****

A masterpiece.

The Hobbit is a reread for me, and I was planning on reading it this year, but not until closer to the movie release. But I walked past it every day and it called to me, so I gave in. What can I say? I have no willpower where Tolkien is involved. I'm trying really hard not to start in on The Lord of the Rings, because I have a tall TBR pile. How can I resist when The Hobbit leads right into Lord of the Rings so brilliantly? With all its cool foreshadowing and all those objects just randomly picked up along the way (mithril coat of arms, the sword Sting, the ring) that become so essential to the plot of LOTR? I will probably be giving in soon. Or hiding the books. One or the other.

What can I say? I love these stories and I love Tolkien's writing style. So lovely and imaginative and descriptive without bogging things down too much. Nobody writes this way anymore for fear of being labeled long-winded. Tolkien is long-winded, but I believe it's in the very best way. His world is so real.

If you haven't read The Hobbit, I hope I'm not convincing you that the pace is slow. The story flies along, and Bilbo is thrust right out of comfort into adventure after adventure, with very little rest in between. The trolls, the goblins, the riddle war with Gollum, the eagles, the forest, the SPIDERS, the escape from the elven palace, the barrels, the dragon, the battle... it never stops and it's so exciting and thrilling. Ah I love it all and I'm now so excited to see it on the big screen. The Hobbit has deserved a decent movie adaptation ever since it was written (don't talk to me about the animated version). And Martin Freeman as Bilbo? Could it be more perfect? I love him as Watson in PBS's Sherlock series. He really does sincere and lovable and funny with unexpected depth - exactly what Bilbo needs. ANYWAY.

This is a story for anyone who gets tired of normal life and would like to go on an adventure. I plan on reading it to my seven year-old daughter very soon. The Hobbit is a classic and if you haven't read it please do.

My favorite quote from this reading:

(Bilbo is creeping down the tunnel from the hidden doorway into Smaug's lair for the first time - he can hear Smaug snoring.)

"It was at this point that Bilbo stopped. Going on from there was the bravest thing he ever did. The tremendous things that happened afterwards were as nothing compared to it. He fought the real battle in the tunnel alone, before he ever saw the vast danger that lay in wait. At any rate after a short halt go on he did; and you can picture him coming to the end of the tunnel, an opening of much the same size and shape as the door above. Through it peeps the hobbit's little head. Before him lies the great bottommost cellar of dungeon-hall of the ancient dwarves right at the Mountain's root. It is almost dark so that its vastness can only be dimly guessed, but rising from the near side of the rocky floor there is a great glow. The glow of Smaug!"