Monday, November 12, 2012


From Goodreads:
They called her Water Claire. When she washed up on their shore, no one knew that she came from a society where emotions and colors didn’t exist. That she had become a Vessel at age thirteen. That she had carried a Product at age fourteen. That it had been stolen from her body. Claire had a son. But what became of him she never knew. What was his name? Was he even alive?  She was supposed to forget him, but that was impossible. Now Claire will stop at nothing to find her child, even if it means making an unimaginable sacrifice.

Son thrusts readers once again into the chilling world of the Newbery Medal winning book, The Giver, as well as Gathering Blue and Messenger where a new hero emerges. In this thrilling series finale, the startling and long-awaited conclusion to Lois Lowry’s epic tale culminates in a final clash between good and evil.

My Rating: ****

I was really surprised to hear that Lois Lowry was coming out with another book in the Giver series. The other two sequels to The Giver, Gathering Blue and Messenger, weren't exactly smashing successes (in my opinion) and both came out several years ago. Plus, Messenger's ending was very final. But I was really excited about this too, because I knew Son would be told from the viewpoint of Gabe's mother.

The first half of the book was my favorite. I loved learning about the vessels, and the whole birthing process and I liked being back in the original Giver world at the same time period as The Giver. The stories are parallel, and I really liked seeing it from another point of view. I liked Claire, and believe me, the injustice of seeing her give birth at age fourteen and then get pushed off to work in the fish hatchery where she would never see her child again was infuriating. Claire becomes obsessed with her child, something I don't blame her for. If it had been my baby I would have felt the same way.

But the story slowed way down the moment Claire left her community in search of Gabe. You'd think that would make things better, more exciting, right? Nope. And one of the things that I think makes the original book better than the sequels is the fact that when The Giver ends, you're left with hope that Jonas and Gabe have found something better, a world without all the conformity and tyranny and misery. You don't know what's outside, but you can hope that it's better. Well, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and now Son all show the world waiting outside The Giver and it's not pretty. And it drives me crazy. Why exactly is it that everyone outside the regulated communities has to live a medieval lifestyle? Why is it that the people who are free don't have medicine or electricity or any sort of technology at all? It's a strange unbalance and it doesn't sit well with me.

Anyway, back in the story here we're crawling along, Claire is depressed, but she eventually finds a purpose, trying to escape the community that she escaped to. She has to train her body to climb up a cliff face to escape. This process takes several chapters. And then she actually makes the climb, which takes several more chapters. Not exaggerating. If the writing hadn't been beautiful (this is still Lois Lowry we're talking about here) I would have skipped parts, just to get past it.

And finally things start happening. No spoilers, but we're reunited with characters from all the books and Son really does a nice job of tying the quartet together. Of course, there's a final battle with evil, and I won't say much, but this is the same evil that I thought had been defeated at the end of Messenger, and since it lived I'm really questioning the necessity of killing off a character at the end of Messenger if his sacrifice wasn't going to even defeat that character for good - seemed ridiculous that the evil just shows right back up... And I also think Lois Lowry is a bit heavy-handed with her philosophical morals in the Giver sequels. I wanted more explanations of Gabe's gift and her magic system in general, but everything wrapped up quickly with few details.

Anyway, the book is a nice addition to the Giver series, but I have plenty of problems with it so no raving from me. The writing is lovely and the closure is nice. Recommended for fans of the original.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Assassin's Curse

From Goodreads:
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

My Rating: ****

I'm glad that the goodreads summary is different than the summary on the back of the book, because the book's blurb gives away almost the entire plot and even outlines the second book! Weird. If you read this, do not read the back of the book.

And I really recommend that you do read this, because it is a rollicking good adventure and a seriously fun read. Ananna is about as entertaining as any pirate character I've ever read/watched. I do wish perhaps that she didn't swear like a sailor, but it's definitely in character and light on the heavier words (there was one "F" word). Her grammar is atrocious, which bothered me at first, but I got used to it fast. And that's enough of the negatives, because there really aren't any others. Ananna is hilarious, a good fighter, a loyal friend, an independent thinker, and a smashing good sailor and, on ocassion, thief.

I found Naji, the assassin, a bit more bland. But not a bad character, mind you. He was just so quiet. I wasn't sure why he was an assassin, or why Ananna started falling for him by the end of the book (come on, that's not a spoiler - you knew that's where this book was going, right?). There were several things I just wanted more from in this book. Naji for one. Other than that, I wanted more magic and more answers in general. This book needs its companion. It does not stand alone at ALL. Expect half a story and half of the answers you need. I will definitely be reading the sequel, but I kind of wish I'd waited for them both to be out before reading the first.

But not really, because this book is still a lot of fun and full of adventure and humor and magic. Ananna absolutely makes it worth it. Very much recommended and I can't wait for the sequel!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Crown of Embers

From Goodreads:
In the sequel to the acclaimed The Girl of Fire and Thorns, a seventeen-year-old princess turned war queen faces sorcery, adventure, untold power, and romance as she fulfills her epic destiny.
Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone's power. That is not all she finds. A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

My Rating: ****

What absolutely gorgeous high fantasy Rae Carson writes. I loved The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but this tops that. I liked the story better, the romance better, Elisa better, everything. Elisa is a wonderful heroine; she's so easy to like and to sympathize with. She's so uncertain of herself at times, but then she'll be so completely kick-butt at others. In this book, Elisa is now queen and she's not necessarily doing a good job of it. But she grows into her new role, all the time dealing with assassination attempts, unfriendly magic, constant battles and a quest for the power to face her enemies.

And then there's Hector. Hector is a true friend to Elisa and I loved watching them interact. I won't say more about how it goes on from there, but that I loved it. Their relationship unfolded naturally and perfectly. Elisa has not had it easy in the romance department (which you'll know if you've read Girl of Fire and Thorns) and I'm sorry to say that Rae Carson isn't giving Elisa any easy breaks here either. There's no simple happy ever after for Elisa - well, maybe, hopefully, after book 3 The Bitter Kingdom, but we'll see. I didn't love the way Crown of Embers ended, but I didn't hate it like I hated the way the first book ended. Was that vague and cryptic enough? I'm really trying to avoid spoilers.

I do wish I had re-read the first book again. There were a couple times when characters showed up and I couldn't remember who they were, making my brain constantly spin wondering why exactly I was supposed to hate certain people.

For sensitive readers: There's nothing explicit, but there is a major plot point (especially towards the end of the book) about Elisa's sexuality. I wouldn't recommend this book for younger teens. But I would recommend it for just about anyone older. It's beautifully written. My favorite type of fantasy.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why I love YA

 (click the graphic to link back to the contest and enter it yourself!)
Ok, I'm not usually one to do things for contests, but this one... I REALLY want every chance possible to win it. Seriously - just look at that thing! 50 signed books??? WANT.
I'm even considering creating a twitter account, so I can tweet about it and get one more entry. It may come to that. :D
One of the requirements for an extra ten entries was to share somewhere on the web why I love YA. I'd call that an easy requirement, since it's one of my favorite subjects. I'll try to be concise, though. We all know I'm prone to rambling.
Top Ten Reasons I Love YA:
1. I may be about 12 - 13 years older than the typical YA character, but I have no problems remembering what it was like being that age. I loved my young adult years, both for the fun and innocence and for the tumultuous decisions I was constantly faced with.
2. Young Adult novels are out of this world creative and imaginative.
3. YA has generally cleaner content than adult fiction, something I personally appreciate.
4. I love filling my library with YA because I can lend them out to friends and neighbors and students without worrying about content.
5. Talking about YA with teens is a great way to make friends with them :D (which is important to me since I interact with teens every day).
6. I love YA for the community of bright and clever people I've gotten to know through it. So many amazing and passinate bloggers and authors are as obsessed with YA as I am and I love reading their thoughts on books and writing for young adults.
7. I love YA because there's no shortage of amazing books to fill up my to-read lists!
8. YA deals a lot with first love, something I love reading about. I remember how all-consuming and powerful first love is, and reading about it somehow always manages to remind me how it felt to fall in love with my own husband (which always makes me fall in love with him all over again).
9. I love the way YA bridges age gaps. I have friends off all ages who love YA. And finding someone who also loves YA is an easy way to make an instant new best friend.
10. There's something so powerful about YA characters and the way they realize their individual talents and abilities and grow up and find love and face adult problems. Every YA book is the Heroic Journey repeated. We've all been there, being forced away from the comfort of home and parents and people who take care of us, all of a sudden having to grow up and face our problems and overcome them in heroic ways. YA is empowering to teens and adults. Reading YA reminds me that I have the ability to face anything and overcome it.
In short, I love YA because IT IS THE BEST!!!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Mini Reviews: 11 - 2 - 12

I keep telling myself to review as I go, but sometimes books just pile up! What can I say? I read too quickly. :D
 My Rating: *****

How is it possible Rick Riordan keeps getting better??? This is my favorite book by him so far. Which means a lot, because I've certainly given him a lot of love on this blog in the past. The story was richer and deeper, the characters more intense, conflicted, and lovable. And the humor? Off the charts hilarious. I've been waiting for this book for a long time. To finally get all these characters interacting together has been completely worth the wait. It's like how all the superhero movies have been fun (Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, etc...), but The Avengers trumps them all. :D

And Annabeth? She gets all the gold stars here. She's always been a favorite, but hearing parts of the story from her perspective was incredible. I'm not being very specific here, but it's hard to add details when you're so deep into a series without giving away any spoilers. Just trust me. Absolutely brilliant.

But ARRRRGHHHH!!!!!!!!! What a cliff-hanger!!!! GAHHH!!!!

Is it too early to pre-order The House of Hades?


Goodreads summary:
In a desert world of sandstorms and sand-wolves, a teen girl must defy the gods to save her tribe in this mystical, atmospheric tale from the author of Drink, Slay, Love. Liyana has trained her entire life to be the vessel of a goddess. The goddess will inhabit Liyana’s body and use magic to bring rain to the desert. But Liyana’s goddess never comes. Abandoned by her angry tribe, Liyana expects to die in the desert. Until a boy walks out of the dust in search of her.

Korbyn is a god inside his vessel, and a trickster god at that. He tells Liyana that five other gods are missing, and they set off across the desert in search of the other vessels. For the desert tribes cannot survive without the magic of their gods. But the journey is dangerous, even with a god’s help. And not everyone is willing to believe the trickster god’s tale.

The closer she grows to Korbyn, the less Liyana wants to disappear to make way for her goddess. But she has no choice: She must die for her tribe to live. Unless a trickster god can help her to trick fate—or a human girl can muster some magic of her own.

My Rating: ****

I really enjoyed Vessel. It's the kind of book I wish I could write. (This is also the first book I've ever read by Sarah Beth Durst, but you can bet I'll be checking out more from her). I loved the world she's created here. So rich and atmospheric and full of magic and mythology and history. Sarah Beth Durst has described her desert land (with its people and their wealth of stories) with gorgeous writing.

And I really enjoyed Liyana as a character. Practical almost to a fault, it was kind of refreshing to have such a cool-headed heroine. Most of the heroines I read are high emotion, high drama types, and I loved Liyana's ability to chill, assess a situation, and get right to work solving the problem.

I felt a little like I was left wanting in a couple places. The romance was a little meh for me. I didn't love the way it ended and on top of that Liyana's practicality made it hard for me to feel like her heart was involved. Then there's Korbyn. I'm a huge fan of trickster gods, but I thought Korbyn was a bit of a disappointing one. I was waiting for him to turn trickster and be all unexpected, but he never did. 

Still, I loved every moment I spent reading this and was completely engrossed in the story (and especially the setting). Lovely writing!

Recommended for: Fans of fantasy and mythology. It reminded me a bit of Rick Riordan's Egyptian series (with gods and mortals working together in the same body), and while I'm on that vein, also kind of like The Host (it's difficult when the person possessing you is in love with the same person you're falling in love with...).


From Goodreads:
Don’t look at Them. Never let Them know you can see Them.

That is Ethan Chase’s unbreakable rule. Until the fey he avoids at all costs—including his reputation—begin to disappear, and Ethan is attacked. Now he must change the rules to protect his family. To save a girl he never thought he’d dare to fall for.

Ethan thought he had protected himself from his older sister’s world—the land of Faery. His previous time in the Iron Realm left him with nothing but fear and disgust for the world Meghan Chase has made her home, a land of myth and talking cats, of magic and seductive enemies. But when destiny comes for Ethan, there is no escape from a danger long, long forgotten.

My Rating: ***

I recently got into NetGalley, which is a great source for professional readers (which I happen to be as a book blogger :D - don't I sound all hoity-toity calling myself a professional reader?) where I can request a digital copy of books to read for review from various publishers. When I first got on to NetGalley I was like a kid in a candy store. I can read books before they're published! Wahoo! So I requested several and was shocked when I actually got approved for most of them! This is the first review I've done of a NetGalley book and I want to say thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for letting me read The Lost Prince early. It is now released (as of the 23rd, I believe) so you can buy this book or request it from the library if you're interested!

I chose The Lost Prince because it sounded great and not because I'm a fan of Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series. Not that I don't like her other books... I just haven't read them yet. I was a little worried about that when I requested The Lost Prince, but decided to just go for it anyway, since The Lost Prince is the beginning of a whole new series in the same world. So, from experience, let me just tell you that if you haven't read the other Iron Fey books, you can start here and not feel too lost or left out of the loop. Sure there were times when it felt like Julie Kagawa was going, "Look! It's your favorite character here for a cameo!" but it didn't happen too often and the story stayed Ethan's.

I really liked Ethan. He made a great tormented hero. He acted like a complete jerk, but since I was inside his head I knew he was actually just afraid of the fey and terrified of getting close to people who might end up dead because of his tendency to be attacked by monsters.

I've always been a fan of faery stories and this one did some great things with fey mythology. I liked the whole magic system and the difference between the iron fey and regular fey. The villains were perfectly terrifying too.

My complaints? The romance developed too quickly and there was a soap-opera-y twist to it at the end too. And overall, while I liked it, it was easy to put down and I found myself constantly peeking ahead to see if I could get to something more interesting. The pacing felt a little slow. But when it finally picked up I liked where it went.

Recommended for: Fans of Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series.

From Goodreads:
"Long live the King" hailed "Entertainment Weekly" upon the publication of Stephen King's "On Writing." Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 -- and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, "On Writing" will empower and entertain everyone who reads it -- fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

My Rating: ****

Not my usual read, but I've been wanting to do NaNoWriMo this year and I thought a book on writing might be just the kickstart I need. And it was. After reading it I've been feeling much more motivated to squeeze a few hundred words in a day. This book is totally inspiring.

And Stephen King's writing advice is excellent. As I read I kept wanting to take notes and highlight favorite sections and sentences. I resisted since it was a library book, but I may just need to buy a copy for myself.

Although... I'm not sure I'd want to read the whole thing again. The section on his life was interesting, but I can see why he became a horror novelist. He had kind of a twisted childhood. And the language in this book is pretty foul. He didn't use the "F" word as casually as J.K. Rowling did in Casual Vacancy, but it was plenty enough times for me (and really, Casual Vacancy isn't a very good measure because a book could have twenty "F" words per page and still not be as bad as Casual Vacancy).

But, like I said, the section on writing is genius. I immediately pulled out a recent transcript and turned into a serial killer, hacking and slashing at adverbs and dialogue tags and passages with passive voice.

Hmmm.... Maybe reading a book by Stephen King has been a bad influence on me. :D Too violent a metaphor?

And I'm pretty sure I never want to read any of Stephen King's novels. Just the brief blurbs and bits and descriptions of his inspiration were enough to give me nightmares. No thanks.

Highly recommended for: Anyone wanting some writing inspiration!

Done for the day! I think I should stop calling these mini-reviews. :D Sorry for being long-winded!