Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Riot Box Five

So since I found a job, I figured I'd indulge myself and subscribe again to Book Riot's Quarterly. I've only done this once before and was pretty pleased with the goodies I got, though I ended up giving the romance novel to my grandma. My TBR bookshelves are too big for me to read stuff I'm not particularly interested in. 

For this box, they chose books that tell familiar stories from new angles.


Books I Got:


Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi - NOT to be confused with the Fantastic Mr. Fox (as I did). Here's the Goodreads description: What makes a marriage? Is it the end of fairytale romance? It might be if your husband is the writer Mr Fox, who does devilish things to the heroines of his stories. His wife is unable to change his ways, but when his imaginary muse, Mary Foxe conjures herself one sunny afternoon and confronts him, things take an unexpected turn.

Also came with a brief essay article thingy from the author (on the left in the picture). Usually Book Riot sends out a poster of some sort. I guess this counts? 

Ms. Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson - A comic book. I'm not a huge fan, since I prefer words over pictures, but the premise seems interesting enough--Pakistani Muslim girl living in New Jersey becomes a superhero. I like the diversity. Should be a good read. Brief, but good. It comes with a note from the author too. 

I Also Received:


-A hat. I do live in Minnesota and need to keep mah ears toasty warm, but I don't think I'd wear it further than my backyard. When I showed it to my mom, she shook her head and muttered, "I know I didn't drop you on your head when you were a baby."

She says that a lot.

-Literary Tattoos. Cute, but I probably won't use. 

-Shakespeare candy. In case you've ever wondered, Shakespeare tastes like lemons.

-A coupon for 20% off handmade iPhone chargers. I think, like, ten people received these. I can shove an iPod cord into a book myself (which I wouldn't do because that's book abuse). I don't need to pay 50 bucks for that. I'm not too disappointed I didn't get one.  

I do love the anticipation of getting these. Constantly checking the mail to see if it came, suppressing the urge to stalk twitter to see if other people got theirs. However, I can't say I'm terribly excited about what I got. I was a lot happier with the previous box because there seemed to be more stuff. Granted, I did get a bonus book, but it still totaled four books. This one only has one and a half. Not even. Maybe one and a quarter. *grumbles* Comic books...

Moar books, Book Riot. Moar books!

The next box ships in March, so I'll have until then to decide if I'm just wasting my money.

Is anyone else a subscriber? 


Thursday, November 13, 2014

[Review] Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie - Jordan Sonnenblick

Title: Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie
Author: Jordan Sonnenblick
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2004
My Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis: Steven has a totally normal life (well, almost). He plays drums in the All-City Jazz Band (whose members call him the Peasant), has a crush on the hottest girl in school (who doesn't even know he's alive), and is constantly annoyed by his younger brother Jeffrey (who is cuter than cute - which is also pretty annoying).

But when Jeffrey gets sick, Steven's world is turned upside down, and he is forced to deal with his brother's illness, his parents' attempts to keep the family in one piece, his homework, the band, girls, and Dangerous Pie (yes, you'll have to read the book to find out what that is!)

***

I got this book from Book Riot's Quarterly Subscription, otherwise I never would've picked it up. I don't read realistic fiction very often (ok, never). Because Book Riot got me to read it, I thought I'd resubscribe and get the next box some time this month. Much excite.

The book is almost too short. I read it in only a day and I'm the slowest reader ever. The writing is simple, yet powerful. When I wasn't laughing, I was trying not to bawl my face off. It's saying something when you can provoke an emotion besides rage out of me. Watching Steven's brother--who is in fact cuter than cute as the synopsis says--go through cancer treatment is heartbreaking. I mean, why doesn't Sonnenblick just take a sledgehammer to my chest cavity? It'd have been a lot less painful.   

Steven's character is pretty funny, though he gets a little whiny at times, especially when he's feining for attention. It's nice to watch him as he learns there are more important things in life than his wants. The relationship he comes to have with his brother is, well, amazing.

Unfortunately, that all goes to hell in the sequel, After Ever After. From what I understand (mind you, I haven't read it yet) the book is set years later when Jeffrey, the younger brother, is a teen (yay, he survived the first book). Steven's not around, however, because he's gone off to Africa to find himself (musicians, eh?). I'm not sure what that's all about, but I'm looking forward to seeing Jeffrey grown up.

I'm glad I gave this book a try. It's made me more willing to break through my cocoon of science fiction and fantasy and try something realistic. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

[Review] The Fiddler's Gun - A.S. Peterson

Title: The Fiddler's Gun
Author: A.S. Peterson
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Published: 2009
My rating: ★★★★


Description: America is on the of war with England, and Fin Button is about to come undone. She's had it with the dull life of the orphanage, and she's ready to marry Peter and get away from rules, chores, and a life looked after by the ever-watchful Sister Hilde. But an unexpected friendship between Fin and the fiddle-playing cook, Bartimaeus, sets her on a course for revolution. 

With Bart's beloved fiddle and haunting blunderbuss as her only possessions, Fin discovers her first taste of freedom as a sailor aboard the Rattlesnake. She's hiding some dark secrets, but there are bigger problems for the crew--they are on the run from the Royal Navy, and whispers of mutiny are turning the captain into a tyrant.

When Fin finally returns home, will she find Peter still waiting, or will she find she's lost everything she once held dear? 

***

First of all, can we just admire the book's cover for a second? What really captured my attention was how the title was presented. The texture of the cover is, well, simply delicious, and the roughly cut pages fit the piece well. It gives it that extra dimension. I love holding it (and stroking it) and flipping through the pages. Also smells pretty good too, but what book doesn't?

I don't read the genre as much as I should, but I'm big on historical fiction. I'm trying to get into the habit of reading about one time period and coupling it with nonfiction books, like 1776 by David McCullough, so I can learn myself good on one subject. Right now I'm pretty interested in the American Revolution (next up: The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer). I will say the book is more of a (serious) pirate adventure than a Revolutionary War novel. Fin mostly tries to stay alive rather than shape the course of the war, though she'd be happy to join the ranks if she could.

Fin is a rich character and her voice is phenomenal; her speech almost reminds me of Tom Sawyer. She's a tough tomboy, but unlike usual tomboy characters, she actually wants to settle down, get married, and have children. There's a lot of depth to her. I really enjoyed her character, which is rare of me to say about female protagonists.

The scenes are powerful and moving, the descriptions vivid. Sister Hilde's nose will be forever in my thoughts. I found myself terrified the characters I liked (and there were quite a few) were going to die. And some of them did. Bastards. It's pretty impressive when you're able to make me care about so many secondary characters, and at the same time make me hate (instead of love) the villains.

Quotes I enjoyed and, no, I didn't just steal them off of Goodreads even though they're the exact same ones posted:

"...time has a way of leading a person along a crooked path. Sometimes the path is hard to hold to and people fall off along the way. They curse the road for its steep grades and muddy ruts and settle themselves in hinterlands of thorn and sorrow, never knowing or dreaming that the road meant all along to lead them home. Some call that road a tragedy and lose themselves along it. Others, those who see it home, call it an adventure." 
"Beautiful, that's what you got to do with that hurtin', you got to turn it beautiful." - Bartimaeus (my favorite character)

In the back of the book, the author includes a few extras, like short stories and letters written by Fin to her love, Peter. Mostly they're about her wondering who on the ship's been snufflin' her boots. I never did find out. I have a tiny attention span, so when a book ends, I'm done. It goes back on the shelf. 

If you like pirate books, there's no reason not to read this one. It's a shame this book hasn't gained more popularity. It's truly an enjoyable read, and I look forward to the conclusion in Fiddler's Green. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Book Riot's Quarterly Subscription

After weeks of waiting in agony, Book Riot's Quarterly Box finally arrived. This is their third box, yet the first one I've received. I got a bit of money for my birthday in April, so I decided to treat myself and subscribe. Before, I was reduced to living vicariously through other subscribers. It's $50 every three months and they send you a few books as well as other bookish items.

Book Riot gives hints and tells you the theme, but you don't know exactly what you're getting (it's all supposed to equal around $50). Unfortunately, I have the patience of a two-year-old, so I peeked at other subscribers' tweets and saw what they got. It wasn't as big a surprise when I opened it, but it still felt like Christmas!

What I received:


This month they picked books Riot readers were most hesitant to try: romance, sci-fi/fantasy, and young adult. 

The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin - Ninja-priests and dream magic with an ancient Egypt-inspired setting? I am totally there. There's also a hand-written note from the author included in the book. Her handwriting is . . . interesting, to say the least.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King - Young adult novel about a girl whose best friend (who she's in love with) betrays her and then dies a mysterious death. Also included with the novel is a flow chart about King's writing process.

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean - A historical romance set in London. Um. I don't read much romance, but I'll give this one a try. My only problem is I don't know where to put it on my bookshelves. I don't really have a romance section. There's also a 10 Reasons to Read Romance poster that comes with it. I can't say it has convinced me, but I'll give the book a whirl.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick - Young adult novel about a boy dealing with his brother's illness and, you know, teen things. This book was an extra. Around 25% of subscribers get lottery items, including Kobo Arc Tablets, totes, and other books. I really wanted a "I Read YA" tote bag, but I'm glad I got an extra book instead.

These books, besides maybe The Killing Moon, aren't something I'd normally pick, which is one of the reasons I subscribed. I'm trying to branch out and read things other than YA and adult science fiction and fantasy. It's good to have variety? Right?

I also received:


  • Literary Aces Playing Cards - Cute deck of cards with wacky drawings of classic authors.
  • "I Read YA" pin - Putting it on my writing tote.
  • Out of Print Library Card Pouch - Adorable little pouch that I'm going to use for pens and pencils.
  • 2 free months of Oyster Ebook Subscription - I guess it's kind of like a Netflix for ebooks. I don't read a lot of ebooks, I like the feeling of a book in my hand, but this'll be a great way for me to branch out into other genres without having to pay for it.

I wish I had the money (if only I'd become an adult and get a job) to do this every three months. I think it's really the excitement of not knowing what you're going to get (unless you spoil it like me) that I like the most. I would definitely recommend doing this if you're as much a geek as me.

Has anyone else ever subscribed?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

[Indie Review] Open Minds - Susan Kaye Quinn

Title: Open Minds (Mindjack Trilogy #1)
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Published: 2011
Rating: ★★★

DescriptionSixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can't read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can't be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her. -- Goodreads

My thoughts: I received a free kindle version of Open Minds about a year ago. Since I'm considering self-publishing, I figured I should finally give it a try. Unfortunately, I tend to be a little more harsh when it comes to reading indie novels. I feel the content should be just as good as a traditionally published book and I will nitpick every little thing. As a result, I didn't enjoy the story as much as I probably should have.

Overall, I thought the novel was well-written. No grammar mistakes (that I could find, anyway), the writing flowed well and was quick to read. Descriptions were great and I was fully in the character's head. I have absolutely no problem with the writing style, save for a few of the terms she made up. Like "mesh." Unless I missed the significance of the word, it's like she just used it to replace "cool." Otherwise, I enjoyed the the story's premise. The idea of living in a society where everyone can read everyone's minds creeps me out. I have some pretty disturbing thoughts that should never be shared with anyone. Ever.

Lately, I'm finding it more difficult to make a connection with main characters. Kira really annoyed me at first and I think it's partly because I'm becoming tired of insecure female first-person voices. The first few chapters felt like a pity party. Kira can't link her thoughts with other people, so no one except her friend Raf will acknowledge her presence, the pervy boys at school take advantage of her, and she feels like she has no future. Of course, by the end of the story, she gains confidence and all that, but I never really connected with her, and I didn't find her particularly unique. Perhaps I didn't like her because she didn't embrace her mindjacking powers and use them on unsuspecting people like I would have. Truly, I think I'm a villain at heart.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

[Review] The Witches' Kitchen - Allen Williams

Author: Allen Williams
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2010
Rating: ★★★1/2

Description: When the Toad awakens in the dark of the Witches' Kitchen, she has no idea how she got there, or even who she is. Determined to recover her memories, she sets out on a journey to escape. But in the Kitchen, nothing is as it seems. It is pitch-black, infinite, and impossible to navigate, a living maze: It's alive, and constantly rearranges itself. Worse yet are the Witches themselves, who have sent a procession of horrific, deadly monsters on her trail.

And though at first she finds that she can't tell friends from foes by the scales of their skin or the sharpness of their teeth, the Toad picks up a ragtag team of unlikely allies to help her on her quest: an iron-handed imp, a carnivorous fairy, and a few hairy locals. So with a little help from her friends, the Toad just might find herself--and her way out--yet.

My thoughts:


At first, I was surprised when I found out this was intended for a Young Adult audience. From the description and the writing style of the first few chapters, it seemed like it was meant for a younger audience, like Middle Grade. It's written in third person omniscient, too, which tends to come off as a bit . . . childish, for lack of a better word. However, once I got to the end, I kind of realized why it was marked for YA. There's some dark and disturbing things going on.

The story is rich with creative descriptions, and the illustrations every few pages are positively creepy. I'm certain if I was a little kid reading it, I'd have nightmares. I enjoyed how the author, who was originally an illustrator, did the drawings himself. In my head, I actually started picturing the story as a stop motion animation along the lines of ParaNorman or The Boxtrolls.

I'm not sure I felt a connection with the main character. The Toad doesn't know who she is or where she came from, only that she woke up being held aloft over a bubbling cauldron. In terms of personality, I thought she was a little bland. She's very brave and selfless though, so I have to give her kudos for that.

Peculiarly, I found myself sympathizing the most with Sarafina, one of the witches. Emilina, her cold, calculating sister, has a way of putting her down all the time, and it makes me wonder if Sarafina's evilness came from years of emotional abuse, rather than it being innate. She also has a bit of a soft spot or, as the author puts it, less of a hard spot for small, beautiful items. Unfortunately, she's a bit clumsy and the things, like her dolls and such, tend to get worn or broken under her touch.

I also like Horsefly, the grim warrior fairy who has been cast out of her tribe and who must use what used to be her wings as swords. There's also Natterjack, the imp who becomes the Toad's closest friend, but I felt like he could've been a tad bit more mischievous. It would've added more humor to the novel. I also feel like his ending was a bit unresolved. 

I found this book at a closing Border's a couple years ago. It was one of the few books left in the juvenile section. Ordinarily, I might not have purchased it, but I couldn't leave such a lonesome orphan unadopted. Overall, it's a quick and cute read with a bit of a morbid streak. A shame more people don't know about it.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

[Book Signing] D.J. MacHale

After over ten years of reading his work, I finally got to meet one of my favorite authors today at Red Balloon Books. MacHale's Pendragon series helped inspire my own trilogy, and his books are pretty high up on my list, next to Harry Potter, Alex Rider, and Artemis Fowl. 





I blame him for my nightmares as a child. Curse Are You Afraid of the Dark?! I only saw glimpses of it as I was frantically trying to change the channel to something else, but it was enough! *shudders* Anyway, I was super nervous going today, but it was definitely worth the irrational anxiety. He's a pretty awesome guy.

Hobey ho!  

Thursday, February 27, 2014

[Update]

Holy balls! My last post was in November. Crazy long time ago. I dunno why, but I felt the need to post something. It makes me sad knowing my blog is being unused, although I'm still getting surprisingly quite a few pageviews, mostly from the US and Ukraine. привіт! (Hoping I didn't curse anyone out.) Too bad the US media doesn't cover the protests going on over there. At all. Instead I get news about celebs losing weight or cutting all their hair off. But that's a rant for another day.

Speaking of chopping all of one's hair off, I got a pixie cut a couple weeks ago. More out of necessity than desire, though I was curious what I'd look like with one. As cute as I've been told it is, I want my foot and a half of hair back!

Eff that noise.

School:

I officially graduated from the U of M with a Bachelor's in Japanese Literature, Media, and Culture. I might perhaps maybe have a job soon, if my interview from yesterday went well. It's a freelance bilingual data entry job for an internet company. Best part is I don't have to leave my house! Winter can go suck it.

Writing: 

I'm almost done with my . . . seventh, eighth? . . . draft of The Kingdom's Champion. I've lost count. I know I keep saying each draft how much I like the changes I'm making. But I actually mean it this time! I'm super excited with what I've been doing to my story. Each scene has gone under the knife. It's not even recognizable. I'm going to be querying soon. Very soon. I need to move on with my writing.

Reading: 

My goal this year is to read around 100 books. Yeah, it's pretty ambitious and most likely I won't even get to 60, but I can pretend, can't I?  Unfortunately, I got stuck on Terry Goodkind's Stone of Tears, which took me a couple weeks to read. Now I'm nine books behind schedule. I mean, is it truly necessary to write a 1000 page book? Is it? It took about 400 pages for me to actually get into the story. That's a novel in itself.

This year, I'm doing things a little differently. Normally I just read whatever I want whenever I want. Instead, I'm going to try to finish about 23 series I've started. My biggest problem is that I read the first book of a series then wait a year or two to read the next. I have the memory span of a gnat, so I always end up having to reread novels just so I understand what's going on. Do other people have this issue? I know someone who can stop reading a book halfway through and go back to it years later and remember exactly where he left off. *Envy*

So. How's everyone doing? Having fun surviving this godawful winter? And I don't want to hear about you jerkfaces down south who don't have -20 degree temps. Don't talk to me. Just don't. I keel you.