Thursday, January 15, 2015

Audio Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey

Shades of Milk and Honey (Glamourist Histories #1) 
By Mary Robinette Kowal
Read by Mary Robinette Kowal
****
“Perfection is different to every viewer.” 
― Mary Robinette KowalShades of Milk and Honey
From Goodreads:
Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite the prevalence of magic in everyday life, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right--and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.


From Me:
A delightful cross between a Jane Austen story of manners and...well, magic. If I had to compare this story to anything, I'd say it's fairly similar in tone to that of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, though Shades is not as dense. 

I loved Jane, she was very Anne Elliot-esque, and Anne is probably my favorite classical heroine. Her sister, Melody, on the other hand, frustrated me to no end (people who act like her generally do). 

I listened to the audio book version of the story, and it was read by the author, who did a wonderful job. I always feel like I'm getting the truest version of the story when it's read by the author, and Kowal did a lovely job with the telling.

I'd recommend this book to fans of Austen, fantasy, and historicals. It'd also work well as a YA crossover.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: First Frost

I love the cover art for Allen's books!
First Frost (Waverly Family #2) 
By Sarah Addison Allen
*****
“On the day the tree bloomed in the fall, when its white apple blossoms fell and covered the ground like snow, it was tradition for the Waverleys to gather in the garden like survivors of some great catastrophe, hugging one another, laughing as they touched faces and arms, making sure they were all okay, grateful to have gotten through it.” 
― Sarah Addison AllenFirst Frost
Another beautiful story by the amazing Sarah Addison Allen, who has become one of my all-time favorite authors. Her worlds are so warm and wondrous, and reading one of her books is like cozying up to a fire with something warm and sweet to drink.

This is Allen's first "sequel," though Claire has shown up in another book besides her own, but I like to believe that all of these stories happen in the same fictional universe. Like all of Allen's stories, magic weaves throughout the tale - in this case, characters who through food or hair styling can affect a person's day, a character who has the sudden urge to give some random thing to some random person - a thing that person will need, and a young girl who knows where everything belongs. 

I loved revisiting the Waverly family, seeing their lives after the "happily ever after." Much of this story follows what happens to Bay, now 15 years old, after she gave a letter to Josh, a senior in high school who she knows she belongs with - a knowledge that comes with her Waverly gift. It's nice to see that even though these characters had their HEA at the end of Garden Spells, despite their touch of magic, they're still normal people with normal issues and insecurities. 

A magical story from a magical author. Highly recommended.

I received an eGalley of First Frost from NetGalley.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Graphic Novel Review: In Real Life

In Real Life
Written by Cory Doctorow
Illustrated by Jen Wang
***
“This life is real too. We're communicating aren't we?” 
― Cory DoctorowIn Real Life
In Real Life follows Anda as she gets into gaming and discovers issues within the gaming world, as well as the actual world. It examines girls in games, gaming for money, "gold farming," and differences in how other countries treat their employees.

Frankly, this story was a little too after-school-special-y for me to truly enjoy it. It wasn't bad, not at all, but it may have been improved by more text and back story; in this context there were too many "issues" to care about the characters. That being said, the artwork was gorgeous. Jen Wang did a beautiful job.

Maybe I didn't love the book, but I'd still recommend it to young gamers, particularly girls who think maybe it's not ok for them to like gaming. It's a super fast read, so it's worth the half hour it takes to get through it.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Audio Book Review: My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories 
Edited by Stephanie Perkins
****

Stories Include:
· “Midnights,” by Rainbow Rowell.  Read by Rebecca Lowman. 
·  “The Lady and the Fox,” by Kelly Link.  Read by Fiona Hardingham.
·  “Angels in the Snow,” by Matt de la Peña.  Read by Henry Leyva.
· “Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me,” by Jenny Han.  Read by Kim Mai Guest.
· “It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown,” by Stephanie Perkins.  Read by Samantha Quan.
· “Your Temporary Santa,” by David Levithan.  Read by Dustin Rubin.
· “Krampuslauf,” by Holly Black.  Read by Julia Whelan.
· “What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” by Gayle Foreman.  Read by Abby Craden.
· “Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus,” by Myra McEntire.  Read by Lincoln Hoppe.
· “Welcome to Christmas, CA,” by Kiersten White.  Read by Michelle Jubilee Gonzalez.
· “Star of Bethlehem,” by Ally Carter.  Read by Shannon McManus. 
· “The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer,” by Laini Taylor.  Read by Ann Marie Lee.


“He says presents aren't important, but I think they are - not because of how much they cost, but for the opportunity they provide to say I understand you.” 
― David LevithanMy True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories

Such a great collection of YA holiday romance stories from some of the best YA authors! Even the grumpiest Scrooge should find at least *one* title to tickle their fancy. There were a few hit and miss stories for me, but on the whole, it was a great way to get in the holiday mood.

A few thoughts on the stories:

Best title: Beer Buckets and Baby Jesus, by Myra McEntire
Most Swoon-worthy: It's a Yule-tide Miracle, Charlie Brown, by Stephanie Perkins
Most Real: Angels in the Snow, by Matt De La Pena
Most Magical: The Girl Who Woke the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor
Most Abrupt Ending: Polaris is Where You'll Find Me, by Jenny Han
Best Narration: The Lady and the Fox, by Kelly Link, read by Fiona Hardingham
Easiest Story to Match to the Author (aka I could have named the author without knowing who wrote it ahead of time): Midnights, by Rainbow Rowell
Best Chemistry: Welcome to Christmas, CA, by Kiersten White

Of all the stories, I think my favorites would have to be Laini Taylor's and Kiersten White's. But I loved something about all of them and may have to make this compilation a yearly read.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Review: Give and Take

Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success 
By Adam M. Grant
***
“This is what I find most magnetic about successful givers: they get to the top without cutting others down, finding ways of expanding the pie that benefit themselves and the people around them. Whereas success is zero-sum in a group of takers, in groups of givers, it may be true that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” 
― Adam GrantGive and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success
From Goodreads: 
For generations, we have focused on the individual drivers of success: passion, hard work, talent, and luck. But today, success is increasingly dependent on how we interact with others. It turns out that at work, most people operate as either takers, matchers, or givers. Whereas takers strive to get as much as possible from others and matchers aim to trade evenly, givers are the rare breed of people who contribute to others without expecting anything in return.

Using his own pioneering research as Wharton's youngest tenured professor, Grant shows that these styles have a surprising impact on success. Although some givers get exploited and burn out, the rest achieve extraordinary results across a wide range of industries. Combining cutting-edge evidence with captivating stories, this landmark book shows how one of America's best networkers developed his connections, why the creative genius behind one of the most popular shows in television history toiled for years in anonymity, how a basketball executive responsible for multiple draft busts transformed his franchise into a winner, and how we could have anticipated Enron's demise four years before the company collapsed-without ever looking at a single number.

Praised by bestselling authors such as Dan Pink, Tony Hsieh, Dan Ariely, Susan Cain, Dan Gilbert, Gretchen Rubin, Bob Sutton, David Allen, Robert Cialdini, and Seth Godin-as well as senior leaders from Google, McKinsey, Merck, Estee Lauder, Nike, and NASA-Give and Take highlights what effective networking, collaboration, influence, negotiation, and leadership skills have in common. This landmark book opens up an approach to success that has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organizations and communities.



From Me: 
This is our Florida One Book-One State pick for the upcoming year. It's an in depth look at personalities from the angle of givers, takers, and matchers, and how they succeed and/or fail in the workplace. It's highly readable with interesting anecdotes. 

That being said, this is not the kind of book I choose to read; give me fiction or give me boredom. I wouldn't label Give and Take as boring; it's much better than that. But still -- there were no dragons.

Monday, November 3, 2014

HELLHOLE Trailer Reveal!

I picked up Croak at my library a couple of years ago and fell in love with Gina Damico's Grim world (read my review of Croak here and Scorch here). I'm super excited that she's written brand new book in a brand new series. Welcome to Hellhole:


Holy crap on a cracker, that trailer is amazing.

You want more? Well, here's a bit about the book:
Geeky, squeaky-clean Max Kilgore only has one dirty habit: digging for fossils. One day, to his horror, his shovel strikes not upon a dinosaur bone, but a pit to hell—and out of it comes a devil. Specifically, the kind of devil who eats a lot of junk food, watches a lot of reality television, plays a lot of video games, and refuses to leave Max’s basement. But evil is still evil, no matter what form it takes. And Max has to find a way to comply with the demands of the big red menace, lest he lay waste to everyone and everything Max cares about.

With the help of Lore, a former goth girl who knows a thing or two about the dark side, Max goes in search of a new abode for his unwanted guest. Finding a place where he can reside in luciferian luxury isn’t easy, but Max has strong motivation: his mother, whose terminal illness the devil promises to cure if Max gives him what he wants. Lore has her doubts about making a deal with the devil, but Max will stop at nothing to save his mom. And pretty soon, he’s doing things the good kid he once was would never dream of doing. Clearly, hanging around with a devil is a bad influence. But how can Max get rid of the guy without incurring the wrath of hell?

What the hell are the deets, you ask? Hellhole will be published on January 6th, 2015 (I have my copy ordered already - happy birthday to me!) and can be found at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound. Or go straight to the source for all the info at www.ginadami.co

Now I'm craving Doritos.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna #1) 
By Kendare Blake
****
“Move, hunt, kill. Like lather, rinse, and repeat.” 
― Kendare BlakeAnna Dressed in Blood

From Goodreads: 


Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas's life.



From Me:

I read this book for this month's FYA Book Club selection. It was described to me as a cross between Supernatural and Scooby Doo, which I can totally see. Cas (come on, Cas?!) is very Dean-like, if Dean's mom lived instead of his dad, and he had no Sammy to hunt with him. Cas is cool. I like Cas. Anna's pretty cool, too, for a BAMF dead girl from the fifties. I love how she changed from ghost-girl to ghost-hulk depending on the situation - it made her a really fascinating character.

Blake pulls no punches when it comes to violence, like for reals. If you have a weak stomach and are easily squicked out, you may want to skim some of these sections. Things get pretty darn gruesome from time to time, and they're hard to stomach. But, as always with me, it's the horrible things that people do that cause me more trouble than the things the monsters do.

Great Halloween option for weenies like me who don't like straight-up horror. Spooky, creepy, eerie: yes; gross, violent: sometimes; scare me into putting the book in the freezer: no.

Book Review: Jackaby

Jackaby (Jackaby #1) 
By William Ritter
****
“Hell of a sight. She let out a scream and just fell to pieces. Can't say I blame her. Like I said, this sort of thing is not for the female temperament." He directed that last sentiment at me, making eye contact for the first time.

"I dare say you're right, sir," I conceded, meeting his gaze. "Out of curiosity, though, is there someone whose temperament you do find suited to this sort of thing? I think I would be most unnerved to meet a man who found it pleasant.” 

― William RitterJackaby

Jackaby is a detective mystery set in the 1890s in the New England area. Jackaby is a detective with some very Sherlockian attributes: he's more focused on *what* he's seeing than *who* he's seeing; he has no real idea of the correct way to interact with others, which often makes him come across as rude; and he wears a funny hat. Ways in which Jackaby is different from Sherlock? Well first off, he doesn't see all the minute details of a situation - the ordinary things others would overlook despite their significance - and leaves that to our narrator, Abigail Rook. Also, he's a seer. He sees the impossible like kobolds and banshees and the like, which the people of Ritter's world do not know about nor believe in. 

Abigail Rook is like Sherlock's Watson; she acts as our narrator and she assists Jackaby in his investigation. She finds a job with Jackaby after newly arriving in the States. She's originally from England, the daughter of a scholar and archaeologist, who wanted nothing more than to join her father in his adventures, but was told that wasn't a place for women. She ran away from school to join a dig for dinosaurs, but the experience wasn't what she was hoping for. Rather than giving up on her own adventures, though, she stuck out her time on the dig, then got on a boat to America. 

The action of the story only takes place over the course of a couple days. There's a murder, one that Jackaby concludes was committed by a supernatural villain. Jackaby and Abigail follow the clues to the big reveal at the end. And I must admit, I actually guessed the culprit pretty early, but since that never happens to me, I assumed I was wrong. Does it count if I figure out the whodunit if I don't believe I figured it out?

Jackaby was a fun story, and lighter than the gorgeous yet dark cover art would lead you to believe. It had it's dark moments, of course; it is a murder investigation after all, but overall the tone was light and often humorous. There were multiple interesting supporting characters, with a decent mix of males and females. All in all, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more stories in this world. 

Recommended.

**I received Jackaby as an Advanced eGalley from Net Galley**

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Audio Book Review: Grasshopper Jungle

Grasshopper Jungle   

By Andrew Smith
Narrated by Philip Church
Story: *****
Narration: *****

“History provides a compelling argument that every scientist who tinkers around with unstoppable shit needs a reliable flamethrower.” 
― Andrew SmithGrasshopper Jungle

From Goodreads: 
Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.


From Me: 
Umm...sooo this book. It's, well...how do I?... Huh.

Let's try this again. Grasshopper Jungle is unlike any book I've read...EVER. The story is completely bonkers. BUT IN A GOOD WAY. 

I'm not going to go into what the story's about - it's impossible for me to describe and you can read the official synopsis above. That being said, this world is both familiar and bizarre and the boys go through normal teenage stuff as well as events that are wackadoo. The story was at times hilarious, touching, and gross. Austin's "history" was fascinating, especially the way Andrew Smith had everything circle back to itself. I found myself completely enthralled. You know what I mean.

If you're easily offended by mature-immature content (and by that I mean the thoughts, words, and actions common to pubescent teenagers - and if you think they aren't, then you're probably deluding yourself) then this book probably isn't for you. But if you like the strange and bizarre, if you like stories about growing up and trying to understand yourself, if you like books about friendship and love and family, then this book is for you. And if you know a teen who thinks reading is boring or dumb or a waste of time, give them this book - I'm pretty sure they'll have a difficult time putting it down...or getting their eyes to pop back into their heads. BUT IN A GOOD WAY.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review - In Your Dreams

In Your Dreams (Blue Heron #4)  
By Kristan Higgins
*** 1/2
"Nothing kicked off Emmaline Neal's weekend like using a Taser." --In Your Dreams, Kristan Higgins
Emmaline is a small town cop who needs a date to her ex's wedding. Jack, scion of a wine dynasty, is known for being happy to help women who have need of dates for various life events - just a good guy doing a nice thing, no strings, no romance. In the process, they find they like each other more than a little, but complications back home make getting together difficult, if not impossible.

One of the interesting things about this story is the long looks at what went on in Jack and Emmaline's pasts prior to the current action. We get to see both of their past relationships in great detail. This added a lot of depth to the story and fleshed out what made Jack and Emmaline the people they are today, but I couldn't help wanting to get back to their presents rather than spending so much time in their pasts. This is the main reason I didn't rate this book higher; I was much more engaged in their *now* than I was in their *then.*

There's a lot of great humor (though I could do with out all many the embarrassing moments - I don't know, I may have too much empathy or something, but I *hate* reading/watching/seeing/doing humiliating things), and while you have to suspend reality to believe in the adorable small town atmosphere, the situations were believable. Mixed in with the flirting and cute relationship stuff were some fairly intense situations, including the aftermath of a horrible car accident and subsequent PTSD, family drama, and bullying. This book may look like a light-hearted romp at first glance, but there are parts that give the story weight, as well.

In Your Dreams is the 4th book in the Blue Heron series. I wasn't aware of that prior to reading (I hate coming into a series late), but it didn't affect the story - it can very much be read as a standalone. I never felt like I was missing any important details; rather, knowing that the supporting characters likely get more page-time in other books made me more interested in reading the rest.

Kristan Higgins is incredibly popular at my library, and I have no doubt that this book will please those fans, as well as lovers of contemporary romance and stories of relationships and character growth.

*FYI - the cover art is wintery, but this is not a holiday title.

**I received In Your Dreams as an Advanced eGalley from Net Galley**