teaser tuesday (72)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011 | | 5 comments

It's Teaser Tuesday, a bookish blog meme hosted every week by MizB of Should Be Reading. Here's how it works:

Grab your current read and let it fall open to a random page (or if you're reading on an electronic device, pick a random number and scroll to that section). Post two or more sentences from that page, along with the book title and author. Share your find with others in the comments at Should Be Reading, and don't give anything vital away!

“I closed my eyes tight. Someday I would be ready to open my Survival Kit, but not yet. It was too soon.

‘Rose? Where are you?’ Dad’s voice rang through the now empty house, causing me to jump, startled. I’d forgotten I wasn’t alone, that my father and brother – what was left of my family – were just down the hall.”

p. 7 of Donna Freitas’s The Survival Kit


Thursday, December 15, 2011 | | 7 comments

Cinder: it’s the book you didn’t know you needed. Given half a chance, it’ll charm you with a mixture of science fiction and fairy tale, the blending of an old story with new elements and a quirky cyperpunk sensibility. Cinder is a clever tale, and promises intrigue, adventure, depth, and romance. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and can’t wait for the next in the Lunar Chronicles series.

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl…

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Let’s get this out of the way to start: Cinder is not just the traditional Cinderella fairy tale dressed up and placed in the future – it is more. The author deftly balanced the epic and immediate storylines, elevating the complexity level near to that of a fine high fantasy. Add to that engaging characters and a worthy villain, and you’ve got it made.

Our immediate heroine, Cinder, is plucky, determined, and loyal. She’s also been modified – she’s part machine. She’s a mechanic with a bit of an attitude, and she has the luck (?) to fall right into adventure. What ensues is an entertaining, exciting, and slightly mad.

In Cinder, author Marissa Meyer pulls from many places: fascination with the far future, our present, and her characters confront the ‘big’ themes humanity faces: disease, loss, the sacrifice of few for the many, and the fate of empire. At the same time, it’s about the forbidden hope of one girl and boy.

The setting is lush, both strange and familiar, in a rebuilt Beijing of mystery, science, control, cyborgs, androids and more. One of the story’s strengths is its complexity – the play of interplanetary politics, a man made ruler too young, anti-cyborg discrimination, all mixed with the threat of imminent danger.

Of course, it’s not all deep AND immediate. There are a couple of story props to hurdle over – the knowing scientist, the trusted advisor who devises plots within plots, the ‘personality’ imbued in one special android (Star Wars, anyone?). And yet, with Cinder, these bits seem like tribute to the great science fiction of the past, and not tired replays. All in all, Cinder is a charming meld of sci-fi and fairy tale, as well as a satisfyingly complex young adult novel with aspirations to political intrigue and stardom (no pun intended). I shall eagerly recommend it to… everyone.

Recommended for: I said it already, didn’t I? Everyone. Cinder releases on January 3, 2012 from Feiwel & Friends (Macmillan).

Fine Print: I read an e-ARC of Cinder courtesy of NetGalley and Macmillan, and received no compensation for this review.

guest post on neil gaiman and a giveaway

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 | | 8 comments

One of my most faithful blog followers is Alyce of At Home with Books. She seems to read in all genres, and her reading choices (and reviews) always make me reconsider my old standbys. So it was an honor to be asked to contribute to her one of her current weekly events, ‘Best and Worst.’ I chose to write about Neil Gaiman. I know what you’re thinking – does the man really do worst? Find out for yourself and read my thoughts over at Alyce’s blog!

And to make life a bit sweeter this holiday season, also enter to win any Neil Gaiman book (up to a $25 US value), shipped from the Book Depository. Entering this giveaway is simple – just fill out the FORM! Open internationally, will end December 31st at 11:59pm EST. Winner will be selected randomly and notified via email.

Feel free to tell me in the comments which Neil Gaiman book you’d choose!

the bards of bone plain giveaway

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 | | 3 comments

Patricia McKillip’s books are go-to reads for me. She writes elaborate fantasies that stretch the imagination and the boundaries of the heart. Her prose can be painfully lovely and evocative. In my eyes, her writing is on par with that of Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman (high praise indeed!). Granted, there are some of her books I love more than others – favorite children, if you will.

I requested and received The Bards of Bone Plain for Christmas last year, and enjoyed the reading of it in the days just after the holiday. I’m honestly puzzled that I didn’t write a review for it right away. I’m going to rectify that soon. In the meantime, I’m giving away two copies of the book to celebrate its paperback release this week, and in hopes that one of you will soon fall as much in love with McKillip’s writing as I have.

To enter: fill out the FORM. Giveaway open internationally, will end December 17th, 2011 at 11:59pm EST.

Scholar Phelan Cle is researching Bone Plain - which has been studied for the last 500 years, though no one has been able to locate it as a real place. Archaeologist Jonah Cle, Phelan's father, is also hunting through time, piecing history together from forgotten trinkets. His most eager disciple is Princess Beatrice, the king's youngest daughter. When they unearth a disk marked with ancient runes, Beatrice pursues the secrets of a lost language that she suddenly notices all around her, hidden in plain sight.

Fine print: one paperback copy of The Bards of Bone Plain was sent to me (and from thence donated to this contest) by Ace Books, and the other I’m donating personally.

what happened to goodbye

Monday, December 5, 2011 | | 4 comments

There’s something wonderfully reassuring about a familiar author and a familiar genre. Even though you don’t know the story, you have an idea of what you’ll get. If what you expect is comfort, reading can be very rewarding (i.e. comforting). On the other hand, if it disappoints, you may feel cheated.

With Sarah Dessen and contemporary YA drama, what you see is what you’ll get – and Dessen’s latest release What Happened to Goodbye was what I wanted on my bus trip home from Thanksgiving. Download to my crackberry? Done in an instant. I had a book in my hands, and all was right with the world.

Who is the real McLean?

Since her parents' bitter divorce, McLean and her dad, a restaurant consultant, have been on the move-four towns in two years. Estranged from her mother and her mother's new family, McLean has followed her dad in leaving the unhappy past behind. And each new place gives her a chance to try out a new persona: from cheerleader to drama diva. But now, for the first time, McLean discovers a desire to stay in one place and just be herself, whoever that is. Perhaps Dave, the guy next door, can help her find out.

Combining Sarah Dessen's trademark graceful writing, great characters, and compelling storytelling, What Happened to Goodbye is irresistible reading.

Oh, McLean. You are one heck of a piece of work. Your parents are, too (three pieces of work? oh, nevermind, i’ll stop). Sarah Dessen has put together a book that delivers heaps of angst and realistic conflict, and a story about a girl finding her way, finding friends, and perhaps finding love. Amidst all that finding, though, you get a string of bad life choices, and Dessen puts McLean through so much drama that it’s a wonder she doesn’t end up crazy-face.*

McLean has been moving around the country with her dad since her parents’ messy divorce, and in each new town she tries on a different role and personality. All of this life change is starting to wear on her, and avoiding her mother isn’t getting any easier. When McLean lands in her dad’s newest town, she finally starts to find a place… but will it last, and will she let it?

Real life is hard, even (and sometimes especially) for teenagers. Dessen has a knack of showing how pressure and trouble can weigh on anyone, and how getting through tough times (i.e. suffering) often prompts growth and change. When she strikes the right vein, Dessen is gold. She writes stories that grab the reader’s emotions and sympathies and teach them something new about life, love, and empathy. Or, in the case of What Happened to Goodbye and McLean Sweet, a story that gets most of the way there and then stalls out hardcore.

In the end, this book didn’t deliver for me. It had the trademark emotional ‘oomph’ that can and will cause you to leak tears mid-paragraph, but it lacked a cohesive conclusion and emotional finality. Rough translation? It put me through a lot of crap and didn’t seem worth it after all was said and done. Kind of like a bad relationship. Ah well. Dessen will rebound with a great story next time, and I’ll be waiting.

Recommended for: die-hard fans of contemporary YA lit, especially romance and family-drama oriented stories. Also a great bet for readers who feel the pull of the beach even in the midst of winter and look forward to a book with characters that feel the same way. Do you like intense conflict in a realistic setting? Then this book may also be for you. Good luck.

*crazy-face: A term my roommate uses to describe anyone under too much stress. May be accompanied by ‘crazy eyes’ and poor coping skills.

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