Whew! NaBloPoMo Accomplished!

Whew! I managed to post at least 1 thing every day for the past month for National Blog Posting Month. It's been time consuming, but a lot of fun! Anyone else take part in NaBloPoMo?

Alcatraz versus the Shattered Lens Release!

This is the last book in Brandon Sanderson's middle school series, which has been delightful so far. Librarians are the enemy! You should really pick up the first one if you haven't read it Alzatraz versus the Evil Librarians.

There aren't any big release events, but Brandon will sign any of his books at signing events of which there are many for Wheel of Time and now his new series The Stormlight Archives.

There have also been reports that copies can already be found in select stores so call ahead if you go out looking for it today.

Teaser Tuesday (Nov 30)

"I almost laughed. Did you pluck that off your utility belt, Batman?" -Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your own teaser post or just the teaser if you don't have a blog.

Review: Going Postal (Discworld #33) by Terry Pratchett

Going Postal by Terry Pratchett

Moist Van Lipwig, a notorious criminal, finds himself before Lord Vetinari who provides him with a couple of choices: die or become postmaster general. His choice to live sticks him with reviving a post office that has languished for decades. He also inherits a mad old postman and his bumbling apprentice.

This is one of those books where delightful madness, lighthearted jokes, and masterful parody swirl into a wonderful tale. Hats off to Mr. Pratchett.

The characters are fully developed and possess amusing quirks. I especially liked Lord Vetinari who is a most malevolently benevolent and brilliant despot. I think it helped that I listened to this as an audiobook. The voices of each cast member was excellently done.

If you haven't read a Pratchett, this is a good one to pick up. If you have read Pratchett and enjoyed him, this is definitely one you shouldn't miss.

Star Rating: 4.0/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Going Postal at Amazon

Matched Released!

Matched comes out tomorrow! This is one of the most highly anticipated fantasy YA books this year. I was lucky enough to get a copy of an ARC thought not from a publisher so you can read my review and decide for yourself if you want to go out and get a copy.

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Four black maids in a southern town talk about their lives as maids for white ladies. One day, a white lady named Skeeter tries to get them to contribute their stories to a book about their working conditions. This is fraught with danger as they live in an era (1960's) where racism was much more overt and accepted.

There is a feeling of desperation at the beginning when you first meet the maids Minny, Miss Cecelia, Aibileen, and Yule May. The world is not fair and not likely to get better any time soon for them. As the story progresses, the despair deepens as events take lives and the prejudices unfold.

Skeeter is a non-conformist who loved her maid nanny. She starts out somewhat naive, but her progression to knowledge helps the reader to better understand the situation. At times though, her persistence makes the reader angry at her and frustrated by the maids' lack of risk however understandable. Stockett has created a very human character with Skeeter that we can cheer on and be frustrated with.

Some people complain about the language of the maids since Stockett writes the thoughts of the maids in their slang. I felt it gave a more believable and likable air to the story. This is for fans of slice-of-life books, action lovers beware.

Star Rating: 4.0/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for The Help at Amazon

Interview with Stephanie Dray!


Stephanie Dray is the author of a forthcoming trilogy of historical fiction novels set in the Augustan Age, starting with Lily of the Nile: A Novel of Cleopatra's Daughter. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.

She is currently sponsoring the Cleopatra Literary Contest for Young Women, the deadline for which is March 1, 2011, but join her newsletter now for updates and a chance to win a free copy of Lily of the Nile and additional prizes.


1) Most of the time, synopses of books are written by someone other than the author. What is your synopsis of Lily of the Nile?

I have to admit that my editor--Cindy Hwang of Berkley Books--has always included me as a collaborator on the back cover copy for my novels. Because of that, I end up combining my work with the copywriter’s and coming up with a bunch of different blurbs. Then Cindy picks the one that she likes best, and truthfully, I think she’s got a great eye for that kind of thing. I thoroughly approve of the official blurb for my debut novel. However, I can show you one of the rejected alternatives. You can probably guess why it was axed!

Forty years before the birth of Christ, a different child is heralded the savior. Her name is Selene, daughter of the famous lovers, Cleopatra and Antony…

To the Isiac faith sweeping the ancient world, Princess Selene and her twin brother Helios embody the divine celestial pair who will bring about a Golden Age. But when Selene’s parents are vanquished by Rome, her auspicious birth becomes a curse. Heir to one empire and prisoner of another, the young princess struggles for survival in a Roman court of intrigue. She cannot hide the hieroglyphic messages that carve themselves into her hands nor can she stop the emperor from using her powers for his own ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene sets out to reclaim what's rightfully hers, even if it means playing a political game in which the only rule is win or die.

2) You've written some Harlequin imprints previously. Do you feel that writing those books influenced the writing of Lily of the Nile and in what way?

Lily of the Nile was actually written years before I took on a pen name for HQN, it’s just that in the crazy world of publishing, my romances were published first. However, what I learned writing romance probably has changed me as a writer overall. I’m far more efficient, much more methodical about structure. Writing romance also taught me to figure out what the reader’s literary fetish is and to exploit it. In romance, it’s the happy ending. In a book like Lily of the Nile or its sequel, Song of the Nile, the reader wants to see the journey of a woman. She wants to catch glimpses of her own struggles all while being inspired by a woman who is also extraordinary. The reader wants to be transported to another place, another time, and to learn something while being immersed in an emotional story. Before I wrote romance, I would have been coy about giving the reader what she wants. Now, I know better.

3) Why did you decide to write under a slightly different pen name for this series?

Actually, Stephanie Dray is my real name. It’s the romances that I write under a pen name! The expectations that historical fiction readers have vary greatly from those of romance readers and I wanted to make sure that there wasn’t any confusion.

4) From the extensive bibliography for Lily of the Nile, you must have spent a lot of time researching. How did you feel about doing that much research and what tips would you offer others trying to write historical fiction?

I loved doing the research. It felt like I was uncovering a mystery and I wanted to completely immerse myself. That kind of thing was deliciously indulgent and I loved it. Unfortunately, when it came time for the sequel, Song of the Nile, I was under deadline which meant that there were only so many days I could devote to research and if I missed something, well, too bad. That was enormously stressful and will probably cause my editor to want to kill me when I start changing things at the copy-editing stage.

As for tips, I would say don’t depend on your own smarts. My own training was in the law, not in antiquities, so while my bull-dog like quality for getting at the truth or coming up with “a theory of the case” was useful, I knew I needed help. My advice is to forge a good relationship with experts in the field. I worked with a few, but I cannot thank Professor Duane Roller enough for answering my questions--some of which must have made him choke.

5) In your bio, you mention that you were previously a game designer, which intrigues me because I enjoy playing PC games. What games did you design for? Do you enjoy writing more and why do you enjoy writing more/less?

Along with my husband, I designed and ran the text-based internet game FiranMUX. It’s set in an original Greco-Roman fantasy world and simulates a society in which players can create interactive stories. Over the years we’ve had thousands and thousands of players and it’s still going strong. I no longer run it because I spend all my waking hours writing books, but I really miss it! I really enjoyed the instant feedback from players when I would present them with fun twists and turns. Writing books is a much more solitary kind of storytelling which is probably why I’m always so thrilled to hear from readers and why I’m working hard to contribute to the writing community. To celebrate the launch of Lily of the Nile, I’m hosting a giveaway on my site and I’m also sponsoring the Cleopatra Literary Contest for Young Women, which has some fantastic prizes for aspiring young writers.
Thanks for having me!


With her parents dead, the daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony is left at the mercy of her Roman captors. Heir to one empire and prisoner of another, it falls to Princess Selene to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers…

In the aftermath of Alexandria’s tragic fall, Princess Selene is taken from Egypt, the only home she’s ever known. Along with her two surviving brothers, she’s put on display as a war trophy in Rome. Selene’s captors mock her royalty and drag her through the streets in chains, but on the brink of death, the children are spared as a favor to the emperor’s sister, who takes them to live as hostages in the so-called lamentable embassy of royal orphans…

Now trapped in a Roman court of intrigue that reviles her heritage and suspects her faith, Selene can’t hide the hieroglyphics that carve themselves into her flesh. Nor can she stop the emperor from using her for his own political ends. But faced with a new and ruthless Caesar who is obsessed with having a Cleopatra of his very own, Selene is determined honor her mother’s lost legacy. The magic of Egypt and Isis remain within her. But can she succeed where her mother failed? And what will it cost her in a political game where the only rule is win or die?

A BIG Thank You to Stephanie for stopping by here for her blog tour!

Review: Nighshade (Nightshade #1)

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Calla is a werewolf or well she prefers Guardian. She saves someone by feeding him some of her blood (surprise! werewolf blood has healing properties). This is the first event in a series seemingly designed to bring Calla's carefully organized life down in shambles. She's supposed to marry Ren, but now there is a Shay. What you expect happens.

So every blogger seems to have reviewed this book. The consensus seems to be that it's full of awesome, but quite honestly I thought it was awful. It gets part of a star because the cover is so pretty.

Where do I start? The exchanges between Calla and Shay are so incredibly contrived. "Hi! I just met you and telling you things is going to get me killed but let me pour out EVERYTHING about what I am and how my society functions anyway." This happens at least twice which really detracts from the rest of the story in general. The author really should have found a better way to give the reader that information without resorting to such unnatural dialogue.

Calla as a whole comes across as ambivalent. She doesn't have much of an opinion on what is going on besides that both Ren and Shay are incredibly attractive and fill her with longing (well, she does hate skirts and frills). The earth shattering revelation that her masters are lying to her doesn't seem to have much impact. Only when Shay is endangered, does she have a reaction.

So... I didn't like this book, and I can't recommend it.

Star Rating: 0.5/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Turkey Blog Hop & Follow Friday

Book Blogger Hop

Welcome from Book Blog Hop hosted by Crazy for Books and Follow Friday hosted by Parajunkee!

Blog Hop Question: What is your favorite book cover?

This One

because it has a butterfly and it's blue

I have a new page up! A Guide for new-ish bloggers on social book blogging. It's still a useful reference for old hands. You can normally find it by "The Guide" link in the menu bar~~

Check out my reviews this week:
Thunder and Ashes by Z.A. Recht
Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs
The Lying Game by Sara Sheperd
Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks
The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Stop by again on Saturday for an interview with Stephanie Dray - author of the upcoming release Lily of the Nile!

No Follow Friday question this week. This means you get a grin ^-^

Review: Thunder and Ashes (Morningstar Strain #2) by Z. A. Recht

Thunder and Ashes by Z. A. Recht

Copy Courtesy of Simon and Schuster
Released Already

Morningstar is a virus that turns its victims into zombies, and it has taken over the world. Sherman leads a band of survivors and soldiers towards Omaha to meet with a doctor who is trying to create a vaccine. Anna is the doctor Sherman's band is meeting up with, and she is also racing to Omaha while being chased by the remnants of the government.

This book reads like a video game. The battles seem like Left 4 Dead in story form. Granted I haven't actually played Left 4 Dead only watched it played so I could be a bit off. Regardless, there's a lot of action.

In a different book the pacing might have seemed too frantic, but in this book the frenetic pace is perfect. The world is devastated, and the groups of survivors we are following have what's left of the world to lose so the hurrying fits beautifully to keep the reader on edge.

There are a lot of characters, some of which them die moments after you meet them, but they are pretty distinct so it is not too hard to keep track of all of them. There is somewhat a lack of depth to the characters though which may be because this is the second book in the series rather than a lack on the part of the author.

I would recommend this to fans of zombies, action, and the post-apocalyptic. It's pretty well-written so those who aren't fans of the above should also considering picking this us (although perhaps starting with the first book Plague of the Dead rather than with the second one).

Star Rating: 3.5/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

**extra note**
The author passed away on Dec 10, 2009. His work is being continued by a ghost writer based on a partial manuscript written by Z. A. Recht before he passed away. The final book in the series is entitled Survivors. You can follow the progress of the final book in this thread.

Check out prices for Thunder and Ashes at Amazon

Happy Thanksgiving

Go forth and consume tasty things, but don't forget to come back on Saturday for the interview with Stephanie Dray!

Chronicle Haul-idays

Chronicle books is running a giveaway, where 1 lucky blogger will win their choice of $500 worth of books. One of you who comments on this post could win my list too!

Last day to submit entries is December 10th!

My List:

Little Turkey: Finger Puppet Book 6.99
Are You Eating Something Red?: Blue Apple Books 7.99
Count: 4, 5, 6: Blue Apple Books 4.99
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A Classic Illustrated Edition 14.99
My Favorite Things Flash Cards 14.95
Christmas Delicious: Blue Apple Books 16.99
Just One Bite 17.99
Sylvia Long's Thumbelina 17.99
A Nutty Nutcracker Christmas 18.99
Lost and Found: Three Dog Stories by Jim LaMarche 17.99
Dinosaurs Roar, Butterflies Soar! 16.99
The Story of Little Red Riding Hood 18.99
How the Sphinx Got to the Museum: Blue Apple Books 17.99
The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter's Wonder 16.99
Classic Horse Stories 19.99
Tortilla Sun 16.99
One Red Apple: Blue Apple Books 16.99
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Extreme Junior Edition 9.99
52 Cool Tricks for Kids—Revised Edition 6.95
I Love Macarons 14.95
The Magic Flute 19.95
Aesop's Fables: A Classic Illustrated Edition 19.99
The Whitby Witches 17.95
Sandra Gustafson's Great Eats Paris: 11th Edition 15.95
From Our House to Yours: Comfort Food to Give and Share 19.95
Very Merry Cookie Party: How to Plan and Host a Christmas Cookie Exchange 19.95
All Cakes Considered: A Year’s Worth of Weekly Recipes Tested, Tasted, and Approved by the Staff of NPR's All Things Considered 24.95
Tapas: Sensational Small Plates from Spain 22.95
The ¡Salpicón! Cookbook: Contemporary Mexican Cuisine 40.00

Review: Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega #1) by Patricia Briggs

Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs

Anna is an Omega an ultra-submissive. She also brings peace to other werewolves, but she didn't consent to being turned into a werewolf. The pack she was a part of abused her, but now she has found a mate in Charles, the Marrok's son. She goes to Montana with him, and then, a witch comes hunting.

I didn't find this book to be as well-written as the primary series about Mercy. There was more focus on the romance which is nice because Mercy's romances are somewhat subsumed by the action, but the rest of the book seemed somewhat extraneous.

Anna's personality is supposed to be strong but because of her trauma, it's pretty toned down which, in the end, makes her somewhat boring especially in comparison with Mercy. Charles, though, is somewhat interesting with his public personality as the Marrok's assassin and his personal personality with Anna.

This book might have been likeable on its own, but because it is in the same universe and set of people as the Mercy Thompson series, which is pretty good, this book seems like it's lacking.

Star Rating: 2.0/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Cry Wolf at Amazon

Upcoming Author Interview - Stephanie Dray

The lovely Stephanie Dray's first historical fiction novel - Lily of the Nile - is being published in Jan 2011, and she was nice enough to give me a slot on her blog tour for an author interview. This will be my first author interview so I hope you all enjoy it!

The interview is happening on Saturday, Nov 27th, which should be well after the Thanksgiving tryptophan has worn off~~

Also, today's Teaser Tuesday came from an excerpt of Lily of the Nile. If you enjoyed it, go here to read the rest of the excerpt!

If you want to get in on some of the Lily of the Nile action now, she is currently sponsoring the Cleopatra Literary Contest for Young Women, the deadline is March 1, 2011. There is also a giveaway going on to win a free copy of Lily of the Nile and additional prizes.

Teaser Tuesday (Nov 23)

"My words came out bold and strong. "I am the Resurrection." - Lily of the Nile by Stephanie Dray (upcoming release)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your own teaser post or just the teaser if you don't have a blog.

New Page: Social Blogger's Guide to the Book Blogosphere

So, new book bloggers may be a bit overwhelmed by the amount of stuff going on in the blogosphere. I have begun a page with some information for just this purpose!

Things on The Guide (still WIP): Memes, Blog Hops, Places to list Giveaways, and Reading Challenges

Things I haven't linked yet: Misc Blogger Events, Places to list your blog

I hope this becomes a useful resource!

Review: The Lying Game (Lying Game #1) by Sara Shepard

The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

Copy courtesy of NetGalley and HarperCollins
Release Date: Dec 7, 2010

Emma has been in and out of foster homes since she was abandoned by her mother at the age of 5. Now she is almost 18, and has been kicked out of her current foster home because of a video of her twin, one that she never knew existed. Unfortunately, by the time she sees the video, her twin, Sutton, is already dead although Emma doesn't know this. Emma travels to Sutton's in order to meet her twin and instead gets mistaken for her twin and has to pretend to be Sutton until she can find who killed Sutton.

My biggest gripe with this book is actually the ending. It is a cliff hanger when it really could have been an ending. This really didn't have to be a duology or a trilogy. Other than that, I thought the rest of the book was pretty good.

The story is seen through the eyes of Sutton as a ghost as she is pulled along with her twin. The ghost, on occasion, has memories which come back and help illuminate part of the story.

Even though there is a lot of switch back and forth between the two twins, it's never confusing because the viewpoints are on the same events. I really enjoyed the way these separate viewpoints gave more depth to what was happening. The discovery of background information is smooth and natural rather than feeling contrived and the added perspective of Ghost Sutton helps to keep Emma in the while keeping the reader informed.

Star Rating: 3.0/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for The Lying Game at Amazon

Yay! Featured Blogger!

So, I was picked to be the featured blogger on the Every Little Thing blog run by the lovely host Hannah (thank you very much). I'm being featured Nov 29-Dec 5th so go check out the shenanigans happening over there next week!

Review: Shadow's Edge (Night Angel #2) by Brent Weeks

Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks

Warning - If you haven't read The Way of Shadows yet, this review contains spoilers.

Durzo is dead. The Night Angel - Kylar has found he love of his life, and swears off being a wetboy forever. Changing your entire way of life is not easy (Kylar should really know better than that). This causes problems and his promise collapses altogether when Jarl tells him that Logan is still alive.

There are even more character viewpoints in this book, and at some points, this can be confusing because characters don't come back into focus for awhile. The plot is fairly easy to follow although because of the huge cast of characters when viewpoints switch, it can take a few moments to re-orient yourself as to what is happening in this specific corner of the story.

Weeks introduces us to some other cultures in the world he has created, and they are imaginative. A lot of these cultures are seen through a host of viewpoints which gives the reader a depth of understanding of their placement in Weeks' world which I greatly enjoyed.

I appreciated Kylar's development from someone ill at ease with himself to someone with more purpose to his actions. In general, I liked the second book more than the first because it has a more hopeful tone to it although the body count is again sky high.

Star Rating: 3.5/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Shadow's Edge at Amazon

Review: Maze Runner (Maze Runner, #1) by James Dashner

Maze Runner by James Dashner

Thomas awakes in a box which is traveling upwards. He can't seem to remember anything about his life (the specifics anyway). The box stops when it reaches a clearing, and a group of boys 'greets' this latest addition to their ranks. Welcome to a world where the only things that are important are survival, and running the maze. Why is the maze there, and how can the boys escape? Thomas wants to know and for some reason his arrival has heralded major changes.

For some reason Thomas is perfect in everything he does. He is super-lucky and really has no faults besides being ignorant of what is going on with the Maze. The author gives an explanation for his perfection later on as simple brilliance, but it's not a very good explanation. Other characters also feel one-dimensional although the cook has some thinking to him.

The maze puzzle itself as a concept is interesting, but not so much that the poor quality of the characters can be ignored. There isn't a lot of information given, and it's in keeping with the lack of information provided to the inhabitants of this Maze world. The problem is that none of the other kids seem to have theories about what is going on.

This might be interesting for someone who is just getting into sci-fi and/or dystopian fiction, but you would be better off reading Ender's Game.

Star Rating: 1.5/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Assassin's Quest at Amazon

Review: Unearthly (Unearthly #1) by Cynthia Hand

Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Copy courtesy of NetGalley and HarperCollins
Release Date: Jan 4, 2011

Clara has a destiny, a purpose, because she is part angel. Her purpose makes itself known through a series of visions, which conveniently come at inconvenient times. In her vision, she sees a boy (super cute) and gets some location specific info. The whole family picks up, and moves so that she can pursue this destiny. She meets the boy and her visions reveal that she belongs with him. There is of course another boy to complicate matters.

It's unfortunate that Christian (the boy from the vision) is so 'perfect' because he would be more interesting if he had some faults. Clara is somewhat standard for blundering about because she is kept mostly in the dark about what being an angel means. The best part of the book are Clara's "dates" with the other contender for her affection. It feels the most realistic.

Unearthly is not an excellent read, mostly it feels like it's being published on the wave of supernatural teen books because it has a twist about angels. The idea of angels having children is intriguing, but the execution of the idea leaves something to be desired. There are a lot of coincidences that seem contrived and the ending doesn't seem to resolve much (rather unsatisfying cliffhanger), but it's not a bad story if you don't think too hard.

Star Rating: 2.0/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Unearthly at Amazon

The Lovely Kindle

I have in my possession a lovely Kindle 3. It is beautiful. It is thin. It is full of just enough features. I think this may be a life-changing kind of thing. Yes, the revelation is a bit silly, but I can bring my books with me LOTS and LOTS of them. It almost makes paper books obsolete except for the part where I like owning paper books.

I am a tad sad that the Kindle doesn't support epub although apparently there is an app in development by a third party which supports epub called Booki.sh although it only seems to support books they have listed so far.

Anyone else have thoughts about the Kindle? Perhaps thinking about purchasing one? If you are, I recommend!

Book Blog Hop & Follow Friday

Book Blogger Hop

Hosted by Crazy For Books

The Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word!

Question for this Book Blogger Hop:
Since Thanksgiving is coming up next week, let's use this week's Hop to share what we are most thankful for and what our holiday traditions are!

I'm most thankful for my friends, family, and especially my mate.

I've never had much in the way of holiday traditions. My family is Taiwanese first generation so American traditions are a time to see friends or travel so perhaps traveling is our tradition. Chinese BBQ pork was more likely to show up on the Thanksgiving table than turkey.

For Christmas we were almost always visiting relatives because the long break was a good time to go traveling. I remember that there were some Christmas present exchanges up until I was about 6, but after that the tradition was subsumed by the traveling. More recently my mate's family does the whole shebang with presents and a real Christmas tree. It's a really fun experience.

Hosted by Parajunkee

Question for this Follow Friday:
How long have you been blogging?

About 2.5 months in terms of book blogging~~

Welcome Visitors from Blog Hop and Follow Friday! Please enjoy your stay!

Things of Note (only one this week):
I'm soliciting book recommendations.

Recommendation Reminder

Hand drawn picture is unsophisticated!

Just a quick reminder that I'm soliciting recommendations for a book I should read and up until 11/23 there is a small incentive involved. Please go to this post for details.

Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Troublesome children are unwound, which doesn't mean they're killed. Nobody is exactly sure what it means besides the fact that transplants are a lot easier to obtain. Queue Connor, whose his parents have signed the documentation for him to be unwound, Risa, ward of the state which doesn't have enough money to keep those who are less than excellent, and Lev, someone happy to be unwound because it is his destiny. The world of the unwinds unfolds through their eyes.

This is one of those dystopians where the world seems normal at first, but really madness lurks as the story gets deeper and deeper. Shusterman draws in the reader slowly but surely through a marvelously twisted journey.

The world Shusterman has created is well thought out, and even though there are a lot of viewpoints that we see through. Each one serves a very definite purpose, and brings a better understanding of the world he has created rather than making the story feel fragmented.

In some ways, this is almost a political commentary on what would happen if anti-abortion activists had total control but then the realities of the situation took itself out on society's less fortunate. It is also a social commentary on deflected responsibility. There is a lesson to this book as with most dystopian fiction, but Unwind does it more poignantly.

Star Rating: 4.5/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Unwind at Amazon

Review: The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

The Cypress House by Michael Koryta

Copy courtesy of NetGalley and Hachette Book Group
Release Date: Jan 24, 2011

Arlen has visual premonitions of death to come. Unfortunately for him, noone ever believes his warnings until the person/people die of course. As he is traveling with a young mechanic he has taken a liking to, Paul, he sees death all around and manages to convince Paul to not get back on the train. This doesn't actually make the situation better as they somehow find themselves in a house - The Cypress House - where something is very wrong.

This is chock full of suspense. Nothing is resolved for a long time, and you can really feel the frustration of the main characters.

Paul is rather inexplicable at times, he gets notions in his head and seems all around naive, which gets somewhat annoying. The characters (including Paul) do have some growth as the story goes on, and the reader becomes more emotionally involved in the story. The earlier annoyance lessens.

There is sorrow and the ending is fitting. In general, the pacing could use some work. It felt like nothing happened at times especially without a lot of explanation for why things were happening although it was a suspense some things could be explained. Granted fans of books where answers are only to be had much much later in the book will appreciate this piece.

Star Rating: 1.5/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Assassin's Quest at Amazon

Holiday Cookie Swaps

I read an article in San Francisco Chronicle Magazine issue that cookie swaps are all the rage. I wasn't aware that they were all that popular.

For the uninitiated, a cookie swap is a party where each person/family attending brings a whole bunch of cookies (several dozen). There is a nice bit of mingling and showing off of baking skills/recipes. At the end of the day, the participants bring home an assortment of cookies.

I've been to one, and it was actually a lot of fun especially because I am quite partial (erm... I LOVE!!!!) cookies. Granted, not being a mom or whatnot, perhaps it makes sense that the circle I run in wouldn't have something like this.

Have any of you guys taken part in a swap? What was it like, would you hold one, etc?

Teaser Tuesday (Nov 16)

Her jittery paranoia was for good reason. After all, whoever killed me was watching her every move. -The Lying Game by Sara Shepard

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your own teaser post or just the teaser if you don't have a blog.

Review: The Fairy Godmother (500 Kingdoms #1) by Mercedes Lackey

The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey

Fairy tales have power. They shape the lives of certain inhabitants of the 500 kingdoms. Specifically the lives of those who have situations vaguely familiar to fairy tales. Sometimes, the reality of the kingdom does not make sense for the tale being played out or certain conditions simply can't be met. This turns out to be quite a pain for Elena Klovis, our dear protagonist.

I think this is a very interesting direction for Lackey. She does quite a bit of experimentation in what she writes, and I liked the result of this branching out a lot. "The Tradition" which forces fairy tales to happen is an antagonist which can't really be defeated, but it can be harnessed.

This series is fairly lightweight in terms of sex and the like, but it's not really a YA series. I enjoyed how well laid out the learning about the 500 Kingdoms was interlaced with the story about Elena. This definitely has the feel of an intro book into a series which still has a satisfying conclusion since each subsequent book is pretty much self-contained.

This book may not really break much new ground in terms of concepts, but it's a genuinely fun read between fantasy epics and other faster paced paranormal romances.

Star Rating: 4.0/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for The Fairy Godmother at Amazon

Review: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

A chilling look of the future under a radical Christian regime. The world is in dire straits because of some kind of war (likely nuclear in nature). The story focuses on Offred (pronounded of-fred), a handmaiden to one the Commanders (higher-ups, all men). We see the current world through the eyes of Offred as she uses the past to escape the present. "Today" is interspersed with how "today" arrived in a very fluid yet eerie way.

I love how smooth the transitions are because so many stories jump around timelines badly. As the timelines converge, the story goes deeper and deeper into a sort of madness that makes the reader want to scream stop, but somehow it seems logical for things to happen this way.

This is not really a hopeful piece of dystopian fiction, much more along the lines of 1984. Unlike the newer dystopian books, this story is much more quietly menacing rather than in your face violent fights. It's still not for the faint-hearted though.

I really enjoyed this story although it's disturbing nature has sapped my ability to read disturbing books for awhile.

Star Rating: 4.0/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

This is one of the books I've read and reviewed for the fantasy mini-challenge. Progress 7/13 books.

Check out prices for The Handmaid's Tale at Amazon

Review: Wintersmith (Discworld #35, Discworld Children #3) by Terry Pratchett

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

Tiffany Aching is apprenticed to Ms. Treason for the time being, who has some interesting equipment and is 106. While apprenticed, Tiffany dances her way into a rather unfortunate tale, and ends up with 'Winter' (or the be more precise, the Wintersmith) mooning after her. The Nac Mac Feegle as usual bring all sorts of hilarity and a dubious amount of protection. A rather rambunctious blue cheese also comes along for the ride.

Pratchett's Tiffany Aching series of books are all wonderful and this one is no exception. There are the usual references to other books, and all the amusing hallmarks of his works. What makes this series great is that the Nac Mac Feegle just don't get old in their attempts to do protect Tiffany. This time they're worried about the 'Pursing of the Lips' that keldas do.

Tiffany grows up a bit in this story so there's some romance which makes sense. This book seems to almost be a coming of age story of course with witches making ironic, amusing, and inappropriate comments. (The comments are not R rated of course)

Star Rating: 3.0/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Wintersmith at Amazon

Book Blogger Gender Ratio

Last Friday was the first time I ever took part in the Book Blog Hop & Follow Friday, and it was an exhilarating experience. What I noticed though was that most of the bloggers in the the book sphere seem to be women. There are gender ratio skews in spheres like tech blogs and cooking blogs, but reading I thought was fairly applicable/accessible to guys and gals.

It may be that I had a biased sample, what do you guys think? And if you think what I'm seeing is true, why might this be true?

Review: Kushiel's Chosen (Kushiel's Legacy #1) by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey

Terre D'Ange is once again at peril for the traitor Melisande has escaped. In defense of the Ysandre, Phedre sets out to find Melisande, and her journey brings her to La Serenissima and the Little Court there. From there she journeys yet again to the bounds of the known world.

Yes, Jacqueline is just as wordy in this one as the first one. If you didn't like Kushiel's Dart you won't like this one. If you did though, this one is a delightful continuance of Phedre's Tale.

Sadly, Phedre doesn't spend much time in Terre D'Ange and La Serenissima is nowhere near as pretty. Some of the other landscapes that Phedre travels through have enough mystic and wonder to them to ease some of the Terre D'Ange longing.

Joscelin is still delicious, and his character development is definitely something I love about this series. He gives a very human aspect to the Cassiline Brotherhood as he struggles to reconcile his faith, duty, and love.

Melisande doesn't get a lot of facetime in this book (and in fact won't ever get much more), but her threads of intrigue are definitely felt throughout the book. She has a sort of looming spectre presence that drives this book forward.

A minor note, you don't really need to read the second book to read the third one. The stories are separate enough that reading the third is not particularly jolting although the conclusion of the second book is given in the third.

Star Rating: 4.5/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Kushiel's Chosen at Amazon

Review: Revelation Space (Revelation Space #1) by Alastair Reynolds

Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

The Amarantin left a very strange burial site a 900,000 years ago. Dan Sylveste uncovers this archeological dig in the midst of political turmoil, and is hell-bent on discovering what message might have been left behind. Anna is a mercenary who finds herself taking on a rather unusual contract and the ship she takes is unusual. Space travel makes time pass.

This is hardcore sci-fi and very dense so not for the casual reader. The plot is fairly complex, and it takes awhile for all the pieces to converge and begin to make sense. The general science concepts aren't too hard to understand though which is a good thing. The author has a PHD in astronomy so the sience is supposed to be pretty good although I don't pay too much attention to those details because the story is what compels me in books.

There is certainly never a dull moment in the book despite the feeling sometimes that you've read a lot and for some reason the book is still almost all unread still. The societies in this book are interesting and well-thought out as are the shifts in power.

One major problem with the book is how often points of view shift often without warning so it takes a few seconds to figure out that the focus is elsewhere. The shifts get less jarring as the book goes on as characters meet, but in the beginning it can be very off-putting. It's a pretty good book though and great for people love hardcore sci-fi (I like, not love, to read them).

Star Rating: 3.5/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Revelation Space at Amazon

Recommend A Book to a Blogger the First

Today is my birthday. Yay! I thought it would be a good day to start Recommend a Book to a Blogger~~ Details below:

Hand drawn picture is unsophisticated!

So normally I recommend (or warn you away from) books. Today, for a change of pace, I would like to solicit recommendations from you guys! Even though I have a growing pile of books to read, I am always searching for more or one for the right mood.

Some Incentive:
Any books I do read as a result of a recommendation, I will write a review and indicate who it was recommended by with a link to some site or cause the person would like to promote.

Some Guidelines:
-I do ask that you take into consideration what I generally like before giving a recommendation. To that end, there are my reviews of course, and information on all the books I've read can be found on Goodreads.

-Also, please give a title, the author, and a few sentences as to why I should read it. If you want to take advantage of the promotion part please give your email address so I can contact you.

-If you want to take advantage of the promotion thing, recommendation must be in by 11/23/10

If this thread goes well, I will do this again probably once a month.

Lily of the Nile Giveaway~~

A novel with magic, Egypt, and political intrigue! (The cover is gorgeous too)

Stephanie Dray is hosting a giveaway for her debut novel Lily of the Nile (excerpt here) in celebration of its impending release. To enter, you just need to subscribe to her email newsletter. You can get extra entries for advertising it on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or your blog and posting the links here.

Enter before Dec 15th (because that's when the giveaway ends).

Also, there's a chance to win a copy on Goodreads.

Update on Mistborn Novella

Brandon Sanderson says the Mistborn novella will be published by Tor sometime next year! This we there will actually be something published next year from Sanderson, and I"m super-excited!

via Twitter/BrandonSanderson

Laments of a Book Queue

Ever since I started using GoodReads, I've noticed a disturbing phenomenon - my to read queue just keep getting longer. I like to think that I'm a pretty fast reader, but try as I might to get through my list, it still keeps growing.

I wonder if this happens to anyone else whether or not they use a site to keep track of their reading habits?

Teaser Tusday (Nov 9)

"Connor's motivation was simple: Make them suffer. Let them know for the rest of their lives what a horrible mistake they made." -Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
- BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your own teaser post or just the teaser if you don't have a blog.

Review: A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld #32, Discworld Children #2) by Terry Pratchett

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

Witches need to be trained somehow so Tiffany Aching is off to be an apprentice to Miss Level, who is a bit weird. Tiffany also gets to meet some other young witches, who are unfortunately not all that great. Oh, and this mind eating creature is out to get her.

This one wasn't as good as the first in this series. The story was not bad, the jokes were ok, and the Nac Mac Feegle are still a hoot, but there was something missing with this one. Some sense of satisfaction that was missing. Perhaps I need to read some other Pratchett books so as not to burn out on one story thread.

Don't misunderstand that this was a bad book, I still liked it just not as much as I hoped I would. There are a lot of petty people in this book, which may have been part of the turn-off. I can only deal with so many petty people in a single book and there were an abundance of them.

Star Rating: 3.0/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for A Hat Full of Sky at Amazon

Review: Hex Hall (Hex Hall #1) by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Sophia Mercer has some magical powers (she's a witch!). Apparently, she's done some things that are not cool (apparently casting love spells causes trouble) so she gets sent to reform school for magical type people. Unfortunately for her, people are being murdered there.

I read this book about a month ago. I don't remember much about it anymore... so, perhaps not the most memorable book. The book combines all your standard fantasy types - vampire(check), fairies(check), witches(check), werewolf(check), warlocks(check), and ghosts(check). Sorry, no dragons as yet.

*minor spoiler alert*

This is a fluffy book with time for romances to blossom, people to be silly, and lots of teen angst type stuff. The grand mystery of the deaths is somewhat interesting although the main suspect they have, is obviously not the killer because well if the person was the killer there would seem to be no justice in the world.

*end spoiler*

Star Rating: 2.5/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Hex Hall at Amazon

Review: Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson #2) by Patricia Briggs

Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs

Mercedes goes along on a visit to a vampire who hasn't paid the proper respect to the local seethe. She doesn't do this for free, of course, she goes along to repay the debt she incurred for asking for information in "Moon Called." Things then proceed to go very badly because they encounter a demon vampire sorcerer (bet you didn't know those things could all go together).

Not much degradation in quality going into the second book, which I'm pleasantly surprised by. As most you likely know, the second books in a series suffer from second book syndrome (ok maybe I made that term up... or someone else did... whatever), and they are often a letdown after the first. Rest assured Blood Bound is a pretty good second book.

Mercedes gets to kick some serious butt in this one (course she gets tossed around too and as she likes to say, she's just a coyote after all). It's kinda nice to have the author set up a blatant stereotype for the vampires (seriously evil) and then have Stefan who doesn't conform. I am interested to see how many shades of gray she explores.

Adam and Samuel are sexy as ever. The only bit that bothers me about this series is how all the main guys fall all over Mercedes (or are fatherly protector types), but it gives us a much more intimate look into their thoughts so I suppose I can't object after all so many of them are serious eye-candy (err thought-candy?).

Star Rating: 3.0/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

This is one of the books I've read and reviewed for the fantasy mini-challenge. Progress 6/13 books.

Check out prices for Blood Bound at Amazon

Review: Calling on Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles, #3) by Patricia C. Wrede

Calling on Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

Cimorene is pregnant. The wizards, unfortunately, don't care about her delicate state and proceed to steal the magical sword. This means Cimorene has to go after it, and because this sword is important, Kazul, Morwen, a few cats, and a rabbit who doesn't have much sense and so is turned into a donkey comes along too.

This book takes a much more in-depth look into Morwen, which I enjoyed. It turns out, the cats can talk to Morwen. They're rather opinionated while still being cute.

We get a tweaked version of Rapunzel in this book, which doesn't take up much time but was a good bit to stick in as well.

The sense of wonder in this book is somewhat diminished from previous books perhaps because the wizards are so perennially annoying. It's a bit sad that none of them really have any good dimensions. Nonetheless it's a book for younger children so the simplicity is a good fit for the audience, and I still enjoyed all the beloved characters.

Star Rating: 3.0/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

This is one of the books I've read and reviewed for the fantasy mini-challenge. Progress 5/13 books.

Check out prices for Calling on Dragons at Amazon

Book Blog Hop & Follow Friday

Book Blogger Hop

Hosted by Crazy For Books.

This week's question comes from Vicki who blogs at The Wolf's Den:

"What are your feelings on losing followers? Have you ever stopped following a blog?"

I haven't exactly been around long enough to be losing followers... I've barely been around long enough to gain followers, but I'd probably be sad-ish. Although if I'm not interesting enough or relevant, I guess it would be inevitable.

I've stopped subscribing to blogs. I think that counts. Sometimes people stop posting (some friends' personal blogs), some blogs have so many updates as to be overwhelming (New York Times), or sometimes I lose interest in a subject so I stop a subscription.

Follow Friday is hosted by Parajunkee.

Question for this follow Friday: Who are your favorite authors??

Jacqueline Cary the dee-lightful author of the Kushiel's Legacy Series, John Scalzi, Brandon Sanderson, JK Rowling, Tamora Pierce, Fred Gallagher

Review: Whisper of a Witch by Suza Kates

Whisper of a Witch by Suza Kates

Shauni Miller and a whole bunch of other witches, who never knew they were witches, have been called to an island. They're mission is to destroy an ancient evil. First, they must become a coven to undertake this task. While there, Shauni Miller meets sexy guy Dr. Michael Black. How will he react to Shauni's destiny?

This book has a lot of characters which are all basically introduced in the first few pages of the book which made it difficult to keep all of the straight until at least halfway through. The characters are somewhat interesting although there's a lot of typecasting and for some reason everyone is gorgeous.

There quite a few cliches sprinkled all over the place for the way magic works and feels at times a hodgepodge of a lot of different myths. Also, there are random descriptions that felt like they were put in there because the author felt like it was something cool to say or had always wanted to put something like that in a book.

As a romance novel this is great. The plot is much better than most. As a fantasy novel this is rather ho-hum.

There will likely be a book for each of the witches in the coven with a sexy man to pair with each, but that's just my speculation. There is no formal word on sequels.

Disclaimer: I won this from First Reads.

Star Rating: 2.5/5.0

For an explanation of the Star Rating go here.

Check out prices for Whisper of a Witch at Amazon
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