Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Venice Movie Mini-Challenge!


Since most of us like to watch movies in the summer, why not take a break from reading for a few hours and watch some movies instead?

As part of my Venice Reading Challenge, I'm offering a mini-challenge to watch two movies set in Venice during the month of July.  Some of my favorite movies are set in Venice, including Dangerous Beauty and Casanova with Heath Leger.  I would recommend either of those films, or you can check out the fairly comprehensive list on Wikipedia.

Simply watch the movies, write a review of each one, and link back to them here using Mr. Linky or the comments.  And, everyone who completes this challenge will get a prize from ibdibd's etsy shop!

Have fun and good luck!

Powered by ScribeFire.

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

the beekeepers apprentice cover

I started The Beekeeper's Apprentice because Ruth from Booktalk & More told me to, and basically I do whatever she tells me.  I'm very happy I took her advice, because this book was super-awesome!

The Beekeeper's Apprentice is about a young woman name Mary Russell in WWI England, who meets Sherlock Holmes (aka the beekeeper).  Holmes, the quintessential Victorian detective, has retired to the country, where he amuses himself conducting experiments with bees and chemicals and whatnot (not all at the same time... usually).  Russell declares she is not interested in bees because they're too much like humans, to which Holmes responds by saying that's probably why he's so fascinated by them (extended metaphor alert!!!).  Almost immediately thereafter, he decides to make Russell his apprentice in the arts of detection.

Russell spends her teen years being trained by Holmes before she goes off to Oxford, and slowly begins to assist him on cases.  There is no central mystery in this novel; mainly it's a coming-of-age story for Russell.  Several mysteries move the development of the characters along.  Usually I like my mysteries to be very, very focused; and I do have to admit that there were times when the lack of a focused mystery plot frustrated me.  But it's practically impossible to fault the book for that, since a more focused plot would not have allowed Mary's character to develop.  Also, this is one of those books where the best scenes are those that are completely unrelated to the plot--Holmes and his brother Myron having a totally pointless argument, Russell and Holmes' excursion to Palestine, etc.

In the actual Sherlock Holmes books, Holmes annoys me.  But in this book I loved him!  He was exactly the way one would imagine him, only better.  And the chemistry between him and Russell (which is non-sexual, just fyi) was great.

The thing that really cemented my opinion of this novel is that I was depressed when it was finished.   I wanted to spend more time with Holmes and Russell and Myron!  Fortunately, there are many more books in this mystery series, and I can't wait to read them.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

rules of attraction cover

It's official:  Simone Elkeles is my new favorite author.

In Perfect Chemistry, we were introduced to Alex Fuentes (I won't tell you what his real first name is, since I know that will make you curse me for getting a certain song stuck in your head), who lived in the Chicago 'burbs with his mom and two brothers.  After the events in Perfect Chemistry, Alex's family moved to Mexico; but Carlos, the middle sibling, is getting into a lot of trouble, so his mom sends him off to live with Alex in The State of Boulder, where Alex is going to school.

Carlos isn't exactly happy about this (I wouldn't be, either), but there's a light beyond yonder teenage angst as he finds himself inexplicably attracted to Kiara, a student at Flatirons High who is assigned to show him around his first week of class.  After getting into more trouble, he convinces Kiara that they should pretend to be dating, for no logical reason that I could gather; but it's more like they're ACTUALLY dating, and P.S. he's living in Kiara's house with her parents and little brother, so that's kind of awkward.

I didn't like this book as much as Perfect Chemistry--the characters, especially Carlos, weren't as appealing as Alex and Brittany are; and the majority of the plot felt very unlikely, from the fact that Alex somehow affords his own apartment in Boulder (that mechanics job must pay a lot), to Kiara's dad turning out to be some kind of bad-ass.  But then I was probably biased by my aversion to Boulder.

That being said, I still really enjoyed it.  I stayed up until four in the morning reading after working all day, which doesn't happen to me that often.  Although Kiara and Carlos aren't as appealing as their collegiate counterparts, they are very well-drawn characters.  Carlos reminded me of my little brother so much and gave me a similar intense desire to shake some sense into him.  And while Carlos and Kiara don't have quite as much chemistry as Brit and Alex, a lot of their interactions were hilarious and simply fun to read.

And in case you were wondering, yes, the scene on the cover does happen in the book.

The ending is even more ridiculous than the ending of Perfect Chem, and is followed by a very disturbing epilogue that takes place twenty-six years later.  Twenty-six years!  I'll be ancient by then.  But then I started thinking--what if the epilogue takes place in the present?  Then the events of Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction would have taken place in the '80s, which quite frankly makes a lot more sense as far as gangs, affordable housing, and being able to use one's locker in public school is concerned.

In any case, I must now read all of Simone Elkeles' books, because they are seriously fun and entertaining and unputdownable.  I highly recommend her books, but wait until you've read Perfect Chemistry before you pick up Rules of Attraction.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

perfect chemistry cover

I have to admit the only reason I picked up this book was because I thought the promotional video for it (or videomo, as some call it--the author's website is kick-ass, by the way) was cute.  That is a pretty lame reason to buy a book, but I don't care, because I freaking loved it!

Brittany is the captain of the cheerleading squad and the queen of the Fairfield High School.  Alex is a gang member and he frightens the shit out of everyone.  She met him at the candy stooooore--oh, wait, no she doesn't... sorry, I got distracted there for a moment.  They don't really having anything to do with one another, for obvious reasons, until they're partnered together in their chemistry class.  Despite the fact that they would seem to be total opposites, Alex and Brittany are actually a lot alike--they both never show the world who they really are and what they're thinking or feeling.  Until they meet each other, of course.  Then sparks fly, etc. etc.  But in Fairfield, there is a definite, one might say almost Westside Story-esque, divide between northsiders (Brittany) and southsiders (Alex).  Will Brit and Alex be able to bridge the social and culture differances that kept them apart before chemistry class?  Will they get an A on their chemistry project?  And will Alex graduate from high school without being arrested?  I just don't know!

First of all, I love books that have this kind of storyline.  As with any genre, the true enjoyment of the novel comes not from what the plot line is, but how the story plays out; and for me Perfect Chemistry played out perfectly.  For the most part it's just pure fun, with Brittany and Alex getting into battles of wills and wits and playing practical jokes on each other.  It's also serious when it needs to be, though.  Furthermore, I loved the characters:  Brittany at first does seem like a prissy little bitch, but she has likable qualities that come out in the course of the book.  Likewise, Alex acts like a total jack-ass when you first meet him in the book, but becomes likable as the story progresses.  In fact, Alex is an AWESOME character.  I really liked the fact that the reader's journey mirrors the characters' as they get to know one another.

For me, this was a perfect book about high school.  The only thing that was missing was the big dance/game at the end where everything happens.  But I didn't really miss it that much, so it was okay.  This book was great and awesome and enjoyable and you should read it.

And now for the Perfect Chemistry video blog!  Just because I need to get it out of my system:

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Faces Under Water by Tanith Lee

faces under water cover

After eight years, two continents, five countries, and countless states, I have finally read this book.  And it was good--actually, really great!

Furian is a mysterious figure on the Isle of Venus, an alternate world obviously modeled after 18th-century Venice.  Although Furian is an educated gentleman, he lives in the gutters of Venus and makes money through odd jobs such as collecting bodies from the canals for the mad scientist, Doctor Shaachen, to experiment on.  One night during Carnival, he spies an elegant and expensive mask floating in the canal.  Not having found any bodies that night, he takes the mask to Shaachen and unknowingly sets himself on the path of searching for a group of killers in Venus who use magic to ensnare their victims.

This is not the type of book where things are laid out clearly at all.  At first you have no idea what's going on.  Then Lee lays a trail of breadcrumbs, promising that eventually you'll find out.  Things are never what they seem in this world or in the words used to describe it, which are lyrical and beautiful and obfuscating, most especially when describing the basest actions.  There is also tons of symbolism in the novel, which I'm not even going to attempt to unravel at this point.  But color, statues, and masks obviously have some sort of iconic meaning.

This is the first book in a series that is themed after the elements--fire, water, earth, and air.  As you can probably guess by the title, this one is dedicated to water--and there is a lot of water, as well as the color blue and green, in the world of Furian.  However, I think blue represents much more than just water--it's indicative of magic, divinity, love.  Green hides vast secrets.  Still waters definitely run deep in this novel, as the reader discovers.

The more I think about this book, the more it reminds me of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell--not because the plots are similar at all, but because they both death with themes of magic, lust for power, hidden worlds and dangers, and love.  However, I think Faces Under Water is by far the better book--not just because it's about 600 pages shorter, but because the writing style is much more lyrical and beautiful, the story is told in a more interesting way, and it makes a bigger impact on the reader.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating that Tanith Lee is one of the most underrated authors out there.  I honestly think she is one of the greatest fantasy writers of our generation, and this book only confirmed my opinion.  The first fifty pages of Faces Under Water are hard going simply because everything feels so impenetrable, and I didn't think the reveal at the end of the book came together as smoothly as it could have; but overall this is a great, enthralling, and very quick read.  I know the cover is terrible, but I would recommend Lee's novels to anyone who enjoys fantasy.

venice challenge button
Venice Challenge: 2/6 books read

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chicago 4.0 by Chloe Neill + Giveaway!

Chicago locations by Chloe Neill

Chloe Neill, one of my favorite writers, is releasing a new book in July.  To help spread the word, I asked her if she'd write a guest post about some new Chicago locations we'll see in Twice Bitten and other future releases (note:  all the photos above were taken by Chloe herself).

Hello, everyone! I'm writing this from the Loop neighborhood in downtown Chicago, just across from the Chicago River and a few blocks from Lake Michigan. I'm in town for today's 25th Annual Greater Chicago Food Depository Hunger Walk--and I'm proud to say we've raised over $1,800 to date!

I'm also here to location scout for the next Chicagoland Vampires novel--the follow-up to July 6's TWICE BITTEN--which will be released in July 2011. During my last scouting trip, I visited Ukrainian Village and checked out church architecture, and did a bit of scouting through Wicker Park and down Damen Avenue. You may recall that Mallory's house is a Wicker Park brownstone, and a good chunk of TWICE BITTEN takes place in Ukrainian Village, including a church modeled after St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Church.

This time, I'm mostly scouting locations in the Loop, looking for some interesting sites for both the Dark Elite and Chicagoland Vampires series. St. Sophia's, the boarding school in FIRESPELL, is located just north of the Loop on Erie, so I'm looking into locations in which it might be interesting to host future Dark Elite events. I'm very excited about the Rookery, which has a fabulous exterior and gorgeous interior. I also love the industrial look of El track struts, and can only imagine vampirish things occur there.

I also got to pay my first visit to Chicago's amazing Harold Washington Library, with its gorgeous stone facade and owls perched on the corners. It's also ginormous, and the 9th floor hosts an amazing indoor "Winter Garden" space with a greenhouse cage-like roof.

[Little known fact: In the first draft of SOME GIRLS BITE, Ethan and Merit met for the first time outside the library. She was brooding over the fact that she wouldn't be able to visit the library during business (daylight) hours. He feared she'd expose herself to the sun waiting for the library to open, and came to her rescue. It was so NOT appropriate for their personalities.]

I also got to pay a visit to the fabulous Field Museum--Chicago's natural history museum. The Field Museum will play a key part in a future Dark Elite novel, so I wanted to get a look at the space and a feel for interesting scene possibilities--including the totem pole section of the Ancient Americas display. Truth be told, I also wanted to get a look at Sue, the Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. Tres cool!

Also on the agenda for this trip: Another visit to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago, some purchasing of Blackhawks goods (!!!), and a little more Wicker Park action. It's amazing how much you can cram into a trip if you plan carefully. :)

Well, that's all for now. I've got to grab my maps and hit the road again. Thanks for reading today!

Thank you so much, Chloe!  I loved your "deleted scene" from Some Girls Bite, although dying to get into the library is going a little far even for me. ;)

twice bitten coverChloe Neill is offering a copy of Twice Bitten to one lucky reader of this blog! Just leave a comment on this post (make sure to include a valid e-mail address), and I will pull a name randomly.  US & Canada only; contest ends Sunday, June 27th, at 6 PM EST.

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Musical Notes

musical notes

Hello, everyone!  I hope you had a good week.  I was in Oklahoma looking for an apartment for when I start grad school in the fall, which is why I've been MIA this week.  Not to mention, my laptop was at Staples because I wanted to get a larger hard drive for it--which failed.  Oh well.  Anyway, I'm back and have a lot of posts planned for the next few days.  In the meantime, here's an overdue edition of Musical Notes, my semi-regular feature where I combine my love of books with music by sharing some songs that I think fit in with my reading.

Faces Under Water

This is the perfect song for this book.  I can't tell you why, because that would be major spoilerage, but trust me.  It's perfect!

Something else I felt fit in perfectly with this novel was the Art of Noise's Seduction of Claude Debussy, which I heard about from someone on Twitter. I think it was Binnsy. Anyway, there is a ton of color symbolism in this book, especially of the color blue, and the album is all about making color with music.

Supposedly if you stare at the blue screen long enough, it moves.

In Mike We Trust

Mike has a very sketchy, yet likable uncle.  I, too, had a sketchy but charismatic uncle.  He wasn't as bad as Mike, but he had his moments.  Whenever I hear this song, I think of him.

What have you been listening to and reading this week?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

BBAW 2010 is Coming!

Have you heard?  Book Blogger Appreciation Week is scheduled for September 13-17, and is accepting registrations right now through July 7th. 

BBAW is a celebration of the book blogging community.  It has awards, interviews, prizes, and other fun activities that bring book bloggers together.  I participated last year and it was really, really fun.  If you're involved at all in book blogging, I highly recommend signing up.

As part of this year's BBAW, we're being asked to pick five posts that we believe best represent our blog in the nomination categories.  This year I'm entering in the best eclectic blog niche category; and for best feature, author interviews and best written blog (why the heck not, I thought to myself).  Picking posts for these is of course one of the hardest things to do!  But I managed.  Here are the posts that I feel give a snapshot of what my blog is all about:

Best Written Blog:
Best Author Interviews:
Best Eclectic Book Blog:

Powered by ScribeFire.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rosario + Vampire by Akihisa Ikeda

rosario vampire cover

This is a very fun, cute manga, although it's insanely repetitive and I'm not sure I want to keep reading it.

Average guy Tsukune can't get into a decent high school, so he finds himself enrolled in Yokai Academy, the only place that will accept him.  At Yokai, Tsukune is anything but average--because he's the only human in the entire place!  Unbeknownst to Tsukune or his parents, Yokai is a high school for supernatural creatures who need to learn how to integrate with the human population.  Because of this, they're supposed to keep their monster identities under wraps--but very few of them can keep to this rule.

Fortunately for Tsukune and his continued bodily existence, the first day he arrives he meets Moka, a cute vampire girl.  Moka and Tsukune become fast friends.  Then for the rest of the series, Tsukune is lured into danger by some monster (usually female), Moka gets offended, then winds up changing into her kick-ass vampire form so she can save him from said monster.

I like formulas as much as the next person (perhaps more), but when a formula is already predictable and boring by chapter two, that's a problem.  This manga became repetitive very quickly, and while I really liked the characters and found Yokai Academy and the art work to be quite charming, I got pretty bored with the story line.

Another thing that started to bug me about this manga is how sexually objectified the young girls are.  There's an entire chapter where the plot revolves around peering up the girls' skirts.  It would be pretty obvious the author was male even if we didn't know who wrote it.  I also find it very interesting that all the girls at Yokai--who for the most part very sexually aggressive--are all MONSTERS.  Even though there's no overt sex in this manga, it's very sexually suggestive--but in strange, creepy ways.

I can see why this manga is so popular, but I'm not sure I want to continue with it.  Not because of the sexual objectification stuff, because that's a relatively minor part of the stories, but mainly because the formula is already wearing on me.  That being said, if I was younger I could see myself enjoying this series A LOT, so I think I actually would recommend it to people who are interested.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nerds Heart YA: Pure vs In Mike We Trust!

two book covers

Nerds Heart YA is a fun competition that pits underrepresented YA novels against one another in a bracket system.  This year, I'm choosing one of the first brackets with Sarah from Puss Reboots.  We must pick the winner between In Mike We Trust by P. E. Ryan, and Pure by Terra Elan McVoy.

To tell the truth, neither of these books were ones I would have ever chosen on my own, so I was nervous about reading them.  They were both well-written, but one was wasn't my cup of tea at all, and the other was a delightful surprise I would definitely recommend you check out.

Want to see which one I liked, and which novel is moving on to the next round?  Then you need to go to Puss Reboots to read our joint review and decision!

Powered by ScribeFire.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


an education poster

Lately I've been thinking a lot about how the role of revelation is increasingly taking over my entertainment life.  What do I mean?

A few weeks ago, I watched An Education, which was a very good movie.  I've been thinking about it on and off since.  Then last week, while at my ridiculously boring job, my mind started to wander and all of a sudden I was filled with a desire to buy the soundtrack.  What's really strange about this is I didn't notice the music in the film at all while I was watching it, and wouldn't have been able to tell you what could possibly be on the soundtrack or even if there was one.  Nonetheless, I was certain that I HAD to download it.  I did as soon as I woke up the next morning and it is excellent!

Similarly, I was sitting around at work last week and was suddenly hit with a desire to read Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning.  Again, I was surprised at how good the book was.

I didn't really think anything of this until I was perusing my old blog, looking for posts that I might want to re-publish here, and came across an essay I wrote about Giorgio de Chirico (he's the artist I did my MA thesis on).  While reading it, I was reminded of two things I had forgotten: one (not pertinent to the discussion), the Ancient Greeks painted only using four colors, and de Chirico painted his early work only using four colors, which suggests he was always a "classical" artist; and two, that the idea of revelation is central to most of de Chirico's work.  Revelation as in, seeing something suddenly, or abrupt enlightenment. 

I'm not saying there's anything remotely divine-inspired in my choices of music or books lately, but it does seem like my instincts or subconscious or whatever is inspiring me to make choices that are pleasant or enlightening surprises.  I like this method of decision-making.

Have you ever felt moved to read, listen to, etc., something you normally wouldn't?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

dreamfever cover

After finishing this book, the only thing I can say is... HOW IN THE NAME OF GOD AM I GOING TO SURVIVE UNTIL SHADOWFEVER COMES OUT IN DECEMBER????!?!?!?!1

Dreamfever is the fourth book in Karen Marie Moning's "Fever" series (that's not actually the series' name, it's just what I call it).  The books are really one whole story spread out across five novels, about a Southern girl name Mackayla Lane who travels to Dublin to search for her sister's killer.  In the process, she discovers that Irish legends about fairies are not only real, but much worse than the stories would have one believe.  It's only in this book that is becomes clear the Fever series isn't just an UF series, but a story of Apocalypse.

After Faefever, the previous novel in the series, I admit I was a little scared to read DreamfeverFaefever wasn't exactly my favorite book; and in addition, it ended on a pretty horrific note.  But after a bit of a rocky start, the story in Dreamfever settled in and started moving along.  A lot more things happen in this book than in the previous one, especially in regards to Barrons' and Mac's relationship, and there's also a lot more action in this novel.  Inspector Jayne rocks it out defending Dublin from the fae, V'lane has formed some interesting partnerships, and the Lord Master has some interesting revelations.  But the new major character in this book is Dani, another sidhe-seer who has become something of an adopted sister to Mac.

The overall story is okay--it's a quick read, although maybe not as un-put-downable as the earlier novels.  That is, until the end, which left me going, "Are you freaking KIDDING me?!?!?"  Literally, that's what I said at the end.  Let's just say it's a cliffhanger.

Dreamfever leaves us with a host of questions, such as:

  • Didn't Mac say she was responsible for Jayne's death in book three?  When is that dude going to kick off?
  • What is Barrons?
  • What is Mac?
  • Why did V'lane hiss at Mac when she tried to get him to let her into the Forbidden Libraries?
  • What did the dreamy-eyed boy's reflection mean when he said, "Don't talk to it.... Never talk to it."
  • What is Barrons?
  • Who killed Alina if the LM didn't? (I'm voting for Rowena on this one.)
  • Who's the woman with blonde hair that guards the Forbidden Libraries?
  • Where is Christian?  Is he the fifth?
  • What did the Sinsar Dubh do to Mac?  Anything?
  • What is Barrons?
And many others I can't mention for fear of dreaded spoilerage. 

You know what all these questions remind me of?  Lost--endless questions and no answer in sight.  Hopefully the final book in this series will be better at providing answers than the Lost finale was!  Now I just have to dig deep for the patience to wait until December.

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Library, It Was Looted.

library loot

Library Loot is hosted by Eva at A Striped Armchair.  This week I got a lot of books from the library, inadvertently.  I went in just to pick up two books, but there all these books in the new books section--seriously, it was stuffed!  So, anyway, I started to browse, and you can guess what happened from there.

collage o books

To the Hilt, Dick Francis

Summary: From the acclaimed master of mystery and suspense comes the story of a self-imposed outcast who must refresh his detection skills in order to save himself and his family.

I got this book because Orannia from Walkabout recommended it to me.  But today I visited a little used bookstore near where I work, and I saw it in the $1 bin!  So I bought it and now it is no longer library loot.  The lovely English owner of the store also told me Dick Francis was the Queen Mother's favorite writer.  Yay!  Fun facts.

The Botticelli Secret, Marina Fiorato

Summary: When part-time model and full-time prostitute Luciana Vetra is asked by one of her most exalted clients to pose for a painter friend, she doesn't mind serving as the model for the central figure of Flora in Sandro Botticelli's masterpiece "Primavera." But when the artist dismisses her without payment, Luciana impulsively steals an unfinished version of the painting--only to find that somone is ready to kill her to get it back. What could possibly be so valuable about the picture? As friends and clients are slaughtered around her, Luciana turns to the one man who has never desired her beauty, novice librarian Brother Guido. Fleeing Florence together, Luciana and Guido race through the nine cities of Renaissance Italy, pursued by ruthless foes who are determined to keep them from decoding the painting's secrets.

I'm reading this book right now for my Venice Challenge.  It's pretty ridonkulous.

Under the Skin, Michel Faber

Summary:  Hailed as "original and unsettling, an "Animal Farm" for the new century" ("The Wall Street Journal"), this first novel introduces Isserley, a female driver who picks up hitchhikers with big muscles and listens for clues about who might miss them if they should disappear.

Meghan from Medieval Bookworm wrote an awesome review of this novel, so I was very happy when my library had it.

The Curse of Caste or The Slave Bride by Julia C. Collins

Summary:  In 1865, The Christian Recorder, the national newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, serialized The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride, a novel written by Mrs. Julia C. Collins, an African American woman living in the small town of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The first novel ever published by a black American woman, it is set in antebellum Louisiana and Connecticut, and focuses on the lives of a beautiful mixed-race mother and daughter whose opportunities for fulfillment through love and marriage are threatened by slavery and caste prejudice. The text shares much with popular nineteenth-century women's fiction, while its dominant themes of interracial romance, hidden African ancestry, and ambiguous racial identity have parallels in the writings of both black and white authors from the period.

Begun in the waning months of the Civil War, the novel was near its conclusion when Julia Collins died of tuberculosis in November of 1865. In this first-ever book publication of The Curse of Caste; or The Slave Bride, the editors have composed a hopeful and a tragic ending, reflecting two alternatives Collins almost certainly would have considered for the closing of her unprecedented novel. In their introduction, the editors offer the most complete and current research on the life and community of an author who left few traces in the historical record, and provide extensive discussion of her novel's literary and historical significance. Collins's published essays, which provide intriguing glimpses into the mind of this gifted but overlooked writer, are included in what will prove to be the definitive edition of a major new discovery in African American literature. Its publication contributes immensely to our understanding of black American literature, religion, women's history, community life, and race relations during the era of United States emancipation.

I ran across this book while searching for novels set in New Orleans, and it sounded very intriguing.  I hope I get a chance to read it!

The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason

Summary:  Zachary Mason’s brilliant and beguiling debut novel, The Lost Books of the Odyssey, reimagines Homer’s classic story of the hero Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Troy. With brilliant prose, terrific imagination, and dazzling literary skill, Mason creates alternative episodes, fragments, and revisions of Homer’s original that taken together open up this classic Greek myth to endless reverberating interpretations. The Lost Books of the Odyssey is punctuated with great wit, beauty, and playfulness; it is a daring literary page-turner that marks the emergence of an extraordinary new talent.

Sounded like an interesting concept.  It could go either terribly wrong or be effing brilliant.

In Mike We Trust by P. E. Ryan

Summary:  When Garth's uncle comes to visit, he's like a breath of very needed fresh air. Mike is laid-back and relaxed—and willing to accept Garth for who he is, without question. For the first time in a long while, Garth feels like he's around someone who understands him.

But before long Garth is helping Mike with some pretty mysterious things and finds himself keeping secrets from everyone around him. He's forced to wonder: Is his uncle Mike really who he says he is, and can Garth trust him? More importantly, can Garth trust the person he's becoming?

I got this for Nerds Heart YA.

Fushigi Yûgi, Volume 1: Priestess

Summary:  The discovery of a mysterious book transports Miaka and Yui into a strange new world reminiscent of ancient China, where they befriend seven Celestial Warriors, including dashing mercenary Tamahome and wannabe empress Nuriko. Only then can Miaka summon the power of the god Suzaku, find her true love, and get home safely.

I've been in the mood to try a different manga series lately, and this one sounded like it might be good.

Rosario + Vampire, Akihisa Ikeda

Summary:  All-around average teenager Tsukune can't get accepted to any high school save one...but on his first day he finds the rest of the student body doesn't appear average at all. Best of all, the cutest girl on campus can't wait to fling her arms around his neck! Wait a sec'--are those her teeth around his neck too...? Tsukune's going to have one heck of a hickey when he gets home from Monster High! But does he have a chance in H E double hockey sticks of raising his grades at a school where the turf war isn't between the jocks and the nerds but the vampires and the werewolves?

This manga has been recommended to me a lot but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

Dancing for Degas, Kathryn Wagner

Summary:  An ambitious and enterprising farm girl, Alexandrie joins the prestigious Paris Opera ballet with hopes of securing not only her place in society but her family’s financial future. Her plan is soon derailed, however, when she falls in love with the enigmatic artist whose paintings of the offstage lives of the ballerinas scandalized society and revolutionized the art world. As Alexandrie is drawn deeper into Degas’s art and Paris’s secrets, will she risk everything for her dreams of love and of becoming the ballet’s star dancer?

I have my doubts about this one, for various reasons, but I couldn't pass it up.

Jane Bites Back, Michael Thomas Ford

Summary:  Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves—but now it's because she's the owner of Flyleaf Books in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves—along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.

To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampire has been rejected by publishers—116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide her real identity—and fend off a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the inimitable Jane Austen be able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone what a woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fangs can do?

I've seen this around the webbernets and several people have recommended it, so thought I'd give it a shot.

Heist Society, Ally Carter

Summary:  When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her to the case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own--scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.

Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster's art collection has been stolen, and he wants it returned. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat's dad needs her help.

For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in her family's (very crooked) history--and, with any luck, steal her life back along the way.

Ditto with this one.  And who can resist that cover?

Lover Mine, JR Ward

Summary:  John Matthew has come a long way since he was found living among humans, his vampire nature unknown. Taken in by The Brotherhood, no one could guess what his true history was-or his true identity.

Xhex has long steeled herself against the attraction to John Matthew. Until fate intervenes and she discovers that love, like destiny, is inevitable.

I haven't read any of the other books in this series, so I might be totally lost with this one, but I wanted to try it anyway.

Phew, that's a lot of books!  Realistically, I know I won't get to all of these, but I'm going to do my best.  What books did you pick up at the library this week?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meridian by Amber Kizer


This is a great young adult novel that's a quick, entertaining read, but also deals with Big Issues--like death, religion, and extremism.  I would highly recommend it.

Meridian Sozu has always been a bit odd; she seems to attract dead things.  Ever since she was a baby, she's been surrounded by dead bugs and animals.  No surprise, then, that almost everyone has given her a wide berth, including her family. 

On Meridian's sixteenth birthday, she witnesses a horrible accident, and her parents panic.  They drive her to a bus station and tell her not to attempt to contact them again.  Instead, she's supposed to travel on her own to Redemption, Colorado, to meet her great-great aunt.  It is there that Meridian learns she's not a freak (or at least, not just a freak).  She's a Fenestra, an angel of death that helps souls cross into heaven.  But first she has to learn how to do it properly or the souls with take her with them to the other side.  Meanwhile, Meridian has to keep an eye out for the Nocti--evil angels that take dying souls to hell and kill Fenestras.

This book is a very original twist on the angel myth.  I do have to admire the author for taking angels and making them very spiritual beings essential to religion--although not any one particular religion.  She also tackles subjects you wouldn't expect to find in YA novel that's as fun to read as this one, namely death.  It feels as if everyone and everything dies in this book--animals, kids, old people (not the dog, thank heavens).  Like anyone, Meridian has to face the fact that everyone dies and it's a part of life.  Being a Fenestra, though, she has to face it earlier than most people do.  Even though this sounds depressing, it's actually elegantly handled and winds up being a message of hope.

I also liked how the author tied extremism in with the story.  In Redemption, a pastor named Perimo has revived the community with his church and über-fancy preaching.  Unfortunately, Perimo is more interested in getting people to do what he tells them to instead of giving them spiritual guidance.  Considering one of the major purposes of religion is to provide people answers about death--why do we have to die, where do we go when we die--I thought it was very appropriate to have this as a subplot and a representation of everything that goes wrong in a religion.  At the same time, though, I didn't feel like this aspect of the book or Perimo's character were fleshed out very well at all.  The conclusion relies on both heavily, but the danger feels overblown and the conclusion way too pat.

Finally, there's a romantic subplot between Meridian and a boy who is living with her aunt named Tens.  It was sweet, but not terribly interesting.  I do like Tens' character, though, and perhaps he'll have more of a role in the next book.

Overall, this was a very good, quick read, and I will definitely look for the sequel.  I can't wait to see what else this author has up her sleeve!

Shop Indie Bookstores

Powered by ScribeFire.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Musical Notes

musical notes

After another loooong break, Musical Notes is back!  This is a weekly (or semi-weekly, as the case may be) feature on my blog where I share the music that provided a soundtrack for the books I've read recently.  It's been a few weeks, so there are several songs to discuss!

Cry Wolf

For some reason this song kept running through my head while I was reading Cry Wolf, a book about werewolves that takes place largely in the forest.  Can't you just see Bran singing this song?

Lonesome Dove

A western novel requires Western music, and I Ride an Old Paint is a classic!  This version isn't the best (that would be Michael Martin Murphy's), but you gotta love the video for the retroness.

The Making of a Duchess

Julien's family motto is "Ne Quittez Pas," never give up, which of course made me think of Ne Me Quitte Pas, don't leave me.  Okay, so they don't mean the same thing, but it's still a good song.


The Teeth do a lot of angsty songs about isolation and wanting to kill themselves (their words, not mine), and that seemed very appropriate to Meridian.  Well, perhaps very appropriate is stretching it....


I think Mac would like nothing better than a one-way ticket back to Georgia where everything could return to the way she knew it before.

What have you been reading and listening to lately?

Powered by ScribeFire.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Objective Reading

Image by tourist_on_earth

I've heard many bloggers say that they judge a book based on its own merits and not in comparison to other books.  I've even said this myself a time a two.  But why shouldn't we compare one book to another?  And is this impartiality in reviewing even an attainable goal?

Books, like everything else, don't exist in a vacuum--they work within genre tropes established by other novels, are published because certain settings or plots are popular, and both the author and the reader undoubtedly draw upon what they have and haven't liked in other stories.  All of this makes up a book, and I would argue for the most part it makes a book better.  Having the experience and knowledge of other books enables us to understand a new book and possibly get more out of it.  Furthermore, I don't think even the best reviewers can read a book without comparing it--any more than we can un-read a book!

For example, I remember reading a review of Garden Spells on Hey Lady! Watcha Readin'? where Trish said,

...while I loved this book, I have to admit that it’s not very deep and the book club discussion was uninspired. I saw a parallel between Garden Spells and my much loved Time of My Life, and was telling the group how I saw similarities in the book, but how TOML was much deeper and more profound than GS.

This is the perfect time to point out that my ratings of books are never meant to be compared to each other. Each rating is a stand-alone rating, in that each book is only compared to itself. If I was to compare Garden Spells with Time of My Life, GS would be rated pretty low, as TOML digs deep where GS just skims the surface. But since books are only compared to themselves, which is to say, are they the best they can be?, each book is rated on its own merits.

Even though Trish gave Garden Spells a great rating, she still couldn't help comparing it to Time of My Life and finding it wanting.  What if she had given it a poor rating because of that?  Would it still have been a "fair" review?

How about when an author invites comparison to other novels?  Pam from has an interesting review of Knightly Academy, which the author calls Harry-Potter-inspired fiction.  Pam says,

I read it in a day and I am still having a bit of trouble disassociating this from the Harry Potter series. I could identify which characters were modeled after those in J.K. Rowling’s books and early on in the book I had figured out who had it in for the commoner boys.

Does this however make it uninteresting? To be honest I am not sure. I am really unsure of how to separate the two and when the author is up front with her intentions and it was very Potteresque. I feel a bit uneducated on how to judge a book that is inspired greatly on another book.

I would say, go ahead and compare it to Harry Potter!  Not only that, but I would point out there are tons of books that are very obviously inspired by other novels--Jane Austen adaptations, for instance.  Is it wrong to compare these books to their forerunners?  No, I think it's quite the opposite--not to do so seems lazy or as if you're only reviewing half the book. 

I believe the idea of the impartial review is fundamentally flawed.  Writers are inspired by other books, and it's only natural for readers to compare to them to those books and others we've read.  It isn't in the what, but the how that stories become our favorite novels--so if someone writes a similar story, but in a better way, why not say so?  Because if you don't have something to compare it to, everything is at the very least acceptable.  It's only through an array of experiences that we develop a taste for what we think is good or not.

Do you try to judge books on their own merits and keep reviews impartial? Do you think reviews should be that way?

Powered by ScribeFire.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...