December 30, 2008

The Eyes of God

Man, Steph (Reviewer X) and I were supposed to meet up, but I got delayed by personal reasons. I ended up not coming arriving in the city 'til today when she had to leave. We missed each other by about fifteen minutes. But Taren (The Chick Manifesto) can be jealous because I got to talk to Steph's brother on the phone.

Book Cover

By John Marco

THE EYES OF GOD moves far faster than any book with 779 pages should. I finished it and still had time to read a couple of other books and write 1,500 words in one day. When I started it I had no clue it would suck me in so completely.

John Marco begins not with turmoil, but with peace. Newly crowned King of Liiria Akeela the Good wants to end the war with neighboring country Reec. His mission succeeds and he leaves betrothed to Cassandra, the king's daughter. She waits while he prepares their wedding, protected by his foster brother Lukien (the Bronze Knight), whose prowess on the battlefield doesn't endear him to the Reecians.

This part takes a little of work to get through. Cassandra gains the love of both men simply by being beautiful. I don't think it's her personality because she's rather selfish - more concerned with being a ruler than being a good ruler. She hides the fact she's horribly ill since it might jeopardize her chances of becoming queen FOR GOOD REASON. Lukien is a little bit Sue-ish, with his good looks and athletic skill. This part is also the classic Arthurian triangle, which wasn't a good escape for someone writing a paper on de Troyes creation of the Arthurian triangle and how it compares/contrasts with two of his other non-fin'amours poems. (No seriously, I called it Courtly Love and Chr├ętien de Troyes: Lancelot in Contrast to Yvain and Perceval. I'm a total Arthur geek.)

But then it gets to the good stuff. Lukien seeks the Eyes of God (two amulets) to save Cassandra, but to do so he must harm a peaceful civilization. Back in Liiria knowledge of Cassandra's affair drives Akeela mad. He's an idealist, unable to deal with the realities of the world, even when the consequences of his actions are reasonably explained to him. (At first I thought Baron Glass would have a small role, and I was glad he continued showing up. He's a very interesting man. I'm very happy that the blurbs of the next novels indicate he plays a large part in them as well.)

The novel covers a decent span of time. In the first part the characters mostly make choices. In the second two, the consequences of those choices are realized. Even Cassandra becomes bearable after the time-skip. (She does have plenty of time to think about her actions.)

THE EYES OF GOD opens with a tale of forbidden love, but quickly ups the ante with political intrigue, battles, magic, and a mad king. It's highly entertaining and moves along smoothly. Marco sets up a number of mysteries in the first part and answers them at a decent pace instead of leaving all answers for the very end. There's also an excellent climax, with possible redemption and a high-stakes battle. If you can get through Cassandra's POV at the start you'll be rewarded.

THE EYES OF GOD is the first book in the Lukien Trilogy, followed by THE DEVIL'S ARMOR and THE SWORD OF ANGELS, all currently available. Marco is currently writing THE FOREVER KNIGHT, another story about Lukien. You can find more information on Marco's website, blog, or MySpace.

December 28, 2008

End of the Year Books!

Between presents and book sales, this is the time of year where I greatly augument my shelves. (The rest of the year my buying is a touch slower.)

For Christmas I received TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD by J.K. Rowling. So far I have bought myself (I'll update this list as I buy more):
GENERATION DEAD by Daniel Waters
TANGLED WEBS by Anne Bishop
CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE by Stephanie Kuehnert
CONFESSIONS OF A TRIPLE SHOT BETTY by Jody Gehrman
ARTEMIS FOWL: THE TIME PARADOX by Eoin Colfer
BLOWING MY COVER: MY LIFE AS A CIA SPY by Lindsay Moran
HAPPY HOUR AT CASA DRACULA by Marta Acosta
GIRL SLEUTH: NANCY DREW AND THE WOMEN WHO CREATED HER by Melanie Rehak
THE SOCIETY OF S by Susan Hubbard

In addition, you can still help others receive books this holiday season.

The Book Blog a Holiday campaign hosted by the Bookwish Foundation raises funds to buy books for Darfur refugees. They seek a dollar donation per book received as a gift. More can be found here.

Chelsea (The Page Flipper) and Lauren (of Shooting Stars Magazine) have moved their Leave a Mark auctions to a separate blog. (Link corrected - thanks Chelsea!)

One of my favorite charities is Inside Books, previously blogged about here. I've met the people running this and know they're on the up-and-up and sincerely want to help.

So tell me what books you've received (or bought)!

December 27, 2008

Death by Latte

Book Cover

By Linda Gerber

Aphra Connolly returns in the sequel to DEATH BY BIKINI. Readers of the first will not be disappointed by this continuation and new readers will be able to pick it up without being lost. Though the DEATH BY series is currently three books long (a girl can hope for more), DEATH BY LATTE does far more than set the scene for the end of the trilogy.

Due to the events of DEATH BY BIKINI, Aphra now knows her mom's location. She immediately hops on a plane just like any curious teenager would. While she may not think of her action's consequences, she does have reasons. Her mom did put Aphra in danger, if indirectly. But now Aphra has put her mom in danger.

What's more, Seth shows up in Seattle looking for Aphra, but only to retrieve the extremely ugly ring he gave her in the first book. He acts like they never began a relationship. (Of course, Aphra started flirting with the cute boy who lives next door to her mom while Seth was away . . . ) Unfortunately, the group being together makes them an easier target for The Mole.

Linda Gerber effortlessly combines summer fling-type romance with spy action. The characters hide their true motives, even from those on the same side. (A good practice, since they never know who is on their side.) There are explosions, chases, and simple sleight-of-hand. In the end Gerber once more leaves the reader eager for the next book. There's a complete adventure and many questions answered, but the book ends with much still to be resolved.

DEATH BY LATTE looks like a basic lightweight read. The design is nothing less than adorable and baby blue and bright pink grace the cover. But it's not a little piece of cotton candy. It's rather bittersweet and full of morally ambiguous choices. Aphra's not just growing up, she's growing up in a situation where her decisions can save lives or kill. And no, lives aren't always saved.

I adore this series. (I can say that with full confidence since I've already read the third.) It's morally complex and lacks fairy tale endings, but Gerber still keeps things appropriate for younger teens. (A little violent, but no sex or language.) Aphra and her mother are resourceful, intelligent female characters. Tough concepts are addressed without the bood becoming depressing, angsty, or too serious. (It's not cotton candy but that doesn't mean it's not fun.)

As many have said, one of the great things about YA is how it can bend genres. Pick up the DEATH BY series if you like some hardcore action with your romance, mystery, and coming of age. DEATH BY BIKINI and DEATH BY LATTE are both available now, for the low price of $6.99 each. DEATH BY DENIM will be available May 2009. You can find out more at Gerber's website, MySpace, or blog. You definitely want to check it out since she gives away a freebie every Friday.

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!



I hope all of ya'll have a wonderful December 25, Christian or not. Hang out with family and friends, eat some good food, share the joy of the season.

Merry Christmas.

December 22, 2008

Books=Gifts

You may be thinking it's a bit late for this post. It is, but I'm confident it will be helpful for other holidays (or birthdays) and I have yet to finish Christmas shopping myself.

1. Giftcards

You cannot always know what book another person wants and if you figure out a title they'll love they might have already bought it for themself. The solution is a giftcard. How do you make it seem more thoughtful? Figure out which bookstore they like. Do they prefer Borders, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon? Are they near an independent bookstore? Find out with Indie Bound.

My personal recs:
Chain: Borders - They've got great discounts including weekly coupons and reward dollars.
Independent: Book People (Austin, TX) - This store contains an interesting selection of gifts as well as books and carries autographed copies of local and visiting authors' books. Those not in Austin can shop online.
Chain secondhand: Half-Price Books - Okay, if you try to sell your books to them they'll give you crap. Don't do it. Otherwise they're a good deal.
Independent secondhand: Katy Budget Books (Katy, TX) - Now this is where I sell my books.

2. Serial Readers

Sometimes you want to encourage the habit of reading in a family member or friend, but it's much easier to gift someone who loves to read already. And what's the easiest way to please them? Peek at their shelf (call someone else to do it if you live to far away) and figure out what series or authors they read. Buy the newest. They have the newest? Narrow down their taste to subgenre. Find someone on the net who knows something about the genre even if you don't.



3. The Young

They might not be serial readers yet, but they will be if you get them young. Just go with what you loved as a child. My suggestions? Amelia Bedelia, Lyle Crocodile, Where the Wild Things Are, Stellaluna, Eric Carle, Dr. Seuss, Frog and Toad, The Berenstein Bears, Clifford, and Mercer Mayer.

4. The Uninitiated

See #1. Yeah, you'd love to hand them the book that changes their world. Save it for any old day and just buy a copy to pass along. A gift is about giving someone a little bit of joy. With a giftcard they can find a book they think sounds interesting or spend the money on a non-book item in the store. Whatever makes them happy.

So what was my biggest book purchase for Christmas?

Book Cover The Clash by The Clash

I had to get this for my dad. I'm not usually into table books, but this one is eye-catching, beautifully assembled, and full of interesting info. I can still remember the first time he gave a Clash CD to my sister and I, so I hope he enjoys the book.

December 20, 2008

Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception

What's this? An actual review? Yep, I'm finally getting myself back on track. All my books for review have been fabulous lately so I'm eager to share my opinion! As LAMENT is a Flux book I would like to point out the Flux Blog. I liked the mini FAQ because I'd be formatting things OUT of Times New Roman. I hate that font with a passion. Nothing against serifs, really - I like Georgia which is virtually identical except for more prominent serifs. (Not to say I'm not a sans-serif/Gothic girl at heart. Give me Helvetica, Arial, or Verdana. The new Calibri is also lovely - it's one of the few good things about Word '07.) Perhaps it's so ingrained into our culture, but I find it uninspired.

Book Cover

By Maggie Stiefvater

I love faeries. Full stop. I adored discovering new versions of tales I was familiar with as a child. Weighing the pros and cons to determine which was my favorite. What rules of faerie I liked best. As an Irish-ish girl, I leaned toward that family of tales. Maggie Stiefvater's debut clearly draws from the Celtic tradition. But she commands the material and fully satisfied this picky aficionado.

A large part of my satisfaction is her characterization. There are no throwaway characters. Coworker Sarah appears maybe three times but still grows as a person. Freckle Freak, Deirdre’s aunt, and others become scarier as the book continues. LAMENT begins low-key, at a music competition at the high school. There’s a niggling sense of wrongness, but nothing too worrisome. Blood, life-or-death decisions, and even death play their parts in the climax. Yet the book builds slowly to that point.

In that movement the characters reveal their personalities. Deirdre lacks a certain kind of confidence. She knows she’s a talented harpist but needs prodding to take the last step and try to improvise. Luke first pushes her to take steps she should have taken herself, but then she begins to develop her own initiative. She senses he’s dangerous and lying to her from the first but doesn’t truly follow him of her own will at the beginning.

While Luke is the dangerous and attentive new boy, her old friend James, the piper, is sheer adorable. Unlike Deirdre he acknowledges his gifts and uses them to her full potential – yet he can’t tell a girl he likes her just like any teenage boy. I loved the jealousy between him and Luke that goes just above Deirdre’s head.

Stiefvater plays with the classic set-up of a talent human who catches the attention of Faerie masterfully. Without ever losing that mood she still delivers an utterly teenage romance. Really, she hit all of my buttons in all the right ways. It’s not just the faeries, but the music, the assassin, the politics, the banter. It’s like she read a field guide to what sort of books I spent my childhood reading before she produced LAMENT.

I’m sad my first review got erased, because it encompassed the book far better than this one did. Let’s just leave it with favorable. If you like faeries, thrilling climaxes, and rounded characters, treat yourself to LAMENT for the holidays. It’s in bookstores now and BALLAD will hit the shelves in 2009, as will SHIVER (from Scholastic). You can bet I’ll be picking both up ASAP.

You can find Striefvater many places on the 'net, including her website, el jay, and the Merry Sisters of Fate comm. The last includes weekly fiction - totally awesome and highly recommended. Don't forget her art blog either.

December 13, 2008

Blog Awards


Diana from Stop, Drop, and Read! gifted me with the "I Love You Blog Award!"

The rules are:
1) Add the logo of your award to your blog.
2) Add a link to the person who awarded it to you.
3) Nominate at least 7 other blogs.
4) Add links to those blogs on your blog.
5) Leave a message for your nominees on their blogs.

So my nominees are:
1) Beth Kephart - Her entries are lyrical (like her novels) and accompanied by lovely photos. Her blog will brighten your day.
2) Nineteen Teen by Marissa Doyle and Regina Scott - What can I say? I'm a research junkie.
3) Guys Lit Wire - That's a lot of awesome for one blog to contain.
4) Reader Rabbits - Again, people ganging up to ensure a concentration of awesome.
5) Bildungsroman - People like Little Willow add a lot of positive energy to the world.
6) Sidhe Vicious Reviews - Great for people who like paranormal fiction.
7) Vampire Wire - Marta Acosta will direct you to all the coolest news about vamps on the web.

Jessica at Chick Lit Teens gave me the "Good Job!" award, with the same rules.

My nominees are:
1) Shooting Stars Mag - Great contests, great charity work, all around cool people.
2) Reviewer X - See Below
3) The Story Siren - These ladies probably have a ton of these awards, but it's because they deserve them. Two fine YA blogs.
4) Linda Gerber - She likes to share the wealth with her Freebie Fridays. She also hosts interviews and other cool news.
5) Bookluver Carol - I can talk to her about Heroes. Plus, we're from sister high schools. It's a small world after all.
6) Melissa Walker - She's so positive! She just co-founded iheartdaily.com. Tell me that's not precious.
7) Amberkatze's Book Blog - Fabulous interviews + fabulous reviews = fabulous blog.

December 11, 2008

Bingeaduckia!

The Good, The Bad, and The Unread has teamed up with The Book Binge to bring you Bingeaduckia. Click on the picture to the right to be taken to the games and prizes!

You can find an introduction at both sites.

You can also begin working on the Scavenger Hunt, hosted by Rowena.

The ladies at both sites have put a lot of work into this event, so go forth and have fun!

I know my blog is aimed more towards the YA community than the romance community, but it's all a community of book lovers. And what could be a better time to come together than just before the holidays?

December 6, 2008

Things I Hate Right Now, Part II

Blogger.

Book Cover

I wrote a lovely review of LAMENT by Maggie Stiefvater between finishing my philosophy test and beginning my philosophy paper. Finished it, set it to publish at five.

Later that day I checked to see if it posted correctly. Oddly, it hadn't posted at all. When I tried to edit it in my Dashboard I was told the blog was currently inaccessible and Blogger would fix it shortly.

The next day I logged on and the post was gone completely. Me being a brilliant creature, I wrote the review in MS Word first in case something went wrong . . . and promptly deleted it once I set the post to publish.

Unfortunately, I now need to be working on that philosophy paper. I can assure you that once I'm done the LAMENT review will be rewritten. I want to share my feelings on this book.

IN OTHER NEWS, I have a terrible memory. I finally put up a YA blogroll, but I've probably forgotten a hideous number of people. If you want your URL added please comment on this post. Note this is only for YA; other blogrolls will be popping up shortly. Maybe.

Book Cover

For this month you can expect not only the LAMENT review, but also reviews of THE EYES OF GOD by John Marco and DEATH BY LATTE by Linda Gerber. I plan to put up my holiday books=gifts guide soon.

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Good luck to everybody else during finals season!

December 1, 2008

Why I Review

Or, Why I Didn't Post Last Week

SakuraCherrie

So, why I review is an entire can of worms and I am unable to perceive some of those worms (therefore they don't exist). I'm a little bit paranoid and thus have been pretty secretive about my true identity. However, I've been pretty nice to ya'll. Everything I've said about myself is true.

One of those true things: I'm in college. I am a second-year/junior. I have something like 64 credit hours and am taking an easy schedule of 15 hours this semester. (I already have one grade back and finished another class today, though I won't have my grade for it for awhile. Another class finishes next Monday. Then I have two finals, one the 10th and the other the 16th, which sucks. I'm considering going home between them.) I am a liberal arts major, so my classes this semester are:

Biology of AIDS
Introduction to Linguistics
Introduction to China
Literature of the Middle Ages in Translation
Philosophy: Problems of Knowledge and Valuation

Being liberal arts, I write essays all the time. The one I turned in today took up most of my Thanksgiving break - it was thirteen pages total. (Thirteen terrible pages that should've never seen the light of day.) But hey, I can churn out these essays quickly. How? I practice.

I like to write, but sometimes it's hard to find a subject. Reviewing gives me a chance to communicate about something I love (books, for the denser members of the audience). When I find something good, I share it. Books, movies, music, you name it. (I have a whole karmic theory about this practice. Ask me some time. I have delayed my own nirvana to enlighten others.)

So reviews. I don't have pressure - I decide when a review gets done, how often I post reviews, etc. I can quit at any moment if it becomes too much. (I doubt that will happen soon, but I like the freedom.) It's a different atmosphere than writing for school. No deadlines, no grades. On the other hand, I'm still the writer.

Writing continually helps me find my flaws. I overuse "also" and various other little words. I don't vary between complex and simple sentences stuctures often enough. I have a favorite sentence construction that pops up once a paragraph (at least) if I don't hold myself back.

NOTE: If someone guesses the structure correctly, s/he get a prize. I'll give you a choice of ARCs or something.

Another way this kind of writing helps is keeping my analysis skills sharp. I might go months without writing a literary analysis, but at some point I'm going to need to write another. I try to avoid getting technical in my reviews - this ain't the place to blather on about diction, syntax, etc. It is a good place to think about theme, authorial motivation, characterization, contiguity.

I've pretty much free-flowed this, so sorry about any editing problems. I just wanted to say a little about myself and why I'm here. Any questions?

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