November 30, 2012

My Ebook Purchasing Rules

I received my Kindle a little over a year ago as a graduation gift. Of course by then I had heard all about the ebook revolution and was excited to have my own ereader, although I will admit that I wasn't quite sure how frequently I would read books on that versus paper copies. And I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to get as much information out of books read digitally compared to their printed counterparts. But for the most part I do enjoy reading books on my Kindle. This is me, however, so of course I have stipulation in terms of what books I read and purchase via my Kindle. Below are some of my top considerations when I'm trying to decide whether or not to purchase an ebook.


As a general rule, I am less likely to want to read or even buy a series. Both continuing and finished series pose certain issues for me. Finished series still require me to spend a lot of time reading in this one particular world, while new/continuing series have the added disadvantages of forcing me to keep up with it for years and potentially pay escalating prices for each new book. Now as this relates to ebooks, I mostly try to avoid purchasing ebooks for ongoing series. I'm starting to come around in terms of duologies, however, but that's about where I want to draw the line. I tend to read series only once anyway (for me, a series contains four or more books), so why spend money and use up space on my Kindle for that?


Before my Kindle, my decision of whether or not to buy a book was rather simple: do I think that I'm going to want to re-read it at some point? I love re-reading books, and have probably read the majority of the books I own more than once. If I was just curious to read the book but didn't view it as re-readable, then I'd check the book out of the library. I still haven't figured out where ebooks should fall in this dichotomy that I created. It's possible that I could re-read books on my Kindle, but there's just something so nice about going over to a bookshelf (or some boxes) and searching among my books for an older read. I wonder if re-reading Kindle books will fill me with the same sense of sentimentality. I should hope so. But my other issue is that I love re-reading specific scenes more than re-reading entire books, and searching for particular parts is much more difficult on an ereader.


Right now this isn't too much of a concern because I don't have many people within proximity that I could share my books with. However, this is still a consideration for me, especially in terms of my family and boyfriend. Is this book something that I'd think they would also enjoy reading? If so, then I have to really think hard about purchasing an ebook, because I'm not going to let them borrow my Kindle and deprive me of access to all of my books. Owning an ebook definitely limits how stories can be shared.


If drawings or maps are kind of essential to the book then I'm probably not going to want to purchase it for my black and white Kindle. I suppose this wouldn't be quite as much of an issue if I were to get a Kindle Fire or another color e-reader. But I still do think that digitizing images does change the way that we see them.


From what I understand, buying an ebook from Amazon is very similar to buying music from iTunes - technically what you own is a license to read the material but that's it. As this article on ZDNet explains, "all that cash you have paid was simply to access these books on your Kindle. You have not paid to own the books." All we own via Kindle, Nook, iPads, or other ereaders is a license to the material, not the material itself. Now, I'd be okay with that if I found the book at a reasonable price. However, I think it's ridiculous to charge $9.99 or more for rights to a digital copy of a book when I can borrow the book from my library for free or buy the physical book for only a few dollars more. I want to make sure that the prices takes into account the limitations of owning an ebook.

And then the one thing that can cause me to ignore my self-imposed rules:

Amazon gift cards

Amazon gift cards are my downfall to all the rules I try to establish on buying ebooks. I use my Amazon gift cards less judiciously than I have in the past when I had concerns like shipping and handling. Right now I have a bunch of credit stocked up in my account, which allows me to download ebooks without affecting my bank account at all. If I didn't have the balance of these Amazon gift cards and was still spending "real" money on my ebooks, then there would be far less on my Kindle. I also spend many hours a month searching for reasonable ebook deals on

In general, however, I tend to stick to these rules, and I can only hope that I continue to as the pressure to read and buy more increases the longer that I write on this blog. I am also a huge advocate for public libraries. They're exist to serve the print and digital media needs of their communities, they're free, and they're usually pretty easily accessible. If books don't fit my Kindle purchase criteria, then I am trying to request them from the library.

What things do you keep in mind for buying an ebook?
Read more »

November 28, 2012

Waiting on The Mist of Bronte Moor by Aviva Orr

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights any upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

Publication Date: January 8, 2013
When fifteen-year-old Heather Jane Bell is diagnosed with alopecia and her hair starts falling out in clumps, she wants nothing more than to escape her home in London and disappear off the face of the earth.

Heather gets her wish when her concerned parents send her to stay with her great-aunt in West Yorkshire. But shortly after she arrives, she becomes lost on the moors and is swept through the mist back to the year 1833. There she encounters fifteen-year-old Emily Brontë and is given refuge in the Brontë Parsonage.

Unaware of her host family’s genius and future fame, Heather struggles to cope with alopecia amongst strangers in a world completely foreign to her. While Heather finds comfort and strength in her growing friendship with Emily and in the embrace of the close-knit Brontë family, her emotions are stretched to the limit when she falls for Emily’s brilliant but troubled brother, Branwell.

Will Heather return to the comforts and conveniences of the twenty-first century? Or will she choose love and remain in the harsh world of nineteenth-century Haworth? (Goodreads)
A work of pseudo-historical fiction about the Bronte sisters!? Although I've read and loved Charlotte's Jane Eyre and Emily's Wuthering Heights, I actually don't know very much about the Bronte sisters. I know they published a few books under non-gendered pseudonyms and that all died tragically young. I'd love to learn more about their family, even within a work of fiction. 

I find books with time travel and alternate universes endlessly fascinating. I hope that Heather actually helps influence some of their books, and that without her having gone back in time the Brontes would not have been able to achieve the fame they had. I wish that I could travel back in time myself to meet some famous literary figures. That would be one of the best things ever. So yes, this sounds like my type of book.

What are you waiting on?
Read more »

November 26, 2012

Review: Eon by Alison Goodman

Eon by Alison Goodman
Published: 2010, Firebird (Originally 2008)
Series: Eon, #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: Personal book

"I found power in accepting the truth of who I am. It may not be a truth that others can accept, but I cannot live any other way."

When I started hearing about this Asian-inspired fantasy series where a girl masquerades as a boy in the hope of becoming a Dragoneye, a leader of the people through a connection to a dragon, I just knew that this would be a perfect Amanda book. I have never been able to resist stories with girls pretending to be boys in order to gain power and legitimacy in their societies, and I love the idea that this is a fantasy book influenced by Eastern cultures, most specifically Chinese. And how right I was.

Eona has been training for the past four years in the hope of being selected as the Rat Dragoneye apprentice. Although sixteen and a female, Eona has the power to see eleven of the twelve celestial dragons, guardians of her empire. It is because of her rare talent that Eona is a candidate for the Dragoneye apprentice position. In the eyes of her nation, Eona is Eon, a twelve-year-old boy weakened by a broken hip. They do not see Eona for who she really is, for no girls are approved for candidacy, much less allowed to become an apprentice and eventual Dragoneye. The price for disobedience is death, yet Eona and her master are willing to take this chance in the hopes to improve both their lives.

While the sword ceremony does not go quite as planned, Eona finds herself elevated to a status she could only dream of: the chosen Dragoneye of the fabled Mirror Dragon, that has refused to choose a Dragoneye for the past century. She's been given everything she could ever want, but her life is not as perfect as she'd hope. The Mirror Dragon is the dragon of truth, as should her life be as the Mirror Dragoneye. But the path that Eona has chosen ensures that any mention of the truth will become synonymous with her destruction. 

I'll easily admit that I love reading any instance of a female masquerading as a male. But in Eon, Alison Goodman does not exclusively use Eona to study gender constructs, but rather examines the implications of gender constructs on the society as a whole. Our protagonist Eona takes drugs and does whatever she can to ensure that her sun (masculine side) overrides her moon (feminine side). Indeed, Eona's suppression of her feminine side is so complete that her inability to form an understanding of her life and role as a Dragoneye makes complete sense. At every moment she is very much conscious of what will happen to her if others learn her true identity. Any slips of her true identity are few and far between. While I found her resolve and sense of masculinity to be incredibly impressive, it is also more than a little tragic to see how much Eona must deny her true self and desires.

Goodman continues to examine gender through many secondary characters. When Eona first meets Lady Dela, a contraire, or a physical man who outwardly expresses his inner feminity, Eona is understandably confused. If she hadn't suppressed her feminine side, then she would still be working in the salt mines. For Eona, masculinity gives her power and freedom, and it takes the example of Lady Dela and weeks of self-reflection for her to realize that femininity contains its own sort of power. But traditional ideas of masculinity are also turned upside-down. Ryko is a eunuch, yet he acts with such traditional masculinity and strength. In this culture, many men take Sun drugs to increase their sun. These drugs, however, show additional flaws in this masculine-dominant society by poisoning users and causing them to become a little crazy. I love that the outward picture Goodman presents appears to be a traditionally masculine society with Eona as the outlier, but an in-depth study shows so many cracks and inconsistencies within this system.

If I never read another book about dragons, I will count myself content. I absolutely adored the dragons that Goodman created, magnificent and powerful but also so very distant. All Eona requires to see them is a slight refocusing of her vision, but Dragoneyes must enter a trance in order to commune with their dragons, while the common people can only see the dragons once a year when a new Dragoneye apprentice is chosen. Yet the dragons are absolutely essential to the lives of those residing within the Celestial Empire, powerful enough to divert natural disasters and ensure good harvests. And the twelve dragons represent the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac! And the twelve compass points. And different virtues. I loved how meaningful the dragons and, by extension, their Dragoneyes are to the culture. 

I really appreciated the amount of research that Goodman obviously put into this story. Everything felt so vivid and wonderfully real to me, from the story robes to the castle layout to the descriptions of traditional gender roles. I've never been to China and have not formally studied its culture, but I have an adopted Chinese sister, and so my family has made an effort to learn more about China and celebrate her Chinese heritage. A lot of little details seemed to ring true for me here. This will definitely a book I'll share with her when she gets a little older.

The one part that did not enthuse me quite so much is the political machinations. I love reading about political intrigue within books, especially fantasies, but the one between the emperor and his brother, High Lord Sethon, fell a little flat for me. The conflict was ostensibly between the two of them, but, as the story progressed, it was clear that they are nothing more than figureheads for bigger movements and ideologies. Perhaps I was simply too wrapped up in all the other aspects of the novel, but nonetheless, the politics are well-done and of utmost importance within the context of the novel.

In Eon, Goodman has created an incredibly layered world and a heroine worth admiring. Eon is more than a story about a girl who does not wish to follow conventions, but rather about this girl's small part in a society on the verge of many changes. This was an incredible read and I highly recommend it to all fantasy fans, as well as those interested in gender studies and strong female heroines. I am so glad that I bought a physical copy of this book and can't wait to read its sequel, Eona.
Read more »

November 23, 2012

Feature & Follow #2

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Allison Can Read. This blog hop gives bloggers the opportunity to connect with fellow bloggers and find new blogs to follow, and each week two participants' blogs are featured. For more information on how to participate, please click here.

Question: Which blog are you thankful for?

This is a hard question — there are so many blogs out there, and each and every one has  introduced me to new books, new ideas for my blog, and new thoughts about books in general.

My blogroll on the left shows some of the blogs that I continually refer to for quality reviews and posts. I also am thankful for all the blogs out there I have yet to discover, and I'm excited to do so.

The blog I'm most thankful for is:

It's wonderful to have a real-life friend on here who I can talk to about books, blogs, and so much more all the time. She definitely encourages me to keep reading and blogging. Plus I think she's a fabulous blogger. 

I hope that everyone who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday had a wonderful day!   
Read more »

November 21, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published: 2012, Dutton Books
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Hardcover won in contest hosted by Allison

You don't get to choose if you get hurt in this world...but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.

After reading An Abundance of Katherines and not being its biggest fan, I wasn't sure what would happen with my second attempt to read a John Green book, or even which of his books I should read next. Fortunately my choice was made for me when I received a copy of The Fault in Our Stars via a contest. And honestly this book should probably have been my introduction to Green's works. It provided a reading experience I was able to enjoy and savor. Although I've now had a more positive (or, at least, moving) experience, I am not sure what expectations I should have towards Green's remaining books.

Hazel Grace Lancaster was diagnosed with terminal thyroid cancer years ago. Although modern treatments have caused her tumors to miraculously shrink, her doctor appointments and hospital visits are not focused on curing her, but rather finding ways to extend her remaining years. Hazel thinks she has accepted her prognosis, preferring to spend her time at home with her parents; she does not reach out to many people outside of her parents, afraid to become a ticking time bomb for others. But once she meets Augustus Waters at a cancer support group, she begins to question what she wants out of life and how she should live her remaining years.

Hazel is not quite depressed, but she has also become rather complacent with her mostly isolated life and doesn't make many efforts to do things outside of the ordinary (and really, who can blame her?). She's been told she's dying for years. A few years ago she actually was all set to die, only to have a miracle cure buy her some extra time. In the midst of such a struggle, it would be very easy for Hazel to become selfish, to think of all the things she's missing, those she'll never experience. But that's not Hazel. Caring and compassionate, she puts others first and is very much aware of the potential she has to affect others. Hazel also appreciates the arts, especially poetry and prose. I loved that she not only appreciated literature, but how she was able to understand it and adapt it to her own life.

Although Hazel is technically the protagonist and the story is actually told through her first-person perspective, I'd argue that Augustus is just as much a leading character. This is Hazel and Augustus' story. August Waters is atypical in every way imaginable. A former basketball star who lost a leg to osteoscarcoma. Philosophical, appreciative of poetry, and incredibly friendly and charismatic. His greatest fear is to disappear into oblivion. Perhaps he doesn't sound like a normal teenage boy, but then again he's not, not really. He and Hazel both have had to deal with so many unfortunate circumstances throughout their young lives and have had so much time for self-reflection and self-teaching. If neither of them acts too much like a teenager, I can actually accept that.

In this very character-driven novel, even the secondary characters are given their chance to shine. Augustus and Hazel's friend Isaac from cancer support group is wonderful. In many ways his story is just as tragic as theirs, but he infuses the story with more wit and humor. And it was nice to see Hazel and Augustus interact with another person their age. Hazel and Augustus' families are both amazing support systems, which was so nice to see. And I'd be remiss without mentioning Hazel's literary idol, Peter Von Hauten. I was torn between rolling my eyes in annoyance and laughing in each scene where Hazel encountered him.

And as for the romance? It's a huge part of this book. And for once I really enjoyed it and how fitting it was to the story. Hazel and Augustus have already lost control over so many aspects of their lives, but at least they're able to make the choice to love one another. Their romance is poignant, tender, and so, so bittersweet. It also functions as a system of hope within the novel, which was definitely necessary. Their romance is a perfect meeting of souls and it made me so happy to see this piece of happiness in the midst of so much struggle and pain.

Yes, The Fault in Our Stars is a cancer book. But it's also so much more than that. It's about human behavior in extreme situations, and also about choices, hope, first love, and moving forward with one's life. Green brings up so many heartwarming messages that I'm sure the book will continue to resonate with me for quite some time to come. And yes, I did cry quite a few times.
Read more »

November 20, 2012

Top Ten Authors I'm Thankful For

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the bloggers of The Broke and the Bookish. This week's prompt asked us to select either our top ten books or authors we're thankful for. Since I mostly focus on books rather than their authors, here I wanted to highlight some of my favorite authors.

Modern authors:
J.K. Rowling — Thank you for giving me the experience of growing up with Harry and his friends, and most especially for the creation of Hermione.
Megan Whalen Turner — Thank you for writing a fantasy series where I learned how intricate and satisfying political intrigue can be. And thank you for Eugenides.
Tamora Pierce — Thank you for writing so many strong and inspirational female protagonists over the years.
Melina Marchetta — Thank you for being the first author whose contemporaries and fantasies I am able to love equally.
Robin McKinley — Thank you for writing some of the best (and certainly my favorite) fairy-tale retellings for YA and adult readers.

Historical authors:
Jane Austen — Thank you for Mr. Darcy. And for the feminism of Elizabeth Bennet back in Regency-era England.
William Shakespeare — Thank you for some fantastically clever plays and for adding so many now-common idioms and words to our lexicon.
Bronte sisters — Thank you for encouraging each other and yourselves to become a family of literary sisters.
J.R.R. Tolkien — Thank you for raising the bar for fantasy stories and world-building.
Homer — Thank you for writing such epic ballads and ensuring that Greek mythology will always have a place in literature.

Agree with any of my choices? Be sure to let me know which authors or books you're most thankful for!
Read more »

November 18, 2012

Review: Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
Published: 2005, Bloomsbury USA
Series: Princess Academy, #1
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Source: Personal ebook

"Maybe the priests did know what they were doing. Maybe Mount Eskel didn't need a princess, just an academy."

After reading Shannon Hale's enchanting take on the Grimm's fairy tale in her novel The Goose Girl (my review), I was eager to read a completely novel creation of hers. Although the story is reliant on some fairy-tale tropes and general ideas, it is still very much a new story. When I was looking for something a little more hopeful and happy as my next read, I remembered that I purchased this for my Kindle. My experience of reading Princess Academy was a happy one: it was the right book for me at the right time.

Mount Eskel is home to a small quarry and mining community in the mountainous region of Danland. The citizens of Mount Eskel quarry linder, a beautiful and rare stone, and trade their work for food and other supplies with the few merchants who are willing to take the hike up the mountainside. Their work may not be easy, but the villagers are content with their lives. Their simple lives get turned upside-down, however, when the royal priests divine that the crown prince's future wife will be one of the mountain girls.

All girls aged twelve to seventeen are sent to a newly-created princess academy, where they will spend the next year learning everything about nobility, from reading, writing, diplomacy, poise, politics, commerce, history, and more. Some girls are eager to leave their home and learn new things while others are more reluctant. Protagonist Miri, who has never worked in the quarry and therefore never quite felt like she fit in with everyone else at home, is nevertheless torn between staying with her father and older sister, and learning at the academy. Life at the academy presents its own difficulties as the girls struggle to become civilized and figure out what they want out of their lives.

It was difficult for me to resist comparisons between Miri and Ani, Hale's protagonist from The Goose Girl. Both lack self-confidence, mainly due to a parent's treatment of her, both are genuinely good and have a strong sense of morality, and both master the ability to communicate in some mysterious way. Honestly, it was this magical communication that made me take a metaphoric step backwards. In The Goose Girl, Hale stayed very close to the source material, where the protagonist could communicate with her horse and the wind elements. I was a little baffled by Hale's decision to allow the protagonist in her first completely original creation to also have mysterious communication via the elements, this time through linder rocks. Miri's ability to communicate with the people of Mount Eskel via linder is integral to the story, but I wish that it could have been something a little more distinguishable from Ani's abilities.

Nevertheless, there are many redeeming qualities that make Miri such wonderful, realistic protagonist and do separate her from her literary predecessor Ani. Miri's insecurities run so deep that she isolates herself from the other students and is incredibly slow to make friends. But once she does, Miri becomes a fierce defender of all the girls and their rights. At times Miri's sense of morality causes trouble and I was suprised to see how much of an instigator she has a tendency to become, but she never does sway from her strong moral compass. And while at the academy Miri does strive to do well, her successes come at the cost of lots of hard work. Miri is definitely easy to admire.

After feeling that the secondary characters were rather flat in The Goose Girl, I was happy to see many secondary characters did have more distinct personalities. I enjoyed witnessing Miri's relationship with many of the girls, most especially Britta. But the relationship that really stood out to me (as it should have) is Miri's relationship with her father. There's miscommunication to the point of Miri believing that her father doesn't love her. After all, he allows her older sister Marda to work at the quarry, but refuses point-blank whenever Miri asks. I loved how Miri gradually starts to understand her father better and his motivations behind his actions; it is very touching.

The worldbuilding is pretty well-done. As readers we're only exposed to Mount Eskel's community and the academy itself, but as Miri begins to learn and wonder about the world down away from the mountain, so do the readers.  I loved the little songs and chants that Hale included at the beginning of each chapter; they really helped broaden my understanding of the village and it's culture. I am most interested in learning about life in the lowlands in Princess Academy: Palace of Stone.

I will probably read the sequel, Princess Academy: Palace of Stone at some point, although I won't be in any rush to do so. Princess Academy reads like a standalone, and it took Hale seven years to publish its sequel. I was very satisfied with how Princess Academy ends, and if I'm satisfied with a story's ending, that makes it so much harder to move forward to a next book. I may also wait for the sequel to become a bit cheaper on Kindle. But I have three more of Hale's Books of Bayern and her Book of a Thousand Days on my Kindle, so I will be returning to Hale's stories at some point. They are lwell-written, feel-good stories with strong female protagonists who undergo realistic character development and emerge victorious from challenging circumstances. And sometimes exactly what I want in the books I read.
Read more »

November 16, 2012

Feature & Follow #1

 Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Allison Can Read. This blog hop gives bloggers the opportunity to connect with fellow bloggers and find new blogs to follow, and each week two participants' blogs are featured. For more information on how to participate, please click here.

This is my first Feature & Follow Friday. I've seen a number of people participating in this, and I thought that I'd join in the fun!

Question: Books are turned into movies all the time! Turn it around. What movie would make a great book?

This is a great question! I frequently compare movies to their book versions and usually prefer the books, but it's interesting to think about those movies that don't have a literary precedent. I'm not sure how well many of them would make the transition to become great books, but one movie I would love to read as a book is...

Moulin Rouge! I absolutely adore the love story between the penniless writer and the courtesan who dreams of someday being an actress. Christian and Satine have a love story of epic proportions in early twentieth century Paris. I may not like insta-love teenage romances very much, but I cannot resist those star-crossed romances. Christian and Satine's story is full of hope, love, deceit, intrigue, wonder, and so much more. Although the visuals and songs help make the movie that much more enjoyable, I also think that the storyline could benefit from being further fleshed out in novel form.

Have you seen Moulin Rouge!? Let me know what movies you think should be made into books!
Read more »

November 14, 2012

Waiting on The Beautiful and the Cursed by Page Morgan

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights any upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.
Publication date: May 14, 2013

Fans of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series and Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle trilogy will devour The Beautiful and the Cursed, a wholly original interpretation of gargoyle lore.

It was bizarre and inexplicable, but after it happened no one spoke of it and Ingrid Waverly was forced to leave her life in London behind. She had to trade a world full of fancy dresses and society events for Paris with her mother and younger sister, Gabby.

In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house her twin brother Grayson found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s an abbey. A creepy, old abbey with a roof lined in stone gargoyles that one could almost mistake for living, breathing creatures.

And Grayson is missing.

Yet no one seems to be concerned about Grayson’s whereabouts save for Luc, a devastatingly handsome servant who has some secrets of his own.

There’s one secret about the city that he can’t keep hidden, though. There’s a murderer on the loose. And every day Grayson is missing means that there’s less of a chance he’s alive.

Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead–she can feel it deep in her soul–but she knows he’s in grave danger, and that it’s up to her and Gabby to find him before all hope is lost.

Only the path to him is twisted—and more deadly than she could ever imagine. (Goodreads)

Gargoyles, murder mysteries, and Paris? I also am intrigued by the idea of the protagonist having a twin brother. I haven't read too many male/female twin relationship books. And I'll never say no to a historically-based fantasy/paranormal read. 

What are you waiting on?
Read more »

November 13, 2012

Top Ten Books I'd Want On A Deserted Island

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the bloggers of The Broke and the Bookish. This week's prompt was to select my top ten books to take on a deserted island. 

First some literature: 
The Collected Works of Shakespeare — There are volumes that contain all of his works! Though I could make do with simply his plays and not include his poems. Shakespeare had such an influence on modern English and I have only read a small portion of the entirety of his corpus, so I'd love the opportunity to read and re-read his works.
The Collected Works of Jane Austen — Once again, Austen's works have been packaged into one volume, so I wouldn't consider this cheating. I love her Regency-era Britain romances and the strong heroines and signature wit that pepper Austen's stories.
The Lord of the Rings (full trilogy) by J.R.R. Tolkien — Tolkien considered this to be one book rather than a trilogy, so I'd be adhering to his wishes. As much as I love the movies, I've only read through the whole series once. Tolkien's world-building is so rich I'm sure I could read this many times and continue to discover new things.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo — I adore the Broadway musical based on this book. But I've seen the book (actually I own a copy) and I know it'll require quite the strength of will to get through this. If I was on a deserted island without much to do, perhaps I could actually find the time to read this.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte — It's difficult for me to choose between Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights and Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. I adore both for many different reasons. But between the two of them, I was able to read and love Wuthering Heights by myself, while I didn't form a true appreciation of Jane Eyre until class. I'd love to revisit Cathy and Heathcliff's dysfunctional relationship time and time again.

Then some comfort reads:
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine — This is my favorite fairy-tale retelling of all time. Ella's story still makes me swoon and smile and laugh. Having a comfort book with me would be the next-best thing to having real company.
The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner — This would be more of a comfort read, of a sort. Really, I'd just want the chance to read about Eugendes, Attolia, the Magnus, and Eddis over and over again. And watch the romance form. And go from hating Attolia to coming to love and respect her character. And to watch Eugenides become a hero.
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith — Another comfort read. I love reading about Mel's struggles first in battle and then with politics. She epitomizes the naive heroine at first, but she really does grow tremendously throughout the series. 

And now for some practical considerations:
Basic survival guide — I have a practical side here as well. I was a girl scout for a short amount of time and didn't learn any essential survival skills, so I'd need a guide to teach me to how hunt for food, set up camp, start a fire, and do all of those basic but necessary tasks.
Informational guidebook about the area — I'd like to be able to know the flora and the fauna of the area so I'd know what to eat and what to avoid. Knowing weather patterns and geographical information would also be super helpful.

Trying to find a balance in the type of books I'd bring...sounds about right. What are the books that you'd take with you on a deserted island?
Read more »

November 11, 2012

Review: The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
Published: 2012, Random House
Genre: Adult Fiction
Source: Library book

I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different — unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.

One of my good friends recommended this book to me many months ago and I only recently received my hold from the library. This book has certainly been garnering a lot of press, although after reading it myself I'm a little surprised it's received so much attention. It's not a happy book. In fact, reading it made me rather depressed. I guess it's ultimate message is that humans will continue to find ways to survive against tough odds is good, but still not the happiest of messages. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker was an emotionally difficult read for me, but also a thought-provoking one.

Saturday morning starts out the same as always. Julia and her best friend Hanna are in Julia's kitchen, readying breakfast before a soccer game, when their lives are irrevocably altered. Scientists from around the world are reporting the fact that the Earth's rotation is inexplicably slowing. Days and nights begin to gradually lengthen, with no end in sight. People panic: some move across states or countries, others begin to stockpile food, and others call it the final days. Soon the days get to such a point that a divide forms between the official governmental choice to follow "clock time," regardless of the state of the sun at those hours, while others try to adapt to the lengthening days and nights. Gravity is off, causing birds to die, soccer balls to fly not quite as far, and a sickness within many people.

This is the world that Julia must learn to adapt to as she also grapples with the normal pressures of middle school, changing friendships, and first love.

Eleven-year-old Julia is the protagonist of our story, although an older version of her is clearly the narrator. The writing style is exquisite and there are so many beautiful and thought-provoking quotes that I'd continually refer back to as I was reading. Although I loved the writing itself, it did make me feel more of a distance from Julia and her current situation. Because the voice was clearly older and reflecting back on this time in Julia's life, from the beginning I had the idea that somehow life on Earth was going to continue for quite a bit, so that Julia would have time to mature to fit the narrative voice. To be fair, I was happy to lose a bit of the suspense and know that the ending couldn't be super imminent if Julia does grow older.

I do think that focusing the story on a child's perspective was a good choice on Walker's part. Julia is old enough to know how huge a problem the slowing of the Earth is, yet she also is able to view things from a child's more tempered perspective. I can't even imagine reading this same story from her mother's perspective, who becomes paranoid from the beginning and becomes quickly affected by the slowing sickness. I'm sure that basically any adult protagonist would have turned this story down a much more depressing route (not to say that this story isn't depressing anyway). At least life goes on for Julia, and she is able to find little things to do and enjoy in her life.

I wish, however, that I had felt more of an attachment to Julia. I mean, I should have felt an attachment to the entire human race as I continued to read about how screwed they all were. And I did. The slowing isn't exactly what distances Julia from most human interactions, although it definitely has a part in it. Overall, though, Julia is incredibly passive and emotionally distant. When Hanna's family leaves for Utah, Julia makes absolutely no effort to befriend or even interact with anyone else. She waits for others to make the first moves. I understand that middle school is a really difficult, confusing time for most people. It was for me. But I wanted Walker to give me some reason to care for Julia, something besides the fact that she, like every other inhabitant on Earth, is affected by the slowing.

Speculative fiction is not my go-to genre for a very good reason. I watched the film "The Day After Tomorrow" with my geology class as part of our discussion on climate change. That experience was better than many other experiences I've had watching films or reading books dealing with climate change and the end of the world due to natural disasters, mostly because in my class we discussed specifics about how sensationalized that film was. Unfortunately I read The Age of Miracles by myself, which left me to internally process all my dark thoughts and despair over human life. The Age of Miracles would never be an easy read for me, but it was made worse by the fact that I was reading it right as Hurricane Sandy devastated New Jersey, New York City, and other parts of the East Coast. As I'm writing this review a week after the hurricane, many people still do not have power and destruction and chaos continue to reign. Although the novel is about something arguably more fictional - the Earth's rotation slowing - it still brings to my mind all the damage that humanity is bringing to the Earth. I could imagine only too well how people and nations would react to catastrophic damages on the Earth due to our own ways of living. 

As difficult as this book was for me to read, perhaps it is good that The Age of Miracles has managed to garner so much national attention. I do feel like global warming and environmental damages that humans make upon the Earth are too easily brushed aside. It's not that people necessarily refuse to admit the potential for bad things to occur, but it's also one of those instances where it's hard to imagine what we can do to make things better. How can one person begin to enact change on such a major issue? How can people even begin to come together to do something? But this is an issue that does need to be addressed, and I am glad that Walker was able to do so through her debut novel. For those who don't mind an underdeveloped protagonist and depressing subject matter for a quick read about an important and thought-provoking issue, I'd say give The Age of Miracles a try.
Read more »

November 9, 2012

Review: The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Published: 2012, Strange Chemistry
Series: The Assassin's Curse, #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: Personal ebook

You don't realize how much you miss something till it comes back to you, and then you wonder how you went so long without it.

Ananna of the Tanaru knows what she wants out of her life. The daughter of one of the larger pirate clans in the Confederation, Ananna hopes to captain her own ship one day. She's spent the majority of her life aboard her father's ship learning all the tricks of the trade. But then she finds out that her parents wish for Ananna to marry Tarrin of the Hariri. Marrying Tarrin would ensure that Ananna's dreams would never happen, and so she runs away. The Hariri clan does not take this insult well, however, and sends an assassin to kill Ananna. 

Not only does Ananna survive the assassin's attack, but she saves the assassin's life, which triggers an impossible curse. The assassin, Naji, finds out that his life is tied to Ananna, and that any hurt or pain she receives is shared with him. Neither of them is quite happy with the arrangement, and both are the targets of groups that want them dead. Together Ananna and Naji must protect each other, as together they travel across their world for a cure to Naji's curse.

Ananna is a great heroine. Strong-willed, confident, and independent, she's everything that I love in a protagonist. Even though she's in difficult situations for the majority of the book, Ananna's personal beliefs and sense of self are never shaken. That's not to say that she isn't willing to learn or change, however. Ananna knows that she is her own instrument of happiness, but that doesn't make her callous or oblivious to others' needs. It can be a fine line for a character to walk, yet Ananna accomplishes this as easily as she climbs along ship rigging.

In retrospect I really appreciate how Clarke chose Ananna's voice to narrate the story, although it did initially present some difficulties for me as a reader. I like reading, writing, and speaking in proper English whenever possible. I guess that I'm a grammarian and respect the conventions of formal English a little too much. The Assassin's Curse is not only told from Ananna's perspective, but also written in her voice. Clarke therefore uses lots of slang, fragments, and improper grammar to convey Ananna's story. At first this made for a disconcerting read for me, but as I continued to read, I realized how right it was. How many authors do have their characters speak in a way that is less formal than their narrative point of view, after all?  Clarke's writing style becomes much more consistent and it's clear from the combined narration/dialogue that she has an incredible grasp on Ananna's character.

Naji is also a rarity: an assassin with a troubled conscience. In comparison to Ananna he's a bit of an anomaly. After all, Ananna has no issues working within the culture she's grown up with; it's only when one part of her cultural expectations interferes with another that she's forced to operate outside of her pirate life with the Confederation. Naji's doubts about his way of life seem to be much broader and all-encompassing. I have to say, however, that his powers are just so cool. And I love it when characters have existential crises and are riddled with self-doubt.

As much as I enjoyed Ananna as a character unto herself, I found myself appreciating her characterization even more throughout her interactions with Naji. There is no romance in this novel. No romance whatsover. I can't even begin to explain how happy that made me. From the beginning Ananna point-blank refuses to consider the possibility of being married to Tarrin. And then once she and Naji are bound together by a curse, they're both understandably focused on finding a cure to the curse. They're also able to know one another as individuals, instead of simply as products of their societies.
It took me a little longer than I expected it would for me to become fully immersed in Ananna and Naji's world. Clarke combines so many fascinating elements in her fantasy world, from pirate and assassin lore, desert lands and ice islands, an alternate universe called The Mists, and the presence of magic permeating the world. While the alternate universe of The Mists and the creatures of that world are lacking the clarity I would have liked, most other aspects of Clarke's world are well-defined. Clarke doesn't engage in information-dumping on the reader, nor did the pacing seem slow. Just something inhibited me from clicking with the novel until Ananna and Naji finally leave the port city to begin their journey.

The ending of this book did not bother me much, considering how open-ended it is. Ananna and Naji are given a little direction for their continuing quest, but not many things are resolved at all by the end of The Assassin's Curse. I think the whole storyline of Ananna and Naji could definitely have been written as one book. One very, very long book. However, I did begin reading this story with the knowledge that is a duology, so at least I can be confident with the fact that Clarke won't be dragging out her story unnecessarily. 

My opinion of The Assassin's Curse changed quite a few times while reading it. Ultimately, however, I was very glad that I had taken the opportunity to read this book. It is a unique offering in YA fantasy and I look forward to reading more of Ananna and Naji's world, as well as any future works of Clarke's.
Read more »

November 7, 2012

Waiting on The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights any upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.
Publication date: March 1, 2013
A heart-stopping story of love, death, technology, and art set amid the tropics of a futuristic Brazil.

The lush city of Palmares Tres shimmers with tech and tradition, with screaming gossip casters and practiced politicians. In the midst of this vibrant metropolis, June Costa creates art that’s sure to make her legendary. But her dreams of fame become something more when she meets Enki, the bold new Summer King. The whole city falls in love with him (including June’s best friend, Gil). But June sees more to Enki than amber eyes and a lethal samba. She sees a fellow artist.

Together, June and Enki will stage explosive, dramatic projects that Palmares Tres will never forget. They will add fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech. And June will fall deeply, unfortunately in love with Enki. Because like all Summer Kings before him, Enki is destined to die.

Pulsing with the beat of futuristic Brazil, burning with the passions of its characters, and overflowing with ideas, this fiery novel will leave you eager for more from Alaya Dawn Johnson. (Goodreads)
Umm first of all: Brazil?! Too many popular stories take place in European or North American locations. As a Hispanophile, I can't wait to read a story where I can understand the culture and language and traditions. Also: Art! Dystopian society! Human sacrifice! I am very much intrigued by this summary and can't wait to read the book. 

What are you waiting on?
Read more »

November 6, 2012

Freebie! (Top Ten Hyped Up Books I Have No Desire to Read)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the bloggers of The Broke and the Bookish. This is a freebie week, so I decided to showcase my more cynical side here. There are so many books that seem to get really hyped up in the blogosphere, and many times I find myself wondering what makes those books receive so much attention. They're usually books I couldn't imagine wanting to read to begin with, so this divide between myself and what seems like the majority of bloggers interests me. While I do sometimes find myself forming strong negative opinions over hyped-up books, usually there are other factors at play as to why I think that I wouldn't like the books. Here are my top ten hyped up books that I will not be reading. I do not apologize for the tons of snark below.

Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout I've heard the first book referred to as Twilight with aliens. I know there are tons of glowing reviews, that apparently the series gets better over time. But I just can't make myself go through with it. Not interested in teen drama or the perils of a relationship with a paranormal "bad boy."
Summer series by Jenny Han I mean, maybe I'll consider it. But having your protagonist go by the name "Belly" is not something that's going to pique my interest. And another love triangle? Probably my biggest turnoff is that I fail to see what the series is about. I mean, other than the summer and the love triangle that forms.
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry The general idea of two lost teens finding themselves and self-confidence and support through each other is fine, but not something I'm interested in reading, and the extreme hype turned me away from it even more. And, really, what kind of teenage guy refers to a girl as his nymph or siren? Humbert Humbert much?
Such a Rush by Jennifer Echolls Another YA contemporary whose plot seems to circle around the dreaded love triangle. Not only that - but apparently the protagonist's well-being and/or happiness is at stake due to manipulation within the triangle? I've read many positive reviews, but also many not-so-glowing ones. And I know that many people think the cover is gorgeous, but I'm not one of them.
Stealing Parker by Miranda Kinneally I have a feeling that this book and I would not mesh well. Not only does it seem like an incredibly issues-driven book, but it also plays the religion card quite a bit. I don't have anything against religion within books, but in this specific context I don't think that I'd enjoy the religious aspect of it. Also, a relationship between a minor and her coach? Ew. No thanks.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas This book is about an assassin who doesn't assassinate anyone or act even remotely like an assassin? And there's a love triangle with a prince and a captain of the guard? Not only can she not fall for anyone slightly lower-ranking, but she picks those who would likely be most affected by her assassin tendencies?
Fifty Shades trilogy by E.L. James I hope that I don't need to explain myself here. The subject matter doesn't interest me at all and I know that it's terribly written. Not even sheer curiosity will change my thoughts on this. Honestly, I am just kind of baffled by the amount of attention it's received.
Elemental series by Bridget Kemmerer My issue with these books lies mainly with the covers. I'm sorry, but I'm not going to pick up a series whose covers appear to feature male Abercrombie models. How exactly is that related to the book? And somehow the idea of brothers being able to control different elements just doesn't sound that interesting or novel. If you want to see how the elements should be manipulated, watch "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (TV show, not movie).
Ten by Gretchen McNeil Now, I love classics and originals of stories. But I do love retellings, so this is not a hard line for me. And it's possible that this could potentially add even more to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. But for me it wouldn't be worth figuring it out. Ideally I do think that people reading this book should also read Christie's classic. It's being rewritten for a reason.
Stories "written" by celebrities (ex: books by Lauren Conrad and Hilary Duff) Maybe I am in fact going to miss out on a good book or two, but there's absolutely no way that I'm going to believe that celebrities actually wrote these books. I'm supposed to buy they had this secret talent and passion buried away for years? More likely these stories are written by ghostwriters, and I hate not giving credit where credit's due. (On this note, I've resolved not to read anything by James Patterson, who is well-known to simply come up with basic ideas and employ ghostwriters to actually bring the ideas to fruition).

Honorable mentions: My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins, Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead, Easy by Tammara Webber, Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick, Fallen series by Lauren Kate

Now that I've revealed what books make me angry, baffled, and depressed, let me know some of your hyped up books, or link me to your Top Ten Tuesday freebie!
Edit: I just wanted to add that while I personally don't want to read these books, I would never try to tell others what to read or not read. This list is very specific to me and my interests.
Read more »