June 29, 2013

Review: Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess

Brooklyn Girls by Gemma Burgess
Published: July 2, 2013, St. Martin's Press
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Source: eARC from publisher via Netgalley

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Maybe we just have to figure out what we want our lives to be, and how we're going to do it. And we need to help one another. We're all in this together—this house, this period of life, this strange predicament of being adult and not knowing what the hell that means.

I picked up Brooklyn Girls on a whim. I saw it mentioned in a few peoples' Waiting on Wednesdays one week, noticed that it was available through Netgalley, and just decided to request a copy. As much as I adore reading YA books, sometimes it's nice to read about characters slightly older than teens, characters that I can actually relate to in my life right now. I knew Brooklyn Girls was about a group of recent college grads living in Brooklyn and trying to figure out what they want from their lives. And hey I can totally relate to the scary revelation that adulthood isn't quite like the idealized version promoted in college. Even after attending school for most of your life, it can be hard to decide, "okay, now this is what I want to do until I retire." While I generally prefer to read books that offer more escapism than this, I can't deny I was attracted to the idea of reading about characters who are going through similar situations to me right now.

Pia has recently graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor's degree in Art History and absolutely no real work experience. Through her parents' connections she's able to snag a job at a PR firm in New York City, and she rents an apartment in Brooklyn with four other girls. Angie is Pia's best friend pre-college, Julia and Madeleine attended college with Pia, and Coco is Julia's younger sister. With the exception of Coco, all of the girls are embarking on their first "real world" jobs with varying degrees of success.

After partying a little too hard at their housewarming party, Pia finds herself fired from her job. After one week. Her bad behavior in the past has caused her to get kicked out of two boarding schools, among other things, and Pia's parents have very little faith in their daughter's ability to live as an adult, so they offer her an ultimatum: if she's not gainfully employed within the next two months, then her parents will take her back to Zurich with them and find a job for her there. Pia doesn't want to leave her friends (not to mention live with her parents, with whom she doesn't get along well), and she eventually comes to the decision to start her own company: a food truck that serves low-fat, high-protein meals. As she and her friends come to realize through work, friendships, and relationships, however, nothing in the adult world is simple and everything comes with a cost.

Before I begin discussing the book itself, I need to mention the cover here. Cute and girly, right? There's a definite audience that the book is trying to target. But after reading the book I honestly have no idea who those cover models are supposed to be. The protagonist of Brooklyn Girls, Pia, is half-Swiss and half-Indian. She describes herself as having dark skin and green eyes, and is subjected to racist names like "Bollywood" and remarks on how people constantly ask her "where she's from." So clearly Pia our protagonist is not featured on the cover. Am I to think that those two girls are two of Pia's friends and roommates? Perhaps, but that doesn't make sense given that this is firmly Pia's story. Whitewashing a cover is not okay. I think the target audience could have been reached even by using a person of color for one of the cover models.

Where Brooklyn Girls really excels is in its depiction of the fear and uncertainty that accompany post-graduate life. None of the girls has any idea what she wants to do, not truly. Even Julia, who has worked so hard to get in the banking industry, is starting to realize that she really doesn't know whether she wants to spend the rest of her life working long hours with little reward. Post-graduation is a tricky time, and the girls are struggling to strike a balance among friendships, relationships, work, and hobbies. It's definitely a struggle that I can relate to, which I appreciated.

Another wonderful aspect of this novel was how much the focus is on female friendships. Sure, the girls go out in the attempt of finding a guy, sleep around, and discuss romance, but at the end of the day Pia, Julia, Coco, Madeleine, and Angie all return home to their apartment to be with each other. As Pia thinks at one point, they've become like a family. Misunderstanding and prejudices aside, it's clear they really do care for another, and it's a refreshing message to read.

I found it much easier to relate to Julia and Madeleine, the overachievers and driven girls of the group, so it was an interesting experience to read a story told from Pia's perspective. Pia, the party girl who is confident in all things interpersonal but is a mess internally. Years of parental indifference/disappointment, as well as a particularly painful breakup, have contributed to Pia's vices and constant belittling of herself. On one hand, it is hard not to feel a sense of sympathy for Pia. The pretty, rich girl isn't nearly as composed as she likes to appear. On the other hand, it was incredibly stressful being inside of Pia's head. Pia has no work ethics and her impulsive nature causes her to get in trouble again and again. 

Since no employers or employment agencies are willing to give Pia a chance, she does take initiative and purchase a food truck, and noting the lack of healthy to-go lunch options for New Yorkers, creates the company SkinnyWheels. I think that Burgess wants her readers to be on board with Pia's decision, but most of the time I just found myself wincing. She's just so naive and it was painful to read about many of the blunders she makes as she tries to start her own business; funny, but painful. Think of Becky Bloomwood's impulsive nature from the Shopaholic series and multiply it by ten and you can understand what I mean. For every step forward, Pia takes three backwards. She finds herself bound in an agreement with a loan shark. She earns a good profit one week and then blows it all on gifts and alcohol. I get that this story is about her personal growth (which does gradually occur), but Pia is just so unlike me in every way imaginable that I couldn't help judging many of her (poor) decisions.

What I expected from this novel was a combination between a work of chick lit and a deeper contemporary work. While the novel definitely does deliver those aspects, I still finished the book feeling not quite satisfied. I think a large part of my dissatisfaction stems from the fact that not only did I have difficulties relating to Pia, but many of her decisions made me downright uncomfortable. Still, there are plenty of light and fluffy aspects to balance out the story. I loved Pia's determination and drive when it came to SkinnyWheels, and found it to be a quick read. My understanding is that this will be part of a series, with each installment focusing on another roommate. I'm somewhat intrigued but will wait to learn more about the next book before deciding whether to continue with this story.

Rating: 2 stars

Disclaimers: I received this review copy from the publisher, but that in no way affected my opinion. The quote is from an advanced copy of the novel and is subject to change in the finished copy. 
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June 27, 2013

Review: The End Games by T. Michael Martin

The End Games by T. Michael Martin
Published: 2013, HarperTeen
Genre: Young Adult Post-Apocalyptic
Source: Library book
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And who are you, Michael?
I'm the one who can save us. I'm a Gamer. And the Master.
So what are you going to do?
I'm going to remake the world.
And after that? I'm going to beat that world.

I'm not quite sure what drew me to pick up a copy of The End Games. Zombies, video games, a touch of the macabre, a relationship between brothers: all these central components of T. Michael Martin's debut are interesting and well handled, but none of those really has the potential to make this into a "me" book. Add to those components a frustrating narrative voice that was all over the place and therein lie the majority of the issues I had with this story.

Michael and Patrick have been on the run since Halloween night, when a strange virus took over the world and turned humans into zombies. By day they travel around, seeking food and shelter and other survivors. By night Michael and Patrick must either hide or be prepared to defend themselves against the Bellows (their word to describe the zombies' tendency to repeat words spoken by humans). Although it's now been nearly three weeks that they've been on the run, they still retain a fair amount of hope. After all, this new world seems to be one controlled by rules. There's a Game Master who gives Michael new instructions each night and points for how many enemies are killed, all in the hope of achieving a "Game Over" upon reaching the Safe Zone and regaining a sense of normalcy in life once more. 

The best part of The End Games is the relationship between Michael and Patrick. Seventeen-year-old Michael is five-year-old Patrick's half-sibling, and the two rely completely on one another to survive in this post-apocalyptic world. Even before the virus came, life wasn't easy for either of them, with a pushover mother, an abusive (step)father, and an indeterminate psychological diagnosis on Patrick. And now Michael still has to tread carefully as the two search for a Safe Zone so that Patrick does not end up having another one of his episodes. The love and support between the two of them is wonderful and realistic, and, judging from the author's notes, perhaps is at least slightly based on the relationship the author has with his own brother Patrick. I for one not questioned the authenticity of the depictions of Michael, Patrick, their history, or their relationship. 

Not surprisingly, I ended up identifying a lot more with Michael. Not only is he the narrator, but he's much closer to my age (and the age of all readers of this book, I'd assume) and I also know what it's like to have a rather sizable age gap between you and your sibling. Michael is a realistically written teenage boy, struggling with some very ordinary issues in extraordinary circumstances. There's fear, self-doubt, grim determination, the stirrings of a first love, guilt all at war within Michael's head, but of course everything always comes back to Patrick. At times Michael is overly-protective and distant and makes mistakes, but they're all borne out of a desire to do good and help save his brother. Who wouldn't want to have a sibling willing to protect you at all costs?

Because Michael believes he must appear strong for Patrick, at least outwardly, a lot of his issues are developed and examined internally. He notes his thoughts and observations of the world internally more often than not. And it is through these internal narrations that the story began to lose me. Michael's narration is chaotic and messy as he struggles to make sense of everything. At many instances he creates arguments that he can debate solo. It was a bit unnerving to read. Not only that, but the flashbacks feel jarring, and the lack of focus in Michael's world becomes mirrored through his narration. Perhaps all of this is supposed to illustrate how overwhelmed Michael felt by everything. If so, then The End Games certainly did a good job of that. But it also was incredibly frustrating to read.

This is a clear case where a book simply doesn't mesh well with me. If not for the realism of Michael's character and my ability to identify with him somewhat, then I probably never would have been able to make it through this book. As it was, I still didn't really enjoy the book as a whole. Aspects such as the basic premise, bond between brothers, and some of the conflicts are well done. But as a whole, the book just felt not quite there. I think I've made it clear though that this is not my type of book, however, so please take my review with a grain of salt.

Rating: 2 stars
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June 25, 2013

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far In 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the bloggers of The Broke and the Bookish. This week we're revealing our top ten best books read so far in 2013. 

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is literary fiction at its finest. I read with the sense that Diaz had everything meticulously planned out, from the tiniest details to the great overarching themes. It's a book that merits re-reading and, if possible, a discussion with others...Highly recommended for those who aren't afraid of crude language, who want a thought-provoking, lasting read that offers a glimpse into another culture and its history. " Read my full review!
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard: "Wanderlove is a heartwarming story about a teen's journey, both physical and emotional, to find herself and regain a sense of purpose in her life.
Even if you have no desire to travel, are uninterested in art, or do not think this is the type of book you'd enjoy, I encourage you to give this book a shot anyway. See if you can read it without feeling a sense of wonder and contentment about the world around you." Read my full review!
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt: "Page after page of Keturah and Lord Death is full of ruminations on life and death, the great unknown. If the plot of the story itself does not convince you that Leavitt has written her own fairy tale, then the beautiful prose should do so. Deceivingly simple on a superficial level, the language is intricate, profound, and moving." Be sure to look out for my full review in a month!
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson: "Reading The Sky is Everywhere is an experience that each reader should have. Heartbreakingly poignant, Nelson presents a haunting exploration of death and its aftermath, although one that is riddled with hope. For it is possible for sadness and happiness to coexist, just as grief and hope can." Be sure to look out for my full review in a few weeks!
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys: "Between Shades of Gray is a difficult read. It's painful. It's tragic as only the truth can be. But it's important. It may be difficult to read stories like this, that really demonstrate how humanity has such a great proclivity to harm one another. But without evil, I suppose we also wouldn't have the capacity for great good. Through Lina's story, Sepetys has helped ensure that those who did suffer from similar circumstances will never be forgotten." Read my full review!

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder: "Overall, I found myself very much impressed with Snyder's debut. Even if the romance was not my cup of tea, Snyder has created a readable and entertaining story, flipping certain Young Adult story tropes on their heads, which I always appreciate. There's no simple resolution or right answers in Poison Study, which contributed to its feel as a more mature novel." Read my full review!
In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters: "I turned the final page of In the Shadow of Blackbirds feeling as though I had actually learned many things. Through this novel, Winters has done what historical fiction authors should always strive to do: place a historical event into a focused perspective with enough attention to details that readers can truly feel transported back to this time period. The little details are the ones that truly are the most effective: the household remedies, Mary Shelley's observations of the outside world, the black and white photographs." Read my full review!
Native Son
 by Richard Wright
: "Even with such a difficult protagonist, Wright brings up important issues that need to be discussed...A person may be more than simply the sum of his parts, but that doesn't mean that those individual parts cease to exist; instead they contribute to a fuller, more complex human. For, after all, how much can we really distance a person from his upbringing and circumstances?...I highly recommend that each person reads this book at least once. While not the easiest read in the world, it is an important one." Read my full review!
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey: I have not been able to formulate my thoughts on this book yet, but suffice it to say I was impressed with this post-apocalyptic take on an alien invasion. Be sure to look out for my full review in a few weeks!
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr: "
Overall, though, I found myself to be quite impressed with my first experience reading Zarr. Her ability to create real, nuanced characters is impressive, as is the tight plot and strong writing. And I absolutely loved the fact that I was able to relate to her story on such a personal level." Be sure to look out for my full review in a month!

Let me know what are some of your top reads for the first half of 2013!
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June 23, 2013

Review: Moonglass by Jessi Kirby

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby
Published: 2011, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Library book
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Joy had been right about stories making things more beautiful. I watched the gray surface of the water roll with the swells, and I came up with a new story. I told myself that maybe the years she was with us were like when the full moon shone for the mermaids, when they could walk on land and be with the ones they loved. And that maybe, like them, she'd had no choice but to go back.

Moonglass is a book that I probably would have never picked up had the Jessi Kirby hype been at such an extreme level for these past few weeks. What I really wanted to read of Kirby's was her newest publication, Golden, but unfortunately my library did not have a copy yet, so I decided to bide my time waiting for a copy of Golden by reading Kirby's debut.

It's been nearly ten years since Anna Ryan's mother died. Ten years since she trailed behind her mother on the beach, watching as her mother walked straight into the ocean, never to return. Since then Anna and her father have worked to achieve a semblance of normalcy in their lives. They appear to be doing all right when Anna's father suddenly announces that he's taken a job in the southern California coastal town of Crystal Cove. Anna is not happy about leaving the town she's lived in all her life, nor her friends and her grandmother, and giving up the daily walks along the beach where she last saw her mother. 

As Anna adjusts to a new home, new friends, and a new beachfront view, she learns that there was a particular reason her dad chose to take a job here. It was at Crystal Cove that Anna's mother was raised and where her parents met one another. And perhaps it is in Crystal Cove where Anna can come to terms with her parents' pasts and finally be able to address her family's present and future.

First and foremost, Moonglass is a novel about grief. Although her mother has now been gone for longer than she was there for Anna, she remains an important part of Anna's life. Anna keeps up the nighttime walks along the beach, searching for sea glass by the moonlight, or moonglass, as she and her mother referred to it. In these past ten years, her mother's death has created a rift between Anna and her father. At first they talked often about her mother and what had happened to her. But over the years Anna simply stopped asking questions, also turning away from the mutual support her father could provide. Grief is ever present in the story, but is handled not as an outpouring of emotion, but as a constant longing.

Just as central to the story is Anna's father and the relationship she has with him. While Anna continues to feel confused and broken over her mother's death, she is hesitant to expose her feelings to her father. Consciously or not, Anna has difficulties expressing her grief in front of him. While the move to Crystal Cove initially helps Anna begin to accept the person her mother once was, it is an equally important factor in beginning to mend the rift that has developed between Anna and her father. 

Contrasted with the strong focus on family bonds, Anna's friendships and romance are appropriately relegated to secondary concerns. Anna's relationship with Tyler is awkward and uncertain. There's never any indication that he and Anna are meant to be forever, but he nevertheless plays an important role in the story. Along with her friend Ashley, Anna begins the slow process of picking at the scabs of her grief and allowing it to become fully exposed in order to heal.

A dreamlike quality pervades the narrative, as Anna frequently allows herself  to become overtaken by memories and fantasies. She finds it easier to explain her mother's death by putting it in more fantastical terms. What if she was a water elemental such as a mermaid? Why else couldn't she resist the siren call of the sea and remain with Anna and her father? At Crystal Cove, Anna is given the opportunity to discover who her mother once was, and to learn what could have caused her to become the person who would drown herself in front of her child.

In Kirby's able hands, the setting itself becomes like a character. Lush description and poetic language help the beaches of Crystal Cove come to life. The fluidity of the water, its ebb and flow, mirrors Anna's own conflicting desires. Kirby manages to capture not only the beauty of the ocean, but also the solemn vastness of it all. There's a sense of inevitability and darkness about the draw of the ocean, and also a renewed sense of life and hope. Beachfront oceans encapsulate Anna's life, an important part of her from before her birth to the present day.

Despite the strong relationships Anna forms, none of the characters themselves are particularly memorable. Sure, Anna is likable enough and her situation warrants a certain amount of sympathy, but it's almost as if the glass wall between her and her father also could prevent readers from better connecting with her. What made this lack of emotional connection so frustrating is that I never felt as though Kirby was trying to make Anna distant. For the most part she acts like a normal teenager, albeit one who has had to endure some harsh tragedies early on in her life. It is through her dreams that readers witness the emotional turmoil that continues to affect Anna's life, and even those are more memorable for their content rather than their effect on Anna.
On the surface, Moonglass seems like a simple enough story; it is by examining the story with a more critical eye that one can appreciate the great maturity and depth of Anna's story. Due to a lack of emotional connection, Moonglass will not be a favorite of mine, but I appreciate how Kirby handled some dark topics.

Rating: 3 stars
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June 21, 2013

Review: Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare
Published: 2013, Margaret K. McElderry Books
Series: The Infernal Devices, #3
Genre: Young Adult Historical Fantasy
Source: Library book
Contains spoilers for Clockwork Angel (my review) and Clockwork Prince (my review)
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“And maybe you should stop pitying yourself,” he said. “Most people are lucky to have even one great love in their life. You have found two.” 

By no means do I consider myself a diehard fan of Cassandra Clare's writing. I read the first (and maybe the second, honestly I don't remember) books of The Mortal Instruments and just lost interest in them. The main reason I decided to pick up The Infernal Devices series at the end of last year was that there was a definite ending in sight, and it was a series that so many of my friends and trusted reviewers seemed to love. Plus setting the story in pseudo-Victorian England didn't hurt.

I enjoyed the first book quite a bit. And then I read the second book and was introduced to the infamous love triangle between Tessa, Will, and Jem. I'll grant that the love triangle is more unique than most found in YA fare these days, but still I was not a fan of that aspect. But there was still enough good and entertaining within the second book that I knew without a doubt I'd have to read Clockwork Princess and see how everything ends.

Mortmain is still on the loose with his ever-expanding army of automatons called the Infernal Devices. And is it now known without a doubt that his mission is to exterminate the Shadowhunters for all the wrongs they did to his adoptive family. Coupled with the threat of Mortmain, many other challenges face the members of the London Clave. Charlotte continues to be harried by the Consul of all Shadowhunters, who wants nothing more than to get her removed from her position. Tessa is engaged to be married to Jem, and yet she cannot deny that she has intense feelings for Will. Will and Jem may have a bond stronger than blood, but is that enough? A storm is coming, one that leaves identities, lives, and love hanging in the balance.

Easily the strongest point of Clare's writing is her characterization, as it has always been for this series. Clare is an author who clearly spends a lot of time making sure she really understands her own characters, and then making sure her readers also have the opportunity to understand them, their motivations, their dreams. A major question this series poses is Tessa's identity. Is she a mundane? A Shadowhunter? A Downworlder? Something else entirely? When this question is finally answered, it feels almost anticlimactic. After all, Tessa's genetics aren't what draw me to her character, but the character traits that define her: her loyalty, her love of literature, her calm demeanor, her kindness. The same can be said for Will, Jem, and all of the other characters. They're all incredibly well-drawn, and I did appreciate continually learning little facets about their personalities throughout the series.

Not quite as believable as the characters themselves are the relationships they form. I speak primarily of the Tessa-Jem-Will love triangle. I may get a little spoilery in my thoughts, so you've been warned. Honestly, Clare seemed to allude to stronger feelings between Tessa and Will from the very beginning. It wasn't until Jem proposed to Tessa in Clockwork Prince and she accepted that I felt like Tessa gave any indication that she cared for Jem in a romantic way. And even after reading Clockwork Princess, I'm still not sure I really buy Tessa having strong romantic feelings for Jem. Their subtle, sweet feelings for one another seem more suited for a good friendship than a lasting romance. I think that's one of the reasons I became such an ardent supporter of Jem; he's really such a good person and doesn't deserve to have been treated so by Will and Tessa. All three of them do make questionable choices with regard to one another, more than once. I felt as though I did understand their actions, at least to some degree. And certain things that infuriated other readers didn't faze me. What upset me the most is that I felt as though Jem kept ending up with the short shaft, but then I guess that helps make the point that Tessa and Will really do deserve each other.

While reading Clockwork Princess, I got the sense that Clare was trying to end the series in a way that would make her readers satisfied, and therein lies the rub. It's not that I am opposed to series ending with a sense of closure, but there can be such a thing as too much closure. In fact, I found the greatest flaw of Clockwork Princess just to be a sheer amount of excess. I really didn't need to read about every minute event from a rotating cast of around ten narrators. I really don't expect for every narrating character to be perfectly matched with a love interest by the end of the book. And I really didn't need that epilogue. Sometimes it's nice when authors trust their readers at least a little, knowing that readers are generally capable of filling in the gaps. It was more than a little frustrating, perhaps even demeaning, to see storyline after storyline tied up in a neat bow and hand-presented to the readers.

I suppose the benefit of so much resolution is that we readers can be confident in the fact that Clare knows exactly how she wants her story to be interpreted. She leaves little room for ambiguities related to the major questions: Tessa's origins, the battle against Mortmain, Jem's chronic illness, Will's strained relationship with his family, and Tessa's romantic entanglements, are all addressed, among others. I do appreciate the fact that Clare clearly was not winging this series, but I just want a little (or a lot) more left for the readers to infer.

Another slight point of contention I found was my lack of knowledge on the published books in Clare's other series, The Mortal Instruments, really felt like a detriment by the time I finished The Infernal Devices. I get that the series take place in the same world, but they should should be unique series not really tied to one another, and it was frustrating to feel like my appreciation of this series is dulled because I'm not as familiar with another series. If I ever do read more Clare in the future, I think I'll wait for books set outside of this world.

Clockwork Princess is a book I can see being both praised and criticized. On a superficial level, I do think it accomplishes all that Clare intended to do with her series. All major questions are answered, everything ends very smoothly. And yet...that's nothing like real life. I want to be able to relate to all stories that I read, whether or not they take place in "the real world." Parts of the conclusion could perhaps be viewed as bittersweet, I suppose, but there was ultimately a little too much sweet for me, which I ended up equating to not enough trust placed in the readers.

Rating: 2.5 stars
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June 19, 2013

Waiting on The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson

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

The Mirk and Midnight Hour (Strands of Bronze and Gold, #2) by Jane Nickerson
 Publication date: March 2014
Jane Nickerson's second novel, also set in the "Strands" world, is based on the Scottish 'Ballad of Tam Lin,' and is set in Mississippi during the Civil War. Violet Dancey, a 17-year-old whose father has left to fight in the Civil War, is forced to confront Thomas, a hurt Union solider near her home. She must decide how to approach the enemy--and how to deal with her growing attraction to him. (Goodreads)
I realize this is so very far away, but I have a good reason for featuring this novel!

In case you didn't know this about me, I've become a bit obsessed with the ballad of "Tam Lin." In fact, this past February I chose "Tam Lin" as my retelling of choice for Project: Fairy Tale and spent the whole month reading retellings and writing about how we should analyze and interpret the original ballad. I had a blast learning all about "Tam Lin" and now I feel compelled to read nearly every "Tam Lin" retelling out there.

Although I haven't had a chance to read Nickerson's Strands of Bronze and Gold (which is a "Bluebeard" retelling), I love how Nickerson not only retells a tale, but also puts the tale into a distinct historical time period. Although this is technically the second book in a series, my understanding is that it's more of a companion novel than a direct sequel, so I'll be okay if I don't manage to get to Strands of Bronze and Gold before this one releases.

What are you waiting on?
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June 18, 2013

Top Ten Books At The Top Of My Summer 2013 TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by the bloggers of The Broke and the Bookish. This week we're listing the books that have made it to the top of our Summer 2013 TBR piles. 

Debuts, Standalones, and Anticipated Reads:
Splintered by A.G. Howard I won Splintered through the Debut Author Challenge back in January and haven't been able to read it yet. I love retellings/reimaginings of all forms and I've heard great things about this book, so I hope I'll be able to get to it soon!
Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay
The "Beauty and the Beast" fairy tale and I are super tight. Of course I need to read this! This releases near the end of July, so pretty soon I'm going to start checking my library's catalog daily until I can get on this book's waitlist. 
The Book of Broken Hearts by Sarah Ockler
I'm slowly but surely reading all of the big contemporary YA authors - Sara Zarr, Jessi Kirby, Courtney Summers, Sarah Dessen. I've enjoyed their books a lot more than I thought I would, so I'm eager to try out Ockler's newest work.
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Those who are familiar with this first book in Yancey's new series and his Monstrumologist series seem agreed that his first series is better. And that's fine and all, but I was really excited for this book and I've already started it, so it's more of a priority to me. 
Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Ahh of course this book would be on my list! Actually, I'm a bit surprised that I haven't already devoured this, especially since I have my own personal copy lying there on my bookshelves. Soon, very soon, I'll make time to read this.

Classics Retold & Summer Series Challenges:
The Aeneid by Virgil The classic that I decided to focus on for the Classics Retold challenge is The Aeneid, but of course I can't read any retellings until I read the original. I'm planning to take this slowly, read a little bit at a time over the course of the summer. 
Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta I read Finnikin of the Rock over a year ago, but I now own the entire trilogy, so I kind of would like to take a week and a half or so and just immerse myself in this series. It's how I prefer to read my high fantasies.
Dairy Queen series by Catherine Murdock
Wisconsin pride! I've heard wonderful things about this series and since I started this blog I've been trying to be much more open to YA contemporaries, so I can't wait to start reading DJ's story.
Unearthly series by Cynthia Hand
While Unearthly is not among my favorite paranormal books, it was entertaining and a fast read, and since the entire series is now released I figured I might as well try to finish it all.
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
I was not the biggest fan of Anna Dressed in Blood, but with the major cliffhanger of book one, I am curious to see how Cas and Anna's story ends, and the fact that this is a duology is pretty tempting. 

Please be sure to let me know what books you plan on reading this summer!
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