June 30, 2014

The Monthly Digest: June 2014

Welcome back to The Monthly Digest here at Late Nights with Good Books. With these posts I hope to recap everything reading- and blogging-related for the past month.

The Books
June Reads

Favorite Read from June:
Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (re-reads)

Notable Quote from June: 
Margot would say she belongs to herself. Kitty would say she belongs to no one. And I guess I would say I belong to my sisters and my dad, but that won’t always be true. To belong to someone—I didn’t know it, but now that I think about, it seems like that’s all I’ve ever wanted. To really be somebody’s, and to have them be mine.
Jenny Han, To All The Boys I've Loved Before

The Blog
June Reviews:

June Features:
Top Ten Books That Will Be In My Beach Bag This Summer

In My Life
I know I just took a hiatus for the month of April. So I will try my hardest not to take one again in the near future, but I also need to consider the fact that life, which slowed down in May, is even more busy than ever. August will be a good month (I think), but until then I'm going to take my inspiration from Aylee and just post when I want and when I have some content prepared. I can't bother to stick to a schedule right now (more the pity because I just made one and all).

How was your June?

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June 29, 2014

Fierce Reads Spring 2014 Recap & Giveaway

This past Saturday I was fortunate enough to attend a stop on the Spring 2014 Fierce Reads tour.

I’ve been blogging now for just over two years, and this is actually the first big author signing I’ve attended. To be fair, I did get to see Lois Lowry this past winter, but the event she was at was more focused on her work The Giver and its various adaptations over the years. The Fierce Reads event was more promotional, more current, and - dare I say it? - more fun.

The authors in attendance for my leg of the tour were Emmy Laybourne (author of the Monument 14 trilogy), Ava Dellaira (author of Love Letters to the Dead), Jennifer Mathieu (author of The Truth About Alice), and Leigh Bardugo (author of The Grisha trilogy).

I’m already a big fan of The Grisha trilogy, and I had received an advance copy of Love Letters to the Dead before I knew that the tour would be stopping near the Milwaukee area. I also was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of The Truth About Alice, so I was 3 for 4 in terms of my familiarity with the authors and their works, which definitely increased my enjoyment overall.

The entire event was conducted in a question and answer format. First a proctor led the discussion and asked questions to the four authors. After she moderated the event for a while, the floor was opened up to viewer questions.

I took some notes, and thought I’d share some of the better moments that were more unique to my tour stop. (Disclaimer: these are paraphrased. I’m not that fast a writer.)
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June 26, 2014

Review: Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Pointe by Brandy Colbert
Published: 2014, G.B. Putnam’s Sons
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Library
Goodreads · Amazon · Barnes & Noble

The past few years of Theo Donovan’s life haven’t been easy. Her best friend was last seen four years ago, she’s been battling with anorexia since then, and she has reached the point where serious, competitive dancers such as herself must start making names for themselves if they want a chance at becoming professional.

Things go from difficult to far, far worse when Donovan is suddenly discovered and returns home. Because Donovan isn’t talking to anyone - not even his former best friend. Theo realizes that she has some incriminating information about Donovan’s abductor, but stepping forward will not necessarily fix what has happened to Donovan, and it may hurt Theo’s chances of pursuing her ballet dreams.

Pointe is a heavy book. Not only does it deal with abduction and eating disorders, but also with rape, abuse, cheating, drug use, and various dramas that come with being a teenager (some light, some decidedly not so). But overall I found that I quite enjoyed this book and its exploration into some of the darker aspects of humanity.
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June 24, 2014

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Published: William Morrow Books, 2013
Genre: Adult Fantasy
Source: Library

Oh, Neil Gaiman. Every book of yours that I’ve read has further convinced me that your writing style and my reading preferences are just not going to mesh. And so, after reading your most recent release, I am going to respectfully refrain from reading other books of yours in the future. While I admire all you’ve accomplished as a writer, I have to admit that you’re just not the right writer for this reader.

After returning to the area where he grew up to attend a family member’s funeral, an unnamed man cannot resist the draw to drive past his home and visit the house of Lettie Hempstock, the mysterious girl he befriended nearly four decades ago. But Lettie is not at home. An older woman - who the man reasons must be her mother - says that Lettie hasn’t returned. Being in the house and wandering around outside to the pond that Lettie referred to as an ocean allows the man’s long-hidden memories to slowly surface, memories about an opal miner, a sinister housekeeper named Ursula Monkton, and other, stranger beings who wished to cohabit the Earth.
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June 20, 2014

Ready to Become a Fan of... E. Lockhart

Ready to Become a Fan of... focuses on those authors new and old whose works I have every intention of eventually reading, but haven't been able to devote the time to just yet. By discussing authors and their works that I'm sure I'll love, given the chance, hopefully I can be more easily compelled to take the next step in not simply acquiring one of their books, but actually take the time to read it.

This month I'm putting on record that I am ready to become a fan of E. Lockhart.

About the author:
E. Lockhart is the author of We Were Liars,  Fly on the Wall, Dramarama, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and the Ruby Oliver quartet: The Boyfriend List, The Boy Book,  The Treasure Map of Boys, and Real Live Boyfriends. How to Be Bad was co-written with Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski.

Disreputable History was a Printz Award honor book, a finalist for the National Book Award, and recipient of the Cybils Award for best young adult novel. We Were Liars is a New York Times bestseller. (Taken from http://www.emilylockhart.com/bio)

Work I'm most looking forward to reading:
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 14:
Debate Club.
Her father’s “bunny rabbit.”
A mildly geeky girl attending a highly competitive boarding school.

Frankie Landau-Banks at age 15:
A knockout figure.
A sharp tongue.
A chip on her shoulder.
And a gorgeous new senior boyfriend: the supremely goofy, word-obsessed Matthew Livingston.

Frankie Laundau-Banks.
No longer the kind of girl to take “no” for an answer.
Especially when “no” means she’s excluded from her boyfriend’s all-male secret society.
Not when her ex boyfriend shows up in the strangest of places.
Not when she knows she’s smarter than any of them.
When she knows Matthew’s lying to her.
And when there are so many, many pranks to be done.

Frankie Landau-Banks, at age 16:
Possibly a criminal mastermind.

This is the story of how she got that way. (Goodreads)

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June 17, 2014

Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR list

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we're listing the books that have made it to the top of our Summer 2014 TBR piles.

New & Upcoming Summer Releases:
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo — Obviously. Today is its release day, but I'm actually holding off for a few days so that I can buy a new shiny copy for Bardugo to sign when I see her this Saturday! And then I am going to have an epic Grisha trilogy (and companion novellas) read.
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne — The comparisons to Tamora Pierce's Tortall books are enough to make me want to read this. I read and enjoyed Blackburne's prequel novella "Poison Dance" [my review] and am really looking forward to this one!
Crushed by Eliza Crewe — I don't have much to say about this since I haven't read its predecessor yet (also listed here), but I think the general premise sounds fascinating and I hope to enjoy this one!
The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen — A super hyped adult fantasy? Of course I'm going to read this one! It sounds very heavy on the political intrigue and very light on the romance, which is basically the perfect combination for me.
Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee — The heroine of this novel can apparently manipulate the threads of time. How cool of a power is that?! The synopsis kind of hints at a love triangle, but I'm hoping that's just poor marketing because I really just want to read about this fascinating protagonist without romance dominating the plot.

Owned Older Releases:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott — Because the summer feels like a good time to read this classic about four sisters living in a Civil War-era America. And honestly? I cannot go through another summer (or season, really) without having read a new-to-me classic. It's been too long.
Cracked by Eliza Crewe — Soul eaters! I am so intrigued by the premise of this novel, not to mention the fact that our protagonist sounds like she would typically be the antagonist in most stories. I've heard good things about this series and am excited to read it over the summer.
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen — I own this, and, while I wasn't overly enamored by Dessen's Just Listen, I'd like to give her books another try. This sounds like the perfect sort of summer book (bonus: it takes place over the summer). Give me a weekend by a lake or at a cabin or something and this will get read.
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge — In the weeks leading up to this one's publication I was so excited to read it. And my boyfriend was kind enough to buy me a copy. Now it sits on my shelves. But, again, this one will get read very soon. Fairy-tale retellings don't sit on my shelves long before I have a crave for that sort of story.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente — This will remain on my list until I actually read it. So hopefully that happens this summer. Not just because I want it off my seasonal TBR lists, but because I really, really think I'll like this and I need to force myself to actually start it.

Please let me know which books have made it onto your Summer 2014 TBR list!
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June 16, 2014

Review: Unsticky by Sarra Manning

Unsticky by Sarra Manning
Published: 2012, CB Creative Books
Genre: Adult Romance
Source: Purchased

We're broken. It's like we have all these jagged edges that scare other people off, but when we're with each other, our jagged edges fit together and we're almost whole.

From an outsider’s perspective, it may appear as though Grace Reeves is living the fashionista’s dream. She works for Skirt, a London-based fashion magazine, she breathes fashion, and she wears many of the latest trends.

The problem is that she cannot afford this lifestyle. At all. She lives in an apartment building that should probably be condemned, her credit card debt is so high that she’s afraid of even opening her mail or listening to her voicemail, and as for her glamorous job? She basically does the grunt work.

When super rich art mogul James Vaughn offers her an usual proposition - become his mistress, receiving a generous allowance each month and access to elite events - it doesn’t take Grace too long to accept his offer. And for a while she thoroughly enjoys the perks of being Vaughn’s mistress, even if she isn’t too crazy about Vaughn himself. But Grace soon learns that her new lifestyle doesn’t magically solve all the problems in her life.
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June 12, 2014

Review: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner’s Curse, #1
Published: 2014, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: Library

Arin wondered if she would lift her eyes, but wasn’t worried he would be seen in the garden’s shadows.
He knew the law of such things: people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark.

If by some chance you didn’t already know this, The Winner’s Curse is kind of a big deal. The amount of pre- and post-publication marketing that has gone into this book has been a bit insane, to be honest. But it seems to have worked for a large percentage of the book’s readers, with negative opinions few and far between. As for me? I liked it, but unfortunately I didn’t love it.

Kestrel’s two greatest skills are a mind greatly honed for strategizing and hands that play the piano beautifully. One skill is considered a major asset by her father and her the people of culture, known as the Valorians. Another is seen as a frivolity and a bit too much of a reminder of the culture that the Valorians defeated and enslaved a decade ago, known as the Herrani. As the daughter of the great Valorian general, however, Kestrel can do pretty much what she wants - until she comes of age, at least. Then she must make the choice of either joining the military or marrying.

Although she has known those two options are what her future holds, Kestrel has not really allowed them to bother her thus far, enjoying her current position that allows her to have the best of both worlds. But one day at the market, Kestrel watches an auction for Herrani slaves and finds herself bidding for one teenaged Herrani boy, marketed as both a skilled smith and a skilled singer. Kestrel is drawn to Arin, her new slave, and being with him helps her see their world in a new way. Unfortunately for her, however, Arin is more than he seems and has ulterior motives for becoming her slave.
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June 10, 2014

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week we are sharing our favorite books read so far in 2014.

As I don't want to end up listing a full one-quarter of the books I've read thus far just to make the ten-book quota, I only chose those books that have merited 5 or 4.5 stars from me.

All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry [my review]
Something Real by Heather Demetrios [my review]
The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch [my review]
Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta [my review]
Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta [my review]
Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer [my review]

Obviously, I highly recommend each and every one of these books.

Read any of these? Feel the same way? Let me know in the comments!
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June 9, 2014

Review: Something Real by Heather Demetrios

Something Real by Heather Demetrios
Published: 2014, Henry Holt and Company
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Source: Library

I’m sitting here on the Kaye Gibbons Show, and all I can think is that the whole country is sick. Sick with this idea that it’s good to be known and seen by as many people as possible, to show every part of our lives to the public at large. Whether it’s Facebook photos, blogs, or reality TV, it’s like nobody is content to just live life. The worth of our existence seems to be measured in pixels and megabytes and “likes.” Those of us whose lives can be downloaded seem to have the most value--until someone more outrageous comes along to claim their time in the spotlight.

Everyone in the United States was able to witness the first thirteen years of Bonnie Baker’s life, from her birth until the reality television show starring her family was cancelled. Adjusting to a normal life over the past four years - one without instant recognition or constant cameras - hasn’t been easy, but Bonnie (who has rechristened herself as Chloe) is finally getting to the point where she can let the demons of her childhood go. She’s a senior at a public high school now and may not have any idea of what she wants to do next, but at least she gets to choose (without tens of thousands of people watching her).

But then her mother and stepfather throw a completely unexpected curveball in Chloe’s direction: they’re starting the show up once more. Providing for thirteen children is more than they can manage on their own, and everyone seems eager to be part of America’s most-liked family once more. Everyone except for Chloe. She has two best friends and a crush who looks like he may become something more very soon, and she is determined to prevent the show from ruining everything good in her life.
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June 5, 2014

Series Review: The Lumatere Chronicles by Melina Marchetta

Opening Thoughts
At the beginning of this year I decided to finally read through Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles. I’d had plans to do so for a while now - I’d read and enjoyed Finnikin of the Rock and was so convinced by others that the later installments are even better that I bought copies of the entire trilogy.

I’ve been working through this series since the beginning of the year: reading a book, taking many weeks worth of break with other books, and then moving on to the next installment. And I’ve savored each and every second I found myself with the likes of Finnikin and Evanjalin, Froi and Quintana, Beatriss and Trevanion, within the country of Lumatere and beyond.

Although I will try to focus here on my general thoughts of this series, this review will contain some spoilers for Finnikin of the Rock. I will try to limit spoilers for Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn. If you’re interested in my spoiler-free thoughts on the first book, read my Goodreads review of Finnikin of the Rock. And then I recommend you go read the entire Lumatere Chronicles.

Finnikin of the Rock
Series: The Lumatere Chronicles, #1
Published: 2010, Candlewick Press
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Source: Purchased
Goodreads · Amazon · Barnes & Noble

In Finnikin of the Rock, readers are introduced to the land of Skuldenore. All of its countries are plagued with hardship and strife, but perhaps none more so than Lumatere. During a horrific event referred to as the five days of the unspeakable, the entire royal family of Lumatere was murdered and a puppet king installed, all said to be the work of Charyn, Lumatere’s greatest enemy. The destruction of Lumatere’s royal family and lands also triggered a curse that closed Lumatere off from the rest of the lands, leaving many Lumaterans trapped within the walls of their kingdom and many more stuck outside, unwanted refugees for neighboring kingdoms.

Finnikin of the Rock is one such refugee, and he and his guardian Sir Topher, once one of the head advisors of the king, bring aid to their people where they can and collect stories to ensure that their people - and their culture - will never die. When rumors start circulating that the youngest Lumateran prince was not killed in the massacre, Finnikin and Sir Topher find their way to the cloister where a novice is said to hold secrets that can save Lumatere.

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