February 28, 2012

Playing Along

Christine over at The Happily Ever After recently posted the following meme, and for some reason I copied the questions over and set out to answer them. There's no accounting for what pulls me into filling out one of these, but the always-genuine Christine is likely a big part of this one. Also, it had been awhile, and I liked her questions. So.

1. What is your favorite genre to read?
Um. Except for this first one. This first one is hard. If I take a look at my beloved bookshelf, it does look as though the majority of my favorite books do fall under the (very) broad category of fantasy. Historicals and contemporaries after that.

2. What is the first romance novel you ever read and how old were you when you read it? 

I come late to the game to this genre. The first romance novel I read was on a dare. It was Mr. Impossible by Loretta Chase, and I was 31. It was, sadly, not love at first sight. But we parted friends, and I have since gone on several memorable dates with romance novels. I plan on pursuing the relationship.

3. How many books--paper or ebooks--are in your existing TBR pile?
I believe there are upwards of 75 books teetering on my TBR just now. Don't judge.

4. Do you read nonfiction? If so, from which sub-genre?
The short answer to this question is: not for pleasure, no. With the occasional notable exception.

5. Do you own an e-reading device? If so, which one(s)?
I have a Nook Touch and my husband has a Kindle, and that pretty much sums up our relationship right there.

6. Which one book have you re-read most often? 
It's gotta be a tie between The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The High King. Those two books are my childhood.

7. How many library books do you have out right now?
That would be 8. And those don't even figure into my TBR. I may have a problem.

8. How do you mark your place in a book?
With literally whatever I have at hand, though ticket stubs and cards my son has made me are particular favorites. 

9. About how many books do you typically read in a month? 
Between 10 and 12, I'd say. Which only goes to show how far behind in my reviewing I've gotten these days. Must do better.

10. What was the last book that made you cry?
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. No surprise there.

11. What was the last book that made you laugh?

The Fault in Our Stars by  John Green. And that's why I love his books. He makes me feel all the real feelings, and, like a good piece of music, he does it with such beautiful transitions. 

And you?

February 24, 2012

A North & South Celebration

Morning, guys! Today I'm over at Melanie's Musings helping to wrap up her fabulous North & South Celebration. Melanie (aware of my strong feelings for the series) kindly invited me to contribute a post to her two-week-long love letter to all things North & South. So I'm talking about the study in contrasts that sucked me in and made me a permanent fangirl of the series. We'd love it if you stopped in to say hi and tell us why you love it, too.

February 21, 2012

Defiant Pretties

I'm not usually a fan of having whole entire people on book covers. Especially when they're on the photo realistic side of things. But I have to say, I like all three of these covers just fine. Something to do with the defiance on their faces and how they look very much as though they're inhabiting who they are, if that makes any sense at all. The titles are a bit of awesome as well, and I'm just very excited to give each one a whirl.

Edie Spencer works on the secret ward of the county hospital. The one they don't want you to know about. The paranormal ward. She thinks she's got the hang of it when a vampire dies on her shift. All hell breaks loose--literally. I am in the mood for some great, new urban fantasy, and I just think this one's going to be right up my alley.
Due out May 22nd

Brand spankin' new scifi from Garth Nix? Heck, yeah! The day Khemri is declared a prince is the day his life becomes permanently endangered. On a mission across space, he must simultaneously train to be a prince while fighting to stay alive from other princes who are trying to kill him. In other words, spacey goodness.
Due out May 15th

Escaping an intolerable arranged marriage, Ismae finds safety within a convent's walls. But life seems to hold an even more dangerous fate for her than marriage. Trained as an assassin, she must hone her new found gift at the expense of the lives of others. This one is giving me a bit of a Graceling vibe. Which clearly means it must be mine yesterday.
Due out April 3rd

February 10, 2012

Where She Went by Gayle Forman

So I approached Where She Went with almost equal amounts trepidation and excitement. It's hard to follow up an ending like the ending of If I Stay. In many respects, I felt like the mere existence of a sequel might mar the beauty of the first book. I just . . . I loved how it ended so much, I wasn't at all sure I wanted to know what happened next. And if you know me at all you know how hilarious that sounds. I always want to know what happens next. I regularly fill my life with beloved series I can't quit. But I am also an enormous admirer of standalone volumes, particularly those featuring a judicious and perfect ending. Such was the case with If I Stay. But the tenor of my emotions for Mia and Adam by the end of that book ensured that I wouldn't be able to stay away from a follow-up in the end. Especially as that follow-up was set three years later. So I only lasted about 24 hours in between finishing the first book and plunging into the second.

A warning: If you have not yet read If I Stay, I suggest doing so now before proceeding any farther. It really is worth it, and there is simply no way to discuss the sequel without ruining the surprise both books have in store. Also, the nature of my feelings regarding this one demand a discussion of the ending. So. You have been warned, yes?

It's been three years since Mia awoke to find Adam there waiting for her. And, as happy as she was to see him (and he her), it turns out three years is more than enough time for everything to fall apart. At first, everything seemed fine. More than fine. She was awake. She was alive. She had Adam there to help her through her recovery and convalescence. She had an acceptance letter from Julliard. But none of those positives were enough in the end. They weren't enough to outweigh the loss of her family. They weren't enough to keep Mia in the town where it all happened a moment longer than she had to stay. And, though neither of them could have seen it coming, they were not enough to sustain her relationship with Adam. So Mia makes the command decision to break things off entirely and leave, leaving behind an utterly demolished and dumbstruck Adam. Over the course of the next three years, both of their lives change beyond measure, as Mia embarks on the concert career she's always wanted, and Adam is skyrocketed to stardom in a whirlwind of success and good fortune. But time catches up with them. And when they both find themselves in New York over the same 24-hour period, they are forced to deal with the detritus that is all that remains of who they once were.

Where She Went is the opposite of If I Stay in every way. Where If I Stay was quiet and elegantly somber, Where She Went is chaotic and jaggedly painful. Where If I Stay was told from Mia's self-contained, removed perspective, Where She Went is told from Adam's very different point of view. And, unfortunately, where If I Stay has a breathtaking ending, Where She Went has an ending that left me with my mouth hanging open at how inadequate it was. I know it was the ending so many readers were hoping for, and the truth is I wanted that ending as well. Especially after I followed Adam around and watched with such sadness the person he had become, my heart practically bursting with sympathy for him. I loved Adam so much in this book. It's his story in every sense of things, and it's written incredibly well. I soaked up his version of events and how he never got over Mia and how all the riches life deposited in his lap weren't enough to compensate for the loss of love and friendship. Full of rage, sadness, and basically every negative, hurt emotion I can think of, he absolutely steals the show. Enter Mia and everything that has happened to her in the intervening years. I loved the setup, and I loved how it was simultaneously easy to be together again and awkwardly ruinous at the same time. From their halting physical proximity to their loaded verbal exchanges, everything was handled so well. I couldn't wait to get to the culmination of things and the inevitable decision they would have to make. And this is where we come to the inadequacy. I wanted that ending, but not this way. Not at the expense of my respect for the characters. After all of that, all of the thought and heartbreak and complexity that went into these two people who loved each other as kids and have surmounted tragedy to become adults all on their own, how could it wrap up so easily? How could either of them be satisfied with the meager resolution that was proffered? I wasn't. I wanted more for Adam and more from Mia, and that's all there is to it. All of that excruciating growth and hard-earned experience deserved more than a token apology on her part and a grateful acceptance on his. It was too fast, too simple, and too saccharine even for my romantic heart. I ended it in dismay, wishing it wasn't so. In other words--the exact opposite of how I felt at the end of If I Stay. Each reader's reaction will be different, of course (see linked reviews below). This was mine and mine alone. I'm so very glad Mia chose to stay. I just really wish I hadn't found out where she went.

The Crooked Shelf Review
A Dream of Books Review
Everyday Reading Review
Fluttering Butterflies Review & Interview
Galleysmith Review
Laura's Review Bookshelf Review
Taming the Bookshelf Review
That's What She Read Review
Wear the Old Coat Review
Wondrous Reads Review

February 7, 2012

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

It was all the hype surrounding the release of Where She Went that actually got me interested in reading If I Stay. I was aware of the love it received upon its publication a couple of years ago. But even though it appeared to be universally loved, I never picked it up, as I tend to be somewhat leery of coma/out of body experience stories. It's not that I've read a ton of them, but in the few that I have read, I've had a hard time connecting to the main character. What with them being . . . well, comatose and all. So I'd pretty much decided I wasn't going to try this one, until the blogosphere had a collective meltdown over there being a sequel at all and then at how awesome it apparently was. You know how hard it is to resist that promise of a sequel that lives up to (possibly even surpasses) its predecessor. I'm certainly not able to hold out against it for long. So I snagged a copy of  If I Stay  and ignored my niggling concerns to see just what all the fuss was about.

Mia comes from a musical family. From her ex-rocker dad and groupie mom to her adorable drummer of a little brother, her family has music in its bones. And Mia does, too. But not in exactly the same way. You see, Mia loves classical music. She's a dedicated cellist and just waiting for that acceptance letter to Julliard. Her loving family supports her passion, if they remain a bit bemused at how straitlaced and determined she is. Then the unthinkable happens. Mia wakes up to find she's been in a car crash. Her entire family was in the car, and now she's in a coma and her parents and brother are . . . gone. From a foggy distance, Mia watches life go on and alternates between watching her body in the hospital and flashbacks to life before the crash, to her relationships with her family members and with her sweet musician boyfriend Adam. What will happen, Mia is not sure. Is there anywhere to go from here? Is she stuck in an eternal in-between? And most importantly, will she ever have the chance to tell her loved ones how much they meant to her?

My emotions about If I Stay have not faded over time. It's a monumentally quiet story, and the reader drifts along with Mia on a gently wistful refrain of loss. In fact, it's so quiet and gentle that it borders on bland. Which is not to say that I didn't like Mia and Adam and the rest. I did. Very much. And I'm not sure what I was expecting, but what I got was much lower key than that. The writing was competent and unobtrusive, the characters sympathetic, and the situation (naturally) absolutely heartbreaking. But I wasn't consumed. I wasn't so attached that I couldn't put it down. But I kept reading because I did feel fond of these characters, and I really did want to find out how Gayle Forman would resolve Mia's story. And here's where things get interesting, my friends. Because If I Stay has the best ending I've read in some time. And I am not even a little bit joking. I am seven kinds of serious when I say that this book ramps up to one humdinger of a climax. It was so good it took my breath away. And it sneaks up on you like nobody's business, so that when it does happen you immediately look back on the whole in wonder. Because it really was more than the sum of its parts. It was one of those not just a good ending, but the only one, you know? And all I could think was how well-crafted it was, how seamless and inconspicuous, how softly it crept, all so that you could experience the sheer magnitude of that ending. Honestly, I was just so impressed. It was the perfect ending, and truthfully I wasn't sure at all that I wanted a sequel. Which is actually how you ought to feel after finishing any book, isn't it? Bravo, Ms. Forman.

Books for Company Review
Giraffe Days review
It's All About Books Review
Maw Books Blog Review
Medieval Bookworm Review
My Friend Amy Review
Novel Thoughts Review
One Librarian's Books Review
Presenting Lenore Review
See Michelle Read Review
StoryWings Review

February 3, 2012

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

I bought the ebook version of Flat-Out Love when I saw what a good deal it was right now. I'd seen it read, reviewed, and loved here and there for several months now, but for some reason nothing pushed me over the edge into trying it out myself. I know. Then when I found myself in between books and casting about for the next great thing, I remembered I had it on my nook and pulled it out to see how we got on. The answer is: famously! This is one of those books you kick yourself for not picking up sooner and then attempt to make reparations by singing its praises in the hopes that others will be quicker and savvier than you. I also just ordered the paperback, because I can tell that a digital copy is not going to be enough. This is one I'll want to have on my shelves for lending and rereading and the like. Plus, it's pretty, that cover. I mean, it kind of fills me with a maelstrom of emotions after the fact. But pretty it is. This is my first book by Jessica Park and I'm eager to find out what she's working on next and what we have to look forward to.

Julie is a bit down on her luck already and it's only her first day in Boston. She's come all the way out east to go to college, leaving her mother and the Midwest behind. But it turns out using Craigslist to secure an apartment wasn't the brightest idea. Fortunately, after one harried phone call with her mother and one minor meltdown in front of the burrito shop that was supposed to be her apartment, Julie is saved when the son of her mother's old college roommate shows up. Her mother's old roommate Kate and her family live in town and offer to let Julie stay with them until she finds an actual apartment where she will not be mugged or killed. Putting aside the fact that she really didn't even know Kate existed, and that she's just about as different from her mother as it's possible to be, Julie settles in to life with the eccentric Watkins family. And eccentric doesn't even really touch the surface when it comes to these people. Kind and generous, they are also incredibly . . . different. What with professor parents Erin and Roger never being around at all, MIT student Matt's over-the-top nerd shirts and doubtful social skills, and 13-year-old Celeste carting around a life-size cardboard cutout of her big brother Finn, whom she has dubbed Flat Finn. Between searching for a place to live, trying not to make a nuisance of herself, and navigating the obviously treacherous waters going on in this family, Julie has her work cut out for her. Doesn't help that she appears to be developing a crush on one far-flung member of the family along the way . . .

What is it about me and books set in Boston? It may come from having devoured a large quantity of Ellen Emerson White books as a young adult, but hand me a book about a girl and Boston and I am one happy clam. The hilarious thing is, I've never even been there! I dream about parts of this city I feel like I know like the back of my hand, I've read about them so many times. But I have yet to see them with my own eyes. One of these days . . .   So, rather unsurprisingly, I fell in love with Boston and the Watkins family right along with Julie. Quite frankly, it's impossible not to. They are wonderfully obtuse and endearing. The banter between Julie and Matt has a hilariously natural flow to it, as she ribs him for being hopelessly uninterested in Things Not Math, and he responds in kind teasing her for being too preoccupied with pop culture and caffeinated drinks and other lower aspects of life. Honestly, it is such a good time following the way Julie organically becomes a part of the family. She takes a special interest in Celeste, determined to get to the bottom of why she felt the need to create Flat Finn and what she's afraid will happen if she doesn't have him by her side (talking to him) every minute of every day. Finn himself is off traveling the world and his communications with Julie via Facebook had me grinning ferociously. As it happens, this book engaged every one of my emotions. The romance is of the heart-palpitating variety, somehow managing to be sweet, genuine, and seriously intense all at the same time. And even as I laughed out loud at one of Finn's many digital witticisms or one of Celeste's oddball contraction-free responses, fear crept up on me reading from behind. Fear of what Julie would find and that her finding it would shatter the fragile peace Matty, Celeste, Erin, Roger, and Finn had constructed. I wiped tears away more than once, and my love for every single one of the characters only grew and never diminished. Flat-Out Love is not only incredibly addicting but packs an emotional punch I felt in my gut for days after. Highly, highly recommended.

Chachic's Book Nook review
The Compulsive Reader review
Janicu's Book Blog review
Rather be Reading review
Reading After Midnight review
Stuck in Books review
The YA Curator review

February 2, 2012

The Raven Boys Cover

I knew next to nothing about The Scorpio Races before it was published, and look how spectacularly that turned out. So my reaction to Maggie Stiefvater's announcement that she has another book coming out this fall, that it's called The Raven Boys, and that it features a girl named Blue and a guy named Gansey was pretty much . . . BRING IT.

First in a four-part series, The Raven Boys is due out September 18th.