Wednesday, March 18, 2015

#WednesdayYA March Selection

It's a little late in the month, but I wanted to share the book that Misty and I picked for our #WednesdayYA read in March.  For those of you who don't know, Misty's birthday is March 1st, so she got to pick the book for the month.  Given what has happened this month, I think the choice wound up being something of a fitting tribute, though that certain was the plan.

When Tiffany Aching sets out to become a witch, she faces ominous foes and gains unexpected allies. As she confronts the Queen of Fairies and battles an ancient, bodiless evil, she is aided (and most ably abetted) by the six-inch-high, fightin', stealin', drinkin' Wee Free Men.

Laugh-out-loud humor and breathtaking action combine in the books that launched the unforgettable adventures of a determined young witch and her tiny but fierce blue friends.


(Summary from GoodReads)


Although this book is part of the Discworld series, most of them can be read as a standalone, and The Wee Free Men happens to kick off Tiffany Aching's storyline.   It's worth noting that the bind-up Misty and I both own contains The Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky, but we'll just be reading The Wee Free Men.

Our liveshow is going to be next Wednesday March 25th at 8:30 p.m. EST.  We'll also be chatting on Twitter with the hashtag #WednesdayYA.  We hope you can all make it!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

2015 Challenges

At the beginning of 2012, I said I was going to stop doing reading challenges for the time being.  It made sense at the time--I was just starting my second semester of graduate school and most of the reading I did was for class.  I've also noticed that since I've started working in professional library jobs (i.e. the job I had in Iowa and the one I have now) there's a lot more stuff that I feel obligated to read, even if it's something I want to read. For example, I feel obligated to make sure that I'm incorporating lots of middle grade into my reading, even though YA is my bread and butter.  I love MG too, so I ultimately don't mind doing this, but I do tend to think more about how reading a particular book could help me better advise the readers with whom I work.

While there is a lot that I feel obligated to read, I also know that if I only read that stuff, my reading diet will start to feel all off balance. In my Reading Imbalance and my Struggles with my TBR post, I introduced the three Lizes of reading (Inner Liz, Blogger Liz, and Librarian Liz) talked about how I try to make three different Lizes happy when I make my reading choices.  As 2015 began, I found challenges that would satisfy both Inner Liz and Blogger Liz.  Let's talk about what they are.

The TBR Jar Challenge

A lot of people to TBR jar challenges, and I'm doing one that was created by Katytastic.  There are twelve challenges, and each month you pick a book (or two!) to meet the challenge.  The challenges are...
*Read a book with 500+ pages
*Reread a favorite book
*Read a 2015 debut novel
*Read a book that someone else picks
*Listen to an audiobook
*Read a book you DNF'ed/gave up on
*Read a new-to-you author
*Read a book that is not a novel
*Read/watch a book and its adaptation
*Read an award winning novel
*Read a classic novel
*Read a series finale
I'll only be reading books I already own for this challenge.  My TBR is as full as ever so while I haven't read my January or February selections yet, I plan to catch up in March. This one makes Blogger Liz happy because catching up on unread books one owns is always a good thing.  I hope to post at the end of the year about how this one went.  

Flights of Fantasy
If it's not obvious, this challenge hosted by Alexa Loves Books and Hello, Chelly ought to keep Inner Liz pretty happy.  For this one, I'd love to read a total of 24 books, and I've read three so far that I know would count.

So those are the two challenges I'm doing this year. Are there any challenges that you're trying to complete? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Blog Tour: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski + Giveaway

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I am so excited to be part of The Winner’s Crime blog tour today!  If you want to visit every stop, check out the tour schedule here.  I absolutely adore this series so far and I hope those of you who are reading it are as well.  Today, Marie was gracious enough to stop by and answer a few questions I had for her.  But first, a little bit about the book.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20443207-the-winner-s-crime?from_search=true
Book two of the dazzling Winner's Trilogy is a fight to the death as Kestrel risks betrayal of country for love.

The engagement of Lady Kestrel to Valoria’s crown prince means one celebration after another. But to Kestrel it means living in a cage of her own making. As the wedding approaches, she aches to tell Arin the truth about her engagement…if she could only trust him. Yet can she even trust herself? For—unknown to Arin—Kestrel is becoming a skilled practitioner of deceit: an anonymous spy passing information to Herran, and close to uncovering a shocking secret.

As Arin enlists dangerous allies in the struggle to keep his country’s freedom, he can’t fight the suspicion that Kestrel knows more than she shows. In the end, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth. And when that happens, Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them.

(Summary from GoodReads)


The setting in The Winner’s Curse reminded me a little bit of Ancient Rome.  If you could pick an ancient empire or society to live in, which one would you choose and why?

I am trying really hard to think of an ancient society where life wasn’t subpar for women. I fail. And I don’t want to be a man in any of these ancient worlds either. Although not ancient, and not exactly a nurturing environment for women either, I wouldn’t mind living a life of leisure in Jane Austen’s England, at least how it’s depicted in her books. 

Maybe I just want to live in Jane Austen’s books.

Your characters play a game called Bite & Sting.  What game inspired it?  Do you have a favorite board game?

The game is a hybrid of poker and mahjong, I suppose. As for a favorite board game, I loved The Settlers of Catan. I also like playing dominos and poker, because that’s what my family plays. I love chess but don’t get much of a chance to play it. I’m also not very good at it. Good enough to beat my husband, though.

In The Winner’s Crime, Kestrel is engaged.  What is your favorite fictional wedding from film or television?

I will chose two: Clair and Jamie’s wedding from Outlander, and Marie and Jess’s from When Harry Met Sally

For the first, yes, of course, the whole episode is sexy and romantic and tender, and I love all of that, but I also admire the structure of the episode, and the way what we see of the wedding is broken into parts and revealed to us after the fact of it. I’m reminded of Battlestar Galactica’s episode “Unfinished Business” (my favorite, maybe, of the series, though not at all about a wedding! It features boxing)—and that’s no coincidence, since BSG and Outlander both belong to Ron Moore. 

I love Marie and Jess’s wedding because of what happens between Harry and Sally at it. I love their fight. It’s funny (to us) and vulnerable (to them). I’ve seen the movie a million times, but recently read the script for the first time, and it’s just so good. 

You have a magical pot that will make you endless quantities of whatever food you desire (I’m thinking of Strega Nona here).  What food does your pot make?

A hearty bread called “pain des amis” from a Parisian bakery called Du Pain et des Idées. I die just thinking about it.

Thanks for having me!

Thank you Marie for stopping by!

***
My review of this book will be up in just a few days.  Until then, I’m giving away a copy to one lucky reader.  Check out the rules and fill out the Rafflecopter if you’re interested.
*One winner will receive a hardcover copy of The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski.
*Must be 13 years of age or older to enter.
*Open to U.S. readers only.
*Giveaway will close on March 16th at 11:59 p.m.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Mini-Reviews: Adult Fiction

Attachments
"Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . "

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?


(Summary from GoodReads) 


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After enjoying Eleanor & Park and Fangirl getting Attachments from the library seemed like a good idea.  I totally see the appeal of Rowell’s first adult novel—the e-mail format is quirky, there are several humorous moments, and it’s incredibly sweet.  I never formed a terribly strong attachment to the characters, which could have a bit to do with them, but I think has more to do with the fact that marriage is pretty far from my mind these days. Attachments was fun to read once, but it didn’t really stick with me once I put it aside.
 


The Fever  The panic unleashed by a mysterious contagion threatens the bonds of family and community in a seemingly idyllic suburban community.

The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community.

As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security.

A chilling story about guilt, family secrets and the lethal power of desire, The Fever affirms Megan Abbot's reputation as "one of the most exciting and original voices of her generation" (Laura Lippman).
 


(Summary from GoodReads) 


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Abbott’s The Fever is probably one of the most bizarre books I read in 2013, and there are many things it does well.  It goes by very quickly but each character is well constructed and their backstory is fascinating.  The Fever is a social commentary, particularly about young women interact with each other and the world around them.  Abbott skirted around a lot of interesting ideas, and I think I would have liked this book better if it had gone into even more depth with those.  As it was, it felt like there were pieces missing from this one.



How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky Lydia Netzer, the award-winning author of Shine Shine Shine, weaves a mind-bending, heart-shattering love story that asks, “Can true love exist if it’s been planned from birth?”

Like a jewel shimmering in a Midwest skyline, the Toledo Institute of Astronomy is the nation's premier center of astronomical discovery and a beacon of scientific learning for astronomers far and wide. Here, dreamy cosmologist George Dermont mines the stars to prove the existence of God. Here, Irene Sparks, an unsentimental scientist, creates black holes in captivity.

George and Irene are on a collision course with love, destiny and fate. They have everything in common: both are ambitious, both passionate about science, both lonely and yearning for connection. The air seems to hum when they’re together. But George and Irene’s attraction was not written in the stars. In fact their mothers, friends since childhood, raised them separately to become each other's soulmates.
 

When that long-secret plan triggers unintended consequences, the two astronomers must discover the truth about their destinies, and unravel the mystery of what Toledo holds for them—together or, perhaps, apart.

Lydia Netzer combines a gift for character and big-hearted storytelling, with a sure hand for science and a vision of a city transformed by its unique celestial position, exploring the conflicts of fate and determinism, and asking how much of life is under our control and what is pre-ordained in the heavens in her novel How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky.  


(Summary from GoodReads)



How to Tell Toldedo from the Night Sky is really well written, and I started off loving the concept.  The plot is really well structured and there are a lot of great connections, but it started to unravel towards the end.  There were, however, points where the storyline just got much too weird for me.  I will say I loved how it discussed the concepts of fate and destiny.  While I'd only give this one three stars, a lot of other people have loved this one, though, so I think I’m the odd one out.
 

The Art of Fielding
At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended.

Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future. College president Guert Affenlight, a longtime bachelor, has fallen unexpectedly and helplessly in love. Owen Dunne, Henry’s gay roommate and teammate, becomes caught up in a dangerous affair. Mike Schwartz, the Harpooners’ team captain and Henry’ best friend, realizes he has guided Henry’s career at the expense of his own. And Pella Affenlight, Guert’s daughter, returns to Westish after escaping an ill-fated marriage, determined to start a new life.

As the season counts down to its climactic final game, these five are forced to confront their deepest hopes, anxieties, and secrets. In the process they forge new bonds, and help one another find their true paths. Written with boundless intelligence and filled with the tenderness of youth, The Art of Fielding is an expansive, warmhearted novel about ambition and its limits, about family and friendship and love, and about commitment—to oneself and to others.


(Summary from GoodReads) 



I picked this one up when John Green recommended it a few years ago.  I went to Kenyon long after John Green graduated (which is not why I picked it—in 2005 I had no idea John Green even existed) and this book made me feel a lot of nostalgia for it and small towns with liberal arts colleges. I have to wonder if that’s partially where Green’s recommendation comes from.  I was bound to enjoy it because it made me feel like I was coming home, and it was well written.  There were a few small inaccuracies, like the college president getting something like six new ties for free from the bookstore each semester—my father is a college president and I can assure you that this doesn’t happen.  I also found the ending a little predictable.  Overall, though, this one entertained me and I would reread it.
 

The Engagements From the New York Times best-selling author of Commencement and Maine comes a gorgeous, sprawling novel about marriage—about those who marry in a white heat of passion, those who marry for partnership and comfort, and those who live together, love each other, and have absolutely no intention of ruining it all with a wedding.

Evelyn has been married to her husband for forty years—forty years since he slipped off her first wedding ring and put his own in its place. Delphine has seen both sides of love—the ecstatic, glorious highs of seduction, and the bitter, spiteful fury that descends when it’s over. James, a paramedic who works the night shift, knows his wife’s family thinks she could have done better; while Kate, partnered with Dan for a decade, has seen every kind of wedding—beach weddings, backyard weddings, castle weddings—and has vowed never, ever, to have one of her own.

As these lives and marriages unfold in surprising ways, we meet Frances Gerety, a young advertising copywriter in 1947. Frances is working on the De Beers campaign and she needs a signature line, so, one night before bed, she scribbles a phrase on a scrap of paper: “A Diamond Is Forever.” And that line changes everything.

A rich, layered, exhilarating novel spanning nearly a hundred years, The Engagements captures four wholly unique marriages, while tracing the story of diamonds in America, and the way—for better or for worse—these glittering stones have come to symbolize our deepest hopes for everlasting love.


(Summary from GoodReads) 


I’m not sure what to make of The Engagements.  I found myself really caring about the characters with this one, and the storylines were decent, though the way connected didn't really come off as a surprise in the end. The prose never hooked me, and I think that's why this one felt a little long and slow.  This one is a little too dense to be chick lit, and not literary enough for a book club.  Since there’s not anything super exceptional about it, I’m just not sure how this book is going to find its audience.
 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review of I Was Here by Gayle Forman

I Was Here
Cody and Meg were inseparable.Two peas in a pod.Until . . . they weren’t anymore. 

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.
 

I Was Here
 is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss.


(Summary from GoodReads)



I’ve enjoyed all of Gayle Forman’s books up until this point, so I had high expectations going into I Was Here.  I’m going to go ahead and warn you now that this review will be full of spoilers, because otherwise I can’t really voice my concerns about it otherwise.  Forman’s prose remains strong and she creates an interesting story for Cody, but I felt some serious issues were mishandled.

The majority of this book is focused on Cody trying to unravel what she thinks is the mystery behind her friend Meg’s suicide.  The storyline here kept me intrigued, but I felt like Forman didn’t do a whole lot with it. Cody ends up bringing a boy named Ben with her as she deals with all of this, and while the issues with their relationship wrapped up nicely, I didn’t feel a connection with him as the love interest.

At the very end of the story, Cody’s parents sit down and tell her the truth about Meg.  Meg suffered from depression and this was kept under wraps because it was worried how the town would react.  She didn’t like taking her medication because it made her feel dull and less like herself.

Meg’s depression is clearly meant to be a plot twist, and I hate that it was handled that way.  Depression is a real disease that many people suffer from daily, and it’s a complex disease.  It’s not something that can be summed up in a few pages—it needs to be explored, and that wasn’t there in this case.

Meg’s reasoning behind not taking her medication is also problematic.  Amanda MacGregor provides an explanation as to why this is a case and I couldn’t put it better myself, so I’m going to leave her post here.  

I Was Here is not the first book this year that’s been discussed as treating mental illness problematically (see also All the Bright Places and The Last Time We Say Goodbye, neither of which I’ve read), and I’m not sure why this new trend in YA has come about.  I would love to live in a world where we try to separate mental illness from the stigma that surrounds us, and I fear that I Was Here detracts from those efforts. It will be purchased widely and circulate well in libraries due to Forman’s popularity, and I hope it inspires important conversations among readers of all ages.

Disclosure: I received an electronic galley of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Other reviews:

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Book Haul (71) and What Are You Reading?


Gifted:
Pemberley pennant
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
Harbinger by Sara Wilson Etienne
Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn
Texts from Jane Eyre and Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg
Hild by Nicola Griffith
We Are the Goldens by Dana Reinhardt
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories by Rae Carson
The Young Elites by Marie Lu
Clariel by Garth Nix
Bought:
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Read:
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Crystal the Snow Fairy by Daisy Meadows
Abigail the Breeze Fairy by Daisy Meadows
The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
Pearl the Cloud Fairy by Daisy Meadows
Legend by Marie Lu
Goldie the Sunshine Fairy by Daisy Meadows
Evie the Mist Fairy by Daisy Meadows
Storm the Lightning Fairy by Daisy Meadows
Princess in Black by Shannon Hale
Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Last Echo by Kimberly Derting
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
Jersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman
Nellie Bly by Martha E. Kendall
Currently reading:
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Truth or Dare: 20 Tales of Heartbreak and Happiness
What I plan to read:
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler
A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
Insurgent by Veronica Roth

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