Monday, August 18, 2014

Bout of Books 11.0 Sign Up

Bout of Books

I am making a spur of the moment decision and signing up for the Bout of Books readathon this week!  Yay!  I think the early half of this week should be somewhat quiet for me, so it's a good week to do a readathon.  If you don't know anything about Bout of Books, here's a blurb from their website about it:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

My personal goal is to read about two hours a day.  Lisa and I are reading The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson this week, so that's mostly what I will be focused on.

Once I finish The Bitter Kingdom, these are some other titles on my TBR that I want to get to.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Graphic Novel Series Review: Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Zita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl, #1)  Zita’s life took a cosmic left turn in the blink of  an eye.

When her best friend is abducted by an alien doomsday cult, Zita leaps to the rescue and finds herself a stranger on a strange planet. Humanoid chickens and neurotic robots are shocking enough as new experiences go, but Zita is even more surprised to find herself taking on the role of intergalactic hero. Before long, aliens in all shapes and sizes don’t even phase her. Neither do ancient prophecies, doomed planets, or even a friendly con man who takes a mysterious interest in Zita’s quest.

Zita the Spacegirl is a fun, captivating tale of friendship and redemption from Flight veteran Ben Hatke. It also has more whimsical, eye-catching, Miyazaki-esque monsters than you can shake a stick at.

(Summary from GoodReads) 

Science fiction is a genre that can tackle some pretty heavy issues when it’s taken on in young adult or adult literature.  I was initially drawn to Zita the Spacegirl because I liked the idea that it was light-hearted, kid friendly, and adventurous. I got a story that not only had all of these things but was also bursting with creativity.

Hatke’s worldbuilding in this book is really excellent.  Right away we meet a lot of interesting characters and creatures as Zita embarks on her new adventure.  The way they’re illustrated is, like the burb says, reminiscent of Miyazaki, and is also very whimsical.  Everything from animals to robots to humans are featured as characters. There are a few creepy and scary elements, and they’re done in a way that got under my skin, which is definitely a compliment.  Zita is an adventurous and spunky character—she’s the type of person I would not mind getting lost in space with.  She’s also a quick learner, which makes for an engaging read.
Book one of this series ends on a total cliffhanger.  While I like to anticipate the second book of a series, I also really think that each volume in a series should feel complete on its own.  Hatke gets away with it here—Zita is so well done that I desperately wanted more.  Still, if he had tied up just a few more loose ends at the end of this first volume, that would have been okay.

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl, #2)  Fame comes at a price...  

Zita must find her way back to earth...but her space adventures have made her a galactic megastar! Who can you trust when your true self is overshadowed by your public image? And to make things worse...Zita's got a robot double making trouble--while wearing her face!  

(Summary from GoodReads) 

Initially, I had kind of a hard time getting excited about Legends of Zita the Spacegirl.  I wasn’t expecting this story to take the direction that it did, or for it to pick up in the place that it did.  Luckily everything about it delighted me even more than the first book did.

Perhaps it sounds silly, but there’s a bit more of a focus on the actual stars here, and I loved that.  The way Hatke illustrates stars, comets, and planets is colorful and realisitic, while still making us feel like Zita is in a vast universe.  Speaking of the universe, I loved that we got to meet even more types of aliens here, and I thought they were all delightful.  There are things that feel inspired by Dr. Seuss and things that feel inspired by a darker sci fi, such as Alien, yet despite having all these different life forms, it never feels as though Hatke is trying to do too much with his world.

Also?  This book had a storyline that concluded by the time the book was done.  There was still an overarching storyline, and as a reader I knew that there were more adventures to be had and another book to tie things up.

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl (Zita the Spacegirl, #3)Ben Hatke brings back our intrepid space heroine for another delightful sci-fi/fantasy adventure in this New York Times‑Bestselling graphic novel trilogy for middle grade readers. 

Zita the Spacegirl has saved planets, battled monsters, and wrestled with interplanetary fame. But she faces her biggest challenge yet in the third and final installment of the Zita adventures. Wrongfully imprisoned on a penitentiary planet, Zita has to plot the galaxy's greatest jailbreak before the evil prison warden can execute his plan of interstellar domination!   

(Summary from GoodReads) 

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl is the last book in this series and it made me genuinely sad that it’s over.  I got to see so many of my favorite characters again and see the storyline continued.  This book made me wish that more Zita was coming, and it made me want to give this trilogy to all of my library patrons.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two characters who are new favorites of mine: Raggy and Femur.  They made me laughed and I loved that Hatke continued building on the world as Zita saw more and more of it.  Perhaps moreso than other characters, these two showed that Hatke can write pretty snappy dialogue.

The ending of the series was great.  I got to see plot threads tied up and lots of old friends return.  The ending both delighted me and made me go “Agggh I need more!”  You’ll understand when you read it.  In the end, though, Hatke sends a great message to his readers: just because you grow up doesn’t mean you need to stop having adventures.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review of Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Roomies  It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

(Summary from GoodReads) 

I realize that to some people, a relationship about two roommates may not sound like the most fascinating plot of a novel.  For some people, roommates are just the people you happen to see when you’re home.  When I moved into my first college dorm, I was excited to meet my roommate and was pleased that we soon became BFFs.  I’ve since avoided living with others, because I can be a little messy and I like to have room for all of my stuff.  Roomies is an engaging story about two girls on the cusp of change and how living together impacts their lives.

Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando have written a book that even people who have lived alone forever will relate to.  When Lauren and EB first start communicating, they both have a lot of uncertainty about boundaries.  How much should they talk?  What can be shared over e-mail and what in person?  Whatever happens is going to affect whether they can get along in person.  These questions arise not just for these fictional characters, but perhaps for people in real life who have online friends.

We get separate perspectives from Lauren and EB, and I liked hearing how different their experiences were. Their stories intersect in a way that was unexpected but gut-wrenching and realistic.  Both of them did things that will make readers uncomfortable because they sound like mistakes a real person would make.  My one complaint about their stories is that it sounded like each character was facing a similar dynamic with her best friend.  I wish there had been more variation there.

Diversity is well-handled in this book.  It’s something that both characters wind up feeling that they have to address.  I appreciate that Zarr and Altebrando didn’t shy away from some of the confusion these characters felt regarding race.

When I read Roomies, I got a quick read that made me appreciate its storytelling and handling of certain issues.  There are a few plot points that verge on being stereotypical of YA, and I think they hold this plus the lack of truly outstanding prose (something which I am super picky about) hold this novel back from being amazing.  Roomies will have a lot of appeal either to teens who anticipate sharing a room in the future or adult fans of YA who want a throwback to their college years.

Disclosure: I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Other reviews:

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Book Haul (66) and What Are You Reading?

The Grisha trilogy box with chapter sampler and candles
Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
For review:
The Body In the Woods by April Henry
Shipwreck Island by S.A. Bodeen
On the Road To Find Out by Rachel Toor
Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
The Empire Striketh Back by Ian Doescher
Nick and Tesla's Secret Agent Gadget Battle by Bob Pflugfelder
Remnants of Tomorrow by Kassy Taylor
Fault Line by Christa Desir
Tsarina by J. Nelle Patrick
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Noggin by John Corey Whaley
Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
Blogs and bloggers mentioned:
April of Good Books and Good Wine

Dinosaurs Before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne
Burning by Elana K. Arnold
Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 1 by Gail Carriger
Lives of the Scientists: Experiments, Explosions by Kathleen Krull
The Fever by Megan Abbott
Bink and Gollie: Two For One by Kate DiCamillo
Let's Get Lost by Adi Alsaid
Bink and Gollie: Best Friends Forever by Kate DiCamillo
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer L. Holm
Babymouse: Our Hero by Jennifer L. Holm
Complicit by Stephanie Kuehn
Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Babymouse: Beach Babe by Jennifer L. Holm
One Day and One Amazing Morning On Orange Street by Joanne Rocklin
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Just One Night by Gayle Forman
Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Carson Levine
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Melvin Beedermen Superhero: The Curse of the Bologna Sandwich by Greg Trine
The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
Dork Diaries: Tales From A Not-So-Glam TV Star by Rachel Renee Russell
The Geek's Guide to Dating by Eric Smith
Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth by Jane O'Connor
A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen
I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Amulet, Vol. 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi
Sorrow's Knot by Erin Bow
Currently reading:
Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
Who Was Davy Crockett? by Gail Herman
Truth and Dare: 20 Tales of Heartbreak and Happiness
What I plan to read:
The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne
Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Sex & Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

#WednesdayYA Austen In August Takeover

As I'm sure a lot of you know, this month Misty is hosting her Austen in August event, which will last from the 18th to the 31st.  I am a fan of pretty much all things Jane Austen, so I participate every year.  This time around, we're going to read an Austen adaptation for our #WednesdayYA book. After last week's Twitter discussion, this is the book that ultimately won. We hope you'll read it with us!

Claire Prescott is a sensible woman who believes in facts and figures, not fairy tales. But when she agrees to present a paper to a summer symposium at Oxford on her ailing sister's behalf, Claire finds herself thrown into an adventure with a gaggle of Jane Austen-loving women all on the lookout for their Mr. Darcy. Claire isn't looking for Mr. Anyone. She's been dating Neil -- a nice if a bit negligent -- sports fanatic. But when a tall, dark and dashing stranger crosses her path, will the staid Claire suddenly discover her inner romantic heroine? Her chance meeting with a mysterious woman who claims to have an early version of Austen's Pride and Prejudice -- in which Lizzie ends up with someone other than Fitzwilliam Darcy -- leads to an astounding discovery about the venerated author's own struggle to find the right hero for Lizzie Bennett. Neil's unexpected arrival in Oxford complicates Claire's journey to finding her own romantic lead.

Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is the story of a woman who finds that love isn't logical and that a true hero can appear in the most unexpected of places.

(Summary from GoodReads)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Series Review: Seven Realms by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (Graceling Realm, #1)
Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight - she's a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king's thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po's friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace - or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away...

(Summary from GoodReads)

Graceling is considered a quintessential YA fantasy book.  I’ve had it on my TBR pile for years, but only recently did I finally get around to reading my copy.  I was amazed by Cashore’s worldbuilding and the adventure I found within this story.

Katsa’s grace is to kill, and this tends to put her in positions she doesn’t want to be in.  Although she’s clearly a total badass, she also has her insecurities, and I loved how real that made her.  In addition to being a fighter, Katsa is also incredibly smart, resourceful, and tactical, and I loved seeing how those skills played out throughout the story.

Po was a fantastic love interest.  He challenges Katsa on so many different levels.  I know some people take issue with how their storyline ended.  The ending Cashore chose for the two of them was particularly feminist, and I respect Cashore for writing it the way she did.

I completely adored the storyline of Graceling.  It was fast-paced, action-packed, and gave me a few, “Oh my gosh WHAT IF THEY ALL DIE?!” moments.  Graceling has everything I think of when I think of high fantasy.  If you haven’t already read it, what are you waiting for?

Fire (Graceling Realm, #2) It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. The young King Nash clings to his throne while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves and lawless men. 

This is where Fire lives. With a wild, irresistible appearance and hair the color of flame, Fire is the last remaining human monster. Equally hated and adored, she had the unique ability to control minds, but she guards her power, unwilling to steal the secrets of innocent people. Especially when she has so many of her own. 

Then Prince Brigan comes to bring her to King City, The royal family needs her help to uncover the plot against the king. Far away from home, Fire begins to realize there's more to her power than she ever dreamed. Her power could save the kingdom. 

If only she weren't afraid of becoming the monster her father was.  

(Summary from GoodReads)

Fire is a completely book from Graceling.  While I believe it’s in the same world, it’s set in a different part of the world and earlier.  Fire is also a very different character from Katsa.  I enjoyed this read, but got lost in the political intrigue, and couldn’t connect as well with Fire as I did to Katsa.

Fire is haunted by the person her father was and is trying to find her place in the world.  Much like Katsa, Fire has a power that many people want her to use for bad things, but unlike Katsa, Fire is not a graceling, but a human monster.  Fire showcases Cashore’s lovely prose even moreso than Graceling, because Fire is a beautiful character.  Her hair literally looks like fire and men are drawn to her.  Cashore’s description of her was simultaneously enchanting and slightly terrifying.

I liked the storyline of Fire fine until we go the climax.  By that point it was hard to keep track of where everything was happening. I loved the ending of this story because it was gorgeous and suited Fire’s character so well.

While I found Fire a bit more literary than Graceling, I didn’t quite enjoy it as much.  If you are all over political intrigue in your YA fantasy, this one will be fantastic.  It was great for me, but not as good as Graceling.

Bitterblue (Graceling Realm, #3) Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace. 

But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck's death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck's reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea's past has become shrouded in mystery, and it's only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle - curious, disguised and alone - to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past. 

Whatever that past holds. 

Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck's reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . .  

(Summary from GoodReads)

Bitterblue is the toughest book in this series for a lot of readers, but it’s a rewarding read for those who stick with it.  This story definitely has it’s fair share of action and political intrigue, but it’s also a story about pain, loss, confusion, and love.  I honestly don’t know how I would pitch this book in terms of plot, but it made me really love Bitterblue.

If you’ve read Graceling, then you have an idea of who Bitterblue is, and this story is about how she tries to put her kingdom back in order.  She winds up meeting two thieves and learning things she never knew about her kingdom, but she also lies to them about who she really is.  It’s not really clear who she can trust from a political standpoint.  This book is really about Bitterblue learning who she needs to loyal to and the sneaky things she does to find this out.

Perhaps what’s really cool about Bitterblue is Cashore does some interesting things with ciphers and codes.  It shows skill as a writer to incorporate a complex code in your writing while still making me care a lot about your main character.  Also? There is a lot of Katsa and Po in this book, and I loved seeing how their relationship evolved throughout the trilogy.

Bitterblue is an excellent, emotional fantasy novel, but I’m really not sure that I absorbed it all.  To really appreciate it, I would have to reread this book at least once. On its own, though, it adds some nice depth to Cashore’s world while really developing some of the characters, so I’d say it’s a success overall.

Disclosure: I purchased hardcovers of all three of these books. 


Related Posts with Thumbnails