Monday, April 30, 2012

review: Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore

pub date: May 1, 2012
publisher: Dial
pages: 545
source: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
appeals: it's a continuation of Cashore's Graceling.
content: violence, innuendo, a lot of boring parts

I loved the book Graceling when I read it years ago. Fire, meh. I was intrigued with Bitterblue because I wanted to read about the little princess from Graceling. I was happy when I received the copy from LibraryThing, until I saw how big it was. Did you see the page count? Five-hundred-forty-five pages! A very Looooong five-hundred-forty-five pages.

I would like to say the reason I didn't enjoy the book much was because it was all so political. Bitterblue is queen of Monsea, trying to navigate a kingdom that has been deeply scarred by her father's rule. There is so much politic that I found the story Tedious to read. Yet one of my all time favorite books is The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner and that book is full of politics. I've read it at least five times, and I've never been bored with Gen's story. But Bitterblue's? A snooze fest. Maybe not the politics so much?

Maybe the fact that I didn't care for Bitterblue? I didn't dislike her, but I didn't love her either. Maybe her impossible romance with a romantic interest that I wasn't too thrilled with, either? Maybe the mystery that wasn't even a mystery until half way through and when it was apparent, kept going in circles, round and round, but never actually went anywhere? Maybe the nonexistent plot? Whatever it was, this book wasn't all that interesting to me.

Add to all of that how much I got sick of Leck and his history and Bitterblue's determination to learn more about how wicked Leck was. There were times Leck seemed like the main character of this story, not Bitterblue.

I must say that I thought the actual writing stellar, like always. Cashore is an amazing storyteller, even when the story she's telling isn't all that interesting. And she did a great job giving reminders for what happened in Graceling for those readers who read it years ago (like me), without going overboard. (Except for all of that about Leck, of course).

When I keep reading books that I should really just give up on, I have to wonder why I keep reading them. Sometimes, like in this case, I just feel like I have to complete it so I can check it off my list. And, when I get a copy for review like I did Bitterblue, it makes me that much more compelled to keep going. I really need to learn how to stop. Especially when the book is five-hundred-forty-five-freakin pages (too) long.

Eight years after Graceling, Bitterblue is now queen of Monsea. But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisors, who have run things since Leck died, believe in a forward-thinking plan: Pardon all who committed terrible acts under Leck’s reign, and forget anything bad ever happened. But when Bitterblue begins sneaking outside the castle—disguised and alone—to walk the streets of her own city, she starts realizing that the kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year spell of a madman, and the only way to move forward is to revisit the past.

Two thieves, who only 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, with an extreme skill called a Grace that he hasn’t yet identified, holds a key to her heart


I had my own little read-a-thon this past weekend.

I finally had the time to focus on the three books I started this month but wasn't able to finish, but now they are finished. Hallelujah!

I really enjoyed both Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Black. Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore was a disappointment, but it's one that is now finished and it's a relief!

I'm writing reviews and will post one later today. Yippy!

I know it isn't much, but after everything that has happened this month, I am very please with getting just this little bit done. It feels like a large accomplishment.

So stay tuned! May will be a much better blogging month.

I hope.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

reviews by Jaye: A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Because I've been such a horrible blogger the past few months, I convinced my good friend Jaye to write some reviews for me to post on my blog. Which is awesome because I get to be a horrible blogger and still post reviews. Yay! Here is the first of Jaye's reviews, hopefully more will follow. I'm crossing my fingers for one a week.

pub date: January 10, 2012
publisher: Razerbill
pages: 386

Jaye's Thoughts:
Book two of a trilogy, Suns suffers from that horrible middle-book symptom, filleritis. I really enjoyed book 1, Across the Universe. In this second book, though, Amy seems designed to annoy. She goes back and forth, saying she can’t have feelings for Elder because they’re the only teens on the ship, then flipping back to, “Wait, Elder’s mine!” and not having a problem with it. Plus, she acts incredibly selfish the entire book.

In fact, there are several things like that in the book. On one page, a certain thing will be said, or explained, or whatever. Then, maybe two paragraphs later, maybe two pages later, the real truth comes out, which is the complete opposite of the earlier bit. I got more and more frustrated.

As for plot structure, it was illogical to me. It turns out that Orion (a main player in the first book) has planted clues around the ship for Amy to follow, because she is the only one who can make The Choice. But he never tells her what The Choice is. Also, because of other things going on (like people fighting against Elder because he shut off the phydus machine to let them think for themselves, and the murders that have started up—more on that later) time is kinda of the essence. Orion knew other things, too, but they would be spoilers, so I won’t say them here. Suffice it to say, it makes no sense to send Amy on a scavenger hunt for clues when he knows there’s no time for it. If it’s so important—and it is—just tell her straight up! He can still send her off to see these things, but don’t make her hunt—what if she can’t find one of them? It’s still a choice that needs to be made, but because of the scavenger hunt, she could easily miss out on an important part. It all seemed designed to take up a few hundred pages before the third book.

Okay, the murders. This is a later development, but I’ll try to avoid spoilers. People start getting killed. Gasp! Anyway, there’s always a message with the body. The same message every time. I guess the murderer felt the point wasn’t getting across. The thing is, when we find out who the murderer is, and why they were killing people, it still doesn’t make sense. It was about a secret very few people knew, and leaving the cryptic message was never going to resolve anything.

Overall, it was a second book that struck me as a 386 page tour to get us to the start of the concluding volume. I’ll still pick up the last one, but it’s going to be a skimmer.

Godspeed was once fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos. It’s been three months. In that time, Amy has learned to hide who she is. Elder is trying to be the leader he’s always wanted to be. But as the ship gets more and more out of control, only one thing is certain: They have to get off the ship.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

the month so far...

...has been crazy! I'm so full of excuses, but really what it means is that this blog has been neglected (again), but even more so my reading has been practically nonexistent. For example:

the number of books I've finished this month --1 The Fault in our Stars by John Green

the number of books I've listened to this month --1 The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty

the number of books I am currently in the middle of and have yet to finish --3 Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore, Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, and Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I'm struggling getting into them, and lack the time to finish them. They have become a task to me, something hanging over my head that just needs to be completed. Not a nice feeling when it comes to books. Hopefully this week I'll get some time to finish them. Or at least one of them.

Will you believe me if I recommit (again) to being a better blogger?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

pub date: January 10, 2012
publisher: Dutton Books
pages: 313
source: library
content: swearing (at least one f-bomb), off page sex...that's all I remember

This is my first John Green book. Well, sorta. I tried to read Looking for Alaska long, long, ago, but there was so much swearing within the first chapter that I never read any further. I can handle some swearing, but the beginning of that book was excessive and I decided that no story was worth wading through that, so I put it down. I never tried another Green book, though I always thought I might be missing something since he's such a superstar in the YA world.

Which is why I decided to try again with The Fault in Our Stars. It had been sitting in my book basket for a few weeks and after a particularly stressful experience last week, I needed to think about something else and stop dwelling on this stressful experience.

A word from the unwise--don't read The Fault in Our Stars as a way to escape life. It doesn't work. First, the subject matter. Teens dying of cancer is not good escapism. Second, it's a smart book.

I liked this book. It leaves a powerful impression and packs an emotional punch. It has humor, it's smart, it has a road trip (or plane trip, really), the swearing was minimal (yay!), it has depth and also an amazing and strong protagonist who I loved. All the characters were great.

But with all that, I didn't love the book. Because I didn't love it, I feel like I need an excuse for my lack of love. Everyone else loves it! Why not me? Am I wrong? Does that make me stupid?

Because really, this book made me feel a little stupid. It was just so very smart. So I want to blame my unlove (and unsmartness) on the fact that my mind was only 70% focused on this book, while the rest of my mind was focused on my life. I needed all my mind focused on this book so that I could understand the conversations of these smart teens, who are so much smarter than I was at 16. And, apparently, smarter than me even at the age of 32.

So a fantastic book, well written definitely, but not my kind of book. I didn't enjoy all the philosophical converstations. There was so much talking talking talking, and I wanted more action. More doing. Maybe if I had been completely focused on the story, I would've loved it? Or not. I will never know.

I did definitely cry multiple times during the story. I was attached to the characters and their struggles. I cared about them.

Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

review: The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

pub date: May 8, 2012
publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
pgs: 304
source: LibraryThings Early Reviewer program
appeals: dystopic of sorts, evil vampires, a little romance, end of the human race, a hunt!
content: some gore and violence

I wish I'd written this review the moment I finished the book. I had some great thoughts about it. But I didn't write this review the moment I finished the book, it's actually been almost two weeks since I reached the last page. So all I have left are some vague thoughts. I'm sorry.

Vague thought #1: I should've liked this book. I should've LOVED this book. The premise (below) sounded exciting and the blurbs from authors were so promising. I should have found it exciting and unputdownable. Let me just say, it did not live up to my expectations. The last thirty pages, the climax of Gene's story, took me five days to finish. When faced with going to bed or finishing, I went to bed. When the choice was between washing dishes or finishing, I washed the dishes. Obviously, it was a struggle to finish. So why did I finish? So that I could write this review.

Vague thought #2: The world building left something to be desired.

In the beginning I was intrigued with the quirky social behavior of the vampires. It was bazaar and original and wierd. Really wierd. Which made it interesting. (Though how they named each other was pretty odd and would be totally confusing outside of school). Gene just accepts their behavior as normal so when he's describing the vampires, it seems normal in this world. Though it really is wierd.
But there were parts of the world that didn't make sense to me. First, a human boy hiding around super fast and strong vampires without getting caught out? I didn't buy it.

Second, where did the vampires come from? Gene had been alone for many years (7?), but before that he had his dad and before that he had his mom and sister. They're gone because the vampires ate them. Gene is the last free human. But his dad remembered a time before the vampires. Or at least the dad understood what being "human" meant, which Gene doesn't understand. I just didn't understand when the world went from human to all vampire, and how.  

Aslo, did the humans really give up so easily that they all became meals in less than a generation? Okay, that last question is going to be answered in the next book, I'm sure, but I doubt that the vampires would overcome so many humans in such a short time, even with their uncontrollable bloodlust. We humans are experts at weapons and survival. So what happened?

Vague thought #3: Gene was a very unsympathetic character. He was fine in the beginning because he was all about surviving by not making waves. I found it interesting that he hated being human. He wanted to be "normal." But later, he was rather wimp. He didn't DO anything. He just went a long with the flow until someone else came along and told him what to do. I wanted him to think for himself.

And when he went on the hunt and met the hepers (vampire word for humans) he's just a jerk. I understood why he thought and acted the way he did. It made sense. But it also made me not like him. At all. Which is why the ending drug on and on for me. I didn't like the progagonist, a sure bet that I wasn't so interested in his survival.

Vague thought #4: the romance rather stunk. But that's because I'm a girl that likes girly romance. If you like more manly romance, then you probably wouldn't agree.

Okay, so that wasn't as vague as I expected. I take my apology back.

EDIT 4/11/12: I just reread this review and it is very negative. Which is why I should reread reviews before I post them. But I wanted to point out that there were good things about this book, too. It was well written, there was a lot of suspense, the vampires were interesting. I think it will definitely have an audience who will love it. I enjoyed most of it, up until the part I thought Gene was a jerk and and a wimp didn't care so much for him.

Don’t Sweat. Don’t Laugh. Don’t draw attention to yourself. And most of all, whatever you do, do not fall in love with one of them.

Gene is different from everyone else around him. He can’t run with lightning speed, sunlight doesn’t hurt him and he doesn’t have an unquenchable lust for blood. Gene is a human, and he knows the rules. Keep the truth a secret. It’s the only way to stay alive in a world of night—a world where humans are considered a delicacy and hunted for their blood.

When he’s chosen for a once in a lifetime opportunity to hunt the last remaining humans, Gene’s carefully constructed life begins to crumble around him. He’s thrust into the path of a girl who makes him feel things he never thought possible—and into a ruthless pack of hunters whose suspicions about his true nature are growing. Now that Gene has finally found something worth fighting for, his need to survive is stronger than ever—but is it worth the cost of his humanity?

Monday, April 2, 2012

review: Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

pub date: May 8, 2012
publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
pages: 305
appeals: fairy tale retelling, romance, fantasy
content: clean

I have a stack of ARCs and I picked this one up because it was short. But the moment I read those first few pages, it grabbed my attention. It had a fun, light tone and there was a talking frog. How great! However, my attention was soon lost. In three words: I got bored.

The premise of the book is fun. In Sunday's (that's our main protag) world, fairy tales are reality. She and her family take part in a whole slew of different tales, most importantly the Princess and the Frog. It was interesting to see how everything connected, and there was a lot of original story involved, too, notably at the end.  Yet however fun and original the story just didn't work for me. It was too cluttered, too much going on and not enough character development.

Like I mentioned earlier, I got bored. I didn't care much for the characters. I didn't feel invested in their stories and how those stories would end. Mostly, I didn't like the love interest, Prince Rumbold. I found him bland and weak and boring. Which made it hard for me to care if Sunday would get a kiss at the end of the book.

I made myself pick this book up on numerous occasions even when I didn't want to. Not sure why. I should have left it unfinished, but I guess I cared enough to want to know how it ended. FYI--It was happy.

It isn't easy being the rather overlooked and unhappy youngest sibling to sisters named for the other six days of the week. Sunday’s only comfort is writing stories, although what she writes has a terrible tendency to come true.

When Sunday meets an enchanted frog who asks about her stories, the two become friends. Soon that friendship deepens into something magical. One night Sunday kisses her frog goodbye and leaves, not realizing that her love has transformed him back into Rumbold, the crown prince of Arilland—and a man Sunday’s family despises.

The prince returns to his castle, intent on making Sunday fall in love with him as the man he is, not the frog he was. But Sunday is not so easy to woo. How can she feel such a strange, strong attraction for this prince she barely knows? And what twisted secrets lie hidden in his past - and hers?