Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Top Ten Books That Should Be In A Beach Bag

Top Ten Tuesday is an awesome meme hosted by the Broke and Bookish where we create and share lists of our top ten... anything!  The categories are so random and always fun that I can hardly wait to see what's going on next week.  This Tuesday we're featuring something that is very near and dear to me-- summer reading, and in particular those books that were just bound to be read on the beach!


The genius of Libba Bray should be read and generally appreciated in all locations, of course, but the first book in the Gemma Doyle trilogy makes for the perfect beach read: it has scandal and gossip and best friends who fight, while it also contains snippets of decidedly less-chic lit subject matter, such as cults and magical paradises gone wrong.

Yep, the Gossip Girl series.  The characters got old after a half dozen books for me, but the first book is a YA contemporary masterpiece-- seriously, forget the show!  This book is impossible to put down, sexy, and so funny you'll probably attract a lot of attention while you sprawl out on the sand, trying desperately to muffle your giggles.

This is manga, people, and good manga it is.  Our heroine lives near a Japanese marina... and becomes involved in the bizarre discovery of two mysterious preteen boys who washed up on the shore and have a strange aversion to being out of the water for too long.  The art is spectacular.

The epitome of good chic lit.  Maureen Johnson is always funny, and the situations which arise for a family who owns a three-star hotel in Manhattan are too good to be missed.

 I have yet to actually read this one... but it's going to be in my beach bag this year, for sure.  The very cover makes me long for summer, which is practically tangible now.

 I read this book on the beach last year.  Every time I pick it up, I can smell the surf and sea breeze and sand and seashells... YES, seashells do have a smell!  This is an atmospheric paranormal romance which is light enough for a beachy read.

A fun graphic novel by fantastic American artist Ted Naifeh.  Polly is a governor's daughter who runs away to become a pirate after her ship is attacked.  Not unlike Elizabeth Swan, though the story and art manage to be unique in their own right.
This is one of those rare books you can read and just let the story and the characters flow in your mind.  It's perfect for a do-nothing day of tanning intermingled with short swims in the ocean.
This entrancing contemp romance will have you dreaming of summer afternoons spent munching on bagettes and spooning up sipping tea on the lawn of that Parisian park alongside the lazy Seine.  I love this book; can't recommend it enough.
 This one is best for a long beach holiday.  You can read a few dozen pages each day and let the mystery surrounding the small Southern town of Gatlin and its mysterious new resident, Lena Duchannes, build slowly to a shattering and shocking climax.  This is another of last year's beach books.  I love a good paranormal tome.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Cover VS Cover: The Mortal Instruments series

Cover VS Cover is a semi-weekly meme where we compare YA book covers from around the world and face them off, head-to-head against each other.  Today we're covering the many, many international faces of the urban fantasy phenomenon that is Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series.  Be sure to tell me what you think, as always, and suggestions for covers to feature are welcome!

US Hardcovers
Yes, they're gorgeous and shiny and beautiful hardcovers.  I love looking at all of Cassie Clare's books lined up on my bookshelves-- but though I love my US editions, it would certainly be cool to have any of these others from countries around the world...

I like the effect of darker covers... the claw marks on the models' faces are a little puzzling, though.  The City of Ashes cover is my favorite.  Italian always seems like such a beautiful language, written or spoken.

German YA covers tend to have this picturesome feel to them, a lot of focus on setting or a single specific, intricate object.  I like the different gargoyles peering into the panorama, but otherwise these covers are a little too similar.  That said, the Germans are the only ones to come out with a new cover for City of Fallen Angels other than the US-style one-- all the other countries where CoFA has been released released it with the US cover, if you were wondering.
I wonder if these Bulgarian covers were inspired by covers from some other country...?  Hmm, they do look rather familiar.  As remakes go, though, these are pretty good.  I love Clary's hair and the rune on her shoulder, but what's with the smear over Jace's face on the City of Bones cover?

New US

I thought these were from the UK, but apparently they're now being sold in the US.  Sorry, and thanks for the tip-off, Amy!  Sometimes it's hard to track down where all of these lovely covers come from.  I'm not overly fond of these, though the preview of the third book in this edition (featured an Avatar-blue-skinned dude) on Cassie Clare's website looked promising.

 Personally, I'm a fan of the first cover-- Jace looks kind of like a Second Life character here, to me.  The third book must feature Isabelle, but who is that on City of Ashes?  Clary..?  She looks rather vampiric, with that cape-like jacket and the dagger.  And her scrunched-up face reminds me of Drusilla's "game-face" in Buffy, so that's not helping!

 New Canadian
These are the new Canadian paperback editions, marketed to adult readers. They're basically just simplified versions of the originals with only the skyline of the city.  Still, I bet they're *shiny*. ;)

Yes, it is the Japanese cover of City of Bones!  I love the manga-esque feel, though at first glance I was a little confused as to who's who.  The guy with the glasses has to be Simon, and I guess the dark-haired dude is Alec... the girl must be Isabelle because of the whip and the heart pendant, but at first I just assumed it was Clary.  Odd that the secondary characters appear on the cover, but I do love the way Isabelle's whip is curled around her!  Can't wait to see what the next Japanese covers look like.

Whew! Well, that's 23 covers from 7 countries, and that's all for now, folks.  Hope you guys enjoyed scoping out all the different covers as much as I enjoyed hunting for them!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In My Mailbox (#17)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren and inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie. The idea behind IMM is not only to put new books on our radars but also to encourage blogger interaction. IMM explores the weekly contents of our mailboxes: books bought, received, won, and borrowed, along with other goodies and swag.

Lots of great books in the mailbox this week, and more to come next week-- I just ordered a whole bundle of books, including Libba Bray's Beauty Queens, as a sort of birthday present to myself.  (You know you've given yourself a birthday present at least once, and I go a step further, actually pretending to be surprised ;)  And I'm so excited, as I know all of you other students and teachers must be, to get started with summertime reading!!!

So here's what I got:
From the Library:

For Review:

-- Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (yay!)
-- Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde
-- Clover (complete bind-up manga) by CLAMP
-- Warped by Maurissa Guibord
-- Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
-- Prophecy of Days by Christy Raedeke
-- Merciful by Casey Adolfsson
-- Wildefire by Karsten Knight
-- The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller
-- The Babysitter Murders by Janet Ruth Young

Thanks to:
-- the Gaston/Lincoln library system
-- Casey Adolfsson
-- Simon & Schuster
So, what's in your mailbox this weekend?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Friday Following & Hopping (#24)

Happy Friday, and this is one of those weeks when I must say T. G. I. F. It's been quite a week!  Hello to everyone stopping by my blog via Follow Friday (hosted by paranormal queen Parajunkee).  I'd also like to welcome any of my old followers just dropping in to say hi. :)  I will be out of town (and far away from Wi-Fi range) at our place in the mountains of Tennessee for Memorial Day Weekend, but leave me your links and I'll be sure to return the visit and the follow once I return to civilization!  Just so you know, I currently have a giveaway going on: the Vampire Extravaganza, in which I'm giving away a half dozen vampire-related books.  Feel free to check it out while you're here!

This week's featured blogger over at FF is: Louise from Book Bliss.

And the question is:

How many books do you read in a week? And in what format do you read them, or listen to them?

My answer:  


I typically read an average of four books a week, and usually at least one e-galley.  I have a hard time with those, because whenever I get on the computer, all I want to do is blog, which can be very distracting!  I read in class a lot, and while I'm blow-drying my hair... pretty much all the time.  I'm lucky to have access to a constant supply of books at my local-ish library, which has a great YA section!

Hope you guys have a great weekend, and I wish you happy hopping and a fantastic Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Huntress by Malinda Lo

Genre: YA fantasy
Pages: 384 (hardcover)
Published: April 2010 by Little, Brown
Recommended for: fans of Ash and those seeking action-packed fantasy


Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn't shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people's survival hangs in the balance.
To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls' destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.
The exciting adventure prequel to Malinda Lo's highly acclaimed novel Ash is overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details inspired by the I Ching, and is filled with action and romance.

My Take: 

Malinda Lo's Ash is one of my all-time favorite books, so of course I was eager to get my hands on her second novel, set in the same world as Ash.  Huntress also has Chinese influences and involves the Fae, and has something of a medieval setting, though we get the impression it takes place some time before Ash and is more of a companion novel than a prequel.  Malinda Lo's writing is beautiful and luscious as always-- few authors can measure up to her gorgeous use of the English language, nor her compelling characters.

Kaede and Taisin are two very different girls, and it's clear from the beginning that they're destined to be together: they shine much brighter together than apart.  They sort of balance each other-- like Yin and Yang, to use a metaphor from the book's I Ching-esque influences.  Taisin was born a poor farmer's daughter, but for years she's trained to be a Sage: skilled in magic, peaceful, and completely celibate-- which could be a problem, considering her immediate and powerful attraction to Kaede.  Taisin, who has visions, experiences a powerful one of Kaede-- who she hardly knows-- rowing away from a silver beach towards a brilliant sparkling castle on a distant island.  Taisin is wary of her feelings towards Kaede from the start, seeing as she knows Kaede will leave her and that they cannot possibly be together, anyway, due to Taisin's desire to become a Sage.  Where Taisin is withdrawn, Kaede is open and down-to-earth, especially considering she's actually the daughter of an important adviser to the King.  She was my favorite of the girls: so strong while still being emotional, so far from heartless despite the very difficult decisions she has to make during her journey. 

As in Ash, we don't get to see as much of the Fae as I would've liked, but what we do see is intriguing, eerie, beautiful... more than a little sinister.  Malinda Lo writes faeries fantastically-- I much prefer hers to the kinder, flowery faeries in YA books like Wings or The Faerie Path.  The romance and the threat of the Fae is suspenseful and compelling, and there are a few great subplots, too: I liked the little bit of romance between Prince Con, who accompanies the girls on their diplomatic journey to the Faerie Queen's city, and the female guard, Shae.  My one complaint is the third-person omniscient point of view... it constantly skips around from one person's head to another, which got to be pretty annoying.  I would have preferred the chapters to alternate between Kaede and Taisin's POVs, since most of the time we were in their heads, anyway.  Overall, awesome read-- really enjoyable, with a great storyline and lovable characters.   I can't wait to see what Malinda Lo comes up with next!

Cover: 5/5 
Premise: 5/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 4/5
Overall Rating: 5/5

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vampire Extravaganza Giveaway

Yep, after six years and who knows how many screenings of The Lost Boys, I finally seemed to have kicked my vampire habit.  For the most part.  Except for when it comes to Buffy and rereading Anne Rice.  OK, I admit I've still got a few more steps to take on the path to recovery-- but I'm getting there, I really am.  And you, my fabulous, much-appreciated followers have the opportunity to benefit: I'm giving away a few of my favorite vampire-themed books to one lucky follower.  Here are the books which are up for grabs:

The first four books in the Morganville Vampires series: 

The first two books in the Blue Bloods series: 

And lastly, but certainly not least-ly, Sunshine, Robin McKinley's vampiric classic:

All seven books have been lightly read, but are in pristine condition. This is an "informal" giveaway (so no white tie, please ;) but here's how it's going to work: 
-- Anyone with a US address can enter the giveaway to win (sorry, international followers, I love you but you must remember I'm a poor high school student!)-- just comment with your email address.  The last day to enter is Saturday, JUNE 18TH, which also happens to be my birthday. 

Extra Entries: 
+ 2 if you follow A Myriad of Books
+1 for telling me what your favorite vampire book, series, TV show, or whatever is
+ 2 for a quick tweet about the giveaway
+ 5 if you want to blog about the giveaway
and +1 for adding your entries up (even if you only have 1 entry-- Algebra II finals have my brain fried)

As always, I just want to thank you guys for supporting my blog!  DFTBA*-- though I know you already are!
*DFTBA= Don't forget to be awesome. Google "nerdfighters".

Waiting on Wednesday X2 (#29)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly blogging event hosted at Breaking-The-Spine.com that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. This week I'm featuring one book whose release I'm anxiously awaiting and another already-released book which I'm waiting on (with somewhat less confidence but equal anticipation) to magically Apparate onto my bookshelf... 

Soul Thief (Demon Trappers #2) by Jana Oliver 
To Be Released: August 30th, 2011

Riley Blackthorne’s adventures continue in the second spellbinding Demon Trappers novel, as she battles demons… and a love that could destroy her
At the start of the second thrilling installment of the Demon Trappers series, 17-year-old Riley Blackthorne has about had it up to here. After the devastating battle at the Tabernacle, trappers are dead and injured, her sweet boyfriend Simon is gravely injured, and now her beloved late father’s been illegally poached from his grave by a very powerful necromancer. Add to the mix: Ori, one sizzling hot freelance demon hunter who’s made himself Riley’s unofficial body guard, and Beck, a super over-protective “friend” who acts more like a grouchy granddad, and Riley’s almost ready to leave Atlanta altogether.
But as the demon count in Atlanta increases, the already crippled Trappers Guild has its hands full, and, when the Vatican finally sends its own Demon Hunters to take care of the city’s “little” problem, pandemonium breaks loose. Only Riley knows that she might be the center of Hell’s attention: an extremely powerful Grade 5 demon is stalking her, and her luck can't last forever. As Riley’s life becomes a dangerous balancing act, will she be strong enough not to tip? And who will be there to catch her if she falls?

Slice of Cherry (Portero #2) by Dia Reeves
Published: January 2011

Kit and Fancy Cordelle are sisters of the best kind: best friends, best confidantes, and best accomplices. The daughters of the infamous Bonesaw Killer, Kit and Fancy are used to feeling like outsiders, and that’s just the way they like it. But in Portero, where the weird and wild run rampant, the Cordelle sisters are hardly the oddest or most dangerous creatures around. 

It’s no surprise when Kit and Fancy start to give in to their deepest desire—the desire to kill. What starts as a fascination with slicing open and stitching up quickly spirals into a gratifying murder spree. Of course, the sisters aren’t killing just anyone, only the people who truly deserve it. But the girls have learned from the mistakes of their father, and know that a shred of evidence could get them caught. So when Fancy stumbles upon a mysterious and invisible doorway to another world, she opens a door to endless possibilities….

I loved The Demon Trapper's Daughter, so I can't wait for the sequel.  Slice of Cherry sounds bizarre... yet very intriguing!  What are you waiting on this Wednesday?... Leave me a link to your WOWs!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves

Genre: YA fantasy
Pages: 454 (paperback)
Published: 2010 by Simon Pulse
Recommended for: If you want to read something very different (a wacky yet delightful fantasy, perhaps?)-- this is your book.

My Take:

Having effectively shaken off her overbearing aunt-- via hitting her over the head with a rolling pin, no less-- seventeen year old Hanna heads to Portero, Texas to meet the mother she's never met.  Over the years, Hanna's been diagnosed with every disorder and flavor of crazy in the psych books, but Hanna's an optimistic kind of crazy, at least.  After all, how can crazy be so terrible if it lets her see and talk to her beloved father-- who's been dead a year-- and hallucinate things which are as vividly beautiful as they are utterly impossible?  But it's when her mind weighs on the other end of the scale, leaning towards depression and even the darkness of suicide that Hanna needs somebody to love the most.  

She's used to being the outcast, but in Portero, Hanna discovers she is far from the most bizarre thing in this little town of secrets and oddities, run by a mayor who can control everything you do... even after you die.  In Portero, children play with living dolls, monsters lurk within window panes, and Hanna's hallucinations seem plain to everyone.  Hanna's mother Rosalee is reluctant to take her estranged daughter into 'this crazy town', but finally promises a delighted Hanna that she can stay forever, if only she learns to blend in... and manages to survive the first week in Portero.

I think Dia Reeves might be a little kooky.  Actually, a lot kooky, but that's fine with me-- and so is her novel Bleeding Violet.  I thought it was a very fine read, indeed.  The most important thing when reading this book is to not treat it like a detective novel where all the pieces fit together and everything makes logical sense at the end, and if the beginning has you perplexed and wishing everything would be explained, you'll really just have to get used to it.  There aren't a lot of fantasy-system type explanations in this book; everything just is what it is... even though everything is rather what it isn't, if that makes sense. (Yep, it doesn't.)
The best thing about this book is that a reader can literally never guess what's going to happen next.  Through Hanna we meet a host of characters both zany and grotesque... and often lovable despite it all.  I found it impossible not to love Hanna-- despite all the things plaguing her, I didn't pity her for an instant, but was always cheering her on.  Her mother Rosalee was another favorite character.  I wanted her to love and accept Hanna soo badly, and it's easy to see where Hanna got her crazy from.  Wyatt, Hanna's sort-of-boyfriend, was kinda just okay for me-- not because he wasn't a great character, just didn't love him the way I did Hanna and Rosalee.  There are twists and turns around every corner in the maze of this book, and you likely won't be able to finish it fast enough.  I certainly couldn't-- read the whole thing in less than 24 hours!  

This is the kind of book you just have to experience for yourself.  I can see how a lot of people would be put off by the sheer wackiness of everything, rather than intrigued and delighted by it, but as for me, I want to take my next vacation in Portero!  On second thought, the lures would eat a 'transy' like me alive... so I think I'll just settle for grabbing the next Portero book, Slice of Cherry, as quickly as I can!

Cover: 5/5
Premise: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Plot: 5/5
Overall Rating: 5/5

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Modern YA Fairy Tales Part II

The second (and most likely the last) part of this post series...

~~ Fairy tales have clearly been making a comeback in YA fiction, though fairy tales are and always have been a well-ingrained tradition in every culture worldwide.  The familiarity of such stories-- cleverly twisted with modern, macabre, or even hilarious new elements-- gives retold fairy tales a wide appeal.  Many of the authors whose books I'm featuring in this second post of the series favored a subtler and looser interpretation of original tales-- the effect is that we are presented with an entirely new story and characters, but there's still that ring of nostalgia that always accompanies stories where fairy tale elements are woven in.   
Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

While Snow White and Rose Red is doubtless one of the lesser-known Grimms tales, Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels is a novel which deserves to be read by many.  It is the dark and often brutal story of Liga, a girl who suffered unspeakable horrors in her youth, and her two daughters: Branza and Urdda.  Liga is granted her personal haven in which to raise her daughters, who couldn't be more different, in the safety she never had.  But when the borders of their magical paradise are torn down at last, this fragile family must face the cruelty of the real world with all its all too human evil.  Set in a vaguely medieval village, Tender Morsels is as enthralling as it is acutely disturbing and vividly memorable.

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

In this book, the first in a trilogy, master author Nancy Farmer has penned a very loose interpretation of one of our most popular nursery rhymes.  We are so caught up in the suspenseful, intriguing Norse fantasy world where trolls take bossy little sisters captive and said bossy little sisters turn out to be elf-children exchanged for humans at birth, that it's only a very clever reader who realizes this trilogy is in fact based on the old rhyme "Jack and Jill".  There are also numerous Norse stories woven into the mix, of course, and you can't go wrong with Vikings.  I seriously love this one.

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

Enchantingly beautiful the cover of this vivid fantasy from Inkheart and Thief Lord author Cornelia Funke is not, but the story within its pages is definitely worth a read.  Reckless is a fantastical retelling of the Brothers Grimm, part Alice Through The Looking Glass and part every other fairy tale ever told.  Jacob Reckless prefers the Mirror-world where fairy tales roam free and often turn deadly to his modern existence, but when his brother Will is changed into a mythical creature of unspeakable horror, Jacob is forced to journey through the Mirror-World and face all its various terrors and delights on an epic quest to save Will.  Dozens of fairy tales make cameo appearances.  My favorite character has to be Fox, a girl who long ago put on a fox's skin and came to prefer her vulpine form to her human one.

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

The Goddess Test is a modern retelling not of a Grimms or Perrault story, but of an even more ancient Greek myth-- that of the underworld god Hades and his love for Persephone, the goddess of spring who was doomed to spend half of every year in the cold darkness of the underworld.  Kate is our modern Persephone, a girl who moves back to her mother's hometown even as her mother is slowly dying of a terminal disease.  Coping with that and starting in an unfamiliar school is hard enough, but Kate soon has to contend with Henry, a strangely melancholy and chivalrous stranger who none the less tricks her into bargaining her freedom away and staying in his mansion for six months every year, in exchange for her mother's life and that of a new friend Kate thought she'd lost.  A series of mysterious-- and perhaps impossible-- tests ensue, as Kate tries to do what all the girls before her have failed to achieve and become Henry's Persephone.

White Cat by Holly Black

Yes, Holly Black's White Cat is in fact based (albeit loosely) on a fairy tale: the French story "The White Cat".  As in the original story, our hero Cassel Sharpe is the youngest of three brothers in a family whose relationships are dysfunctional to say the least.  Cassel's entire family are workers-- in his world, people blessed (or cursed) with various magical abilities which can be transferred via a single touch of the hands.  The fantasy world is completely original and breathtakingly unique, despite the fairy tale inspiration.  The next book in the Curse Workers series, Red Glove, was released only last month, and is just as brilliant.

East by Edith Pattou

A lyrical retelling of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon", a Norwegian fairy tale.  Teenage Rose leaves her family and her home after a mysterious white bear appears to her family, offering them all her good health and happiness if only they will give up their daughter, who has always felt drawn to faraway adventures.  Although adventurous Rose journeys to a snowbound castle atop the back of a white bear who is certainly more than he appears, certain elements of this novel and amazing characters give it a solid dose of reality which blends perfectly with the more fantastical happenings.  Ultimately, the story strongly recalls "Beauty and the Beast".

Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde

Here Vivian Vande Velde does for "Little Red Riding Hood" what she did for that equally ridiculous fairy tale "Rumpelstiltskin" in The Rumpelstiltskin Problem.  Eight short and sweet stories propose alternative endings and happenings, as well as a host of different perspectives and many, many laughs.  So begins the quirky introduction: "Everyone knows the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the girl with the unfortunate name and the inability to tell the difference between her grandmother and a member of a different species."

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Alice in Wonderland's status as a fairy tale is definitely still up for debate, considering it is relatively recent in comparison.  But most will agree it definitely has the right 'feel' for a fairy tale-- a touch magical, a touch bizarre, a touch too lighthearted for its subject matter.  Of all the TV movies and series which rehash the story of Alice and her mad adventures after that unfortunate tumble down a rabbit hole, The Looking Glass Wars is without a doubt the most unique.  In this version the story begins in Wonderland, and Lewis Carroll a blubbering mis-interpreter of the story the real Alice presents to him.  Alice is the Princess of Hearts and Queen Redd her twisted aunt who is determined to send the little princess and her infamously powerful imagination packing.  Alice is lost to the brutally ordinary mortal realm where she's seen as odd to say the least; meanwhile her card deck armies and trusted bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, plot rebellion against the mad queen Redd.

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