Sunday, October 31, 2010

In My Mailbox and Mailbox Monday - 11/1

IMM is a meme started at The Story Siren with some inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.

Anyone can participate in IMM and you are not limited to only sharing books that arrive via your mailbox. You can also share books that you've bought or books that you've gotten at the library.

Mailbox Monday can be found at: The Printed Page

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists. 

This week I got three books.  The first was the The Witches' Kitchen by Allen Williams which I got through the Amazon Vine program. 

The second and third we ones I got through and those were: Animal Farm by George Orwell and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Both of these are classics that I am interested in reading.

You can see more information on these books below!  I hope that you all have a great week of reading :-)

The Witches' Kitchen by Allen Williams
The Witches' Kitchen
First Sentence: "Give her to me." The voice sliced through the silence like a carving knife, and in the total darkness Sarafina imagined her sister's thin, outstretched hands, grasping, expecting to be obeyed.
From "Deep in the walls of a witches' cottage lays an ancient magical kitchen. Dangling over that kitchen's cauldron, pinched between the fingers of two witches, is a toad. And the Toad has no idea how she got there, and no memory of even her name. All she knows is she doesn't think she was always a Toad, or that she's ever been here before. Determined to recover her memories she sets out on a journey to the oracle, and along the way picks up a rag-tag team of friends: an iron-handed imp, a carnivorous fairy, and a few friendly locals.

But the Kitchen won't make it easy. It is pitch black, infinite, and impossible to navigate, a living maze. Hiding in dark corners are beastly, starving things. Worse yet are the Witches themselves, who have sent a procession of horrific, deadly monsters on her trail. With some courage and wisdom, the Toad just might find herself yet-and with that knowledge, the power to defeat the mighty Witches."

Animal Farm by George Orwell
Animal Farm
First Sentence: "Mr. Jones, of the Manor Farm, had locked the hen-houses for the night, but was too drunk to remember to shut the popholes."
From "Orwell's brilliant 1946 satire, chronicling a revolution staged by the animals on Mr. Jones's farm."

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby
First Sentence: "In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since."
From "This is the definitive, textually accurate edition of a classic of twentieth-century literature, The Great Gatsby. The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan has been acclaimed by generations of readers. But the first edition contained a number of errors resulting from Fitzgerald's extensive revisions and a rushed production schedule. Subsequent printings introduced further departures from the author's words. This edition, based on the Cambridge critical text, restores all the language of Fitzgerald's masterpiece. Drawing on the manuscript and surviving proofs of the novel, along with Fitzgerald's later revisions and corrections, this is the authorized text -- The Great Gatsby as Fitzgerald intended it."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday - 10/27

Okay "Waiting On Wednesday" is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking The Spine.

This week my Waiting on Wednesday book is Tangled Threads (Elemental Assassin, Book 4) by Jennifer Estep.  The Elemental Assassin series has been a wonderful series.  The books feature a strong, kick-butt, funny female lead and are action packed urban fantasies...with just a hint of romance. I strongly recommend them if you are a fan of urban fantasy.  Anyway the cover art and a synopsis of the book are shown below.

384 pages
Publisher: Pocket
Release Date: Apr. 26th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1439192634

Synopsis From "I’d rather face a dozen lethal assassins any night than deal with some thing as tricky, convoluted, and fragile as my feelings. But here I am. Gin Blanco, the semi-retired assassin known as the Spider. Hov­ering out side sexy businessman Owen Grayson’s front door like a nervous teenage girl. One thing I like about Owen: he doesn’t shy away from my past -- or my present. And right now I have a bull’s-eye on my forehead. Cold-blooded Fire elemental Mab Monroe has hired one of the smartest assassins in the business to trap me. Elektra LaFleur is skilled and efficient, with deadly electrical elemental magic as potent as my own Ice and Stone powers. Which means there’s a fifty-fifty chance one of us won’t survive this battle. I intend to kill LaFleur -- or die trying -- because Mab wants the assassin to take out my baby sister, Detective Bria Coolidge, too. The only problem is, Bria has no idea I’m her long-lost sibling … or that I’m the murderer she’s been chasing through Ashland for weeks. And what Bria doesn’t know just might get us both dead …"

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday - 10/26

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

- Grab your current read
- Open to a random page
- Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
- Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week comes from Spellbent by Lucy A. Snyder.
Here it is: "A year back, Copper pissed of a sylph and she nixed all his housecleaning charms; it took us forever to get our laundry mojo working again.  As curses go that one was pretty minor-probably the fairy equivalent of writing on your face in Sharpie marker while you're passed out - but there are few things more embarrassing to a modern witch or wizard then being forced to use a laundromat." Pg. 6

Monday, October 25, 2010

Review - Matched by Ally Condie (4.5/5 stars)

MatchedReading level: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction/Dystopia
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Release Date:  November 30th, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0525423645
Stand Alone or Series: Not sure...will possibly have a sequel?
Source: Received a copy Librarything Early Reviewers for review
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I got an advanced reading copy of this book through Librarything's Early Reviewer program.  The cover of this book is just stunning and caught my attention immediately, when I found that is was a dystopia I was even more intrigued.  This was a very good book.  Think of it as Brave New World for the teen crowd.

The book starts with Cassia going to her Matching Day.  Matching Day is where all the seventeen year olds are presented with the picture of the person that they are a genetic match too; this is the one and only person they can marry and raise a family with.  Cassia's Matching Day is unique instead of being matched with someone from a different city she is matched with someone she knows very well; this is something that almost never happens.  Then when she gets home to look at his datacard she sees  his picture and then up pops a picture of another boy she knows.  It appears she has been matched to two different boys.  When the Officials claim it is all a mistake, Cassia is shaken.  In a society where they predict the dress you will pick to wear, the order you will finish in gym class, and your vocation ahead of time and with great accuracy, how can they make a mistake this big?  As other strange things start happening in the City Cassia begins to question the perfection of the world she has always believed to be utopia.

This was a very creative and well thought out book.  Cassia is easy to like and it is interesting to follow her path from happy innocence to inquiring unease.  This book reminded me a lot of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World; although not as crazily strict as the society in Brave New World, there are similarities.  People's vocations are predicted early on, no one is allowed to live past the age of 80, and beneath the polished exterior of the City there are many dark secrets.  Some people have been comparing this to the Hunger Games; but I don't see a lot of similarity between the too.  This book doesn't have much action or violence (Cassia is a peace loving girl at heart) and the people here are living in happy ignorance not destitute conditions.  The only similarity is an organized government controlling every aspect of these people's lives.

Of course there is the teenage love triangle going here.  Cassia is stuck between her original Match (Xander, a boy perfect in just about every way and a good friend) and the accidental Match (Ky, a boy who is dark, moody and tortured, who draws her in a way Xander doesn't).  Ky was a wonderful character full of depth and intriguing.  I felt like Xander was neglected though, he kind of fades in and out of the story and doesn't have a ton of depth to his personality. 

The book is very engaging and hard to put down.  Condie gradually introduces more and more events that are a bit off; as a reader you can see things coming to a head slowly but surely.  The writing was very easy to read, it was a bit simplistic at times, but overall I enjoyed it.

I am not sure if a sequel is planned for this book.  The story is fairly complete at the end but there are things that could be further expanded on in a future books.  I would love to see another book where the City starts to crumble and things come to a head between the Outer Lands and the City. 

Overall this was an excellent read.  It was like Brave New World, but with romance and aimed at a teen audience.  If you like dystopias you will love this one.  There isn't a ton of action but the plot is suspenseful, intriguing, and though-provoking.  If there is a sequel I will definitely be picking it up.

This book goes towards the following reading challenges:
- The Young Adult Reading Challenge
- Speculative Fiction Reading Challenge Book List
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review - Pegasus by Robin McKinley (5/5 stars)

PegasusReading level: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date:  November 2nd, 2010
ISBN-13: 978-0399246777
Stand Alone or Series: 1st of two books
Source: Received a copy from publisher for review
Rating: 5/5 stars

I have been a fan of Robin McKinley books for a number of years...or maybe that should be decades.  Anyway, The Hero and the Crown was one of the first fantasy books I read on my own and is still one of my favorites.  When I heard that Pegasus was done in a style similar to The Hero and the Crown I was really excited.  I got a copy of this book through the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  Pegasus is the first book in a two book series; according to McKinely's blog it was supposed to be one book and just got too long so it is being released as two books instead. This was a wonderful fantasy book; there is just so much here to love.

Sylvi is about to be bound to her Pegasus.  Her kingdom has an ages old alliance with the Pegasi and as part of this alliance everyone in the royal family is bound to a Pegasus.  In many cases the binding is nothing but show.  In Sylvi's case it is different.  When her and Ebon (her pegasus) are bound they can talk to each other mind to mind; something unheard of.  This special ability is both good and bad; it makes Sylvi and Ebon outcasts but also promises hope to forge new and stronger bonds with the Pegasi.  Leaders of both the Pegasi and the humans are hoping Sylvi and Ebon will make things better.  Of course they have their enemies, an evil magician is set on proving that Sylvi and Ebon's ability is a curse.  Then there is the increased activity of the monsters in the region; these attacks are getting more and more frequent.  Will Sylvi and Ebon help the situation or will there unusual ability only make things worse?

This was a wonderful book with wonderful characters.  It is definitely not the fastest read and the first chapter is a bit miserable (for some reason McKinley starts off dictating the ancient treaty in horribly stilted language) but bear through that first chapter and things get much much better.

Sylvi and Ebon are wonderfully likable, funny, and sweet characters.  Most of the characters in this book are inherently good and they all have good senses of humor.  It is hard to hate anyone in this book; except for the evil magician whom you are supposed to loathe.  This book is filled with beautiful descriptions, lots of wonder, and intricate details of interactions between the human and pegasi.

McKinely pays a ton of attention to detail in the human and pegasi interactions.  It was very impressive.  Sometimes the detail got a bit rambling and overbearing, but mostly it was fascinating how much thought was put into the interaction between the two races.  McKinley weaves a ton of suspense throughout the story as attacks keep happening closer and closer to the castle.  This book does not have a lot of action; but it does have intrigue, court politics, and adventure in spades.  I get a feeling that as things build to a head we will see a lot of action in book 2 of this duo. 

The world is incredibly well thought out and the story almost epic in proportions; still it remains very personable at the same time and follows Sylvie and Ebon closely throughout.  There is a bit of a love interest hinted at, but not much romance in the story in general.  The writing is very readable and had a good balance of description and action; it does ramble on a bit at times but most of it was interesting.

I just fell in love with this world, the Pegasi, and the royal family.  The book leaves readers at a pretty bad spot; totally a cliffhanger.  So you've been warned.  I knew going into the book that it ended in a cliffhanger, but the ending still almost left me in tears.  On hindsight it was a good place to leave the story and will definitely get readers back for more.

Overall I loved this book, loved the world, loved the characters, and was impressed with how well thought out and detailed the human/Pegasi interactions were.  I highly recommend this is you are a fantasy fan; it is reminiscent of McKinely's earlier books like The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword.  If you enjoyed those you will enjoy this.  It also reminds some of Tamora Pierce's books or Sherwood Smith's books; if you are a fan of these writers than you will like this book too.

This book went to the following reading challenges:
- The Young Adult Reading Challenge
- The 100+ Book Reading Challenge

In My Mailbox and Mailbox Monday 10/25

IMM is a meme started at The Story Siren with some inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie.

Anyone can participate in IMM and you are not limited to only sharing books that arrive via your mailbox. You can also share books that you've bought or books that you've gotten at the library.

Mailbox Monday can be found at: The Printed Page

Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week (checked out library books don’t count, eBooks & audio books do). Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists. 

I got 9 books these week. One of them I won through the Iron Seas challenge on vvb32's blog; that was The Iron Duke (The Iron Seas, Book 1) by Meljean Brook.  I am super excited to read this book.  Thanks to vvb32 for hosting this challenge :-)

I got the following books through The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus by John Emsley, Magic to the Bone (Allie Beckstrom, Book 1) by Devon Monk, Magic in the Blood (Allie Beckstrom, Book 2) by Devon Monk, and Hallowed Circle (Persephone Alcmedi, Book 1) by Linda Robertson.

I got two books through the United Way Sale at work, for 50 cents a book I just couldn't resist: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and World Without End by Ken Follett.

I bought one e-book for my Kindle: Forever Frost by Kailin Gow.  And got one book from the library: Ascendant (Sequel to Rampant) by Diana Peterfreund.

Anyway you can find more info on the above mentioned books below.  I hope that you all have a great week of reading!

The Iron Duke (The Iron Seas, Book 1) by Meljean Brook
The Iron Duke (A Novel of the Iron Seas)
First Sentence: "Mina hadn't predicted that sugar would wreck the Marchioness of Hartington's ball; she'd thought the dancing would."
From "After the Iron Duke freed England from Horde control, he instantly became a national hero. Now Rhys Trahaearn has built a merchant empire on the power-and fear-of his name. And when a dead body is dropped from an airship onto his doorstep, bringing Detective Inspector Mina Wentworth into his dangerous world, he intends to make her his next possession. 

But when Mina uncovers the victim's identity, she stumbles upon a conspiracy that threatens the lives of everyone in England. To save them, Mina and Rhys must race across zombie-infested wastelands and treacherous oceans-and Mina discovers the danger is not only to her countrymen, as she finds herself tempted to give up everything to the Iron Duke."

The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus by John Emsley
The 13th Element: The Sordid Tale of Murder, Fire, and Phosphorus 
First Sentence: "The Shocking History of Phosphorus is the first biography of a chemical element, told through the stories of a rich tableau of characters who were involved with it during its 300-year history of curious, bizarre and horrific events."
From " Discovered by alchemists, prescribed by apothecaries, exploited by nineteenth-century industrialists, and abused by twentieth-century combatants, phosphorus is one of nature's deadliest- and most fascinating- creations. Now award-winning author John Emsley combines his gift for storytelling with his scientific expertise to present an enthralling account of this eerily luminescent element. From murders-by-phosphorus where the bodies glowed green, to the match factory strike that helped end child labor in England, to the irony of the World War II firebombing of Hamburg, to even deadlier compounds derived from phosphorus today. The 13th Element weaves together a rich tableau of brilliant and oddball characters, social upheavals, and curious, bizarre, and horrific events that comprise the surprising 300-year history of nature's most nefarious element."

Magic to the Bone (Allie Beckstrom, Book 1) by Devon Monk
Magic to the Bone (Allie Beckstrom) 
First Sentence: "It was the morning of my twenty-fifth birthday, and all I wanted was a decent cup of coffee, a hot breakfast, and a couple hours away from the stink of used magic that seeped through the walls of my apartment building every time it rained."
From "Using magic means it uses you back, and every spell exacts a price from its user. But some people get out of it by Offloading the cost of magic onto an innocent. Then it’s Allison Beckstrom’s job to identify the spell-caster. Allie would rather live a hand-to-mouth existence than accept the family fortune—and the strings that come with it. But when she finds a boy dying from a magical Offload that has her father’s signature all over it, Allie is thrown back into his world of black magic. And the forces she calls on in her quest for the truth will make her capable of things that some will do anything to control..."

Magic in the Blood (Allie Beckstrom)
First Sentence: "I dunked my head under the warm spray of shower and rubbed shampoo into my hair, wondering where my next Hounding job, and paycheck, were coming from."
From "Working as a Hound-tracing illegal spells back to their casters-has taken its toll on Allison Beckstrom. But even though magic has given her migraines and stolen her recent memory, Allie isn't about to quit. Then the police's magic enforcement division asks her to consult on a missing persons case. But what seems to be a straightforward job turns out to be anything but, as Allie finds herself drawn into the underworld of criminals, ghosts, and blood magic."

Hallowed Circle (Persephone Alcmedi, Book 2)
First Sentence: "What do you mean, you nominated me? "
From "Persephone Alcmedi has been persuaded to compete for the position of High Priestess of the Cleveland, Ohio, coven -- now that the former priestess, Vivian Diamond, has strangely gone missing. Unfortunately, there are a few small problems with the idea. Not only does Seph know rather more about Vivian's disappearance than the other witches realize, but the epic struggle she's just survived has left her with some highly unusual powers -- ones that could be dangerous to reveal. Despite her reluctance, she agrees to participate, if only to prevent snooty Hunter Hopewell, an obnoxious but talented witch, from ending up in the winner's circle. Can Seph hide her secrets -- including her connection to the master vampire-wizard Menessos -- from the terrifyingly wise judges? Plus, there's her rock 'n' roll werewolf boyfriend, Johnny, and some angry fairies to deal with....
Once the competition begins, a finalist turns up dead. It looks as if one of the contestants is willing to do anything -- including murder -- to win. Suddenly Seph has even more on her plate than she thought: from solving a murder to working out what her new powers really are...and exactly why they're creating so much havoc in her love life."

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood 

The Handmaid's Tale
First Sentence: "We slept in what had once been the gymnasium."
From "A gripping vision of our society radically overturned by a theocratic revolution, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid's Tale has become one of the most powerful and most widely read novels of our time.

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, serving in the household of the enigmatic Commander and his bitter wife. She may go out once a day to markets whose signs are now pictures because women are not allowed to read. She must pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, for in a time of declining birthrates her value lies in her fertility, and failure means exile to the dangerously polluted Colonies. Offred can remember a time when she lived with her husband and daughter and had a job, before she lost even her own name. Now she navigates the intimate secrets of those who control her every move, risking her life in breaking the rules.

Like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid's Tale has endured not only as a literary landmark but as a warning of a possible future that is still chillingly relevant."

World Without End by Ken Follett
World Without End 
First Sentence: "Gwenda was eight years old, but she was not afraid of the dark."
From "Ken Follett astonished the literary world with The Pillars of the Earth, a sweeping epic novel set in twelfth-century England that centered on the building of a cathedral and the men, women, and children whose lives it changed forever. Now, two centuries after the townspeople of Kingsbridge finished building the exquisite edifice, four children slip into the forest and witness a killing-an event that will bind them all by ambition, love, greed, and revenge..."

Forever Frost by Kailin Gow
Forever Frost (Bitter Frost, #2)
First Sentence: "The world of my dreams had become reality."
From "Breena's entry into Feyland is marred by danger and beauty. A prisoner in her own palace, she longs to see and touch her forbidden prince Kian. Yet her heart is also still with her friend Logan. The discovery of a long-lost figure in Breena's life propels Breena into the heart of fae politics. In a stunning turn of events, Breena suddenly finds herself faced with the most heartbreaking decision in her entire life."

From Library:
Ascendant (Sequel to Rampant) by Diana Peterfreund
First Sentence: "The unicorn drew its last breath."
From "Astrid Llewelyn is now a fully trained unicorn hunter, but she can’t solve all her problems with just a bow and arrow. Her boyfriend, Giovanni, has decided to leave Rome, the Cloisters is in dire financial straits, her best friend’s powers seem to be mysteriously disintegrating, and Astrid can’t help but feel that school, home, and her hopes of becoming a scientist are nothing but impossible dreams.
So when she’s given the opportunity to leave the Cloisters and put her skills to use as part of a scientific quest to discover the Remedy, Astrid leaps at the chance. Finally, she can have exactly what she wants—or can she? At Gordian headquarters, deep in the French countryside, Astrid begins to question everything she thought she believed: her love for Giovanni, her loyalty to the Cloisters, and—most of all—her duty as a hunter. Should Astrid be saving the world from killer unicorns, or saving the unicorns from the world?"