Category Archives: Uncategorized

Out of the Easy

by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy cover imageJosie works in a bookstore and a brothel. Her mother is a whore in the French Quarter in 1950s New Orleans. Josie has no plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She has only one plan: to get out and go to college.

And while there are a number of people rooting for her and helping her out, Josie may not be able to escape the problems her mother has created.

 

Okay, guys. I’m just going to be blunt about this at the very beginning: I was so bored for the first 100 pages. That’s a lie. I loved the first page. But everything else: bored.

Believe me, I’m as surprised as you! First, this book has been receiving raves! Second, I LOVED Between Shades of Gray.

So, I thought about it. A lot. And I think the reason I was so bored is I found Josie to be incredibly dull. Which meant that I didn’t care about her desire to go to college. Or her desire to attend fancy parties. Or why she cared about a dude she had a five minute conversation with in the bookstore. In fact, the parts I found the most fascinating about Josie (cleaning the brothel, her relationship with brothel-matron, Willie, her care for the bookstore’s ailing owner) weren’t as focused as I wanted them to be. And if the story had focused one THAT, maybe I would’ve understood what made her so interesting?

Either way, I stuck through it and ended up loving the last 2/3rds-ish of the book. The mystery starts to kick in, and the tension ramps up as Josie continues to tempt fate. It was a slow burn, for me, apparently.

While there is romance in this book, the relationships I found most enthralling were Josie’s connections with the adults in her life. The adults vary in how they are connected to Josie, but they all are dynamic – even if they are only present on a few pages. When the romance aspect DID come up, I found myself thinking – but what’s going on with WILLIE right now?!?! Which, I can assure you, is not my normal book reaction (Team Kissing!).

There were a few plots that I didn’t care for. And while the mystery’s increased tension helped draw me into the book, I actually think the murder was a bit pointless and utterly too convenient. If things had ended just a bit differently, I probably would’ve thought differently, but they didn’t and here we are.

I did really, really, really like the secondary characters (esp. Patrick!). They had such a vivid quality, no matter if their page time was a handful or a few chapters. (I also suspect their vividness sucked the life from Josie.) I loved the varied support they provided Josie. I loved how they interacted with each other. And I loved how they all helped bring to life the mid-century French Quarter. (I could go on and on about Sepetys’ ability to writing setting. Just know that she’s a master at it.)

As I mentioned, tons of people have been loving this book. And so did I…eventually. So pick it up! See what you think!

Have a lovely one, and stay warm!!!

P.S. This was a Cybils book, although I’ve been eyeing it since it showed up at my door with that gorgeous cover and Ruta Sepetys’ name on it.

P.P.S. I promised twitter I would post this yesterday, but I got distracted writing a post about the Harry Potter love triangle that wasn’t. (DOES THIS SURPRISE ANYONE?!?!) And then I decided to wait to post THAT until the actual interview has come out. So, I guess there’s that to look forward to? But anyway, sorry, twitter, for being a day late.

Advertisements

Cybils 2012 Update 1

Cybils 2012 Logo

Hello, all!

I’ve reached the quarter-century mark in my Cybils reads (aka 25 books) and thought it might be a good time to check-in.

Some fun stats: in the three weeks since nominations have opened (and subsequently closed), 147 eligible titles were nominated in the Young Adult Fiction category (thank you for nominating!). As I mentioned, I’ve read 25, which is about 5 short of where I’d like to be, but overall I’m happy with my pace. (This is starting to sound like one of my old sports reports…) Nine books I read pre-Cybils, so I’ve read 16 in three weeks. I’m hovering somewhere around 7,500 read pages total.

Discussions are starting to gear up as more and more panelists read more and more books. Which, honestly, is one of the best parts of this whole experience.

I had major insomnia last night and I couldn’t help thinking about the Cybils process and what sets it apart from just normal reading and discussion/reviews throughout the year. And I started using this crazy comparison to a museum. (This is the part of the post where things get a bit weird. Feel free to skip down below.)

So, the Cybils process is like walking into an uncurated museum of art. There are a bunch of works of art on the wall with no real guiding theme grouping the art together. As panelists, we get a huge list of books and then we just start reading them. At the moment, I’m reading based solely on what I have access to and when. This means there’s no order of what’s following what, how things will compliment each other, etc.

Which ALSO means books can seem better or worse depending on what you read immediately before or after the book. It can be like having a Pop Art piece next to an Impressionist and the Pop Art looks gaudy or the Impression piece looks pale when put right next to each other. Or you can have a Big, Huge Dynamic piece that’s epic in scale next to a postcard-size portrait that’s rich in details and it can seem nearly impossible on how you compare the two.

But good things also come from this Museum of Random Placement: you start to see odd connections and similarities that you wouldn’t see between things. Like, you read two books and discover a common oddity (i.e. both books have working in a Taco Bell) that you never would have realized if you read one in January and one in December and the books were so different you never would have thought about one regarding the other anyway.

It’s a really weird, interesting and unique way to look at books (and presumably art). And it can be hard comparing the bold with the quiet and the detailed with the grand. And you could read one book and hate it because it’s the sixth Super Sad Book you’ve read in a row and you really, really are just Over Them. And normally, with out Super Sad Books #1-5, you would have loved #6.

This is where the panelists come in – they are reading from the exact same list of public-nominated, eligible titles (aka viewing the same works of Random, Uncurated Art), but reading them, likely, in a different order and with a different perspective (aka the art has been rearranged – still with no theme). So when I look/read something that I have opinions about, they can – like DOCENTS – bring intelligent thoughts to the conversation, which usually, in some way, changes how I think about a book. Or how it was framed (PUN TOTALLY INTENDED) by the books I read before it. Etc. Etc. Etc. And while you can get this from reviews, to have a back and forth about the books (ENGAGEMENT), it’s easier to step away from the things that are preventing you from judging a book independently from the others.

To sum up this incredibly lengthy and wandering simile: Serving as a panelist on Cybils is like going into a Museum of Random and In No Order Paintings, trying to compare works of art even though they are vastly different and not always in a pleasing order that will benefit all pieces and you are forced to rely on your fellow docents (aka panelists) to help you make sense of the chaos. Amazing, awesome chaos. But chaos, nonetheless.

So, basically, (and this is where you want to join back in People Who Understandably Skipped That Craziness Above) Cybils are going well. I probably email my fellow panelists far too often. And use too many exclamation marks. And run-on sentences. And fragments.

But, in general, good. And we’ve only just started!*

Hope all is well, fellow readers (and homework helper seekers). Read something wonderful today.**

~kell

*meaning there are only MOAR exclamation marks to come!!!!!!!I!I!I!II!I!I!I!I!I

**That was totally cheesy. But, as with the exclamation marks, also how I roll.

Unspoken

The Lynburn Legacy #1
by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unspoken coverWhen the mysterious and much-discussed Lynburn’s return to their creepy manor in Kami’s small town, everyone is aflutter, sure the return will mean dark and sinister things are soon to be afoot.

For Kami, though, it’s another mystery to pursue. But Kami doesn’t exactly roll like the rest of her town. You see, Kami has an imaginary friend in her head. Like, for real. She’s always been able to hear the disembodied voice of a boy since she was a child – reverberating through her mind, responding to her thoughts.

You can imagine what this does to one’s social status. But it allows her a certain freedom from the usual gossip – a freedom to investigate and explore.

Oh, Sarah Rees Brennan. You got me on this one!

Holy geez, talk about a driving me crazy with an ending. When does book 2 come out, again?

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. The ending, I mean. No, we’re here to talk about how much I enjoyed Unspoken. Because I really did. It completely helped that Kami is the kind of character I can 100% get behind: plucky, resourceful and laugh-out-loud funny. So many elements of the ever-awesome Veronica Mars. But crossed with a marshmallow. Because Kami doesn’t quite have VMars’ mean streak. (This is not a bad thing.)

I also really appreciated the consequences of meeting the voice-in-your-head-since-birth in real life. Talk about a shock, amiright?

There were some bumps in the story, for me, though. And by bumps I mean sometimes it just lacked a certain flow. Occasionally an action or scene just didn’t fit for me. And some of the scenes really screamed “GOTHIC” and “CREEPY” to me, while the next immediate scene had a cheerful and happy vibe, which was…odd, for lack of a better term. Overall, though, the desire to figure out what the heck was happening was enough to get things back on track.

This was a book I plowed through in one sitting because of two things: 1. as mentioned above, to figure out WTH was going on and 2. Because Kami is such a delight to follow around. And I plan on doing the same for the remaining books. Because I still don’t really know what’s going on (in the larger scheme of things) and I hope I will always be delighted by Kami.

A super, super fun and creepy book. Highly recommend checking it out!

Published by: Random House BFYR
I came upon this book: due to an egalley from the publisher.

*I always seem to say it, but another awesome cover.

My Reading Habits

So, the other day I was waiting for a friend to meet me and reading a book. When my friend showed up she teased me that I was “still” reading the same book. And I explained to her two things: 1. I am a slow reader 2. This was my purse book and I hadn’t had many reading opportunities this week. She thought I was bonkers.

A post idea was born. About Reading Habits. Mine, in particular. (Although please feel free to add yours in the comments. I’m discovering reading habits FASCINATE me.)

Number of Books

I would love to say I am one of those people who focus on one book at a time – so devoted! So loyal! Committed!

I am not. On average, I have 4 books going at once. (4 ACTIVE books. I have numerous books that I started and plan on coming back to that I still consider myself to be reading inactively.) Never less than 2 books. The breakdown is as follows:

1. The purse book: as mentioned above, this guy chills in my purse to be read at lunch, in lines, boring events, between hockey periods, etc., etc. I probably read this book the slowest. Also, these books tend to be almost always paperback cause I have to lug it around.

2. The bedside book(s): I am a finicky reader and, sometimes, a book I started last night may not be the book I’m currently in the mood for. But largely, these books chill on my nightstand (aka a bookshelf) and I read them before bed. I tend to get through these the fastest. Mostly due to poor restraint issues.

3. The ebook: Remember how I said I was a slow reader? I’m an even slower ebook reader. I timed it. I don’t know why, but my eyes just do not traverse the epub as fast as the paperpub. It’s bizarre and drives me bonkers. But, I still read them. Usually on my nook,  but sometimes my laptop. These are usually books for review or books that I own in e so I didn’t have to move them to Alaska. Frequently, the nook serves as my purse book.

4. The occasional “I’m Traveling” book(s): When traveling, I usually have at least two paper books with me (and my nook). This is in preparation for the take-off/landing no electronic items zone and in case I forgot to charge the device and my battery died.

Where I Read

Clearly, I’ll read just about anywhere, but I do have preferences. In my current living situation, I tend to read in bed. Which can be problematic (i.e. I can easily take a nap). When I had comfy living room furniture, it was a chair or couch as my preferred area of reading. Ideal spot: on the beach, near the water with a big floppy hat on. (I also love reading in boats. Weird, but true.)

Reading Time

I am a preferred night reader. As I mentioned on the Twitter a few days ago, I have awful self-control when it comes to books. Especially books with a racing-fast plot. Midnight, 1 am, 2 am – the book stops for nothing. Have to be to work by 9 (Bangles reference)? Doesn’t matter. The Book Rules.

This has apparently been a problem since my youth. I’m the only Major Reader in my family. I recently discovered my parents had discussions trying to figure out what to do about my staying-up-too-late-to-read issue. They didn’t want to discourage reading but they also wanted me to sleep. They apparently debated removing all the books from my room. They didn’t do this, but I find the idea hilarious. (Mostly because it wouldn’t have worked. I was a sneaky child.)

The problem still remains, though. And I’ve noticed sometimes I won’t pick up a book I want to read because I know I won’t put it down. Totally weird but completely true.

Which leads to….

Reading Philosophy

Now, don’t be shocked by this, but I totally am a skip-to-the-end girl. I’m completely fine with it. I started doing this to get me to go to bed earlier and I discovered something: if the book itself is really good, I will still enjoy it, finish it and, usually, still have a hard time putting it down at night. If all I cared about was how it ended, not what happened between Chapter 1 and Chapter End, I probably wouldn’t have finished the book anyway. That’s an over-generalization, but what isn’t. It’s about the JOURNEY, people! (says me)

The Noise Factor

I prefer to read in silence. I can read with noise, especially if it’s background noise, but I’m easily distracted. I HATE people talking to me when CLEARLY I am reading. It is one of my ultimate pet peeves. Mostly because my mom and dad frequently conversed with me while I had my nose in a book and it drove me bonkers (see above re: parents not being readers).

To Bookmark or Dog-Ear

Dog-ears makes my soul shudder. (Reading Double Fold was like reading a horror book.)(I kid.)(Sort of.) But, as much as I love the actual physical bookmark, I get annoyed with them. Where do you put them when you’re reading?

If it’s a hardback book, I use the jacket sleeves to hold my page. If it’s paperback, I try to read to a page number I can remember and find it later. If it’s a library book, I tend to use the due date slip as a bookmark so I return it on time.

Misc Habits

Eating while reading seems utterly bizarre to me.

When I come to a passage with an facial expression (and I’m alone), I act the facial expression out.

I only talk back to books if they are making zero sense to me. (The same can not be said about my television viewing habits.)

I struggle to take notes while I’m reading something the first time. Mostly because I forget I’m supposed to be taking them.

Don’t get me started about leaving notes in the margin. (but I find personalized books [i.e. gifts with notes from the giver] endearing. Go figure.)

I am an avid rereader: of passages; entire books; books I only just finished reading; and books I haven’t read for decades.

So those are my reading habits. They are quirky and all my own. Which is why I find reading habits so fascinating: each person, if you break it down, really has their own way of doing this common and regular thing.

It’s a fun conversation to have.

Hope all are well, fellow readers! Happy weekend,

~kell

Seraphina

Seraphina #1
by Rachel Hartman

Seraphina coverIn Goredd, an uneasy peace exists between humans and dragons. Until a beloved member of the royal family is found dead in a very dragon-like manner.

It couldn’t come at a worse time – the celebration in honor of the treaty‘s anniversary is nearly upon the two races. Uneasiness is running rampant.

In the middle of all this intrigue and drama is Seraphina. Who is just trying to assist the Court’s musician for the celebration. And keep her own, dangerous secret safe.

You might be asking: “Kell. That’s, like, the broadest, vaguest description ever.” And I would say: “Yes, dear reader. Yes it is.”

And for good reason. First and foremost, this book is HUGE. A touch more than 450 pages, there is A LOT going on in this book. Second, it’s the first book in a – you guessed it! – series. Well, at least it has a second book already lined up.* Points one and two add up to this: there is A LOT of information dispersal in this opener and I’m not ambitious enough to condense it down into a super descriptive description. I wouldn’t do the story justice.

And, really, rightfully so. Hartman is world-building here. A complicated, multi-dimensional, layered world. That has lots and lots of characters. And, like many fantasies written on a grand scale, there’s the larger, over-arcing story (which is what I was trying to touch on in the description above) and the single-book story (this is more the “what’s Seraphina’s secret and how she hides it” storyline). And this world building is glorious in all its detail.

However. And it’s a big however for me. The pacing of Seraphina was really off – at least in the beginning. Between the intensive world-building and a noticeable lack of action for more than 100 pages, I put this one down numerous time. But, in its defense, I kept picking it back up.

And, admittedly, it did get better. The action picked up by a zillion percent. The infodumps became smaller and more spread out. The tension between humans and dragons became more and more palpable. I sped through the last hundred pages (and groaned at the cliff-hanger-ish ending) – a pretty drastic difference from the first 100.

But, thanks to the putting it down/picking it up manner, I had a hard time keeping things straight with all the intricate details. Specifically I had issues keeping track of all the minor characters, which ended up being kind of an issue towards the end.

Between the characters and the world dynamics and the sort of magic side of things (which I haven’t even MENTIONED yet – that’s how much is going on here), it was a lot for the reader [read: me] to juggle.

This review, so far, probably sounds like I really disliked Seraphina and I would be lying if I told you I loved it or hated it. I think it had issues – but not everyone has had these issues. Hartman’s writing is gorgeous and involved and, most importantly, she expects her readers to keep up with her plot. Which, as I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I love. I want to read books that challenge my comprehensive skills. (I’m sure there’s some study that proves it will help me remember where my glasses are in 30 years.)

I just really expected to ADORE this book and series. So it was a touch disheartening to struggle with it so early on and for so long. Then experience the Lagging Hangover of Confusion. (Those with better memories than I may never have experienced this phenomenon, but it’s a thing. I assure you.)

I’ll be picking up the sequel, though, (and crossing my fingers Hartman/the publisher decides to include a brief recap of Seraphina) and, as usual, that obviously says something.

Published by: Random House Children’s Books
I was able to read this book because: the publisher provided an egalley.

*GoodReads also appears to have a link for an exclusive prequel, The Audition, if you look on the Seraphina series page.

Matched

by Ally Condie

Matched CoverIt is Cassia’s Match Day. The day she turns 17. The day she will see, on a screen, who she will live and make a family with for the rest of her life. She is understandably nervous and excited. Any fears, however, are quelled when it is her best friend Xander’s name that is announced as her match. Perfect.

It is the day after Cassia’s Match Day. Cassia puts the information chip on Xander into her port to see what Officials think about her Match. But while Xander’s face appears first, it is another face that replaces it. Ky’s.

I do love a good dystopian novel. I love the author’s world-building in dystopian novels – what makes it different from right here, right now and why that is a bad thing. But good dystopians subtly indicate how people let society become that way. Why it was okay to make the choices. And Condie does a great job of that in Matched.

I’ve been waiting awhile to read this one because I wanted to put some distance between it and the oft-compared Delirium. I can certainly see why the two both had/have buzz and why they appear so similar. But, oddly, I found myself thinking more about the similarities with Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series while reading Matched instead. Largely because of the love triangle, Cassia’s hesitance and a certain Official that reminded me just a bit of a certain agent in Special Circumstances.

But back to Matched – I liked it a lot. I wasn’t over-the-moon about it, mostly because it was hard for me to understand many of Cassia’s choices. Also, I favor the side of the love triangle that doesn’t appear to be winning, which is no fun. (This also means that I didn’t find the love story as alluring as I would bet others would. Poor other side of triangle!)

But, I’m excited for the next book to come out. (Dystopian series have THE WORST cliff hangers.)(And by the worst, I obviously mean THE BEST.) And I’m hoping that Official makes repeat appearences because the scenes between her and Cassia were some of my favorite. Creepy, disturbing and exactly what I want in my dystopians.

Where this book came from: the library!

p.s. I think this goes without saying, but that cover? Quite possibly one of the most gorgeous I have seen in awhile.

A Kiss in Time

by Alex Flinn

In this retelling of Sleeping Beauty, Talia, confined to the castle due to the chance she might stumble upon a spindle and put herself and the kingdom under a terrible spell, manages to do just that on the eve of her 16th birthday. The kingdom and Talia immediately fall into a slumber, as the curse predicted, and the woods that surround the small country grow to hide its occupants undetected until the right person comes along.

Zoom to three hundred years and the invention of the iPod later and Jack, who is certainly not a prince and most definitely not ready to be married to a princess, stumbles upon the sleeping Talia and plants that powerful kiss. End fairytale. Or, maybe not.

A Kiss in Time is really about what happens after that kiss. When Talia and the rest of her kingdom wake up to find nothing is the same – they’re not even sure the kingdom exists anymore. Talia’s father, in a fit of rage, blames this on Talia because she wasn’t able to stay away from a spindle. So, Talia runs away with Jack’s help.

Jack’s helping because he feels bad and responsible for waking her and getting her into trouble. Talia’s going with Jack because he’s the only person she knows and she’s determined to make him fall in love with her – whatever the cost.

While somewhat predictable and with some stock-secondary characters, A Kiss in Time was a fun read and a really nice retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story. It also had a really nice plot about parental obligation and standing up for your future (even when you are a teen and your parents are supposed to know best). The villain was a bit on the ho-hum side during most of the book, but by the end I thought Flinn did a brilliant job with her. I love when the villains get backstory.

Definitely a book to check out if you like fairytale retellings or romantic comedies.

Where this book came from: library e-book! love them!