Monthly Archives: April 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Words/Topics That Instantly Make Me Buy/Pick Up A Book

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Welcome again to another installment of Top Ten Tuesdays, meme courtesy of the lovely Ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish.  This week’s theme is the Top Ten Words/Topics That Instantly Make Me Buy/Pick Up A Book (thanks to Karin at My Life In Books for this topic & graciously letting us use it).

1. Books that are Fairy Tale Adaptations – I am a sucker for fairy tales.  I love adaptations of familiar stories – how will they dress it up this time?  What will be tweaked to make it fit?  What will be kept?  Love them.  My favourites are Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, Donkey Skin, Snow White, and anything that sounds like it has fairy godmothers or classic storylines.

2. I also like to read historical fiction – I probably most appreciate old-timey England (from probably the 1700s to Victorian-era, times circa WWI, and the French Revolution days.  But I often am intrigued by a book that promises new insights into times gone by.  This does come with a caveat, because I do NOT like all historical fiction and so it really depends on the book.

3. Strong Female Characters are obviously a big draw – and a theme I like to return to.

4. Magic is also a theme that pulls me in on a consistent basis.  I like witchcraft, ambient magic, fairy godmothers and that sort of thing.  Special powers.

5. Dragons do too.

6. I am newly into dystopian fiction – it’s not a sure bet, but it’s definitely enough to make me seriously consider picking it up.

7. The promise of a love story – though I generally don’t love pure romance books, if it sounds like it will be witty, interesting, and turn out happy in the end, I am apt to pick it up.

8. Steampunk, like dystopian fiction, is also a buzzword that I’ve caught onto these days.

9. I am also a fan of a little adventure now and again – I like the fast-paced, pure action book (read: Clive Cussler, Dan Brown style books) and although I don’t always dive in, I’m certain to at least pick it up and consider it.  (These I do tend to stick to tried-and-true authors, and have a harder time branching out into the unknown as you never really are guaranteed of a good ending). 

10. A spark of a mystery to be solved, with a witty female lead who will sort through the muddle and make sure the bad guys get their comeuppance.   I like the lighter mysteries, where they don’t border on thriller territory and they don’t dwell on terrible deeds and gory scenes.  The quirky, unexpected or somewhat un-offical investigator is the best kind.

Bonus – Words/themes that turn me OFF of a book include:  vampires/werewolves, themes of dying/tragedy/sadness, and books that hint of a passive or insipid or pathetic main female character.  I’m also not big on non-fiction.

What kinds of key words or themes do you look for in a book?

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Plugged

And now for something completely different… Plugged by Eoin Colfer.  I was intrigued by this last Christmas when I saw it in the bookstore but haven’t had a chance to read it until now. Eoin won me over with The Artemis Fowl series and Airman, so I went in with high expectations. 

Plugged

I will admit, I like a good action / mystery story now and again.  I tend to favour the light, somewhat silly ones (e.g. Janet Evanovich’s By the Numbers series) and this one mostly fits that bill.  It wasn’t too much thinking or deep introspection or unveiling of the dark side of man.  Daniel McCoy is an ex-army Irish doorman for a sleezy club in Jersey.  Things get complicated and Daniel finds himself up to his elbows in murder, corrupt cops, and mobsters.  He must use his soldier instincts to get himself, and a friend or two, out of some sticky situations and to figure out who murdered his favourite hostess and best friend, Zeb.  All while mildly obsessing over aging / baldness and his new hair plugs.

I appreciated that the plot moved quickly, that there were enough twists to keep me guessing (though admittedly, I never try very hard to figure out whodunnit), and that humour was interspersed.  You like Daniel enough that you can root for him, and despite some questionable acts, you appreciate that his morals seem to be mostly in the right place.

He also talks to himself (or rather to “Ghost Zeb”), and that little bit of crazy made him a much more interesting guy.

I also liked that it wasn’t too graphic  or detailed, although being an action/mystery type book you have to expect some blood and gore.   It’s dealt with in a matter-of-fact kind of way and doesn’t glory over the blood-and-guts.  It’s an Indiana-Jones type of violence level.  (I do love me some Indiana).

A quick, interesting read if you’re looking for a little action and a tough-guy vs. bad guys tale.  The slight stab at romance is short-lived and not all that romantic, which is a little disappointing (for someone who loves a good love story in any kind of book).  Better luck next time, I guess.  I’d give this one a 4 / 5.

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Lock and Key

I recently finished Lock and Key by Sarah Dessen.  Its the first book I have tried by this author, and I will admit that it sat on my kobo for a while after I downloaded it from the library. It was a book a little outside of my usual (i.e. my comfort zone) but I am glad I took the chance.

Lock and Key

Ruby is a quiet girl with a troubled home life. The book opens with Ruby’s first night living with a sister she hasn’t seen in ten years and whom Ruby thought abandoned her. Ruby has just been discovered by social services, living alone in squalor after her alcoholic mother abandoned her. The change in situation is drastic and Ruby must learn that it is okay to accept help, as she adjusts to her new life and makes some new friends. It feels like there is no good way to summarize the plot as its all pretty evident – she changes school, must adjust to her new family and try to reconnect with her sister, and to be helped by / help her new friends.

I really liked the writing style, the characters, and the layers of lives / issues. This was a very readable but not one-dimensional book that dealt with some tough issues like abandonment and abuse in a realistic and yet optimistic way. It made me cry but it left me hopeful and uplifted. A good catharsis.

I would give this book a solid 4 / 5. I can’t wait to read more by Sarah Dessen!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Thought I’d Like MORE/LESS Than I Did

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It’s Tuesday again!  Another edition of Top Ten Tuesdays, from The Broke and The Bookish.  This week is the Top Ten Books I Thought I’d Like MORE/LESS Than I Did.

1. A Great and Terrible Beauty (and the rest of the Gemma Doyle series) by Libba Bray.  I really wanted to like these books – so much so that I finished the series hoping that they would just get better.  Alas, they got worse.  Gemma Doyle, the main character, annoyed me to no end.  She just seemed headstrong, foolish, and too proud for her own good. I was not satisfied with the ending of the series, which I found odd because as an advocate of strong female characters I felt like I should like the ending.  I thought these books would be fantastic and I was definitely disappointed.

A great and Terrible Beauty

2. The Alchemyst (The Secrets of The Immortal Nicholas Flamel) (and the Rest of that series by Michael Scott.  Another flop – I persevered and got to about halfway through The Warlock (#5) before giving up hope.  I felt like the series started out with a bang and just went downhill from there.  I liked Sophie and Josh initially, but I rapidly lost those warm fuzzy feelings.  Josh in particular went from being likeable to annoying within a pretty short span of time.

The Achemyst

3. Rebel Heartby Moria Young (see my review here)

rebel heart

4. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy – I expected to hate this book (just because my dad recommended it) and I LOVED it (plus it has remained one of my constant favourites).

The scarlet pimpernel

5. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams – I actually loved the movie with Martin Freeman.  Normally I like books better than movies, but I actually couldn’t really get into the written version (and still haven’t finished the series).

Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy

6. The Lord of the Rings (the first time I read it) by J.R.R. Tolkien – The very first time I picked up Lord of the Rings, I had just finished the Hobbit, which I loved.  I HATED the trilogy and was very annoyed at my mom for suggesting that they were great books.  I couldn’t see how something so wordy and dark could be good.  Luckily for me, Peter Jackson decided to make the films, and after watching those I re-read the trilogy and really enjoyed it.  Having a huge crush on movie-Legolas may have helped.

LoTR

7. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman – I loved The Golden Compass so much, and was mildly disappointed by The Subtle Knife but I was HUGELY disappointed by The Amber Spyglass.  I was so upset by the ending I don’t think I’ve ever re-read the series, which is funny as I think at one point I had two copies.

the Amber Spyglass

8. Fortune’s Fool (the first book I ever picked up by Mercedes Lackey) – I have no idea why, but I had some weird hesitance to read Mercedes Lackey books, even though they’d been recommended to me by more than one person.  I decided one day to try them out, and rented a random book by her from the library.  I think the colour of the book spine decided me lol.  Although I felt like I shouldn’t have been surprised by how good they were, I was indeed surprised and proceeded to read all of the 500 Kingdoms Series and all of the Elemental Masters Series.  I haven’t gotten beyond those two, as I’m a little bit intimidated by all the books Mercedes has written.  Plus the other ones shout “fantasy” more strongly and although I like fantasy, I still haven’t picked them up.  Someday soon!!

Fortune's Fool

9. Inkheart (and the series) by Cornelia Funke – I don’t know why, but I always expect to like these books a little more than I actually do.  I love the idea of the story, I’m not sure if Its the writing style or some of the characters that I dont like.  I do like them enough to own them, but something is just a little off for me.

Inkheart

10. Ever by Gail Carson Levine –  I was so excited for this book when it was released.  “Excellent!” I thought, “Another princess story!”  Perhaps part of my disappointment was based in my unfounded expectation that the book would be based on a tale that I recognized.  I never really “got into” this one – I felt like a skipping rock, skimming the surface but strangely never sinking in.

Ever

It’s too bad that most of these books were disappointments rather than hidden gems!

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Enna Burning

I just finished the Sequel to Goose Girl by Shannon Hale – Enna Burning. It was a delightful spin off of the first story, with the perfect ending. I don’t think it’s based on any fairy tale, but it deals with the same type of magic as in the Goose Girl.

In Enna Burning, the story (obviously) follows Enna (who was one of the Princess Isi’s friend’s from the first book).  Enna has returned to her forest home to care for a sick mother.  After her mother passes away, Enna remains in the forest, keeping house for her brother, Leifer.  One day, Leifer unearths an ancient velum scroll in the forest, which he jealously guards from Enna.  Suddenly, Leifer is able to wield fire. He becomes rash and impulsive and unlike himself.  Enna wants him to share the knowledge … and eventually she ends up with the scroll and is then able to burn.

This ability proves a constant struggle, as Enna must balance promises she makes with her desire to burn.  There is also the threat of the Tiran invasion, and Enna wishes to help her kingdom.  She begins to take risks and is kidnapped by the enemy.  Enna must find a way out – and a way to remain herself.

Enna Burning

I also like Enna as a strong character.  I was surprised to like her actually, in a sense, since I was uncomfortable with her sort of addiction to burning/fire.  I could understand her compulsion and her inner battle.  I admired her for holding strong for so long.

One aspect of the book I wasn’t sure about was her relationship with a certain Tiran Captain.  I got a strong sense of stockholm syndrome about that, and I was pretty uncomfortable with it, especially as I was rooting for another character.  If I had read the book synopsis I might have suspected how things were going to turn out, but I just plunged headlong into this book without reading up on it first.

I appreciated that Enna didn’t take the easy way out, and that in the end, Isi fought for their friendship and Finn remained Finn.

It was a well-written tale about a girl finding herself in the midst of war – and a reminder that sometimes you need to trust your friends and stay true to yourself.

My rating = 4 / 5.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Rewind to Top Ten Books I had VERY Strong Emotions About

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Welcome back to another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of the lovely ladies over at The Broke and The Bookish.  This week’s theme is a Top Ten Tuesday REWIND — pick a past topic you missed or one you want to revisit!

I have decided to try Top Ten Books I Had VERY Strong Emotions About.  A caveat – I tend to have strong emotions about most books I read, as I’m apparently a pretty emotional person.  I’m the crazy lady crying over my book.  For this reason, I try not to read certain books in public places as no one needs to see my weepy, blotched face.

ANYWAY, on to the list!  I’m going to do half an half – the good and the bad.

The good: 

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling.  – Of course I love the Harry Potter books, and this being the last it holds all the history of getting to know the characters, holding them dear to your heart, and seeing them face a terrible force of darkness.  Every time I re-read it, I get more new details, since by the climax I’m usually crying so hard I can barely see the pages (and yet I read on).

HP and the Deathly Hallows

2. Lirael by Garth Nix – I stumbled upon this book when I was in the midst of my teen-agnst years.  I would read and re-read it and cry buckets over the beginning when Lirael felt the most lonely and different.  I was a bit of a nerdy kid and never really felt like I belonged so this book spoke to my very soul.  I still love it for the balm it provided my younger self.  Also it’s a great read.

Lirael

3. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith / Jane Austen.  I think this is a hilarious adaptation of one of my favourite books.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

4. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls – This one made the list partially in memory of my Nana, who first gave this to me, partially because it’s a fantastic book, and partially because the end is SO SAD I almost cannot stand it.  Its not a book that I can re-read, because it still destroys me, but it is a very exciting tale of love and adventure!

Where the Red Fern Grows

5.  The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – This one touched me deeply.  I identified so much with Anne when I first read this, and my heart aches for her situation.

The diary of Anne Frank

Okay, on to The Bad:

1. The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer.  – I will admit to having read the entire series, mostly because I wanted to see what all the hype was about.  I am VERY passionately opposed to these books and am DISGUSTED that they are so popular.  Bella is just about the stupidest simpering “I need a man to rescue me” kind of girl there is.  I hate the love triangle.  I hate the weird relationship between Bella and Edward (hello stalker much?!).  I hate that Bella basically decided that she “can’t live” without Edward (Eclipse) and starts doing all sorts of stupid stuff.  I hate that it sends the message that girls need a boyfriend / a man to take care of them. I HATED these books, and I feel like I can say that fairly because I did actually read them all.  There was much cringing and head-smacking and almost-throwing-the-books when I was reading them.

I hate them so much, I considered not even putting in a picture. But I will, just so you know that yes it is those books I’m talking about. Hiss.

twilight

2. Bridge to Teribithida by Katherine Paterson – I had to read this book for school, and think it is wonderful, but it’s on the “bad” list because I just could NOT handle the ending.  It destroyed me – I had no warning and no preparation.  This may seem hypocritical, since Where the Red Fern Grows had a similarly devastating effect on my emotions, but at least with the Fern I had warning (thanks Nana!) that it was going to be sad.

I might actually credit this book for my hesitancy to read anything new / anything sad.

Bridge to Terabithia

3. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen – This was another book I had to read for school, and got me suspecting that the theme of the English Curriculum (or “Language Arts” as it was called in Elementary school & Junior High) was depressing.  I’m not into survival books, and I remembering hating this book passionately.  I had a hard time deciding if I should put Hatchet or The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton on this list, as I felt pretty similarly about both books.  I don’t really even remember why – probably it was outside of my “books are for reading happy stories” schema.

Hatchet

4. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous / Beatrice Sparks – This was another book that I read for school.  I liked it, up until the epilogue, which ruined the whole thing for me and made me cry for days. It was at this point that I definitely decided that school made us read sad books.  This theory was further confirmed by all the other books I read for class – cumulating in the “Heart of Darkness” which I then felt was the point of the whole English Curriculum.

Go ask Alice

5. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella – I really wanted to like this book when I picked it up.  Fun cover, flying off the shelves at the bookstore where I worked, why not?  I couldn’t even make it half-way through the book before throwing it down in disgust.  Becky was a character I did not like and could not like.  Her irresponsible lifestyle caused me way more anxiety than a book should, and thus I put it in the “terrible, never read again” category and still shudder when I think of it.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Phew.  Glad that’s done.   I don’t like re-living the memories of the “bad” list books.

Do you have any books that you feel very strongly about – positively or negatively?

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The Emerald Key

The Emerald Key

The Emerald Key  by Christopher Dinsdale, is a historial fiction novel that travels from Ireland to Canada in the mid-1800s.  It’s a time that I know little about, other than my vague awareness that this was during the Irish Potato Famine – a tragedy which wiped out perhaps 20 to 25% of the population through death or emmigration.  Being Canadian with distant Irish ancestors, I found it an interesting peek into the world at that time.

The book follows Jamie Galway, a young Irish priest, in his urgent quest to recover both his brother, Ryan, and the priceless book Ryan held.  Jamie and Ryan are part of an ancient brotherhood, sworn to protect Irish heritage and a secret Irish treasure.  They are given the job of transporting a book – the key to finding this treasure.  Unfortunately, they are waylaid on their journey in an tumultuous encounter with British soldiers.  Jamie comes-to and discovers that Ryan has been made an unwilling passenger on a ship bound for Canada, along with the precious book.  As he seeks out his brother, Jamie explores a bit of Canada, shows off some unexpected skills (e.g. carpentry, sailing, breaking-and-entering, rappelling, and a bit of engineering), and picks up some orphan sidekicks.  Unfortunately for Jamie, his trail is being followed by a greedy treasure-hunter, intent on getting his next big payoff.

The story moves quickly and is action-packed.  Jamie is a likeable, if somewhat unrealistic character. He seems to be good at everything.  I do appreciate his casual regard for the law (all in the name of the greater good, of course) and his ability to make friends every step of the way.

Overall, I though it was a good, fast-paced action book, if a little shallow.  It had a lot of potential to show some hidden depths but they were never revealed.  If you’re interested in historical fiction, particularly in early Canadian history, I would recommend it.  My rating = 3.5 / 5

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