Monthly Archives: May 2013

Soulless

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The old saying goes: Don’t Judge a Book by It’s Cover.  And yet I do, undoubtedly, and then regret it.  I saw this book on the shelf at my local bookstore ages ago, and was intrigued but just hated the cover.  I didn’t pick it up then, but stumbled across the ebook the other day and decided to give it a shot.  (An upside of the kobo – I don’t have to look at covers if I don’t want to haha!).

This was SO GOOD.  I actually LOVED it.

Against a backdrop of Victorian London, the book follows the story of Alexia Tarabotti.  Alexia is a preternatural, meaning she has no soul. Though her Soulless state is central to the story, and weird to think of, it doesn’t seem to affect her morals, learning, or personality in any way.  Basically, when Alexia touches a vampire or werewolf, they revert (temporarily) back to their human state.  An interesting phenomenon, which has put her into contact with the Bureau of Unnatural Registry (BUR), a division of Her Majesty’s Civil Service.  In the opening scene, Alexia accidentally kills a vampire, which brings her into contact with the gorgeous Lord Maccon, werewolf and head of the BUR.  Someone or something is upsetting the supernatural world, and Alexia finds herself embroiled in the investigation.  Finding herself an unexpected target, she must dig for information, navigate London’s high society, and negotiate relations with Lord Maccon.

The highlights:

  • Victorian era
  • Steampunk without being obsessed with gadgets
  • STRONG female Character (smart, interesting, well-read, and not afraid to voice her own mind)
  • Funny
  • Healthy dose of romance (my favourite, where the characters initially seem to dislike each other but come to realize they are so perfect for one another)
  • Deals with the supernatural in a fun way (Vampires and Werewolves are not necessarily my thing, but I loved the portrayal in this book!)
  • Just enough of a plot to keep you sort of guessing, but not too anxious
  • A fantastic ending
  • It’s the first of a series!

I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

I enjoyed this one so much, I’m giving it a 5 / 5!

(UPDATE: I changed the classification from “Young Adult” to “Adult”, which I think suits this book / this series better)

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Filed under Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction, Steampunk

Top Ten Tuesday: Freebie (Books I Just HAD To Buy… But Are Still Sitting On My Bookshelf)

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Top Ten Tuesdays is a meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish here!  I like lists, so here we go!

This week is a freebie – any list you’d like.  I’m revisiting Ten Books I just HAD to Buy … But Are Still Sitting On My Shelf.  Most of them I still have the best intentions of reading … I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

1. The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.  Still want to read this… and it’s been sitting by my bed since I bought it.

The Casual Vacancy

2. His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik.  Highly recommended by more than one good friend, but one I just haven’t picked up yet.

His Majesty's Dragon

3. Clockwork Angel, Clockwork Prince, and Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare.  Bought with the intention of reading all at once, but then I’ve heard not-so-good reviews of the last book (Clockwork Princess) so I’m stalling.

Clockwork Prince Clockwork Angel Clockwork Princess

4. City of Lost Souls and City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare.  Enjoyed the series enough to buy the fourth and fifth books, but have never gotten around to reading them.

City of Lost Souls City of Fallen Angels

5. Reckless by Cornelia Funke.  I’m not sure why I’ve hesitated on this one.

Reckless

6. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens.  I wanted to read more classics, but that plan hasn’t gone far.

Nicholas Nickleby

7. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer.  I did start this one, but eventually it got put back on the shelf as I never got around to it.

Moonwalking with Einstein

8. A Good Man by Guy Vanderhaeghe.  I still really want to read this!

A Good Man

9. The Book Thief by  Markus Zusak.  I’ve heard it’s amazing!

The Book Thief

10. The Guilty Plea by Robert Rotenberg.  I loved the first book, Old City Hall, and I was meaning to re-read Old City Hall before reading The Guilty Plea, but then my husband lent it and we haven’t gotten it back yet. Plus I hear that The Guilty Plea is more of a courtroom drama, which I wasn’t as sure about.

The Guilty Plea

Any books on this list you’d recommend I start with?

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Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures

I haven’t had as much time for reading lately … but I just finished Beautiful Creatures.  I felt like I was on the waiting list at the library forever, so I had relatively high expectations (something so popular must have some good qualities right?).  Unfortunately, this book was only so-so for me.

Ethan Wate is a small-town southern boy who dosn’t quite feel like he fits in the town of Gatlin.  Everything changes when Lena Duchannes, niece to the reclusive and mysterious Mr. Ravenwood, comes to town.  Ethan finds himself falling head over heels, drawn to Lena and wound up in the mysterious curse plagued by her family.  Lena is a Caster (i.e. witch), and she’s counting down the days until she turns sixteen and things will change forever.

Pros:

– Written from Ethan’s perspective, it was refreshing to read a book from the boy’s side of view.  (I tend to read mostly stories with female protagonists / from the lady’s point of view.

– It tried to be down-to-earth while still dealing with the paranormal. Sort of.

Cons:

– I never really got into the story.  It was interesting, but I couldn’t help but feel that Ethan was stupidly giving up his life for a girl, while Lena was full of drama.

– Lena was trying too hard to fit in with the teens of the town, and seems so surprised at failing every time.  It seemed strange that she continued to put herself through their ridicule, when she actually didn’t have to.  It was just more convenient to have the characters meet and hang out at school I guess.

– The intersection between the Casters and the “mortals” seemed … awkward.  I didn’t buy-in to the town or the Caster world.  I love stories about magic normally, but I couldn’t quite get into this one.

– There was so much opportunity for character development… but I felt that things fell flat.   Maybe there’s more development in subsequent books, but it just didn’t live up to its potential for me.

– It was not interesting enough to motivate me to read it all in one sitting.

– Not really sure if Lena could be called a strong female character – mmm, not really.

Overall, I’d give this one a 3 / 5.  Mediocre and not really my thing. I’m unlikely to read the rest of the series.  (Which is too bad, because I love a good series!)

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The Princess Curse

The princess Curse

I seem to be trending toward books with “Princess” in the title recently.  The Princess Curse, by Merrie Haskell is a delightful retelling of the story of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, entwined with the Myth of Hades & Persephone, with a slight nod toward Beauty and the Beast.  I LOVED it.   Reveka is a clever young herbalist apprentice in a castle faced with a curse.  Every night, the twelve princesses are locked up in their tower, and every morning their shoes are in tatters.  Reveka is determined to break the curse – to win the dowry promised to the girl who breaks the curse. (If a boy would break it, he would marry one of the princesses).  Reveka dreams of becoming a master herbalist.  Its a delightful twist on the twelve princesses story, and Reveka makes for an excellent heroine.  Once she discovers the Princesses’ secret, the story takes a fun and unexpected twist, aligning more with the Greek myths.   Reveka must make a choice – one that will risk her soul and change her fate forever.

So, in summary:

– Strong female character?  Check.

– Excellent re-telling of a fairy tale?  Check

– Character development? Check.

– Feel-good ending?  Check.

Downsides?

– Umm….. I can’t think of anything I disliked  or that bothered me about this book. Maybe that it was sort of leaning towards a Beauty and The Beast type of thing, but then it didn’t really.  It hinted at Beauty and the Beast but turned in favour of Peresphone.  But I liked where it went…

All in all, I think this book deserves a 5 / 5!

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Filed under Tween Fiction, Young Adult Books

Top Ten Favorite Book Covers Of Books I’ve Read

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Another Top Ten Tuesday.  The meme is thanks to The Broke and the Bookish over here.  Today it’s Top Ten Favourite Book Covers!

1.  Bad Apple by Laura Ruby – Didn’t love the book, but enjoy the cover!

Bad Apple

2.  Another one where I didn’t like the book but I enjoyed the cover: The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray.

The Sweet Far Thing

3.  Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan.

unspoken

4. This cover of Pride and Prejudice is definitely Influenced by Twilight.  As much as I hated the Twilight Saga itself, I do like the striking covers.

Pride and Prejudice

5. Bloomability by Sharon Creech.  I just love how it conjures travel.

Bloomability

6. Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination by Helen Fielding

Olivia Joules

7. Playing with Boys by Alisa Valdes-Rodrigues

Playing with Boys

8. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – the adult version covers

Harry Potter

9. Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling

10. Last but not least, my favourite cover yet: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder

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Princess Academy

Another book by Shannon Hale, The Princess Academy was a fun, light read.

Princess Academy

Miri has always been small for her age and feels outside of their small mountain community because her father won’t allow her to work in the Quarry like everyone else.   They live a simple life on the Mountain, struggling to get by and make it through the mountain winters.  Everything changes when word comes from the lowlanders.  The priests have divined that the Prince must marry a girl from their community.  In order to train the girls of the village, an academy is set up and all the teenage girls must attend.

Miri finds herself balancing a harsh academy mistress, rivalry between her schoolfellows, new and old friends, learning, and exploring the mysterious Quarry-speech of her people.  What she discovers has the chance to change everything for the village and ultimately help to safe herself and the other academy girls.

I appreciated watching Miri grow as a character, find that she is smart and clever and valued.  She’s a strong female character, Hurrah!   I loved the ending!

This was an excellent read.  It was so good that I’m actually hesitant to read the sequel, Palace of Stone, as it’s summary doesn’t seem quite so promising.  But I’m giving Princess Academy a 4 /5!

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Sphinx’s Princess / Sphinx’s Queen

I’m on a Princess kick – so I decided to try out Sphinx’s Princess & Sphinx’s Queen by Esther M. Friesner.  I had read her Nobody’s Princess / Nobody’s Prize books a while ago and enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to these.

Sphinx's princess
I like historical fiction though haven’t ever really been terribly interested in ancient Egypt beyond appreciating the exhibits at the museum.  These books really brought that time to life for me.  I have also read “Nefertiti” by Michelle Moran, another adaptation of the Nefertiti legend/history written from the perspective of Nefertiti’s sister, Mutnodjmet.  I actually didn’t like the character of Nefertiti at all in that story, whereas I love both girls in Sphinx’s Princess.  I think I might have enjoyed Sphinx’s Princess even more had I NOT read Michelle Moran’s book first!
Okay, I might have to do a little comparison here.  Bear in mind that I haven’t read Nefertiti by Michelle Moran in a while.   In that, Nefertiti is a beautiful, proud girl who ultimately uses her charisma to gain power – including power over her sister.  The story is more a description of a sister’s complex relationship – a bond that demands much sacrifice on the part of Mutnodjmet.  Nefertiti’s husband, Amunhotep, is depicted as unstable and radical – trying to overthrow the priests of Amun and worship instead a new sun god.  It is as if the gods are angry  and the plague and political unrest that follow change things for both women.  Nefertiti, in her quest for power, takes advantage of Mutnodjmet and I could never quite forgive her for what she puts Mutnodjmet through.
Contrast this sharply with the depiction of the sister’s in Sphinx’s Princess.  Nefertiti is instead the main character – strong, intelligent, passionate, and beautiful.  She thrives in learning and loves her sister dearly.  Nefertiti’s ambitious Aunt, who happens to be the Pharoh’s wife, Queen Tiye, pulls Nefertiti from her home and family and brings her to Thebes.   There, she must battle loneliness and intrigue, and find some true friends as she avoids falling completely into Tiye’s clutches and her cousin’s hands.
The first book ends with a not-quite cliffhanger (but enough of a “what will happen???” to ensure that I would recommend reading these two books together), and it took me a few days until I had time to pick up Sphinx’s Queen.  I had none of the qualms of the first book’s comparison, and found that by the second one I loved all the main characters (Nefertiti, Nava, Amenophis), well not all (Tiye, Thutmose).  The story took a totally different turn than Michelle Moran’s book, one I very much appreciated.  Themes of courage, integrity, honesty, and forgiveness were prominent in Sphinx’s Queen and rather than being moralizing they were refreshing.  In this second book, Nefertiti must make it to the Pharaoh to reveal the truth.  On the way, she must face an array of dangers, from wildlife to unsavory people.  She also must realize where her heart lies.
Sphinx's Queen
I couldn’t put this book down.  It was fast-paced and exciting.  I really admired Nefertiti for her integrity.  She was the ultimate strong female character.  I cheered her on the whole way!
I would rate both Sphinx’s Princess and Sphinx’s Queen as 4 /5 each.  Great books!!

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Filed under Historical Fiction, Young Adult Books