December 2010Monthly Archives

Wrapping up 2010

I hope you all have a Happy New Year! Tomorrow, to start the new year, I will be beginning what will be a weekly Saturday feature talking about my Journey through Oz in this brand-spanking new year of 2011 … but first I wanted to wish you all a very happy and blessed year.  I’m positive that 2011 will be filled with joy, laughter and love.

It was just last year over this same holiday vacation that I migrated my blog from a wordpress.com hosted one and began book blogging in earnest.  I didn’t really want to do a big 1 year blogaversary thing.. because there are so many fantastic blogs out there that have been blogging the same amount of time that are such inspirations to me.  So in lieu of all of that, I will simply make a promise to you all as one of my New Years resolutions.

I will continue to work toward being fair and thoughtful in each of my reviews this upcoming year and to make certain that I continue to look for ways to improve.

2010 was filled with all sorts of new things for me.  I held author interviews, giveaways, began The Lost Entwife read-alongs, read many classic novels that I never had read before.  I made mistakes and learned from them, discovered new and exciting ways to do things, but most of all – I met my goal of reading 300 books (and then some).

So here are some fun stats for you all:

  • Books read in 2010 (full list of books read is here): 365
  • Books reviewed (and posted to blog) in 2010: 345
  • Challenges completed in 2010: 5

Lost Entwife Read-Alongs started this past year and we’ve read some fantastic books and I look forward to reading the upcoming months choices as well!

Top Reads in 2010 (by month):

Least Favorite reads in 2010 (by month):

So why do I include this list?  Because I have to have balance.  I dislike putting a list up of 10 books that I adored without also saying, look.. I loved books this year, but there were some books I didn’t love as much.  While I do try to be fair and to respect the authors work – these books just didn’t work for me.  If they worked for you, I’m glad! For both you and the author and I respect your opinion on them.  But yeah, I have to have a listing of the top and least favorite or it would make me a little nutty.

So that’s a taste of what happened here in 2010.  I’m pleased with the growth made, I have learned from my mistakes and although I’m sure I’ll continue to make them, I only hope that with the start of my second year blogging things will just get better and better around here.

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness

Order from:
Reason(s) for Reading:
  • Because The Knife of Never Letting Go blew me away.
I  also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

“War,” says the Mayor. “At last.” Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they’re so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await? But then a third voice breaks into the battle, one bent on revenge – the electrifying finale to the award-winning “Chaos Walking” trilogy, Monsters of Men is a heart-stopping novel about power, survival, and the devastating realities of war.

My Review:

This trilogy blew me away.  This book in particular left me speechless.  I love science fiction and I often wish I could write it – but when I read a book like Monsters of Men, I can’t express just how happy it makes me that there are people out there like Patrick Ness writing books like this for the genre.

How do I review this book without giving too much away?  First of all – Todd and Viola.  The relationship between these two is everything a romantic relationship should be.  The devotion and the give and take of trust – all without any unnecessary intimate scene’s.

This book contains so much heartbreak and triumph – all wrapped up together.  The magnitude of the emotional investment needed is huge, however.  There were times I couldn’t breath because of the emotion rising inside of me and, I confess, to crying my heart out over one specific part.

These books are so. good.  I could use adjective after adjective to describe them – but then I would just sound like some inane fan girl jabbering away so I’ll not gush too much, also so that I don’t reveal too much.

My advice for when you pick up these books (and you should):.

1. Have them all.

2. Set aside a large block of time.

3. Read them as soon as possible.

Check out these review(s):

Presenting Lenore

Jenny’s Books

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

Order from:
Reason(s) for Reading:
  • Big fan of Cherie Priest – I totally blame Boneshaker.
  • How can you go wrong with a book printed with sepia ink?
I  also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and—if the telegram can be believed—be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.

Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.

What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can’t imagine why they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?

Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she’ll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive.

My Review:

In my opinion, Cherie Priest is the reigning queen author of Steampunk novels, and Dreadnought is a solid example of why.  It’s hard to explain Steampunk to someone who doesn’t already know what it is – I mean, you can bring Verne into the picture and then try to bring the word “mash-up” into the mix (citing Glee for those who tend to not read much) and then finish off with a flourish of “something like that” and hope that they get it… or you can just hand over a copy of Boneshaker and tell them to read it.

Sure, the historical aspects have been twisted and pulled a bit – but these aren’t historical fiction novels (unless your world actually does contain zombies).  The thing about Cherie Priest’s books are – even though you know they aren’t historically accurate, the manner in which she writes them makes you doubt that more than once as you are reading the story.  In Dreadnought, there are many scenes in which Mercy is treating soldiers, in which relationships are being developed between the North and the South on the Dreadnought itself (which alone is.. man, so awesome to read about), and it seems plausible that these things did, in fact, happen.  Another thing that helps is the way that Priest implements things such as dirigibles and zombies without batting an eye at how unusual they really are.  Everything is incorporated into the story in such a matter-of-fact way that if you, the reader, seems to bat an eyelash at it, you would be the one out of the ordinary.

Mercy Lynch’s journey from Virginia to Seattle, Washington is a fun, romping good time.  There’s adventure, there’s flying vehicles, there’s massive trains and there’s zombies… and it all makes perfect sense.  Boneshaker and Dreadnought are two shining examples of just how great Steampunk books can be, and I cannot wait to see what Cherie Priest comes up with next.

Check out these review(s):

Candace’s Book Blog

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Order from:
Reason(s) for Reading:
  • Because The Knife of Never Letting Go blew me away.
I  also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

We were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her – But there weren’t no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men…Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…”The Ask and the Answer” is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the “Chaos Walking” trilogy.

My Review:

After reading The Knife of Never Letting Go I admit, I had my doubts about the sequel.  How can anything top that writing (not to mention some.. less than enthusiastic reviews I read).  I flip-flopped a bit, debating on whether to pick up The Ask and the Answer immediately or read something else first – but finally my curiosity won over.  I had to know what happened.

I am sorry I doubted Patrick Ness.  This second book in the trilogy further cemented my complete awe for the man’s writing.  I wondered how he would deal with a potential romance relationship, how he would justify the continuation of two characters who seemed to be at deaths door.  But he pulled it off and then some.

This book, however, fully convinced me that it’s for an older audience.  There are war-time torture technique’s used, and although we’re not given all the details (just Todd’s horror impressions on what he is seeing), the effect is traumatic and chilling.  The overall message being portrayed in this book is terrifying, depressing and it has me longing for hope from.. somewhere.

This series is intense and it’s worthy of every award and nomination it’s received.  I cannot believe I haven’t seen more buzz about it and will do my best to get the word out because it deserves to be read.

Check out these review(s):

At Home with Books

Manda’s Movements

A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz

Order from:
Reason(s) for Reading:
  • This book was one of the five finalists for the INSPY award for Speculative Fiction.
I  also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

If he fixes the robot, will he break his world?
In a future ruled by sharia law machines are managed by debuggers, who in turn are owned by masters. Sandfly is a level-12 debugger. He is sent into Earth orbit to repair a robot-a robot that went on an experimental flight into deep space… And tore itself apart.
As Sandfly digs into the mystery aboard the space station, he discovers what the bot heard around that distant star. He discovers that the bot heard…singing. As Sandfly pieces together the clues, the masters spread the trap before his feet. Everyone is racing to the same conclusion, but only one side welcomes what the singing represents.
My Review:

This book was not available for me to check out from my library.  It’s not available on the bookshelves in Barnes and Noble for me to look through – so without the INSPY awards, I can guarantee you I would have never purchased this book and taken a chance on it.

So thank you INSPYs for putting this book on my radar and for forcing me to take that leap and read a book that totally blew me away.

Christian Sci-Fi – what does that label make you do?  Does it make you wince and imagine some hokey story with a message that’s dumbed down and beat into your head?  And can you tell I’ve read quite a bit of .. just plain bad Christian fiction?  So if any of this sounds familiar, then you are exactly where I was before I began reading  A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Neitz.  In fact – I put this book off until last because I was afraid of just how bad it was going to be.

How wrong was I?

Seriously, this book was like the sci-fi, Christian version of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.  And when I say sci-fi, I mean hardcore sci-fi – not some wimpy fantasy/sci-fi hybrid.  This is a look at the world once it’s been dominated by a version of the Islamic faith – pushing the boundaries of “what-if” women were concealed at all times and children were taken from their parents to become living “computers”.

I was blown away by the story, by the message of faith (which did not come across as preachy, but rather “sang” the glorification of God).  Although A Star Curiously Singing did not win the INSPY award, it was one of my favorites to win and I’m here to tell you that as a Christian and a sci-fi fan, this is a book worth owning.

Check out these review(s):

Wordlily

It’s Monday, what are you reading?

Sheila from One Person’s Journey through a World of Books hosts this meme and I love to participate in it! Head on over and check out her blog and the great participants there.

What a busy week – in spite of my best intentions, I got very little reading done this week.  However, I did discover the magic that is the Oz series and I struggled my way through Frankenstein so I consider that a win.

Books I’ve read this week (Links to reviews):

  1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  2. The Marvellous Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Other book reviews posted this week:

  1. Wither by Lauren DeStefano
  2. Nightshade by Andrea Cremer
  3. Enchanted Ivy by Sarah Beth Durst
  4. The Girl in the Green Rainccoat by Laura Lippman
  5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  6. Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Books to read this week:

The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy Read-Along – Part 1

It’s that time! Time for the January Read-Along to start.  I’m excited to experience this book and think it’s about time that we start a crime-type novel for the read-alongs!

Continue reading »

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Order from:
Reason(s) for Reading:
I  also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.

But Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.

Or are there?

Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.

Which is impossible.

Prentisstown has been lying to him.

And now he’s going to have to run…

My Review:

My first thought when I put this book down was…

Are you kidding me?!

I now understand why one book blogger states that she is an “evangelist” for this book.  This book, this.. amazing book, it had me in tears, it had me choked up, it had me laughing, it had me angry and it had me completely tied around it’s figurative finger.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is one seriously intense book – do not pick it up until you have the time ready, because you will not want to put it down until you’ve turned the last page.  And even then – you’ll be wishing you did the smart thing and had the next book ready.

There is so much I love about this book.  I loved Todd, his innocence, his struggle and his instinct for survival and protection in a world that did not foster one of those feelings.  I loved Viola’s intelligence and her empathy for Todd and for others.  I loved how human she is, how, in spite of all the odds against her she still takes the time to grieve and to feel for her own losses but never lets it get in the way of what needs to be done.

And then there’s Manchee.  Manchee is Todd’s dog, the dog he never wanted – and much like the famous dog of Disney fame, Manchee thinks a dog’s joyous, loyal thoughts.  Everything from Squirrel! to Ow, Todd? (the question mark killed me – it’s so .. doggie), Manchee endears himself to the reader and .. man, I can’t talk about him without crying.  What kind of book does this to a reader?!

Most of all though, this book goes to show just how powerful writing in the first person can be.  Because not only do we hear Todd’s thoughts, but so does everyone else.  The others surrounding him hear what we think is narrative, but it’s really Todd’s thoughts.  We hear words how he says them, we hear his lack of education, we are there in his mind, dealing with the fear and the confusion and the never-ending run from everything that is evil.

This is a book I’ll be recommending eagerly to every teenager in my life.  Fantastic story, great characters and a style of writing I can only stand in awe of.  Well done, Patrick Ness, well done.

Check out these review(s):

Good Books and Good Wine

Hey Lady

Angelfire by Courtney Allison Moulton

Pre-Order from:
Reason(s) for Reading:
  • Neat cover – in fact, it reminded me of another favorite book of mine, Magic Lost, Trouble Found by Lisa Shearin
I  also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

When seventeen-year-old Ellie starts seeing reapers – monstrous creatures who devour humans and send their souls to Hell – she finds herself on the front lines of a supernatural war between archangels and the Fallen and faced with the possible destruction of her soul.

A mysterious boy named Will reveals she is the reincarnation of an ancient warrior, the only one capable of wielding swords of angelfire to fight the reapers, and he is an immortal sworn to protect her in battle. Now that Ellie’s powers have been awakened, a powerful reaper called Bastian has come forward to challenge her. He has employed a fierce assassin to eliminate her – an assassin who has already killed her once.

While balancing her dwindling social life and reaper-hunting duties, she and Will discover Bastian is searching for a dormant creature believed to be a true soul reaper. Bastian plans to use this weapon to ignite the End of Days and to destroy Ellie’s soul, ending her rebirth cycle forever. Now, she must face an army of Bastian’s most frightening reapers, prevent the soul reaper from consuming her soul, and uncover the secrets of her past lives – including truths that may be too frightening to remember.

My Review:

This book reminded me a lot of My Name is Memory by Ann Brasheres – although when I actually start to think about it, the only truly common theme they have is reincarnation.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Just a few reviews ago I had said I was giving up books dealing with Angels and I meant it – but I didn’t expect this book to actually include angels in it (silly, huh? I mean, the name IS Angelfire).  I think I was just being stupidly naive!  However, that said, I didn’t have as much of an issue with Moulton’s angels as I did with some angels in other beautifully covered, sadly lacking in plot books out there.

Ellie is a spitfire of a character.  She’s confused (She’s 17, of course she is confused), she has a habit of having bad luck with her cars and she is someone that she never in a million years expected to be.

There is lots and lots of action in this book – lots of flashbacks, lots of romance, lots of good, solid high school moments (I admit to rolling my eyes at the drama and thinking that Moulton has the high school girl psyche down to an artform).  It made for interesting airplane reading, kept me distracted and entertained me – and that’s what a book is supposed to do.

However, there were some drawbacks.  The flashbacks had pages of italicized story (which is admittedly a pet peeve of mine, does anyone else find it hard to read?) and really didn’t contribute that much to the story for me.  There was so much action in Ellie’s actual life that the addition of even more in past lives seemed a bit.. overdone.  Still, that was a minority of the book and I expect there will be lots and lots of squealing from high school girls over Will after Angelfire is released.

Check out these review(s):

Tattooed Books

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Order from:
Reason(s) for Reading:
  • It’s the Season!

Summary from GoodReads:

Ebenezer Scrooge is a heartless old miser who hates everything, especially Christmas. Then one mysterious Christmas eve, Scrooge is visited by three spirits who take him on a fantastic journey and teach him the true meaning of the season.

My Review:

Once again I find it a bit daunting to write a review of what  is arguably one of the most well-known classic stories.  I, like most people I know, grew up with Scrooge (although the form has changed).  From Donald Duck to Jim Carrey, I’ve listened to the story of the grumpy, old, miserly man and his miraculous change of heart on one fateful Christmas Eve.

My aunt actually ordered A Christmas Carol for her kindle and I saw the email and thought – oh, that would make a great read-along book for December.  Perfect season, I’ve never read it.. but oh.. it’s DICKENS.  I don’t know about you, but just the name  Dickens is enough to strike fear deep into my heart.  I struggled so much with A Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield back in the day that, although interested to see  how the book was, I approached this story with not a little bit of trepidation.

It also helped to know it was short.  I’ll admit it.

For those of you who haven’t read the book, let me just say – put aside everything you know about Dickens from his other works and give this one a shot.  It’s remarkably easy to understand and, although he can go on, due to the shortness of the book as a whole, the descriptions don’t get too much out of  hand.

There were quite a few things in the book that surprised me – details that really rounded out the story much more than the movies ever have.  I regret that I’ve let all these years go by without establishing the reading of this story as atradition for myself, but it is something I intend to change in the upcoming years.

Check out these review(s):

Bear