Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Reading Resolutions and a Pair of Giveaways





Boy, was 2012 a crazy year full of change and madness. I am in complete disbelief that it's over. SO MUCH HAPPENED. This year alone, I:

--moved, which was an adventure both exciting and horrendous
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--adopted my rescue dog/one true love/animal sidekick
Her personality in a nutshell

--finally decided what the heck it is I want to do with my life


--STARTED A BOOK BLOG!!
 

Which means I got to meet all of you. And I love you. Yes, you! I love each and every single of one of you reading this. Even if I don't know your name, even if we've never chatted before (do chat with me! I'm really friendly when I feel like it!), I DO. I made so many new friends this year, and you guys are all included in that.

Confession: I suck at New Year's Resolutions. Last year I decided to live and eat healthier, and I sadly just didn't maintain that. But THIS YEAR! This year I am determined to follow through with my Reading Resolutions. 2013 will only bring bigger and better things.

-- I'm going to keep blogging, keep reading, and keep meeting bookish people, nonstop. My goal is to read EVERYTHING that interests me, no matter how impossible that is, and to always find time to read, no matter how crazy things get. To remember that I read because I love it, and enjoy myself.

-- I'm going to be braver with the books I read. I resolve to venture outside of my genre comfort zones. This means more horror, more supernatural romance, maybe even things like memoirs, which I tend to avoid like the plague.

-- I'm going to conquer some classics. I've read a whole bunch, but there are some serious holes in my reading repertoire.

-- I'm going to be generous with my books and stop being a book pack-rat. I'm going to share more by giving them away to friends, to charity, and to my readers

-- I'm going to write, write, write! And not only write, but actually finish the things I'm working on, get them polished, and find a way to get them out to the world.
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What about you? Where do you see yourself at the end of 2013? And if you can't bear to look that far because oh my God it's only January what is wrong with you slow down, what resolutions have you made to start? Both bookish and non-bookish?

To celebrate the year we're leaving and the year that's coming, I'm having a pair of international giveaways (also fulfilling one of my resolutions! Even my generosity is self-centered). I'm giving away one 2013 read of your choice (pre-orders acceptable) and one copy of a book I read and reviewed in 2012.
--You can enter both giveaways, but can only win one
--You must have a mailing address somewhere on Planet Earth
--You must be 13 years old or older
--If chosen to win, you must respond to my confirmation email within 48 hours or I will choose another winner. DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU. IT WILL BREAK YOUR HEART AND MINE.
a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Review: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George


Review: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George
Rating: A sweet and easy fairy tale read with gorgeous imagery and a lovely romance.



Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew.


What I liked about this book was that it was actually quite loyal to the original fairy tale. It was less an interpretation of the tale than an expansion of it, deepening every character and the world around them. The princesses are given names and personalities (though not too much-- I actually favored the lighter characterization in this book, as it contributes to the fairy tale feel), as is Galen, the hero. 

Nineteen-year-old Galen has just returned from a long and brutal war between his country of Westfalin and the country of Analousia. Each country Jessica Day George mentions is a slight fantasy version of a real place. If you're familiar with European geography, you'll recognize which regions the author is vaguely referencing; if you don't, that's perfectly all right. I just enjoyed those little nods, almost like inside jokes. Plus, they helped me visualize the world of Ionia, which is already a rich, visual place.

The magic of this book felt original while still managing to reflect classic fairy tales. The realm of the King Under Stone is delightfully creepy, though not so horrible you'll have nightmares, or anything. Essentially, the twelve princess-- all of them from seventeen-year-old Rose to six-year-old Petunia-- are cursed to dance below every third night, even when deathly ill. They wear out both their shoes and their health, and soon, the curse begins to take its toll on Westfalin's political future as well.

That's where handsome cutie pie Galen comes in. He's determined to rescue the princesses, and he just may be the only man with the tools to do it. He and Princess Rose have a bit of the insta-love, but what would a fairy tale be without a bit of the insta-love? Their romance is very sweet and natural. Galen is a worthy hero (who KNITS!) and Rose is a strong girl with a lot of love for her sisters.

I would recommend this to anyone who adores fairy tales and likes their reads absolutely squeaky clean. I think this would also be a pretty good starter book for those who think they want to get into reading fairy tale adaptations, but aren't sure if they'll like it. All in all, I really loved this book. Not completely perfect, but such a sweet delight to read. It was fast and fun and very well-written.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Literary PSA: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld




Recently I decided to start a NEW THING: Literary Public Service Announcements. Essentially, I'm going to pimp a book that I read before I started blogging, but that I want to foist upon the world due to it's high levels of sheer awesomeness, for the good of the public and all that jazz. Instead of me just telling people over and over that they should read something "JUST BECAUSE!!!1!", I've decided to actually explain in a more eloquent fashion just why my favorite books are my favorites.

Last time on Literary Public Service Announcements: SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo.

And now this week's PSA:

http://loebookaward.com/yahoo_site_admin/assets/images/leviathan.177125849_std.jpg 

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.


Leviathan is one of those books that you love mostly because you know you would have loved it as a kid. That sounds more negative than I intended. I straight up LOVE this book. It's not completely perfect but it's oh so much fun. If I'd read this book as a ten-year-old (I was the definition of a "read-upper"), I would have been obsessed with it.

Confession: I'm a history nut. I was that obnoxious kid in history class who corrected the teacher when she got her dates wrong (I only did that ONCE, okay? It was eighth grade and I was a brat). So when I heard about a STEAMPUNK ALTERNATE HISTORY OF WWI, I was like Sign. Me. Up. I will read all day about long ago wars and heirs of Empires and girls-disguised-as boys. Those are all of my favorite things.

In Westerfeld's version, the Central Powers (Austria-Hungary, Germany) are Clankers, meaning they're all about technology and metal steampunk war machines like two-legged Stormwalkers. The Allies (Great Britain, France, Russia) are Darwinists. Their war machines are not fabricated from metal, but from life. They've managed, using Darwin's theories, to harness animal's "life strands" and cross-breed them into magnificently awesome things like the titular Leviathan: a huge flying machine made from a living whale. All of their war tools are living: bomber bats, hot air balloon jellyfish, messenger lizards.

Having trouble picturing it? FEAR NOT, because the book comes with beautiful illustrations! Like so:

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-dw0c5_yACU4/Ta2NPmMXFzI/AAAAAAAABo4/IQNJHPsuNCU/s1600/leviathanapproaches.jpghttp://scottwesterfeld.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/leviathan_4_westerfeld.jpg


Prince Alek is the fictional son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who you either know as the heir of the Austrian Empire whose assassination started WWI, or as the dude that band was named for. Either is fine. You don't need to have much history knowledge to follow along with Leviathan. Alek, a Clanker, is on the run in a Stormwalker from the Germans and the Austrians, both of whom are trying to kill him. The other protagonist is Deryn Sharp, a Scottish girl who has disguised herself as a boy to become a military Airman.

This story is full of adventure and action and originality. The Leviathan itself is completely fascinating. I could have read about the complex fabricated ecosystem that makes it work forever. Deryn and Alek as characters feel a little underdeveloped-- we learn almost nothing about their lives before the book starts, particularly Deryn's-- but they come alive as the book progresses. And besides, the world around them is so amazingly realized that it just doesn't matter. And I actually loved Deryn. She is hilarious, brash, and brave, even if she doesn't feel like a girl in any way. The two MCs don't meet until halfway through the book, but when they do, that's when the magic happens. Clankers think Darwinist creations are ungodly, while Darwinists think Clankers crude, cold, and inferior. They're opposite characters that play off each other perfectly. And British Dr. Barlow is one kickass lady scientist with an awesome animal sidekick.

Tazza the thylacine. I want one.

The sequels to Leviathan, Behemoth and Goliath, are even better. The world-building astounds me at every turn. If you love steampunk, I'd recommend this in an instant. And if you haven't got much steampunk experience, I'd recommend starting here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! I just want to thank all of you for showing me time and time again that joining the book-blogging world was the best thing I could have done. You're all amazing, wonderful people and I just love you to pieces. I hope you have wonderful holidays full of love, cheer, and joy!




 


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Decorating the tree for X-Mas with Family and Friends!
Things To Love About Winter : Christmas Lights On Cinderella’s Castle
can someone show up at my house and do this for me at christmas please?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve: With Links!

I can't tell if this is cute or AN EYESORE.

HOW IS IT ALMOST CHRISTMAS? I don't even understand where this year went. Wasn't it just summer? Wasn't it just 2011, like, last week? Anyway, I hope you are all having magnificent holidays, even if you don't celebrate Christmas and this isn't technically a holiday for you. I still hope your days are merry and bright and whatnot.

Anyway, I meant to post these fun links yesterday, but I was tragically without internet for a full twenty-four hours and could not. Let's catch up on the (two) posts I did this week, a few of the amazing bookish articles I read, and some of the tremendous giveaways floating around.

On the blog this week:

I read and reviewed DECKED WITH HOLLY by Marni Bates and it made me really hungry for a cupcake.

I read and reviewed LET IT SNOW by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle and it made me really want a teacup piglet.

Articles:

Not an article, really, but a HILARIOUS TUMBLOG started by YA author Maureen Johnson chronicling the passive aggressive notes she receives from her fruit loop neighbor. (via Tumblr) 

Author Diana Peterfreund responds to that YALSA article I linked to last week claiming her YA cover was whitewashed (via Livejournal)

YA author Erin Bowman's thoughts on the one and only Harry James Potter (nostlagia ahead) (via embowman.com)

An article on "Sex, YA books, and Some "E" Words" (via Stacked)

Tropes, Girl Protagonists, and Mollycoddling (via YA author S.E. Sinkhorn's blog)

13 Literary Families of Which You Wish You Were a Part (via Huffpost Books)

Cute Ideas for Wrapping Books! (via Book Riot)

My fave author Sarah Rees Brennan rolls her eyes at this "Sex in YA/New Adult is ruining our lives" business. Then my other fave author Leigh Bardugo gets all CAPSY WITH RAGE at a totally demeaning article on the same topic. (via tumblr)

My blogging buddy Shelver makes an excellent case for the worthiness of the New Adult category (via Bookshelvers Anonymous)

What exactly makes that Mr. Darcy so damn attractive? (via More Intelligent Life)

Isn't it obvious?


Giveaways

IT IS THE LAST DAY TO WIN MY GIVEAWAY! Free signed copy of SHADOW AND BONE and YEAR OF THE BEASTS! ALERT ALERRRRRT!

Enter to win an ARC of Unravel Me from Booking It With Hayley G

 Enter to win an ARC of Nobody But Us by Kristin Halbrook as part of Non Reluctant Reader's 3,000 Follower Giveaway!

Win 15 books in Anna Reads' holiday giveaway!

 Hey! is hosting a mystery box giveaway filled with stuff for ya readers!

Get lost in the depths of Renegade by J.A. Souders and enter to win a finished copy!

WHY DO I FIND THE MOST TERRIFYING GIFS?!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Miracle


Review: Let It Snow by Maureen Johnson, John Green, and Lauren Myracle
Rating: Three interlocking stories by the masters of YA, full of Christmas spirit, squee-inducing romance, high levels of adorableness, and humor. The perfect book to curl up with in front of a roaring fire.



Sparkling white snowdrifts, beautiful presents wrapped in ribbons, and multicolored lights glittering in the night through the falling snow. A Christmas Eve snowstorm transforms one small town into a romantic haven, the kind you see only in movies. Well, kinda. After all, a cold and wet hike from a stranded train through the middle of nowhere would not normally end with a delicious kiss from a charming stranger. And no one would think that a trip to the Waffle House through four feet of snow would lead to love with an old friend. Or that the way back to true love begins with a painfully early morning shift at Starbucks. Thanks to three of today’s bestselling teen authors—John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle—the magic of the holidays shines on these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

I just loved this book. It filled my heart with holiday happiness. I'm a huge fan of both Maureen Johnson and John Green, and though I haven't read any of Lauren Myracle's books, I'm pretty sure I'll be checking them out after this. Let It Snow is set in the small town of Gracetown, North Carolina on Christmas and consists of three separate but semi-related stories that all come together into a satisfying whole.

The Jubilee Express by Maureen Johnson was my favorite story of the three. Johnson's brand of humor is so completely what appeals to me that I wonder if maybe I'm a faulty, substandard clone of hers? Like, MJ minus fifty percent of her brilliance and minus the unnerving stare? Maybe? Don't answer that. "Jubilee Line" centers around a Virginia teenager named Jubilee (who is quick to inform you she is not a stripper) who's having problems both with her boyfriend and her holiday plans. She's heading south on a train to stay with her grandparents in Florida when the biggest snowstorm of the last fifty years hits, stranding her in the strange and delightful town of Gracetown. Through all sorts of hilarious shenanigans, involving cheerleaders, a Waffle House, and a man who has no idea he's wearing tin foil, she meets Stuart. Sigh. Stuart. And the cuteness commences.

This was the best story in the book. It was humorous and witty and oddly poignant. Jubilee is the kind of girl I want to be, and if I can't, then I want her to be my best friend. I was snorting, giggling, and cackling so much the people around me were starting to look at me funny.

A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle by John Green was chock full of Green's patented wit. It centers on Tobin and his two best friends, Angie "the Duke" and JP, racing toward the Waffle House on Christmas Eve. They are racing because the place is packed with cheerleaders, stranded due to the stalled train, and apparently a Waffle House full of cheerleaders is Mecca to teenage boys. This story is completely adorable. This romance was, in true John Green fashion, surprisingly deep, considering the short length. It would make a great teen movie like Superbad or Ferris Bueller's Day Off, those quest-like movies that take place in one day or night. I cackled a lot during this story, too. I love John Green, even if one or two of his stylistic things don't work for me, like the onslaught of run-on sentences right at the end, but that's really just nitpicking criticism. His dialogue is fantastic, and Tobin and the Duke's love story was the cutest one I've read in a really, really long time.

The final story, The Patron Saint of Pigs, while probably the weakest of the three, was still funny and enjoyable. It lifted my heart, and plus, there were piglets! Teacup piglets! I don't know if you've ever seen a teacup piglet, but they are quite possibly the cutest things to ever have existed. I say this with no exaggeration whatsoever. Google image search them. They are like therapy.

aaaah i want one so bad ♥
CASE IN POINT.

Addie recently broke up with her loving boyfriend, Jeb, and she's really suffering. She's a total, hilarious, histrionic drama queen, so when I say she suffers, I mean she chops all her hair off, dyes it pink, and barricades herself in her room. She's pretty self-involved, and this story centers on her learning to think for others more and winning back the guy she hurt. Also, her best friend is getting a Snuggly Pink Love Muffin as a pet, and it ends up falling to Addie to rescue the little piglet. This is the story where the characters in the previous three stories all come together in the most glorious and hilarious way, like that last scene in Shakespeare play or something where EVERYBODY shows up and things are getting revealed left right and center and it all makes sense and it's like seeing all your old friends again and you're just so happy about it. Basically, it's tons of fun.

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys John Green, Maureen Johnson, Lauren Myracle, romance, cuteness, witty banter, holiday cheer, hash browns, piglets, ceramic Santa villages, words, oxygen, or joy. So everyone, essentially.



LOOK IT LOOK IT A PIG IN BOOTS A PIG IN BOOTS!!!!
Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Review: Decked with Holly


Review: Decked with Holly by Marni Bates
Rating: Adorable, fun, and funny holiday fluff. Perfect for all your heart-lightening needs.

 

Smartly blending of-the-moment pop culture references and timeless themes, Bates follows her YA debut, "Awkward", with a hilarious, over-the-top adventure about a teen girl who becomes the fake girlfriend of a cute rock star.

Taking a Christmas cruise with her two cousins from hell isn't Holly's idea of a good time. And when seasickness forces her into an open suite, she's pepper-sprayed by a gorgeous guy called Nick. But when Holly makes her exit, she's greeted by a horde of screaming teenage fans. Because Nick happens to be Dominic Wyatt, drummer for one of the hottest bands in America. Suddenly rumors are swirling and Holly's face is plastered all over the Internet. The band can't risk a scandal destroying their family-friendly image, so Dominic convinces Holly to be his fake girlfriend - just for two weeks. How bad could it be to be "fauxmantically" involved with a cute rock star? She's about to find out...

To me, this book was the literary equivalent of a cupcake. Which is a GOOD THING, because I love cupcakes. They are sweet, sugary, fattening, and delightful, plus they’re usually decorated all fancy. No, a cupcake is not a substantial meal. No, it has no nutritional value. But it’s a cupcake, and that’s not even what it’s going for, or what you even want when you order a cupcake. You want dessert. Escapist, giggle-inducing, adorable dessert.


 

Decked with Holly, while disappointingly light on the Christmas-ness, is generous with the swooniness and the cheesy romantic tropes. Again, I thought this was a good thing. It wasn’t trying to reinvent the wheel, because, hey, sometimes round wheels really do work best when it comes to wheeling.

I’m sorry. The Extended Metaphor Abuse ends here (spoiler no it doesn’t like at all)

What even is this?

Holly is an almost-eighteen orphan raised by her grandfather in Los Angeles. She is snarky, clumsy, and eschews makeup of all sorts. She is your typical YA heroine and yet I loved her to bits, probably because she’s funnier than your average YA girl with low self-esteem (a problem exacerbated by her truly heinous bully aunt and bully girl cousins, all of whom deserved a GOOD SMACKING which I’m still miffed did not occur). Through some Hilarious Hijinks, she ends up crossing paths with Dominic “Nick” Wyatt, the stressed-out, zombie-fearing, devilishly-handsome drummer for boy band ReadySet.

Basically these guys are one part Jonas Brothers and one part One Direction, so the paparazzi are ALL UP IN THEIR SHIZZ at all times. Which means Holly and Nick must pretend to be madly in love due to Reasons which who even cares because it’s cute. Yes, reality is stretched to breaking point. This rock star supposedly travels sans entourage, sans bodyguard, sans anybody. Holly’s family is unrealistically atrocious. But WHATEVER I was laughing like crazy and living in this little fantasy bubble of fun. Like, fan-fiction-as-written-by-a-professional-author fun. Which is a thing I think should happen so much more.

So, yes, things roll just as you’d expect. They drive each other completely mad, and yet there is a spark. Holly is charmed by his blue eyes, musical genius, and adorable floppy hair. Nick discovers she has surprisingly long legs and is fun to be around (even though there is a LOT of talk about what a messy disaster Holly is, physically speaking, for way too long, which… bothered me, actually).

There are misunderstandings, hearts break, hearts heal, people kiss. I read this in a couple of hours, delighting in the banter and skipping the descriptive paragraphs, because don’t even try to serve me meat and gravy when I just came here for cake (how about we do a shot every time I torture a metaphor? Except you’d die, so never mind). Every relationship beside Holly’s and Nick’s is thoroughly underdeveloped, but again. Cupcake.

 

If you have no patience for fluffy little contemporary romances, you should give this a pass. If you want something full of Christmas spirit andcheer, this isn’t that book, despite the fact it takes place on Christmas and has that deceptively Christmassy cover. But if you want laughs and fun and giving your mind a vacation from the truly shittastic couple of days we’ve all just had, then I recommend you go take a cruise with Holly. Because it’s fun.

 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Links




Have a dancing cat gif. You need it.

Happy Sunday, everybody! Because Sunday is the day of laaaaziness, I decided I’d put a whole bunch of awesome things for you guys in one place. I’ll make it really easy for you to catch up on all the posts I did this week, check out some of the many great giveaways going on right now, and read a couple excellent bookish articles that came my way.

On the blog this week:

I painstakingly transcribed a tremendous chat on Gender inYA Fantasy between authors Leigh Bardugo, Cecil Castelluci, Javi Grillo-Marxuach, and Amber Benson, and gave you guys the chance to win signed books.


I read and reviewed Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (WARNING: snarkiness and gif overload ahead).

I wrote my very first Literary PSA.


Articles:

Twitter saved a bookstore! Huzzahs all around! (via Daryn Kagan)

Yet another great article on gender in YA books. (via Ilona Andrews)

Excellent observations on trends in YA cover (via Stacked Books)

Apparently these are the best book jackets of 2012. You may or may not agree. (via Book Page)

Vote for your favorite books, movies, and TV shows in the Hypable Awards

An article on the racism of YA covers (via YALSA) 

Epic Read’s Ultimate Gift Guide for YA Readers  (via Epic Reads)

Literary fashions for serious book nerds (I’m safely assuming that’s you) (via Flavorwire)


NY Times article on the diversity inside a children’s book

An interview with a bookbinder, aka BOOK PORN (via Publishing Crawl)

And another thinker-ly (it’s Sunday, don’t judge) article onrace in YA (via Wrapped Up in Books)

Giveaways:

Win any one book from the Book Depositor to celebrate Young Reader’s gaining 1000 followers

The If IT Fits, It Ships! Giveaway from Evie-Bookish. Win up to ten books

Celebrate Read, Breathe, Read’s 100 followers by entering to win your book of choice from the Book Depository (almost typed that as Book Suppository… IT’S THAT KIND OF DAY)

Win probably some of my most anticipated ARCs from Lindsay Cummings (except don’t, because then I won’t win)

Enter to win a signed ARC of LET THE SKY FALL by Shannon Messenger

Do you want to win a signed THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT from my buddy Shelver? Of course you do.

Now let there be dancin' in the Shire.
 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Review: Masque of the Red Death



Review: Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin
Rating: A gorgeous, haunting novel full of gorgeous, haunting imagery of plague and death. A strong but confusing plot and magnificent world-building manage to overcome flat characters and lack of emotion.

 http://www.thestorysiren.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/12924275.jpg

A devastating plague has decimated the population, and those who are left live in fear of catching it as the city crumbles around them.

So what does Araby Worth have to live for?

Nights in the Debauchery Club, beautiful dresses, glittery makeup . . . and tantalizing ways to forget it all.

But in the depths of the club--in the depths of her own despair--Araby will find more than oblivion. She will find Will, the terribly handsome proprietor of the club, and Elliott, the wickedly smart aristocrat. Neither is what he seems. Both have secrets. Everyone does.

And Araby may find not just something to live for, but something to fight for--no matter what it costs her.

Masque of the Red Death is an atmospheric and gruesome tale set in a plague-ravaged steampunk world, overflowing with haunting images of false beauty and ruin. I loved all the trappings of this tale. For me, this book was the equivalent of a really gorgeous play with a breathtakingly beautiful set, magnificent costumes that evoke the mood, a pretty good script… and horribly cast actors.

You know the plays and movies I mean. Where you are just in awe of the spectacle and the creativity, but the actors aren't quite conveying all the right levels of emotion. They’re too stiff and not alive. So, so pretty, of course, and every now and then they manage to make your throat feel a little tight, but not often enough.

Araby, the main character, is a melancholy girl still grieving for her twin brother. She feels immensely guilty that he died instead of her, and because of that is determined, basically, to never feel true pleasure again. This suits the mood of this book and this hopeless world, but I must confess I find it very hard to connect to depressed characters. There is nothing to grab onto. In the beginning, I was all, “Well, fine, if you want to die, then why should I care if you do?” This is the wrong reaction to have to your protagonist. I mean, yes, as the story develops, she grows less disinterested and begins to care about the world and people around her. But I felt like I was reading Araby through a fog or a veil. I never felt close to her. I never felt her at all. She literally has made a vow that she will never do the things Finn, her dead twin, won’t get to. This includes kissing, sword-fighting, and smiling, apparently.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved the grimness of Masque of the Red Death. But Araby was a bit much. Every time she brought up the vow, I just kind of rolled my eyes. Enough with the emo-ness. Oftentimes her motives or feelings simply confused me, at least until the end. Once she finds things worth living for, her characters sharpens quite a bit.

There is a love triangle, but for me, it was deeply uneven. There is Elliott, older brother to Araby’s best “friend” April, who is dangerous and mysterious, and Will, who, despite his tattoos, did not seem dangerous or mysterious at all. If you can’t tell, I was far more taken with dark and complex Elliott. Will had cute little siblings, but mostly his character fell flat. But Elliott is the best character in the whole book. He’s conflicted and confusing and pretty darn swoonalicious, if you ask me. I found myself getting excited every time he was on the page. I wanted to know what the heck he was thinking and feeling and what he was going to do next. He was unpredictable, which I loved.

In both cases, the love and attraction came way too fast. I think there was a step missing in Araby’s relationships with both men, even if I far preferred Araby/Elliott. Will and Araby is pure insta-love. I didn’t get it at all. April confused me as a character as well, as I never really got her connection with Araby, but I came to enjoy her at the end.

The plot and the setting seriously help make up for my “meh” feelings on the characters. The city is in ruins, the prince is an absolutely appalling and selfish man unconcerned with the suffering around him, and religious uprisings, led by the fantatic Reverend Malcontent, are beginning to boil over. There are dark and lavish clubs filled with debauchery, tattered dresses made with elegant fabric, marshes full of crocodiles, a Gothic and gaudy palace, and the rich wear pristine china masks to keep out the contagion. The lower city is crowded with the dead and diseased. All the horses have died, so the wealthy travel by means of steam-powered carriage. Creep-tastic.

It makes me want to read the Poe story it’s based on. While I would have appreciated a bit more clarity and a slightly tighter pace, I enjoyed reading about the things that happened even as they confused me mightily. I love where it left off. I wish the rebellion plot line had been more fleshed out, at least so I could have understood it a bit better, but I have a feeling this will really come to fruition in the next book.

I’ll be reading the sequel, even if just to find out how in the blazes they’re going to fix basically the worst situation ever, and because the imagery and world-building are fantastic. The writing was stiff in places, and stuck halfway between fully Gothic Victorian and modern, but I feel like Griffin will improve. I really hope Araby improves along with her. But otherwise, Griffin's got all the ingredients she needs for a spectacular sequel.

New Blog Feature: Literary PSA



Since I only started book-blogging a couple months ago, I've only been able to review the books I've read in the last couple months. But there are so many amazing books I've read that I want to tell you guys about, and that's why I decided to start a NEW THING: Literary Public Service Announcements. Essentially, I'm going to pimp a book that I read before I started blogging, but that I want to foist upon the world due to it's high levels of sheer awesomeness, for the good of the public and all that jazz. Instead of me just telling people over and over that they should read something "JUST BECAUSE!!!1!", I've decided to actually explain in a more eloquent fashion just why my favorite books are my favorites.

Usually, trying to explain a book's awesomeness goes something like this:

 

But I shall try regardless. So for my very first PSA, I'm reviewing a book that easily cracked my top ten of 2012, and which, if you follow my blog, you probably want me to shut up about already (but which I will never do):

 
 Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.


Ravka has got to be one of my favorite fantasy settings EVER. It's a dark, magical take on eighteenth century Russia, a time and place very dear to my heart. It's a land of rich furs and opulence but also dire winter and bloody war. When people rave about deep fantasy worlds, they mean this. I could see this place. I could walk around it and live there. I could visualize every article of beautifully described clothing. And it is gorgeous. But also menacing.

The Grisha are an amazingly inventive and fascinating creation, none moreso than the Darkling (my GOD do I have FEELINGS about HIM), their ridiculously handsome and powerful leader. Is he sexy? Is he evil? Is he both? It's so confusing! It's so amazing! The system of magic Bardugo has set here is a sort of magical molecular chemistry controlled by this strictly regimented elite. It's hard to make mystical magical summoner types unique, but Bardugo has definitely succeeded. The utter creepiness of the Fold, a swath of impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters that bisets Ravka, was, to quote Ms. Roth above, "like nothing I've ever read".

Alina is a marvelous heroine. She's tough but vulnerable, brave but realistic. As an orphan, she's swayed by a need to be loved and accepted. She's in love with her sex-drenched  dreamy swoonalicous best friend Mal, the only family she's ever known, who has clearly never thought of her in that way. But this book hits on all the emotional feels. Every character lives and breathes, even the ones who only show up a couple of times.

The writing and plot flow together so gorgeously. The narrative doesn't rely on magic, but rather characters, with the magic only there to enhance it. I read it one sitting, desperate for more. The narrative is full of light and darkness, magic and blood, love and hate, and basically, if you don't read this RIGHT NOW, you are a fool. Yes, a fool. Okay, not a fool. Books are subjective, this may not be your cup of tea, books are expensive and you can't go buying them all the time. I get it. But to me, this book is a classic, and I seriously hope you all get the chance to experience and love this gem of a story.

Wow. Almost forgot. You CAN because I'm GIVING AWAY a signed copy. That certainly worked out nicely.