Monday, May 27, 2013

Top Ten Books Whose Endings I'd Rewrite If I Could
Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Endings are the trickiest thing in books. Great books have been ruined by sub-par endings, while average books can suddenly level up into AWESOME purely because of what happens in the final fifty pages. I've definitely come across some endings that I'd give anything to rewrite or change or just completely do away with. Here are ten of the book endings that made me rage the hardest.

Warning: Mild to moderate spoilers.

1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


 Well, I might rewrite a whole lot more than the ending. I actually like the epilogue, and the very last romantic development, but... Oh, man, did this book BREAK MY HEART. I was completely depressed by the end of it. I had cried so much I was just a numb and empty shell because half of my favorite characters were dead. There are like eight deaths I would force Suzanne Collins to take back if I could. Part of my brain is still like, "NOPE, NOPE, THEY'RE ALIVE, LA-LA-LA," fingers shoved in my ears et al. In my brain, SPOILER Finnick and Boggs and Prim SPOILER are happily alive skipping through meadows and being perfectly happy.

2. My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
NO NO NO A THOUSAND TIMES NO. So I'm reading this book, right? And it's about cancer and family, so you know it's going to take a pretty heavy toll, emotionally, but you're braced for it.You're prepared for it to end, and it's ending. You've done your crying. You've reconciled with it and it's even moved you. And then there's ten pages left in the book and all of a sudden WHAT THE WHAT THE WHAT and I was so mad and horrified and weeping so copiously that all I could do was fling the book across the room. I did. I flung it. I actually FLUNG it.

3. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
And then Jo and Laurie run off together and have awesome adventures and are married forever THE END. 

4. The Subtle Knife The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman
Saying why this book has the most traumatic ending of my childhood would be a mega spoiler, but I swear it's the reason that I DON'T BELIEVE IN HAPPINESS ANYMORE. 

5. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

6. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy. 

7. Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
Really? Really? We don't even get a pretend battle like in the movie? I've read four Bible-length books of mooning and angsting and celibacy waiting for a damn battle! Pfft. At least they finally slept together.

9. Villette by Charlotte Bronte
Everybody should read this book, because it's awesome, and while the final tragic event is only vaguely alluded to--it's implied that you could interpret it either way-- I wish it hadn't been alluded to AT ALL because it SUCKS.

10. A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
Bradley Cooper said it better than I ever could:

This is actually the book he's reading and reacting to in the movie.

WARNING: Big spoilers in the video clip.

Seriously, Ernie, I get nihilism and all that jazz, but GOOD GOD, you've got to believe there is at least ONE happy person in the world out there somewhere. A person who has never read this book, most likely.

Honorable mentions:

Books whose endings I LOVE but they hurt my heart and so part of me wishes they were different:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling, only because SOBBITY SOB SOB; Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling, DITTO; Atonement by Ian McEwan
(I wouldn't actually rewrite this beautifully sad ending for the world, but when I read it, I literally said out loud, "You. Are. Kidding. Me."); Life of Pi by Yann Martel;Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan;

What bookish endings do you wish you could rewrite? Leave me your links if you've got them, please! I can't WAIT to find out what topics people chose for this week's freebie.

Sunday, May 26, 2013


The most exciting thing to ever happen to me ever is happening.

Those of you who stalk me follow me on Twitter (which you should definitely do, by the way... I talk a lot about Very Important Things, like what I'm currently eating and which book is making me cry and how confused I am about life right now) might know that I'm in New York right now. This week is going to be suuuuper busy for me. I'll be meeting all my blogger friends (FINALLY!) and attending Book Expo America, the huuuugest book conference of all time, basically. This might not be an exaggeration. There will be BOOKS and AUTHORS and GALLEYS TO GRAB and all sorts of shenanigans, and I intend to be there for every second of it.

This means there may not be that much stuff going up this week. Don't worry; while the blog may go on a little vacation, I certainly won't. BEA is supposed to be hard work. I have to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to elbow the people who cut in line. I have to be ready to cut whoever tries to snatch the last galley from me. Oh yes, I will resort to violence if need be.

The good news is, once BEA is over, I will return to our regularly scheduled blogging. After taking a long nap, of course. And hugging all my brand new books. Who knows, maybe I'll even give some of you guys a galley or two :). There will definitely be a Top Ten Tuesday going up this week, but other than that, we'll have to see.

For those who missed it, here's my FACE, the face that will be going to BEA, talking about all the books I've gotten recently.

Catch you on the flip side!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Book Haul Vlog!

Without further ado, here's my FIRST EVER vlog, in which I show off my face so that everyone at Book Expo America next week can recognize me, stumble over the words "book blogger problems" at least three times, and then at the end forget how to turn off the camera. Oh, and my dog Ginger makes a special appearance.

Bloggers mentioned:

Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner
Christina from Reader of Fictions

Books mentioned:

Phoenix by Elizabeth Richards
Shadow of the Mark and Carrier of the Mark by Leigh Fallon
Ink by Amanda Sun
The Ward by Jordana Frankel
Vortex by S.J. Kincaid
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Rivals by Lauren Kunze with Rina Onur
Rise by Andrea Cremer
A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty
Bright Young Things and The Luxe by Anna Godberson
Prada and Prejudice by Mandy Hubbard

Ebooks mentioned:

Out Of This Place

Out of This Place by Emma Cameron

Some Quiet Place
Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton

Maid of Secrets (Maids of Honor, #1)
Maid of Secrets by Jennifer McGowan

Meant to Be
Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill

ETA: I made a stupid and forgot to mention a book and a blogger. So I made a second video, which and yes, I got a hair cut between videos. It was sorely needed.

Bloggers mentioned:

Sunny from Blue Sky Bookshelf

Books mentioned:

The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston

PierceFest: The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

In case you need a refresher on what PierceFest, aka the five-month-long celebration of all things related to fantasy writer/goddess Tamora Pierce, is, read all about it here!

The month of May belongs to the series that introduced us to the world of Tortall and Tamora's genius: The Song of the Lioness, starring Alanna, the bravest and best Lady Knight and my childhood hero. If you're a Tamora Pierce newbie, then you should definitely start here, since it was Pierce's first published novel. I've put together some reviews of all the books (as non-spoilery as possible, though there will be mild spoilers) for both the newbies and those who need a refresher. Heck, even for those who read the books a couple weeks ago, like I did.

If you're not a Pierce newbie, and really do want a full plot refresher, the Wikipedia pages have very spoilerrific summaries.

Book Three
The Woman Who Rides Like a Man

"Let her prove herself worthy as a man."

Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death -- either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. Although she triumphs, dire challenges lie ahead. As her mythic fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe's first female shaman -- despite the desert dwellers' grave fear of the foreign woman warrior. Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes -- for their sake and for the sake of all Tortall.

Alanna's journey continues...

When I was younger, I always remembered this book in two ways: 1) it's the one in the desert and the shamans and 2) Jon completely sucks and George is awesome. That is basically all most of what you need to know about Book Three in the Song of the Lioness series, which is still totally awesome, especially for those of us on Team George. Obviously, we are all Team Alanna, which is cool, because she continues to grow and strengthen.

When we last saw our favorite Lady Knight, she'd just slain the King's nephew, Duke Roger, most powerful sorceror in all the Eastern Lands, and also the most evil, considering he was plotting to kill pretty much everyone we like. Obviously, killing him was a good thing, but it was also pretty awkward (especially the part where Alanna's secret boobs escaped mid-fight and everybody basically had simultaneous heart attacks). So Alanna has said goodbye to the palace for now, deciding to wait out the scandal by having some adventures in the desert with her trusty manservant Coram.

I'm sorry, what the HECK is this cover?! Since when did this book become the Twilight Saga? Why are George and Jon wearing HOODIES and SCARVES?! Why is Alanna in a t-shirt?!?!

Most of the book focuses on her dealings with the Bazhir, desert tribesmen with a long and bloody history, deep resentment for Tortallans, and some pretty dodgy gender politics. Alanna, obviously, is no stranger to bucking traditional gender role, and through a series of events comes to be the first female shaman of one of the tribes. Which means its her job to train the little someday-shamans. Which means she'd better get over her fear of her own magic fast.

The great thing about this series is how Pierce is able to draw Alanna's growth out so slowly and naturally. She does things in this book she could never have done in the first. She learns to accept her own magic, and the evil magic that is around her. She realizes that she has to learn to tame it, control it, and embrace it, or it will destroy her. Old Alanna, if she didn't like or understand something, usually just ignored it. New Alanna is a mega awesome. Not perfect, obviously, because we don't want our fiery, cantankerous, stubborn girl to suddenly lose everything that makes her interesting, but she still grows.

WHATEVER, let's talk about the romance now. So Jon shows up in the desert chock-full of arrogance and brimming with over-confidence. It is NOT ATTRACTIVE, but it's also understandable in a good-looking and powerful prince. Even though... ugh. Needless to say, Alanna is totally justified in her anger, Jonathan deserves a swift kick or twelve up the derrierre, and George continues to be the light of my life. If I say more, we'll enter a spoiler-y zone, but next week I will be posting ALL my opinions vis-a-vis Alanna's love life. And I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts.

There's also some stuff going on with George's Rogue court, aka his ring of thieves and generally honorably low-lifes. There's a new Rogue in town, one with seriously bad motives. Oh, and Alanna's twin brother, Thom, who is not only not afraid of his own prodigious magic power, but if far too ambitious for his own good is up to... something.

Alanna's snarkiest hits: 

"You ride as a man, you fight as a man, and you think as a man--"
"I think as a human being," she retorted hotly. "Men don't think any differently from women--they just make more noise about being able to."

Alanna pointed to the bodies of the hillmen she and Coram had slain. "They did not think I was a worthy opponent either."

Notable quotables:

"You're brave, to admit you don't know everything and to do something about it."

"Yes, I love him. That's the whole problem."

"Come with me, darlin' girl."

"The Gift only leads to pain and death."

"If I kiss you again now, one thing will lead to another, and this isn't the proper place for that sort of carryin'-on."

"If I'm a demon, why do I have such a headache?"

“There's plenty more fish in the sea than Prince Jonathan. And this particular fish loves you with all his crooked heart."

Next week on #PierceFest, as Alanna month draws to a close: Lioness Rampant, Jon vs. George, and other heroines you'll like if you love Alanna!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Reivew: Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland

Review: Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland
Release date: May 7th, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Rating: A little sad, a little moving, very swoony, and I am conflicted.

 Nantucket Blue

For Cricket Thompson, a summer like this one will change everything. A summer spent on Nantucket with her best friend, Jules Clayton, and the indomitable Clayton family. A summer when she’ll make the almost unattainable Jay Logan hers. A summer to surpass all dreams.

Some of this turns out to be true. Some of it doesn’t.

When Jules and her family suffer a devastating tragedy that forces the girls apart, Jules becomes a stranger whom Cricket wonders whether she ever really knew. And instead of lying on the beach working on her caramel-colored tan, Cricket is making beds and cleaning bathrooms to support herself in paradise for the summer.

But it’s the things Cricket hadn’t counted on--most of all, falling hard for someone who should be completely off-limits--that turn her dreams into an exhilarating, bittersweet reality.

A beautiful future is within her grasp, and Cricket must find the grace to embrace it. If she does, her life could be the perfect shade of Nantucket blue.

The cover: Toally summery and beautiful. While this book doesn't focus on the romance as much as this cover claims-- it's mostly Cricket's relationships with friends and family-- I was powerless just resist such a beachy and enticing cover.

The story: I wanted to love this story a lot more than I did. And while I certainly liked it, I've got a few bones to pick before I get to gushing. Cricket, our heroine, was sometimes awesome and sometimes awful. She starts out the book rather childish and superficial, which she's meant to. It wasn't really that that I took isue with. But every now and then, Cricket would say something that would make me hate her, usually something judgmental about someone else's looks or body type.
Then she'd say something that would make me love her, so basically I don't know what to feel.

I'm not exactly sure why Howland left in some of Cricket's thoughts. They're things she thinks to herself and they made me want to thwap her over the head with something heavy. I also think they don't make any sense for Cricket's character. She's a kind girl, a great friend, and yes, she's a little too obsessed with appearances and having people like her, but not to that somewhat cruel degree. Which leads me to assume that Howland didn't see that these quotes could rub people the wrong way, like they did me. Honestly, if they don't bug you, that's perfectly all right. I know a lot of people who straight up loved Cricket, and there is a lot to love. But I have a few reservations on her. I did love watching her mature, though.

Also CRICKET. The final complication of her romance drove me nuts. I can't really talk about it without spoiling it, but CRICKET. SERIOUSLY. Also, she was really slow to get Jules' one hundred million hints, and obviously Jay was never worth a single second of her time.

Now. The romance. YES. Oh my giddy aunt, is this book swoon-tastic. Zack and Cricket are just magnificent. There's a bit of an age difference (he's an older sophomore, she's a rising senior), which, to be honest, is hard for me to wrap my head around. But my God are they adorable. There's a certain Fourth of July scene which just had me sighing and squealing and hugging my pillow. The romance is by far the best part of this book. It's so sweet, and real, and full of chemistry. There should have been more of it. Boats + kissing + fireworks = romantic success

The other aspect that's very well done is Nantucket. I've never been, but by reading this book I feel like I have. I got a really good sense of the place. There was summer in every inch of this book. It's the perfect thing to read as the weather turns. And goodness, every now and then I'd come across a turn of phrase that left me speechless. There is some mega good writing in here. So good it almost hurts, except a few too many "he said's".

I've got mixed feelings about Cricket's relationship with her best friend, Jules. Now, Jules' mother just DIED, so obviously Jules gets all kinds of slack about everything. And even though Cricket was practically a member of Jules' family, and loved Jules' mom almost like her own, she still wasn't. So, I get that Jules needed space or whatever. But... I don't know. Most of it was poignant and heartbreaking and made me want to sob for days on end, because we've all experienced that soul-crushing thing where you can feel the distance growing between you and your best/close friend, but a lot of it just angered me. Jules is really cruel to Cricket. She kind of sucks, actually. And the way it resolved, while probably realistic, didn't feel enough to me. It left kind of a bad taste in my mouth. 

The whole book has a sort of melancholy flavor I wasn't expecting and didn't really enjoy, because that's not what I wanted. Yeah, I know the book starts off with a death, because, hello, I read the synopsis, and the emotional parts are all brilliant and moving, but I thought they overpowered the light parts a little too much. Also, the ending is totally abrupt. I was actually kind of shocked at where it ended.

Cricket's relationship with her dad is also appalling/heartbreaking/somewhat unresolved, but I adored the conflict between Cricket and her mother. Every character in this book is chock full of personality--particularly George and Lizzie and everyone at the Cranberry Inn, where Cricket works--and I always love that. Overall, contemporary romance lovers and those in the summer mood are going to love this. If you've read every single Sarah Dessen or Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book, you should read this ASAP. Even those who haven't ought to give this a try. Just because I had a few problems with it doesn't discount the fact that I read it in like three hours. I JUST NEEDED TO KNOW IF SHE AND ZACK WERE GONNA BE OKAY, OKAY?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Top Ten Favorite Book Covers of Books I've Read
Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This is based entirely on cover and has nothing do with my feelings for what's inside the paged. And again, ten is not my most favorite number in the world. Ten is so... binding. Limited. When provided a choice between option A and option B, I will invariably choose C-- all of the above. Or D, which is something else entirely. So when I hear the word ten, I just think let's heap the pretty on the people and be done with it. So, without further ado: a smorgasbord of pretty! the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1) Great GatsbyMockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)
Sisters Red (Fairytale Retellings, #1)The Night CircusOf Poseidon (Of Poseidon, #1)
The Treachery of Beautiful ThingsGlitch (Glitch, #1)Level 2 (The Memory Chronicles, #1)
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

ETA: Because it's so pretty and I meant to but I forgot and obviously the one thing this post needs is more covers

 The Archived (The Archived, #1)

What are some of your favorite covers? Leave me your links if you have them, please! I'd love to come visit.

Mini Reviews: The Caged Graves and Hammer of Witches

As I said in my last discussion post, my TBR list is currently OF THE CHARTS long, and since BEA is right around the corner, it will only grow. So that means it's time for Mini Reviews, aka bite-sized nuggets of review-y goodness that go down quick and easy.

Review: The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni
Release date: May 14th, 2013
Publisher: Clarion Books
Rating: A lush historical setting, gorgeous prose, and complicated romance. On the negative side, slowwwwwwww pacing and an obnoxious heroine.

 The Caged Graves

17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds  herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

Inspired by a pair of real caged graves in present-day Catawissa, this historical YA novel weaves mystery, romance, and action into a suspenseful drama with human greed and passion at its core.

Perhaps, because I've been in a reading funk lately, I had less patience with this book then it warranted. I love historical, and I loved the setting and the writing and a lot of the characters, but it was pretty slow going for me. The true historical fact, and the story behind the titular caged graves, is fascinating. The love triangle (yes, there is a love triangle) is actually very well-executed, in my mind. Verity's relationship with her father is actually extremely moving. Sometimes I liked Verity, but mostly I found her to be a bit of a brat. And I though the plot could have been drastically tightened. I like the mood Salerni was setting, but it turns out I'm the type of reader who needs a bit more action than this.

When I say action, I don't mean I  need a battle scene every ten pages (though the opening scene is pretty cool and action-packed). But the first hundred or so pages really lags. I felt like we could have gotten to the goods a lot more quickly, and then I probably would have liked Verity better as well. But there. Ultimately, I can recommend this book to historical lovers in need of a highly atmospheric mystery with a surprising conclusion, vivid characters, and very nice romance. Those (like me) with shorter attention spans may not be as thrilled. But that cover really is GORGEOUS.

Review: Hammer of Witches
Release date: April 1st, 2013
Publisher: Tu Books
Rating: Captivating, magical and informative. More middle grade than YA.

 Hammer of Witches

 Baltasar Infante can weasel out of any problem with a good story.

But when he encounters a monster straight out of stories one night, Baltasar faces trouble even he can’t talk his way out of. Captured by the Malleus Maleficarum, a mysterious witch-hunting arm of the Spanish Inquisition, Baltasar is put to the question. The Inquisitor demands he reveal the whereabouts of Amir al-Katib, a legendary Moorish sorcerer who can bring myths and the creatures within them to life.

Now Baltasar must escape, find al-Katib, and defeat a dreadful power that may destroy the world.

As Baltasar’s journey takes him into uncharted lands on Columbus’s voyage westward, he learns that stories are more powerful than he once believed them to be—and much more dangerous.

Shana Mlawski’s magical debut novel takes a fresh look at one of the pivotal moments in human history.

This book is more fantasy-historical, which is something that greatly appeals to me. I think it tends more towards middle grade than YA (especially with that very middle grade cover), but it's charming, fun, and chock full of monsters. The setting is dynamite and so is the concept. I wasn't bowled over by the book, but I had a lot of fun reading it and probably would have gone nuts for it as a younger kid. There's a wide cast of colorful characters, an inquisitive narrator, and even Christopher Columbus. Where the magic of stories isn't just figurative, but actually magic. As in, they can actually come to life. Balthazar is a pretty plucky hero.

This is definitely a book that won't appeal to everyone, but I enjoyed it, and learned a lot of historical things I didn't know before and in a very entertaining way. However, there is quite a lot of history. Which makes it feel all the more middle grade to me, but it's never not fun to read about unicorns and golems and Moorish sorcerers and the Inquisition and Columbus all in one book.

Now here's a sloth giving you a flower to brighten your day.

A flower for you, my lady

Saturday, May 18, 2013

To Finish or Not to Finish


Lately I've been struggling with To Be Read pile. Actually that is a massive understatement. "Grappling" or "wrestling" or "being crushed beneath like the pea under all those mattresses" would be more accurate, but let's go with "struggling". Basically, I have bitten off more than I can chew, TBR-wise. Factor in a particularly busy week with very little reading time, and panic has set in.

This is when I start getting trigger-happy with my books. I need to read fast, because I've got so little time. So I'm hoping all my books grab me early and suck me right in, so I can finish quickly and move on to the next book. But sometimes... well, most of the time... it doesn't happen. The book isn't grabbing me. Or the book is just plain bad. I'm on a reading deadline, or I've got a ton of backlogged books, or I just bought a brand new shiny hardback I've been dying to get to. So what do you do?

Do you finish? Or do you give up?

I'm really, really bad at giving up books. I usually force myself through them. Sometimes I stop reading the book that's not grabbing me, go for something else, and come back to the first book some time later. I've got like twenty books on my Kindle that I'm only partially through. Every now and then I come across a book that I absolutely cannot finish, but it's very hard for me to make that decision. Especially if it's a book I've been given to review. Then I'm obligated. They've spun me gold and now I have to give them my first born child. Or something.

I hardly have a scientific process when it comes to DNFing a book. I should, probably. Weigh the merits of x and y and z and how statistically likely it is to improve and whatnot. I'm more DNF-y when I'm particularly cranky or stressed or hungry. It's hard to say what things in books prompt me to commit strongly to a DNF as opposed to my usual just-read-really-really-fast-and-suffer-bravely mode. I can handle shitty writing, characters or plotting (to an extent), but I'm quick to put the book down if I come across something truly offensive. I guess that's my usual to finish or not to finish criteria.

Some days, though, nothing can please me.

But sometimes I feel like I'm betraying the book if I give up on it. Or the author, or the publishing gods, for my own conscience. But mostly, there's a shamefully strong part of me that CANNOT LOOK AWAY from the really bad books. I'm kind of a book masochist. It's almost like they're car crashes and my eyes are glued and the rage is building inside and oh my God so many snarky comments rushing into my head if I don't get them out I might die. And before I know it I've read the whole book. I end up reading the crappy things, and then I get to post angry gifs and ranty reviews, but my head is just a little bit dumber, and I'm no longer sure I made the right call in not DNFing. So. It's always hard to decide whether I should stick with it or not.

And then there are the days where I'm particularly cross and I read the first sentence and just go, "Ugh. The opening sentence referenced weather. The whole book is a catastrophe." But that's rare and mostly just means I haven't had my coffee yet. Sometimes, I really can tell right away that the book and I are not going to jive, or it's an unmitigated piece of crap, or is racist or sexist or something, and I deserve a gold star for making it even five pages in.


 So how you feel about giving up on books? Do you always stick through? Are you DNF-happy, meaning do you tend to give up on books a lot or easily? What's the final straw for you when deciding whether or not to stick with a book?