Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Worldsoul

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature at Breaking the Spine.

My pick this week is Worldsoul by Liz Williams. This will be published on June 6, 2012 by Prime Books. What grabbed me was this, "What if being a librarian was the most dangerous job in the world?" Any book that starts with that will draw me in, of course!

Summary from Goodreads:  What if being a librarian was the most dangerous job in the world?

Worldsoul, a great city that forms a nexus point between Earth and the many dimensions known as the Liminality, is a place where old stories gather, where forgotten legends come to fade and die—or to flourish and rise again. Until recently, Worldsoul has been governed by the Skein, but they have gone missing and no one knows why. The city is also being attacked with lethal flower-bombs from unknown enemy. Mercy Fane and her fellow Librarians are doing their best to maintain the Library, but... things... keep breaking out of ancient texts and legends and escaping into the city. Mercy must pursue one such dangerous creature. She turns to Shadow, an alchemist, for aid, but Shadow—inadvertently possessed by an ifrit—has a perilous quest of her own to undertake.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Gifts of the Crow

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature at Breaking the Spine.

My pick this week is Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans by John Marzluff and Tony Angell. This will be published on June 5, 2012 by Simon and Schuster. While the focus of my blog is on genre fiction, I love non-fiction books such as this. I am fascinated by crows/ravens and have been reading quite a bit recently about how they are more intelligence than people give them credit for. I love reading anything that redefines intelligence and/or shows the intelligence of animals. However, I don't love the latter half of the title, because I think there is more to intelligence than human intelligence.

Summary from Goodreads: Stan Coren’s groundbreaking The Intelligence of Dogs meets Bernd Heinrich’s classic Mind of the Raven in this astonishing, beautifully illustrated look at the uncanny intelligence and emotions of crows.New research indicates that crows are among the brightest animals in the world. And professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington John Marzluff has done some of the most extraordinary research on crows, which has been featured in The New York Times, National Geographic, and the Chicago Tribune, as well as on NPR and PBS. Now he teams up with artist and fellow naturalist Tony Angell to offer an in-depth look at these incredible creatures—in a book that is brimming with surprises.     Redefining the notion of “bird brain,” crows and ravens are often called feathered apes because of their clever tool-making and their ability to respond to environmental challenges, including those posed by humans. Indeed, their long lives, social habits, and large complex brains allow them to observe and learn from us and our social gatherings. Their marvelous brains allow crows to think, plan, and reconsider their actions. In these and other enthralling revelations, Marzluff and Angell portray creatures that are nothing short of amazing: they play, bestow gifts on people who help or feed them, use cars as nutcrackers, seek revenge on animals that harass them, are tricksters that lure birds to their deaths, and dream. The authors marvel at crows’ behavior that we humans would find strangely familiar, from delinquency and risk taking to passion and frolic. A testament to years of painstaking research, this fully illustrated, riveting work is a thrilling look at one of nature’s most wondrous creatures.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Blogs/Sites You Read That AREN'T about Books

This is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

This week it's "Top Ten Blogs/Sites You Read That AREN'T About Books.

Mine are:

1. Tom and Lorenzo: Blog that started about as Project Rungay, but has now morphed into a general fashion blog.

2. Cracked: I remember reading this magazine when I was little, and I don't know how I found the website, but they have a numbered list every day and some of them are VERY interesting.

3. Slate: Liberal news site with interesting articles, but my favorite feature is Dear Prudence, the advice columnist.

4. TV Tropes: Ok, maybe this one is cheating a little bit, but it's not just about books! It's such a good source for analyzing and thinking about all sorts of media and I don't even want to think about how much time I've wasted here.

5. Snopes: I check this website from time to time. I also have to use it quite a bit to refute a lot of things posted by Facebook friends.

6. Skinny Taste: Just discovered this cooking/recipe blog and I have tried making several of her recipes, all with good results.

7. Smitten Kitchen: Another cooking blog that I love.

I can only think of 7 that I really look at on a regular basis.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Retro Friday Review: Dani Noir

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! (From Angieville)
This is my first time participating in this weekly feature. I hope to continue reviewing older books. I'll see if I can maintain it. My pick this week is Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma. This book is only a few years old (2009) but I never see this book mentioned that much. I was first drawn in by the cover and the name of the book. The cover deliciously illustrates the mood and tone of the book. It harkens back to old film noirs, which is what the book is also based on. This is truly a cover that fits the book and the themes within.

It's the summer between 7th and 8th grade and Dani lives in a small town in upstate New York. She is obsessed with old movies, especially movies with Rita Hayworth. She uses films to narrate her life and to understand it, and she spends massive amounts of time at the local movie theatre, which shows old films exclusively. Her life is complicated by the fact that her parents are divorcing and her mother is falling apart while her father has moved across the river. Her best friend has moved away and Austin, son of the local theatre owner, spends his time annoying her or so she thinks. Dani is struggling with her parents' divorce and when she discovers that Jackson, Austin's older cousin, is being visited by a mysterious femme fatale, she finds herself in her own film noir. To unravel the mystery of this girl with the polka dot tights, Dani uses the detective skills she learned from watching these films.

The best way I would describe this book is cozy. I knew what was going to happen just from the first chapter, but I still enjoyed the book. The book is a mystery/noir and a coming of age story. I liked the combination of the two genres and thought the author did an excellent job of using the medium of film to illustrate the divorce between Dani's parents and the turmoil she is experiencing. Dani's favorite actress at the beginning is Rita Hayworth and this shifts at the end of the novel, which is a nice way to show the changes in her life.

The most interesting thing about the novel were the characters. Dani is not a perfect person, but she grows throughout the story. She is bratty, intelligent, selfish, curious and even caring at some points. At the beginning, she is selfish and while she doesn't completely outgrow this at the end, she has begun to realize that she has flaws, and that her parents, friends and acquaintances are flawed and complex as well. My favorite realization that Dani has is when she realizes that Austin has a crush on her and Taylor, her former best friend, has also changed and maybe their friendship can be rekindled. I also loved the character of Austin and while Dani found him annoying at first, his friendship with her was very sweet.

As this is Nova Ren Suma's debut, I thought she did an excellent job at making complex characters and I already have her second book on my to-read list.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: For Darkness Shows the Stars

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature at Breaking the Spine.

My pick this week is For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund. This will be published on June 12, 2012 by Balzer and Bray. I will admit I have been sucked into the hype over this book. I've never read any Jane Austen, but I do like retellings. I hope it's good!

 Summary from Goodreads: Generations ago, a genetic experiment gone wrong—the Reduction—decimated humanity, giving rise to a Luddite nobility who outlawed most technology.

Elliot North has always known her place in this world. Four years ago Elliot refused to run away with her childhood sweetheart, the servant Kai, choosing duty to her family’s estate over love. Since then the world has changed: a new class of Post-Reductionists is jumpstarting the wheel of progress, and Elliot’s estate is foundering, forcing her to rent land to the mysterious Cloud Fleet, a group of shipbuilders that includes renowned explorer Captain Malakai Wentforth—an almost unrecognizable Kai. And while Elliot wonders if this could be their second chance, Kai seems determined to show Elliot exactly what she gave up when she let him go.

But Elliot soon discovers her old friend carries a secret—one that could change their society . . . or bring it to its knees. And again, she’s faced with a choice: cling to what she’s been raised to believe, or cast her lot with the only boy she’s ever loved, even if she’s lost him forever.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Persuasion, For Darkness Shows the Stars is a breathtaking romance about opening your mind to the future and your heart to the one person you know can break it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: The Name of the Star

Author: Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Pages: 372
Source: Purchased
Why I read it: I love anything to do with historical mysteries and/or Jack the Ripper.


The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London, it's the start of a new life at a boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago. 
What I thought: This book revolves around Rory (Aurora) a teen from Louisiana. Her family moves to England, where Rory decides to attend boarding school in London, at Wexford, a school in East London. While she is attending school there and adjusting to English/London life, a Jack the Ripper copycat begins killing on the same dates as the Ripper and leaving the bodies in the same locations. Rory begins seeing a mysterious man that no one else can seem to see, and finds out that she may be the Ripper's next victim.

This book really lived up to my expectations, especially after the disappointment of my last book. It had a nice blend of a mystery/thriller, some history and also a contemporary YA. The book is almost two genres in one. It starts out as a YA contemporary with a little romance and then morphs into a historical mystery/paranormal/thriller. I was expecting the paranormal from the blurb on the book jacket, so this didn't come out of the blue and surprise me. Rory also realistically dealt with the shock of realizing that she could see ghosts. Johnson had a nice balance between YA contemporary and thriller/mystery at the end.

One thing about the book that I loved was that the romance was not overdone. And it wasn't a love triangle! I have become very tired of books where the main character's life is in danger, but she cares more about what her love interest is doing or thinking and kissing her love interest. The hint of romance was nice, and I am so grateful that it didn't overpower the story, because honestly, I was reading this book for the serial killer madness, not romance.

There was a little info dumping, especially in regards to the history of Jack the Ripper, but it was done in snippets of newscasts, and in the character of Jerome, the main love interest of Rory. However, I thought his infodumping was fairly realistic, because I know I have a similar personality, and I have an interest in Jack the Ripper, as well. I also probably info dump about topics I'm interested in, like Jerome.

As for the other characters, they were all well developed, and I especially enjoyed that Johnson, in a nod to modern English culture, features an English/Indian character, Bhuvana, or Boo, as she likes to be called. I thought Jazza was a nice counterpoint to both Rory and Boo, but she wasn't a caricature. And I also liked Alistair, and the little twist with his story. I am excited about the ghost police and the dynamics of the group and their mission, especially in regards to the next book.

I thought the cover was misleading. The girl on the cover is definitely not Rory and the shadowy "Ripper" behind her harkens back to the original Ripper, but doesn't really pertain to this particular novel. I assume that the girl is possibly one of the victims, but I feel like the cover doesn't accurately reflect what is actually in the novel.

While I think Johnson did do a good job of making this a standalone novel, she did set it up at the very end for a sequel, and I can't wait for it! She has left me wanting more, with that little twist at the end and I'm interested to see how the next book will play out.

Overall, I give this book 5 stars. I really loved it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Review: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Pages: 487
Source: Purchased a used copy.
Why I read it: There was so much hype around this one with the second book coming out and I jumped on the bandwagon.

In a future Chicago, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.
What I thought: I had really been looking forward to reading this book. I have read nothing but good reviews and the premise of the book sounded compelling. Plus I heard the book compared to The Hunger Games, which should have made me wary, but actually made me want to read it more. I need to learn to ignore the hype. Unfortunately, I was very disappointed in the book.

Beatrice lives in a "dystopian" Chicago and is a member of one of five factions, Abnegation (selflessness). There was a great war and after the war, the citizens of Chicago decided to split into five factions. The factions based on a trait that the members deemed important for humanity. So there is one for bravery, one for peace, one for selflessness, one for intelligence and lastly one for honesty. Beatrice finds herself to be Divergent, after she undergoes the "sorting" test, which means she shows traits for more than one faction. She chooses to be in Dauntless, however. Ok, so I was intrigued! This seemed like an interesting dystopia and I wondered what Roth would do with it.

Unfortunately, the world building was not very strong. I was first very frustrated by the portrayal of the different factions. They were so horribly stereotypical, especially Dauntless (bravery). Wearing black? Tattoos? Piercings? Guns? Jumping out of trains? Jumping off buildings? UGH! These do not make someone brave! The Dauntless seemed more interested in being cruel and tough rather than being brave. I realized that Roth was trying to make some sort of point, but it still frustrated me nonetheless. Oh and the Abnegation only wearing grey? UGH to that, too! I was happy when Four/Tobias finally made the connection between being selfless and being brave. More connections could have been made in the beginning between the utopian idea of having 5 factions and the dystopian reality. I figured out the dystopia before Beatrice was able to and her lack of any awareness until the end was frustrating. As she supposedly is Erudite (intelligence) as well, that seemed like something she could have picked up on sooner.

I also find it very hard to believe that any group of people would collectively decide to divide in factions NOT based on family ties. This was the hardest part of the world for me to believe. NO WAY would (most) people agree to abandon their families for living in these factions. Also, it was hinted at that something lay beyond the walls, and I wanted to know more about the world.

As for the characters and plot, the world building frustrated me so much that I could barely get through the book and the plot felt a little thin to me. I wasn't very engaged by the book until Beatrice figured out that her mother had been in Dauntless. The latter half of the book was better with Tris making connections between the reality versus the ideal of the factions. I felt frustrated that this connection wasn't made until later. Maybe it was a device to show how Tris grows through the book and starts to question her world, but it didn't really seem that way to me. I also felt some of the side characters like Peter and Eric were cruel with no explanation on how they came to be so cruel. Maybe jealousy? Jeannine on the other hand, while she was one of the main villains, had reasons behind her cruelty. I did appreciate that Roth is not afraid to kill off characters, however. I was a little surprised, but it is a crapsack world where anyone can die.

As for the romance, I'm tired of girl falling for mysterious boy with a troubled past. Oh and he was also conveniently Divergent, too. Luckily the romance didn't take over the book, but still, I'm of the opinion that there doesn't need to be a romance.

Overall, I would give the book 1 stars, maybe 2ish, because I do want to read the next one, to find out what happens.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 Books I'd Like to See Made Into a Movie

Top Ten Tuesday

This weekly meme is from The Broke and the Bookish. 

This week is Top 10 Books I'd Like to See Made Into a Movie.

1. American Gods by Neil Gaiman - I've heard this will be made into a series on TV and I'm super excited about it

2. Zoo City by Lauren Beukes - I would love to see this world translated into a movie.

3. The Fables Series by Bill Willingham - I also heard that this was to be made into a TV series, but unfortunately that did not happen. I would still love to see it.

4. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins - It's been forever since I've read this, but I think this is one of Tom Robbins' books that really needs to be adapted into a movie.

5. The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - I think this could be a great movie, but unfortunately it might be adapted badly.

6. Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door - Same comment from above applies here as well.

7. Laika by Nick Abadzis - I think this would be an interesting movie about the history of the Space Race between the United States and Russia from the point of view of Laika and her keepers. Very sad, but an important history that I think a lot of American don't know about.

8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie - And why hasn't this book been made into a movie yet?

9. Little Red Riding Hood - The last adaptation of this was pretty disappointing, and I would like to see something in the vein of the short film that was made years ago with Christina Ricci. And something that would especially explore all the subtext of the fairy tale.

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - I think this would make an interesting movie to add to the already large pile of World War II/Holocaust movies.