Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer Reading :)

This is my current list of the top twenty books to read over the summer - it gets altered quite frequently as I acquire more books (and according to my whims; I have over 500 books marked TBR on LibraryThing now), and who knows if I'll be able to read all of them or not.
I'll keep updating this post as I read the books.

Drought by Pam Bachorz my review
Flip by Martyn Bedford Isaac's review
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Hush by Eishes Chayil
A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper my review
The Fitzosbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper my review
The Year We Were Famous by Carole Estby Dagg
Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty by John William de Forest my review
The Inheritors by William Golding
The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin my review
Tighter by Adele Griffin my review
Zitface by Emily Howse my review
Island by Aldous Huxley my review
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James my review
Wildefire by Karsten Knight my review
Phantastes by George MacDonald (I've started this one)
Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott my review
Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince by Noriko Ogiwara
The Map of Time by Felix Palma my review
The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives by Lola Shoneyin my review

So, what books are you guys looking forward to?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Historical Fiction: Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch

From the back cover of my ARC (slightly truncated, though): Jamrach's Menagerie tells the story of a 19th-century street urchin named Jaffy Brown. Following an incident with an escaped tiger, Jaffy goes to work for Mr. Charles Jamrach, the famed importer of exotic animals.There Jaffy meets another animal handler, Tim, and thus begins a long, close friendship. Mr. Jamrach recruits the two boys to capture a fabled sea dragon during the course of a three-year whaling expedition. Onboard, Jaffy and Tim enjoy the rough brotherhood of sailors and the brutal art of whale hunting. They even succeed in catching the vicious dragon. But when the ship's whaling venture falls short of expectations, the crew begins to regard the reptilian beast as bad luck, a feeling that is cruelly reinforced when a violent storm sinks the ship and the survivors, including Jaffy and Tim, are forced to confront their own place in the animal kingdom while drifting across an increasingly hallucinatory ocean.

From reading others' reviews, apparently I am one of the few people who didn't really like this book (I also discovered that Jamrach was an actual person). I found the first half of the novel boring. Yeah, Jaffy almost gets his head bitten off by a tiger, but after that it's all work at the menagerie and sailing, and somehow Birch didn't make it interesting enough to hold my attention. There were some isolated events where I thought, "Yes! Finally, the point is being made clear!" - but these were, again, isolated and ended up not leading to anything. The plot picked up some after the shipwreck roughly halfway through the story, because it was interesting to trace the deterioration of the surviving sailors as their meager supplies run down over the weeks, bringing ill health, insanity, a loss of hope for rescue, and death. Still, I felt like there was supposed to be some deeper message to Jaffy's story, and I missed it. You lucky readers who managed to find the message and enjoy this book, I envy you.

Maturity Factor: Profanity and somewhat graphic cannibalism.

My ARC of Jamrach's Menagerie was received from the publisher, Doubleday. It was first published in the UK in February, and the US edition goes on sale June 14, 2011.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I Have an Idea...Thoughts?

I'm not sure if this is practical or would be at all popular, but what if I had a "swag box" that I let my followers (JUST followers, and I might make other requirements, too) choose objects out of for me to mail to them? I don't have that much swag - there's currently ten things that I would be willing to give away, and some of these aren't technically swag - but I don't want to just have it keep sitting around my room collecting dust and occupying space. I'd probably have a rule that anyone receiving swag would have to pick several things out of the box at a time; I don't want to mail out ten little individual packages. Anyway, thoughts? Here's what's currently in the box:

A Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children sample booklet; I think it's the first 60 pages or so.
A CD sampler of several recent YA releases from Random House.
A Carrie Jones bookmark.
Two Zoe Marriott bookmarks.
Two Zoe Marriott magnets.

Not actually swag:
Blue nail polish
BonBons lip gloss (sparkling raspberry)
Mary Kay lip gloss (pink)
All of these are unopened and unused.

I'm just throwing ideas up in the air; I don't want these things, but from what I've seen other bloggers giving away, others do and are willing to enter giveaways for swag.

My New Books This Week

The mail's moving slower than I'm winning giveaways. :) Only five of an expected seventeen packages (I'm pretty sure that this is a record for me) showed up. Oh, well. I have more than I can read, anyway. Oooh, my younger brother finally gave me back my childhood bookshelf, which alleviates some of the space issues I've been having whenever I try to find shelf space for a new book.

All of the books this week were won in giveaways.
Tighter by Adele Griffin (Random Buzzers' Twitter)
Day of Revenge by Deanna Proach (Historically Obsessed)
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana (Pudgy Penguin Perusals)
The Swan Kingdom and Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott (Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing)
These last two are signed. And came with swag. From the UK.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Did Not Finish: Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs

After going through a Mary Higgins Clark phase a few years back, I've stuck mostly to children's/YA books for mysteries because, honestly, I think they're generally better written than the bestselling mysteries for adults, which also often include content that I don't...agree with. But I love the Bones TV series, so I picked this one up at a library sale because, at $3 a box of books, it wasn't going to cost me anything extra. I started reading it because I was looking for a fast, light read, as the other book I was reading at the time - Jamrach's Menagerie - was slow and boring for the first half of the novel (more on that in a later post).

Break No Bones is more well-written than I expected. Reichs' writing is hardly "literary" in the sense of "literary fiction," but she's better than ye old hack writer. What got me stuck was the slowness of the plot and all the extra stuff (mostly drama between Dr. Brennan and her estranged husband and the guy up in Canada that she likes). I blame my age for this; teenagers don't really enjoy reading about grown-up married drama. And while I could see glimpses of the show in the novel, they weren't enough to hold my attention long enough for me to enjoy the book as being connected to the TV program (and yes, I know that the books came before the show and it's not Reichs' fault that they're so different). I'll probably pick this up at a later date, but for now, I have tons of potentially better books on my to-be-read list that I'm moving on to.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Need Your Help, If You Care to Lend It

Don't worry, this doesn't require you to donate money, excessive amounts of time, or anything else you don't want to give. :) I have to submit a sample book review for something, and I'd like to choose my best one - the most well-written, most helpful, most professional-like, etc. But I'm not sure which one that is. Right off the top of my head, I'm thinking Evangeline, because it's one of my longest, focused on both good and bad aspects of the book, and attempted to be well-written and at least slightly analytical.

So, any suggestions from my followers on what reviews you've read on this blog are the best?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop

Welcome to my stop on the Splash into Summer giveaway hop, hosted by I Am a Reader Not a Writer and Page Turners Blog! This giveaway runs from May 25 to May 31. Up for grabs:

Squire by Tamora Pierce
Brand-new paperback copy; cover pictured here is the cover you'll get. Here's the GoodReads synopsis. This is the first novel by Pierce that I read and, as I've now read the majority of her books, you can tell what I thought of it. :) For those of you not familiar with Pierce, she's a YA fantasy author.

Next giveaway hop (in June), I'll have a better prize - the first THREE books in Isobelle Carmody's Obernewtyn series.

To enter: Simply leave a comment with your e-mail address. Extra entries if you're a new or old follower, just specify which one in your comment. This giveaway is only open to US addresses.

Happy blog hopping, and have a great summer! I'm going to enjoy being out of school. :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

YA Sci-Fi: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

18-year-old Saba lives with her father, twin brother, and younger sister in Silverlake. Out in the desert, they have few neighbors and have been suffering from a prolonged drought. The twins are upset with their father, who only cares about performing magical rites to bring rain, and Saba's not close to her sister, Emmi, blaming her for their mother's death in childbirth. But when Lugh, Saba's twin, is kidnapped by strange men, she and Emmi must set off across the desert and into the outside world - a ruthless post-apocalyptic society where many are under the control of a new drug and a crazed king - to rescue their beloved brother.

I wasn't expecting to get Blood Red Road read quickly (my ARC is almost 500 pages), but it ended up taking me less than two days to finish. Saba's journey is a classic adventure tale, complete with excitement, betrayal, and suspense (and a little romance, of course). I couldn't put the book down, and Young's fast-paced writing, coupled with short chapters, allowed me to breeze through pages like that *snaps*. I found that the novel bears many resemblances to the Obernewtyn series by Isobelle Carmody - strong female lead, individual rebellion against a higher power, world-building that doesn't explain much about the "before times" - but Young's writing style is different from Carmody's, as are her characters. My one complaint with the book is that it doesn't explain much about how the world ended up the way it did, but hopefully this will be remedied by the following book(s) in the series, which I will definitely be reading as well. I like my dystopian/post-apocalyptic reads with a side, if not a whole heaping plate, of societal commentary, but this one was just an adventure story, albeit a really good one. Also, I thought that the proverbial romance between Saba and another character fell flat, but it's not extremely important to the storyline so I'm not going to complain much about it.

Maturity Factor: Some profanity, but otherwise suitable for younger (i.e., middle grade) readers as well as its intended audience.

My ARC of Blood Red Road was received through a Simon and Schuster giveaway. Published by Margaret K. McElderderry Books, it goes on sale June 7, 2011.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy: The Fool's Girl by Celia Rees

Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: a comedy of mistaken identities, love circles, and jovial fools. I won't give you the full details of the play; suffice it to say that it ends happily. But what happens after the conclusion to Shakespeare's drama, when the fun and games are replaced by the less amusing actualities of life? Celia Rees' The Fool's Girl seeks to be a continuation of the story, told from the perspective of the next generation of characters as they search through England for Illyria's lost relic following the betrayal and sacking of their country. Centering around Violetta, the daughter of Viola from Shakespeare's original play, this continuation intersects with the political intrigues of the Elizabethan court, the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, some of Shakespeare's own characters, and even Will Shakespeare himself.

While I found The Fool's Girl to be less completely engrossing as Rees' other novels (notably Witch Child and Pirates), Rees remains an excellent storyteller and maintains a perfect balance between the historical fiction and fantasy elements of the novel. Her twist on Twelfth Night is unique and well-developed, combining adventure, romance, historicity, and fantasy into a wonderfully imagined tale. It's not as exciting as some of Rees' other books (and the final show-down between good and evil was a bit anticlimactic), but she makes up for this with the intricacies of the story. Conclusion: This is my favorite of Rees' novels because of the story, but not my favorite for OMG-can't put it down-what comes next?!?! as her others have been.

Note: If you haven't read Twelfth Night, you still won't have a problem understanding the plot of The Fool's Girl, though I would recommend having read at least a synopsis because you'll have a better grasp of characters and prior events.

I won my copy of The Fool's Girl from Celia Rees' Facebook page. It was published by Bloomsbury in July 2010.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

New Books For This Week - A Book Sale and Future Giveaway

The mail was relatively slow for me this week - I had fourteen packages coming and only four showed up - but the sale that my library had made up for it. A box of books was only $3 there, so I got 18 books for that price. What I really love about book sales is that they allow you to pick up books you might not normally buy, simply because they're so darn cheap. And every once-in-awhile you find a book that you've really, really been wanting.

Since none of the books this week were for me to review, are there any that you would appreciate a review of?

In the mail:
The Year We Were Famous by Carole Estby Dagg (won from Badass Bookie)
The Trouble With Mr. Darcy by Sharon Lathan (won from Addicted to Jane Austen)
Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince by Noriko Ogiwara (won from Haikasoru)
The Book of the Maidservant by Rebecca Barnhouse ("bought" from Random Buzzers)

Purchased from the library book sale:
Path of the Pale Horse by Paul Fleischman
The Dark Queen by Susan Carroll
After the Dancing Days by Margaret I. Rostkowski
The Tamarack Tree by Patricia Clapp
Mr. Chickee's Funny Money by Christopher Paul Curtis
Drums by James Boyd
Brain Plague by Joan Slonczewski
Schismatrix Plus by Bruce Sterling
Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Break No Bones by Kathy Reichs*
Obernewtyn & The Farseekers by Isobelle Carmody**
Ashling by Isobelle Carmody**
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding
The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann

*I LOVE the Bones TV series, but haven't read any of the books that inspired it yet.
**The Carmody books are duplicate copies that I got just for you guys! I'm going to have a giveaway for them at some point.

Now to find room for all of these. The box that I lugged the library books home in (no car available today; fortunately the library's only about five blocks away) may find a new use soon.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Awesomeness: Miniature Books

As you may have noticed from my post about my library, I like miniature stuff - preferably dollhouse-sized. I just found this site called Bo Press Miniature Books that has miniature books, ranging from your average 1/12 scaled dollhouse size to about three inches in height. Their books are printed and illustrated on the inside, and though their prices are a bit high for me (I'm running on a high schooler's budget here), their work looks nice. So check it out! They also have some maps, boxes, and globes.

They have Phineas Fogg's map, for example.

Some interesting art books, like A Clutch of Corsets.
And my favorite, because it bills itself as being an Appalachian folk song, Silver Dagger.

These are only a few of their creations; there's much more on the website.

Anyone else know of some great publishers of miniature books?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Winners: Caleb's Crossing

Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway for Caleb's Crossing, new and old followers (and nonfollowers) alike! I've randomly picked two winners, and they are:

Mark and Rhonda1111

Congrats, guys! Your addresses have been sent on to the publisher; I hope you enjoy the book!

Historical Fiction: The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak

As a result of a series of tragedies during the first years of his life, two-year-old Jozef Vinich and his father return from America to rural Austria-Hungary in 1901. There the elder Vinich takes up shepherding and, realizing that Jozef's stepmother does not treat her stepson well, takes Jozef with him. The duo are eventually joined by an orphaned relative known as Zlee. In 1916, Zlee and Jozef - now teenagers - sign up as sharpshooters with the Austrian army. Sent to the Italian front, Jozef's "sojourn" will take him to the trenches, the Alps, and a Sardinian POW camp before he begins to make his way home to his father after Austria's defeat in WWI.

This book and others have begun to increase my understanding of what makes a particular type of fiction "literary." The writing, the tone, the general slowness of plot that still draws in readers and leaves time for them to think on what the author's saying - The Sojourn matches my characteristics of literary fiction. It's not the absolute best that I've read, but it's still a worthwhile read. The setting itself is interesting (Austria-Hungary and Italy in WWI) as are the characters' nationality (Slavic). And while at times I wished the novel had been more detailed instead  of dealing more in generalities of conditions and events rather than specifics, the writing seems in keeping with the fact that when Jozef is recording his experiences in 1972, he is writing from his memories. For readers who enjoy literary fiction, well-written historical novels, and war literature, I recommend this book.

My ARC of The Sojourn was received through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. Published by the Bellevue Literary Press, it went on sale April 19, 2011.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Children's Fantasy: Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne

GoodReads blurb (because I'm just lazy): In Noah Barleywater Runs Away, bestselling author John Boyne explores the world of childhood and the adventures that we can all have there. Noah is running away from his problems, or at least that's what he thinks, the day he takes the untrodden path through the forest. When he comes across a very unusual toyshop and meets the even more unusual toymaker he's not sure what to expect. But the toymaker has a story to tell, a story full of adventure, and wonder and broken promises. And Noah travels with him on a journey that will change his life for ever.

This is the best kid's book that I've read in a really, really long time. It begins with Noah's near-surreal adventures through forest and village à la Oz and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (making it also one of the best-written kid's books that I've read in a while). Boyne accurately captures the innocence and imagination of childhood through Noah's eight-year-old eyes. While the novel starts out somewhat confusing for readers - you're kind of wondering where the author's going with the story - it quickly morphs into a fairytale-like narrative with some deeper meanings on childhood, promises, and facing those things in life that you don't want to meet but are nevertheless unavoidable. Really, the novel is just as suitable for older readers as for its intended audience. For parents, I'd recommend this as a book to read aloud and digest with their children. And one of the best parts of the book is what more traditional story it ends up being a continuation of...

I received my ARC of Noah Barleywater Runs Away from the publisher, David Fickling Books (an imprint of Random House). The book went on sale May 10, 2011.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Library

I said I was going to post pictures of my library (coming up on 1200 books), and I finally got the time to do it! Note: I am running out of bookshelf space; not pictured are a box of larger books and a stack of ARCs I need to review.

All books are organized by genre, then size. :) I'm OCD about this.

Sorry for the string of the camera being on the right side of the picture; I never said I was a good photographer.
The top three shelves are fantasy, the next realistic fiction, the bottom anything I don't know where else to put. The only gaps on this shelf are where books I've lent out to friends go, so it's about as packed as they get.
Mysteries on the top two shelves, historical fiction on the bottom three. The couple of books stacked in front are either ones I'm reading, about to read, or intend to give away.
I've resorted to the closet. :) That entire row of books is kid's mysteries - Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Dana Girls, Ruth Fielding, and a few other series.
It's a weird angle to take this picture at, but there's a bed in the way. The boxes hidden to the left contain my Harry Potter and Eragon books, as well as ancient and medieval literature. The top shelf is Renaissance through 18th century, the next is 18th/19th century, and the remaining three shelves are all 19th century literature. I like my classics. :)
Top shelf is 20th century literature, next one is old books I don't know where else to put, next is global history and literary history, then US history, and the bottom is anthropology/folklore and mythology/science.

Thus demonstrating that I have completely run out of bookshelf space, this is my dollhouse. My mom, friends, and I all built it when I was ten and painted all ten rooms and three hallways. Good thing we never bothered to put the roof on. Now it contains (besides some typical dollhouse stuff) my science fiction and classic fantasy books. And a pile of missmatched socks and some calc homework.

Well, that's my library. 1200 books in one teenager's room.

Nonfiction: Passage by Sandy Powers

GoodReads blurb: "Passage" is an incredible true story of Grace Balogh and her courage during a turbulent time in American history. Through her journals, "Passage" recounts the struggles of the Great Depression; America fighting two wars: one with unconditional public support and the other with public indifference; the letters from servicemen that are poignant and timeless; and the emergence of a Cold War that pits two ideologies against each other. Threats to the American way of life prompt the FBI to recruit Grace Balogh as an undercover agent whose job is to infiltrate a cell planning violent overthrow of the United States government. Grace leads this secret life largely unknown to her family and friends. "Passage" takes the reader on a journey into events of the 1930's, 1940's, and 1950's that read like the headlines of today.

I wasn't extremely impressed by this little book, but it was an enjoyable read that was interesting for its primary source material. The author's mother, Grace Balogh, certainly had an interesting life, starting with her adoption and later abuse at the hands of her step-mother, covering the Great Depression and Second World War, and culminating with her secret involvement with the FBI in the Cold War. What made the book of particular worth is that it's almost entirely comprised of the correspondence and journals, interspersed with some pertinent newspaper clippings, of Grace herself. These bring to life the hardships and fears of the periods of American history that Grace lived through, giving the average American's view of such things. The only thing that I wish was different about the book is that I think more notes and explanations from the author would have been helpful in connecting some of the documents together and explaining events and relationships to others that Grace, writing for herself and for her children, wouldn't have thought to explain but that readers unfamiliar with her family and friends wouldn't know about. I found Passage to be unequal to some of the raving reviews I've read of it, but it's still an enjoyable, informative short little read.

I received Passage through LibraryThing's Member Giveaways program. Published by AuthorHouse, the book went on sale March 1, 2011.

Historical Fiction: Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

GoodReads summary blurb: In 1665, Caleb Cheeshah-teaumuck was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Here, Pulitzer Prize winner Brooks imagines that Caleb was befriended by Bethia Mayfield, whose minister father wants to convert the neighboring Wampanoag and makes educating Caleb one of his goals. Bethia, herself desperate for book learning, ends up as an indentured servant in Cambridge, watching Caleb bridge two cultures.

Despite the title, Caleb's Crossing is just as much, if not more so, about Bethia and her struggles in the male-dominated Puritan world that subjects her to uneducated, blind obedience to the men in her life as about Caleb's struggles to overcome ethnocentricity and figure out which path will help his people more, continuing on in his traditional lifestyle and religion or leaving these to attain a white man's higher education, even if it costs him his health and family. Though Brooks appears to depart from the storyline set out by the title by focusing more on Bethia's life than Caleb's, the two lives remain connected to each other and the author effectively carries out the historical points she is trying to make about cultural exchanges and gender relations in colonial America. While the plot moves slowly, Brooks still draws readers into the characters' lives; at some points I even wished she had written more and delved further into certain periods of their lives. Brooks seamlessly weaves historical detail into the novel, everything from traditional Wompanoag lifeways and religion to the words and phrases of the time to mentions of such personages as Anne Bradstreet, Anne Hutchinson, and John Eliot. She does a great job of capturing the feel of the time period - one which, occurring between the landing at Plymouth and the Salem Witch Trials, is often neglected in historical fiction of colonial America. If I gave ratings, this book would be 4 1/2 out of 5 - near perfect. Brooks' subject and writing leave very little to complain about.

My copy of Caleb's Crossing was received from Penguin, who published it on May 3, 2011. Don't forget to check out my giveaway of two copies of the novel, which ends 5/18/11.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

New Acquisitions This Week

Do me a favor, please, and if my post reviewing Evangeline by Ben Farmer is showing up, let me know. With Blogger down recently, it's showing up on my side of things, but I'm not sure if others can see it. Thanks! Now on to the two books I received this week:

The Final Alice by Alycia Ripley (thanks, Eclectic Reader)
Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (from Doubleday)

The pseudo-beginning of my summer vacation (not completely out of classes yet) is going swimmingly, thanks for asking. I've won about five giveaways in the past week, bringing my total number of books expected in the mail up to NINETEEN (eight of which are from the same place), and I'm about to finish Caleb's Crossing after only two days. :)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Historical Fiction: Evangeline by Ben Farmer

Seventeen-year-old Evangeline Bellefontaine lives in Grand Pre, Acadia. It's 1755, and the motherless girl is looking forward to marrying her love, Gabriel Lajeunesse, in less than a week. All of their plans change, however, when the French Acadians are rounded up by the English and sent away from their now-destroyed homes. Evangeline and Gabriel are separated, not to see each other for over ten years as they struggle to survive, find each other again, and forge new lives for themselves in the strange lands of the American colonies in this retelling of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem.

Idea behind plot: A+
Final book: B-/C

I had really high hopes for this book. The idea of the plot is great: a retelling of Longfellow's poem, written on a historical subject that is rarely touched upon in history classes. The expulsion of the Acadians from their homes in Canada and journey to the American colonies, including Louisiana, is one of those huge (and awful) events in colonial history that, for whatever reason, doesn't get discussed that much in either courses or literature. What's disappointing about Evangeline is its characters and the telling of the story. The book covers the years between 1755 and 1769, yet few changes are seen in the characters - primarily the same throughout the novel - and I found it hard to connect with the characters themselves. Especially towards the end, their motives seemed unclear, almost as if the author was trying to work in some deeper reflections on individual power and gender relations that didn't quite come through. The last 100 pages or so just left me frustrated with all of the characters.

What Farmer does do well, however, is carry across the idea of a pre-Revolution America that would be alien to most of us today. Much of the plot takes place in Baltimore and New Orleans, but not the Baltimore and New Orleans readers today are familiar with. Farmer portrays Baltimore as your average little (emphasis on little) port town, while New Orleans bears similarities to the final outposts of the Western frontier with their attendant rough men, drinking, soldiers, conflicts with Native Americans, and lack of women. Another piece of history the author portrays well is how the Acadians, like other groups, were caught between two European powers in their struggle for colonial American empires, with both sides having other things to worry about besides the welfare of a single colonist group. It's amazing what unfair things people will do to each other in war just over greed and cultural misunderstanding.

Maturity Factor: Adult situations, especially towards the conclusion, but nothing graphic. Also, there's an attempted rape scene.

My copy of Evangeline was received from the publisher, Overlook Press. First published in April 2010, the paperback edition went on sale May 3, 2011.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


School's out for me as of 10:30 this morning! Well, actually, only half of my classes ended, but it's some of the ones requiring the most work and it seems like a huge deal of stress is gone. What does this mean for the blog? I now have about fifty million times more time to do stuff I want to do - like, let's see, read, watch movies, read, hang out with friends, read - so I'm anticipating much more activity than before. More reviews, mostly. I'm rather excited. :) I mean, really. This was my schedule for this semester (note that I go to an early college high school and have a weird mixture of high school, college, and online classes):

7:45-8:30 English IV Honors
8:30-9:20 French III Honors/AP European History (both online)
9:20-11:45 calculus (college)
11:30-1:00 world history II/American lit I/English lit I (all college online)
1:30-3:00 concert band

So, eight classes. I don't recommend it. But four of those are over now, and the others are beginning to slack off in anticipation of the end of the year. More reading time for me!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring Blog Carnival Hop Winner!

And the winner of the Spring Blig Carnival Hop giveawway is... *drumroll*


She chose Stones for My Father by Trilby Kent as her prize, meaning that Squire will be up for grabs once again between May 25 and 31 as part of the Splash Into Summer giveaway hop. Congratulations Lyddz, and I will mail the book out as soon as possible.

Thank you to everyone who entered and started following me (hmmm, that sounds rather stalker-ish...). About 45 people entered the giveaway, and I got over thirty new followers. :) Ooooh, and don't forget to enter the giveaway for Caleb's Crossing that ends 5/18!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

New Books This Week

I could just do the "In My Mailbox" meme and have a cool name for my weekly listing of the books I've acquired, but I'm too lazy to add the names and urls of the people who started it to this post every week. Maybe in the summer, when I'm not burned out from homework....speaking of which, school's finally winding down (I've been going non-stop since the first week of August, pretty much), and after this Wednesday I will have so much more time to read and review and blog and whatever else I feel like doing that's not schoolwork! But to the point of this post:

For Review:
The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak (LibaryThing Early Reviewers)
The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma, which also came with a copy of The Time Machine* by H.G. Wells (from publisher)
Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks (thank you, Rebecca at Penguin Books)
Have you seen the giveaway for Caleb's Crossing yet?

*One of the genres that I initially planned to review was science fiction/fantasy of Wells' vintage, so I am overjoyed that the publisher is sending promotional copies of this book with ARCs of The Map of Time. Old sci-fi/fantasy reviews to come over the summer, when I have more time for reading 19th and early 20th century prose instead of doing homework...

Enclave by Ann Aguirre (Holt InGroup)
A Thread of Sky by Deanna Fei (thanks to Lisa at Alive on the Bookshelf)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fiction: The Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe

"Two reviews in one day? But that never happens!" [Meaning for me, not other bloggers.] Yeah, well, I'm procrastinating on that mountain of homework I've been ignoring all week due to studying for the AP Euro exam. Now I'm trying to recover from said exam (I can't remember the last time a test made me feel so tired!) by reading and writing a review of the book I just finished. I really can't wait for summer....just five more days. *sigh* Anyway:

The Butterfly's Daughter tells the story of Luz Avila. Twenty-one years old, she lives with her grandmother in Milwaukee. Her mother died when she was five, and she's never met her father. Luz, while she loves her abuela and has a great boyfriend, Sully, isn't completely pleased with her life. She wants to go to college, but she's stuck working in a factory and she's not sure if Sully's the right guy for her. Then Abuela comes up with a harebrained scheme: she and Luz are going to drive to San Antonio in an old beat-up VW Beetle to meet their extended family, then follow the monarch butterflies down to their family's traditional home in Mexico. Luz rejects the spur-of-the-moment plan, but when her grandmother suddenly dies, she decides to embark on the trip, alone, and try to figure out what her grandmother wanted her to do. Along the way, Luz meets a series of quirky, extraordinary women, each of whom will impact her journey of self-discovery.

First off, this is not my type of book. I only skimmed over the blurb when I requested it on GoodReads and missed the part about it being chick lit that's best suited for an older age group than mine. Though Luz is twenty-one, she's more of a mature woman than a college kid, so the plot of the story is really better for grown-up women, not teenagers like me. But Monroe's writing is good, even if the plot's not my thing (and she keeps it appropriate for younger readers, too). The storyline seemed very predictable to me - woman goes on journey of self-discovery, meets quirky characters, comes to new realizations of herself and women and life in general, figures out whether her guy is the right one or not, runs into some kind of conflict but it gets resolved, and goes on to have a happy ending. In this respect, The Butterfly's Daughter is an excellent feel-good read if you're into that sort of novel. For me, it's not my style and, while I enjoyed reading it for the most part, by the end I was getting bored and ready to move on to the next book. My fault, not the book's.

Maturity Factor: Mild profanity, a few very non-explicit adult situations.

My ARC of The Butterfly's Daughter was received through GoodReads' First Look program. Published by Gallery Books, it went on sale May 3, 2011.

Review: A Tomb for Boris Davidovich by Danilo Kis

Wow, I actually got a review in this week between studying for the AP European History exam today and all the normal homework I have! Probably because I read this book as a supplement to the AP Euro material and I'm writing this review as I wait for test time...

A Tomb for Boris Davidovich (1976) is a collection of seven short stories that are loosely connected together. The common thread of the stories is that they all have to do with the repression and corruption of the Soviet system. Kis' characters come from varying nationalities, religions, and backgrounds, but they all get caught up somehow in the political deception and betrayals of the USSR.

This is one of those books whose significance grows on me only after I've finished reading it. Some of the stories were confusing to me, with the causes and sequences of events seeming muddy when they should have been clear (I'm not sure if this is Kis' fault or the translator's). It shouldn't have been a hard read, but it occasionally was. Still, the stories were interesting. I haven't read much Soviet literature, and I found Kis' depictions of the repression, corruption, general back-stabbing, and psychological impact of the USSR fascinating, if not enjoyable. Like I said, though the book was, at times, frustrating to read, after finishing it I realize its importance as literature and deeper meaning as political commentary.

My copy of A Tomb for Boris Davidovich is the 1980 Penguin edition (translator: Duska Mikic-Mitchell), purchased for the princely sum of 25 cents from my local Habitat for Humanity thrift store. The book was originally published in 1976 and was first translated into English (by Mikic-Mitchell) in 1978.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Q&A with Geraldine Brooks, Author of Caleb's Crossing, and Giveaway

Geraldine Brooks' newest book, Caleb's Crossing, came out yesterday! This historical fiction novel takes place in Martha's Vineyard in 1665 and is about a lesser-known, yet still quite interesting, figure in colonial American history. Here's the publisher's blurb about the book: The narrator of Caleb's Crossing is Bethia Mayfield, growing up in the tiny settlement of Great Harbor amid a small band of pioneers and Puritans. Restless and curious, she yearns after an education that is closed to her by her sex. As often as she can, she slips away to explore the island's glistening beaches and observe its native Wampanoag inhabitants. At twelve, she encounters Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a tentative secret friendship that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia's minister father tries to convert the Wampanoag, awakening the wrath of the tribe's shaman, against whose magic he must test his own beliefs. One of his projects becomes the education of Caleb, and a year later, Caleb is in Cambridge, studying Latin and Greek among the colonial elite. There, Bethia finds herself reluctantly indentured as a housekeeper and can closely observe Caleb's crossing of cultures.

And now for a Q&A with author Geraldine Brooks:

Caleb Cheeshahteamauk is an extraordinary figure in Native American history. How did you first discover him? What was involved in learning more about his life?

The Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head/Aquinnah are proud custodians of their history, and it was in materials prepared by the Tribe that I first learned of its illustrious young scholar. To find out more about him I talked with tribal members, read translations of early documents in the Wopanaak language, then delved into the archives of Harvard and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, especially the correspondence between colonial leaders and benefactors in England who donated substantial funds for the education and conversion to Christianity of Indians in the 17th century.   There are also writings by members of the Mayhew family, who were prominent missionaries and magistrates on the island, and John Cotton, Jr., who came here as a missionary and kept a detailed journal.

There is little documentation on Caleb’s actual life. What parts of his life did you imagine? Do you feel you know him better after writing this book, or is he still a mystery?

The facts about Caleb are sadly scant.  We know he was the son of a minor sachem from the part of the Vineyard now known as West Chop, and that he left the island to attend prep school, successfully completed the rigorous course of study at Harvard and was living with Thomas Danforth, a noted jurist and colonial leader, when disease claimed his life.  Everything else about him in my novel is imagined.  The real young man—what he thought and felt—remains an enigma.

Bethia Mayfield is truly a woman ahead of her time. If she were alive today, what would she be doing? What would her life be like with no restrictions?

There were more than a few 17th century women like Bethia, who thirsted for education and for a voice in a society that demanded their silence.  You can find some of them being dragged to the meeting house to confess their “sins” or defending their unconventional views in court.   If Bethia was alive today she would probably be president of Harvard or Brown, Princeton or UPenn.

The novel is told through Bethia’s point of view. What is the advantage to telling this story through her eyes? How would the book be different if Caleb were the narrator?

I wanted the novel to be about crossings between cultures.  So as Caleb is drawn into the English world, I wanted to create an English character who would be equally drawn to and compelled by his world.   I prefer to write with a female narrator when I can, and I wanted to explore issues of marginalization in gender as well as race.

Much of the book is set on Martha’s Vineyard, which is also your home. Did you already know about the island’s early history, or did you do additional research?

I was always intrigued by what brought English settlers to the island so early in the colonial period...they settled here in the 1640s.   Living on an island is inconvenient enough even today; what prompted the Mayhews and their followers to put seven miles of treacherous ocean currents between them and the other English—to choose to live in a tiny settlement surrounded by some three thousand Wampanoags?  The answer was unexpected and led me into a deeper exploration of island history.

You bring Harvard College to life in vivid, often unpleasant detail. What surprised you most about this prestigious university’s beginnings?

For one thing, I hadn't been aware Harvard was founded so early.  The English had barely landed before they started building a college. And the Indian College—a substantial building—went up not long after, signifying an attitude of mind that alas did not prevail for very long.  It was fun to learn how very different early Harvard was from the well endowed institution of today.  Life was hand to mouth, all conversation was in Latin, the boys (only boys) were often quite young when they matriculated.   But the course of study was surprisingly broad and rigorous—a true exploration of liberal arts, languages, and literature that went far beyond my stereotype of what Puritans might have considered fit subjects for scholarship.

As with your previous books, you’ve managed to capture the voice of the period. You get the idiom, dialect, and cadence of the language of the day on paper. How did you do your research?

I find the best way to get a feel for language and period is to read first person accounts—journals, letters, court transcripts.  Eventually you start to hear voices in your head: patterns of speech, a different manner of thinking.  My son once said, Mom talks to ghosts.  And in a way I do.

May 2011, Tiffany Smalley will follow in Caleb’s footsteps and become only the second Vineyard Wampanoag to graduate from Harvard. Do you know if this will be celebrated?

In May Tiffany Smalley will become the first Vineyard Wampanoag since Caleb to receive an undergrad degree from Harvard College.  (Others have received advanced degrees from the university’s Kennedy school etc.)  I’m not sure what Harvard has decided to do at this year's commencement, but I am hoping they will use the occasion to honor Caleb’s fellow Wampanoag classmate, Joel Iacoomis, who completed the work for his degree but was murdered before he could attended the 1665 commencement ceremony.

Giveaway: The publisher, Penguin Books, has generously offered two copies of Caleb's Crossing for a giveaway! To enter, simply leave a comment with your e-mail address. Extra entries for new and old followers, just note which one in your comment. US only (UPDATE: and Canada!), and the giveaway ends in two weeks, on May 18.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring Blog Carnival Hop Giveaway!

Welcome to my stop on the Spring Blog Carnival hop, hosted by Candace's Book Blog, Reading Angel, Pure Imagination, and The Book Swarm! There's over 200 other blogs participating as well, so don't forget to check them out on the linky list below, too!

For my giveaway, the winner's choice of one of two books is up for grabs (both of these are brand-new duplicate copies from my personal library). To enter, just leave your e-mail address in the comments section at the bottom of this post. Tell me which book you'd like, too. Extra points if you're a new or old follower, just let me know in your comment. Sorry to international blog hoppers, but this giveaway's only open to people with US mailing addresses.
Squire by Tamora Pierce
This is the third book in Pierce's Protector of the Small series, which is part of the Tortall universe. My extra copy of this is the 2001 Random House paperback edition. Synopsis of it here.

Stones for My Father by Trilby Kent
This is a great middle grade/YA historical fiction book about the 1890s Boer War in South Africa. The copy up for grabs is the hardback edition, published by Tundra Books back in March. My review of it can be read here.

Thanks for stopping by, and happy blog hopping!