Monday, October 31, 2011

In My Mailbox #14

The stressful time of marching season + school + college apps is almost over!!! I'm hoping I will have more time now to read more than three or four books in one month, especially since they keep coming in the mail...

Next month, I'll be reviewing some books that, well, came for review, and I'll also be participating in a German lit month event (all books will be read in translation).

Happy Halloween!

For review:
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (publisher)
The World We Found by Thrity Umrigar (publisher)
Wild Abandon by Joe Dunthorne (GoodReads First Look)

Flashback by Dan Simmons (thanks, Three Boys and an Old Lady!)
Esther Waters by George Moore (thanks, OWC_Classics!)
Down the Mysterly River by Bill Willingham (thanks, vvb32 Reads!)
The Woman Who Heard Color by Kelly Jones (thanks, Marjole in Book Blog!)

From Random Buzzers:
Vixen (The Flappers #1) by Jillian Larkin
Brain Jack by Brian Falkner

Gothic Readings: The First Wave, 1764-1840 ed. by Rictor Norton

Purchased (used):
Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley

Don't you love the cover of The Night Circus ARC?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sci-Fi, I Robot: To Protect by Mickey Zucker Reichert

Series: first in authorized spin-off series to I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
Publisher: ROC
Date: November 1, 2011
Format: hardback
Acquired: from publisher (it appeared on my doorstep one day)
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book in return for an honest review.)
Pages: 385
Reading time: six days

From GoodReads: 2035: Susan Calvin is beginning her residency at a Manhattan teaching hospital, where a select group of patients is receiving the latest in diagnostic advancements: tiny nanobots, injected into the spinal fluid, that can unlock and map the human mind. Soon, Susan begins to notice an ominous chain of events surrounding the patients. When she tries to alert her superiors, she is ignored by those who want to keep the project far from any scrutiny for the sake of their own agenda. But what no one knows is that the very technology to which they have given life is now under the control of those who seek to spread only death...

My review: I should start by saying that I've never read I, Robot or any other science fiction book by Isaac Asimov. That said, I faced no confusion with reading a spin-off series which can apparently stand alone even if readers have no experience with Asimov's books.

To Protect sets up an interesting character in an interesting plot. The first half of the novel is concerned primarily with the beginning of Dr. Calvin's psychiatry residency, and the psychological details included in the plot are fascinating. I was a bit befuddled as to what so much psychiatry was going to contribute to the sci-fi aspects of the book, but I eventually figured out how it was introducing Calvin's personality and work, essential components of the development of her involvement with and understanding of the nanorobots. Reichert forms her story well, complete with emotional upheavals, dramatic events, romance, and some unexpected twists. I found Reichert's writing, at times, to be a bit melodramatic, but overall I enjoyed To Protect and am looking forward to seeing what will develop in the next books of the trilogy. I think I'll pick up a copy of I, Robot, too, while I'm at it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

YA Fiction: Pretty Little Liars by Sara Shepard

Series: Pretty Little Liars #1
Publisher: HarperTeen
Date: 2006
Format: paperback
Acquired: borrowed from a friend
Read: for Teen Book Club
Pages: 286
Reading time: three days

From GoodReads: Three years ago, Alison disappeared after a slumber party, not to be seen since. Her friends at the elite Pennsylvania school mourned her, but they also breathed secret sighs of relief. Each of them guarded a secret that only Alison had known. Now they have other dirty little secrets, secrets that could sink them in their gossip-hungry world. When each of them begins receiving anonymous emails and text messages, signed only by A, panic sets in. Are they being betrayed by some one in their circle? Worse yet: Is Alison back?

In one sentence: a poorly written mystery used as an excuse to write preppy, preposterous teen drama. I'm assuming Shepard was primarily writing for other preppy, melodramatic teens, because I could barely identify with her characters. I came close when they were describing their junior-year issues with school, college preparations, and high academic expectations, but the similarity ended there. Ms. Shepard, if you throw around designer names, I have no idea what you're talking about, and it's irrelevant to characterizations and plot development. If you describe a rural farming Pennsylvania town as one with twenty+ room mansions and prep schools, I think you're crazy. If the first book of your mystery series consists primarily of girly prep-school drama that defies my expectations of how teenagers actually act (and I'm a teenager, I should know), I'm never going to pick up the rest of the series.

It wasn't all bad. There were some really exciting moments to the story, when the mystery part decided to peek its head around the four girls' relationships. (With regards to relationships, Hanna's and Emily's seem realistic but not Spencer's and Aria's.) Other than that - meh. There are both better mysteries and better romance-drama novels. I'm not planning to pick up the rest of the series. There's, what, nine books currently out and more planned? I don't feel like it's worthwhile to invest my time in a series that just keeps getting more and more drawn out. From what my friends (who, incidentally, have enjoyed the books) have told me, the storyline continues to get more twisted, to the point of seeming unrealistic and preposterous (spoiler alerts: multiple As, long-lost twins, and, guess what, more drama).

Maturity Factor: Language and sexual situations.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

YA Fiction: Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block

Publisher: Joanna Cotler Books (HarperCollins)
Date: 2006
Format: hardback
Acquired: purchased from
Read: because I love myth retellings
Pages: 116
Reading time: 45 minutes

Psyche, seventeen, abandoned by her mother, used only as an actress by her father, has never known Love - until he climbs through her window one night. The two become lovers, even though Psyche has never seen Love's face. But one night she chooses to reveal his true form, and, tormented by self-doubt, Psyche chases Love away forever. She yearns to be transformed as the women in the ancient Greek myths were, and embarks on a journey through Hell and mythology to discover herself and find her true Love once again.

What verse novels lack in details, they more than make up in lyricism. Francesca Lia Block's Psyche in a Dress is no exception. Her writing and the story are unique, creative, dark, insightful, raw, engrossing, heartbreaking - in short, the makings of an amazing novel. I started this book thinking it would be just a retelling of the tale of Cupid and Psyche + modern high school drama. What I got was so much more. Psyche in a Dress transcends both of these expectations. It covers multiple dramatic Greek love tales (in fact, a basic understanding of Greek mythology is almost essential to completely understanding the plot) as Psyche morphs from Psyche (of course) to Echo, Eurydice, Persephone, Demeter, and herself. Modern high school drama? There's none. Instead, you get exploitative father-daughter relationships, masochistic dating, slave driving employers, and mothers who just want what's best for their children.

I also started reading Psyche in a Dress thinking that I'd read half of it one night and half of it another. I read it straight through, non-stop, and never even thought of putting it down. The story, in all its simplicity and darkness, is that engrossing - you just completely lose yourself in it. Also, by the ending of the novel I was about to cry, and that's extremely rare for me and books. High emotions and I don't get along well, but we were beginning to here.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Literary Hop Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered my giveaway as part of the Literary Blog Hop! SusieBookworm has gained some new followers, and if it gains only eleven more, there will be another giveaway in honor of reaching 250. :) But for now, the winner of Grendel by John Gardner is...

Victoria Zumbrum!

Please check your e-mail for the message I am about to send, Victoria, and I'll get your book mailed out to you by the beginning of next week!

Monday, October 17, 2011

In My Mailbox #13

How's everyone been lately? I apologize for being slow on posting, but I only have two more weeks left before I'll (hopefully) be able to have more reading time.

For review:
I, Robot: To Protect by Mickey Zucker Reichert (publisher)
Bright and Distant Shores by Dominic Smith (Atria Galley Alley)

The Hidden Goddess by M.K. Hobson (thanks, Mary and Candace!)
Came with an awesome and beautiful fan bag and lavender sachet, too!
Liesl and Po by Lauren Oliver (thanks, Once Upon a Twilight!)
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (thanks again, Once Upon a Twilight!)

From Random Buzzers:
Ingenue (The Flappers #2) by Jillian Larkin
A Time of Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux
Your Own, Sylvia by Stephanie Hemphill
The Other Countess (Lacey Chronicles #1) by Eve Edwards

Omega by Camille Flammarion (Amazon)

Cherokee Dance and Drama by Frank G. Speck and Leonard Broom

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Literary Giveaway Blog Hop!

It's been a while since I participated in a blog hop, so I thought I'd join a new one hosted by Judith at Leeswammes' Blog! She hosts these periodically throughout the year, and I've enjoyed entering the giveaways - no YA or romance books allowed, and a lot of people give away classics.

So what am I giving away? A copy of Grendel by John Gardner! I love Gardner's novels and read this one back in July; here's my review. The copy is very lightly used, with the same cover as pictured below.

To enter: Leave a comment on this post with your e-mail. If you're a GFC follower or e-mail subscriber, let me know for some extra points. Following is not required, but it's greatly appreciated! US addresses only, due to shipping. The giveaway's open from October 15 to October 19.

Don't forget to check out all the other great blogs:
  1. Leeswammes
  2. Devouring Texts
  3. The Book Whisperer
  4. Seaside Book Nook
  5. The Scarlet Letter (US only)
  6. Rikki's Teleidoscope
  7. Bibliosue
  8. Curled Up With a Good Book and a Cup of Tea
  9. The Book Diva's Reads
  10. Gaskella
  11. Lucybird's Book Blog
  12. Kim's Bookish Place
  13. The Book Garden
  14. Under My Apple Tree
  15. Helen Smith
  16. Sam Still Reading
  17. Nishita's Rants and Raves
  18. Ephemeral Digest
  19. Bookworm with a View
  20. The Parrish Lantern
  21. Dolce Bellezza
  22. Lena Sledge Blog
  23. Book Clutter
  24. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (US only)
  25. The Blue Bookcase
  26. Book Journey (US only)
  27. The House of the Seven Tails (US only)
  28. In One Eye, Out the Other (US only)
  29. Read, Write & Live
  30. Fresh Ink Books

  1. Living, Learning, and Loving Life (US only)
  2. Bibliophile By the Sea
  3. Laurie Here Reading & Writing Reviews
  4. Amy's Book World (US only)
  5. Teadevotee
  6. Joy's Book Blog
  7. Word Crushes (US only)
  8. Thinking About Loud!
  9. Kinna Reads
  10. Sweeping Me
  11. Minding Spot (US only)
  12. Babies, Books, and Signs (US only)
  13. Lisa Beth Darling
  14. Tony's Reading List
  15. SusieBookworm (US only)
  16. Tell Me A Story
  17. Close Encounters with the Night Kind
  18. Nerfreader
  19. Mevrouw Kinderboek (Netherlands, Belgium)
  20. Boekblogger (Netherlands)
  21. In Spring it is the Dawn
  22. No Page Left Behind
  23. Elle Lit

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Come Back Later: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Source: publisher (Scribner)

Great book, wrong time. As I received my ARC from the publisher (either in a giveaway or for review, through Shelf Awareness), I feel like I need to write something about this novel, though I haven't finished it. Yet.

Reasons for not continuing reading:
1. School - I have, at most, an hour a day to read, and this comes late at night. Sometimes it's hard to justify reading for pleasure rather than doing homework.
2. Interest - The Dovekeepers isn't boring, but when I have limited time to read, an exciting book is going to get me to read more than a less-exciting book.
3. Literary-ness and reading time - In one week I managed to read less than 200 pages of a 500-page book, and I haven't even cracked the cover this week. Hoffman's writing is great, but it's literary, so it takes me longer to read it. Not good when I don't have much time to read.

As soon as school lets up some, I will go right back to reading this. As I've already mentioned, Hoffman is an awesome writer, and I love the blend of historical fiction, fantasy, and Jewish beliefs. I love how Hoffman incorporates said Jewish beliefs into a novel without making it seem like most religious-associated fiction - trying to preach to you. The stories Hoffman is telling are amazing and interesting, but at this point it's going to take me at least a month to finish the book, and it deserves way more than just 2% of my attention.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sci-Fi: Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez

Publisher: Riverhead Books
Date: September 2010
Format: paperback
Acquired: from publisher
Read: for review (I received my copy of this book in return for an honest review)
Pages: 280
Reading time: three days

Thirteen-year-old Cole lives at some point in the near future. The United States, not to mention the rest of the world, has recently been ravaged by a flu pandemic of epic scope that left Cole an orphan shortly after his family moved from Chicago. Adopted by an evangelical minister and his wife from Salvation City, a town populated almost entirely by other fundamentalist Christians, Cole adjusts to his new life and new faith while trying to figure out his place in the post-flu world.

The apocalypse: Only recent events could make Nunez's vision of an apocalyptic event scary. Unlike most post-apocalyptic novels, the author doesn't try to make the flu pandemic some awfully thrilling, incredibly dramatic event. The pandemic is scary because it's relatively commonplace. I was reminded of the combined swine flu/regular flu epidemic that swept through my marching band last year. Over a period of two weeks, close to half the band got sick. Fortunately, no one even came close to being hospitalized, much less died, but imagine if this flu had been super-contagious, resilient to drugs, and carrying a low recovery rate - the death toll would have mounted up, fast, as the sickness spread not only around the group, but to others as well. Such is the case with the pandemic Nunez describes, and it's not too hard to imagine after all the recent flu scares.

The post-apocalypse: Cole's life with the evangelical Pastor Wyatt and his wife, Tracy, was not like how I expected it to be. Life after the pandemic, at least in Salvation City, isn't that much different from how it was before, so Cole's position is much the same as any other orphan kid who's lost his or her parents in some awful event. And unlike post-apocalyptic books such as Octavia Butler's Parable of the Sower that portray their future's fundamentalist Christians as dystopian extremists, Nunez is more sympathetic to her characters. I expected Salvation City to become a dystopia, but it's not. By the end, it's become more of a bildungsroman than anything else.

Overall: Salvation City isn't exciting (in fact, not much really happens for the last 2/3 or so of the book), but it's well-written, interesting, and different from most other science fiction books you'll read (besides the whole flu pandemic thing, it's not really even sci-fi). The ending meanders a bit before reaching its final purpose as a coming-of-age tale, but it's not an unpleasant journey. It's just best to know what to not expect from this book before you read it, so you don't get stuck with a novel you find boring because you're more of a Hunger Games-type book fan.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

In My Mailbox # Something: Two-Week Edition

So I'm lazy and IMMs will only be posted when I have significant numbers of new books accumulated. Hey, school is stressful. At this point, I'm glad I'm posting reviews twice a week (edited: okay, so less than twice a week now. Thank you school, band, SAT, and college apps).

For review:
The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes (BookTrib Review Crew)

In the Name of the King by A. L. Berridge (thanks, History Girls!)
Reign of Madness by Lynn Cullen (thanks, In the Hammock!)
Reckless by Cornelia Funke (thanks, All-Consuming Books!)
A Long Long Sleep by Anna Sheehan (thanks, Endlessly Bookish!)
Lockdown by Alexander Gordon Smith (thanks, Scooper Speaks and Reading Addict!)
The Psychology of Twilight ed. by E. David Klonsky and Alexis Black (thanks, Smart Pop!)

So I ended up with two copies of Lockdown and Smart Pop sent me a finished copy of their Twilight anthology in addition to my ARC - this means a giveaway! When I reach 250 followers...but I've also signed up for Leeswammes' Literary Blog Hop Giveaway in two weeks, when I'll be giving away my extra copy of Grendel.

Pretty Little Liars #1 by Sara Shepard (from a friend for our teen book club)

The Clansman by Thomas Dixon
Well, this one warrants some explanation: I am NOT a white supremacist or neo-Nazi or something. I am an (amateur) literary historian and this is part of literary history. My mom didn't even look at me strangely when this showed up in the mail. But then, some of our fellow historical re-enactors have some odd ways, so maybe she's just used to it.