Monday, October 31, 2011

October Reads

Lots of good books this month!  The month seems to have gone really fast, but then it seems like forever since I read Little Blog or Lola.

So the books I read this October:

Little Blog on the Prairie by Cathleen Davitt Bell
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Beautiful Americans by Lucy Silag
Wanderlust by Lucy Silag
Experienced by Lucy Silag
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Spoiled by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
Conspiracies by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edgehill
Dreaming Anastasia by Joy Preble
Prized by Caragh O'Brien
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Bunheads by Sophie Flack
dancergirl by Carol M Tanzman
Tangled by Carolyn Mackler
Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti
Hooked by Catherine Greeman
Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson
Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle
The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper
Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
If I Tell by Janet Gurtler
The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet by Erin Dionne
Fracture by Megan Miranda
Mastiff by Tamora Pierce
Terrier by Tamora Pierce

I joined two challenges - the Paranormal Reading Challenge hosted by Marie over at Ramblings of a Daydreamer and NetGalley October hosted by Red House Books.  I'm happy to say I met both my reading goals, hurray!

Favourites are so hard to pick especially when it's been a good month of reading, but I think my favourite three books this month were:





...oops, that's four.  What books were your favourites this month?

Review: The Legend of Beka Cooper by Tamora Pierce

The Legend of Beka Cooper consists of three books: Terrier, Bloodhound, and Mastiff
by Tamora Pierce
October 24, 2006;  April 14, 2009; October 25, 2011
Purchased all Three
Goodreads Page
Overall Grade: A




Synopsis from Terrier:  Tamora Pierce begins a new Tortall trilogy introducing Beka Cooper, an amazing young woman who lived 200 years before Pierce's popular Alanna character. For the first time, Pierce employs first-person narration in a novel, bringing readers even closer to a character that they will love for her unusual talents and tough personality.

Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost's Guard, and she's been assigned to the Lower City. It's a tough beat that's about to get tougher, as Beka's limited ability to communicate with the dead clues her in to an underworld conspiracy. Someone close to Beka is using dark magic to profit from the Lower City's criminal enterprises—and the result is a crime wave the likes of which the Provost's Guard has never seen before.



With the publication of Mastiff over the weekend, the Beka Cooper trilogy is finally complete.  I stayed up all night Saturday to finish it, and while I’d feel silly writing a review of the third book of the trilogy, I figured I’d try to write a quick review of the trilogy as a whole for those who haven’t picked it up.

The Beka trilogy (or, more properly The Legend of Beka Cooper) is different from the majority of Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books in that you don’t really need to know anything about the multitude of other series because it’s set about 200 years prior to the general action.  It’s also really, really good.

Beka Cooper begins as a trainee Dog (a Puppy) - one of the Guards who act as police in the capital city of Corus.  In the Lower City, the Dogs are vastly outnumbered by thieves, slavers and murderers, and 2 Puppies in ten die before their year of training is up.  She’s incredibly shy but determined to protect her people and her city as well as she possibly can. 

Each book is told through Beka’s journalling of the events, and while sometimes the journals feel more like simple first person narration, I love that we get not only the action and conversation that occurred but also Beka’s thoughts and reflections on the situation.  She has a very definite viewpoint on the proper way of things (which, happily, is not the same as a modern person’s proper way of things), and her devotion to duty and sense of humour shine through the writing.  I also really enjoy that Beka often brings up the memory tricks (memory palace!) she was taught that allow her to remember events as accurately as possible.

Through the three books, we get to watch Beka grow from a shy adolescent Puppy to a fully grown woman confident in her own power and capabilities.  It’s a really well done character arc, and while Beka at the end of Mastiff is very, very different from the girl at the beginning of Terrier, the path she took to get there is completely clear.

Along with Beka, we get a wide range of secondary characters from the other Dogs at the station  to some colorful ladies and gentlemen who range themselves on the other side of the law to Beka’s siblings and friends in the Lower City.  Her training officers, Goodwin and Tunstall, are some of my favourite characters.  They’re wonderfully written hard-bitten and incredibly competent police officers who teach Beka the ropes of their difficult and dangerous job.  I also adore the flirtatious and snarky Rosto the Piper who manages to make friends with Beka even though he definitely has little use for minor things like laws against thievery or murder.

As opposed to a more typical fantasy world storyline, these books all are police procedurals with definite homages to the classics of the genre.  Gods and magic come into play as they always do in Tortall, but the relationship of Beka and her compatriots to most mages is one of slightly annoyed cooperation.  Think of the reactions of Law & Order detectives to the psychologists or sometimes lawyers - it’s kind of awesome especially from the typical fantasy perspective of mages as the ultimate source of knowledge and competence.

There’s a lot of dialect and slang in these three books, but most of the terms are either easily understood from context or there’s a nice glossary and cast of characters at the back of each book.  I’m not the best judge because I don’t have much of an issue with crazy fantasy dialects, but I don’t believe they’d cause much of a hurdle for a new reader.

Most of this review is towards non-Tortall readers, but if you have read some Tortall books, you'll get even more out of these books including bookend cameos by that other slightly less law-abiding Cooper, George, and a starring role by one particular black Cat with purple eyes. Also a really neat look at how society was before lady knights faded away and bits about why that changed (beyond, you know, making Alanna special).

These is a seriously fantastic trilogy.  The Aly books (Trickster’s Choice and Trickster’s Queen) remain my favourite Tortall series, but I can’t help but look at Beka Cooper’s trilogy as the best written.  The first and third books are stellar, and while the second droops a little under the weight of second book syndrome, it’s still a worthwhile and good read.  If you haven’t read any Tamora Pierce yet, consider starting here.  She’s one of the godmothers of the strong YA heroine, and she’s worth reading by every YA reader who loves powerful and capable characters.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Review: If I Tell by Janet Gurtler

If I Tell
by Janet Gurtler
October 1, 2011
Received from NetGalley
Goodreads Page
Amazon Page
Grade: A

Jasmine Evans knows one thing for sure... people make mistakes. After all, she is one. Jaz is the result of a one-night stand between a black football player and a blonde princess. Having a young mother who didn't raise her, a father who wants nothing to do with her and living in a small-minded town where she's never fit in hasn't been easy. But she's been surviving. Until she sees her mom's new boyfriend making out with her own best friend. When do you forgive people for being human or give up on them forever?



I read Gurtler’s I’m Not Her and enjoyed it, but I wasn’t blown away.  (And since it’s a cancer book, I didn’t review it.)  Still I was looking forward to If I Tell and was terribly excited when I received permission to read it through NetGalley.

Let me tell you, if Janet Gurtler improves upon If I Tell as much as she improved from I’m Not Her to If I Tell, that third book is going to be the best book ever written.  If I Tell absolutely blew me away in every sense.  The main character, Jaz, had an amazing, incredibly believable character arc, the supporting characters all read as real, fully-developed people in their own right, and the writing was searing and honest that a way we don’t often get to see.

Jaz is a good example of a character that I didn’t always like but I loved anyway.  The book begins as she’s possibly just witnessed the straw that may cause her to wall herself off from people forever - the utter betrayal of her mom’s boyfriend making out with Jaz’s best friend, and the rest of the story is her deciding how to react.  I can’t say I enjoyed watching her reactions because some of it was so very painful, but they were very realistic and just made my heart hurt. 

I also appreciated the examination of her race and the repercussions of both being biracial and the only biracial girl in her school.  Jaz’s feeling of never really belonging anywhere was clear, and her discomfort in her own identity came through in a sometimes uncomfortable reading experience.  I probably say this every time I get to read a book with a non-white protagonist, but young adult lit is so whitewashed, that I’m always happy to see someone addressing issue.  To have Gurtler really examine the issue in such a skillful way is an even bigger bonus.  Someday I’d like to read a book with a non-white protagonist and feel like it happens often enough that I don’t even need to comment!

In a less weighty issue, I adored adored the love interest in this book.  Jackson is both a great character and utterly wonderful.  He reminded me in the best ways of one of Sarah Dessen’s love interests.  And that’s a high compliment from me because I love me some Dessen boys.  He also is more than “just” the love interest.  He’s definitely a three-dimensional character who’s respectful, totally sweet to his mother, and someone trying to rebuild his life after his own mistakes.

So yes, this is seriously a great book.  It’s not always the easiest to read because of the emotions brought up, and Jaz probably will make you want to shake her as she works through her plot (seriously, Jaz, call your friends! That’s what they’re there for!), but it’s really, really good.  I’d recommend it to anyone looking for an excellent contemps read with very interesting and relevant themes.

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcefire Books for allowing me to read this book!

In My Mailbox: Sunday October 30

Halloween's installment of of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox meme!  Have any of you dressed up yet?  What costume did you choose?  Anything book related?

Bought:
Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

I've read both of these already, but then Twenty Boy Summer was on sale at Amazon, and I couldn't just buy one book!  It'd be lonely in the box!  So I got a friend to keep it company.

For my Kindle:
Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

Borrowed from the Library:
Farewell in Splendor: the Passing of Queen Victoria and Her Age by Jerrold M Packard

Only one book from the library?  I must have been off my game

Received from NetGalley:
The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher
Busted in Bollywood by Nicola Marsh
Happy Families by Tanita S Davis
Don't You Wish by Roxanne St. Clair
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Ruby Red Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers
If I Tell by Janet Gurtler
Pure by Julianna Baggott

What books did you come across this week?  Leave me a link so I can check out your mailboxes!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Review: Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Little Women and Me
by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
November 8, 2011
Received from NetGalley
Amazon Page
Goodreads Page
Grade: B-

Emily is sick and tired of being a middle sister. So when she gets an assignment to describe what she'd change about a classic novel, Emily pounces on Little Women. After all, if she can't change things in her own family, maybe she can bring a little justice to the March sisters. (Kill off Beth? Have cute Laurie wind up with Amy instead of Jo? What was Louisa May Alcott thinking?!) But when Emily gets mysteriously transported into the world of the book, she discovers that righting fictional wrongs won't be easy. And after being immersed in a time and place so different from her own, it may be Emily-not the four March sisters-who undergoes the most surprising change of all. Lauren Baratz-Logsted's winning confection will appeal to fans of Little Women as well as anyone who enjoys a modern twist on an old favorite.



I think I need to preface this review by saying Little Women and Me was not for me.  I definitely think there’ll be readers who’ll enjoy this romp through the classic nineteenth century novel, but I can’t count myself as one of them.

I try to take a book’s premise at face value – e.g. I don’t have a problem with the main character being sucked into a book, and I don’t feel the author needs to explain how this happened, but I greatly prefer the rules of the ‘magic’ stay consistent once they’re established.  While Emily’s within Little Women, at times she remembers what’s going to happen next and at times she has ‘story amnesia’ and which happened when never seemed to have a reason beyond increasing tension.  The original book characters also seem to have a difficult time remembering that Emily is there which was an intriguing idea but also frustrated me because again there didn’t seem to be any real consistency which happens when.

I’d have been able to overlook a lot of the above if I was more engaged with the main character.  Emily never really gelled into a real ‘person’ for me.  Instead - like some of the plot devices - I felt like Emily’s personality bent at the whim of the story.  She was definitely amusing, and I especially enjoyed her observations about the nineteenth century and the March family as a whole.  Her relationship with Beth was also incredibly sweet, but beyond that Emily seemed more inclined to chase boys (all the while declaring that she needed to change the book so Jo ended up with Laurie) than interact with either her real sisters or her March sisters in any meaningful way.  Being self-centered isn’t anything new for a YA heroine, but that coupled what seemed like a complete lack of empathy (other than towards Beth), Emily never seemed to develop beyond this until her sudden realisation at the end of the book.

Reading the author’s notes, I saw that she had written the book by reading one chapter of Little Women and then writing one chapter of her book, and suddenly much of the book made more sense to me.  Perhaps the author wished to have an episodic style, but while Little Women obviously has overarching themes and plot, Little Women and Me never seems to achieve that.  Even Emily’s realization at the end of the book seemed out of nowhere, and I think the novel as a whole would have benefited from a more consistent dramatic arc to aid in both gradual character development and thematic structure.

There was a twist towards the end that made me laugh out loud, but when looking back at it, I still can’t see more than one indication that it was coming.  I really love surprise twists where the framework is laid more consistently throughout the book.  As it is, I’m left feeling like the author simply wished to throw a plot twist in the ending pages.

I’m seriously disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this book more.  I’d been really excited to get the opportunity to read it – especially since Little Women is one of my favourite books.  (Though I have to admit that I’m possibly the only reader ever who thinks that Jo marrying Laurie would be a terrible, terrible idea.)  But unfortunately neither the book nor the characters lived up to my expectations.  It may be that my love for the source book is standing in the way of a love for this one, but I don’t think so.  I enjoyed the outsider’s perspective on the March family and their admittedly slightly insane way of life, and I enjoyed the idea that some of the family’s most charming traits for a reader would be incredibly annoying to a participant.  What kept me from enjoying the book as a whole was an uneven structure and a frustration that the main character was never developed fully enough to love or hate.

Many thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for allowing me to read this!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Review: The FitzOsbornes in Exile by Michelle Cooper

The FitzOsbornes in Exile
by Michelle Cooper
August 2, 2010
Borrowed from Library
Amazon Page
Goodreads Page
Grade: A


Forced to leave their island kingdom, Sophie FitzOsborne and her eccentric family take shelter in England. Sophie's dreams of making her debut in shimmering ballgowns are finally coming true, but how can she enjoy her new life when they have all lost so much?

Aunt Charlotte is ruthless in her quest to see Sophie and Veronica married off by the end of the Season, Toby is as charming and lazy as ever, Henry is driving her governess to the brink of madness, and the battle of wills between Simon and Veronica continues. Can Sophie keep her family together, when everything seems to be falling apart?

An enticing glimpse into high society, the cut and thrust of politics as nations scramble to avert world war, and the hidden depths of a family in exile, struggling to find their place in the world.



I loved this book.  Like “it needs to come live with me right now” love.  But I’m not entirely convinced that all the readers of A Brief History of Montmaray will feel the same way.  While A Brief History... is a short book with spurts of adventure and action, FitzOsbornes in Exile feels much more like an ‘adult’ book set in late-1930s high English society.  There are debutante balls, politics, references to the Mitford sisters and British Fascists and the League of Nations, and a great cameo by a young Jack Kennedy.

So I think you need to be at least a little interested in interwar Europe or high Society to really enjoy this book.  Or possibly just too much in love with the wonderful FitzOsborne siblings.  Otherwise it may seem overly long and boring in places.

With that out of the way, I’ll continue!  We still get Sophie as our narrator though this time her journal entries are often from a much greater distance that in the first book.  I kind of loved how much the book felt like a real journal with Sophie often opening the entries with “I meant to be writing in this more often, but...”  Or maybe that’s just my journals that always end up that.  She’s definitely grown up after the events of A Brief History..., and I loved seeing how she’d matured (and continued to mature). She’s no longer the sweet, slightly naive girl - well, she’s still sweet - but she understands politics much more deeply and comes to play an ever more important role in Montmaray politics (otherwise known as the disputes within her family).  Sophie’s the girl that no one notices because she’s shy and quiet but who observes absolutely everything and then uses it to her (sometimes) slightly Machiavellian advantage.

It’s really interesting to see England as a whole and London Society through the lens of a girl who’s only ever lived on an island and barely known more than 15 people in her entire life.  Sophie, her cousin Veronica (my second favourite character in the books), and her little sister Henry all have to adapt to the expectations of girls - and Princesses! - by the upper class.  For all of them, the adaptation is difficult, but perhaps especially so for the incredibly intelligent and outspoken Veronica who can’t bear to play the sweet, silent debutante.  Her arguments about politics during dinners and parties are some of my favourite parts of the book.  As is Henry’s expedition to have tea with Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret at Buckingham Palace.

I didn’t mention it in my previous review, but I also liked the not-just-friends relationship between Toby (the new King of Montmaray and Sophie’s elder brother) and Simon (the ‘Lord Chancellor’ of their country).  The reactions of the older girls to the discovery of this relationship is perhaps a little too blase for the times, but watching both Toby and Simon try to decide if their connection is worth maintaining in the face of a society that wholeheartedly disapproves of it - not to mention the fact that Toby needs to produce an heir - was both interesting and a little heartbreaking. 

The climax of the book is just before World War II breaks out and occurs at a League of Nations meeting (seriously.  My little international relations-loving heart was a-flutter) which was again, very different from the first book and perhaps exemplifies the completely different tack this book takes.  The reader gets to watch Veronica come into her own, and it took everything I had not to stand up and cheer.  Well, also I don’t want people to think I’m entirely insane.

I’m thrilled to find out there’ll be a third book featuring the FitzOsbornes, and I look forward to reading it as soon as it comes out.  Like I said at the beginning, this book won’t be for everyone, but if you’re at all interested, I’d completely recommend it. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Review: Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

Dearly, Departed
by Lia Habel
October 18, 2011
Received from NetGalley
Amazon Page
Goodreads Page
Grade: B+

Love can never die.

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?

The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.



I’ve been struggling with this review forever!  Seriously, I read Dearly, Departed about two weeks ago, loved it, and then tried and failed, tried and failed at writing a review.  When I started the novel, I was skeptical that a post-apocalyptic steampunk, neo-Victorian zombie novel – cool as the description sounds! – could really work in any reasonable way, but I was proved completely wrong by Lia Habel’s writing.

We’re introduced to the society of New Victoria slowly as Nora leaves her girls’ school and returns to her aunt’s house for the first time since her father’s death a year prior.  The history of the society is explained in what can only be described as a well-written info dump, but I didn’t mind the flood of information at all because a) (like I said) it was very well done and b) the history and world-building involved was so intriguing!  We also get a nicely detailed explanation of both the zombies and how some manage to keep their personalities and other turn into ravaging monsters.  I also totally enjoyed the descriptions of the medical care needed to keep the ‘good’ zombies viable.  It was definitely macabre but also incredibly interesting.

The chapters switch points-of-view between Nora and Bram, the soldier with mysterious links to Nora’s father, plus three other characters.  Bram’s probably the most interesting character in the book at least partially because he’s revealed to be dead.  Seriously, this guy is the most sympathetic zombie character ever.  Which isn’t necessarily saying a lot since most zombies are anything but sympathetic, but even the fact that he could become both a character I’d root for is a huge achievement.  (Cause really, normally zombies cause me to get my baseball bat ready)

While I’m still not a big fan of swapping viewpoint characters, for Nora and Bram the technique really worked well.  The characters come from such different places that seeing their perspective filtered through their vastly different background knowledge helped both focus the book and provide the reader with a better understanding of the action.  However the other three points-of-view were weakly done and didn’t add much to the story.  I’d have been much happier if the only points-of-view we saw were the two main characters, and I think it would have helped to tighten and focus some of the rather sprawling story.

I’ve already admitted that Bram’s my favourite character, but Nora was nonetheless interesting.  She’s perhaps cast a little too much in the mold of a typical ‘tomboy heroine’ and the special quality she’s revealed to possess made me roll my eyes slightly.  Still her characterization never falls flat, and her determination, sense of humor, and devastation over her father’s death really made the character for me.  I also enjoyed how slowly the relationship between Nora and Bram developed, how the trust and enjoyment of each other came slowly over time, and how they both had to deal with their own issues about not only relationships but also the idea of a relationship between a living person and a freaking zombie.  Zombies aren’t lovable.  This is a tenant of my paranormal beliefs that was absolutely shattered by this novel.

So this lovable zombie, Bram.  He could almost be too perfect but it never felt like that. He was respectable and honourable and cared about his soldiers.  He knows he only has a few years of ‘unlife’ available, and he’s decided to use them to protect civilians and to be a good soldier.  That whole devotion to duty is a huge story kink of mine so it’s probably not surprising that I love the character so much. 

There are some points where the writing drags a little, and they mostly come in the POV chapters that aren’t Bram or Nora’s.  I think this may mostly be first-novel syndrome and hope that in the future the author will be able to edit her next books more deftly to avoid the tempo changes and slight loss of interest that occurs during them.  I was really amazed with how well Habel wrote the action scenes.  I never felt lost or wondering who was where during them, and they included awesome bits like stabbing a zombie in the face with a parasol.  In the FACE. With a parasol.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to blow their minds with such things as good guy zombies or just read a great action Steampunk tale.  There are some issues with the book, but nothing serious enough to significantly downgrade my enthusiasm over it.

Thank you to NetGalley and DelRay for allowing me to read this e-ARC!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff

Waiting on Wednesday is the awesome meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to highlight tantalizing upcoming books.  This week, I'm excited for:

The Wild Ways 
by Tanya Huff
November 1, 2011

Alysha Gale's cousin Charlotte is a Wild Power, who allies herself with a family of Selkies in a fight against offshore oil drilling. The oil company has hired another of the Gale family's Wild Powers, the fearsome Auntie Catherine, to steal the Selkies' sealskins. To defeat her, Charlotte will have to learn what born to be Wild really means in the Gale family...  



Man, that's kind of an awful synopsis!


Here, read the synopsis of the first book: The Enchantment Emporium:
Alysha Gale is a member of a family capable of changing the world with the charms they cast. Then she receives word that she's inherited her grandmother's junk shop in Calgary, only to discover upon arriving that she'll be serving the fey community. And when Alysha learns just how much trouble is brewing in Calgary, even calling in the family to help may not be enough to save the day.
I loved the first book so much.  The Gale magic is less magic than it is a force of nature, and it's one of the most original - and far reaching! - magic systems I've seen for a while.  I loved the magic, I loved Alysha and her cousins, I loved the family in general and their intertwining relationships and customs.  I loved the general pronouncements like "All Gale girls cook" or "Gales never worried about having a taxi available."  Just by the fact of their magic and heritage, the world bends to their will, and I loved how well it was done.  

So I was doubly thrilled when I saw that a second book was coming out next week!  I so hope Allie and Jack show up again, but if not her cousin was another awesome character, and I just can't wait to have more Gale issues and awesome.  

Also I'll read anything by Tanya Huff.  I've greatly enjoyed the vast majority of her books (We won't talk about the last Victoria Nelson book...), and the lady herself is both gracious and incredibly sweet.

If you haven't read anything by her, there's a multitude of places to start.  I'd encourage The Enchantment Emporium right now, but there's the Blood books about a police detective and four-hundred year old vampire in Toronto, there's the Quarters series which is a high fantasy with another really cool magic system, or you could go for the Confederation/Valor books about a female Staff Sargeant in a hard military sci fi setting.  Seriously, the author can do anything.

And eeeee, new Gale book!  I can't wait to get it!

Review: Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John


Five Flavors of Dumb
by Antony John
November 10, 2010
Amazon Page
Grade: A

The Challenge: Piper has one month to get the rock band Dumb a paying gig.

The Deal: If she does it, Piper will become the band's manager and get her share of the profits.

The Catch: How can Piper possibly manage one egomaniacal pretty boy, one talentless piece of eye candy, one crush, one silent rocker, and one angry girl? And how can she do it when she's deaf?

Piper can't hear Dumb's music, but with growing self-confidence, a budding romance, and a new understanding of the decision her family made to buy a cochlear implant for her deaf baby sister, she discovers her own inner rock star and what it truly means to be a flavor of Dumb.



This might not be the most coherent of reviews because I totally loved this book.  It’s the whole cliché – I laughed, I cried, and I was completely disappointed when it was over.

Piper was a fantastic heroine with a great character arc.  Sometimes you read a book, and even when it’s good, the character journey is pretty predictable, but I never felt that way with Piper.  She begins as a fantastically intelligent girl who struggles to express her personality both at school and with her family.  Many of her difficulties originate in her lack of confidence – not in herself so much but in her ability to find a voice in a world that highly values hearing and speech and dismisses most other forms of communication.  When she decides to become the manager of a high school band, she’s forced to confront society’s paternalist attitudes towards Deaf people and Deaf culture head on.  Piper moves from mainly a passive role in society to a person who knows what she wants and how to achieve it.  It’s something she’s always known – we learn very quickly that she’s an insanely good and aggressive chess player but the process of applying this to her own life is a complicated one.

She’s snarky, determined, crazy smart, and completely stupid about boys.  I absolutely fell in love with her the instant she appeared on the page. 

I also loved every member of her very present family.  Each member of the family is going through their own struggle.  Her father’s trying to adapt to the loss of his job and becoming the stay-at-home parent, her mother deals with suddenly being the sole income and the secondary caregiver, her little brother Finn (who I utterly adored and wanted as my own brother) is trying to adapt to going to high school as the “brother of the deaf girl.”  And the baby just received cochlear implants that will allow her to enter the hearing world.  Sometimes even when a family or parents appear in a YA novel, their lives seem to revolve around the central character’s, but it’s clear in The Five Flavors of Dumb that each of these people has their own life, their own inner struggles, and the story becomes not just Piper’s but the entire family’s especially as they all try to resolve the conflicts between the hearing members – now including the baby, Grace - and Piper’s Deafness.

The titular band is also comprised of strong and interesting personalities, and there’s really no need for external conflict because the interpersonal issues are set up so well.  Even so, there’s definitely two tiers of character development within the band – the girls - Tash and Kallie - and Ed become fully three-dimensional characters while Josh and Will lurk in the background even when Josh acts as antagonist to his own band. 

While there isn’t any overt violence or sexual themes in the book, the narration shies away from absolutely nothing.  Some of the themes and emotions are raw enough that it feels like the book is addressing much more controversial issues, and that just strengthens the overall text.  There’s so much in this book that I loved!  If I could think of a cool way to do it, I'd draw a comparison between this book and the movie Almost Famous because while the story is completely different, the ability of music to save and transform lives comes through in the similar ways.  Seriously, go read this book.  I can’t even stress that enough.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

100 Follower Giveaway - Winner!

And the winner of my very first giveaway is Amanda Copulos of Short and Sweet!

Congratulations, Amanda, I'll be emailing you as soon as this posts. 

Thank you to everyone who participated, and I have all your book suggestions written down for future reading goodness.  :D

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books to Read Around Halloween!

I've been looking forward to this week's topic Top Ten meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!  Though I totally have to put a disclaimer first.  I'm not terribly big on horror or graphic violence cause, um, I get nightmares really easily.  I'm seriously a total wuss. 

So!  Most of my books are more on the creepy or ghostly or gothic horror end of the spectrum.  :D

1. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson - I read/reviewed this a few weeks back and LOVED IT. Such a creepy and hilarious book.  I'm seriously rereading it this weekend for Halloween-ness.
2. The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak - It's narrated by Death.  Come on.
3. Maggie Quinn: Girl v. Evil by Rosemary Clement-Moore - This trilogy is like Buffy the Vampire Slayer in book form.  Snarky quips, pop culture, and fighting evil.  Love them.
4. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - It's the ULTIMATE horror novel.  And it was written by a teenager. And it's really, really good.  If you haven't read it, what are you waiting for?
5. Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - One of the great Gothic horror novels.  Seriously fantastic.
6. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen - And a satire of the Gothic novels of the late 18th century. Also totally funny.
7. The Opposite of Life by Narelle M. Harris - This is finally available in the US!  Only for Kindle, but still!  It's a fantastic addition to the vampire genre set in Melbourne, Australia.  I seriously loved it.  Also got nightmares. (Told you)
8. Edgar Allan Poe - Any of his short stories or poetry because it's all creepy as anything.
9. Nevermore by Kelly Creagh - This book really wasn't my cup of tea, but it definitely fulfills the qualifications for a good Halloween read.  It's spooky and about Edgar Allan Poe.
10. John Dies at the End by David Wong - Possibly the creepiest book I've ever, ever read.  Holy crap, it's a head trip.

And there's my ten picks to keep someone busy until Halloween!  What do you guys think?  What's on your list of haunted Halloween reads?


Sunday, October 23, 2011

In My Mailbox: Sunday October 24

A very late installment of The Story Siren's In My Mailbox meme!

Bought:
Hooked by Catherine Greenman
Shine by Lauren Myracle

Borrowed from Library:
Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson
Scarlett Fever by Maureen Johnson
Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Ashes by Ilsa J Bick
Sass & Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler
Haunted by Joy Preble

From NetGalley:
Fracture by Megan Miranda
Little Women and Me by Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Cross My Heart by Sascha Gould
Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homan 
The Winter Palace: A Novel of Catherine the Great by Eva Stachniak   
The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hirnandani


Received through Fall Book Exchange!
White Cat by Holly Black
Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
Thank you so much to my Fall Santa Tina!  You're wonderful, Tina!

Won in TG's 150 Follower Contest!
Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel
Thank you so much, TG!  I love your blog, and I'm so thrilled to have won!

I wasn't feeling well most of the week so between that and the Readathon yesterday I managed to get a bunch of these read already.  I haven't gotten any reviews written though.  That'll be tonight and tomorrow with any luck.

What all did you get this week?  I feel so lucky to have gotten so many great books!  Link me up to your IMM post!

24 Hour Readathon Wrap-Up!

The Readathon is over!  Well, it was over about 5 hours ago, but then there was sleeping.  This event was SO much fun!  Thank you to all the organizers and cheerleaders and everyone on twitter for being insanely awesome and downright fabulous.  Between distractions and losing my concentration, I didn't get to read as much as I hoped to but I still got a lot done and had an amazing time cheering other people on and seeing what all was going on.

I read until about 5:30am (when other people in the house started getting up, and I went WOW, IT'S LATE) after turning the computer off so that means it's time for a final update!

Final Update End of Readathon

I read The Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John and finished the last 100 pages of Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan in my last reading push.

Pages Read: 1468
Books Read (in full): 4
Eaten: My Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaains
Disasters:  Overall nothing so bad!  (Except that Red Wings loss ugh)




Final Meme

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
9-14 where I just lost all my concentration and couldn't read a word!  It was totally annoying.  But once that cleared up, I was able to hunker down and read a bunch more!  I just wish I'd been able to stick it out, but work calls.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Man, The Five Flavors of Dumb was AMAZING.  I freaking adored that book so much.  It sucked you in and never let go.  I saw a bunch of people reading Hunger Games books which seemed like a good idea!  It's hard to put those down in the middle!

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
Not really!  I had an amazing time and can't wait for the next.  OH!  I do have one - I didn't see the main @readathon twitter account until way late in the day.  Maybe mention that more prominently in the posts?  Or it might have been, and I just failed to notice

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
 I thought the cheerleaders were really well-organized and it was great both from a reader's perspective to get such happy wonderful notes and from a cheerer's perspective because I knew exactly what was being asked of me and what I could do!

5. How many books did you read?
Four in total and bits and pieces of another 6.

6. What were the names of the books you read?
 Five Flavors of Dumb by Antony John
Hooked by Catherine Greenman
Six Rules of Maybe by Deb Caletti
Tangled by Carolyn Mackler

And I read the last third of Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan.  The other books don't count cause I just read the first 20 pages and called it quits!

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Five Flavors of Dumb for sure.  That was a fantastic book and had me laughing and crying.  Tangled was a close second and a good one to start off with.

8. Which did you enjoy least?
Hooked. It's a good book and a well-written book, but man, it's depressing.  Reading it late at night was a terrible idea, but I refused to let me taught me into putting it down, darnit!

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
Have fun!  Seriously.  Really read the reader's updates so you can make a personal comment and remind people who seem stressed that it's okay to take a break!

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
I'm definitely going to play again and next time I hope to plan to read for the full 24 hours!  I'll definitely cheer again too because that was all kinds of fun.

Thank you again to all the organizers and everyone who visited and all the prize-donators!  I'm so excited to get my prize!  Such a cool bonus to a day of amazingness.

Yay Readathon!  That was fun!  Except now my back hurts from sitting all day.  Next time I'll definitely have to plan moving breaks more often. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

24 Hour Read-a-thon!

Because I'm obviously crazy, I'm going to join with all the rest of the crazy people participating in Dewey's Read-a-thon today from 8am EDT to 8am!  Since I have to work tomorrow, I won't be reading the full twenty-four hours, but I'm going to read as much as possible and cheerlead during my evening.

I am totally excited about giving myself permission to spend all day reading.  It'll be great!  Two of my hockey teams are playing tonight, but I'm totally capable of reading and watching at the same time...because I do it for almost every game ever.

Because this is a 'giving myself permission to read' day, I'm not going to set any goals or specifically choose any books to read.  I have a big bunch of NetGalley books on my Kindle and a nice stack of library books to choose from, and I'm totally going to meander along and choose whatever looks best at the time.  I'm so geekily excited!

I'll update every few hours with books read and page count and all that fun stuff!  If you guys are reading too, link me up so I can check out your posts and cheer you on!

Update #1: 10:57 AM EDT

I totally slept in way longer than I meant to, but man was that sleep good.  So now I'm ensconced with my first book, coffee, and some tasty leftover Challah bread.  I'm golden.

First up is Tangled by Carolyn Mackler because I wanted something funny to start me off, and I'm trying not to buy Maureen Johnson's Scarlett Fever for my Kindle when I can just get it at the library tomorrow!

Let's do the introductory questionnaire from Dewey's Read-a-thon.

1)Where are you reading from today?
Mostly my bedroom since my dog and kitty are keeping me company.  More generally, I'm in lovely West Michigan on the lakeshore.  It finally stopped raining today so now I really want to go outside and play in the sunlight - I may have to take the puppy for a walk with an audiobook later.

2)Three random facts about me…
I like books ...oh wait, that's not random at all.

-I'm a huge hockey fan.  My favourite NHL teams are the currently undefeated Detroit Red Wings and the Vancouver Canucks.  I've also got soft spots for the Capitals and Tampa Bay Lightning. Hockey is very close to my life during the winter between NHL games, the AHL team just down the road in Grand Rapids and college hockey - Go Spartans!
-I'll only eat apples if they're cut into pieces because I have a phobia of my teeth falling out after biting into a whole apple.
-I have a zombie escape plan.  It worries me when I live in a home that's indefensible from zombies.  Currently the house I live in is pretty bad, but it's got a good upstairs that could be walled off.

3)How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
Probably 13 or so?  I think I'm mainly trying to get through library books and stuff I've bought for my Kindle.  I was going to read NetGalley books, but I don't know if this type of reading is conducive to reading for review!

4)Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
I want to have fun and not stress over it!  I'm just going to take it as I go and hopefully enjoy hanging out with everyone during the readathon while spending a day reading good things.  If I set a real goal, I won't sleep tonight and then I'll be insane tomorrow at work!

5)If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Nope.  :(  Next time!

Update #2 12:35 PM EDT

I just finished Tangled and loved it!  Great book and totally interesting plot structure. The interweaving of the storylines are really original and fun.

I think next up is Deb Caletti's The Six Rules of Maybe.

Pages Read: 308
Books Read: 1
Eaten: Toast and coffee
Disasters: I flipped a stack of books and lost my pills that were on top!  Ack! Hopefully I find them before the puppy does!

Update #3 2:25 PM EDT

Just finished The Six Rules of Maybe.   Lovely writing but just not for me.  Still, I read it!

No idea what to read next, hmmm...

Pages Read: 629
Books Read: 2
Eaten: Toast and coffee and water. Contemplating a soda.
Disasters: No new ones!

Update #4 4:16 PM EDT

I won a prize!  YAY and thank you, Readathon! 

In other news, I keep flipping from one book to the next because I can't quite settle into anything.  So I may need to take a nap and come back refreshed.  I have no idea what to do about my pages count!  Can I count 20 pages from 5 different books?  Hm.

Update #5 8:47 PM EDT

Uggggh, not so good.  I took a way too long nap and then walked the dog to try to wake up, but my concentration is all over the place.  So I'm watching the Red Wings lose (sigh) and cheerleading and getting ready to start back up after the game!

Pages Read: 746
Books Read (in full): 2
Eaten: Toast and coffee.  Coke. Cold Pizza
Disasters: I lost my concentration!

Update #6  2:13 AM EDT

I just finished Hooked by Catherine Greenman which is the MOST DEPRESSING BOOK EVER.  Well, not ever, but holy crap, I do not suggest reading what is actually a very good book late at night.

I spent a lot of the evening cheering people on which was AWESOME to see what everyone was reading and how they were holding up!  And now...I might grab another book and read it until I fall asleep.  There's work tomorrow sigh.

Pages Read: 1026
Books Read (in full): 3
Eaten: Nothing since last update...and now I'm hungry!
Disasters: I'm hungry! My Red Wings lost really really badly.  The readathon is almost over!

Friday, October 21, 2011

TGIF and Follow Friday!

Friday's meme day in the blogosphere, and I love getting to visit with new and old people every week to see their answers to the questions posed.

This week at Books and Threads!
Sunday: In My Mailbox 
Wednesday: Waiting on Wednesday 

Reviews:

Follow My Book Blog Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read to feature a different blogger every week and let all of us stop by to say hi!   




This week featuring The Bursting Bookshelf!

Q.What superhero is your alter-ego?

The problem here is that I'm a total comics geek so the choices, they are so broad!

But if I have to choose, I'll choose Gertrude York from Marvel's The Runaways.  The comic's about a group of teenagers who discover their parents are supervillains.  So they, yes, runaway and decide to try to defeat their parents and save the world.  



Above are the Runaways in their original formation, and that's Gert at the back with the purple hair.  She's the only one of the group without any actual superpowers, but she's totally smart, incredibly sarcastic, and all around awesome.  Also she ends up with a pet dinosaur (to the left there) called Old Lace.  I freaking love her for being incredibly awesome and holding her own in the face of all these crazy mutant powers.

If you haven't checked out The Runaways, do so!  The first few runs are really, really good.  It falls off a little after Joss (yep, Joss Whedon wrote some) left, but the Brian K Vaughn and Joss issues are amazing.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Crazy for Books that allows us to connect with and support other book bloggers who love books just as much as we do!
“What is your favorite type of candy?”

You mean other than just all chocolate ever?  Around Halloween, I start really loving those little boxes of Junior Mints and Dots that people give out.  The size is just perfect, and they're wonderful.  Other than that, I totally love any type of gummy candy - gummi bears, gummi sharks, gummi worms, sour patch kids, Swedish fish, those little gummi coke bottles?  Yum.  Definitely my favourite.

Happy Weekend to all of you!  Definitely link me to your answers so I can check them out and say hello!

And also if you haven't entered my 100 Follower Giveaway yet, go do so!  You could win a signed copy of Lisa McMann's The Unwanteds!

Review: dancergirl by Carol M Tanzman

dancergirl
 by Carol M Tanzman
November 15, 2011
Received from NetGalley
Grade: B+

The videos went viral...

EVER FEEL LIKE SOMEONE’S WATCHING YOU?

ME TOO.

BUT LATELY IT’S BEEN HAPPENING IN MY ROOM.

WHEN I’M ALONE.

A friend posted a video of me dancing online, and now I’m no longer Alicia Ruffino. I’m dancergirl. And suddenly it’s like me against the world—everyone’s got opinions.

My admirers want more, the haters hate, my best friend Jacy—even he’s acting weird. And some stalker isn’t content to just watch anymore.

Ali. dancergirl. Whatever you know me as, however you’ve seen me online, I’ve trained my whole life to be the best dancer I can be. But if someone watching has their way, I could lose way more than just my love of dancing. I could lose my life.




Y'all, it's killing me not to capitalize the title up there, but I'm trying to resist!

I really enjoyed this book!  While the synopsis focuses solely on the dancergirl online sensation, the plot transitions into a stalker story and how Ali reacts to suspected invasions of her privacy.  And that is really well done.  The tension in the writing is amazing.  I read the entire book in one sitting because I really didn’t want to put it down. 

As a main character, Ali’s a fairly normal teenage girl.  She's dedicated to dance, working at her dance studio to earn free classes and dreaming of Julliard.  She struggles with her classes but gets by with the help of her friends - especially the good-looking boy in the apartment below who’s suddenly started to pull away.  I have to say that I really appreciate that the author made her main character a person of character (even if the apparent cover decided to erase that).  YA books are so often so very, very white. 

Dance is the most important part of Ali’s life which makes the entire situation that much more horrifying.  As a sort of joke and sort of a way to help out but mostly just a chance to dance, she agrees to shoot a few videos with Charlie, a friend from school.  The videos nearly immediately go viral, leaving Ali uncertain what to do in the face of this new internet fame.  Charlie wants to shoot more installments, her friends think the whole situation is awesome, and Ali’s just trying to finish her choreography solo and get ready for auditions at the dance studio.  It was a really neat look at the power of the internet.  Something so little can so easily come to mean so much to thousands of people, each with their own opinions about a girl they’ve never met.  It’s a familiar story - especially for people like us who use the internet so much in our daily lives.

The suspense in the book is quickly increased through as Ali begins to wonder if she’s being stalked by one of her ‘fans.’  The ins and outs of the situation as her friends work together to try to figure out who’s behind it are fully explored,  This part becomes the weakest of the book as the pacing falters while the students suspect one person than another, but the highlight of this section is Ali questioning everything.  Did she bring this on herself?  Is she responsible for the invasions of privacy?  What does she need to do to protect herself?

It feels difficult to say that I ‘loved’ this part because it’s such a horrible topic, and I’d never want to see anyone go through such a situation, but I felt the way the author handled the entire question was really, really well done.  I don’t want to get into any type of spoilers, but I will say that I thought both the final culprit - and the reasoning behind it - relieved me.  I was a little worried at times that the book was going to veer into some victim blaming of Ali, and it was really excellent to see it go in a completely different direction.

The friendship of Jacy, the boy downstairs (and yes, I called him Jace for ¾ of the book) and Ali is another strong point of this book.  The two really feel like best friends since forever, and when Jacy starts to pull away from the friendship, Ali’s left unmoored and unsettled in the midst of this entire ordeal.  Jacy’s story is just as compelling as Ali’s and once some of his personal situation is revealed, we get two strong characters at the center of this tension-filled book.

I requested this book from NetGalley because of the dancing aspect, and while that part was definitely enjoyable, the realistic tension and questions about privacy and stalking, both on the internet and in person, were very well done.  Plus there’s a good story of boy/girl friendship that might just veer into more.  I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a tense contemporary read.

Thank you to NetGalley and HarlequinTeen for the opportunity to read and review dancergirl.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday: Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

Waiting on Wednesday is the awesome meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to highlight exciting upcoming books.  This week, I'm excited for:

Glamour in Glass
by Mary Robinette Kowal
April 10, 2012

Mary Robinette Kowal stunned readers with her charming first novel Shades of Milk and Honey, a loving tribute to the works of Jane Austen, set in a world where magic is an everyday occurrence. This magic comes in the form of glamour, which allows talented users to form practically any illusion they can imagine. Shades went on to earn great acclaim, became a finalist for the prestigious Nebula and Locus Awards, and left readers eagerly awaiting its sequel, Glamour in Glass, which continues to follow the lives of beloved main characters Jane and Vincent, with a deeper vein of drama and intrigue.

In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to France for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, they struggle to escape. But when Vincent is captured as a British spy, Jane realizes that their honeymoon has been a ruse to give them a reason to be in Europe.

Left with no outward salvation, Jane is left to overcome her own delicate circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison... and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country's war.




I really, really enjoyed the first book Shades of Milk and Honey, and my major concern was that the story didn't go far enough!  It was mostly just a light and frothy pastiche of Jane Austen novels which made me want more.  So I'm all kinds of excited by the synopsis of this second book with intrigue! And war! And spying!


April can't come soon enough - but at least everyone who hasn't read book one yet has plenty of time of read Shades of Milk and Honey!

Review: Bunheads by Sophie Flack

Bunheads
by Sophie Flack
October 11, 2011
Bought on Kindle
Goodreads Page
Amazon Page
Grade: B+

As a dancer with the ultra-prestigious Manhattan Ballet Company, nineteen-year-old Hannah Ward juggles intense rehearsals, dazzling performances and complicated backstage relationships. Up until now, Hannah has happily devoted her entire life to ballet.

But when she meets a handsome musician named Jacob, Hannah's universe begins to change, and she must decide if she wants to compete against the other "bunheads" in the company for a star soloist spot or strike out on her own in the real world. Does she dare give up the gilded confines of the ballet for the freedoms of everyday life?



Bunheads is a really interesting addition to the canon of girls-who-dance literature.  Hannah has already ‘made it.’  She’s a member of the corps de ballet in one of the best ballet companies in the world, the Manhattan Ballet Company (clearly supposed to be the New York City Ballet both because the author Sophie Flack danced there and because that’s the New York company that performs Balanchine’s Jewels).  Between that fact and that Hannah’s the rare YA protagonist who’s college aged instead of in high school, this book is both a fantastic read and something very different to enjoy.

Hannah’s life is something very few of us can even begin to imagine.  She’s utterly devoted to her art, and since she moved to New York to study, she’s barely had a chance to see any of the city beyond the interior of the Manhattan Ballet’s studios, theatre, and school.  Even though she’s accomplished far more than the vast majority of ballet dancers ever manage to, it’s not nearly enough, and she and her friends in the corps work even harder now to try to be cast in bigger roles and be promoted to soloist.

I really enjoyed Hannah as the main character.  She breathes ballet, but ever so slightly she’s beginning to wonder if she’s missing anything in life.  The idea begins (as so many do) with a chance encounter with a boy, but the author really does an excellent job making sure that Hannah’s decision is never between the boy and ballet but rather the entire world and ballet.  If it had been just the first, this would be a much, much weaker book.  While she’s obviously an intensely dedicated person, we meet her as her devotion may be waning.  She decides over and over to try to rededicate herself to ballet.  If it was something less than her entire life, she’d seem awfully wishy-washy, but the enormity of any decision has been firmly established, and instead Hannah is a woman trying to decide the course of the rest of her life.

The reader is given an in-depth look at the world of the corps de ballet and the short dancing lives of the people who inhabit it.  One of my favourite lines was at the very beginning when Hannah remarks that dancers rarely buy new practice clothes because no one knows when their career will come to a sudden halt.  The dressing room more than the stage is the central focus of the book, and along with Hannah, the reader meets the dancers who share the room and also rotate through roles as friends, confidants, rivals, backstabbers, and sisters-in-arms on a near hourly basis.  The ever shifting alliances and jealousies make for an interesting and slightly confusing set of personalities, and the confusion the reader feels only enhances Hannah’s continual uncertainty about where she stands.

There isn’t a lot of high drama in this book which matches well with Flack’s reserved writing style.  Unfortunately it was so reserved that at times I wished for a little more intensity to the scenes especially the higher tension ones – between Hannah and the ballet master or between Hannah and Jacob.  It’s clear that this is Flack’s debut novel, and I’ll be interested to see if she succeeds at writing a different story, one that’s not based on her own life.  For Bunheads, the tension of the ballet scene is enough to carry novel, but there’s a decided lack of any external tension or plot movement.

I also wasn’t enamored of Jacob.  He was never fleshed out into a truly three-dimensional character or even move much past ‘interested in the narrator.’  I never really understood why Hannah liked this awfully stereotypical musician.  On one hand, this makes sense since part of the conflict is that Hannah can’t spend much time with him, but on the other hand, a more deft rendering of his character would have been really nice.

There’s a possible love triangle that’s sketched in, and while the character remained fairly two-dimensional, I could definitely understand Hannah’s attraction to him since he represented all the acclaim a true ballerina, not just a corps dancer, could attain.  However beyond that, there isn’t much to the love triangle plot, and it quickly fizzles out. I would have liked to either see it developed more or removed completely to help tighten the structure of the book.

Overall I very much enjoyed Bunheads and loved the realistic – no stage magic and no pink gauze to add to the romance – look at the ballet world.  There were some flaws, but it remained a good if quiet read for anyone even remotely interested in ballet or the theatre.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Whose Titles Made Me Read

 I was bummed to have to skip last Tuesday, but I'm back for this week's Top Ten meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

For me, this list heavily leans towards titles because while I appreciate gorgeous covers, I'm way more likely to read a book if the title makes me laugh.  And I really like dorky puns.  That's not just in titles though.

1. I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
2. Sorcery and Cecila: Or the Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermeyer
3. Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper
4. Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein
5. I Was a Non-Blonde Cheerleader by Kieran Scott
6. Pulling Princes by Tyne O'Connell
7. I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison
8. Prom Dates From Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore
9. How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls by Zoey Dean

And to finish, one amazingly gorgeous cover that would have made me read anything:
10. Pegasus by Robin McKinley   Luckily, it's now one of my favourite books, and if you haven't read it, you should!

I didn't mean for it to work out like this, but actually all of these books are ones I really enjoyed.  Well, maybe not How to Teach Filthy Rich Girls, but that one was still fluffy and amusing, so sure, I guess it counts!

What books did you put on your list?  Leave me a link in the comments!  And don't forget to go enter my 100 Follower Giveaway as I try to thank all of you guys for the past few months of awesomeness.  I'm so glad I've gotten to hang out with you all and hope it continues for a long time.

Monday, October 17, 2011

100 Follower Giveaway!

When I started this blog, I couldn't imagine that over a hundred people would want to read my ponderings about the books I read!  It's totally amazing, and I'm seriously touched that you guys choose to check in and see what's going on over here in my bookish life.

So I wanted to host a giveaway to thank you guys for your support!  Last week I went to Lisa McMann's signing of her new book The Unwanteds and got a book signed to give away to one of you.  It also comes with a nifty postcard and Unwanteds silly band that Lisa gave away at the signing!

Let's say I'll announce the winner on October 25th.  US and international people are more than welcome. Any questions or stuff I didn't make clear or anything else, do leave a comment below...  Oh yeah, and I won't use your information for any purpose beyond sending you a book if you're the winner!