Thursday, September 29, 2011

Impromptu Readathon

A few minutes ago I read on Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing that there's an impromptu readathon going on, starting tonight, hosted by April at Good Books and Good Wine. This weekend seems perfect for a good readathon, so I decided to join. The readathon starts tonight and runs until Monday, October 3.

My personal goal for the readathon is to get through 1-3 FOOF books (I only have the long ones left, so they're taking a while) and 2-4 books from my regular TBR shelf. Even if I hit the lower end of my goal, that's still 3 books in 3-ish days, which is pretty good. I'm aiming a little bit low for this readathon because I have school both tomorrow and Monday, and I expect to have plenty of homework. Unfortunately school takes precedence over the readathon (wouldn't it be wonderful if it was the other way around?), so I need to block out time for that.

Books I want to get through:

For FOOF: 
The Goose Girl 
Across the Universe

 From my TBR: 
Brightly Woven
The Lost Saint 
Sandry's Book (or Alanna: The First Adventure - either way)

I might not get through all of these, and I might decide to pick something else up at the last minute. But as of right now, those are what I'm aiming for.

So, what to do you think? Are you up for an impromptu readathon?

Review: Heir Apparent

by Vivian Vande Velde
Start Date: 4 September 2011
End Date: 4 September 2011
Paperback, 315 pages
Published January 1st 2002 by Magic Carpet Books

Summary (from Goodreads):
Lose the game, lose your life. 

In the virtual reality game Heir Apparent, there are way too many ways to get killed - and Giannine seems to be finding them all. Unless she can
   - get the magic ring,
   - find the stolen treasure,
   - answer the dwarf's dumb riddles,
   - impress the head-chopping statue,
   - charm the army of ghosts,
   - fend off the barbarians,
   -and defeat the man-eating dragon,
she'll never win. And if she doesn't win, she will die - for real this time.

I am so glad I reread this book. For years it has been, still is, and will be for a very long time, one of my absolute favorite books. Heir Apparent was the first book I ever reviewed on this blog (click for my old review). Wow, have I come far since then.

Since I've read it so many times, rather than worrying along with Giannine about the chances of "fatal overload"(minor spoiler, highlight to view), I can enjoy the twists and turns she goes through as she tries to find her way through the game, and laugh at all the crazy situations she gets herself into.

This is by far my favorite of Vande Velde's works. She is consistently funny from the first sentence to the last chapter. From the ridiculous positions Giannine finds herself in ("Cluck, cluck cluck,' I said: You stupid idiot, you have lousy timing") to her nearly continuous and constantly amusing side-commentary ("Luckily, I found that all I needed to contribute to the situation was a rapt expression and an occasional 'Impressive!' or 'My! That's interesting.'")

The characters are all extremely memorable (as one meets them over and over every time Giannine mus restart the game). Whether Queen Andreanna with her "This girl smells like a goat" or Xenos's father with his riddles, they're all lots of fun to read about. A personal favorite of mine is Sister Mary Ursala. Every time I read Heir Apparent, I'll be giggling whenever someone says the word "One" for days afterward.

Overall Thoughts: This is definitely on my "short list" of favorites. It's harder than one would think to write a review for an absolute favorite, but I did my best (and hopefully didn't overwhelm you with quotes). Heir Apparent is recommended for Middle Schoolers.

I read this book for my Fortnight of Old Favorites Challenge.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: Howl's Moving Castle

by Diana Wynne Jones
Start Date: 2 September 2011
End Date: 3 September 2011
Paperback, 429 pages
Published May 1st 2008 by Eos [an imprint of HarperCollins] (first published April 14th 1986)

Summary (from Goodreads):
In the land of Ingary, such things as spells, invisible cloaks, and seven-league boots were everyday. The Witch of the Waste was another matter.

After fifty years of quiet, it was rumored that the Witch was about to terrorize the country again. So when a moving black castle, blowing dark smoke from its four thin turrets, appeared on the horizon, everyone thought it was the Witch. The castle, however, belonged to Wizard Howl, who, it was said, liked to suck the souls of young girls.

The Hatter sisters: —Sophie, Lettie, and Martha, —and all the other girls were warned not to venture into the streets alone. But that was only the beginning.

In this giant jigsaw puzzle of a fantasy, people and things are never quite what they seem. Destinies are intertwined, identities exchanged, lovers confused. The Witch has placed a spell on Howl. Does the clue to breaking it lie in a famous poem? And what will happen to Sophie Hatter when she enters Howl's castle?

Diana Wynne Jones's entrancing fantasy is filled with surprises at every turn, but when the final stormy duel between the Witch and the Wizard is finished, all the pieces fall magically into place.

My Review:
Howl's Moving Castle was a lovely read. I really enjoyed all of Howl and Sophie's antics and witty banter, and Diana Wynne Jones' clever way of piecing together all of the subplots to create an fun and unusual story.

Note: I'm going to talk about the movie version of Howl's Moving Castle a lot in this review, because having seen the movie when I reread it this time around created a totally different experience . If you haven't seen it, it's a very, very good movie (but read the book first!).

The first time I had read Howl's Moving Castle was before I saw the movie - I knew there was one, but had never gotten around to it. This time around, I had seen the movie many times. When reading, I could not get the characters from the movie out of my head for the first 1/3 of the book. For some of it, the lines from the movie would be "playing" in my head as I read the corresponding lines in the book. Since they're not identical, the lines from the movie were very distracting. Also, I'd forgotten that Howl's apprentice was Michael in the book, rather than Markl (from the movie). Having the different name helped me picture a different character, thank goodness. If I had pictured little Markl from the movie when he was in love with Lettie/Martha ,  I don't know what I would have done (spoiler, highlight to view).

Thankfully, after the first 1/3 of the book, it veers off in a different direction than the movie, and I like much better. I love all of the different sub-plots that were cut from the movie, and how everything works out so nicely. All of the loose strings are wrapped up, whereas in the movie version a lot of questions are left hanging (I showed to movie to my brother and I kept having to say "It doesn't really explain [whatever he was asking about] in the movie, but in the book...").

Some of my favorite parts were the ones not included in the movie. I really liked the parts with Howl's family in Wales; you don't get much of Howl's backstory in the movie and it adds a lot to his character. I really liked that DWJ sorted out all of the politics to that they actually made sense. The whole poem / spell thing was very cool; in the movie you never really know what the Witch's spell is. I loved the mix-up with the suits, and really all of the little funny things that DWJ put in.

The characters were wonderful; they were all very unique and so much fun to read about. I loved.... just about everyone. Each character was completely unique and I'd love to spend a day with any and all of them.

I really liked DWJ's writing style - she was so matter-of-fact about things like the eldest being destined for failure if she went out to seek her fortune. It brought me into the world, because in Ingary, those things are matter-of-fact.

In this particular reread, I was especially moved by a few lines, not in the text of the story - that was all fun and laughter - but in the Q & A afterward. The last question was: "Can we look forward to any more stories involving Howl in the future?" DWJ answered, "I hope we can look forward to more Howl stories. There is already one I keep trying to write and which, so far, will not come out right. But I hope I can crack it in the end." As you may know, Diana Wynne Jones passed away this March. Although I heard that several books she finished earlier in the year will still be published, I do not believe another Howl book is one of them. Although I did not know DWJ well as a person, as an author I love her and I wish she were still with us.

Overall Thoughts: Above all, when I try to sum up Howl's Moving Castle in a word, I come up with "fun." It is incredibly fun to read. From the antics of the characters to Sophie/DWJ's witty insights, from the complex plot that all comes together at the end to matter-of-fact happenings that part of you accepts simply because it is so matter-of-fact while part of you wants to laugh at the ridiculousness of it, Diana Wynne Jones has created a very fun, enjoyable read.

I read this book for my Fortnight of Old Favorites Challenge.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, 32nd Edition

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

I am doing a slightly different version of Teaser Tuesday. Since I go through books so quickly, I'm going to put a quote from any book I've read in the past week.

"It's almost as if my watch knows it's the center of attention. A strident clicking emanates from it, and then an extraordinary thing happens." – Corsets and Clockwork, edited by Trisha Telep; excerpt from "Under Amber Skies" by Maria V. Snyder

"Clambering along the narrow headland, slipping on slimy seaweed and frightening off a pair of seals, the Company of Explorers headed inland for the bruised and purple moors swelling into view. In the very far distance they could see the tiny outline of Neverpeak, the goal of their journey." – Peter Pan in Scarlet, by Geraldine McCaughrean

"Against the clouds, Ky's eyes seem lighter, reflecting the gray around them, and I have an unsettling thought: perhaps his eyes have no color. They reflect what he wears, what the Officials tell him to be." - Matched, by Ally Condie

"As soon as the first room was empty, the spinners went on to the second, and finally they went on to the third, which like the others was quickly cleared of flax. Then the three women took leave of the girl, saying to her as they parted, 'Do not forget the promise you made us, for it will bring you good fortune.'" – Tales of Grimm and Andersen, by The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen; excerpt from "The Three Spinning Fairies" by The Brothers Grimm

"If you've ever been for a long time without anything like enough sleep, you know that you get pretty non compos pretty soon. I was forgetting things the moment Billy said them and couldn't really think of anything but feeding the dragonlet." – Dragonhaven, by Robin McKinley

What are you reading this week?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weekly Review (19 September - 25 September)

In Weekly Reviews, I summarize the posts I've published over the week, as well as the books I'm currently reading, books I've finished over the week, some upcoming reviews, and any comments I'd like to include about the past week. The weekly review feature was inspired by Small Review and Butterfly Feet Walking on Life.

In case you've missed anything, here's what I posted from Monday, September 19th through Sunday, September 25th.




Teaser Tuesday, 31st Edition
In My Mailbox, 12th Edition


Guest Judge a Book by Its Cover - The Goose Girl (with Ray)

Books Completed

Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld
Corsets and Clockwork, edited by Trisha Telep

Peter Pan in Scarlet, by Geraldine McCaughrean
Matched, by Ally Condie

I loved Goliath (read my review here), and really, really liked everything else I finished as well. Corsets and Clockwork was exactly my style, Peter Pan in Scarlet (a FOOF book) was light and enjoyable, and Matched (another FOOF book) had the most incredibly lyrical writing. I'd like to write reviews of all of them, but my review pile seems to be stacking up very quickly, so I'll promise two reviews from this week's book (not counting the Goliath review, which I already published). Comment if you would like any specific two, or else I'll just write whatever comes easiest.

Currently Reading

Tales from Grimm and Andersen, by The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen
Dragonhaven, by Robin McKinley

I'm taking the Tales from Grimm and Andersen very slowly; I don't feel a lot of pressure to read it, so I get through maybe 5 or 6 pages a night, which at this point is about 2-3 stories (I don't know if the stories get longer as the book goes on). On the other hand, I'm really enjoying Dragonhaven. It's totally different from the other McKinley book I've read, Beauty. I think I connected more with Beauty, but I'm having trouble putting Dragonhaven down as well. 

General Updates

I didn't write as many reviews this week as I would have liked, but I got a ton of reading done, which makes up for it. I've been scrambling a bit to get everything done in terms of schoolwork and whatnot, so when I'm done, I don't tend to have a lot of extra brainpower for blogging, which is why I read instead.

My goal for this week is two reviews (hopefully three, but I don't think that's going to happen), a feature that I won't talk about right now, and one miscellaneous post [Edit: I realized I'd already done it this morning with the Liesl and Po trailer].

P.S. I've been told that there's some glitch that makes the posts I publish to this blog not show up in Google Reader or Blogger Dashboard until up to a day later. I'm not sure how to fix this, but if you have any idea what's going on, please let me know. Thank you!

What's going on this week for you?

Book Trailer: Liesl and Po

I don't often post book trailers, but I saw this trailer for Liesl and Po this morning on Night Writer, and had to repost it. This trailer is awesome. It totally makes me want to read the book.  I'm reminded a bit of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, but I believe Liesl and Po is a traditional text novel with illustrations rather than a half-text, half-illustrated one like Hugo Cabret. Has anyone read an ARC of Liesl and Po? Is it as amazing as this trailer makes me hope?

Liesl and Po will be released on October 4, 2011 (soon!).

Summary (from Goodreads):
Liesl lives in a tiny attic bedroom, locked away by her cruel stepmother. Her only friends are the shadows and the mice—until one night a ghost appears from the darkness. It is Po, who comes from the Other Side. Both Liesl and Po are lonely, but together they are less alone.

That same night, an alchemist's apprentice, Will, bungles an important delivery. He accidentally switches a box containing the most powerful magic in the world with one containing something decidedly less remarkable

Will's mistake has tremendous consequences for Liesl and Po, and it draws the three of them together on an extraordinary journey.

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes a luminous and magnificent novel that glows with rare magic, ghostly wonders, and a true friendship that lights even the darkest of places.

What do you think?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In My Mailbox, 12th Edition

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren
Participants are encouraged to talk about anything bookish they received during the week.

I got a ton of books this week, and all without breaking my book-buying ban. Yippee! 

Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld
Received: Pre-ordered
I got this on Tuesday and freaked out. I was SO excited to get it. I rarely skip my entire TBR for new books, but I did not want to wait for Goliath. And it was AMAZING. Click here for my review of Goliath.

Icefall, by Matthew J. Kirby
Received: Pre-ordered
I read and reviewed Matthew J. Kirby's debut novel, The Clockwork Three, in January, and Icefall is his newest book.  I really liked The Clockwork Three, and Icefall's summary has piqued my interest, so I have high hopes for this one.

Dangerously Placed, by Nansi Kunze
Received: Review Copy from Publisher
Yay! My second book I got to review from a publisher! I have to admit, the reason I was interested in it at first was that the summary mentioned that Alex, the main character, works at a virtual realiy company. The only other book I've read that has anything to do with virtual reality was Heir Apparent, one of my favorite books of all time (and the review of which is coming this week). Also, it was recommended for ages 12 and up, and I've been in the mood for a good MG lately. I have high hopes for this book as well.

Library Books:
It all started when I went into the library for a few minutes to grab a copy of Matched, since I'd forgotten mine at home. But although when I'm just doing homework in the library, I can usually convince myself that I have enough to read at home, when I'm coming to check out a book, it's hard to resist getting a stack. So I got a stack. I don't know how many of these I will read before they're due. They're not really on the top of my TBR, but I'm glad I got them.

 Savvy, by Ingrid Law
I have almost bought this book so many times, but somehow, every time I've been distracted by another book. Finally, I just got it from the library. I've wanted to read it for so long time, and it's just ridiculous that I haven't at this point. And writing this IMM, I just realized that it won a Newbery, which makes me even more excited. If I like Savvy, I will be sure to pick up Scumble, the sequel, which came out last year. I don't remember having read any reviews for this book. Has anyone read it that can let me know what to expect?

 Alanna: The First Adventure, by Tamora Pierce
I loved the Alanna books (AKA the Song of the Lioness series) in middle school, but I don't remember much of them. I decided it was time to revisit Tamora Pierce. I really, really hope they're as good as I remember.
Sandry's Book, by Tamora Pierce
At the same time I was reading the Alanna books, I was also reading Circle of Magic. I think I may have even started Circle of Magic earlier. I know I definitely read it more times. As long as I was revisiting the Alanna books, I grabbed a copy of Sandry's book as well.
The Demon King, by Cinda Williams Chima
I had never really had this series on my TBR, but I'd been hearing a lot of good things about it recently, and it was right in front of me, so I thought, why not? This is a series I can imagine really enjoying and eventually buying, but for now I don't have any expectations.

[EDIT: Returned without reading]
Daughter of Venice, by Donna Jo Napoli
I think this was on my TBR at one point, but it sort of drifted off. Anyway, when I saw it at the library, I grabbed it. The summary on the back makes me think I'm going to like it, but I haven't heard anything about it. I believe Donna Jo Napoli also has written a lot of fairy tale retellings, which I love, so if I end up enjoying Daughter of Venice, I'd like to read a few of those as well.

[EDIT: Returned without reading]
Stravaganza: City of Masks, by Mary Hoffman
I'm not really sure why I got this one other that it was from the library, so I tend to haphazardly grab everything that looks vaguely interesting. This particular book was mentioned once on Squeaky Books, one of my favorite blogs, so it caught my eye. I'm not sure if I'm going to get to this one, but it sounds pretty good if I do.

[EDIT: Returned without reading]

What's in your mailbox?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Review: Goliath

by Scott Westerfeld
Start Date: 20 September 2011
End Date: 20 September 2011
Hardcover, 560 pages
Published September 20th 2011 by Simon Pulse [an imprint of Simon and Schuster]

Summary (from Goodreads):
Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alek’s throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they weren’t technically enemies.

The tension thickens as the Leviathan steams toward New York City with a homicidal lunatic on board: secrets suddenly unravel, characters reappear, and nothing is at it seems in this thunderous conclusion to Scott Westerfeld’s brilliant trilogy.

Goliath is the third book of the Leviathan trilogy. Read my review of Leviathan.

My Review:
Oh. My. Gosh. Goliath was so good. When I opened the package on Tuesday, I literally screamed. Thank goodness I didn't have much homework that night, because I would not have done it. I read nearly nonstop until I finished. When I talked to anyone about it, I couldn't help jumping up and down and shouting. It's the best book I've read in a very long time.

If you've read the other two books in this amazing trilogy, you won't need much convincing to pick up the third. In Goliath, our two heros travel through Asia and America, a wonderful expansion of Westerfeld's steampunk world. Every location, although different from how we know them, felt true to character in the way the Darwinist or Clanker elements were incorporated.

Also, Westerfeld did a great job as far as Alek and Deryn are concerned. I don't want to spoil anything, but I'll just say that I was very happy with how the story progressed, and I felt like he managed to keep both Alek and Deryn in character throughout everything, which was quite impressive.

But although some of the story was spent in dealing with Deryn and Alek's various secrets, there was also plenty of other wonderful elements to the story. All of the supporting characters are great - very well developed - and some unexpected acquaintances show up - some welcome and some less so. And we are introduced to several new characters as well. I won't say who they are, but several are historical figures, which make them very fun to read about.

No review would be complete without mention of the wonderful illustrations throughout the entire Leviathan trilogy, created by Keith Thompson. There are tons of illustrations in Goliath, many of them full-page, and all of them fantastic. It's worth buying the book in print rather than on an e-reader just to get the full impact of the illustrations.
Illustration courtesy of Keith Thompson Art

On a side note, It seems I'm not the only person who loved Goliath. On Tuesday night, Goliath's Goodreads rating was 4.50, which is amazing in itself, but by Thursday night it had risen to 4.51. And by Saturday morning it was 4.53. I suspect it will continue to rise. [Added later: And on Saturday night it's 4.54! Every time I sit down to work on this review, the rating is higher!]

Overall thoughts: Westerfeld once again creates a magnificent story. I gasped, I laughed, I jumped around the room in excitement, and I could not put it down. From of the twists and turns the characters must navigate to the intricate politics of the Darwinist and Clanker world to the seemingly effortless weaving of real historical figures and the wonderful illustrations, Goliath has it all.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Across the Universe Giveaway Winner!

The winners for the Squeaky Books Birthday Bash giveaways were announced today. I hosted the contest for Across the Universe, and the winner was...

Thao Huynh!

Thanks to everyone who entered, and especially thank you to the people who chose to follow my blog who were referred by Enna Isilee.

The other winners can be found on Squeaky Books.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Judge A Book by Its Cover - The Goose Girl

In Judge a Book by Its Cover, I compare different covers of the same book and discuss which covers I prefer and why. Your opinions are welcome! Click on any of the images for a larger version.

For this edition of Judge a Book by Its Cover, I'm happy to hand the reins to my good friend Ray. She's judging a book that we both love, and one that I'm reading for FOOF: The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale. My review to come soon.

Summary (from Goodreads):
Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt's guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani's journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her. Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny. Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can become queen of the people she has made her own.

About Ray: I am an avid reader who will read anything I can get my hands on.

Cover No. 1

Cover No. 2

Cover No. 3
Spanish Edition

Cover No. 4
Indonesian Edition

Cover No. 5
Bonus Cover
Fan Art Made by CrownJewel, found on Shannon Hale's Blog, Squeetus.
Click here for the original post. 

Ray didn't write about this cover, because I accidentally 
forgot to send it to her. But here is:
Cover No. 6
UK Edition

Cover No. 1: I like this cover and I know Pica does too. The castle and makes me think of fantasy without even opening the book. The crackle effect on the whole cover is a little off to me as is the drawing of the girl. In my opinion the birds look like swans not geese.

Cover No. 2: I am partial to the second cover, merely because it is the one on my shelf. But there is more to my liking than just the fact that I own it. The green archway shows a journey without revealing much about it and is aesthetically pleasing to my eyes. The only issue I have with this cover is that it doesn’t give me a chance to imagine what Isi looks like.

Cover No. 3: This cover is beautiful and shows her in a nice gown, something unseen in the other covers. The goose is present as are other animals. It reminds me a bit of a Disney princess with the animals all around her. There is something about girls in princess dresses and animals. It is a sweet cover and makes me want to read the book.

Cover No. 4: The Indonesian cover is interesting because I just noticed that her reflection is a completely different picture. I think it expresses the two sides of the main character (trying not to spoil the story here). The only thing I don’t like is how far away the girl seems in proportion with the giant lake and letters.

Cover No. 5 (Bonus Cover): This is my favorite cover of them all. The girl has such a look that is hard to describe. I can’t tell if she’s longing for something or merely looking at her hair that is magically flying behind her. If my hair could do that I would stare at it too. The picture is so captivating for me; the drawing is real enough to look like a rough painting instead of the very block style of the first cover.

Ray's Favorite: Cover No. 5 (Bonus Cover)

Thank you so much for this Judge a Book by Its Cover, Ray!

Which is your favorite? Judge this book by its cover!

Want to suggest a book for Judge A Book by Its Cover? Click Here for the form!

This feature is part of my Fortnight of Old Favorites Challenge.
Which seems to keep going and going and going... but I'll finish it soon.


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