Monday, January 31, 2011

Community Service

My school has a 20-hour project as a community service requirement, due at the end of the year. I recently started thinking about things I love that could be turned into a community service project. So, this weekend, I volunteered my first 2.75 hours at my local public library. It was incredibly fun. I took down a display about online homework help, helped to catalog duplicates in the mysteries section, and organized magazines in chronological order and took out all editions from 2009 to be archived. It was a great experience and I'm going to come back for my next 17.25 hours. If your local library takes volunteers, I'd recommend trying this out. In addition, next weekend I'm going to go a bit early so I can check out some of their picture books, because by then I'll be in the thick of PBM. So excited for Tuesday and finally being able to start writing!

On another note, I got a bunch of new books this weekend from my Omi Mary and my great-aunt Mady. Thank you both so much! Also this week I'm receiving a bunch of pre-ordered books. It seems like as much as I try to keep just a few books on my nightstand at a time, they come in waves, like they want to be sitting there for weeks. I suppose it's better than sitting on the bookshelf for months or years. The new books for this week are:

- The Heavenward Path, by Kara Dakley
It hasn't arrived yet but will be coming any day now.
- Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
Last time I got it from the library, but this time I'm keeping it, and I will read it over and over for years to come.
- Fire, by Kristin Cashore
I own Graceling, but I liked Fire just as much. If you scroll down, you will see that I read Fire on January 6th, but I want to reread it. And besides, it just came out in paperback yesterday
- Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher
I made myself curious with my post about Incarceron and The Maze Runner. I heard that The Maze Runner is much creepier than Incarceron, so I'm starting with the latter.
- Midnighters, by Scott Westerfeld
I've come to the conclusion that anything Westerfeld has got to be good. I haven't been proven wrong yet.
- Animal Farm, by George Orwell
I read 1984 over the summer, and wanted to read Animal Farm immediately afterward, but NN lost my copy (well, not mine, technically, but the one NN was going to give me after NN was done using it for school), so I didn't get a new copy until now.
- Cloaked in Red, by Vivian Vande Velde
It's finally coming! It's supposed to arrive today! Yay!
- Amulet (Books 1-3), by Kazu Kibuishi
I love graphic novels. Who doesn't like graphic novels? I'm pretty sure this is going to be a middle-school level book, but with graphic novels, it doesn't really matter. For example: Rapunzel's Revenge (Shannon Hale) is one of my favorite books. Ever. And my little cousins love it too, so there you go.
- A True Princess, by Diane Zhaler
Same general idea as The Thirteenth Princess, but rather than a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, this is a retelling of The Princess and the Pea. Comes out on Thursday!

Until tomorrow,

Friday, January 28, 2011

Wouldn't This Be Fun?

This morning on The Secret Adventures of WriterGirl (click here to read my post on why this is such an amazing blog), Heather Zundel posted about a super awesome-souding project that I think would be so incredibly fun to participate in. The idea is to make a 90-second video that encompasses the plot of a Newberry Winner or Newberry Honor book. She has an example video and links to more information on her blog. I want to participate, maybe with 90 seconds of Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. It sounds like so much fun! It'll probably have to wait until after the Picture Book Marathon, which, by the way, starts on Tuesday! Yay! I'll be blogging about it throughout February and hopefully posting a few book reviews as well.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


As I mentioned a few posts ago, one of my goals for this year is to make sure I am reading a variety of styles rather than one style in a variety of books. I think that so far, I've accomplished this goal pretty well, having read such books as Castle in the Air (Diana Wynne Jones), Little Sister (Kara Dakley), and Uglies (Scott Westerfeld) within 4 days of each other, while also listening to my 6 minutes of Fandorin (see previous post) every morning on the way to school. I'm hesitant to stray too far from my literary comfort zone, but I thought I'd send a request into the wide world of internet asking if people have recommendations for books that are a bit different from what I normally would read. To get a sense of the kind of books I enjoy, I'd look at recent reviews by clicking on the "Book Reviews" link under "Labels".

The books I have lined up for the next few weeks:
- Specials, by Scott Westerfeld
- Extras, by Scott Westerfeld
- Enchanted Glass, by Diana Wynne Jones
- Murder on the Leviathan, by Boris Akunin
- Heroes of the Valley, by Jonathan Stroud
- The Changeling Prince, by Vivian Vande Velde
- The Heavenward Path, by Kara Dakley
- Metamorphosis and Other Tales, by Franz Kafka

As you can see, this is list is pretty similar to the list of books I've read recently, which is why I'm writing this request. Please comment! What are your favorite books?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Death of Achilles

By Boris Akunin
Start Date: sometime in late December
End Date: 23 January 2011
320 pages (Paperback Edition)
Published 18 April 2006

I have to say, this is totally different from most of the stuff I read. Sure, I like variety, but most of my variety is within YA Fiction. Having said that, this was, quite simply, a great book.

If I had to stick a label on this book, I’d say “Russian Spy Novel”. The thing is, it’s so much more than just a Russian spy novel. The premise is as follows: Erast Fandorin, returning to Russia after a few years in Japan, is appointed Collegiate Assessor and is sent to investigate the death of Russian war hero Sobalev, also known as "the Russian Achilles”. Filled with mystery, action, betrayal, and everything else that makes a good mystery, the first half of the book is completely engrossing.

Halfway through the book, our hero has figured out who the villain is, and he’s about the knock on the door to arrest him when the story suddenly stops and starts over from the villain’s point of view. As infuriating as this was, Akunin executed it superbly, and it was what brought it from a good book to a great book.

What impressed my most was Akunin’s mastery of crafting the characters. When telling from the villain’s point of view, he tells the story so expertly that even though you know that he’s committing these horrendous acts, you’re almost rooting for him – until he starts messing with Fandorin.


Even at the end, however, I wanted him to go off and live on his island with Wanda. Alas, ‘twas not to be. Sigh.


If I had one complaint about The Death of Achilles, it’d have to be all those darn names. I listened to it on audiobook, but I can imagine it’d be even harder to get the names straight when reading. Since it’s set in Russia, everyone has a 3-part Russian name (with far too many syllables in my opinion), and as if this wasn’t enough, sometimes characters are called by their first and middle names, sometimes by their last name, and sometimes by their title. By halfway through the book, I’d find myself randomly running through the characters’ names in my head. For example, Fandorin is sometimes called Erast Petrovich, sometimes Fandorin, and sometimes the Collegiate Assessor (I’m not quite sure what a collegiate assessor actually is, but that’s Fandorin’s title.) Also, the villain who shall continue to remain nameless for the sake of having as few spoilers as possible has several aliases throughout the book in addition to his name. By the end it was pretty easy to keep all the names straight, but toward the beginning you just have to keep listening without knowing who have the people are.

I’d recommend The Death of Achilles to high school and adult readers. The storytelling is fascinating enough to keep younger readers’ attention, but in part II (the villain’s side of the story) there are some mature themes and violence. I even skipped one of the chapters because it didn’t really contribute to the overall storyline and it was simply reaffirming what a horrible person he was. For older readers, however, I’d highly recommend it, especially the audio version- the narrator is great.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, 4th Edition

Teaser Tuesdays 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.


"Either way, the name fit the confessional poet, who exemplified the mad artist-- someone like van Gogh or Poe, whose genius stems from parts of the psyche most of us cannot access, much less harness for artistic purposes. Unfortunately, Lowell couldn't rein in his madness outside the margins of his poems, and his lunacy bled all over his real life." - The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean

"'Are you all right?' she asked suddenly, swinging outward from a post. Her braid had come undone, and her hair hung loose." - Heroes of the Valley, by Jonathan Stroud.

"There was nohing esle to do. I covered my face with my sleeves and crept out from behind the rock." - Little Sister, by Kara Dalkey

“She turned to face the ocean of weeds again. ‘I bet Shay wishes she’d never told me about the Smoke.’” – Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld

"He forced a smile. 'It's just taking me longer to get used to having a brain again.'" - Pretties, by Scott Westerfeld

Monday, January 24, 2011

T Minus 7 Days

I am officially signed up for the Picture Book Marathon! How exciting. I got my fifteen ideas finished by Friday night, and hopefully I'll be able to take those ideas and develop them into full picture books. I'm so excited, I've started sketching some of the covers, which I will not post here, because I am not an artist and these are photoshop sketches using a laptop trackpad... yeah, I'll let you imagine what they look like until I do a bit of polishing on those. But it's going to be really fun and I'd really recommend joining, just for fun. 
Until tomorrow,

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fractured Fairy Tales

By Vivian Vande Velde

While I’m about to start rereading some of my old favorites, I thought I’d do a combined post about the three books Vivian Vande Velde has written fracturing fairy tales. First of all, I love VVV’s writing. At the time I started this blog last April, I’d be willing to say she was my absolute favorite author. In fact, my first review on this blog was of her book Heir Apparent. ( She recently published a book called Cloaked in Red, which contains eight retellings of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood. In the past, she has also published two similar books; The Rumplestiltskin Problem and Tales from the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird.

The Rumplestiltskin Problem
128 pages (Paperback Edition)
Published 1 September 2002
I seriously love this book. It’s a collection of six retellings of the story Rumplestiltskin. In the author’s note, one of my favorite parts of the book, VVV explains why Rumplestiltskin is such a crazy, mixed-up fairy tale. So, she wrote six alternative versions. Each is totally different from the one before, extremely funny, and makes much more sense than the original fairy tale. This is my favorite of the two books I've read. Highly recommended.

Tales From the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird
144 pages (Paperback Edition)
Published 1 August 2005
This is similar to The Rumplestiltskin problem, but rather than having multiple retellings of the same fairy tale, each story in this book is a retelling of a different tale. I’ve always personally preferred The Rumplestiltskin Problem, but I enjoyed the variety of this one as well. It shares one story with the Rumplestiltskin Problem. There are thirteen stories in this one as opposed to The Rumplestiltskin Problem's six, which I like. It has retellings of The Frog Prince, Little Red Riding Hood (which I'm pretty sure is not included in Cloaked in Red), Jack and the Beanstalk, The Princess and the Pea, and a few others, all of which are entertaining and fun to read.

Cloaked in Red
128 pages (Hardcover Edition)
Published 1 October 2010
Reccomended for: VVV’s website says 12+, so I’ll go with that.
Cloaked in Red in a collection of eight retellings of Little Red Riding Hood. I haven’t been able to get my hands on a copy yet, but VVV has the author’s note from the beginning of the book on her website. I was trying to read it to my brother, but I could barely get through it because I kept cracking up in the middle of a sentence and having to start over. It was that funny. Here’s a link so that you can read it for yourself: I’m looking forward to reading it as soon as Amazon gets it back into stock. I’m sure it’ll be great.

P.S. I've posted at least once on every weekday since last Friday (the 14th). Yay! I'm going to try to keep it up for as long as I can.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011 Picture Book Marathon

Yesterday Nathan Hale posted about the 2011 Picture Book Marathon. The goal of the picture book marathon is to draft 26 picture books in the month of February. According to the PBM website, "A picture book is here defined as (1) a story or narrative, (2) with a beginning, middle, and end, (3) for children, and (4) intended to be illustrated. Remember these are likely to be rough, rough drafts." Also, they don't have to be illustrated (thank goodness). More information is at SSN ( and the PBM website ( It seems like a fun (although a bit time-consuming) project to try out. I'm all for trying new things creatively, so I might just go for it and see if I can do it. As far as I know, there's no penalty for not finishing, and it's all just for fun and to get creative juices flowing. Before I sign up, I'm going to see if I can come up with 15 general picture book ideas by this weekend that might expand into books if I participate in the marathon. I figure that if I can come up with 15 ideas in two days, drafting 26 books in 28 days would be possible. Is anyone else planning on participating?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Friendsday Wednesday: The Atlantis Complex with NN

On Friendsday Wednesday, I discuss books with friends or ask them to write a guest review of a book. For my first ever Friendsday Wednesday, I asked my friend NN (Fun point if you know what book that name is a reference to) to answer a few questions about the newest Artemis Fowl book, the Atlantis Complex.

Pica: What was your first reaction to this book?
NN: When I finished this book, I thought it was very stupid. When I first started reading, I thought it was okay, although it wasn’t that interesting and didn’t really follow any plot, but then as I got further, It seemed like it was coming to one big climax, but then I noticed I was actually getting pretty far in the book and at the end, in the climax, nothing happened. The heroes didn’t even deserve to win; it was just by chance these things happened to happen so that the bad guy died and the heroes didn’t and it wasn’t even exciting. It seemed like the author didn’t really have a plan in mind when he wrote it, he just said: lets start writing and see what comes out in the end. In my opinion, it came out terribly.

Pica: how do you think this compares to other books in the series?
NN: I think this book was by far the worst book in the series because the other books, at least contributed to the main story, and also something happened and all the characters won because either they were smarter or they had something better or they fought and they won, but they didn’t win just because of pure chance. And also in this one they brought in characters and they didn’t use them at all. For example the demon No 1 he was just there but he didn’t do anything and it was really stupid I thought. He also never understood what was going on or could contribute in any way to the situation. There were a lot of things that didn’t make a lot of sense, and it didn’t get anywhere in the end. From the beginning to the end you didn’t see any progression and nothing big actually happened in the story and it seemed like a really bad book overall.

Pica: do you think you could give a short summary of what happens in this book?
NN: They start on some glacier in Iceland and Artemis has a project, so all of the important fairies like Holly and Foaly come so they can to hear about it. Artemis is acting weird; he’s been counting in fives and he’s been doing all this strange stuff and it turns out that he has the Atlantis complex, which is a fairy disease. There is this other guy who is called Turnball Root and is Root’s brother. He escapes from prison and tries to kill Artemis and butler but he doesn’t really try to kill them, he just toys with them, which doesn’t make sense like he doesn’t even care, but that’s okay. What happens is Butler goes to Mexico and Turnball tries to kill him with zombies, but Butler and his sister get away and then Mulch somehow gets into the story, which is also really random and Mulch is the one who is sent to kill Butler next, but he just saves him and reunites everyone together in a shuttle. It turns out that how Turnball escapes from prison is he reprogrammed this space probe with these weird amorphobots to kill people and so he controls them they have to evacuate the prison and he gets out. He escapes so he can go to his love who’s a human. It was really weird. And then all the heroes are captured by Turnball and he can turn them into slaves by using magic and make them do whatever he says but he only turns two of them, Holly and Artemis, and he doesn’t turn the rest. Also, part the Atlantis Complex is that Artemis also has this alter ego called Orion, and sometimes Artemis is there and sometimes Orion is, and you can’t tell whether they share their same memories. It’s really not very well explained at all. Then they have the final battle but it’s really stupid because nothing happens and they just win because Artemis turns into Orion, which happens when he get electric shock. Orion can kill Turnball because Artemis was turned into a slave but Orion wasn’t because they’re different people. It’s the stupidest thing ever, like, that’s the best thing you can think up? I thought it was a really dumb story. Then it just ends.
A shortened version of this story is: the bad guy escapes from prison and tries to kill everybody. Then he captures everybody and has the ability to turn them into slaves so they can’t do anything except what he says but he doesn’t, and then he tries to kill them but he can’t, and then he dies for a stupid reason and the heroes don’t even have the right to win because they should have lost.
One of the most annoying things to me is that the book didn’t even make the bad guy smart. Opal was smart, and Artemis is smart and all the enemies they faced were smart and that’s why it was fun, because Artemis outsmarted them all. But in this book everyone was stupid. They only won because of this stupid disease. And no one actually had a good plan or was smart and the book wasn’t a battle of wits, which was one of my favorite parts of the earlier books.

Pica: could you give a short summary of the rest of the series?
NN: The main characters of the series are Artemis Fowl who’s a kid genius, and Holly Short who is a fairy who’s a part of a police force and also Butler who’s Artemis’ bodyguard and other various characters, including Foaly, who is a centaur. One of the recurring bad guys is Opal Koboi, an evil pixie who wants to take over the world. Basically, fairies are living on earth and they have to hide themselves from humans using their highly advanced technology. In each book, there is a villain who is very smart, and is either a fairy or a human, and they try to do something bad or take over the world or something of that sort. Usually Artemis with the help of the other main characters has to outsmart them and beat them. That’s the major theme, that Artemis is smarter than them and that why he always wins.

Pica: Would you recommend this book and/or would you recommend this series, and to what age group?
NN: I would definitely recommend this series and I would definitely not recommend this book. I’d recommend the series to people somewhere between the ages of 9 and 14.

Pica: Thank you for your time.

I wanted to add a few of my comments about the book since I'm probably not going to do a full-scale review later on. (I'e realized that all the times I said, "I'll post a review of that book later on" is probably not gong to happen for most of the books. I will, however, try to put a few comments in wherever possible, i.e. now.

Start Date: 3 August 2010
End Date: 4 August 2010
357 pages (Hardcover Edition)
Published 3 August 2010

Overall, I had a similar, if not quite as strong a reaction to The Atlantis Complex as NN. I was not as dissatisfied with the ending, because Artemis did figure out in advance how he was going to outwit Turnball, and the Complex was simply his means rather than pure luck. However, the thing that really annoyed me about this book was the fact that it seemed to have little or nothing to do with the main storyline. Sure, the Complex is going to impact the future books in the series, but there was little mention of Opal and other primary characters from earlier books, and there had been absolutely no mention of Turnball before The Atlantis Complex. Even this wouldn't be too bad if Turnball hadn't died at the end of The Atlantis Complex. I thought it was just ridiculous to have a villain that the reader had never heard of before, just to kill him off at the end of the book. Again, it would have been understandable if he had lived until the next book or contributed to the overall story arc, but it seemed like the entire 357 page book was simply a way to get Artemis's Atlantis Complex somehow into the story. I think perhaps it would have been better if he'd just expanded the next book in order to insert the Complex and gotten rid of Turnball's entire storyline.

HOWEVER (those of you in L3H, imagine Brian and Julia standing on the chairs), while looking up stuff such as how many pages the book is, I noticed that a surprisingly large number of people posted incredibly positive reviews. So although NN and I both disliked the newest installment of the Artemis Fowl series, I'd recommend getting a second opinion before you cross it off your list. (I found more negative reviews on Amazon, and more positive reviews on Goodreads, if anyone is interested in hearing both kinds of reviews.)

One more thing that probably doesn't matter much to most people but bugged me to no end was the new covers for all the Artemis Fowl books, and how in order to get The Atlantis Complex in the original style, you'd have to order it from the UK (which I seriously considered doing until I realized it wasn't worth paying that much more to get it with a different cover). So that probably biased me a bit, but unless you care as much as I do and complain about the new covers every time you pass them in a bookstore, that won't be as much of an issue. Generally, I just hate it when publishers change the covers of books because so often the original was so much better. But now I'm just ranting and I've totally gotten off topic, so I'll stop here.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, 3rd Edition

Teaser Tuesdays 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.

"Some ices sink rather than float in water, and others form not six-sided snowflakes, but shapes like palm leaves or heads of cauliflower. One alien ice, Ice X, doesn't melt until it reaches 3,700ºF." - The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean

"She took a few deep, almost sobbing breaths. Nothing awful had happened so far, but you never knew." -A Girl Named Disaster, by Nancy Farmer

"He closed his eyes, listened, trying to concentrate. Shuffling steps, odd creaking sounds... Now they were on his left, now straight ahead of him... Something was going quickly, circling ahead of him, moving inward all the time." - Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud

"I don't like this," Doc says. "Whoever was down here when you were must have known you were here, must have know you would hear what was happening." - Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

"He hung on even though Kabul Aqba went on rising upward, roaring now like the sky falling, and the soldier from gripping him around the arms went to gripping him around the waist and then around the top of the legs. Kabul Aqba shouted as if his voice were the thunder itself and rose up bigger yet, until both his legs were too big to hold at once, and the soldier slid down until he was grimly clutching one of them, just below its vast knee." - Castle in the Air, by Diana Wynne Jones

Monday, January 17, 2011

Curious Sparkplug: a curiously good blog

A friend of mine who calls herself The Politick has recently created a blog that is worth checking out. From beautifully written tangents to short stories, creative writing, and even a satirical speech about the homeless children of America, every word draws you in closer. And it makes me laugh out loud to read and reread (and reread and reread and reread) her posts.

To give you an example of her writing style, here is an excerpt from her post Aliens:

when you think of 'lifeskills', or rather, when i think of lifeskills...i think--- combing your hair, brushing your teeth... general grooming. and then most importantly... how to eat with knife, fork and spoon, so that you do not accidentally swallow the utensils.
but no. of course, as always happens in life, it is surprising. yes, that has been said. as well as: to oneself be true (or something like that)... you know what has also been said? find your other green sock so you don't go to school with mix-matched socks and look like you have no lifeskills. on the other hand...wear green socks to school and you will look like an alien. win?
anywho--- today i had lifeskills for two hours. first things first blue lollipops were handed ease the tension in the room? to get us sugar-high? make our tongues and teeth blue so that we would all look like aliens.

Also, Curious Sparkplug has just achieved its 500th view, so congrats to The Politick for that as well.

And now go read the rest of that post at Go read, enjoy, and spread the word about this great blog.

The Clockwork Three

by Matthew J. Kirby
Start Date: 1 January 2011
End Date: 1 January 2011
400 pages (Hardcover Edition)
Published 1 October 2010
Recommended for: 8-14

I think my favorite part of The Clockwork Three was Kirby’s ability to weave the three threads of the story. I liked how each character had their individual stories that connected in a larger way but it wasn’t like they spent the whole book as a group (e.g. Mysterious Benedict Society). Kirby also achieved a balance that is missing in many books written from multiple perspectives. In terms of the feel of the story, it reminded me a bit of the Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, a favorite of mine since elementary school. Like the Thief Lord, The Clockwork Three was historical fiction with a little bit of magic.

The three main storylines:
Frederick – apprentice clockmaker, wants to become a clockmaker in his own right. In order to impress the council enough to end his apprenticeship, he is secretly making an automaton.
Giuseppe – An Italian boy tricked into leaving his home to come to New York and forced to play music on the streets to earn money for his “padrone”. When he finds a magic green violin, he make a plan to earn enough money to return to his family in Italy and escape his padrone.
Hannah – a maid in a grand hotel. She works in the hotel in order to earn enough money to sustain her family after her father, a stonemason, who was paralyzed. She needs to find the money to pay for his medicine, so she is looking for a treasure rumored to be hidden in the hotel.

Overall, very enjoyable. I think this will become a book I will read over and over – one of my “comfort books”. The Clockwork Three is a great first novel from Matthew Kirby. I’m looking forward to reading more.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Just an Update

Hello all. After that less-than-cheerful review of Mockingjay, I wanted to do a (hopefully) light summary of my life recently and in the near future in terms of reading.

Books I’ve Read in 2011

Well, 10 books in 14 days isn’t too shabby (except that they’re not all done). I want to write reviews for most of these soon because I enjoyed them, and I think it was a great bunch to start off the year. I like how they balance each other out, which is one of my (minor) goals for this year – not to read too much of 1 type of book in a short time.

Also, is anyone else still getting used to writing 2011 instead of 2010? I don’t know if you can see in this picture, but about half of the 2011s have whiteout under the 11. My chances of making a mistake are greatly increased by the fact that I like to write down that I’ve started a book once I’m a few chapters in rather than if I’m about to pick it up. (I don’t know why- it’s just one of my random quirks.) This tends to be somewhere in the 11pm area, since I don’t start reading until I finish my homework and am getting into bed. Anyway, moving on…

The Nightstand

Frankenstein and Pompeii have both been officially moved from the nightstand to the I’ll-read-it-someday pile on my desk.

The books on my nightstand itself have been dwindling in number, especially since I plan to finish Across the Universe tonight or tomorrow morning. This brings me to my next topic…

Coming Soon
I bought Across the Universe on the 11th (it arrived and I began reading it yesterday) at the suggestion of Heather Zundel, AKA WriterGirl. After I realized how much I liked Across the Universe, I bought another book that she recommended to me, Little Sister by Kara Dalkey.

Arriving a few days after that is Diana Wynne Jones’ Castle in the Air, the sequel / companion to Howl’s Moving Castle.

Also, after reading The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler, which is a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, I pre-ordered A True Princess by the same author, a retelling of the Princess and the Pea. It will be published in early February, so I don’t have long to wait.

I have some other pre-ordered stuff, but it’s mostly coming in April, May, and June, so it’ll be a while before I get those, so I won’t bother listing them now.

Because I no longer have such a large stack of books to be read, I am planning on rereading some old favorites as well as beginning to tackle the I’ll-read-it-someday pile. At school, the new semester starts in about two weeks, and we’ll be reading The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Kafka’s The Metamorphosis and Other Stories in English, and Antigone (a reread for me) in Greek (the class, not the language).

In Conclusion
That didn’t turn out quite as brief as I wanted it to be, but it was fun to write and not nearly as stressful as writing the Mockingjay review, where I had to simultaneously figure out how to put my thoughts into words and make sure not to give anything away (or be extremely vague when I do!) Anyway, goodnight and have a good weekend. Fun things are in store for next week!


by Suzanne Collins
Start Date: 23 August 2010
End Date: 24 August 2010
398 pages (Hardcover Edition)
Published 24 August 2010

I have to admit, I was apprehensive about posting a review about Mockingjay. I felt like I could not quite articulate my reaction, which would obviously make writing a review a bit difficult. Luckily, I found a fantastic review by Allegra of Here's to Us which I completely agreed with and which brought up extremely interesting points that I'd never thought about before.

Here is the link to her post, and I'd also recommend checking out the rest of her blog; it's got some great stuff.

And now, inspired by Allegra's superb post, I'll write down a few of my thoughts about Mockingjay. First of all, let me say that I loved the Hunger Games. I'm a little hesitant to recommend it to my friends since the entire premise has to do with teenagers killing each other, but I personally enjoyed it immensely. That said, I thought that the second book could have been better, and I didn't really like how she had to go back (trying not to give away too many spoilers). The third book seemed... I really don't know how to phrase this so it'll make sense... heavier somehow than the other two. And it's not even that the other books don't have horrible things happening-- they do-- but this one felt so much more horrible, partly because it felt more real. Like, the Hunger Games is a great concept and makes an engaging plot, but Mockingjay is basically a war. And wars are real-- it's not just in some dystopian future world, but in our world, today. Because of this and so many other things (let me just say: silver parachutes!), Mockingjay was harder for me to read than The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Other than that, I will direct you to Here's To Us.

P.S. I didn't know until I looked up the publication date for this post that I received the book a day earlier than the official publication date. Amazon is too efficient for its own good. *contented sigh*

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Teaser Tuesday, 2nd Edition

Teaser Tuesdays 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.


"The fires burned hottest in Congo between 1998 and 2001, at which point cell phone makers realized they were funding anarchy. To their credit, they began to buy tantalum and niobium from Australia, even though it cost more, and Congo cooled down a bit." - The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean

"'One night...' Ambuya paused dramatically until everyone had turned to watch her. Nhamo held her breath. No one had ever told her about Father." - A Girl Named Disaster, by Nancy Farmer

"Katsa's first view of the sea was like her first view of the mountains, though mountains and sea were nothing like each other. The mountains were silent, and the sea was rushing noise, calm, and rushing noise again." - Graceling, by Kristen Cashore

"Again the horse moved forward; this time Halli flung himself bodily in front of it, speaking at great speed. 'It's the Hakonssons!' he cried." - Heroes of the Valley, by Jonathan Stroud

"'The commander didn't hit that man. I asked him not to in his mind, and he didn't.'" - Fire, by Kristen Cashore

"Time passed at a crawl. The night was eerily still, for my sisters did not move in their sleep." - The Thirteenth Princess, by Diane Zahler

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Incarceron v. The Maze Runner

I feel a little bit silly posting about two books neither of which I’ve read. However, these two keep popping up and I wanted to know whether anyone had thoughts on this topic. Based purely on what I’ve been able to find on Amazon and from various reviews, these two books seem incredibly similar.


Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher
Incarceron is a prison unlike any other: Its inmates live not only in cells, but also in metal forests, dilapidated cities, and unbounded wilderness. The prison has been sealed for centuries, and only one man, legend says, has ever escaped.

Finn, a seventeen-year-old prisoner, can’t remember his childhood and believes he came from Outside Incarceron. He’s going to escape, even though most inmates don’t believe that Outside even exists. And then Finn finds a crystal key and through it, a girl named Claudia.

Claudia claims to live Outside—her father is the Warden of Incarceron and she’s doomed to an arranged marriage. If she helps Finn escape, she will need his help in return. But they don’t realize that there is more to Incarceron than meets the eye. Escape will take their greatest courage and cost far more than they know.

Because Incarceron is alive.

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.


These are both very popular books with sequels that came out fairly recently. I realize that YA dystopian fiction is very popular right now, but these two books seem a little bit too similar. Has anyone read these books that can lend an opinion?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Conspiracy of Kings

by Megan Whalen Turner

Start Date: 1 January 2010
End Date: 1 January 2010
336 pages (Hardcover Edition)
Published 23 March 2010
Recommended for: Middle and High Schoolers

A few nights ago I read A Conspiracy of Kings, and I have to say that it did not live up to my expectations. Although I was interested in Sophos (the main character in this book), who had disappeared somewhat since The Thief, I was disappointed by how un-Gen-like Gen was. In the first book, he was a great character throughout the whole book and even though you (the reader) think you know him, he’s always keeping something hidden. Even in the second and third books, he always had some trick up his sleeve. However in this fourth book, he never really opened up and gave the reader the satisfaction of knowing he was always one step ahead, and laying his plans so cleverly that no one, including the reader knew. Gen acted like Attolis of The King of Attolia, but without the ending that made me laugh out loud at his cleverness.
Despite this complaint, however, Turner writes as masterfully as ever, and I feel like I would have enjoyed this book much more if I hadn’t read the other books in the series first. As a book by itself, it was quite good, so even though I just wrote a not-quite-glowing report, I still appreciated it, and I’d consider it a book worth rereading. I’m not sure I’d recommend it, but I would definitely recommend The Thief, the first book of the series and one of my favorite books.

Teaser Tuesday, 1st Edition

Teaser Tuesdays 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.


“Ulam, a Polish refugee who’d passed hours in New Mexico playing card games, was playing solitaire one day in 1946 when he began wondering about the odds of winning any randomly dealt hand. The one thing Ulam loved more than cards was futile calculation, so he began filling pages with probabilistic equations.” -The Disappearing Spoon, by Sam Kean

“He turned to the right, away from the ladder, and crept along the wall, putting distance between himself and the voice.
‘You don’t even know what you have stolen,’ the voice said, and then broke off in a fit of coughing.” – The Clockwork Three, by Matthew J. Kirby

"Under that was a large sheet of paper with a tangle of swirly lines drawn on it. The lines had labeled boxes drawn on them at intervals, and each line ended with an arrow at the edge of the page, with the word 'Unexplored' written beside it." - House of Many Ways, by Diana Wynne Jones

"'...I believe I know him, all evidence to the contrary, and that if he is Attolis, he is also my friend Gen. But he could have trusted me to begin with, instead of acting like an idiot and treating me like one.'" - A Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner

"Meanwhile, Nhamo had grabbed a burning branch from the fire. She was terrified, but her survival depended on protecting her stores." - A Girl Named Disaster, by Nancy Farmer

"Bertie cracked an eye at the clock, which told her in no uncertain terms that it hadn't gone off at seven as planned. She went from mostly comatose to completely awake in less than half a second, bolted upright, and leapt out of bed." - Eyes Like Stars, by Lisa Mantchev

Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's 2011!

Happy New Year! 2011 is going to be a great year for PicaReads and hopefully for all the readers out there too. There will be more reviews, more events and more fun stuff, starting this week. Happy Reading!

[Update: I just realized that I read exactly 150 books in 2010. A good round number to end the year with, and a great goal for this year.]


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