15 Day Blogger Challenge - The Last Book I Flung Across the Room

Saturday, August 31, 2013

I was late to know about this awesome challenge out together by Good Books and Good Wine, so when a friend wanted to start it late, I jumped it. There are several of us joining in - every Friday for 15 weeks, Christina of A Reader of Fictions, Lili of Lili's Reflections, Mickey of I'm A Book Shark and I will post our challenge answers. Stop by their blogs to see their answers! This week's topic is books that made you fling them across the room.

I confess that even when I get frustrated with a book, even one I hate, I rarely throw/abuse the novel. I've been tempted -- like with say, Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff. Not because it was bad, but because of the severe emotional trauma that book inflicted upon me.

The last bad book that I read that made me angry enough to throw it was probably Eragon by Christopher Paolini, or anything by Terry Goodkind. Tris & Izzie by Mette Ivie Harrison was also aggravating enough to merit a throw, though I resisted since it was an e-ARC and I love my Nook.

Book Tour Review: His Last Mistress by Andrea Zuvich

Friday, August 30, 2013
Title: His Last Mistress
Author: Andrea Zuvich
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 206 
Published: July 5 2013
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

Set in the tumultuous late 17th Century, His Last Mistress tells the true story of the final years of James Scott, the handsome Duke of Monmouth, and his lover Lady Henrietta Wentworth.

As the illegitimate eldest son of King Charles II, the Duke is a spoiled, lecherous man with both a wife and a mistress. However, this rakish libertine is soon captivated by the innocence of young Lady Henrietta Wentworth, who has been raised to covet her virtue. She is determined to spurn his advances, yet she cannot deny the chemistry between them. Will she succumb? At the same time, the Duke begins to harbour risky political ambitions which may threaten not only his life but also that of those around him.

His Last Mistress is a passionate, sometimes explicit, carefully researched and ultimately moving story of love and loss, set against a backdrop of dangerous political unrest, brutal religious tensions, and the looming question of who will be the next King.

Set predominately during the reign of England's "Merry Monarch" - aka King Charles II - His Last Mistress is the story of the king's eldest and illegitimate son, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth. A rake, a fop, and a libertine, James's story is picked up later in his life - when he meets, falls in love with and changes for Lady Henrietta Wentworth, the eponymous mistress of the title. Their love story is played out against a backdrop of tragedy and rebellion, and Zuvich ably narrates their relationship and trials as a couple, as well as the larger political drama.

What mostly drew me to this story was the time and characters featured. I haven't read many historical fiction set during the 17th century in England, but the author has a keen eye for detail and for distinguishing between the many players. Though I went into His Last Mistress largely unaware of who the Duke of Monmouth was, the book easily establishes who is who and who is allied with whom. The Duke and Henrietta are well-drawn, and their is obvious chemistry between the two. The rest of the cast is largely one-dimensional outside of the two main characters, especially the antagonist of James, Duke of York - Charles' younger brother and heir (and also the future James II/VI). There is just not enough time to define and characterize everyone in so few pages, and the more minor characters suffer for that.

Though the narrative is more concerned with the romance for the majority of the two hundred pages, politics are important and serve as major plot points for His Last Mistress. James, despite his illegitimate status, hungers to be named as the heir to his Protestant father instead of his Roman Catholic uncle. Unwisely advised and manipulated by his own arrogance, the Duke is exiled, and eventually faces a darker fate than what he had hoped for.  Several historical conspiracies and rebellions (The Rye House Plot, the Revolt of the West) take place within the time frame shown and have important repercussions for everyone in the novel. It's easy to spoil what happens to the historical figures depicted, but it was a pleasure to finish the novel without discovering the outcome beforehand. Zuvich clearly has a passion for this time and these people and it readily shows in her writing.

The book's strong points rest on the research obviously done, and with the author's keen eye for detail and description. I did have issues with some of the dialogue -- it can come off as very stilted and unnatural, especially in the beginning - but the story improves as it continues. His Last Mistress is a solid historical read, only hampered by the shortness of its pages, which, in turn, has an effect on the characters themselves, and the occasional stumble with the dialogue. The book ends with some finality, and though there won't be a sequel, the author is releasing a book about the story of William and Mary -- who are intimately connected to the characters in His Last Mistress. It's well worth the $2.99 price for a kindle copy -- especially for royal enthusiasts who want something other than Tudor fiction.

Review: The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White

Thursday, August 29, 2013
Title: The Chaos of Stars
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: mythology, young adult
Series: N/A
Pages: 288
Published: expected September 10 2013
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 1.5/5

Isadora’s family is seriously screwed up.

Of course, as the human daughter of Egyptian gods, that pretty much comes with the territory. She’s also stuck with parents who barely notice her, and a house full of relatives who can’t be bothered to remember her name. After all, they are going to be around forever—and she’s a mere mortal.

Isadora’s sick of living a life where she’s only worthy of a passing glance, and when she has the chance to move to San Diego with her brother, she jumps on it. But Isadora’s quickly finding that a “normal” life comes with plenty of its own epic complications—and that there’s no such thing as a clean break when it comes to family. Much as she wants to leave her past behind, she can’t shake the ominous dreams that foretell destruction for her entire family. When it turns out there may be truth in her nightmares, Isadora has to decide whether she can abandon her divine heritage after all.

The Accused: The Chaos of Stars' cast, writing, plotting

The Offense(s): Criminal waste of time, cover fraud, squandering a great premise, using cliches and juvenile writing

The Prosecution: Jessie, a disappointed reader

Opening Argument: Ladies and gentleman, I present to you a blurb that promises Egyptian gods, a creative new take for young adult supernatural fiction, and an interesting plot. The Chaos of Stars delivers Egyptian gods, sure -- but shallow, lifeless representations of them. Instead of a new, fresh plot, the same old tropes and themes are trotted out to the reader's exasperation. It is a boring affair - full of instalove, a cheesy romance, and lackluster execution.

Exhibit A: Isadora's lack of personality. Surliness and self-absorption do not a character make. She doesn't even qualify for antihero status. She's boring, she's immature, judgmental, and impossible to care about. If it doesn't directly concern Isadora herself, she is uninterested. It's hard to stomach such a badly-written character.

Exhibit B: The Chaos of Stars uses the same theme so many other young adult novels fall prey too - magical girl, who is beyond gorgeous (of course) must wrestle with familial expectations while trying to figure out what she wants from life. If you're going to use the Egyptian gods as your main characters, make use of them. Don't make them fade into the background until it's too late.

Exhibit C: The writing. It's juvenile. It's unpolished.  There's no subtlety, no depth or any real emotion evoked in the nearly 300 pages of the book. You can skim the last 50ish pages and miss nothing. That is not good. There should be ethos, pathos, building tension, a dramatic conflict. There is sadly none of that to be found here.

Exhibit D: The plot. Where was it for most of the book? Your guess is as good as mine and I read the damn thing. For the most part, White focuses on a romance with an impossibly gorgeous Greek boy who is more than he seems to be (think about that for more than two minutes and you will have figured out a twist.) and who is in love with Isadora because...well... who knows.

Closing Argument: I was disappointed by this book from the beginning. For so much potential, the premise is neglected and the execution is lackluster. The characters are one-dimensional AND unlikeable or wooden, and the conclusion lacks emotion.

Verdict: Do not waste your time. It's not worth it, and you're honestly not missing anything by skipping this. Don't be lured in by that cover, or the promise of something original. There's none of that to be found in The Chaos of Stars.

Review: Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Title: Stormdancer
Author: Jay Kristoff
Genre: steampunk, fantasy
Series: The Lotus War #1
Pages: 451
Published: September 1, 2012
Source: Purchased
Rating: 3.5/5

Griffins are supposed to be extinct. So when Yukiko and her warrior father Masaru are sent to capture one for the Shogun, they fear that their lives are over. Everyone knows what happens to those who fail him, no matter how hopeless the task.
But the mission proves far less impossible, and far more deadly, than anyone expects – and soon Yukiko finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in her country's last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled griffin for company. But trapped together in the forest, Yukiko and Buruu soon discover a friendship that neither of them expected.
Meanwhile, the country around them verges on the brink of collapse. A toxic fuel is slowly choking the land; the omnipotent, machine-powered Lotus Guild is publicly burning those they deem Impure; and the Shogun cares about nothing but his own dominion. Yukiko has always been uneasy in the shadow of power, when she learns the awful truth of what the Shogun has done, both to her country and to her own family she's determined to do something about it.
Returning to the city, Yukiko and Buruu plan to make the Shogun pay for his crimes – but what can one girl and a flightless griffin do against the might of an empire?

Reviewed by Danielle

It’s not often that a steamfantasty set anywhere other than Industrial Revolution London comes along, but Jay Kristoff has stepped out of the box with the story of Yukiko, a sixteen year old girl in a feudal-esque Japan-inspired world where griffins, demons, and all manner of mystical creatures have died out. That is, until the Shogun dreams of a thunder-tiger and sends our heroine, along with her dad, his girlfriend, and his heavy, to capture him a mythological beast. And that’s when everything goes, (even further,) to hell.

Picking a score for this book is extremely hard. I liked the plotline and the main characters, Yukiko and Buruu. In fact, I really liked most of the characters. I liked Aisha and Michi and their alternate view of female strength. I liked Kin, a character made of contradictions. I didn’t like Hiro, but are we even supposed to like that cardboard cutout? And so, I spent the entire book utterly torn between enjoying Yukiko’s growth and strength and being horrified at some of the problems I’ve detailed a little later on.

Again, I thought Yukiko was awesome and Burruu, the best. Every scene with them together made it very hard for me to stay mad at the book. I thought Kristoff did a really good job of exploring their growing bond and how they temper and change each other. I loved the scenes at the palace and the final battles. I loved the flashbacks to Yukiko’s childhood and the reveal of her talent. I thought the ending was phenomenally done, with a scene I’m not ashamed to say made me emotional. So it’s with definite sadness that I say, it’s all marred by the fact that the book is racist, sexist, and inexpertly written. I don’t think it’s malicious, but it’s definitely problematic.

It’s poorly researched, with modern loanwords like salarimen between Edo period-inspired samurais and Chinese phrases and bows. The fact that the author said in an interview that his research consists of manga and wikipedia is readily apparent. (Source.) There’s a lot of leeway to be given in alternate history/steampunk stories, but especially given the way Westerners invalidate East Asia’s culture by confusing China and Japan’s, (and Korea and Thailand and Lao’s...) histories, it’s impossible for me to ignore the racist implications.

The author’s descriptions of the female characters are almost fetish-y, emphasising their “exoticness” in descriptions of their “hooded, almond-shaped” eyes and “midnight-black [hair] against pale, smooth skin”. It’s never more apparent than the awful bath scene. Not content to just be a recreation of an 80’s teen farce, it takes an otherwise strong character, removes all of her agency, and actually shifts the narration to a man literally gazing on her body via peep hole. It’s like if Porky’s was actually about the girls in the shower trying to get into ivy-league colleges, only to keep the famous peeping scene exactly as filmed.

The author gets stuck on a turn of phrase. “Blue-black smoke” is used four times in the first ten pages and twenty-one times over the entirety of the novel. Likewise, “aiya”, which isn’t even Japanese, is used thirteen times and there are twenty-three covered-fist bows. (Again, that’s associated with Chinese martial arts, not Japanese.) 

It’s okay to like problematic books, but you have to acknowledge where they go wrong. I like Stormdancer. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy it, too. I’m very interested in continuing the adventures of the Arashi-no-ko and her brother. I’m just hopeful that by the time I get to Kinslayer, Kristoff has worked out some of his debut kinks. And invested in a history textbook.

15 Day Blogger Challenge - Blogging BFFs

Friday, August 23, 2013

I was late to know about this awesome challenge out together by Good Books and Good Wine, so when a friend wanted to start it late, I jumped it. There are several of us joining in - every Friday for 15 weeks, Christina of A Reader of Fictions, Lili of Lili's Reflections, Mickey of I'm A Book Shark and I will post our challenge answers. Stop by their blogs to see their answers! This week's topic is blogging BFFs!

This topic is hard, because over the last year I've gotten to know some really awesome, funny, smart bloggers. I'm sure to miss some, and that's on me, but here goes. This list is going to be long, because rather than pick "BFFS", I chose bloggers who have influenced me.
My co-blogger, Danielle. (on twitter)
I've known Danielle the longest of anyone on this list and when I wanted a co-blogger, she was the first person I turned to. She's so witty it hurts, so smart it's enviable, and so funny I don't know how to compete. She brings a whole lot more to the table for Ageless Pages, and if I have one blogging BFF, it's her. 
Audra is one of the first book bloggers I ever talked to. When I needed advice, or support, she jumped in to help me. She's smart, clever, and her reviews are some of the best. She is partly responsible for how insane my TBR pile is. When she gets enthusiastic about a book, that's when I know it's something special. 

Libby Heily (on twitter)
I've known Libby for a while, and this author is talented. Her short stories and her novel have both impressed me. She's also snarky and friendly. I don't remember how we started to talk, but I am glad we did. I wish nothing but success for her.


If you know one thing about Kara, it is that she is loyal to her friends. She's just so fantastic in so many ways. I often find books I would never of heard of through her, and thus I also blame her for the explosion of my TBR. Her passion for everything is obvious and she is one of the bloggers I look up to the most.
 Lyn has a wit and a temper. Both of which are things I absolutely enjoy. If there is a troll on goodreads, Lyn is the Batman to my Robin. We've done a few readalongs together, and each time I am impressed at the analysis and insight she brings to the table. She is also the go-to person for anything on Norse mythology. And don't be fooled, she is anything but heartless. 2014 BEA buddies!
Blythe of Finding Bliss in Books [which I always read as "Finding Blythe in Books] (on twitter)
She of endless GIF abilities and her own religion. Blythe makes me laugh so hard and so often it's embarrassing. When I snortlaugh at the internet, my boyfriend knows it's either Blythe or Gillian's fault. Her success and rapid emergence as a blogging force to be reckoned with fills me with happiness. She deserves a wide-audience for her antics.

Christina's blog is a must-check for me, for more than just Cover Snark, though that remains a favorite. I don't always feel the same way about the same books, but her thoughts are so well-written and persuasive that I can always see her side.

Bonnie! Bonnie is quieter than some of my other blogger friends, but I love interacting and tweeting with her. Be it ranting about being ignored on NG (damn you, Tarnish!), or complaining that adulthood is not as fun as promised, she is always a pleasure. She also highlights a lot of books I haven't heard and when she gets excited about a certain book, I know I have to read it.

GillyB here is a newer friend, but I can't imagine book blogging or twitter without her. Her puns are magnificent, her reviews insightful and full of both GIF wizardry and humor. She also has great music and movie taste. And I'm just gonna leave this here for her. 

We are creepily twin like. She gets me. She's the Niles to my Frasier (or am I the Niles to her Frasier? It depends.) She's quietly funny, often sarcastic, and rapidly emerging as one of my favorite twitter accounts. One of these days we will transition to IRL friends (AZ bloggers unite!) and it will be dangerous for all mankind MAGNIFICENT.

This girl leaves the best comments. Seriously. Another I've known a shorter amount of time, Christina has shown herself to be friendly, funny, and super-smart. Intimidatingly so. Her review format is also genius; talking about books is so easy and fun with her.

If you want in-depth, contemplative reviews, Ivy Book Bindings is the place to go. I don't know how Keertana manages to read so voraciously on top of school and life, but she updates often and her thoughts on a wide variety of genres are not to be missed.

Another punderful book blogger with great taste and a sense of humor that nearly matches mt own. I have her to thank for my newest movie obsession as well as a few books I had overlooked. Her passion for all things Tamora Pierce is both impressive and far-reaching. #PierceFest is forever associated with her and GillyB.

Ashleigh Paige of Birth of a New Witch (on twitter)

Ashleigh is another reviewer that I wish I talked to more. Her reviews are so detailed and thoughtful that they're intimidating -- but in a good way. They inspire me to do better. Her analysis of books - be it feminist, etc. - is precise and makes me want to read more analytically. 

Ewa doesn't blog or review all that often, but when she does, it's special. She is also one of the most irreverent, funny people alive. She's not too active in the blogging community itself, but when she does review, it's not to be missed.

I admired Renae's reviews for a long time before we started to chat. I had no idea this girl was still in high school at the time- she's mature, thoughtful, and very intelligent. I love her reviews, her romance novel cover finds, and her dog pics. Seriously one of the most amusing bloggers I've gotten to know.

Flannery is so smart and friendly that when I got an email notifying me that she had followed me on Twitter, I saved the email. True story. She pops in once in a while, and it is always memorable, easy, and fun to strike up a random conversation with her. (Our Golden Girls convo still makes me laugh.) We'll always (almost) have David Foster Wallace.

Oceana Nightfern of Assorted Insanity (on twitter

Oceana is my go-to girl for fandoms. Be it on The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, or, oh yeah, books, her enthusiasm is infectious, far-reaching and genuine. Chatting with her is fun, time-consuming, and full of laughter.

These are two ladies I greatly respect and don't interact with as much as I would like. Both are reviewers whose thoughts can greatly impact whether or not I will buy or read a book. Both command a large reading audience, which are completely deserved.

I told you this was long. And it really is a list of people I am indebted to, admire, or even want to get to know more. The book blogging community is full of such wonderful people and I am so lucky to know the ones I do. There are more I am just getting to know/know better (Ellis, Bekka, Pixie, Kate Bond, Lisbeth, Lili, Mickey, Jamie, Steph & Kat, Tigerlily Rachel, and more!) but look forward to chatting more.

Book Tour Review: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Thursday, August 22, 2013
Title: The Ghost Bride
Author: Yangsze Choo
Genre: historical fiction, supernatural
Series: N/A
Pages: 368 (ARC edition)
Published: August 6 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 3.75/5

"One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride..."

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family's only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim's handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.

The Ghost Bride is an evocative, eerie tale of one girl in 1890's Malaya (now known as Malaysia). Debut author Yangsze Choo writes with authority and with clear prose that lends well to picturing the important port town of Malacca. Part historical fiction, part supernatural tale of the Chinese afterlife, The Ghost Bride is a slow-moving but deftly written piece of fiction. Memorable and unique, Choo creates a vivid setting, peopled with interesting characters for readers to enjoy and explore. A small mystery plays its part in propelling the plot, but the experiences of Li Lan, both real and spiritual, are what makes the book special.

The first part of the novel is rather slow-moving and possibly the most difficult part of reading Li Lan's story. It can be hard to get into and I struggled to keep read initially. The slow pace, the meandering plot, and an admitted style of "telling" can hinder the reader's first impression. However, once Choo hits her stride and the plot emerges as more significant, The Ghost Bride greatly improves. Choo's style leans towards descriptive and detailed, and while that fosters a strong sense of place, it's hard to get a read on characters for a bit. Thankfully, that problem is remedied as the story progresses and the characters get more time and attention. I can't say that the entire cast is uniformly rounded or interesting as individuals, but Li Lan, her Amah, and her father, especially, feel real and complex. 

As a historical fiction, The Ghost Bride excels. Where it fell apart for me was when the extended supernatural section began. I hadn't expected such a long experience in "the afterlife" with Li Lan comatose in the real world. She is still an active protagonist, but it failed to read as interestingly as her actions when awake. Choo picks and chooses, as well as invents parts of the Chinese afterlife to fit her story, but not enough information is provided for me to really follow all the rules and customs that govern Li Lan's actions while there. It was intriguing, but not fleshed out enough to satisfy. The mystery flags a bit as well in later chapters, and seems to conclude rather too simply and easily.

For all that, I greatly enjoyed this novel. Choo is a talented storyteller with a fresh and inviting style. Li Lan's story is fresh and unlike other novels I've read. The Ghost Bride is a neat, creative bit of fiction, and one that I feel good about recommending to friends who are fans of historical fiction and/or supernatural fiction. The writing is especially strong, and occasionally quite beautiful. For a debut author, Yangsze Choo acquits herself admirably. Several genres are meshed together, and while not all were carried off perfectly, Choo is more than capable of making them all work together rather well.

Bonus: As a fun note, the author's website has Choo's story about personally recording the audiobook for The Ghost Bride. Her thoughts on the process of recording the story were fascinating to read, and she also provided the entire first chapter in audio form on the site. I'd listen to that to see if this is the type of book you would enjoy.

Book Tour Review: The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Title: The Darwin Elevator
Author: Jason M. Hough
Genre: post apocalyptic, sci fi
Series: The Dire Earth Cycle #1
Pages: 470 
Published: July 30 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

Jason M. Hough’s pulse-pounding debut combines the drama, swagger, and vivid characters of Joss Whedon’s Firefly with the talent of sci-fi author John Scalzi.

In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura.

Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.

An alien-induced apocalypse? A plague that has ravaged humanity? The Darwin Elevator sounds promising from the start, and delivers on the action implied in its synopsis. It's a fast-paced (think: breakneck) foray into a world full of alien technology, subhumans, and danger. Jason M. Hough has created a foreign world where all life is centered around Darwin, Australia and the Darwin Elevator located there. It's not quite an easy read - there's worldbuilding, a lot of techie terms, etc- to wrestle with, but without a doubt, this is one of the more original and fun alien/apocalypse novels I've read. The first in a series, there's a lot to take in for a first novel, but Hough's talent makes the nearly five hundred pages fly by in a whirl of action, deception, and pure entertainment.

The problem with The Darwin Elevator is that it is long on plot, and short on characters. As with many plot-driven novels, the characters are rather thin and flat for the entire story. They are almost uniformly defined by one characteristic, instead of a complex personality- be it brainy, evil, deceptive, doubtful, angry, etc. There's not a lot of subtlety to be found in the cast. They can be cast into stereotypes rather easily: the brilliant, absolutely gorgeous scientist, the smart but insecure scavenger, the power-hungry despot, etc. It's a shame that the characters don't merit more time and attention, because the bare bones shown have potential to become a much more complex and dynamic set of people. The two with the most characterization are the scientist Tania Sharma and the plague-immune scavenger captain Skyler Luiken. Their interactions ring with the most authenticity, but don't happen often enough. The one-note villain is moderately interesting but lacks real flair.

The strength of the novel lies in the massive amounts of worldbuilding worked into the narrative. The details are woven neatly into the story, so there is little infodumping to slow down the story. A future world with one human city left on the planet, Hough creates an easily-envisioned slum and hell version of Darwin, Australia. First benefited by the alien Elevator situated within its premises, then alone saved by the plague that brought down the rest of the world, Hough's postmodern megalopolis is home to a complex, hardscrabble existence. The author has a talent for fashioning a new version of what comes after an apocalypse - his vision extends from the well-to-do "orbitals" who live on the Elevator, to the hand-to-mouth life of those left behind, dirtside. His complex system of necessary bartering between the two (water and air for those in space, food for those on Earth) also serves to set up a side plot rather neatly.

The aliens (called "The Builders") are a bit of a MacGuffin. They're pivotal to all that has happened to Darwin and for the current plot, but they're entirely off-screen. Their actions and "visits" happen before the events of the novel, and are referenced often. Despite that, they never interact directly with the characters, or even the world. They can't even be labelled as an antagonist; they are unknowable, unpredictable, and unseen for the duration. The real threat to life in Darwin is the SUBS plague, and the "subhumans" it makes of the unlucky few who aren't killed by the disease. The subs and the plague are both an omnipresent threat once someone leaves Darwin and the protection the Elevator offers - new strains of the disease, smarter subs evolve and lead Skyler and company a close race on more than one occasion. The subs are less than human and though dangerous, don't really offer much in the way of tension. They're too mindless, too scattered to be much more than a surface threat. The other villain does more, but he's lacking in presence.

Though book one wraps up pretty neatly, there is obviously room for sequels and further exploration of the world Hough has created. The final events of The Darwin Elevator are an obvious lead-in for book two, The Exodus Towers. There were some scenes that read like pure male gaze/fan service (the two "shower" scenes, notably) and took away from some of my enjoyment, but on the whole, The Darwin Elevator is a solid, action-packed thrill ride. I would read the sequels since the world that Hough has created is vibrant, compelling, and unique.

A - Z Bookish Survey

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I try not to do too many surveys or memes here on the blog, but this one seemed like a fun and new way to talk about books and authors I am passionate about.

Author You've Read The Most Books From:

Caroyln Keane and Francine Pascal.
What can I say? I was a big Nancy Drew girl, and I loved Sweet Valley Twins/High. Both clock in at 36 books read. I haven't read much from any of those series in years, but I would if I had copies!

Best Sequel Ever:

Hmm, well there are a lot. However, I am still caught up in how freaking fantastic Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas was. Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre is third in a series (so it counts, right?) and it just BLEW my mind. Utterly fantastic. Also Dark Triumph by R. L. LaFevers and Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta.

Currently Reading:

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. It's a mix of historical fiction and the supernatural. Also, I am in love with the cover.

(also Infinite Jest, but that's been going on for months with little progress.)

Drink of Choice While Reading:

Summer: Sweet tea
Winter: Earl Grey

What can I say? I am a tea girl.

E-reader or physical book:

Both. All. I have a Nook, a Kindle, and an iPad with apps for both. If I find a book I want on a great ebook sale, I buy it. I am partial to physical copies of favorite books, however. 

Fictional Character I Would Have Dated In High School:

Jonah. Griggs. Freaking Griggs all the way. He is just the best. I loved everything about Jellicoe Road, but Griggs made the biggest impression. Well, him and Jude <3

Glad You Gave It A Chance:

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I was iffy for the first few chapters, but I soon got what it was all about. The hype was warranted. It's a weird, odd, great book. Also, Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith. It's not a book for everyone, but, to me, it was absolutely beautiful.

Hidden Gem Book:

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre. I can't get enough of these books and wish more of my friends would read them. If you like awesome science fiction, this is the series you should be reading.


The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst. As a massive dog person, this book about a man's grief and his struggles to understand his wife's death  really hit home for me. It seems to be sorely overlooked.

Important Moment in My Reading Life:

When I started reviewing and blogging. I've always been a reader - my mom used to punish me by taking away my books - so when I found an outlet for my passion, it really took off. I've read more each consecutive year since I started, and I've found a great community, an amazing co-blogger, and a lot of new books I never would've heard of before.

Just Finished:

Tarnish by Katherine Longshore (YA historical fiction about Anne Boleyn) and The Butterfly Sister (mystery/thriller) by Amy Gail Hansen. Both were great, though Gilt is my favorite of Longshore's novels.

Kinds of Books I Won't Read:

I tend to avoid retellings of Biblical figures/stories, Amish romances (I really don't understand how this is so much of a thing), and most horror. I have been trying to branch out on that last one, due to my love for The Walking Dead, and it's a mixed bag so far.

Longest Book I've Ever Read:

The Great Book of Amber by Roger Zelazy - 1258 pages. However, that may be cheating because it's ten books in one volume. The longest single-story book is probably The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson - 1,007 pages.

Major Book Hangover:

So many.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Every Single Harry Potter novel
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
If I Stay/Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Daughter of Smoke and Bone/Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
Finnikin of the Rock/Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta 
Chime by Franny Billingsley
The Distant Hours/The Secret Keeper/The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

and those are just the ones that pop immediately to mind. There are oodles more.

Number of Bookcases:

One black one, full of unread books I own. (The shaaaame!)

And one white one, that takes up an entire wall in my library room. (I had another black bookcase for my YA books, the ones you see on the floor, but it broke!)

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:

Err, a lot. I love to reread. I've probably read A Game of Thrones or The Prince of Tides the most.

Preferred Place to Read:

If I am at home, I'm either at my desk (super comfy chair, also easy to take notes), or lying in bed (super comfy, hard to take notes, but easy to snuggle puppies.) I do a lot of reading at work on breaks and lunches, but the employee break room has a leather couch pretty much made for reading and lounging.

Quote That Inspires You:

"A library is infinity under a roof." 
― Gail Carson Levine

"I realized then that even though I was a speck in an infinite cosmos, a blip on the timeline of eternity, I was not without purpose." 
― R.J. Anderson, Ultraviolet

"You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against." 
― Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

“I am no longer afraid of getting old. Indeed I can't believe I ever said anything so stupid. So childish. So offensive and arrogant. But mainly, so very, very stupid. I desperately want to grow old.”
― Elizabeth Wein, Code Name Verity 

Readng Regret:

Taking so long to give up on books. For years, I refused to DNF any book. Even if I hated what I had read, even if was 700 pages and I was struggling to get past page 110, I thought I had to finish. I was wrong. And I wasted a lot of time on bad books before I figured that one.

Series I Started and Need to Finish:

SO MANY IT'S INSANE. My "series ongoing" shelf has 625 books. Granted, some of those are in the same series, but damn, I need to get going. (My series complete shelf is only 535 books. WHY IS EVERYTHING A SERIES.)

The most notable:
Sirantha Jax (I own the fifth and last one, but I am not quite ready to say goodbye yet)
Jessica Darling (one book and one prequel to complete)
Discworld by Terry Pratchett (I'm on book 9 of 40)
The Graceling Realm (just need to read Bitterblue -- thankfully it's out in paperback Sept. 17th!)
Chaos Walking (I'm in the middle of book two!)

And then there are the series that need to finish publishing so I can read the next book, like:
A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin
The Gentlemen Bastards by Scott Lynch
The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Penryn and the End of Days by Susan Ee

Three of My All-Time Favorite Books:

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

Unapologetic Fangirl For:

Anything by Melina Marchetta. George R. R. Martin's books. Dune by Frank Herbert. Harry Potter. Gail Carriger. Kate Morton.

Very Excited For This Release:

Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Just One Year by Gayle Forman. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski.

Worst Bookish Crime:

Buying more books when I have some from 2010 that I've not yet read. I can't resist a good deal, or an awesome cover, or favorite authors. Also, I try to buy whole series before I start reading the first so I don't have to wait. This is why I have an entire bookshelf of books I haven't read yet.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

Widdeshins by Charles de Lint

Your Latest Book Purchase:

Adaptation by Malinda Lo. It was the Kindle Daily Deal! Before that? Let me refer you to this.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late):

Graceling by Kristin Cashore. There was no way sleep was happening until I found out how things went for Katsa and Po.

Book Tour Review: The Butterfly Sister by Amy Gail Hansen

Monday, August 19, 2013
Title: The Butterfly Sister
Author: Amy Gail Hansen
Genre: general fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 320
Published: August 6 2013
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

"My past was never more than one thought, one breath, one heartbeat away. And then, on that particular October evening, it literally arrived at my doorstep."

Eight months after dropping out of Tarble, an all-women's college, twenty-two-year-old Ruby Rousseau is still haunted by the memories of her senior year-a year marred by an affair with her English professor and a deep depression that not only caused her to question her own sanity but prompted a failed suicide attempt.

And then a mysterious paisley print suitcase arrives, bearing Ruby's name and address on the tag. When Ruby tries to return the luggage to its rightful owner, Beth Richards, her dorm mate at Tarble, she learns that Beth disappeared two days earlier, and the suitcase is the only tangible evidence as to her whereabouts.

Consumed by the mystery of the missing girl and the contents of the luggage-a tattered copy of Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, the book on which Ruby based her senior thesis, and which she believes instigated her madness-she sets out to uncover the truth, not only about Beth Richards's past but also her own. In doing so, Ruby is forced to reexamine the people from her past: the professor who whisked her away to New Orleans and then shattered her heart and the ghosts of dead women writers who beckoned her to join their illustrious group. And when Ruby's storyline converges with Beth's in a way she never imagined, she returns to the one place she swore she never would: her alma mater.

I liked this quite a bit. I didn't love it, but Amy Gail Hansen pulled me into her story easily and early. The mystery is intriguing, the characters are well-drawn, and the writing itself is sold. Part mystery, part thriller, the author blends together the various aspects of The Butterfly Sister into an interesting and compulsively readable novel. Fast-paced, with several, unexpected twists and turns, readers will find themselves drawn into Ruby Rousseau's complicated life. This is a short-ish novel, but Hansen packs a lot of punch into her three-hundred pages.

Ruby is a compelling protagonist - she's complicated, a mess, a shadow of her former self. She also believes herself to be mad, and with an attempted suicide in her recent past, it's easy to believe in her confusion and pain. Though the majority of the story is focused on the "now" timeline, there are frequent flashbacks interspersed to a year before, when Ruby was at college, and in a seemingly-better mental state. Both the past and the present narratives are connected in unexpected ways, and as Ruby tries to find Beth and figure out what happened to her a year ago, she comes to realize that life at Tarble was not exactly as she remembered. Her romance with an older man is nicely written and fraught with drama, if a bit squick-imducing when it's revealed her love is only three years younger than Ruby's own parents.

The disappearance of Beth is key to the plot, and as Ruby uncovers more about her former friend, the similarities between the two women become more and more apparent. Both were only children, both lost their fathers, and both made ill-fated romantic relationships. But while Ruby may be metaphorically lost, Beth is literally lost. The theme of feminine depression encompasses both women's lives in surprising ways -- Ruby herself is depressed, and while Beth remains unafflicted, another woman's depression has dire implications for her own life. Hansen handles the theme well, and without prejudice. Her even-handed depiction of depression is forthright and real, and never veers into political incorrectness. It helps that Ruby is shown to be a very smart woman, and a thorough researcher. She is much more than her illness, and it doesn't define her.

The final chapters of the book were weaker than the introduction. The mystery flags as the culprit is revealed and leads the characters on an increasingly hard-to-believe series of events. As it went on, The Butterfly Sister lost a bit of the subtlety that it had maintained earlier in the story, but I still couldn't put the book down. It wasn't perfect, but Hansen's first novel is an easy read that will definitely keep readers turning the page. It's unusual, compelling, and a bit weird -- and absolutely memorable.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me in this tour! Find the full schedule here.

15 Day Blogger Challenge - Nighttime Reading Rituals!

Friday, August 16, 2013
I was late to know about this awesome challenge out together by Good Books and Good Wine, so when a friend wanted to start it late, I jumped it. There are several of us joining in - every Friday for 15 weeks, Christina of A Reader of Fictions, Lili of Lili's Reflections, Mickey of I'm A Book Shark and I will post our challenge answers. Stop by their blogs to see their answers! This week's topic is bedtime reading rituals!
My reading ritual at bedtime isn't that exciting. I do most of my reading during the day: at work, on breaks and lunches, or at my desk when I get home from work. And when I get ready to wind down my day, I look over at my bedside table and... well.... this is what it looks like. (Hello Kinslayer and last Sirantha Jax novel!)

There is a system at work here. I'll explain.
This is my book tour stack, organized by what is due by when. If I have a tour coming up, I will read that book before bed. Or if it is a sequel and I haven't read the one before, that goes into the pile as well (like with Skylark and Shadowlark.)

And, if I have no tours up soon and my e-ARC queue is not full of books about to expire, I pick a book from the "my choice" pile. I have way too many owned unread books, so this pile is made of the ones I *NEED* to read asap. This stack tends to move the most slowly (coughseethedateontheUnravelMeARCcough), as I only read about an hour in bed before going to sleep.

  I use that blue notebook to record my notes/thoughts as I read, since I tend to forget my review points if I sleep after doing some reading.

And that's it! My nighttime reading habits. It's a bit messy, but it's a system that keeps me on time for book tours and reviews. 

Be sure to stop by A Reader of Fictions, I'm A Book Shark and Lili's Reflections to see what their rituals are!
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