A little bit of reading…

Or at least I would like this week to involve a little bit of reading. It’s July 2nd, which means the Summer Lovin’ Read-A-Thon officially kicked off yesterday. I found myself on the busy side of things, so I accomplished little reading. Today, I hope, will not be a repeat of yesterday! Either way, I took a trip downtown for a scheduled library raid to pick up several books. Although most of the books I plan to read are from the library, I won’t make an official Library Loot post. I don’t have an exact “reading schedule,” either, but here is what’s set for Summer Lovin’ week!

reading 1

CURRENTLY READING:

I thought I would have finished Neftzger’s book by now, and I easily could have. I enjoy her writing and the story immensely, told in fairy tale-like fashion, and the book proves highly readable. What stands between me and finishing The Orphanage of Miracles are other books! You might say I started Summer Lovin’s Read-A-Thon a few days early, as I took the weekend to read up through the third book in Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series. (What can I say? The series is addicting. Thank you, Tamora Pierce.)

As you can see, I also started Battle Royale. This is for Underrated Bookers, a group run by Rebecca (thebooker) on Goodreads. From the Underrated Book Project, books are chosen each month. For this month, the group picked books from the dystopian genre: Battle Royale, Ready Player One, and The Darkest Minds, so if you’d like to take part feel free to join the group! (You do not have to read all three books.)

Moving on to library books, now…

LL 1

I’m starting the library loot list off with leftovers. Yes: these are the very same books from two weeks ago. You can bet I’ll finish Lioness Rampant, if not this week then certainly by the following week.

LL 2

I am terribly excited to read this stack! I’ve said recently that I am itching for fantasy and steampunk, and, well… steampunk took over. My one and only worry is that I won’t enjoy these books as much as I’d like to. I can’t say I’m new to steampunk, as I do love the fashion and steampunk concepts that are used in films, but I am new to steampunk in literature. I’ve read so-so and mixed reviews for The Pearl Wars and Boneshaker–though I must say that my eagerness to read them doesn’t waver. I think the most promising out of these three might be Westerfeld’s Leviathan. His Uglies series isn’t for me, but Leviathan sure does have an appeal.

LL 3

Again: another great stack I look forward to. The Darkest Minds has sat on my to-read shelf since before its publication, and I am hoping to use Underrated Bookers as an excuse to finally read it. The sequel is due out soon enough, so I really do hope to make room for it at some point during July.

Of course, I believe I mentioned The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Wildwood Dancing in a Top Ten Tuesday post, which I still hope to read before summer turns into fall. I admit that I’m most antsy to start Jemisin’s book, as the summary and cover have a fancy, wondrous appeal that I have trouble denying.

LL 4

Sky Castle is a quick children’s picture book, which I discovered in the library’s catalog as I hunted down steampunk titles. Just to clarify: Sky Castle is NOT a children’s steampunk picture book, but I don’t deny the allure of one. I also have Melina Marchetta’s The Piper’s Son here, and I’m awfully excited to read it. I loved Saving Francesca, so I am eager to start the companion novel, like, right now.

Naturally, as an ATLA fanatic, I need to read The Search, where Zuko teams up with Azula to discover the truth of what happened to their mother. I weep tears of joy. Really, I do–and for a couple of reasons. The first being: Azula. She alone is one of the best villains I love to love, and I love her character all-around. (As I do Zuko. How can you not like him?) Secondly: we may finally learn the truth! ATLA’s finale slapped me across the face when the creators left this cliff hanger dangling on all of our faces.

Last up…

book 2Yes, we all know I picked up Battle Royale to read and finish, but the one book–above all other books–I am dying to read is Airman by Eoin Colfer!

Eee! What is that sound? Squeals of excitement and bliss.

Once I finish The Orphanage of Miracles and Battle Royale, which books am I picking up next? Who knows. As much as I want to read Airman, I am known for neglecting my own books so that I can plow through towers of library loot. I’m also a mood-ish reader, and I will waste a day trying to figure out which book out the many I should read.

Problem solved:

reading mug

I point out: the creepy-faced reading mug, for it has an actual face, and I refuse to drink from it.

I pooled together titles that interest me and wrote their names on paper scraps before placing them in my “reading mug.” If I ever have difficulty choosing what to read, I can blindly pick a title. Suddenly: choices becomes less problematic.

(Remember: sign-ups for the Summer Lovin’ read-a-thon are open through July 6th! Just before the 24-hour reading marathon starts.)

Happy reading!

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Top Ten Tuesday #13

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme hosted by  The Broke and the Bookish. Click  here to read more and join!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Click here to read more and join!

This week’s TTT concerns top 10 books I’ve read in 2013. I’ve read under my usual number of books this year, and I might normally have a difficult time choose just 10 books. 2013, however, has not been my best year for reading–it started off well enough, and then I ran smack into one- and two-star books back-to-back-to-back. It frustrated me and stole a bit of my love for reading. I have read more books that aren’t brilliant but I do like, yet those aren’t enough to make my top ten. It’s only recently that I’m regaining enjoyment through some wonderful books, and I have some enticing reads planned out for the next few weeks. For now, though, here are my favorites of 2013:

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I am the Messenger

1. I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
After reading the heart-wrenching tear-jerker, The Book Thief, I wasn’t too sure that Zusak could impress me as much as he did with his 2006 bestseller. Whether he did or didn’t is hardly the point, as I don’t believe the two novels can compare against each other. The two books are profoundly different, and the one similarity they share is the person who wrote them: the wonderfully talented Markus Zusak. I am the Messenger punched my emotions all around, and at the same time, the story of Ed’s journey and personal growth is both touching and inspiring. If you haven’t read The Book Thief, or if you  have and didn’t enjoy it, I highly recommend giving this a try.

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Teeth

2. Teeth by Hannah Moskowitz
For nearly a month, I did a little dance around the bookstore with Teeth only to sit it back on the shelf. I wanted to buy it–not just read it, but physically own it–yet I had little knowledge of the plot. All for the best, I’d say. I did succumb to the strong urge to buy Hannah Moskowitz’s book, and once I had it I read it and didn’t stop until I hit the last page. It’s gritty, it’s beautiful, and it’s bleak. Some might call the end bittersweet… I think it’s just sad, and it still gets my emotions wound up months after finishing the book. Good on you, Moskowitz — I look forward to reading the rest of her novels!

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Siege and Storm

3. Siege & Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo
Us Grisha fans waited a year to see this book’s publication, but how I wanted it to come out sooner–and desperately. Shadow & Bone remains one of my top favorite reads from 2012, just as Siege & Storm will remains one of my favorites from this year. Leigh Bardugo surprised me senseless and silly with how much growth both the characters and storyline undergo, and my one regret in reading Siege & Storm is reading it too soon and too quickly. Why? Because now all I care for is third (and–sob–last) Grisha book, Ruin & Rising, which does not come out until 2014.

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Saving Francesca

4. Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
I’m disappointed that it took me this long to read a Melina Marchetta book. I did attempt Finnikin of the Rock–and I admit that just might not be the book for me–but it is Saving Francesca that became my first Marchetta read. It’s  heart-warming and heart-wrenching all at once, and it was well worth the moments my eyes teared up–and it is certainly worth reading for all the moments it made me laugh.

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The Knife of Never Letting Go

5. The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness
If anyone is searching for a gripping novel, this is for you. It’s an addicting page-turner where there is no place to pause.  The Knife of Never Letting Go is one of the best, if not the best, young adult dystopian novel I have read. Danger and risks await at every page and lurk in the margins, but more than that, I love the writing and I love the characters. Anyone who’s read this will understand my restless upset over Manchee, but I also enjoy the path that Viola’s and Todd’s friendship take. The villains are nothing but insane (and insanely evil), and more than anything, they are indestructible. (What is up with that?) Yikes.

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Warm Bodies

6. Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) by Isaac Marion
No, I still have not seen the movie–but at least I read the book! I’m not sure where Marion will take this in the sequel, whether it will contain the same characters or introduce an entirely set that live in the same universe. Either way, Warm Bodies surprised me with its lucid eloquence and its equally intelligent characters. For a zombie, R shows keen perception of his environment and complex thought, and I enjoyed reading his journey of self-exploration and finding love.

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Dr. Bird's Advice

7. Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos
I took an instant liking toward Rosko’s protagonist, James Whitman. He’s endearing without trying, and he’s likable on an adorable level where I’d hug him if he were real. Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets tells the story of sixteen year old James and his struggle against depression, anxiety, and life itself. (Oh, and his therapist is an imaginary pigeon.) Books of this nature are typically “gritty” and mood-dampeners, but Rosko’s novel takes after the humor found in Ned Vizinni’s It’s Kind of a Funny Story. The story is not without flaws, but I enjoyed reading it nonetheless–and I intend to give it another go this summer.

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Alanna

8. Alanna: The First Adventure (Song of the Lioness #1) by Tamora Pierce
I finally did it: I read a Tamora Pierce novel! Alanna: The First Adventure makes the one and only Pierce novel I have read, but not for long. I have the rest of the series on hand, and–if I’m lucky–I can move onto Pierce’s next series within the next few weeks. Alanna is a strong and determined character who makes an excellent role model for young readers. I wasn’t blown away by the writing or world-building, but it did entertain me — I’m eager to see where Alanna’s journey leads (and I’m excited to read through more of Tamora Pierce’s series)!

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Alex Woods

9. The Universe versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
The Universe Versus Alex Woods is the most recent book I have finished, and my review is scheduled to post soon — it’s a wonderful coming-of-age story about the very peculiar Alex Woods and his friendship with war veteran Mr. Peterson. The writing sits on the slow but steady side of pacing, yet I find the novel smart like its narrator (even if he is young and naïve).

 

Which of your 2013 reads make the top of your list?

Book Review: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving FrancescaSaving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

My rating: ★★★★★

I don’t remember the last time anyone looked me in the eye to speak to me. I’m frightened to look at myself in the mirror because maybe nothing’s there.

I miss the Stella girls telling me what I am. That I’m sweet and placid and accommodating and loyal and nonthreatening and good to have around. And Mia. I want her to say, “Frankie, you’re silly, you’re lazy, you’re talented, you’re passionate, you’re restrained, you’re blossoming, you’re contrary.”

I want to be an adjective again.
But I’m a noun.
A nothing. A nobody. A no one.

If I could admit to having read a shelf full of Melina Marchetta books, then I would happily name her as my new favorite author. That’s how confident I am in her writing, because after reading her second published novel, Saving Francesca, it’s nearly impossible to imagine any one of her books disappointing me. Saving Francesca is a charmer, and an addicting one at that. Not since my love affair with Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina, and books like Between Shades of Gray, have I felt so drawn to a character that I sacrifice an entire night of sleep. With Marchetta’s novel, however, it’s not merely the main character that hooks me into the story. Just like the aforementioned titles, it’s everything these pages offer. It’s the characters, their relationships and stories, and the palpable world they live in.

Lucky Francesca Spinelli, for she is one of thirty girls attending St. Sebastian’s—only Francesca and her fellow female peers aren’t so lucky. Formerly an all-boys school, St. Sebastian’s has only recently opened as co-ed. What might appear as a paradise for teenage girls is anything but, as Sebastian’s becomes a breeding ground for sexism. The girls, if not ignored, are treated like inferiors and often seen as dolled-up eye-candy. The boys are far from suave, romanticized sex gods, but rather offensive with only a few male students who show redeeming qualities. A lonely, cruel place, Francesca must feel that Sebastian’s is a punishing institution worthy to be deemed a nightmare.

As Francesca’s old St. Stella’s clique attend a different school, she feels her closest friends slipping away. But were they ever her friends when they discourage the very essence that makes Francesca likeable? If they never call or invite her out? Hanging around such a scrutinizing bunch didn’t exactly ring Francesca dry of her buoyant personality, but she did bury it beneath an instinct to blend in. It’s a misfortunate characteristic to learn, and feeling friendless and miserable and confused over her mother’s sudden depression doesn’t make life at Sebastian’s easier.

“Tell me the story about when I almost drowned?” I ask her, so then she can be the hero and it’ll make her feel better. But she says nothing and I switch on the television and I pretend that what we’re watching is funny. It’s a sitcom about a family, two kids, a mum, and a dad. Their idea of tension is an argument about who gets the cottage out back. At the end, everyone’s happy because that’s what happens in television land. Things get solved in thirty minutes.

God, I want to live there.

But splitting up with “the Stella girls” is one of the best things that can happen to Francesca, because who needs judgmental “friends”? Slowly and surely, Francesca’s old friends are replaced by new ones: Tara Finke, the feminist, or simply the ‘Speak Your Mind About Anything-ist’; Justine Kalinsky, the solid and dependable accordion geek; and Siobhan Sullivan, reportedly “the Slut of St. Stella’s” and Francesca’s long-time-ago best friend. Then, by some shock and surprise, even a few boys turn up: Jimmy Hailler, who wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than at a Spinelli dinner; Thomas Mackee, always plugged into his Discman; and finally Will Trombal, Francesca’s giant crush.

“Forget it,” he says, walking away angrily.

“And what’s the name for people who kiss other people when they’ve got a girlfriend?”

He stops and turns around, looking me straight in the eye.

“A weak, spineless prick.”

Oh great, I think. Take the right to call you names right off me, you… weak, spineless prick.

Marchetta’s strength resides in her characters and her ability to write life. Her characters are perfect in the ways they are imperfect, not only likeable but relatable. They feel as real as you or me, because I believe—without a moment’s hesitation—that somewhere out there in the world is a Francesca Spinelli, a Will Trombal, and a Tara Finke and Thomas Mackee. Marchetta writes with depth, lighting up every crevice of their personalities. These are fully rounded characters, each and every one. Not even secondary characters can avoid this writer’s prowess—even if they are mentioned once never to be heard from again. As real as I believe these characters to be, however, I also recognize their own strengths.

I know from experience that high school isn’t easy, and it can be a challenging place to tackle. Feeling alone and unattached, having no group to belong to, doesn’t make it any more inspiring. Throw depression into the mix, and it all as well might seem hopeless. Depression itself is a bleak situation of its own, affecting not only the person who suffers from it, but those around the depressed individual. When depression strikes Francesca’s mother, it nearly rips the Spinelli family apart, but Francesca is stronger than she thinks—and so is her mother.

Saving Francesca isn’t a book about ideals, as the characters and their problems are far from that. What this book does have is sensibility and a resounding support system that fills me with envy. As Francesca’s mismatched group comes to accept each other, they display resourcefulness to help themselves and support their friends. They accept each other, flaws and all, with such genuine care and love that I find it difficult not to feel affected.

“I was born seventeen years ago,” I tell him. “Do you think people have noticed that I’m around?”

“I notice when you’re not. Does that count?”

Saving Francesca has more to it than the typical young adult contemporary novel, and I believe this has much to do with how realistically Marchetta writes from the teenage perspective. This is a book about moms and daughters, platonic love, and finding your spot among a crazy, intimidating herd. This is Francesca Spinelli’s story toward finding her own strength—strength to save and free herself, to let go of inhibitions—just as much as it is about personal growth. Equally heart-wrenching as it is heart-warming, Saving Francesca is peppered in pure, sincere emotion with delightful humor. It’s a book that will make you laugh and spill tears, and I am betting that it will be a book you’ll want to read all over again.

A great feeling comes over me. Because for a moment, I kind of like who I am.

WWW Wednesdays #3

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Anyone can participate — just answer the questions!

What are you currently reading?
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and my aunt’s copy of The Host (will I ever make it past page 23?!) have been properly shelved — like all other books I own — as I cut down a stack I call The Tower of Library Loot. Its height remains 11 books tall as I type, but all this seems pointless when I have another 8 books on hold and 2 in transit. (I don’t plan it this way. I request books based on their popularity and availability, yet they all seem to pile up so quickly. They’re daring me to read them all.) Essentially, the tower will never allow itself to consist of just one — or even a few — books, but I can try. As part of my lame effort to plow through library books, I’m reading Fuyumi Ono’s Sea of Shadow (The Twelve Kingdoms Vol. 1).

The creature was coming down too fast. She didn’t know how to use a sword; she didn’t have the courage to fight. She was defenseless.

More like useless. Yoko’s faults congregate into ugly character traits that highlight these deficiencies. Courage doesn’t have a home in Yoko, and if she ever experiences bravery I hope she doesn’t see it as a foreign invader and succumb to fear. Don’t get the wrong idea — I very much enjoy the swiftness of this story, how the writing neither drags nor lacks. It’s not smashed to ruins by excessive detail or poor writing, and it’s not thinned by inept skill. I can’t compare how the translation holds up to the original, but the pace and amount of description are enough to satisfy me. Reviews promise that Yoko’s character, while annoying at first, does evolve. It is difficult to imagine that her character remains a distressed damsel who no one wants to save, so until then: I’ll enjoy the pace, admire Ono’s fantasy creation, and look forward to meeting a more likable Yoko.

What did you recently finish reading?
I finished several books recently, the last of which was Starters by Lissa Price. If only: I’d like to officially review this book, but I had to return it today.

Kami Garcia claims, “Fans of The Hunger Games will love it.” Connect this quote to the summary and you have the package that convinced me to read Starters, but why will THG fans love it? I don’t know; ask Garcia. The only similarity Starters and The Hunger Games have in common is that a) Price’s book is a bit dystopian and b) there is a love triangle (possibly a square, but we’ll see how it works out in book two).

Well, I read Starters, and despite that fact that I am a THG fan, I can’t say I love Price’s book. However! I don’t dislike it either, as I sit somewhere in between at three stars. Callie is a decent character: strong, smart, and sacrificing. She’s a survivor but prioritizes her younger brother above all else. When he falls ill with a bleak outlook of recovery, she opts to sign a contract with Prime Destinations: a place where Starters (teens) “rent” their bodies to Enders (elderly) and are given enough cash to pack multiple wallets for their services. Everything looks like it’s smooth sailing for Callie until her third and final rental — the chip that allows the Ender to take over Callie’s body becomes defective. What starts as a desperate means to get by quickly becomes a threat that endangers Callie’s survival. I like the presentation of the storyline and its characters, as well as its quick pace, but I didn’t find it easy to feel attached to Callie or anyone else. In fact, I feel no attachment; only slight interest.

Other books I finished (a few of which I will try to review): Lips Touch: Three Times | The Lover’s Dictionary | The Walking Dead Vol. 3 | Twilight: The Graphic Novel | Stitches | How To Train Your Dragon

What do you think you’ll read next?
I order my next reads by Which book is due that I can’t renew? Moira Young’s Blood Red Road is due next week, although I already gave this a few tries, and I’m not sure I can bear Saba’s speech. Listening to an accent — pleasant or unpleasant — is one thing, but having it inside my head is something else. It’s time for shame: I wouldn’t mind if it were an English accent or fancy Southern drawl, but Saba’s skewed grammar trips my tongue. I may enjoy the story if only I can work past the first-person narrative. How do people read through it?

 

So: if another attempt at Blood Red Road fails and I toss it in a drop box, never to see it again, I am very eager to start Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta.