Summer 2013 Book Haul

Hey everyone! Remember me?

Books accumulated over the summer, and I meant to share them earlier. Earlier as in last month. “There’s still time,” I said, my brain melting into goo as I marathoned Legend of Korra. As I neglected everything else to binge-read and spend an unhealthy amount of hours Tumblring. By now many students have returned to school, unless you’re like me–waiting for classes to start on the 25th–and autumn weather is settling in. About time, too, but summer isn’t over–not yet. Not technically. Not until tomorrow.

Okay, so I procrastinated on this post, but it’s all right. I’m here now–and with a new shipment of books. Oh, gosh, look!

The Dark Victorian: Risen, Vol. 1 by Elizabeth Watasin The Night of the Comet by George Bishop (ARC) The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke (ARC) The Orphanage of Miracles by Amy Neftzger

1. The Dark Victorian: Risen, Vol. 1 by Elizabeth Watasin
2. The Night of the Comet by George Bishop (ARC)
3. The Boy Who Could See Demons by Carolyn Jess-Cooke (ARC)
4. The Orphanage of Miracles by Amy Neftzger

In one short stack: here are all of my giveaway wins. Or, actually, almost all of them.

I was one of the lucky few to win The Dark Victorian over at BookLikes from Elizabeth Watasin herself. I look forward to this for a variety of reasons, one being that I am a sucker for anything that sounds remotely steampunk. All the better if a dash of mystery and intrigue gets tossed in, right? Bishop’s The Night of the Comet and Neftzger’s The Orphanage of Miracles were delivered courtesy of LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Giveaway. The chance to read The Orphanage of Miracles did present itself a couple of months ago, and although I haven’t made time to review it (tsk, tsk), I genuinely adore it. (A sequel is expected, which I would love to get my hands on.)

Another win–one that I anticipate reading above the rest–is The Boy Who Could See Demons. Ten year old Alex’s best friend is a demon who goes by “Ruen,” but is Ruen real or imagined? After his mother’s suicide attempt, Alex meets child psychiatrist Anya, who–having gone through her daughter’s battle with schizophrenia–must decide if Alex is schizophrenic or can truly see demons. The spiritual realm versus imagination versus psychology–just my kind of book.

ebooks

1. A Dawn Most Wicked by Susan Dennard
2. Awakening Kelly Foster by Cara Rosalie Olsen

A Dawn Most Wicked is not just 150 pages all about Daniel Sheridan (any SS&D fan will understand), but it’s also my prize for participating in Susan Dennard’s SS&D Book Club last month. In case you missed it, Epic Reads chose Something Strange & Deadly as their new monthly read, but Susan added additional fun by sprinkling in prizes and hosting weekly discussion questions. For selected winners, there were weekly prizes packed with enough awesome to turn any YA reader into jealous grabby hands, but everyone got a participatory prize: either a deleted scene from A Darkness Strange & Lovely or e-novella A Dawn Most Wicked–I opted for the latter, and I am tickled by the thought of reading this.

Thank you to Susan Dennard, who is an amazingly kind author. If you haven’t read Something Strange & Deadly (see review), please do.

My second e-book is Cara Rosalie Olsen’s Awakening Foster Kelly, my first Tumblr giveaway win. This is courtesy of Bloody Brilliant Books‘ giveaway as well as Cara, and I send many thanks to both!

haul 1

1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
2. Airman by Eoin Colfer
3. Angelfall by Susan Ee
4. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Coelho’s book didn’t hit my radar until after I’d encountered Paolo Bacigalupi’s book of the same name (see review). Coelho’s The Alchemist lies in the center of high praise, and it’s given me the belief I’ll feel so wowed by this book that I’ll knock a star off Bacigalupi’s book. I have avoided reading reviews, luckily, so at this point, all I expect from The Alchemist is that it’s… good. But pfft! to all that admiration for now, because I have two books in this stack that I cannot wait to tackle: Angelfall by Susan Ee and Airman by Eoin Colfer.

Young adult paranormal literature–romance included or not–is not my usual taste, because usually, YA PRN tastes stale and bitter and… Ew, I think that’s mold. You catch my drift? I’m not a huge fan, but there are few books I make exceptions for. Anna Dressed in Blood is one of the few, and it’s one of the few that didn’t disappoint me. I shouldn’t fail to mention that I’m also a devoted fan of the Something Strange & Deadly trilogy. I have it on good authority that Angelfall is like an extra-heavenly angel cake with hidden ingredients to pop out and dazzle you into a drool-monster craving more, more, more! Okay, so those weren’t the exact words Tanya used, but I hear it’s pretty damn good and I’m excited.

…But I’m also excited for Airman. Really excited. Very excited. Heavy-breathing-touching-the-book excited. Fidgety-with-anticipation excited. My-heart-leaps-to-the-clouds-and-soars-with-stars excited. You feel me?

(Don’t forget: It’s The Secret Garden! That was my favorite story as a kid. Uh, in movie-form. I never got around to reading the book, but that will change, okay?)

1. The Morning Star by Robin Bridges 2. A Darkness Strange & Lovely by Susan Dennard 3. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

1. The Morning Star by Robin Bridges
2. A Darkness Strange & Lovely by Susan Dennard
3. The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

The Ghost Bride and A Darkness Strange & Lovely were two of my most anticipated summer releases, yet I only got through one of them. The day the mailman plopped A Darkness Strange & Lovely in my mailbox is the day I devoured it. Any issues with the first book that might make a reader question Susan Dennard’s ability to pull off a good mystery shatter in the second book. I was undeniably impressed by the growth and changes, how the two books string together so well–and how the third will, I am sure, complete the story without one loose end. More than anything, Susan’s writing slapped me into a happy shock, for there’s command over language and a plot which has thought behind every detail. Nineteenth century Paris comes to life in A Darkness Strange & Lovely with vivid imagery that sucks me in–a strength that Susan Dennard and Yangsze Choo share.

As much as I wanted to finish The Ghost Bride, I couldn’t. The book is beautiful, so rich and vivid that I swear I could look away from its pages and find myself in the middle of a 1893 Malayan road. This is a book to savor, I realized, so I set it down, promising to return when the time is right. As for Robin Bridges The Morning Star, well, I’m not sure when I’ll feel like reading it. The Morning Star is the final book to Robin’s Katerina trilogy, and at one point, I had looked forward to it. It was high hopes that fooled me into ordering the third book before I’d read the second, and my interest sunk after I sped through The Unfailing Light. The Gathering Storm soaks in potential, yet the The Unfailing Light serves as plot-filler. And all that potential? I felt it wither up and crumble.

Yeah, I’m still grumbling over the $17 I put toward The Unfailing Light–not that it matters, because I have a new heap of books to drool all over.

Signed copy of The Orphanage of Miracles by Amy Neftzger

Signed copy of The Orphanage of Miracles by Amy Neftzger

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In My Mailbox #6

In My Mailbox is a book meme hosted by The Story Siren. Click here to read more and participate!

In My Mailbox is a book meme hosted by The Story Siren. Click here to read more and participate!

Well, I had hoped I would have my Showtime review posted by now, and instead I let my blog grow quiet for a week. My mind’s been stuck in a haze, and while Midnight Coffee Monster sat in its own stagnant puddle of silence, I became lazy. For once, classes and schoolwork didn’t interfere with blogging and reading — a first? I think so.

Now I’m a couple days behind, which I hope to catch up on as I busy myself today with workworkwork. Let’s see if I can get out of this funk before it worsens and I de-evolve into another bedblob. Doing nothing became my newest hobby, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t resist the allure of Shiny New Books — which is something.

Sense & Sensibility and The Outsiders

I am in the habit of frequenting Barnes & Nobel for a couple of reasons. For one, I not only live and go to school less than ten minutes away from the store, but it is the closest bookstore around. Unless I wish to venture across town or walk into Borders, which is located in the mall and — I’m sad to report — has a rather sad book selection. I also like to plop myself in front of B&N’s bargain-priced books and fancy buying them all. I wouldn’t dare, but I do love the covers — they’re hardback and pretty eye candy. Naturally, I’m prone to snatching one for myself now and then.

I have heard lots of praise surrounding Austen’s Emma–which will probably be my next Austen-buy–but the itch to own Sense & Sensibility has bothered me for a long time, and I’m happy to finally own a copy.

I saw the movie years ago — not horribly long ago, but long enough to where I can hardly recall the movie at all. What I do remember is that I enjoyed it, and I’ve wanted to read the novel ever since I spaced out during a class read-along in seventh grade. Hopefully I can fit The Outsiders as one of my reads this year!

…Oops. Wait a minute. Don’t I already have this book? Didn’t I already order this? Yeah, I did — my mistake! Like I said, my mind has been fogged this week. What I wanted to pre-order is Robin Bridges The Morning Star, which is the third and final book to her Katerina trilogy. This book here is the second in the series, which I have yet to read but already own. I have to skulk on down to the bookstore and hope there are no problems with a return, but either way: I will have my pre-order!

A Monster Calls

  • A Monster Calls written by Patrick Ness, inspired by Siobhan Dowd, and illustrated by Jim Kay

I bought a copy! For myself! I have A Monster Calls! I read this last year and it quickly became a book that I can’t separate from. I can read this a million times over, and the charm that Ness, Dowd, and Kay created won’t ever grow faint or wither. Not for me, anyway. I will give away one copy once my review is written up, and I sincerely hope that whoever I send it to will cherish this story as much as I do.

netgalley

These last three are from NetGalley, which I’ve had an account with for some time and only now am I taking advantage of it. NetGalley sent me invitations to read the first two, and the third is one I requested. (I’m a bit excited for Gavin Extence’s book especially!) I’m notorious for spending ample time working through ebooks, so I expect a challenge — hopefully I won’t take too long. If there is one thing I took from my last digital book, it’s that it is possible to lasso my attention span so long as I’m even slightly interested.

And that’s a wrap. Share your latest bookish finds with me!

Raya
xo

In My Mailbox #5

In My Mailbox is a book meme hosted by The Story Siren. Click here to read more and participate!

In My Mailbox is a book meme hosted by The Story Siren. Click here to read more and participate!

Classes started back up again this week, and–like most first weeks–it went by smoothly. For the first time in a long while, I finished several books and managed to complete all my work. (This really is an accomplishment of pathetic sorts, all scatter-brainedness considered.) If only this week could be a predictor for how the rest of my quarter will go! Meanwhile, I did buy new books (and it was torture trying not to read them all right away), which I’m rather excited about. First off:

Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets & Life of Pi

This was the quietest little book on my to-read list. It recently came out, and it seems that not too many people were anticipating its publication like I was. I stumbled across its GoodReads page not long ago, and the title alone caught my interest. Yes: I really wanted to read this, and so I did — do expect a review from me! Overall, I think the pacing is steady but you can finish it in under a day, and I find James Whitman naturally endearing.

I haven’t seen the movie, and for good reason: I am waiting on little ol’ me to read the book. Finally–finally!–I picked it up! I’m just beginning my trek through Shelley’s Frankenstein, and after that I like to think I’ll begin either Persuasion, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, OR The Unfailing Light, so who knows when I’ll make room for Martel’s novel. It’s one of those books that’s received plenty of praise in an ocean full of hype, but I think I’ve steered clear of spoilers and overly indulged plot descriptions. If there is anything hype is good for, it’s raising my expectations to the point of deflation.

Dracula

How can I pass up a Dracula hardback when it’s only $11? It’s classic, inexpensive, hardback, and with a pretty cover to boot. I’m satisfied, to say the least.

A couple years ago I made a failed attempt at reading this, but only because it was due back at the library. Curses! To think: I read half way through (just when Bram had hooked me at last) and I didn’t get to see the end. It took me a long while to get it, but I now have my own personal copy — no due dates to interrupt my read this time!

The Unfailing Light & SS&D

Although I bought The Gathering Storm (Katerina #1) last year, I didn’t find my way to reading it until February of this year. I discovered that Robin Bridges keeps the atmosphere light with quick pace, but she still manages to include conflicts. By no means is The Gathering Storm perfect–and you can read my thoughts about it here–but I enjoyed reading it for stress-relief and fun. I couldn’t deny the sequel, so I plan to read and review that as well.

I surprised myself! Last year I read–and reviewed–SS&D, and I always planned on reading the sequel by the same means that I read book one: through the library. I enjoyed Dennard’s novel, regardless that I easily uncoiled the mystery and disliked the main character. Something strange happened. Strange, but not deadly. (I don’t think so, anyway.) Obsession hit back in March, or perhaps in February, because all I wanted was something quick! fun! light! I wanted Susan Dennard’s Something Strange & Deadly, so now I have it. (Now, of course, I also intend to buy the sequel. If only summer would get here sooner.)

That’s all from me. Which books did you snatch up this week?

Book Review: The Gathering Storm (Katerina #1) by Robin Bridges

The Gathering StormThe Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges

My rating: ★★★☆☆

This is a review of an ARC edition and quotes/excerpts may therefore differ from the final copy.

May contain minor spoilers.

I have sat on the idea of reviewing Robin Bridges’ The Gathering Storm for more than a month, partly due to the dire feeling of complete ineptitude that only college can arouse. Yes, tiredness and the resounding urge to do nothing are pests that have bothered me—again—these last several months, but to find the motivation to review this book is not at all a good descriptor for my reading experience. Unlike the amount of time it took for me to scrap slivers of inspiration aided by an impulsive push to review, I was quick to saddle in and whizz through Katerina’s journey. The experience sped by quickly, if only because I find Bridges’ writing both addicting and fun. That is not to say, however, that The Gathering Storm is without flaw.

Set in an alternate Imperial Russia, in which we encounter illustrious monsters of night—vampires, ghosts, werewolves, zombies—and faeries, The Gathering Storm follows young Duchess Katerina Alexandrovna. Apart from her debutant life, caught in the glitz and glam of royals and high society, Katerina desperately wishes to pocket away her “curse.” Since childhood, Katerina has known that she possesses a necromancer’s power; though it is considered a malignant ability—a skill that risks great consequence should anyone discover it. But with one selfless act—an attempt to spare the Tsarevich from a wicked spell—she acquires attention from few unwelcomed parties who learn her secret. The lengths some will go, as Katerina learns, to have necromancy in their grasp while others rebuke it…

The royal family and bloodlines become prey of an old but rising evil as it builds through St. Petersburg, a threat to the Tsar himself. Stuck in the midst of it all—feuds and falsehoods wrapped in conspiracy—stands one particular Katerina Alexandrovna. Mysterious and terrifying events follow as the dead awaken and death strikes the Imperial Order of St. John. Amongst crossfire, Katerina struggles to embrace an unnatural power that may be the key in protecting innocent lives. But how can she accept this dark magic as a part of her when others condemn it (and her) so willingly?

This was horribly wrong. I ran inside, ignoring the mud on my nightgown, ignoring my dirty bare feet. Too frightened to step quietly, I made a terrible racket racing up the main stairs and knocked one of Maman’s favorite cloisonné-studded icons from the wall. I did not stop to retrieve the broken frame. I just kept running.

If I am to take an issue with The Gathering Storm, the abundance of minor characters is the first target I shoot at. However trivial, too many names tossed in bunched clusters not only makes it difficult to follow, but frustrating as well. They exist in numbers that form a giant wave daring to damper the plot, pacing, and reader interest. The set of these characters fail to bear significance to the plot or main cast, and as such, I quickly learned to discard them. Now, where there is a wealth in characters, I also find a fantastical world that lacks in richness.

What I took note of as I read is this book’s potential. It screams out from the page, and I can see how—perhaps if Bridges spent more time developing not only her world, but the characters and creatures—The Gathering Storm might have met its readers a few levels up from where it resides. In no way am I saying this book is poorly constructed, but there are certain instances where the story falls flat or where characters lack range and expansion. Sprinkle in extra thought to the writing process and scratch pages up in revision lines, and I think a stronger story could be told. By power of Almighty Pen & Ink, give me development! Give me variety!

Take, for example, Prince George. Although I look upon his character with fondness, I only spot two extremes with nothing in between to explain how he moves from one end to the other. How can he feel such strong repulsion for another person yet still find himself attracted? Because if he isn’t busy reminding Katerina how dark magic has tainted her, he is showing her faint signs of warmth and concern. If anything, I hope to see more of him the following books if only to see his character mature. …Well, there is that, and there is also the matter of Katerina’s love triangle, which—I must say—doesn’t exactly feel like a love triangle. (Regardless, my Team George merchandise is ready.)

In few ways, I feel grateful toward Robin Bridges. How often do readers encounter the frustrations of love triangles? Instead of watching Bridges’ protagonist run back and forth between two suitors and alternating affections, it’s a matter of: One-sided love… or not?

Charmed by Prince Danilo, Katerina is locked under his spell, but she has the wits to resist and even reject his marriage proposal. From thereon, it turns into an issue of Danilo forcefully making the Duchess comply to his will. It is, after all, her necromancy that he truly seeks. Isn’t it? It is clear that Danilo and Katerina share no mutual feeling other than loathing, at least in this book. The question becomes, then, whether or not Prince George will ever tolerate Katerina’s presence.

Katerina herself is wonderful character to admire as well. Although her opposition toward learning about her ability frustrated me, I respect her strong will. She is a steaming little firecracker with a kind heart, who loves her family, and who has a mind of her own. Katerina can think for herself and fights for her dream to be a doctor—a profession deemed inappropriate for women by old traditions—and these are qualities I like in a heroine. If only, if only—Robin Bridges!—Katerina’s strengths had been of use in the end battle! It feels like this scene was written in haste, which results in a rushed conclusion where the main character did not shine.

I still recommend other readers give The Gathering Storm a try anyhow. In particular, I especially suggest this for fans of Susan Dennard’s Something Strange and Deadly or of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. Of the three, I believe Bardugo has the strongest writing, but the similarities between Bridges’ book and the previously two mentioned novels is undeniable: fast, addicting, Russian-based, high class, and necromancy. The Gathering Storm essentially comes out as mash-up of the two.

Like Dennard’s novel, Bridges plunges readers into her world. Either this will work for you or not at all, but with such a light, quick pace and style, I found myself hooked. Addicted. One moment my eyes were glossing page one, and before I knew it I’d happily finished the book. If you so choose, I hope you discover that you enjoy The Gathering Storm as much as I do despite its flaws.

Death would be dancing with us at the ball that night.
I crossed myself and prayed it would touch no one I loved.