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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Something Strange & Deadly Book Club: Weeks Three & Four

SS&D book club

If you’ve followed my SS&D book club posts, you will know that Epic Reads chooses a new book to read every month. Lo and behold: excitement! Because Susan Dennard’s Something Strange & Deadly was chosen for August, and Susan sprinkled in extra SS&D fun by hosting her own book club. Not only was A Darkness Strange & Lovely added, but an assortment of weekly prizes. As if that weren’t enough, there is an additional participatory prize of A Dawn Most Wicked or a cut scene from A Darkness Strange & Lovely–just for participating in one discussion. Pretty awesome, am I right? This week’s prizes are:

  • a signed copy of A Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
  • a signed copy of Something Strange & Deadly or A Darkness Strange & Lovely
  • signed SS&D swag

Well, today marks the end of the SS&D book club, and I’m sad to see it go. (But keep an eye out for its return next year!) Last week I turned lazy and missed the third discussion, so–just for the sake of it–I’ve lumped it in with this week’s question. I’d hate to ignore week three completely! Seeing as how today, Sunday, is the September 1st, I might’ve missed the deadline to enter for this week’s prizes. No matter, because the discussion questions alone pique my interest and, as a sucker for book discussions, I enjoyed answering them. To see my answers for weeks three and four, continue reading below the cut: Continue reading

Something Strange & Deadly Book Club: Week Two

SS&D book club

Over at Epic Reads, a new book club read is chosen each month. For August, Epic Read’s pick is one of my favorite comfort books: Susan Dennard’s Something Strange & Deadly. Well, Susan decided to spice up this month’s SS&D fun by hosting her own book club, and by adding A Darkness Strange & Lovely and prizes into the mix as well. Each week is an opportunity to win other great books–including signed hardcovers!–as well as a participatory prize of A Dawn Most Wicked or a deleted scene from A Darkness Strange & Lovely. Read more about it here and sign up if you like!

This week’s question is a difficult one to answer, and I can’t say I responded with eloquence—but I hope it’s lucid enough, however weak. (Sorry!) Continue reading, if you dare, below the cut: Continue reading

Something Strange & Deadly Book Club: Week One

SS&D book club

Over at Epic Reads, a new book club read is chosen each month. For August, Epic Read’s pick is one of my favorite comfort books: Susan Dennard’s Something Strange & Deadly. Well, Susan decided to spice up this month’s SS&D fun by hosting her own book club, and by adding A Darkness Strange & Lovely and prizes into the mix as well. Each week is an opportunity to win other great books–including signed hardcovers!–as well as a participatory prize of A Dawn Most Wicked or a deleted scene from A Darkness Strange & Lovely. Read more about it here and sign up if you like!

I had lots of fun answering both discussion questions this week (they were both too interesting, and I had things to say!), which you can read below the cut: Continue reading

Waiting on Wednesday #4

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by  Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that bloggers are eagerly anticipating.

A Darkness Strange & LovelyA Darkness Strange & Lovely (Something Strange & Deadly #2) by Susan Dennard
Release date: July 23rd, 2013

A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Something Strange and Deadly, #2)

Goodreads Summary:

Perfect for readers Libba Bray’s The Diviners and Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel series, this spellbinding sequel to Something Strange and Deadly delivers a mix of intrigue, supernatural forces, intense romance, and revenge, all set against the enchanting backdrop of nineteenth-century Paris.

With her brother dead and her mother insane, Eleanor Fitt is alone. Even the Spirit-Hunters—Joseph, Jie, and the handsome Daniel—have fled to Paris. So when Eleanor hears the vicious barking of hounds and see haunting yellow eyes, she fears that the Dead, and the necromancer Marcus, are after her.

To escape, Eleanor boards a steamer bound for France. There she meets Oliver, a young man who claims to have known her brother. But Oliver harbors a dangerous secret involving necromancy and black magic that entices Eleanor beyond words. If she can resist him, she’ll be fine. But when she arrives in Paris, she finds that the Dead have taken over, and there’s a whole new evil lurking. And she is forced to make a deadly decision that will go against everything the Spirit-Hunters stand for.

In Paris, there’s a price for this darkness strange and lovely, and it may have Eleanor paying with her life.

| B&NThe Book DepositoryAuthor Website |

I will be honest: this is the first time I fully read through the summary, and… I think it spoiled me. Did I want to hear the news of Eleanor’s mom just yet? Nope. Did I want to hear about Oliver so soon? No. Much of my excitement for A Darkness Strange & Lovely comes from the unknown, wanting  to know what transpired after Something Strange & Deadly‘s conclusion — what happened to Eleanor’s mother, the family’s financial burden and social standing within the city, and of course: Eleanor herself. Eleanor is nothing if not tough, as I think she proved herself by the first book’s end. Susan Dennard’s Something Strange & Deadly, while not flawless, became one of the more addicting, fun reads of 2012, and I anticipate the sequel’s release with much excitement! I have a copy pre-ordered, so you can guarantee I’ll be stalking my mailbox until the book arrives.

What are you waiting on?

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: Something Strange & Deadly by Susan Dennard

Something Strange and Deadly (Something Strange and Deadly, #1)Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

My rating: ★★★

As an avid reader, I know which books I am more likely to love or loathe, but then there are books — books like Something Strange & Deadly — that own territory I haven’t quite invaded. Either it’s new altogether or I’ve only skirted the outside and grazed a small amount. Why did I read this? Curiosity played a key role, certainly, because SS&D’s plot strays far from my typical taste, but I also seek to pile more onto my genre plate: the more, the merrier. No reason presents itself that warns I should restrict my hobby to certain genres and types of stories. If the book tastes of spoiled milk, then so be it; I’ll live (after verbal vomiting of rancid complaints). But how else can I find new fancies and obsessions?

After her father’s death, life for 16 year old Eleanor Fitt and her family plunges head-first into a time of struggle. Eleanor’s mother proves nothing less than obsessed with regaining their status and wealth, yet money continues to drain — and quickly. Unless they wish to become destitute, Eleanor must marry a wealthy suitor should her brother, Elijah, not return home from his studies. In hopes Elijah sent a telegram, Eleanor finds herself at the train depot when the Dead alarm shrieks and walking corpses make a deathly invasion.

“It’s the Dead!” screamed a scruffy boy beside me. His shrill voice was barely audible in the panicked crowds. “Get out—come on!”

But I couldn’t. Workers and passengers alike pushed and heaved to be the first out of the distant doors.

My breathing turned shallow. I backed up against the wall. The crowd was moving fast, tugging at my skirts and threatening to pull me away like a treacherous riptide.

I glanced around. The abandoned office told me I’d get no telegram today.

Indeed, no telegram awaits Eleanor. Rather, and to her horror, one of the Dead delivers a cryptic note informing further delay in Elijah’s homecoming. Frightened, she fears her brother is hostage to a necromancer and entrusts her worries to Spirit-Hunters: an oddball group hired by city council to combat the arising dead. Alongside Joseph, Daniel, and the wonderfully strong-spirited Jie, Eleanor helps the team put an end to the Necromancer and save Elijah.

For better and worse, Eleanor Fitt’s perilous story turned out and ended to meet very little of my hopes and assumptions. I dove into Dennard’s writing like a gross savage, hungry and ready for a wealthy dose of action and adventure. This, of course, meant only one thing: zombie slaying! After 193 pages, my disappointment felt sharp and ready to launch a brutal attack of its own. I read one-hundred and ninety-three pages, and Miss Fitt only proved herself capable of evading an evil spirit and jabbing zombies where it hurts: the bloody, rotten knees. Where are head decapitations? Zombie brain-bashing? Why do the Dead idle and not take over the city? Come on, Necromancer, let your fury reign!

Okay, I am too excited for the return of AMC’s The Walking Dead, and Something Strange & Deadly is thrills away from that kind of grisly psychological horror. At least El’s parasol gets put to good use. I will say that upon completing Susan Dennard’s novel, I’m forced to split my feelings into Before and After expectations — not all of which reek of letdowns.

Compared to what I thought I would encounter (think adrenaline-pumped excitement; not gore), Dennard severely restricts the amount of blood, guts, and peril. Instead, she attempts to let loose a mystery that takes center stage. As the story unfolded, I learned it merely involves blood and peril, but no guts. (Not in the literal sense, mind you.) I never considered this an issue, because no matter what I hoped to read, Susan Dennard can write. The first chapter gave me an ill impression, yet once over this small hump, I sailed through with quick ease. My problem, then, is not the absence of zombie action, but plot predictability and thinly layered world-building.

SS&D thrusts readers into an alternate Victorian era, a reality where zombie armies prowl, whispers of a necromancer sweep the air, and the spiritual world is casually spoken of with intrigue and acceptance. From this I craved history and context. I wanted a background for this new world to fall back on and create understanding, yet Dennard doesn’t provide one. Why, I wonder, do civilians treat animated corpses with normalcy? Has it always been this way, and for how long? Annoyed by a prominent lack of answers, I felt willing to give up after the first few chapters. However frustrated I felt — resembling a light displeasure — I read on. The quick pace, I realize, works in Dennard’s favor.

This book takes on a day-to-day approach of Eleanor’s life, which elevated my disappointment. Rather than gunning through, action-packed, I find too much back-and forth between the Spirit-Hunters and Eleanor’s mother. Through the entire story, El conceals her run-ins with the Dead and her new friends from the beastly Mrs. Fitt — as if these secrets are too precious and dangerous for anyone to know. I acknowledge that El is right, as it’s the sensible thing to do when your mother has a one-track mind that circles on money and marriage. But how frustrating! I desperately wanted Eleanor to pack up and leave — who cares about her mother? (Because I certainly don’t.)

Events therefore unfurl at a sluggish rate, but Dennard’s light-weight style drives readers from page one all the way to the end in a single, swift move. What I enjoy about this is how sentences refuse to clunk and drown me under verbosity. The combination of an uneventful plot — not to mention an unsurprising mystery — and light wording creates an odd reading experience. Dennard’s style is undemanding and allows me to jump from page to page with simple enjoyment. Obviously, this would be a very different review if structure weighed heavily, and I’m glad it doesn’t.

Although I never truly liked Eleanor until the end, regardless of likeable qualities, I did feel an undeniable amount of care sprout for several characters. If anything, this is why I look forward to A Darkness Strange and Lovely – also noting that Eleanor travels to Paris. (Of course, I hope this means the dreadful mother is left behind, because I’ve heard enough of that woman’s societal gripes.) Above all, however, I genuinely like SS&D despite its flaws. There is still much room for growth and potential, and I anticipate further character development in the following books.