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

Recommend a… (book someone else recommended to you)

Recommend A… is a weekly meme run by Chick Loves Lit. Click here to check out future prompts and take part!

A book recommend to me by someone else (multiple people, actually) is A Game of Thrones, but the last book I recall someone suggesting I read — and that I did read! — is…

The Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi & illustrated by J.K. Drummond
Published January 31st, 2011 | Subterranean Press
Fantasy

Magic has a price. But someone else will pay.

Every time a spell is cast, a bit of bramble sprouts, sending up tangling vines, bloody thorns, and threatening a poisonous sleep. It sprouts in tilled fields and in neighbors’ roof beams, thrusts up from between street cobbles, and bursts forth from sacks of powdered spice. A bit of magic, and bramble follows. A little at first, and then more–until whole cities are dragged down under tangling vines and empires lie dead, ruins choked by bramble forest. Monuments to people who loved magic too much.

In paired novellas, award-winning authors Tobias Buckell and Paolo Bacigalupi explore a shared world where magic is forbidden and its use is rewarded with the axe. A world of glittering memories and a desperate present, where everyone uses a little magic, and someone else always pays the price.

In the beleaguered city of Khaim, a lone alchemist seeks a solution to a deadly threat. The bramble, a plant that feeds upon magic, now presses upon Khaim, nourished by the furtive spell casting of its inhabitants and threatening to strangle the city under poisonous vines. Driven by desperation and genius, the alchemist constructs a device that transcends magic, unlocking the mysteries of bramble’s essential nature. But the power of his newly-built balanthast is even greater than he dreamed. Where he sought to save a city and its people, the balanthast has the potential to save the world entirely–if it doesn’t destroy him and his family first.

I hopefully will get to the Song of Ice & Fire series soon — preferably before the year ends — but I am glad to have read Bacigalupi’s short novella back in 2011. The Alchemist tells the story of Jeoz: widow, father of two, and desperate to cure his sick child. In a place where magic is outlawed, Jeoz risks punishment by casting spells that subdue his daughter’s bramble-induced illness. However, with every cast spell means new bramble: a deadly plant encasing Khaim, threatening to take over completely. Determined to find a solution — both for his child’s health and the end of bramble — Jeoz creates the balanthast, thus providing Khaim the ability to free itself. To the misfortune of Jeoz and his family, this wondrous invention also brings unforeseen consequences.

Ninety-five pages long, Bacigalupi’s words breathe life to the story. Quickly paced, the language proves tactful and not butchered by disruptive sentence flow or poor execution. Instead, I find it a surprisingly fun and lively read — one that I don’t mind reading again and again. I haven’t checked out Tobias S. Buckell’s The Executioness  yet, but it may interest you more to read both back-to-back.

You can find my review here!

Never underestimate the power of an alchemist’s drive and his balanthast.

 

The AlchemistThe Alchemist by Paolo Bacigalupi
My rating: ★★★★

In all my reading, I do my best not to compare books unless they are written by the same author. Despite mentally bludgeoning my brain with punches, I couldn’t help it. The fact that I took to reading this book within minutes after finishing a novel that left me disappointed, Bacigalupi’s The Alchemist unexpectedly lifted my mood. I was charmed by the contrast in plot, characters, and writing style—so much so that I might suggest you consider the influence this has over my four-star rating. (Although I assert indifference, I secretly harbor waves of emotion that occasionally reach the surface. Ergo: If I go on a date with a man whose bad behavior tops Charlie Sheen (i.e., the disappointing novel), I just might mistake my next date for Ewan McGregor (because no one can break my McGregor love) when he’s really just another, though not-as-bad, Sheen (i.e., The Alchemist). In other words: do I honestly think this is a good book, or am I on a high because my previous read left me flirting with the idea of breaking its spine?)

So I read it a second time.

And then I read it a third time, at which point I decided, “Yes. This is good.”

Truthfully, I did not expect much from a book only 95 pages long. That said, I’m impressed by what Bacigalupi’s writing manages to accomplish in such short length. Through the entirety of this story, not only can I solidly grasp the characters—their relationships, emotions, behaviors, surroundings—but there are quite a few passages that I find impressionable. The story begins:

It’s difficult to sell your last bed to a neighbor. More difficult still when your only child clings like a spider monkey to its frame, and screams as if you were chopping off her arms with an axe every time you try to remove her.

And just a couple more examples:

It’s easy to fail yourself, but failing before another, one who has watched you wager so much and so mightily on an uncertain future—well, that is too much shame to bear.

I held up my torch, staring. Even at the perimeter of the balanthast’s destruction, the bramble growth hung limp like rags. I stepped forward, cautious. Struck a damaged plant with a gloved hand. Its vines sizzled with escaping sap, and collapsed.

While I read, I pictured everything vividly (minus the device used to kill bramble, I’ll admit) like a movie playing out in my head. There are parts that I feel occur almost too suddenly, such as how the relationship between Jeoz and Pila strides onto a new level within a mere sentence or two. This is, however, a short, short story—not a novel that spends time elaborating and exploring its characters. (I won’t deny that I did enjoy imagining this as film, picturing various character relationships and events play out as the plot trots along, unfolding.) Although brief, Bacigalupi provides you with enough detail to visualize and understand without scarring the story with poor or choppy execution.

The Alchemist was recommended to me over the summer, yet it took five months to get around to the part in which I actually read it. This is a shame, really, only because I could have taken delight in experiencing this book—which I describe as captivating and equally engaging—sooner. All in all, I am rapt by lure of this book. If your local library has it, check it out; if your favorite bookstore has it, buy it. You shouldn’t feel disappointed. I’m rather picky about which books I purchase, and I would not mind this little gem sitting on my shelf.

For a more concise, short review on what this story is about (without divulging too much), I direct you here.