Movin' on out

As you may have noticed, I haven't been too active on this blog or on LJ lately. I went through a protracted reading slump and wasn't feeling particularly inspired to write reviews.

Well, recently I've decided to get back into the game, but I'm doing it via a different platform. From now on you can find me at my shiny new blog on Wordpress, You Book Me All Night Long. (Yes, the title is silly, but it made me giggle.) I hope some of you will stop by!

I'm not deleting this account, and I will probably make sporadic appearances in the LJ communities. I'll also continue to read my friends' posts, so worry not! I'm not disappearing altogether. But seriously, go check out my new blog -- it really is shiny, promise!

Book Bites: #57-65

More book bites. Sorry they're such a long time coming!

For Darkness Shows The Stars by Diana… Magic Flutes = The Reluctant Heiress by Eva…

57. Diana Peterfreund, For Darkness Shows the Stars -- A YA, postapocalyptic version of Jane Austen's Persuasion. I really enjoyed it as an Austen spinoff but wasn't terribly impressed with the sci-fi aspects. Why did the apocalyptic event occur, and how is this world going to change as a result of the main characters' actions? High marks for the creative premise, but it could have been executed better.

58. Winston Graham, Ross Poldark -- The first book in a multivolume saga (also a BBC series, which I haven't seen yet) about the Poldark family. Ross returns to England after fighting in the American Revolution, only to find his father dead and his beloved Elizabeth engaged to his cousin. Now he has to figure out what to do with his life. In my opinion the book plods, but I liked the overall story. It's piqued my interest enough that I'll read book 2 at some point.

Eva Ibbotson, The Reluctant Heiress -- A reread. I love (LOVE) Eva Ibbotson! You really can't beat her for a sweet, romantic comfort read. This book was also published as Magic Flutes, which is a much better title in light of the plot.

Sarah Dessen, Just Listen -- A reread. I like Sarah Dessen; she does YA drama very well. In this book, Annabel finds friendship in an unexpected place and gains the courage to finally talk about a secret she's been bottling up. Also there is a lot of music geekery in it, which I love. :)

Son of Avonar by Carol BergSaving June by Hannah HarringtonThe Uninvited Guests by Sadie JonesSuch a Rush by Jennifer Echols

59. Carol Berg, Son of Avonar -- Extremely well-written sword and sorcery. This is book one of a four-book series, and I'm glad I have the other three on my shelves. I'd definitely recommend Carol Berg to fans of epic fantasy.

60. Hannah Harrington, Saving June -- A YA novel about a girl who takes a road trip to California with her best friend and a mysterious boy after her older sister commits suicide. I liked this one -- mostly for the road-trip and music aspects -- but didn't love it. I'd recommend Amy & Roger's Epic Detour instead.

61. Sadie Jones, The Uninvited Guests -- A strange little book that blends horror with Edwardian comedy of manners. It's Emerald Torrington's 20th birthday, and she's looking forward to her party. But a terrible accident on a nearby railway changes her plans, as she and her family must shelter the victims of the wreck. I enjoyed the silly period-piece aspects of this but didn't much care about the univited guests. Still, a relatively light and entertaining read.

62. Jennifer Echols, Such a Rush -- Leah Jones lives in a trailer park but dreams of being a pilot. Her job at the local airport places her in close proximity to the Hall brothers, who are trying to run their late father's business. Loved this -- not quite as much as Going Too Far, but I think this is my second-favorite Echols book. The romance is very well done, and the plot has a nice, tight focus.

Attachments by Rainbow RowellKeeping the Castle by Patrice KindlThe Return of Captain John Emmett by…

63. Rainbow Rowell, Attachments -- Lincoln O'Neill's job at the local newspaper is to read the office emails that get flagged for inappropriateness and issue warnings to their authors. However, he soon gets caught up in the regular email conversations between Jennifer and Beth, two smart, funny, and caring women who work at the paper. Lincoln finds himself in quite the ethical dilemma, especially when he starts to fall for Beth. I thought this book was sweet and romantic; it reminded me of an old-fashioned romantic comedy.

64. Patrice Kindl, Keeping the Castle -- Althea Crawley knows she has to marry well to support her family and repair their crumbling castle. So when the handsome and rich Lord Boring enters the neighborhood, she sets out to capture his heart; however, his abominably rude friend Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. I liked this one, even though the story is very predictable. It's a fun YA historical romance with nods to Pride and Prejudice and I Capture the Castle.

65. Elizabeth Speller, The Return of Captain John Emmett -- WWI veteran Laurence Bartram is asked to learn more about the apparent suicide of his old school friend John Emmett. Laurence's investigation reveals many secrets about his former friend, especially about Emmett's own experiences in the war. I wanted to like this book, since the time period intrigues me, but I just couldn't concentrate on it. This is probably my own fault, as I've been extra busy these past couple of weeks. I might have enjoyed it more if I'd been able to give it my full attention. Nonetheless, I don't think I'll be continuing with the series.

Book Bites: #54-56

Since I currently have Reviewer's Ennui (yes, I'm giving it an official name), I thought I'd try doing some micro-reviews instead. I'm calling them "book bites," which I'm sure is not original, so my apologies to whomever I'm stealing from! I'll try to give the gist of what the book is about, as well as my thoughts, all in less than a paragraph. I'll include my thoughts on rereads, too, but they don't get a number because I only count new books towards my yearly total.

Just One of the Guys by Kristan HigginsThe Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven GallowaySomething Like Normal by Trish Doller 

54. Kristan Higgins, Just One of the Guys -- A contemporary romance where the heroine, Chastity O'Neill, has always been perceived as one of the guys since she is tall and athletic. I really enjoyed reading about Chastity's big Irish family (four brothers!) and her life in a small town. The romance was a bit underdeveloped by comparison...I really could not understand what was keeping her and her love interest apart. Still, it was a light and fun book; I'd read more by Higgins.

55. Steven Galloway, The Cellist of Sarajevo -- A fictionalized account of the Siege of Sarajevo in the mid-1990s. After a bombshell kills 22 people who were waiting in line to buy bread, a cellist decides to perform in the street for 22 days, one day to commemorate each life lost. The book follows three other characters as they struggle to survive and make sense of their lives in a war-torn city. Very well done.

56. Trish Doller, Something Like Normal -- A YA novel about a young U.S. Marine who is home on leave from Afghanistan. He is haunted by painful memories of his best friend, who was killed in action. Meanwhile, his life at home is difficult, as his parents are splitting up and he feels alienated from all his old friends. However, a chance encounter with his first crush helps him to face his problems. I enjoyed this book but wasn't particularly blown away by it. It was refreshing to read a YA book in which the romance, while present, doesn't magically solve all the protagonist's problems. Also nice to see a male narrator for a change!

Georgette Heyer, Devil's Cub -- A reread. Not one of the top-tier Heyers, in my opinon, but it's still a lovely, escapist romance!

More micro-reviews to follow soon!

Where I've been

One or two of you may have noticed that I haven't been posting much these days. Honestly, I'm not sure why. Nothing particularly tragic or life-altering has occurred; I just seem to have lost interest in reviewing books or meeting challenge requirements. I decided to quit the 12 in 12 challenge at LibraryThing, which was a fairly major decision for me, as I've been participating in the category challenges there since 2009. I also have no motivation to write reviews of the books I'm reading.

I think I basically just got sick of all the structure. Despite my hyperorganized tendencies and my deep love of lists, I was starting to feel extremely constrained by my normal reading routine. Every book I picked up had to fulfill at least one (and preferably several) of my challenges; I had to review everything I read; long books were out of the question because they'd take too long to complete. I pretty much stopped rereading books because they didn't count towards my challenges.

So I've decided not to drive myself crazy anymore. I'm still reading, but I'm not forcing myself to write reviews. I'm still participating in a few challenges, but they're much more manageable than the enormous 12 in 12. Most importantly, I'm actually reading whatever I want to read, without having to think about challenge requirements or boosting my reading total. I've even been rereading things, which has been glorious!

So anyway, that's why I haven't been posting or commenting very much lately. I do feel bad that I haven't been reading other people's blog entries, and I hope to catch up one of these days! I'm still around, and I will still post on occasion, but my online presence will likely be much more sporadic for a while. I hope that I'll eventually regain my motivation to be an active book blogger. In the meantime, though, I'm enjoying myself, and I definitely think this is the right decision for me right now. So happy reading, all, and I'll catch up with you later!

Once Upon a Time VI Challenge Wrap-Up

I'm a couple days late with my wrap-up post, but Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge VI ended on Tuesday (June 19).

I did actually manage to complete my goal of Quest the First, which entailed reading five books that fit under the categories of fantasy, mythology, folklore, and/or fairy tales.

Here's what I read:
  1. Naomi Novik, Tongues of Serpents -- fantasy (Napoleonic Wars + dragons)
  2. A. C. Gaughen, Scarlet -- folklore (Robin Hood)
  3. Rick Riordan, The Last Olympian -- mythology (Greek gods, titans and heroes)
  4. Naomi Novik, Crucible of Gold -- fantasy (more Napoleonic Wars + dragons)
  5. Rachel Aaron, The Spirit War -- fantasy (sword and sorcery)

I enjoyed all these books to varying degrees, though I wouldn't say I loved any of them. Still, I always enjoy a little magic in the springtime, and I look forward to the next Once Upon a Time challenge!


The Spirit War

The Spirit War (The Legend of Eli Monpress)…53. Rachel Aaron, The Spirit War

Eli Monpress, the self-proclaimed greatest thief in the world, is ecstatic that his bounty has been raised again; but he is shocked when he discovers that his friend and hired sword, Josef Liechten, has just surpassed him. Josef's bounty turns out to be a summons from the queen of Osera, who just happens to be Josef's mother. Astounded that their friend is technically a prince, Eli and Nico accompnay Josef to Osera to discover what the queen wants. However, they soon find themselves embroiled in a tense political situation. The Immortal Empress, who rules a vast empire not far from Osera, is planning a large-scale invasion, and Osera is pitifully underdefended. Meanwhile, the Spirit Court is refusing to fight in the impending war; Miranda is imprisoned in the Shaper mountain and not at all comfortable with the truths she is learning; and Eli is facing a crucial test that pits his will against the powers that run the universe.

I do love this fast-paced fantasy series, and The Spirit War is no exception. I like that this book focuses a little bit more on Josef and his background, although all the major players still have several chapters devoted to them. In fact, one of the down sides to this book is that there's almost too much going on: the plot jumps around so often that it's hard to keep everything straight. Since it's been months since I read the previous books in the series, I didn't even remember who some of the characters were! I definitely think this is a series that should be read all at once so that no details are missed. That said, I think this book does an excellent job of revealing the major mysteries of the series bit by bit. It also sets up the final book nicely; I think I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm definitely looking forward to reading book #5 when it comes out in November!

Brat Farrar

Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey52. Josephine Tey, Brat Farrar

Brat Farrar is an orphan who has grown up without a sense of belonging. Although his many adventures have taken him throughout Europe, Mexico, and the United States, he has recently returned to his native England. There he meets a stranger who has a shocking proposition for him. Brat shares a strong resemblance to the Ashby family, whose oldest son Patrick supposedly committed suicide at the age of 13. Because Patrick’s body was never found, however, he was never conclusively proved dead. The stranger, a distant connection of the Ashbys, suggests that Brat go to the Ashby estate claiming to be Patrick; Brat will then inherit the estate and give the stranger a cut. Brat is appalled by the notion at first, but eventually his sense of adventure prompts him to agree to the scheme. As he meets the various members of the Ashby family, however, Brat is torn between guilt over deceiving them and a fierce desire to belong to their family. He also senses a strong tension within the household, which eventually leads him to question what really happened to Patrick Ashby all those years ago.

I didn’t love my first encounter with Josephine Tey (The Daughter of Time), so I was a bit apprehensive about starting this book. I’m glad I decided to give her a second chance, though, because I really liked it! I always enjoy reading books set in mid-20th-century England, and in this book the setting is particularly well rendered. Brat Farrar is a compelling central character, too; I wasn’t expecting to like him, given that he’s essentially a con man, but I did. The book is written in the third person, but I still felt like I was inside his head, experiencing his thoughts and emotions. I also liked the Ashbys, especially Aunt Bee; they are all vivid and believable characters in their own right. I do think it’s a little misleading to call this book a mystery, since the question of what happened to Patrick isn’t really the central focus of the novel. Rather, the book takes its time introducing Brat to the Ashbys and to his new life as the owner of an estate that breeds and races horses. So while the mystery plot does exist, it’s really secondary to the development of the characters, especially Brat. All in all, the book reads to me like a more literary version of Agatha Christie (and I mean that in a good way!). I’d definitely recommend it to fans of this type of mystery.

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein51. Elizabeth Wein, Code Name Verity

This novel, set in 1943, open with an unnamed narrator who has just been captured by the Nazis. She is writing her confession: to buy more time before her execution, she has agreed to tell her interrogators all the British military secrets she knows. However, she soon digresses into telling the story of Maddie, a working-class British girl who became a pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary. The narrator describes both Maddie’s work and her own in their early days of service to the British cause. She relates how they met and how they became best friends. As the narrator’s story progresses, a clearer picture emerges of why she has been imprisoned and what her ultimate fate will be.

This book is so good. It broke my heart – seriously, I was sobbing for the last 60 pages or so – but I absolutely loved it! Since this is a World War II story, I was expecting a certain amount of heartbreak. However, I was on the edge of my seat to find out what would happen to both the narrator and Maddie, because I honestly didn’t know. The book somehow manages to tell a jolly British adventure yarn without ever letting go of the intense emotional gravity of the WWII backdrop. It also reveals a wealth of interesting historical detail about the role of women in British air operations during the period; while it wasn’t a large role, Wein certainly makes the most of it here. I grew to love both of these girls and desperately wished the best for them, even though I knew it was unlikely. I would recommend this book to everyone; do not be deterred by the fact that it’s being marketed as YA! It is absolutely my top read of the year so far. LOVED it.

Children of Scarabaeus

Children of Scarabaeus by Sara Creasy50. Sara Creasy, Children of Scarabaeus

Warning: Spoilers for Song of Scarabaeus.

In this sequel to Song of Scarabaeus, Edie has discovered a way to save the Fringe planets from the Crib’s oppressive rule. She and Finn, now fugitives, are on their way to the Fringe to implement their strategy when they are captured once again by the Crib. Edie’s former mentor, Natesa, wants her help in terraforming uninhabited planets so that they can become a source of food and other resources for the galaxy. However, Edie soon perceives that Natesa’s plan isn’t working; in fact, her team’s technique for speeding up the terraforming process is rapidly turning the target planets into sludge. Now Edie must find a way to stop Natesa’s program and essentially save the galaxy, all while trying to create a new life for herself with Finn.

As with book one in this series, there’s a lot more going on in this installment than I was able to explain in a one-paragraph summary. This book basically picks up where the previous one left off, and anyone interested in the premise should definitely backtrack and read Song of Scarabaeus first. I think I enjoyed this book even more than the first, mainly because I was more familiar with the complex world of the series. I also enjoyed reading about the development of Edie and Finn’s relationship, although the romance is definitely secondary to the various story lines. In fact, my biggest problem with the book is that there’s too much going on. I had trouble keeping the minor characters straight, and many of them could easily have been left out. My other quibble is that, while the book ends satisfactorily, I’d love to see where Edie and Finn are headed next – but I’m not sure there’s going to be a third book! If Creasy writes one, I’ll definitely check it out.

Bout of Books 4.0 Wrap-Up Post

Yesterday marked the end of the Bout of Books 4.0 read-a-thon.

Bout of Books Read-a-Thon

I had fun and definitely spent more time reading than I otherwise would have! Here are my final stats:

# books finished: 5
Total hours spent reading: 18 (approximately)
Books I read:
- Alexandra Potter, You're (Not) the One
- Naomi Novik, Crucible of Gold
- Kathryn Miller Haines, The War Against Miss Winter
- Sarah Dessen, Along for the Ride
- Jane Rubino & Caitlen Rubino-Bradway, Lady Vernon and Her Daughter
- Sara Creasy, Children of Scarabaeus (first 60 pages or so)

So my goal was to read 6 books and I only read 5...but overall I'm pleased with my performance for this read-a-thon. Looking forward to the next bout of books!