Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Walled City

The Walled City
Author: Ryan Graudin
Publisher: Little Brown
Expected Publication: November 4, 2014

There are three rules in the Walled City: Run fast. Trust no one. Always carry your knife. Right now, my life depends completely on the first. Run, run, run.

Jin, Mei Yee, and Dai all live in the Walled City, a lawless labyrinth run by crime lords and overrun by street gangs. Teens there run drugs or work in brothels—or, like Jin, hide under the radar. But when Dai offers Jin a chance to find her lost sister, Mei Yee, she begins a breathtaking race against the clock to escape the Walled City itself.
My Thoughts: Did you see that cover? That amazing synopsis? Yeah. Add this to your TBR pile right now!  I'm a sucker for Asian culture and find it underrepresented in YA Lit. I can't wait for this one to released.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Prisoner of Night and Fog
Author: Anne Blankman
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Goodreads ♥ Amazon

Prisoner of Night and Fog read like a research paper. It was dry and consisted of long sections of information dumps. The characters were not real people to me, they were merely a list of All-Star players meant to draw reader’s attention away from the fact that nothing was happening in regards to the plot. Every time the story was dragging Blankman would introduce a new character or an element from history, like Geli or the Munich Post. If things really started to drag Hitler would make an appearance and it was the equivalent of throwing out Michael Jordan at the All-Star Game. The crowd goes wild and is distracted from the entire story because we want to see what Michael Jordan, or in this books case, Adolf Hitler, is going to do.

This novel also suffered from trying to do too much and failing to do anything at all. The main thrust of the plot was Gretchen trying to solve the mystery of her father’s death. The story also wanted to deal with psychopaths and psychology, the treatment of Jews in 1930’s Munich, Hitler’s romantic life, Hitler’s political life, Gretchen’s romantic life, Gretchen’s family life, the National Socialist Party, Berlin, The Push, World War I, post traumatic stress disorder and women’s place in 1930’s Germany. All of these topics, by themselves, are interesting. When lumped together and only given a few sentences here and there the magic of the topics is lost. Instead it made the story feel disjointed and more like a poorly put together research paper then a book.

The characters in Prisoner of Night and Fog fell flat. Gretchen was supposed to be a smart girl and yet she was always the last person to figure out a problem or make connections. Daniel Cohen, was a Jewish reporter and that is all I know about him. Hitler who is a larger then life person, known for his speaking and ability to sway a crowd, never came to life. He wasn’t shown to be a leader, or even interesting. I just saw him as a creepy older uncle, which was a big disappointment.

It should be no surprise that these flat characters produced a cringe-worthy romance. It has all the elements I love: forbidden love, secrets, people from opposite sides of the tracks, unfortunately because I cared so little for Gretchen, and knew almost nothing about Daniel, I found myself not really caring about their relationship.

Overall, Prisoner of Night and Fog had potential but all the potential in the world doesn’t matter if it is never realized within the story. I think Anne Blankman is a talented writer, and researcher, but the characters never came to life for me and so the book became a chore to get through rather than something to enjoy.

Thank you Balzer + Bray for allowing me to review an advanced reader's edition of this title.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stacking The Shelves 103

Week In Review
Top 10 Most Unique Books I've Read
Waiting on Wednesday: The Rain by Virginia Bergin
Review: Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor
Indie Spotlight: Among the Joyful {Author Interview & Giveaway}!
New on the Shelf 

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
Winger by Andrew Smith (Library)
Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers (Library)
Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland
Red at Night by Katie McGarry (Free!)
Nantucket Red by Leila Howland
Dream Boy by Madelyn Rosenberg & Mary Crockett Hill
Past The Shallows by Favel Parrett

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spotlight: Among The Joyful by Erin Eastham

Among The Joyful

Author: Erin Eastham
Publication Date: February 7, 2014

Everyone knows that it’s a citizen’s duty to smile; negative emotion is a social contagion, an aggressive act against society. For Alaire Larkin, staying positive has never been a problem. Born into a prominent family, Alaire is a star student and a member of her school’s Joyful Court. Her future promises only happiness and a lifetime of service to the State, until the day she uncovers a secret world of emotions she never knew existed. Alaire knows she must forget what she has learned or run the risk of internal exile. It should be easy. All she has to do is smile.

What inspired you to write Among The Joyful?
I happened to see an article about smile surgery, which is a real thing. Some young women in South Korea have a procedure done so that their default facial expression is a smile, no matter what they’re feeling. It made me think about the pressure we all feel at times to act like things are fine when they’re not, to present a happy appearance to the world no matter what’s going on inside. That was what prompted the idea for the world of Among the Joyful, where negative emotion has to be hidden if you want to be a functioning member of society.
What were your three favorite things about writing Among The Joyful?
I wanted to create a society that truly intended to be a utopia and show the cracks and fault lines in that perfect façade. That was so much fun. Writing this book was also a great experience because I was completely obsessed with Alaire and her world, even when I wasn’t sitting at the keyboard. I thought about it all the time and it was exciting to be so immersed in a fictional universe. Finally, I really enjoyed the input I got from my teenage beta readers—they gave me such great feedback and definitely improved the story.

What was your least favorite thing?

I’d say ending it was the hardest. Partly because working on it was such an enjoyable process, and partly because endings are really difficult, at least for me.

If Among The Joyful had a theme song what would it be?
Oh, boy. That’s tough—by the time I finished the book, I had a three-hour-long playlist I regularly wrote to. I’d have to say “Sun Shy” and “Tell A Lie” by Dresses would both make great theme songs, or maybe Goldfrapp’s “Happiness.”

What was the last book you read and loved?
The last book I read and loved was A Questionable Shape by Bennett Sims. It’s the most philosophical book about zombies ever.

About The Author
Erin Eastham has spent most of the last decade in Asia and currently lives in India with her husband, four kids and two cats. She is the author ofAmong the Joyful, a YA novel about a society where happiness is mandatory, and The Waking World, an end-of-the-world novel about people with powers.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor

Lips Touch: Three Times 
Author: Laini Taylor 
Illustrator: Jim Di Bartolo
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
Goodreads ♥ Amazon

Since reading The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Brenna Yovanoff and Tessa Gratton I have had a thing for short stories. I’m always impressed at the characterization that can occur in just a few short pages. Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor is a collection of three shorts stories: Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses, and Hatchling.

Goblin Fruit was the first story it was also my least favorite. It was about a girl whose family is quite strange. The family warns her that goblins are trying to tempt girls to sell their souls and that once you get their fruit you’re a gonner. Despite this knowledge the girl falls for the new different, swoony, boy. The story itself was well written, as is the entire book, but it just felt too cliché.

Spicy Little Curses was my favorite story. Set in India following World War I it was about an English girl, living in India, who is cursed to never utter a word or else everyone in earshot will die. I loved the way the magic of the story straddled the real and paranormal worlds. Magic like this, where the story reads contemporary but also has a paranormal element is my favorite kind.

Hatchling was the longest story, it comprised around half of the book. Because this story was longer it had the best characterization. I loved getting to know Esme and her mother. As I was reading though I discovered that Hatchiling was really two stories, that of Esme, and of her mother. Hmm…that oversimplifies things…I guess really Hatchling was about the Druj, creatures who are very like faeries. They kidnap children, take offerings in the forest, and like to be kind of mean and spiteful. This story entranced me with its magic and deeper question of what it means to have a soul. I will say though that at times while I liked the little details they became a bit overdone and rather overwhelming. If this was an entire novel I would have liked it more, but because it was a short story a lot of the extra filler could have been left out and it would have made the story tighter and stronger.

Overall, I enjoyed Lips Touch: Three Times, they were three well written stories that kept my attention. I also adored the illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo that were at the beginning of each story. His art is gorgeous and really helped set the mood for each story.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Rain

The Rain
Author: Virginia Bergin
Publisher: Macmillian
Expected Publication: July 17, 2014

One minute sixteen-year-old Ruby Morris is having her first proper snog with Caspar McCloud in a hot tub, and the next she’s being bundled inside the house, dripping wet, cold and in her underwear. Not cool. As she and Caspar shiver in the kitchen, it starts to rain. They turn on the radio to hear panicked voices – ‘It’s in the rain . . . it’s in the rain . . . ' That was two weeks ago, and now Ruby is totally alone. People weren’t prepared for the rain, got caught out in it, didn’t realize that you couldn’t drink water from the taps either. Even a drip of rain would infect your blood, and eat you from the inside out. Ruby knows she has to get to London to find her dad, but she just doesn’t know where to start . . . After rescuing all the neighbourhood dogs, Ruby sets off on a journey that will take her the length of the country – surviving in the only way she knows how.
My Thoughts: This sounds terrifying! I'm from the Pacific Northwest where it rains more days then it is sunny so my whole region wouldn't be able to survive something hidden in the rain. Despite my abstract terror I'm really excited for this one! "It's in the rain! It's in the rain!"

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top 10 Must Unique Books I've Read

I have a caveat to this weeks topic. I hate the word unique, by saying something is unique it completely loses it's "unique" quality. It is no longer special, interesting, or different. Also, what is new and different to me today isn't going to be that way in a few years or even months. So for this week I am selecting books that changed the reading game for me, books that forced me to step out of my comfort zone and made me feel. It is those books that stay with you making them truly unique.

1 Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
These books were game changers, in a lot of ways they put children's books back on the map. Many of us grew up with this series. I got the first book for my 11th birthday, if we are talking about books that were game changers this entire series makes the list.

2 The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Maggie Stiefvater excels at creating characters and places I love. I love Thisby, the island on which The Scorpio Races takes place. When I was reading I could smell the sea and taste the November Cakes. That is what makes this book so different and amazing.

3 Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
This is the Peter Pan story written from Tiger Lily's perspective. It is a much, much, deeper story though and it gave me all the feels.

4 The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins
The book that started the dystopian trend. Although, arguably, this book is similar to the movie Battle Royale (which also featured teens killing other teens) it still started a pop culture phenomenon. Mockinjay is one of those books that rips your heart out and makes you feel like a better person as it does.

5 Young Wizards series by Diane Duane
Deep Wizardry, the second book in the series, changed me. At age 12 I remember reading that book and having it completely blow me away. It actually began my love of the ocean.

6 His Dark Materials series by Phillip Pullman
The amazing thing about this series is that it can be read as a child and as an adult and the two readings will be completely different. Actually, after writing this, I feel like I should really do a re-read to see how much I've changed and how that will effect my reading of the story.

7 The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
I read this back in November and adored it. I know it's relatively new but it already has a special place on my shelf and in my heart. I can't wait for the next book to be released.

8 Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I devoured this series. I actually loved it so much I read all the books about Laura's daughter, mother, and grandmother. I read Laura's poetry and essays, she was my first favorite author.

9 Every damn Dr. Seuss book ever
To this day I still quote sections of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish and other Dr. Seuss books. The books are amazing because not only are the rhymes completely perfect but the art is gorgeous, it is completely it's own style.

10 Deathless by Catherynne Valente
Deathless is a perfect blend of folklore, history, and fantasy. The prose is incredibly well written and I loved the story of Koschei. In one word perfection. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Stacking The Shelves 102

Week In Review
Review: The Devouring by Simon Holt
Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge - April Link Up
Waiting On Wednesday: Inland by Kat Rosenfield
Review: Ringer by CJ Duggan
Discussion: Music to Write to
Ebooks (All $1.99!)
The Program by Suzanne Young
Taken by Erin Bowman
The Hangman's Daughter by Olivi Potzsch

Free Kindle
Jordyn by Tiffany King
Sworn by Emma Knight
Drip Drop Teardrop by Samantha Young

What Kills Me by Wynne Channing
Barbie Girl by Heidi Acosta
Now Or Never by AJ Bennett

Netgalley & Edelweiss
I have a ton of books this week because apparently I can't tell myself no...

Catch a Falling Star by Kim Culbertson 
Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne

Feral by Holly Schindler
In A Handful of Dust by Mindy McGinnis
Don't Touch by Rachel Wilson

Poisoned Apples by Christine Hepperman
Driftwood by Elizabeth Dutton

Friday, April 4, 2014

Discussion: Writing to Music

Welcome to another session of Bookish Discussions with Emily! This week I want to talk about writing to music. I have taken a little break from my work in progress to get all my school stuff together since I'm graduating in May *freaks out*! But now that I am getting back in the swing of things I've been listening to my old playlists and I wanted to discuss what other people listen to while they write or what kind of background noise they like to have.
Ambient Noise
Do you like writing at coffee shops but don't feel like putting on real pants today? Or maybe you're like me and writing at coffee shops is completely distracting because you can always find something to look at. Well the internet has provided you with the Coffee shop background sound. I love coffitivity because it gives coffee house, lunchroom, or just background noise to work to without having to leave the house. Studies have also shown this ambient background noise makes you work, stay on task, and can help you be more creative.

Maybe coffee house noise isn't your kind of thing, you would rather work outside in nature. The internet has got you covered there as well! I present to you Rainy day background sound. I like writing to this when I have a sad scene or when the weather changes in my WIP.
Authors and their Music
Recently I am have seen more and more authors on tumblr and their websites posting playlists their for books, characters, or specific scenes. I love this! If I really enjoyed a book then I want to know what the author was listening when they wrote it.

Maggie Stiefvater is my favorite author who posts playlists. I follow her on soundcloud and you can find playlists for Gansey, Adam, Raven Boys III and more! I like listening to her playlists because a lot of our musical tastes match up and I've discovered quite a few artists/songs that I love through her.

Becca Fitzpatrick has also released a playlist for her upcoming book Black Ice which comes out in October. It includes one of my favorites songs Seaside by The Kooks so I'm already biased in to liking this playlist.

These are just two examples do you have any other authors whose playlist you love to listen to? Let me know in the comments!
My Recommendations

My musical tastes are like the oceans tides. One minute I will be in to one thing and within the same day I can find myself hating that same song. It makes for a very long playlist. I'm also not saying my taste in music is good. I enjoy a very eclectic mix that doesn't translate well sometimes, especially because I have a love of rap. I like both the lyrical talent it takes to put together a flow and the hard hitting bass beats that are prevalent in the rap and R&B scene. But since this post is about what music you write to I thought I would share some of the songs I'm currently writing to. Keep in mind my WIP is about drug use, death and lifelong friendships.

High For This by The Weeknd
It's Not Your Birthday Anymore by Morrisey
Counting What Ifs by boyChild
Ecstasy by JJ
Dark Star by Jaymes Young (That many remixes of this song are great as well, especially the Milkman Remix)
Nothing Else Is Real by Makintosh Braun
The Drift by Blackmill (Actually, I listen to ALL THE BLACKMILL lol)
Running Up That Hill by Placebo
Spectrum by Zedd
I Can't Stop by Flux Pavilion (For only having 3 words in it this song is awesome)
Not On Drugs by Tove Lo

Actually, none of these songs are rap...just some dubstep, dance, and more melancholy songs.

Last Thoughts

No matter how you set your mood whether it is by music, ambient noise, or clearing a space in your head; I think it shows in an authors writing. I also think it also bleeds through in research and other papers. I recently finished up my writing option, which is required to graduate from law school. I could tell the sections I wrote to ambient noise compared to the introduction and conclusion which I wrote to a long mix by D.Veloped. Those sections had a much more lively spirit and drew the reader in to the heart of the subject matter which was my goal. Even if the rest of the paper had to be a more detached and academic.

Let me know in the comments what you like to listen to while writing, blogging, or just living life. If you have a playlist I would love it if you could include the link! I'm always trying to discover new artists and songs.