Friday, August 31, 2012

Back to the Books Giveaway Hop!

Welcome to the Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader Not A Writer and Buried in Books. This hop runs from September 1-7.
For this hop, I’m giving away an ARC of Starters by Lissa Price. Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below and good luck!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review: Oliver Twist

olivertwistTitle: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
Release Date: Originally published in 1838
Pages: 554 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Goodreads Summary: The story of the orphan Oliver, who runs away from the workhouse only to be taken in by a den of thieves, shocked readers when it was first published. Dickens's tale of childhood innocence beset by evil depicts the dark criminal underworld of a London peopled by vivid and memorable characters—the arch-villain Fagin, the artful Dodger, the menacing Bill Sikes and the prostitute Nancy. Combining elements of Gothic Romance, the Newgate Novel and popular melodrama, Dickens created an entirely new kind of fiction, scathing in its indictment of a cruel society, and pervaded by an unforgettable sense of threat and mystery.

I know most bookish types have read most of the classics but Oliver Twist somehow flew under my radar for all these years. I was recently given the opportunity to review it professionally and I jumped at the chance to read the story that I thought I knew through movies and popular culture. While I didn’t hate Oliver Twist, I didn’t like it that much either.

Oliver Twist is of course the story of the poor, starving orphan boy who has the audacity to ask for more food and feels the wrath of the workhouse administrators afterwards. He runs away, gets taken in by a gang of thieves and through a series of events, ends up with his own happily ever after.

It’s easy to see that Dickens used this story to highlight the injustices of England’s Poor Laws and his disdain for economically advantageous marriages. Admittedly, it is shocking to read how deplorably the poor and homeless people were treated and this aspect of the book I thought was very well done.

My issues with the novel involve the length, unnecessary plot lines and mostly importantly, the bigoted and highly stereotypical character, Fagin. This book is unnecessarily long. I had no idea until KM from One Page At A Time told me that Dickens was paid by the word and that explains a lot. The novel was also published in chapters so I guess Dickens had to have enough story for each chapter but this novel could really have been much shorter to get the point across. I also thought the entire story line of Rose and Harry was used to show us what a ‘good’ love marriage was supposed to be like as opposed to all the ‘bad’ arranged marriages in the novel. It could easily have been cut.

And of course, there is Fagin: the devilish, greedy, conniving leader of the gang of juvenile pickpockets. I’m not overly politically correct you guys. If Fagin was the villain who happened to be Jewish, I wouldn’t really be an issue for me. BUT, Fagin’s villainy and the fact that he is Jewish seem to be tied together and it did not sit well with me. The fact that he is referred to as “the Jew” bothered me every time I read it. I’m not sure what the reaction to this stereotype was in 1838, but it certainly would not be OK if this was written today.

Overall, I can see why this book was impactful at the time but it is also a bit fantasy like in the serendipitous way that Oliver, in the large city of London, just happens to connect with exactly the right people he needs to uncover the mystery of his identity and life. I know a lot of people adore this story but it was not for me.

Content: Kissing and violence.

My Rating: Just fine

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Legacy of the Clockwork Key

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. This week’s choice is:

clockworkkeyTitle: Legacy of the Clockwork Key by Kristin Bailey
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publish Date: March 5, 2013
Genre: Steampunk

Goodreads Summary: A teen girl unravels the mysteries of a secret society and their most dangerous invention in this adventure-swept romance set in Victorian London.

When a fire consumes Meg’s home, killing her parents and destroying both her fortune and her future, all she has left is the tarnished pocket watch she rescued from the ashes. But this is no ordinary timepiece. The clock turns out to be a mechanical key—a key that only Meg can use—that unlocks a series of deadly secrets and intricate clues that Meg is compelled to follow.

Meg has uncovered evidence of an elite secret society and a dangerous invention that some will stop at nothing to protect—and that Meg alone can destroy. Together with the handsome stable hand she barely knows but hopes she can trust, Meg is swept into a hidden world of deception, betrayal, and revenge. The clockwork key has unlocked her destiny in this captivating start to a trilogy.

Why am I waiting on Legacy of the Clockwork Key? I know I’m late getting on the steampunk train but since I recently listened to Clockwork Angel on audiobook, I am now just a teeny bit obsessed with the genre. I love the cover of Legacy of the Clockwork Key and the summary sounds so good! What books are you waiting on?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Review: Enshadowed

enshadowedTitle: Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Atheneum
Pages: 421 pages
Genre: Horror, Paranormal
Source: Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Goodreads Summary: Varen Nethers is trapped in a perilous dream world -- a treacherous and desolate realm where the terrifying stories of Edgar Allan Poe come to life. Isobel Lanley, plagued by strange visions and haunted by the nightmares of Varen's creation, is the only one who can save him.

Isobel knows that her only hope lies within a Baltimore cemetery. There, in the early morning hours of Edgar Allan Poe's birthday, a mysterious stranger known as the "Poe Toaster" will make his annual homage at the legendary poet's grave.

Only the Poe Toaster holds the key to the way between worlds. But even greater dangers lie ahead for Isobel. An ancient evil, draped in veils of white, is watching, challenging her for Varen's affections. When Isobel finally finds Varen, he is no longer the quiet and brooding boy who once captivated her, but a dark force, powerful and malevolent.

When I read Nevermore (the first book in this series) back in 2010, I was totally blown away by it. It was easily my favorite book of the year and, in my humble opinion, one of the most underrated books of the year as well. It has been torturous for me to wait two long years to read the sequel. To say I was excited when I received a review copy of Enshadowed is an understatement. Was Enshadowed worth the wait? More yes and a little bit no. Let me explain.

Nevermore rocked in character development and world building. The first portion of the book deals with the relationship between unpopular goth boy Varen Nethers and extremely popular cheerleader Isobel Lanley. These two are such an unlikely couple and Kelly Creagh writes the characters and the relationship brilliantly. While there are some creepy things happening in the first two-thirds of Nevermore, it’s not until the end of the book that things take a dark, crazy and creeptastic turn for the best and the cliffhanger ending of the book just left me reeling.

Enshadowed follows a similar formula in that the first portion of the book has some great paranormal bits to it but it’s not until the end that things really get exciting. The difference between the two books is that while Varen is integral to Nevermore, he is majorly absent in Enshadowed. I’m not going to lie, this was a downer for me. Varen is so awesome, he is the only swoon-worthy goth boy I have ever met in fiction and after waiting for two years, to ‘hang out’ with him again, I was disappointed and I missed him.

So after complaining about Varen’s absence, why am I still giving Enshadowed a ‘Really Good’ rating? Because the writing is awesome, the dream world that Creagh creates is creepy, eerie and perfect and the cliffhanger ending again has me begging for more.

While Enshadowed may not be a great as Nevermore, it is still a good book and this series is one of the most original out there. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves Edgar Allan Poe, horror, gothic stories or anything wonderfully different from all the other paranormal YA books out there. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book in this series!

Content: Kissing and violence.

My Rating: Really Good!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Winners and my (slow) reading progress


Congrats to Kimberly Lim, the winner of the Summer Giveaway Hop and Candace, the winner of Shadows on the Moon for the Multicultural Book Challenge for July. The winners were chosen by and have been contacted. Thank you to everyone who participated!

While I’m not back to my usual reading self, I am slowly but surely getting out of the dreaded reading slump so I will have some reviews up this week. How about you guys? How has it been going now that summer is winding down? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Boy Name Trends in YA

babyboynameSince the hubs and I are expecting baby #3, I have been looking at baby names for our little one. Recently, I wrote a post on Girl Name Trends in YA books so I wanted to follow up with with boy naming trends that I’ve also noticed.

While boy names are no where near as colorful as their female counterparts, I have noticed certain naming patterns very similar to ones I have been seeing in real life. Again, I not including odd names from high fantasy/sci-fi books because I expect those to be unusual.

Classic names: You can’t go wrong with a classic and both authors and new parents seem to share this sentiment as well. Some classic boy names I have been seeing in YA books include Noah (one of my favorites but I am biased :-), Alex, Michael, Nick, Daniel, Sam and Mark.

Since celebrities have taken up this granny chic baby naming trend of naming their daughters very old fashioned names, I’m including grandpa chic under classic names as well. Some of those include: Jasper, Emmett, Edward (no guys, I didn’t get all these names from Twilight, I found them in other books as well), Henry/Henri, Warren, William, James, Carl and Archie.

Popular names: I have noticed that these names are quite popular in real life and I have come across them again and again in YA books: Caleb/Kaleb, Daimon/Daemon, Logan and Lucas.

Trendy names: While the hubs was not into trendy boy names and would not consider them for our sons, I find them appealing. Some on my favorite fictional character names are Ash/Asher, Jace, Kai, Aiden, Kaiden, Nico, Devon, Chase, Adrian, Gray, Trent, Dace and Cade.

Unusual names: While these are not names you run across a lot, some are multi-cultural and some are just, well, different. Some unusual names I’ve come across in books recently include: Kona, Mirko, Jin, Boyce, Nero and Falco.

Made up names: In my previous post, I stated that I did not like made up girl names and shockingly, outside of high fantasy and sci-fi, I really have not come across many made-up boy names! There are tons of made up girl names in YA but authors don’t seem to extend the creative monikers to boys. Why do you think this is? Are they out there and I’ve just missed them?

What are your favorite boy names in YA? Which ones do you wish you could see more of and which do you think are over done? Let me know in the comments, I would love to know what you think.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Inhuman

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. This week’s choice is:

inhumanTitle: Inhuman by Kat Falls
Publisher: Scholastic
Publish Date: March 2013
Genre: Science Fiction, Post Apocolyptic

Goodreads Summary: In a world ravaged by mutation, a teenage girl must travel into the forbidden Savage Zone to recover lost artifacts or her father’s life is forfeit.

America has been ravaged by a war that has left the eastern half of the country riddled with mutation. Many of the people there exhibit varying degrees of animal traits. Even the plantlife has gone feral.

Crossing from west to east is supposed to be forbidden, but sometimes it’s necessary. Some enter the Savage Zone to provide humanitarian relief. Sixteen-year-old Lane’s father goes there to retrieve lost artifacts—he is a Fetch. It’s a dangerous life, but rewarding—until he’s caught.

Desperate to save her father, Lane agrees to complete his latest job. That means leaving behind her life of comfort and risking life and limb—and her very DNA—in the Savage Zone. But she’s not alone. In order to complete her objective, Lane strikes a deal with handsome, roguish Rafe. In exchange for his help as a guide, Lane is supposed to sneak him back west. But though Rafe doesn’t exhibit any signs of “manimal” mutation, he’s hardly civilized . . . and he may not be trustworthy.

Why am I waiting on Inhuman? There are a ton of dystopian/post apocalyptic books out there vying for our attention but something about Inhuman intrigues me, possibly the mention of feral plant life? I’m definitely looking forward to reading this and I love the cover! What books are you waiting on?

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Dreaded Reading Slump

reading bored dogSo I have been blogging for almost two years now and been an avid reader for much longer than that. For the first time in a very long time, I am in a reading slump of epic proportions.

I usually read approximately two books a week and while I’ve started no less than five books recently, I can’t seem to get into any of them (with the exception of a fantastic audiobook and even that has been a slow go for me) or finish even one. As a matter of fact, I haven’t finished a book in over two weeks! It’s not the books, they are just fine. This is all me.

While I can pinpoint a few reasons why I’m haven’t been reading lately (doing more summer activities with the kids, getting the house ready for the new baby, being distracted from reading by the Olympics), I feel my enthusiasm for reading waning right now which is scary because reading is how I relax, unwind and get away from it all.

I have a stack of library books, review books and books that I bought sitting here staring at me begging to be read. My books have never had to beg before :-). Since I know that most of you are voracious readers, I wanted to know if you have ever felt this way. If you have, how did you get over the blah reading feeling? Leave me a comment, I appreciate any advice I can get!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Ashes on the Waves

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. This week’s choice is:

ashesonwavesTitle: Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey
Publisher: Philomel/Penguin
Publish Date: June 27, 2013
Genre: Horror

Goodreads Summary: Liam MacGregor is cursed. Haunted by the wails of fantastical Bean Sidhes and labeled a demon by the villagers of Dòchas, Liam has accepted that things will never get better for him—until a wealthy heiress named Annabel Leighton arrives on the island and Liam’s fate is changed forever.

With Anna, Liam finally finds the happiness he has always been denied; but, the violent, mythical Otherworlders, who inhabit the island and the sea around it, have other plans. They make a wager on the couple’s love, testing its strength through a series of cruel obstacles. But the tragedies draw Liam and Anna even closer. Frustrated, the creatures put the couple through one last trial—and this time it’s not only their love that’s in danger of being destroyed.

Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling poem Annabel Lee, Mary Lindsey creates a frighteningly beautiful gothic novel that glorifies the power of true love.

Why am I waiting on Ashes on the Waves? Lately, I’ve become a bit fascinated by YA books based on stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe and this sounds like a good one. What books are you waiting on?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

I love bookish birthday gifts!

cupcakesMy birthday was yesterday and it was a great day. It doesn’t take much to make me happy on my birthday. My requirements are: quality time with my family and REALLY good cake. Everything else, including gifts, are just a bonus. My awesome husband always makes sure that my requirements are met and he comes through like a champ with the bonuses as well!

For years, I have been working out and running while listening to music on my ancient MP3 player and it has worked just fine. Now that I’m crazy about audiobooks, my favorite ear buds go on the fritz and the MP3 player decides it won’t turn on any more. I was really annoyed, especially since my player broke the day we were leaving for a road trip and I had downloaded three audios from the library just for this trip (for some strange reason, Overdrive won’t allow me to download audios to my phone).

Happily, the hubs and my two wonderful boys gifted me with a new iPod giftsNano/watch and new ear buds. I love the iPod and since it’s my new watch as well, I have been wearing it everywhere. I also love that it has a audiobook function and organizes them separately from my music. My old player just lumped the books together with the music so I would have to go hunting for the authors name or the individual tracks. I’ve already started listening to a book on the iPod and it sounds great! I’m sure I will be getting tons of use out of these gifts, especially after baby #3 makes her debut in December.

In case you are interested, the cupcakes pictured above are from Misha’s Cupcakes in South Miami. If you love fantastic, yummy cupcakes and are ever in Miami, you should stop by and pick up a few. They are so worth the calories and definitely qualify as REALLY good cake.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Nameless

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. This week’s choice is:

namelessTitle: Nameless by Lili St. Crow
Publisher: Razorbill
Publish Date: April 4, 2013
Genre: Paranormal

Goodreads Summary: A dark and eerie retelling of Snow White from Lili St. Crow, New York Times bestselling author of the Strange Angels series.

Sixteen-year-old Camille doesn’t remember her life before she was adopted by the powerful Vultusino family—the missing childhood years that left her scarred and silent. Now she lives a life of luxury, protected by the supernatural Mafia Vultusinos, specially Nico, her adopted brother.

But Cami knows that she is not really Family. She is a mortal with a past that lies buried in trauma. And it’s not until a mysterious boy approaches her and reveals scars of his own that Cami begins to uncover the secrets of her past . . . to find out where she comes from and what danger she now finds herself in.

Why am I waiting on Nameless? I love fairytale retellings! Plus, a story based on Snow White combined with the mob and paranormal elements makes this book sound like a winner. I have never read anything by Lili St. Crow and while I have seen mixed reviews of her other books, I ready to check out her writing for myself. What books are you waiting on?


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