Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 - Three Favorite Books I Didn't Blog About

2014 is currently peeking around the corner every few seconds to see if we're still watching, so that it can pounce on us when we're not expecting it, full of new promises and no few disappointments. I started this blog at the end of June and I've been less than diligent in keeping up on reviewing books, so there really isn't much to summarize for the year. Instead of doing a, "My Favorite Top 10 Greatest Books of 2013 Ever!" post, I'm going to give you three quick reviews for books that I didn't review, for whatever reason, in 2013.

Review #1: Boneshaker, by Cherie Priest
Reason not reviewed: Not YA! Not new in 2013!
Publication date: September 29, 2009
Edition: eBook
Goodreads link: Boneshaker

Summary: Boneshaker derives its title from the Bone-Shaking Drill Engine, a device designed to give Russian prospectors a leg up in the race for Klondike gold. Unfortunately, there was one hitch: On its trial run, the Boneshaker went haywire and, long story short, turned much of Seattle into a city of the dead. Now, 16 years later, a teenage boy decides to find out what is behind that mysterious wall. Can his mother save him in time? Zombie lit of the first order.

This is a great novel for introduction into the Steampunk genre. The setting is America during a time that everyone is familiar with, but the addition of Steampunk properly throws the history we know on its ear. The idea of walling off a section of the city with a wall tall enough to keep the gas in took a little adjusting to, but there was definite believability in almost every other aspect of the story. The zombies play a very small role in the story, much less so than the summary would have you believe. I preferred this, because it gave the story room to become more than just a steampunk-era survival horror story. It becomes a story about family and legends, and how you can never really know the full truth unless you seek it out for yourself.

Review #2: A Latent Dark, Martin Kee
Reason for not reviewing: Not YA, not published in 2013, and possibly not even read in 2013.
Publication date: August 22, 2012
Edition: eBook
Goodreads: A Latent Dark

Skyla has lived secretly within the city walls of Bollingbrook for eleven years, playing among the airship factories and trainyards. As one of the Gutter District’s nameless destitute, it has gone undiscovered that she has a unique talent: when Skyla looks at a person’s shadow she sees through it and into another world. She can see people’s fears, desires, their past sins--all as swimming, living creatures.

Her mother has never told her the real reasons why they must remain hidden, never explained the true dangers that exist outside the city walls. But when her mother’s past catches up with them both, Skyla finds she must flee out of the city and into a world still recovering from a second Dark Age, a world of adults with secrets only she can see.

For a stranger has recently moved into Bollingbrook, a man some call the Pope of the South, a witch hunter to some and a hero to others. When more children begin to disappear, suspicions are raised and an unlikely search party is formed to find Skyla in the hopes that they aren’t already too late.

I picked this book up as part of an ebook bundle and it took me awhile to get to it, but I've read it twice this year and loved it both times. It looks like steampunk on the cover, but much of the aesthetic comes off at Gothic more than gears-and-wires. This is a very dark world, full of monsters that almost always look human at first glance, and Skyla is one of the only ones who can see the monsters for what they are. The main character fits the young-but-clever trope, but you never forget that she's still a child.

Just reviewing this book makes me want to read it again for the third time. Good thing I'm off from work until Thursday! 

Review #3: Howl's Moving Castle, Diana Wynne Jones
Reason for not reviewing: Not published in 2013 (not even close)
Publication date: 1986 (see?)
Edition: eBook
Goodreads: Howl's Moving Castle

Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.
The highlight of 2013 was discovering Diana Wynne Jones for the first time. How did I make it all this time without reading a single book of hers? I really have no effing clue. The movie of Howl's Moving Castle has been a favorite for years and, much to my joy, the movie watches like reading the book and the book reads like watching the movie. Jones' writing style is as whimsical and gorgeous as the art in the movie. Since reading Howl's over the summer, I've devoured the rest of this trilogy, in addition to The Dark Lord of Derkholm and The Year of the Griffin. If you've wondered why I haven't blogged much, it's because much of my reading has been books that are so old, you should have read them by now. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Quick Shot Preview Review: Roomies, by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Edition: Free Preview - first 58 pages
Author: Sara Zarr, Tara Altebrando
Goodreads: Roomies - Free Preview
Amazon: Roomies - Free Preview Download
Release Date: December 24, 2013

I receive a lot of emails and follow a lot of blogs for finding free books for my Kindle reader on Amazon. So far, my success rate of finding things I like is hovering around 12% - which is actually a completely made up number used to illustrate just how hard it is for me to find books that I like. Everything I've downloaded this week was subsequently deleted within the first chapter. I fully believe in the movement of the self-publishing industry but it also goes without saying that people really need to edit their work before it gets published. Without a doubt, I check out as soon as there's a misspelled word or a misplaced comma.

On the flip side are wonderful little snippets like this free preview of Roomies, an alternating narrative told by two girls who are on their way to college. Both girls come from very different backgrounds but everything that I've read so far seems to indicate that this story is about more than just income and family size. Both narrators come across as real people with real reactions to how their situations are evolving and changing. The preview is a quick read, so I won't lay out any details (I'll save them all for a full review when the book arrives), but this is an incredibly engaging read and I can't wait for December 24! Merry Christmas to me, hehehe (er, hohoho?).

Monday, December 9, 2013


Edition: eBook
Author: Veronica Roth
Goodreads: Allegiant
Release Date: October 22, 2013

Well, here we are back to blogging after a whirlwind month of National Novel Writing Month. Managing a novel and a huge region as an ML doesn't leave a lot of time for blogging, which is a shame. The best writers are great readers!

Which brings me the book of the day. I jumped on the waiting list for this as soon as it was in my library's ebook catalog and I made it to the head of the line right after the bell rung on my 50 000 words. I'm glad it did, because reading this book (and reading some really interesting writing tips on Tumblr) gave me some insight into why I dislike a lot of my writing style.

Here's Goodread's summary, which is infinitely more informative than Amazon's:

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. 

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.
Now, Liz over at Assorted Leafs caught something right off the bat - this is a dual narrative book, where previously the narrative has been Tris-focused. Having two narratives can work really well, when the characters have strong, separate personalities. Tris and Tobias, unfortunately, are two characters whose names start and end with the same letter, and whose personalities are also very similar. I agree with Liz's assertion that, unless you keep track at the beginning of the chapter, you sometimes lose who's narrating when. 

This book, like the last two, has some great ideas that get lost in a lot of infodump and awkward narrative. A lot, and I mean a lot, of conversations between Tris/Tobias and other characters involve a variation on, "You didn't hear? (insert detailed text about plot points here)".  The flow of the book is also very clunky, which, thanks to Tumblr, I know is partly because Roth likes to split her tenses. I actually learned about splitting tenses when I was struggling through the middle of the book and it was a "The More You Know!" moment for me. It made me realize that I also split my tenses when I'm writing, which goes a long way to explaining why I generally dislike and refuse to edit my things. I still do it all the time and don't realize it, so don't lampoon me if I chopped a few tenses in this blog post. 

Not that I was always shaking my fist at the book - Roth has built some great characters who are logical, methodical, and dealing with some crazy, crazy stuff. When you first learn the truth of the world they grew up in, you're exposed to some shady science. It was so bad, and portrayed so much like fact, that I almost gave up right then. The book recovers, though, and it goes on to present some big ideas about propaganda, control of information as a source of power, AND generalizations in science presented as "facts" that create and shape government. She also addresses one of the worst tropes in YA romance, based on Tris' actions in Insurgent. I liked the big picture all of these ideas presented but it still felt like I was slogging through everything else.

I recommend this to anyone who read and at least mildly enjoyed the last two.