Finally, the secret is out! I am one of four members of the new Google+ Hangout book club “Bibliomancy for Beginners.” This week, our book was John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things. Below you’ll find my review, and after that the YouTube video of our hangout. Next week we’ll be doing The Innocent Mage by Karen Miller, and you should totally come hang with us! I’ll announce when the next chat is right here on the blog.
High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own — populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.
Taking readers on a vivid journey through the loss of innocence into adulthood and beyond, New York Times bestselling author John Connolly tells a dark and compelling tale that reminds us of the enduring power of stories in our lives.
This book was not something I’d usually read, but thus is the purpose of our book club. I thought the blurb was interesting, but was a little unsure of what would happen from there. What I found was a pleasant surprise.
Twelve-year-old David is fairly believably written for his age, despite the fact that this book isn’t meant for middle grade or ya readers. His relationship with his mother and his reaction to her death tore at my heart. When his father remarries, to a woman with whom he fights all the time, and David gets a new step-brother, the way he deals with it never comes across as trite or overblown, as is sometimes the case with the way younger characters are written.
I’m still not quite sure how David ends up in what I’ll call “fairy tale land” for lack of a better phrase. I honestly can’t remember if it has a name in the book. Anyways, all of the sudden David is popping out a tree knot in a forest and there’s human-wolf hybrids after him. Thank goodness there’s the Woodsman there to save him. The villain of the story, the Crooked Man, hides the tree that has the portal in it from David, however, so he can’t go back, and the Woodsman says that only the dying king of the land can help him get back home now, so they set off on a quest to find the king and get David home.
For a while, it really did seem like the plot was relying on the questing motif way too much. David was on a journey and obstacles popped up around it, but he never really deviated from his goal. Each obstacle was present as unrelated to the other, so at times they felt quite disconnected and in some places unnecessary y. I will say, though, that of all these the Communist seven dwarfs and the fat, mean Snow White were the best part–of the quest and of the entire book. I don’t want to spoil anything, but seriously guys. Just mull that over. Fat and mean Snow White and the Communist Seven Dwarfs.
When David finally reaches the castle and finds the king, however, things really start to get rolling. All of the questions are answered, and more broader ones that make you think are asked. I didn’t think that this was going to tug at my heart strings as much as it did. In the end, I just wanted to hug David and hug the king and … basically hug everyone but the Crooked Man, who I wanted to stab repeatedly for putting the kid through everything. This is a stand alone, so the end wrapped everything up neatly–some might say too much so, but I don’t agree. Usually I like messy endings myself, but it was the epilogue that really did me in so no complaints there.
I’d really recommend this one if you’re looking for a fairy tale that isn’t for children. This really isn’t for people the age of the protagonist, trust me. Its themes and its messages ring much truer to the adult ear, and the prose is meant for that. It was a great bridge for me between the children’s stories I love and the adult novels I should really read more of.
Curious what me and my friends had to say? Want to laugh at the fools that we make of ourselves? Well, watch the video! (The first 9:20 of this is technical difficulties and giggles. For the actual book club part, skip right to about the 9:20 mark.)
So you all may have heard about these super secret thing I’ve been teasing about. Well, it’s happening TONIGHT. What is, you ask?
A Google+ hangout with my new book club, Bibliomancy for Beginners!
That’s right! If you want to see me and three friends make fools out of ourselves talking about books – this week it’s John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things – then clear your calendar at 8:30 PM tonight. If you can’t, no worries, because I’ll be posting the recording here on the blog with my actual review of the book later on.
You should really come hang out, though. It’s going to be awesome. I’ll be updating this post with the link around 8 PM!
And now excuse us as we have some technical difficulties…
NOW. HERE WE GO!
Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!
See, this is where my ya lit obsession starts to let me down. I mean, c’mon guys. Very few of you have figured out that it’s really boring to see ANOTHER girl in a dress on a cover. So these are my top ten choices from all around the board! (If you give any picture a click, you’ll head to the Goodreads page!)
Allison Sekemoto has vowed to rescue her creator, Kanin, who is being held hostage and tortured by the psychotic vampire Sarren. The call of blood leads her back to the beginning—New Covington and the Fringe, and a vampire prince who wants her dead yet may become her wary ally.
Even as Allie faces shocking revelations and heartbreak like she’s never known, a new strain of the Red Lung virus that decimated humanity is rising to threaten human and vampire alike.
3 1/2 stars
Thanks to NetGalley and HarlequinTeen for this eARC! This title is now available.
WARNING: There WILL be spoilers for the first book! Check out my review of The Immortal Rules if you’re interested!
I went into this book knowing that nothing could be as good as the first book in this series. This is because, a, I went into a complete flail attack over The Immortal Rules and, b, second book syndrome is so rampant lately that I just couldn’t get my hopes up. So I guess, in that way, I got exactly what I expected.
The book picks up with Allie having just been kicked out of Eden, on her way to finding Kanin. It takes a little while for it to get started, what with her just roaming the countryside and all that. Her nighttime visions of Kanin are seriously creepy, and keep the stakes up while Allie attacks dingy bars and skulks around “Old D.C.” Instead of finding Kanin, however, she first finds her old nemesis, Jackal. He has a proposition of friendship for her–and if she doesn’t accept, he’ll kill her.
Again, this book takes a little while to get started, but once the character of Jackal is introduced all is forgiven. I don’t understand how I can love him so much after what he did in the first book, but his comic relief and sarcastic personality is just the greatest thing ever. At the same time, though, he acts as a great foil for Allie’s continuing struggle with what it means to be a monster. I thought Jackal was the funniest thing ever and loved him, but I never totally trusted him not to go killing everything, and I was very impressed on how Kagawa wrote that balance.
I think my real problem with this book is that it seemed to be going backwards, both in terms of location and characters. At the end of The Immortal Rules, Allie had made it from New Covington to Eden, and the book ended with a fight with Jackal. This book starts with her leaving Eden, meeting Jackal, and then travelling with him to New Covington. The final showdown even takes place in the lab where Allie learned how to be a vampire in the first book.
Closer to the end, the characterization starts to get a little weird as well. Kanin, Allie and Jackal are extremely well done, but some other characters that crop back up seem to come back as weirdly different people. One of these people is Zeke, of course, though he is absent for the first part of the book as per the “middle book syndrome” formula. He’s similar to the Zeke from the first book, but also different, in ways that are weird since he spent time being primped and pampered in Eden. Also, some of the plot twists later made with his character pop up as “haha gotcha” half jokes clearly just shoehorned in for the sake of the plot. The character of Stick also pops back up, and his transformation is even more severe. Half of it I get, half of it I don’t, but either way his character leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
I guess I’m just frustrated with how much of this seemed like filler. In the end, I’m not sure how much was accomplished besides making Sarren even angrier and establishing Jackal as a character. Granted, I enjoy Jackal very much, but still. And then there is the matter of the ending, which…grr. I don’t understand the point of making us think someone is dead if you’re going to reverse that in the next chapter, and make THAT the last chapter of the book. Where’s the cliffhanger there? It makes the next book a little more predictable, and I’m not entirely a fan of where I think it’s going.
All in all, I demoted this one a full star from what I rated it’s predecessor, but I still really think these books are worth a read. Despite my plot problems, Jackal made this book for me, and it was still an enjoyable read. I also have complete faith that Kagawa is going to get back to her blowing-me-away style in the next and last book. I know vampires are getting a bit passe, but these are still definitely on my recommendation list.
Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.
America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.
Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending.
3 1/2 stars
Alright, I’ll be totally honest. I read this book in 3 hours while my parents left me stranded in a two stories B&N, and I couldn’t afford to pile anymore books. After The Selection, I was really iffy on this book. I liked the first one, but I was really conflicted about the characters. This was more of the same.
To quote an internet meme, things escalate quickly when The Elite gets started. As far as I can tell, this escalation comes about strictly to create tension between Maxon and America, since she seems to be leaning pretty heavily towards him instead of Aspen. The character that instigates this tension is forcibly introduced in the first chapter, and there seems to be no basis for anything that happens besides it moving the love triangle along (and eventually making it a love quadrangle). This was a frustrating starting point that basically continued throughout the rest of the novel.
I love the character of America, I really do. When she’s on her own, she is a fiercely independent woman who fights for what she thinks is right and has real considerations for the consequences of her actions. As far as I can tell, the things that keep screwing up her character are Maxon and Aspen. When her decisions involve either of them, she becomes a simpering, indecisive Mary Sue who’s emotional reactions are the most poignant when she expresses jealousy. When she’s alone, she has serious debates about the two of them and makes up her mind which one to choose multiple times. But then she gets back together with the other one and her mind gets scrambled by their maleness.
At this point, I don’t like either Maxon or Aspen. Aspen, for most of this book, was once again a background character. I have a hard time remembering why she cares about him, simply because none of his qualities are ever given a chance to shine, negative or positive. Maxon, on the other hand, I can’t keep straight. The attempt to give his character more depth in this novel just made him seem completely bipolar. One minute he cares, one minute he doesn’t (or does he?). He’s so wishy-washy I want to wring him out like a dish towel. I liked him the best after The Selection, but I’ve pulled away from that a lot now.
And his character wasn’t the only one that turned bipolar, either. There were several major players who seem to have woken up at random moments with no idea of who they were previously for the sake of the plot.
Except, that is, America’s maids. Can I get a whole book just with them, please?
There’s also the fact that I still understand nothing about the rebels everyone keeps talking about. This book also reminded me there’s supposed to be some kind of a war going on with New Asia as well. America herself blows off any attempt at getting any information about any of these conflicts, so we can’t learn anything through her. Anything outside the walls of the palace is shakily world built at best, and it leaves me feeling like the wars going on outside the palace and the attacks by the rebels really aren’t important or dangerous at all.
I am really just so torn about this book. On the one hand, America without Maxon or Aspen around is a great character, the kind I want as a best friend. Every time I get annoyed with the rest of the novel, I get a scene with her and it just makes everything better. But then Maxon or Aspen show up and she becomes this different person that just annoys me, and I just want to smack her. Every time she talks about how she loves them both equally I just want to hit my head on the desk, especially because at times she seems so sure about making a decision, but then backtracks on it just as fast. The characterization in these novels just keeps throwing me off, and that makes me really upset. Can these rebels that I still know nothing about just off Maxon and Aspen and leave America to lead the country on her own? Because that would be the best book ever.
My Life is a Notebook turned three years old on the 14th and I missed it. I MISSED IT.
I guess this is just a testament to how far behind I’ve been on blogging. Getting spit out of your freshmen year of college reminds you just how much time you need to spend blogging to make everything look the way you want it to, and to keep to a schedule. I really fell behind, especially second semester, and for that I’m very sorry.
HOWEVER, I’m back now, with some GREAT things coming at you. There will be all of the reviews, all of the Top Ten Tuesdays and maybe some Stacking the Shelves if I can get my act together. There is also the super-secret thing that I’ve been hinting about all over social media, which is coming at you NEXT WEEK. I’m going to give you a three word clue: Bibliomancy for Beginners. What does that mean? Who knows!
But now we get back to this blogoversary thing. THREE years of book blogging. THREE. Wow. It’s certainly been an adventure. I’m not where I thought I might be after three years, but that’s good because it means that I have a lot more to learn about how this goes. And also time management. However, I’m still further up there then I ever dreamed I’d be when I started, and that’s all because of you guys, so thanks for that so much. Every liked post, every comment means the world to me when it shows up.
In order to thank you all for three great years AND to make up for messing up my own blogoversary, I’m giving away…
A BOX OF BOOKS.
It’s a medium sized post office box that I brought back stuff from my dorm room in. It’s THAT BIG. I don’t know how many books are going to fit in there, but for the winner of this giveaway I’m going to STUFF IT TIL IT CAN’T TAKE NO MORE!
On my rough estimate, I’d say you’re looking at AT LEAST 8 books. Probably more, but I don’t want to make promises I can’t keep. I’ve got a pile of ARCs, paperbacks, hardcovers and other goodies lying around my bookshelves to give away, and I’m going to put the cream of the crop into this box for one lucky winner.
Please be excited, because I’m excited.
Because this giveaway is so huge, it has to be limited to the continental US. Really sorry guys, but shipping this box two houses down is going to break my bank as is. If you live in the US somewhere, you’re in luck – enter below! This giveaway goes until the end of May. For every 50 entries into this giveaway, I’ll release a title of a book that’s going into the box!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Jake’s father disappears while working on mysterious experiments with the obsessive, reclusive Oberon Venn. Jake is convinced Venn has murdered him. But the truth he finds at the snow-bound Wintercombe Abbey is far stranger … The experiments concerned a black mirror, which is a portal to both the past and the future. Venn is not alone in wanting to use its powers. Strangers begin gathering in and around Venn’s estate: Sarah – a runaway, who appears out of nowhere and is clearly not what she says, Maskelyne – who claims the mirror was stolen from him in some past century. There are others, a product of the mirror’s power to twist time. And a tribe of elemental beings surround this isolated estate, fey, cold, untrustworthy, and filled with hate for humans. But of them all, Jake is hell-bent on using the mirror to get to the truth. Whatever the cost, he must learn what really happened to his father.
2 1/2 stars
Thanks to NetGalley and Dial Publishers for this eARC! This title is now available.
I am usually pretty easy to please with world building. As long as I know enough to keep me up to date on the lingo of the story, I’m fine. If the story can whizz by so fast the world building is not necessary, I never require it. But when a book keeps chucking terms and events at me with absolutely no explanation? Then I get annoyed.
I was out of my depth with this book from almost the first moment. There are multiple storylines for multiple characters straight from the gate. The character of Jake is by far my favorite, just because everything he does makes sense and he never uses fancy words. I start to lose it, however, with the introduction of Sarah. She lands in a field from out of nowhere, starts shouting names of people we’ve never met, is suddenly being chased by a wolf that is not a wolf (or is it?) and gets into the home of Jake’s godfather by pretending she’s an escaped crazy patient (or is she?). There’s talk of time travel and replicants, which gives this a distinctly scifi feel, but then we also get introduced to the Shee, which are basically fairies. Confused yet? Because at this point my head was just exploding—and this isn’t even the half of it.
I was never able to get into the groove of this book, because I only ever got half of what was going on. Every attempt I made to get into the flow was instantly thwarted by a new term or concept or event that I didn’t understand the basics of. I will say, though, that Fisher did a masterful job of tying everything together in the end of the book. Things that had been confusing before suddenly made a lot more sense, even as new befuddlements cropped up. Still, if I hadn’t been reading this for review, I probably would never have made it that far into the book. I was so frustrated for so long that I almost stopped reading.
That being said, the characters in this book had very obvious motives for everything that happened, with the exception of the butler who is still a mystery to me. Jake is searching for his lost parents, Sarah wants to rescue her parents, Venn wants to save his wife, Wharton wants to protect Jake, etc. They all have very human reasons for what they do, and I never question their actions, even when they have negative consequences. It’s rare that a cast this large has that as an almost universal quality, and that impressed me.
This book could be a great read for someone with more patience with me, or maybe the ability to read between the lines better than I can. For me, though, I just didn’t have the patience to wait for things to be explained to me until literally the falling action of the book. The concept was an interesting one, but it quickly soured on me when I couldn’t get into the action—which was plentiful—because I still had no idea how anything worked. If I can get an ARC of the next book, then I might read it for the sake of the characters, but it won’t be a must grab for me.