May 24, 2011

Reading Meme - Day 13

Day 13 - Favorite Childhood Book

You know what's sad? I don't remember very many books from my childhood. I remember reading some Dr. Seuss around the time I started kindergarten. I remember reading children's encyclopedia's cover to cover in the first grade.

But I don't really remember loving books until I was in Jr. High. Don't get me wrong. I LOVED reading. Did it all the time. I read everything I could get my hands on. I just don't remember actually falling in love with a book before Jr. High, and the first book I actually remember falling in love with was either A Wrinkle in Time or Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Just don't ask me to tell you which one happened first, because I don't remember that.

May 22, 2011

Reading Meme - Day 12

Day 12: A book you've read more than once

I don't know if I've actually come right out and said it or not, but I like to read. Not that you couldn't have gathered that from everything you've seen on this blog. So, here's the thing. My husband likes to watch and re-watch movies and TV shows. I do the same thing with books. There are very few books on my book shelf that I've read only once. I even have a lot of my favorites both in book and audio form, just so I can get a story fix more often. And now I have to pick ONE that I've read more than once?

Nope. Not gonna do it. Here's a short list of some series I've read more than once:

The Wheel of Time
Harry Potter
Sword of Truth
Kushiel's Legacy
The Hollows

May 21, 2011

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

Paperback, 358 pages
Published August 21st 2007 by Puffin (first published September 2nd 2004)
ISBN 0142409413 (ISBN13: 9780142409411)
Primary Language: English
Source: Purchased

The Blurb (

The Myth: Alice was an ordinary girl who stepped through the looking glass and entered a fairy-tale world invented by Lewis Carroll in his famous storybook.

The Truth: Wonderland is real. Alyss Heart is the heir to the throne, until her murderous aunt Redd steals the crown and kills Alyss' parents. To escape Redd, Alyss and her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, must flee to our world through the Pool of Tears. But in the pool Alyss and Hatter are separated.

Lost and alone in Victorian London, Alyss is befriended by an aspiring author to whom she tells the violent, heartbreaking story of her young life. Yet he gets the story all wrong. Hatter Madigan knows the truth only too well, and he is searching every corner of our world to find the lost princess and return her to Wonderland so she may battle Redd for her rightful place as the Queen of Hearts.

The Looking Glass Wars follows the life of Princess Alyss, from her childhood in Wonderland through her early adulthood in London, England. We meet a variety of interesting characters along the way that one may recognize from Lewis Carroll's books, but not in that "Oh, how cute, a smiling cat" way. More in a "rip a person to pieces while you watch" way.

At the age of seven, young Alyss is having a birthday party when her evil Aunt Redd, possessing the power of Black Imagination, kills Alyss's father, uses her card soldiers to storm the castle, kills everyone she can find, and eventually ends up facing off with Alyss's mother. Alyss's mother sends her bodyguard, the highly skilled fighter Hatter Madigan, through the looking glass (a kind of transport highway) with Alyss before being beheaded by Redd.

Alyss and Hatter are separated when fleeing from Cat, Redd's murderous multi-lived assassin, and Alyss ends up an orphan child on the streets of 19th century London, England. While Hatter spends the next 13 years trying to find her, Alyss has to learn to deal with London society and Wonderland becomes a land filled with darkness, hatred, and fear.

I've always been intrigued with twisted fairy tales. When the video game "Alice" was released many years ago, I was excited because it showed Wonderland as a dark and twisted place. When I read a friend's review of the third book in Beddor's series, I went out and bought this one, and unfortunately, let it sit on my bookshelf for over a year. In that year, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland was released, renewing my interest in all things Alice.

I finally picked it up a couple of weeks ago, and I am glad I did! This book was an exciting read from start to finish. While it's a YA novel, it still manages to encompass everything from romance to mental disorders, thrilling chases and tea parties. I liked the set up of the relationship between Wonderland and the real world. It amused me to think there was one person sitting on a throne somewhere deciding what inspiration to send along to us simpletons.

Beddor's characters were real and multi-dimensional. For instance, Hatter was more than a skilled fighter, our heroes had many faults, and even the perfect world of Wonderland had a seedy underbelly. I enjoyed knowing that the heroes I rooted for were so much less than perfect, with prejudices and fears of their own.

I am very much looking forward to reading the remaining two books in this series.

And on a related note of excitement: Alice: The Madness Returns will be released in June, and I am very excited about it!

This marks the third book in my Off The Shelf Challenge!

May 10, 2011

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson

Mass Market Paperback, 615 pages
Published May 30th 2006 by Tor Fantasy (first published May 1st 2005)
ISBN 0765350378 (ISBN13: 9780765350374)
Primary Language: English
Source: Purchased

The Blurb (

Elantris was the capital of Arelon: gigantic, beautiful, literally radiant, filled with benevolent beings who used their powerful magical abilities for the benefit of all. Yet each of these demigods was once an ordinary person until touched by the mysterious transforming power of the Shaod. Ten years ago, without warning, the magic failed. Elantrians became wizened, leper-like, powerless creatures, and Elantris itself dark, filthy, and crumbling.

Arelon's new capital, Kae, crouches in the shadow of Elantris. Princess Sarene of Teod arrives for a marriage of state with Crown Prince Raoden, hoping -- based on their correspondence -- to also find love. She finds instead that Raoden has died and she is considered his widow. Both Teod and Arelon are under threat as the last remaining holdouts against the imperial ambitions of the ruthless religious fanatics of Fjordell. So Sarene decides to use her new status to counter the machinations of Hrathen, a Fjordell high priest who has come to Kae to convert Arelon and claim it for his emperor and his god.

But neither Sarene nor Hrathen suspect the truth about Prince Raoden. Stricken by the same curse that ruined Elantris, Raoden was secretly exiled by his father to the dark city. His struggle to help the wretches trapped there begins a series of events that will bring hope to Arelon, and perhaps reveal the secret of Elantris itself.

I originally read this after it was announced that Brandon Sanderson was going to be completing the Wheel of Time series after the untimely death of Robert Jordan. Recently, however, a couple of friends of mine decided to pick it up for the first time, and their commentary while reading it made me want to read it again. So, here's some thoughts on my second read-through:

I know this was Sanderson's first novel, so it has some rough patches in regards to the writing and some of the continuity, but it was never enough to jar me out of the story, which is good. On my second read, I found myself enjoying the political aspect a lot more than I had the first time around. Serene's manipulation of just about everyone around her amused me greatly, even though I know it shouldn't.

The foreshadowing in this book is subtle, and I missed most of it my first time through, but this time I found myself wanting to yell at Raoden to stop being so thick-headed and figure it out already!

One of Sanderson's strengths is building a magic system that is complex, elegant, and most of all, original. One of things I enjoyed most about Elantris was it's magic system. Aondor was almost scientific in it's rules, and those rules play a fundamental role in the plot of the story, rather than magic just being something to fill space, like you see in some fantasy novels.

I have to say it: Brandon Sanderson is my hero.

May 9, 2011

Reading Meme - Day 11

Day 11 – A book that disappointed you

There was a lot of hype over this book before it was released in 2010, mostly based on the author. I remember reading some of the blurbs and thinking, "Yeah, that sounds kind of cool!" Being the lemming that I am, the more positive hype I saw, the more I wanted to read it. So when it was released, I rushed out and bought it. It took some time for me to get around to reading it, but when I did I was incredibly disappointed. So much so, in fact, that I will most likely review it here at some point just to express my extreme displeasure. What's really frustrating is all the things that made me hate this book are touted by other reviewers as being the reason they like it. And I just found out the sequel was released in January, and I never noticed it. I'm not sure I'll read it.

May 8, 2011

Green-Eyed Demon by Jaye Wells

400 pages
Published February 22nd 2011
Primary Language: English
Source: Purchased

The Blurb (

The clock is ticking for Sabina Kane. She has to save her sister from her mysterious captors. And in order to do that, she has to broker a deal between the mages and the vampires before all hell breaks loose.

But as much as Sabina is focused on surviving the present, the past won’t be ignored. Before she can save those she cares about, she’s got to save herself from the ghosts of her past. Because the past is haunting her. Literally.

After the suspenseful cliffhanger of "The Mage in Black", I was expecting quite a lot from the start of "Green-Eyed Demon", and I was disappointed to find that several weeks pass between the end of the last book and the beginning of this one. The team has basically been driving around looking for leads that lead nowhere.

Luckily for everyone involved, however, they do find a lead that leads them to: New Orleans!

There's a lot of sexual tension building between Adam and Sabina, and I understood her hesitation, even if I found it frustrating at the same time. Giguhl is still his snarky self, providing comedic relief at just the right moments, and not surprisingly, deep and thoughtful personal advice when Sabina needs it most.* Additional comedic relief was provided by the New Orleans cast, even if the voodoo priestess and drag queen struck me as a little too stereotypical "New Orleans Experience" at times.

There's a good sense of mystery about this book. I enjoyed the step-wise clue gathering interspersed with Sabina getting pissy and knocking some heads together, even if I was frustrated and disappointed with her mood swings and decision to go rogue later in the book. The final battle in the end was pretty exciting, though, so it made all the frustrations at Sabina's attitude worth it in the end.

When the next volume comes out, I will certainly be reading it, though I can't say if I'm on the edge of my seat for it.

*If you can't tell, Giguhl is my favorite character.

May 7, 2011

The Mage in Black by Jaye Wells

Paperback, 326 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Orbit
ISBN 1841497576 (ISBN13: 9781841497570)
Source: Purchased

The Blurb (

Sabina Kane doesn't have the best track record when it comes to family. After all, her own grandmother, leader of the vampire race, wants her dead. So when she arrives in New York to meet her mage relatives, the reunion puts the fun in dysfunctional. Not only is mage culture completely bizarre, but everyone seems to think she's some kind of 'Chosen' who'll unite the dark races. Sabina doesn't care who chose her, she's not into destiny. But the mages aren't Sabina's only problem. In New York's Black Light District, she has run-ins with fighting demons, hostile werewolves and an opportunistic old flame. Sabina thought she'd take a bite out of the Big Apple - but it looks like it wants to bite back.

"The Mage in Black" opens immediately after the closing events of "Red-Headed Stepchild" with Sabina, Adam, and Gighul fleeing across the country in an SUV, trying to get to the safety of New York City and Mage-Central before vampire assassins catch up to them. Sabina is wary of meeting her newfound Mage family, but is willing to take the chance. Especially considering vampire family is currently actively seeking her head on a plate. She is surprised to find an ally in not only her twin sister, but also an old boyfriend (who, when they last parted, stole a great deal of cash and left her in an awkward position), who happens to be a pretty decent guy. Even if he does run a demon fight club.

Yes. Just like the movie. Only with demons.

Sabina spent a great deal of time throughout this book whining about not belonging and not fitting in and complaining about her life not being like it used to be. I feel like if it were me, I would have been thrilled to find myself surrounded by people that didn't want to kill me, and I wouldn't have spent all my time complaining to anyone who would listen about how unfair everything was. "Ewww, mages are gross, why do I have to do mage things even though I'm half mage and have mage power???"

While it's true there was a person or two that wanted her dead, her inability to trust and work with people ended up causing a lot of heart-ache in the end. More so than would have happened had she just accepted her new role in life.

That's not to say there wasn't a lot of action and suspense. I love me some explosions and demon-fights. There was more than enough mystery over who was behind the intrigue to keep me interested, and Gighul still cracks me up, especially when he meets his soul mate: a vanity demon who changes into, of course, a peacock.

Luckily, the massive cliff-hanger in the end didn't leave me in too much of a lurch, as I had the third installment loaded on my Kindle, ready to go. I might have been slightly upset if not for that.

May 6, 2011

Red-Headed Stepchild by Jaye Wells

Mass Market Paperback, 325 pages
Published April 1st 2009 by Orbit
ISBN 0316037761 (ISBN13: 9780316037761)
Primary Language: English
Source: Purchased

The Blurb (
In a world where being of mixed-blood is a major liability, Sabina Kane has the only profession fit for an outcast: assassin. But, her latest mission threatens the fragile peace between the vampire and mage races and Sabina must scramble to figure out which side she's on. She's never brought her work home with her---until now.

This time, it's personal.

"Red-Headed Stepchild" introduces us to Sabina Kane: half-vampire, half-mage, in a world where vampires and mages are not the best of friends. Raised by her grandmother (who happens to be the Super-Queen-Bee of the vampires) to be a first class assassin, Sabina has never really known love of any kind. She has always assumed her grandmother loved her, but was unable to show it because of her position. However, Sabina is forced to re-evaluate that position when her grandmother orders her to assassinate the one person in her life that she can call "friend". Being the good little assassin robot that she is, she carries out her mission without hesitation. It's not until after the deed is done that Sabina begins to wonder. Then she is sent on an undercover mission, where she meets people that force her to adjust her world view completely.

It's all pretty typical stuff. Outcast meets dark and handsome stranger bearing bad news/good news/super secret power/all of the above. Powerful, independent female goes all weak and googley eyed over a man that treats her right. And a bald cat demon.

Wait, that's not so typical is it? Truthfully, there are a lot of Urban Fantasy tropes in this story, but the characters make all the difference. There's a not-so-subtle humor to a centuries old demon trying to play at being a punk kid. I think that without Gighul, the whole thing would have fallen a little flat, but as it was, it came together well in the end, even if there were moments where I had to suspend my disbelief to get through.

Overall, I enjoyed the hell out of it, and immediately went and bought the next two after finishing this one. I think I read all three books currently in the series in 4 days.

And this marks the second book in my "Off The Shelf" Challenge. 2 down, 13 to go!