Booknotized

A place to think, reflect, and talk (mostly to myself) about books I love…and a few that I don't.

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? December 12, 2011

Filed under: Books — Booknotized @ 1:27 pm
Tags: , , , ,

As you may have noticed, I’m not quite as active as usual this last couple of weeks.
Due to an overabundance of work, I have had to take a small sabbatical from blogging (which I love!)
to do money-making (which I also enjoy, but is more of a must).

Ironically, this overload hasn’t dampened my reading spirit in the least, so upcoming are some exciting
posts about the following books – one of which is to be published Jan 3!

I thought the fun, It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? meme by the lovely
Shelia at Book Journey would be a fun way to catch up.

Watch out for posts on all of these in the new few weeks.

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Calling All Cassandra Clare Fans –> Clockwork Prince #Giveaway! November 23, 2011

 
 

At BEA this past May, I accidentally got into a line for a very special set of items.

I didn’t realize until after I just what I had stumbled upon:

 

Instead of keeping them to myself (which wouldn’t be very nice!), I’d like to share the love.

Clockwork Prince – vol. 2 of Cassandra Clare’s much-anticipated Infernal Devices series – is out in just two weeks!

 

I know that some of you are just itching to read chatpers 1-3 ahead of the game…
and to proclaim your affection by sporting this collector’s t-shirt.

(You know who you are!)



 
 

Priority mail shipping on this to any state in the USA (sorry, no international), so you’ll be sure to have it right away.

Here’s how it works:

1. Like Booknotized on Facebook = 1 point
2. Follow Booknotized on Twitter = 1 point
3. Tweet about it (be sure to tweet @Booknotized) = 1 point for every tweet
4. Share Booknotized or this giveaway on Facebook = 1 point for every share
4. Subscribe to Booknotized via email (see right sidebar) = 1 point
5. Find a book review on this site that you enjoy and leave a thoughtful comment = 1 point for every comment
6. Leave a comment on this post = 1 point

 

Tally up of your points and email them to me along with your twitter/facebook handles so I can track your points.

 

booknotized[at]gmail.com

 

Ends at noon on Monday the 28th.

 

I’ll announce the winner via Twitter that evening and contact them via email.

 

Have fun!

 

 

Official #HungerGames Movie Trailer…WOW! November 14, 2011

I. have. chills.

 

Book Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Filed under: Action-Adventure,Books,Realistic FIction — Booknotized @ 12:30 pm
Tags: ,

Publisher: Dial
Release Date: August 23, 2005
Age Group: YA (sexual innuendo/references/discussion)
Sequel: The Last Little Blue Envelope
Pages: 336
Rating: Idea 3.5★; Execution 3.5★
Genre: realistic fiction; travel/adventure

★★★1/2

Ginny has never been much of one for adventure, but all of that changes when the receives a letter from her dead aunt Peg, and finds herself whisked off halfway across the world. Leave it to aunt Peg to cook up some crazy scheme—that was her m.o. in life—why should it be any different just because she’s…gone?

So, armed with only a backpack, some cash, and a handful of consecutively numbered envelopes from her aunt, Ginny sets out on a wild, seemingly haphazard tour of Europe, that leads her as much inward as it does out.

_______________________________________________

For the most part, this book is fun and engaging. Ginny, though unsure of herself isn’t your typical whiney, flagellating ball of angst. She’s got spunk down in there that the reader can see—even if it takes her a while to discover it herself.

The trip abroad is fun, if unrealistic, especially the large amount of time spent in England, at which point in the book I found myself reliving my study-abroad time at Oxford. In fact, at one point, I got off the train after reading it, got some take-out for dinner, and sat down at home to eat it, only to realize I had purchased curry and cider for myself…same thing that the characters were eating during my train ride.

However, once Jenny left England, the story went a little flat for me. The environments felt 2-dimensional, the characters somewhat stereotypical, and Ginny’s self-progress a little stunted. I wish there had been more description of people, sights, sounds, and things in the various countries. Ginny tended to enter places in a rush, hole up somewhere small, and stick there, venturing out only in sentences instead of excursions. The exception to that would be Paris, where the cafe described was unique, charming, and well-evoked, if impractical.

I also wasn’t totally satisfied with Ginny’s “growth” by the end. She did pull a bit of a whine-fest toward the final chapter, and I felt as frustrated as she was supposed to be. Also, the way in which she loses the last enveloped (and is thus tugged into a 2nd book) was slightly…convenient, but did manage to leave me wanting to know how it would conclude.

All in all, it was a quick, fun read that made me want to bolt off on a trek across the world.

. . . maybe someday I will.

 

Series Review: Wolves of Mercy Falls (Shiver, Linger, Forever) by Maggie Steifvater November 10, 2011

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: August 1, 2009; July 13, 2010; July 12, 2011
Series: Wolves of Mercy Falls
Age Group: solid YA (implied/described sexual content; graphic violence)
Pages: 400; 368; 400
Rating: Idea 4★; Execution 4★; Style 4.5★
Genre: romantic fantasy

★★★★

Shiver / Linger

Grace is relatively happy living in her rural home with parents who are rarely ever there…it’s lonely, but she creates her own structure: good grades, no late nights…

Only when she begins to feel drawn away from the warmth and light into the quick chill of the Boundary Wood that fringes her house—toward the pack of wolves that roams there—does she realize that something is missing, and perhaps always has been.

Then the boy appears—and he is one of them, she is sure. His yellow eyes belong to the wolf, the stormy gray wolf who saved her all those years ago.

And then, he is Sam. And she cannot imagine life without him. So she doesn’t…

…but the cold, and his earthy, shaggy, winter body remembers. It will claim him.

It might be calling her, too.
 
Forever

Sam is stable…as much as he can be without Grace.
Where she is…what she is, he can’t be sure. He only knows he needs to find her, fast.
Now that a second death has been blamed on his pack, they only have so much time before the hunters begin closing in. It may already be too late.
 
____________________________________________________________
 
This series is sort of in a class by itself. It is a dark, brooding romantic fantasy of a similar brand as that of Twilight, but the style (and LACK of love triangle) is superior enough to make that comparison invalid. And, I think the quality of the writing has only improved with age. Out now, the third book has all of the same qualities as Shiver and Linger, only more crystallized and focused.
 
For one, the world is built with integrity. Fitting to the plot, it is tight and limited, but the text makes it visceral. Metaphor is a key descriptive player and it is used in fresh and surprising ways. Sam’s favorite poet Maria Rainer Rilke is quoted often, and I daresay the text benefits immensely from that—in style as much as in content.
 
The characters are multi-dimensional, but focused and consistent. They grown and learn—about themselves and others—over the course of the trilogy. (You would think that would be a given, but I’ve learned the hard way that this is an unusual characteristic in YA lit these days! So, when I see it, I like to point it out.) The side characters are intriguing (bad-boy Cole is there for those of us who like a scruffy egomaniac) and take on a life of their own as they become more central to the storyline in Forever. This is in part due to the multiple-point-of-view format of the book, which I found refreshing (each chapter is written in a different character’s voice). Overall, they (Sam, Grace, Cole, Isabel, etc) aren’t extremely deep, and sometimes their realizations are slightly obvious, but it’s not to the point of annoying. The crux of the book really is the plight of the werewolf, and, of course, the two soul mates caught in the crossfire between an errant biology and an ignorant humanity.
 
Yes, it’s a tender, emo love story. However, even though soft, skinny, sensitive Sam is not really my type, he is such a well-drawn character, you can’t help but like him. The poetry—Rilke’s, not necessarily Sam’s—often would step in to redeem him for me, giving him a deeper facet than most other series’ boy toys have. He so clearly needs Grace that you can’t help but root for them. Grace herself is all but perfect, but not in an unlikable way. She’s beautiful, but strong (kind of like Bella Swan should have been).
 
Really, for all of the wolf in them, they are both very human.
 
The plot is fairly strong: catching and medium-paced. I got slightly impatient at times, so it wouldn’t have worked for me to read all 3 books in a row. I read them as they came out, and I was actually happy with that. The world is compelling enough to make revisiting a pleasure. Some reviewers did not like the ending of the trilogy, but I did. True, it’s ambivalent, but not in a cheap, incongruent, copout, “no questions answered” way like the Incarceron series. There’s the hint of what could happen, but not the confirmation. Frankly, it totally fits with the style, and I was ok with that.
 
In fact, the most striking characteristic of the books for me lies in the style—in the “feeling” the writing gives: of cold.
 
True, the story is purposefully set on the borders of a wilderness in Mercy Falls, Minnesota, where winters are long and harsh: cold is what makes a werewolf shift into a wolf. But it’s one thing to simply state that fact—another to weave it into the fabric of the text. I don’t quite know how to explain what I mean, but for all the warmth of Sam and Grace’s relationship, I always came away from the text with a chill. It was as if there was somehow something delicate lying between me and them, a subtle frosty whisper that fills and parts the air.
 
That, I found totally masterful.

 

Book Review: Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien November 7, 2011

Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Release Date: March 30, 2010
Series: Birthmarked Trilogy
Age Group: solid YA (mild graphic violence/birth scenes)
Pages: 368
Rating: Idea 4.5★; Execution 4.5★
Genre: dystopia

★★★★1/2

Being a midwife is never an easy job—things happen, babies are stillborn, women bleed to death—but at least most of the time it goes well. Mother is reunited with the soft bundle she has loved and nurtured for 9 long months…and will for the rest of her life.

Unless, of course, you live outside the wall. There, conditions are harsh, and babies—like water—are rationed, a practice 16-year-old, brand-new midwife Gaia goes along with…because she must. That is, until her mother and father are suddenly taken prisoner, and Gaia finds she can no longer abide by the unjust laws of the Enclave. She must get them out, even if it costs her life.

Where they will go afterward, no one knows. The settlement has been carved from the arid, post-apocalyptic wasteland of (now) Unlake Superior—and it stretches almost beyond the reach of legend.

And then, of course, there’s the question of Leon and his dangerous interest in her. Yes, what on earth is to be done about Leon (and her smoldering interesting in him)…?
 
____________________________________________________________________________________________________
 

For starters, I enjoyed this book immensely, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Prized, the sequel—out tomorrow, Nov. 8.

I was hooked on page one, which drops the reader wholly and without hesitation or apology into an intense, visual, and rather daring (if you asked me) birth scene. My first thought was, Whoah!… and then Well, any book that starts with a jarring, evocative line like “the mother clenched her body into one final, straining push, and the baby slithered out into Gaia’s ready hands,” is bound to be taking chances elsewhere. And I like books that take chances.

I wasn’t disappointed.

(I ♥ the PBK cover.)

The setting for this book is unique—something like the 1st-century Middle East. At least, that’s how I envisioned the small, twisting streets, bright flowing garments, water cisterns, and stretching desert. And, it is incredibly well evoked. The artistry of the book really is in the details that are woven throughout. Well-placed flashbacks and everyday events illuminate and develop protagonist Gaia into not only an empathetic character, but an almost living, breathing entity one feels drawn…even compelled to follow under the wall and down the perilous streets of the Enclave—though it very well may cost you your life!! (Hyperbole, I know, but I was into it!)

The love interest, Leon, is singular (*handful of confetti*) and irresistibly compelling (*bag of confetti*), on account of which the ending—a cliffhanger, and normally a turn-off for me in series books—is really shocking, painful, thrilling, and, well, just excellent. (*confetti storm*)

Of course, this means that one (read: I) must acquire a copy of book 2 ASAP, or one (read: I) really might burst…but enough about that.

There was only one element I thought could have used “more,” and that was Gaia’s parents. Because of the circumstances of the plot, they were kind of glossed over/incidental, and dealt with rather abruptly at the end. Considering the obvious care taken throughout the rest of the book, I can’t help but wonder if that was a result of the story’s unexpected evolution from 1 volume to 3 (an anecdote O’Brien revealed at the Brooklyn book festival this September). As much as I usually begrudge the after-effects of a publisher-pushed sequel, however, I am equally (oh, who am I kidding? more) glad to be able to revisit Gaia and her world.

And, I have a sneaking suspicion it will turn out alright: the mastery really is in the writing—the style, the vocabulary, the excellent metaphors. Those elements, and a tight plot with elemental (detailed) integrity, set Birthmarked apart from others in the genre.
 
For another perspective on this title, check out my good friend Shanella’s review.

 

Crazy, Wacked-Out, YA Halloween November 5, 2011

Filed under: Books — Booknotized @ 7:54 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

 
Just to prefaces this, yes, I am an adult. Yes, I do have a job. I am actually married (for #? years now!) Yes, I am mature…sometimes.
 
But, I also love to have a good time. Just got this piece of “evidence” for that in from Shanella, with whom this past Halloween got a little YA crazy…and that was after our Lit-themed Halloween party. (Click here for the down-low on my “costume.”)
 
Had to giggle at this. Too funny not to share.
 

 

 
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