August 29, 2012

RTW: August Read

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. 
This week's topic:
What was the best book you read in August?

I've read a really wide variety of books this month, but two really stood out:

This Dark Endeavor - Kenneth Oppel

Victor and Konrad are the twin brothers Frankenstein. They are nearly inseparable. Growing up, their lives are filled with imaginary adventures...until the day their adventures turn all too real. They stumble upon The Dark Library, and secret books of alchemy and ancient remedies are discovered. Father forbids that they ever enter the room again, but this only peaks Victor's curiosity more. When Konrad falls gravely ill, Victor is not be satisfied with the various doctors his parents have called in to help. He is drawn back to The Dark Library where he uncovers an ancient formula for the Elixir of Life. Elizabeth, Henry, and Victor immediately set out to find assistance in a man who was once known for his alchemical works to help create the formula.

Determination and the unthinkable outcome of losing his brother spur Victor on in the quest for the three ingredients that will save Konrad’s life. After scaling the highest trees in the Strumwald, diving into the deepest lake caves, and sacrificing one’s own body part, the three fearless friends risk their lives to save another. (from Goodreads)

This was recommended very highly to me by my sister, and the fact that it is basically a prequel to the Frankenstein story by Mary Shelley (which I've read) was really fascinating. We're inside of Victor Frankenstein's mind and as such, we get a glimpse into his motivation for doing the things he does which will eventually lead to his creation of the famous monster. Victor is rash and impulsive and at times arrogant, but ultimately he's just craving a little praise for his abilitiesunderstandable when he's held up against his own seemingly perfect twin brother. This Dark Endeavor takes Frankenstein's wackadoodle re-animator and turns him into a sympathetic individual who we actually want to see succeed in his endeavor, as dark as it may be. Plus, there's romance and a fascinating setting—Geneva. Enough said.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns - Rae Carson

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.
Elisa is the chosen one.
But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can't see how she ever will.
Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.
And he's not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people's savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.
Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.
Most of the chosen do. (from Goodreads)

After speeding through Graceling and Fire by Kristin Cashore back in the spring, I was looking for more great fantasy and Rae Carson definitely delivered. (As did Jess Silverstein at Reading on the F TrainI won this on her blog!) This was unlike anything else I've ever read, which right away made it appealing. The setting was reminiscent of one of the settings in Tamora Pierce's Alanna series (which I also love), and added a lot to the story. As for the MC Elisa, I thought her story was compelling right from the beginning. This is definitely an underdog story meets a 'chosen one' story, which was an interesting pairing. Elisa is weak as often (if not more) than she is strong, and I loved that about her. Her growth as a character was noticeable and believable, in my opinion. A great group of companions, super creepy enemies, romance, and a compelling heroine...all great reasons to check this one out. This is the first in a series, and I really look forward to reading more of Elisa's story.

How about you? Read anything good in August?

August 28, 2012

TTT: Mea Culpa

Today's Top Ten Tuesday topic at The Broke and the Bookish is:

Top Ten Bookish Confessions

Initially, I didn't think I could even come up with this many, but once I got going...hoo boy! I don't dog ear pages, I don't read smutty romance, and I certainly don't fold back the covers on paperbacks (ah!), but I am guilty as charged on the following counts:

Confession #1
I have what skirts the edge of an addiction to buying books. I can’t walk into a bookstore without feeling the need to buy something. Never mind clicking on The Book Depository...Even worse, I have to restrain myself from buying more copies of Jane Eyre (my favourite classic). I already own at least four copies of it. 

Confession #2
There are some seriously popular authors whose works I really can’t figure out what the fuss is all about. Honestly, I cannot be the only one who thinks that their books are boring/pretentious/been-done/and so on.

Confession #3
I detest, nay loooooathe, when publishers change the covers on books in a series. Like freaking hate it. I’m a little OCD when it comes to my series’ matching. I get a little twitchy when I look at my bookshelves and see a lumpy-looking row of a mismatched series. Gah!

Confession #4
I happen to like the YA covers with pictures of girls in pretty dresses. My life is completely devoid of occasions to don similar apparel, so I feel like I’m living vicariously through the cover models. I like the frou frou. So there.

Confession #5
I once ripped a book apart at the seams (not proud of doing this), but I just sincerely hated Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad SO much and the coursework that followed this loathsome book, that it brought on a sort of violent reaction against it. Again, not proud of this.

Confession #6
I still have the Twilight series on my bookshelf. Next confession…

Confession #7
I’m still a little bit embarrassed to tell people that I read and write YA. I’m hoping to get over this sometime in the near future. I'm also hoping they will stop letting their faces tell me what they really think about my choice in reading/writing material.

Confession #8
I have more than one e-reader (a Kobo and a Kindle), and I choose to use them only when I’m traveling or too impatient to wait for a book. E-readers are inferior in my opinion. And despite having certain books in e-book format, I will sometimes turn around and purchase books in actual paper book format (it feels more real that way).

Confession #9
Despite what authors say about the cost of e-books (and despite being a writer myself), I still think it’s ridiculous to pay as much (sometimes more!) for digital books as those I can hold in my hands and have on my shelf. Plus, you can’t put a price on the smell of real books. Maybe if e-books came with that scent I might change my mind.

Confession #10
Library books are kind of like a last resort for me. This might have something to do with the time that I borrowed Stephen King's The Stand from the library and some of the pages were stuck together with what I can only assume was snot. I think the clever individual who put it there thought they were adding to the experience. I suppose it was kind of appropriate given the whole Captain Tripps virus and whatnot. Still...ewwww.

How about you? Any bookish skeletons in your closet?

August 26, 2012

IMM: A Whole Lot O' Good Stuff

It's been awhile since I participated in The Story Siren's In My Mailbox weekly feature, and since this week was a good week for book arrivals at my place, I thought I'd take part again.

Here's what showed up at my place (one way or another) this week:

A little treat from my sister:
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance. (from Goodreads)

I've heard nothing but good things about this book, but given the fact that it cost somewhere in the ballpark of $30-$40 CAD in hardback, I wasn't rushing out to buy it. Thanks to my sister (and the fact that it's now in paperback), I can finally find out what the fuss has been all about. It sounds very interesting!

A much-anticipated postal delivery:

The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance. (from Goodreads)

This is yet another book that I've heard a lot of buzz and fangirling over, so I figured it was something that I'd probably like. Add to that the fact that it's set in Victorian times and has a cover recommendation suggesting it for fans of Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare and I'm sold. Not quite sold on the zombie aspect, but we'll have to see.

Queen Victoria has a little problem: there's a petty thief at work in Buckingham Palace. Charged with discretion, the Agency puts quickwitted Mary Quinn on the case, where she must pose as a domestic while fending off the attentions of a feckless Prince of Wales. But when the prince witnesses the murder of one of his friends in an opium den, the potential for scandal looms large. And Mary faces an even more unsettling possibility: the accused killer, a Chinese sailor imprisoned in the Tower of London, shares a name with her long-lost father.

Meanwhile, engineer James Easton, Mary's onetime paramour, is at work shoring up the sewers beneath the palace, where an unexpected tunnel seems to be very much in use. Can Mary and James trust each other (and put their simmering feelings aside) long enough to solve the mystery and protect the Royal Family? Hoist on your waders for Mary's most personal case yet, where the stakes couldn't be higher - and she has everything to lose. (from Goodreads)

I really enjoyed the first book in this Canadian-authored series, but wasn't crazy about the sequel. The premise for this one sounds much more appealing than the last, so I'm looking forward to diving in. Have I mentioned I'm on a Victorian kick?

An in-store (impulse) purchase:
Lock and Key - Sarah Dessen

Ruby can take care of herself.

She's used to counting on no one and answering to nobody. But all of that changes when her mother vanishes and Ruby is sent to live with her older sister, Cora. Now Ruby's got her own room in a fabulous new house, she's going to private school, and—for the first time—feeling as if she has a future. Plus, there's the adorable and sweet boy next door, Nate. Everything should be perfect. So why is Ruby so wary? And why is Nate keeping her at a distance? Ruby soon comes to realize that sometimes, in order to save yourself, you've got to reach out to someone else. (from the back of the book)

I am very, very late to the Sarah Dessen bandwagon, but better late than never, right? I've been hearing people rave about Ms. Dessen for some time now, but for whatever reason I haven't yet read anything by her. The new covers are really appealing too, and I'm not going to lie—that skeleton key and the pretty blue really caught my eye. The mention of a private school was what sold me on it. Have I mentioned I like private and/or boarding school stories?

How about you? What's in your mailbox this week?

August 22, 2012

RTW: I ♥ My WiP

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. 

This week's topic:
Inspired by Stephanie Perkins' post on Natalie Whipple's blog, what is your novel's "Love List"?

Stephanie Perkins makes a practice of listing all the things she loves about her story when she first starts writing it. This list serves as a reminder of why the story is worthwhile as she continues working on it and as things get tough. You know what's worthwhile? Stephanie Perkins' post. You should follow the link above and check it out. Because those of us who write definitely know first-hand that there are times when it's hard to love that beast of a book that just won't cooperate. 

So, taking a cue from the great Ms. Perkins, here's what I love about my WiP Watch of Night:

• a swoonworthy boy who knows what he wants and doesn't play games
• passionflowers
Source: Only You by Pierre Bédat on Flickr
• blue morpho butterflies
• best friend siblings
• quirky friends
• the Red Planet
• Aurora Australis
• Antarctic Dry Valleys—cold, barren, and lonely
• snarcasm
• romance
real books, poetry, and love songs
• sinister authority figures
• biodomes, especially the rainforest one
• closed environment, difficult to escape
• a tattoo that I actually want
time is running out (!)
• hope in a hopeless situation
• propaganda
• mystery
• secrets
• 'eyes' everywhere

There's more, but barring copying and pasting my WiP into this post (not happening), this is about all I can share.

What is it about your WiP that makes your heart swell just a little?

August 15, 2012

RTW: Favourite Sports Book

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.  

This week's topic:
In honour of the end of the Olympics, share your favourite sports book.
(And in honour of Team Canada, I added a couple of Canadian 'u's to a couple of words. Bam!)

(*crickets chirping*) Um... (*gears grinding and the smell of smoke in the air*). Yeah, I have no clue. I'm a super big fan of inspirational sports movies, but sports books? Not so much. I read a biography of Sidney Crosby one time, and it was pretty good, but mostly because it was about Sidney Flipping Crosby. I mostly read it for the Awww moments and the really pretty glossy pictures. So, long story short, the best answer I could come up with for this topic was:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Say what? Come on. I'm sure you've heard about the recent surge of interest in archery following the release of The Hunger Games movie in theatres. Let's have a look at some of the sports and sort-of-sports in the book and/or movie:

I'm taking the risk that Lionsgate won't sue me for using this.

As already mentioned, archery played a role in the book and the movie version of HG. Katniss has some pretty sweet bow skills (now she just needs to buff up on her bow staff and nunchuck skills and she'll be a triple threat).

Again, thank you, Lionsgate for this image. Don't sue me.

Looky what we have here. Is that a spear I see before me? Isn't spear-throwing sorta kinda like javelin? And javelin's definitely a sport, so can't we call this a sport too?

We love you, Lionsgate. :D Look, free advertising!

And then there's the running. Lots and lots of running.

If we wanted to, we could even call Foxface's little hop, skip, and jump routine over the land mines kind of like triple jump. Of course, in all of these cases the stakes were a heck of a lot higher than a mere medal count, making one's nation proud, or whether or not the victor would get to run laps donning his/her nation's flag like a cape. So I guess that takes it out of the realm of sport and into survival, but hey, I did my best.

Do you have any favourite sports books? Care to share?

August 8, 2012

RTW: Summer Soundtrack

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic. 

This week's topic:
What music has been your summer soundtrack?

My musical tastes tend to be all over the map, but this is what I've been listening to A LOT so far this summer (some of these are on my WiP playlist and others are just ones that I like):
*All titles are linked to iTunes*

The Lumineers - Ho Hey

Imagine Dragons - It's Time

Florence + The Machine - Cosmic Love

And then there's the soundtracks:
The Dark Knight Rises - Rise
City of Ember - One Last Message
The Island - My Name is Lincoln
Downton Abbey - The Suite

There's a whole lot more, but you'd be hear all day and this page would get ridiculously heavy with YouTube links. What have you been listening to this summer?

August 1, 2012

RTW: July Read

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:
What was the best book you read in July?

For a variety of reasons I didn't read as many books in July as I did in June. I picked up and put down at least a couple because they didn't really grab me in the early pages. It was more a situation of "I don't feel like reading this right now " and less that the books weren't interesting. But there were a handful of books that were exactly what I was in the mood to read. Among these were Cassandra Clare's books from her paranormal/Steampunk/historical series The Infernal Devices.
Of the two, I definitely preferred Clockwork Prince, but then that might be because I'm sort of a Jem fan. (And by Jem I don't mean the mannish rocker and her Misfits. Though, she was truly outrageous.) Cassandra Clare is just one of those authors who is great at creating mood and writing compelling stories and characters. Not to mention, it was abundantly clear that she did her research for this particular series. I felt like I was actually in Victorian London which was fantastic.

What I loved:
1.  Setting - the Institute, Victorian London (the dreadful and the beautiful), York
2.  Steampunk - creepy, creepy automatons and Henry's only-sometimes-useful gadgets/weapons
3.  Paranormal - not usually a big fan, but Clare creates a world of paranormal beings that feels real
4.  Romance - as mentioned, I'm kind of a Jem gal, but Mr. Will Herondale is pretty special too
5.  Characters - they are all fully fleshed out and their backstories tie in well to their current stories
6.  Writing - Clare is a great storyteller and a great writer. She especially excels at setting and mood.

I should probably also mention that I love this series so much more than Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series, though I do like those books a lot as well. And now I'll have to wait 20 million years for Book 3 in this series, which is kind of tantamount to torture at this point. What's going to happen? I suspect there are seriously difficult choices ahead.

Isn't this cover amazing? She has a bit of
a Catherine Zeta-Jones thing going on.
Due out: March 19, 2013 - too long to wait.

How about you? What was your favourite July read?