Huntress by Malinda Lo

Click the cover to purchase at Amazon
Book: Huntress
Author: Malinda Lo
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release date: April 5, 2011
Source: I Read Banned Books ARC Tour

Summary: (from Goodreads) Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasnâ??t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The peopleâ??s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Taninli, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girlsâ?? destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

The exciting adventure prequel to Malinda Loâ??s highly acclaimed novel Ash is overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details inspired by the I Ching, and is filled with action and romance.

First impressions: The world here was so different from any other book I’ve read recently. I couldn’t put it down, because I was so curious about where this story was going. The first chapter is retrospective, so we see where things might end up, but not what has happened yet, and it is achingly beautiful.

Lasting impressions: Breathtaking. Grand. This fantasy was gloriously epic while still remaining a quick read and avoiding an overly complicated plot. This one is top notch.

Conflicting impressions: I didn’t want it to end. I wanted more! I would have loved to have had more backstory on the state of the world and relations with the Fairy people. There’s definitely enough here to make the story work, but a tad more information would have just filled in the edges a bit.

Overall impressions: If it wasn’t already clear, I loved this book. Any book that can surprise me is on good footing already. One of the things I found so refreshing about this book is the love story that builds between the two female main characters. That in and of itself is a bit outside of the norm, but what really made me soar was that this budding attraction was not shameful, shunned, or disapproved of by their society. Kaede and Taisin are only kept apart by Taisin’s path as a sage. Sages are to be celibate, yet the vision she has of the future, where she knows she loves Kaede, haunts her. How does she choose life as a sage or life in love at the vulnerable age of seventeen?

It’s this struggle that defines the book. When the girls are sent on a quest to meet the Fairy Queen, and later, to battle an evil presence, the heart of the issue is this growing bond between two young girls who just want to do what is expected of them without losing themselves in the process. Malinda Lo handles this tension with exquisite ease.

Like any good questing fantasy, this one involves bloody battles (including one particularly violent clash with a band of wolves). Still, the love stories that wind their way through the novel are more emotional than physical, so I think it would be appropriate for the younger teen set as well. This book tackles so many of the struggles we all feel, and so well, that it would be a shame for any reader to miss out.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

This book was provided for review by the Banned Books Tour at I Read Banned Books.

Silly Sunday – Psych

On Friday I wrote a little bit about one of my favorite shows, Psych on USA Network. I was actually a bit of a latecomer to this show. When it first started airing, I was a regular watcher of Monk, and thought the premise of Psych seemed kind of dull. A show about a psychic detective who’s not really psychic? What’s the point?

During its second season, my husband and I had the TV on after Monk and got swept up in the Halloween episode, where the female detective, Juliet, goes undercover in a sorority house. It was hilarious and full of physical comedy, cultural references, and just plain silliness. From then on, we were hooked.

Shawn and Gus, the two main characters, are BFFs who grew up together. Shawn’s father is a retired Santa Barbara Police detective, and most episodes start with flashbacks of Shawn (usually with Gus or his dad) getting into trouble or setting up a personality flaw to be exploited in the episode. Shawn is a fake psychic, who uses his above average observational skills to pretend he is a psychic detective in order to make money as a consultant with the SBPD.

Gus is a pharmaceutical rep and also a business partner in Psych, Shawn’s detective service. They are like brothers, constantly bagging on each other with an undercurrent of love. This is bromance at its finest. A long-running gag on the show is that Shawn rarely introduces Gus by his full name, Burton Guster. Instead, he makes up silly names for him like Ovaltine Jones and Methuselah Honeysuckle.

The show is crazy clever, well written, and laugh out loud funny. I try to get everyone I know to watch it. It airs on Wednesday nights on USA, with the season premiere usually in July. This year marks its 6th season, and I hope it stays on a few more years at least. I never get tired of these guys.

This clip I think best sums up the tone of the show:

Follow Friday/Blog Hop and Weekly Recap

It’s Follow Friday! Hosted by the always amazing Parajunkee’s View, this is a chance to meet new blogger friends and grow our networks.

This week’s question is “Share your current fav television show! Tell us a bit about it.”

I could say The Vampire Diaries. Or the Modern Family/Cougar Town double feature. I could even say Glee. All of these are favorites of mine. But the ultimate mega-amazing super fantabulous Must See Show for me?

Psych on USA Network. It’s. Amazing. Hilarious, full of the best bromance ever, and has the perfect balance of formula no-brainer television mixed with cult insider deliciousity. It’s so amazing I have to make up words to describe how much I love it. You dig?


Image Credit: Alan Zenuk/USA Network
Yum. To all of it.

Be sure to check out this week’s featured blogger NaKesha at Totally Obsessed and the rest of the participants.

Book Blogger Hop

Hosted by Crazy For Books, this blog hop is all about connecting with our fellow bloggers. Each week we discuss a book-related question and hop around to other blogs to see their answers.

This week’s question is “Do you ever wish you would have named your blog something different?”

Oh, you sly devil! Yes, sometimes I do wish that I had thought ahead and kept book blogging separate. In my haste to get a domain secured (the “E.” came in when was already taken), I slapped a blog about books together before I fully realized what book blogging was all about. So I do think it would be cool to have a slick name to go with my book blog and have my domain direct to a blog about my writing or something. I am kind of the oddball using just my name.

What do you guys think?

My weekly recap is inspired by the phenomenally talented, kind and generous Small Review. If you are not already following her, you are really missing out.

If you’re a first time visitor, or just didn’t get the chance to stop by this week, here’s what you missed:

Features and Memes
Silly Sunday – Very British Movie
Watch the very funny, very British fake movie trailer from SNL.

In My Mailbox
A list of the books I bought from Borders this week.

Writing Wednesday – I Am Number Four
I discuss why I boycott James Frey.

Better Know a Blogger by For What It’s Worth
I was interviewed as part of the Ultimate Reviewer’s Challenge month at For What It’s Worth.

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain
5/5 stars
Shifter Challenge
YA Series Challenge
Ultimate Reviewer’s Challenge

Cold Hit by Linda Fairstein
3/5 stars
Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge
Ultimate Reviewer’s Challenge

The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher
3/5 stars
Debut Author Challenge
Ultimate Reviewer’s Challenge

Review: The Water Wars by Cameron Stracher

Click to purchase on Amazon
Book: The Water Wars
Author: Cameron Stracher
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release date: January 1, 2011
Source: Ebook purchased for Kindle

Summary: (from Goodreads) Vera and her brother, Will, live in the shadow of the Great Panic, in a country that has collapsed from environmental catastrophe. Water is hoarded by governments, rivers are dammed, and clouds are sucked from the sky. But then Vera befriends Kai, who seems to have limitless access to fresh water. When Kai suddenly disappears, Vera and Will set off on a dangerous journey in search of him-pursued by pirates, a paramilitary group, and greedy corporations. Timely and eerily familiar, acclaimed author Cameron Stracher makes a stunning YA debut that’s impossible to forget.

First impressions: I was really anxious to read this book. I got swept up in the world right away. This is my ultimate nightmare scenario, and one that could realistically come to fruition. Stracher does a nice job setting up this dry, dusty, water-starved world. I found it believable and disturbing.

Lasting impressions: I didn’t connect to this book the way I thought I would. There was something missing for me, and though I really wanted to fall in love with this book, in the end it wasn’t what I thought it would be.

Conflicting impressions: I lacked a strong connection to the characters. It felt like Stracher was writing from a distance, and so even when the action was heart-pounding, I wasn’t invested in the outcome.

Overall impressions: When the story begins, we are introduced to a world with very strict access to water. Companies are mining the oceans and desalinizing water for consumption – at a price. The rich water miners have to travel by armored guard. The poor have to spend large portions of their income on water with a chemical aftertaste.

Access to potable water is a very important issue, and unfortunately this book seemed more focused on the issue than the story. We follow Vera and her brother Will on a wild journey from their home territory of Illinowa, through Minnesota, and into Canada, desperate to find their new friend Kai. They fear he has been kidnapped by pirates, and it is the pirates who end up stealing this story.

There are good pirates, bad pirates, scientists, miners who exploit children, greedy corporations and evil politicians. It was in the balance of all of these characters and mixed interests that the story seemed to get away from Stracher, with the focus more on the water and who has the right to it over the initial interest in whether the children will ever get home safely.

I wanted to see Vera struggle more, love more, and learn more from her adventure. She barely knows this boy, and asks her brother to accompany her on what appears to be a suicide mission in order to find him. The farther she travels, the more she discovers about this world, and that the good guys aren’t always good and the bad guys aren’t always bad. Yet she doesn’t seem to process any of this, remaining stubbornly fixated on Kai without understanding the power he holds. I felt that as the reader I learned more from her journey than she did.

Despite my disappointments, the writing is well done and the book is a quick and exciting read. I recommend it particularly to anyone with an interest in discussing environmental issues, as the book does a great job raising awareness about the fight for scarce resources.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Want a different perspective? Check out this four star review by i swim for oceans.

Writing Wednesday (8) – I Am Number Four

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Welcome to Writing Wednesday, my weekly feature where I discuss my works in progress, project ideas, editing struggles, or anything else related to the world of writing. Feel free to grab my button and post your own thoughts on writing! Leave a link to your post in the comments and I’ll stop by.

James Frey and controversy go together hand in hand. In fact, I’m fairly certain he doesn’t know how to publicize himself or his projects unless they are portrayed in a negative light. When I caught wind of the New York Magazine piece on Frey and his “fiction factory” a few months back, I wasn’t exactly surprised to see him roiling in a grave of his own digging.

I fell victim to the A Million Little Pieces fervor, devouring the book and singing its praises to the world. I was convinced Frey was an amazing soul who had endured much and lived to tell us the glorious but disturbing details. When the castle came crumbling down around him, and he was eventually forced to admit to Oprah that the story wasn’t exactly memoir so much as it was fiction, I felt a little angry, but ultimately who did he hurt? I sort of laughed him off, shook my head in judgey judgment, and ignored the sequel, My Friend Leonard.

The Full Fathom Five publishing venture he created is a little different, however. I won’t go so far as to say that people were hurt, because like many have pointed out, Frey signed legal contracts with willing writers. Nobody forced these desperate artists to sign away their lives for the possible opportunity of a lifetime. Should we really feel sorry for them, even if they were stupid and exploited?

Much of the controversy around this issue is derived from the contract the writers sign. Essentially, for a small upfront fee, they agree to write a marketable novel with a plot they may or may not have sole control over, and give Frey the right to use a pseudonym for the book, as well as ownership of the final product. They are able to collect a percentage of the profits related to the project, but it is at Frey’s discretion to use them again for any sequels. Also, they can never disclose that they were the actual author of the material.

It was at this point that I decided I would not read I Am Number Four, which if you hadn’t heard, was one of the first Full Fathom Five projects. I have no desire to read a book derived solely as a gimmick. Yet Alex at Electrifying Reviews makes a good point. Aren’t these stories and ideas just a little bit exciting?

I’ll be the first to admit that the trailer for I Am Number Four made it look great, and I kind of wanted to see it. Until the reviews poured in, at which point, I was doubly okay with my decision to boycott the project.

Lots of people have enjoyed the book, though. I feel torn between my desire to boycott Frey and the equally strong desire to help the author, Jobie Hughes, make as much money as possible. The fact of the matter is that I don’t really care to help Frey expand his ideas. He was too lazy to just write the concept himself, so he preyed on vulnerable debt-ridden students to do the work for him, but ultimately kept all of the prize for himself. That doesn’t sit well with me, so for now I’m sticking to my decision not to read or see I Am Number Four.

What do you think? Did you read the book? See the movie? What do you think of Frey’s publishing company?

Review: Cold Hit by Linda Fairstein

Book: Cold Hit
Author: Linda Fairstein
Publisher: Scribner
Release date: August 17, 1999
Source: Borrowed from local library
Series: Alexandra Cooper Mysteries #3

Summary: (from Goodreads) Alexandra Cooper has seen many murder victims, but few more disturbing than the silk-clad body of a woman, her hands and feet tied to a ladder, pulled from the turbulent waters at Manhattan’s northern tip. With her colleagues, including NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, Alex races against the clock and hopes for a “cold hit” — a DNA match that would reveal the identity of the murderer by linking the crime to someone already in the police database. But as the case pulls her into the exclusive world of East Side auction houses and cutting-edge Chelsea galleries, Alex discovers she may be marked as an expendable commodity in a chilling and deadly scheme.

First impressions: I adore this series, so I settled right in to the narrative. The book opens with a crime scene, which always makes for interesting reading.

Lasting impressions: This was definitely not one of the most memorable crime novels I’ve read. The book was incredibly slow through the middle, and the ending seemed anti-climactic, despite a lot of action.

Conflicting impressions: The plot revolves around the art world, which seemed to be a really exciting premise, but somehow it didn’t quite create a compelling enough story. I found the discovery phase of the investigation quite boring.

Overall impressions: Alexandra Cooper is a great character. She’s a wealthy New Yorker, heads the sex crimes division of the District Attorney’s office in Manhattan, and relaxes with ballet on the weekends. Her cop friends that help her investigate the crimes are playful, yet tough, and they have a good working relationship accompanied with some old-fashioned ribbing.

Though the book unfurls at a snail’s pace, the glimpse into the cut-throat nature of the art bidding process and how rich people build up their collections is quite interesting. I’m not convinced that it was tied in well enough to the actual crimes, however. When the big reveal came at the end, the motivation just didn’t quite gel enough to the severity of the crime.

Still, this was a satisfying way to quench my mystery thirst. I enjoy the characters enough to let a little plot fizzle slide, and I’ll pick up another Cooper mystery when I get the chance.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Review: The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Book: The Dark Divine
Author: Bree Despain
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Release date: December 22, 2009
Source: Ebook purchased for Kindle
Series: The Dark Divine #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) Grace Divineâ??daughter of the local pastorâ??always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared and her brother Jude came home covered in his own blood.

Now that Daniel’s returned, Grace must choose between her growing attraction to him and her loyalty to her brother.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, she learns the truth about that mysterious night and how to save the ones she loves, but it might cost her the one thing she cherishes most: her soul.

First impressions: I know it has nothing to do with the book, but that cover is gorgeous. I hate to admit it, but it did kind of influence how much I wanted to read this one. I mean, it is seriously beautiful.

On to the actual book. One of the first things I noted about this book is the demarkation of time. Despain uses section breaks that indicate the time of day or location of the story, which really helped orient me within the timeline and kept the momentum moving. This concept worked really well for me.

Lasting impressions: The mystery that permeated Grace and Daniel’s story was sublimely realized in the final few chapters. Despain really delivered a great ending, even including a few surprises just when I thought I had it all figured out. Silly wabbit.

Conflicting impressions: Some of the plot elements had a bit too much build for my tastes. It takes a really long time to figure out the beef between Grace’s brother and Daniel, for instance, even though it’s constantly referenced throughout the entire book. My impatient side got a little frustrated.

Overall impressions: Grace is a pastor’s daughter, an art student, and a good girl from a good family. Hanging over her is an incident with the boy next door, a close friend of the family’s, who came from a broken home and moved in with them for a time. One day Daniel’s mom came to collect him and they moved away, and he disappeared from their lives for years until his sudden return to town. Daniel and Grace’s brother can’t get along, no one in her family is interested in inviting him back into their lives, and Grace struggles with the desire to stay away from the troubled and mysterious boy despite her strong attraction to him.

Nice church-going girl falls for bad boy, conflict ensues. Simple, right? Not so in this deliciously complicated tale of love and loyalty. Daniel is struggling with more than just an abusive father, and Grace has far more at stake than just a disapproving family if she chooses to love him. For me, this was like the good girl/bad boy story on steroids.

Through the course of the story, Grace encounters increasingly disturbing events. The suspense builds nicely, with each new death or near-death forcing the reader to ask more questions about what’s really going on. Is Daniel responsible for the violence spiking now that he’s back in town? Is there more to pseudo-boyfriend Pete than meets the eye? Why does her brother Jude hate Daniel so much?

Although the ending is a bit predictable, given the numerous clues throughout the book, it’s still satisfying in that we get answers to all of these questions, and even some we didn’t know we were asking. I liked that Grace had to figure out the answers for herself, with both her dad and her brother giving her the information, but leaving her to draw her own conclusions. This helped keep Grace as a capable and intelligent main character without seeming passive or whiny. It also explains how she makes the difficult decisions she does, both selflessly and thoughtfully.

This is a fast paced tale with believable characters and just enough action to keep things exciting. I’m definitely looking forward to The Lost Saint.

Rating: 5/5 stars

Want a different perspective? Check out this review by Sonette’s Bookworm Blog or another five star review by The Lovely Getaway.

Looking for my usual Monday post? Be sure to check out what’s In My Mailbox this week.

In My Mailbox (6)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme devoted to sharing the new books we’ve received, borrowed, or bought. For more information, visit IMM’s fantastic host, The Story Siren. You can visit other blogs that are participating in this week’s IMM here.

Bought from Borders:

Since all but two Chicago Borders stores are closing, we decided to go browsing to see what kind of deals were happening. All books were 20-40% off, which normally would send me into a frantic tailspin of purchasing chaos, but I showed impressive restraint. I’m trying to keep my house from getting overrun with books, so I bought only the books that both my husband and I would read, or that I thought I could give away, either on the blog or to Half Price Books, the library, or some other such place.

The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
(Books 2-4 of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series)
My husband is not a big reader. He’s pretty vocal about the fact that he’s read fewer than 20 books in his life. One notable exception to his “I hate reading” mantra is the Harry Potter series. When the Percy Jackson series became a movie, I bought The Lightning Thief to read, and he ended up reading it as well and loved it. When he saw the other paperback series books on sale, he jumped at the chance to read them. I was happy to encourage more book reading from him, so they came home with us.

Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris
(Southern Vampire Mysteries #5)
Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost (Night Huntress #1)
The Judas Strain by James Rollins (Sigma Force #4)
My other motivating factor for buying at Borders was that many of the titles were cheaper in store than as ebooks. Normally, I almost exclusively buy ebooks simply because they’re cheaper. Dead as a Doornail is the next book I need to read in the Sookie Stackhouse series, and I’ve been meaning to check out the Night Huntress series, so I picked up those two. The Rollins book I’ve already read and is one of my faves in his Sigma Force series, which I didn’t happen to own yet in ebook form. I’ll definitely re-read this one many times over.

Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning
Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning
Faefever by Karen Marie Moning
Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning
(Books 1-4 of the Fever series)
The entire blogosphere went crazy when Shadowfever was released last month, and I felt very left out since I have not read any of the Fever series yet. Romance books were 30% off at Borders, so I picked up books 1-4. I’d like to do a giveaway with them when I finish reading. I don’t know how popular that will be on a mainly YA themed blog, but that just means people who enter will have more chances to win, right? 🙂

Bought for Kindle:

I also bought a few ebooks this week. It’s been a few months, and these were all books I’d been meaning to buy for a long time. As it turns out, I should have checked these purchases before my Borders spree.

Yep, that’s right. I bought Darkfever. You’ll notice that I also bought it from Borders this week. I’m an idiot.

City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments #3)
I want to finish this one before Book 4 comes out on April 5th. I went ahead and bought it to remind myself to GET READING ALREADY!

The Fallen Blade: Act One of the Assassini by John Courtenay Grimwood (Vampire Assassin Trilogy #1)
This series looks really interesting. Set in 1407 Venice, Duke Marco’s chief assassin discovers a young vampire boy and decides to train him as his apprentice. Historical vampire ass-kicking novel? Um, okay.

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs (Mercy Thompson #5)
My mom recommended this series to me a long time ago, and it quickly became my favorite urban fantasy series. Mercy Thompson is a Native American shapeshifter who can become a coyote at will. She is an auto mechanic who is tough, independent, but totally loveable. Her world involves fae, weres, vamps, and lots of suspense. It’s awesome. I also love the fact that she can have a love interest with some major spark and chemistry without sex scenes. I don’t always need my heroine and her man to get it on to make a compelling love story. Book 6, River Marked, comes out March 1st, so this purchase was another GET READING nudge.

Silly Sunday (7) – Very British Movie

If you missed Saturday Night Live last week, you missed one of the funniest fake videos they’ve ever created.|widget|NBCVideo&__source=nbc|widget|NBCVideo

A commenter on another site pointed out that around 1:30 or so, during his long speech, he distinctly says “Graham Norton” among the rest of the gibberish. The first time I saw this, I was crying, because seriously, who hasn’t been thrown off by really thick British or Australian accents. I know they’re speaking English, but it takes a while for my ears to adjust sometimes.

In other news, I’m being featured today on For What It’s Worth’s Better Know a Blogger interview series. If you’re not already participating in the Ultimate Reviewer’s Challenge, you can still sign up. I hope you’ll stop by and see my interview!

Follow Friday/Blog Hop (5) and Weekly Recap

It’s Follow Friday! Hosted by the always amazing Parajunkee’s View, this is a chance to meet new blogger friends and grow our networks.

This week’s question is “If you are a fan of Science Fiction what is your favorite book? If you haven’t read Science Fiction before…any inkling to? Anything catch your eye??”

I haven’t read a lot of sci-fi. I’ve had a hard time getting into it, particularly if it’s heavier on the science end. I do really want to read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and Across the Universe by Beth Revis. I suppose if you count steampunk as sci-fi (which I do), I did really like The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia.

Be sure to check out this week’s featured blogger Dreaming About Other Worlds and the rest of the participants.

Book Blogger Hop
Hosted by Crazy For Books, this blog hop is all about connecting with our fellow bloggers. Each week we discuss a book-related question and hop around to other blogs to see their answers.

I’ll post the question and answer for this week when the hop post goes live.

Keep hopping and following and I hope to see you soon!

If you’re a first time visitor, or just didn’t get the chance to stop by this week, here’s what you missed:

Features and Memes
Silly Sunday – The World’s Smallest Horse
See the cutest tiny ponies EVER.

In My Mailbox
A vlog of the books I received this week.

Writing Wednesday – Animal Violence
I discuss a disturbing level of detail in violence toward animals in fiction.

Marked by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
5/5 stars
YA Series Challenge
The Ultimate Reviewer’s Challenge

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
3/5 stars
YA Series Challenge
YA Historical Fiction Challenge
The Ultimate Reviewer’s Challenge