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Bitsy's Books

Note: I'm uploading my books from Goodreads and since there are like 200+ it's going to take awhile. The uploading seems a bit wonky too, so hang with me as I fix things. Also there may be spoilers until I can make all the appropriate tags.


I'm an ex-English Major who, sick of reading classics after college, decided to read all the trashy books I didn't before because I was too snobby. Since graduating, I've entertained myself with comics, YA, and romance novels, finding out they can not only be decently written, but superbly written. I've since recovered from my classics aversion, but I'm now more open-minded reader willing to read from any genre. If a book has kick-ass heroines and/or witty banter and/or takes place in a different time or place (including fantasy settings), I will most likely fall in love with it. My favorite authors are Jane Austen, Shakespeare, E.M. Forster, Meljean Brook, Sarah Rees Brennan, Rachel Hartman, Catherynne M. Valente, and Aliette de Bodard.

Currently reading

The Blue Fairy Book
Andrew Lang
Apollo's Angels: A History of Ballet
Jennifer Homans
Heist Society - Ally Carter 4 out of 5 StarsSixteen-year-old Katerina Bishop is the latest progeny in a long family line of thieves – and she wants out. How much is it to ask for a normal teenage life? Okay so maybe she did con herself into one of the most prestigious prep schools in the US, but a girl has to start somewhere. However, Kat’s dad has gotten in way over his head with Arturo Taccone, an Italian mob boss, and some painting he may or may not have stolen and Kat’s forced out of her early retirement to save him. With her rag-tag band of teenage thieves, Kat has to pull off her most complicated heist yet.Heist Society isn’t the next great American novel, but it is a fun witty action-packed caper with echoes of Ocean’s Eleven and The Sting. The awesome quirky characters keep you glued to the page with their international adventures. Oh, and did I mention FUN?Kat is a great character. She’s resourceful, witty, and smart, but also makes mistakes and judges people incorrectly. Luckily, Kat is quick on her feet and knows how to keep a cool head dealing with different situations. Some of the best scenes in the book are when she’s interacting with Taccone. Kat’s wit and bravery really shine.And Hale *sigh* Hale is Kat’s best friend/potential boyfriend. He’s fun, flirtatious, confident, and handsome (of course), but he really cares about Kat and will follow her to the ends of the earth. He manages to show this and even be a teeny bit protective without being an annoying asshole (you don’t have to remove the engine from her car to show you care). But most importantly, he trusts Kat, even when trusting her is incredibly hard. He doesn’t interfere, but watches over her from the background. He has confidence that Kat knows what’s best for her and the team. Plus, his interactions with Kat are just too cute.Gabrielle was probably my favorite character. When she first appeared, I groaned, because I was really enjoying the book and I didn’t want an Evil Blonde Cheerleader McSlutface character to ruin it. But luckily, Carter subverts that and Gabriella ends up being one of the more interesting characters. Gabrielle uses her looks and her ‘ditzy blonde’ façade to con people, hiding her intelligence, athleticism, and the fact she’s a damn good thief in her own right. She and Kat don’t get along at first, because Kat does judge Gabrielle on her persona and Gabrielle is justifiably resentful. Throughout the book, Kat realizes she’s misjudged Gabrielle and they bond (granted, rather suddenly). I love when Kat uses Gabriella as her ‘muscle.’The other characters are equally as colorful and the book jet-sets around Europe, visiting London, Paris, Italy, and Vienna among other destinations (I guess it pays to have a thief in the family, eh?). Most of the heists and devices are derivative of other spy/thief shows, but Carter doesn’t act like these are original creations, but plays off of the wealth of her predecessors. The various plans are all tools of the trade and have funny code names such as "Mary Poppins" and "Five O’clock Shadows." Carter also weaves these tropes together in a unique way to create a dramatic and suspenseful story. While the plot does fall apart a bit when you think about it too hard, the book does pull out some pretty good twists of its own. My biggest complaint is the addition of Nick, a rival love-interest, didn’t add anything to the story. Instead I think it took away from the existing character relationships and made Hale look bratty and petulant. I really didn’t like Nick until the end when his *real* identity is revealed. Although I did end up liking Nick, his character felt forced, more of a ‘WE NEED A LOVE TRIANGLE’ rather than a natural progression of the story. The heist didn’t need 7 people, because Hale was pretty useless throughout the heist.Heist Society was fun with great characters, glamorous European cities, and a suspenseful heist. Carter works with older caper stories to create her very own unique story. I’ll definitely be checking out the other books in this series, as well checking out her other series (with teenage spies!).
Vampire Academy - Richelle Mead 0.5 out of 5 Stars (Yes, it really is that bad)SPOLIER ALERTOh man, this book.Rose Hathaway is vampire princess Lissa Dragomir’s guardian and best friend. Lissa is a Moroi, a good vampire, and Rose is a dhampir, a Moroi/human hybrid. It’s a dhampir’s job to protect Moroi from the bad vampires, Strigori. Returning to their Moroi/dhampir boarding school after running away, both try to readjust to school life, while hiding Lissa’s dangerous secret. But don’t worry, because 80% of this book is stupid high school bullshit until the plot decides to show up.The saddest thing about this book is that there is an interesting overarching story and some inspired stuff hiding under all the crap. Sadly, I don’t think I can wade through all the crap for the nuggets of gold.The biggest obstacle was the protagonist. Rose is probably the most obnoxious heroine I have ever read. She’s a complete Mary Sue, hiding under the guise that because she kicks ass, she is a STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER. Rose is reckless, nasty, and hypocritical. The world bends over backwards for her all the time, sometimes to the point of not making any sense (Lissa saved Rose over her own parents? Rose can somehow convince guards to let her see a prisoner when they won’t even let his own daughter see him?). She’s apparently hottest thing anyone has ever seen and she acts like she’s God’s gift. Rose is constantly insensitive about mental illness and homosexuality. She’s utterly unlikeable.And the weirdest thing is that Rose doesn’t feel like the main character in her own story. The action and the plot revolve around Lissa and her special gift. Lissa is the one being targeted. Lissa is the one who has to deal with the negative fallout of her gift. Lissa is the one dealing with bullies. So Lissa should be the main POV character. But instead we’re told second hand what happens to Lissa through her and Rose’s mental link. Lissa herself is actually a pretty likable character. She first appears “weak,” but through the book she develops a drive to help and protect those she loves. Compared to Lissa, Rose feels like a much less interesting side character. Rose’s controlling, I-know-what’s-best-for-you behavior and spying makes her look like a creepy stalker. This leads to my theory that Rose and Lissa are closeted lesbians.Rose is super controlling of Lissa and constantly uses their mental link to invade Lissa’s privacy for no good reason (the author wants Lissa’s POV? Why not just have some chapters from her POV?). Lissa ignores her dead parents and brother to bring a dead Rose back to life. Rose lets Lissa drink her blood in an act that is considered super sexual and “dirty.” There are definite lesbian vibes, despite how hard the book tries to deny it. I actually think the book would be better if it just embraced those undertones, but instead we get the cardboardiest of cardboard love interests.According to the fans, Dimitri is like OMG THE HOTTEST THING EVER. I didn’t get it. He was pretty boring. We’re constantly told how hot and badass he is instead of being shown. There is absolutely no chemistry whatsoever between Rose and Dimitri. The only reason I could come up with for them to be into each other was that ‘I’m hot! You’re hot! Let’s fuck!’ It doesn’t help that he’s a 24-year-old assigned as 17-year-old’s mentor. And despite what this book would have you believe, mentor is a synonym for teacher. So Rose falls in love with her teacher, and Dimitri creepily encourages this. In the last few chapters, Rose and Dimitri are put under a lust spell (because I guess a sleeping spell would have been more difficult?) to distract them so the baddies can kidnap Lissa, and they end up almost having sex. So not only was Rose almost statutorily raped, but she almost had sex under compulsion, meaning she wasn’t able to give her full consent. What the FUCK? Of course Rose isn’t mad about how fucked up any of this is, she’s more worried if Dimitri luuuuuuuuuuuuurves her. Dimitri in no way tries to dissuade her. He does more ‘I’m such a bad person! You’re too good for me! Stay away!’ instead of actually trying to push her away. The book insinuates that it’s twue wuv and Rose and Dimitri and meant to be together forever. It’s all creepy as fuck.And then there is Mia. She’s your standard queen bitch that has made it her inexplicable purpose to ruin the lives of Lissa and Rose. Instead of ignoring Mia, Rose instead confronts her and antagonizes her even more. Mia and Rose and Lissa participate in spreading hurtful gossip and sabotaging each other's social standing. By the right of being Main Characters, Rose and Lissa’s rumor spreading and insults are O.K! When Mia does it, she’s a vile bitch. I’m all for the protagonist confronting bullies and not acting like a martyr, but Rose and Lissa’s fighting back isn’t really fighting back as much as bullying back. It doesn’t help that Mia spreads rumors about Rose being a Blood Whore and Rose basically shuts down because life is OMG AWFUL, but then Rose turns around and spreads rumors about Mia being a whore herself.This brings up the whole concept of Blood Whores. The book states that most female dhampirs would rather raise their children (which can only be made with Moroi males – yes this makes no sense), and become ‘food’ for Moroi. The Moroi bite has a drug-like effect, so many of these women become addicted to the bite. Despite relying on these dhampirs and women for food, the Moroi call them ‘Blood Whores.’ Being a Blood Whore is the most offensive and lowest thing a Dhampir woman could be called. This is actually a really interesting class observation. But instead of using this to make a comment on society, Rose just internalizes this thinking. Despite these women being her brethren, DESPITE DIMITRI HAVING GROWN UP WITH THEM, Rose looks down on them like the rest of the Moroi and Guardian dhampirs. She sees these women are ‘lesser’ since they decided to raise their kids rather than become guardians, despite the fact that Rose’s own mother basically abandoned her to continue being a guardian. There is this really creepy subtext that Dimitri’s mother, who was abused by his father, was ‘weak’ for not fighting back. WHAT THE EVER LOVING FUCK?On the flip side, most of the Guardian women are described as leathery, muscular, and having short hair and tattoos – stereotypical ‘butch’ features. Rose actually worries that’s she’ll become ugly aka butch like these women, but Dimitri assures her she’s too beautiful and special. Fuck you, Rose Hathaway. Fuck you.The Moroi are too weak to fend for themselves, the ‘Blood Whores’ aren’t pro-active enough, and the guardians are too butch – the only way to be positively feminine in this series is to be Rose herself. That’s a very narrow definition of femininity. For any book to imply that the main character’s femininity is somehow more valid or better than anyone else’s is insulting and anti-feminist.The only character who was actually completely likeable in the entire book was Christian, the loner Moroi who loves Lissa from afar. Christian is actually interesting, has a personality besides HOT! (though he is definitely that), and he and Lissa have actual chemistry (not to mention are legal).Even without my problems, this isn’t a well written or unique book. The plot was super uneven and guessed the bad guys from like 50000 miles away. I’ve heard the books get better as the series progresses, but I don’t think I could suffer through more of Rose’s bullshit and super spesul snowflake-ness. The half-star is for Christian and his adorable relationship with Lissa. Everything else can burn in a fiery lake. I don’t recommend these. Actually, I think the messages are harmful to girls. There is enough gossip/social sabotage/backstabbing in real life, do we really need it in our fiction too?
Anna Dressed in Blood - Kendare Blake 3.5 out of 5 StarsCassio Theseus Lowood, or Cas for short, is a ghost hunter. With his trusty ghost-dispatching knife, he travels the country (and possibly the world), getting rid of harmful ghosts. His latest target is Anna Dressed in Blood, a girl murdered in the 1950’s who kills anyone who enters her old house. However, Cas finds himself further involved in with Anna than he planned and his habitual ghost-hunting life may be changed forever.This is a difficult review, because I wanted to like this book more than I did. I enjoyed it a lot, but it never crossed over from a good book to a great book. That may be in part because I read the perfect ghost/haunted house/love story, “Behind the Red Door” by Caitlin Kittredge, in the Kiss Me Deadly anthology. Anna Dressed in Blood, however enjoyable, felt like a mash-up of many other ghost hunter/mystery stories and nothing original. I mentioned in one of my status updates that the book reminds me of an amalgam of Supernatural, Scooby-Doo, and The O.C. I’m 100% certain I could throw in Buffy the Vampire Slayer if I saw more than half a season. The pop culture mash-up worked for the most part, making the book enjoyable and funny, but not necessarily scary. The characters (however derivative) are great and fleshed-out (minus the villains, who are mustache-twirly) and the ghosts Cas encounters are unique. Cas is a cocky asshole who is too sure of himself, but he does sound like a teenager in with know-it-all attitude air and snarky sense of humor. His friends Thomas and Carmel, although drawn from Character Types 101, are interesting and complex and completely adorable. I liked that although Carmel was the popular queen bee, she was a nice person with feelings and insecurities of her own. And Anna is awesome. She’s violent and scary, but struggles with her ghostly powers, guilt, and her past. Until the book decides to take that away and make her a rather bland manic pixie dream ghost girl. Anna was much more interesting when having to deal with her “dark side” and reformed Anna is pretty boring. The rest of the characters are suitably colorful.However, the book’s strength is also its weakness. This isn’t anything anyone who is a fan of teen horror hasn’t seen before. The set-up was great and original, but the outcome was disappointing. I’ve read/watched my fair share of paranormal/ghostly-themed books and shows and each character and plot development was something I had seen before (and better done) elsewhere. Not to mention I saw the big plot twist coming from miles away. Many small things are brought up, but never explained. The book feels rushed, while adding another 75 page plot device that I thought would occur in the next book. There was only one part that gave me a chill down my spine, but that was short lived once we actually saw the stereotypical villain. The big bad is a voodoo priest! Soooooo surprised! I feel that’s such a copout anymore. And quite honestly, The Princess and the Frog did it first and did it better (while not being so offensive by showing that there is a “light” side to voodoo – the much more commonly practiced voodoo). The whole ‘evil voodoo’ thing is based off of racial fear-mongering. And I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable that the lily-white Cas and the gang were against the racially ambiguous (but dread-wearing, so I assume African-American) big bad evil guy.I guess I was disappointed because I wanted more from this book. It had the potential, but in the end it neither delivered the scares or the unique storytelling I was hoping for. Overall, it was an enjoyable book with a perfectly ambiguous ending for a second book that I’ll probably read. It’s like reading an episode of Supernatural, except if Sam and Dean morphed together into a teenager and the Scooby Gang from Buffy showed up with the dynamic of the main characters from the first season of The O.C. Fun, enjoyable, action-packed, gory, but derivative and uninspired. If you like fun ghost stories with interesting characters, as long as you don’t expect anything new, you will enjoy Anna Dressed in Blood.
Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love - Trisha Telep, Maggie Stiefvater, Becca Fitzpatrick, Rachel Vincent, Karen Mahoney, Diana Peterfreund, Daniel Waters, Carrie Ryan, Justine Musk, Daniel Marks, Sarah Rees Brennan, Michelle Rowen, Michelle Zink, Caitlin Kittredge ETA June 2013: I was unaware when I reviewed this that there was controversy surrounding this editor. Because the original blog post detailing what happened has been taken down, I can only go by hearsay. Apparently in later anthology, one of the authors wanted to include a homosexual love story and Telep insisted the author change it to a heterosexual one. I don't know if Telep was acting on behalf of the publishing house or her own preferences, but needless to say I won't be buying any more of her books. This is a hard situation, because I don't feel like authors should be punished for a shitty editor and this book came out before the fiasco. I won't change my grade, but I will let people know the situation to make their own decision. Overall: 3.5 StarsI was really surprised with this anthology. I expected a bunch of Twilight knock-off vampire stories, but most were good stories about different kinds of love - romantic, friendship, familial - involving various paranormal entites - ghosts, zombies, angels, mythological creatures, etc. and yes, even a vampire and a werewolf (in different stories). I was actually impressed by the different paranormal creatures offered. Most stories revolved around the themes of loss and self-discovery. Also, many are connected to previous series by the authors; however, most work without previous knowlege. Anthologies usually break down one or two great stories, one or two terrible, and the rest so-so. However, half the stories were great in Kiss Me Deadly. Its impressive considering I had little-to-no prior knowledge of most these authors and their series before reading this anthology. I've added a lot to my TBR pile! Overall, an above average anthology that is worth the purchase for those who enjoy smart and emotional paranormal YA.Favorite: Behind the Red Door by Caitlin KittredgeWorst: Vermillion by Daniel MarksStandouts : Errant by Diana Peterfreund, The Spy Who Never Grew Up by Sarah Rees Brennan, Dungeons of Langeais by Becca Fitzpatrick, Hare Moon by Carrie Ryan, The Hounds of Ulster by Maggie Stiefvater, and Many Happy Returns by Daniel WatersDuds: The Assassin's Apprentice by Michelle ZinkThe Assassin's Apprentice by Michelle Zink1.5 out of 5 StarsSometime in the past (19th century?), Rose is looking for vengence on her family and meets and falls in love with Asher, a demon assassin. There was no sense of place and the world building was shakey. I thought the story took place in contemporary times until halfway through. I don't even know if it takes place in New York, London, or some made-up city. Also who the Descendents are, who the assassins are and why the protect the Descendents, and what demons are and why they attack the Descendents are either answered halfway through or not at all. There is some 'Woe! Nobody's life is as terrible as mine!' angst (really? I think 19th century working conditions were pretty damn awful, compared to growing up with your family in a nice big house with servants), Rose was a bit too-stupid-to-live, and the protagonists fell in love too quickly for my tastes (within a matter of a couple days!). The story didn't set the stage or create a compelling world and the characters were stock and flat. Lots of cliches, adds nothing new to the paranormal genre, and was just overall, a really boring story.Errant by Diana Peterfruend5 StarsA unicorn hunter-nun and a orphaned lady form an unlikely bond amongst intrigue. This story suprised me. Within 30 pages, Peterfruend introduces and unique and fully developed world (killer unicorns, I like) and two very different, but very strong female protagonists. Peterfruend blends unicorn mythology and horror, making sure you'll never look at a unicorn the same again. Overall, a great story about friendship, empowerment, and killer unicorns. It's one of the best written anthology stories I've read.The Spirit Jar by Karen Mahoney2.5 StarsA vampire theif meets her match with a half-djinn theif while trying to steal a magical book and go up against an afrit. This story was alright. Moth/Marie was the stock smart-ass, impulsive, slightly too-stupid-to-live heroine of mostly every urban fantasy novel ever. The story is around 40 pages, one of the longer ones in the book, but afterwards I wasn't sure what was accomplished. I wasn't sure if Moth/Marie is in love or being held captive by Theo. We never are told their backstory, despite Theo being mentioned frequently. I wasn't sure what Moth/Marie's goal was in this story. To be free of Theo? To reconcile her vamprisim/humanity? I did like the Arabic mythology used (except it's never really explained, despite the heroine not knowing much about it) and the gender reversal of the the older female vampire and the younger human male. However, I didn't really find myself caring about either of the characters and the ending didn't leave me satisfied. It's enjoyable, but neither anything spectacular or terrible.Lost by Justine Musk3 StarsA girl visits an abondoned house to meet a stranger who will teach her about her magical destiny. After a really strange start (the protagonist, Sasha, follows a strange man into a house and lets him blindfold her because her dog trusted him...ooooookay), it was a sweet story. I really liked Sasha and felt she was relatable. Musk's beautiful prose evokes the sense of lonliness and isolation one can feel as an adolesent. However, the love story was rushed and Sasha makes an impuslive Bella-esque decision by the end (although Sasha seemed to be more in control of her decisions than Bella). Despite the lack of chemistry between the love interest and Sasha, the story was romantic. Does that even make sense? Actually, this is the only story in the anthology so far that actually fits the anthology title.The Spy Who Never Grew Up by Sarah Rees Brennan4 StarsAn interesting take on Peter Pan in the modern world. I really liked seeing how Neverland had changed and grown darker as children's dreams became darker. The characters are interesting and different, especially Ninja Star, Peter's genderqueer fairy cohort. There are many parts to this story that don't quite fit together and I think the story could have worked perfectly fine without the spy plot. Overall, it's a fun, funny, and thoughtful tale.Dungeons of Langeais by Becca Fitzpatrick4.5 StarsA half-mad duke tries to stop an angel possesing his body every year. I was suprised how good this story was because I was under the impression Hush, Hush was Twilight with angels instead of vampires. However, Fitzpatrick tells a great horror story that has echoes of Gothic novels. The story works as a stand-alone (and in my opinion, the best as a stand alone because the connection to her series ruins the Gothic flavor). Chauncey, the protagonist, has been driven to the extreme limits that he's willing to do anything to get out of his bargin. He's in no means a nice guy (he's actually pretty reprehensible), but you want him to succeed and find redemption. The only problem I had with the story was I didn't understand why the angel had to posess Chauncey if he could take a corporal form. Nor why the angels wanted Chauncey in the first place. Just because they are evil? Otherwise, grading this as a stand-alone, Fitzpatrick delivers a great Gothic horror tale that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the final word.Behind the Red Door by Caitlin Kitteredge5 StarsA girl visits an old abandoned house and is drawn to the ghost she finds there. Wow! What an absolutely chilling and suspenseful tale. I had goosebumps through the first few chapters. Kitteredge really knows how to set a scene. She also knows how to draw full-demensional characters out of a few sentences. I wouldn't say the basic plot is anything groundbreaking or new, but it is told so beautifully and keeps you enthralled, wondering what will happen. She could get a little metaphor-happy (once changing between two in one paraghraph), but otherwise, her style is sublime and haunting. This was the perfect ghost story I needed for Halloween.Hare Moon by Carrie Ryan4 StarsIn a zombie-infested world, Tabitha tries to find freedom and life outside of ther cult-like villiage. This is a hard one for me to rate because the story was good - really good - even though it has the insta-love trope I hate. The world-builing was fantastic (though a bit reminicsent of M. Night Shyamalayn's The Village but not as disapointing). I loved how the protagonist went from dreamy, naive, and reliant to having to make choices that were terrible and frightening, but for the greater good (in her mind). The ending is absolutely chilling and heartbreaking. On the other hand, the prose was just so overwrought and purple that it made me laugh out loud. When it wasn't hitting you over the head with the meaning of every little metaphor or motif, it had to describe how Tabitha FEELS! SO! EXCRUCIATINGLY! AND! POWERFULLY! I understand she has been repressed, but the extremity of her feelings and her luuuuuuuuve took away from the power of the story. If everything is overwhelming, things that are actually overwhelming aren't that big of a deal. Also, the story is told in present tense, which is a stylistic thing I personally don't like. In the end, the plot and world-building are strong enough to out-weigh over-the-top writing, but it's upsetting such a great premise had to be wasted on purple-prose.Familiar by Michelle Rowen2.5 StarsA witch-in-training chooses her familiar, only to discover her choice is a shifter boy. A cute feel-good, if predictable story. Nothing memorable.Fearless by Rachel Vincent3.5 StarsA girl who can feed on nightmares is placed in a halfway house where no one feels fear. Sabine was an interesting character. She hasn't had a happy life and she walks the line of morality. She would make a great anti-heroine (sadly I get the impression she is the "evil ex-girlfriend" in the author's series). The set-up and discriptions of the halfway house and its occupants were great and realistic and the mystery is engrosing. However, the author focuses on Sabine's boyfriend, Nash, and their relationship far too long, so the ending is rushed, illogical, and disapointing. This story could have benefited from removing Nash (or have him play a much lesser role) and/or from a novella length.Vermillion by Daniel Marks0.5 StarsA ghostly couple in Purgatory is sent to find out what happened to a coworker in the real world. So things I liked about this story: Um...uh...it's an interesting premise. And that's it. I really thought I was going to get through this anthology without an 'Evil Blonde Cheerleader McSlutface' character (or EBCM) rearing her ugly head, but I guess it was a lead up to one of the most egregious EBCM I've ever seen. The EBCM is Asian (or of Asian-decent), and considering how sexualized Asian women are by Western society and the media, it perpetuated a harmful stereotype and left a bad taste in my mouth. And the fact this story is written by a man, just makes it even more disgusting. The main character, Velvet (yes that is her name, and I rolled my eyes so hard), constantly calls Amie (the EBCM) a slut, but still pauses to notice and describe her long legs and sexy hair (like straight-identifying girls do). The narrative shames Amie for her sexuality, while at the same time relishing it. The story is framed within the male gaze, despite being told from the perspective of a seventeen-to-twenty-year-old girl. It’s gross.Velvet is a cute manic pixie dream girl (she wears combat boots! She likes sweet and sour pork! – but not Asian HOARS apparently), but she’s completely unlikable and judges people quickly. Add to that confusing and conflicting world-building with too many superfluous details, stupid characters I didn’t like nor care about, an offensive racially segregated afterlife (that seems strangely American-based, despite, you know, the rest of the world), and serious misuse of the thesaurus, this story is lucky to be getting even half a star.The Hounds of Ulster by Maggie Stiefvater4 StarsAn Irish fiddler gets caught up with the supernatural, leaving his best friend and fellow musician behind. An interesting story with a couple really good twists. I liked the clever use of Irish mythology. The way everthing came full circle and the refrain 'I miss him, still' was very poetic and imitated music. However, the 'looking-back-from-the-future-and-foreshadowing-like-crazy' and 'let-me-tell-you-this' style of narration I can't stand was used a bit too often. More time could have been spent on the main plot and not so much unneccessary foreshadowing and details (like the friend's dad). Also, the private phone line the protagonist uses dated the story (everyone has cell phones now). Still, a clever and sad story about lost friendship.Many Happy Returns by Daniel Waters4.5 StarsIn a world where teenagers rise from the dead, a car accident claims the lives of 5 teenagers and father waits to see if his daughter will be one of those who rise. This story was a really moving portrait of grief and how it affects individuals, families, and comminities. I did feel the fundamentalist father was a bit over the top, but all the other characters were very well drawn. A very moving story that will wrench your heart.
Book of a Thousand Days - Shannon Hale 4.5 out of 5 StarsThis is a book I’ve heard garner a lot of praise and I love female coming-of-age and female friendship stories. Add a unique premise and a fantasy setting based on Mongolia after the Khans, and I was sold (the fact it was on sale helped too!) This book was everything I hoped it would be and a little more.Based on the Grimm fairytale “Maid Maleen,” Book of a Thousand Days is about Dashti, a resourceful “mucker” who has the bad luck of becoming maid to the Lady Saren. Saren has refused to wed the man her father wanted and, as punishment, the two are walled up in a tower for seven years. As the years go by, Dashti realizes something is wrong, and is determined to leave the tower. But the adventure the girls find beyond the tower walls will test the girls’ courage and friendship.For starters, I LOVED Dashti. She’s the typical middle-grade heroine – resourceful, smart, and resilient - but she’s also a survivor and deeply superstitious. She has a skin condition that marks her as unlucky. However, Dashti doesn’t let her looks deter her from to living a good life nor let setbacks get in her way. Hale uses her background as a peasant healer to explain who she is and why she is that way.I also like how Saren is portrayed. She could have easily been a whiney, bratty spoiled princess, used as a foil to make Dashti look better. But Saren is much more than that. She’s beautiful, not as clever or self-sufficient as Dashti, and can be selfish and self-centered. Even though she was pampered from a young age, Saren didn’t have a happy childhood and suffers from PTSD and depression. Even though she could be unbearable at points, Saren really cares about Dashti, and as she heals shows her own courage and strengths.The setting is wonderful. Hale doesn’t just use Mongolia as a backdrop; she weaves the setting and mythology into her story. I loved learning all the small details about Mongolian life.The other characters are a little flat and the villains are of the mustache-twirling, truly evil variety. No grey area here. It is a middle grade book, but for a book that shows such depth of character for Dashti and Saren, the villains were a bit comical in their SUPER EVILNESS.The book had me glued to the page, especially during the second part. The book does lose a little steam after the climatic showdown. I understand there had to be a tidying up of loose ends and Saren really shines, but the book just lost its momentum. It just started reiterating how Dashti had never really done anything for herself and how self-sacrificing she is. The girl-positive message that was weaved throughout the rest of the book was somewhat ruined. It isn’t out of character, but so many books for young girls have completely selfless female protagonists rewarded for their selflessness. I don’t want the characters to be selfish, but someone who has a goal and goes after what she wants would be a nice change. In real life, selflessness is hardly ever rewarded.On another note (and this in no way affects how I feel about the book itself), the e-book edition of this was TERRIBLE. There were at least 25 errors. Not grammar or spelling errors, but things like ‘v’ instead of ‘w’ or ‘n’ instead of ‘m.’ In at least four instances, ‘I’ll’ was replaced with ‘111.’ It seems like the book was scanned and nobody bothered to proof-read. It was a very sub-par product and I’ll definitely think twice before buying another e-book from Bloomsbury again. If you want to read this book, hunt down a paper copy.Overall, the book was wonderful with two very different, yet very strong heroines, a great setting, and a wonderful story. Something I would recommend for anyone, especially young girls.
Team Human - Sarah Rees Brennan, Justine Larbalestier 4.5 out of 5 StarsMel Duan is a high-school student in the town of New Whitby, the vampire capital of the US. However, vampires usually stay out of Mel’s and her friends’ lives. Except when one decides to attend her high school, and Mel’s best friend Cathy is drawn to him. Mel will do anything to make sure Cathy stays away from him, while trying to help her other friend, Anna, figure out what happened to her dad.When I started this book, I expected a funny yet loving poke at Twilight and the vampire novels of today, and while the book delivers, it’s much smarter than a simple satire. Mel is a deeply flawed and unreliable narrator, but still manages to be likable and sympathetic, even at her worst. Mel cares deeply about her friends and has a drive for justice and truth. However, Mel is bigoted against vampires and can be extremely prejudiced. The book uses Mel to illuminate the fact one can be a bigot without even realizing it. Not all racists/homophobes/etc. are silly Hilly Holbrook caricatures (The one – okay one of many – aspects of The Help I thought failed miserably) and Mel shows how that mentality can be ingrained within otherwise honorable and well-intentioned people (of course I’m not saying that these people are good people, but most bigots are not mustache twirling villains). Mel can be downright unbearable, but she learns through the course of the novel that vampires are people too.In many ways, Team Human succeeds on an even greater level than Twilight, showing the positives as well as the consequences of becoming a vampire. Cathy, the Bella surrogate, is Romantic (with a capital ‘R’) and distracted, but she also stands up for herself and makes her own decisions. She is someone you can cheer for (and she actually has a personality).The side characters are amazing and well-developed. Everyone comes from a different background with different feelings about vampires, humans, and what their relationship should be. The world created in Team Human is simple, but compelling. I liked how Larbalestier and Brennan incorporated zombie lore with vampire lore in a new way that made sense and served the story.I loved that Mel is a POC heroine (in fact that is what drew me to the book), but I felt if any book should have a white heroine, this would be the book. Minorities can be bigoted as well, but such lessons would probably serve a white protagonist more. This in no way hindered my enjoyment of the book, but food for thought.Sometimes the book could be a bit pedantic (Everyone has happy families! Everyone is great at school!) and the book does not have the most even pacing (plot lines/characters are dropped and then picked up again).Team Human manages to walk the fine line of being for those who enjoy vampires, those who don’t, and everyone in between. It makes fun of Twilight and the teen-vampire genre while not insulting or alienating fans (in fact it may do the genre better than most). It’s funny, heartfelt, and surprising. It made me cry twice (and very few things make me cry, except Pixar movies). I’ve found two great new authors to keep an eye on. Team Human brings vampires back to their roots - not scary, sexual, or sparkly - but a comment on society that makes you think.