Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 2013 Wrap-Up

Here's a summary of my book-related activity for June.

Books I read (linked to the reviews)

Brianna the Ballet Fairy by Julia Dweck (free ebook)
Lichgates (The Grimoire Saga #1) by S.M. Boyce (Netgalley)
The Emerald Tablet (Legends of Amun Ra #1) by Joshua Silverman (review copy) (DNF)
Riding on a Beam of Light by Ramsey Dean (review copy)
The Dark Victorian: Bones (The Dark Victorian #2) by Elizabeth Watasin (review copy) (in progress)
The War in the Air by H.G. Wells (TBR pile) (DNF)

Books I bought

Summer of My Amazing Luck
by Miriam Toews
Drop Dead Healthy
by A.J. Jacobs

Among the Ghosts
by Amber Benson
Does my Head Look Big in This?
by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Books passed along to me

Silas Marner by
George Eliot

Books I've been approved for on NetGalley

The Faceless One
by Mark Onspaugh
The Inconvenient Indian
by Thomas King
The Returned
by Jason Mott

Apocalyptic Organ Grinder
by William Todd Rose
Blackwater Lights by
Michael M. Hughes

Other ebooks I received for review

Hello Hot Lunch, Hello Cool Lunch
by Lisa Leconte

Progress on challenges

The War in the Air was my June Random Read.

I completed the following letters for the A-Z Book Challenge: none

I read 1 books for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

I read 0 books for the Anne Rice Challenge. You can still sign up!

I read 0 books for the Debut Author Challenge.

I completed the following squares for the Book Bingo Challenge: read 5 books that are part of a series

I read 0 books for the Nerdy Non-Fiction Challenge.

I read 0 books for the Dystopia Challenge.

I read 3 books written by women.

I read 0 books for the Seriously Series Challenge.

Progress on my TBR pile: I added 11 books to my to read list and removed 5, so my pile increased by 6 this month! Boo! I'm just not spending nearly enough time reading these days.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Riding on a Beam of Light by Ramsey Dean

Title: Riding on a Beam of Light
Author: Ramsey Dean
Illustrator: Noah Hamdan
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Length: 26 pages

This review is part of a blog tour running from June 15 to July 5. To read more blog posts in this tour, check out the tour page.

Albert (a young Albert Einstein) likes to dream, both while awake and while asleep. One night, his mother turns his light out, and he suddenly realises that light travels. This sparks his imagination, and soon he's thinking about the places he could travel riding on a beam of light.

Albert displays the curiosity that's so wonderful in children. He notices something, and instantly wants to know "why". So, since his mom doesn't have answers for him, his imagination fills in the gaps, and the result is a great adventure. I really like how the story is based on the actual childhood imaginings of Einstein that led him to develop his theory of relativity.

I don't quite get how he figured out that light travels, though; it seemed like he could see the light moving away into the night when his lamp was turned off, which is of course impossible. Also, the rhyming felt a bit forced at times, as is too often the case in children's books.

The illustrations in this book are fun and full of life. The wide-eyed Albert really shows his childlike curiosity.

3 stars.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Animorphs #13 - The Change by K.A. Applegate

Title: The Change (Animorphs #13)
Author: K.A. Applegate
Publication Date: December 1997
Length: 162 pages

Warning: This is a review of a later book in the series, and may therefore contain spoilers from earlier books.

Tobias and Rachel are flying around, mysteriously ending up over the forest no matter where they try to go, when they see two Hork-Bajir being chased by a lot of Controllers. The Hork-Bajir turn out to be free (no Yeerks in their heads), and the Animorphs learn a lot about what the Hork-Bajir are actually like. Along the way, Tobias is given an intriguing offer by an Ellimist, that could let him be human again.

I love reading about the Hork-Bajir. They're such an interesting species, and I appreciate the fact that K.A. Applegate came up with an explanation for why a peaceful species would look like walking razor blades, as the Animorphs call them.

But of course Tobias is the real focus of this story. Throughout the book, he has several conversations with the Ellimist, and considers the possibility that he could be human again. He does some reflecting on his life as a human, and his life as a hawk, both of which have had their ups and downs. I won't spoil the ending for you, but I loved how it was resolved.

5 stars. I am loving this series!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Witches by Roald Dahl

Title: The Witches
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Quentin Blake
Publication Date: 1983
Length: 208 pages

Warning: This book and review may be offensive to actual real life witches, since it portrays them as bald, toeless child killers.

The boy who's telling the story goes to live with his grandma when his parents die, and she teaches him all about witches. Witches hate children, and their lives are focused on killing as many children as possible. His grandma tries to keep him safe by teaching him how to identify witches (by their baldness, lack of toes, etc.), but one day he comes across the Grand High Witch herself, and it'll take some pretty clever tricks, and some luck, to escape her.

This one's a bit more disturbing than some of Roald Dahl's other popular kids' books like Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it's still an enjoyable story. I love how creative the details are about how to identify a witch, like that they have blue spit, and slightly larger nostrils than normal.

Regular readers of this blog will have heard me gush about Quentin Blake's illustrations before. They're so delightful (just look at that cover!), and really bring the story to life.

4 stars.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Title: The Host
Author: Stephenie Meyer
Publication Date: May 6, 2008
Length: 619 pages

Wanderer is a Soul, one of a race of aliens that live by taking over the bodies of other species. When Wanderer comes to Earth, she is put in the body of Melanie Stryder, but Melanie doesn't give up her body so easily. Instead of fading away, Melanie remains as a voice in Wanderer's head. By listening to Melanie, and feeling her feelings, Wanderer becomes attached to the memories of Melanie's brother, Jamie, and boyfriend, Jared. Together, they flee the Seekers and go in search of surviving free humans.

This book was so different from what I was expecting. I had no idea it would be from the perspective of the alien, which I found to really give the story a good angle. Wanderer isn't some cruel, conquering alien; she honestly didn't realise that humans would resent being taken over, no matter how much their world has been improved as a result.

I also liked Melanie, and how she grew to understand and even love Wanderer over time. But really I was all about Wanderer (and as a result, I was totally into Ian, and totally NOT into Jared). I liked Jamie a lot, too. I often had trouble picturing how old he was. He's really just a kid, but has been forced to grow up way too fast. I found him quite lovable.

One warning: This book is not for the faint of heart about women being punched in the face. Because oh my goodness, does Wanderer ever get punched in the face a lot. I mean, I get that she's seen as the enemy in a planetary war, but it still seems pretty messed up how many guys had no problem punching this quiet, gentle girl who was so obviously not a threat to them.

Overall I just really liked this book. The story, the characters, the ending, pretty much everything.

4 stars.

Movie review coming soon!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Water Harvest by Eric Diehl

Title: Water Harvest
Author: Eric Diehl
Publication Date: 2011
Length: about 420 pages (ebook)

House Alar, the most powerful of the Houses, is attacked by one of the lunar colonies that is trying to take control of the coveted moisture in the atmosphere, with the help of the Viizar, who use hallucinogens to bend the laws of nature. The balance of power is thrown off, and Cairn, heir to Alar, must work together with members of other houses, as well as strange cave-dwelling people, to take back Alar and the planet.

At the start of this book, so many characters are introduced that by the time they were mentioned again I'd usually forgotten who they were. That was pretty frustrating. But eventually, at least the main characters became clear to me, and for the most part I liked them.

The war that is basically the plot was interesting. The main problem I had was that I didn't understand the background. There's one chapter that takes place far in the past, but at that time they already had the problem with not enough moisture in the atmosphere, and lunar colonies trying to steal the moisture. But it seemed like the origin of this problem was never actually explained. Nor were the bacteria that live in the air; I'm not really clear what they do. So I could have used more background to these big problems. But aside from that, the story was enjoyable and engaging.

Also, I hate to say it, but this book was just too long. I'm not opposed to reading a chunkster now and then, but this one took me a full month to read.

3 stars.

Full disclosure: Free ebook copy received from the author.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Angel on the Ropes by Jill Shultz

Title: Angel on the Ropes
Author: Jill Shultz
Publication Date: June 1, 2013
Length: about 307 pages (ebook)

Amandine Sand is a leopard, a person born with spots, discriminated against because of the misguided belief that leopards carry a plague. She is also a trapeze artist. Amandine lives a double life, in the spotlight of the circus, with her spots carefully covered by makeup, and working for the Seekers, helping other leopards get to safe houses. When she meets a man who takes her breath away, if she isn't careful, both her worlds could be in danger.

This book made me wish I knew more about the trapeze. The descriptions of Amandine's and Jango's performances were beautiful, and I felt like they'd be even more beautiful if I knew enough about the trapeze to be able to accurately picture the act in my head.

The Plaguellants are very frightening villains. Religious zealots that hunt down and kill leopards towards the goal of purifying the world, they really show how the scariest bad guys are the ones who really believe they're the good guys. This makes the eventual humanising of one of the Plaguellants all the more powerful and strange.

I love the casual depiction of LGBT characters in this book. Several of the main characters are shown to be bi- or pan-sexual, and it's just part of the characters; that's never what the story is about. It's quite refreshing. There are even polyamorous characters, with a small plot line about the difficulties in a relationship between a poly and a mono.

Angel on the Ropes is beautifully written, with a thrilling depiction of circus life, a spicy romance, and a frightening class struggle fueled by ignorance and intolerance. Oh, and made up swear words that actually seem natural, not like they're trying to hard to sound like fantasy/sci fi, which made up words in these genres too often do. Amandine's use of the phrase "moulti tiva", in particular, always seemed so fitting. I appreciate an author who can make up good swear words and other expressions.

4 stars.

Full disclosure: Free ebook copy received from the publisher through Netgalley.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

Title: The Testing
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
Publication Date: June 4, 2013 (today!)
Length: 336 pages

Being chosen for The Testing is the highest honour for new graduates. The Testing will decide who will go on to the University, to become the next generation of leaders, who will work to restore the earth and society in the aftermath of devastating world wars. Cia has looked forward to this opportunity her whole life, but the night before she is to leave for the Testing, her father tells her about the nightmares he's had since they wiped the memories of the Testing from his mind. Suddenly, Cia's mind is filled with questions. What happens to the candidates who don't pass the Testing? Why are memories of the Testing wiped at the end? Who can be trusted?

Normally when I hear that a book is recommended for fans of *insert popular series here*, I end up disappointed. Not the case here! This book is recommended for fans of the Hunger Games, and as a Hunger Games fan, I heartily agree. While I've seen some reviews saying that this story is too similar to that of the Hunger Games, I found that, while the setting was similar, the idea was really original.

The idea of choosing a country's future leaders by putting them through intense physical, mental, and emotional testing is really fascinating. This is definitely a dystopia, with a government that callously watches as people die. Yet you can still see how the Testing could have been a good idea (if it wasn't done in such a horrifying way), giving the whole thing a certain realistic feel.

The writing is excellent as well. I was sucked right in, and flew through this book. I can't wait for the rest of the series, and I've already downloaded the free prequel ebook.

5 stars.

Full disclosure: I received a free ebook copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The ABACUS Protocol: Sanity Vacuum by T. Gregory

Title: The ABACUS Protocol: Sanity Vacuum
Author: Thea Isis Gregory
Publication Date: December 6, 2012
Length: about 226 pages (ebook)

Vivian Skye, right out of university, lands her dream job on the Extra-Galactic Observatory, a distant and isolated space station where she hopes to make a name for herself working on their advance quantum computer, quIRK. But it's not all she was hoping for, with a crew that maintains a distance from her, and a horrible, bigot of a boss that clearly has a grudge against Vivian. And soon, Vivian starts to realise that quIRK may be showing signs of sentience, which is strictly forbidden by the ABACUS Protocol.

I don't read a lot of sci fi (which is strange considering that's most of what I watch), and this book made me really wonder why. Even aside from the human interactions in this book, which were interesting, the story of a quantum computer developing a personality, and finally sentience, is a fascinating one. quIRK was a great character.

The story also explores other themes, like the effects of extreme isolation on people, which I find to be a really interesting subject. Different types of people are affected in different ways, and some of them are quite disturbing.

5 stars. Recommended for any and all sci fi lovers.

Full disclosure: Free ebook copy received from the publisher through NetGalley.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June Random Reads selection

It's time to select my Random Read for June! I haven't done a Random Read in a few months, but now that I'm back in the swing of things it's time to pick it up again. I'm glad because I've missed this feature! :)

So it's off to the random number generator. I have 771 books on my TBR shelf at the moment, so I enter 1 as the min and 771 as the max, and hit Generate.

Drum roll, please!

For June’s Random Read I'll be reading The War in the Air by H.G. Wells. It's been on my TBR shelf since May 27, 2012. So it hasn't been collecting dust for too long, but I'm embarassed by how many books were added to my TBR shelf in 2012, so it's probably for the best to read a book from that year. :)