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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Every Other Day


★★★★½*

Every Other Day by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Chalk another one up on the list of Books that Hooked Me by the First Page. Actually, this one hooked me by the first line. Let me show you why: 


"The decision to make hellhounds an endangered species was beyond asinine . . . " 

I'll stop there for a moment. (Don't worry, you'll get more in a minute.) In those few words, I knew this book was going to be awesome. A world just like ours, but where all of the creatures from your nightmares are real. Then humans, being the odd creatures we are, decided that every species should be preserved—including those that will rip you to shreds and munch on your spleen while you try to "protect" it. Case in point: 


(still within the first paragraph) "[These were the same people] that thought you could train a horde of zombies just as easily as Pavlov's dogs. 
"'When I ring the bell, you will cease tearing the flesh from my bones.' 
"Yeah, right." 

So whose fault is it that humankind are the supposed protectors but really just prey to the paranormal world? Darwin. Yup, that Darwin. Charles and his Beagle stumbled upon not only evolution, but paranormal life as well. The implications of a world like this, where a single moment altered history to the point where the modern era is almost the same, yet completely different, is fascinating. Even more so when the author does a good job of fleshing out the world and the compounding impacts such a change would have upon it, which Barnes does fairly well. 



I won't tell you about the plot (which you can find by reading the flap copy) or the creatures (which would get a bit spoilery) that, by itself, isn't what drew me in. Really, it was the way in which Barnes takes traditional notions of werewolves and zombies and vampires (yes, even sparklepires), et al., and twists them in such a way that their paranormal existence kinda makes sense, especially within the variables of this alternate world. Maybe that's why I enjoyed Every Other Day so much: the mythos is almost logical, which is rare for paranormal stories. 

Even more important, she takes that one tiny little moment in history and explores the resonance over time and how people and governments change and cope with this new world. 



This probably seems like a rather odd review to not even mention the plot or characters, but honestly, you'll find that in just about every other review. Instead, I've discussed the parts of this book that made me read it so quickly, and also want to dive immediately into the next book. 


*A note on the rating: While I loved the world-building, some parts of the story fell a little flat for me. So though I really enjoyed the book overall, it didn't quite feel like a 5-star. Here's to hoping that improves in the next book of the series. 

**Also, a note on the cover: Gorgeous doesn't do it justice. While the main image might not give a clue as to what the story's about, who cares? It's pretty to stare at.

If you like that cover, take a peek at The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, another title from the same publisher (Egmont). Wouldn't they look so pretty sitting together on a shelf? Sadly, you'll have to wait for Valentine's Day before you can reunite the pair as The Butterfly Clues releases that day.

 


Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of the book.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Touch of Power


★★★★★

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

There is a certain type of book that I seek every time I'm at the library or bookstore, a kind of story with a quality I can't quite describe but will pulls me in so completely that I get lost in their worlds. There's something in them that calms me when my life is full of stress and I just can't deal with any more of it. 

It's somewhat tricky to explain what kind of book fits my criteria; instead I'll offer a list of titles that encompass it:


Now there are many more books with this same feel, but discovering stellar examples can be tough. So many times an upcoming book will sound like it has the same qualities but ends up lacking the essential elements that so appeal to me. (Don't ask me what they are, as I have yet to figure out exactly what draws me to them.)

One very long intro later, we get to the heart of the review: Touch of Power launched itself smack dab onto this list and is one of the best books of this type that I've read in quite a while. It probably isn't too surprising, considering her Poison Study made the list several years ago. In all honesty, I like this one so much more than Poison Study, which is saying a lot.

The basic premise is this: A horrific plague decimates the populace of Avry's world, leaving survivors beleaguered and wary of another outbreak. Avry is a Healer, and while normally this would be a good thing, people blame the Healers for causing the plague and take to executing every Healer they find.

With practically nowhere to hide, Avry is constantly on the move. Without getting into too much detail, she ends up the captive of a band of rogues who drag her across the world to have her heal someone. Adventures, danger and romance ensue. 

It isn't the plot that's so incredible about this book; it's the world-building. My favorite has to be the giant lilies that can swallow a man whole. While there are two varieties, there is no way to tell them apart: the Peace Lily is a beautiful sight while the Death Lily is a danger to every creature that wanders by. I found it fascinating to see how the Lilies and other unique elements developed and added to the story.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book, even though I read it through the night and finished bleary-eyed at 5 am. That's probably another indicator of how much I liked Touch of Power.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an advance copy of the book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Composer Is Dead



★★★★★★★*

The Composer Is Dead by Lemony Snicket

The moment I saw Lemony Snicket's name on the cover of The Composer Is Dead at the library the other day, I knew I had to read it. I knew it would be funny; what I wasn't expecting was this musical masterpiece.

The story is somewhat basic: a composer has been murdered, and the detective must sound out the man, er, instrument who committed the crime. The text, however, isn't what makes this book so amazing.

This isn't just a picture book, nor is it just an audio book or just a soundtrack; it is an experience. The book is funny enough on its own, but play the accompanying cd with soundtrack, and it's even greater. The experience, however, doesn't reach fever pitch until you add in Snicket's exceptional narration (also included on the cd).

Daniel Handler, the man behind the Snicket, must have played in an orchestra at some point in his life. It's the only way to explain how all of the humor in The Composer Is Dead is spot on.

While marketed as a children's picture book, young children won't get most of the jokes. Instead, the musically inclined adult reading (or listening) to the book will be laughing to the point of hyperventilating. 

Don't believe me? See the book trailer, below, which demonstrates a bit of what I'm talking about.






I played this book for my stepmom, a concert cellist cum cello instructor. She laughed and nodded at all the jokes and one-liners, and then immediately went out to purchase a copy to share with her students.

I highly recommend this book as a gift for the music major/orchestra teacher/flautist in your life. If they've played in an orchestra, even just in high school, they will be rolling by the time the experience ends. Then buy a copy for yourself.

*Because this book deserves much more than 5 stars.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

We at Libri Ago: Book Lives hope all is well and good with each of you, and as we enjoy our own feasts and familial communion we'll be wishing the same love and gratitude in yours.


Happy Thanksgiving!

From Amethyst and Michelle

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

MUSH!: Sled Dogs with Issues



Glenn Eichler and Joe Infurnari either have a whole lot of time on their hands, or really, really well-developed senses of anthropomorphic intuition because MUSH!: Sled Dogs with Issues is a graphic novel that--if you could read it with your eyes closed--comes off kind of like The Office: ALASKA!, with a little of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH thrown in.

Reading the description on IndieBound, it's clear why this might be a no-brainer. Eichler is a writer for the Colbert Report, while illustrator Infurnari does more than draw dogs; as a dog-channeler he also draws forth dogs' thoughts. (I confess I'm not sure what this means, but I don't think it involves Scooby Snacks and animal print turbans).

While MUSH! didn't strike right every chord, it hit enough of them properly for my half hour in the heads of snow-bound running dogs to be mostly pleasant. Eichler packs each narrative (Guy's resentment, Dolly's insecurities, Venus's bitterness, and Fiddler's ennui, plus a couple others) a little two tightly into the snow, but aside from a bit of over-analysis each problem entertains and creates realistic and sympathetic personalities. Infurnari's sketches (as may be seen from the cover) achieve the same sort of character with an amount of sparseness other, more detailed illustrations do not, and while again, not my preference in style, get the job done!

I'm not sure what the humans were doing in the story, as the only thing I can assume their flat plot line is meant to accomplish is providing a mini-breather--a kind of palate cleanser--between each transition from one doggie drama to the next. Or perhaps the creators wanted them as a foil against which to compare and contrasts the beasts humanity to that of actual humans. I could have done without it, or with some alternative mechanism.

At any rate, I doubt readers will be able to simply Borrow an indie title like MUSH! from smaller libraries, and at around thirteen bucks for 128 pages it's difficult to think all but graphic novel afficianados will consider the purchase price a "deal". Still, if you're lucky enough to live within a reasonable distance of a library or friend in possession of MUSH!, and you're a fan, by all means, get your paws on it for the time allotted.

MUSH!: Sled Dogs with Issues is available for purchase as of December 6th, 2011, and is currently available in pre-order at multiple book retailers, including IndieBound.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Professor's Daughter


★★★★★

The Professor's Daughter by Joann Sfar & Emmanuel Guibert

Before the paranormal romance craze, the concept of this book would have seemed utterly bizarre: in Victorian England, the daughter of an Egyptologist and one of the mummies he brought back from Egypt fall in love. (Plus accidental murder, kidnappings, and Queen Victoria being tossed in the Thames River.)

Now, there are other zombie love stories floating around, but when The Professor's Daughter was originally published in France in 1997, it was a completely novel idea. The reason it works? The simply gorgeous illustrations by Guibert convey so much emotion, especially the beginning, when the pages were illustrated in Sepia tones.

The colors actually shift as the book progresses. The changes have meaning within the story, so I won't describe it here, but Elizabeth Bird shared an excellent review (much better than mine, actually) that explains why.

My favorite of the illustrations is on page 11. For some reason, the composition and colors strike me as being near perfect, even if there is a mummy wearing a suit in it. I would honestly hang a print of it on my wall, I find it so fascinating. It might require some explanation for visitors, though.

The storyline itself is rather bizarre, but combined with the illustrations—and a good dose of suspended disbelief—it transcends the stereotypical comic or graphic novel to become a piece of literature. I heartily recommend buying The Professor's Daughter, even if only to gaze at the lovely images.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dearly, Departed



NetGalley has the author of Dearly, Departed as LISA Habel, but I'll go out on a limb and bet the novel's lovely and dark cover has the right of it with LIA. You with me?

Mulitple author identities aside, I greatly enjoyed my first encounter with a Habel work. Released just this month, Dearly, Departed (yes, comma intentional)  encompasses the stories of a group of people, chaptered through their individual viewpoints, which range from disenfranchised post-apocalyptic "New Victorian" misses who miss natural propriety by a wide margin, all the way to military-approved and maintained undead with more heart (even if its entirely static) than the average high-class NV resident, with several types of character between.

So what happens if the world goes to hell in a natural-disaster-fiber-woven basket? It seems people regroup in more southerly climes, and a couple centuries later nothing really changes . . . well, except for The Lazarus  (or Laz) virus. The world still experiences class disparity, disagreements in political strategy,  and disputes regarding the place of technology. The world is the world.

At least, until Miss Nora Dearly--daughter of famed medical scientist Victor Dearly, deceased for the past year--becomes the Winner's prize between two contestants: First, the folks who know about the Lazarus virus, which reanimates a dead body to varying degrees of sanity and retained humanity, and want the government and someday the world to differentiate between the slobbering masses of undead only concerned seeing to their cannibalistic drives and the undead perfectly capable of controlling themselves, possessed of their "living days" personalities and restraints.

Secondly, the folks who know of the Laz, and want every single body infected with it torched in the nearest available fashion, regardless of mental or moral state.

Nora is important to both factions. Nora is a key piece of flesh in the fight.

In a time when the Laz rages from person to person via bodily fluids, threatening all humanity, Nora Dearly, brave, feisty, hot-tempered, and open-minded, and much-loved--eventually by the dead and alive alike . . . 

Nora Dearly is immune.

I had some minor gripes with this YA novel (somewhat slow, clunky beginning; somewhat rushed, abrupt end--though being the first of a trilogy, that must be given some leeway; and a couple too-close-to-the-line Twilight-esque moments), but all-in-all the book engaged me enough, I didn't mind. I truly enjoyed reading the book. I connected with the characters, which I feel were well-developed and 3D, including the secondary characters. The bonds between the love interests rang true, as did the familial bonds, and the bonds between close friends. I totally bonded with their bonds, and that's reason for high praise from me.

Was Dearly, Departed perfect? No. Was it worth buying (even though I was lucky enough to have access to free copy)? Yes. If you don't have the cash right now, get it from your library. It's a nice escape, without being too fluffy. Not a beach read, take it with white chocolate cocoa and your Snuggie.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Ding Ding Ding! We have a winner

The winner for the final prize pack, with a signed copy of Lisa Yee's Absolutely Maybe and other fab swag, is . . .

Matt Childress!

Congrats, Matt!

That's the last giveaway we have—for now—but we hope you'll poke around some of our reviews to find a great book for a snowy day.*

*If you're Michelle, who has already received more than enough snow, thank you, though there's undoubtedly more to come.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Enchanted Destiny



★★★


Enchanted Destiny by Rayka Mennen

The premise sounds good: 24-year-old Kat, a massage therapist who also happens to be a witch, has only three weeks to find and marry her soulmate, or she loses her magic forever. In her family, the women have special powers, but also a destiny that includes saving the life of the man they'll marry. Convincing Jake that he's her soul mate and they have to get married in a matter of weeks is a completely different matter.

While the light tone of this story is enjoyable, I didn't ever get fully drawn into The world just wasn't developed enough for me to really get into the story. There's so much about her family that wasn't explored, about Jake's life and friends, about how an extended family of witches coped in a world that largely doesn't believe in destiny, fate, or magic. Because of that many of the secondary characters feel flat. 

Despite all that, I did feel pangs of worry near the end of the book that things wouldn't magically work out at the end. The ending won't be much of a surprise to frequent readers of romances, as it follows the well-worn path of contemporary romances.

Honestly, Enchanted Destiny is a nice, enjoyable book, but it didn't grab me enough, nor was the delivery original enough to make it memorable. For those looking to while away an afternoon with a pleasant story, this is a good choice.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of the book.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation


★★★★★

Gunnerkrigg Court: Orientation by Tom Siddell

I've been fascinated for a while now with the fusion of text and graphics that comprise graphic novels. The problem I find is that most comics and graphic novels are geared toward a male audience. While it's great that there are books for the numerous guys who are reluctant readers, I wish there were more graphic novels that appealed to women—especially women who are strong, smart, and dress in actual clothes. So I was ecstatic when I found Gunnerkrigg Court, a captivating series of graphic novels for teen girls.

In the first volume, Orientation, Antimony Carver arrives at the gloomy Gunnerkrigg Court, a British boarding school that looks more like a factory than a school. Sounds normal enough, but that illusion fades within the first few pages as strange things start to happen.

Soon enough Antimony discovers that her parents—her mother recently deceased and her father missing—are intricately tied to this school and the mysteries that surround it. Events at Gunnerkrigg may even hold the key to understanding what happened to her parents.

Antimony's world is a dark one populated with robots, demons, and forest gods, but it also one in which she and her pre-teen classmates can still have fun. This isn't a humorous book by any means, but there is a quirkiness to the situations and scenes that give it a certain kind of depth I've only found in graphic novels. The best comparison I can make is to Emily the Strange, another graphic novel series* I absolutely adore. As with Emily the Strange, there's something youthful but dark about the illustrations that I find fascinating.

While some of the chapters in this volume feel a bit episodic—which makes sense considering the series started out as a web comic—enough of the the overarching plot threads are woven throughout that it all fits together well.

This volume ends much like the Harry Potter books: at the end of the school year but with enough mystery to propel readers immediately into the next book.

Now all I have to do is track down the rest of the series since my library only carries the first. (Why do they do that‽) This is definitely a series I'd recommend, though it might be a bit tougher to find a copy.** 

* There is a series of books for teens featuring Emily the Strange that are mainly text-based but with graphic elements. The original graphic novels are much darker, though just as compelling, and fit more into the traditional comic style. 

** Hint: All of the books in this series is available online through Indiebound, even if your local indie doesn't carry them.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Anna Dressed in Blood


★★★★½

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake

It's a love-hate relationship for me. I love reading spooky tales, but I hate how scared I get after reading them. I've been known to scare myself witless after reading ghost stories. Oh, I'm fine while reading; it's afterward when I have to turn out the lights and every noise or shadow shifts into its true nightmaric form that I huddle shivering under the covers.

No, I'm not a 12-year-old girl. I'm a grown woman who's been doing this with scary books since she was 12. You'd think I'd have outgrown it by now, or at least given up reading the scarier ones. You'd be wrong.

So what is it about Anna that had me eagerly anticipating a frightful night hiding under the blankets? Here's the basic premise: a teen ghost hunter kills the dead who kill the living. The ghost of a murdered girl tears apart anyone who enter her house. Then the kicker: The ghost spares the life of the ghost hunter, even while killing others around him. Mystery? Yup. Intrigue? Oh, yeah.

To say that the story is creepy would be putting it mildly, but that's not what makes this book so fascinating. From the horrifying first encounter with Anna, the story progresses from mystery to secrecy, and, yes, even to romance. Anna is a fully fleshed-out character (badum-ching!) who becomes increasingly complex as the story progresses. I have to say, she was my favorite part of the book.

I honestly didn't get as scared as I thought I would, but that's a good thing because I stayed up much too late finishing it. One straight shot through the whole book. It really was that good.

The rating was docked half a star because I might have over-hyped it in my mind a bit, leading to a tiny bit of disappointment, but not enough to ruin how much I enjoyed it overall. (I'm probably hyping it a bit too much here, too. Oops.) I'm hoping that the sequel (Yes!) will deliver that last half star to make this an incredible series. 

For an author's debut, this is very well done. I'm definitely keeping an eye on Kendare Blake. There are delicious frights to be had in future books, if Anna Dressed in Blood is any indication.

Note: For those who are sensitive to language and violence, this has both. While it's aimed at YA readers, I'd suggest it's better suited on the older end of that spectrum.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Drumroll please . . .

All of the entries for Prize C were excellent, but we can only have one winner, which is . . .

Danielle LaPaglia!

Guest judge Lauren MacLeod chose her entry for its creative interpretation of the prompt.

Thanks to everyone who entered. And hey, why not enter this week's contest while you're here? A signed copy of Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee is up for grabs.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Baby, you're a star


And so we reach the end of our fabulous giveaways—at least this round. (You never know when we'll be tossing out more free stuff and other goodies.)

What, we ask, could possibly be better than a signed copy of Absolutely Maybe by Lisa Yee? Throw in bookmarks, pins, and stickers, and even an preview sampler for Holly Black's Black Heart and Cassandra Clare's Clockwork Prince and you've got one amazing prize.

For this contest, we're keeping things simple. All you have to do is follow us here, on Twitter, or on Facebook. Share the contest with your friends to get even more chances to win.

The Rules: Leave a comment below with links to where you shared the contest. Plus we'll add in all the names of followers to the blog, FB page, and Twitter feed. Each person can have up to 5 entries. The contest runs from now until Friday, October 28 at 11:59 pm EST, after which will do some randomizer magic and BEHOLD! A grand prize winner.

Now go forth and spread the word. Your chance at a free book depends upon it.

Dead on the Delta



✭✭✭✭
Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay

One of the best things to come from the recent glut of paranormal and dystopian novels is the trend of taking history or the present world and shifting it, ever so slightly, so that one small change affects nearly everything down the line.

While, yes, there have been plenty of books in the past that did something similar, I'm seeing it more frequently and in fascinating ways. Take, for instance, Dead on the Delta. What if a disaster at a chemical plant in Louisiana tainted the bayou, causing the little fairies so small that no one can see to mutate into insect-sized blood-sucking pixies of death. And then there are the invisible people. How could I not buy a book with that kind of premise?

Things get even more interesting as the author builds this world around Annabelle Lee, a drunken med-school dropout who is one of the few people immune to fairy venom. While everyone else is holed up inside iron-clad towns and armored cars—iron keeps the fairies away, and a single bite makes a normal person either insane or dead—she gets to go out into the swamp and do all the dirty work. Yay for Annabelle? Not quite.

It's a good story and very entertaining. I'm eagerly anticipating the second book, Blood on the Bayou, which is due out in March 2012. But while the story captivates, it's the richness and thought the author put into this world that amazed me.

The disaster that sparked the mutation happened before the arrival of Katrina. Almost glanced over as back story are details of Annabelle working exhausting hours to recover and identify the bodies left in the hurricane's wake. Again, she is one of the few who can withstand the fairies, and so she must do the worst jobs because there is no one else.

I can't do justice in describing the details the author incorporates, often in passing as though it were natural that killer fairies had taken over much of the Southern US. I will just suggest that you read it yourself if you want to better understand what I mean.

Dead on the Delta gets 4 stars from me because it didn't quite feel as extraordinary as a 5-star book should, but there plenty of things to make this highly recommendable. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rakes and Radishes



✭✭✭

Rakes and Radishes by Susanna Ives

When I started into this book, I was expecting a fun, light read like Jane Austen's Emma. Oh no. I got Wuthering Heights. While Wuthering Heights is a great book, its moody and near-violent overtone doesn't lend itself well to the label of "romance." Indeed, it could be considered the antithesis of romance, with the anger and revenge of the lovers destroying their lives and those around them.

That's why I was somewhat surprised with the dark turn of the novel about a third of the way in. The flap copy doesn't really give an indication of what this story is. By the time I realized where things were going, it was too late for me to stop. I was already hurting for the main characters, and I had to know that things would turn out okay.

It's not a bad book at all; my problem is that I was emotionally unprepared for what I got. Let's just say that I stayed up until 4 am to finish the book because I honestly felt sick to my stomach with what was happening, enough that I couldn't fathom sleeping until I got to a good resolution. 

In the end, things worked out, which saved the wall from having my Kindle chucked at it. It also saved the book and the author from landing on my I-hate-this-book-so-much-because-it-sucked-all-the-happiness-out-of-me list. Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure is the only book to occupy that space so far. I'm really hoping to leave it that way.

To sum up: it's a good book, but it's also a dark and emotional read. Know that before going in, and you'll likely appreciate the story. Just don't expect a light romance novel 'cause you aren't gonna get it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Carina Press for a review copy of the book.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pretty, Pretty . . . uh, Paranormals?


Ever just sort of said to yourself, "Hmmm, I need more paranormal book swag. Like maybe a bracelet, some temporary tats, bookmarks, signed book cards, random Flair, and a funky key, plus the book it goes with?*" Yes? Then boy howdy, are WE about to become close friends!

*Black Magic Sanction, by Kim Harrison

Allow us to remind all and sundry we must insist contestants for Prize C (that's this one, for anyone not clear on that) be at least sixteen (16) years of age, as Prize C includes an item of more mature content.  We have complete faith you younglings can get yourselves into enough trouble without our help.

And yes, if anyone ever told you books weren't dangerous, they lied.

Now! Onto the contest. Rules stand pretty much the same. You have until 11:59 P.M. of  October the 14th to submit your very own, original interpretation of the related theme, at which point, the gorgeous-smiled-and-beautifully-bubbly Lauren McLeod (literary agent extraordinaire with The Strothman Agency) will ogle all the entries and use her keen personal tastes to determine the one most deserving of Prize C.

Okay gang, here's your theme:
Boss

Yup, that simple. What sort of creative hijinks can you get up with that?  Go on with your bad selves!

AND DON'T FORGET TO LINK BACK TO YOUR ENTRY IN THIS POST'S COMMENTS!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Winner Announced!

Because we here at Libri Ago: Book Lives are extremely blessed to have some wise and influential friends, and one of them--the luminous Authoress Anonymous--agreed to guest judge for us this week.

We shut Authoress into a tiny white room in which we'd painted each entry on the wall in black paint and told her she couldn't come out unless she'd chosen her favorite.  She was in there for twenty-seven years, or as we know time OUTSIDE the white room, two days.  Upon her exit, she gave us her decision.

Renee!

Authoress had this to say about her choice:


I probably chose this one because I LOVE old things that are reused.  My favorite necklace (I'm wearing it right now) is my first initial --a key taken from an antique typewriter and set in a necklace.  So, yeah; this entry, in my opinion, really captures the spirit of something old "becoming" new.  

Congratulations!

So, Renee, expect an email in your inbox, and a Steampunk prize pack in your mailbox soon! 

Congratulations from Amethyst and Michelle, too!

The Book that Shall Not Be Named


I argued with myself for a couple of days what to do about this book. I'd been reading it specifically for the purpose of reviewing it, as it isn't . . . uh, the reading level I tend to choose . . . but then, I'd been reading it to decide its qualities as a book for reluctant readers, not for devourers of books, as am I.

The writing was painfully over-explanatory and full of telling rather than showing. Okay, so not fantastic, but again--reluctant reader. Sometimes a reader needs to be lead slowly by the hand the whole way. Even if that makes the whole book feel like a bunch of people standing motionless on a stage, reading their stage directions right along with their lines so the audience knows what emotion to give the words. "Wooden" doesn't even begin to describe it. I kept reading, anyway.

And then, in a sort of burst, the heroine of the book sort of . . . morphed into the exact opposite of what any parent would hope his or her daughter become by way of fairness and morality. I won't go into it, or I'll get angry all over again.

But I'll say this: reluctant-reader-targeted writing I can deal with, even though I probably won't enjoy it. Encouraging readers to believe their lives are worthless unless they're in the top tier of popularity (despite having three very LOYAL friends), that cheating is a completely desirable means to attaining popularity (especially when it would gain them a place doing what they've wanted their whole life--or at least the last month when they suddenly became good at it), and disowning a parent for PARENTING and giving them very good advice, just because it's not what they want to hear?

No. Just no. No way, no how, ever, ever no.

That's when I stopped reading, even though I was less than half-way through the book. Even though I hadn't been reading it for myself in the first place.

And that's why I won't be giving out the name of this book. I don't want to promote it at all. If you're a parent, or another conscientious reader, you can comment, DM, or whatever me, and I'll give you the title so you can avoid it, or make sure it doesn't end up in hands you'd rather not have it, but I won't be putting it into black and white here.

That's my compromise.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Museum of Thieves



Lian Tanner's Museum of Thieves presents as a very good starter book for readers who have a new-found interestin  alternate universe sorts of books, and falls in with some very good company, such as Brandon Mull's new Beyonders series, and Du Prau's City of Ember (which, as is often the case, is better than the film based upong it, despite Soairse Ronan's great performance), and even to a lighter degree, Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series.

Living in a world where anything even remotely risky (dog germs, anyone?) is disallowed and removed, and children are--literally--chained to adults at all time to prevent accidents, Goldie ends up unfettered and recruited to become the fifth keeper at The Museum of Dunt. Only the phrase 'the museum' turns out to be interchangeable with 'building in which several actual realities exist, all of which are prone to shifting about and bulging at the seams when they get themselves in a snit".

A snit is exactly what the museum gets into when the ambitious Fugleman plots to  overthrow his sister, The Protectorate, for rule over the city of Jewel, and sends in his lackeys, The Blessed Guardians (who, incidently, are the tyrannical imperialists over all the chained children during regular business hours) to nail down all the rooms in the museum.

It's up to Goldie and the other Keepers (tall, smooth Sinew; grandmotherly gypsy-like Olga Cyavolga; hulking Herro Dan; and shape-shifting brizzlehound, Broo) to thwart the Fugleman and calm down the musuem enough that all of life's atrocities don't come spilling through the walls into Jewel, threatening life and limb of every being therein.  But can they do it without unleashing something just as bad, or worse?

I did happen to BUY this one, and at nine bucks for the paperback copy, I'm perfect content with that choice. I'll read the follow-up books, no doubt.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Everyone Was Kung-Fu Fighting . . .

Guest Judged by the incomparable JODI MEADOWS. We're kind of in awe of her.

No, I mean, seriously.

Prize B. We'll also be including a copy of Cindy Pon's novel, Silver Phoenix.
This prize includes: Two book prints by artist Phoenix Lu, a Fury of the Phoenix bookmark, tattoos from Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly, and Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay, and a small "Trust me, I'm a ninja' Flair.



Silver Phoenix, the story of Ai Ling, a young Asian woman who discovered supernatural powers within herself when dangers from without threatened life as she knew it, as well as imperiling her future.

THEME: Harrowing Heroine


What do you do with it? That's up to you. We want you to interpret the theme in whatever medium you prefer, the usual obscenity disclaimers aside. Haiku, spaghetti sculpture, cake decor, bring it.

Now, remember my pretties, you have from this second to 11:59 P.M. Friday night, October 6th, 2011 to come up with something so creative it knocks off Mish!'s and my socks. Link back to your entry and include a  contact email address within the comments of THIS post!!!

We encourage mannerly discussion of the entries within the comments, but anything resembling icky conduct gets a contestant disqualified immediately.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Across the Universe



I have heard a lot of gushing over quite a swath of time about Beth Revis's novel, Across the Universe. I mean, a lot.

I heard it's a gorgeous blend of mystery and science fiction. I heard it's heart-rending. I heard the potential love story hits hard. I heard the world-building came through both lush and realistic (for a futuristic spaceship).

I don't think it was good for me, hearing all that ahead of reading the book for myself. I found the mystery mediocre, and disappointingly easy to figure out far ahead of the characters. Maybe I was meant to, I don't know. The descriptions of the ship were good, and somewhat disgusting, in a way I appreciated (though if I'd read the word "relish" in any of its forms again, I could have growled). The love story appealed to me more from Elder's viewpoint than Amy's, but I suppose that also makes more sense, as Elder was far more into it, not being in the midst of a familial crises the same sort as Amy's.

All-in-all, I think I'd just expected too much from the book and when I concluded it was only "pretty decent", I felt let down. It annoys me I have to make an excuse for my opinion. It annoys me I have to review it on a curve, so to speak.

Some people will love this book. It will be everything they want. It, unfortunately, was not for me. Read the cover blurb, read a couple of pages in the middle, then decide for yourself if it's worth a Buy or a Borrow.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!


Prize A
This Prize includes an ARC of Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, which features stories by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Garth Nix, Cory Doctorow and several other authors; a preview pamphlet, dual-sided, with samples from Cassandra Clare's upcoming Infernal Devices novel, Clockwork Prince, and Holly Black's third Curse Workers series, Black Heart; various bookmarks, a Mockingjay tat, and two Flair buttons.


THEME: Alternative

What would you do if you had something old with which to do something new?

Competition FOR PRIZE A runs from right this second to 11:59 P.M. on Friday, September 30th, 2011. Link back to your entry and include a  contact email address within the comments for THIS post!!!

We encourage mannerly discussion of the entries within the comments, but anything resembling icky conduct gets a contestant disqualified immediately.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oh . . . HI THERE!!!!

Free Stuff! Stuff! That's Free!
Including our opinions, but nothing's perfect, right?

Introducing Libri Ago: Book Lives, a website run by two chicks who have just enough in common (and just enough out of it) to be interesting; who are well-read enough to know what they're talking about; well-connected enough to host Grand Opening contests wherein the prizes are AWESOME-SAUCE book-related stuff.
(And some random-esque Flair, but everyone needs more Flair)


We're celebrating our fiftieth review by going public and giving away bookish goodies to owners of watchful eyes!


First up, the awesome-sauce swag all together and chummy.



Plus, the bracelets, which Amethyst modeled personally.
(matrimonial jewelry and incredible marriage not included)


Prize A
This Prize includes an ARC of Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, which features stories by Cassandra Clare, Holly Black, Libba Bray, Garth Nix, Cory Doctorow and several other authors; a preview pamphlet, dual-sided, with samples from Cassandra Clare's upcoming Infernal Devices novel, Clockwork Prince, and Holly Black's third Curse Workers series, Black Heart; various bookmarks, a Mockingjay tat, and two Flair buttons.




This here is most of Prize B. We'll also be including a copy of Cindy Pon's novel, Silver Phoenix.
This prize includes: Two book prints by artist Phoenix Lu, a Fury of the Phoenix bookmark, tattoos from Angel Burn by L.A. Weatherly, and Suzanne Collins's Mockingjay, and a small "Trust me, I'm a ninja' Flair.


Silver Phoenix, the story of Ai Ling, a young Asian woman who discovered supernatural powers within herself when dangers from without threatened life as she knows it, as well as imperiling her future.


Prize C
NOTE: We ask participants competing for Prize C be sixteen years of age or older, as part of the prize includes more mature materials.
Will include Black Magic Sanction by Kim Harrison, an Alcatraz cell key from that novel, The Body Snatcher bracelet,  signed post card for  Julie Particka's Pretty Souls, Angel Burn and HP7 tats, three Flair buttons, and a bookmark.



Grand Prize!
This prize includes: Signed copy of Lisa Yee's Absolutely Maybe, signed book card from Mary E. Pearson's The Miles Between, You Are What You Read: Pass It On bracelet, Vampire Academy and Mockingjay tats, mini bio Lisa Yee bookmark, Clockwork Prince/Black Heart excerpt pamphlet, The Pull of Gravity by Gae Polisner Flair, and two random Flair.



So, how does one go about winning one of these enviable prizes? I'm glad you ask.

For the next four weeks Michelle and I (Amethyst) will put up one of the four prizes, each having its own theme. Contestants will have the week following the post to represent the related theme in any way, any medium (with the normal provisos discouraging offensive content). Go forth and interpret with your personal creative vision, be it plushie, illustration, video clip, original song lyrics, or even cake ddecor; what have you.

So what's the theme for Prize A?
You'll just have to bookmark the site and come back tomorrow, when we'll announce it.

So, to sum up, contest FOR PRIZE A starts tomorrow at 9:00 A.M and entries will be accepted and considered through 11:59 P.M. of next Friday,  September 29th, 2011. Entries will need to be placed or linked-to in the comments of each relevant post and need to include contestant info and contact email.

Good luck, and may the Force be with you!

In the meantime, you can look look to the right where you have the option to "Like" Libri Ago on Facebook, share about us on Twitter, and add Libri Ago posts and reviews to your Blogger or RSS feed.  Doing so won't get you any closer to winning the contest, but it'd really put us in a fantastic mood.  We're small, and cute, and we look really good wearing good moods.

Thanks in advance!
Mish! and Ames

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hourglass


I absolutely adore the cover of Myra McEntire's debut novel, Hourglass. Not only does it have lovely, smooth lines, but for a little while it fools you into thinking the model is being sucked into something . . . and then you realize it's actually a girl, standing on the wall, with gravity obeying its natural course. Go 'head, turn it on the side, and then try to decide what photo magic they used to pull that one off. Photoshop? Wires? Giant wind machine? TIME TRAVEL?

Oh, right; that's what the book's about. Or more accurately, things of the past visiting a quite present Emerson Cole. Or maybe they're ghosts? Maybe Em's psychic and sees dead people? Whatever the answer, the situation is trippy.

Enter the uber-hot Michael (such a popular name for uber-hot characters). Tell us what he wants, what he really, really wants. What's he need, that Michael boy? History rewritten, that's what. Also? Em, because they are science-fictionally two halves of one whole. But do they belong together? Maybe. Maybe not. Because, you see, there's someone else in Emerson's future . . . 

The cover blurbs suggest the book induces all sorts of mood swings in the reader, and this is true, especially in the final fifty pages. Even I, a "first hero met should get the girl" loyalist, don't completely root for one boy over the other by much. Even I can see the wisdom and merit of a specific someone else winning that war, other than Michael. McEntire has done a fantastic job forcing me to consider the alternative, without embittering me toward it. That takes some mad skills, to sway a girl like me. I can only admire it and hope to learn from it.

I say this with a bit of a admission: Hourglass is a book . . . how to put this? Well, sometimes I felt myself reading a scene or a bit of narrative and feeling either proud or a little wary, because it's written so much like I myself would have written it. So that may mean I'm biased when I say I think either a Buy or Borrow appropriate.  The book isn't the most prime example of fantastic writing ever known to man, but it's entertaining, an emotional rush, and leaves you thinking about it hours later, which means it delivers on exactly what it promises.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Soulless


Being a book reviewer, sometimes, even with books I enjoy, there comes the trouble of pleasure being too much work. This time, I'm rather lucky to have avoided that in reading Gail Carriger's first Alexia Tarabotti novel, Soulless

Stay with me, because we're going to meander a bit.

First, I'm not sure why I thought Soulless a young adult novel (it isn't billed as such, so the fault lies totally with my assumption, not the marketing department), but I did. It isn't. Granted, it isn't any more sexually graphic than many current teen novels, but the I tend to view any book with an adult protagonist and and adult sexual prospects as being an adult book. Just wanted to throw that out there.

Secondly, The cover? Kind of brilliant. Beautiful and creative, and just plain fun. It's also completely accurate of what's inside the book. Alexia Tarabotti is a wonderful character. Picture, if you will, a demonic Mary Poppins (okay, with apologies to the angelic Dame Julie Andrews, some of us have always considered Mary Poppins a little demonic already): perfectly perfect, and perfectly preternatural, or in other words, "soulless".

It's been a while since a book kept me up late, not due to suspense or mystery, but just because I got such a giggle from reading it, so I have a couple of faint dark spots under my eyes for which to thank Soulless, but it was totally worth it.

Truly feisty--not the gimmicky, sub-par, not-fully-formed version so often seen in novels lately--Miss Tarabotti handles the Alpha wolf, flamboyant *cough*gay*cough* vampire best bud, and her strangely subservient spinster status within her alternate "paranomals are everywhere and accepted" Victorian history with considerable aplomb, graciousness, honestly, and a completely KICK ASS parasol.

I'm probably going to go out and BUY this book, and likely it's sequels in one fell swoop. I feel totally justified in recommending readers do the same.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Beyond the Grave


★★★★
Beyond the Grave by Mara Purnhagen

This will be a rather short review because I've already gushed enough about this series previously. When I slip into these books, I lose track of time and get fully immersed in the story.

Needless to say, I enjoyed Beyond the Grave, though not quite as much as the first two. Still, this is an excellent series and one I heartily recommend. 

If what I heard is correct, this is the final book in the series. If I have any influence, I would say "Keep on keepin' on" with the series. I'm not nearly tired of reading about Charlotte and her family yet.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of the book.


Shop Indie Bookstores

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Goddess Test


✭✭✭✭


The Goddess Test by Aimée Carter

I'm a huge fan of mythology. All of them. I really am, so when I see a book that has an interesting take on classic myths, I'm very interested.

In The Goddess Test, we get a modern girl who is thrust into the Persephone situation: six months in the mortal world, six months in the underworld to save her mother from dying of cancer. But the spin Carter places on these gods takes them from an essentially Greek mythology to a more universal one. (By that, I mean that these gods are portrayed as more overarching than for just the Greek world, the same but with different names in different cultures.)

It's a rather light, enjoyable read, and the fact that I stayed up until 3 am reading this in one sitting should say something. Also, I figured out most of the twist at the end, but some of it still surprised me. While it's not high literature, it's a fun way to spend an afternoon (or evening until early morning, like I did).


PS I love the cover of the sequel. The retro-70s vibe is awesome. The first cover is gorgeous, but I'm really digging the next.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for an advance copy of the book.


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Friday, September 9, 2011

My Boyfriend is a Monster #04, Under His Spell


Today we here at Libri Ago: Book Lives will be tackling a first for us (review-wise), the graphic novel. Namely, My Boyfriend is a Monster #4: Under His Spell, written by Marie P. Croall and illustrated by Hyeondo Park.

Firstly, this title is clearly marked "Juvenile", which my mind equates with "tween"--that set of budding adolescents that haven't quite attained the true horror of teen-dom. Like anywhere between ages ten and thirteen.

Taking this into consideration, as well as the edition I had my eyes on being an Advance Reader Copy, and not available for sale until October 1st, I'd say the paperback purchase price of ten bucks is pretty fair for either newbie comic readers (in particular of the female persuasion), or reluctant readers of any sort. The narrative and plotline are so straightforward as to be no brainers, which in this case, I consider that a plus. Gotta consider target audiences.

While I enjoy graphic novels, I admit I don't have a ton of experience with them, other than supporting what I consider to be talented acquaintances--both pro and non--but I did enjoy the swoopy action, pop-out quality of several of Park's frames. Let me tell you from experience, shin bones do not bend that way, but it was a very cool style to see them do so anyway.

So, short version: If you happen to be a hard-core, long-time comic/graphic novel fan, maybe this isn't the best choice you could make for yourself, but then again, if you have a geek-in-training (I have three!) around the house, might as well give this one a go. You never know within what fandoms a future geek will major.

My Boyfriend's a Monster, #4: Under His Spell is available for purchase as of October 1st, 2011.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Saving Juliet


Have you ever seen the movie Lost in Austen, about the girl who falls though this crack in her bathroom wall into Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice only to swap places with main character, Elizabeth Bennet? No? Well, make sure you do. It's lengthy, but worth it.

If you have seen the movie, you know things in fictional P&P Land start tripping up the moment Amanda steps a toe in it, and everything goes wonky.

Suzanne Selfors's Saving Juliet gives Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet the same sort of treatment, and with thoroughly fastasmagoric results.

Seventeen year old Mimi, scion of the late, great theatre goddess Adelaide Wallingford and last hope for the historic Wallingford Theater hates acting, despite her pedigree and promise on the stage. As any teen faced with but one choice of futures, Mimi chafes against the strictures, plans, and outright momentum of her mother, who--from Mimi's viewpoint, only wants to live out her own failed dreams through her daughter. Complete with a stuck-up Surfer boy pop-star (for the ratings,dear) co-star in the form of one Troy Summer, avaricious understudies, and an heretofore unexperienced case of stage fright, Mimi does her best to play Juliet Capulet until she can escape for a few weeks in a planned vacation with her Doctors Without Borders-esque aunt.

Enter some very realistic and intuitive descriptions of Mimi's pre-cue panic attacks--which just keep getting worse, her inital crush on and being crushed by Troy Summer, and finally a magic charm which send Mimi and Troy both either back in time, or arguably, into an alternate universe wherein the feud between Montague and Capulet is alive and thriving.

Reading this book is a bit like seeing all the different charcters on days other than those Shakespeare chose to write about. Selfors gives great back-story about how the feud began, manages to humanize Juliet as a real thirteen-year-old girl, no matter the era, makes the reader totally buy Paris as a pervy old man, keeps Romeo from sounding like the most fickle guy alive, and eventually even makes heroes of many unheroic characters, and while the "script" often strays from Shakespeare's narrative (Romeo and Juliet never fall in love at all, at least possibly until after the book), and the language stays mostly contemporary, the book is all the better for these choices. Elizabethan English--as genius as Will's abilities were--would only have cluttered the alternate plot points and would have seemed almost gaudy in comparison to the very real and very ageless way Selfors handles the story.

This is definitely a book in which the cover does the story a disservice. While Mimi is very much a modern teenager, she isn't flippant or blase, which is what that pink bubble-gum bubble and kitten shades say to me. Mimi has heart, just like her (normally) fictional counterparts, and that should be shown, too.

I got a kick out of this book with it's nimble narrative and ultimate happy ending. I engaged with it, and if I hadn't gotten it from my library in the first place, I'd have been happy with my choice to BUY it.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fablehaven Four: Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary


Brandon Mull has always given me consistently good reading experiences, but I gotta say, with the fourth installment of his Fablehaven series, Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary Brandon Mull takes the art of misdirection and makes it his lapdog, complete with sissy rhinestone-studded collar.

I pride myself in being able to tag two-faced characters a good 85 per cent of the time, and I won't lie and say I didn't expect a particular character a little of being a double agent, but Mull did such a good job of endearing me to that character I desperately wanted to be wrong, and then when I wasn't, I felt just as crushed as the characters Two-Faced had betrayed so utterly.

Meanwhile, Mull craftily sets up a "replacement" for the role, so that without knowing it, and despite the upset of moments before, we're already rooting for the new character, envisioning the way the role can be chanced, stretched, made even better.

MG or not, it's a keeper. BUY it.