Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Teaser Tuesday: The Book of Blood and Shadow

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's Teaser comes from a book that just arrived at our library. These quotes are from different parts of the book:

“I should probably start with the blood.”  
Opening sentence in The Book of Blood and Shadow
by Robin Wasserman

"You don’t even realize you're living in a before until you wake up one day and find yourself in an after."

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Insignia

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

On Savvy Book Reviews, I'll be showcasing books that we'll be adding soon to the library!

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Insignia (Insignia #1)
by S.J. Kincaid
Publication Date: July 10, 2012

From Goodreads:
More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.

Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible—a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test, and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War Three. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted—friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters—but what will it cost him?

Gripping and provocative, S. J. Kincaid’s futuristic thrill ride of a debut crackles with memorable characters, tremendous wit, and a vision of the future that asks startling, timely questions about the melding of humanity and technology.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Book Comparison: New Moon and Persuasion

Persuasion   *****
by Jane Austen

New Moon (Twilight Saga #2)   *****
by Stephenie Meyer

I am about to attempt the impossible – I’m going to review two very different books by two VERY different authors in two very different time periods. That’s not the hard part. The hard part will be showing a correlation between the two. Mission: Accepted.

Most people are probably familiar with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibility. Even if they’ve never read the books, they are aware of the scene where Mr. Darcy (actor Colin Firth) takes a dip in the pond (I haven’t read P&P in a while, but I’m pretty darn sure that Jane didn’t write that).

Slightly less-well-known is Jane’s last completed work, Persuasion. This is the story of Anne Elliot, a sensible young woman who was “persuaded” to let the love of her youth go, only to meet him again eight years later. Then she gets to watch as all the young girls flirt with him and all their married acquaintances guess which of the young girls he’s going to end up marrying.

This book, as many that were written in times past, may be a bit difficult to get started; the language and style are very different than what we’re used to today. And it doesn’t help that the first few pages seem dry. But the opening is actually an introduction to Jane’s snarkiness. Poor Anne isn’t just past her prime without the love of her life, she also has to deal with her ridiculous and vain father, a conceited older sister (both of whom think Anne isn’t worth their time or concern), and a hypochondriac younger sister. Jane brilliantly and scathingly writes these characters; they’re deliciously awful.

Snarkiness aside, this story (for me) can be summed up by a few lines toward the end of the story:

I believe you [men] equal to every important exertion, and to every domestic forbearance, so long as—if I may be allowed the expression, so long as you have an object. I mean, while the woman you love lives, and lives for you. All the privilege I claim for my own sex (it is not a very enviable one, you need not covet it), is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.

In other words, Anne never stopped loving her Captain.

You do have to work more for this book than most fluffy romance novels, but it’s worth the effort. The only problem I had with it, and it’s a minor one, is Jane’s habit of naming multiple characters by the same first name. This may be true to the times, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out which Charles she’s referring to in a given scene.

Next up, a tale as old as time: Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Boy fears he will eat girl, so boy dumps girl. Girl mourns loss of boy. Girl befriends werewolf. Girl has to rescue boy (who happens to be a vampire). And they lived happily ever after (at least for a few weeks).

Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about Stephenie Meyer’s New Moon, the second book in the Twilight Saga (if it's a "saga," you know it's gonna be angsty) and recent blockbuster hit. The first book in this series has our two main characters, Edward and Bella, meeting and falling in love. In New Moon, Edward is afraid that he or his family will be overcome by Bella’s tasty scent and, alas, kill her. So, for her sake, he leaves (thus making this the least favorite book in the series for thousands of teens). Bella, deep in depression, finds that extreme activities and her good buddy Jacob are the only things that make her feel a little better. And then she finds out that Jacob turns into a giant wolf and is the archenemy of all vampires. Mayhem ensues.

So how in the world can I possibly compare Jane Austen’s sensible heroine and her sea captain with a high school girl and her vampire and werewolf??? The answer: angst.

What draws me to Meyer’s books is the all-encompassing angst. Sometimes, maybe when the weather is gloomy or you’ve had a bad day or week, you just want to read something where you can have a good mope. And there is no better book from this series than New Moon for excellent mope-age: the whole world revolves around you and getting dumped means the end of everything. Poor Bella is practically comatose for the first half of the book, all because the love of her (short) life is gone.

Anne, however, doesn't get to be comatose. Anne has to take care of her family and their estate. She has to watch as her love comes back to town and courts younger, prettier women. Anne can't show her pain to anyone, but the reader experiences it and hopes, longs, and yearns for her love to be requited.

Bella, like Anne, lost her love. They both have their happily ever afters, and in between, they have their angst. In Jane Austen’s world, so much can be said by a single look or gesture. In Stephenie Meyer’s world, the pain and joy are more visceral. But in both you can find a good love story. (Good being entirely subjective, of course.)

So if you’re looking for a good angsty book, I’d recommend both Persuasion and New Moon. Which one just depends on the kind of angst you’re in the mood for.

Book Review: Only the Good Spy Young

Only the Good Spy Young (Gallagher Girls #4)
By Ally Carter

From Goodreads:
When Cammie Morgan enrolled at the Gallagher Academy, she knew she was preparing for the dangerous life of a spy. What she didn’t know was that the serious, real-life danger would start during her junior year of high school. But that’s exactly what happened two months ago when she faced off against an ancient terrorist organization dead set on kidnapping her.

Now the danger follows her everywhere and even Cammie “The Chameleon” can’t hide. When a terrifying encounter in London reveals that one of her most-trusted allies is actually a rogue double-agent Cammie no longer knows if she can trust her classmates, her teachers—or even her own heart.

In this fourth installment of the New York Times best-selling series, the Gallagher Girls must hack, spy, steal, and lie their way to the truth as they go searching for answers, recognizing that the key to Cammie’s future may lie deep in the past....

From Me:
Another great book! Cammie is still the target of a rogue group made up of the world's top spys and assassins, but now people she knows and trusts could be the enemy.

By the time I got to the end of this book, as Carter was setting up the next installment, I almost felt like books one through four were all part of a prequel - that the story is about to really take off. Maybe it's more like Harry Potter's Half Blood Prince - the game changer that leads to the final act. Or maybe it really is a set-up for many more books. Or maybe I'm just reading into it and the next book will go back to the status quo. Guess I won't know till I can get my hands on the next one - which is waiting for me at home!

Only the Good Spy Young (#4) and Out of Sight, Out of Time (#5) are both new at our library! Come check them out!

Book Review: The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman

From Goodreads:
After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family . . .

Beloved master storyteller Neil Gaiman returns with a luminous new novel for the audience that embraced his New York Times bestselling modern classic Coraline. Magical, terrifying, and filled with breathtaking adventures, The Graveyard Book is sure to enthrall readers of all ages.

From me:
Even though the book started out dark and creepy, I felt like the story was more fantastic and adventuresome, rather than dark or scary. Throughout the book, Bod was constantly not afraid of the things that most of us would be. Ghosts are his family, a graveyard is his home - that being true, a school bully is nothing to fear. To me, I found the overall theme to be fearlessness and the importance of really living your life, which is something I need to embrace a little more often. A great read for both children and adults.

Book Review: Looking for Alaska

by John Green

While this book wasn't to my taste, I do believe it has quality and literary merit. The writing quality was strong, including the occasional sentence that made me pause to appreciate the words. The characters were well developed, the countdown kept the reader intrigued and pushing through to see what happened on The Day, and the overall plot was poignant and meaningful.

I wasn't particularly fond of the first half of this book. Reading about how these teens were living their lives, or rather, wasting them, bothered me. Yes, they were bonding, and perhaps they were acting as many teens do (I couldn't relate myself, but maybe that's true for others), but it felt so wasteful. And the adult in me, though only a decade or so removed from high school, did think that the smoking, drinking, etc., was inappropriate. That being said, I'm well aware that none of this material would shock the majority of today's teens, let alone influence their behavior.

After finishing the book and ruminating on the plot, I think it may have been intentional on John Green's part to make the Before section aimless - it made the second half and the teens' search for meaning that much more powerful. I think Pudge's statement at the end of the book, in his final paper, really sums up the first and second parts of the book:

"When adults say, 'Teenagers think they are invincible' with that sly, stupid smile on their faces, they don't know how right they are. We need never be hopeless, because we can never be irreparably broken. We think that we are invincible because we are...They forget that when they get old. They get scared of losing and failing. But that part of us greater than the sum of our parts cannot begin and cannot end, and so it cannot fail."

**Spoiler Alert - quit reading here if you don't want vague references to what happens in this story!**

The first half of the story, our main characters live like they're invincible, but in the end they get a taste of their own mortality. And for any teenager who has dealt with the loss of one of their friends or acquaintances, this book could potentially help them. So despite my personal feelings about this book, I think Alaska deserves to have a place in any teen's library.

Waiting on Wednesday - Ouran High School Host Club Vol. 18

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

On Savvy Book Reviews, I'll be showcasing books that we'll be adding soon to the library!

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Ouran High School Host Club, Vol. 18 (Ouran High School Host Club #18)
by Bisco Hatori
Publication Date: June 5, 2012

From Goodreads:
Reads R to L (Japanese Style), for audiences rated teen. In this screwball romantic comedy, Haruhi, a poor girl at a rich kids' school, is forced to repay an $80,000 debt by working for the school's swankiest, all-male club--as a boy! There, she discovers just how wealthy the six members are and how different the rich are from everybody else... Final Volume!

This is the final volume in the Host Club manga series. This series was originally published in 2003, so this volume was a long time in coming! If you're a fan of this series, be sure to check out this volume when it comes to the library in June! If manga is new to you, or just this series, it's a fun read! Or you can check out the anime version (currently available on Netflix). While many of the anime episodes are based on the manga stories, there are some differences, particularly in the final episode (since there were still more manga volumes being written). Either way you do it, the story is at times funny, silly, heart warming, and heart breaking, but if you're anything like me, you'll be hooked!

Update: We have volume 18! See my full review of the series HERE.