Monday, August 30, 2010


Author: Allie Larkin
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin)
Released: June 2010
Genre: Women's Fiction

Van (Savannah) has been in love with Peter ever since they bumped into each other on the first day of college. But now, she has to serve as maid of honor as her best friend Janie marries Peter. After suffering through the ceremony and being told off by Diane, Janie's mom and Van's mother's former employer, Van goes on a drinking binge to drown out her pain. And when reruns of Rin Tin Tin incite in her feelings towards canines, Van impulsively buys a puppy online. The puppy, Joe, though not at all what she expected, is just what she needs - especially since the vet is so adorable! Ready to start fresh, Van moves forward, but is held back when the newlyweds return from their honeymoon and bring their messy families with them. But with her new resolve and courage from Joe, Van will trimph over all!

It took me a few days to read this book, and my reaction came in stages. My first thoughts, when reading the blurbs and the first few pages, was - oh! My Best Friend's Wedding with a dog! In fact, The Way You Look Tonight popped up within a few pages, so I figured the author was very much aware of the allusion. But no, Stay doesn't really have much to do with the movie, aside from the beginning of the premise. And after I realized that, my interest sort of waned. Not because I wanted the connection, but because the beginning of the book didn't hold my interest. It's a little slow-going and hard to get into. I almost put it down and forgot about it, but I figured - just a few more pages, maybe it'll pick up. And it does - once you get into it, it's hard to stop reading. It's just those first few chapters that are difficult.

Van herself is amazing. I love her character! She actually reminds me of myself quite a it - the endless review of things she says and does, second-guessing people's intentions and her reactions... Her constant insecurity, when combined with her outspokenness and rash behavior, is very endearing. Besides, she's funny! Ask my mother (who was sitting there while I was reading) - I just kept on laughing out loud!

I especially like that she does things throughout the book. She doens't sit back and wait for things to happen to her. She actually says at one point that up till then, her life was defined by other people's decisions, and now she is deciding for herself. I think that before that point also, she had been making decisions - many bad ones, but still, everything that happened was a result of things she did. I really don't like when heroines have things happen to them, and Van is one strong heroine in that she does things herself. When she screws up, it's all her fault, but when she fixes it, it's all her credit.

I did find the romance a bit lacking, both when it came to Peter and Alex, the vet, though for different reasons. With Peter, I just couldn't figure out why Van would have pined for him so long. He's actually a bit of a jerk! That wasn't consistent - sometimes he seemed really sweet, but at times I was completely disgusted with him. As for Alex, though I liked him and could totally understand Van falling for him, I felt like, first of all, I didn't get to know him very well, and besides, the romance was a bit underdeveloped. And when he leaves her, it seems totally out of character. Though his friend Louis explains why what Van did hurt him so much, I did feel like - whoa! where'd that come from?

For a light summer read, this book is quite good - full of laughs and hope and love. Once you start taking it apart, though (unpacking it, as my lit professors like to say), there are some things obviously missing. My advice - read it, enjoy it, and don't think too much about it!

Friday, August 27, 2010


Author: Robin McKinley
Publisher: Putnam (Penguin)
Release Date: November 2010
Genre: YA Fantasy

(I had a little plot summary written here, but I deleted it now, because it's a pathetic attempt at summing up this huge book. The book is too full of character and setting and the feeling of Balsinland and Rhiandomeer, and a summary loses all that and makes the book sound so dry - which it isn't at all!! I'm sure someone could write a good summary, but I've decided I won't reduce such depth to a few short lines.)

Robin McKinley has a way with language that is almost unparalleled. The first two chapters are really backstory and exposition, but it doesn't feel like it, because the descriptions are so vivid and woven through with Sylvi's thoughts and reactions to all this backstory. The tone throughout the entire book is lyrical and dreamy - as Lucy at Scribble City Central puts it: "Reading Pegasus for the first time was like walking into a dream I’d always had in the far reaches of my mind and always wanted to remember properly, but just didn’t know how to..." I think that describes it perfectly, and I think it's because of the language used. Robin McKinley's books all have slightly different "feel"s to them, because in each one, she adopts the voice most suited to the land and story, and in each case - especially Pegasus, I think! - I, as the reader, am surrounded by and enveloped in the world of the story so much that I have to consciously pull myself out of that world when I stop reading. In Pegasus, it is very easy to differentiate between Baslinland (the human kingdom) and Rhiandomeer (the pegasus kingdom), because the descriptions are so vivid that I felt Sylvi's sense of displacement when she moves from one to the other.

The descriptions of the pegasi are also so vivid that I could picture them clearly as I read. Their anatomy is obviously very clear to Robin, since every little piece of information about how the pegasi conduct themselves and accomplish things is all in keeping with their shape and structure. Robin often says that she doesn't create the stories, but they are given to her, and I think this is a manifestation of that. Her mental image of pegasi is obviously not "horses with wings." Down to their bone density, Robin knows exactly how they are constructed, and it all fits together with their capabilities and cultural work.

Another thing about Robin McKinley's language that I have always admired, and that stands out in Pegasus, is her amazing ability to create new languages that stay true to their individual sounds. Words from the pegasus language show up a lot throughout the book, and they look so tantalizing that I had to say them out loud. And guess what - they actually sound like the whuffling and neighing of horses! The names of the pegasi mostly also do (though Ebon doesn't, but he does say at one point that "Ebon" is only a human approximation of what his real name is). The names of the humans also all fit into a certain sound pattern, which is something I love about all of Robin's books - it adds so much to the culture of a land when names sound alike.

Sylvi and Ebon are great characters to experience this world with. I like it that they're not the same - they each have a distinct personality, and though they do go through all of this together and become good friends, they don't become like each other, but they retain their own individuality. (That was a comment on the caliber of the writing, not on the characters' own strength!) In fact, I tend to skip dialogue tag lines telling which character is saying what, and in this case, I was able to tell almost all the time who was speaking, since I felt I got to know them so well, and they had such unique styles of speech. And each on their own, Sylvi and Ebon are such likable characters! I love Ebon's sense of humor and lack of appreciation for authority and formality, and his way of making jokes and teasing Sylvi. Sylvi herself is more serious and concerned with the state of the two kingdoms and the Alliance, and it was easy to connect with her as she finds herself figuratively alone, and as she gets more information about what's going on that only serves to confuse her more.

Although I think this book focused more on setting and character development, the plot is very strong too. (I expect that Pegasus II will have more plot, and this book is really just setting the stage for what will happen next.) The bits of information that Sylvi picks up are intriguing, and I began to formulate ideas about what was actually going on. True to the idea of a "reader's dialogue" with a book, I had ideas about what Sylvi might do to help things, and who would help her and who would hinder her. I think it's one of the marks of a great book that a reader could make assumptions and predictions, that it's not all given away outright but it's not so enigmatic that the reader can't have ideas of her own.

By the time I got to the end of the book, I was so involved with the characters (not only Sylvi and Ebon, but their parents and siblings and friends) and I felt so in Balsinland and Rhiandomeer, and I had developed my own theory as to what the problem was, that at the climactic scene I actually felt myself inch forward so that I was "sitting at the edge of my seat!" And at the last page, my reaction was a big gasp and a huge "Noo!" I know that Pegasus isn't even released yet, and that Pegasus II is not even completely written yet, but now I just need to get the second book and find out what happens! (Halfway through the book, I started thinking about if it was really necessary to split this into two books. There's a lot of calm time in the book, and a lot of description, and I was thinking that maybe it could have been condensed into one volume. But now I realize the brilliance of splitting it into two books. First of all, because of all the description and the care taken to develop every character and really situate the reader in this world, I care a lot more about Sylvi and Ebon than I would have otherwise. And besides, now this gives me a chance to spend more time in a world I have come to love and care about!)

So now I'm on tenterhooks, waiting to find out how Sylvi and Ebon, and their parents, will deal with this, and what is actually truth and what is fabrication. Please, Robin, please - I need Pegasus II quick!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Every Breath You Take

Author: Judith McNaught
Publisher: Ballantine Books (Random House)
Released: 2005
Genre: Romance

On a vacation in Anguilla waiting for her boyfriend to join her, Kate Donovan meets a handsome, charming man and decides to heed her friend's advice and have an island fling. But what she doesn't know is that Mitchell Wyatt is the bastard grandson of one of the wealthiest men in Chicago, and that he is suspected of murdering his own brother. When it appears that Mitchell knew all along who she was, and in fact used her to get revenge on her boyfriend, whose father played a large part in making Mitchell disappear when he was born, Kate is devastated. And when she doesn't appear for their arranged meeting, Mitchell thinks she's gone back to her boyfriend and is himself devastated. Can the two headstrong lovers ever come to terms and understand each other?

I love Judith McNaught. Her plots are always so detailed, and the stories tug at the heartstrings. This book is no different. This is one of those books that I re-read every so often because it's so easy to get involved with the characters and get lost in the story. Kate and Mitchell are both fully-rounded characters, both equally sympathetic and easy to identify with. The story is real and believable, even the whirlwind two-day affair! The depth of the narrative is such that the events of the two days are covered in what I think of as "real-time." Not every second is written about, but such attention is given to all the significant moments that I felt like I was experiencing the romance myself. I love seeing how two people fall in love, and Judith McNaught allows her readers to be there every step of the way.

Howl's Moving Castle

Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: 1986
Genre: YA Fantasy

Every time I read this book, it gets better and better!

Sophie Hatter is the eldest,and therefore expects to live a dreary, boring life. But when the Witch of the Waste comes into her hat shop and puts a curse on her, turning her into an old woman, Sophie gets more adventure than she could ever have dreamed of. Taking refuge in Wizard Howl's moving castle involves her in all his affairs, including a contract with a fire demon and running away from the king, as well as avoiding a curse the Witch of the Waste put on him. But many characters are really involved in all this, and the plot gets more and more tangled as each one shows up.

Knowing how a story ends (after having read the book before, of course!) lets you see a whole lot of things that you may have missed when you first read it. Diana Wynne Jones drops lots of little clues throughout the book that make re-reading it more fantastic than reading it the first time around! Knowing what Sophie doesn't, and some bits of what Howl doesn't, makes certain details that seemed insignificant before just pop off the page.

Besides, the second (or third, or fifth...) time around, you can savor the language more and appreciate little bits of Jones' fascinating style. For example, here's one that caught my eye this time, that I had to re-read a few times: "Or had Howl slithered out so hard that he had come out right behind himself and turned out what most people would call honest?" That sentence is just so amazing - it didn't make sense to me when I first read it, but after re-reading it a few times, I sort of get what it means. But the idea of it - slithering out and coming out behind himself! - is so vivid that it doesn't really matter if I fully grasp what it means.

I'm sure this is not the last time I'll be reading this book. It's the mark of a really good book - that you can re-read it so many times and still want to read it again as soon as you finish it!

Friday, August 20, 2010

In My Mailbox 4

In My Mailbox is a meme started by The Story Siren, where bloggers post any new books they bought, received, borrowed, etc.

This week was a week of firsts!

I finally got around to buying books and building my own library. While we were on vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia, my friends and I headed into a store called "Books-A-Million." With a name like that, who could resist? Well, their setup is just amazing - so clear, everything easy to find... And the part I liked best, at the front they had books for $3.97! Now, my main obstacle to buying books is that I can't really afford them, but at that price?! So I bought two!

The Richest Season, by Maryann McFadden
Summer Blowout, by Claire Cook

 I also got my first ARC! A few months ago, I came across a post on Robin McKinley's blog saying that if you want to get an ARC of Pegasus, email her editor at Penguin. So I did, but when I didn't hear back, I figured I wasn't going to get one. But when I came back home yesterday, I found a big envelope waiting for me - with the ARC of Pegasus!

Pegasus, by Robin McKinley

And then, of course, some books from the library:
My Name Is Memory, by Ann Brashares
Perfect, by Judith McNaught (which I've read before, a few times - it's worth re-reading again and again!)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Beautiful Creatures

Authors: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (Hachette Book Group)
Released: December 2009
Genre: YA Fantasy/Paranormal Romance

When Lena Duchannes moves to the never-changing town of Gatlin, she creates quite a stir, not only because she's new, but because she is the niece of the town shut-in, the craziest man in town. But Ethan Wate is captivated by her, and despite her attempts to push him away, befriends her, making everyone else in this tradition-bound town turn on him for "turning" on them. To make matters worse, neither Ethan's  nor Lena's families want to see this friendship - and then, of course, there are all the weird things that are happening. Even before Lena moved to town, Ethan had been having extremely vivid dreams about her - dreams that had him waking up wet, with mud all over him. When Lena tells Ethan that her family is "Casters," he is not all that surprised. But there are things even Lena doesn't know or understand, about her own fate and the fate of her family...

I really really like this book! The first few chapters were a little slow-moving and hard to get into, but once the real story started, I couldn't put the book down!

The characters are so real and I felt I could relate to almost all of them - even the bad ones! I loved that Lena and Ethan's relationship is so real, and develops first as a friendship, even as a one-sided pursuance of a friendship at first, before developing into a romantic relationship. The dynamics of the town also seem real - not that I have any kind of experience with a small town like Gatlin, but it seems real. And considering that one of the authors wanted to write a book about the South, I have to assume that she would have taken pains to ensure that it matches real Southern small-town mentalities as much as possible! The high-school dynamics are also real, and unlike many books in these categories, it didn't feel at all cliched. Yes, there are the jocks and the cheerleaders, and the outcasts, but each jock and cheerleader has his/her own personality, and it makes the whole group relationship so much realer.

The mystery of what's going on is intriguing, and it's artfully woven so that everything makes sense, but each new piece of information adds a new piece to the puzzle that has to be figured out. I hate to say this, because it sounds so cliched, but in this respect, Beautiful Creatures reminded me of Harry Potter - the way every bit of information is vital to the final resolution, but it doesn't read like a mystery, and it's all woven together so that the reader is just as involved in the bewilderment as the characters in the story are.

Actually, I was reminded of a few "sources" (for lack of a better word) as I read the book. There was at least one similarity to the TV show Charmed, and one scene which thrust me back to the horrifying experience of Stephen King's Carrie. I still don't know if I think this is a good thing or a bad thing. I know authors borrow ideas from other books, or use others' ideas to spark their own, but when it's so obvious - what do you think?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Along for the Ride

Author: Sarah Dessen
Publisher: Viking (Penguin Group)
Released: 2009
Genre: Young Adult

Auden has spent her whole life caught up in her parents' goals for her, struggling to get their attention while her older brother, who does everything irresponsible, gets their undivided attention. She's always been responsible and mature, and she's never done anything impulsive. She's also never had any fun. So when her stepmother, Heidi, a girly-girl Auden's mother despises, invites her for the summer between high school and college, Auden impulsively says yes and drives over to spend the summer with her father, stepmother and new baby sister. Although it doesn't start out as any sort of vacation, Auden soon meets Eli, a fellow insomniac, who shows her what she's missed as a child and allows her to experience "essential" childhood memories. Over the summer, Auden learns that growing up can sometimes mean being a child again.

Auden is such a sympathetic character. You can really feel for the girl who just wants her parents to see her, but realizes too late that perfection goes unnoticed while acting out and being a baby gets their undivided attention. And a girl who realizes that she is the only real adult in the equation of her family, and who takes a summer for herself to remedy that.

The story is a great one for breaking stereotypes. When Auden discovers things about her "ditzy" stepmother and her friends, and when she sees the truth about her own supposedly mature, academic parents, she sees that not everything is clear-cut, and that it is possible to be adult and mature without losing your personality or losing out on having fun and relaxing.

I loved the style of the book. It's fresh and engaging, and Auden's voice is authentic and consistent. There's also a sort of back-and-forth as Sarah Dessen uses flashbacks quite a bit. It reflects the crazy quality of time in a  teenager's life, and allows the reader to see Auden's reactions before the event and then find out what happened, making it that much more interesting.

This is a good coming-of-age story, with great relationships and characters and an engaging plot.

Nowhere to Run

Author: Suzanne Brockmann
Publisher: Harlequin Books
Released: 2010 (Released individually 1995)
Genre: Romantic Suspense

Not Without Risk
Emily Marshall is in a calm relationship that seems to be moving along nicely, with the richest, most eligible bachelor in town. But on one of his many boat parties, Emily accidentally overhears a shocking conversation that implies her boyfriend is in fact involved in drug smuggling. As a teacher who's seen the tragedy that drugs bring, she hurries to bring this information to the police. The last thing she expects to find there is Jim Keegan, the man who so cruelly broke her heart seven years ago. But when he is assigned to work undercover as her brother, they both have to face the demons from the past and rediscover their passions for each other that still burn strong.

A Man to Die For
When Carrie Brooks blows police officer Felipe Salazar's cover infiltrating organized crime, she finds herself running away with him as he is chased by both murderers and police alike. But is she his hostage or is he protecting her? As Carrie begins to believe Felipe, she also falls in love with the man who is protecting her and whom she helps to redeem.

These were both great fluff stories. Low on the suspense, real high on the romance, perfect beachside stories. In fact, I read these by the poolside! They're really good light reading, the characters are believable and likable, and the romance is, as they say, "sizzling." I like "two-for"s like this, where the characters from one end up in some small way in the next.And the style of both stories is fun and fast, so although it's easy reading, it's not at all slow!

We Think, Therefore We Are

Edited by: Peter Crowther
Publisher: DAW Books (Penguin Group)
Released: January 2009
Genre: Science Fiction Short Stories

First of all, I love the title. It introduces exactly what question the book is supposed to explore - how far does Artificial Intelligence go? And as the cover says, what is the nature of Artificial Intelligence? These are 15 stories with very different tones and approaches to exploring the limits and capabilities and possible future situations of AI.

My favorite story was The Highway Code, by Brian Stableford. This one, I think, combined a real, down-to-earth tone with a complete execution of the task, which was to examine how AI might appear in the world and what ramifications it might have. The story is told from the point of view of a sentient truck, which is programmed to want to follow the three rules of the Highway Code, but winds up facing a choice in a time of emergency which would violate all three at once. I found it interesting to have an object which is so clearly a computer end up blurring the boundaries between a program and a thinking being.

On the whole, I have to say, I was somewhat disappointed with the book. I expected the stories to all be like The Highway Code, examining the boundaries between computers and sentient beings, but most of the stories just touched on that and didn't explore it the way this and a few others did. Besides, though it's great to have different tones, the styles of these stories were so different that I doubt one person would enjoy every story in the book. Someone who likes what I think of as the "science fiction" tone, where complex sentence structures and obscure vocabulary are used, would dismiss half the stories, and vice versa.

Still, there are a lot of interesting situations discussed in these stories: Could an AI choose to disobey its creator (Adam Robots)? Could AIs have power struggles (Tempest 43)? Could AIs, millions of years after humankind ceased to exist, create humans in their turn (The New Cyberiad)? These are the stories that attempt to predict what a world where Artificial Intelligence is finally invented would look like.

Monday, August 9, 2010

In My Mailbox 3

In My Mailbox is a meme started by The Story Siren, where bloggers post any new books they bought, received, borrowed, etc.

Earlier this morning, I posted the books I'd gotten before last week Sunday. But if I wait for next Sunday to post again, I'll have over a dozen books to list! Because since I was gone for a week, this afternoon I picked up 10 books from the library. The maximum number of holds per card in my neighborhood library is 10, so I usually have 10 books on hold. Thing is, I usually pick up each one as it comes in and put another on the list, so I get two or three books at a time that way. Over the past week, all 10 books came in (unusual in and of itself) and sat waiting until I got back from vacation. So now that I checked them out, here goes:

The Diana Wynne Jones books I intended to read last week. Some I've read already, some are new to me (all old in terms of release!).

Fire and Hemlock
The Power of Three
Howl's Moving Castle
Castle in the Air

Three Judith McNaught books:
Once and Always
Every Breath You Take
Someone to Watch Over Me

Stay by Allie Larkin
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Add these to my ever-growing pile of to-be-reads and I have a grand total of 16 books waiting! Let's see if I can finish all these before the semester starts, because with a course-load of 19 credits plus a part-time job, I doubt I'll be having a lot of time for pleasure-reading. Though I've learned from experience to make time for relaxing reading or risk going insane!

Chasing Orion

Author: Kathryn Lasky
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Copyright: 2010
Genre: Middle Grade Historical Fiction

To Georgie, the polio epidemic in the summer of 1952 means no swimming, no theater, no anything in crowded public places. But when she moves across town and finds out that right next door lives a girl in an iron lung, her perspective begins to change. At first fascinated by the idea of living inside a confined space and having a machine breathe for her, as Georgie gets to know Phyllis better she begins to understand what it means to be so disabled and the effects it can have on a person. It takes growing up fast and having strength and courage to prevent a tragedy caused by Phyllis' manipulation.

I found myself paying a lot more attention to my breathing as I read this book. The vivid descriptions of how the iron lung breathed for Phyllis and how Georgie felt when listening to the machine working made me feel as if I were standing there as well. The language of the book is clear and straightforward, which is always great in a middle grade book, but at the same time it is rich and detailed, and it isn't "dumbed down" at all. In fact, the theme is pretty intense for an eleven year old, dealing with life and death and the meaning of living, but it is handled so well that it is not at all inappropriate for little kids.

There are really two parts to the book - the historical aspect and the theme. The history, as expected from an author who actually lived through it at the same age as the protagonist, is so real and accurate that I felt transported to that time period for a bit. Not only the part about the iron lung, but every part of the 1950's seems so real and vivid. The theme is an important one and very clearly developed, along with Georgie's maturation. At the same time, the theme doesn't take over the whole book so that it is overly pervasive. Georgie also deals with the problems of moving to a new neighborhood, fitting in a new school, and making friends. Although she ends up having to deal with problems of major proportions, she is a normal eleven year old, one that all eleven year olds can relate to.

The one thing I didn't like about this book was how Phyllis' secret is outed. She ends up admitting to manipulating Georgie's brother, but I felt like that was a bit unrealistic. Someone who could lie to everyone around her for so long, plan and plot and use people the way Phyllis did would not destroy her plan just because a little girl says something about it. That didn't ring true to me.

But the book really is a great book, and if I were still teaching, I'd recommend it to my students! It's thought-provoking, extremely well-written, and enjoyable.

Thanks to Amanda of A Patchwork of Books for reviewing Chasing Orion!


Author: Meg Cabot
Publisher: William Morrow (HarperCollins)
Copyright: 2010
Genre: Paranormal Romance

Meena Harper is lucky to be able to write for Insatiable, her favorite TV show. But when her bosses are sucked into the nationwide craze over vampires and make her write them into the plot of the show, Meena is disgusted. She doesn't get why people would pretend to believe something so obviously made up. Meena does have some experience with the supernatural - she can tell how someone is going to die just by looking at them. But vampires? That's just ridiculous. But then Meena meets Lucien Antonescu, her neighbor's cousin, a prince - and a vampire. Not only a vampire, but a vampire being hunted by a special task force established solely to find and destroy vampires. When Meena unwittingly and unwillingly becomes involved in the vampire war and the vampire hunting, she finds herself in the same position of "vampire-crazed girls" she has always scorned.

Insatiable is a bestseller - and with good reason! Some authors take advantage of fads in book topics, but Meg Cabot goes a step farther and pokes fun at the fad while writing a book that feeds into the public's craving for the topic. The tongue-in-cheek references to the craze are hysterical - especially the reference to "those books by that author"! I'm assuming the actual title and author couldn't be used for legal reasons, but I think leaving it out suits perfectly for the tone of the whole book. Meena dismisses the vampire fad as juvenile and insipid, and I think Meg Cabot herself is commenting on the craze and saying it's a bit ridiculous, but Meena has to deal with vampires and in fact catches herself acting like the girls she ridiculed.

Separate from the whole sarcastic bit, the story itself is also great. One of the best things about it was that fifteen pages from the end, I looked up from the books and commented "I'm almost finished the book, and I have no idea how it ends." It's great when the ending is not obvious, when the character is left with a decision big enough to leave the conclusion in doubt until the last few pages. There are so many characters in the book that each one introduces complications that have to be resolved and keep going till the end.

That's another thing - the characters. There are so many, and they are all so unique! Not all of them are totally developed - some are sort of stock characters - but the main few have distinct personalities and it's the characters themselves who propel the story forward at every turn. I loved how Meena's brother affects the "battle scene" so much, and it's all because of traits that are explored earlier in the book and portrayed in various situations. Meena's friend, her neighbors, her bosses, the vampire hunters, the warring vampires... they're all individual and their personalities are essential to what happens in the plot.

Most of all, I love Meena. In most ways, she's just like any woman, struggling with a job she loves, bosses she hates, demands from work and family, and finding love. But because of her "gift," she's not just a simple woman. She has strength, which she had to develop because she sees people's death, and she is caring and compassionate, which leads her to warn people even when they think she's utterly nuts. It's her compassion and willingness to help others out of harmful situations that brings the battle to a boil. But mostly I love her sarcastic, cynical tone, her pessimistic view while being funny. It's a great combination and made me feel like I'd love to know Meena in real life!

A book that plays into the current trend but in a new way, intriguing plot questions, captivating characters - if I rated books, I'd give this one six stars out of five!

The Week Without Access / In My Mailbox 2

It's been more than a week since I've posted, but I actually read more this week than any week in the past few months! My family finally took a vacation. We rented a bungalow in the Catskills for a week and spent tons of time in the pool, out in the sun, taking walks... It was so great! And since we weren't doing too many activities, and we were just lazing around, I read one book a day! The one problem was that I didn't have internet access up there, so I couldn't post my opinions of the books as I read them. I realized (too late of course) that I should've been writing reviews as I finished the books, or at least jotting down a few thoughts about them, so I could write a full review when I got back to the city. But I didn't do that. And now I have five books to review, and while they're all very different, it's going to be much harder to write individual pieces about each one. I'm being realistic and giving myself more than just today to write all the reviews, to give myself enough time to focus on each book on its own and sort of get back into the story so I can remember what I liked or didn't like about each one.

Another thing that got messed up because of this vacation was Diana Wynne Jones Week. Remember Jenny's Books' "challenge" to read and review DWJ books the week of August 1 - August 7? Well, I didn't get a chance to pick up my books before we left, so aside from not being able to review the books because I couldn't get online, I couldn't even read the books! But I've got a whole bunch of books on hold at the library, some I've read and some I haven't, so I'll read and blog about them this week and next instead! Never too late, right?

OK, so I missed last week's In My Mailbox, and I'm a little late for this week's - but didn't we just say it's never too late?? I only added three books to my shelf , all of which I read over the week. I tend to do that - read the most recent additions to my library while books I got before but didn't get a chance to read get pushed to the bottom of the pile. So here are the three books:

(In My Mailbox is a meme started by The Story Siren, where bloggers post any new books they bought, received, borrowed, etc.)

Nowhere to Run  by Suzanne Brockmann - "double-feature" romance
Chasing Orion by Kathryn Lasky - Middle Grade Historical Fiction
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen - Young Adult

Later today, I'll go to the library and pick up more books. Should I post them this week or wait for next Sunday?