Sunday, November 28, 2010

In My Mailbox 13

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

I got three books from the library today. Two are books I had on hold but were taking forever to come, so I decided to check my neighborhood branch - and voila! There they were!
Chalice and Sunshine by Robin McKinley
OK, so my version of Sunshine is the older one, first published as an adult book. The cover featured here is the one released as a YA book. As far as I know, there are no differences in the content, just in the packaging.

And then I looked on the shelf next to Robin McKinley's books, and I saw a book from another great author, Patricia A. McKillip: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld.
The Forgotten Beasts of Eld (Magic Carpet Books)
When I was walking home from the library, I thought - oh, I think I read this one before! But if this is the book I'm thinking I read while I was traveling three years ago, this must be a really great book, because I'm remembering some scenes very vividly! SO I can't wait to re-read it now!

What's in your mailbox?

Simply Irresistible

Author: Jill Shalvis
Publisher: Forever (Hachette Book Group)
Released: October 1, 2010
Genre: Romance

Maddie just broke up with her boyfriend and lost her job, and she's heading out to Lucky Harbor, Washington, where her mother left an old inn to her and her two half-sisters, to start over. But the inn is in a much worse state than she expected, and her sisters are eager to deal with selling it and get back to their own lives. Maddie is determined to create a life for herself with the inn, and she sets about doing what has to be done to get it into shape. Which includes hiring a "master carpenter" who turns out to be a lot more than that! Jax is undeniably hot, but also kind and thoughtful and just what Maddie needs. Dealing with overcoming her past, getting along with her sisters, and struggling with the inn could be too much for Maddie, but building a relationship with Jax helps her out considerably.

Simply Irresistible is not so much plot-driven as sex-driven. The plot is fairly simple, and the emotions are fairly simple, too, but it works because it's all written so beautifully. Maddie is a fully developed character, so I could follow her ups and downs about her sisters, Jax, and the inn very clearly. This seems to be a romance novel whose main point is the love scenes, which is not the type of book I usually go for, but I loved the book! Coming from attempting to read another book which jumped right into the sex and was very graphic and made me go "ew, why would anyone want to read this," I totally love how Jill handles the sex scenes - she somehow makes it so beautiful, so touching. So though the plot doesn't really happen except for at the beginning and the end of the book, there's so much in the middle that you can just sink right into!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Always A Witch

Author: Carolyn MacCullough
Publisher: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Release Date: August 1, 2011
Genre: YA Fantasy (Urban Fantasy)

*Warning: If you haven't read Once a Witch yet - there are spoilers for that in this summary and review of Always a Witch.*

After discovering that she does indeed have a Talent and that her entire family is in danger, Tamsin Greene is charged with another mission: to follow Alistair Knight, the man who threatens her family, back into the 1880s and either to stop him from getting to the Knight family or to get to her own ancestors and warn them of the impending danger to their descendants. Things are never what they seem, and this is a huge battle that Tamsin alone can fight - and there is a choice that she alone must make by the end of it - a terrible choice, as her grandmother told her.

The second book outdoes the first - and that's saying something! By the time Always a Witch starts, Tamsin has grown a lot from the appealingly juvenile girl she was at the beginning of Once a Witch, and she continues to grow and mature throughout the book. Watching her develop was so satisfying - as her decisions become harder, the obstacles more difficult, as the action escalates, she becomes an adult, but she still retains her vibrant personality. She's more serious at the other end of all this, but she's still herself - which is one of the lessons she has to learn.

And that part is done so beautifully - about coming to terms with who she is. It's not belabored, it just slides naturally into the story - and I love how the titles of the books tie that all together. No more on that or I'll give away parts of the ending, but I really love that.

The pacing that I loved in the first book carries through to the second as well. Carolyn MacCullough really knows how to hook you right away and keep your attention and interest throughout the entire book. Never a dull moment, the action building and building as you hold your breath up to the scene where everything falls apart and comes together, and then the perfect ending, as you quietly let out all that breath you've been holding in a contented sigh. The resolution, by the way, is totally surprising. When Tamsin is faced with that "terrible choice," I had no idea what she'd do. It looks like it's going one way, then the other, then... The situation felt like a real decision, where no option seems right and you're looking for another way out. So I was feeling right along with Tamsin as she agonized over what to do.

I like that the choices all the characters have to make are never clear-cut. Well, except for the evil characters, whose choices are easy because they do whatever they want to do, without bothering about what's right. But the good characters' choices seem so difficult - and I love the way Carolyn gets them out of what sounds like a horrible situation to be in. It's so clever, so unexpected, and just so right.

The time traveling features a lot more in this book than the first, but I like it that the book still doesn't turn into an exploration of how time travel works. There are lots of twists to the story that play with the idea, and it introduces just enough of a mystery to intrigue you about time travel but not take your focus away from the story.

It's unfortunate that I never heard of Carolyn MacCullough before, but I'm rushing to pick up her previous books, Drawing the Ocean, Stealing Henryand Falling Through Darkness. Her writing style is so clear and compelling, her characters so believable, her plots so natural. She's going right onto my favorites list now!

Thanks to Houghton Mifflin and to NetGalley for providing a digital copy for review.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Once A Witch

Author: Carolyn MacCullough
Publisher: Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Released: September 14, 2009
Genre: YA Fantasy (Urban Fantasy)

Tamsin is the odd one out in her family, not for any quality she has but for one she doesn't have. All her family members are Talented, but Tamsin never displayed any Talent. So when someone mistakes her for her perfect older sister and asks for her help in finding something, Tamsin goes along if only to feel the admiration she never gets. But there is more to the search than Tamsin could have imagined, and soon she finds the fate of all her family in her hands as she discovers family secrets, travels back in time, and battles an old family enemy, along the way finding out startling things about herself.

I was hooked on this book from the very first page! The story started right away, no sliding into it, which I love. And the pacing of the whole book is amazing - never a dull moment, but things don't happen too quickly either. The sense of time throughout was great. Time sped up when Tamsin was trying to get somewhere, slowed down when big things were happening... It takes a genius to get all that so exactly right!

I love Tamsin. She's so deliciously immature at the beginning, and she doesn't grow up in one page - it's a process, which the reader can follow along with. Oh, and she's not fully grown up by the end of the book, either, in my opinion - which makes it that much realer. And sets up for the second book!

The magic of the story is really good, too. It all makes sense, all the rules following throughout, which is something I always look for in fantasy. And the time travel - I love the time travel bits. The book doesn't seem to be trying to answer any questions about time travel or explain how time travel in all its intricacies works, but there are some really amusing bits and pieces of what happens and what people say during and after the time travel. I like it.

I have the second book, Always a Witch, as an advance copy from NetGalley, and I plan on starting on that tonight, because I want to spend more time with Tamsin!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book-Review-Blogs Etiquette

I just came across this great post on author Jaclyn Dolamores's blog titled "Ten Types of Reviews That Make Authors Sad." Check it out, it's really good! I totally agree with all her points. And it got me thinking about how I approach reviews here on Reader's Dialogue.

When I read a book, I pay attention to things that I like or don't like about the book and make mental notes of them. When I finish the book, I review the notes I took and think - did the negative points get resolved by the end of the book? Did they appear only briefly, like once or twice? If so, I won't even mention them. Something that bothered me for one page is not worth giving a bad review for. And I know from reading experience that no matter how good a review is, if there's even one negative point, the enthusiasm for buying/getting the book is dampened.

Then I think about the positive points I took note of. These are usually much more extensive than the negative. (I guess it helps to read books in the genre I enjoy and by authors I know I like!) I pull out the three or four main points that pop up throughout the whole book and give each of these their own paragraph in the review to make them stand out.

I try to be specific - not to say only "I loved Stephanie!" but to explain what it was that I loved so much about her character. I think it helps readers decide which book to read if they know why someone thought it was good. I've come across the "Wrong Reader" problem (Jaclyn's Point #7) because of reviewers who simply say they liked the book, and when I get it I realize they obviously like elements that I can't stand.

I think blog readers get to know a blogger's likes and dislikes over time as they read more reviews, which helps when I love a book and can't quite put my finger on why - readers will trust that if I liked it, they will - if I've given enough detail about books in the past that they know my tastes match theirs.

Oh - and the Sloppy Slam (#1)? Whether it's a positive or negative review, as a blog reader what turns me off is vagueness or plain old bad grammar. Of course, I know it's not the author's fault if a blogger can't spell or use punctuation, etc., but I noticed that there's an irrational reaction to sloppy reviews that result in my not wanting the book as much as I might have. I feel like if I'm writing about an author's work, good or bad, I owe it to that author, as respect for her work, to clean up my writing and present it as clearly as possible.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Indulgence In Death

Author: J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam (Penguin)
Released: November 2, 2010
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Futuristic Police Procedural

Reading this was like meeting an old friend and settling back into comfortable conversation. This is the first time I'm reading the new book in the series as it was released without catching up on the books I'd missed out on up till then. And I like it!

I love how easy it was to fall back into the rhythm of Eve and Roarke's relationship and then into Eve's work and interactions with everyone else. I liked that the book started off with Eve and Roarke on vacation. That part is usually between books but not featured in the book itself. This trip had nothing to do with the case in the rest of the book, but it was a nice interlude. I was also happy that Eve and Roarke don't (really) fight in this book. Fighting is a part of what makes their relationship, I know, but still, it was nice to have one book where everything was good and they stayed happy - or as happy as they ever are.

One thing that really struck me when I was reading this is probably because of the copyediting and proofreading course I'm taking now. I guess I can appreciate more how hard it is to maintain characters and plot points across such a huge series. And though I know now that there's a backup team ensuring continuity, I still think it's Nora Roberts's genius that keeps the tone and the characters so consistent throughout the series. Within the book, as well, each character has his/her own individual voice. And add to the amount of work and thought that takes, that Nora keeps writing regular romance novels as she writes these and has to keep these characters straight - all I can say is - wow!!

Now that I've experienced reading the newest book on its own, I'm so looking forward to the next book already!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Beautiful Darkness

Authors: Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
Pubisher: Little, Brown and Company
Released: October 12, 2010
Genre: YA Paranormal

I was very disappointed with this sequel to Beautiful Creatures. Everything I loved about the first book is gone from the second, and the things that bothered me about the first book are magnified in the second.

The slow beginning of Beautiful Creatures put me off a bit, but once I got into the story, that little pest faded away and I became involved with the characters. In Beautiful Darkness, I had a hard time getting back into the story (partly because I didn't remember exactly what had happened at the end of Beautiful Creatures and the second book does not give any sort of recap), and by the time I got to page 250, I was thinking - OK, so Lena is going dark, Ethan still loves her and wants to save her. Now what? There's way too much downtime, too much time passing without any real development and progression of the plot.

Besides, what I loved about the first book was Lena and Ethan's relationship, and that was totally gone from most of the book. At the beginning, they're together but pulling apart, and then they have nothing to do with each other for a while. But even at the very beginning, when their relationship is about the same, the spark is gone, and I didn't feel like rooting for them.

In addition to the downtime and lack of emotional attachment, there's a lot of telling instead of showing in the second book. There are bits of exposition interspersed in the recounting of what is happening at the moment, and this totally detracts from the story. It messes with the pacing, too, since there are bursts of frantic chapters and reeaally slow chapters.

I'll confess - I didn't read the book all the way through. After I got to page 250 last week, I decided I had to force myself to finish even though I had no interest in doing so, because I can't review the book if I haven't read it through. But today, forcing myself to turn each page was torture. So at one point, I flipped to the end and read the last twenty pages. I didn't intend to read all the way to the end, I just wanted to see where things were going, but I read till the last page. Here's the thing: I was able to understand everything that was going on, even though I'd missed out on over a hundred pages. That shouldn't be able to happen in a really good book. It means that the authors took pages and pages to say what could've been condensed into much less - which is what I was thinking about the beginning of the book.

So all in all, not very satisfying.

In My Mailbox 12

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

I got two books this week from the library:
Indulgence in Death 
Indulgence in Death, by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts), featuring Eve Dallas and Roarke - yay!! I've been waiting for this book for a while, and I started reading it today, and I love it!!

Simply Irresistible (A Lucky Harbor Novel) 

Simply Irresistible, by Jill Shalvis. This one I put on hold after seeing it in another blogger's Mailbox, but now I don't really remember what was said about it! It looks like a good romance - the type I love, with real relationships and real problems.

That's it for this week! What did you get?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

In My Mailbox 11

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

 Here's what I picked up this week:

The Inner Circle, by Brad Meltzer. I don;t usually read thrillers, but this sounds good. Thank NetGalley!

I finally got Beautiful Darkness this week. I read Beautiful Creatures a while ago, so I was excited for this, but I'm halfway through and so far somewhat disappointed. I will finish the book, so I'll see what happens.
Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy. I stumbled across this title as I was doing research on Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court - and I couldn't resist getting a look at what people in 1900 thought 2000 would look like!

These two are part of my research on knights and chivalry in history and in literature. I'm not posting all the books I'm reading for this project, because they're mostly academic, but look at these shiny bright covers! And by the way, you can't really tell from the pictures, but they're big-size books. Look at Knights - so inviting!

So that's it for this week - still working on the hugongous real and virtual piles!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Author: Cynthia Hand
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: January 1, 2011
Genre: YA Paranormal

There's been a lot of hype around this book, and I've discovered it is well-deserved! Once I got into the story, I didn't want to put it down. It's a compelling read, with great characters and a great plot. (And an exceptionally great cover!)

Clara is an angel-blood, daughter of a half-angel, which makes her a quarter-angel. She knows she has a purpose, and when she begins getting visions foretelling what her purpose will be, her mother decides they have to move from California to Wyoming in order to be in the place where the vision happens. Clara finds Christian, the boy she is supposed to save and is totally attracted to him, but nothing goes as smoothly as it could. Christian has a girlfriend, and Clara seems to only be able to watch him from afar. Meanwhile, though, she becomes friends with Wendy and her brother Tucker, and with Angela, another angel-blood who investigates details about angels that Clara's mother refuses to tell her. By the time Clara's purpose rolls around, everything has changed and the purpose is no longer as simple as saving Christian...

I love love love the book! It's all about the detail and the natural feel to every part of the book - the characters, the plot, the setting - everything!

All the characters are so real and the interactions between the characters are amazingly authentic. They sound like real teenagers, even when they're talking about supernatural stuff. I kept laughing at some of the things they said and did because the true-to-life quality made it like an observation of actual teenagers. And of course, when things aren't so happy or funny, I felt right along with the characters because every emotion was portrayed so beautifully.

I especially love the relationship between Clara and Tucker. It develops so naturally, and those were the parts where I laughed the most. Tucker himself is a really great character, and the way he talks to Clara and how he deals with her is so awww. (Sorry for that, sometimes you just gotta get mushy!) Christian is an interesting character, but I have a feeling there's a lot more to him than is revealed in this book. The "love-triangle" gimmick (I call it that because it's used so much these days) actually works really well, and is an essential part of the plot.

The plot works really well, too. When I analyzed it, I realized that some points could have ended up sounding forced and contrived, but nothing does. One event follows the next naturally, to the point that you could even take away the chapter separations and still follow the flow of the story. Not everything is clear, of course - especially the purpose, which I guess will be the topic of the next book.

And I am definitely looking forward to the next book now!

Thanks to HarperCollins and NetGalley for providing a digital copy for review.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In My Mailbox 10

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

I was very good this week and didn't add too many more books to my ever-growing pile. Considering that I only read one and a half books this week (outside of schoolwork, that is), it's not all that good, as I still have lots of physical books on my shelf and lots more waiting to be downloaded from NetGalley. So here's what I got:

The Journals of the Jacoby Odyssey, by Rachel M. Daigle
This one I got from

And from the library:
The Naughty List, by Donna Kauffman, Cynthia Eden, and Susan Fox
My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me, and anthology edited by Kater Bernheimer
The anthology of retold fairy tales was recommended to me by a colleague, and she's been reading the stories and discussing them with everyone, so I'm excited to read it! I'll probably read it in installments, though - it's really thick, and how many fairy tales (depressing ones!) can you read at one time?

So that's it for this week! What did you get?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

It's Not Summer Without You

Author: Jenny Han
Publisher: Simon and Schuster BFYR
Released: April 27, 2010
Genre: Young Adult

The second book about Belly, following The Summer I Turned Pretty, picks up a year after she finally got Conrad to notice her the way she wanted him to, but everything is not so great. Susannah died two months before the summer, Conrad sort-of broke up with her before that at her prom, and Belly hasn't moved on from any of it, despite her friend Taylor's attempts. And when Jeremiah calls to say that Conrad took off from summer school without a word to anyone and asks her to help him look for his brother, Belly finds herself back at Cousins Beach again. Here, at the beach house, maybe things can turn out right.

I like the second book a lot better than the first, and I really liked the first book! I think this one has more to the plot, and the characters get more fully fleshed out. The technique of going back and forth in time is still here, and it's executed more skillfully in It's Not Summer Without You, also including some chapters from Jeremiah's point of view. It's great how seamlessly it all fits together and every bit adds to the complexity of the story.

Now here's a part that I like that's hard to explain why without giving away the ending, but I'll try. Throughout the first book and most of the second book, I felt like Belly had no reason to love Conrad. I never got a full picture of his character, though it didn't bother me because the focus was on Belly's feelings, not on the person she had those feelings for. By the middle of the second book, though, I started getting annoyed at Belly for not getting over him. He did seem to be a bit of a jerk at that point. But the ending of the book clears all of that up and ends it just the way I was hoping for!