A BOOK : Scarlet

11983940Scarlet
by A.C. Gaughen

Published February 2012

Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance. 

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

Summary and photo from Goodreads.com

I started Scarlet with high hopes and I instantly fell in love with it in the first few pages. Scarlet’s dialogue takes a minute to get used to, but I personally had no trouble falling into her style of speech. For some reason I love characters that end up dressing up and pretending to be someone they’re not, and while some people do know that she is a girl the majority of the people don’t, which leads to some funny encounters. I also love the tension of having a girl in an all boys “band of merry men” or whatever the Robin Hood clan is called. Not like the romantic tension- but the tension between the boys wanting to protect Scarlet and Scarlet having none of that. I think that was my favorite part of Scarlet. One of the guys would say something and then Scarlet would say the exact thing I was thinking of.

It did end up being more about romance than I had originally wanted it to be, but I thought overall Gaughen balanced it pretty well and it felt natural to the characters. I loved that Scarlet could prove that even though she is this headstrong tough woman, she still had feelings. I love that we were in her mind and we were able to see her struggle with getting used to the idea that she might have feelings for one of her friends no matter how much she tried to squash them.

Scarlet has her own past and her story of how she became known as Will Scarlet was scattered throughout the story. I was a fan of how slowly Scarlet’s story trickled out as she was forced to deal with her past and finally began opening up to her friends. Some last thoughts:

  • Much was basically my favorite character ever.
  • I loved the explanations behind the names
  • Scarlet is a thief and that is just pretty much awesome.
  • I just love how angry Scarlet got when it comes to men vs. women, noble folk vs. commoners, and judging people for what they do. There is a line where Scarlet makes a comment about how she tends to see things others don’t around her and it definitely is true. I love that she spoke strongly about these things even though people didn’t usually listen.
  • I also love how Scarlet was religious. I found it interesting to read about her faith especially since she is a thief.

So, if you can’t tell, I ended up really liking Scarlet. The next book is Lady Thief. I am personally excited to read this book especially after how the first one ended. I can’t wait to see how Scarlet has or has not grown.

Add it to you to read shelf on Goodreads!

 

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A BOOK : Dorothy Must Die

18053060Dorothy Must Die
Danielle Paige
Published April 2014

I didn’t ask for any of this. I didn’t ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I’ve read the books. I’ve seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can’t be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There’s still the yellow brick road, though—but even that’s crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I’m the other girl from Kansas.
I’ve been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I’ve been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman’s heart.
Steal the Scarecrow’s brain.
Take the Lion’s courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

Summary and photo from Goodreads.com

I have been looking forward to this one since it was first mentioned on the Epic Reads Tea Time! This novel takes place after Dorothy has left Oz, and has come back from. Amy is thrown into this world that she thoughts was imaginary, and quickly learns everything that she would expect out of the Land of Oz is completely different.

Everything you think is good is bad, and everything you think is bad is good. Or it might not be good. No one really knows anymore.

The things I ended up finding really intriguing while reading Dorothy Must Die include:

  • Mysterious characters. You know you aren’t getting the whole truth from certain characters, and I enjoyed trying to figure them out. Can Amy trust them?
  • The new Oz. The way Dorothy is described is creepy. As is the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow. Paige definitely plays with your expectations.
  • The visuality of the book. Maybe it’s because there is already a Wizard of Oz movie, but I found myself being able to see this book in my mind quite nicely. This series definitely would be a shoe in for a movie.
  • The twists and turns. There are a lot more surprises in Dorothy Must Die than I expected there would be! Some of them I completely didn’t see coming, some of them I felt like I had at least a little bit of a hint.
  • The stakes are high. The book starts off with a bang pretty early on and proves that no one is really safe. Paige doesn’t just say that terrible things happen in Oz now, but she makes you live through it.

If any of this sound remotely interesting to you, I suggest you pick this one up. I myself am not that big of a Wizard of Oz fan, but I ended up getting quickly swept up in this story. This is quite long (clocking in at 452 pages) and I will say, the middle for me dragged a bit but I do encourage you to push past it and shoot toward the end if you start to feel the same.

Add this to your to be read shelf on Goodreads.com

So after writing the above review, I ended up doing a little research and found myself in a conundrum. I read the book. I liked it. I stalked Danielle Paige on Twitter a little bit. She seems quite awesome. However, just a heads up, this book does come from the book packaging company James Frey owns Full Fathom Five, which is not the awesomest sounding company to put it simply. You can read a little more about it here at Snuggly Oranges and here at Bibliodaze. If you are curious about book packaging and literary development companies, check out Kelly’s explanation at Stacked. She does a great job explaining how they work.

As a result of this am I telling you not to read Dorothy Must Die? Obviously not. I liked the book. I am personally interested in this stuff, and as a reader I would want to know this, which is why I am sharing it with you.

Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

17182126Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Published September 2013
Book 1 in The Reckoners 

There are no heroes.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. 

Nobody fights the Epics… nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. 

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

Summary and photo from goodreads.com.

This was the first novel I read by Brandon Sanderson, and it is officially not going to be my last. I mentioned I was enjoying reading this in my last post, and I still stand by that opinion. Reasons why!

1. The premise is plain and simply awesome. The idea behind the Epics is fascinating. You have these all powerful beings that have only one small and random weakness. Some of the examples include being a certain age to kill the epic or using a certain type of metal or jewel. I am not a real big superhero kind of girl, but I enjoyed learning about the different type of powers and weakness the Epics could have.

2. I also loved the emphasis on the idea of heroes. The story starts off with the main character’s father and his mindset that there is hope in a hero coming to save them. The thin trail of hope popping up here and there throughout Steelheart stayed with me for some reason, and made me love this story all the more for it.

3. The world building in general is fantastic. This takes place in Chicago, but because of the changes brought forth by the Epic Steelheart, the city has changed so much it is called Newcago. It is a city made of steel and in a perpetual state of darkness. I absolutely loved the visuals it gave me.

4. Usually due to having read so much I am pretty good at expecting and being able to guess certain plot lines or “surprises” that will pop up. While I knew certain things were not right, I had a really hard time guessing why it wasn’t right. I am impressed at the amount of twists and turns so much so that I look forward to reading this again. I want to reread certain scenes to see the clues that were dropped and ironic comments made.

5. I felt like the characters were quirky and unique enough to tell them apart without it seeming too forced. I am not too sure how I feel about Cody, but I love that I can remember certain little facts about all of the characters. For some reason their interactions and how they were described made me think of characters from Final Fantasy 7.

I don’t know what made me think of this, but Sanderson did a really good job of making Steelheart worth buying. Some books you buy and they are super quick to read, don’t feel fresh in any way, and are rather predictable. This is not one of those books. You get every penny’s worth. This is long but not unnecessarily so, filled with engaging conversations, a lot of action and clever writing. Steelheart is definitely something you can sink your teeth into and fully experience.

So yes! I recommend reading this if you are interested in fantasy or dystopian worlds. I include dystopian because this has that same “what if” background/throwing something in that seems good but actually ends up being terrible element that dystopians have,

Fun thing: So Brandon Sanderson posts his progress on what he is doing on his website. If you look toward the right of his top menu it will show how far along he is (as of 8:05pm 12/29/2013 when I am writing this he is 41% done with book 2 of this trilogy). ISN’T THAT AMAZING?!?! I think that is super neat.

3/95 books to read
This is part of my reading pursuits I mentioned in this blog post.

Review: Eona

Eona
by Allison Goodman
Published April 2011
Penguin
SEQUEL to EON

Eon has been revealed as Eona, the first female Dragoneye in hundreds of years. Along with fellow rebels Ryko and Lady Dela, she is on the run from High Lord Sethon’s army. The renegades are on a quest for the black folio, stolen by the drug-riddled Dillon; they must also find Kygo, the young Pearl Emperor, who needs Eona’s power and the black folio if he is to wrest back his throne from the selfstyled “Emperor” Sethon. Through it all, Eona must come to terms with her new Dragoneye identity and power-and learn to bear the anguish of the ten dragons whose Dragoneyes were murdered. As they focus their power through her, she becomes a dangerous conduit for their plans. . . .

Eona, with its pulse-pounding drama and romance, its unforgettable fight scenes, and its surprises, is the conclusion to an epic only Alison Goodman could create.

Photo and summary from Goodreads.com

*contains minor general spoilers, nothing specific though*

Fantastic! By the end of it I was taken aback by how long this book actually ends up being. It’s about 500 pages, but it does not feel like it. From the beginning to the end, I was intently focused on what was going to happen and the relationships and the power and the questions of gender. If you like the Alanna books by Tamora Pierce, I think you will love this. In the first book Eon the main character must pretend to be a boy in her request to be a dragoneye, which is essential a person who can wield the power of these magical dragons, which is similar to Alanna’s quest to become a knight and having to pretend to be a boy to get through the training and program. Eona is about the character, Eona, accepting her femininity and learning what that means to her and the people in her life.

1. The world in this is pretty awesome. According to the back of the book, Goodman draws upon some Asian cultures a little bit, and also just early civilizations. So, while it is a wholly different world and history, it has a lot of roots in our own past, which really gives the world a stability to it. From what I understand, Eona’s country draws power over the lands from the 12 dragons, each attached to a person called a dragoneye. Eona is one of those people, which you already know if you have read the first book. The thing that is BIG though, is only boys can be dragoneyes (GASP) and so, Eona is the first girl dragoneye in FOREVER. In Eona more people are revealed the true identity and so it’s neat to see the reactions in the unveil. They vary from betrayal, to hope. All in all this is about Eona trying to help establish the kingdom, establish herself, and well, figure out what the heck is going on in her heart.

2. This is kind of a side point, bu t one of the characters is transgendered, and has to stop dressing up as a woman and go in disguise as her born gender. One of my FAVORITE parts is when she shows her vulnerability, and talks about how she’s afraid dressing up as a man is putting distance between her and the man she loves. Seeing such a strong character speak something so heartbreakingly honest outloud just killed me.

3. Speaking of that character, I LOVE all of the side characters in Eona. I cannot think of the last book where there were as many side characters with so.much.depth. So not only did Alison Goodman create a thorough world, but she filled it with real people and cultures. It’s fantastic. So even when Eona was making me angry, I at least was able o find solace in the characters around her. I am pro-Allison Goodman staying in this world and just working on more stories for the characters in the book! I would love to see more perspectives.

4. While we are on the topic of people, I will say Eona drove me NUTS. To some extent I understand her thought process, but I wish she would just be HONEST. Obviously, she has never watched Buffy, because the big thing you learn in that show is the importance of being honest to your friends. It physically tore me apart, her lack of honesty and I did everything in my power to try to sway her into telling at least someone. Obviously, I wasn’t much help. Sorry guys:P.

5. I will say, Eona has to deal with a lot of hard stuff, one of them being balancing going from absolutely no power, to suddenly power EVERYWHERE. It is also addresses different kind of power: the power of a woman, the power of a man, your duty when you have power, your equality with other people with power and perhaps others that I may be missing. Personally I enjoyed the tension of Eona recognizing her womanhood, and how she now must relate to the men around her. It is really hard for her to determine the motivations of the people around her, and that is something that I wonder about in life. How much does being a woman in power affect the people around you and how people relate to you as opposed to being a man in power? It is fascinating.

Overall Review: While I got super angry in this, I wouldn’t say it is for lack of quality of the writing, if anything it speaks of good writing. This is fantastic for girls and boys I’d say 13+ (give or take). Personally, I think this is along the lines of The Hunger Games where it is good for boys and girls. I am pretty sure I am going to read this in the future again (maybe), and if not if I have a daughter I definitely am going to have her read this.
Interesting side note: When trying to decide if this is good for girls and boys, I realized I felt like I had to justify this as something a boy should and could and would read, just because the narrator is a girl. I never feel the need to justify a book for girls if the narrator is a boy. When I was writing the above it just made me go, hmm.

Review: I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You
by Ally Carter

Published May 2006
Hyperion
1st book in Gallagher Girl series

The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women lives up to its name. Not only does this exclusive boarding school teach advanced language skills and correct deportment; its students also master the arts of tapping phones, hacking into computers, and spying in public places. At school, second-generation Gallagher Girl Cammie Morgan has impeccable credentials: She is fluent in 14 languages and able to kill an assailant in seven different ways. But recently life has dealt Cammie a card that she never anticipated: She has fallen in love with an ordinary boy who knows nothing about her exotic double life. A truly covert romance.

Photo and summary from Goodreads.com

This book is adorably cute and a ton of fun to read.  Cammie, our main girl here, has a great sense of humor which leads to a great narrating style.  Told in the first person I’d Tell You I Love You… is a report written by TOP SECRET AGENT IN TRAINING Cammie about her adventurous year.  So because of the setting of this book…

1.  I never got bored.  At all.  The SPY school was a well-crafted construction filled with its own history and own set of rules.  I especially like how during meals the girls could only speak in a certain language to practice their large-amount-of-lingualism.  Little things like that kept me interested and curious to know more.

2.   The plot was pretty much a win.  Covert romance?  Heck yea.  Why yes, I would love to read about your adventures in trying to dupe not only your boyfriend into thinking your “normal”, but a whole school of well-trained staff into believing that you’re not sneaking out of said school to meet the boyfriend you supposedly don’t have.  It takes girl meets boy to a new “WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?!?” level.

3.  It had a ton of interesting characters.  Thankfully, Ally Carter made these interesting characters super hard to hate in the end!  It was incredibly easy to fall into step with Cammie and her gang and become emotionally invested- especially when you learned the back stories of some of the girls.  Personally, I would have loved to learn even more about Cammie’s friends, but I think it might have ruined the pacing of the book.

4.  It had a lot of Cammie in it.  Since it is a report written by her you get a feel for who she really is, Buffy jokes and all.  You get her feeling like she isn’t special, and you get to read her discovering that maybe she does got something going on.  Also, it was incredibly informal, which was much appreciated on my end.  I liked the silly one liners and the random exclamation marks.

5.  This ended up being a super fast read.  Once I actually settled down to read the book, it was quick, which I liked.  It had been advertised to me as a fun fast read and that’s what I got–something to enjoy without completely dominating my life.

So if you’re looking for some chick-lit that is a little different than a lot of the books out there, this will easily meet that need!

Ultimate Review: Read my sentence before this.  Hahahahaha, but seriously.  That is pretty much my ultimate review.
Random tidbit: Next book in the series is: CROSS MY HEART AND HOPE TO SPY.  I’m really curious as to what it is about…

Review: The Goose Girl

The Goose Girl
by Shannon Hale

Published May 2005
Bloomsbury USA

She can whisper to horses and communicate with birds, but the crown princess Ani has a difficult time finding her place in the royal family and measuring up to her imperial mother. When she is shipped off to a neighboring kingdom as a bride, her scheming entourage mounts a bloody mutiny to replace her with a jealous lady-in-waiting, Selia, and to allow an inner circle of guards more power in the new land. Barely escaping with her life, Ani disguises herself as a goose girl and wanders on the royal estate.

Does she have the pluck to reclaim her rightful place? Get ready for a fine adventure tale full of danger, suspense, surprising twists, and a satisfying conclusion. The engaging plot can certainly carry the tale, but Hale’s likable, introspective heroine makes this also a book about courage and justice in the face of overwhelming odds. The richly rendered, medieval folkloric setting adds to the charm.

Photo and Summary from Goodreads.com

So as I mentioned in my last post, this book is fantastic.  Since it is an adaption of a Grimm fairy tale it has that interesting mix of purity and reality that fairy tales often have in them making it out to be a sweet, thoughtful story.  I’m really disappointed in myself because I’ve had this book on my shelf for a few years, but for some reason haven’t gotten to it.  Thank goodness for the “off the shelf” challenge I’m doing!

1.  There is an essence of abilities in here which I love.  Some people have the ability to persuade people with words, other people (such as our MC Ani here) have the ability to converse with animals.  There is a stigma however (which is soooo realistic.  There are stigmas with everything, which is kind of stupid) that some abilities are more terrible than others (like Ani’s 😦 ) and thus our poor lass doesn’t fit in well.  This makes it super sad for her, but also makes a good overall story arch.

2.  Because of the aforementioned problem of not being able to fit in, Ani also has a problem understanding what her place is and what she is capable of.  It’s wonderful to really see how Ani finds her voice and purpose and starts to realize what she wants and should do.

3.  The writing is very magical.  Not like “I’m gonna talk about magic tricks and wizards!!!” kind of magic, just it really made me think of the power in seemingly ordinary things.

4.  The characters pretty much won.  Ani’s relationship with her mother was completely confusing– it seems her mother is a flat black and white charcter, but there are little hints of something more going on with her.  Maybe!  See, after reading this I still don’t even know for sure if the woman is a jerk, nice, or in between.  Also, I really liked Ani.  She doesn’t have everything figured out and it’s really neat watching her do so.  Plus, even though she claims and acts as if she is a weaker girl than she is, the strength in her is very evident.  Plus, every other character was great.  There were some bumfaces and there were some absolutely darling people– but all of them were very humanized.

5.  I also can say I’m 100% pleased with how everything was resolved.  Maybe it wasn’t exactly what I had hoped for and planned for in the beginning (there was a certain moment that COMPLETELY BROKE MY HEART OH MY GOSH), but I left this book with no qualms with what Shannon Hale did.

Ultimate Review: Perfect read for people who like adventurous coming of age books that are fantastically written with wonderful characters!
Where I Got This Book: This book was given to me by my friend Kay for my birthday a few years ago.  She absolutely loved it and told me I would too- she was right!

Review: The Painted Boy by Charles De Lint

The Painted Boy
by Charles De Lint
published Nov 2010
Viking Juvenile

Jay Li should be in Chicago, finishing high school and working at his family’s restaurant. Instead, as a born member of the Yellow Dragon Clan—part human, part dragon, like his grandmother—he is on a quest even he does not understand. His journey takes him to Santo del Vado Viejo in the Arizona desert, a town overrun by gangs, haunted by members of other animal clans, perfumed by delicious food, and set to the beat of Malo Malo, a barrio rock band whose female lead guitarist captures Jay’s heart. He must face a series of dangerous, otherworldly—and very human—challenges to become the man, and dragon, he is meant to be.

photo and summary from goodreads

Charles De Lint has been a favorite author of mine for a while now, and seeing this book on the shelf was the happiest surprise!  He does a great job mixing fantasy within realism and he does not make a misstep in this one.

1.  You know that saying from Spiderman that goes “with great power comes great responsibility” ?  That same saying applies here.  I think someone even brings up that Spiderman reference in the book! Anyway, Jay has great power and you get to see Jay grow as he understands his power and his responsibility.

2.  It was cool to see Jay sort of glean bits and pieces from the different cultures mixed into this book.  Jay is Chinese and moves to a dominantly Mexican town with a lot of grounding in Native American ideas.

3.  One of the reason I love love love love Charles De Lint is because he suggests that life isn’t more than what we see.  There is more going on underneath the surface of everything.  It was cool to see the tensions in this book between day-to-day life and another magical world brimming next to it.

4.  Set in a gang-ridden town there were a lot of interesting things about violence in here.  This book wasn’t a preachy “DO NO HARM” kind of thing, but it was interesting (and kind of scary) to see what  people were capable of and how everything is not necessarily black and white.  Also, I found it fascinating to see the story behind why the gangs kept perpetuating.

5.  There were a lot of cool quotes in this that I didn’t write down… 😦  So when you read this you’ll have to look out for them!  Charles De Lint is super great with words (ha, I probably should have chosen a better descriptor for that sentence than “super great”), so not only are his descriptions breathtaking but he says a lot of cool truths about life and people.

Ultimate Review: If you’re looking for a book that will stretch the way you look at the world, this is a super great read to do that for you.  Or, if you’re just looking for a book that’s fun to read you’ll find that here too!
My favorite books by Charles De Lint: The Onion Girl hands down.  The Blue Girl comes next or The Mystery of Grace.  His short stories are also beautiful too!