Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Hedgie's Must Reads: April 2013

Spring is here in full force, and that means it's a perfect opportunity to go outside and enjoy some books! Hedgie and I have been getting lots of reading done, as well as tending my flowers and anxiously waiting for the blackberries to ripen (still have a ways to go, unfortunately). I've been doing lots of baking, too, and contemplating my new story - working title Mystery at Ramford Hall. But I had plenty of time to tackle that stack of books up in my room with Hedgie, as well as some on my shelves, and here's the best of April's crop.

The Archived by Victoria Schwab (4/5)
The first book in a planned series. Mackenzie is a Keeper. It is her job to patrol the Narrows - the place between the Outside and the Archive - to capture and return escaped Histories to the Archive. Most of the time, the Histories - otherwise known as the record of a dead person's life - she hunts down are kids, and therefore no threat. But other times, they're adults, and they can be violentThe Archived is the most original ghost story I have ever read, and Victoria Schwab also manages to make present tense sound poetic. More of a mystery story than a ghost storyThe Archived has surprising twists and a great cast of characters. Recommended for girls and guys, fifteen-and-up, and Readers who like mysteries with a supernatural flair and an original concept.

Fearless by Cornelia Funke (4/5)
The second book in a series, Fearless takes Readers back to the sinisterly enchanting Mirrorworld. Jacob Reckless is dying, due to a Fairy's curse, after trying to save his brother Will's life. Now Jacob is running out of time as he tries to find a way to break the curse, and he and his companion Fox set off on a fantastic adventure to find a legendary crossbow that just might save Jacob's life - or kill millions. Fearless is every bit as wonderful as Reckless; I couldn't put the book down. Filled with new wonders, new perils, and new characters, I fell in love all over again with this new fantastic world that Cornelia has created. Recommended to girls and guys alike, fourteen and up, great for fairytale retelling fans, fantasy fans, and Cornelia Funke fans.

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (4/5)
The first book in a planned series, Falling Kingdoms is one of the most engaging high fantasy novels I have ever read. Three kingdoms; one prosperous, one ruled by a cruel king, and one facing a crushing famine and poverty. Desperate, Paelsia allies itself with Limeros in an attempt to invade their rich neighbor Auranos. But Auranos' wealth isn't the only thing King Gaius of Limeros is after; Gaius is also searching for four legendary crystals - the Kindred - that promise unimaginable power to any to possess them. And King Gaius will do anything he can to find them. But the fates of the kingdoms and the Kindred rest with four youths, whose separate stories intertwine in unexpected ways, making for a highly entertaining and emotional read. Recommended for girls and guys, sixteen and up, fantasy fan.

Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis (4/5)
The third book in a trilogy, Stolen Magic is every bit as exciting, witty, and filled with shocking twists as Kat's other two adventures. Kat Stephenson's sister Angeline is finally getting married, but first she must endure not only Mrs. Carlyle's continued dislike, but all of Frederick's relatives. And now someone is actually trying to kill Angeline. On top of that, Kat's initiation into the Order of the Guardians is interrupted when a magical theft takes place, and someone with far more powerful magic than Kat's is stalking her. Kat doesn't have much time to save England, the Order, and her own family. Recommended for girls, any age, Jane Austen fans.

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson (5/5)
An absolutely beautifully haunting retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale. When Sophia goes to live with her eccentric and rich godfather Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, she thinks it is her dream come true. Wyndriven Abbey is a place of luxury, and M. Bernard gives her everything she might want - and more. But Wyndrivan Abbey has secrets - dark secrets. And as M. Bernard's attentions turn from that of a doting guardian to something more, Sophia's curiosity is stirred, and her investigations lead to shocking revelations. Filled with beautiful descriptions, spooky twists, and a villain that is downright creepy, Strands of Bronze and Gold was one thrilling read. Recommended to fairytale retelling and Gothic novel fans, girl-read.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Review: A Thunderous Whisper - Christina Diaz Gonzalez

A Thunderous Whisper by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on October 9, 2012
Published by Knopf Books
Pages: 304
Read From: 4.21.13 - 4.25.13

Ani is just an insignificant whisper of a girl in a loud world. At least that's what her mother tells her. Her father made her feel important, but he's off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Weekend Recommendations #1

This is my new (hopefully) weekly feature, where I get to go all fannish about two randomly-picked favvies (which may not actually be favorites, but got a rating of 3 smiley faces or higher) that I would recommend to friends! So, here are this week's two picks:

Friday, April 26, 2013

Some Dating Advice for Readers

I'm not into quotes and sayings about romance and love unless it's sarcastic and cynical. That's just how I am. I've always been the girl who, given the choice between The Princess Diaries and Gladiator, I vote for Gladiator. I hold a pillow in front the TV screen during kissing scenes and cheer during battle scenes. I nod like a bobblehead doll at Sherlock's litanies about emotions and roll my eyes during sappy friend-giving-friend-dating-advice. I lament romance in adventure stories (and movies), despise love triangles, and only read The Hunger Games for the games part, and not for the Peeta/Katniss/Gale romance. I'm not saying I am totally devoid of romantic appreciation. I love Jane Austen and nearly cried at the end of Swan Lake. But given a choice, my interest does not tend toward the sweet and mushy.

That said, I just found a quote in Goodreads that I absolutely loved. And it isn't searingly sarcastic this time, or philosophical or just plain funny. It's actually kind of sweet and cute - and funny, but in a sort of bubbly, warm way. I appreciated it, though - it's very true (to an extent):

Rosemarie Urquic:
You should date a girl who reads. Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes, who has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve. 
Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she has found the book she wants. You see that weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a secondhand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow and worn. 
She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book. 
Buy her another cup of coffee. 
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice. 
It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas, for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry and in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.
She has to give it a shot somehow. 
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.
Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who read understand that all things must come to end, but that you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two. 
Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series. 
If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are. 
You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype. 
You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots. 
Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads. 
Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Getting Older

Yesterday was my 21st birthday. Yep, I'm old, and legal in every sense of the word. Despite getting older, I had a really good birthday. I had a friend over for a nice dinner of spicy Indian food and a homemade double-chocolate cake that didn't turn out as well as I had hoped it would. Taste-wise, it was yummy, but it was more of a torte than a birthday cake. I had a very specific image in my mind of how this cake was going to look - it was going to be sophisticated and awesome. Well . . . it looked more like a chocolate leaning tower of Pisa and the cookies lining the bottom weren't straight. Oh well! Taste it what matters most, right?

A week earlier, I went to PNB's Swan Lake production as part of my birthday present. I have been wanting to go see Swan Lake for years, so that was a really special treat. And it was so beautiful and moving - I almost started crying at the end, when Sigrid and Odette had to bid farewell. It's one of the saddest fairy tales/love stories ever. But I really enjoyed it. Tchaikovksy is definitely one of my favorite composers when it comes to ballet scores.

But Swan Lake wasn't my only birthday present. I also got Michael Buble's new CD To Be Loved - and I'm loving it, - as well as a couple of other goodies: an awesome 1920s/30s-style hat, a pretty peach scarf with adorable fringe, and $40 to spent at Powell's City of Books! I'm so excited!!

All in all, it was a really good birthday, and I can ignore the fact that it will only be 8 years before I'm thirty.

My 1920s/30s hat! Isn't it awesome?
The pink scarf; I am positively in love with it.

A while back,  I promised to post pictures of my masks. I didn't get either of them for my birthday, but I decided that I mine as well put the pictures up now. So! Here they are! The Venetian longnose mask was given to me by a friend last year for Christmas. She visited Germany last summer, and popped over to Venice while she was at it. I've been wanting one of these masks for a long time, so she got me one. So nice of her! The other mask I bought at the Renaissance Faire. It's handcrafted, but not in Venice, sadly. Still, it's a nice mask and compliments my costume very well.
My Venetian longnose mask, from Venice!
My gold mask, not from Venice.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: The Madness Underneath - Maureen Johnson

The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson
Series: Shades of London #2
Genre: YA, supernatural, mystery
Published on February 26, 2013
Published by Putnam
Pages: 290
Read From: 4.20.13 - 4.21.13

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Deveaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review: Splintered - A. G. Howard

Splintered by A. G. Howard
Series: Splintered #1
Genre: YA, classic retelling, romance
Published on January 1, 2013
Published by Amulet Books
Pages: 371
Read From: 4.18.13 - 4.19.13

Alyssa Gardner hears the thoughts of plants and animals. She hides her delusions for now, but she knows her fate: she will end up like her mother, in an institution. Madness has run in her family ever since her great-great-grandmother Alice Liddell told Lewis Carroll her strange dreams, inspiring his classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Review: Above World - Jenn Reese

Above World by Jenn Reese
Series: Above World #1
Genre: Middle Grade, science fiction, futuristic
Published on February 14, 2012
Published by Candlewick Press
Pages: 356
Read From: 4.17.13 - 4.18.13

Thirteen-year-old Aluna has lived her entire life under the ocean, just like all of the Coral Kampii in the City of Shifting Tides. But after remaining hidden from the Above World for centuries, her colony is in trouble, its survival in doubt: the tech that allows the Kampii to breathe underwater is beginning to fail, and many Kampii have already died. Yet the colony's elders, including Aluna's father, are unwilling to venture to the dry and dangerous Above World to search for answers. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Review: Evil Star - Anthony Horowitz

Evil Star by Anthony Horowitz
Series: The Gatekeepers #2
Genre: Middle Grade, horror, thriller
Published on June 1, 2006
Published by Scholastic Press
Pages: 320
Read From: 4.12.13 - 4.17.13

Matt thought his troubles were over when he closed Raven's Gate. . . .but, in fact, they were just beginning. Evil forces will stop at nothing to track him down and destroy him. There's no choice but to fight back. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Review: Strands of Bronze and Gold - Jane Nickerson

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson
Genre: YA, fairytale retelling
Published on March 12, 2013
Published by Random House
Pages: 352
Read From: 4.10.13 - 4.12.13

When seventeen-year-old Sophie Petheram's beloved father dies, she receives an unexpected letter. An invitation - on fine ivory paper, in bold black handwriting - from the mysterious Monsieur Bernard de Cressac, her godfather. With no money and fewer options, Sophie accepts, leaving her humble childhood home for the astonishingly lavish Wyndriven Abbey, in the heart of Mississippi. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: Stolen Magic - Stephanie Burgis

Stolen Magic by Stephanie Burgis
Series: The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson #3
Genre: Middle Grade, historical fantasy
Published on April 2, 2013
Published by Atheneum Books
Pages: 400
Read From: 4.8.13 - 4.10.13

With just days to go before her sister Angeline's long-delayed wedding to Frederick Carlyle, the impetuous Kat Stephenson has resigned herself to good behavior. But Kat's initiation into the magical Order of the Guardians is fast approaching, and trouble seems to follow her everywhere. 

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Review: Falling Kingdoms - Morgan Rhodes

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Series: Falling Kingdoms #1
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on December 11, 2012
Published by Razorbill
Pages: 412
Read From: 4.7.13 - 4.10.13

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, the magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Review: Fearless - Cornelia Funke

Fearless by Cornelia Funke
Series: Mirrorworld Trilogy #2
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on April 2, 2013
Published by Little Brown
Pages: 432
Read From: 4.5.13 - 4.7.13

Jacob Reckless has only a few months left to live. He's tried everything to shake the Fairy curse that traded his life for his brother's - legends such as the All-Healing Apple, the Well of Eternal Youth, the blood of a northern Djinn. And yet hope after hope is extinguished. After months of fruitless searching, Jacob journeys through his father's mirror one final time to deliver the bad news to Fox. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Review: The Darkest Minds - Alexandra Bracken

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Darkest Minds #1
Genre: YA, science fiction
Published on December 18, 2012
Published by Hyperion
Pages: 496
Read From: 4.5.13 - 4.7.13

When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government "rehabilitation camp." She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America's children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Review: The Madman's Daughter - Megan Shepherd

The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
Series: The Madman's Daughter #1
Genre: YA, classic retelling, horror
Published on January 29, 2013
Published by Balzer + Bray
Pages: 420
Read From: 4.3.13 - 4.5.13

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London - working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Review: Rebel Fire - Andrew Lane

Rebel Fire by Andrew Lane
Series: Young Sherlock Holmes #2
Genre: YA, historical fiction, mystery, Sherlockian fiction
Published on April 24, 2012
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Pages: 352
Read From: 4.2.13 - 4.3.13

Fourteen-year-old Sherlock knows that Amyus Crowe, his mysterious American tutor, has some dark secrets. But he didn't expect to find Crowe somehow mixed up in the incredible reappearance of John Wilkes Booth, the notorious American assassin supposedly killed by the U.S. army. How

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: The Archived - Victoria Schwab

The Archived by Victoria Schwab
Series: The Archived #1
Genre: YA, mystery, supernatural
Published on January 22, 2013
Published by Hyperion
Pages: 328
Read From: 3.29.13 - 4.1.13

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body had a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive. 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Review: Raven's Gate - Anthony Horowitz

Raven's Gate by Anthony Horowitz
Series: The Gatekeepers #1
Genre: Middle Grade, horror, thriller
Published on June 1, 2005
Published by Scholastic Press
Pages: 270
Read From: 3.25.13 - 3.29.13

As punishment for a crime he didn't really commit, Matt was given a choice: Go to jail or go live with an old woman named Mrs. Deverill in a remote town called Lesser Malling. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: Victoria Rebels - Carolyn Meyer

Victoria Rebels by Carolyn Meyer
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on January 1, 2013
Published by Paula Wiseman Books
Pages: 265
Read From: 3.24.13 - 3.25.13

Even as a young girl, Princess Victoria knew that one day she will be queen of England. No one speaks this truth, but everyone knows it, just as everyone gossips about who will make a suitable husband for the future monarch. At seventeen, most princesses are at least paired, if not married. But not Victoria. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Review: Sever - Lauren DeStefano

Sever by Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Chemical Garden Trilogy #3
Genre: YA, futuristic, romance
Published on February 12, 2013
Published by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 371
Read From: 3.23.13 - 3.24.13

After enduring Vaughn's worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, and eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine's memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine's side, even if Linden's feelings are still caught between them.