Going Bovine by Libba Bray

I knew I was getting myself into something truly unique when I opened the pages of Going Bovine and practically fell off the couch laughing after reading Libba Bray's acknowledgments section. Acknowledgments, you ask (skeptically)? Yes. Truly hilarious. That and the cover. And the title. The trifecta of reader hooks and I knew, no matter what, that those 480 dense pages before me would turn out to be one wild ride.

As someone who has perfected the Art of Slacker, Cameron is an apathetic, Grade-A dork who just so happens to also be bitingly smart. He's become a master at doing the least possible in any situation while managing to not draw any attention to himself. But something happens to Cameron that suddenly makes him the center of his family and classmate's attention - he's contracted a fatal (and really rare) form of mad cow disease.

While in the hospital, Cameron meets Dulcie - a punk angel with pink hair and combat boots - who informs him there is a cure for his disease, if he's willing to go out and search for it. Oh, and along the way he just might be able to save the universe too. Sort of a two-for-one deal. Joined by the hypochondriac little person Gonzo and an enchanted yard gnome Balder, Cameron sets off on a cross-country, modern day Don Quixote quest encountering not windmills but a happiness-driven cult, jazz musicians, Disney World, snow globes, and small-town diners.

Sound trippy? In every sense of the word. Yes.

This book could essentially be divided into two sections: Cameron pre-mad cow disease diagnosis and Cameron post-diagnosis. Little details mentioned during the first section pop up later during the narrative, turning Going Bovine into not just a discovery journey for Cameron but the reader as well. It's like a giant connect the dots puzzle, spanning from Texas to Florida with millions of tiny little stops along the way. Wherein nothing is a coincidence - everything is connected.

Like many teens, Cameron truly believes he will have all the time in the world to experience life, to see and do all those things that will make his life worthwhile but in actuality he doesn't. It's not a far-fetched concept and one that is sobering in all it's underhanded and witty observances. Cameron's journey becomes an intricate coming of age/quest tale with an unreliable narrator twist. Which story will you believe? Is Cameron spending his final days in a hospital bed, suffering from extreme hallucinations or is he tearing across the country, surrounded by loyal friends and battling evil?

It's no wonder Going Bovine was chosen as the 2010 Printz Award winner - the committee is notorious for choosing books that are slightly harder than average to puzzle through (like: how i live now or Jellicoe Road). They are also known for selecting books that make parents nervous (think: Looking for Alaska). Although Cameron is one of those narrators you instantly connect with (despite his lack of common ground with most readers), he has quite the foul potty mouth and isn't above making cringe-worthy remarks. Though his twisted chapter headings pretty much sealed his instant appeal in my book.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy review
Em's Bookshelf review
In Between the Pages review
Largehearted Boy review
Mrs. Magoo Reads review

book source: my local library

Coming Soon: Literary Love

For Valentines Day I'm going to be hosting a special event called Literary Love which will run from February 1st -14th. In order to celebrate one of my favorite holidays, See Michelle Read will spotlight some notable and unforgettable literary couples in a two-week long love extravaganza. Look forward to posts on the most memorable, the most heart-rate spiking, the most extraordinary literary couples that grace the pages of your favorite books. Literary Love won't focus on any particular genre, just those duos you can't help but sigh over. I'm also including a nifty giveaway, so make sure you drop in for all the fun.

Here's how it will work:
February 1st - 6th: Nominate your favorite Literary Love couple in the comments of the intro post - heck, you can start submitting them any time, just make sure I have them all before voting begins
February 7th - 14th: Polls Open
February 14th: the Literary Love winner will be revealed

***I'm also looking for anyone interested in doing a guest post on their favorite bookish couple during those two weeks. Have a favorite first kiss? A fabulous love-at-first-sight encounter? Want to review your favorite love story? Or maybe you just want to rant over that couple that you think is waaay overrated. I'm open to all sorts of posts, so if you are interested please drop me a line at mmillet at gmail dot com or leave a comment on this post.

So tell me. Who is your favorite literary couple?

Blog Watch: The Last Blog in The Universe

Who doesn't love to get sucked into a good dystopian novel?

I sure do.

So when I stumbled across what has to be the best new blog called The Last Blog in The Universe I might have squealed just a little bit. Hop on over to check out their round-up of recent dystopian book reviews including The Top 9 Signs You Are Reading a Bad Dystopian Novel.

I think I just figured out how I'm spending my lunch break.

This World We Live In by Susan Beth Pfeffer

I have been looking forward to reading This World We Live In, the third book in Susan Beth Pfeffer's Moon trilogy, for what seems like ages. After tearing through Life As We Knew It I spent countless late nights up with a newborn agonizing over what I would do in such a catastrophic situation. Due to Miranda's spell-binding account, the hubby and I often spent hours mentally counting canned foods, organizing medications, and obsessing over ways to cook without electricity. Not often does a book consume my every spare thought as effectively as Life As We Knew It did. Knowing This World We Live In would connect Miranda's story with Alex's from The Dead and the Gone, I mentally prepared myself for a similarly engrossing read and lots of hours checking over my food storage.

In the past year, Miranda's entire life has altered after a freak asteroid-moon collision resulting in a change in orbit and all kinds of calamity. Countless natural disasters ensued and it was all Miranda, her mom, and brothers Matt and Jon could do to survive one catastrophe after another. Nothing is as it was before. Miranda will never be a 'normal' teenager and she's almost starting to forget what it was even like to walk in the sun or eat eggs or even fresh lettuce.
It's been less than a year since everything changed, less than a year since hunger and darkness and death have become so commonplace, but I couldn't remember what life -- life the way I used to know it -- had been like. I couldn't remember blue.
They've made it through the worst of the winter and are even beginning to feel a ray of hope for the future with the arrival of spring and some truly unexpected guests. Miranda's father has returned with his wife and new baby. He's also brought along Alex and Julie Morales and a close friend, Charlie. Although thrilled to have them safe and home, Miranda and her family understandably begin to wonder just how long their meager stores will last with the addition of five adults.

This World We Live In returns to Miranda's journal entries and although I could not bear to look away from her family's struggle, this latest installment didn't really add anything in terms of character or plot development. Whatever happened to the Miranda I knew and loved from Life As We Knew It? That Miranda had me in the palm of her hand as she unfolded her desperate struggle for survival. And although her everyday existence remained as precarious as ever, I didn't feel like Miranda (or anyone else) grew from their experiences. Yes, it was interesting to see how Miranda and Alex interacted but I never got a good handle on why they were drawn to each other. Besides both having survived a world-ending disaster, of course. It was like Susan Beth Pfeffer expected her readers to already be so in love with Alex from The Dead and the Gone (which I wasn't) that she didn't really bother taking the time to develop a believable relationship between the two.

Although I did struggle reading it, I will admit I still read This World We Live In quicker than you can say 'post-apocalyptic-young-adult-candy-fiction.' Fans of Miranda who have continued to wonder about her future will be glad they picked it up; I just wish the story had been developed a bit further.

series reading order:
~ Life as We Knew It
~ The Dead and the Gone
~ This World We Live In (April 2010)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Becky's Book Reviews
Jen Robinson's Book Page review

book source: provided by the publisher, Harcourt

Masterpiece Classic Emma Tonite!

Just a quick reminder to all you Austen-ites to be sure to tune into PBS Masterpiece Classic to catch the premiere of Emma, which starts tonight and will run for the next three Sundays.

I've already got a smile on my face just anticipating all that witty Emma-Knightley banter.

Interview with Catherine Gilbert Murdock

Today I am pleased to host an interview with the lovely author Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Catherine is the author of the Dairy Queen trilogy, which I adored (Dairy Queen, The Off Season, and Front and Center) and Princess Ben.


Since you never expected to write a sequel to Dairy Queen (let alone a third book), do you still feel like there is more of DJ’s story to tell or are you ready to bid the Schwenks a fond farewell? Could you see yourself returning to write a book about, say… Curtis (hint, hint)?

I really need to revise that mention of Curtis on my website! I’m fielding several emails a day begging for a book on him, or another book on DJ. I love them both dearly, and I feel they definitely have more story in them, but I need to try some other stories first. For several years.

I’ve seen you mention before that you yourself are not much of an athlete. I’m wondering if you are a sports enthusiast– or perhaps did you become one after spending so much time with DJ? Do you have specific teams you regularly cheer on? or is DJ’s athletic ability something unique to her?

After writing three books about high school sports, I have far more sympathy for athletics generally, but I’m afraid I don’t cheer on any specific teams. Though if the Eagles ever make the Super Bowl, I’ll be watching.

One of the major themes of DJ’s story seems to be communication (or lack thereof on DJ’s part). Is this something you struggled with yourself as a teenager? How do you see DJ’s experiences impacting teenagers?

The moral of Dairy Queen, that communication is imperative – a message that applies across the board, not just for teens. Certainly her parents needed to learn it! That said, I’ve heard from many teens who really seem to respond to this, in a very positive way. That’s wonderful.

Along with DJ’s story, you’ve written a fantasy book, Princess Ben. Would you like to return to that genre in the future or stick to more contemporary settings as in the Dairy Queen trilogy?

I’m really a fantasy gal; give me a talking cat and magic wand and I’m set for life. The hard part is going to be controlling that impulse, and exploring other genres!

Since your background is actually in screenwriting, how would you feel if DJ’s story were made into a movie? And as a screenwriter, would you be able to allow someone else to transform your books into a screenplay?

Obviously I’d love to see the Dairy Queen movie; I’d love to read the screenplay! As a very wise writer (whose name I can’t remember) once said, selling your story to Hollywood is like selling your house. You can’t then tell the new owners what color to paint it. So, yes, I could allow someone else to transform the book, and who knows, it might end up far better than the book. With movies one just never knows.

Is there a particular book (or movie for that matter) you wish you had written?

Ocean’s Eleven (the George Clooney one). I love that whole effortless-suave effect, so different from anything I could ever write.

What books do you find yourself recommending over and over and over again?

Lireal by Garth Nix. The Straight Dope by Cecil Addams. Frankenstein Takes the Cake by Adam Rex.

Are there any books to be released in 2010 that you are particularly looking forward to?

Let’s see . . . The sequel to Leviathan . . . The final Monster Blood Tattoo book, which I cannot wait to sink my teeth into. D.M. Cornish is amazing.

What project are you currently working on?

Another fantasy novel! Beyond that, my lips are sealed.

Thank you so much for stopping by today! It was wonderful to have you.

Must Love Hellhounds: Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews

I'm not really one to pick up anthologies but seeing as though I have to wait at least until June for the next Kate Daniels book, Magic Bleeds, I made a special exception in the case of Ilona Andrews novella Magic Mourns in the Must Love Hellhounds anthology. Usually I'm not a huge novella fan simply because I don't think the format can adequately give an author the time or space needed to truly maneuver characters into an engrossing story. Inevitably, letdown occurs and I'm left dissatisfied. But knowing I'd get a chance to spend more time with Kate's friend and co-worker Andrea and her gung-ho suitor Raphael, whose antics I laughed myself silly over in Magic Strikes, I succumbed (hint: I wasn't disappointed).

Like Kate, Andrea is also a Knight but instead of magic Andrea specializes in tech. Her focus? Guns, baby. The woman could probably load, fire, hit a bulls-eye, and reload before anyone else could even draw their weapon. Handy that. In Kate's absence Andrea is taking over her cases (come on, we all want to be Kate, just admit it) when she gets a strange call asking for someone to rescue a shapeshifter who has run into a dog the size of a house in magic stricken Atlanta. Said shapeshifter turns out to be the one and only Raphael. The man who has been doggedly pursing Andrea for the last six months and whose idea of wooing happens to include breaking and entering. Although Andrea is convinced she can remain professional in the face of Raphael's Casanova charm, figuring out how to tame a dog the size of a house just might get her a little nervous. But that's what the big guns are for.

Magic Mourns wasn't Kate but frankly, I'm okay with that. I couldn't help but be lured in by Andrea's candid honesty and fierce arsenal. I also couldn't help but love her bald description of Atlanta:
I liked the city. I wasn't born here, nor did I come to Atlanta by choice, but now the city was my territory. I walked its streets, sampled its scents, and listened to it breathe. Atlanta wasn't sure about me. It tried to kill me every now and then, but I was confident we'd come to an understanding eventually.
Not one to mince words or make any excuses for herself, Andrea effortlessly grabbed me from the get-go. Magic Mourns was fast, fun and just might have changed my opinion regarding novellas. Maybe. I still haven't read the other three stories yet. But I might.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Darque Reviews
Errant Dreams Reviews
Janicu's Book Blog review
Literary Escapism review

book source: my local library

Front and Center by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

The first half of D.J. Schwenk's junior year found her one, playing linebacker for her high school football team, two, featured in a People magazine article, and three, caring for her brother Win after he suffered a career-ending injury during one of his nationally televised college football games. For the past five months D.J. has lived and breathed in the spotlight of her small town and it's the last place she ever wanted to be.

Thankfully, D.J. couldn't be happier with the prospect of basketball season just around the corner - a chance to lie low and simply play the game she loves - but it seems like everyone has expectations and plans in store for our hometown hero. Again. Her coach wants her to step up her game, Win wants her to start calling college coaches (like right now), and a certain Hawley quarterback keeps popping up (who she has forgotten all about, thank-you-very-much). The pressure is on and D.J. can't fathom how she will be able to handle it all.

Opening the pages of Front and Center was like sitting down with an old friend that you haven't seen in ages (Hi Kris!) but every time that you do, it feels like no time has passed at all since you were last together. You know their past and their sensitive spots and no matter what, you know you are in for a good time. I'd like to think D.J. Schwenk and I are such friends. She practically leaps off the pages in Catherine Gilbert Murdock's trilogy about a teenage farm girl who dares to play football and wows everyone (including some Division I school coaches) with her mad b-ball skills. Simply irresistible as a shy, talented teenager who hasn't quite figured out how to come out of her shell, D.J. is one of those honest girls who you can't help but cheer for.

No weak or filler characters are present in D.J.'s honest narrative. Even minor characters like her hilarious younger brother Curtis - who probably has only 10-12 lines in the entire book - feel completely real and present. From her neurotic, sports-crazed family to her best friend Amber, each one brought something special to D.J.'s story, each one giving just a bit of themselves as they help her find her way.

I also adore the fact that D.J. is so totally, completely focused on basketball and just surviving school that she has no clue whatsoever when it comes to music or movies or heck, let me go out on a limb here and just say, current events even. They Might be Giants, Elvis - every music reference goes right over that girls' head and she couldn't care less. I just love her to pieces and couldn't be happier with Murdock's conclusion to such a perfect trilogy.

series reading order:
~ Dairy Queen
~ The Off Season
~ Front and Center

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Book Aunt review
Em's Bookshelf review
Kidliterate review
Steph Su Reads review
The Story Siren review

book source: my local library

Veracity by Laura Bynum

At the age of six, Harper Adams lost her parents, her home - her entire world in a mass pandemic caused by an act of terrorism. In the aftermath of confusion and panic, a new government called the Confederation of the Willing took control of the country. No longer willing to allow people to self-govern, the state demands each person receive an implant called the Slate which records every word and action a person makes. If a person even dares to speak a banned or Red-Listed word, the Slate will deliver an immediate electric shock along with a none too subtle reminder of the state's control. If this weren't enough to keep the populace subdued and complacent, the government also relies on a brutal police force called the Blue Coats whose punishment is swift and often deadly.

Harper has become a different sort of tool in the hands of the government. Somewhat psychic, she has always been able to read people's emotions and is now used as a Monitor to determine guilt or innocence. But Harper has seen enough corruption to know it is time to stop the oppressive government and is more than ready when an underground resistance movement recruiter makes contact. Fueled by the memory of her lost daughter, whose name is now a Red-Listed word, Harper willingly joins the Resistance knowing it just might cost her everything but it also might give her more than she ever imagined.

For me, dystopian books may as well be classified as 'Book Crack' as I tend devour them without hesitation. Although the various dystopian books I've come across vary in terms of suspense, I found myself almost shuddering at the harsh reality of Harper's world. In the vein of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Veracity is a dark and fearful reminder of the power of knowledge and the lengths a government will go to keep its citizens repressed. I also couldn't help but be reminded of M.T. Anderson's chilling book Feed, in which everyone has a computer implanted in their brain at birth.

At it's core, Veracity is a book that explores the power of words. How they allow us expression and understanding and how censorship destroys that basic freedom. I couldn't help but feel a pang of sorrow as Harper confessed to ignorance of common words I so dearly love: music, poem, community, painting and so many others. Although quite dark, I was impressed with Harper's interactions with the Resistance and their struggle to restore knowledge through the fabled Book of Noah.

Other Veracity Blog Tour participants:
My Friend Amy
The Neverending Shelf
Opinionated? Me?
Parajunkee's View
Temple Library Reviews

book source: provided by the publisher, Pocket Books

Rogue by Rachel Vincent

Faythe Sanders is again back with her family. Reluctantly, of course. She's agreed to set aside her college degree in order to help her father, the local Alpha of a pack of werecats, as an enforcer. Even though Faythe's dad runs a tight ship it's not all bad - she gets to spend a large amount of her time honing her fighting skills (aka kicking her brother's trash) and hanging out with her boyfriend Marc. However, time spent on her father's ranch is never quiet and after a string of tomcats turn up dead and human women go missing, Faythe and the crew must try to put the pieces together before the rogue cat can strike again. But Faythe's choices have a way of coming back to bite her in the butt (sometimes literally) and this time the consequences may even effect her place within the Pride.

Faythe caught my eye in the previous werecat novel Stray with her fierce determination to become something other than a simple brood mare for the Pride. She's tough and impulsive and frankly still has a bit of growing up to do as far as relationships go, though to some extent I think she realizes it. Marc sure does. I will admit that watching their relationship develop in Rogue could often be described as a lesson in patience, but it was also obvious just how much they truly care about each other. To my way of looking at things, that's the very first step Faythe has to take in the growing up department and she does a decent job of taking it head-on. As a rare female in a large group of males, I can understand her desire to stretch the bands of convention - and for often butting heads with the macho males shes is constantly surrounded by. What makes me laugh more than anything however is Faythe's ability to attract trouble and cause disturbances wherever she goes. Seriously, the girl is a walking time bomb and I'm happy to simply follow along and watch the sparks fly.

What has to be the best part about returning to Rachel Vincent's world of werecat shifters is getting another up-close look at Faythe's relationship with her loud-mouth brothers and, most notably, her stead-fast parents. I was glad to see Faythe begin to bond with her '50s minded mom - who in my opinion holds much more power than Faythe ever gives her credit for. It never fails to make me smile when I see The Sanders as one big, scruffy family who can't help but snapping to attention every time their dad goes into Alpha mode. Heck, I probably would to. And that's not even mentioning the ridiculously soft spot I hold for Jace (can't you just see my goofy grin?).

series reading order:
~ Stray - my review
~ Rogue
~ Pride
~ Prey
~ Shift (March 2010)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review
Darque review
Dear Author review
Ink and Paper review
Urban Fantasy Land review

book source: my local library

New feature to watch: Sunday Shelves

Do you ever come across a bloggy with that one cosmically perfect feature and you secretly think: Man! I wish I had thought of that! Yes? Me too. All the time in fact. And I just happened to stumble across one such feature that will proceed to make me insanely curious. And jealous. Whichever.Jill of The O.W.L. blog has recently started a new feature called Sunday Shelves that has my inner busy-body just bursting with anticipation. Each week Jill will spotlight the bookshelves of a different blogger or reader - which is just fun in itself to see what books people keep. The post will also include pictures of their bookshelves and an explanation of their organizational scheme or lack thereof. I don't know about you, but I am a goon for this sort of thing. I love to see what system other readers use to display their books and occasionally, I like to see those who are like me and try to 'creatively' cram as many books as humanly possible into one small bookcase because that is all you have room for. Whichever, I am all over it and can't wait to see who stops by Jill's blog. If this sounds like your cuppa, Jill is also looking for bloggers to spotlight, so if you want a chance to show off your shelves - give her a hoot.

Rampant by Diana Peterfreund

Diana Peterfreund would like to take a moment to kindly rip to shreds everything you previously thought you knew about unicorns. Unicorns are not the fluffy, magical creatures from your childhood storybooks. In actuality, they are vicious, killer beasts whose horns can kill with a single scratch. Oh, and another happy thought? These man eating monsters aren't fiction and they aren't extinct.

These are the facts Astrid Llewelyn has heard from her certifiable mother since birth. Needless to say she's a skeptic. But all that changes when her boyfriend is gored by a rampaging unicorn and Astrid is suddenly shipped off to a convent of sorts in Italy where she will be trained to hunt (and kill) unicorns. Her qualifications? Astrid is descended from a long line of unicorn hunters; women who posses special abilities (like running or archery) which only manifest when they are in the presence of a unicorn, thus turning them into the perfect hunters of these killer beasties. It also doesn't hurt that Astrid is a virgin - much to her teenage chagrin. Female virgins are the only individuals immune to the deadly poison from a unicorn's horn and they also act as a sort of homing device for unicorns. Once again aiding in the Hunt and Kill agenda. But Astrid is a reluctant hunter to say the least. She doesn't feel like it should be her destiny to hunt unicorns like her fanatic mother believes. That is until she meets Giovanni in Rome and unicorns begin to attack her fellow hunters and Astrid discovers she has no choice but to join the fight against the unicorns.

Like many readers, I was eager to pick up Rampant. Come on! Killer unicorns - who would not read it on that premise alone? It's got to be one of the more ingenious concepts I've come across in quite a while. Astrid herself is a likable character although I did have some problems with her fanatical mom, Lillith. In essence she seemed a bit more like a plot tool than anything else. Lillith floats in and out of Astrid's life when convenient and never really acts like a mother figure at all. To be fair, Peterfreund never sets Lillith up as a model guardian - quite the opposite - her unicorn fascination has previously led to unemployment and general population shunning. So her actions are not necessarily out of character, they just didn't sit quite right with me.

In contrast, Astrid's interactions with Giovanni are blindingly real and absolute perfection. If you've read the Secret Society Girl series then you know just how well Peterfreund does relationships and Rampant is no exception. My only complaint? There simply weren't enough scenes between the studious Giovanni and Astrid to satisfy my inner romantic.

Another stumbling block to my enjoyment had to be the book's constant preoccupation with sex. I understand that a large part of Astrid being able to hunt unicorns is due to the fact that she is a virgin, but it was constantly pushed and seemed to be incorporated into every new plot development. After a bit, I felt like all Astrid did was: fight unicorns, wait around convent, talk about sex, fight unicorns, talk about sex, wait around convent, rinse, repeat. Perhaps the reason I was less than impressed with this cycle is simply because there were so many other interesting things that could have been discussed. She's in ROME! And a really cute boy wants to spend time with her! And there are killer unicorns after her! Sheesh. I'll get off my soapbox now and just hope that Ascendant offers more in the way of killer unicorn action and face time with cutie-boy Giovanni.

series reading order:
~ Rampant
~ Ascendant (September 2010)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Angieville review and interview
Library Lounge Lizard review
Not Enough Bookshelves review
Presenting Lenore review
Rhiannon Hart review

book source: my local library

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Thanks to the wonderful Holly (you remember how much fun she is right?), I recently picked up The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness on her enthusiastic recommendation. Dystopian? Intriguing characters? Suspenseful action? Sign me right up.

Todd Hewitt lives in a world without silence. In Prentisstown, all the thoughts of every man and animals are projected loud and clear, without filter - called the Noise. Constant and deafening, the Noise is inescapable and full of every secret thought.
The Noise is a man unfiltered, and without a filter, a man is just chaos walking.
Todd has never known privacy in Prentisstown nor he has ever met a woman. His own mother, along with all the other women, was killed during the war with an alien race called the Spackle. Now as the only boy left in Prentisstown, Todd is eagerly awaiting his 13th birthday - the one that will turn him officially into a man. A month before his birthday Todd and his faithful dog Manchee discover something that will change his entire life and will contradict every truth he ever believed in and leave him running for his very survival.

There are many different reasons why I practically devoured this book: first of all is Patrick Ness' completely unique writing style. From the compelling and stark chapter titles to the varying type fonts used to characterize the harsh pervasiveness of the Noise - it was all just so... new and utterly real. But the real ace in the hole has to be the characterizations in The Knife of Never Letting Go. I so loved Todd's interactions with each and every individual - I even went so far as to fall in love with his crazy dog, Manchee. The dog. In every exchange, you can practically chart Todd's progression into maturity on his flight from Prentisstown. Take this truth Todd belatedly learns about the falseness of first impressions:
I look up at him. His face and his Noise are as blank as I remember but the lesson of forever and ever is that knowing a man's mind ain't knowing the man.
Talk about a book that will kill you with its utter, complete, blinding perfection. Which is the reason I shall now dub it as My Favorite Dystopian Read of 2010. Oh, I know it is only two weeks into January and I've got another 50 odd weeks of reading yet to come, but I cannot even begin to explain the sheer brilliance of this compelling book. After digesting this complex read, I'm more than confident that The Knife of Never Letting Go will remain on my best of lists. That is, unless The Ask and the Answer dares to take its place.

series reading order:
~ The Knife of Never Letting Go
~ The Ask and the Answer
~ Monsters of Men (September 2010)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
Confessions of a Bibliovore review
S. Krishna's Books review
Things Mean a lot review
YA Fabulous review
ya Reads review
Rhiannon Hart interviews Patrick Ness

book source: my local library

Giveaway: Furnace: Solitary by Alexander Gordon Smith

As always with a sequel, read the following review at your own risk of spoilers!!

After putting down Furnace: Lockdown - which effectively ended right on a monumentally massive cliff-hanger ending - wondering if Alex Sawyer actually, really and truly escaped from the underground prison Furnace, I simply took a deep breath, cracked open Solitary and plowed on ahead. You see, Alex has witnessed horror upon horror during his stay in Furnace and just when the possibility of escape is dangled right in front of him, he's brought back to grim reality by the evil Warden and his soulless blacksuit minions. That's right, Alex and Zee are caught and placed in solitary confinement - underneath the main prison - leaving the boys wishing for the relative comforts of their old shared cells.

Solitary confinement leaves Alex questioning his own sanity and he quickly begins to once again dream of that elusive hope of escape. When a monstrous creature who used to be a boy just like Alex opens up his cell filling his head with horrible tales of experimentation and savagery, Alex is once again determined to get out of Furnace - no matter what. He just has to figure out a way past the blacksuits, the killer dogs, the wheezers, the panic-inducing Warden, and miles of solid rock.

It's safe to say after having already read Lockdown, I was ready for the horror that can be categorized as Alex's time in prison. Like it's predecessor, Solitary follows Alex and his friends as they face death and agony time and again only to be pushed deeper into the nightmare of Furnace. Alexander Gordon Smith's intense writing effectively grabs you immediately; dragging you along in the wake of Alex's desperate flight through the depths of that horrible prison. I barely had time to catch my breath between each new harrowing discovery - but that's what makes Alex's story just so compelling. Heck, if I were a teenage boy I'd be eating this stuff up with a fork. And asking for seconds.

And once again, we are back with that same clip-art obsessed cringe-worthy cover artist. But wait you say! It's different! They used blue! And there are targets! Ohhhh... that changes everything. Sadly there is no alternate cover to soften the blow to my eyes.

Read the first two chapters of Solitary here.

series reading order:
~ Lockdown - my review
~ Death Sentence

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Bag review

book source: The Book Smugglers giveaway


Since I haven't hosted a giveaway in quite a while (bad bloggy!) I'm going to be giving away a signed copy of both Furnace: Lockdown (my review) and Furnace: Solitary to one lucky commenter who tells me what scares you the most. That's right two signed books to one lucky commenter!

Giveaway Guidelines:
  • Open to US residents only
  • Must be a follower
  • Leave a comment answering the question: what scares you the most?
  • Include your email
  • Entries must be received by midnight on January 31st

Really? Really?!?

The hubby regularly checks in at My Life is Average and occasionally will pass along one of the funnier posts. Today however he shared one that could only be described as cringe-worthy.
The other day I was in the car with my mom when I randomly ask "If there's a place to rent movies, why isn't there one to rent books?" She then went into a 15 minute description of something called a library. MLIA.

Seriously people?

Glass Houses by Rachel Caine

Freakishly smart Claire Danvers has always lived on the outside. Never exactly the popular girl, Claire has been fine with her low social status until she started her freshmen year of college in Morganville, Texas at sixteen years of age and took the role of social outcast to a whole new level. After innocently making a bad impression with the reigning Queen Bee of Cruel, overnight Claire turned from simply unpopular to walking punching bag. Claire decides to ditch her on-campus lodgings in favor of an off-campus abode hoping the old 'out of sight, out of mind' adage will do the trick. Even though she isn't exactly crossing her fingers. As luck will have it, Claire manages to stumble across a listing for the Glass House: occupied by Michael Glass (owner and local man of mystery), Eve (bubbly goth girl), and Shane (slacker hottie who likes x-box) - all of whom have secrets galore. In the Glass House, Claire discovers her sleepy college town is actually controlled by vampires and that none of her roommates (Claire included) are currently under the protection of a vampire - effectively branding them all as fair game. Suddenly Claire's got a lot more to worry about than just midterms.

One of the main reasons I was looking forward to reading Rachel Caine's Morganville Vampires series is because her vampires are just that. Evil bloodsuckers who basically want humans controlled and docile. Or dead. None of this sexy, misunderstood souls business - Morganville vampires can be easily labeled as villains. And can I just say that for once, it's nice to be on sure footing where the bad guys are concerned. Vampires = bad. Humans = good. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Well, that equation normally holds true, but like any good story it isn't always so black and white; but more on that in the next book, The Dead Girls' Dance.

Claire's story was decent, but it wasn't until she meets up with her three roommates in the Glass House that the pages really started turning. Not that I don't like Claire - I do, to an extent - but Michael, Eve, and Shane just happened to up the entertainment ante much faster than our bookish heroine has previously accomplished. It also helps that Claire develops a backbone while living in the Glass House, making her infinitely more likable. Her three roommates have a nice, comfortable banter with each filling a specific role which helped me relax and fall into the story more than anything else.

Glass Houses is fast-paced and quite short and I quite enjoyed Claire's story but every so often little details would pop up that would end up completely pulling me out of the story. Like when this scary old vampire lady calls Claire 'winsome' and Claire has no idea what she means. Really? A girl who reads anything and graduated from high school at 16 doesn't know what winsome means? Huh. I guess those SATs aren't as tough as they used to be. I mean, I know Claire is mainly math and science smart, but it happened a couple of different times and just didn't fit.

series reading order:
~ Glass Houses
~ The Dead Girls' Dance
~ Midnight Alley
~ Feast of Fools
~ Lord of Misrule
~ Carpe Corpus
~ Fade Out
~ Kiss of Death (April 2010)

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Bag review
The Bookette review
Confessions of a Bibliophile review
Just Listen Book Reviews
ya Reads review

book source: my local library

Book Blogger Holiday Swap

For the first time, I participated in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap this year. I know this post is a bit later than everyone else's but since I moved right before the holidays to the Middle of Nowhere, my package took a little longer than average to arrive. But it came today (Yipee!!) and I couldn't be happier with what my sweet secret santa Melissa of Book Nut sent:
To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
Cotillion by Georgette Heyer
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Melissa must have done her homework, becuase I've been meaning to pick up both a Georgette Heyer and To Say Nothing of the Dog for a long time. So now there's no excuse. And of course, who doesn't love Westerfeld and chocolate?

Thank you again Melissa!!

Heart's Blood by Juliet Marillier

Juliet Marillier is one author I have come to know and love over the past year. Her writing is always lush and evocative and she never fails to take a story places that I truly never expected it to go. So as I settled into her latest, Heart's Blood, I was delighted to find myself in a suitably misty and atmospheric Celtic retelling of Beauty and the Beast that could only be described as vintage Marillier.

Running from an abusive situation, the young scribe Caitrin doesn't know where she is going, she just knows she has to go now. After traveling for days she stumbles upon the strange village of Whistling Tor whose occupants fill her head with strange tales of their young Lord Anluan - a cripple who never leaves his hilltop castle. But Caitrin is desperate and when Anluan's servant comes to the village looking for a scribe, Caitrin jumps at the chance, even though she is strongly warned against journeying to the crumbling castle with its strange and remote inhabitants. Upon her arrival Caitrin is confronted with a monumental task that will require all her wits and strength and a Lord who is struggling to simply keep his estate intact - and who doesn't exactly even want her around. Slowly, Caitrin and Anluan begin to work together, unearthing chilling family secrets long buried while they quickly discover they must depend on each other in order to turn the tide of misfortune for all of Whistling Tor.

Perhaps what makes Caitrin and Anluan's love story so poetic is how they both truly only want to make the other happy - through whatever means, even if it means letting go. It's not easy or even destiny for these two (more than one large obstacle stands between them and HEA) but they simply work together in a mature and selfless way that just makes them both better people in their own time. ::sigh::

It never fails to surprise me how good Juliet Marillier is at taking a very well known and beloved fairy tale (read: Beauty and the Beast or the Seven Swans) and subtly twisting or manipulating it until the story itself is something totally new and unique. Small and subtle details are left along the way (a magic mirror, a man deformed) to remind the reader that you are still in a particular tale; just not like you've ever heard it. Marillier has such a gift for making every single story her very own, which only makes everything she writes simply a pleasure to read.

**By the way, this is actually the UK cover which I adore as opposed to the US cover which is sorta meh.

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Muncher review
Tempting Persephone review

book source: my local library