Moving Day!

So I'm moving the blog to wordpress....I will most likely screw something up. Please pardon if I break the internet. :)

Update: I've moved! Hopefully everything should be forwarding all nice and pretty like but in case it doesn't (or until it does) you can find me over yonder

In which I politely shove you in the direction of books -I- want you to read...

Recently, I've had both the pleasure and the disappointment of having three separate conversations concerning Young Adult books. The disappointment was experienced when I realized that the people I was book chatting with where only familiar with YA from some of its more popular series, Twilight and The Hunger Games trilogy. Now there's nothing wrong with having read those two series. They are rather YA staples and really good examples of some of the worst and best aspects of YA literature, but while they are a good introduction to YA they are not, by far, everything YA has to offer. In an attempt to correct this, I've rambled off this informative little prattle about YA books I think you should read to either better or further your opinion of YA lit.

Looking for books along the lines of Twilight is what lead me to the various and assorted YA I've read today as well as taught me that the Twilight series is some of the worst shit ever written and nothing to hold sacred. MOVING ON... We'll also let this serve as a bit of an introduction to Young Adult fiction for those of you who haven't been bitten by the bug or who are like myself- no longer a young adult. We're going to take baby steps here, as not to overload you, and talk about one group of books at a time. We'll start with the above mentioned series and branch out from there.

Young Adult
First thing you need to understand about YA books is that despite poor product placement and bookstore marketing, these are NOT children's books, nor do they belong in the children's section. You might see them classified as "Teen" in some stores and that's a fair assumption but still a bit too segmented and stereotyped to draw in everyone the genre is actually targeted at. These books are written for, roughly, ages 14-22 and are written on a variety of reading levels. Take a gander at the Wikipedia entry on the subject and look at some of the titles that have traditionally appealed to the young adult age group. It'll give you an idea of what you could potentially be looking at- as well as the second grade reading level paranormal nonsense that has habitually caused this group of fiction to be pigeonholed as kid's crap. To fine tune it a bit, these are books that are aimed at ahem "youthful" people and the situations and reactions as they would apply at that point in life. While these books may not always get it right, there are those out there that more than assure the YA section a place in the bookstore (wherever they may put it).

Urban Fantasy/Paranormal YA
I'm speaking to YOU, Twilight fans. These are your vampire, werewolf, time travel, shape-shifting, psychic powers and other unexplainable what-nots, works of fiction. They can cover a broad range of time or place but are generally centered in our world (you know, the real one) and in vaguely real-time...or a warped but recognizable facsimile. These are not fantasy in the traditional sense in that they take place HERE and not in The Forest of Unpronouncable Awesomeness in the land of Farawaya.  If you are wanting to spend a little more time hanging out with the unexplained (and maybe make a few new vampire friends in the process),  here are a few Young Adult Paranormal books that don't bring shame upon the genre and the majority of which are thankfully, NOTHING like Twilight:

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake: Is a modern ghost story, with a bit of romance, a smidgen of gore and a lot of imagination. This was published in 2011, features a male lead character (something very rare in YA) and pushed past the idea that Paranormal YA had to be all light and fluffy.

The Mortal Instruments Trilogy by Cassandra Clare: While the pre and post trilogies are making it easy to dislike nearly the entire production, it's not easy to dismiss the awesomeness that is her debut trilogy. It's a good one to read if you're coming down from your Twilight high and hoping to get wrapped up in the emotion of impossible and all consuming love whilst battling evil and hanging out with powerful, magical folk. And Jace is hot. Seriously hot. I'll probably burn in hell for actually recommending this series.

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White: When you've had all the gloom and doom and brooding you can possibly stand but still don't want to leave a place where normal young adults have some not so normal abilities, you might want to spend some time with Evie in the International Paranormal Containment Agency, hunting down rogue vampires and falling in love with invisible boys. Evie is a refreshing change from the incessant brooding in paranormal YA. She's hilariously funny and even with all her powers, she's immune to the magical draw of a pretty pair of shoes.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs: This little marvel, while loosely YA (I say this because the writing is perhaps a bit above the usual reading level of general YA), has a lot of YA appeal in that it features many people of the youthful persuasion with some most extraordinary abilities along with a boarding school (YA is littered with these), a tinge of romance and a main character (again, one of those allusive male leads) who is willing to risk everything to save his friends- even if they might not be real.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone: Taylor is a godsend for YA, I swear. You can't hope to top the level of imagination that went into this story. As an extra added bonus, it's remarkably well written. No vampires here, but we do have some angels- who aren't necessarily the good guys and the main character has BLUE HAIR (#thingsthatarecool).

The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa: As a grown woman, I often feel silly saying that I read YA, but if there is one series out there that makes me stand up proud and say "Fuck yeah, I read YA. So kiss it, Classics!" this is it. The is a serious win for the YA home team. We love it. We're proud of it and it's alllllllll ours. Real fairies (you know, bad ones), a STRONG female lead and lurve....lots of lurve.

So that should get you started. The one thing missing from this list is a kick ass Paranormal/Urban Fantasy YA stand alone novel. Having nearly every book published in YA be part of a series is definitely one of its short comings. So I'll throw The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater out there even though I had a "hmmmmm" moment when I tried to classify it. We'll call it paranormal fantasy for today.

Now go and read...and comment on your own favorite paranormal YA books- because that's the kind of stuff we do.

Pirate Lovin'

It's no secret that I love trashy historical romance novels. In the past I have tried to hide it but now I'm proud to be branded as a shameless romance book hussy. And why shouldn't I? Have you ever read one? Did you get caught up in the magic and romance and lust and all out joy that only a work of pure escapism can bring? If you haven't you should probably try it or else the cool kids are going to start rumors about you being frigid.

As I've mentioned before, I'm systematically (the system being which ever book I can find for the least expense at the time) working my way through Sarah MacLean's list of must read romances. She hasn't let me down yet. Two of her picks happen to be of the piratical persuasion and take place at sea, aboard a ship that has only just turned semi-respectable, both with captains who have themselves, yet to embrace respectability.

Till Dawn Tames the Night

Author: Meagan McKinney
Publisher: Dell
Date: April 2, 1991
Pages: 467
Genre: Historical Romance

Till Dawn Tames the Night by Megan McKinney, happens as directed above to a prim and proper English school mistress, on a ship bound for Jamaica where she believes she is to take a position as a lady's companion. Little Aurora Dayne has no idea that it's all a ruse brought about by the ship's captain, the quite dastardly and dangerous Vashon. Vashon believes that Aurora is in possession of information that will lead him to a priceless treasure that was spirited away by Aurora's father, an accomplished thief. We have a kidnapping, a tussle and ultimately an unbreakable bound but not before we have a great deal of sexual tension and interpersonal strife.

Gentle Rogue

Author: Johanna Lindsey
Publisher: Avon
Date: December 1, 1990
Pages: 448
Genre: Historical Romance

Gentle Rogue marks my second run in with romance author Johanna Lindsey so I knew a bit of what to expect with this pirate romance. Lindsey's novel is quite tame when compared to Mckinney's. Georgina Anderson, shipping heiress, sister to five brothers and stubborn, naive hot head, has gone to England in search of her long-lost fiancé. When she failed to recieve word from him in over six years, it shouldn't have surprised Georgie that her wayward love had long since forsaken her for another. Interesting times have left George and her friend Mac stranded in England without funds and in great need of getting back to America before Georgie's flight is discovered. It makes perfect sense that she and Mac would hire themselves out to work on a ship in exchange for passage back to America, just as it makes perfect sense for Georgie to disguise herself as a cabin boy to James Malory, a licentious English lord who is on to her from the start.

Of our two "heroes" I'm quite fixedly team Vashon. I couldn't stand Malory's voice and his incessant and boisterous dialogue. James, how can we lust after you if won't stop talking? Don't you know that the hero is just around to brood and look good? Vashon was an absolute slime of a human being which of course I found endearing because one must always root for the bad boy to win. But where James was all talk, Vashon simple carried out his evil plans without a lot of quip.

Aurora was a little mouse of a thing and she never developed any backbone so I could take or leave her. But Georgie was a troublesome, interfering insufferable hell raiser (I guess I can relate) and I supported her antics from the start. Couldn't we have them switch and let Georgina and Vashon get together? That's the primary reason I chose to talk about these two books together. I loved half of each of them SO MUCH that I just want to squish the two together and let the parts I don't like fall out.

Still, they were both great pirate romances and I greatly enjoyed them both. I enjoyed them even though the cover of Gentle Rogue, being one of those covers screams "THIS WOMAN IS READING TRASH! LOOK! RIGHT THERE! TRASH!" Lurve. Yay for pirates.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Under the Never Sky

Author: Veronica Rossi
Publisher: HarperCollins
Date: January 3, 2012
Pages: 384
Genre: YA- Dystopia, Fantasy

I know this is one of those 2012 YA debuts that we're suppose to blindly and unconditionally love but I have to be honest- my heart isn't going pitty-pat in response to this story. Its rhythm is a bit more bradycardic.

In a world (sounds like a movie trailer doesn't it) devastated by storms that scorch and destroy everything they touch, civilizations have sprung up inside well enforced and protected underground settlements. Denied access to the outer world, the Dwellers have created a life based on continuous virtual reality, living through fantasy, inside their own heads. But beneath the storm ravaged sky, people are still struggling to exist. The Outsiders, a primitive people with heightened senses that allow them to be specially attuned to the land, seek to hold on to a rapidly fading way of life. When an accident forces Aria, a Dweller, out into the world of the Outsiders, a flimsy alliance with one of the rumored savages may be her only means of survival.

There are several things I liked about the story. The romance was really quite touching and the chemistry between our lurvers was nearly tangible. The Outsiders extra senses were kind of cool and the run-in with the cannibals was a stellar touch of awesome (those guys were scary). I always appreciate a good bad guy and Consul Hess was a well played evil. But while Peregrine was extremely crush worthy and competent, I couldn't find much to recommend Aria.

From the word go the storyline was choppy and I could have really used a roadmap to help me navigate Rossi's extremely messy world building. Messy, was in fact my initial and over all reaction. Nothing flowed. One scene wouldn't even be completed before an entirely new and sometimes unnecessary concept was introduced (we can't all be super human- it's tedious and boring). I couldn't get a firm handle, feel or picture of this world Rossi wanted me to envision- it was all skinny, gangling limbs, jutting out every which way when what it really needed was some meat on its bones. Less constant, directionless plot twists and more focus on the world and the way your people exist in it- else they're just actors in front of a green screen.

I don't know how I feel about a sequel for I fear it would just be more running around in the same place. In a genre already flooded with trilogies, there are stronger contenders.

Review copy from Amazon Vine

Cinder by Marissa Meyer


Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Date: January 3, 2012
Pages: 390
Series: Lunar Chronicles #1
Genre: YA- Science Fiction

I have some very mixed feelings about this book. While not all of them are positive feelings, when you tally them all up there's still more awesome contained in this book than not.

The very first thing I have to mention is the first thing you notice about the book- the cover. And how could you not? It's freakin' fabulous and I can't remember the last time I LOVED a cover this much.

Cinder is a very fanciful and highly imaginative spin on the classic Cinderella tale with some wildly fantastical and unique twists. For starters, this Cinderella isn't all there- physically. Cinder is a cyborg, a creature that was essentially human at one time but whose various body bits have been replaced with mechanical parts. Thanks to the miracles of modern science and better living through chemistry, Cinder was able to survive a horrible accident that left her human body nearly unsalvageable. She was adopted by a kindly gentleman and taken to live with him and his family, a step mother and two step sisters who were less than thrilled to have a machine in the family. After the untimely death of her adopted father, Cinder was forced to accept the only role her step-family was willing to allow her, that of a servant, a machine and the legal property of her 100% human family. But in the market where Cinder works as a mechanic, not everyone is aware that she isn't entirely human. When the Prince Kai, heir to the empire stops by her shop for some impromptu android repair, Cinder quickly finds herself thrown into the midst of a palace scandal that could destroy the entire nation. Kai has no idea that his new confidant isn't all that she appears to be and in fact, she's so very much more than even Cinder herself knows.

All those positives I mentioned early? The majority of them go to Meyer's writing, her powerful story line and excellently founded world. Meyer's city has a tremendous amount of suction and I found myself imagining far beyond the written world, down side streets and behind palace doors, because I simply wasn't able to pull free. I can't fault her story telling.

The few negatives that reared their ugly heads, popped up in various places throughout the story. Without going into what could potentially be seen as spoilers, there were quite a few elements that bordered on absurd. The foot, the car, the "superpower" that was dormant for nearly two decades (really?) and the chiropractic move that brings it out. There was enough actually story line that those little avenues could have gone unexplored and nothing would be missing. But these were personal pet peeves and maybe someone else will see the beauty in them.

At the end of it all, it's still freakin' Sci-Fi Cinderella with Cyborgs and you just about can't top that shit. Solid stuff this. It not only FULLY warrants a sequel but I also have NO doubt that Meyer can pull off an entire series.

Review copy from publisher

Things That Are Awesome: Third Grave Dead Ahead by Darynda Jones

So yeah, the third book in the Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones will be out at the end of the month. If you haven't started this series, you need to. Run quick like a bunny and grab a copy of the first book, First Grave on the Right and read it RIGHT NOW. THEN and ONLY THEN, read the sequel Second Grave on the Left and THEN come back here and tell me how awesome I am for telling you to read it.

Third Grave Dead Ahead

Author: Darynda Jones
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Date: January 31st 2012
Pages: 320
Genre: Paranormal Romance/Mystery

From Goodreads: Charley Davidson—grim reaper extraordinaire, private investigator . . . meh—is practicing her profession under the influence, caffeine and copious amounts of it, due to an extreme desire to induce insomnia. Every time she closes her eyes, Reyes Farrow, the part-human, part-supermodel son of Satan, is there. Only thing is, he’s a tad peeved. She did bind for all eternity, so it’s hard blame him. But 13 days without a wink is bound to bring out the crazy in a girl. So, when a man hires her to find his wife, Charley accepts the job with one goal in mind: Put the man behind bars, and not the wet kind. She can sense the guilt waft off him and vows to find the woman’s body and prove he’s a murderer.

In the meantime, Reyes is back in prison and none too happy about it . . . so Charley thinks, until she is carjacked by the dark-haired rake, who swears the very man he went to prison for killing is not only alive, but close by. And he wants Charley to find him.

While a visit to her old friend Rocket sheds no light on Reyes’s situation, Charley finds out the man’s wife is still alive and time is running out. Finding her before she dies would be a miracle, but she has to try. Together with the help of a fashion-impaired receptionist named Cookie, Charley sets out to bring the bad guys to justice. She just hopes Reyes is not one of them. And that she’s not hallucinating from her self-induced bout with insomnia.

The Sandman Vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman Vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes

Author: Neil Gaiman and lots of illustrators
Publisher: DC Comics
Date: 1995 (first published October 21st 1991)

Some time last year I realized, much to my dismay, that I hadn't read a Neil Gaiman book in months. Right on top of that thought came the NEXT one which was this:

There are MANY Neil Gaiman books that I haven’t read AT ALL, not even once.

I knew immediately that this simply would not do. I’m sure you are all aware, as am I, that reading Neil Gaiman’s books will greatly increase your chances of success in the afterlife. This is a fact, children and you can tell your mums and whatnot that Laura said so.

I can’t remember the last time I read a graphic novel (which is really just a hoity-toity name for a fancy comic book- I don’t care WHAT you say). I know there was one I use to read, back in the day, when I was a wee tot but I’m pretty sure it was brightly colored and involved good guys killing bad guys. When I pledged myself (and the safety of my eternal soul) to reading all of Neil’s books, I unwittingly committed to reading his graphic novels, The Sandman series- which are NOT brightly colored but DO involve lots of different kinds of people, killing lots of different kinds of people.

I procured a copy of The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes, which contains issues 1-8. I didn’t know what to expect from the series, or from a graphic novel in general so I was more than pleasantly surprised when I discovered that I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. Don’t you just love that feeling when you’re reading something so good that it would take a VERY strong person prying it out of your hand while you're repeatedly beating them over the head with their own leg, to take it away from you? You know you do.

The story- as I explained it to my beloved who is a non-reader but willing to indulge my book talk if I keep it short enough- is about the king of dreams who is accidentally summoned by an evil wizard who was REALLY trying to summon Death (dumbass). Scared stupid, the wizard imprisons Dream for many years and loots his stuff. When Dream finally gets free, he sets off to retrieve the tools of his trade that have since been scattered hither and thither throughout the world(s). This first 8 issues follow him into the dream world, the human world and hell as he reclaims the items that hold his power. This summary, when told, involved the use of lots of BIG hand gestures.

The artwork is absolutely amazing in parts and in others absolutely grotesque- like whenever they did a close up of Stimpy’s boogers. The images and imagery are incredibly dark, powerful and disturbing. 24 Hours (issue #6) was almost more than I could handle. It wasn’t until the last issue in the volume that I really got a Neil feel because it took him a little while to warm up. This being the first volume of the series and largely rumored to be the weakest, I can forgive him his stage fright.

But I’m in, I’m hooked, I’m committed and Vol 2, The Doll’s House, should be here any day now.

Well hello there, 2012...

You're a sneaky little thing aren't you, New Year? December was an outrageously busy month for me and mine and it's a bit surreal waking up this morning to find that it's time to get crackin' on 2012. But it's here and there's no stopping it so best to just go with it- considering the alternative.

I made a huge reading mistake in 2011 what with the whole read 100 books challenge. At one point I got so focused on reading enough that I completely forgot to blog enough. I ended up reading 106 books last year and reviewing less than half that. Shame on me! Also, toward the end of the year I started viewing my blog as all business and posting ONLY book related stuff, omitting all the fun rambling nonsense that I had engaged in earlier in the year. Also, I seemed to have become far more of a lurker than I have previously been when what I really should have been doing is interacting openly with the blogs I read rather than just reading them.

So, that being said, there are a few things I'd like to accomplish with my blog in 2012:

  1. Review what I read, even if it means reading less.
  2. Get a little more personal. Not airing my dirty laundry personal but simply putting a little more "me" into my blog posts.
  3. Get my ass in gear, take a minute or two and click that comment button. I know just how much reader interaction with one of my reviews means to me and I can bet it means as much to you. I will do better.
  4. Be a little more selective in what I read/buy. I've read some really forgettable shit lately, and paid for it. I've given away almost as many books as I've purchased simply because they weren't worth keeping. I'm really going to try to cut back on reading and buying nonsense.
  5. Schedule more author interviews! I finally participated in ONE and I loved it, so let's do more of that.

Then there's the whole real life thing. Ya know, what we do when we're not reading and blogging. This looks to be a big year for me. For starters, I'm going back to school! Woot. And then, in June, Beloved and I are going to R-U-N-N-O-F-T and get hitched. So there will be lots of things to prattle on about.

So here's to a whole new year of blogging. I'm glad to have you here and I hope your first day of 2012 is a smashing success!

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Laura @ A Jane of All Reads
I read excessively and hoard books like a greedy dragon. Theoretically, I also plan to use them to barricade myself against the forthcoming zombie apocalypse.

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