Category Archives: Zelda

Book Madness 2015 : Brackets for everyone!

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Ok, now I am surprised by my winner…mostly because I haven’t even read it. I want to though, if that counts for anything…no? I didn’t think so. I hadn’t read a pretty high number of these. I was getting pretty frustrated at some of these pairs though.

I mean, who compares Madeline and The Bell Jar? In what world do those belong together? Why is Goodnight Moon even on the list? Ick. Corduroy vs Animal Farm? Is it because they are both animals? Watership down is about rabbits, at least those two together would make sense. Lolita vs Charlotte’s Web made me laugh out loud, then shudder a little. No. My final four was super interesting though.

The Bell Jar vs Jane Eyre: Two books I haven’t read, but still. Wuthering Heights vs American Gods. Final two: The Bell Jar vs American Gods. AND THE WINNER!!?!?! The Bell Jar.

I’m not sure how I voted out The Outsiders so quickly, upon rebooking at my bracket I regretted that choice, but once it’s down there is no changing it and I think that’s a good thing. Apparently, subconsciously I don’t think it should win, so who can argue with that? It was really difficult to choose between American Gods and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but c’mon, it’s Neil Gaiman.

My bracket was pretty different from Nox’s and Madeline’s, but surprisingly Nox and I picked the same winner! That must mean something, right?

It’s going to be interesting to see what happens once the voting starts, but I imagine it will go the way of my other brackets and I will disagree with most of the choices.

Lies We Tell Ourselves

Lies We Tell Ourselves Title: Lies We Tell Ourselves
Author: Robin Talley
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Historical Fiction
Length: 368 pages

Where do I even begin? I loved this. Pure and simple love. Which might seem like the wrong emotion when thinking of the subject matter and how  truly difficult it was to read, but I just wanted to gather everyone of those poor kids and hug them. I kept wanting to just shout “Ok, bring it in” and throw my arms around them and hug them. This book gave me the chills, made me want to cry, and yet I could I couldn’t stop reading!

I think overall I preferred the narrative from Sarah’s point of view, but it was nice to see the growth in Linda from her point of view. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that dealt with race issues the way this book does. Page one it begins, there is no tiptoeing around the issue of desegregating the schools we jump into the first day of school for these 10 kids that are thrust into an all-white school that is, shall we say, less than pleased to see them.

Lie #1
There’s no need to be afraid.

As they approach the school everyone is waiting from them outside and they are shouting at them. They are jostled, elbowed, tripped, and they haven’t even made it inside the building. It was like a train-wreck that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from. I felt embarrassed for the south, the United States, and the people that were forced to endure that kind of humiliation.

“We’re inside.
It’s done. We did it. We’re in the school.
But the white people are still staring at us. Shouting at us.
They’re all around me. And they still look hungry.”

“We haven’t been sitting ten seconds when everyone else who was sitting on the front row stands up, all in one smooth motion, and files out.
For the second time this morning, I wonder if the white people rehearsed that.”

Every time a group of people changed seats leaving one of them alone just broke my heart. It made my chest hurt. My throat just burned, either with sadness or with anger, or both. I just couldn’t settle on one emotion. I can’t imagine treating people this way and I am thankful that I was not raised to treat anyone as though they don’t matter or that they are different than I am so I treat them differently.

I can understand why some of the kids that don’t hurl insults don’t help, they would then become a target, but the teachers blatantly ignoring it just fills me with rage. I’m sure there was pressure from higher ups not to interfere unless they had to, or even in some places that would have cost a teacher their job because they didn’t agree with the majority opinion. But..every adult that stood by and let it happen made it me want to cry or break something. While I am very non-confrontational, I hope that I would say something or do something if I saw such cruelty. I hope that I am never faced with making that decision, because if I chose wrong I don’t know that I could forgive myself.

The other main issue at hand in this book is the fact that Sarah finds herself attracted to another girl and can’t stop beating herself up about how wrong that is. Now not only is she one of ten black students in a newly desegregated school, but she is also a lesbian with no way of dealing with all her pain. AND on top of that her new crush is white. This girl just can’t catch a break from herself or the world.

There was also a lot of religion questioning that I found interesting. Sarah did a lot of praying and talked frequently of her church, but she would question why God would allow them to go through this or why if he was watching over them that he had to do his job from so far away. That broke my heart all over again.

I was slightly disappointed that Linda didn’t grow as much as I wanted her to, but she definitely made some giant leaps in the right direction. The amount she changed was very believable, anything more would have seemed outrageous due to length of time the book spans, but I just wanted everyone to realize how wrong they were and get some karma for how horribly they acted. Just punch them all in the face, repeatedly, and call it a day.

Chuck. For some reason my heart went out to him the most. Maybe because he was supposed to be the protector of the girls, the younger boys, and also try to survive this new school with his head held high. He also had a lot to lose because the was most likely to be ganged up on in a fight with the assholes from his new school. I worried about him and I found myself actually flinching when I thought something bad was going to happen to him…..he actually made me cry a bit.

This book is not necessarily easy to read. There is no shying away from what people call them and the language itself may be too offensive for some, but it’s pretty damn accurate for what these people were forced to endure. The idea that anyone could be treated that way just kills me.

I highly recommend this book. I’ve never read a book quite like it and I don’t think I ever will again.

How to Fall….off a cliff?

 How to Fall

Title:  How to Fall
Author: Jane Casey
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Length: 
352 pages

Synopsis:

 Jess Tennant is a little less than thrilled about being hauled to a small English town by her mother to visit family they’ve never met and her mother doesn’t talk about. Jess is even more surprised to learn that her cousin Freya died in what appears to be a freak accident and could be her long lost twin. As she copes with meeting new family, and shocking a town with her appearance, Jess begins to delve into the world that Freya lived. Soon Jess begins asking questions that no one seems to want answers to such as, did Freya kill herself, did she just happen to fall by accident, or was it something more sinister? It seems that the people of this sleepy town have a lot to hide.
Review:

All in all I loved it. Jane Casey is one of those authors on my “Read Everything They Publish” list. She writes some great mysteries that I can’t stop telling people about. I absolutely love her and this venture into YA is right up my alley combining two of my favorite things: murder and young adults!

I loved the creation of Jess and felt that she was very believable. I didn’t feel as if her fascination with Freya was far fetched. All the characters had the right amount of personality where they could have been real. I couldn’t help picturing this as a tv show and easily visualizing everything that was happening and all the characters.

One thing I quite enjoyed was the sort of uninterested, slightly aggressive flirting. Jess would act as if she cared less about Will, but then she would find herself thinking about him and admiring him, then chastising herself.

One problem I had was that I didn’t find the killer to be believable. It seemed a little far fetched, so that lead me to dropping it down from 5 stars. Typically, I am right there with Jane Casey, but she kind of lost me on this one.

I really was hoping to get more out of the situations with Will’s dad. There seemed to be a lot of potential in that story and almost as though the author was hoping to explore that avenue, but maybe in another story? Perhaps that tale wasn’t right for this one, I could see that. I am hoping that the situations involving him are explored more in the next book, which I am so excited for!

In the grand scheme of things, this was a great read and I recommend it for those that like their mysteries, but perhaps aren’t into the ones that are super dark and want some young adult elements.

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of How to Fall from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Oh, Aector

book cover of Sorrow Bound by David Mark

Title: Sorrow Bound
Author: David Mark
Series: Aector McAvoy #3
Genre: Mystery
Pages: 352 pages
Rating: 4 stars (Madeleine) 4.5 stars (Zelda)

Synopsis:

The ever-lovable, lumbering police detective Aector McAvoy returns for his third book in Sorrow Bound. When Philippa Longman is found brutally murdered, Aector and Pharaoh are at a bit of a loss to understand why. The woman was well-loved, kind, and dedicated to improving her local neighborhood. Philippa’s death is followed by another murder, and the only connection between the two is that both saved the life of a man years ago. But who would kill someone for being a good samaritan?

Aector’s personal life is also a source of stress. Aector and Roisin are preparing to move into a house that they may or may not be able to afford. After standing up for a friend and confronting a drug dealer (okay, and stealing his money), Roisin becomes the target of the local crime lords. And in other parts of Hull, DC Helen Tremberg finds herself in a sticky situation after attracting the attentions of a man who seems to be too good to be true.

Review:

Madeleine: Let’s be honest: what keeps me coming back to this series is Aector. He is such an atypical fictional detective in a world of hardboiled, jaded detectives with destroyed personal lives. Aector is a genuinely good person who constantly worries about being a good person and deeply loves his wife and family. I love reading about a detective who isn’t sure about actions to take, who can’t quite maintain a professional distance and often finds himself bewilderedly comforting grieving family members, and who blushes whenever someone teases him. I especially loved this description of Aector:

“She remembers their first meeting. Remembers that agonizing walk from Queen’s Gardens to Hull Crown Court. It had rained the night before and the damp pavements were patterned with the crushed shells of snails that had not got out of the way as the city’s commuters began their walks to work. McAvoy had kept stopping every five or six steps to pick up any snail he thought was in harm’s way. He filled his pockets with them then ran back to Queen’s Garned to put them safely on the grass.”

The man saved snails!

Zelda: The snail story was perhaps one of my favorite parts of the book!! I love that while Aector struggles with work and his family, he at least has a family to go home to. I love reading about jaded detectives as much as the next owl, but someone has to be happy, right?

Madeleine: The only other detective similar to Aector that I can think of is Maeve Kerrigan from series by Jane Casey. I’ve only read the first book, but Maeve brings a fresh perspective as an early-career detective who is also concerned with doing the right thing and not 100% sure what to do at all times. In fact, now I want a crossover series with Maeve and Aector teaming up and being awesome together. Pharaoh can join too.

Zelda: I simultaneously want to go drinking with Pharaoh, but also find her so intimidating I hope we never meet. She seems so fun and yet terrifying. It’s a thrilling combination, I suppose. Jane Casey is fantastic. I love Maeve and can’t wait to get her next book, which is in cataloging as I type. 🙂

Continue reading

The Parliament Convenes: 2013 in Review

So, we know it’s 2014. And we know everyone else has already published their year-in-review posts. But we’re still writing 2013 on things by mistake, which means it’s not too late to share our favorites from last year. Right?

Before we begun, if you’re looking for something really good to read, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein all made it onto multiple owls’ top five lists for 2013.

Zelda

Five Favorite Books Read in 2013

  1. The Archived by Victoria Schwab 
  2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane  by Neil Gaiman
  3. The Theory of Everything  by J. J. Johnson
  4. Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley – This was definitely my favorite Flavia book! I adore this world and I especially adore Flavia! I love listening to the audiobooks for these, Jane Entwistle does a great job! I constantly get little sayings from these stuck in my head. I have yet to find someone that doesn’t like Flavia (and we are talking a wide range of ages, genders, and reading interests)! 
  5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – I was nervous to read this one, but I actually don’t remember crying when I read the book. I plan on going to the movie and ugly crying with my friends, but I don’t think the book made me cry. However, I loved it. John Green is a wonderful author and really knows how to connect the reader and the character so you feel their emotions for fully and are immersed in their world. 

I noticed something odd about my top 5 books. They are ALL blue. Apparently I’m pretty into that color.

I read less in 2013. School, oddly enough, is a time suck. My goal in 2012 was 100 and I just made the cut! 2013 was lowered to 75 and I managed to squeeze out 84. 2014? Yeah….about that….my goal is 50. So far we have a whopping 3 books under our wing. School is trying to ruin my life! Ok, that may be a bit dramatic. But seriously…

Reading Goal for 2014: 50 

Like Sonya, I would also like to read more non-fiction. I noticed a trend in my non-fiction: animals and eating disorders. I don’t entirely know what that says about me, but you can’t say I don’t know what I like. I just get bored very quickly with real people and their lives and I tend to give up. I read 5 non-fiction books in 2013. That is kind of embarrassing….I can’t help that I love my murder books and my teen angst!

Sonya

Five Favorite Books Read in 2013

  1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein – I could not put this one down, and was an absolute wreck at the end of it. My husband saw me crying over this book and thought I was being a bit melodramatic. Later, I tried to explain to him what had me so upset and as a result, ended up crying in the middle of the coffee shop where we were playing Scrabble. If that isn’t a good book, I don’t know what is.
  2. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor – This book was so inventive with the world the author created. It had great tension and the story and suspense just kept building. The writing was wonderful and I always wanted to know what would happen to Karou and her mysterious Akiva.
  3. Graceling by Kristin Cashore – Another amazing YA book where the author creates a captivating world with compelling characters with quite interesting abilities. I devoured this first book in the trilogy as well as the following two books. All three were top notch but the first was my favorite.
  4. Life of Pi by Yann Martel – I read this book in one day. I couldn’t put it down because I had to know what was going to happen to Pi and the animals with him. Reading this was like being unable to turn away from a train wreck. So many awful things happen in the duration of this story but I just couldn’t stop. Then, the twist at the end where Martel leaves the reader wondering if it was all real just blew my mind.
  5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy – This may have taken me 6 months to finish but nonetheless it was well worth the read. The story is beautiful and tragic, and we can’t help but sympathize with the toils women had to deal with in that time. I already knew how this one ended but it did not diminish the poignancy with which Tolstoy shows Anna’s spiral into madness.

Library School definitely put a damper on my reading for the past year and a half. In 2012 I read 66 books, and in 2013 only 30. Granted, some of the books have been outrageously long books like Anna Karenina and Vanity Fair, but still. It looks like my favorite books from 2013 were dominated by young adult novels. It really is my favorite genre.

Reading Goal for 2014: Nonfiction!! I want to find a nonfiction book that I can like as much as I like a great novel. I’ve read a handful of nonfiction books but none have really kept my attention or made me want to read them. I basically end up browsing through the book. In addition, I definitely want to read more than I did in 2013. Only 30 books. Pitiful. I think a nice healthy reading goal is 50. (Zelda, we can try to recommend nonfiction to each other! And compete to see who makes it to 50 fastest!)

Nox

Five Favorite Books Read in 2013

  1. Between Shades of Gray by Ruth Sepetys – This story of a teenage girl who is shipped to a Siberian work camp with her family and thousands of other Lithuanians moved me to tears multiple times. There was so much about the history behind this story that I wasn’t aware of and the story of these survivors was incredibly inspiring.
  2. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
  3. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
  4. Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton – A very big concept SF book complete with alien swarms, sentient worlds, medical-enabled long life, inter-world portals that could easily have become unwieldy, but Hamilton keeps it grounded by focusing on the human condition. Normally I’m not a huge fan of something that is so purely science fiction, but the world building in this book blew me away.
  5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – I’ll admit, I was afraid to read this book for the longest time because of the hype – usually when everyone loves a book, I’m disappointed, but I’m happy to say this wasn’t the case in this situation. Rarely does a book come along that deals with such a hard topic with the humor that John Green does with this book. Although I had been warned that this was a “crying book,” I still wasn’t able to adequately prepare myself for how moving the story was.

Wow, so I definitely read fewer books in 2013 than 2012. Who knew that grad school would take up so much of my free reading time. When I did find time, I wanted to numb it with terrible television rather than invest in a book. I also read some pretty terrible books this year that had come highly recommended. My two biggest disappointments were Wicked, which I started after seeing the musical last fall and couldn’t even finish and Forever, the classic book that I found waaaay too focused on sex.

Reading Goal for 2014: I’ve decided not to focus as heavily on numbers this year, but instead focus on reading widely. While taking a course on Young Adult literature last semester I realized just how few books I had read written by minorities or who had main characters of another race. Living in North Dakota means that my daily life is pretty homogenous, so my goal this year is to expand my horizons.

Madeleine

Five Favorite Books Read in 2013

  1. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (the link will take you to a post my human alter-ego wrote for a public library blog, or you can read my review of the follow-up book on Owl You Need is a Good Read)
  2. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  3. Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  4. Teaspoon of Earth and Sea by Dinah Nayeri
  5. Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Struggling for some originality here, but grad school really cuts into the free reading time! I read 107 books in 2012 and only 70 books in 2013. I’ve already dissected my 2013 reading with charts and graphs. Honestly, it wasn’t my best year for reading in more than just numbers. I liked all the books above, but I liked my top five books of 2012 a lot more. My worst book of the year was Vanity Fair, which I couldn’t even finish. On a more positive note, I did reread several of my favorite books of all time: Jane Eyre, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and The Book Thief.

Reading Goal for 2014: 50. And I want to make it to at least 1945 in my Newbery Medal Reading Challenge. With the Newbery Challenge and potentially a Reader’s Advisory class this summer, I think I should be able to make it over 50 books.

The Bone Season

To tell you I was disappointed in this would be an understatement. I think it’s pretty safe to say that the publishers are pushing this book like crazy. First book in a seven book series? Intriguing! Steampunk? Yes, please! London? Do you even have to ask? So what is so bad about it?

Well…let me start out with saying I didn’t hate it. In fact, it got a lot better once the plot actually got going. I think one of my biggest problems lies with the fact that I constantly got the impression that the author was trying SO hard to be cool it hurt. She is very young (born in 1991) and this is her first book, so I get it. Pressure so on and so forth. The slang just about killed me. There is a glossary in the back of the book that gives the slang and the meanings. There is a little paragraph at the top of the glossary stating that she kind of modeled it on slang from the London underground and blah blah blah. Que the trying too hard. It’s a nice idea, but it was kind of overkill. I don’t need you to shorten clairvoyant to voyant or clairvoyance to voyance. However, if you choose to shorten these words then stick with it! There can be no waffling back and forth between slang and not slang or I will just be annoyed.

This is also a book for adults, yet it reads like every YA book I’ve ever read. Now, I love YA books so this shouldn’t count against it, but it does a little. This is supposed to be a book for adults and it doesn’t feel like it. It just felt like an extended YA book because it was 452 pages long! I wanted to be surprised, but it all kind of felt cliche because I knew who the love interest would be and what was going unfold with her Rephaite keeper. I just felt kind of sad the whole time.

POSITIVE STARTING HERE (kind of):
Ok, I feel like this post is a bit doom and gloom and perhaps that isn’t fair. Maybe my expectations were too high. So be it. I do have some positive things to say. Once the story really got rolling I couldn’t put it down. I had to know WHERE the story would end. I was still really let down overall, but the plot picked up and it stayed pretty exciting. The author did a great job building a world for these characters and giving everyone a distinct personality. I never felt as though they strayed from the character she was setting up and that was nice to see.

Now, will I read the other books in this too long series? That is debatable. I waffled over what to rate this for so long I can’t really decide how I feel about it. I will decide once book 2 comes out and perhaps I will give this series another chance.

2.5/5 stars