Category Archives: books
“Down through the Way she fell, feeling the wind and the pressing darkness, the dizzy thump when she landed on the bank. She was through. The air felt softer here, the shadows deeper—and the pull of her connection to the land settled into her bones.”
In the Summerlands, time moves slowly, roots grow deeply, and change is not welcomed. But change is needed.
After defeating the wicked Mor and freeing her kin from deadly oaths made to this false ruler, Fer is now the rightful Lady of the land. Yet her people don’t know what to make of their new Lady’s strange ways, and neither do the High Ones, the rulers of the magical realm, for Fer is an outsider—half human.
To prove herself worthy of the Summerlands crown, Fer is summoned to compete in an epic contest where her strengths and skills will be tested and her loyalties challenged. Can she trust Rook, the puck she calls friend? Can she trust herself? If Fer fails, she will lose her land and the Way will be closed to her forever.
I’m trying to be better about reading series. I have a horrible time keeping track of when new books come out. Since I liked Winterling by Sarah Prineas so much, I was really pleased when I found the sequel Summerkin. I adore classic fairy tales and being a middle grade book, I knew Summerkin would be imaginative and adventurous. I had a few issues with it but I still enjoyed reading it.
What I Liked
Rook and Fer’s bees were my favorite characters. Rook is a mischievous puck and his friendship with Fer causes a lot of conflict with him. I loved all of the pucks really. The bees were really interesting and it was nice to see nature helping Fer in such a way.
The fairy folklore and law woven through the story is vastly fascinating. I’ve studied it a bit in my Pagan studies and especially find the law of three intriguing. (Being asked a question three times, swearing an oath three times, etc.) It was a pleasure seeing the fairy culture expanded in Summerkin and Prineas’ world building is exceptional.
What I Didn’t Like
It was predictable. When using the fairy tale theme in a novel, it’s best to change it up somehow and make it truly original. But I knew pretty much what was going to happen in Summerkin after a few chapters.
I could have done with some more character development. Rook gets most of the attention on that end and it leaves the other characters a little flat. As the main character, I would have liked more focus on Fer and her thoughts and we’re never given very much information on the bad guy. There are also a whole host of secondary characters that could have been amazing if given a little more attention. They end up as background scenery because they were no neglected.
Summerkin left me feeling a little bored and let down. I finished it but I wasn’t wowed and it lacked any punch. It’s filled with clichés and overused ‘pure-hearted maiden’ formulae that made the whole book predictable and Fer a little one-dimensional. Summerkin by Sarah Prineas was a comfortable magical read and gave a good hit of nostalgia to the heart but the plot was rote and the characters dull. It’s good for a lazy read but don’t expect anything exceptional.
Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week… Hosted by Should Be Reading.
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!
I got up early enough this morning that I had time to grab a coffee from Starbucks. (sips) An okay start to a Monday morning, all things considered. Pagan Picnic was this past weekend in Tower Grove Park in Saint Louis. I did manage to do some shopping at Dunaway Books off of South Grand and have lunch at MoKaBe’s Coffeeshop. You can expect some pics and a bookstore feature post for Dunaway Books later this week. Then I spent several hours at the picnic, ate a bunch of festival food, listened to some bands, attended some talks, saw a lot of people I only see once or twice a year, and went home exhausted. Then I took my friend Krystal and her two kids on Sunday. We lasted about three hours before the kids started complaining and rain threatened. It was a good weekend. I talked myself out of buying a rather expensive altar table piece and now I’m bummed. I would have been broke until I next get paid but it would have been worth it.
But, spending the whole weekend out and about means that I got zero reading done. This means I need to cram three books into this week to keep up my pace. I’ve gotten lazy again. I need to write my review of Summerkin by Sarah Prineas and then finish reading Demon Eyes by Scott Tracey. I haven’t even broken the 100 page mark in Demon Eyes. Then I have The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett and Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince by Nancy Atherton waiting for me. (There is apparently a whole series of Aunt Dimity mystery books. The one I have checked out from the library is # 18. Have you ever came into a long established series near the middle or end? Were you confused? Did you feel as if you were missing something by not reading the earlier books? Does it just bother you for some unknown reason or do you not care where you start a series?) I need to get reading. There are so few hours in the day!
Also, I’m still looking for guest posters for my blog’s second anniversary celebration on the week of July 14th through July 20th. If you are a book blogger and want to write a guest post to be featured on Lady with Books, then email me at email@example.com and we’ll discuss it. During the week I will be having several books reviews, small giveaways, book related games, and then a large mystery box prize at the end of the week. If anyone has a suggestion for popular books coming out around that time, then please mention them in the comments.
Now, to finish my coffee and get working.
“One woman’s story as she blogs – and fights back – the zombie apocalypse”
Allison Hewitt and her five colleagues at the Brooks and Peabody Bookstore are trapped together when the zombie outbreak hits. Allison reaches out for help through her blog, writing on her laptop and utilizing the military’s emergency wireless network (SNET). It may also be her only chance to reach her mother. But as the reality of their situation sinks in, Allison’s blog becomes a harrowing account of her edge-of-the-seat adventures (with some witty sarcasm thrown in) as she and her companions fight their way through ravenous zombies and sometimes even more dangerous humans.
I probably shouldn’t read zombie novels. They apparently give me nightmares, even the slightly humorous zombie novels. Allison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux is a novel about the zombie apocalypse as told through one young woman’s eyes. Allison is a normal person and she’s just trying to survive as her world is turned on its head and the dead walk around munching brains. It’s less Resident Evil and more The Walking Dead like. (Neither of which I can watch because I gross out easily.) Allison doesn’t go off in some epic journey to find the source of the zombie infestation and put an end to it. Nope; Allison is just trying to survive and that makes Allison Hewitt is Trapped a relatable read.
What I Liked
Surprisingly, I liked the format. I’ve ranted about epistolary novels before (I find letters severely limiting and very boring.) but the blog entries read so closely to normal first person POV that it didn’t bother me and the added comments from other survivors were interesting.
Roux doesn’t pull any punches. People die. People go crazy. People are nasty. People betray each other at the blink of an eye. Allison takes justice into her own hands and her world is very much survival of the fittest. Allison kills people, not just zombies. It can be painful to read sometimes. Society goes to shit very fast.
Good mix of secondary characters that we both love and hate. Not all the ‘good people’ make it and the cast changed through the story so we get a new set of secondary characters with every location shift. We see a lot of different people and see the many different ways in which they react to the zombie apocalypse.
This may seem stupid to everyone else, but I like how Roux dealt with the sanitary aspects of the end of the world. There is no more running water. Allison and her crew stink and they know it. They have to deal with the not functioning toilets. A lot of other zombie novels gloss over that and I like that Roux didn’t do that. It’s uncomfortable and gross but it’s a part of reality. I like seeing those mundane little details that make the story so much more believable, instead of everyone suddenly no longer needing to pee.
What I Didn’t Like
I want to punch the guy in the end letter. Way to miss the point, you ass. This is how real people survived and what they had to go through. You have no right to turn your nose up now that you’re safe and can indulge your self-righteous morals after the fact.
Allison is an adult, in her middle 20’s, and the novel is rated for adults, not YA readers. I don’t know if I’m just too used to reading YA novels, but Allison doesn’t come off as being that old. She sounds like a teen, 18 or possibly 19 years of age. Which makes the so-called romance between her and Colin weird at best and a little gross as worst. It just doesn’t mesh.
Not a bad zombie novel, all things considered. There is a blurb for the sequel at the end, Sadie Walker is Stranded, that seems even better and I will definitely be reading it, nightmares or not. Allison Hewitt is Trapped was a wild ride and I’m glad I picked it up. I love the cover, the format worked for me, and I liked the characters. It’s rated adult just for violence and other nasty business both zombie and human but I think a mature teen could handle it. A fan of zombie novels should definitely pick it up. Allison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux will make a good addition to their collection. Zombie squirrels, everybody. That’s all I’m saying.
First came the storms.
Then came the Fever.
And the Wall.
After a string of devastating hurricanes and a severe outbreak of Delta Fever, the Gulf Coast has been quarantined. Years later, residents of the Outer States are under the assumption that life in the Delta is all but extinct… but in reality, a new primitive society has been born.
Fen de la Guerre is living with the O-Positive blood tribe in the Delta when they are ambushed. Left with her tribe leader’s newborn, Fen is determined to get the baby to a better life over the wall before her blood becomes tainted. Fen meets Daniel, a scientist from the Outer States who has snuck into the Delta illegally. Brought together by chance, kept together by danger, Fen and Daniel navigate the wasteland of Orleans. In the end, they are each other’s last hope for survival.
Sherri L. Smith delivers an expertly crafted story about a fierce heroine whose powerful voice and firm determination will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page.
I usually don’t read dystopian and post-apocalyptic books. It’s a big genre and really popular but they’ve never been my cup of tea, as they say. Other reviewers and bloggers seem to absolutely love them but I’ve always been leery of picking them up. I think it’s because our society is just one sideways sneeze away from being just like the ruined civilizations in those books and having human nature thrust into my face in all its nasty glory like that make me uncomfortable. So, it’s understandable that I had trouble getting into Orleans by Sherri L. Smith. I’m probably not the best person to be reviewing this book, so I urge you to make your own decision on Orleans and pick it up, especially if you like dystopia but want to get away from a few of the worst YA clichés.
Things I Liked
Wow. The world building is awesome. Orleans is detailed and disturbing. It has a Lord of the Flies vibe to it. [I hated the Lord of the Flies in high school. Scary ass little book.] The entire world of the Delta felt rich and startling.
Double thumbs up for having a non-white protagonist. The whole world of Orleans and the Delta is full of diverse ethnicities and it’s awesome to see such a varied cast when most YA books have a strictly Caucasian cast or only minor characters with a non-white race. I feel cheesy and very ‘privileged middle class white person’ for saying this, but it’s awesome to see.
There is no romance. Fen and Daniel never see each other as sexual beings and thus we are spared that YA cliché. I think it’s because Fen is a teenager and Daniel is in his early 20’s. It’s hard to tell because Fen does not ‘sound’ like a teen and I initially had her pegged as older than she is, somewhere in her early 20’s. It’s hard to tell with them because Fen sounds so much older and Daniel sounds so much younger than they really are. But my point is that Fen and Daniel are never interested in each other romantically and it’s like a breath of fresh air. No star-crossed lovers here folks.
Baby Girl is not annoying. I was initially wary of having a newborn baby as such a prominent character since I really, really dislike children. Especially really young children that don’t understand what ‘shut up’ means. But, while the baby is the catalyst for the plot, she is not really active and thus not annoying.
Things I Didn’t Like
On the other hand, Baby Girl is sometimes so inactive that I forget she’s even there, even though she’s strapped to Fen chest for most of the book. In all the other reviews I’ve read for Orleans, nobody has even mentioned the baby. I find that kind of weird since she’s kind of the whole reason for the journey but I guess you can’t do a whole lot with a newborn. In Fen’s own words, ‘she eats, poops, and sleeps’ and that’s about it.
Fen’s speech pattern. It got very annoying, very fast. It would have been fine if it were just the dialogue but Fen’s part of the book is written in first person, something I’m not very fond of, and all of it is in this Southern bayou dialect that seems very cartoonish to me. It takes some patience to get used to.
I’m not fond of changing POV and it felt extra unnecessary in Orleans, especially when Fen and Daniel were in the same place. The chapters from Daniel’s point of view didn’t really add anything and I feel could have been utilized a bit better.
It’s sometimes really hard to like the characters. Fen is really cold, even with the little baby, and Daniel is kind of frustrating and self-involved. It’s hard to find aspects of the characters to connect with and care about. This makes it difficult to be invested in the characters and care about what happens to them.
The world that Smith creates is super creepy and disturbing but fascinating at the same time. The Delta is a harsh place with harsh people and explores the many different ways that humans can be horribly brutal to each other. Like I said, having human nature striped of all its rules and shiny veneer can be disturbing for some. Warnings besides, Orleans is full of action and is a wild roller coaster ride with awesome characters, really incredible world building, and a fast moving plot. You will be huddled into a ball of feelings by the end, I guarantee it. Orleans by Sherri L. Smith is a good example of the dystopia genre and possibly one of the better.
After writing about being in a slump earlier this week I was able to motivate myself into finishing Orleans by Sherri L. Smith and, after some reservations, it turned out to be a good book. (Somewhere in the middle it soaked through my hard head that Orleans was the first book I could remember reading that had a main character of color and I had to boggle at the book world for a moment. Why do we not have more African American main characters? Or at least some other ethnicity besides Caucasian?) Anyway, with the long weekend coming up and little old me without any firm plans on how to spend Memorial Day weekend besides sleeping, I thought it would be a good idea to do a mini personal reading challenge. So, I hopped on the ‘net and requested some middle grade books that had been on my to be read list for some time now to be delivered to my local library. (Because I’m lazy and didn’t want to drive up to the big new library on Spencer Road to get them all.)
So, this evening I will stop by my library and pick up four reserves. (There was a fifth but it’s on order and not here yet.) Over this weekend I’ll see how far I can get with my little pile of books and hopefully beat this slump into a bloody pulp. My reading pile will include:
Summerkin by Sarah Prineas
Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis
Demon Eyes by Scott Tracey
Allison Hewitt is Trapped by Madeleine Roux
I wanted to also get The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett but my library has it on order and it’s not available yet. But I think the pile I have will be enough to keep me busy over the weekend and hopefully out of my slump. Happy reading everybody!
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
Published February 5th 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Paper Book
Length: 307 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk, Spy, Paranormal, Science Fiction, Mystery
It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.
Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners—and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality.
But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but they also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage—in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education.
Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail Carriger’s legions of fans have come to adore.
It took me a little bit of time to wander my way through Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger. I heard great things about her Parasol Protectorate series and this was my first steampunk novel, so I was excited to read it. My excitement waned after a while and I finished Etiquette & Espionage in fits and spurts. It pained me that I didn’t love this book more. It had all the makings of an awesome novel with an original world (I haven’t read the Parasol Protectorate yet. So this was my first experience in this world.), a healthy dose of paranormal (Vampires! Werewolves! Oh my!), and some really interesting characters. But while it had all the pieces of a great book, is lacked any actual plot to focus on.
There are two things that keep Etiquette & Espionage from being a complete flop; great characters and the humor. All the girls at the finishing school are quirky and interesting. Sophronia, the main character, is spunky but could have had a bit more depth to her. Frankly, I was more interested in the characters she interacted with, like the other girls, teachers, and the sooties, than I was in Sophronia herself. There are great one-liners and fantastic humor. But all the cheeky jokes and turn of phrase wit in the world won’t hide the thin plot and slow moving action in Etiquette & Espionage. The setting gets the most attention, giving us a rich world with the finishing school, but leaving other aspects of the book languishing.
I feel as if I’ve read someone’s first draft and that I’m missing half of the book; the half where something actually happens. At the end there is some action involving the mysterious prototype and what could be some suitable villains but then the book ends before anything really exciting can evolve from it. We’re left with some funny characters and a fantastic world in which nothing much happens. I’m pleased with my first real foray into steampunk. That aspect of Etiquette & Espionage was fantastic but just didn’t have the support of a good plot to make the book really great.
I am intrigued enough that I’ll check out Parasol Protectorate. I loved Carriger’s world building and want to see more. Etiquette & Espionage read more like a middle grade book than a young adult book. The age of the characters and innocent and almost not there nature of the romance lends itself better to younger readers. (Not that that stops any 30 year old women from reading it.) But humor and quirky characters cannot disguise the slow and boring pace or the underdeveloped plot in this book. Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger was great for a steampunk novel but ultimately fell a little flat.
In our technology saturated world, it may seem like book lovers search for books and get their book recommendations in primarily one way; through the internet, with sites like Goodreads and Amazon and other book blogs. But a surprising amount of people remain loyal to brick and mortar bookstores and libraries. I make it a point to go to brick and mortar places because I find browsing the shelves yields books that I would have had no chance of discovering while browsing the internet. Unfortunately, there is an inherent problem with browsing books at a bookstore or the library. That problem is actually seeing the book!
We all judge a book by its cover. A nicely designed or interesting book cover will grab the attention of a casual browser and get that person to pick up the book to read the blurb. We simply have to know what that book with the great cover is about! The only problem is, we rarely see the book cover while in the bookstore or library. Space constraints on shelves mean we are presented with the book’s spine more often than not. This means instead of a whole book cover, that book now has just an inch or two of space on its spine to intrigue a person into picking that book up for a look see.
For the most part, the spine of a book is too small for a picture of any meaning to be visible. So, it’s up to the book’s title to get as much mileage as it can. This means font and presentation and the words themselves. I don’t know about you but nothing annoys me faster than some loopy, squirrely font that is completely unreadable. It may be very pretty, in theory, but if I can’t read it sideways and probably from a couple of feet away, then it’s useless. If you are one of the lucky authors that have their books displayed at eye level then it might not be a problem but if you’re on the bottom shelf then you need to take that distance into account. Nobody is going to crawl around on the floor trying to read your title. If it can’t be read by someone standing with their head cocked to the side (in standard book browsing position), then it’s no good. So, make your title as colorful and glittery as you want but make sure it’s readable from a distance.
Then there is the title itself. Book titles constantly surprise me. It needs to have at least some connection with the subject of your book and most titles seem so out in left field as to be ridiculous. The book title might sound snazzy but it reveals nothing about what the book might be about. I read mostly fantasy, so when I’m browsing books there are certain words I look for. If a book’s title has one of the keywords I’m looking for, I’ll be more likely to pick it up for a look see. (Your mind = the original Google.)
Anything, and I mean anything, to do with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland will catch my attention. My obsession with Alice and Wonderland is deep and all consuming. (It got me to read Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter and I probably never would have touched the book without that connection.)
It’s a lot to pack into a couple of inches on the side of a book. Very few, very lucky books are displayed on the shelf with their covers visible. So, that couple of inches needs to pack a punch if it’s going to get noticed. Be clear with your font and make sure it’s readable whether your book is at eye level or on the very bottom shelf. Make sure your title has at least something to do with the content of your book and gives a browser some idea of what to expect. Draw a potential reader to your book by including some popular keywords in your genre so that an interested browser can zero in on your book quickly. Above all else, treasure that two inches of space because it may be the first thing a reader sees of your book.
What words do you look for when browsing for books? Do you have problems with some author’s choice of font? What are some books that caught your eye just with its spine?
FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased). Hosted by Should Be Reading
So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS! Added to my to read shelf this week…
Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops by Jen Campbell
Published April 5th 2012 by Constable and Robinson
From the hugely popular blog, a miscellany of hilarious and peculiar bookshop moments: ‘Can books conduct electricity?’ ‘My children are just climbing your bookshelves: that’s ok… isn’t it?’
A John Cleese Twitter question ['What is your pet peeve?'], first sparked the ‘Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops’ blog, which grew over three years into one bookseller’s collection of ridiculous conversations on the shop floor.
From ‘Did Beatrix Potter ever write a book about dinosaurs?’ to the hunt for a paperback which could forecast the next year’s weather; and from ‘I’ve forgotten my glasses, please read me the first chapter’ to’Excuse me… is this book edible?’
This full-length collection illustrated by the Brothers McLeod also includes top ‘Weird Things’ from bookshops around the world.
I felt like adding a funny this week.
Gaven by J.C. Owens
Published August 8th 2009 by Loose ID, LLC
When the Masarians attack Gaven’s people, they are defeated and Gaven himself is taken captive. By a man claiming to be his father. It turns out his entire life has been a lie, and now his ‘father’ will give him into the hands of another man to indoctrinate and train him. Gaven vows he will never shame his people by giving into the Masarians’ way of loving other men.
But Vlar, the legendary warrior to whom he has been given, has other plans. The blood-drinker is determined to have Gaven and to make him yield.
Publisher’s Note: This book contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: Anal play/intercourse, dubious consent, male/male sexual practices, violence, voyeurism.
It’s either going to be so hot I’ll melt or so ridiculous I’ll die laughing.
The Girl With the Cat Tattoo by Theresa Weir
Published May 29th 2012 by Belfry Press
For cat lovers everywhere, this sweet, quirky, and delightful romance is about a young woman and her matchmaking cat. A little bit of mystery, a whole lot of whimsy.
When a matchmaking cat takes it upon himself to find his young mistress a new mate, he accidentally stirs up memories better left forgotten.
Melody’s husband was murdered by what seemed a random act of violence. Two years later, the killer hasn’t been caught, and Melody is coping in unhealthy ways. During the day she’s a mild-mannered children’s librarian, but at night she’s a party girl, hanging out in bars, drinking with new friends, and often bringing home strange men. Although acquaintances have tried to keep in touch, Melody has cut herself off from most of the people in her old life. Max, her eccentric cat, doesn’t approve of her new friends, he’s tired of the parade of losers, and he finally takes it upon himself to find Melody a new man.
The title. The cover. The cat. I just had to add it, even if it is chick lit.
The Frog Prince by Elle Lothlorien
Published July 27th 2010
“Some day your prince will come. Sort of.”
It was his pheromones that did it. With one sniff, sex researcher Leigh Fromm recognizes that any offspring she might have with the mysterious stranger would have a better-than-average chance of surviving any number of impending pandemics.
But when Leigh finds out that the handsome “someone” at her great aunt’s wake is Prince Roman Habsburg von Lorraine of Austria, she suddenly doubts her instincts—not that she was intending to sleep with the guy. The royal house of Habsburg was once completely inbred, insanity and impotency among the highlights of their genetic pedigree. (The extreme “bulldog underbite” that plagued them wasn’t called the Habsburg Jaw for nothing.)
It doesn’t matter that his family hasn’t sat on a throne (other than the ones in their Toilette) since 1918, or that Austria is now a parliamentary democracy. Their lives couldn’t be more different: Roman is routinely mobbed by paparazzi in Europe. Leigh is regularly mocked for having the social skills of a potted plant. Even if she suddenly developed grace, charm and a pedigree that would withstand the scrutiny of the press and his family, what exactly is she supposed to do with this would-have-been king of Austria who is in self-imposed exile in Denver, Colorado?
Fairytale mashup! Also, that has to be a pen name. Nobody is really walking around with a Tolkien Middle Earth forest as a surname. (And if they are, they are the most awesome person on the earth.)