Wednesday, July 30, 2014

10 Things I Loved About His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

The thing I love about books is that they don't really have an expiration date. (I'm talking fiction here :) Sure slang may get outdated, references may become more obscure, but the story itself can usually transcend time. This means that even if you don't read a book until a year or five or fifteen or fifty after it was published you can still get really excited and find a new author and squeal and hug the book (or your Nook/Kindle/Kobo) as if you read it the day it came out. This happened to me recently.

I'd seen Naomi Novik's books and they were always floating around on my someday TBR pile. The first one was on a "series starter" sale for the Nook so I went ahead and bought it. Like a year and a half ago. Looking for something new to read and wanting a short break from my usual YA fare, I opened it up. And got completely captivated.

So here you go - 10 (un-spoilery) things I loved about His Majesty's Dragon!

  1. The premise. I adored the way Novik made this almost an alternate history. It's fantasy, yes, but it's fantasy set during Napoleon's military campaigns. It's set in England (hence, His Majesty), in a very real time and place - but there are dragons! To my mind this is so much harder to do than simply creating your own world. Not only do you have to make sure you create rules for how the fantasy elements work, but you also have to do a ton of research to make sure your historical details are correct AND make sure that the fantasy elements you bring in don't feel anachronistic. And Novik does this well (at least, I think she does - I don't know a lot about this period in history so...)
  2. Laurence. At first I wasn't really sure how I felt about him, but I really enjoyed the way his character developed throughout the story. He's very much the protagonist (well, co-protagonist), and he has very strong moral code that sometimes gets him in trouble when he is confronted with injustice.
  3. Temeraire. Seriously. Can I please have a Temeraire? I love everything about his character and the way he develops. I love his intelligence and the way he's so child-like. I won't say more for fear of spoilers, but Temeraire is wonderful.
  4. Laurence and Temeraire together. While each of them does develop individually, so much of the story is dependent on this bond that has to form between the dragon and his or her rider. Therefore, so much of what happens to both Laurence and Temeraire is dependent on their relationship. It's a story of a friendship more than anything else.
  5. Levitas. He's so cute and loyal and...and you have to read it to find out more about this sweet little dragon.
  6. Granby. He was the character I was most surprised by and I love being surprised in a good way. I was really impressed with the way his part of the story played out.
  7. The Varieties of Dragons. I really liked the way that there were specific breeds of dragons, each with specific abilities. There was just enough discussion of how some of the dragons were bred in order to bring out certain aptitudes without getting too technical or dragging down the story.
  8. Lily and Catherine. It was a lot of fun having a certain breed that would only accept female riders and the way Novik deals with that reality in an actual historical period when a female in a military position would not have been well received is quite interesting. I'm curious to see where she takes this in future books.
  9. The Training and the Battles. Novik does a really good job of showing the training regimen the dragons go through as well as describing the battles the dragons take part of. It isn't easy to do a battle scene well and Novik is one of the best I've encountered among fantasy authors (so far).
  10. There's a Whole Series! The only reason I haven't tracked the next one down yet is because my TBR pile of books I need to read first is massive. But I really want to know what happens!
I'm realizing there's even more I could say! But I'll leave it here and let you go read the book for yourself. Happy reading.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Laydown Lowdown

It's the last Tuesday in July and there are plenty of new books to check out this week.

Richelle Mead continues her "Bloodline" series with "Silver Shadows."  Other new releases in Young Adult include "Let's Get Lost," by Adi Alsaid, "Before You," by Amber Hart, "The Bridge From Me to You," by Lisa Schroeder, and "The Young World," by Chris Weitz.

Migrate over to Mystery/Thriller for "Blessed Are the Dead," by Kristi Belacmino, "Back Channel," by Stephen L. Carter, "Without Consent," by Frances Fyfield, "The Chill of Night," by James Hayman, and "Ghost Month," by Ed Lin.

Rush by Romance for "I Adored a Lord," by Katherine Ashe, "Breathe Into Me," by Sara Fawkes, "Fast Track," by Julie Garwood, "Loving Rose," by Stephanie Laurens, and "Innocence Undone," by Kat Martin."

Skip through Science Fiction/Fantasy for "Magic Breaks," by Ilona Andrews and "Mist," by Susan Krinard.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" list?  Share with us!  Happy Reading and remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Dragonbreath, Ursula Vernon

Book Details:

Important Things to Know:
  • Over on my other blog I'm going to try and write Media Monday posts about media things (books, games, movies, etc.) that I really love and enjoy. I've noticed that discontent and dislike tend to be "louder" than contentedness and likeableness (cause those are totally words). Therefore! For the next couple of Thursdays Down Under I will try and focus on the young readers books that I have read and loved and appreciate. Dragonbreath seemed like a good place to start.
  • Dragonbreath is a series of books (there are about 9 of them I believe) and I want to own them all.

Why Wombly and I Enjoyed This Series:

  • One of the main reasons why I wanted to read these books in the first place: the artwork. I love, love, love Ursula Vernon's artwork. It's fun to look at. It had a sort of bubbly feeling that I really enjoy. Wombly likes the tone of having it two-toned in green, blue, and black. He thinks it gives it a unique flavor.
  • It is one of the few books that drifts from the main character's pov (Danny) to side character's pov (Wendell) without driving me crazy. I'm not sure why. Most of the time when author's head-hop from one character's thoughts to another it makes me want to hit things. Vernon does it in such a way that feels organic, it's fluid, and it feels necessary. When I'm hearing how Wendell feels it's because it adds something to the story and because Danny's thoughts are not currently necessary.
  • I always feel like I learn a tiny little something new about animals, whether it be bats or iguanas or what have you.
  • They are fun to read. There is adventure. There is mystery. There is humor.
  • Vernon takes the stereo-typical class goof-ball and nerdy side-kick and somehow doesn't get stuck in that stereotype. Danny is fairly predictable, but he is growing up as the series progresses and dealing with how he fits in his family dynamic and what it's like for him to grow up into a more mature dragon. And where this kind of dynamic as a friendship can sometimes be unhealthy, I really feel like Wendell and Danny compliment each other's strengths and weaknesses.

Wombly and I Read This Book Because:

  • I saw these books when working at Borders and soon as Wombly came along I knew we had to try these books out together. I was not disappointed!

You Can Find This Book At:

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Laydown Lowdown

Summer thunderstorms have been rolling through the past few days.  Hide from the storms with one of this week's new releases.

Best-selling author Iris Johansen teams up with her son Brad for "Sight Unseen."  Other new releases in Mystery/Thriller include "Wayfaring Stranger," by Stuart Woods, "The Bone Orchard," by Paul Doiron, "Eden in Winter," by Richard North Patterson, "The Heist," by Daniel Silva, and "Cut and Thrust," by Stuart Woods.

Deborah Harkness wraps up her "All Souls" trilogy with "The Book of Life."  "Half a King," by Joe Abercrombie, "Full Fathom Five," by Max Gladstone, "The Outsorcerer's Apprentice," by Tom Hold and "The Casual Angel," by Hannnu Rajaiemi are also available in Science Fiction/Fantasy today.

Over in Romance, you can get "Tamed," by Emma Chase and "Irrepressible Jasmine," Sarri Lee.

Hop over to Young Adult for "Breathe, Annie, Breath," by Miranda Kenneally, "False Sight," by Dan Krokos, and "Rebel Spring," by Morgan Rhodes.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" list?  Share with us!  Remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.  Happy Reading!!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Wombly and I Go to BEA

So, ages ago back in May Wombly and I went to Book Expo of America to volunteer. Then I got caught up in work and things that I never posted about it. *le gasp!* I am now rectifying that and posting up some pictures of our time there.

At the conference center.

We stopped to get coffee at this wonderful shop.

We went to Candlewick and they told Wombly and I about this book they are very excited about. It's called The Brilliant World of Tom Gates by Liz Pichon. Wombly and I are excited about it too!

We then stopped by Abrams to see what books we
could find.

Lastly we stopped by Chronicle Books.

 There you have it! New books, exciting times. Yay!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Laydown Lowdown

The heat is rising and summer is in full swing.  There are plenty of good reads for these lovely long days.

Attorney Marcia Clark continues her "Rachel Knight," series with "The Competition."  Other new releases in Mystery/Thriller include "The Good, The Bad and The Emus," by Donna Andrews, "Cataract City," by Craig Davidson, "Come, Sweet Death," by Wolf Haas, and "The Accidental Apprentice," by Vikas Swarup.

Noelle August steams things up with "Boomerang."  "Make It Count," by Megan Erickson and "Intoxicated," by Monica Murphy is also available in Romance today

Find out the latest happenings in Shannara with "The High Druid's Blade: Defenders of Shannara," by Terry Brooks.  "Resistance," by Samit Basu, "A Plunder of Souls," by D.B. Jackson, and "California," by Edan Lepucki debut in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section.

Divergent fans can get their hands on Veronica Roth's latest,  "Four: A Divergent Collection," today.  "The Kiss of Deception," by Mary E. Pearson and "Idols," by Margaret Stohl can also be found in Young Adult today.

Will any of these make your "to-read" list?  Share with us!  Happy Reading and remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

GUEST BLOGGER, "The Snark Shark" takes on The Selection trilogy by Kiera Cass

Today, we're mixing things up with a guest blogger! Let's welcome Melanie Derblich, former Borders 647 employee, budding playwright and self-proclaimed "snark shark."  She's here to share her unique perspective on the dystopian genre and Kiera Cass' "The Selection" trilogy.  This post contains spoilers; you've been warned. 

How to write a review when the heat is affecting your brain and everything around you is annoying.

This is my second attempt at writing a review for Kiera Cass's young adult trilogy, The Selection. It is perhaps unfair to write a review for a young adult book from the mindset of an adult. Teenagers are, as we all know, hormonal beasts that live every moment on the edge. Maybe it truly is the heat that made you so uncomfortable that you suffer a temporary stroke, thus making you an evil person and a complete burden on others. Or maybe this was truly a poorly researched, unoriginal piece that we read so you wouldn't have to. I will assume that the former two ultimately affect the latter which will be reflected in this review.
Readers, you can thank Jenn for making me list some good points about this series. I must digress a little with my first point and note that with young adult books, it is important to keep in mind that teenagers are emotional beings and when they feel, their pre-frontal cortex is not fully developed thus, not completely rational. So basically; not much different me now. Cass does an effective job at encapsulating the idealism of the young person who sets out to change the world. At some point or another in our adolescent lives, we all think that we can make a difference by dropping coins into a little orange Unicef box. Cass's heroine, aptly named America for her fighting spirit, is able to change a post-apocalyptic nation on a grander scale: fighting against 35 other females, BACHELOR STYLE. As a 16 year old female, I know that I would have been hooked into this torrid teenage love affair. As a 27 year old, I still found myself flipping one page after another waiting with angst to find out whether she chose her childhood sweetheart or her prince charming.

That being said, I have to wonder how much thought and research went into
writing this story. I will give the author credit as she drew inspiration from pop culture. This story, as one reviewer noted was a cross between the Bachelor and the Hunger Games. I would argue, less the latter. True this series falls into the dystopian genre as does the Hunger Games but perhaps it is not enough to jump on the bandwagon while it's hot. The same can be said about the recent surge in supernatural or other worldly books after Harry Potter erupted.
Dystopia. Karl Marx wrote The Communist Manifesto which, promotes an ideal society where everyone is equal. Is not the struggle of our government to have an equal society of democracy and checks and balances? Lowis Lowry wrote, in my opinion, the ultimate dystopian book of how a society might achieve total balance within it by eliminating "sameness." She showed how, from a distance this might appear ideal but like a Paul Signac painting, up close, is not as pretty. Dystopian fiction is not new, not even by Lowis Lowry's standards. There was Orwell's 1984, as well as a plethora of other books throughout history. Everyone seems to want to hypothesize how the world might turn out if we continue on the political path we are on. One of many characteristics of a dystopian novel is mention of the third and fourth war, after the United States has crumbled cataclysmically and China has taken over. Cass's world embodies this persona and then some. That being said, here is where I tend to get snarky. As a teenager, I would have appreciated Cass's attempt at creating an outwardly strong female character caught betwixt two steamy teenage males. As an adult, all I saw was an emotionally abundant, "why me?" "life isn't fair," 16 year old who thinks crying and throwing temper tantrums is a way to change the world. In this world, a new country and monarchy has been formed under the hand of a malicious billionaire called Illea after its founder, Gregory Illea. Castes are created to emphasize the difference between the rich and poor and it is almost illegal to try and break out of the one you are born to. America (character), born a 5 (castes are labeled 1-8, 1 being the royal family, and 8 being the homeless) falls in love with a 6. Their love must be kept a secret as it is looked down upon since one does not simply marry down in this society.

When a royal son comes of age, young girls throughout Illea are encouraged to participate in "the Selection," a bachelor-type competition to win the heart of the prince and boost the morale of the country. Though America is very much in love with her hunk, Aspen (again, character. Iknowright?!) she submits her application to the government in order to get her wishful parents off her back. Shocker! She gets chosen! From here, the story can be broken down into two parts: A love story and a war story.

Throughout the process of the selection, the monarchy is at odds with "the rebels." In Illea, there are two groups of rebels; Northern rebels and Southern Rebels. The Northern rebels are basically mischievous and annoying to the royals but otherwise harmless. Conversely, when the Southern rebels attack, there is always bloodshed and it would appear it is there mission to start a revolutions and overthrow the monarchy and the selection process. So while this war is going on, a lavish love story is unfolding. How very gone with the wind!
If course it is not America's idea to fall in love with the virginal yet somehow masculine and sexually driven prince Maxon, but apparently his musk got to her and she develops feelings. Wait, we're not over Aspen yet! He shows up, drafted as a guard to the castle. So our strong and independent heroine is caught. I love him! Now I love him! But he's my first love! But look at him shirtless! There is a mention of soldiers getting injections to make them stronger and more muscle-y but that's about as into detail as Cass goes. I was expecting a 'roid rage or some mention of super soldier kangaroos…wait…I just slipped into Tank Girl. Sorry! What was in those injections? Better yet, was there any shrinkage? We all saw those health classroom posters. 
A brief history of the country of Illea. A little more or less than 100 years ago (in the world of the book), and after World War Four, Gregory Illea, billionaire and people person, came to power. With a few strategic political moves, Illea became a monarchy and the country was divided into castes. (And here I thought India was moving away from that archaic way of thinking. Maybe Greggers was part Hindu?) A few years later, the selection was created to boost the morale of our girls. (Where is that old war propaganda poster? Uncle Sam Wants You!) Fast forward two generations and somehow all of the United States history is erased and history books have been banned. So no one knows anything about world history? Really? Less than a hundred years later? And everyone just goes along with it for this long? Have we learned nothing from the Magna Carta?
As for character development, I can't see America as the savior of the human race. Her story arch goes as follows: Whimper, giggle, blubber, giggle, scream, giggle, scold, giggle, cry, giggle, complain, giggle, yell, giggle. Basically, the girl is bi-polar. I can't imagine a girl with such emotional conviction could convince a prince, with thirty-five other hot girls just waiting to jump him, to pick her. I would have gotten rid of her the first day when she screamed at him. It's like the girl has her period every freaking day! And how about that Prince Maxon? He's sheltered for 18 years, not had one girlfriend and his first time out is basically a reverse gang bang. How lucky for him!

So to sum everything up: Girl likes boy. Girl can't have boy because boy is poor. Girl is forced to audition for the selection, a bachelor type thing in Royal proportions, girl gets selected. Girl tries not to fall for prince but does and spends three books trying to figure out who she loves more. cry, laugh, yell, wah wah oppressive government, rebellion, people die, marry prince. SHOCKER! 

Guest Blogger, Melanie Derblich

Did you read The Selection trilogy?  Share your thoughts in the comments and debate and/or share the snark with Melanie.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Laydown Lowdown

Most of us are getting a 3 day weekend this weekend as we celebrate the 4th of July.  You'll definitely want to pick up some of this weeks new titles to relax with this Independence Day.

Maggie Stiefvater revists the "Wolves of Mercy Falls," with "Sinner," a companion novel to her best-selling trilogy.  Other new releases in Young Adult include "The Vanishing," by Jodi Lynn Anderson, "Dream Boy," by Mary Crockett, and "On the Fence," by Kasie West.

Race over to Romance for "Straddling the Line," by Jaci Burton, "For All Time," by Jude Deveraux, "Night's End," by Yasmine Galenorn, "Born of Fury," by Sherilyn Kenyon, "Beautiful Oblivion," by Jamie McGuire and "Then Came You," by Jill Shalvis.

Take a spin past Science Fiction/Fantasy for "Fireborn," by Keri Arthur, "Hurricane Fever," by Tobias Buckell,  "Unwept," by Tracy Hickman, " "All Those Vanished Engines," by Paul Park and "Wolfsbane," by Gillian Phillip.

Make your way to Mystery/Thriller for "Deadly Stuff," by Joyce Cato, "Silent Kill," by Peter Corris, "Strangled in Paris," by Claude Izner, "The Night Searchers," by Marica Muller, and "Cradle to Grave," by Aline Templeton.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" list?  Share with us!  Happy Reading and remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.