Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR List

While I’ve got more books lined up to read than I can keep track of, I’ve decided to limit this list to titles being released this summer.

1. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
I was lucky enough to win this in a content recently and am currently waiting for it to show up in my mailbox. I’ve heard lots of reviewers have loved this one, and just have many have been disappointed. At the very least, I’m excited to revisit with Katsa and Po.
2. Lothaire by Kresley Cole
I’ve been waiting for months for this one to be released in trade paperback. I love it when former villains are transformed into (anti)heroes, and Lothaire’s story has been a long time coming.
3. This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summers
I’ve never read anything by Summers before, but based on the stellar reviews I’ve read for this contemporary/zombie apocalypse hybrid, I might as well start with this one.
4. Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost
I adore nearly every character Frost creates, and Vlad is no exception. Early reviews for this one have been raving; some have even proclaimed it her best work to date. I can’t imagine what could possibly upstage Bones, so to say I’m excited for this release is a gross understatement.
5. Fever Moon by Karen Marie Moning
I’m not a huge graphic novel fan, especially when the treatment is applied to a beloved book series. I prefer to imagine the characters’ visages myself, minus the standard comic book caricatures. However, I’m giving this one a pass,  because it’s an original Mac and Barrons story.
6. Thirteen by Kelley Armstrong
I admit- I haven’t read the last two books in the Women of the Otherworld series. The witches have never been my favorite protagonists, and Savannah in particular has failed to capture my interest in previous installments. From what I’ve read, she hasn’t matured all that much even as the main narrator. However, given that this is the final book in the series and all my favorite characters (read: Clay and Elena) are scheduled to appear for a big showdown, it’s probably time I caught up.
7. Gunmetal Magic by Ilona Andrews
I’m not sure whether to be delighted or dismayed that two of my most anticipated releases happen to be spinoffs of favorite series (see Once Burned above). Andrea’s story is sure to be as high-octane as Kate’s usually are, and I’m anticipating some major development concerning a certain Bouda shapeshifter.
8. Enshadowed by Kelly Creagh
While I had plenty of criticisms to level at its predecessor, Nevermore, I can’t deny that I’m on pins and needles to see how the unexpected fallout of events plays out.
9. Endgame by Ann Aguirre
It’s been a long, tough road for Sirantha Jax, and I’m expecting nothing less than heartbreak in this final installment of the series. I can’t be the only one hoping that the endgame is in fact Sirantha and Vel, can I?
10. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar
There must be something in the water down under, because nearly every Aussie young adult contemporary in recent years has far outshone its peers. I’ve been waiting for this one to get its American release for ages.

Review: The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Julie Kagawa’s The Iron King and I got off on the wrong foot. While struggling through the first in her Iron Fey series, I continually felt as if the blogging community had pulled one over on me, because for the life of me I simply couldn’t see the awesomeness that everyone else was gushing over. It was a serviceable take on fey lore, at best, and Kagawa’s reliance on pretentious metaphor was about as subtle as a semi truck. Yet, recently the blogosphere has been alit with excitement once again for The Immortal Rules, the first in Kagawa’s new Blood of Eden series. So before I wrote Kagawa off for good, I decided to give her one more shot to wow me, this time with vampire tropes in tow.

I’m sure there are many readers who appreciate a headstrong, stubborn female. Many

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

will see her as a welcome divergence from the weak-willed women who rely on others to save them, the damsels in distress who give reliant women a bad name. I am not one of those readers, because for me, it takes more than sheer determination to demonstrate strength of character. Allison has determination in spades, and unfortunately it’s the kind I dislike the most. She makes her own decisions, dependence be damned, yet those decisions aren’t reasoned, at least not to any degree reflected in the narrative. I’ve forgone many series for failure to connect with the main character, due mostly to my inevitable distaste for women who act before they think. Rose Hathaway from Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series springs to mind as an exemplar of this most detestable of character types. Standing in contrast, Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels and Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax are wonderful examples of female characters whose strength is demonstrated not only through physical skill, but also through their abilities and willingness to utilize the fellow human resources at their disposal.

Honestly, Allison barely undergoes enough interactions with others to provide her with the opportunity to work together rather than blindly be contrary, yet the opportunities she does have, she squanders. Her decision to aid the ragtag band of humans she encounters speaks less to the connections she forms with its members than it does to the fact that she is fighting against her new vampire nature. While this might be an understandable reaction, it’s not groundbreaking, which rather sums up my reaction to the entire novel. As with her interpretation of fey lore, Kagawa has seemingly reconstructed the well-known tropes of past vampire legend in The Immortal Rules. Granted, literature, to a large extent, is necessarily a process of rehashing previous ideas into new formations. Yet while the most successful authors accomplish this feat seamlessly, Kagawa’s edges are so sharp, they basically point directly to her source material.

Nearly every aspect of vampire mythology described in The Immortal Rules is a derivative of earlier, better vampire stories. Yet perhaps the most troubling similarities I spotted are shared with the author who seemed to spark the current young adult vampire craze. I won’t name names, but surely I’m not the only one who noticed the parallels to two of a certain author’s series, one young adult paranormal and the other adult science fiction. An angst-ridden, self-loathing vampire? Present. Innate ninja skills upon being sired? Check. An uneasy alliance with a distrustful band of survivors seeking to eradicate the existence of your race (with a leader named Jeb)? Done and done. A beautiful boy who overcomes his initial hatred of girl’s inhuman existence to find le love? Got it. Girl’s rechristening as Wanderer? The list goes on.

I won’t spend much time analyzing the formation of the romantic relationship here, because even amidst the sea of hormone-induced instaloves rampant in young adult literature, there is no foundation for Allison and Zeke’s attraction. More confounding is the evolution of Allison’s relationship with her band of humans after they discover her true nature. A little calm, reasoned lecturing and she is able to make first Zeke, then Jeb- religious zealot Jeb- recant the convictions that served as their sole buoy for most of their lives in order to trust her. Well before the halfway point, I began to miss Kanin’s presence if for no other reason than the fact that, unlike vanilla Zeke, I enjoy the strong, silent trope. Unfortunately, given Allison’s reaction to her vampire “brother,” I suspect that Kagawa is going to develop this relationship in a decidedly paternal direction. It’s rare that I request a love triangle, but in this case I think it could only improve things.

When I read a rather mediocre redo such as The Immortal Rules, I fear that kids will neglect the classics of the genre-Dracula, Anne Rice, Let the Right One In, I Am Legend (from which The Immortal Rules essentially stole what little plot it provides)-in lieu of these derivatives. And it’s not an original derivative at that. See authors such as Delilah S. Dawson, Ilona Andrews, and Clay and Susan Griffith for some new takes on the classic vampire theme. Suffice it to say, I am not a Kagawa fan, and while her sentences might flow nicely, her substance is severely lacking.

“Waiting On” Wednesday

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a meme created at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming releases that we can’t wait to read.

After sticking by Jax through her adventures for the last few years, it’s bittersweet to finally see the cover of the final book in the Sirantha Jax series, Endgame, by Ann Aguirre.

Here’s the summary, taken from Goodreads:

Sirantha Jax has the J-gene, which permits her to “jump” faster-than-light

Endgame by Ann Aguirre

ships through grimspace. She loves nothing more than that rush, but the star roads have to wait…

Her final mission takes her to La’heng, a planet subjugated during first contact. Since then, the La’hengrin homeworld has been occupied by foreign conquerors.

All that’s about to change.

Now, as part of a grass-roots resistance, Jax means to liberate the La’hengrin. Political intrigue and guerrilla warfare are new to her; this will be the most dangerous game she’s ever played—spies and conspiracies, a war of weapons and hearts, and everyone might not make it out alive…

Aguirre hasn’t pulled any punches in the past, so I’m actually pretty trepidatious heading into this last installment, but I have faith that Aguirre will take her cast of characters where they need to go, if not necessarily where fans want them to go.

This title is released on August 28, 2012.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books That Broke Your Heart A Little

1. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This book ruined me for all other books for a month. I couldn’t contemplate even attempting to immerse myself in a new novel after having experienced Henry and Clare’s heartbreaking love story.

2. Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning

Had I not started this series after all five books were complete and available in stores, the last chapter of this book would have been my undoing.

3. The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

Shortly after the start of this second book in Gen’s story, he experiences something that is unexpected and tragic. I applaud Turner for taking a chance, yet my heart ached for Gen’s loss.

4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I won’t begin to summarize why this book broke my heart, for anyone who is a Green fan is aware of the beautiful agony that this story creates.

5. Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost

This first book in Frost’s fantastic paranormal series broke new ground in more ways than one, not the least of which was her willingness to end the book on an unconventionally ambiguous note.

6. Aftermath by Ann Aguirre

Throughout the Sirantha Jax series, Aguirre has portrayed a protagonist who has grown exponentially as she has struggled to cope with one tragedy after another. Aguirre accomplishes a rare feat in writing Sirantha’s development, for her progress never comes across as contrived, which makes her struggles all the more heartwrending.

7. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

Tom Mackee’s story is uncomfortable yet poignant as he reluctantly sheds an exterior hardened by five years of uncertainty and loss. Even as we witness Tom’s slow reemergence into the lives of his family and friends, we know that some things might be beyond repair, but that doesn’t prevent us from hoping for a happy resolution.

8. A Separate Peace by John Knowles

I doubt I will ever recover from the shock ending of this novel, though the experience of reading it will remain with me forever.

And perhaps it’s a bit unorthodox, but even though I’ve yet to read the next two books, I’ve no doubt they would be on this list had I read them already, so I’m including them.

9. Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

While I’m excited to read this title based on the fabulous reviews I’ve read, I have no doubt that my heart will be aching by book’s end.

10. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I have been putting off reading this book for too long, though I’m sure my tears will be unbearable.

Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays is a meme started over on Should Be Reading that presents a different literary-themed question every week.

This week’s question is: Are there any “raved reads” –books that everyone seems to be talking about– that you’re hoping to get read this year, yourself? What books are they, and why are you hoping to read them? Is it because you want to say you’ve read it? Or, would you have chosen to read it, even if you’d discovered it yourself, and no one was raving about it?

Blogger buzz for upcoming releases has made me particularly excited for Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley and The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, both of which I hope to read this spring. Before I get to these, though, I should really catch up on some blogger-endorsed books that have been lingering in my TBR pile, such as The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Broken Wing by Judith James, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. Looking through the Book Blogger Recommendation list, I’ve also decided to amp up my search for Enclave by Ann Aguirre, and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Any book that I add to my shelves I choose at least partly because I want to add that book to my repertoire, while every book I read has to appeal to my literary tastes. There are too many books and too little time to fill by reading schedule with titles simply so that I can acquire the bragging rights.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Books I’m Excited To Read in 2012

1. Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward

2. Doubletake by Rob Thurman

3. Ashes of Honor by Seanan McGuire

4. Mind Games by Carolyn Crane

5. Black Heart by Holly Black

6. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley

7. Lothaire by Kresley Cole

8. Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

9. Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

10. Endgame by Ann Aguirre

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish that allows us to list our top ten answers to a different question each week.

This week’s theme is: Top Ten Favorite Books I Read in 2011

1. The Black Jewels Trilogy by Anne Bishop

There are two series that have shown up consistently on every favorites list since I started blogging. The Black Jewels Trilogy is one of them. Bishop’s world might be dark, convoluted, twisted, and heavy-handed, but it’s engrossing nonetheless. I adore Daemon, Saetan, and Lucivar, with their family dynamic that was both hilarious and heartbreaking at times.

2. Fever series by Karen Marie Moning

The second perpetual resident of my favorites lists, Moning’s Fever series was nothing like I expected it to be. I had avoided it for years, having heard it was very much angst with very little joy to be had for the heroine. Thankfully, I decided to ignore those reviewers this year, and was immediately swept away into Mac’s world of fae-infested Dublin. In a year of great character discoveries, Barrons is definitely one of my favorites.

3. Blackout by Rob Thurman

I’ve been following Thurman’s Cal Leandros series for years, yet for some reason, I always manage to forget just how great it is before reading a new installment. Blackout likely cured me of that habit for good, for as great as the series had been until this point, the sixth book is her best by far. Blackout is like a love letter to fans who have stuck it out since the beginning. I won’t explain how that’s the case for fear of revealing too much, since the reward lies in piecing together each bit on your own.

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

It was with reluctance that I purchased this book at the start of the year. Everything about it seemed too young to resonate with me: the inane title, the saccharine cover, even the description failed to truly appeal to me. Yet it was receiving such rave reviews that I knew there had to be something deeper lying beneath the surface. What I found was one of the most charming, realistic, and sympathetic love stories I’ve read. Anna and the French Kiss captures utterly what it is like to be in the beginning stages of crushing, friendship, and love. Its characters aren’t perfect, but Anna is such a relatable and likable narrator that your devotions and hope never sway.

5. Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance

I believed that I had given up on the Cassie Palmer series, having read and been slightly annoyed by Cassie’s incessant whining in Curse the Dawn. While Cassie’s relationship with Mercea was interesting at the start, I didn’t really care for the direction it was going in, and Cassie herself wasn’t compelling enough as a heroine for me to stick with her story. Yet after several years’ hiatus, the series returned this summer with Hunt the Moon, and the excellent reviews prompted me to pick it up despite myself. The fifth installment returned to the action-packed, high-speed storytelling of the first novels, yet for once Cassie seemed confident and competent. She still did her fair share of whining, but it no longer came across as petulant. Shockingly, as I became engrossed in the story, I realized a faux pas of my own that I rarely make, yet that will affect how I view the series going forward. It’s not often that I jump on the wrong ship at the start, but suffice it to say my affections have shifted, and having reread the series with that perspective in mind, I’m now fully on board.

6. Secret Society Girl series by Diana Peterfreund

This series is so far outside my comfort zone that I expected to set it down within the first twenty pages. I care nothing for chick lit, especially when the heroine is a rather self-absorbed, promiscuous college student being sucked into the underbelly of secret society life. Yet while I never managed to warm up to Amy fully, I fell in love with the camaraderie she shared with her fellow Diggers and with the unusual courtship she shares with one particular Rose and Grave member.

7. Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie

Despite my love of romance, I tended to stay away from pure romance novels, particularly contemporaries. Yet this title showed up so frequently on Best Of lists that I had to give it a try. Bet Me wound up being a rare one indeed, one in which I was consistently surprised yet never disappointed. I hugged it when I finished, which is a rare honor.

8. The Wolves of Mercy Falls series by Maggie Stiefvater

I made it halfway through Shiver in college before putting it down, having determined that the instalove romance was nice yet not intriguing enough to take time away from the other books in my TBR pile. After winning a copy of Forever this summer, I decided to give the series one more chance, and while I had the same initial impressions, by the end of the book, I realized that Stiefvater’s lovely writing and the conviction with which she writes Sam and Grace’s relationship elevates this series above its peers despite its questionable premise.

9. The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta

After months of searching for this title, I finally found an arc for a dollar in a thrift store. While I hadn’t read Saving Francesca in a while, I remembered having liked Tom’s character in the previous novel and was interested to see how Will and Francesca were faring. As with every Marchetta novel, I was captivated by the storytelling, yet The Piper’s Son took me to a place that Saving Francesca only hinted at. I’m confident that adults and teens alike can enjoy Marchetta’s novels, yet this was the first that I felt really deserved a spot in the general fiction section. Tom’s story is frustrating, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, yet it wrings your emotions out several times before it achieves its ultimate goal.

10. The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner

While reading this series, I knew I was enjoying it, but I wasn’t sure whether I found it merely entertaining or compulsively readable; since I rarely start a book without finishing it in the same day, I wasn’t able to set it down and answer that question. It wasn’t until I had completed the third book in this series that I realized how brilliant it is. As Turner follows Gen through triumph and tragedy, she shifts perspective in each novel so that, even with Gen as the narrator, no one is ever as they seem. Thus, even those revelations guessed ahead of time taste all the sweeter.

 Honorable Mentions

Ravished by Amanda Quick, When Beauty Tamed the Beast by Eloisa James, and The Proposition by Judith Ivory

I read at least a dozen Beauty and the Beast-inspired novels this year, and of them all, these three were my favorites.

What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones

A quick, easy read, this novel written in verse tells one of the sweetest love stories I read this year. Unfortunately, you have to wade through quite a bit of teen melodrama to get there, but the payoff is worth it.

The Curseworkers series by Holly Black

White Cat and Red Glove are the first two in a trilogy of young adult urban fantasy novels that introduce a world unlike anything I’ve read in the genre before. Throw in a male narrator reminiscent of Cal Leandros, and my love for this series is sealed.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

This young adult book about love and loss managed to take multiple tropes that I despise and work them is such a way that I loved the story and the characters anyway.

One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire

Every book in the Toby Daye series is golden, and the latest upped the game in such a way that my expectations for Ashes of Honor are ridiculously high.

Aftermath by Ann Aguirre

This penultimate book in the Sirantha Jax series was hard to read, yet it cemented my dedication to the characters. Sirantha has displayed one of the most pronounced character developments in any series that I’ve read, and while her ending has no guarantee of happiness, I have no doubt that Aguirre will give these great characters a worthy finale.