Sunday, June 30, 2013

Review of Cinder by Marissa Meyer - Or, This Girl Knows How to Fracture a Fairytale

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is one of those books that has been staring at me accusingly from the YA section of the library for a few months now. And I finally borrowed and read it this week, so the accusing eyes can STOP NOW, okay.

Cover lust to the max
 Overall I found Cinder to be an ambitious and enjoyable debut novel from Meyer, largely because she is world-building. For those of you who haven’t read it yet, Cinder is a sci-fi adaptation of Cinderella set in the future (= mind blown). The inside front cover confidently announces three more novels in the next three years, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter, set in this same universe. So there is of necessity lots of expository ground to cover, and although the reader is given a TON of information in a short span of pages, Meyer handles it pretty gracefully.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Snips & Specs: What Makes A Good Summer Book?

Summer!  This past weekend we celebrated the solstice and Monday was the old British and Irish quarter festival of Midsummer. This can only mean one thing: it’s time to make your summer reading list.

This hearkens back to the long lazy days by the pool, by the sea, or in the grass plugging through a lengthy list of must-reads for school.  That tradition has never faded with me- or with many of us avid readers.  I recently got to thinking about whether taking the extra free time to cross off the classics or lounging with some mind candy, is there something that binds all good summer reads together?  

For me, I am drawn toward two things for my summer reading: heat and change.  

As I perch right in front of my pitiful window fan, in the least amount of clothing decent, thinking it isn't a bad idea to take a 3rd cold shower today, I am much more drawn to characters sweating right along with me than some wintry Russian novel.  It gets me into the time and place of the book. 

...I will buy an air conditioner next year!

Even in my mid 20s, summer has never lost a sense of magic and potential; the feeling that I can accomplish anything, and be a different person at the end of it.  The doors are open, the car is waiting, my swimsuit is in my bag, let’s go on an adventure.  A summertime read encapsulates this quality- this season can change a life: Great Gatsby, A Room with a View, Delirium, Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atonement, Rebecca, Summer of My German Soldier, the Age of Miracles and innumerable romance novels immediately pop to mind.  I want to be swept away even when I’m safely on the beach.

How do you define a good summer read?  What’s on your list as July approaches?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2013

This was kind of a tough week for me as I’ve read a string of YA books recently that were just not as good as I wanted them to be. But still! I’ve managed to put together a (rather dark and murdery) list of the top 10 books I’ve read so far this year:
(Original feature courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish)

1.       The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
If you’re a Greek mythology nerd like me, you’ll love this beautiful take on Homer’s Iliad told from the perspective of Achilles’ lifelong companion Patroclus. It’s an intimate look at the boys’ relationship both before and during the Trojan War. Miller’s prose is lush and gorgeous, too. Definitely the best book I have read this year!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Review of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby: "Jay, NA, & Hemingway"

In which Sam rants about the new NA genre, raves about The Sun Also Rises and The Great Gatsby, and accuses summer of inducing the mass delusion that we are all young again.

In 2009, in an effort to reach a growing cohort of YA readers over 18, St. Martin’s Press held a contest seeking fiction for a “new adult” category. Though it’s been four years since the term hit the blogosphere, I still hadn’t heard of “NA” fiction until Meg and Kate mentioned it to me a few weeks ago. After some Google sleuthing, I discovered the fabulous NA Books Blog, which aptly describes the category here. I’ll give you Heather’s summary of NA in brief:

NA books are the bridge between Young Adult (YA) fiction and Adult fiction. Main characters are 18 to 30 years old. Themes include leaving home, gaining independence from parents, developing sexuality, and romance, as well as making education and career choices.

Heather also points out the controversy among publishers that NA isn’t “real” somehow – that there is no such category, and it’s just a marketing tool. She musters the strong evidence of NA existence from the success of contemporary NA fiction like Beautiful Disaster. I agree, but I also think that NA has been around much longer than four years, or fourteen years. I think it’s been around for at least eighty-eight.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Snips and Specs: The Merlin's Beard Edition

On this summer solstice, I’m excited to share with you all an upcoming book from one of my favorite childhood authors!

T.A Barron, author of The Lost Years of Merlin series and Tree Girl, has recently announced that his new novel, Atlantis Rising, is set to be released on September 26, 2013!

I think the Merlin series fell under the radar of a lot of YA readers, maybe because it tends to be classed as children’s lit. But if you loved Harry Potter as much as I did (okay, let’s be real… as much as I DO, present tense, and WILL FOREVER), you should do yourself a solid and read some T.A. Barron.

Just as the Merlin series serves as an origin story, in which we meet the young wizard first coming into his powers (srsly, HP readers, get on this before the movie comes out), Atlantis Rising will be an origin story of how the famous underwater city was created. Featuring young heroes! A magical world! And a love story! I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to DIVE right in! (Too much? ...Not enough?)

Do you, too, have a mad book crush on the young Merlin? Or on T.A. Barron himself? Will you be reading Atlantis Rising? Let me know in the comments!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Top Ten Books At The Top Of My Summer TBR List

In which Sam tells you about the next ten books To Be Read by her this summer, in no particular order, with explanations that may be less than satisfactory and a number of parentheses that may be more than reasonably necessary.

Original feature courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish!

Why yes I did take this picture using Instagram.
TBR lists tell you a lot about yourself. Sadly, this list tells me that I still quite often judge books by their covers. (This tendency will almost certainly be the topic of later discussion here at Mad But Magic.) As I have yet to really read any of the next ten books I can only vouch for their sparkling potential, and give you a glimpse into my book selection MO. Let’s plunge ahead!

1. Deborah Harkness, Shadow of Night. The second book in the All Souls trilogy, and the only book in this list I’ve actually started reading. Witch meets vampire meets history of science meets magic meets FEELINGS.

Why did I pick it up? Because the author is a respected historian who studies the history of magic and science. So pleased to discover that was a thing, a thing one could study (why am I in law school again?) that I simply had to pick up the first book in the trilogy – A Discovery of Witches – and after falling into Diana and Matthew’s world I had to join them on their next adventure.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Review of Lauren Oliver’s Delirium: What Is the Cost of Living Your Own Life?

When do you trust the wisdom of those you love, and when do you need to experience and decide for yourself?  This is the dilemma that Lena Haloway faces in Lauren Oliver’s novel, Delirium.  

In dystopian Maine, love is a disease and each member of the community is “cured” by having their emotions surgically removed when they turn 18.   With only three months left before her procedure, Lena finds herself infected and begins to question the lessons she has been taught since childhood.  Oliver masterfully addresses the adherence and guilt, the oscillation of advancing and retreating, and finally the commitment to action that occurs when deciding between what one feels and what one is taught to feel.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Snips, Specs, & Zombie Treks

Over the Wall...Again!

FINALLY, finally, finally Garth Nix has invited us back over the Wall, into the Old Kingdom, to walk with the Abhorsens into Death.

If you aren’t already familiar with the Abhorsen trilogy, now is a fantastic time to read Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen, three books that chronicle the many adventures of the Abhorsens, powerful Old Kingdom denizens who possess the ability to send the Dead back into Death, and undo the work of necromancers who would let the Dead stray into Life. It is an extremely exciting world: there are plenty of epic fights, people growing into themselves, zombies, awkward moments, and lovable pets. (And my usual favorites – swordfighting, protagonists who are some boss ladies, biting sarcasm, and boarding schools).

BUT! But. Here is the news – after TEN YEARS, Garth Nix has brought us back to the Old Kingdom from a new book, “Clariel,” set hundreds of years before the events in the Abhorsen trilogy, and featuring a mysterious new Abhorsen (hint: her name is Clariel! Spoiler alert?) He tweeted a picture of the manuscript, which I felt was very intimate and cool.

So much speculation exists already about who Clariel was, and who she became. We’d love to hear your thoughts – or at least convince you to read the original trilogy ;)

In the meantime, check out the tweet!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Beach Reads

It’s time for another Top Ten Tuesday! Up this week: top 10 beach reads
(original feature courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish)!

1. A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engel
Swim with the dolphins and fall asleep to the waves along with 16-year old Vicky Austin who is spending the summer at her dying grandfather’s house on an island off the coast of New England.  Don’t judge this book by the Disney Channel Original Movie; this novel claims my highest number of re-reads and never fails to transport me to the smell of salt air and barbeques on the beach.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Review of The Diviners – Libba Bray creates a character-driven, modern American myth

To be perfectly honest, I am going through a phase and its name is Libba Bray. Bray’s latest novel, The Diviners, plunged me into the world of New York City, 1926, and I never wanted to leave.

A quick plot rundown, courtesy of Goodreads:

“Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is… thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

In large part I adored this book because of its uniquely diverse and therefore American cast of characters. Lemme break it down a little for y’all with some of my favorites:

Main character Evie O’Neill reminded me of Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse – slightly self-obsessed and overconfident, but also bubbly, vivacious, and able to draw people to her like a magnet. Evie is a flapper with a BIG personality – too big for her small hometown in Ohio. Although at various points in the novel it gets her into trouble, and while she can acknowledge her faults, she never apologizes for who she is.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Snips & Specs: Suzanne Collins Announces New Series

If you loved The Hunger Games trilogy as much as I did, you're equally thrilled by this news.  Suzanne Collins is slated to start writing her new series after the screenplay for Mockingjay reaches completion, so it sounds like it's going to be quite some time before we're holding the new novel in our hands; but I for one am confident this book will be worth the wait!  

Anyone have any guesses what we're in for next?  Ms. Collins has stated in interviews that her inspiration for The Hunger Games came from watching reality TV and clips of the Vietnam War- what unusual combinations would you want to see? Animal husbandry meets cyborgs? Space exploration mashed with antebellum courtship rituals? Or will she follow J. K. Rowling and pull a total 180 with her next novel- set solidly in the here & now? 

Let the speculations flow!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday - Books that Feature Travel

I LOVE this week’s category. Travel can be such a rich metaphor, especially in the YA world where protagonists struggle to figure out who they are. Travel is often able to serve as the vehicle for that – pun definitely intended! So without further ado, here are the top ten (mostly YA) books that feature travel in some way:
(Original feature courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish)

    1. Daughter of Smoke and Bone  by Laini Taylor
While I wasn’t 100% thrilled with this book (largely because it seems to become a different novel halfway through), I did adore the notion of portals that Brimstone, the mysterious chimaera who serves as father-figure to main character Karou, is able to conjure. These portals are secret doors that can only be opened from the inside, and from within, they lead to places all over the world: Prague, Paris, and Hong Kong. Brimstone sends Karou on errands through the portals, and between these and the big wish she makes later in the novel to be gifted with a certain mode of transport (think: the feathers on the cover), overall I was left with a taste of the joyful freedom of travel, although for Karou this is tempered by her loneliness.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reviews of The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Darkangel: Here's Your Before....and Here's Your After

In which Sam rants about makeovers in her favorite YA fiction, raves about The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson and The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce, and accuses Meg of reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

No one told me that when I officially became an adult (and no longer able to wander the YA Fiction section at Barnes & Noble without the judgmental stares of thirteen-year-olds) that the only fantasy anyone would try to sell me would be the fantasy of looking “Fantastic in Fifty Shades of Lipstick” – or, more mortifying, the fantasies in Fifty Shades of Grey.[1]

Where were the fantasies I grew up with? The fantasy of an epic adventure across snowcapped mountain peaks! The fantasy of becoming a despotic queen and reigning over a kingdom![2] The fantasy of fighting monumental battles and winning![3] I began to despair that the only fantasy available to adult women was the fantasy of returning to youth somehow: makeovers, makeup, or the magic of plastic surgery. And maybe I bought into that in a small way, because I turned back to youth, too: the young heroines of my favorite YA books. There, I told myself, the knights and spies and mages didn’t care about injecting botulism[4] into their foreheads to freeze them in perpetual, youthful surprise. Instead, the young women I looked up to longed to age, grasped for the power and wisdom that came with every passing year.

Still, upon closer inspection, I realized once again I had placed myself on the lofty shelf of Better-Than-Thou Book Selection, and when I took a hard look at some of my favorites, I discovered lots of them contain the same fantasy Cosmopolitan slaps on its covers every month: the fantasy makeover.[5]

Two makeovers in particular stand out in my mind: Aeriel, from The Darkangel, and Elisa, from The Girl of Fire and Thorns. In case you haven’t read either, these plot points won’t shatter too many surprises.

I know this isn't the most recent cover, but it is the one I remember from discovering the book in one of the back shelves of my middle school library.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

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