Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (SPOILERS!)

Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she’s made it out of the bloody arena alive, she’s still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what’s worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss’s family, not her friends, not the people of District 12.

Since I returned from New Orleans, I've been avoiding the interwebz for the most part. Mostly because I did not have a copy of Mockingjay yet and did not want to accidentally stumble upon spoilers. So, while I waited for Mockingjay to arrive, I re-read both Hunger Games and Catching Fire. The day I finished Catching Fire my copy of Mockingjay arrived, it was fate, no? Ok, it was UPS, but whatever. Anyway the following review will be ripe with spoilers so it will be hidden in order to protect those who do not want spoilers. I figure I'd better hide the whole thing because I doubt I could contain spoilers to one small section. So, to read my review, highlight away.

I think we all had theories about what would happen in Mockingjay. Who would live, who would die, who Katniss would end up with, if anyone. But one of the reasons I love this series and Suzanne Collins is her ability to surprise readers. Well, she surprised me at least. I never dreamed she would have the Capitol essentially brainwash Peeta into a Katniss killing machine. Nor that her relationship with Gale would come to such a tragic end.

I've always been Team Katniss, not necessarily overly concerned with which boy she ended up with, but if I'm totally honest, I was always a Peeta fan. I understand some of the arguments Team Gale had however, personally I thought that when Katniss took Prim's place in the Reaping, her life was irrevocably changed and any future she MIGHT have had with Gale was lost.

I have to say that with each book felt so sorry for Katniss. In the Hunger Games she was a pawn in the Capitol's game, in Catching Fire she was manipulated and used by the Rebels, and again in Mockingjay both the Capitol and the Rebellion were jerking her around. I loved when she killed President Coin. I had a very bad feeling about her from the minute District 13's utilitarian, regimented system was described. The Districts would have been trading in one totalitarian ruler for another. I was glad Katniss killed her even if it meant not getting to directly kill President Snow.

I have to say that, on the whole, The Hunger Games series is one of my all time favorite YA series. I love that Katniss is such a strong heroine. She had to make difficult choices and often her decisions weren't the most popular but she did what she thought was right and she fought till the bitter end. She is one badass chick. If you all haven't read them, I would highly recommend both of Kristen Cashore's books that also feature some seriously kick ass heroines in Graceling and Fire. Katniss, Katsa, and Fire are some of my all time favorite YA heroines!

Mockingjay was, like the previous books, filled with action, anger, pain, sadness, self discovery and self sacrifice, love, hate, revenge and, ultimately, a bittersweet ending. After I finished it, I sat on my couch staring off into space trying to work out my feelings. I was happy, sad, and angry. At the Capitol, the Rebels, Gale, Peeta, Katniss. Mockingjay was a wild ride but after consideration, I loved every minute of it!

Since I've finally read it and reviewed it I'm off to engage in discussion and debate with others! I can't wait to see what others thought!


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

IMM (3)

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi, The Story Siren.

I'm back from New Orleans! It was awesome! Pictures to follow...whenever I get a chance to upload them!

I've gotten a couple of ARC's through one of the librarian listserv's I follow so I thought I'd share:

Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan
Nastasya has spent the last century living as a spoiled, drugged-out party girl. She feels nothing and cares for no one. But when she witnesses her best friend, a Dark Immortal, torture a human, she realizes something's got to change. She seeks refuge at a rehab for wayward immortals, where she meets the gorgeous, undeniably sexy Reyn, who seems inexplicably linked to her past.
Nastasya finally begins to deal with life, and even feels safe--until the night she learns that someone wants her dead.

The DUFF: (Designated UglyFat Friend) by Kody Keplinger
Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn't think she's the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She's also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her "Duffy," she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren't so great at home right now. Desperate for a distraction, Bianca ends up kissing Wesley. And likes it. Eager for escape, she throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with Wesley.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out that Wesley isn't such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she's falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone.

Really excited about The DUFF!

I also attended a webinar on Fantastic Fall Teen Fiction yesterday and they had some ARC's to giveaway so stay tuned next week for some more great books! What book were you most excited about in your IMM this week?!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Big Easy Bound

I will be absent for the next week or so. On Wednesday I'm leaving for New Orleans will be down there until Monday the 23rd visiting a friend. I wasn't organized enough to have some posts set up to publish while I was gone. And the next couple of days I'll be busy packing and shopping for last minute stuff.

This will be my second trip to NOLA. My first trip I was only there for a weekend so this will be a longer stay. Just looked up the weather. According to the 10 day forecast it's going to be 90 degrees and scattered thunderstorms the whole time I'm there. Gotta remember to pack an umbrella! See y'all when I return!

Pirate's Alley from my 2008 trip!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Library Love: Librarians Behaving Badly

Library Love is supposed to be about promoting libraries and spreading the love and joy that libraries bring to their communities. However, every once in awhile a librarian comes along and disgraces their profession. I think librarians that act in direct opposition to their profession's values and mission should be held accountable for their actions.

Brent of The Naughty Book Kitties recently posted about how Ellen Hopkins was uninvited to 2011 Houston Teen Book Festival because one middle school librarian decided Ellen Hopkins' presence would "negatively affect her students", according to Hopkins' blog post.

Now, I know Texas likes to expound that "it's like a whole other country", but it's not.  The librarians of Texas are held accountable to the American Library Association's (ALA) Core Values, Ethics and Core Competencies, just like any other state. I know that this is just one ignorant librarian and that there were "other librarians who lobbied heavily" to keep Ellen on the speaker roster (Hopkins). So I'm not chastising Texas librarians as a whole.

But perhaps this librarian needs to be reminded of the values and ethics of her profession. The ALA's Freedom to Read statement addresses this very issue in its first paragraph:
The freedom to read is essential to our democracy. It is continuously under attack. Private groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label "controversial" views, to distribute lists of "objectionable" books or authors, and to purge libraries. These actions apparently rise from a view that our national tradition of free expression is no longer valid; that censorship and suppression are needed to counter threats to safety or national security, as well as to avoid the subversion of politics and the corruption of morals. We, as individuals devoted to reading and as librarians and publishers responsible for disseminating ideas, wish to assert the public interest in the preservation of the freedom to read.
This librarian's blatant display of censorship is in direct opposition of her profession's core values. Shame on her.

On her blog Ellen suggets boycotting the event and/or contacting the superintendent in charge of the event:

I hope if you live in or near Houston, you will choose not to attend the event. Censorship only wins if we let it. And wherever you live, I hope you’ll drop an e-mail to Mr. Sconzo, telling him why you think my books are important. Please concentrate on the positives, and don’t let anger dictate what you say. Keep a respectful tone (no swear words, okay?), or your opinions won’t matter to him. But please make it clear, if you’re with me on this, that I’m not just any author. And that you don’t believe in censorship. Here is his email address: Guy.Sconzo@humble.k12.tx.us
Take a stand against censorship. Personally, I'd like the contact information for the librarian. She should know better, but Mr. Sconzo will have to do.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Library Loot: August 11 - 17

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted alternatively by Marg and Claire that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky (at Marg's this week) any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins (Because of John's review)

Infamous by Suzanne Brockmann - Yay! I'm a Brockmann fangirl! And because Jill loved it!


This is War by Thirty Seconds to Mars - Jared Leto playing music? 'Nuff said. Anyone recall him singing in the band as Jordan Catalano on My So-Called Life?! Sigh.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Series Review: Downside Ghosts by Stacia Kane

The Chess Putnam series is a cross between Ghostbusters and Escape From New York, with an awesome punk rock soundtrack, black magic, greasers, drugs, human sacrifices, and a black 1969 Chevelle.
By now you've probably already heard of this daring urban fantasy series, you've heard of the the junkie, churchwich heroine and the "Terrible fever" that seems to affect so many readers after reading the Downside series. If you haven't heard of this series, you're missing out! However, the Downside Ghost series is not going to be for everyone.

I wasn't sure I even wanted to read it. I was concerned about Chess being a drug addict. I had trouble with Rhevenge, J.R. Ward's pimptastic hero. The drug dealer/pimp as hero didn't really work for me. I expected the junkie heroine not to work for me either. Oh how close minded of me!

While I can't say that I warmed to Chess immediately; I didn't dislike her like I had anticipated I would. I was afraid her addiction would just piss me off. But surprisingly it didn't. Sure, there were a few times that I was like d'uh if you weren't a junkie you wouldn't be in this situation but then Chess would acknowledge that same thought. She's not in denial about her addiction or the problems it creates for her. Sparklebearsy, in her review of Unholy Ghosts explained how she felt about Chess saying:
"Im all on board for a flawed heroine, i've read drug addicts before and loved the characters, but there seemed to be no reason why Chess took drugs like she did. . ."
I can see where this would frustrate some readers. However, I felt that Chess alluded to her past and that it was quite grim.

That is how I interpreted her motivations for getting high. I think in the second book, Unholy Magic, readers get a little more insight into Chess's past and a better idea of how Chess views herself. And it ain't good. Aside from her pride in the work she does for the Church, Chess has very little self esteem. She doesn't think she's worth much as a person and I guess that's the attitude one must have to abuse their body with the sheer volume of drugs that Chess consumes.

Another thing I was worried about with an addict heroine was the possible glamorization of drug use. But I think it should pointed out that Kane did not, in any way, glamorize Chess's addiction. Kane showed time and time again how Chess's chemical dependence got her into a shit load of problems without making it sound like an anit-drug campaign either. I think she balanced a tricky subject very well.

I really enjoyed the world Kane built. It's a post-apocalyptic world but instead of a war, disease, or natural disaster threatening humanity, it's the dead. The dead rose, not as zombies but as ghosts. In it's wake the government fell and world religions ceased to exist in the face of the Church of Real Truth. I find this aspect of the story interesting, this lack of faith and traditional religion. There is no longer any mystery to what comes after we die. Your ghost is hauled off to the City of Eternity where it chills for...well, eternity.

I was also surprised at how creepy and scary the series was. Make no mistake while the description depicts this as part "Ghostbusters" we're not talking silly, comedic 80's Bill Murray stuff here. And the magic? We're not talking Harry Potter. Voldemort's got nothing on the Downside villains. While this book is categorized as urban fantasy it could just as easily be dubbed straight up horror. So keep that in mind you faint of heart!

Lastly, I can't talk about this series without mentioning Terrible. Ah, Terrible what can we say about him? He's basically an anit-hero. He's not particularly attractive, Chess even describes him as ugly, he's the right hand man and muscle for Bump, one of Downside's major under lords. But he's there for Chess. He's strong and is as good a man as can be expected in his line of work. And our Chessie isn't exactly Suzy Homemaker, she and Terrible make sense together. But of course Chess's addiction manages to get her in trouble with the one man she actually cares about. While some readers seemed puzzled by Terrible's appeal, I definitely have Terrible Fever. But don't worry, there's a support group for that.
I really did love this series. Hell, I read them all in a row and I rarely do that. I like to spread a series out and mix things up so as not to get burned out. I'm not a glommer. But I needed these books like Chess needs her pills. Kane has created an utterly addictive and terrifying world that leaves readers jonesin' for more.

Unfortunately, we'll have to wait until Fall 2011 for Book 4 and Spring 2012 for Book 5.

Since I reviewed the series as a whole I'm rating it as a whole as well.


A Buckeye Girl Reads: Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts, Music in Downside
Fiction Vixen: Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts
Lurv a la Mode: Unholy Ghosts
Smexy Books: Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts
Smokin' Hot Books: Unholy Ghosts & Unholy Magic
Supernatural Snark: Unholy Ghosts & Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts
Wicked lil Pixie: Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts , Interview with Stacia Kane
Yummy Men & Kick Ass Chicks: Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic
Top 10 Reasons to Read Unholy Ghosts & Downside Fashion Show (Fiction Vixen & Wicked lil Pixie on Smexy Books)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Eargasmic Ecstasy: Scythian

So, I love music. I can't play an instrument or carry a tune to save my life but second to my love of books and reading is  my love of music! And I love to share my favorite bands. Today, I'd like to introduce you all to Scythian.

This past weekend was the Dublin Irish Festival in Dublin, Ohio. I go every year. Every day of the festival. Last year, I saw Scythian for the first time and have been a rabid fan ever since!

Scythian are based out of Washington D.C. where they were recently voted Best Band by Washington City Paper. Although based in D.C. they tour, A LOT. Mostly on the eastern seaboard and in the mid west.

Scythian's music is hard to categorize but here's a pretty good description taken from their website:

Rousing and raucous, Scythian (sith-ee-yin) plays kicked-up Celtic and world music with hints of Gypsy and Klezmer, all infused with a touch of punk-rock sensibility. Take a pair of classically trained dueling fiddlers, toss in a rhythm guitar and the occasional funky accordion, then power it with the driving rhythm of a jazz percussionist, and you've got the ingredients for a show you won't soon forget. Their high-energy, adrenaline-peddling, interactive brand of music has one goal in mind: to get people on their feet and dancing. Their repertoire ranges from traditional and contemporary Celtic and folk music to the alluring and dramatic strains of Gypsy and Eastern European tunes, and then crosses back over the border to pick up some good old-fashioned bluegrass licks.

Rousing and raucous is right, Scythian are amazing live performers. Their energy and enthusiasm is infectious and, Irish or not, you'll find yourself jigging right along. Who knew that classically trained musicians could rock your socks off, but Scythian can!

I've enjoyed every single show I've been to, and I think I've seen them seven times total since I first saw them at last year's Irish Fest. Luckily, they make it to Ohio fairly regularly. If they're ever in your city be sure to make it out to their shows. You can check out their touring schedule here.

You can listen to (and purchase) their music on their website. You can also find them on itunes as well! If you're interested in downloading/purchasing any of their music my recommendations would be:
  • Live Vol. 1
  • Live Vol. 2
  • Immigrant Road Show
If you just want to download a few individual songs, some of my favorite tracks include:
  • Hey Mama Ya - Live Vol. 1Jack Dempsey - Live Vol. 2
  • Dance All Night - Live Vol. 1
  • My Son John - Live Vol. 1
  • Hutsulka Ksenia - Live Vol.2
  • Technoccordion - Live Vol.2
  • Tuesday Morning - Immigrant Road Show
  • I Will Go - Immigrant Road Show 
  • Fields of Athenry - Immigrant Road Show
By the way, in addition to being fabulous musicians, did I mention they're, well, hot!?!

Oh, and they're super good to their fans:
(Yea, that's me in the glasses.)

So what are you waiting for? Go check them out!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Library Loot: August 4 - 10

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted alternatively by Marg and Claire that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky (at Claire's this week) any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

City of Ghosts by Stacia Kane

I HAD to get my hands on City of Ghosts this week. I just finished Unholy Magic but didn't have any money in the budget to buy it and low and behold my local library had a copy in! Score! If you haven't read this series yet you've got to get the first book, Unholy Ghosts.

Lastly, in preparation for my upcoming vacation to the Big Easy I thought I'd do some homework:

Also, Claire and Marg are looking for submissions for a new badge for Library Loot. You can find out all about it here.

I love the badge I created but it's a little larger than most people would probably want. But I'm going to continue using it here as I think it goes pretty well with my blog theme! I'm looking forward to working on some new Library Loot buttons to sumbit for consideration using the parameters that Claire and Marg have set forth.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Free Audiobook Download: The Hunger Games

Be sure to stop by the Sync website to download a FREE copy of The Hunger Games on audiobook!  Each week through September 1st they're giving away 2 free YA downloads! So be sure to check out their compelte list of titles!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Reading Recap: July 2010

Well, I did much better than last month where I only finished ONE, yes just ONE, book! This month I finished 9 books. Here were my reads and ratings for this month:
My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger

Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage by Jennifer Ashley
Unholy Magic by Stacia Kane

My favorite read from this month was My Most Excellent Year, which I didn't review. I'll try soon. But I just loved it soooo much that I'm having trouble formulating a coherent review! I also loved Broken Wing and Unholy Ghosts. Both feature seriously flawed characters and I love it when an author can make you LOVE a flawed character!

My least favorite read this month was definitely Forget You by Jennifer Echols. It left a bad taste in my mouth and turned me off of YA for the moment. I'll be reading several adult books before I return to YA. 

How was everyone else's July? Favorite and least favorite reads?
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