In My Mailbox (9)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren. IMM features the books that we have bought, borrowed, received, or reviewed during the week.

I figured I would continue showing my massive haul from IRA in my weekly IMM posts. I did actually buy a few books this week to finish off a series. Plus, I found my free book coupons from Scholastic so I ordered $88 in free books! But I don't remember what I ordered. =) 

What I bought:

The Cry of the Icemark, Blade of Fire, and Last Battle of the Icemark by Stuart Hill. A little witchcraft, some teenage angst, women warriors, characters named Cronus and Medea. Yep, the makings of a good series I do believe.
Cry Of The IcemarkBlade of Fire (The Icemark Chronicles 2)Last Battle Of The Icemark (Icemark Chronicles)

My IRA haul, Part 2:

The Black Heart Crypt by Chris Grabenstein. A ghostly mystery that features the leader of a clan of ghosts trying to hunt and kill Zack Jennings-- a member of the Jennings family that the ghost has a serious grudge against. 

Populazzi by Elise Allen. A teenage girl tries a social experiment to reinvent herself when she starts a new high school, but everything goes wrong during the process.   

Between by Jessica Warman. "...a roller-coaster ride of a mystery; one that is also a heartbreaking character study, a touching romance, and ultimately a hopeful tale of redemption, love, and letting go."

The Death Catchers by Jennifer Ann Kogler. Lizzy learns that she is a descendant of Morgan le Faye and must work with her best friend to save the world from Vivienne le Mort's plan to alter fate. One part Arthurian legend + one part paranormal = one awesome read!

Mister Creecher by Chris Priestly. Retelling of Frankenstein and the teenage boy that befriends him. I am so excited about this one. I read Frankenstein in 5th grade and have loved the story ever since! They just don't do the creature justice.

Fury by Elizabeth Miles. Imma leave this one alone because it seems too awesome for words! All I can say from the  back of the book is that "three mysterious girls" (the Fates... the Furies... get it?) arrive in town to choose who will pay for their misdeeds, and the main characters--Em and Chase-- have been chosen. Oh, BTW, Chase has done something pretty wicked but is keeping it a secret.

FuryMister CreecherThe Death CatchersBetweenPopulazzi

Review: Relic Master: The Dark City

Relic Master: The Dark City
Catherine Fisher

 Synopsis from back of book:

Book Information:
Hardcover: 384 pages
Reading Level: YA
Publisher: Dial (May 17, 2011)
ISBN-13: 978-0803736733
Source: ARC from publisher in exchange for a review

Dark, dangerous, and deadly—welcome to Anara, a world mysteriously crumbling to devastation, where nothing is what it seems: ancient relics emit technologically advanced powers, members of the old Order are revered by the people but hunted by the governing Watch, and the great energy that connects all seems to also be destroying all. A master and his scholar, searching for a relic to save the world, will be tested beyond their limits, for there are monsters—some human, some not—that also want the relic’s power and wills top at nothing to get it.

That really doesn’t tell you much, does it? Let me start this off by saying that even though I had a hard time getting through this book—it just wasn’t my cup of tea—I can appreciate really great writing. It took me (dare I admit this?) months to finish this book—yeah, I really did say months. There was something that just didn’t pull me in, and I have a hard time saying what it was. The characters were great—very complex and interesting. The plot was well developed (consistent and complicated). I loved the doubting nature of the Watchman, Carys. She was brought up believing all Masters were to be loathed and destroyed, but when she actually met Raffi and Galen Harn, she started doubting her life’s teaching.

I also really appreciated that the “magical” aspect of this book was not over the top. In fact, one of the main characters had lost his magical abilities. He was a broken and desperate man, which really added to the complexity of his character. At the same time, his despair and brokenness made Raffi’s character more interesting. Raffi become dedicated and determined for the Master. I’m telling you, there were many great complications and levels to these characters.

Also, the world in which these characters lived was fascinating. Horrifying creatures that rip the flesh off of their victims; plant seeds that are like floating acid; a city that is in eternal darkness and flames—these are the things nightmares are made of, and yet the story wasn’t horrifying. It all worked really well together and helped build the suspense. I can honestly say I haven’t read a book that had a setting like this one. The originality was immense.

So why did it take me nearly 4 months to finish this book? Why did I not find myself staying up all night and living on coffee for this book? Why is my flashlight not out of batteries? I think knowing that this was the first book in a four book series kept me fully losing myself in the plot. As a stand alone book, it did not answer all of my questions. I can tell that there will be more books in the series because the story needs to continue. With that being said, that really bothered me. I like for books to function as both a series and stand-alone novels. I hate that cliffhanger feeling at the end of a book. Luckily, however, the remainder of the books will be published monthly from May until August. At least I—or anyone else that reads the series—won’t have to wait years to find out what happens.

Even though I had a hard time getting into the book (and finishing it), I still think it was fantastic. The writing style and level of detail given to everything was top notch. I can’t dispute that fact. Sometimes our mindsets and current lives are not conducive to certain types of books (at that given moment), and I think that’s what happened to me. All of the other things that are occupying my time right now prevented me from fully appreciating what this book has to offer. Knowing that, I know I will probably pick up the rest of the series when it becomes available and read it. The story is too complicated to let it end here. I want to know what happens to the characters!

I give this book a solid 4 stars, regardless of my personal feelings.

Blog Hop & Follow Friday (16)

Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee. This week's question is: It's circle time. Time for us to open up and share. Can you tell us FIVE quirky habits or things about you? We all have them...

So my weird habits... hmm... I'm perfect, so I have no weird habits. I can't think of any bad habits that I have, so I'm going to make a list of all the awesome things that I do.

1. I chew gum like a cow. It's an awesome calorie burning activity!

2. I'm a part-time Chia Pet. I have a student that is constantly petting my hair. He's in distress because I cut 10 inches off a few months ago to donate to Locks for Love.

3. If something is really funny, I snort. My husband thinks it's sexy.  

4. I say, "Oh, good grief!" way too much. I say it at least 100 times a day. My students think it's hilarious.

5. Oh, and I put mustard on my french fries.

Book Blogger Hop

The Book Blog Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Crazy for Books. This week's question is: "If you were given the chance to spend one day in a fictional world (from a book), which book would it be from and what would that place be?"

I really have no idea which fictional world I would want to live in. I'm on this major mermaid kick right now, so I'm thinking I would pick being a mermaid from Lost Voices. I wouldn't want any of the horrible things to have happened to me-- and I definitely wouldn't want to be in conflict with the other mermaids-- but I want fins. I think that would be awesome. Of course, being a fairy would be cool too. Flying seems like an awesome adventure. So maybe a fairy from Brigitta and the White Forest? 

In My Mailbox (8)

IMM is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren.

My IMM this week should be legendary since I came home last week with a suitcase full of books from the IRA Convention. But, alas, I'm too lazy to post about all of them right now. So, I picked the ones I'm most excited about (at the moment).

1. Don't Expect Magic by Kathy McCullough. Basically, this book is about a girl who is the daughter of a Fairy-Godfather and realizes she is a Fairy-Godmother in training. The catch, however, is that she has NO desire to be one. She doesn't want anything to do with magic. It looks really funny. At least that's what the book rep told me. We'll see if she was right. =)

2. Between the Sea & Sky by Jaclyn Dolamore. Okay, so I'm on this whole mermaid kick right now. (Thanks Sarah Porter and Lost Voices). The awesome lady at Bloomsbury Publishing and I had a nice chat about how awesome (and underrated) Victorian Literature is. She told me since I'm a fan of Jane Austen I would adore this book. In her words it is "Jane Austen meets Hans Christian Andersen." How can you argue with that? Seriously.

3. The Lipstick Laws by Amy Holder.  I don't know anything about this one, but the cover looks interesting.

4. Flawless by Lara Chapman. One of my all-time favorite books is Cyrano de Bergerac. That book is the reason I passed French 3 in high school. (The only reason.) So, this book is a modern retelling of the classic, beautiful story. Oh, the "Cyrano" is a girl in this one. Love it.

5. Wisdom's Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. The telling of this story looks highly original: a play, diary entries, an encyclopedia, and letters all mashed together. I like the characters' names as well: Princess Dizzy, Tips, and Fortitude.

6. Going Underground by Susan Vaught. A story based on real-life events of teens texting explicit photos and getting caught. This is highly controversial at my school, so I can't wait to see what happens in this book. Maybe all the scenarios and "what-ifs" we tell the kids will show up.

I also agreed to review these books (and got paper copies):
 The Door to Canellin by E.H. Jones and North of Sunset by Henry Baum.

Going UndergroundDon't Expect MagicBetween the Sea and SkyThe Lipstick LawsFlawless

The Len’s and the Looker
Lory Kaufman

Product Details
Genre: YA, science-fiction, post-dystopian
Publisher: The Fiction Studio (March 2011)
ISBN: 978-1-936558-02-5
Source: Review copy provided by the authorHansum, Shamira, and Lincoln are all “hard cases” from the 24th century. They are spoiled, lazy, and resilient to the lessons that the elders of their society try to teach. In a desperate measure to get the teens to learn from their mistakes, they are whisked away to History Camp—a reenactment of some of the hardest times from history. History Camps are designed to teach even the hardest 24th century kids a lesson about the past. Unfortunately, Hansum, Shamira, and Lincoln are too smart for their own good; they manage to disrupt the “lesson.” Thinking that they have successfully interrupted the History Camp Elder’s plans, the three teens are surprised to find themselves being approached by a time-traveling man. This man—Artemis—transports (i.e. kidnaps) the teens to the real 14th century Verona, Italy.

Suddenly the teens aren’t as interested in causing mischief as they are in their own survival. Life in Verona during 1347 is much different from anything they have ever experienced! Luckily, they have the help of Pan and knowledge of future technologies to make their new lives easier. However, they learn that all knowledge comes with a price—an extremely high price. When things go terribly wrong, and they find themselves permanently trapped in 1347, the three teens are forced to find a way to survive, even if it means disrupting the course of history.

The premise of this story was fascinating. It reminded me of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. In Lory Kaufman’s book, The Lens and the Looker, three incredibly spoiled teens find themselves reaching “the last straw” with the adults in their 24th century society. Being the arrogant teenagers they are they go off to History Camp with the sole purpose to torment the adults, instead of learning any valuable life lessons. There wasn’t a lot of attention given to the future world since the majority of the story takes place in the past. I was very impressed with the amount of detail that went in to creating 1347 Verona, Italy. The descriptions of the characters were fantastic—even when the descriptions were revolting! This story was a post-dystopian sci-fi read with a hint of historical fiction thrown in. A very interesting combination!

If you’re wondering about the pacing, it was quick and steady. The first few chapters were interesting, but they were slow in comparison to the remainder of the story. I would have liked to have had some resolution with the character Ugilino at the end of the book. Having him scurry off to the medicine woman and then not being mentioned again was a little disappointing. Since this is the first book in a series, I’m sure he will resurface in the next book. I also liked that the characters did learn lessons throughout the story, and they didn’t all learn them at the same time. Each character had a different challenge to work out and come to terms with. Watching them struggle throughout the story made them very believable. On a side note, the Italian used in the book was impressive. I’m glad Pan was there to translate for me, or else I would have been very confused!

Overall, this was a well-written, fast paced science fiction read. I’m not typically a fan of science fiction, but I enjoyed reading this book. I learned a lot about 14th century Verona and lens making (who knew books could teach you things!). I liked how the book didn’t feel like science fiction; it was more historical fiction with a few “out there” twists thrown in. This gets a solid 4 from me. The second book is already finished (I couldn’t help but read the snippets at the end), and it looks even better!

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