Wednesday, July 23, 2014

#BookTubeAThon Wrap Up and Thoughts on my First Read-A-Thon!



Here is my little wrap-up for my accomplishment within the Book-Tube-A-Thon. As you can see by the title, this was my first ever read-a-thon, so though I depressingly didn't meet my reading goal, I did still do pretty OK for a first-timer/generally-slow-reader.

The books read:


The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton, 4.5 STARS

Finnikin of the Rock (Lumatere Chronicles #1), Melina Marchetta, 4 STARS

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles #2), Melina Marchetta, 4 STARS

Yep, fellas, that's it. In fact, it's a bit less than it appears because I only read the last half of Garden and the first half of Froi within the actual read-a-thon. But whatever, I'm taking baby-steps here.


What Went Down:

Monday: Got going with a roaring start, getting straight through the last -- and very dense -- 200 + pages of Garden.

Tuesday: Began Finnikin, didn't get into it quite as fast and was only a quarter of the way through by the end of the day.

Wednesday: Got through a larger brunt of Finnikin, but still couldn't finish it regardless of the fact that I was super into it at that point. Like I said, slow reader. And these books have lots of details one must keep track of.

Thursday: Finished Finnikin quickly and started Froi on the kindle, but started feeling a bit under-the-weather and didn't get too far.

Friday: Worked from noon to six and got most of my reading done before then, but still not much. By the end of the day I was starting to think Froi wasn't going to be as good as book 1 but was still quite interested in it.

Saturday: At this point, I was still not very far into Froi and realized I would not be completing the finish an entire series challenge. Froi is far more complex than Finnikin and so I focused all my energy and desire into absorbing that novel as best I could. I found parts confusing so had to re-read. But overall this story is very well-written. I also had to work that day so didn't get much more reading done.

Sunday: No work to be done but still only got half-way through Froi by the end of the night. As I'm typing this up Monday night, I'm less than 20% away from the end. It's a slower read and I'm far enough into it where I'm pretty convinced it's not going to be my favorite. But I do very much love the characters, partly because there's so much of them to love.

What My Thoughts Are Now:

Overall, I really enjoyed my time with the BookTubeAThon as well as my first ever read-a-thon. However. Being a first timer I knew I wasn't going to push myself too hard considering the fact I'd just gotten home from a big camping trip and things with my new job are taking up a lot of my time and energy. Emphasis on the 'energy.' I was fine to go for the challenges but don't really think I picked the right ones. For instance, pick a book with red on the cover was by far the easiest to fulfill and in the end it was the only one I did fulfill. And read an entire series, especially an epic fantasy series, wasn't either considering I did not even finish the second book. So yeah, not exactly proud of all that but it's still one challenge done so it's something. Thinking back, I probably would have been better off choosing the pick a book from a genre you've read least this year challenge or have a friend pick a book for you challenge. I will have to take that into account next year. Also, I didn't make any videos because, well, I haven't started making videos yet. My boyfriend wants to start making videos for gaming so hopefully we can help each other get started. If and when that happens I will be sure to let you know.

So.
Did you participate in the #BookTubeAThon? How did it go for you and what were your thoughts on the whole affair? I'd love to hear all about it!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Latest Three: The Tyrant's Daughter, Lola and the Boy Next Door, Goliath





The Latest Three is my reader's review blog series where I talk about the latest three books I've read and at least enjoyed to some degree. The policy is that if I feel the book wasn't totally pointless, which I usually do, then I discuss the things I liked most in hopes there will be something that intrigues you enough to pick it up yourself. But at the same time, I give honest commentary and discuss things I wasn't too fond of either so you can understand the best scope of the book in your endeavor to read lots of really great books! Obviously, these come in batches of three, but if you like my review style head over to Goodreads and follow me, Kateri Ransom. I post those as I read them.

Also!
I would like to make an official note that I have been toying with the set dates of releasing my blog posts and have come to the conclusion that with my new work schedule it should be easiest for me to release my discussion posts on Wednesdays and my book review posts on Sundays. Which is today! Ha-zah! Sunday! Please enjoy this installment of the The Latest Three!!!


The Tyrant's Daughter, J. C. Carleson
4 STARS
I picked this book up as a birthday present to myself back in February for my 21st, and I'm so glad I finally got to it! This ended up mostly meeting my expectations. It's about a girl named Laila and her mother and brother who escape their unnamed middle eastern country because their father, the king, has been assassinated by his brother. Laila and the rest of her family are removed by US CIA to Washington D. C. where they have to live a low-profile life as lower-class suburbans. This book, however, is not about a Princess learning how to live the Hard Life. It's about her coming to terms with the reality of her family, both There and Here, as well as her country, especially her father and his false royalty, his dictatorship. It's also about friendship and first love and feminism and freedom. 
Without further ado, here's what I thought of The Tyrant's Daughter.
1. Laila: She is sort of a "likable unlikable" character, but I only felt that in the beginning, when her Princess was showing more colorfully. She adapts well, though, and by the end I found myself really liking her! Her path to self-discovery consists of trying on different skins, and I found myself relating to that aspect of her character. There was definitely a common thread between the two of us, which is always nice to experience as a reader.
2. That Moment Where I Judged: This book did a funny little thing. It made me judge Laila (I'm referring to the first bit where she wasn't quite as likable). And when I realized I had judged her, I realized what a superficial thing it was for me to do. I was judging her based off of her privilege, and then I realized, WAIT!, this girl comes from a country that stones women to death for no frickin' reason. It was strange and uncomfortable, but I just so happen to really like books that make me feel strange and uncomfortable, so hats off to you Carleson. Well done.
3. Feminism: I won't say much here, because obviously a book like this would warrant a discussion on feminism. But one particular thing I liked about it was how genuine it was to the specific female characters. A mother who tries her alliance, even in the face of danger, in order to save her family. A typical American white girl, who isn't as one dimensional as she might first appear. And an Invisible Queen...and that's all I'm going to say on the matter.
4. Mystery Aspect: Carleson did something quite nice, but also quite necessary to the plot in the end. She added this sort of building mystery, a "who's on whose side?" sort of situation. Like I said, it was necessary to the character growth in the end, but during the majority of the book, which would otherwise be all character based, it became an intriguing mystery aspect, which though mostly vague to the reader, was nice.
5. The Boys: Interestingly enough, there's a triangular relationship between Laila and the two boys, Amir and Ian, but Carleson makes her own rules here: there's no romance involved. Well, at least between Laila and Amir there isn't. I won't say much more than that I absolutely loved it. They were both excellent characters and if you want to know more about this strange triangle, you'll just have to read the book, won't you?
6. The Girlfriend: Laila makes friends with a typical American girl, and though their relationship was sometimes the source of my annoyance with Laila, I couldn't help but imagine how many of her decisions and reactions regarding their friendship would be totally normal for a girl in her situation. Ultimately, I loved them as friends.
7. Last Thought: I want to mention that I read a review of this where the reviewer said they felt Laila sounded too old to be 15. The funny thing is, I sometimes can feel this way, but reading what this person said I realized it pretty much always has to do with young characters who are in positions of power or at a level of physical strength that I feel their "voice" is too mature for. But here, I didn't feel it at all. Perhaps I was a bit surprised to learn she was only 15, but it wore off quickly. Honestly, I think it just boils down to the fact that we, by nature, are constantly under-estimating our YA audience, especially when it comes to their psychological and moral state. I can count a handful of people I knew as 15 year olds who had the mental capacity for Laila's approach to her new life. I can also count just as many, albeit, if not more, people I knew as 15 year olds who probably didn't have that mental capacity. But still, it doesn't mean teens like that aren't out there.
I will lastly leave you with a little list of words I feel well describes this book: cereal, Cinderella, poison, bridges, King of Nowhere, King of Somewhere, Invisible Queen.

Lola and the Boy Next Door, Stephanie Perkins
4 STARS
So it's been over a year since I read Anna and the French Kiss, and now I've finally gotten to Lola! However, I do have to admit that it was partly due to the fact that I realized these pretty new covers would be coming out. For those of you bookish people who have seen this book EVERYWHERE, and don't know what it's about, I'll tell you. It's about a high schooler named Lola living in San Francisco. Her first love, Cricket, broke her heart and then moved away, but now he's back and Lola has a boyfriend, an older boyfriend. But as she learns more about the boy next door, she begins to feel the pull of first love again, even if she's determined not to admit it. This was one of those books that I didn't take too many notes on so I'm just going to say that I really liked it, but for different reasons than I liked Anna, and overall, liked them both the same. So without further ado, here's what I thought of Lola and the Boy Next Door.
1. Anna!: So I knew she would be here, but I didn't know how. I loved both her and Etienne (Yes, I call him Etienne because it is WAY hotter than St. Clair) in the first book and really enjoyed seeing how their characters contributed to this story. Excited about it too? Then I'll tell you they're in this one quite a lot. YAY!
2. About That: Funny thing is, it was this book that made me realize Etienne was actually shorter than Anna, which was also possibly something I just forgot, but for some reason I feel that wasn't true. All my fictional memories of him were as Anna's same height. Is that kinda pathetic? Hope not. If you've read Anna or both, did the same thing happen to you or not?
3. Love the Dads: Yes, that's right. Dads. As in plural. Lola has two dads and they are such an awesome portrayal of a gay couple I can't even start. Sensitive. Protective. Supportive. Protective. Did I mention protective? I also really liked how Lola's relationship with them was played out throughout the story. Much of her personal growth comes from her relationship with them, as much growth, in fact, as what comes with her relationship with the love interest, Cricket. I absolutely adored them and I commend Perkins for writing them so well and bringing up all the various points and perspectives on their family. Sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, but always genuine and believable.
4. The Sex: There is sex in this novel, but if I could give it some sort of label I'd call it Accessible Sex. Now while that might sound like a questionable name to you, in more ways than one, what I mean is that for this kind of book and for this kind of target audience it's a good way to portray it. 1) It's not glamorized. Lola is not pining over the fact that she's having sex. She doesn't see it as some sort of life accomplishment and 2) it's not glossed over either. I mean, there is no actual sex scene, so on a superficial level, it is glossed over, but it's something the character thinks about. I also want to point out to parents who might possibly be reading this who are interested, it might be a good novel to read together to discuss the way in which Lola not just talks about it, but also doesn't talk about it. What I mean is, the way she isn't quite honest with herself with some of the reasons why she's choosing to have sex and at what times and with whom, especially because of the way things turn out in the end.
5. Anna vs. Lola: Now a lot of readers say they actually prefer Lola to Anna (referring to the books, not the specific characters), though that's possibly just my specific experience with book bloggers and Booktube. But I'm actually kind of in the middle. I like both equally, to be frank. For Anna, there was this more effervescent feel. It was highly focused on the romance and the mere plight of finally getting these two characters together. Not that there wasn't still more too it, but it was more centered on that plot line. Lola, however, just had more to it. There was more depth to the side characters, more outside issues going on for Lola other than the love interest, Cricket, which I quite liked. In the end, I liked Anna better for it's sheer enchanting, romantic charm and Lola for it's greater depth. I didn't get through Lola quite as fast as I got through Anna, but I also preferred their relationship to Anna an Etienne's.
Either way.
I am sooooooooo excited to get me some ISLA!!!!!

Goliath, Scott Westerfeld
5 STARS
I want to start off first saying this was a fantastic conclusion to this series. If you have only read the first one I will link my review to the second book, Behemoth, here. It's mostly free of spoilers, but if you really don't want to have much of an idea of what it's about, I recommend you only read the opening paragraph, which includes only my overall thoughts. But if you have read the second book, I will say that I liked Goliath even better. This book goes global. The war is in full swing from the get-go and our characters end up travelling to at least four different countries on various parts of the globe. I loved this aspect as well as the budding romance between Alek and Deryn.
So without further ado, here's what I thought of Goliath.
1. There are No Limits in War: As you know, WWI saw a huge shift in war-time combat with the introduction of airplanes, advanced weaponry, radio, and, most dastardly, poison gas bombs. I'm no WWI expert, but the history and literature that survives from this ear has always stuck with me. Oddly, I felt Westerfeld used this opportunity to parallel with WWII and the Cold War. The book blurb tells us about a mad-scientist's advanced weapon called Goliath, "weapon" being the key word. I won't tell you too many specifics about the weapon other than it reminded me of nuclear warfare, a kind of total destruction, one-button-kills-all type of weapon. When Alek first learns about this weapon, Volger replies, "There are no limits in war," and it was a harrowing moment for me as a reader. I loved how Westerfeld put the realities of war in this book in such a realistic yet accessible way for young teens. He is great on this subject in all books, if you ask me, but in this book I most appreciated it.
2. English Dominance: Another unavoidable subject was the role of English dominance and how it played out in the war. It's a brief mention, but it is done in a clear and concise way. Basically, without being too spoilery, Leviathan has to go to Japan and the main reason is to assert British dominance and superiority in battle, to show the war cannot be done without them, especially in a time of British colonization, control, and prejudice against anything, well, not-British. It was simple and effective. Kudos to Westerfeld for including so many telling and often undermined aspects of that war.
3. And of Course, the Blood: Westerfeld has done a god job with this subject in all the series, but I personally felt he used this book to most enunciate the bloodiness of this war. The only thing he completely leaves out is trench warfare, which might have been a good thing to include, but having read the entire series and liking the way it turned out, I can see how it just wouldn't have fit into his story line. But he did take advantage of various opportunities and even if it was all in Deryn or Alek's imagination, it still made me feel uncomfortable inside, and you know how I love books that make me feel uncomfortable...in a good way, that is. So again, kudos, Westerfeld. Kudos.
4. Two Brief Things: I'm not sure if I mentioned this before, but I wanted to say I love the dialogue/jargon in this series on the whole. It's well thought up and fits nicely and oftentimes humorously with the world and characters. Also, I adored the perspicacious loris! I need to make a blog post about all my favorite fictional creatures, because Bovril would definitely make the top three!
5. The Romance: I'm not spoiling anything when I mention that Alek does finally find out Dylan is a girl named Deryn; it says so in the book blurb. It was SO NICE  to finally get to this point. I wasn't disappointed in the way the initial argument between the two characters went down, because you know there's going to be difficult feelings between them on this subject. And you know, I do love a slow boil!
6. Deryn: Without a doubt Deryn is my favorite character in this story. As much as I adore and admire Alek, Deryn holds a special place in my heart. She is a great promoter of feminism, but she doesn't try to be. She is just herself, a flyer. She knows her passion, her ultimate goal in life, and she lets nothing stand in her way, not social standards or physical limitations or fear. She is so dear to me and though I am officially done with this series, I will cherish my time with her forever and look forward to our next encounter.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A #BookTubeAThon Update!!!

Hello all!!!
I am happy to announce I'm taking part in my FIRST EVER READ-A-THON!!!
WOO-HOO!!!
I've done not too shabby for a first timer thus far and wanted to pop in for a quick update.
If you're not aware. The book community on YouTube is doing a massive read-a-thon sponsored by The Book Depository and Ariel Bisset as well as various other awesome Booktubers. Being that this one was going to be so incredibly epic, I decided I definitely had to join in, especially since I've been wanting to do a read-a-thon now for a while. This blog post will simply be an update on my status since I don't make YouTube videos yet. However, I have really been wanting to incorporate video content on the blog so might make one soon. I'm really looking forward to it!!!
Without further ado, here is my first official Book-Tube-A-Thon update!!!

The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton
Finished this on day one. I will be doing a full review of it but I will say now that it was pretty much everything I wanted it to be and more! A story to get lost in with enchanting fairy tales, a haunting mystery in a Gothic ocean-cliff-side, English manor, in-depth characters, and more. The ending was a bit cheesy for me though, so it got a 4.5 stars on Goodreads. But I loved it and will definitely be checking out Morton's other books soon!

Finnikin of the Rock, Froi of the Exiles, Quintana of Charyn, by Melina Marchetta.
It's currently day three and I'm half-way through Finnikin. I am now loving it but wasn't swept away by the beginning. Thus did I not even get half-way through yesterday, so I'm a little behind now. However I have definitely reached the "loving-it" point and plan to zoom through the next two as soon as possible. I hear they get better as you go along. These will fulfill the challenges of reading an entire series as well as read a book with red on the cover, as Finnikin has a ruby in the sword and...ya know...rubies are red. So yay!

Children's version of The Arabian Nights, illustrated by Earle Goodenow
I plan to read this one front to back only if I finish the Lumatere Chronicles with a whole day of reading time left. This is because it will fulfill the challenge to read a book with pictures and also because I've always wanted to read these tails but never had the incentive to read my collection front to back until now. However...

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, by Michelle Tea, Illustrated by Jason Polan
If I only have a few hours left in the read-a-thon, I will pick up this one instead. This is a novel I've had my eye on and one I will want to read regardless of a read-a-thon pushing me to do so. It's about a run-down town called Chelsea in Massachusetts. There's much darkness in the town "from the girls who play the pass-out game...to the aimless teenage boys to the old women from far away who left everything behind." (Taken from book description.) However there's a girl named Sophie who might be their salvation and it might have something to do with the filthy, swearing mermaid who visits her dreams. It's an ambiguous description, I know, but the one on the book isn't much better. I'm just really excited to read and find out! It also has some pictures in it so it will fulfill the challenge if I end up picking it up.

So that's it. My update as of now. I'm hoping to make my wrap-up post a video wrap-up, but we shall see. I'm not very tech-savvy so it won't be anything fancy. Should be fun though! Are yo participating in the Book-Tube-A-Thon? Have you ever done a read-a-thon? And what do you think of them? Let me know and if you're participating and GOOD LUCK!!!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Latest Three: Belle Epoque, Wonder, Behemoth

The Latest Three is my reader's review blog series where I talk about the latest three books I've read and at least enjoyed to some degree. The policy is that if I feel the book wasn't totally pointless, which I usually do, then I discuss the things I liked most in hopes there will be something that intrigues you enough to pick it up yourself. But at the same time, I give honest commentary and discuss things I wasn't too fond of either so you can understand the best scope of the book in your endeavor to read lots of really great books! Obviously, these come in batches of three, but if you like my review style head over to Goodreads and follow me, Kateri Ransom. I post those as I read them.

Belle Epoque, Elizabeth Ross
5 STARS
As you can see, I absolutely loved this book. I was first turned onto it when I saw that In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters was a Morris book award finalist and this title was on the list with it. In fact, I think I liked this one even more than Blackbirds, and I adored that book to begin with! Belle Epoque is about an agency in Paris that caters to the wealthy in providing young women who act as a foil to their client's beauty. Deterring the attention from their own faces to their more affluent counterparts as repoussoires. Maude has run away to Paris and winds up working for this agency to make ends meat, but when her first assignment is to befriend a girl, Isabelle, who doesn't know her mother's hired her a repussoire, she is unsure what role to play. But then when a true friendship begins to emerge between them, she must truly decide where her loyalties lie. This book is all about the themes of beauty, what money can and can't buy, friendship, and feminism. I think this is a beautiful list and not one you find in YA books very often, especially where all of those things are addressed so well and so equally. It was one of those books where I didn't feel like I had much to take notes on, only because I was saying I loved this and this and this. It was also a very "my-kinda-book" book. Typically, if I'm not reading fantasy, urban fantasy, or historical fantasy (and in a way, this kind of fits the historical fantasy bill) then I prefer my books to have some heightened sense of reality (But of course, I read everything!). I dunno what "heightened sense of reality" alone might mean to you, but to me it means that in the story the world is completely like ours, but there's some twist that's come into play that is both very realistic and very extraordinary. Perhaps that doesn't make much sense, but I will say it means there's still no magical element occurring. Anyway, this captured that "genre" perfectly for me...and in Paris at the time of the construction of the Eiffel Tower! LOVE!
Here's what I thought about Belle Epoque!
1. The Characters: Maude: She is so honest and genuine. She is flawed yet strong-willed and determined. She is duped by her flaws and rises above them. She sees others' flaws and takes them for what they are -- a part of a messed-up, beautiful world -- and applies them to her own personal growth. She learns to apologize for her wrong doings. She hits rock-bottom and brings herself up again. I don't think I'm spoiling anything here, because it's the journey Ross takes you on that really matters. Isabelle: A beautiful secondary character. She is developed well throughout the book. Brainy, stubborn, ambitious, and a trustworthy friend. I felt so much for her relationship with Maude, something I wish would happen more in YA. Marie-Josee: Feisty, witty, loyal, and so, so kind. She grows on you like the sticky, warm glue from a hot glue gun. Paul: There's nothing to dislike in this charming, genuine slow-build of a relationship between Maude and Paul. Not my favorite couple by any means, but it just lends itself so well to the story the way Ross wrote it, and I applaud her for that.
2. Every Scene Counts: I think Ross is a great writer and the fact that this book has a slower moving plot, yet kept me hooked all throughout each scene is a testament to that. There are no crazy twists or turns in this book, but rather nudges, and Ross does each and every one in a way that is heartfelt and filled with intrigue. Not every scene is extraordinary, but every scene has something to give.
3. Background Scenery: The story begins right as Maude is being hired at the Durandeau agency as a repussoire. What I like was that Ross goes back in time here and there to give better explanation of the events that made Maude run away. She gave better character profiles to her parents, each whose story adds nicely to Maude. Many YA books would gloss over this part of the story, but I think it is very important and I quite enjoyed it. 
4. Discussion of Class: The theme of what money can and can't buy is explored through this novel not only in the Durandeau agency but in the discussion of class. The repussoires are constantly living a double life, one as an ugly society outcast and one as a temporary member of the class for which they must act as repellents to their wealthier counterparts. But still, it means prettier, finer dresses, decadent parties, and rubbing elbows with the rich elite. Diving in and out of these two worlds, especially in Maude's case due to her high profile employer, Countess Dubern, was so fascinating and created more empathy towards the inner-plight of the characters. 
5. The Eiffel Tower: This novel takes place during the building of the Eiffel Tower. In the author's note at the end, Ross talks about why she thinks it lends itself so well to the story. In fact, I sort of recommend reading that part first. 
6. The Ending: All I will say is that I loved the ending. It definitely delivered, if a little on the neater, pretty bow-tie side, but beautiful nonetheless. And it gives the title a slightly new meaning.

Wonder, R. J. Palacio
5 STARS
For this Latest Three, I read a MG!
I have had my eye on this one for a good while, especially with all the hype around it. This book is about a boy named Auggie who is completely normal. Oh! Except for that one thing about having a deformed face. I will not reveal too much about plot except that it's about Auggie's struggles while attending school for the first time as a 5th grader. But that's not all folks, this book also centers around other side characters by switching pov's, something I want to mention because I'm listing it as a reason why you should read this book.
Without further ado, here's what I thought about Wonder.
1. Deformities: I loved how Auggie's deformities were revealed to us. It is clarified right off the bat that there's something not right with the way Auggie looks, but as you read, the picture starts to come together, and I loved that! Not just as a reader but as a writer. When you study writing in first person, you always have the conversation about how to best relate to your reader what your MC looks like, and this book was an exemplary example of that rule. But as a reader, it allowed me to delve deep into the core of Auggie's character and approach his deformities with just the right mindset. Well done, Palacio, well done. 
2. About Auggie: My favorite thing about Auggie was how down-to-earth he was. There was no pretentiousness in his character. I feel that's a common approach when it comes to books like these, but Auggie was such a normal, flawed, quirky, nerdy, kind little boy, endearing and so realistic. 
3. About Those POV's: I have to admit, I wasn't hooked on this one until a bit into the book where we started getting more pov's. I really like Auggie and his story to begin with, but what it was was that the book switched to Auggie's sister, Olivia's, perspective and I found myself relating to her so strongly it hurt. And I think that's what Palacio was trying to do overall, put something in this book for everyone. Of course, I like all the other's, and Auggie's story was the one to make me cry tears of joy in the end. I'll just go on a tangent and say it now, what a wonderful ending!!! 
4. Bullying: The theme of bullying is a heavy one in this book, and it relates to ALL of the characters' stories. Seeing it in such a diversified and complex light was critical to this book's theme, and a big reason why I loved it so much. 
5. Transcends the Ages: This is definitely a book that transcends the ages: Here's why. 1) Kids of this age group will have so many things they can directly relate to. 2) Teens and older teens will remember all of the emotions captured in this book with painful remembrance. Yet somehow, at the same time, it feels so good to know you are done with that time of your life and have survived it. Plus it makes you analyze all the past bull-shit you went through, which can be an empowering thing, truly. 3) Adults are portrayed well in this book and I think it would be interesting for adults/parents to see the characters Palacio has chosen and how he has portrayed them. Plus it's a good reminder of how complex and difficult young adult life is at all levels. 
6. Makes Me Think: I love it when books make me think and then subsequently catch me by surprise at my own thoughts. In this book I realized I saw Auggie's skin as being burned (likely because Auggie tells us that he has been commonly thought of as being deformed due to getting stuck in a fire). But the thing was, I knew that wasn't true from the start, so why did I see him that way? He is intensely deformed in every feature of his face, but that doesn't mean the physical nature of his skin is grotesque. I don't exactly know what this realization said of me, but I think it's something to do with seeing an unfamiliar thing or hearing an unfamiliar concept and automatically associating it with something undesirable or inferior or even gross or pitiable. When it's actually just different.
Hmm, what do you think?

Behemoth, Scott Westerfield (Leviathan series #2)
4 STARS
I will now be starting a thing with The Latest Three wherein the last of the Three books will consist of a stand-alone or a series I either want to start or finish, in alternating order. That's why I decided to pick up the second book in the Leviathan series, Behemoth. In general, this book really upped the ante from the first one. Between an exotic setting and rising tension with the romance, I loved this book even more than the last. The illustrations by Keith Thompson were just as beautiful and beneficial to the story as they were in the first installment. Before I get started with my review I want to mention that my series reviews will most likely be spoilery to those who haven't read the first or previous books and are aimed at getting those who haven't gotten around to picking up the next one, or just aren't sure if they want to continue with the series, more incentive to definitely go ahead and do so.
Without further ado, here's what I thought of Behemoth.
 1. The Romance: I mentioned there is a budding romance, but I want to clarify that it's not what you might expect. I don't think I'm being too spoilery when I say Alek does not find out much about Deryn's sex, but that doesn't mean there's not some tension there. Well, at least when you're reading Deryn's perspective, that is. But I gotta say, I'm really excited for the third one for that particular reason! 
2. About Deryn: For the most part, Deryn has been the comedic, more light-hearted character of the two, but in this book she does get a little darker. Her struggles are magnified, both with being in the air force during war (this book does get a little bloodier as well, which I liked) and with secretly being a girl. There is also more of her past which is revealed, specifically pertaining to her father, and it was kinda nice to get this deeper perspective on her character. 
3. It's Called Behemoth, but it Should Really be Called Constantinople: Unlike how the ship the Leviathan played a huge role in the book Leviathan, Behemoth is more of a whisper in the wind in this one. In the mean time, what really grabs your attention is the new setting of Constantinople, or Istanbul as the Lady Boffin would say it. I LOVED Westerfeld's re-imagining of the city. Exotic, spicy, dusty, crowded and teeming with mechaniks dreamed up of culture and symbolism. It swept me away, the setting. And when a book can really do that, it's not one I'll soon forget.
4. Lillit: I won't say much about her, but there is a new character introduced in this book. I absolutely adored her and would love to talk about your thoughts on that final scene with Deryn if you've read it or end up doing so. But through email or something else: no spoilers in the comments please.
5. The Alliance: I also won't say much on this because I don't want to spoil, but I loved how at one point there were characters from all sides of the war working together. Alliance and trust is really something this book is about and the way Westerfeld interwove the characters' stories lent itself beautifully to that aspect of the story.


Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Latest Three: Harry Potter Re-read Wonderfulness Part 5

The Latest Three is my reader's review blog series where I talk about the latest three books I've read and at least enjoyed to some degree. The policy is that if I feel the book wasn't totally pointless, which I usually do, then I discuss the things I liked most in hopes there will be something that intrigues you enough to pick it up yourself. But at the same time, I give honest commentary and discuss things I wasn't too fond of either so you can understand the best scope of the book in your endeavor to read lots of really great books! Obviously, these come in batches of three, but if you like my review style head over to Goodreads and follow me, Kateri Ransom. I post those as I read them.

(In regards to the "Harry Potter Re-read Wonderfulness" part of the blog post title, if you missed one of my previous posts, wherein there was Part 1 of this reader review series, the update is that I'll be re-reading and reviewing the entire HP series front to back, but reading a different YA/MG/Adult book in between, like I usually do. Because, like many of us bookish fiends, my TBR pile is too big to ignore for too long. You understand, I'm sure.)


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J. K. Rowling
5 STARS
I've always said this book was one of my favorites, and I was more than thrilled, upon this re-reading since the very first time I read it, that the experience was only a reminder of that original one. Perhaps when I first read it, not knowing where exactly it was going and trying to make sense of the horcruxes/hallows/constant inter-changing and shifting of loyalty between the character's wands, I felt it did drag some here and there. But this time through, I found it to be such a thrill ride! One thing after another. Action-packed. And not quite Rowling's typical writing style. There's quite a bit I have to say about this one, so I'll try to keep it simple.
Also, please only read on if you have already read the books or seen the movie. ;)
1. The Memorials: In chapter 15, I was reminded of the two memorial bits to Harry's parents that take place in Godric's Hollow, and subsequently bummed they didn't include them in the movie. 
2. Bathilda Bagshot: Chapter 16 is SO MUCH SCARIER when you know what's going to happen. Or at least, it was for me. 
3. Ron's Revenge: Re-familiarizing myself with the scene where Ron kills the horcrux, which you probably know involved some nudity in the movie, made me do some thinking. I'm not going to get too into this one, but I definitely think changing it the way they did affected how those who've only seen the movies see Ron, and not in such a good way. Or at least, it featured him in a less complex/empathetic light than the books did. 
4. Ariana and Those Muggles: I found it interesting when Rowling took the opportunity to develop the theme of prejudice and hate crimes with the character Ariana. I'm referring to her back-story, concerning what happened with the group of Muggle boys. 
5. Darn Those Slytherins: I wish at least 1-2 Slytherins had chosen to stay and fight. I didn't quite like seeing the "evil" group portrayed as totally and determinedly evil. Think of how interesting it would have been if even one of them had stayed. 
6. Poor Harry: I was surprised to discover how many things had been taken away from Harry in the movie, like Luna having the answer as to finding the lost diadem and certain things he says to Voldemort in the end. 
7. Professor Badass-McGonagall: There was one thing I did like better in the movie. The way McGonagall furiously and ferociously takes down Snape in front of the entire school in the movie was just bad-ass. Considering I've watched the movie more times than I've read the book, it just conditioned me to expect no less amount of bad-ass-ness. Though in the book, she is plenty bad-ass for the lot of them.

My Name is Mina, David Almond
5 STARS
This batch of Latest Three, I read a MG!
Let me just start this book commentary by saying what a WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL book this is! The book cover as well as the -- very vague -- blurb on the back cover describe Mina as a lover of the night, seemingly giving the book description a lot of emphasis on that one particular thing. However, though there are several wonderful scenes in which Mina explores the wonder and mystery of the night through her new journal, I sort of feel this book should say My Name is Mina and I love sitting in my big tree, watching birds and writing poems and other ridiculous things...or something to that extent. Simply because I felt the novel centered more around her experience in that tree writing those fantastical musings and stories of hers. This book is told from the perspective and many "persons" (as in, first and third person narrative) of Mina McKee, a misfit and a middle-schooler. Almond does a beautiful job of getting into this unusual girl's head and pulling out every whimsical, philosophical, quirky, and endearing aspect of it. Mina is the kind of little girl I would have been drawn to as a kid, as I was drawn to my own "Mina-type" character in real life. Someone who stands out and stands for what it is they, not necessarily believe in, but just know. As I believe it is with all kids that age. I wanted to take Mina in my arms and hug her and love her and call her my little Sweetie Face. Anyway. Enough of this rambling. Here is what I thought of My Name is Mina.
1. OK. So. Literary Fiction: I know this can be a touchy way to classify a book amongst us intelligent YA bloggers, but just going off the definition alone that "literary fiction" is character based fiction,* I'd definitely put this book more under that description. There is very little plot to the book, but don't fear. This book IS NOT BORING. It is the opposite of boring, but only because of Mina's character, which is exactly the way good "literary" (character based) fiction should be, if you ask me. For a young reader, it's a great segue into a different realm of literature they very likely haven't yet experienced. 
2. The Religion Thing: There is some discussion about God in this book, but also about other religions as well. Even just the "after-world" or the "underworld" or the "any-world," Mina goes there...in her head of course, but really, what difference does that make? It was refreshing to see this subject approached in such a comprehensive, thoughtful, and respectful way. 
3. It's a Memoir (Sort of): The book primarily consists of Mina writing stories about herself in the journal, and when she does so, she often uses first person or third person past tense, because she's cool like that. The result is surprisingly introspective, and I absolutely loved it! 
4. Quick (But in My Opinion, Quite Accurate) Comparison:  If Luna Lovegood were a MG book, she would be this one.

I will leave you with a list of words I believe capture the essence of this novel: nonsensical, William Blake, paradox, loss, mythology, birds, owls, trees, poetry, the Underworld, archaeopteryx, peeing, dreams, friends, lonely, Extraordinary Activity, A Single Sentence, glibbertysnark.
Brave.
Goodreads


Crown of Midnight, Sarah J. Maas
4.5 STARS
It bummed me out a little bit at how long it took me to get to reading this book, but boy was I glad I did! First of all, I love Sarah Maas's writing. It reminds me of those paintings where the paint is so thick it forms on the canvas like little hills and clumps of vibrant color; it's got texture and movement. That's Sarah's writing. And her scene! I love how she just squeezes the life out of each one, and takes the time to revel in a moment, be it beautiful, visceral, or just plain freaky. This book, like the last one, started out slow, but it certainly does pick up. Here are my thoughts about Crown of Midnight.
(This is primarily for those who've read the first book. It's not too spoilery, but the concept here is that I'm trying to get those who weren't sure about the first book to pick up the second. Or those who, like me, are just taking too dang long!)
1. Escape from Endovier: If you're wondering about the time she tried to escape from Endovier, then you'll be excited to know you get a bigger bite out of that one in this book. 
2. Now that Dorian's Out of the Picture: Just kidding! He's not really out of the picture, but it was obvious at the end of the last one that Chaol will be coming into the romantic spotlight. However, if you're afraid Dorian won't play an interesting role in this book, don't fear. His character arc gets a major upgrade! 
3. More Adult Feel: One other thing I definitely love about Maas is that she does not undermine her teenage audience. There are darker, more "adult" -- whatever -- elements here, and she handles them admirably. 
4. About Celaena: It's hard to talk about this one without being too spoilery, but let's just say if Dorian gets an upgrade Celaena gets turned into f*ckin Optimus Prime, but that more refers to what happens at the end. Even then though, the brutal fact of this girl's life -- that she's an assassin and has been COMMITTING MURDER for a good chunk of her young existence really comes around and is developed poignantly throughout the book. I like the fact that Maas didn't just let a thing like that linger on without there being some sort of aftermath. The notion of the soul and what murder does to it is definitely a theme explored in this one, and not just through Celaena. 
5. "Misunderstanding" in YA Romance: As I've said, the book's pace picks up as it goes along, and after that last half, things go haywire. Let's just say that this book takes the typical "misunderstanding" between lovers in YA romance to a whole new level...like, a whole new world actually.
;)

*That particular definition is from the couple college courses I've taken on the subject. So I'm just gonna stick by it. But as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it as well.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Lost Books

(Photo credit: Pinterest)

Let's play detective.
Or pretend we're playing detective...
which might sort of be the same thing.

So in order to bring you this blog post, I feel compelled to give you a brief run down of a bit of my reading past:
I wasn't much of a reader until I got onto the Harry Potter bandwagon, admittedly quite late as the only books I had to wait to come out for were the 6th and 7th ones. Before then, I can recall a few crucial points.

1. Due to a horrid reading program in second grade and a grumpy old-man teacher, my reading level dropped considerably. It was feared I wouldn't progress enough in time to advance in school. As I had been read to by my parents for years, had a vivid imagination, and had been doing well up until then, my parents were shocked.

2. I'm guessing somewhere around 3rd grade, I was dealing what I'm pretty sure, in hindsight, was some sort of depression and grew and interest in stories. There was the picture book I wanted to write, featuring a Penguin who wanted to fly, and so built his own airplane. There was the chapter book set in the future about a girl who won a school contest to go to the moon, only to discover aliens on the other side guarding buried moon-stone treasure. I think there might have also been one inspired by a fairy Christmas tree ornament I had, but I don't really remember it. But, moral of the story, at third grade I was developing an interest in story and story-telling.

3. I began to enjoy reading again somewhere in 6th grade. I became a fiend for the Scholastic book orders and, believe me, my mom was over the moon about it. She was/is such a book worm and was really beginning to wonder that I wasn't going to go down the same path as her. This is where the reason for my blog title comes in.

As far as book titles go, I remember very few of them when it comes to what I read in my elementary and junior high school days. There's Hatchet. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 4th. None in 5th cause that teacher didn't read to us. None in 6th cause that teacher didn't read to us either. One in 7th of which I don't remember the title but was about, I believe, a midwife's apprentice living in the 1500's, and The Giver by Lois Lowry, Fever by Laurie Halse Anderson, and Down River by Will Hobbs (Great Book!) in 8th.
Other than that, there were what I like to call the "Lost Books." They were books I read on my own time, some of the first I not only finished in a timely fashion, but became emotionally invested in, enough so that they stayed with me even until today. The titles I've long forgotten. Additionally, they were all from school or classroom libraries, so are likely old and hard to come by. But like I said, I loved them and I'd love to re-read them if anyone happens to think they might know of them and their respective title. And, of course, if you did read them, I would love to know what you thought of them.
Unfortunately, I don't have much to go by, but this is what I got.

1. Lost Book number one was my first introduction to urban fantasy after The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge and before I got big into Harry Potter. It was a book about a boy who somehow winds up on an adventure with a girl who, I believe, is from the past. She has some nature inspired name like Thicket or Thorn and bright eyes. The boy is tasked with carrying magical stones that have the power to save the world against "The Bad Guy," of which I remember no more than that he's bad and he's a guy. The girl, I think maybe, comes and goes and her father is also a part of the story. The main character's brother also comes into the story.
There's also a lot of rain.

2. Lost Book number two was a fun book about a girl living in San Francisco, dealing with a mystery behind the ghost of a girl who died in the infamous 1906 earthquake. That's basically all I got.

3. Lost Book number three was a whimsy little book about a girl, whose name I believe was Sophie, who lived with a silly, oddball family of artists and spunky, imaginative kids. There's a lot of meaning behind color and what colors stand for. If the main character's name is not Sophie, it's something which also isn't color, because I remember her talking about the rest of her siblings having color names when she didn't. There was also something really important about a small angel statue and a trip across the globe to find it, to Italy or some Mediterranean country.
Also, it was possibly the first book to ever make me laugh out loud.

That's it.
Just three little, presumably obscure books that, I'm sure, had a remarkable impact on my reading journey as a blossoming young girl. Books held such a discovery aspect for me back then. Not just in turning the page and watching the story unfold, but in the discovery of what books could do for me. Right around sixth grade something just clicked, and I realized that a book world was a good world. There was meaning and intrigue and joy in them. Also, the school library became a place of refuge. I wasn't in there all the time, but those days where all my friends were home sick or the rain and cold outside forced me to seek the indoors, I found myself drifting through the isles of colorful spines of hundreds of books, ogling at the endless possibility of fantasy and mystery and adventure. Taking my sweet time to peruse the titles and descriptions.
Ah, I could go on infinitely. But I'll stop here. And perhaps it'll end up that no one will be able to assist me in my quest. Perhaps those books will always have to live in just my head alone. But the fact they're there is what really matters to me.
Because these books, they live.

And do you have any Lost Books you'd like to one day be reunited with? I won't guarantee that I can help you, but I'd love to hear about them and what they did for you as a young reader. Who knows, they could crop up in some library or used book store some day.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Week in Instagram!

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @
Caffeinated Book Reviewer.


I thought I'd drop in on this weekly post series. Seems like fun.
Here is a few glimpses into my past week through Instagram.
I had a pretty colorful week!

Our magnificent indie bookstore, Chaucer's in Santa Barbara, had one of their bi-annual book sales. 20% off!!! I spent like $80 on books which I think is a record for me. But two (City of Indra and The Secret Hum of a Daisy) were for my little sis's birthday, though I'm sure I'll end up borrowing them eventually. Now I just have to go on a hearty book-buying-diet until the next big sale, which is Halloween weekend.

All dressed up for my boyfriend's big show at SoHo. He was in a jazz-pop band and played electric bass. As you can see in the next picture. The crowd loved it! As did I. Also, his mom was my date. Which was mostly funny because it was also our one year anniversary that day. The Musician and I got dinner together though afterward, which was a nice little romantic cap to the day. We're currently planning a trip to Yosemite, which I'm most excited about because he's never been!

Brought down the house!

This was technically last week, but I went to my first summer solstice parade. It was the full extent of my solstice partying, but it was pretty fun! The most colorful summery parade/community event I've ever experienced. And burgers afterwards!

What did you do with your week?