Half-Year Recap- Favorites So Far!

June 13, 2012 at 8:07 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , , , , )

So we’re about halfway done with 2012 and there have been SO MANY AMAZING BOOKS come out already this year, with so many more good ones to come. I was looking over my Goodreads list (oh hai! I’m on Goodreads- you can friend me, if you like!) and some of them just stick out so much in my mind, and I thought I’d share with you my list of Favorites So Far.

Code Name Verity

Code Name Verity, Code Name Verity, Code Name Verity

If you have not read this book yet, it is a problem. Remedy it. It’s funny and shattering and gorgeous and one of the most spectacular examples of distinctive voice, flawlessly researched, and utterly absorbing. This is a book that, once you open it, you CANNOT put down. This is one of those books that everyone needs to read. Elizabeth Wein is one of my new idols.

And speaking of shattering, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. I haven’t reviewed this book for the simple reason that even now, five full months after reading it, I still can’t speak about it coherently. It’s rich and funny and tragic and glorious, heart-breaking and healing and one of the most beautifully, bizarrely hopeful books I’ve ever read. I laughed and cried in the same gulping breaths and it is SO HARD to tell people what this book is about. This is a book that doesn’t only change your life, it redefines it. If you read only one book this year (gah, what a terrifying thought!) make it this one.

Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probablity of Love at First Sight was a book that blew me away. It was completely out of my comfort zone in so many ways. It’s a contemp romance- not really my thing- and a very significant foundation of this story is parental divorce and remarriage- also not really my thing- and the combination of tense and perspective weirded me out the entire time. And I LOVED it. The characters were raw and real and wonderful, and it’s amazing how much can happen in twenty-four hours. It’s sweet and sad and silly and thought-provoking and doesn’t try to give everything easy answers. This was the book I was curious about but never expected to like, and to an extent that’s true. I didn’t like it- I loved it.

Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone was simply magical (and send congratulations her way- she just debuted at #8 on the NYT Bestsellers List!). It was rich and dark and atmospheric and a fantastic example of how strong you can make a setting without drowning in it. The world of the Grishas stepped outside of playing Russian and became something extraordinary, where the language was just alien enough that it melded with the familiar social heirarchies and human dramas that it became something both comfortable and exciting. It built just enough off of what we could recognize that it didn’t have to rely solely on those pieces anymore. It creates so many wonderful mysteries and opens up this huge world within a small space. This was not one to put down. In fact, I might have handed it to one of my co-workers and told her to buy it without actually telling her anything about it.

Want to laugh yourself into abdominal cramps? Then check out Christopher Healy’s The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, a look at what happens after the Happily Ever After for four princes who can’t quite manage to make the bards care about them. After all, the princesses are so much more interesting, and who wants to try to remember a prince’s name? Just call him Charming and be done with it. This book is a roaring adventure- and at least half of that roaring is laughter- full of dragons and giants and clever little sisters and boorish brothers and so much adventure. Do NOT read this while drinking or eating, or if you have liquids near your computer. Read it aloud, ogle the illustrations, and just enjoy this wonderful, fun-loving frolick.

Anyone who knows me knows I love faeries and faerie tales and faerie telling retellings. LOVE them. And Alethea Kontis’ Enchanted was everything I could have asked for. The sly references (and the sheer number of them!) to various stories was totally made of win, and the characters were unique and vibrant and richly flawed. It’s a world that, for all its magic and mystery, never quite steps apart from our own. It’s like walking down the street of your own town and suddenly discovering a wisp of wonder. It’s gorgeously written and it was physically painful to put down, with everything I love not just in a fairy tale but in a story.

What are some of your favorites so far of 2012?

Until next time~

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Book Review: Enchanted, by Alethea Kontis

April 25, 2012 at 9:38 pm (Book Reviews) (, , , , , )

Words have power, be they names or stories, and no one knows this better than Sunday Woodcutter, seventh daughter of a seventh daughter. But what starts as an unlikely friendship with a frog becomes a great deal more when curses cross and stories twist, and not only Sunday but all her sisters will have great destinies to fulfill to save their kingdom from an evil without a name.

So I have this thing for fairy tales. Liiiiike really have a thing for fairy tales. So I saw the cover and thought oh, cool, Princess and the Frog, that chould be fun.

This book blew me away. It is so much more than a single fairy tale, so much more than any fairy tales, and yet somehow it’s everything that every fairy tale could ever be. Seriously, I could gush for days and still not be able to relate how much I loved this book. I devoured it, and having to clock back in for work was painful. I wanted to blow off everything so I could keep reading.

Sunday is an amazing character, joyful and brooding and open and strong. She has a destiny given her by her name but also a burning desire to be more than that, to make a life outside of a name and a fate. She’s a storyteller, but she’s one that knows the power of words, so she’s cautious with them. For all that, there’s an unfettered merriment and love in her, love for all her family members (no matter how crotchety). Everything she feels, she feels intensely, with no filter between who she is and who she seems to be. She’s refreshing, and while she’s not someone who races out to save the day, neither does she stand around and wait to be rescued.

I absolutely fell in love with our frog prince. He starts out as someone with the potential to have great strength- if he can find it. He’s one of those rare people who has the chance to start completely over, but that redemption has a price he may not be able to pay. More to the point, he may have to sacrifice that redemption for something far greater. Determined to be a man worthy of Sunday’s love, despite the history between their families, he has to acquire a lifetime of memories and skills in just a few days’ time. There’s so much he doesn’t know, some he may never know. He doesn’t have to seek adventure because it’s waiting for him right at home.

Most of this cast is phenomonal. In a family of extraordinary people, extraordinary starts to feel rather normal, so they accept things as commonplace that would otherwise be mind-boggling. Why wouldn’t Sunday fall in love with a frog? After all, eldest son Jack Jr was a dog for a time, and brother Trix is a changeling. Each character has a different destiny but each twines through the others. They’re not a loose collection of people in a house; they’re a family. Each is distinct and well-drawn, and like sister Wednesday’s poetry, sometimes the truths lie more in the shadows and the spaces between.

And the fairy tales. Oh, the fairy tales. This isn’t a single fairy tale, but rather a tapestry that weaves through so many. Just a sampling of the stories included: Princess and the Frog, Twelve Dancing Princesses, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, and Jack and the Beanstalk. But there are so many others, sometimes pillars of the story and sometimes fleeting glimpses that make us smile even as we’re too absorbed in the book to look away.

This book is as enchanting as the title suggests. Beautifully paced, gorgeously painted, this book is simply not to be missed. Enchanted, by Alethea Kontis, out 8 May 2012.

Until next time~

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