The Bookshelf Tag

16 Aug

I was tagged by Sarah at Paper, Pen, and No Plan. The rules of the bookshelf tag are quite simple: answer the following questions about books on your bookshelf and then tag five bloggers. You can answer the questions any way you, whether it’s on your blog, in a video, or a combination of the two. Then remember to let whoever tagged you know when your post is up so that they can read it. :)

Now, without further ado, the book tag!

1. Is there a book that you really want to read but haven’t because you know that it’ll make you cry?
Nope! I don’t buy books in the “sob story” aisle. There are books that I’ve read that have made me cry, but I certainly don’t know that they’re going to do that before I read them. With the possible exception of Deathly Hallows, but hey, I was never going to delay reading that!

2. Pick one book that helped introduce you to a new genre.
I’ll go with Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Stevermer. It’s historical fantasy, which was a great transition into historical fiction. I’d read it before, but after reading Sorcery and Cecelia I now seek it out. I’ve been loving historical fiction lately.

3. Find a book that you want to reread.
I’ve been meaning to reread the Ascendance trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen–The False Prince, The Runaway King, and the Shadow Throne, the last of which I haven’t actually read yet. It’s been so long since I read the first one that I wanted to reread the first two before reading the last. It’s going to be my first reading priority after Europe.

4. Is there a book series you read but wish that you hadn’t?
Nope! I have no qualms with not finishing a book I’ve started if I don’t like it, and I certainly won’t go on to read a whole series if I don’t like it. There are some series that don’t finish as strongly as they began, but if I finished a series I can’t say I’d have any strong regrets about doing so.

5. If your house was burning down and all of your family and pets were safe, which book would you go back inside to save?
Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith. I adore this book and have for a long time! It’s one of the first books I read that really got me into the “sword and sorcery” fantasy genre with politics and character development and a rich world–I mean, what’s not to like?

6. Is there one book on your bookshelf that brings back fond memories?
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Which is interesting because POA is actually my favorite. But by the time I started reading GOF, I was more or less in control of my own bedtime. I remember staying up late at night at just ten years old to finish one more chapter. I reread this series (then just the first four books) over and over again in those days and knew the books cover to cover. I always stopped reading when I reached the Flesh, Blood, and Bone chapter, because it was too scary to read in the dark alone.

7. Find a book that has inspired you the most.
Anything by Tamora Pierce. That woman is amazing.

8. Do you have any autographed books?
Yes! Both Trickster books by Tamora Pierce, which I got signed when I met her in 2004, plus a Will of the Empress and a few Terriers that I received as gifts from my coworkers at the bookstore. And Eragon by Christopher Paolini, signed when I met him in 2004 as well.

9. Find the book that you have owned the longest.
Probably some of my picture books, honestly. I’ll go with I Know I’m a Witch or Possum Come A Knockin’.

10. Is there a book by an author that you never imagined you would read or enjoy?
I just don’t buy books that I don’t think I’d read or enjoy. I might take a chance on one from the library but I don’t buy books I think I wouldn’t like. Granted, I’ve bought a few I think I’d like that I don’t end up liking… but that’s a different answer for a different question.

 

I’m horrible at tags. I’m just going to tag anyone who’s reading this! Feel free to do your own bookshelf tag–I’d love to see what’s on your bookshelf!

Book Review: The Caller by Juliet Marillier (Shadowfell Trilogy, #3)

16 Aug

TheCallerClick to see my review of Shadowfell (#1) and Raven Flight (#2).

In this exciting conclusion to the Shadowfell Trilogy, Neryn must venture far in search of the remaining Guardians who can teach her what she needs to know before the rebellion at midsummer. But before she can learn what she needs to know, King Keldec throws a wrench in the rebels’ plan by introducing a Caller of his own, a Caller who craves power and raises up an army of Good Folk for Keldec’s sinister purposes. To make matters worse, Flint is in trouble, and Neryn must make an important decision: risk everything for the cause, or save Flint and live in an Alban that is quickly deteriorating?

All in all, this was a great conclusion to a wonderful series by a talented author. There isn’t a lot I can say that hasn’t already been said in the previous two reviews: the characters were well-drawn, the plot well laid out, and the setting was beautifully described.

My only complaint is that the ending felt rushed, but then, that’s something I say about a lot of final books in a series–and perhaps it’s just because I want the story to continue. But the much-anticipated battle didn’t seem to last quite long enough to be satisfying. I wanted more problems to arise, maybe a momentary lapse in Neryn’s abilities to keep the other Caller from turning the Good Folk.

Of course, in the grand scheme of things it didn’t matter. I liked that Neryn was given time away from Tali and the others to make her own choices and decisions–I feel like she came into her own in a big way, and it made the book all that more enjoyable.

I can’t wait to see what Marillier writes next!

Book Review: Son of the Shadows by Juliet Marillier (Sevenwaters #2)

31 Jul

SonoftheShadowsLiadan, daughter of Sorcha, is the child who no one saw coming and the child who has the power to change everything.

The fey folk have been waiting for the child of the prophecy: the one who is of neither Britain nor Erin, but of both, and bears the sign of the raven. It was thought that one of Sorcha and Red’s children would be the child of the prophecy, but so far they have been nothing but disappointing: Niamh has been corrupted, Sean is too youthful and foolhardy, and Liadan has fallen in love with a man that would have been better left in the shadows.

The old evil is awakening, and Sevenwaters is at its most vulnerable. Still, there is a ray of hope that everything might go to plan after all… but for that to happen, Liadan must make a heart-wrenching choice.

I’ve been on a Juliet Marillier kick lately–I mean, she’s a fantastic writer that I should have been introduced to long before this!–but I have to say, this book was probably my least favorite of all of those I’ve read so far. I certainly liked the first book in this series better. Yeah, some of it has to do with being much more interested in YA books than adult, but I think my issues ran deeper than that. Which makes it all the more surprising that all of my friends who read it rated it a 5!

First, Liadan was basically Sorcha, but a little less likable. I saw very few differences between the two. She felt like a repeat character, a repeat narrator. She was also just a little too perfect and predictable in some ways: she only wanted to stay at Sevenwaters and never marry and grow old and tend to people who are sick. But then she meets a guy, and she now will do anything in her power to fix him. I mean, I’m not saying these are necessarily bad qualities, but she never really seemed to lose hope, which meant that there wasn’t that same sense of “how in the world is she going to accomplish this” like there was with Sorcha in book one.

While the descriptions and what have you are the same great writing that features in all Juliet Marillier books, the plot left much to be desired. I felt like it just plodded on and on, and as I already mentioned, it simply didn’t have the anticipation and build-up that book one did. I didn’t feel as compelled to turn the page. Plus, I’d already figured out who Bran was early on.

I’m not saying this book is completely without merit. It does further some plot points started in book one, and I imagine it provides an important stepping stone to book three (which, according to some reviews I’ve read, is much better!). I was just disappointed after reading so many fantastic Juliet Marillier books–this one just fell a little flat for me.

Book Review: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier (The Sevenwaters Trilogy #1)

12 Jul

Daughter of the ForestNote: This book contains more adult content than most books I review. I won’t mention all of the details in this review, but would recommend the book for those who are 18+.

Sorcha of Sevenwaters is the youngest of seven, and the only girl. She was meant to be the seventh son of a seventh son, destined for greatness, but instead her mother died shortly after she was born and her father threw himself into his campaigns against the invading Britons. Sorcha was allowed to run wild with her brothers, learning to respect the fey folk living in the woods around her home. That is, until her father marries the Lady Oonagh, who has her own plans for Sevenwaters. After Oonagh casts an evil spell, Sorcha is set on a path to save her brothers. But the path is long and difficult, and Sorcha grows tired of being strong enough to see it through…

This story is the retelling of the “Swans” legend you might know from your childhood fairytales. The plot is well fleshed out, filled with twists and turns that leave you wondering if Sorcha ever will finish the tasks set her by the fey folk. It’s a lengthy read, but I couldn’t stop turning pages.

I loved Sorcha–her determination, her loyalty, and her caring nature made her into a well-rounded character. But she wasn’t all bravado, either–she had her moments where she wanted to give up, but she always went back to her tasks. All of her brothers were different and well-rounded, each with his own purpose. The other characters, too, were enjoyable to read about.

The romance didn’t sit entirely well with me (let’s face it–I’m tough to please when it comes to literary romances!). I mean, the primary romance was fine enough. The secondary romance hinted at the beginning and thrown in again at the end wasn’t fleshed out quite enough for me to feel like it was anything other than an unnecessary complication.

I said before that this book has more adult content in it than most books I review. It’s also an adult book–not something in the YA section–which I don’t usually read. I just vastly prefer young adult books, which tend to be a bit more straightforward than adult books. Don’t get me wrong, you can still have all the twists and turns in YA that you can in adult, but YA has never seemed bogged down to me. Adult books tend to, which is why if I start them I rarely finish them.

I nearly gave up on this book about 50 pages in, when it started hopping from one seemingly unnecessary background story to the next. I’m so glad I stuck with it (and yes, those seemingly unnecessary background stories did become somewhat necessary!). This was a fantastic read, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in the series.

Book Review: A Drowned Maiden’s Hair by Laura Amy Schlitz

11 Jun

ImageMaud Mary Flynn is an orphan. She’s also a liar. She hates Barbary Asylum where she doesn’t get to wash enough, the headmistress is strict, and the girls are annoying. So when Hyacinth Hawthorne turns up looking for a child, Maud will do anything–even be polite and run up the back stairs in her stocking feet every time there’s a caller. Maud is a “secret child” and no one must know about her. But when Maud learns exactly what she’s a secret for, even her lying skills might not carry her through…

I couldn’t put this book down. I knew I’d probably like it, having liked another of the author’s books and reading a review of this book by my friend at Nine Pages. This was the sort of book whose story captivated me and I regretted every time I had to put the book down.

The characters were brilliant. Maud is feisty and lovable. Her growth and development through the book was quite well done, and I enjoyed rooting for her affections to change and cheering as they did. She maintained her “sauce” throughout the book, but she wasn’t without emotions other than anger and mischievousness, either. Overall, well-rounded, likable, and defiant. I kept my fingers crossed for her happy ending.

The rest of the characters were an intriguing mix. I hated Hyacinth from the get-go; Judith and Victoria I could give or take most of the time, until the very end when the former became hated too; Mrs. Lambert was more or less unexpected at certain points, which made her surprising when her overall purpose wasn’t hard to guess. (This is a really tough book to review without spoilers!) Muffet, of course, was my favorite character of them all with her quick learning and big heart.

The one character I thought the book could do without? Samm’l. Samm’l is Maud’s long-lost brother who has a bit part I didn’t quite understand. I didn’t feel Maud needed the additional back story to show why she was the way she was; being an orphan is enough to do that. I don’t think he added anything to the “secret child” story. I don’t think Maud needed that extra push to be a bit more curious about her situation… in any case, the appearance of Samm’l didn’t detract from the story, it just didn’t add anything to it.

The story itself is fast-paced, suspenseful, and thoroughly enjoyable with wonderful descriptions and a brilliant cast of characters. The pages will keep turning, and before long you’ll be looking at Goodreads wondering what else Laura Amy Schlitz has been writing. Recommended to all YA readers! 

Book Review: Copper Magic by Julia Mary Gibson

7 Jun

ImageThe summer of 1906 wasn’t supposed to be one of grand adventure. Violet Blake’s mother and brother have gone away, and may very well be dead. Her father has retreated to their failing farm, immersing himself in cherry trees. The church people have taken over Blue Lake. Violet’s busy-body aunt is trying to turn her into a lady. But then Violet finds the copper Hand, which seems to have magical powers. When Violet wishes with the Hand, her wishes come true. The Hand gives her hope she hasn’t had since her mother left, but soon Violet learns one very important rule: be careful what you wish for…

The summary might make this book sound a bit childish, but really it’s much more of a YA/Adult crossover. It’s about so much more than a magic hand–it’s about racism, the divide between the rich and poor, how everyone needs to take responsibility for their own actions. It’s more history and superstition than fantasy, but magical enough for everyone to enjoy.

The story is set in Michigan–my home state–and on a recent trip home I was informed that the author is actually stopping by my hometown bookstore where I worked throughout high school and college. Pretty cool! I wish I could be there for the signing, but alas. Anyway, the book screams Michigan–the water, the forests, the disgruntlement with tourists. I felt right at home reading this book.

But it was the characters who really drove this book. I loved Violet for her spunkiness, her willingness to make mistakes, her ability to set it all right–eventually. I loved Miss Nadia’s passion for photography. I loved Mercy’s desire for friendship and her ability to believe in the magic, and in Violet, til the end. Even some of the characters who weren’t exactly likable were good characters. Everyone was motivated by something, and even if you wouldn’t make their same choices, you could respect that they at least had a motivation.

All in all, I loved this book, but then, character-driven books are my thing. The plot itself moves a bit slowly, so if you’re looking for action you might want to turn elsewhere. Still, I think this book has a little something for everyone: history, culture, fantasy. Great for fans of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Virgin vs. Qantas: Long-Haul Flights from Australia to the U.S.

12 May

Hey everyone! I’m sitting in LAX, bored, on my way back to Michigan after two years in Australia. As some of you probably know, I’ve been back and forth across the Pacific quite a few times, and I have now experienced both Qantas and Virgin Australia service between Brisbane and Los Angeles. If you’re reading this you might be thinking about taking a similar flight too, and wondering which one is better. After all, it’s 12 to 14 hours of your life. You want to spend that in comfort, don’t you?

These comparisons are based off my most recent memory of a long-haul Qantas flight taken in June 2012, and a Virgin Australia flight taken in May 2014.

Let’s Talk About Seating

I’m tall for a woman (5’11”), and leg room is hugely important for me! In this section, Virgin wins hands down. I was amazed by how much leg room there was. My knees usually brush against the seat in front of me on a Qantas flight. On Virgin, I had a good 4-6 inches extra wiggle room, which made stretching out and sleeping more comfortable.

However, Qantas wins on the seat pocket front. Virgin had very little room in the seat pockets. I couldn’t fit my e-reader in without fear of it falling out. And the safety card was so tall that when I put the tray down it bent the card forward. Not a huge issue, but something to be aware of if you like to stuff the pockets with things.

Entertainment

I watched five movies on my Virgin flight, all of them quite good, but I’m afraid Qantas wins this round. From what I can recall, Qantas not only had more options, it had more recent options. Sure, there were quite a few recent blockbuster hits like 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, but I’ve watched movies that were still in theatres on Qantas planes before. And like I said, there are simply more options from Qantas.

Meals

On long-haul flights, you’ll typically get lunch/dinner, a snack, and breakfast. Both carriers have a variety of options (some that cater to vegetarian needs). I can’t speak for everything, but I had the parmesan chicken on my most recent Virgin flight and I had something very similar on a Qantas flight a few years ago. The Virgin food certainly tasted better–the chicken looked like actual chicken breast rather than something processed.

However, I wasn’t as much of a fan of the Virgin breakfast. There were only two options: scrambled eggs, sausages, and hashbrowns, or potato bake, beans, and mushrooms. I didn’t like either of the options and only ate a little. Luckily, it comes with fruit and a banana muffin, so I was able to get something in me before going through customs! On the other hand, Qantas typically offers a “hot” or “cold” option–hot being something along the lines of one of the Virgin meals, and cold being cereal and milk. I would have loved some cereal for breakfast, and I might just take a little box with me on the flight back.

Qantas also presents you with a snack pack upon embarking, filled with little treats in case you get hungry during the flight, and goes around with fresh apples partway through. Virgin does not present snackpacks, and goes around with grilled cheese sandwiches partway through the flight. The sandwiches were good, but after so much time on planes, I find the lighter apples settle better than sandwiches! Both carriers also offer a snack bar, but I’ve never wandered past on either, and there’s plenty of drinks on both (including alcoholic beverages, free even for economy passengers).

Price

If you’ve been researching flights, you’ll know this answer better than I will. Flight prices change day to day, and sometimes even hour to hour. For what it’s worth, lately I’ve been finding that Virgin has had cheaper prices than Qantas.

Virgin vs. Qantas

As you can see, there are plenty of benefits and drawbacks to each. Your own preferences will shape your opinions on the carriers. Personally, that extra leg room is enough to make me want to choose Virgin every time, but at the same time I know that in reality I’ll choose whichever one is cheaper!

Hopefully this post was helpful. If you have any questions, let me know in the comments below, and feel free to share your own experiences with Qantas and Virgin (and other long-haul carriers).

Jodie Llewellyn

The ramblings of an aspiring YA author.

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