Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Journey to Middle Earth...

...With a side trip to Westeros and a pit stop at Hogwarts. So this has turned into a very, very busy summer. 4 classes leading into fieldwork in the fall and then student teaching. Something has to give and unfortunately I think it has to be the constant blogging. Trying to keep up with the latest and greatest, the reading a book a night, the joining in on every blog tour I can and saying yes to every review request that peaks my interest- well, it's exhausting. Pile school on top of that and it's almost undoable. I'm sure you've noticed that the posts are getting fewer and farther between. It's not intentional, every day I think "today I'll get a post up" and then it gets late and I get tired and, well, the posts get's pushed back.

So I've decided to do something different. I'm taking a literary journey through some of my favorite series...Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and my new addiction A Song of Ice and Fire. I'll still be picking up books that I want to read (Hello Forever- I see you over there waiting), but I'm taking the pressure off.I'll still be rambling on about all the books I'm reading, I'm just taking the pressure to keep up with the Joneses off. So I hope you'll join me as I revisit old favorites (LOTR), say goodbye to good friends (HP. I'm not ready for the end) and embark on new adventures (SOIF).

Up first is The Hobbit- I'm reading it for the first time in about 15 years. So far it feels a little bit like coming home mixed with discovering that something you thought you knew is something altogether more amazing then you remember!

Care to join me on this journey? These are the books I'm getting into first...
J.R.R. Tolkien Boxed Set (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) (I actually own this set- it's awesome!)
Harry Potter Paperback Box Set (Books 1-7) (Also own this set- I'm a nerd)
George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones 4-Book Boxed Set: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire) (I do not own this whole set yet- but holy cow, do I want to...badly.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Ramblings on The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

The False Princess
By: Eilis O'Neal
Release Date: January 25th, 2011
Author Website
Debut Author Challenge


Princess and heir to the throne of Thorvaldor, Nalia's led a privileged life at court. But everything changes when it's revealed, just after her sixteenth birthday, that she is a false princess, a stand-in for the real Nalia, who has been hidden away for her protection. Cast out with little more than the clothes on her back, the girl now called Sinda must leave behind the city of Vivaskari, her best friend, Keirnan, and the only life she's ever known.

Sinda is sent to live with her only surviving relative, an aunt who is a dyer in a distant village. She is a cold, scornful woman with little patience for her newfound niece, and Sinda proves inept at even the simplest tasks. But when Sinda discovers that magic runs through her veins - long-suppressed, dangerous magic that she must learn to control - she realizes that she can never learn to be a simple village girl.

Returning to Vivaskari for answers, Sinda finds her purpose as a wizard scribe, rediscovers the boy who saw her all along, and uncovers a secret that could change the course of Thorvaldor's history, forever.

A dazzling first novel, The False Princess is an engrossing fantasy full of mystery, action, and romance.

My Ramblings:

So I'll be honest and say that when this book showed up at my library with my name on it I could not for the life of me remember why I had reserved it. Was it on a list somewhere? Part of a Challenge? Was it the beautiful cover that had caught my eye? In the end I realized it was a combination of all three- it was on the list of books eligiable for the Debut Author Challenge hosted by The Story Siren and I picked it off the list because of the kick-ass cover. Phew. With that mystery solved I was ready to read.

First off, what a great story this is! One of my favorite things is when a story sneaks up on me. I'll admit to not really have any expectations of this book. I hadn't heard anything about it, so I went into it without any preconcieved notions. I was so pleasantly surprised on this one. The main charecter is a formidable one- raised a princess we meet her on the day that she discovers that she is, in fact, a false princess, brought in to replace the rightful princess in order to break a prophecy. O'Neal really weaves a twisted, complicated, but ultimately rewarding tale.

O'Neal packs alot into this relatively short book. There's friendship and love, revenge and murder, ancient plots and prophecies and ultimately a choice that must be made by Sinda. What I really liked is that O'Neal allowes her charecter the opportunity to go through all the emotions one would expect- she's angry, shocked, upset, depressed and eventually she comes to terms with it and even finds her new place in this world. Sinda has a kind of strength that sometimes comes off as stubborn or immature, but always is believable and genuine, and that is refreshing. The secondary characters all have a part to play, especially best friend Kiernan who also has to figure out this new relationship and what it means for him. There are very few characters that I felt were un-needed, and even they didn't bother me so much.

So, in short, I REALLY glad I chose this book of that list- it was just the right book to read at the start of my summer. (Summer reads for me and light and easy, but certainly NOT fluff) It's a great story about growing up and figuring out who you really are, and if it's the title or your actions that really define you.

I have to say I'm really hoping for a sequel on this one to see how everyone is adjusting to their new roles, but if it's a stand alone, i'm okay with that too. It tied up all the loose ends and I felt like everyone was where they were supposed to be!

Want to get more info or buy The False Princess?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Ramblings on The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races
By: Maggie Stiefvater
Release Date: October 18, 2011
Author Website

It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.

Even under the brightest sun, the fridgid autumn sea is all the colors of the night: dark blue and black and brown. I watch the ever changing patterns in the sand as it's pummeled by countless hooves.

They run the horses on the beach, a pale road between the black water and the chalk cliffs. It is never safe, but it's never so dangerous as today, race day.

My Ramblings:

I finished this book a little over a week ago and have been putting off writing the review. A few reasons slowed me down really. First, school, currently the bane of my existance started back up for the summer and second, what could I say about this book. "Wow" didn't seem sufficient despite the fact that it's the first word that keeps popping into my head. That and "I love this book". To start though, I'm a huge Stiefvater fan, I'd read just about anything she writes and I'd bet money on liking it, but this book is by far my favorite book of hers. For me, it blows the other ones stright out of the water. Let me see if I can explain why.

To be fair I might as well mention that I love horses. I grew up with them, I still have them, my two year kiddo already rides. They are a part of my life, a part of who I am, so the fact that Stiefvater so perfectly captures what that is like really goes a long way for me. In this story there are two types of horses, the inland ponies and the capaill uisce. Water horses who feed on blood and are known to kill animals and humans alike. On the island of Thisby, once a year, they capture and race the capaill uisce, and every year people die. There suspense that surrounds the race really pulls you in- who will survive, who will walk away stronger and who will be crushed under the pounding hooves?

The story focuses on two characters. First is Sean Kendrick, who works at the stables on the island and trains horses, regular ones for the bulk of the year and then the capaill uisce as the race approaches. He lost his father, a trainer as well, 9 year prior in the races and has been filling his shoes ever since. He and his horse, Corr, are something like legend on Thisby- their relationship is one built on respect (not trust) and a bit of magic. The are the one to beat in the races. Then there is Kate "Puck" Connelly who is a horseman in her own right. In order to save her family home after the loss of her parents to the capaill uisce, she is willing to pit herself and her inland horse Dove up against the water horses in the race.

So that is the center of the story- both Puck and Sean's futures hinge on how well they do in the race. Will Sean be set free from just being a trainer in some other man's barn and will Puck be able to save her farm and remain on the island she loves. There is so much more in this book though. the family dynamics between Puck and her brothers, Gabe and Finn, are both lighthearted and heartbreaking. Seeing Sean struggle to become his own man. Watching both Sean and Puck fight against those who would push them down and hold them back. Witnessing Sean and Puck finding eachother at the exact moment they need someone to lean on who understands. Wondering how a relationship can survive when only one can win even when winning might mean losing it all.

Like I said- it has it all, and for those of us who ride horses, there was one part where I said to myself "God she got it right"- so I'll share it here, it's from the first time Sean lets Puck ride Corr:

We are flying.

Corr's skin is hot against my legs- clingy, somehow, like when the current pushes your toes deeper into the sand. I feel his pulse in my pulse, his energy in mine, and I know this is the mysterious, terrifying power of the capaill uisce...

and then a paragraph later:

The magic becomes a dull hum through me. My body warns me of the danger of this capaill uisce beneath me, but at the same time it screams that it's alive....

Now I've never ridden a killer water horse who would just as soon drag me into the ocean for dinner, but there is something so right about this description as it applies to riding horses (the regular non-killer kind). There is that moment when you forget about the dangers that come with it, where you and the horse begin to merge into eachother and you just enjoy the ride. Troubles slip away and it feels like freedom. There are other quotes (to numerous to recount in a blog post) that speak to a love for the land, a connection to a place and sense of knowing where you belong in the world that I loved. There were so many moments where Stiefvater really hit the nail on the head for me. That's what Stiefvater captured in this book. That knowing where you belong. That moment when you lay it on the line, you throw caution to the wind, and enjoy the ride no matter the cost or where it might take you.

As far as I know this isn't a series of any kind, and while I'm REALLY looking forward to Forever (The Wolves of Mercy Falls series)- I'm not-so-secretly hoping that we'll see more of Sean and Puck and they capaill uisce on the Isle of Thisby.

Want to pre-order The Scorpio Races? (you know you do...)