Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Series We Want To Start Reading

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday.  Here are 10 book series that we want to start

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Holly:

I know the prompt said NEW series, but I am a rule-breaker. Most of these series are more than two years old, but here’s what I want to start reading.

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1, 2012) – this is the newest on my list. And, I have the first book thanks to a Kindle Daily Deal.

October Daye (Rosemary and Rue #1, 2009) – Amanda has demanded I read these books – but man, there’s a LOT of books…7? 8? That’s commitment. [Hello! You just read FEED, you should trust me by now.  Also finish FEED before you read more series. Also more, I am still emotionally preparing myself for #8]

The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars #1, 2006) – I think I heard about these on a History Chicks’ podcast. I love Alice retellings!

Abhorsen (Sabriel #1, 1996) – Apparently people love these books. I think they have zombies?

The Giver (Giver #1, 1993) – okay, I have actually read the first of these books, eons ago. But, who knew there were 3 more?!

Amanda:

The Giver- Unlike my sister I haven’t even read the first one.  I feel really behind the times here.

The Madman’s Daughter (The Madman’s Daughter #1, 2013).  I’ve been really into the Gothic reads lately. Maybe its Halloween coming?

Finishing School (Etiquette and Espionage #1, 2013).  Combining tea parties with spy technique? Yes please.

Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series (The Beekeeper’s Apprentice #1, 1994).  Ok, so this has been around a long time-but there are still new books coming out!  Retired Sherlock Holmes plus a teenage detective sounds so fun to me. Maybe this will keep the wait for the next BBC Sherlock season from being too painful?

Tawny Man/The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy Robin Hobb.  I have an ARC of the Fool’s Assassin, #1 of the Fitz and Fool Trilogy that was just released this fall.  However, I don’t think I’m going to appreciate it until I read the back stories-so to the library I go!

Any opinions on what should be read first? Besides Holly reading Newsflesh clearly.  Speaking of October Daye, I’m nearly emotionally ready to try to read the Winter Long-anyone want to hold my hand virtually through this book? I know she’s going to break my heart again.

Still Reading The Silkworm

When we last reported on The Silkworm, our favorite private investigator, Comoran Strike, had gone from trying to find a missing person to trying to solve a murder. Check out part one of our conversation here. Now, we’re 60% through the book, and dying (perhaps that’s a poor word choice) to know whodunit!

Holly: So, I have two non-spoiler thoughts on this book so far. First, one of our #1 commenters (hi blodeuedd!) said “not my genre” about this book. So now I feel compelled to explain to everyone that this is not exactly a mystery/crime “genre” book. I mean, I’m no expert, as I don’t really understand book genres, but I think this is more of a really great novel about a guy who also happens to be an investigator solving crimes. It’s got a lot of things I love – including the London setting, the well developed characters (who we are slowly getting more details on!) and just lovely writing.

Amanda: I am no genre expert and if you look at my Goodreads shelves you can see I read a bit of everything.  I think the best mysteries are those that get a bit deeper-who is the investigator and what draws him on the case.  I like that about Strike.  He’s working this case because he needs to know what happened-not because he’s being paid.  I also love the setting.  When can we plan a sisterly trip to London to look for Strike?

Holly: Here is my second thought – J.K. Rowling, winner of the book world, wrote a book about a book in which a (crazy? disgruntled? not sure yet!) writer has written a book that reveals a bunch of character flaws about people in the book world. C’mon – what are the chances she has drawn on personal experience to create the publishers, agents, and editors? Do you think she’s taking digs at anyone herself?

Amanda:  Very interesting idea.  I think I have an idealized image of the creator of Harry Potter in my head that she must be too classy to do that.  But I will say I love reading about the publishing world in books.  Maybe there are some digs from her early days?  I bet there are people searching for themselves for sure! I love that I have no theories built up of whodunit! I feel like the reason for this murder is going to come out of nowhere. I was on the edge of my seat at moments waiting to see what would happen.  Time to get back to it!

Holly: Yes, must finish! And also, let’s start planning that trip to London for sure!

Review: How to Build A Girl

How To Build a Girl, Caitlin Moran

Amanda

Published September 23rd 2014 by Harper Collins

352 pages

Source: E-ARC from edelweiss

From Goodreads…

20525628What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Brontës—but without the dying-young bit.

By sixteen, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk, and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock stars, having all the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realizes she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks enough to build a girl after all?

I really really wanted to love How to Build a Girl.  I read Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman recently and I was literally copying portions into my phone to text to Holly because I loved it so much.  Moran has said that Johanna Morrigan a/k/a Dolly Wilde is not her.  Yes she’s also from Wolverhampton, also grows up poor, is also really into masturbation and breaks into the music scene at 16-but they’re not the same person.  So they just sound a lot like the same person?

I was sad yet still entertained when reading about poor Johanna, but I found her alter-ego Dolly to be the truly pitiable part of her character.  Dolly makes an amazing break into music journalism when she’s 16 years-old.  I loved Dolly in the beginning!  How brave to reinvent yourself!  Dolly is dying for her first kiss and feels pretty much unloveable.  Dolly’s sexual awakening is funny – up to a point.  It got much less funny when, as Dolly started calling herself a lady sex adventurer but actually she just became a sexual plaything without a brain.   Not to fear!  Dolly does find her own voice, which made me happy but for the book overall was too late for me.  The story was almost too preachy along the way despite the rock life content and language, so I felt like I knew what was going to happen in the end.

I am not saying that you shouldn’t read this, because really I found myself laughing out loud at times.  Its not a bad book.  Its just not the book I wanted it to be.  Apparently its the first of a trilogy and I’ll definitely keep reading because I really like Moran.  I appreciate a lot of what Moran has to say about feminism and about poverty and class.  I will look forward to seeing who Dolly grows into with her own voice because she has a lot of potential!  I want to feel how I felt when reading How to Be a Woman so I hope to find that again in Moran’s fiction yet to come.

3 stars

Thank you Harper Collins and edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

We’re Reading The Silkworm

When Amanda and I started this blog (almost) a year ago, we didn’t really know what we were doing. (Spoiler alert: we still don’t.) One of the first things we decided to do was read a book together and discuss. We started with The Cuckoo’s Calling, and posted check-ins at 30% through, 60% through, and done.

We loved our read-along, so we’ve kept that up to read other books together! We also loved The Cuckoo’s Calling and Private Investigator Comoran Strike.

All this is leading up to saying that it’s time for another read-along, and this time we’re reading The Silkworm, the second Comoran Strike novel by Robert Galbraith a.k.a. J.K. Rowling.

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If you’re not familiar with our hero, Strike, he’s an Army vet working a one man detective firm with the help of his office assistant Robin (we love Robin!).  Novelist Owen Quine is missing and his wife believes he’s in hiding at a London hotel.  She hires Strike to roust Quine out and send him home.  Strike learns there is much more going on than an unhappy author out sulking when he reads Quine’s latest novel. Then, when Quine is found brutally murdered, Strike becomes much more involved in this case than he expected to be.

We’re up to 30% so far, and here’s what we’re thinking!

Holly: So far, I still adore Robin and I want her to be involved in solving the case! Also, tosser is a British word that we should use more of.

Amanda: We found out what the silkworm is! Also, the book within this book is weird. Of course, totally agree re: tosser.  Will definitely try to throw it into use more often.

Holly: I quite love this line – “if it had crossed Strike’s mind that it might be considered arrogant or deluded of a private detective with no authority in the investigation to imagine he had the power to delegate tasks to the police office in charge of the case, the thought did not trouble him.” I love Strike.

Amanda: I love that even though we’re only 30% in I feel like we’re getting to know Strike a bit better.  I want more about his Army life and how he was led to open this office.  I also want to know more about his ex-fiance, Charlotte, and what life was like for them together.  Basically I want to know why she’s wrong for Strike so that I can see how perfect Robin would be for him.

Holly: So, I still haven’t read Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy (yet), but I hear there is a big emphasis on class distinctions. And, I was thinking about that in how this book has set up the difference between Strike, his office, and his living quarters, as opposed to Robin’s fiance Matthew (bit of a tosser). Or even his own sister Lucy. Or his ex. Strike does not inhabit the world of the comfortably middle-class – though that is at least in part by choice.

Amanda: If you think about Rowling herself I would think she has more perspective on class distinctions than many authors, right?  Going from the poverty line as a single mother to having more money than the Queen of England must leave you with some opinions on class status.  Strike also has exposure to all sides also from his unconventional upbringing, his knowledge of his rockstar father, Army life and then living with Charlotte.  We know the situation he’s in now with living above his office isn’t as bad as things could be, but it will be interesting to see as the series progresses if his income grows how his lifestyle changes.  As long as he doesn’t become a tosser its all good.

Holly: Dude, don’t even!

Amanda: Don’t even what?! What did I do?

Holly: Don’t even call Strike a tosser! That is a misuse of our new vocabulary word.

We’re back to reading and we’ll check in next week with another 30% done!

5 Thoughts on Gilded & Silvern

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Gilded and Silvern are the first two books in a young adult trilogy by Christina Farley that follow Korean-American teen Jae, who moves to Seoul with her father and ends up pissing off some gods in the Korean spirit world. Oops.

I definitely enjoyed these books, both of which I read in one day – both on days that involved flying and waiting around at the airport. If you’re looking for something different – and fast – to read, I think you should give them a try. Reviews and comments are sort of all over the place on these two, so here’s what I think you should know:

1. There has been all kinds of talk recently on the need for diversity in books, particularly young adult books, because all readers should be able to see themselves reflected in literature. The GIlded series takes place in Korea, but Jae’s story is that of an American-born girl who grew up in L.A., transported to Korea – where she goes to an international school. I don’t think this means the book is less “authentic” – in fact, I think it makes for a relatable story. After all, how many American teenagers (of all backgrounds) have only a passing connection to their ancestral ethnic heritage, primarily through food and holidays? Jae has a few things she loves about Korea, but she’s learning about the country, the people, and the mythology as she goes.

2. The author, Christina Farley, is an American who spent years teaching in Korea. Ditto above – she’s not writing about the experience of being Korean, but that of an American in Korea.

3. Sometimes Jae acts like an idiot. And sometimes she treats her friend Michelle like she’s an idiot. Sigh – I think this is a common YA problem – as in Young Adult, the genre, as well as young adults, the people.

4. The romance (of course there’s a romance) happens super-fast and escalates quickly from the start of book 1 to the end of book 2. Again, that seems to be the case in YA. And, to be fair, they do go through some pretty intense experiences together, which perhaps ups the feelings of LUV.

5. These books definitely make Seoul come alive, and I felt like a learned a few things about Korea from reading them. And, in Silvern, there are some thought-provoking bits on North Korea. I appreciated all these real-life details in addition to the spirit-world setting.

Anyone else have thoughts on GIlded and Silvern?

 

Top Ten Places Books Have Made Us Want To Visit

Today we’re hooking up with the Broke and the Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday.  Today’s list is the 10 places books have made you want to visit-real or fictional.

cafc6-toptentuesdayAmanda

I want to know how many of these lists won’t include Hogwarts? Or Narnia?

  1. Italy thanks to Beach Music by Pat Conroy -I actually studied in Rome basically because of reading this book
  2. The Book World! The Well of Lost Plots Specifically.  I want to meet Thursday Next!
  3. Diagon Alley. Of course.
  4. Giverney, Linnea in Monet’s Garden. Childhood dream accomplished!
  5. Prague, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

Holly

I am not sure I did this assignment correctly, but here are places I would very much like to visit.

  1. Hogwarts. Duh.
  2. Narnia. Minus the Turkish Delight, thankyouverymuch.
  3. Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I would try very hard to be on my best behavior and not fall into a chocolate river.
  4. Anywhere the Miles visits in the Phantom Tollbooth, except the Doldrums.
  5. Lumatere, to hang out with Finnikin and co.

Where would you like to visit?

Review: The Fall

The Fall, Bethany Griffin

Amanda

Published October 7th 2014 by Greenwillow Books

Hardcover, 400 pages

Source: E-ARC from Edelweiss

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From Goodreads…

Madeline Usher is doomed.

She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.

Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.

In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? The Fall is a literary psychological thriller, reimagining Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.

I am still creeped out from reading this book!  We begin when Madeline Usher wakes up in a coffin and Griffin leads the reader through Madeline’s history to understand how she ended up there.  If you’ve read the Fall of the House of Usher you likely already know who put her in the coffin, but I had not so I was caught up from the very beginning in the mystery.  The Usher family is cursed, the ancestral home itself is the curse or is part of the curse, I don’t think the Ushers themselves quite know. The house is terrifying and honestly the Ushers themselves are totally spooky.  Madeline can feel when the house is pleased or unhappy and she knows as a child that she is a favorite of the house-this is not something you want.  She tries to direct her thoughts to those that will keep the house happy with her-this just gives me shivers thinking about it.  Can you imagine feeling so haunted in your own home?

The Fall has very short chapters that move both forward and backwards in time.  “Madeline is 10,” then “Madeline is 18” and even though we flash back to Madeline’s childhood we’re always moving forward chronologically within the book.  This was kind of frustrating at times, but because the action was always moving forward it wasn’t terribly confusing.  The short chapters were good so you can read just a bit before you’re too freaked out to sleep!  We see flashes of Madeline’s childhood with her twin brother Roderick and we see Roderick get to leave the house for school.  The house does not like that at all.  The house wants to keep all the family members close and basically make them crazy.  Everything that starts out fresh and full of life becomes worn down by the house and infected with its darkness. This includes the clothes and furnishings they buy and the visitors to the home as well.

What I really appreciate was that Griffin was able to make the malevolence of the house come through without a lot of gore.  Details like the furniture and floorboards rotting away or Madeline’s mother’s intolerance to sensation really made you feel the decay of the house and the family themselves.  The most squeamish I felt was when I realized that the line of Ushers is really just a family of Ushers– there are no branches off this family tree.  ICK.  I was really glad that Madeline was determined to break the house’s will in this because I did not want to read that story.

I immediately checked The Fall of the House of Usher out from the library when I finished the Fall so that I could get the original vibe.  So much creepiness!  I think Griffin did an excellent job staying true to the spirit of the original, but The Fall is absolutely its own deliciously creepy book.  Perfect reading for a crisp October night!

4 stars!

Thank you Greenwillow Books and edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion!