Friday, February 4, 2011

Monthly Reads: January 2011

To sort of make up for the fact that I don't write many book reviews these days, I've decided to do what so many of you do each month as you list the books you've read that month along with some brief commentary. Although it appears I may have some difficulty with the 'brief' part, which probably means I should just write book reviews to begin with...

I've also decided to reinstate grading. Ugh. I can't believe I'm doing this. I have such a difficult time assessing and comparing books and I tend to grade highly, anyway. I'd honestly be happy rating books 1, 2 or 3 and be done with it. Excellent, Good, and Just Okay. Does it really need to be any more complicated than that? Apparently, it does. My grading scale can be found on my sidebar, and is basically as follows:

A+ Perfection
A   Excellent
B+ Very Good
B   Good
C+ Decent
C   Okay
D   Not Very Good
F   Did Not Finish

Here's a run down of what I read in January:

Total books read: 6

Young Adult: 3
Urban Fantasy: 1
Fantasy: 1
General fiction: 1

Within the young adult genre, two were contemporary young adult and one was urban fantasy.

1. The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa
The Iron Fey series, Book 3
This is the second full length novel in the Iron Fey series, but the third book if you count the novella, "Winter's Passage," which I am counting. In this story, Megan Chase who is half Summer fairy and half human, honors her promise to Ash, the Winter Prince, and returns to the Winter Kingdom with him, where she is sort of a guest, but more like a prisoner. Ash turns cold towards her immediately and isn't there to protect or stick up for her. Instead, Megan is alone and scared with no one to trust. Then Megan alone witnesses the Iron Fey stealing the Scepter of Seasons, and of course, no one believes her... except Ash. The two escape the Winter Court and are on the run from everyone in a race to find and return the scepter to the Queen of Winter before the Winter and Summer courts go to war against each other.

This is a really fun series. It has adventure rooted in both the faery world, Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, and a little bit of modernism with the introduction of the Iron Fey who were born from the human obsessions with technology and lack of imagination and emotion. There's also a little bit of romance. GRADE: B+

2. The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum
I read this book for the Authors by the Alphabet Book Club. It is a story about twins Karena and Charles, who was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder when he was an adolescent. On the night of Karena and Charles' 18th birthday they chase a storm that leads to a horrific event that they decide to keep secret.   Shortly afterwards the two are separated and don't see each other again until 20 years later.

I had difficulty getting drawn into the story for at least the first half of the book, largely due to the awkward point of view that the story is told--third person present. The story picked up in the last half of the book when Charles finally got some page time. The ending was well written and gave the story a very satisfying finish, but overall the book was merely satisfactory for me.  GRADE: C+

My full review can be found HERE.

3. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
This very emotional contemporary young adult book is told from the first person point of view of a teenage girl named Mia. Mia and her family are in a horrific car accident and she is seeing the scene of the accident from outside her body and then as she is transported to the hospital where she lies in a coma. Mia tells her story while she reflects on her life, her family, her choices and the possibilities of her future when she wakes up. If she wakes up. She also tells parts of her story as doctors, nurses, family, friends and her boyfriend visit her in the hospital. Have tissues handy, but a very good story.

4. The Space Between Trees by Katie Williams
I read this book after reading a review on The Book Smugglers last year. I waited on the hold list for this book for more than three months! The library was about to pronounce it lost when it was finally returned. Someone paid a hefty library fine. Anyway, once I started reading this book, I found it very hard to put down. It's a contemporary young adult novel told from the first person point of view of sixteen year old Evie, a loner with a vivid imagination and a tendency to fabricate lies usually as a means to be noticed or heard. When a childhood playmate, Zabet, is found dead in the woods, Evie's lies lead her to befriending the dead girl's father and pulled into a search for the killer with Zabet's best friend. It's a haunting coming of age type story that is very well written, yet will have the reader feeling uncomfortable from beginning to end. Interesting and thought provoking.

5. Shadowfever by Karen Marie Moning
Fever series, Book 5
I'm giving this book an A grade with a disclaimer of sorts, which I know is a pretty lame thing to do, but it's my blog, my prerogative, blah, blah, blah. Here's my deal. I read the first book in this series way over three years ago when it first came out in paperback. I loved the series premise and thought it had a lot of potential, but in hindsight I don't think I was ready for urban fantasy back then. I didn't appreciate the lack of romance or happily ever after ending or the more complicated world building or the slower development of a series story arc.  I reread the first book last November and found it so much more fun, fascinating and suspenseful than the first time. I was hooked. I read the second, third and fourth books and breathlessly awaited the release of the fifth and final book of the series, Shadowfever, anxious for answers to so many mysteries--people, places, connections, resolutions, and so on.

I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I read Shadowfever, half thrilled, half nervous with anticipation as pieces of puzzles came together, some coming swiftly and others not revealing themselves until the very, very end. I had a very pleased sense of 'Wow. What an adventure!' when I finished, which is what makes a great and memorable book, right? So hence the A grade.

Yet... (and there it is) despite the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thrilling and fascinating final installment to the Fever series, there are a few things that don't sit perfectly with me regarding Shadowfever, which makes me question my own sanity or perhaps it's indecision in saying it's an A read.

Some of what doesn't sit right with me regarding Shadowfever may just be my personal reader preference. For instance, wanting a definite romance or at least one tender romantic scene where declarations of love are complete and believable. Is it so wrong of me to have expected Mac to get some genuine heart felt love from Barrons? Too much was still left unspoken between them and what some may consider 'THE love scene' of the book felt rather forced and unexpected to me. I waited five books for that? It wasn't enough. However, I understand this series is urban fantasy and no one promised me true love, they live happily ever after, the end. I can accept that.

Also, while so many pieces of this story do finally come together, there are a lot of pieces that don't. Some questions have been left unanswered and there are even new ones! Not exactly the way the last book in a series should come together, even with the promise of a spin off series.

However inconsistent as I appear, I stand by my love for this series and the fact that Shadowfever was a thrilling and fascinating adventure that kept me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. For another, albeit less wishy-washy perspective of Shadowfever, I suggest you visit Hilcia's review HERE where she gives Shadowfever a D!? *gasp*! But don't be hating on her! She raises some very valid points.

6. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
Book One of The Inheritance Trilogy
This is the January selection for the Women of Fantasy 2011 Book Club. What a story! In the short span of just less than five hundred pages, the author pens an elaborate tale about a world of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms--the mythology of creation, the hierarchy and powers of the gods, and how the world arrived at its current state of affairs. It's an intricate tale of the people who inhabit the world, their relationships to each other and their gods and how closely entwined the two are. The story encompasses such a vast array of topics such as religion, world politics, familial issues, racial and ethnic issues and above all, the life of one young woman who gets entangled in a complicated struggle between peoples and gods when all she wishes for is to live happy and free and to love and be loved.

I can't wait to read the next book in the trilogy, The Broken Kingdoms.


  1. You can implement whatever grading system you like. It's your blog. I hate grading, too, which is why I don't do it on my blog. But excellent, good, just okay, and run away would be awesome categories.

  2. So want to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms from your description. Good list... different options for me :)

  3. I've never graded a book. If I liked it well enough (in my own list on my computer) to reread later I put a star next to it. The only other thing I've done is to note whether it was a DNF. (Did Not Finish.)
    You've listed some interesting books that I'll be sure to look up!
    Thanks for your post!

  4. I am so glad you enjoyed reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms! The sequel is also excellent and I hope you like that one, too.

  5. I agree with everything you said about Shadowfever. The romance side of me wishes there would have been more scenes between Mac and Barrons about just them and not all the other stuff, but then again, that wasn't really what the book was about. It was about Mac. So I am incomplete agreement. I also gave it an A because really, the series as a whole just blew me away. Moning has talent. I can't wait to see what else she comes up with next.

  6. The Space Between Trees is on my tbr pile. My teen read it and said it was very good. I love the cover! It's so cool with the cutouts.

    Anyway, I agree - grade how you want. :)

  7. I really enjoyed this post. I think you should do any grading system you want to do! It's your blog, people can just suck it up. I have a problem grading books too. I don't have a check list to be like, "For me to rate a book a 5 it must have this this and this...if it doesn't then we go to the check list of a 4 rating, etc..." (I hope that made sense) So I tend to grade books very high, plus I haven't been reading these types of books so it's hard for me to have anything to compare them to. I always know when I wasn't thrilled by a book but it's still hard for me to give it a rating. Since I just went off on that long tangent...I again restate that you should do what ever you want grading wise! :-)

  8. I don't know what you're saying, Christine :) You're briefer than me! Although that's not very hard ^_^;

    Eeep, I feel responsible for the reinstatement of the grades ^_^; But you know what, why would it be as easy as 1, 2 and 3? Oh, because you're on Goodreads as well ^_^; LOL.

    In any case, you had a great, great reading month :) Wowzer, really :) Hope it continues in Feb!!

  9. Love your post Christine, you had a wonderful reading month. Lots of good books. Your blog, your grading system, right? Awesome.

    I am STILL planning to read The Iron Daughter, it's on my TBB. And, I was waiting for your post on The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, that one has been on my TBR for quite a while, and now you know I'll get to it this year for sure!

    Thanks for highlighting my different POV for Shadowfever, lol! ;P I'm so very glad you enjoyed Mac's adventures to the very end. :D

  10. Good job Christine! I think I need to start doing brief recaps too.

    I'm glad to see you gave Shadowfever and THTK A grades. I need to catch up on the fever series and I have THTK in my tbr pile. :P

  11. Thanks for stopping by and your kind words. I don't give grades of stars or any type of rating. Maybe that's not a good thing. Generally I say what I did and did not like about a book and that's about it. list the good and the bad, and let other people decide.

    Happy Reading and have a good week.

  12. YAH for a monthly read review :) And I hate grading too - it's a nightmare. I like the 1-3 rating system *grin*

    I so want to read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I just need to finish the fantasy series I'm currently reading.

    All the best for your February reading :)

  13. Forgot to say, The Iron Daughter sounds interesting....a little like Melissa Marr's series perhaps?

  14. I still struggle with ratings. I always tend to rate high too. is there a point to them? Who knows, I continue to use them anyway!

  15. Oh heavens! I love this review system. Everything I need, all in one place!

  16. Sorry for the delay in responding to your comments.

    Lori, I think my problem with grading is that I drive myself crazy by over thinking the whole thing. I prefer to write reviews without grades, but since I've joined goodreads, I guess I've been feeling some pressure to attach a rating to the books I've read. I so wish goodreads had half stars!

    Mariana, I hope you try The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. I really liked it.

    Brandy, if you've never graded a book, don't start! LOL.

    Kristen, I plan on reading the sequel!

    Jill, thanks for your comment about my reaction to Shadowfever. I feel validated by my wishy-washy explanation for giving it an A despite its shortcomings. LOL!

    Leslie, I think you'll like The Space Between Trees. It felt very realistic... I could believe everything that was unraveling, and even though I didn't like it, I understood how it was happening.

    Deanna, your comment reminded me of another reason I dislike rating books and that's because I feel like my standards keep evolving as the years go by and the books that I thought were phenomenal five years ago seem less so now. Just because I have more reading experience and have a bigger sample to which I can compare each book, I suppose.

    nath, yeah, I sort of felt inspired to reinstate grades because of your recent post and from joining goodreads. Why don't they have half stars there??

    Hilcia, Let me know when you get to the Iron Fey series and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms!

    Ames, I hope you like THTK and Shadowfever!

    Sara, Hi! Thanks for reciprocating my visit! :)
    That's what I was doing for a while, but like I said above, I'm rating books on goodreads anyway now.. may as well do it here, too.

    orannia, 1-3 grading system is so straightforward, right? LOL.

    Kagawa's Iron Fey series isn't quite like Melissa Marr's series. Hmm... I suppose the Seelie and Unseelie Courts and their distrust and animosity towards each other are very similar, but the conflicts are very different. This one is more fantasy-adventuresome while Marr's is more dark, urban fantasy with emphasis on character development and inter-relationships. Yes?

    Michelle, EXACTLY! That's part of why I stopped rating books in the last year or two. Everything was an A or B ... 4 or 5 stars, so what's the point?

    Zee, feel free to adopt the same rating system. Like I said, I tend to over think things, so if you like to do that, too, maybe it'll help. LOL.

  17. Tell me about it, grading, ugh, I use it, I do not use it. I do not like my system, I like my system, I just can't make my mind up. Cos everyone sees grading a different way, I like a 3, while others think that is only ok.

    Anyway I like your scale :) I have been thinking of an easy one too.


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