Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books If You Like...SAILOR MOON

 Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's topic:

Top Ten Books If You Like "X"

If you're a child of the '90s, you're probably familiar with a famous Japanese cartoon by the name of Sailor Moon.

To those of you who didn't grow up with early '90s television, or have just never heard of Sailor Moon before, I implore you to educate yourselves right now by binge-watching the first season (in the original Japanese, though. With subtitles. For the sake of your sanity, do not watch the DIC English dub--it's fine for those of us who first experienced Sailor Moon this way, but now it's just plain cringe worthy).

To five-year-old me, Sailor Moon was the epitome of cool. To begin with, she had the most beautiful name I'd ever heard (Serena), and had the most awesome hairstyle I had ever seen (which I still to this day regret never being able to pull off). She had a talking cat, fought against evil monsters with her best friends, and to top it all off was a princess, which sent her cool factor through the roof because there was nothing I loved more as a kindergartener than stories about princesses. Sailor Moon wasn't without her flaws, however--she wasn't great at schoolwork, was often lazy, and she could be a cowardly crybaby. But in the end, with the support of her friends, she always came through and saved the day. Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts oozed "girl power", and I'm pretty sure that this early obsession with kick-ass superheroines was the beginning of my love for stories featuring awesome girls. So for today's Top Ten list, I'm picking books that also have awesome girls at the center of their stories (along with some magical elements, of course).

Karou of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Clary of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, Celaena Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, Fire of Fire by Kristin Cashore, Katniss of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Who are some of your favorite "superheroines"?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Introducing A New Feature: Bookish Imaginings

 Happy Saturday! Today I am so excited to unveil a new feature on Life in the Pages called "Bookish Imaginings." One of my favorite parts of reading a really great book is watching the scenes play out in my mind like a movie. I love trying to visualize what the characters and settings would look like, and have gotten into the habit of creating Pinterest boards and playlists for my favorite books. Bookish Imaginings is an outlet for sharing my visions of books, and a chance for you to join in as well: At the end of each post, I'll have a link up for you to add your own Bookish Imaginings post.

So without further ado, let's kick off the first Bookish Imaginings with:

When I really love a book, one of my favorite things to do is to create my own soundtrack. It's so exciting to me when I find a song that perfectly fits the mood of the story or a particular scene. DoSaB is a gritty, dark fantastical story, so the music on my playlist is equally dark and strange.
But before we get to the playlist, I have to share a song with you guys. I'm calling it right now: this song has to be the trailer music for the DoSaB movie. It's so epic and it's got a sort of exotic vibe to it, which is perfect since so much of the book is set in Prague and Marrakesh!

Now, on to the playlist, which is a mix of vocal and instrumental tracks. I've tried ordering the instrumentals as chronologically as possible, and included quotes for which parts of the book each track fits in with! :)

1. "The Mortal Instruments - Opening" (Atli Örvarsson, City of Bones OST)
I love how magical and mysterious this track is. It really fits the mood of the beginning of the book.

2." Little Amy" (Murray Gold, Doctor Who Series 5 OST)
"She had been innocent once, a little girl playing with feathers on the floor of a devil's lair. She wasn't innocent now..."

3. "Reunion" (Yvonne S. Moriarty, Gladiator OST)
"There was a soft glow and a smell of scorching, and when he took away his hand its print was scored into the wood."

4. "The Emperor Is Dead" (Yvonne S. Moriarty, Gladiator OST)
Karou and Akiva in Marrakesh

4. "I Had To Do That" (James Newton Howard, Catching Fire OST)
"Metal doors melted, so hot was the fire, and witnesses who stared at the flames saw, in the nimbus of their dazzled retinas, the silhouettes of wings. Karou saw them and understood. The way to Elsewhere had been severed, and she was cast adrift."

5. "Sorrow" (Yvonne S. Moriarty, Gladiator OST)
For the chapter "Dream-Lost" (Madrigal and Akiva's first meeting)

6. "Jacob Sees Marlena" (James Newton Howard, Water for Elephants OST)
"Love is an element."

6. "This Isn't Right" (Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson, Winter's Tale OST)
Discovery and the burning of the temple

7. "The Killing of Dumbledore" (Nicholas Hooper, Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince OST)
Madrigal's execution

8. "Light as a Feather" (Hans Zimmer and Rupert Gregson, Winter's Tale OST)
Evanescence/Saving Akiva

9. "Eli and Oscar" (Johan Söderqvist, Let the Right One In OST)
"You escaped,' she said. 'You lived.'"

10. "Sacrifice" (Junkie XL, Divergent OST)
"What have you done?"

Last but not least, have a look around the DoSaB Pinterest board I made!

So, what do you guys think of Bookish Imaginings? Let me know in the comments and be sure to link up to participate!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor (Re-Read)

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pub Date: September 2011
Source/Format: Bought/Hardcover

From Goodreads:

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
(I've changed up the format a bit this time, so let me know what you think!)

The Story and the World
I first read Daughter of Smoke and Bone a couple of summers ago and was utterly crushed by the ending, but fell completely in love with the story. By the time Days of Blood and Starlight came out, though, I had forgotten a lot of the finer points of the plot of DoSaB and, being swamped with senior year schoolwork, had practically no time to reread it, let alone start the next one in the series. So here we are two years later and I have to say I'm kind of glad I waited until after the series was finished to pick it up again. Now I get to read the whole series back-to-back, which is good because I'm not sure my heart could handle another soul-crushing cliffhanger.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone has easily made its way onto my favorite books list, and one of the main reasons for that is Laini Taylor's beautiful writing. I think I could read it forever and never get tired of it. Her descriptions of Prague and Marrakesh and Eretz are just so lush. She makes the real world settings seem just as mysterious and fantastical as her fantasy world, and so many times while reading I just wanted to jump through the page and be there!
"There was a deceptive tangling of alleys that gave the impression of a map that shifted behind you, gargoyles tiptoeing away, stones like puzzle pieces rearranging themselves into new configurations while you weren't looking. Prague entranced you, lured you in, like the mythic fey who trick travelers deep into forests until they're lost beyond hope. But being lost here was a gentle adventure of marionette shops and absinthe..."
Then there's the world-building, which is amazing and so well thought out. From the caged city of Loramendi, to Brimstone's macabre yet somehow comforting shop, everything felt so real. I was fascinated by the mythological stories of Ellai and Nitid, the Gibborim and the godstars, wanting read about them almost as much as I wanted to read about Karou and Akiva. I found it fascinating how Laini Taylor took a concept familiar to so many--angels versus devils--and turned it into a mythology completely her own. One of the biggest questions I found myself asking while I read was, what defines an "angel" and a "devil" in this world? Brimstone calls human religion "a quilt a fairy tales, which humans had patched together out of glimpses." In this world, the magical beings are divided not as angels and devils ruled by God and Satan, but as seraphim and chimaera, neither of whom can be definitively labeled good or evil.
"There were angels on the Charles Bridge, and she was their foe. She: enemy of angels, in her black coat and evil tattoos, with her lashing blue hair and black eyes. They: so golden, the very image of church frescoes come to life. She was the demon in this scene, and she half expected, glancing at her shadow sharp before her, to see that it had horns."
What also made the fantasy world in DoSaB so unique was how it crossed over into the real world. In a lot of YA, knowledge of the paranormal is contained to a small group of people who are in the know, but in DoSaB people all over the world have sightings of the angels. Media outlets and the police become involved, which leaves me wondering what repercussions this will have later in the series.

The Characters
Karou's chimaera family is one of my favorite things about DoSaB, and Brimstone and Issa (and Kishmish--poor Kishmish!) captured my heart. I loved Issa, who could be so kind one moment, calling Karou "sweet girl" and delighting in dressing her up as a chimaera, but completely fierce and terrifying the next, wrapping her venomous snakes around the necks of Brimstone's unsavory traders. And then there's Brimstone himself, whose tragic past and fatherly nature toward Karou made me want to hug him (even though he could be a little...well, terrifying).

Even the human characters in this book are awesome. Zuzana is seriously the best "best friend" character I've read in a YA book in a long time. She wasn't just a side character thrown in for the purpose of showing the reader that the main charcter has friends; I really came to care for Zuzana and love her for her quirk and attitude. Not to mention the banter between her and Karou had me laughing out loud constantly. I really hope she shows up more in the next books.

Finally, of course, there's the star-crossed lovers themselves, Karou and Akiva. Let's just say I haven't been this crazy over a fictional pairing since Edward and Bella. Goodness, I love these two!  Karou is witty, hilarious, and a total bad-ass, but at the same time she's still vulnerable and achingly lonely. It made her more relatable, more human, and best of all, it showed that a heroine can have flaws and experience real emotions and still be considered a "strong female character" (I have a bit of a beef with that label, but I'll save that rant for another post).

The Ending

Out of all that happens, my favorite part of the book has to be the breaking of the wishbone and all that ensues afterward. It was the part of the book that stuck with me the most after the first read, and going into this rereading I was partly excited to read it again and partly dreading the heartbreak I knew was coming. Because that ending. So heartwrenching. It was just so unbearably cruel of Laini to put Akiva and Karou/Madrigal through the agony of betrayal and death and rebirth and reunion...only to have them torn apart again by yet another (albeit unwitting) betrayal by Akiva.  My heart twists at the thought of what lies ahead in Days of Blood and Starlight.

Favorite Quote
"Karou wished she could be the kind of girl who was complete unto herself, comfortable in solitude, serene. But she wasn't. She was lonely, and she feared the missingness within her as if it might expand and...cancel her. She craved a presence beside her, solid. Fingertips light at the nape of her neck and a voice meeting hers in the dark. Someone who would wait with an umbrella to walk her home in the rain, and smile like sunshine when he saw her coming. Who would dance with her on her balcony, keep his promises and know her secrets, and make a tiny world wherever he was, with just her and his arms and his whisper and her trust." 
Final Thoughts and Rating
Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a thrilling, beautifully written story of star-crossed love, good versus evil, and the power of hope. I cannot wait to see where the rest of the series will take Karou and Akiva.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Things (That Aren't Books) That I'd Like To Own

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic:

Bookish Things (That Aren't Books) That I'd Like To Own

1. A reading nook/window seat: Ever since I was a little girl, one thing I've always wanted was a cozy little hiding place where I could tuck myself away to read in peace and quiet. I've never had a room with a window seat, but someday I'd love to have one.

2. A home library: I think just about all of us are familiar with the scene in Disney's Beauty and the Beast in which the Beast surprises Belle with that fantastic library. And I think that most of us bookish types would give anything to have a library like that. My dream is to one day have a home with a giant library room to fill with all my books (and if that library is equipped with a spiral staircase or ladders, all the better!).

3. Katie Daisy book plates: If you haven't heard of Katie Daisy and seen her gorgeous, whimsical artwork, allow me to direct you to her Etsy shop. I'm not sure she sells these book plates anymore, but I'll be the first to buy some if they become available again!

4. This Harry Potter mug: Because who doesn't need a Harry Potter mug?!

5. A replica of Sirius Black's wand: Yes, I am one of those geeks who frequently drools over those Noble Collection catalogs...and even own a few things from it. So far I've acquired Hermione's wand, the Elder wand (which my wonderful dad got me at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter), and Hermione's Time Turner. Now I want Sirius's wand because the engravings on it are so cool!

6. The Clockwork Angel necklace: How gorgeous is this necklace?! Unfortunately, the really nice ones are far too expensive for me to justify buying (at least for the moment).

7. The Folio Society editions of Andrew Lang's Fairy books: Technically, this list is supposed to be things that aren't books...but the chances of me getting these particular editions are so slim that I've decided to throw them on the list anyway. I have always been, and still am, a huge fairy tale lover, so when I saw these books on tumblr, I immediately had to track them down. I found them...and nearly cried when I saw the price. The books are absolutely gorgeous, but at $80 a pop I don't see myself owning them any time soon, if ever.

8. Penguin Books tote bag: I love the look of these editions of the Penguin classics, so of course I freaked out when I saw they had matching tote bags!

9. Old-fashioned Harry Potter postcard postersI absolutely love how the artist of these posters gave an old-timey postcard feel to their depiction of Hogwarts and the Quidditch World Cup and the Hogwarts Express! So fun! I'd love to hang these on my walls.

10. ALL OF THE Sacchi bookmarks! You know those shiny metal bookmarks with the ribbons and beading that you always see hanging on the bookmark carousel at Barnes and Noble? I love them! They are my favorite bookmarks ever and I'd love to have a collection of them.

Check out my "Bookish Things" Pinterest board to see what else is on my bookish wishlist.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Stacking the Shelves {4}

By far the most exciting addition to my bookshelf this week was Laini Taylor's Dreams of Gods and Monsters! I ran out to the bookstore Tuesday night to get it, even though I was in the middle of rereading Daughter of Smoke and Bone and still am (it's been a busy week...but more on that in a minute). I might have squealed a bit when I saw that Barnes and Noble also had the copies with the signed art print of Karou, which I had thought only came in the pre-ordered editions. I'm planning a giant DoSaB review post once I finish the trilogy, so keep your eyes peeled for that (there will be some other fun stuff thrown in, too).

Ahhhh! It's finally mine!

I also made a trip to the library this week (surprise, surprise) and hidden in this picture of my haul is the reason why I haven't gotten much reading accomplished this week:

Looks like a fairly normal library haul, right? I've got some YA, some fairy tale retellings...but wait--why do I have a copy of the 2013 Children's Writer's & Illustrator's Market, you ask? Well...because I got some very big news this week:

I've been accepted to a publishing grad program this summer! Ahhhh!

I found out on Wednesday afternoon and I've spent the rest of the week in a state of simultaneous shock and excitement. I've known for a while now that I want a job in publishing, but without internship experience it's almost impossible to get your foot in the door. The program I'll be in isn't an internship but it's just as good, and I'm absolutely thrilled I've been accepted! One of the first things I did after finding out was to run to the library and grab whatever books they had on children's and YA publishers (which, as you can see, was not very many). I've been poring through it and compiling a list of all the different publishing companies and their imprints, making note of the types of books each one publishes. I'm so excited and I just want to learn everything I possibly can before I go!

So tell me, what books did you guys pick up this week? Are you reading anything particularly good this weekend?

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Unique Books I've Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic:

The Most Unique Books I've Read

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: Does this one even need explaining? J.K. Rowling created an entirely new world when she wrote Harry Potter, a world that millions of children (and even adults) would have given anything to live in.

2. Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness: While it took a while to grow on me, I ended up absolutely loving the Chaos Walking trilogy. I love how Ness used grammar and spelling to portray Todd's voice; it was so real and unique to him. The inclusion of the different fonts for the thoughts of the men in Prentisstown and New Prentisstown also made these books stand out from others in the YA category.

3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: The very fact that this book is narrated by an anthropomorphized figure of Death would be enough to make this book unique, but the way in which Death speaks makes The Book Thief really stand out. Death's way of seeing and experiencing the world is so sensory and heartbreaking and beautiful.

4. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: Possibly my favorite book of 2013, Fangirl was the best book I'd read about fandom since reading Melissa Anelli's Harry: A History. The whole time reading I was so in awe of Rainbow Rowell. I just thought, "wow, she really gets what it's like to be in fandom." And while I absolutely love Fangirl for the parallels it draws to the HP fandom, the story is about so much more than that. Cath is a character I could truly relate to and Rowell perfectly captured the anxieties that go along with being a freshman in college. I never expected that this book would make me feel so much, but it did!

5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Some may argue with me about the originality of THG, especially with all the comparisons that have been drawn between it and the Japanese novel, Battle Royale, but for me these books were unique because they were the first dystopian novels I'd read, and they blew my mind. Each book was riveting and action-packed, and Katniss is such an awesome heroine.

6. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: The Night Circus might be slow plot-wise, but gosh, it has such gorgeous imagery. I loved the combination of the whimsical nature of the circus with all those magical elements. I would love to see this book adapted to film.

7. Soulless by Gail Carriger: This book is so great! It's Jane Austen meets steampunk urban fantasy and I absolutely love it. It's so funny and entertaining!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Stacking the Shelves {3}

Another small book haul this week (I really need to stop but I just can't help myself!).

I went to the bookstore with my dad earlier in the week (it was his idea, I swear), and he was nice enough to get two books for me: Lost in Thought by Cara Bertrand and Peculiars by Maureen Doyle McQuerry. Look at those gorgeous covers!

In addition to these, I also downloaded the Cruel Beauty novella, Gilded Ashes, onto my e-reader.

Yesterday I made my weekly venture to the library and picked up some books that had come in for me: V.C. Andrew's The Unwelcomed Child and Osiris by E.J. Swift, a sci-fi novel that I saw Rosianna (of YouTube fame) tweet about earlier this week. For now, I'm putting all of my newly acquired books on the back burner because I'm catching up on the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series so I can read Dreams of Gods and Monsters when it comes out on Tuesday!

So tell me, what new books did you pick up this week? What will you be reading over the weekend?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

WoW {4}: Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme in which bloggers discuss the upcoming releases they're excited for. Hosted by Breaking the Spine.

From Goodreads:

There is a world where gods you’ve never heard of have wound themselves into hearts, and choice has led its history down a different path.

This is a world where France made a small, downtrodden island called England part of its vast and bloated empire.

There are people here who can cross a thousand miles with their minds. There are rarer people still who can move between continents in the blink of an eye.

These people are dangerous.

And wanted. Desperately wanted.

Apprentice hedgewitch Vela Rue knows that she is destined for more. She knows being whisked off from a dull country life to a city full of mystery and intrigue is meant to be. She knows she has something her government wants, a talent so rare and precious and new that they will do anything to train her in it.

But she doesn’t know that she is being lied to. She doesn’t know that the man teaching her about her talent is becoming obsessed by her, and considered by some to be the most dangerous man alive...

While Fearsome Dreamer has been out in the UK for about six months now, it's being released in the US on Thursday. It sounds similar to Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season, so I'm excited to check it out and see how it compares.

Release Date: April 3, 2014

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: YA "Gateway" Books In My Reading Journey

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's topic:

YA Gateway Books In My Reading Journey

Oh, my gosh, this post was so hard to make! I've been wracking my brain for nearly half an hour trying to remember some of the first YA books I ever read. The fact that it's been ten years (ten years!) since I turned thirteen combined with the fact that I didn't have Goodreads back then to track my reading progress, I've forgotten a lot of what I read back then. Luckily, after a little digging around through the YA book lists on Goodreads, I was able to find some of the books I read as a young teen. So, here you have it: Teen Alex's list of gateway YA books. This list spans some of the most influential books I read from around ages twelve to fifteen.

1. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech: This is one of the few childhood books that has survived two cross-state moves and multiple book shelf sweeps. I remember reading this book as a kid and just being absorbed by Creech's storytelling.

2. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot: If I had to name my favorite series in middle school, Meg Cabot's The Princess Diaries would be it. They are hands down the funniest books I've ever read, even now. As an awkward, shy preteen and teenager, I related so much to Mia's struggles but loved the way Cabot conveyed them with such humor.

3. Romiette and Julio by Sharon Draper: One of my absolute favorites in sixth grade. I think this was one of the first books that I stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to finish. It's the classic Romeo and Juliet story modernized; set in an inner city where two teens in love are challenged by the racism perpetuated by school gangs, peers, and their own parents. It was such a suspenseful and exciting read at the time, and was the first truly "romantic" book I'd ever read.

4. A Rose for Melinda by Lurlene McDaniel: At the time, reading this book (about a young ballet dancer with terminal cancer) was the equivalent to reading The Fault in Our Stars now. I bawled at the end. My heart was totally broken. Afterward, I went into Lurlene McDaniel craze that lasted pretty much all throughout middle school. Not much has changed since then--I still love books that make me cry.

5. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli: If you were in middle school in the early 2000s, there's a good chance that you read this book. I wouldn't be surprised if this book ends up as required reading someday, if it hasn't already. It was so popular at my school that even with multiple copies, it still took forever to get your hands on one.

6. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares: Again, is there any 00s girl who didn't read The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants? I remember being at Target with a friend who was begging her mom to buy this book for her, but her mom was really wary of letting her read it (I think it might have been the "You must never let a boy take off the Pants (although you may take them off yourself in his presence" line on the back of the book that was giving her reservations...we were only twelve at the time, after all). In the end, she caved and let my friend buy it.

The "Alice" books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor: To be perfectly honest, I don't remember a thing about this series other than the fact that I read a lot of them in seventh grade.

Daughters of the Moon series by Lynn Ewing: Whoever designed the covers for these books knew what they were doing--how could I pass up a book that featured fierce-looking girls wearing glitter and awesome dresses on each cover? Plus, I think the whole superhero/goddess aspect of the books appealed to the part of me that loved Sailor Moon as a little girl.

Sabriel by Garth Nix: This is a book I've been wanting to revisit for a while now. I read it in eighth grade, but a lot of the fantasy elements went over my head.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer: My list of gateway books would not be complete without the ultimate book that defined my high school years and started my obsession with YA paranormal romance. I read Twilight over fall break of my freshman year, wanting something spooky to get me in the Halloween spirit, and that, my friends, was the beginning of the end. I've been obsessed ever since.