Goliath, by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Goliath

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Published: September 2011

Pages: 560 pages (hardcover)

Genre: YA Fantasy

Standalone or series: Third and final book in the Leviathan trilogy.

Why I read it: Loved the first two in the series (review of 1st book, Leviathan, here)

Source: The library

Let’s start out with a bold statement, shall we? This is the best YA adventure series I’ve read in years. Seriously. I glommed the 1000+ pages of the final two books in this series in 2 days and even live tweeted my reading of Goliath. (While it could be called YA steampunk, fantasy, historical, etc I’m just going to call it adventure ;)

So why is this is the best YA series I’ve read in years? Well, I love adventures with scenes that make sense, scenes that are necessary to move the action of the story forward, as well as the growth of the characters as well as the development of their relationships with each other. Sometimes action scenes can seem redundant, or the travel/road journey parts too long, but in this series, and Goliath especially, every scene and interaction absolutely served a purpose to the overall arc of the story. The timing of revelations, the way Alek, or Deryn, or the lady boffin Dr. Barlow all reacted were so poignant they kept me so engaged as a reader.

There is absolutely something for everyone, there are battles between bats dropping metal spikes and giant squids, blimps made of fabricated whales versus a rubberized ship with electricity shooting cannon, Deryn with naught but a handful of spices against dangerous men hijacking super-sized elephants. There’s political intrigue, a reimagined World War I, travel to turn-of-the century Japan, New York and even Mexico.

There’s romance…oh the romance! Subtle but powerful! I mean, how could I not adore this series with a dedication page like this?

Alek and Deryn were faced with some difficult choices, and were separated for some important, and dangerous events, but I loved how they were always thinking of each other, and although young, I was continuously impressed on how they handled themselves in the war-torn world. Their behavior was believable as Westerfeld deftly portrayed their struggles on how they would handle the tough situations as they talked it out with each other (their deep friendship is another of my favorite parts) or we got inside each of their heads as well.

And of course the steampunk and science behind fabricated animals. It really was amazing how Westerfeld was able to draw on true-life scientific ideas and re-imagine them for the purpose of the series, Telsa especially was fascinating, I had no idea how much of his electricity experiments were real! I mentioned in my review of the first book that I’m not personally particularly into steampunk, so while I was continuously impressed by the imagination in this world of twisted DNA strands and steam powered robots it’s just not something I geek out over, but it added a LOT to the story obviously.

Ok the only part I really geeked out over was the perspicacious lorises. I could quote Bovril all day, what clever, hilarious little beasties!

With my limited knowledge of steampunk fantasy it seemed like Westerfeld took no shortcuts, the setting, the science, the technology were fully created and detailed, and sometimes illustrated (oh the Keith Thompson drawings were to die for).

Even though Goliath ended with one revelation left somewhat unresolved my imagination absolutely took over after the last page and I’m more than satisfied with my own little fan-fic reel playing in my head. (I also read the bonus chapter on Westerfeld’s blog)

Alek watching The Perils of Pauling moving picture at Hearst's dinner

Oh and the last quote? UTTER PERFECTION.

“Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria, nube.”  Let others wage war. You, lucky Austria, shall marry.

Genius series. Absolutely genius. I got all 3 from the library but am ABSOLUTELY going to invest in buying the trilogy in hard cover so I can lend them to my friends, my future children, my future children’s friends, and re-read them myself all. the. time.

So obviously this post isn’t so much of a formal review, I’m just one of millions of fans and would love to hear if you are too! And if you haven’t read them? Well, barking spiders, why not? Don’t be a Dummkopf, sorry to be a sticky-beak but you need to read them immediately!

A- overall to Goliath  and the whole Leviathan series.

Library Loot: return from hiatus

I love cleaning out the YA section of my local libraries (I’ve done it many times before), I swear the DC/MD/VA area public libraries have AWESOME Young Adult fiction selections (kudos to the buyers in charge!) but rarely have any of the adult books on my wish list. So I did it once again…check out my library loot (back on board with this meme 6 months after my last Library Loot post…)

I got some of the hottest titles right now (according to all the “best of 2011” posts in my google reader) and I wasn’t even on the waitlist, just grabbed these beauties right off the shelves.

And look at the gorgeous covers, YA really has the most beautiful and creative cover-art out there these days…that I regularly see anyways..

I thin my impetus to read all of these was mainly from The Book Smuggles (of course, they say jump and I say – how high?) but I think these are all fairly popular titles many of my bookish internet friends posted about that I missed while I was too busy to read these past 6 months!

1.  Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld – I read the first in this series, Leviathan, almost a year ago (my review here) and loved it so am super excited to finally get around to reading the next. I think the 3rd is already out too?

2. Legend  by Marie Lu – Hopping on board the “YA dystopia new release” bandwagon. Have low expectations for alllll of these so-called YA dystopias but looking forward to some entertaining brain candy at the very least with Legend!

3. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – All I know is that this review at The Book Smugglers made my fingers positively itch to pick up this more unusual read.

4. The Iron King by Julie Kagawa – This is one of those series where I feel like I’m the only one who HASN’T read them! Looking forward to discovering the hype for myself over this faery-world with secret princesses and Midsummer Night’s Dream inspired characters.

Library loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader and Claire from The Captive Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

 OK all this lovely lovely information was supposed to copy paste from Goodreads, but was just messy HTML, sigh. So here is the detail:

  • Title: Will Grayson, Will Grayson
  • Authors: John Green and David Levithan
  • Pages: 310, hardcover
  • Published: April 2010
  • My Goodreads rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
Really this book should be called Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Tiny Cooper, but the title was long enough already. Although the two Will’s coming together is part of he catalyst for great change in their lives, it is really their friend in common (or boyfriend as one of the Will’s struggles with coming out) that wreaks the most havoc, in an ultimately positive way, in both their lives.

Although it can be argued that the stunning clarity and realness of the both the Wills’ characters is offset by the seemingly unreal Tiny I absolutely enjoyed this YA novel set in Chicago by two fabulous authors. Reading YA as a adult can be hard to remember how much drama occurred in the lunch room, at your locker, over the phone, and now of course, over social networking sites, but I felt every scene and type of interaction was handled so deftly, and sometimes to depressingly realistically that it was almost like I was back in high school myself.

I knew nothing of the book before I picked it up, it was the only John Green book my library had in stock and I was determined to read something by him, so I had no idea how emo this book was, and would make me, but I definitely recommend it!

The Daughters, by Joanna Philbin

  • Title: The Daughters
  • Author: Joanna Philbin (could NOT find an author website. lame.)
  • Published: May, 2010
  • Pages: 288 pages (Hardcover)
  • Genre: Young Adult
  • Standalone or series: First in a planned series of three. 
  • Why I read it: Saw a review in People magazine.
  • Source: Library.

Yes, this is by Regis Philbin’s daughter, so one can assume the author has experienced some of what her characters go through as all three girls in this series are daughters of mega-famous parents. The first book in the series mainly follows Lizzie Summers – picture her mom as a Christie Brinkley/Cindy Crawford/Heidi Klum type. Except Lizzie doesn’t look one teensiest tinyest bit like a super model. Tall and gangly in a not-thin way with frizzy red hair, Lizzie would rather have her crooked nose buried in The Great Gatsby than have anything to do with her mother’s world of fashion. But her mother seems absolutely oblivious to Lizzie’s looks and awkwardness and blithely drags her along to red carpet events where she is shunned repeatedly by the photographers. Any photos of her that do end up online are inevitably mocked by snarky celebrity bloggers. Then Lizzie starts to think that her mom is worse than oblivious, maybe she not only doesn’t understand her daughter in the least, but could she be using Lizzie to make herself look better in pictures?

That type of self-doubt, lack of communication and understanding with your parents, growing into your body, and teen angst are all very typical symptoms and drama of that stage in any girl’s life, but throw into that already-terrible mix being a daughter of a celebrity! It definitely intensifies things!

The teenage viewpoint is one of the things I think Philbin captured best in her debut novel. For example, Lizzie’s childhood crush, Todd, moved away to London for several years but now is back, more gorgeous than ever, and going to her high school! Of course she needs any excuse to be near him and her strategy is to get dibs on being his tour guide the first day of school.

While things start off like OMGsoawesome (hey he’s reading and loving the Great Gatsby too! and they both want to be writers!) of course rivals for his attention come up, and Lizzie’s own issues get in the way of their blossoming friendship. In the teenage world one drop-by your locker, one phone call, one facebook message makes a big difference, so only weeks after her heartfelt petition to be his tour guide Lizzie and he are avoiding each other. I loved this quote showing this type of transparent-to-us teenage drama, but that is SO. VERY. IMPORTANT to them:

“Lizzie Summers,” Mr Barlow barked. “You’re with Todd Piedmont. You’ll be doing Cupid and Psyche. The love myth.”

Somebody, somewhere giggled. Lizzie looked straight down, feeling her cheeks burn…

[After class ended] she sprinted out of the room, walked into Mr. Barlow’s office, and shut the door.

“Is there a problem, Miss. Summers?” he asked wryly, reading a few phone messages on his desk.

“You can’t put me with Todd!” she exclaimed.

He stifled a smile. “But just the other day you were begging me to be his tour guide,” he said.

“That was three weeks ago,” she said. “Everything’s different now. Everything.”

However, I thought the book overall was more fluffy than deep. There were so many angles that could have had more depth, such as when Lizzie takes steps to be more comfortable in front of the cameras. Her modeling sessions were described so vaguely to me, and in missing those details I missed the emotional connection with Lizzie and how she was changing.

Also central to teenage life is school and again, their exclusive private school got NO description, not what it looked like, what her homework was like, what the atmosphere was like there, and I was disappointed. Granted, New York City was depicted in greater detail and while these girls enjoy their wealth around the city and we get to know their penthouses and mansions pretty well, I still thought the school should get more attention.

Lastly, Lizzie gets into Trouble a few times with her parents and I didn’t see any real consequences. She was grounded for a little bit, but when a school dance comes up and Lizzie goes one of her friends says, “Hey, aren’t you grounded” and her response was a casual, “Oh yeah, they ended it early so I could go to this dance.” Although when she gets into Trouble at school I appreciated the way her teachers handled it – Lizzie’s mistake caused her to miss out on a big writing opportunity which was very important to her.

This first installment of a series about girls finding their own identities separate from their parents’ has some good moments, and poignant insight into teenage drama. I would recommend it for middle-school aged girls or as a potential beach or pool read as I didn’t feel it had the depth or emotional connection to stimulate more mature readers.

The next books will follow Lizzie’s two best friends who already had quite a bit of set-up in The Daughters: Carina, daughter of an overbearing billionaire-tycoon father, and Hudson whose mom is a  brittle, selfish chart topping pop icon.

Going Too Far, by Jennifer Echols

  • Title: Going Too Far
  • Author: Jennifer Echols (author website here)
  • Published: March, 2009
  • Pages: 245 pages (paperback)
  • Genre: Young Adult
  • Standalone or series: Standalone.
  • Why I read it: Um, have you NOT heard the buzz about how awesome this books is? It seems like every book blog I read last year sung it’s praises, but I only just got around to reading it.
  • Source: Library.
  • This book is ABSO-FECKIN-LUTELY as fabulously wonderful as everyone said it is. READ IT NOW. Why haven’t you read it yet?! Yes you (I see you!). Recommended for anyone who likes literary fiction, any type of YA, chick lit, and romance novels. This is a book you could recommend to pretty much ANY female in your circle of family, friends, and acquaintances. I would also recommend it as a book club read. While it is labeled as Young Adult there is quite a bit of sex and drugs raciness as well as seriousness surrounding death, phobias, and diseases.

    There was nothing I didn’t like about the book. Literally nothing.

    I’m usually not a fan of first-person narratives, especially in romantic types of stories, I want and need to hear both perspectives of how they fall in love, but Echols’ character development was so deft, detailed, and poignant that the clues were all there to pick up on, even if we only heard 17 year old Meg’s point of view.

    I also really connected with Meg, even with her dyed-blue hair, living in a trailer, working for free at her parent’s greasy spoon diner, sleeping with the town’s rich-boy-druggie…someone SO different from me the reader, I connected with her. This is no mean feat. But being inside Meg’s head, listening to the way she describes herself, the way she sees people around her, the way she observes the world – I got her. She was refreshing and cynical at the same time, a very mature 17 year old that’s for sure.

    One of the ways the writing enables us to connect so well with Meg is that she almost has running inside jokes with us, the reader. The book opens with her getting arrested for drinking and trespassing on dangerous railroad tracks on a bridge. Her punishment is to miss her senior year of high school spring break, the first time she would ever get out of her bumblefuck Alabama town, and spend the week riding with the cop who arrested her.

    She first thinks he is much older than he is, he’s so big and built and his uniform and confident way he holds himself confuses her on his age. She imagines his kids at home reading comic books, his wife cooking fruit cobbler, and anxiously listening to the police scanner while she waits for him to come home.

    While Meg finds out her cop (and he does become her cop more and more!), John, is actually 19 she still has that inside joke with us about the fruit cobbler. Every now and then she’ll bring it up, but relating it to herself.

    Here is one of my favorite passages, giving you an idea how fun it is to be inside Meg’s thoughts, and how she sets up scenes, inside jokes with us, and describes things so we can really connect with her:

    Before this I’d entertained a miniature thought of what might happen if I saw John when my official punishment was over two nights from now. The small thought had not become a large thought because it had no room to grow. Currently John was pouring Miracle-Gro on the thought. I was just getting out the hedge clippers to cut the thought down when he parked in front of Martini’s…

    [John walked into the bar to break up a potentially dangerous fight]

    I gripped the front of the seat with both sweaty hands to keep from jumping out of the car and running to him. And then I got completely freaking furious with myself. I did hope that I was not entertaining a plot to somehow date Johnafter? I cranked up the chain saw to cut down the plot made by Miracle-Gro.

    He got back into the car with much clinking of the weaponry attached to his belt. “What’s wrong?”…

    I pressed one finger between my eyes, still concentrating on the chain saw. Feel the chain saw. Be the chain saw…

    The chain saw had run out of gas.

    Life hasn’t been easy for Meg, and she hasn’t made it any easier for herself either. Her baggage and reasons for her rebellious nature are a few of the many layers of this amazing book. I turned each page super fast just to peel away each layer from both her, and John. Even though we’re in Meg’s POV she still keeps some secrets from us and when they are revealed, and when John finally reveals some of his own…well you won’t be unaffected, let’s just say that. Not everyone is a crier like me, but there is no way to read this book and be unaffected.

    This was my first Jennifer Echols book and I can’t wait to read more by her. As a lover of all things romance and stories that affect me on a deep emotional level I couldn’t ask for more than what I found in Going Too Far.

    All my fave bloggers have read and reviewed (and loved!) it too:

    Fevered bookish thoughts

    The lusty household was home sick this week and I have been apathetic about blogging, reading and commenting. The only meal I made in 4 days was the classic grilled cheese, tomato soup, and orange juice:

    cliche yet so yummy

    cliche yet so yummy

    Oh, and a giant FAIL at easy mac, wayyy to soupy to eat, yuck. I’m out of practice as I was an easy-mac-expert in college. Especially at 3am. We mostly ordered out and had lots of tea. Since hubby had the real swine flu and I was just flu-ish and head-cold-ish I didn’t argue too much with his TV choices (like we usually do) and graciously let his swine-y self choose. So we watched lots of Deadliest Catch, football and baseball with a few Bonnie Hunt and Say Yes to the Dress shows interspersed while he was napping.

    I can now highly recommend the movie Milk (I bawled at the end) but would not recommend Role Models so much.

    We weren’t alone  however, as many of us who attended a huge blogger event last weekend in DC were stricken with the #pbandtunaflu, a twitter hashtag for the afliction. Sort of ironic that poor non-blogging hubby who was super nice to go along with me was the one who ended up with the actual swine.

    But I think I was probably the only one out of all us poorly-feeling bloggers whose fevered and nyquil soaked brain had vague yet persistent memories of a children’s book stuck in my head but I just COULDN’T figure out what book it was!

    I had dreams of the illustrations. Stirrings of happy nostalgic feelings. Breif snippets of my mom and I reading together. Maybe she read it to me when I was sick and that’s what triggered the memories?

    All I know is that I hadn’t thought of this book in 15+ years and I could only remember a smaller, very short hardcover with a little girl and a white horse.

    Googling “children’s illustrated white horse book” gave me umpteen thousand results. Amazon’s browsing categories feature was much more helpful, I was able to narrow is down to > children > hardcover > animals > horses and as soon as I scrolled through 2 pages I saw the title and BAM! I remembered it vividly, immediately, and had a little bit of a tingly rush looking at the cover:

    charlotteandthewhitehorse

    It’s for babies really, 0-4 years old I think, and it’s really the illustrations that make the book.* I remember them being soft, subtle, almost lovingly drawn, and so so very sweet. The story itself is also sweet about a little girl named Charlotte who convinces her father to let her raise a wobbly-legged white colt and let her take care of him herself until he can stand on his own.

    Maybe my subconscious brought this book to the forefront of my sluggish brain after being bombarded with Where the Wild Things Are images with the movie coming out as Maurice Sendak also illustrated Charlotte and The White Horse 17 years before he wrote and illustrated WtWTA.

    Or maybe I just remembered the comfort of reading this book as a baby and my poor tired body and fevered brain dredged up the happy feelings that I needed to get well.

    I can’t believe I’m remembering BABY books though!!! Between this one and The Teddy Bear’s Picnic book and song I thought of the other day I am just on a roll.

    *Those of you who know me in real life may guess another reason why I loved this book too ;)

    My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincet

    my soul to take

    I received this book as an ARC earlier this summer from Harlequin, my first ARC ever! (Happy now FTC?) I was super intrigued by the summary:

    She doesn’t see dead people, but…

    She senses when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.

    Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest guy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about the need to scream than she does. And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason, only Kaylee knows who’ll be next…

    So our girl Kaylee has a bit of a problem, well several…Her mom passed away when she was a baby, her Dad ran off to Ireland, leaving her back in the US in the care of her Aunt and Uncle, and one cousin who she doesn’t get along with in the slightest. Oh yeah one more thing – she gets an unbearable and inescapable urge to scream at the top of her lungs when she’s close to certain people…people who end up dying shortly thereafter.

    This last part had me hooked, all the family internal drama is one thing, but the myth and legends of Banshees or bean sidhes was totally new to me, so I had no preconceptions and Ms. Vincent’s world enraptured me. From the very beginning I also loved the descriptive writing, I could almost feel how desperate and painful it was for Kaylee to hold back her screams in the first scene at a bar she sneaked into, surrounded by people, one of whom she knew was going to die.  The way she clenched her teeth, the internal agony she had to keep it in…I could almost feel it right along with her.

    Although she went through this agony a few times in the book I didn’t feel the description got too repetitive, enough new parts of what banshees go through and what she was feeling were revealed each time to make each experience subtly different.

    On the flip side I felt that too many areas of her powers, of the secret paranormal world, of her family history, of the dangers she was now exposed to were hidden from her too long. This lack of knowledge not only put her in needless danger from being put off from knowing more about her new situation, but also seemed to needlessly elongate the book. I feel like it could have been 50 pages shorter at least. Like her family and new boyfriend were withholding information from her on purpose to draw out events even longer.

    I mean if I found out I wasn’t a human, but a wailing banshee prompted by imminent death I would want to know as much as possible right away! Heck, let’s stay up all night talking about it! Maybe I should find out more about my parents and aunt and uncle since they might be banshees too! But Kaylee gets stonewalled a bit here which annoyed me.

    The suspense plot line of why so many girls were dropping dead in Kaylee’s town for no apparent reason kept me on my toes and also helped us the reader, to gain more insight into the paranormal world, as well as how Kaylee would handle difficult situations morally and personally. She came out on top every time, and not in a Mary Sue way.

    I also like Kaylee’s voice, to be honest I hardly ever EVER choose books in first person narrative if I can help it, but Ms. Vincent does a great job balancing Kaylee’s teenager thoughts while on the path to self discovery. And she’s a bit wry, a little matter-of-fact which really appealed to me. Take this quote for example (near the end, but 90% spoiler free!)

    My gaze fell to the room where ____  had died, ____ had been restored, and I’d whacked a psychotic grim reaper with a cast iron skillet. Weirdest. Tuesday. Ever.

    Ending on a bit of a cliffhanger with her budding romantic relationship, return of her father, and more lurking mysteries in the paranormal world I can’t wait to read more about Kaylee and her developing life as a banshee. I recommend this book for teens and adult alike, anyone looking to read a little bit of dark adventure! Final grade: A- for me!

    The next edition in the Soul Screamers Series, My Soul To Save will be released in January 2010.