Throwback Thursday (November 29) – Water for Elephants

Welcome to Throwback Thursday, a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books!

It’s the nature of book blogging to focus mainly on new releases, but there are thousands of great books out there that haven’t seen the “New Releases” shelf in years. We hope to be able to bring attention to some older titles that may not be at the top of the current bestseller list, but still deserve a spot in your To-Be-Read pile.

You don’t have to be a book blogger to participate! You can put up a Throwback Thursday post on your non-bookish blog; or if you don’t have a blog at all, just use the comments to tell us about a book you remember fondly.

Here’s how it works:
1. Pick any book released more than 5 years ago. Adult, YA, Children’s; doesn’t matter. Any great book will do.
2. Write up a short summary of the book (include the title, author, and cover art) and an explanation of why you love it. Make sure to link back to The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books in your post.
3. Link up your post at The Housework Can Wait or Never Too Fond of Books.
4. Visit as many blogs as you can, reminisce about books you loved, and discover some “new” books for your TBR list!

Feel free to grab the Throwback Thursday button code from the sidebar to use in your posts.

Thanks for participating, and we look forward to seeing which books you choose to remember!

Sorry that I fell off the radar there for a couple weeks. You may have noticed that my co-host, Mandi, has been on a blogging hiatus and I’ve been hosting solo for a few months now. Thankfully, she will be returning to the blogosphere next week, but in the meantime, life got away from me. There were holidays and vacations and basically, I just didn’t plan things very well. Sorry about that. But now we are back, so yay!

My Throwback this week is…

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

From Goodreads: As a young man, Jacob Jankowski was tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. It was the early part of the great Depression, and for Jacob, now ninety, the circus world he remembers was both his salvation and a living hell. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was there that he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but twisted animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great gray hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and, ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

For all of you currently sprinting to the finish of NaNoWriMothis is a NaNo novel! There is hope! (Full disclosure: I’m not doing NaNo, but I know plenty of people who are, and decided to be relevant to the times for once in my life).

I honestly can’t remember what prompted me to read this book. I have a feeling it was something along the lines of a friend shoving it into my hands unsolicited and saying “Read this.” It’s not at all along the lines of what I usually read. But I loved it, and it left me itching for more circus books. It’s sad — at times heartbreaking — but also sweet and funny and utterly fascinating. The writing is lovely and I really got swept up in the world of the Benzini Brothers circus, with all its wonder and magic and grime and danger. The characters traversed the spectrum and evoked all sorts of emotions. If you think you’d like to try a circus book, this is where I’d recommend you start.

This is a blog hop! Link up your Throwback Thursday post below!



Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Review copy received from Scholastic

I have never read a purely werewolf book before. Werewolves as part of other stories, sure. But never a book that was only about werewolves. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it, but I’ve heard good things about Shiver and I knew I liked Maggie Stiefvater’s writing style from reading The Raven Boys. And then Scholastic was awesome enough to send me the entire trilogy to review, so while I was on vacation last week, I plunged into the first book.

The Plot (from Goodreads)

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf–her wolf–is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again. Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human–or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

My Thoughts

My impression on this first book was kind of a mixed bag. On the positive side, I still really like Maggie Stiefvater’s writing. She has a great way of pulling a reader into the story and describing things in ways that are almost tangible. Of course, a huge part of Shiver revolves around the highly unpleasant sensation of being cold, which I hate, so sometimes I kind of wish her writing had been a little less visceral…but that’s what I get for reading a book called Shiver. That’s really much more my problem than the book’s.

I liked Grace and Sam (Sam probably a bit more than Grace), and while the book alternated their first-person points-of-view, I never found their rotating voices confusing. Each had their own distinctive ways of thinking and reacting (Do emo rockers really make up spontaneous song lyrics all the time? Is that a thing?) and I actually found it a bit refreshing to not stay with the same character the whole way through the story. I think either of them on their own for the entire book would have been a bit much, as both of them are preeeetty intense and kind of obsessive. So switching was good.

I also liked the way the werewolf mythology was handled. It was an interesting take on the archetype, presented very straightforwardly without a lot of bells and whistles. The characters even say on several occasions that the transformation from human to wolf is scientific, not magical (although it never really does explore this supposed “science,” which kind of takes away from that argument). But I like that the origin story of the wolves was not the focus. They simply were werewolves, which they dealt with, then moved on.

Now the parts I wasn’t so sold on. First, Grace’s obsession with the wolves is creeeeepy. Seriously, the girl really should have been in therapy for most of her life. She had a crush on a wolf. A wolf she had no idea was human for several months out of the year. So basically, she has a romantic attraction to an animal and this is somehow okay because we know he’s a wolf. But she doesn’t.

Sam does the same thing. At one point, another character asks them how long they’ve been going out, and he answers “six years.” Grace muses, “Of course he would count the time that we’d been two entirely different species.” (p.282)

WHY ‘OF COURSE’? WHY WOULD YOU COUNT THE TIME WHEN YOU WERE DIFFERENT SPECIES AS ‘GOING OUT’? WHY IS THIS NOT EXTREMELY CREEPY?

And this leads to my other issue with the book, which is because they both are apparently under the impression that they were carrying on some sort of romantic relationship while Sam was a wolf — and Grace had no idea he could turn into a human — they plunge right into a super-serious relationship the second he turns human. Even though their entire scope of interaction until that point has been staring at each other across her backyard. WHILE HE WAS A WOLF. This is now something on which to base a deep, borderline-obsessive relationship, apparently. It seemed very instalovey to me, and I know it’s not supposed to because of the aforementioned wolfy staring, but I just can’t count that as the basis for any sort of healthy human relationship.

So. Obviously that bothered me. And their obsession with each other really was a significant portion of the book, which means a significant portion of the book bothered me.

However. I will read the rest of the series, and not just out of obligation. See, I’m pretty sure that I’ll only ever have to experience Grace and Sam “falling in love” (while he is a four-legged furry animal) in this first book. Hopefully subsequent books focus on other parts of the story, like the interesting secondary characters, and the aftermath of the end of this book (which is a pretty solid ending), and the other werewolves. And those are all things I’m interested in reading about.

Content guide: Contains violence and teen sexual activity

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated 2013 Releases

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! I didn’t participate last week because we were on vacation, and I’m not nearly on top of things enough to have planned posts in advance. Nor did I have enough energy to write posts while on vacation, because the theme parks killed me dead. Yup.

I hope you all (or at least those of you in the U.S.) had a fabulous Thanksgiving and stuffed yourselves full of turkey or whatever food you decided to eat in lieu of that glorious tryptophan-filled bird. And for those of you outside the U.S., I hope you had a good week too.

Here’s the topic for this week:

Top Ten Most Anticipated Books For 2013

This post is going to be visually dull, as most of my anticipated books don’t even have cover art yet. Sorry.

Also, these are all sequels, just FYI. So if you haven’t read the first book(s) in some of these series…get on that.

1. Infinityglass (Hourglass #3) by Myra McEntire

2. Defiance #2 by C.J. Redwine (I…think…this is a 2013 release, but I’m not 100% sure, as it has no Amazon or Goodreads page yet).

3. The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy #2) by Jennifer Nielsen.

4. Throne of Glass #2 by Sarah Maas

5. The Bitter Kingdom (Girl of Fire and Thorns #3) by Rae Carson

6. The Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass

7. Requiem (Delirium #2) by Lauren Oliver

8. Divergent #3 (working title: Detergent) by Veronica Roth

9. The Eternity Cure  (Blood of Eden #2) by Julie Kagawa (and I’m pretty sure the Amazon description is wrong, and the Goodreads description is correct)

10. Dare to You (Pushing the Limits #2) by Katie McGarry

Honorable mentions go to The Archived by Victoria Schwab and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys, but they didn’t make the list because I have ARCs of them (and yes, I did do a happy dance at my mailbox when they arrived) and I plan to read them in 2012. Which means that by the time 2013 hits, I won’t be anticipating their releases quite as eagerly as the books I haven’t read yet.

Consider this post my very first New Year’s Resolution. Hopefully I won’t have any trouble fulfilling it.

Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (@RutaSepetys)

For months, people have been telling me how much I needed to read Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. And for months, I’ve been intending to read it, but putting it off. Then I discovered Ruta is another Nashville author, and I met her at a couple different book events. If you ever have a chance to meet her, she is just a fabulous individual. After meeting her, I went ahead and bought the book, since now I had many recommendations plus I knew I liked the author herself, but it still took me a little while to get around to reading it. And after devouring it, I can not only understand why so many people have recommended this book to me, but also add my voice to the throng of people insisting that others read it.

The Plot (from Goodreads)

It’s 1941 and fifteen-year-old artist Lina Vilkas is on Stalin’s extermination list. Deported to a prison camp in Siberia, Lina fights for her life, fearless, risking everything to save her family. It’s a long and harrowing journey and it is only their incredible strength, love, and hope that pull Lina and her family through each day. But will love be enough to keep them alive?

My Thoughts

Okay, first of all, I didn’t even know the Baltic deportations happened. And after reading the author’s note that follows the story, a lot of people don’t know it happened. But it did. Many of the events in this book are based on things that actually happened. So I’m glad I read this book not only for the beautiful writing and the moving story, but also because it opened my eyes to an extremely dark period in human history that has been largely ignored by the rest of the world.

As for the story itself, it is heartbreaking, but also encouraging. Lina and her little brother are forced to grow up fast in the labor camps, and their strength is inspiring. Probably one of my absolute favorite characters was their mother, and I found myself aching with what she must have gone through in order to try to make life bearable for her children. I also found the array of characters extremely interesting. Not all the prisoners are inspiring — one, in particular, drove me crazy every time he opened his mouth — and not all the guards are despicable. I always find it fascinating when stories will explore why good people may be pushed to do terrible things, and while this one doesn’t dive too deeply into that subject — since its narrator is a 15-year-old deportee — it touched on it in a thought-provoking way.

The events are extremely difficult to read about. From the moment the Vilkas family is pulled from their home, nothing that happens to them is easy or pleasant. Many of the things that happen are shocking and terrible, and all the more horrifying to know that humans once found this sort of treatment acceptable. Good and admirable characters wither and die, while abominable characters thrive. Much like reading about the Holocaust, reading about the Baltic deportations is not a pleasant experience.

At the same time, the writing is lovely. Ruta tells the story using sparse and simple prose that cut straight to the emotional core of what is happening. It took no time at all for me to be completely immersed in the story, and while the events it depicted were appalling, the way they were presented was beautiful. It made the small moments of love and kindness in the midst of an incredibly bleak time shine through that much more.

I think Between Shades of Gray is already on many school reading lists, as it should be. It’s both educational and moving, a fantastic example of both fine writing and important storytelling. I loved it even as it broke my heart again and again, and I’d recommend this book to anyone.

Content Guide: Contains terrible mistreatment of prisoners including starvation, verbal abuse, sexual exploitation, humiliation, and deprivation; disturbing deaths

THE 13TH SIGN Preorder Contest! (@KTubb)

Welcome to DAY TAURUS of 13 Days of THE 13TH SIGN Preorder Contest! TAURUS is traditionally considered to be the second sign of the zodiac. TAURUS characteristics include: successful, dependable, faithful, a homebody, obsessive, and patient. (Want to learn more about your 12-sign horoscope, your 13-sign horoscope, and which horoscope sign you ACT like? Take THE 13TH SIGN quiz!)

The Housework Can Wait is happy to host Day Two of this contest!

So. What is this contest all about?

If you preorder a copy of THE 13TH SIGN by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb, you will be entered into a contest! Where you can WIN THINGS! And there are new prizes every day!

And. EVERY preorder will be *matched* by a $1.00 donation to RIF, a literacy program committed to placing books in the hands of kids who need them most.

What can I win TODAY?

If you preorder THE 13TH SIGN today, Saturday, November 24th, you could win:

-key charm
-star-spangled headband
-signed 13th Sign swag
-signed copy of DEFIANCE by C. J. Redwine
-signed THE DARK UNWINDING by Sharon Cameron swag
-signed paperback of AUTUMN WINIFRED OLIVER DOES THINGS DIFFERENT by
Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
-a 13th SIGN tshirt

How do I enter?

Preorder THE 13TH SIGN! You can preorder it through Amazon, Barnes & NobleIndiebound, or through your local independent bookstore. Then email your receipt TO KRISTIN at ktubb@comcast.net. You will be entered into that day’s drawing, the grand prize drawing, and your purchase will be *matched* by a $1.00 donation to RIF!

Are there other ways to enter the contest?

Yep! You can be entered into the daily prize drawings by doing one or more of the following:
-Each preorder of THE 13TH SIGN = 10 entries into grand prize drawing and 10 entries into that day’s drawing
- Each person who blogs about the contest = 10 entries into that day’s drawing
-Each person who changes Twitter or Facebook avatar to cover = 5 entries into that day’s drawing (for each day it is present)
-Each Tweet or Facebook status mention of the book and contest = 2 entries for that day’s drawing (must include hashtag #the13thsign)
-Each RT of book and/or contest = 1 entry for that day’s drawing

BUT. You have to preorder THE 13TH SIGN to enter to win the grand prize and to have your purchase matched with a RIF donation.

ALSO. To make sure you get the correct amount of entries, please let Kristin know if you’ve done any of the above! You can email her at ktubb@comcast.net with everything you’ve done to enter.

What is the grand prize?

A Nexus 7 ereader! BOOM. The grand prize will be given away on Kristin’s blog (kristintubb.blogspot.com) on Friday, December 7th.

How long does the preorder contest last?

13 days total! You can visit these other blogs for each day’s prizes:
DAY ARIES: The Book Vortex
DAY TAURUS: The Housework Can Wait
DAY GEMINI: Magnet 4 Books
DAY CANCER: Abby the Librarian
DAY LEO: Mother Daughter Book Club
DAY VIRGO: S. R. Johannes/Market My Words
DAY LIBRA: Elizabeth O. Dulemba
DAY SCORPIO: Citrus Reads
DAY OPHIUCHUS: Young Adult Books Central
DAY SAGITTARIUS: Bloggers [heart] Books
DAY CAPRICORN: – Middle Grade Mafioso
DAY AQUARIUS: Smack Dab in the Middle
DAY PISCES: From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors

Good luck! And don’t forget to take THE 13TH SIGN quiz!