Sunday, July 20, 2014


Apologies, dear readers, for my extended absence! Last week I returned safely from the wet, hot, mosquitoey, birdy wilderness of Estes Park, Colorado, accompanied by a camera full of bird photos, a stuffed woodpecker, a cheapo water bottle, an arm full of bug bites, and two new baseball caps. However, because I moved into a new house the morning afterwards and have been frantically decorating my new bedroom and also because I am lazy as hell, I have not bothered to post anything until now. But I'm back in black at the moment and for the foreseeable future until school starts in September.

Let's kick off my return with a five-part post party, beginning today with the bookish survey 55 Questions About Books: Part I!

1. Favorite childhood book?
I had a deep personal obsession with The Burgess Bird Book for Children. I stole it from my first-grade classroom and read it about fifty squillion times. And drew on it. And chewed it. I'm not kidding.

2. What are you reading right now?
The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse on Kindle. It's hilarious and the prose is killer.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
None, because I don't have the energy to be driven down to the library and check out books.

4. Bad book habit?
Cheesy, funny, and preferably lesbian chick-lit. I tend to read E. Lockhart quite a bit when I'm feeling down. Which I have been a lot lately, but more on that in a later post.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Technically Throne of Glass, overdue and lost somewhere in the piles of boxes littering my room. RIP Eagle Rock Library branch copy of the worst book I ever read, 2012-2014.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
Well, let me tell you: I do not technology. I have an ancient iPhone and a collector's-era MacBook that isn't even in production anymore and a first-edition Amazon Kindle, the third (fourth?) of its kind. I got sand inside the first one when I took it to the beach, bought a second one, broke the second one within the first week, got sent a free replacement and so far have managed not to break this one.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
Several at once, of course. I cannot limit my hyperactive brain to one book at a time.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
I've made an effort to read more new books in order to review them, although I never get around to writing the reviews anyway so I don't know why I bother... 

9. Least favorite book you read this year so far?
Oooh ooh ooh, a chance to rant at my innocent, abused readers! Throne of Glass, of course... we hates it, precious, yes we does. Also, Ash, which was basically the biggest, hugest disappointment in the history of ever. Divergent, obviously, which has taught me never to trust the majority of humanity when it comes to book recommendations.

10. Favorite book you've read this year?
 Fangirl, because it's an accurate depiction of me in college. Cinder, because it's a way, way better re-imagining of Cinderella than Ash. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, because E. Lockhart rocks my world. The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland, because it's gorgeous and beautiful and utterly perfect in every possible way. Raising Steam, because Terry Pratchett always and forever. Neverwhere, because the same applies to Neil Gaiman....and I ought to stop even though I could go on indefinitely. Plus also, Kingbird Highway because bird bird bird BIRD BIRD bIRD BIRD B I R D bird bird bird.

11. What is your reading comfort zone?
I can't deal with anything too violent. Or anything that lacks a plot. Or anything that spends pages describing hAIR!!1!! and cLOTHES1!!! Or anything with really irritatingly unrealistically perfect heroines. Or anything in which the writing style is not up to my admittedly high standards. Did I just describe Throne of Glass? I did, didn't I? I hate it with a burning passion, in case you couldn't tell.

13. Can you read in the car?
Absolutely. Catch me twenty minutes in the car without a book.

14. Favorite place to read?
On my bed, 'cause I don't have any chairs or even a bookshelf. It's pathetic.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
If it's other people giving books to me, then said books belong to me forever. If I give books to other people, someone is impersonating me and the police should be notified.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Yeah, all the time, because I'm too lazy to keep track of bookmarks.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
Would you like your ears stuffed down your throat and your leg sewn onto your face?

18. Not even with textbooks?
Not real books. Doesn't count.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
Sindarin, Vulcan, Welsh... hell, I don't care.

20. What makes you love a book?
Fantastic writing, original plots, creative and non-archetypal characters... new stuff I've not seen before in a book.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
All of the above, plus serious humor, strong female characters, and a plethora of rad online fanart.

22. Favorite genre?
Magical realism takes the cake, followed by fairy-tale retellings, classic science fiction, fantasy satire, and contemporaries with diverse characters. Classic fantasy gets a shortbread or something. I'll likely try anything I get glowing recommendations for.

23. Genre you rarely read but wish you did?
Historical fiction, I suppose. I don't enjoy it. I find the history most of it discusses problematically irrelevant and/or romanticized. I wish I loved it because it'd be a great way to learn about history while reading more books. But I don't.

24. Favorite biography?
Uh, Kingbird Highway was pretty glorious and very birdy, which I liked, and if biographies of organizations count there's The Monuments Men. Now THAT is the kind of historical story I like. Chinese Cinderella is neat too, but pretty disturbing.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
I... dunno. Maybe I picked one up in a bookstore. Or something. My friend and I tried to write a self-help book once. It was called 50 Shades of Yellow: Help Yourself, Help the Ducks. I seem to remember that.

26. Favorite cookbook?
Any cookbook that doesn't require crazy ingredients like nightingale's eggs and Norwegian bok choy, whatever the hell that is. I may have made it up.

27. Most inspirational book you've read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
Um. I have no idea, frankly. I guess... maybe my own quarter-finished book Hallelujah because it's taught me so much about proper writing methods. Lame, yes, I know.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Camping Trip

I'd just like to inform whomsoever it may concern (that's you, dear reader!) that I will be off in Colorado for a week and shan't be posting, not that I have been posting much anyway.

I am hereby regretful of this fact and hope to post more in the future (look out for reviews of We Were Liars, Fangirl, and the Thursday Next series once I return from the wilderness!)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Alice in Wonderland Blog Meme

 Happy 3rd blogversary to the Notebook Sisters! How could I skip their fabulous Alice-in-Wonderland-themed tag? My only regret is that it took me until now to find the time to write it up, but the last week of school provides such things. So allons-y! 

1. Just Alice: What book cover(s) has made you super curious?

Well, I got involved with Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms because I spied Gray Wolf Throne on the library shelf, so I suppose that counts. As does my original resistance to the Lunar Chronicles hype, which broke down when I saw the cover of Cress. Serves me right for waiting so long.

2. Mad Hatter: List the craziest character(s) you've ever read.

The narrator of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, whose name I can't recall... starts with an "R", I believe? That's the most recent one, anyway.

3. Red Queen, Off With Your Head! What book have you felt like beheading?

I've had serious issues with a lot of very big fish, many of which I'm seemingly alone in disliking. Divergent was hugely disappointing. Eragon -- ugh, I had so many issues with the purple prose and plagiarism in that series. City of Mortal Instruments or whatever it is I despised with a burning passion. Also, I recently read Beth Revis's Across the Universe (loved the cover) and Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass (heard great things) and couldn't stand either of them. Actually, Throne of Glass ought to be in question seven because I was laughing so hard at the improbable plot and irritating characters and overall ridiculousness that I was having trouble reading the actual book.

4. White Rabbit: What books or series have been insanely popular but you've been "late" to pick them up?

Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and I'm ashamed because I'm a mild Laini Taylor fan. Looking for Alaska. I've procrastinated on this one because I didn't like Paper Towns and thought TFIOS was okay. Sweet but unremarkable. Clearly, the rest of the universe disagreed with me.

5. Caterpillar: What's the most confusing book you've read?

Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, by a landslide. Before I quit at the third book I repeatedly had to flip back fifty pages at a time to figure out what was going on.

 6. Dormouse: What was the last book that sent you to sleep?

My go-to books when I need to sleep are Lord of the Rings because I find the archaic language relaxing, and the fact that I know the plot by heart is comforting. If you mean what books bored me recently, I tend not to read boring books, or if I do I look for the best in the book. So I suppose none would be the appropriate answer to the question I believe you to be asking.

7. Cheshire Cat: Book that made you laugh and smile?

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. Douglas Adams is so ridiculous. I adore it.

8. Knave of Hearts: Most recent character who stole your heart?

Probably Howl from Howl's Moving Castle. I just saw the animated Miyazaki adaptation and the hair. and the cape. the fingers. I mean, close-up shots of his fingers cracking eggs look attractive. I don't think it gets better than this. Plus, he's a magician, and he's heroic, and he's mysterious. And humor. He is funny, even if he's not trying to be.

9. Jabberwocky: Best villain you've read this year?

Obviously Islington the angel from Neverwhere. Plus his two cronies-for-hire whose names I can't recall. They were deliciously creepy.

10. Down the Rabbit Hole: What's the latest book/series/author that's completely swallowed your interest?

Most recently the Lunar Chronicles. I can't wait to get my hands on Scarlet.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Finch Reviews The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Series: Stand-Alone
Publisher/Year: Candlewick Press, 2014
Genre: YA fantasy (supposedly)
How Finch Got It: Her friend's mum bought it for her at Vroman's Bookstore.



Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava -- in all other ways a normal girl -- is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year-old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava's quest and her family's saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.



Epistolary Review


Dear Leslye, 

I am shocked to the soul and unsure if I will ever recover. 

Your novel starts off reminding me of traditional fairytales in their purest forms before being sanitized for the presumed fragility of young minds. I may have a young mind, but it must learn about the grim realities of life at some point, and I would choose to learn these things no other way than surrounded by delicious, lyrical prose. 

The intertwining history present in Ava Lavender is about love, yes, but it is not about faith or hope or "omg, first crush!" It is about all the scars love leaves on its victims, about relentless suffering, obsession, murder, suicide, and loss. It is shockingly dark and exquisitely tragic, an intricate weave of fantasy and reality sewn around three generations of women: Emilienne, Viviane, and finally Ava Lavender. It is a chronicle of their entwined loves and sorrows, which bear on one another in unexpected and regretted ways.

The first two hundred pages or so of the book is surprisingly well-done magical realism. It is Marquez-esque in its generations of family that culminate in Ava's birth. Like Scorpio Races, the context is more of the book than the plot itself, but the writing is elegant enough that it distracts you from the lack of true plot. Even more so that the writing, the mood deep and deluded and glorious. There is something deliciously ugly about living for someone who does not love you, about realizing you no longer love someone, about having no one to love. Ava Lavender gracefully explores isolation, desire, beautiful things, unusual things, grotesque things, the fragility of innocence and the various methods and facets of human love.

But, Leslye, the climax of the book was just far too much violence in an already dark and violent tale. Ava was already filling out her skin and wings, embracing all that she was, and her daily life taught her more than a brutal, unnecessary tragedy like her rape and mutilation by an evangelical stalker in a house full of dead and tortured birds ever could. You may have imagined you were giving us foreshadowing with a one-sentence mention of Nathaniel's revolting feather-related behaviour (not that I wanted to hear more about it) and Henry's constant repetition of the same four sentences. I feel required to tell you that none of this indicated anything so savage as Ava's assault.

And then, after subjecting us and Ava to such a horrible and aimless disaster, you veer off into a sudden return to typical, cliche, and astonishingly unrealistic YA plot! Her wings have just been cut off with an axe, and after a few months of lying in bed and her boyfriend returning from college, she's suddenly completely healed, identical emotionally to her earlier self, and ready to return to her life? Leslye, up until then you were expressing the effects of incredible, painful suffering so accurately!

To conclude, Leslye: for the first two-thirds of Ava Lavender, you have concocted an elegant and grim primitive fairytale of a book, portraying incredible pain, macabre magic, and the sometimes awful realities of love. Then, suddenly, the mantle and crust warp and shift into a conglomeration of brutality and surrealism and ridiculous attempts at a "happy ending"; disgraceful, degenerative, disappointing, and disrespectful to women who have gone through such a horrible experience.  I don't understand why any of this was necessary, Leslye: the climax and resolution seemed fruitless, abrupt, and extraneously cruel.

See, Leslye? When you're not subjecting poor Ava to disturbingly gory emotional and physical scarring, you have a true gift for passionate and fantastical, if dark, prose and exquisite insight into the influence of emotion on human lives.

First enchantedly, then disturbedly,



Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May TBR Pile #1

Peoples! I got motivated enough to go to the school library!

I selected Cinder and Cress only to find that Scarlet was absent. Disappointing. I picked up Dune instead, and then I spied an ARC proof of Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races. I had absolutely no self-control: I had to have that book. But I already had seven out: Lunar Chronicles and Dune plus Cinda Williams Chima's entire Seven Realms series.

So I borrowed it undercover. I tucked it into my bag and walked downstairs and checked out the other three I'd selected, but not Scorpio. I don't even feel guilty! I'm just irritated at the school for putting a limit on the amount of books I can check out when I can read so many more than that in such a short amount of time.

I've finally obtained a gorgeous hardback copy of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. My friend's mother bought it for me on the promise that I would lend it to her daughter when I finished it, which I immediately swore. In that instant I would've done almost anything to own that book because it was so blue and golden and feathery and elegant and magical. (ETA: Then I read it... and promptly gave it to said friend because it distressed me.)

And then, dear readers, I headed off to the local branch library and picked up Throne of Glass, 1984, A Doll's House, Crime and Punishment, Neverwhere, Tithe, The Promise, The Da Vinci Code, and The Winter Of Our Discontent. 

 So now I've a pile of fifteen new books, four of which I've read as I compose this post. I've finished Cinder, Scorpio Races, Dune, and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows, and am halfway through (and alternately loathing/laughing at) Throne of Glass. Assist me with my quandary now, dear readers: should I wait until the library gets Scarlet back and read the series in order, or should I read Cress right away and forget Scarlet for now?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Book Blogger TMI Tag

(I'm not doing the Top Ten Tuesday for this week -- Top Ten Books I Almost Put Down But Didn't -- because I can count those books on one hand. And one hand does not have ten fingers. So you get another blog meme instead. I know I borrowed this from someone, but I don't remember who. If it happens to be you, dear reader, I'm sorry! I promise I'll keep better records from now on.)

How old are you?

I'm thirteen. I'll be fourteen in... what, six months? Seven?

What book are you reading?

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. Yesterday night I finished A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid and Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals and Pyramids (both rereads), and this morning I read Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George (also a reread).

What are you wearing?

My school uniform. Burgundy polo shirt, grey skirt, silly ankle socks, and blue sneakers half a size too big because I had to take the cheap laces out of them.


It morphs based on my current read. Due to Fangirl it's currently Wren/Reagan. Yes, they have one semi-conversation, but come on, they'd be best buds if they actually talked to one another.

Blogger or Wordpress?

Out of... uh... Blogger, I'd say... Blogger! 

Going outside and being active or staying in and reading a book?

Depends on the book. For that matter, depends on the outdoor activity. I demand specificity.

What is the last book you read?

Like I said, A Small Place. 

What is the next book you're going to read?

Probably the Lunar Chronicles, if I can steal them from my school's library, which only allows me four books out at once. I've got four, and I'm not motivated enough to return them. So thievery it is. And after that, most likely The Shadow in the North by Philip Pullman.

eBooks -- yes or no?

I've got one of the ancient Kindles because I broke my first two by taking them to the beach, and an e-ink reader is useful for travelling with limited baggage because it's not as bulky. But I'm a skilled cram-as-many-books-into-luggage-as-possible-er, and my Kindle payment method is wonky, plus the battery isn't great. Nothing can compare to the smell and feel of paper and ink.

Where do you prefer to read?

My bedroom, the kitchen table, my sister's pet chair, the living room couch, the car, the other car, my sister's bedroom. Anywhere and everywhere.

Who is the last person you tweeted?

Hypothetically, if I did not actually have a Twitter, what would be the hypothetical answer to this question?

Whose blog did you look at last?

The Magic Violinist.  

Who is your favorite blogger?

I don't follow a large variety of blogs, but I do check up on several regularly, including Musings from Neville's Navel, The Magic Violinist, and Notebook Sisters.

What do you do when someone tells you reading is boring?

Who is the last author you spoke to?

Unfortunately, I am hopelessly isolated from all the people that I admire. I don't know that I have ever spoken to an author. Unless you count my dad, who wrote a movie when I was eight. And my mom's college boyfriend, slam poet Taylor Mali.

Who is the last person you texted?

My mom. I told her to keep an eye on my bird while I was at school.

Who is your all-time favorite book character?

No comment.


No idea. I am aware, however, that the two longest series I have ever read and appreciated are both from the UK (Redwall [22 novels] and Discworld [40 novels]).

What is your preferred drink whilst reading?

From November to March (aka what passes for winter in California), hot tea or a latte. From April to October (California's scorching summer) I prefer an Arnold Palmer or a frappuccino. Any kind of tea or coffee will do. Starbucks and Teavana constantly vie for the place in my heart reserved for the chain that sells my favourite drinks.

If you hated reading, what would you be doing instead?

If I hated reading, I wouldn't be me. So I wouldn't be doing anything.

How many bookshelves/bookcases do you have?

Oh, how I wish I had a room of bookshelves! How I wish they lined the walls and composed the floor and dangled from the ceiling! Wouldn't it be delightful to have a floor made of bookshelves? Feel the spines moving under your bare feet... enough. Let me answer the question.  

Right now: 4 shelves, 2 crates, innumerable piles.

After I move: Wall-to-wall. Ceiling-to-ceiling. I mean floor.  

If you had the choice to meet all of your favorite book bloggers or all of your favorite authors, which would you pick?

Authors, without a doubt.

Insta-love: yes or no?

My brain is trying to decide whether to interpret this as "instant love" or "love via Instagram." I'm concerned about what this implies about my generation. Either way, too shallow and treacherous, at least at the beginning. I've been involved in one semi-relationship, and the only reason I agreed to the first date at all was because we'd been friends since fifth grade. I still feel guilty about agreeing, since I didn't like him at all outside of a close friendship. I mean, I'm not even sure if I like boys or girls! But dinner was tasty, and there were parmesan crackers. So I don't feel that guilty.

Favorite author?

I will rip your head off and chuck it at your face.

What is the number-one book on your wishlist?

Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. 

Do you prefer books with female or male protagonists?

I prefer any book with a protagonist whom I can empathize and identify. Or, alternatively, the polar opposite: a protagonist whom I find riveting because they are so unlike me that I am utterly unable to predict their next action. Male versus female is not an issue.

Which is your favorite book-to-film adaptation?

 Howl's Moving Castle, definitely. If The Wind Rises hadn't been Miyazaki's last film, I'd get right on a screenplay of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland and beg him to direct it. And then S. J. Tucker could play the film score. I think the absolute perfection of such a film would cause me to die of a surfeit of joy.

What is the last song you listened to?

"Closing Time" by Semisonic.

Which do you enjoy reading more -- negative reviews or positive reviews?

Being a darkly humorous and cynical person, I much prefer to read negative reviews, because they make me giggle.  Exceptions to the rule are reviews of my own work or of books I truly adore.

Who are you going to tag?

If you read this, consider yourself tagged. Take it from me, this meme is fun.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The shortest thing I will ever post on this blog

4300 words into Hallelujah.

The most I've written in almost a year since Starship Peppermint crashed and burned for lack of plot.

I'm very happy.