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A Reader of Fictions: July 2012

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 2012: Month in Review + Book of the Month Giveaway

Hey everyone!

It's been a slow month at A Reader of Fictions. I'm still behind on my book challenge and I haven't had quite as many reviews going up either, both because I'm behind and because some of my reviews are waiting to go up for Dystopian August. Look forward to that. There's going to be an epic giveaway associated with it, and that's going live in just a couple of hours.

Make sure you scroll through the whole post, or you'll miss a fabulous giveaway!

Books Reviewed in July:
Only 18 books! That's pretty wimpy. Next month, though, will not be wimpy. It will be BRAWNY. Be prepared, guys!

13 Young Adult:
Lies Beneath - Anne Greenwood Brown
Something Strange & Deadly - Susan Dennard
Something Like Normal - Trish Doller
Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft - Jody Gehrman
Seraphina - Rachel Hartman
Darker Still - Leanna Renee Hieber
Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas
One Moment - Kristina McBride
Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry
House of Shadows - Rachel Neumeier
Burn Mark - Laura Powell
Secret Letters - Leah Scheier
Dust Girl - Sarah Zettel

3 Adult:
Shadow of Night - Deborah Harkness
The Thing About Thugs - Tabish Khair
Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury - Sam Weller & Mort Castle, eds.

2 Middle Grade:
Darwen Arkwright and the Peregrine Pact - A. J. Hartley
The Apothecary - Maile Meloy

Book of the Month Announcement & Giveaway:
Every month, I select one book that I read and loved over the past month to feature and giveaway. These giveaways are always international (yeah!) and come with easy entries. I read several amazing books this month, so choosing which one to feature was tough. I'm going with one I received a physical review copy of (because I like to give back to the publisher) and one I just finished reading, so I'm still kind of obsessed with it. This month's book is Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas!

Throne of Glass is a marvelous fantasy novel in the same vein as Tamora Pierce, Kristin Cashore or Robin LaFevers. I loved it and I think you guys will too!

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Top Ten Characters I Wish I Could Change Places with for 24 Hours

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Well, since I'm all about escapism, I am all over this challenge. The only difficulty will be selecting only ten. That and trying to find ones where I won't have to be in pain sometimes because they get attacked a lot. None of that. Anyway, this is going to be a sort of random bunch, but that's the fun, right? Here they are in no particular order! Where possible, I've linked to my reviews. Click on the cover image to go to Goodreads and add the book yourself.

1) Katsa of Graceling - because I want to have powers of badassery
2) Hermione of Harry Potter - so I can go to Hogwarts, duh!
3) Celaena of Throne of Glass - so I can be hardcore AND have two hot guys that want me
4) Sam of Before I Fall  - because I think it would rock to do crazy things w/ one of her days
5) Emma of Spellbound/Spellcaster - so I can know what it feels like to be loved that much
6) Rileigh of Katana - four words: hot asian love interest
7) Alera of Legacy/Allegience - so I can help her make up her damn mind...and be a princess
8) Scar of Scarlet - so I can hang out with Robin Hood's gang
9) Kahoko of La Corda d'Oro - HELLO, reverse harem
10) Catherine of Northanger Abbey - because Mr. Tilney is my favorite, and I deserve him more


Witchy Woman - The Eagles

Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft
Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft, Book 1

Author: Jody Gehrman
Pages: 294
Publisher: Magic Genie Books
Source: Jody Gehrman

Description from Goodreads:
Falling in Love, baking a magical cake, fighting an evil necromancer—it’s all in a day’s work for Audrey Oliver, seventeen-year-old witch-in-training. When her mother goes missing and her twenty-one-year-old witchy cousin shows up out of the blue, Audrey knows something’s gone horribly, dangerously wrong. Now it’s up to her to get her own magical powers up to speed before everyone she loves is destroyed by the sorcerer intricately connected to her mother’s secret past.

First Sentence: "That first Friday in September, barely a week into my junior year, I knew Mom had gone missing."

I'd heard good things about Gehrman's Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty, so, when I had the option to review her newest title, I jumped on it. I certainly don't regret that choice, as this was a sweet, funny read, despite the rather horrendous cover.

Something about this book and the humor in it really takes me back. This reminds me of 'classic YA,' as in the few YA books I read back when I was closer to teenage years or actually in them. I'm not really sure why, and I don't think I can quantify it. Some part of that, though, is that it's such a simple witch story, and there's a lightness to it that's not found in most of the paranormals coming out these days.

Audrey is a quirky, cute MC, if not one that particularly stands out of the crowd. She has jealous issues, desperately wishing she were as cool or alluring as her younger sister. Though not popular, she has a best friend, Bridget, who she constantly defends from popular Dallas. Audrey's favorite activities are chemistry, like her late father, and baking, like her mother. There are even some recipes, some tongue-in-cheek, throughout the book for those who like making food (unlike me, who just likes eating it).

The drama of the book begins with Audrey's feeling that her mom is in trouble. Well, with that and some weird things that have been happening around her all day. When she gets home from school, she and her sister find their mother not there and an older girl, Sadie, shows up claiming to be their cousin and temporary guardian while their mom helps with a family problem. Oh yeah, and it turns out Audrey's a witch; I bet you never saw that coming what with the title and everything.

What paranormal YA would be complete without some romance? Our love interest is Julian, who is a couple of years older than Audrey. They meet at a house party, thrown by younger sister Meg as soon as she discovers the house is momless. He wants to be a manager and immediately signs Audrey's sister's band, Cherry. Audrey suspects he likes Meg, so, of course, miscommunications ensue.

We are told how palpable Julian's connection with Audrey is, how it crackles and pops, but not made to feel it. They rarely seem to have any chemistry at all, aside from the physical witchy stuff that he inspires from Audrey. Their conversations are stilted and awkward, without any sort of natural flow. There's a weird (and unnecessary) plot line where Sadie actually removes Audrey's memories of Julian, just to slow down the course of their romance. It was awkward. The romance was definitely the big detractor for me, because I just really didn't see any reason for them to be attracted to one another, especially since Julian seems to have no interests besides the music industry. Julian is boring.

If you're looking for a light paranormal with recipes and witchery, Audrey's Guide to Witchcraft could be a fun choice. Also, if you watch for it or follow moon cycles, you can get it for free, since they're giving away e-copies on Dark of the Moon every month!

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "‘The right song can change everything.’"

"Raven hair and ruby lips
Sparks fly from her finger tips
Echoed voices in the night
She's a restless spirit on an endless flight
Wooo hooo witchy woman, see how
High she flies

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Crippled Inside - John Lennon (Book Tour + Giveaway)

The Thing About Thugs

Author: Tabish Khair
Pages: 244
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date:  If pre-publication
Source: TLC Book Tours

Description from Goodreads:
In a small Bihari village, Captain William T. Meadows finds just the man to further his phrenological research back home: Amir Ali, confessed member of the infamous Thugee cult. With tales of a murderous youth redeemed, Ali gains passage to England, his villainously shaped skull there to be studied. Only Ali knows just how embroidered his story is, so when a killer begins depriving London’s underclass of their heads, suspicion naturally falls on the “thug.” With help from fellow immigrants led by a shrewd Punjabi woman, Ali journeys deep into a hostile city in an attempt to save himself and end the gruesome murders. Ranging from skull-lined mansions to underground tunnels concealing a ghostly people, The Thing about Thugs is a feat of imagination to rival Wilkie Collins or Michael Chabon. Short-listed for the 2010 Man Asian Literary Prize, this Victorian role reversal is a sly take on the post-colonial novel and marks the arrival of a compelling Indian novelist to North America.

First Sentence: "This is what I see across time and space."

The Thing About Thugs is not precisely my ordinary reading material. Howe cover, I have always been morbidly fascinated by books about serial killers, although I'm not sure that designation is quite right for what happens here. At any rate, I was also drawn in by the racial tensions and the unique sound to the story. Sadly, The Thing About Thugs did not turn out to be precisely my kind of read.

What was really cool about this book was all that I learned about the study of phrenology, or trying to read the human skull, something I knew little about previously. I think I'd heard of it, but that's about it. The study itself, while creepy, is also scientifically and psychologically interesting. While the debates about phrenology might tire some readers, I found those sections to be most illuminating.

So, too, did I enjoy the parts about the murders. More than that, I enjoyed the whole way the scientific process sometimes worked back then, with some men robbing graveyards for the bodies to be used in experiments. What grisly work! People would go to such lengths to study such things. It amazes me that there was a whole underworld industry for that.

What lost me more than anything else as a reader, though, was the structure Khair used to tell this story. While Khair's writing itself is good and not without appeal and skill, I didn't care much for the organization or narration style used. I found that I was constantly withdrawn from the story and that the focus was often on the least interesting (to me) aspects.

Khair told the story through multiple media: newspaper articles, letters written by Amir Ali to his love (though never sent), transcripts of Amir Ali's story to William T. Meadows, first person narration (though we don't know whose for a long time), and even (I think) some omniscient third-person narration. This was just too much. I feel like it would have been a stronger novel with more of the third-person narration. The first person narration was jarring, especially following third person sections. I had so much trouble trying to figure out what was going on and I don't think that added to the story in any way.

Amir Ali's story is an interesting one, and he is a compelling character. However, I didn't feel like I particularly came to know him, probably because all I really learned about him was from his letters. This means I was only TOLD who he was, rather than getting to see him interact with anyone too much. 

Obviously, this book has been lauded, what with being shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. Though it was not my cup of cocoa, I think other readers will likely enjoy this Victorian mystery, in which prejudices are generally wrong. I am giving away my ARC to one of my readers!

Rating: 2.5/5

Favorite Quote: "Forgiveness and vengeance are easy only in thought, when language pretends to tell us all about life."

"You can shine your shoes and wear a suit
You can comb your hair and look quite cute
You can hide your face behind a smile
One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside
You can wear a mask and paint your face
You can call yourself the human race
You can wear a collar and a tie
One thing you can't hide
Is when you're crippled inside"

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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Soldier - Ingrid Michaelson

Throne of Glass
Throne of Glass, Book 1

Author: Sarah J. Maas
Pages: 404
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Source: Sarah J. Maas signing at BEA

Description from Goodreads:
After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men—thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the kings council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.

Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

First Sentence: "After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point."

Guys! This book was SO perfect for me. Like, seriously, how did I not read this sooner, because it is made of awesomeness. Believe that I don't say this lightly: Throne of Glass is like The Hunger Games meets Grave Mercy. As with both of those delightful books, Throne of Glass features a powerful heroine, lots of action and some delightful, non-instalove romance.

The opening of Throne of Glass finds Celaena in the salt mines, where, after having been captured, she has been sentenced to work until she dies. Lucky for her, she now has another option: she can serve as the Crown Prince's contestant in a competition to decide the new King's Champion, aka personal assassin. An eighteen year old girl might seem an odd entrant, but Celeana Sardothien is actually the most feared assassin in the country.

I expected to have some trouble believing in Celeana as such an epically intense assassin, especially since she had quite the reputation by the time she was 17. However, Maas totally sold it. At every turn, Celaena strategizes possible escapes and considers the various ways that she could murder or maim the people around her. Her thoughts are bloody and focused. She has been raised to be an assassin since childhood, and she does it well.

Trust does not come particularly easily to Celaena, but she is still capable of humor and caring. In fact, if I had any issue with the book at all, it was that she seemed almost too quick to re-humanize after what happened in the salt mines. However, I want to believe that she could bounce back like that; it's part of why she is so strong. Celaena has power mentally and physically, and, despite being a trained assassin, she's a genuinely nice person, rarely mean out of spite.

The other characters are just as vibrant, if a bit black or white. I really appreciated Celaena's friendship with Nehemia. What made it so delightful was that they seemed to bond over real things, not their situation or boys. Instead, they found common ground in both being powerful women forced into lives that don't especially suit them. Also, they both hate Lady Kaltain, who fills the classic money-grubbing, evil bitch role perfectly.

Then we have the boys. Yes, Throne of Glass has a love triangle. Weep not, though, because this is a tolerable one. Interestingly, from what I've heard, the story didn't have one initially, which is curious. However, it's here now and I deem it acceptable. I really like both guys, even though there's only one I would allow to guard my heart. Ahem. Crown Prince Dorian is sweet and passionate, definitely a bit of hopeless romantic, who's undoubtedly going to have to choose between the crown and his heart. Chaol is gruff and obnoxious at first, but entirely loyal and wonderful on further acquaintance. He's also definitely the kind of guy to encourage strength in a woman, rather than trying to protect her.

I thought the world building was fascinating, although I definitely think we've only barely reached the surface. There's so much more going on here than has been described yet. I anticipate faeries and alternate universes, as well as more to be made of this glass castle. Still, I'm really liking the foundations that Maas has laid here. The world thus far is fairly typical fantasy, but well-written and with excellent action scenes.

Speaking of action, I haven't explained the comparison to The Hunger Games yet. Well, the competition between the various assassins, thieves and soldiers is very reminiscent of the arena. There are definitely differences, but the similarities are stark. The training room scenes definitely reminded me of the ones in THG, as well as the fact that there were 24 competitors. Oh yeah, and some grisly deaths! 

If you love fantasy novels like I do, you will most definitely not want to miss out on Throne of Glass. It comes out on August 7, so go get yourself a copy ASAP!

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Quote: "'Guards are of no use in a library.' Oh, how wrong he was! Libraries were full of ideas—perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons."

"I don't believe in anything but myself
I don't believe in anything but myself
But then you opened up a door, you opened up a door
Now I start to believe in something else

But how do I know if I'll make it through?

How do I know? Where's the proof in you?

And so it goes, this soldier knows

The battle with the heart isn't easily won

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On My New Arrivals Shelf (14)

Hey guys, I have an awesome haul this week, thanks to some awesome bloggers. :) Link me up!

Books Mentioned:
The Absolutist - John Boyne
Of Poseidon - Anna Banks (my review)
Struck - Jennifer Bosworth (my review)
Monument 14 - Emmy Laybourne

Shadow and Bone - Leigh Bardugo (my review)
The Wild Party - Joseph Moncure March
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
Darkness Falls (Immortal Beloved #2) - Cate Tiernan (my review of Immortal Beloved)

Bloggers Mentioned:
Goodreads First Reads
Katie of Blook Girl
KM of One Page at a Time

Digital Haul:
Ironskin (Ironskin #1) - Tina Connolly
In a Fix - Linda Grimes
Much Ado About Magic (Enchanted, Inc. #5) - Shanna Swendson
Send Me a Sign - Tiffany Schmidt


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Come On, Come Out - A Fine Frenzy

Darker Still
Magic Most Foul, Book 1

Author: Leanna Renee Hieber
Pages: 317
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Source: Won from Leanna Renee Hieber in Twitter Chat

Description from Goodreads:
I was obsessed. 

It was as if he called to me, demanding I reach out and touch the brushstrokes of color swirled onto the canvas. It was the most exquisite portrait I'd ever seen--everything about Lord Denbury was unbelievable...utterly breathtaking and eerily lifelike. 

There was a reason for that. Because despite what everyone said, Denbury never had committed suicide. He was alive. Trapped within his golden frame. 

I've crossed over into his world within the painting, and I've seen what dreams haunt him. They haunt me too. He and I are inextricably linked--bound together to watch the darkness seeping through the gas-lit cobblestone streets of Manhattan. Unless I can free him soon, things will only get Darker Still.

First Sentence: "To whoever should have the misfortune to review this closed—but still unresolved—case, I extend my condolences."

I suppose I should have known after a string of good reads that I would soon be in for a disappointment. My hopes were high for Darker Still, which I've heard compared to Jane Austen with magic. That sounded AWESOME. Unfortunately, what I found was a fairly typical YA paranormal romance complete with instalove and a ditsy heroine.

Before I get into the things I didn't like, I'll talk about the aspect that I liked: the concept. The basic story holds a lot of appeal for me. The handsome boy trapped in a painting has vague echoes of The Portrait of Dorian Gray, though obviously the circumstances here are different. Traveling into a painting also sounds completely neat. Even the fact that Natalie could travel into the painting through her dreams was a nice addition, suggesting some interest things about the soul and connections.

The biggest problem I had was with Natalie. In a first person narrative (Darker Still is told primarily through Natalie's diary), characterization is even more vital than usual, and I did not like Natalie from the very beginning. Though I think I at first had hopes that her muteness would make her a unique heroine, she remained as petty, though entirely unaware of it, as all of the other society girls. She lost any sympathy I had for her voice lost in a childhood trauma when she said this of a blind girl engaged to the young man Natalie dreamed of for herself: "But alas, I'll have to find some other handsome young scholar with a penchant for unfortunates since Edgar stupidly went and got himself engaged to one. So what if she's blind? She can't see how beautiful he is. What a waste!" That unsympathetic, bitchy tirade turned me off to her entirely, and she never did anything to recover my estimation of her.

The writing perfectly matches Natalie's character. This is both a good and bad thing. Obviously, it's good for there to be a strong sense of character in a book told in first person. However, it is unfortunate when that person is not particularly bright. Darker Still teems with fragments and simple sentences. Natalie's diary is vapid and the writing made me want to headdesk. I believe Hieber did do this intentionally, as the writing from the news articles and other statements was much improved, but the book is still mostly in a writing style that makes me batty.

Next up, we have the romance. Shy, nineteenth century mute Natalie stumbles into Jonathon's painting and into his arms. She has, of course, been transfixed by his appearance. Being the innocent she is, this even startles her into speech, clear only in this picture's small environs. This is a convenient plot point, because, as we learned in The Little Mermaid, guys actually do want their girls to talk.

Natalie and Jonathon promptly fall into instalove. Yup. What really upsets me about this is how quickly our good little nineteenth century Lutheran accustoms herself to physical contact (oh my) with Jonathon. That seemed rather out of character. The whole book takes place over the course of just two weeks, and I have trouble imagining that a girl with her background and that much to lose would rush into a physical relationship so quickly. Let's not forget, also, that they have their romantic moments in a portrait, sometimes while Mrs. Northe is watching. I don't know what can be seen while she's in there, but that's really not something you want to take a chance on. For the most part, there's is a typical YA paranormal romance where they seem to have little to nothing in common but for their circumstances and mutual attraction, but they do at least have one conversation not about the present.

The final thing, perhaps most damning (pun!) to me, were the religious undertones. I definitely was not expecting them, and was very much not thrilled to find them here. I don't want to go into much detail, but I had to mention it.

The redeeming factor of the book that lead me to bump the book up to a 2.5 from a 2 is Mrs. Northe. She sort of adopts young Natalie, and is the one person in the book who is entirely comfortable with Natalie as a mute. If there's a love story here, it's one of an adopted daughter, because Mrs. Northe is, as I see it, the only one who truly acceps the best and worst of Natalie. Jonathon didn't get to see it all. Mrs. Northe is funny, spunky and one of those old ladies with a steely glint in her eye, the kind who would be played in a movie by someone like Dame Judi Dench or Maggie Smith, only around age 40. She looks classy, but will say exceedingly surprising and inappropriate things. For example, she gave me hope with the quote I shared down below. This is what I want to say to ALL of the instaloving couples.

My overall feelings about this book definitely ended up being rather meh. I think the book turned out the way Hieber intended, and it will be delightful for people who enjoy Natalie's way of thinking. Though I do not plan to read the sequel, I will probably try one of Hieber's books for adults to see if I like those better, since I can see promise shining through.

Rating: 2.5/5

Favorite Quote: "'Just don't say that you'll die without the other one or that you'll never love again or that you're not whole—' She batted her hand. 'That's the stuff of Romeo and Juliet, hasty nonsense, and you know how well that turned out. There's magic about the two of you, yes. Just don't be desperate about it. That's where souls go wrong, when they think they don't have choices. The heart must make choices.'"

"Watching the painting come to life
Shifting and shaping
Staying inside
It all goes it all goes it all goes by

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Breakable - Ingrid Michaelson

Pushing the Limits

Author: Katie McGarry
Pages: 392
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Publication Date: July 31, 2012
Source: Harlequin Teen at BEA

Description from Goodreads:
"I won't tell anyone, Echo. I promise." Noah tucked a curl behind my ear. It had been so long since someone touched me like he did. Why did it have to be Noah Hutchins? His dark brown eyes shifted to my covered arms. "You didn't do that-did you? It was done to you?" No one ever asked that question. They stared. They whispered. They laughed. But they never asked. 

So wrong for each other...and yet so right. 

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

First Sentence: "'My father is a control freak, I hate my stepmother, my brother is dead and my mother has...well...issues. How do you think I'm doing?'"

Pushing the Limits is another one of those books that has been hyped like whoa. Odds are you've heard of it, and you've seen rave reviews full of swooning and OMGs. Having finished, I can tell you that these responses are entirely valid and deserved. While not a completely perfect novel, I simply adored it from beginning to end and know that I will definitely be making friends read it and rereading it myself through the years.

On a very simple level, Pushing the Limits could be dismissed as a romance about a popular, well-behaved girl and the foster kid bad boy against all odds and the opinions of classmates. However, that would ignore all of the things that make this novel exceptional. Their family issues and scars make Echo and Noah much more interesting characters and makes their relationship so much sweeter.

Echo's name is a bit ridiculous, a flight of fancy by an artistic mother obsessed with Greek mythology. Her name comes from a Greek myth in which the jealous Hera curses a pretty nymph with the inability to do anything but repeat the words of others, eventually fading into just an echo as we know it. This name suits Echo perfectly. She says and does what others want her to, especially her controlling father. Echo has classic daddy issues and does what he says to keep him happy: she joins the right clubs, dates the guy he approves of, and gives up her passion for art in exchange for business because he thought that was better.

Echo used to have the perfect, middle class life, except for her manic depressive mother. Pretty, popular and dating one of the coolest guys in school, Echo had friends, good grades and serious artistic talent. Her life fell completely to pieces after her beloved brother, Aires, who joined the marines, dies. At the beginning of Pushing the Limits, Echo is mentally and physically scarred, gossiped about constantly and abandoned by one of her best friends, Grace. Although her relationship with Grace was a fairly minor plot point, I think it added a lot of validity to Echo's high school experience.

[I want to sidebar for a moment here and talk about the names. Echo and Aires, we're told, were both named for Greek mythology. However, I'm confused by the name 'Aires.' I've never heard of an Aires in Greek mythology. Did the mom or dad just misspell Ares or Aries? Do they pronounce it 'airs' or 'air-ease'? The super reliable source BabyNamesPedia informs me that Aires is a derivative of Ayers, which means heir. It just...doesn't seem right to me. Anyone able to explain this?]

Echo is forced into yet more therapy with a guidance counselor/social worker at school, as part of which she will tutor Noah, who needs to get his grades up. This way she can earn money to fix up her brother's '65 Vette. Noah, like Echo, is mentally and physically scarred. His parents perished in a tragic house fire, leaving him to the 'mercies' of the foster care system. Even worse, he is kept separate from his younger brothers, Jacob and Tyler, after he punches his first stepfather, unable to watch the man abuse his own son anymore.

Noah is, on the surface, the typical bad boy. He smokes pot, skips class, has tattoos, has one night stands with whatever girls he can get his hands on, and gets into fights. He's also sexy as hell and incredibly smart. Echo and Noah do not get along at first. Well, actually, he was totally willing to get *ahem* on board the Echo train at any point, but she hated his attitude and the rude things he said to her. Only as he came to know her back story and to realize that Echo is not the spoiled brat he took her for, does Noah really begin to care for. The same goes for Echo, as she learns that Noah has a reason for being the way he is.

I rooted for them wholeheartedly and definitely felt the pterodactyl butterflies alongside Echo at several points. Echo and Noah fit each other perfectly, able to understand one another's pain and emotions better than anyone else could. Noah is even so awesome that he was able to use the phrase 'make love' and make it sound sexy as hell, rather than contrived and disgustingly sappy. However, my main issue with the book was also bound up in this. They definitely ventured a bit too far into the melodrama at times, and there were some phrases that made me roll my eyes heartily, like this one: "Noah didn't walk, he stalked and I loved the mischievous glint in his eye when he stalked me." Yikes. I know what McGarry is trying to do there, but I'm really creeped out by any romantic reference to stalking; it's not stalking if you WANT him following you and he's not going to hurt you. Plus, I really hate the term of endearment 'baby' and Noah says it CONSTANTLY. Why couldn't he just call her Siren? I thought that one was cute.

McGarry's storytelling works perfectly. Told alternatingly from the perspectives of Echo and Noah, the story is much stronger than I think it would have been in third person or from just one perspective. Had I not had a view into his head, I am pretty sure I would have hated Noah for half the book, with his rude comments and behavior. Being able to see the thoughts behind his actions was immensely helpful. This also helped overcome some of the cheesily romantic dialog, because you then would get a view of the character thinking 'what did I just do?' and mentally facepalming.

This is already an exceedingly long review or I would discuss the other characters, who I though were also very well developed, although I would have liked to know a bit more about Beth, Isaiah, and Lila. Noah and Echo definitely have some serious navel gazing and tunnel vision going on. This is believable given the circumstances, but limits the reader's access to the other interesting characters. Mrs. Collins, the counselor, stole the show just a bit. She was hilarious and awesome. I loved how laid back yet capable she was. My only question about that is whether she really would have been able to drive a student around so often; it seems like she would need a permission slip or something for that, but maybe being a social worker gives her special rights.

I highly recommend Pushing the Limits to anyone who likes darker contemporaries. I also have to mention that this novel is a perfect readalike for fellow Apocalypsie novel Something Like Normal; these novels are clearly best friends, just like Travis and Aires totally would have been.

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Quote: "I'd lost and I'd won. I'd lost the dreams I had, but I'd won new dreams."

"Have you ever thought about what protects our hearts?
Just a cage of rib bones and other various parts.
So it's fairly simple to cut right through the mess,
And to stop the muscle that makes us confess.

And we are so fragile,

And our cracking bones make noise,
And we are just,
Breakable, breakable, breakable girls and boys.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer Giveaway Hop

Thanks for hopping by! I'd love it if you could stop and visit some reviews and such things too, but if you're just here for the giveaway, that's fine by me. I've got several books I need to get rid of, so I'm going  to offer winner's pick up to 4 of these books! Click on the title in the list below to find out more about the book.

Ruthless (Pretty Little Liars #10) - Sara Shepard
Arise (Hereafter #2) - Tara Hudson
City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1) - Cassandra Clare
Clockwork Prince (The Infernal Devices #1) - Cassandra Clare
Born of Silence (The League #5) - Sherrilyn Kenyon
The Queen's Lady (The Lacey Chronicles #2) - Eve Edwards

There is no following necessary here at A Reader of Fictions, so please don't say you followed and not do so. I do check. I hate having to say it, because it sounds mean and obvious, but I regularly have to discard the first two picks through Rafflecopter because they lied in their entry. This is why I offer free entries! US only, since I'm paying to ship this. Sorry! Check back on July 31 for my monthly international giveaway.

Before you leave, you may also want to check out my giveaway for Seraphina by Rachel Hartman!

Just fill out the Rafflecopter to enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Now hop on to the other blogs!


The Scientist - Coldplay

One Moment

Author: Kristina McBride
Pages: 272
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Publication Date: June 26, 2012
Source: EgmontUSA via NetGalley

Description from Goodreads:
This was supposed to be the best summer of Maggie's life. Now it's the one she'd do anything to forget.

Maggie remembers hanging out at the gorge with her closest friends after a blowout party. She remembers climbing the trail with her perfect boyfriend, Joey. She remembers that last kiss, soft, lingering, and meant to reassure her. So why can't she remember what happened in the moment before they were supposed to dive? Why was she left cowering at the top of the cliff, while Joey floated in the water below-dead?

As Maggie's memories return in snatches, nothing seems to make sense. Why was Joey acting so strangely at the party? Where did he go after taking her home? And if Joey was keeping these secrets, what else was he hiding?

The latest novel from the author of "The Tension of Opposites," "One Moment" is a mysterious, searing look at how an instant can change everything you believe about the world around you.

First Sentence: "'So you're gonna do it?'"

In all honesty, I was not expecting to like this book. In fact, I would never have requested it on NetGalley were it not for the fact that EgmontUSA temporarily marked all their galleys READ NOW, which, for some reason, is pretty much impossible for me to pass up. I've seen reviews come in, both high, middle and low. There was little doubt in my mind that I would be on the low end of the spectrum and I was fully prepared to read a chapter and then DNF it. Dudes, I was WRONG.

The first chapter, both the writing style and the dramatic cliffhanger (literally) at the end of it, convinced me that I needed to read this book in its entirety. I'm not sure what had me set against this book. Maybe the cover, which I don't much care for even though it is very apt for the novel. Maybe it was that the author clearly spells her name incorrectly (everyone knows Christina is spelled with a CH). I'm so glad I didn't decline this and that I kept reading. Here's why.

Like I do with most books, I went into this one blind. I had no clue what it was about, so I was a bit surprised to be reading about the popular kids having a party. I did like the narrative voice, though, and the group dynamic. Then I hit the end of that first chapter, which is one of the best hooks I've read. I defy you to read to the end of that chapter and not NEED to know what comes next. Of course, the blurb will tell you what's going on, so I guess I'll talk about it too, but still, going in with no clue, it was epic. (If you don't want to know, probs skip to the end of the review).

So, yeah, here's what happens in the opening of this novel: Joey jumps, Joey dies, and Maggie doesn't remember what she happened in the first chapter, because of some sort of amnesia. Grieving, she faces cops, friends and Joey's family members, all wanting to know what happened, and she would like to know too. In the process of sorting out her memories and her feelings, she learns a lot of things she never knew, things about Joey and about her friends. I really enjoyed this, but I will say that I had all of the big revelations figured out  within 20 pages. Reading how they happened and learning the details was still fun though.

What drove this book, though, were the characters. Although they definitely are not going onto my mental list of best characters ever, they worked. This group had a real and believable dynamic. Actually, my only concern about them as a friend group is that all 6 of them were friends from childhood. I don't think I've ever encountered a group of friends from childhood that all stayed that close through high school. Obviously, things will be changing for them now, but I don't know. Maybe that happens, but I've only seen it in pop culture. Most of the people I know only talk to a couple of people from high school any more, let alone elementary school.

The funny thing is that, in other circumstances, I would have hated these people. Joey and his crew are the popular kids at the school. They party every week, they do fun things, they drink a lot, and are generally admired by everyone. Had this not been about a serious crisis, carrying about their dramas would have left me cold. Even so, I don't like Joey. Even early on before everything came out, I didn't care for Joey: he's reckless and cocky. No thanks.

Maggie is better and I did like her voice. She had a real feel to her, although one I have trouble reconciling with her usual social status. It's really hard to say if she was like that all the time or if this was a weird side of her. I rather suspect the latter, because she was never comfortable in this book. Even in the opening scenes before tragedy struck, she was paralyzed by her fear of heights, worried, concerned and afraid of judgment. Only a the end did I see a slight vision into what she might normally be when confident and happy, but I'm still not sure.

One Moment is a wonderful contemporary that makes you think about the power of a moment and about how well we actually know even our very best friends. There will definitely be more Kristina McBride in my future!

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote:
"'Fear about what, exactly?'
'Everything,' I said. 'But mostly just the realization that all it takes is one moment for your entire world to turn upside down. One wrong decision, and it's over.'"

"Nobody said it was easy
It's such a shame for us to part
Nobody said it was easy
No one ever said it would be this hard
Oh, take me back to the start.

I was just guessing at numbers and figures

Pulling the puzzles apart
Questions of science, science and progress
Do not speak as loud as my heart
And tell me you love me, come back and haunt me
Oh and I rush to the start

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Cover Snark (16)

Obviously, I'm still trying to decide on a good name for my weekly cover reveal post. Mostly because I keep finding other blogs that do the same sort of thing on the same day. It's not a big deal, but I like having my own name. Anyway, I think this incarnation is a bit clearer about what you can expect from my posts. At first, I did mostly just publish the cover with a quick thumbs up or down. Now, I generally do much more. Let me know your thoughts in the comments, even if you think I'm wrong!

Just Getting Started - Justin Bieber
 Thoughts: Ordinarily, I would never include this cover. I mean, for one thing, non-fiction cover. But whatever, it's the Bieb y'all! So here's what happened. Just Bieber tweeted this and then Twitter exploded. For real. Someone retweets it, even now days later, every second or two. I just do not get the crazy. His fans are, perhaps, even scarier than Cassie Clare fans. O_O *steps away from Twitter*

The Unloved - Jennifer Snyder (BlookGirl)
Thoughts: There's something about this cover I find very off-putting. I think ti's the makeup she's wearing maybe. The cover calls to mind Velveteen more than a contemporary, in the mood and the unwashed look of her hair. If this were the cover for a dystopia of some sort, I think I'd be more of a fan.

Cover Battle: Fury's Kiss (Dorina Basarab #3) - Karen Chance

 Thoughts: These are REALLY similar. I'm going with the US cover because I like the font treatments better. I do like that the UK cover looks a bit creepier, though. Those pants are really unflattering. They make her butt look really weird. Is that just me? It's not like they're practical, either, so why wear them?

Destiny, Rewritten - Kathryn Fitzmaurice
Thoughts: You know how to make bookish people buy your book? Put books on it. Even better, also put a cat on it. Check and check. Note: this works. I want this book SO HARD right now. Seriously, this cover is utterly charming. Also, this should have bunches of Emily Dickinson references!
Also, I'm not one to complain about what people do on Goodreads, but I do think it's rude someone rated this one star over six months pre-publication WITHOUT ANY EXPLANATION. You can think what you want, but say something. Sigh.

Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin - Liesl Shurtliff
Thoughts: Liesl is a good German name, so I'm expecting this to be really dark. Is this fair? Perhaps not. DON'T CARE. Anyway, this cover's pretty good. It's definitely in the style of the animated movies coming out now. I like the woman in the tower spinning. I would like to know, though, what that boy is pointing at, as he's not really pointing high enough to draw your eye to the tower. May be he's just like, 'Oy, what's with those words floating in the air?'

A Slither of Hope (Angel Sight #2) - Lisa M. Basso
Thoughts: Sorry for the lack of links to Goodreads, but only the first book is on Goodreads so far, so...yeah. Anyway, the covers! Alright, I know these are ridiculous and just distracting me with shinies, but I ... love them. Okay! I admit it. I think they're gorgeous! I am a bit bemused by this title though. A 'Slither' of Hope? Is this an Adam and Eve snake thing? It could be, since this is an angel book. Also, I would like to commend the designers for NOT putting angel wings on the cover. I think this is my favorite of the three, especially because of how sassy this pose is.

A Matter of Time (Angel Sight #3) - Lisa M. Basso
 Thoughts: More shinies! This is definitely the worst of the lot. I find the smoke or cloth or whatever at the bottom to be more distracting than in the previous covers, likely because it looks like her body is formless white stuff. MAYBE IT IS. Who knows? Maybe is about being an angel made of mist.

Cover Battle: Royal Street (Sentinels of New Orleans #1) - Suzanne Johnson
 Thoughts: What's cool is how different these are while using the same sort of concept. Both have some New Orleans-y backgrouns. I think I might like the font treatment better in the UK version. What made me declare the US cover the winner is that the girl looks like she's in the process of taking you out, while the UK girl looks defensive. I like that the heroine on the US cover is holding a weapon and is making lightning (or something similar looking), whereas on the UK cover the clouds are doing the lightning-ing.

Cover Battle: River Road (Sentinels of New Orleans #1) - Suzanne Johnson
Thoughts: I am seriously loving the discussion between the covers on these. They're so similar in concept but distinct in execution. I definitely think the UK covers do the series thing better. I also really like the shades of green they've used. I'm going for the US cover again, because, as with book one, the heroine looks much more kickass. The girl on the UK cover looks like a cat-burglar, although not a good one, since I imagine there aren't many places to burgle in the swampy-looking forest.

Shift (Firstborn Trilogy #2) - Raine Thomas 
Thoughts: *snickers* *snorts* Well, I thought the cover for Defy was hilarious, and this one certainly did not disappoint. Actually, it may even be more hilarious, but jury's still out on that one. The timing was really bad to try to pull off that makeup and have it look cool, since it pales in comparison to this one in the having butterflies on your face contest.

Dead River - Cyn Balog
Thoughts: Haven't these kids seen Cabin in the Woods? What a terrible idea. Anyway, I definitely think the atmosphere of this cover is spot on. However, it looks pretty cheaply done, so much so that rather being creeped out by the hands coming at me out of the nasty river, I am amused. This is probably NOT the intended reaction. Show of hands for who thinks they could have done this better? We're at two with me and the ghost/zombie/lake-monster.

The Light Behind the Window - Lucinda Riley
 Thoughts: Pretty! Apparently this one switches between the present and the past, like her previous book which I loved (though some def didn't). I like that the cover seems to capture this a bit. For example, the past is in the old-fashioned costume the model is wearing. However, you can see that the building is greatly aged, so it's like we're looking into the house from the present and seeing the past. Nifty!

Override (Glitch #2) - Heather Anastasiu
Thoughts: So I definitely have seen this cover before. It was on Shelfari a week or two ago. This is so weird, since Shelfari usually lags behind Goodreads on new books. How the heck did it get there? Moving on, I'm really disappointed by this cover, and was hoping the one I saw on Shelfari was false rather than an early leak. Alas. While the concept is similar, I find this one much less appealing. The red and yellow colors are less flattering. Plus, the font treatment has a very different feel to it.
Criminal - Terra Elan McVoy
 Thoughts: ANOTHER one that's not on Goodreads yet. What are those slackers doing? Agh! I'm really not sure what's happening in this cover, but I like it, and I'm pretty sure I'll add this to my tbr list based on the cover alone. Seriously, what is that thing cutting through the title. I feel like I should be able to tell and I can't and it's frustrating!

Days of Blood and Starlight (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2) - Laini Taylor
 Thoughts: While I don't dislike the UK cover, I do think it's somewhat boring. It just doesn't grab my eye like the US cover does. Also, I'm marking it down for not matching it's companion as well. If you haven't seen the UK cover for Daughter of Smoke and Bone, click here.

True (Elixir #3) - Hilary Duff 
Thoughts: ... That's a lot of that shade of blue. My favorite cover for this series is still the original one with the flower. The one they replaced it with is HILARIOUS, though. I hadn't looked at it up close until now. That girls is trying to make out with the photo of a guy on a negative. LOL. This one's just...too much of this color. That's all I can say.

Renegade (Ripper #2) - Amy Carol Reeves
Thoughts: This one is WAY better than the Ripper cover. It looks a bit less ridiculous. However, I don't think the face in the clouds is doing it any favors. Ditto vaguely phallic stones. On the other hand (pun!), I do love her glove.

 Red Dawn (Crossroads Academy #2) - J. J. Bonds 
Thoughts: What makes these covers extra interesting is that they were designed by the blogger Parajunkee! I do really think she's done a good job. I like the font of the title and the red ferny bits. I'm not a hundred percent sold on the red for the author name, but meh. This definitely can be compared without shame to the other mask covers out there. I'm a bit confused theme-wise by how these two books fit together, but that may make sense if you'd, you know, read the books.

Cover of the Week: Destiny, Rewritten!