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A Reader of Fictions: February 2012

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top Ten ARCs That I Want Like Burning #1: Spring 2012

Alright, tons of blogs have posts to show you the gorgeous, completely drool-worthy books that will be coming out in the future, and it's time for me to add my own feature of that sort. What I'm going to do is post a list of the ten ARCs that I desperately wish publishers would be so good as to send me, even though they probably won't. Anyway, the list is narrowed down a lot by the fact that I am excluding the titles I have on NetGalley, even if I am completely thrilled about them (which I am) and sequels to books I haven't yet read. All of the ARCs on this list are slated to be published in April, May or June. Prepare for a lot of dystopias. :D

10. The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Okay, okay. It's my first book and already I'm bending my rules just this once. This is the third book in a series, of which I've read the first book only (The Shadow of the Wind). Of course, I loved it so much that I already own book two. Nothing will stop me from wanting to also add this one to my collection. Ruiz Zafón's other books are also getting translated into English, which I am super excited about and another one almost made this list.

Expected publication date: June 21 by W&N

9. The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

Terry Pratchett's got a new book coming out! I don't know anything about Stephen Baxter, but the book sounds quite intriguing. It's set in both 1916 and 2015, which is cool. Even more awesome is that there are parallel worlds, meaning science fiction, which Pratchett does best of course. I can only hope it's hilarious as well.

Expected publication date: June 9 by Harper

8. Storybound by Marissa Burt

Hey look! It's a middle grade book! The only one on this list. I don't really read too much middle grade, but I could not pass this one up. This one just sounds amazing. It's set in the land of Story, and plays with all of the fairy tale conventions. Kids in Story go to school to become Sidekicks, Heroes or Villains. Made of win.

Expected publication date: April 3 by Harper Collins

7. Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

There are a ton of dystopias coming out this year and you can pretty much count me ecstatic about all of them. However, this one definitely stands out from the crowd enough to be the only dystopia on this list that's not by an author with whom I'm familiar. Anyway, for once it was not the cover that caught my eye. Instead, the summary got me: it's based on Edgar Allen Poe! What could be better to inspire a dystopia than Poe?

Expected publication date: April 24 by Harper Collins

6. Daisy Danger by Shannon Hale

There's really not much information out there on this one, not even a cover yet. However, I love Shannon Hale, so I want it despite having no clue what it's about. All I know is that it will be for young adults and may or may not be a trilogy. The fact that it's cloaked in secrecy only increases my want!

Expected publication date: June 1st by Bloomsbury

5. Thumped by Megan McCafferty

I totally expected to hate Bumped, because it's a dystopia about pregnancy and babies. Well, that wily Megan McCafferty totally proved me wrong. I loved it! And now I want to read this one, which has yet to show up on NetGalley. Just realized that this series only has two books. I had my heart set on a trilogy, since that seems to be the dystopia magic number. Quel dommage!

Expected publication date: April 2 by Balzer + Bray

4. Blackout by Mira Grant

Wait, you mean I'm breaking my rules about sequels again?! I've read Feed, the first book in the series, but not Deadline, the second book. Well, my rule can go get stuffed, because I want this with a fiery passion anyway. Feed is one of my all time favorite dystopias, so of course I'm dying for book three. Besides, were I to receive an ARC of it, it would give me a good excuse for bumping two up my ridiculously long to-read list. :D

Expected publication date: June 1 by Orbit

3. A Midsummer's Nightmare by Kody Keplinger

So far I've only read The DUFF, which was completely amazing. Now she's writing a book with a Shakespeare theme! YES! I would want this if it weren't Keplinger, but because it is it's #3 on the most wanted list. Plus, A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays.

Expected Publication Date: June 5 by Poppy

2. For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

A dystopia by the author of the Killer Unicorns series! I am so there. Peterfreund has shown that she has no problem making awful things happen to her characters, which means she probably wrote one intense and amazing dystopia. Authors cannot afford to be shy about hurting folk if they want to write a dystopia with any punch. Oh yeah, and did I mention that it was inspired by a Jane Austen novel!?!?! (Note: this is better than Poe!) Why is this not in my hands right now? It combines two of my favorite things: Austen and dystopias!!!

Expected publication date: June 12 by Balzer + Bray

Expected publication date:

1. Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

The amount that I desire a copy of Bitterblue can hardly be overstated. The best way to put it is to borrow from the Klondike bar commercials and say 'What would I do for Bitterblue?' Well, a lot of things. Not anything, obviously. But there are so many things I would do. Like a silly dance. Which I would probably do whether requested by the sender or no. Kristin Cashore is one of my favorite authors and I have so much faith in her skills, based upon Graceling and Fire, both of which are utterly original, magical and amazing.

Expected publication date: May 1st by Dial


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rangers - A Fine Frenzy

The Hunt
The Hunt, Book 1

Author: Andrew Fukuda
Pages: 293
ARC Acquired from: St. Martin's Griffin via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Gene is a human hiding in a world full of vampires. He follows precise rituals so that they will not realize that he is not one of them. Among these rules are: don't sweat, don't laugh, don't smile, don't get a sunburn, don't squint. If he were ever discovered, he would be consumed immediately. One day, at school, an announcement is made that there will be another heper hunt, a hunt for those like Gene. Lucky him, he's one of the winners of the lottery to participate in hunting the hepers.

To clarify, the people in this book are not actually vampires, but, of all the paranormal creatures, that's the best available description. They cannot be in sunlight, they have fangs and long nails, and they do suck blood. However, these creatures also eat flesh, so they're not quite vampires. They have no hair on their bodies, except their heads, which seems odd. Another big difference is that they age.

He works really hard not to attract notice, following tons of strict rules, like shaving every single day to fit in with these weird vampire creatures that apparently run the world, or at least his part of it. Even with all of his preparation, it seems odd that no one's noticed him yet. Wouldn't they be able to smell him?

I really have to comment on the oddness of some of the rituals the people (aka vampire-like beings have). When they think something's funny, they scratch their wrists. At the prospect of drinking from a heper (human), they drool copiously. Gross! Weirder still, apparently rubbing an elbow into an armpit is equivalent to an intense makeout session. What the what?

The writing really impressed me. The story is told in first person by Gene. The narration is inconsistent, with Gene sometimes referring to himself as one of the people and sometimes identifying himself as a heper in his own thoughts. Rather than coming off as poor editing, this strengthens the tale. Gene has been living among them so long that he hardly knows what he is any more. At times, behaving like a person seems to come instinctively.

The Hunt calls to mind most strongly The Hunger Games, even thought the plot is quite different. The similarities between them are the lottery, although, here, winning the lottery is a lucky thing, and the battle to be number one. The Hunt, too, is a very fast read, full of action and excitement. I will definitely be looking forward to the next action-packed installment, which will hopefully explain some of how this world came to be!

Also, I have to give Fukuda some serious props for his hilarious judgmental commentary of the romantic vampire novels. He's clearly laying into Twilight. Love it!

Rating: 3.5/5

"The rangers stream out of their cabins
They are the hunters and we are the rabbits
Maybe we don't want to be found
Maybe we don't want you tracking us down"

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Keep Forgetting - The Cinematics

Memento Nora
Memento Nora, Book 1

Angie Smibert
Pages: 184
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Brief Summary:
On a completely ordinary day, Nora goes out shopping with her mother. Terrorists attack the mall, and Nora witnesses the death of a man. This is the first time she has ever needed to go to the TFC (Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic), where she will be given a pill that will remove the trauma of the memory. While there, she meets a boy who refuses to take the pill and, upon learning a dark secret about her mother, decides to abstain as well.

The dystopian world in which Memento Nora is set is not too different from the world of today. The technology, aside from the pills and phones with even better technology, does not seem to far out of the realm of today's capabilities. This one reminds me most of Uglies, because of the slang, and Little Brother for the contemporary setting.

My favorite thing about Memento Nora was the focus on comics, and the power the written word can have. I love that the teens are creating this comic strip to help remember, to make a difference in their little community. Creating a newspaper or a pamphlet is an age-old method of rebellion. Here, it's just been moved into new methods.

The characters were pretty decent. I really liked getting to see from perspectives of Nora, Micah and Winter. However, it would have been nice to have their sections be a bit more balanced. Most of the chapters are from Nora's POV, even though she does the least from the comic-making perspective.

Given the short duration of the book and the pretty easy languages, this would be a good title for middle grade or reluctant readers, especially those into art. I am certainly looking forward to the sequel, The Forgetting Curve, which will be published by Marshall Cavendish this May.

Rating: 3/5

"The street's on fire
They'll push you down again, oh
Something I keep forgetting"

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

The First Day of Spring - Noah and the Whale

The Humming Room

Author: Ellen Potter
Pages: 182
ARC Acquired from: Feiwel & Friends via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
After the death of Roo's father, she is sent to live with her eccentric uncle, the existence of whom she never previously knew. Roo loves small spaces and being left alone; she doesn't trust anyone. At her new home on Cough Rock, in a house that used to serve as a hospital for children, Roo begins to open up, especially after finding a secret garden in the house.

I absolutely adore retellings of classic tales, and Potter's reimagining of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden is no exception. Although she didn't make too many changes to the basic plot, she did manage to make the story her own.

Much of that comes from the changes in Roo's character and background. She has the stubbornness and touchiness of Mary, but, in her case, this is not born of indolence or having been spoiled. Instead, it seems that she was largely neglected and not given enough care. As a result, she trusts only herself and tries to avoid others.

I also loved Roo's connection to nature. She is much like Jack, in the fact that she understands nature better than people. She connects to the earth and to wild creatures, since they're so much like she is. The little black squirrel sounds like the cutest. Why don't I have wild animal friends?

Anyway, if you love The Secret Garden, prepare to take another trip into a magic garden that will restore those who enter it. If anything, The Humming Room is shorter than the original, so it's a very quick, satisfying read.

Rating: 3.5/5

"It's the first day of spring
And my life is starting over again
The trees grow, the river flows
And its water will wash away my sins"

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Harder to Breathe - Maroon 5


Author: Rumiko Takahashi
Pages: 56
Publisher: VIZ Media

Brief Summary:
Kagome falls into a well and travels through time. There she awakens a foul-mouthed half-youkai, a hanyou, named Inuyasha. She is a reincarnation of Kikyou, the woman who killed him (although obviously that didn't stick). As Kikyou's reincarnation, she is tasked with guarding a jewel, which she immediately breaks into fragments (Oops!). Inuyasha wants the jewel, so that he can become a full youkai and show his brother that he's more awesome. Inuyasha and Kagome team up to travel the world in search of fragments of the jewel, which are wreaking havoc everywhere.

This took approximately forever to get through. There are so many freaking volumes. At first, I enjoyed it, because it was kind of funny and silly. Unfortunately, it's incredibly formulaic and repetitive, kind of like episodes of The Power Rangers. You know what's going to happen, but it takes all of time to get there.

Basically, for about fifty of the volumes, they keep having skirmishes with the big bad of the series, Naraku. He's a hanyou like Inuyasha, determined to use the Shikon no Tama to become a full youkai and to be the most powerful dude in the world. He creates an evil league of evil to help him in his quest, and is generally a pain. Worst of all, whenever the good guys are winning a battle, he dematerializes, so that he can fight another day. Can anyone explain to me why only the bad guys have this power?

Speaking of power, Inuyasha and his brother have a lot of it, more than anyone else apparently. Apparently being hanyou is to power as being a muggle-born witch has to do with magical ability, which is to say that it has very little to do with it. However, what drove me completely crazy was that Inuyasha has like three attacks for thirty-some volumes of the series. He doesn't learn anything! He continues to fight like an idiot, and finally gets attacks because other people help him out. Inuyasha does not really seem like a hero who would be able to defeat anyone intelligent enough to target his weaknesses.

Okay, so as a shounen, it's not that great, because the action is so mindless and repetitive. How about the romance elements? Those are better at least, right? Not in my opinion. For longer than I deem acceptable, Inuyasha continues to be torn between Kagome and Kikyou. I get that it's a complicated situation, but that is so not cool. Plus, Kagome's like 14 or something at the beginning. Sheesh.

The other romance of the series is Houshi and Sango, which I definitely did not ship either. Houshi really creeps me out because of the way he asks every woman he meets if she'll bear his child. Sango would probably be my favorite character, because she kicks so much ass, but she always becomes so girly and not like herself around Houshi. Ugh!

The art is not great, though it does have a certain charm. However, this charm dissipates over time. In a lot of long manga series, the art gets better along the way, but not so here.

This definitely turned out not to be my thing. The story is weak (seriously, how did Kagome pass middle school?) and so is the characterization. However, this is one of the most popular manga there is, so keep in mind that lots of people probably would not agree with my reactions.

Note: My song choice may seem a bit odd here. These lines reminded me of all of the boasting by Inuyasha, especially early days. The song also captures the melodrama and constant miasma of the later volumes.

Rating: 2/5

"How dare you say that my behavior is unacceptable
So condescending unnecessarily critical
I have the tendency of getting very physical
So watch your step 'cause if I do you'll need a miracle"

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Fine Young Cannibals - Wolf Parade

The Inferior
The Bone World Trilogy, Book 1

Peadar Ó Guilín
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Brief Summary:
Stopmouth has always deeply admired and envied his older brother, Wallbreaker, for his hunting skills, his ability to speak without stuttering, and the love of Mossheart, one of the prettiest girls in the Human Tribe. Stopmouth's chances of a good match are low, because everyone assumes something's wrong with him because of his stutter. He didn't mind so much when he had the love of his mother and brother, but, after his mother Volunteers herself to be traded to rival creatures for food so that Stopmouth may live, and his brother becomes jealous of Stopmouth's friendship with Indrani, Wallbreaker's second wife, a mysterious woman who came from a Globe, Stopmouth's world begins to change.

Okay, I did my best to summarize this book, but, honestly, it's a really difficult book to explain, because it's so much not like anything else I've read. Basically, somehow the human race has descended to the level of cannibalistic monsters that live off of no food but flesh. Not only do they eat all of the creatures that live within hunting distance of them (Armourbacks, Hairbeasts, Hoppers, etc.), but they also eat other humans. To be eaten by one's family after death is seen as an honor.

Weirder still is the fact that none of these different kinds of creatures can understand the language of any other. Even more curious is the fact that, even if they try, they cannot learn to understand these other methods of communication. All of the different tribes of creatures live in the same ways the humans do, hunting and trading the species nearby.

On the plus side, this is very original. On the downside, I found it nigh impossible to relate to the characters, because they're just so incredibly different from anything I know as 'human.' The way their society functions is completely awful, with the death lottery and the role of females. Caring about Stopmouth and Rockface and Indrani was difficult at the best of times.

Up next on my tbr pile is the second book in the series, which is finally being published five years after book one (weird!). I'm not particularly excited about it, but I'm not giving up on it either. I would like to learn more about how the heck humanity became like this. There were some hints in The Inferior and I think a lot more should be learned in The Deserter about the Roof and the history of humans.

Rating: 2/5

"I'll be true
True to you
We may consume ourselves but I don't think twice
I'll be there soon, so..."

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mad World - Gary Jules

This Is Not a Test

Author: Courtney Summers
Pages: 323
ARC Acquired from: St. Martin's Griffin via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
Sloane, left behind by her sister Lily with her abusive father, plans to commit suicide. She doesn't, though, because Lily took the pills with her. Cue zombie outbreak. Fast forward seven days. Sloane has somehow managed to survive and is barricaded in the high school with five other teens. For the others, the zombies are a catastrophe, a tragedy, the end of the world, but, for Sloane, they could be a way out, and escape from her awful life.

The writing, which has a very particular style, definitely took some getting used to. Even now, I'm not completely sure how I feel about the book or the writing. I think it's probably because it's so beautiful, so nuanced and so gut-wrenching. Her writing also has a strangely lyrical quality, enhanced by the strange placement of punctuation.

The world-building in This Is Not a Test is minimal. All we really know is that there was a zombie outbreak, and that's about it. That's because the dystopian aspects aren't what make the book unique, they're not what the book is really about. Whereas most dystopias focus on a person, or group of people, desperate to survive, This Is Not a Test focuses on a girl who wants to die. This viewpoint really changed everything. What scares Sloane is not the zombies, not the dying. She fears having to live.

I've seen this book called "The Breakfast Club meets The Walking Dead." I see where they're going with that, and it's valid. I want to add a comparison to Laurie Halse Anderson and Ilsa J. Bick. If you enjoy those authors, you will love this, and by love I mean be seriously depressed by. I think this one is going to stick with me.

Rating: 4/5

"And I find it kinda funny
I find it kinda sad
The dreams in which I'm dying
Are the best I've ever had
I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It's a very, very mad world mad world"

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Money (That's What I Want) - The Beatles

Brewster's Millions

Author: George Barr McCutcheon
Narrator: Bronson Pinchot
Duration: 5 hrs, 41 mins
Publisher: Blackstone Audio

I had no idea this was a book! My knowledge of it was limited entirely to the movie starring Richard Pryor. For those of you who have seen the movie, the basic plot is pretty much the same, however, pretty much everything else is pretty different. This probably comes as little surprise, if you know that the novel was published in 1902.

Brewster receives an inheritance of 1 million dollars and is, unsurprisingly, incredibly excited. Then, soon after, he learns that he is eligible for a second, much larger, inheritance, but only if, within one year, he can spend the prior inheritance. If he fails, he will not get the money, and will have to survive on what remains of the million. Of course, he tries to win big.

As you may have guessed based on the synopsis, or the film, this a is a light-hearted humorous book. I found most of it to be pretty funny, and really enjoyed the story. Of course, the funniest part is how difficult it was for Brewster to get rid of one million dollars. He should learn from today's celebrities, many of whom have managed to dispose of hundreds of millions. Rich people make me mad sometimes.

I am now entirely certain that Pinchot is a very talented narrator. I've listened to three audiobooks that he's done, and in every single one he has sounded like a different person. Although I hated the first one I listened to, I've really enjoyed the others. Here, especially, he did a great job of fitting his voice and pacing to that of the character. His narration is blithe and conveys the humor of the situation.

This is quite an excellent audiobook, and just the right length for a decent road trip!

Rating: 4/5

"The best things in life are free
But you can keep 'em for the birds and bees"

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fix You - Coldplay

Blue Monday
Frieda Klein, Book 1

Author: Nicci French
Pages: 322
Review Copy Acquired from: Penguin

Brief Summary:
Frieda Klein is a therapist, who helps people come to terms with their own lives and function better. She has her own problems, though, like a crippling fear of letting anybody in. This includes her boyfriend, Sandy. She tries to avoid getting too caught up in anything. Forcing her out of her usual routine is a new patient, Alan, who's dreams about a child strike a chord with her. Could he be the one who has taken the missing boy that all the papers are talking about? Frieda quickly becomes caught up in the investigation of an incredibly complicated crime.

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big mystery reader. I enjoy them, but they tend a bit too much to the formulaic for me, although I realize the irony given how much time I spend reading YA paranormal novels. Also, being a character-driven reader, I generally have trouble relating to the hard-boiled detective types.

That said, I really enjoyed reading this, perhaps even loved it. I have always been fascinated by the minds of criminals, along with everyone else apparently, given the popularity of shows like Criminal Minds. Blue Monday focuses on the kidnapping of young children, a girl and 20 years later a boy. The reader gets a third person view into the mind of every character, which really worked for this novel.

What I definitely loved was that the focus of the book, and the series, is Frieda. She is awesome and a character I can totally relate to, even in her desire to push people away. She is really why I so much enjoyed reading this book, because she really has a strength as a character. Plus, I liked that the mystery was from the perspective of a psychologist rather than a detective, which gave a different filter to the story.

I know I will be reading more Nicci French (Nicci Gerrard + Sean French) novels in the future, especially the next Frieda Klein book. So glad there's more!

Rating: 4/5

P.S. I really want you to know that this cover looks so much prettier in person, because it's all shiny.

"When you try your best, but you don't succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you"

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Band of Gold - Freda Payne

The Legacy Trilogy, Book 2

Author: Cayla Kluver
Pages: 482
ARC Acquired from: HarlequinTEEN via NetGalley

Warning: This book is part of a series and will contain spoilers for the previous book, Legacy.

Brief Summary:
Alera and Steldor, now wed for ten days become King and Queen of Hytanica. Alera struggles with her new position and with her continued love for Narian. She and Steldor are constantly at odds. Even worse, Hytanica can expect war with Cokyri at any time, and Narian, prophesied to bring down Hytanica, is still missing.

Okay, so before I can talk too much about Allegiance, I need to talk some about Legacy, since I can now do so without spoilers. When I prepared to read this book, I realized my memory was fuzzy, because, well, it's my memory. Anyway, I tried reading my review, but that was less than helpful, because I didn't want to spoil anything and concrete facts were what I needed.

Last night before bed, I reread the last couple chapters of Legacy to brush up. Anyway, that reminded me both of the things that I loved, and the things I didn't. Basically, the main character needs to stand up for herself more and the society needs to be more open-minded. What I loved so much about Legacy, though, was that Kluver did something I did not expect. She married the heroine off to the guy you didn't want her to marry, the guy she didn't want to marry.

Obviously, this made me sad, but I also loved it. Why? Because usually in fiction, the princess manages to get out of her arranged marriage and marry the guy of her dreams. Examples include Aurelia and Entwined. No such luck here. This seems a lot more realistic. I could not wait to see how Kluver was going to handle this, since it's not like she can just divorce her husband, the king. Pretty much the only way out of this will be to fall in love with him (which sounds tricky what with him being such a playboy) or for him to die. Either way, I knew some serious drama was in store.

Okay, so now that I've read Allegiance, I find myself entirely satisfied, except that I don't have the final book, Sacrifice, in my hands right now. How will I wait?!?

Alera is much the same as she was in the first book; she still frustrates me no end sometimes. From her narration, it's obvious that she is an intelligent, powerful woman, but she doesn't see that in herself. She spends a lot of the book crying and throwing the grown up equivalent of temper tantrums. While normally this would lead me to dislike a book, here it just shows what the Hytanican society can do to even the best of women. Simply disgusting the way their women are treated and undervalued. However, by the end, Alera is finally starting to realize that she's a force to be reckoned with, so yay for that.

The romance aspect of the book felt like Kluver was playing tug of war with my heart. Just when I had switched to supporting one guy, I would then be tempted to switch to another. Ahhh! Mostly, this was seriously frustrating, but in as good a way as possible.

Mostly, though, what I think I love so much about this series is the fact that I cannot predict what will happen much of the time. The fact that I can't see things coming makes the whole thing such an emotional thrill ride. Kluver's definitely defying some of the standard YA plot lines and putting the characters through hell. Love it!

Fans of YA fantasy will likely adore The Legacy Trilogy as much as I have, especially people who have enjoyed Tamora Pierce novels.

Rating: 4/5

A note about today's song choice: This song came on my shuffle while I was reading and the atmosphere fit so well with Alera's mood and thoughts in the beginning of the novel, I couldn't resist even though it's not completely perfect.

"I wait in the darkness of my lonely room
Filled with sadness, filled with gloom
Hoping soon that you'll walk
Back through that door
And love me like you tried before"

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Monday, February 20, 2012

In My Mailbox (6)

It's been a fairly quiet week here bookwise, but I'm pretty freaking excited about some of them! Especially getting my first physical ARC copy from Bloomsbury thanks to a mix-up on NetGalley. Of course, I'm also very grateful to Penguin for their support and to St. Martin's Press (for publishing so many dystopias) and to Oni Press (for loving graphic novels). Oh yeah, and to Goodwill for letting me indulge in my book-buying addiction without breaking the bank.

From Penguin:

The Child Who - Simon Lelic

From Bloomsbury:

Magic Under Stone - Jaclyn Dolamore

From NetGalley:

The Hunt - Andrew Fukuda / Holliday - Nate Bowden & Doug Dabbs / Ordinary Magic - Caitlen Rubino-Bradway


Chimera - John Barth / The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie - Muriel Spark / Welcome to Higby - Mark Dunn / The Graveyard Book - Neil Gaiman


Some Fun Now - Little Shop of Horrors

Escape from Furnace, Book 4

Author: Alexander Gordon Smith
Pages: 277
ARC Acquired from: Farrar Straus Giraux via NetGalley

Warning: This book is part of a series. This review will contain spoilers for prior books in the series.

Brief Summary:
At the end of Death Sentence, Alex Sawyer and the rest of the prisoners, well, the ones that survived anyway, finally break out of Furnace. And then everything was sunny and happy; Furnace was shut down, the Warden jailed, and the boys accepted lovingly back into the bosoms of their families. Or not.

Through the previous three novels the primary goal of the inmates of Furnace has been getting the heck out. Upon coming up to the surface, though, they promptly realize that just because they're free doesn't mean they're safe. Plus, the conspiracy and experiments were not just in Furnace.

So, for some reason, I totally expected this to be the conclusion to the series. Note: it's not. As I was reading, I was like how on earth is he going to wrap this up in the ever-diminishing pages that remain? Answer: he's not. Okay, so don't expect to get answers to everything. Still, there are way more answers in this one than all of the others added together, so hurrah for that.

In Fugitives, Smith leaves the relative literary safety of Furnace, and has to really step up his world-building. In this book, there are new horrors, worse than any found in Furnace. For example, a kind of zombie/reverse vampire. If that doesn't make sense to you, read the book.

I definitely loved the fact that escaping didn't make anything better. Obviously, I thought law enforcement would be against the escaping convicts, but the broadening of the scope of what was going on made it pretty epic. I look forward to finding out just exactly what Furnace has been doing in the next book; Alex's view and knowledge of what's happening is limited, and we can only know what he does.

Smith's bread and butter is monsters and mayhem. He does that well, and comes up with such strange and creepy creatures that I do not envy him his dreams. Anyway, I want to give him props for also drawing attention to the fact that regular people can be just as bad, possibly worse (?) than the monsters. Certainly I tended to find those scenes most discomfiting, probably because they seemed much more realistic and pertinent to real life than the rest of this series.

Although I'm somewhat concerned about how long Smith is going to drag this series out, I am willing to continue reading along when the next installment, Execution, comes out later this year. For those who have enjoyed the series thus far, it only gets more crazy and exciting in Fugitives.

Rating: 3/5

"He started an explosion,
Holy cow,
That thing went bang ka-boom
And he's havin' some fun now"

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Colors - Amos Lee

Life Eternal
Dead Beautiful, Book 2

Yvonne Woon
Pages: 398
ARC Acquired from: Hyperion via NetGalley
Warning: This book is part of a series and will contain spoilers for the previous book.

Brief Summary:
Renée Winters survived her year at Gottfried Academy, but she's quite different ever since she gave her soul to Dante and he gave it back. She doesn't seem to feel as much anymore now that she's apart from him over the summer and she's having these incredibly intense dreams that may or may not be visions of the future. Because of the tragic events of the previous year, Gottfried Academy will now be the boarding school home only for the undead, so Renée is off to Lycée St. Clément in Canada, notorious and desperate to figure out how to be with Dante.

I definitely feel much the same about Life Eternal as I did Dead Beautiful. It's fun and quick to read, but also kind of ridiculous and melodramatic. However, overall, I think I did like this one a bit better.

First off,
Renée is still weird. She just never reacts to things the way a normal person would. Maybe she's just not normal, but pretty much every time I read about how she responded to something, I'm like what the heck! For example, in the first chapter, you learn that her grandfather has been reading all her mail. And that she's okay with that, because she knows she can't stop him. If it were me, I would have the fight every time, because tampering with the mail's not cool, or I would come up with some other way to get my mail so it didn't have to go through psychogramps. Then again maybe the real reason she's okay with it is because she snoops through his stuff too.

One of the strangest things about this book is the fact that as much as Gottfried Academy controlled the students' every move
Lycée St. Clément doesn't seem to care at all. Renée runs all around Montreal searching for Dante and never gets in trouble for just disappearing from campus. More than once, she falls asleep somewhere that's not her room and comes back in the morning...and no one notices. Partly because apparently at this super sweet boarding school everyone gets their own room, with bathrooms shared by only two people. At Gottfried, there was a communal bathroom in the girls' building and one in the boys'. Weird!

What I liked most about this book was that the disgusting soul mate thing was significantly reduced. It becomes apparent that even though she thought they were perfect for one another, because they share the same soul and everything, that it's possible she doesn't know him as well as she thought. There's an acknowledgment here that this is a high school relationship and that they really have not spent enough time together or talked about their pasts enough to have a healthy, trusting relationship.

Add to this a new possible love interest in Noah, a Monitor boy, and you've got the makings for
Renée needing to reevaluate her life choices. I also love the questions raised in this love triangle. Should love be easy? Renée doesn't think so at first, but comes to question whether the difficulty of maintaining a relationship is a sign of its worth. I love that Woon brought this up, because with so many of the YA romances, especially in the paranormal genre, teens could get the idea that true love is beset by many difficulties, and that if it's too easy it can't be real.

The dramatic ending left a little bit to be desired, although it definitely achieved the dramatic. It just seems like people were not as prepared as they should have been, resulting in some unnecessary and awful things happening.

Anyway, despite the many things I could rant about in this series, it is really fun to read, and I know I'll be excited when book three comes out. I just can't help it. Recommended to people who like the Cassandra Clare books; I always have a similar response to those.

Rating: 3/5

"When you're gone all the colors fade"

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

I'm Going Slightly Mad - Queen

Death Sentence
Escape from Furnace, Book 3

Author: Alexander Gordon Smith
Pages: 261
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giraux

Warning: This is part of a series. The review will contain spoilers for the previous books.

Brief Summary:
At the dramatic conclusion to Solitary, Alex, Zee and Simon had almost escaped (again). This time they had the good idea of climbing out the chimney of the incinerator. Unfortunately, it got turned on and they were all burning to death.

Or not. You may already have guessed that they probably didn't die, since there was another book in the series. Now Alex has to face the final horror of furnace: becoming an experiment, a monster, or dying in the process.

Although Death Sentence has all of the action and grossness of the prior installments, I definitely was not as engrossed (see what I did there?) as I was before. I found myself getting a bit bored in some parts.

The beginning was rough. I mean, he's undergoing the change and mostly just having nightmares. Then he wakes up and the Warden says things. He fights with himself to hold onto Alex Sawyer. He has Achilles-level rage. He feels guilt. There are some scenes that are reminiscent of the reprogramming in A Clockwork Orange, which I really hope was an intended reference.

So, in this installment, you actually do get to learn a bit more about the origins of Furnace. Actually, there were a couple of subtle hints before this point, which I noticed, but ignored, hoping that wasn't where Smith was going with this. Well, it is. Sigh. Maybe it will be cool, but I worry that it will just make me angry with stereotypes. I guess that remains to be seen.

The next book, The Fugitives, is poised to be hugely exciting. Even after having been less enthused with this one, I'm excited to find out what will happen next.

Rating: 2.5/5

"It finally happened - happened
It finally happened - uh huh
It finally happened - I'm slightly mad - oh dear!"

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Butcher's Paper (Sad Fisherman's Song) - Rilo Kiley

The Royal Wulff Murders

Author: Keith McCafferty
Review Copy Acquired from: Viking

Brief Summary:
A man is found in the Madison River with a fly fishing hook, a royal wulff, through his lip. At first it appears to be nothing more than an accidental drowning. However, there is one piece of evidence indicating that this just might be murder. Sheriff Martha Ettinger refuses to dismiss this contradictory evidence and launches an investigation. Meanwhile, Sean Stranahan, artist and part time P.I., is hired to catch a trout for a sexy, mysterious singer, Velvet Lafayette. Distracted by Velvet's beauty, he fails too notice until too late that he might be in too deep.

Fishing, fly or in any other variety, is not my thing at all. Heck, I hardly even eat fish, mostly only under duress. I am perfectly happy to let them keep doing their thing. Nor do I have any desire to ever go fishing myself. Mysteries aren't my preferred reading either. But I try to be somewhat open-minded about my reading choices, so when the lure of a fly fishing mystery was dropped in front of me, I bit.

Should I have? Maybe not. The opening parts were definitely hard on me. There was so much fishing, like back-to-back fishing. This probably would have been okay if there had been some interesting conversations accompanying the fishing, but a lot of it was just someone out fishing with lots of details of fish and lures and bait and whatever. So not my thing.

Thankfully, things picked up when the sheriff got more page time. I liked her; she's a sassy woman kicking butt in a traditionally masculine profession. Plus, she doesn't fish, which meant that that did not happen much when she was around.

On the contrary, I did not like Velvet at all. The stage name is ridiculous, but her real name, Vareda Beaudreux, is no better. Really though, that's not the issue, because that would be absurd and unfair. Velvet/Vareda is one of those women that men all of over the world seem to obsess over: beautiful, tortured, mysterious. A completely different writer, John Green, has written two books about girls like this. What is the fascination, guys? I'd like to know because I so do not get it. Throw the crazy ones back!

Basically, I'm not an ideal judge of this book. However, I do think that as mysteries go, it's a pretty good one. Anyone who loves to fish and to read mysteries should not miss this.

Rating: 2/5

"Imagine myself as a fisherman casting out his lonely line
He's caught something, he reels it in
Only to find that the hook has snagged
His old broken heart
He reels it, throws it back
He knows it's not his time
But he'd better find love quickly
Because drinking, song, and fishing
Just ain't going to cut it this time
In this life"

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Storm - Gaelic Storm

Eye of the Storm

Author: Kate Messner
Pages: 304
ARC Acquired from: Walker Books for Young Readers via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
In a future (2050) where the excesses of humanity have lead to completely insane weather (tornadoes like whoa), Jaden Meggs is sent to spend the summer with her dad, a weather expert. Although he has not yet been able to stop the tornadoes, he has managed to build a completely safe community. While there, Jaden will be attending a premier school for young science nerds. She teams up with fellow nerd Alex to try to find a way to stop the storms.

Middle grade dystopias are generally much lighter fare, not just in reading level. They tend to be less violent, less terrifying. Eye of the Storm definitely fits this mold, but is no less interesting for that. Don't think it's too sweet and fluffy; there are definitely a couple of intense scenes.

Jaden's father is the worst. I mean, seriously. He doesn't seem to make an effort with his family (either Jaden or his new wife and baby) at all. Whenever he has a bad day at work, which seems to be a lot, he blusters at them. He spends most of his time in his locked office, rather than with his family. It had been years since he spent any real time with Jaden, because he was researching in Russia, and yet now that she's there he only holds brief conversations with her. That's it. Plus, he doesn't do anything to make his wife happy; she loves dancing, and even though there are small amateur groups they could see live locally, he won't take her. What a completely awful man.

I loved that the central idea for the dystopia was one that I had not encountered before. The weather has gone bonkers in many, but this one focused specifically on tornadoes, although acknowledging that in other parts of the world cyclones and typhoons were just as much of a problem. After the huge storms in Japan this past year and Katrina's crazy damage to New Orleans, it's terrifying to consider what it would be like if storms like these only got more powerful and now went everywhere. Of course, it's also impossible for me to read this without constantly replaying the movie Twister in my head, haha.

Also cool is that Messner added some other scientific developments into the dystopian elements of the story. For example, along with building communities that are safe from tornadoes, Jaden's dad's company StormSafe also develops genetically engineered food. While this is in no way the focus, I think these little tidbits of other developments really set the atmosphere for where the world was headed.

Eye of the Storm is a good, swift dystopian read for younger (or older) readers. Especially recommended to those who enjoy stories about really clever kids, such as The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Rating: 3.5/5

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fallen - Mya

Dead Beautiful
Dead Beautiful, Book 1

Author: Yvonne Woon
Pages: 455
Publisher: Hyperion

Brief Summary:
Although only somewhat popular, Renée Winters has a pretty awesome life. She has an awesome best friend in Annie and the hottest boy at school (a senior) likes her even though she's only a sophomore and not the prettiest girl at school. All of that comes to an end when Renée finds her parents both dead in the woods. According to the coroners they died of simultaneous heart attacks. Only Renée wonders about foul play, because the bodies were surrounded with coins and gauze. Her over-protective, immensely wealthy grandfather comes to take care of her and promptly whisks her off to a boarding school on the other end of the country (Maine). Will she find out why her parents' died? Will she get to date the hottest boy at this school too?

For the most part, I enjoyed Dead Beautiful, contrary to a friend's expectations. It was a really quick read and definitely fascinating, even when frustrating. Don't let the high page count fool you; this is a really quick read. The pace of the book is pretty fast, if anything, too fast.

The opening of the book is weak. You're treated to only one chapter of Renée's life in California. The reader never meets her parents and barely meets her friends there. Considering that she spends the rest of the novel mourning her parents, and at least a few chapters missing her friends, it's rather awkward to never get to see what her relationship was like with them. There aren't even really any flashbacks.

Most annoying to me were the scenes that Woon obviously got from popular teen pop culture. Any differentiations in the scenes will be put in quotation marks.

Scene #1: The Twilight
Girl: walks into science class and gets teamed up with broody hot guy to be lab partners for the year.
Guy: talks to her, touches her hand with his cold hand. (Guy: sits as far from her as possible.)
Guy: runs out of class like the hounds of hell are behind him.
Girl: is sad.
Guy: comes to class, but ignores girl. Also, he knows all the answers.
Guy: suddenly changes his mind and is overly friendly one day.
Girl: is thrilled.

Scene #2: The Mean Girls
Girl: gets a C on her Latin exam. (Girl: gets an A on her math exam.)
Guy: tells her he's pretty awesome at Latin and offers to tutor her. (Girl: asks guy who's awful at math to tutor her because he's hot.
Girl: gets better grades. (Girl: does not do this...they align on the next step.)
Girl: does not want the sexiness of Latin tutoring to end, so she purposely gets bad grades again.
Teacher: is not pleased.

Although I didn't especially like any of the characters, I didn't hate them exactly either. Sometimes I almost liked Renée with her fire to figure things out, but then, suddenly, she would not want to know something or she would get a clue and be too blind to put things together. For example, Dante, the hottest and most mysterious boy at the new school, keeps trying to tell her something about himself and his secret. And she keeps not forcing the issue. They get interrupted and she goes about her life and DOES NOT THINK ABOUT IT. Who does that?!?! I would totally have refused to talk about anything else until he told me.

Despite an obvious plot (I saw all the twists coming from miles away, because of conventions and foreshadowing) and so-so characters, Dead Beautiful was a surprisingly fun read. The cliffhanger ending, though anticipated, did definitely stoke my desire to find out how the heck Woon's going to resolve this situation.

Rating: 3/5

P.S. I super wish my mom had a closet full of crazy awesome clothes that I could wear now! So jealous of that. Also of the fact that Renée can give herself a perfect haircut.

"You complete me
Like air and water boy
I need thee
And when I'm in your arms I feel free
My heads up in the clouds in love"

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Down in a Hole - Alice in Chains

Escape from Furnace, Book 2

Author: Alexander Gordon Smith
Pages: 232
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giraux

Warning: This is a sequel in a series and will contain spoilers for the book before.

Brief Summary:
Book one left off with the boys on the verge of escape. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knew the title of this book when reading that they did, in fact, not make it. They walk around, choose to take a path down instead of up, and swiftly are caught again. And put in Solitary. If you didn't see that coming, well, think harder next time.

Anyway, in Lockdown, the reader is informed that the longest anyone has ever managed to spend in Solitary was four days and that that person went crazy. The Warden gives these Zee and Alex a month. Best of luck, boys. If you can try to stay sane, you'll need it to try to escape from here.

Like the first book in this series, Solitary is an action-packed, tension-filled thrill ride. You might not expect that a book about a boy trapped in Solitary would be so exciting. Surprisingly, though, it totally was.

On the one hand, it's kind of ridiculous and silly that the boys still think they can escape from this incredibly creepy and heavily guarded prison. But still, it works, because considering the possibility of escape is the only way the inmates are able to keep their courage, sanity and regular personality. Whether or not the plans actually work, like the first one spectacularly did not, they do help the boys in a very real way, disregarding the consequences of failure.

Having a look at the guts of the prison was really interesting. This gets us (Alex, Zee, the reader) a closer look at what's going on in there. Still, I need some questions answered. So many of them. Somehow I suspect that won't happen until the final book in the series.

The books have been very consistent thus far. If you liked book one, you'll probably like this one just as much. Although I don't love these, they are interesting and fast-paced. I probably won't reread them but getting through the series isn't a struggle at all.

Rating: 3/5

"Down in a hole, losing my soul
Down in a hole, losing control"

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

In My Mailbox (5)

Commentary This was definitely a good week for books. I got a bunch of e-galleys from NetGalley, along with a book from Penguin, and picked up a few books from Goodwill. Love it!

From the Wonderful Folks at Penguin:

Glow - Jessica Maria Tuccelli

From NetGalley:

Swipe - Evan Angler / In the Shadow of the Banyan - Vaddey Ratner / Secret Letters - Leah Scheier

Firefly Dance - Various Authors / The Returning - Christine Hinwood / Burn Mark - Laura Powell

Tessa Masterson WILL Go to Prom - Emily Franklin & Brendan Halpin

Note: The cover displayed for Burn Mark is different, but I could only find ridiculously tiny ones for the cover on NetGalley. Still, this one's pretty!


The Girl Who Fell from the Sky - Heidi W Durrow / The Misted Cliffs - Catherine Asaro / Prom & Prejudice - Elizabeth Eulberg / The Way of the Warrior - Chris Bradford


Top Ten Authors for Sexy Stories & The Kama Sutra Giveaway

In honor of Valentine's Day, I'm doing a top ten list and a giveaway. What better book to give away for Valentine's Day than The Kama Sutra, right? That's totally what I thought. Anyway, check out the bottom of the post to enter the giveaway.

As for the top ten love stories, I thought about doing romance novels at first, but, well, I don't read those too much, so my list would be more like five books or ten books by five authors. Anyway, instead, I thought I would do the stories that make me swoon vicariously. Most of the books on this list are not typical romance novels. Many of them may not even have sex in every book (if it's a series), but, when there is, oh man is it amazing. Oh, and the order on this one means very little. I mostly just put them in by the order I thought of them. Now, please enjoy my atypical sexy times book list.

The pictures are of my favorite (sexy times) book by that author.

10. Judith McNaught

During middle school, I had a brief obsession with romance novels. This was, of course, a secret, something I would have been deeply embarrassed to have anyone know anything about. Thus, my reading was limited to the romance novels in my mom's collection, which I would sneak, very sneakily, from the family library. Of these Judith McNaught was by far my favorite. A Kingdom of Dreams and Almost Perfect were definitely my favorites. Whitney, My Love was the worst, because falling for the guy that raped you is not romantic or sexy. Anyway, you might not want to read too many at once, because the sex scenes tend to be very similar, but they were satisfying to middle school me. Oh, middle school me.

9. Kody Keplinger

To be fair, I have only read one of Kody's books, of which she now has two, but it was seriously steamy. And, unlike the previous author, it wasn't stylized. It all came off as very real, which has a value to it, too.

8. Tamora Pierce

In most Tamora Pierce series, you are going to get some sexy times. It's almost a guarantee...unless you're a tomboy like the heroine of Protector of the Small. Anyway, this is one of the things that I love about Tamora Pierce, not gonna lie. She lets her girls have a little fun. None of this business where the girl has to grow up all innocent while guys are out sewing oats. Girls have oats to sew, too, dammit! Personally, my favorite is the romance between Aly and Nawat, so that's what I'm going to recommend.

7. Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore is definitely influenced by Tamora Pierce, or, if she's not, their similarities are a mighty consequence. At any rate, she also likes her heroines to be powerful girls with sex drives. Actually, I like her books better than Pierce's. They're a bit darker and less middle grade (even with the sex). Currently, Fire is my favorite, but Bitterblue is coming. Finally!!!

6. Milan Kundera

And now for something completely different. I thought about removing Kundera from my initial list, because he certainly is not doing the same thing as the rest of these authors. He's the only one that's writing 'literary' fiction. Plus, he's the only man in the list (although I expect Karsten Knight might make this list at some point). But hey, if you want crazy sex and philosophy, this is your guy.

5. Laurell K. Hamilton

Hurrah for romance novels that will get shelved in the fantasy section. No, I'm not reading a romance novel...it's totally paranormal fantasy; this is legit and can be checked out of the library without shame. Maybe so, but Hamilton's novels have more sex (or, before the sex comes, since it takes a while in Anita Blake, there's a lot of sexual tension and intense make out sessions) than a book from the romance section. Don't believe me? Go pick up the Merry Gentry series. Merry is competing for the faerie crown. How to get it? Get pregnant. How to do that? Sex up all the hottest men (and some less hot ones). Just remember. This is legit. Riiiiiiight.

4. Meg Cabot

You may know Meg Cabot primarily for her YA series, which, for the most part, are pretty PG. However, she also writes romance novels/chick lit. These are pretty stellar. Rather than recommending those, though, I have to offer up the Heather Wells series for your consumption. The really good stuff doesn't come til Big Boned, but it's so worth it.

3. Maria V. Snyder

Snyder can write some seriously scintillating romance scenes. When her heroines get action, you can feel your own knees getting weak. Probably because you're so into the book you think you are the heroine, and, damn, do I wish I were. Inside Out/Outside In had some good moments, but my favorite of the three books I've read so far is Touch of Power. Squee!

2. Janet Evanovich

My top two finds me back in the realm of authors of actual romance novels. These I will not blame/thank my middle school reading for, because I only discovered them in college. Janet Evanovich's books are awesome. For one thing, she is completely hysterical; I don't think I know anyone who read them and did not seriously enjoy. They are like candy. They also have seriously hot menfolk. And, if you don't like checking out books with the tell-tale heart spine labels, go for the Stephanie Plum books....because they're mysteries. Legit!

1. Jennifer Crusie

Two college friends told me that I simply had to read Jennifer Crusie. At first, I was skeptical. And then I read Welcome to Temptation. Well, hello temptation! Crusie's book almost never fail to disappoint (except for the books she wrote with Mayer). Another awesome thing about her is that her heroines have some serious variations, as in they are not all stick thin women with enormous boobs as in the case of so many romance novels. Plus, all of her heroines love food and animals (this is true of Evanovich too).

Win a Copy of The Kama Sutra for Yourself (or a Friend):
Now, should you desire to learn something about obtaining sexy times for yourself, enter my giveaway to win a copy of The Kama Sutra. Check out my review here. To enter, just leave a blog post comment telling me at least one of your favorite authors for sexy scenes and your email, in case you win. Giveaway is open to readers in the US and Canada. The winner will be selected on February 22 at noon.

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