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A Reader of Fictions: October 2012

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October: Month in Review & Book of the Month Giveaway

Happy Halloween, everybody!

Books Reviewed in October:
It is also the end of the month, so it's time for me to assess my reading success. Mostly, I failed, as I am STILL lagging behind in my book challenge. Holiday weekends, you will be ALL ABOUT READING. Oh well, I did get a review posted per day, so that's pretty awesome.

15 Young Adult:
Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves - E. Kristin Anderson & Miranda Kenneally, eds.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns (Fire and Thorns #1) - Rae Carson
The Crown of Embers (Fire and Thorns #2) - Rae Carson
Scorch (Croak #2) - Gina Damico
Dark Star - Bethany Frenette
Romeo Redeemed (Juliet Immortal #2) - Stacey Jay
Middle Ground (Awaken #2) - Katie Kacvinsky
Stealing Parker - Miranda Kenneally
Sacrifice (Legacy #1) - Cayla Kluver
From What I Remember... - Stacey Kramer & Valerie Thomas
Starling (Starling Saga #1) - Lesley Livingston
Carnival of Souls (Carnival of Souls #1) - Melissa Marr
Valkyrie Rising - Ingrid Paulson
Touching the Surface - Kimberly Sabatini
Gravity (The Taking #1) - Melissa West

13 Adult:
Full Blooded (Jessica McClain #1) - Amanda Carlson
Ironskin (Ironskin #1) - Tina Connolly
Belong to Me - Marisa de los Santos
Falling Together - Marisa de los Santos
First Among Sequels (Thursday Next #5) - Jasper Fforde
One of Our Thursdays Is Missing (Thursday Next #6) - Jasper Fforde
The Woman Who Died a Lot (Thurday Next #7) - Jasper Fforde
Have Mother, Will Travel - Claire and Mia Fontaine
Blood Zero Sky - J. Gabriel Gates
The Bookie's Son - Andrew Goldstein
Wildwood (Wildwood Trilogy #1) - Colin Meloy
A Train in Winter - Caroline Moorehead
American Grown - Michelle Obama

3 MG:
The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy - Nikki Loftin
The Spindlers - Lauren Oliver
Drama - Raina Telgemeier

Book of the Month Giveaway:
As always, I have an international giveaway for one of my favorite books read during the month. This month, I'm featuring Kimberly Sabatini's Touching the Surface, which is a beautiful, lovely, wonderful book that made me smile and touched my hard heart. Click the link up above to check out my rather rave review. The book will be ordered from Amazon or The Book Depository, depending on where you live. All you have to do to enter is fill out THIS FORM by November 14th at midnight.

Nothing else is required but leaving a comment on at least one of my reviews from this month would also be greatly appreciated. :)

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Waiting on Wednesday (31):

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

You know I love me some middle grade. I also love fairy tales. So this one was a no-brainer. Also, I've heard good things about Falkner's book Brainjack, so even better! This is already published abroad, but will soon be coming to our shores. Hurrah! Also, the heroine's name is Cecilia Undergarment. *snicker*


Author: Brian Falkner
Expected Publication Date: January 3, 2013
Publisher: Walker Children's Paperbacks

Synopsis from Goodreads:
The dark forest of Northwood has never seen the likes of Cecilia Undergarment before …

Cecilia Undergarment likes a challenge. So when she discovers a sad and neglected dog, she is determined to rescue him. No matter what. But her daring dog rescue lands her in deep trouble. Trouble in the form of being lost in the dark forest of Northwood. A forest where ferocious black lions roam. A forest that hides a secret castle, an unlikely king and many a mystery. A forest where those who enter never return. But Cecilia is determined to find her way home. No matter what.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ten More Kickass YA Heroines

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This week's TTT is a topic that's totally up my alley, so up my alley in fact that I did it earlier this year before I joined this meme. Rather than skipping, I decided to round up ten more girls you would not want to try to order around or have to go up against in a cage match. Also, I don't feel like hunting down cover images and Goodreads links right now, so if you want more info, I'm linking you to my review, kay?

1. Thursday Next (Thursday Next Series - Jasper Fforde)

Thursday is such a badass, and a unique one too. Most of my heroines today will undoubtedly be from YA fiction and near their physical prime. Thursday, however, is in her 40s and 50s, but you still do not want to mess with her. She's also a loving mother and devoted wife, just one that packs heat and can face any challenge.

2. Ismae (Grave Mercy - Robin Lafevers)

How could I not put Ismae on this list? I mean, she's a freaking nun assassin. She works for a death god. You don't mess with that. She can kill you with violence or with poisons, so you don't even see it coming. Ismae is freaking hardcore and I love it.

3. Aya (Carnival of Souls - Melissa Marr)

So, in Carnival of Souls, you have two heroines. One is a sheltered girl with a pathetic crush and who has pretty much no idea what's going on ever. The other is Aya, an upper crust girl who turned down marriage (to a guy she loved) for a chance at independence and a position in the government, unheard of for a woman. Her only chance? Enter a brutal competition of fights to the death and beat all the manly men. And she's succeeding!

4. Saba (Dust Lands - Moira Young)

Here we have another girl who you literally do not want to take on in a one on one battle to the death, because we know for sure that she's going to win. She has the track record to prove it. Saba doesn't start out all that strong, having always been dependent on her brother who she idol-worshiped. When he's kidnapped, though, she has to learn to be strong for herself, and holy crap does she.

5. Darla (Ashfall - Mike Mullin)

Male authors these days do not shy away from writing about women who could kick their butts and I love it. The main character of the Ashfall series is Alex, who has awesome martial arts moves admittedly, but, otherwise, is a hot mess of failure on the survival front. He owes his survival almost entirely to Darla, his incredibly strong, intelligent and resourceful girlfriend. Her strength is not only in gun-shooting and fighting, but in the ability to fix engines and rig up corn grinders and things like that.

6. Scarlett (Sisters Red - Jackson Pearce)

Scarlett is totally intense and like no other YA heroine I've ever met. For one thing, she wears an eye patch because she lost one of her eyes defeating a fenris when she was freaking eleven. If that's not the definition of kickassery, I don't know what is. With Scarlett, there will be no mooning over boys or other girly pastimes. Scarlett's favorite thing to do is kill fenris, which she does with great skill.

7. Vienne (Black Hole Sun - David Macinnis Gill)

Another powerful heroine written by a man who could totally beat up her boyfriend, no matter how musclebound he is on the cover. Also, Durango's totally okay with that, which is even better.

8. Miranda (False Memory - Dan Krokos)

Miranda and her crew have been raised to be fighting machines. Also, this book had some of the best-written fight scenes I've read in a long time. I really appreciated that there were strong girls and guys in this.

9. Celaena (Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas)

Alright, I know this one is divisive, but I'm counting her. A lot of people didn't like that Celaena, a badass assassin, spent a lot of time flirting with boys, eating candy and thinking about pretty clothes. Personally, I liked that, because why can't an assassin love pretty things? What it comes down to is this girl can fight. I suspect that her badassery as a killer is highlighted in the prequel novellas which I am too cheap to buy.

10. Keladry (Protector of the Small - Tamora Pierce)

Tamora Pierce is like the queen of writing powerful heroines, so I guess these lists aren't complete without her for me. Kel is a freaking lady knight. I mean, come on. Alanna paved the way for her, sure, but that's still seriously kickass. Armor is heavy, y'all.


Review: A Train in Winter

A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France

Author: Caroline Moorehead
Pages: 384
Publisher: Harper
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

Description from Goodreads:
They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen who scrawled "V" for victory on the walls of her lycée; the eldest, a farmer's wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to each other, hailing from villages and cities from across France, these brave women were united in hatred and defiance of their Nazi occupiers.

Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 of these women and imprisoned them in a fort outside Paris. Separated from home and loved ones, these disparate individuals turned to one another, their common experience conquering divisions of age, education, profession, and class, as they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie.

In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would return to France.

A Train in Winter draws on interviews with these women and their families; German, French, and Polish archives; and documents held by World War II resistance organizations to uncover a dark chapter of history that offers an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival—and of the remarkable, enduring power of female friendship.

First Sentence: "On 5 January 1942, a French police inspector named Rondeaux, stationed in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, caught sight of a man he believed to be a wanted member of the French Resistance."

Obviously, I don't read too much nonfiction these days, still not recovered from the glut of required readings for my history major and also unable to resist the page-turning allure of fiction. Still, there are a few subjects that can tempt me into some scholarly reading, one of which is World War II. For whatever reason, I have always been drawn to everything about both WWI and WWII. As such, when I had the opportunity to review this, I jumped at it.

Very few history books read as smoothly as fiction, or as quickly. Moorehead's reads like history, and not like a story, but her prose is still beautiful and much less dry than most of the history texts I've encountered. Her phrasing also reads as delightfully un-American, very suited to the French women she's describing. I intended to just sit down and read this the way I do my fiction books, but ended up reading it in fits and starts, because it just went down better in small gulps, giving me time to mull things over, rather than frustrate myself by trying to read speedily.

Although the focus of this on the surface is a train, the train that took 230 female members of the resistance in France to Auschwitz, about half of the book focuses on how they got caught. Moorehead met with many of the still-living survivors as part of her research, and she obviously knew more about these women and the ones they were close to then some of the others. She doesn't tell the stories of all 230, of course, but she gives a nice picture of life in Occupied France, and the various roles women played in the resistance. This was an area I knew little of, so I was thrilled to expand my knowledge.

Sent to the Auschwitz, these women endure all the hardships there, most of which are probably quite familiar, as the horror of the Holocaust is already well-known. Moorehead's central thesis is that the reason so many of them (49/230) managed to survive was because of the kinship between these women. The friendships they developed and the way they supported one another in the camp greatly heightened their odds of survival.

These French women did their best to keep their minds active, reciting snippets of remembered poems and holding classes. They shared their food voluntarily, giving the largest portions to those most in need. At the freezing roll calls, they propped up those who could not stand. They secreted women who would otherwise be taken to the gas chambers away. They made each other Christmas presents from odds and ends they managed to steal. In short, the camps were still hell, but they were just slightly better with friends, serving as evidence that not all humankind is so evil and incapable of feeling.

One of my favorite things about A Train in Winter, I must admit at the risk of sounding childish, were the pictures. Okay, okay, hear me out. Many history texts include photos of the important figures, but they're often sectioned off into the middle so the photos can be glossy, which is nice, except that, by the time you get to that section you don't remember who most of them are. Moorehead located many pictures of the women, including ones taken in some of the camps. Seeing the change in the women once incarcerated is astonishing. Even more horrifying is the picture of some of the Auschwitz guards, presumably on some holiday, smiling and looking like any young, healthy folks out for a good time in the 40s, not like abusive killers.

Not what I expected Auschitz guards to look like. SOURCE.

Moorehead touches on so much, and I find reviewing history books a bit difficult. I thought her book quite well done, and would recommend it to those interested in studying the Holocaust or the French Resistance, whether for fun or for school.

Rating: 4/5

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Audiobook Review: Have Mother, Will Travel

Have Mother, Will Travel: A Mother and Daughter Discover Themselves, Each Other, and the World

Author: Claire Fontaine & Mia Fontaine
Narrators: Claire Fontaine & Mia Fontaine
Duration: 10 hrs, 29 mins
Publisher: Harper Audio
Publication Date: July 17, 2012
Source: Own

Description from Goodreads:
A mother, a daughter, and a life-changing adventure around the world . . .

Their bestselling memoir, "Come Back," moved and inspired readers with the story of Mia Fontaine's harrowing drug addiction and her mother, Claire's, desperate and ultimately successful attempts to save her. Now it's a decade later and Claire and Mia each face a defining moment in her life, and a mother-daughter relationship that has frayed around the edges. At fifty-one, Claire's shed her identity as Mia's savior but realizes that, oops, she forgot to plan for life after motherhood; Mia, twenty-five and eager to step outside her role as recovery's poster child, finds adult life isn't all it's cracked up to be. Determined to transform themselves and their relationship once again, the pair sets off on a five-month around-the-world adventure.

What awaits them is an extraordinary, often hilarious journey through twenty cities and twelve countries--one that includes mishaps, mayhem, and unexpected joys, from a passport-eating elephant to a calamitous camel ride around the Pyramids--and finally making peace with their tumultuous past in the lavender fields of France, where they live for the last four months of the trip. Seeing how self-possessed and community-minded twentysomethings are in other countries broadens Mia's perspective, helping her grow, and grow up. Claire uses the trip to examine her broken relationship with her own mother, a Holocaust survivor, and to create a vision for her second act. Watching her mom assess half a century of life, Mia comes to know her as Claire has always known Mia--as all mothers know their daughters--better than anyone else, and often better than themselves.

Wiser for what they've learned from women in other cultures, and from each other, they return with a deepened sense of who they are and where they want to go--and with each embracing the mature friendship they've discovered and the profound love they share.

Alternating between Claire and Mia's compelling and distinct voices, "Have Mother, Will Travel" is a testament to the power and beauty of the mother-daughter relationship, one that illuminates possibilities for our own lives.

Much as I love the books I read and it should be pretty evident from all of this blogging business that I really, really do, sometimes I worry that I'm becoming too set in my ways and not exploring genres and such enough. Well, in Have Mother, Will Travel, I ventured into an almost entirely new genre for me: the memoir. Sure, I've read a couple, like The Glass Castle, which I am one of the only people in the world not to like, but, mostly, I've avoided them. Thankfully, I have been rewarded for my exploration and open-mindedness; I was surprised how much I enjoyed this, even though the topic, mother-daughter bonding, sort of made me want to run for the hills.

What I learned early on is that this is actually a continuation of some sorts from mother Claire and daughter Mia's first book together, Come Back, which focused on Mia's self-destructive teen years and her mother's efforts to save her. There's no need to read Come Back before going into this book, though I did add it to my reading list after enjoying this one. I was not confused, but I suspect there's plenty to be learned from that one as well.

The framing of this memoir was months of world-wide travel embarked upon by Claire and Mia, as an effort to bond again, having lost their closeness to the regular troubles of life in their different cities. Knowing this, I sort of expected everything to be light and fluffy, but both Claire and Mia are still dealing with the long-lasting effects of the traumas covered in greater detail in Come Back. Mia was sexually abused by her father when she was a child, and after she turned her life around after her drug-addled teen years, she and her mother became advocates to help abused daughters and their mothers. This isn't an issue I'd really ever heard discussed, so I learned a lot and found it very powerful emotionally.

Of course, what I hated about The Glass Castle was how boring and whiny it felt to me, as well as the tone of superiority Walls seemed to have about being well-off now while her parents dug through the dumpster for food. (Sorry if you liked that book but it just rubbed me the wrong way). The Fontaines didn't come off that way to me at all. They do not seem to feel particularly superior, are very willing to detail their personal faults and foibles, incredibly honest about the dark things, but also quite funny. The book maintains a balance between serious discussion and navel-gazing, and humorous travel book.

The first half of Have Mother, Will Travel describes a whirlwind tour of myriad countries as part of a scavenger hunt vacation. Can I say how much I want to go on this trip, even though there's no way in hell I would be able to complete most of the challenges? It just seems like such a great way to structure your vacation. Anyway, I don't want to go into this in too much detail, but the descriptions of the countries visited made me want to travel really badly. This is an excellent book for making you feel wanderlust.

The most important focus of this book, though, is not the travel, but the relationship between mothers and daughters, and, more generally, women. Claire and Mia, from their two different perspectives, do a lot of thinking about their personal relationship, looking at where it's gone wrong and how they can grow closer. They also consider the different family roles they see as they travel, considering which is best. They made me think a lot about myself as a daughter and as a woman, and I do plan on making my mom listen to this as well, even though I suspect some of Claire's observations will make her cry. Given that Mia is about my age and my mom is a baby-boomer like Claire, a lot of their observations hit close to home.

This isn't a book I see having much, if any, appeal for males, because much of it deals strongly with what it means to be a woman. There is some repetition, but, mostly, I was incredibly impressed with this.

Rating: 4/5

I cannot imagine this being anywhere near as delightful if I'd read it. Claire and Mia did their own narration, reading their different sections. They both have good, distinctive reading voices, full of personality. Hearing their thoughts in their voices made the memoir, already very personal, feel much more so.

Rating: 4/5

Overall Rating: 4/5

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review: The Spindlers

The Spindlers

Author: Lauren Oliver
Pages: 256
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: For review from YA Books Central

Description from Goodreads:
One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not. In fact, he was quite, quite different.

When Liza's brother, Patrick, changes overnight, Liza knows exactly what has happened: The spindlers have gotten to him and stolen his soul.

She knows, too, that she is the only one who can save him.

To rescue Patrick, Liza must go Below, armed with little more than her wits and a broom. There, she uncovers a vast world populated with talking rats, music-loving moles, greedy troglods, and overexcitable nids . . . as well as terrible dangers. But she will face her greatest challenge at the spindlers' nests, where she encounters the evil queen and must pass a series of deadly tests--or else her soul, too, will remain Below forever.

From "New York Times" best-selling author Lauren Oliver comes a bewitching story about the reaches of loyalty, the meaning of love, and the enduring power of hope.

First Sentence: "One night when Liza went to bed, Patrick was her chubby, stubby, candy-grubbing  and pancake-loving younger brother, who irritated and amused her both, and the next morning, when she woke up, he was not."

Lauren Oliver debuted in 2010 with Before I Fall, and The Spindlers is her fifth published work, not counting novellas. Her sixth, Requiem, the conclusion to the Delirium trilogy comes out early next year. Simply put, she has blasted into popularity, prolific and talented, to become one of the most loved and admired YA/MG authors. Of the three books of hers I've read, The Spindlers was my least favorite, but still contained some of the wonderful bits that make Oliver's work such a joy to devour.

In The Spindlers, Lauren Oliver tackles a pretty standard fairy tale plot: the child whose sibling has been replaced with a changeling and the resulting quest bent on rescue. Liza wakes up to find her brother not himself. He looks the same and he has a lot of the same behaviors, but he is both too nice (perfect table manners and politeness) and too mean (spelling out 'I HATE YOU' to his sister in his alphabet cereal). Liza immediately knows what has happened to him: the Spindlers, spider creatures, have taken his soul, and, should it not be replaced soon, the shell of his body will turn into dust.

As is common in middle grade books, only Liza can save her brother from this tragic fate. Her parents refuse to believe her assertions that something is wrong with Patrick and tell her to grow up, now too old for stories. Unwilling to allow her brother to die, Liza determines to go look for him herself, so she goes down to the basement and into the crawl space. Once there, she falls into a deep hole.

It turns out the crawl space in her house connects to the Below, a world populated by the magical creatures her favorite babysitter, Anna, always told her about. She immediately gains a companion in the form of Mirabella, a rat who imitates humans. Mirabella also happens to be in possession of a number of articles stolen from her family. I'm glad to know that all of the things I can't find were not in fact lost through my carelessness but swiped by troglods.

Mirabella creeps me out a lot. Now, it's not because she's a rat. I know rats can be alright. One of my best friends in college had three rats senior year, and they were friendly creatures. Mirabella, though, sounds every kind of unpleasant. For one thing, she's person-sized. She wears clothing and a matted wig. She smells like a sewer, but covers her face in powder and mascara in an attempt to meet human standards of beauty. Basically, she will probably haunt the dreams of some. Call me vain, but I could not get past my immense distaste for Mirabella.

Liza's journey reminded me of any number of books. There was little I found especially original about this tale, except for the nocturni, which were really cool. Otherwise, the monsters, while new to me in name, fit classic molds. Still, I suspect the array of creatures will delight and terrify younger readers as they are intended to do. What Lauren Oliver brings to the story is her way with words. She has a glorious way of writing, one that I think will hold a lot of appeal for children, who also often like stories to follow familiar paths more than I do.

For fans of books like Gregor the Overlander or Coraline, The Spindlers will be a delight. 

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "That was what her parents did not understand—and had never understood—about stories. Liza told herself storied as though she was weaving and knotting an endless rope. Then, no matter how dark or terrible the pit she found herself in, she could pull herself out, inch by inch and hand over hand, on the long rope of stories."

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On My New Arrivals Shelf (27)

Thanks to YA Books Central, I have an epic haul this week, full of books that I am just desperate to start reading! Also, I posted my birthday book haul (from an epic journey around Atlanta Goodwills) yesterday, in case you missed that.

Bloggers Mentioned:
Katie of BlookGirl
Jenni of Alluring Reads

Books for Review:
Renegade (The Elysium Chronicles #1) - J. A. Souders
The Confidant - Hélène Grémillon
These Things Happen - Richard Kramer

YABC Books for Review:
The Spindlers - Lauren Oliver
Pirate Cinema - Cory Doctorow
All You Never Wanted - Adele Griffin
The Unfailing Light (The Katerina Trilogy #2) - Robin Bridges
Pivot Point - Kasie West
The Madman's Daughter - Megan Shepherd
Just One Day (Just One Day #1) - Gayle Forman
Prophecy (The Dragon King Chronicles #1) - Ellen Oh
Nobody But Us - Kristin Halbrook
Mind Games (Mind Games #1) - Kiersten White
Shards & Ashes - Melissa Marr & Kelley Armstrong, eds.
Eleanor & Park - Rainbow Rowell

Such a Rush - Jennifer Echols

*Thanks to J.A. Souders, The Book Paparazzi, Penguin, Unbridled Books, and YA Books Central for making this haul possible.*


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Review: Drama


Author: Raina Telgemeier
Pages: 233
Publisher: Graphix
Source: Library

Description from Goodreads:

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon Over Mississippi, she can't really sing. Instead she's the set designer for the drama department stage crew, and this year she's determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn't know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen. And when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

Rarely do I read books spontaneously, outside of my anal-retentive reading schedule. Even though I wasn't supposed to read Drama according to my schedule, I had placed a hold for it at the library after reading April's review of it on Good Books and Good Wine. I picked it up from the library and proceeded to look guiltily at it for the duration of the checkout period. I have to return it in a couple of days, so I decided to just go ahead and take the hour or so to read it. I am so glad that I did, because it was such a cute, sweet graphic novel and made a nice change from the darker reads I'm working through at the moment.

As the title suggests, this graphic novel centers around a middle school theater production. This year, the school play is Moon Over Mississippi, a Civil War musical full of romance and drama. Of course, there's even more drama off-stage than on, which is super accurate for theater productions everywhere, I think. I love how much detail there was into the production of the costumes, the set, the lighting, etc. The characters really got to show off their passions, and the theatrical stuff was obviously important and not just there to serve as a backdrop to the romantic drama.

When the story opens, the heroine, Callie, is walking home from school with Matt, her friend and also the lighting designer, and Greg, his baseball-playing brother. Greg has just been dumped by his girlfriend Bonnie, and Callie, who has had a crush on him for a while, goes for the opportunity. I freaking love that Callie is the kind of girl who goes for what she wants, who will risk embarrassment or rejection. I'm not like that, but I really admire her for it. She's also the kind of girl who will get up on stage and audition (badly) to make a friend feel better. Callie has serious guts.

Unfortunately, things don't turn out quite the way she hoped. Rather than making her his girlfriend the next day, Greg ignores her and, when she confronts him, tells her that he's getting back together with Bonnie. She doesn't have too much time to mope, however, because she has big dreams for her set design and plenty of work to do to achieve them. Also, she meets cute twin brothers, Jesse and Justin, interested in helping out in the theater.

Drama captures the emotional confusion of high school and the limited time span of middle school crushes. When I was that age, like the characters here, I had SO MANY CRUSHES. Seriously, I had like no type at all. That's one thing that rings false in a lot of the YA books that I read: the characters are always so set on one person and in love forever. Let's be honest, most teens have so not made up their mind, attention drifting from one person to another. Callie feels drawn to several different guys, and some of the other characters are also unsure which romantic interest to pursue. On top of that, the story is totally lgbt-friendly, which I love.

If you like theater and cuteness, I definitely recommend Drama. It's such a quick read and it made me smile many times.

Rating: 4/5

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On My New Arrivals Shelf: Birthday Edition

Or, How I Got All the Books from Atlanta Goodwills 

For those of you who are regular followers of my blog, you know that my mom, for my birthday in the middle of September, took me shopping at a bunch of local Goodwills, purchasing any book I wanted. Needless to say, I got a lot of books.

Books Obtained:
Wildwood (Wildwood Trilogy #1) - Colin Meloy (review)
Tiger's Curse (The Tiger Saga #1) - Colleen Houck
Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
Fall on Your Knees - Ann Marie MacDonald
Jamaica Inn - Daphne DuMaurier
The Charmed Sphere (Lost Continent #1) - Catherine Asaro
The Pox Party (The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation #1) - M. T. Anderson
Peaches (Peaches #1) - Jodi Lynn Anderson
Emily Climbs (Emily of New Moon #2) - L.M. Montgomery
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Rats of NIMH #1) - Robert C. O'Brien
The Imperfectionists - Tom Rachman
Why Girls Are Weird - Pamela Ribon
Wild Decembers - Edna O'Brien
Sabriel (Abhorsen #1) - Garth Nix
Small Steps (Holes #2) - Louis Sachar
City of the Beasts (Eagle and Jaguar #1) - Isabel Allende
Cathedral of the Sea - Ildefonso Falcones
Full Bloom (Full #5)- Janet Evanovich & Charlotte Hughes
Rules of Attraction (Perfect Chemistry #2) - Simon Elkeles
The Legacy - Katherine Webb
The Tiger Rising - Kate DiCamillo
The Truth About Forever - Sarah Dessen
Keeping the Moon - Sarah Dessen
The Twits - Roald Dahl
Veracity - Laura Byum
Vixen (Flappers #1) - Jillian Larkin
The View from Saturday - E.L. Konigsburg
The Diplomat's Wife - Pam Jenoff
Willow - Julia Hoban
Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues (White Trash Zombie #2) - Diana Rowland
It's Not Summer Without You (Summer #2) - Jenny Han
The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
Juliet - Anne Fortier
Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh
Falling Up - Shel Silverstein
When You Reach Me - Rebecca Stead
Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters


Friday, October 26, 2012

Review: Touching the Surface

Touching the Surface

Author: Kimberly Sabatini
Pages: 352
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: October 30, 2012
Source: Publisher for review via YA Books Central

Description from Goodreads:
Experience the afterlife in this lyrical, paranormal debut novel that will send your heart soaring.

When Elliot finds herself dead for the third time, she knows she must have messed up, big-time. She doesn’t remember how she landed in the afterlife again, but she knows this is her last chance to get things right.

Elliot just wants to move on, but first she will be forced to face her past and delve into the painful memories she’d rather keep buried. Memories of people she’s hurt, people she’s betrayed…and people she’s killed.

As she pieces together the secrets and mistakes of her past, Elliot must find a way to earn the forgiveness of the person she’s hurt most, and reveal the truth about herself to the two boys she loves…even if it means losing them both forever.

First Sentence: "My body smacked the water."

One of my very favorite subgenres of fiction deals with stories about the afterlife. I spend a rather indecent amount of time considering what life after death might consist of and my only completed work of fiction dealt with that topic. Touching the Surface has been on my radar because of its subject matter, its beautiful cover (which looks like the work of my friend Annie and fits the book perfectly), and the author's participation in the Apocalypsies. As ever when embarking upon a book with high hopes, I dreaded disappointment, but instead found a beautiful, quirky, emotional, clever, sweet, dark, magical read.

Sabatini's vision of the afterlife enthralled my imagination completely. She combines familiar concepts into something fresh and compelling. The concept of reincarnation has always called to me far more than most religious ideas, so I loved that Sabatini included that. She also put her own spin on it with the idea that, on a soul's third failure to reach some sort of enlightenment and whatever next step that brings, the soul's memories are wiped. This forces delving, a slow recapturing of the previous life's memories that allows for deeper reflection and analysis, removing preconceptions and errors kept in ordinary memory. Delving is also a group experience, not just a personal one, so that others can try to help the Third Timers figure out what has kept them from moving on.

Another fascinating element of this is the bodiless nature of the characters. They are all technically embodied throughout the book, but they have not always worn that body. In her first life, Elliot and her best friend Julia were twin brothers named Arty and Jim. The souls simply continue to wear the body and use the name of their last life until they reenter the stream to a new one. The souls can idenitfy one another by their scent that remains constant from body to body. Though she occasionally comments on appearances, the personality obviously factors in much more in how others seem to her.

The other main delightful quirk about the afterlife is the ability to manifest the mind's landscape physically. Thoughts can be created, from a lake to a mountain to a book the soul wants to read. Within the Obmil, this afterlife, the body cannot be injured and seems to have so much power. Not gonna lie, I would want to stay there and would try to get my friends to stay too. Of course, when you have a bad day, you literally will be stuck in a storm cloud of your own devising, but that's a small price to pay for the perks.

Alright, now that I'm done fangirling over the world building, I should probably discuss the plot a bit, shouldn't I? At the outset, I was a bit concerned that the book was heading for a stereotypical romance plot line: a rift between two best friends, a beautiful boy she feels inextricably drawn to (Oliver), a hot, angry boy who also seems to be part of her past (Trevor), and a love square between the four. Thankfully, this got cleared up pretty quickly and the characters did what was right for them, rather than conforming to tropes. Though the emotions become intense alarmingly quickly, it helped set the scene and conveyed the confusion Elliot felt being confronted with people who remembered her that she could not yet recall.

Elliot is a great character. She doesn't kick butt. She's sometimes weak. She's selfish, and sometimes a bully. All of that makes her who she is, and, even at her worst, I still felt for her and got her motivations. She manages to feel utterly real, especially in her struggle to find a sense of self, and her blithe unawareness of how she can steamroll others. Elliot wants to move on, hates having come back as a Third Timer, but she fears delving into her memories. Obviously, death in one's teen years doesn't signify a happy story.

The book alternates between the fantasy lanscape of Obmil and flashbacks to the characters' memories of their previous lives. This allows Sabatini to confront both gritty real life issues and psychological struggles. The flashbacks also explain why the characters feel the way they do about one another in the beginning, often for reasons even they don't know. This storytelling method adds a lot of tension to the tale and kept me flipping pages.

I dearly love Trevor. Oliver may be the nice one, though he shows some darker moods too (which I like), but I always have been drawn to the moody ones. Watching Trevor open up is delightful and he definitely puts hummingbirds in my stomach, let me tell you. What I love best is the way he changes the slogan on his t-shirt to match his emotions, generally with a smartass comment.

Ending books about the afterlife is generally pretty tricky, more so than with other genres perhaps. Sabatini's ending worked perfectly, I felt. I didn't anticipate quite the direction it would go in, and I really appreciated that. Nothing's wrapped up exactly, but it feels complete.

Kimberly Sabatini's debut blew me away and I know Touching the Surface is a book that I will be rereading. For a book with similar themes that does some wholly different things, check out Level 2 by fellow Apocalypsie Lenore Appelhans.

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Quote:
"'Damn it, Elliot, do you ever make kissing easy?' he said, cupping his nose.
   'Maybe you should learn not to be such a tease and get to it a little quicker,' I shot back.
   'So, I've got to get to the kissing before you start thinking too hard about something else?'
   'Something like that,' I said, reaching to check his nose. He winced.
   'You'll heal in a minute,' I said with a smirk."

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cover Snark (29)

Due to the large number of covers this week and some technical difficulties, namely blogger thinking ctrl-Z means delete every fucking word of the post when it was almost finished instead of removing the last bit of typing and deciding that closing without saving the changes meant the changes should be saved (I need a drink), I'm not going to be including the series covers this week, only the new one, except in some rare cases.

1: Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse #13) - Charlaine Harris
Thoughts: The covers for this series were always strange, but I think they've gotten weirder. I'm pretty sure this cover only makes sense if you take LSD, because this looks very "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" to me. What this should have been is a picture of Alexander Skarsgard. Just saying.

2: Phoebe Pope and the Year of Four (Shapers #1) - Nya Jade
Thoughts: Yawn. You can tell she's not human because she has crazy makeup. Also not sure what's up with the orange stuff. Crazy clothing?

3: Reboot (Reboot #1) - Amy Tintera
 Thoughts: Love the simplicity of this one and how well it fits the title. I also love that the tagline is something that could only apply to this particular book.

4: Day After (The 19th Year #2) - Emi Gayle
Thoughts: He has kind of a ridiculous face. Also, I loathe that tagline, and abhor the ghost of a person on the bottom right.

5: Transparent - Natalie Whipple
 Thoughts: I'm sure lots of people love this, but I really don't like it. The colors are too bright and off putting, like she's in the middle of a circus or getting arrested by the cops. I don't like crowd of people walking through her or that she looks like she's ready to perform on stage. It's a sad day when the part I like best about a cover is the tagline.

6: Arclight - Josin L. McQuein
Thoughts: Again, I'm just really not a fan of the cover palette for this one, and my favorite part is the tagline. Still, this cover does capture my eye and engage my curiosity, so that's good.

7: Inception (The Reaping Chronicles #1) - Teal Haviland
Thoughts: I see another ghost person in the background! Stop with the ghost people, cover designers. Otherwise, I actually find this quite appealing, even if I keep making movie jokes in my head.

8: Dirty Little Christmas (Marisela Morales #3) - Julie Leto
 Thoughts: Bahaha, she's sexy-posing by herself with a gun in front of her fake-ass Christmas tree. Also, she appears to be unwrapping herself like a present. I guess no one gave her any real gifts.

9: Captivated by You (Superstars in Love #1) - Diane Alberts
Thoughts: Or, more accurately, Captivated by Myself.

10: Shadow of the Mark (Carrier Trilogy #2) - Leigh Fallon
Thoughts: Second verse: same as the first. Let's count the changes, shall we: 1) dress color 2) dress train extra poofy 3) body tilted differently 4) series info added to the bottom 5) clouds darker. That's it. Even better, if you look closely, you can tell that they are, in fact, using the exact same image. They've inverted it and changed the dress train and color to try to make it look different, but it is NOT. Lazy designers, you get NO POINTS.

11: Ashes on the Waves - Mary Lindsey
Thoughts: I am disappoint. I expected awesomeness from this cover, but I find it entirely mediocre and poorly done too. She appears to be holding up her dress train like she's curtsying to the sky, which is ridiculous. However, the big problem is how photoshopped it looks. Also, that title font doesn't fit at all.

12: Charmed Vengeance (The Aether Chronicles #2) - Suzanne Lazear
 Thoughts: For a cover that obviously had a lot of work put into it, this is awful. I do love the steampunkishness of the cover. However, why are they mud-splattered? They're on a freaking dirigible, and, to my knowledge, those aren't generally muddy. Perhaps there's a poo-flinging monkey resident on this ship that really hates these guys? I get that they were trying to imply all of the action and adventure by not having the models look perfect and clean. Unfortunately, it just looks stupid because of how shiny and perfect their hair and clothes look (except for a few spots of mud on her left sleeve. The rest of her clothing, however is so clean it glints.

13: Man Drought - Rachael Johns
Thoughts: This ground right here is parched just like our vaginas.

14: High Risk (Adrenaline #1) - Vivian Arend
Thoughts: Mostly, this is a boring romance cover, however I love that she's got her hair in a messy ponytail. Authenticity for the win!

15: Nantucket Blue - Leila Howland
Thoughts: Laaaaame. Also, when will we stop romanticizing beach makeout sessions and/or sex? You know what's the opposite of sexy? Sand EVERYWHERE.

16: Gameboard of the Gods (Age of X #1) - Richelle Mead
Thoughts: I find this cover boring, but I still want this book like burning.

17: Security - Mandy Baggott
 Thoughts: So I find this VERY confusing. On the cover reveal page, this book got compared to James Bond. This cover does not say James Bond at all. For an indie title, it looks nice, I guess, though so not like anything I'm interested in personally.

18: Unresisting (Unresisting #1) - Shane Morgan
Thoughts: In my mind, this is the author and/or cover designer's thought process: "There's nothing readers love more than a woman who knows her place and doesn't fight back! I'll make sure they know that's what my book is about by calling my book and series Unresisting. Then, on the cover, I'll put a girl in a dress, because ladies don't wear pants. The dress will be purple, because that's the girliest color (except for pink, which isn't edgy enough). Oooh, I know, I'll have her kneel and bow her head in supplication. Yeah, that's hot! Let's see, I should put the title on in pretty much the same shade as the background, because that looks AWESOME. Now all I need to finish up is a catchy tagline like 'Destiny ignites as the truth unfolds.' I like it, only I think it looks more menacing with an ellipsis. Hell yeah, I love my cover."

19: Emblaze (The Violet Eden Chapters #3) - Jessica Shirvington
 Thoughts: The cover designers clearly regret their design for Embrace, because these last two are nothing like it, except for the fonts. It's a good change, though, since the wings on Embrace were awful. I still think this looks like an adult paranormal romance, not YA though. Also, her hair looks weird and I don't know why there are black feathers floating in the air, since her wings are translucent.

20: A Conspiracy of Alchemists (The Chronicles of Light and Shadow #1) - Liesel Schwarz
 Thoughts: Just so you know, THIS BOOK IS SET IN PARIS. I actually like this quite a bit, although I think the title font could be better, and I'm not sure about her absurdly tiny hat.

21: Witch Fire (Burn Mark #2) - Laura Powell
 Thoughts: The covers for this series aren't particularly unique, but I do like them. They remind me a lot of the False Memory covers actually.

22: The Cursed (The League of the Black Swann #1) - Alyssa Day
 Thoughts: "Jackets look best without shirts." Said by no one ever. Seriously, that dude's wearing a full length coat with no shirt. He also appears to be sporting a mullet. Perhaps odder is how proud this cover is that this book is in print for the first time. Well, yeah, because it's just now being in published. She's not a debut author switching from self-publication, so I don't get why this needs to be on the cover.

23: Kiss of Temptation (Deadly Angels #3) - Sandra Hill
Thoughts: *snort* Oh my, that wasn't very ladylike. Do pardon me. Seriously, though, I'm supposed to find HIM tempting? Really? REALLY

24: Blue Bloods: The Graphic Novel (Blue Bloods: The Graphic Novel #1) - Robert Venditti, adapter
 Thoughts: Graphic novelizations: the sure sign that an author only cares about making money. Look at this shit! Are they even trying?

25: Icons (Icons #1) - Margaret Stohl
Thoughts: This color is awful. Also, lens flare. Great. And it's a dystopia, which means I'll have to read it. *headdesk*

26: Wolf with Benefits (Pride #8) - Shelly Laurenston
Thoughts: Make sure you go check out the other covers/titles in this series, because they are priceless. I actually approve of them because they're so obviously tongue in cheek.

27: Another Little Piece - Kate Karyus Quinn
 Thoughts: I actually really like this one, even if her outfit looks very Carrie in Sex and the City. I could do without the tagline, but otherwise approve.

28: Life After Theft - Aprilynne Pike
 Thoughts: I also like this one, though largely for the title. It's well done too.

29: Affliction - Laurell K. Hamilton
 Thoughts: Book 22? Will this series ever end? Oy. Also, I'm curious as to why they decided to cover up the woman's face with blue construction paper.

30: Born of Illusion - Teri Brown
 Thoughts: I like this one, though I would be afraid to say otherwise, since I think the model would hunt me down and kill me with her mind powers. If you could see both eyes, the power in them might turn you to stone.

31: Descent of Blood & Ascent of Blood (Red Veil #0.5-1) - Elizabeth Marx
Thoughts: You can thank Kayla Beck of Bibliophilia, Please for finding these two. Don't you just love when you can tell how much the models hate that their careers have come to this?

32: Demonosity - Amanda Ashby
 Thoughts: Cute, though it definitely skews younger. I really don't know why the shoes have to be all undone though.

33: Frozen - Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston
 Thoughts: Other than the fact that I don't approve of splitting a single word across two lines, I like this quite a bit.

34: Golden Boy - Tara Sullivan
 Thoughts: TOO. MUCH. WHITE.

35: House of Secrets - Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini
 Thoughts: Middle grade awesomeness. Is that a pirate ship house? Fantastic.

36: Loki's Wolves (Blackwell Pages #1) - K.L. Armstrong & M.A. Marr
 Thoughts: Kelley Armstrong + Melissa Marr? Be still, my book-loving heart! This one is also made of middle grade awesomeness. I love how menacing the wolves look and how ready that girl is to take them out with a stick.

37: Omens (Cainsville #1) - Kelley Armstrong
Thoughts: The intentionally blurry style is not one I particularly approve of. Mostly, I'm bored, but I do like the color scheme a lot.

38: The Life Beyond (The Other Life #2) - Suzanne Winnacker
Thoughts: I much prefer the UK covers to the US style, but the US ones fit the subject matter better. Can we stop comparing everything to The Hunger Games please? This series is about humans turned into cannibalistic monsters by a strain of disease and is not at all like The Hunger Games, except that scary things happen.

39: A Spear of Summer Grass - Deanna Raybourn
 Thoughts: Oooh, I like this, though perhaps just because it's so different from the others. I can't help wondering why she would wear her flapper dress for a jaunt into the African countryside, though.

40: The Runaway King (The Ascendance Trilogy #1) - Jennifer A. Nielsen
 Thoughts: Yawn. This is even more boring than the first cover in the series. Also, very much calls to mind The Warrior Heir.

41: September Girls - Bennett Madison
 Thoughts: Under water is a stupid place to make out. Unless they're mermaids. Are they? Pretty, though, ngl.

42: Parallel - Lauren Miller
 Thoughts: This wasn't on my tbr, but this cover = automatic add.

43: This Strange and Familiar Place (So Close to You #2) - Rachel Carter 
Thoughts: This looks a lot like the So Close to You cover. It's cool that her hair appears to have grown, and I like the sky better in this one. So I declare this an improvement.

Cover Battle 1: Born Wicked (The Cahill Witch Chronicles #1) - Jessica Spotswood
Hardback vs. Paperback: The hardback is one of my very favorite covers and the paperback looks like ABC family movie based on the book. Ugh.

Cover Battle 2: Scent of Magic (Healer #2) - Maria V. Snyder
US vs. UK: Neither one's great, but the US ones are so freaking cheesy. At least the UK one looks kind of badass.

Cover Battle 3: If I Should Die (Revenants #3) - Amy Plum
Take 1 vs. Take 2: The cover on the left was revealed a couple weeks back, and I can definitely see why they might redesign it, since I made fun of it forever. Unfortunately, this isn't better. In fact, I think it's a bit worse. The filigree is, thankfully, no longer in the shape of a heart, but there's EVEN MORE of it and it's an obnoxious shade of yellow. They needed to have less, not more. They did change the dress from a blah brown to red, but it doesn't pop anymore than it did before. The title font does match the previous books, so that element is better. They've also mostly taken out the reflection on the water to the right of her body, which is odd.

Cover Battle 4: Legacy of the Clockwork Key (Secret Order of Modern Amusementists #1) - Kristin Bailey
Take 1 vs. Take 2: Woo, a redesign I approve of! While I still think that bird looks lame, this is worlds better than that first one, especially because it manages to convey that the book is steampunk.

Cover Battle 5: Night School - C.J. Daugherty
 UK vs. US: Honestly, I didn't know this wasn't published in the US. Anyway, I love the new cover. It looks so creepy and awesome.

Cover Battle 6: The Becoming (The Becoming #1) - Jessica Meigs
Original vs. Redesign: Good choice to redesign. This looks nice now.

Cover Battle 7: Ground Zero (The Becoming #2) - Jessica Meigs
Original vs. Redesign: Again, an improvement, although I much prefer the cover with the lady on it.

Cover Battle 8: How to Lead a Life of Crime - Kirsten Miller
Take 1 vs. Take 2: Actually, I prefer the simpler cover. The redesign looks a little to reminiscent of Anna Dressed in Blood.

Cover Battle 9: The Dead and Buried - Kim Harrington
US vs. UK: The redesigned US cover lost in the battle to the first design, and now it loses to the UK cover, which I find both haunting and beautiful. I will praise the US cover for not having a lame tagline though. "She wants revenge."

Cover Battle 10: Perception - Kim Harrington
 US vs. UK: This time, though, the US has it. Though lens flare isn't my favorite, it works much better on the US cover. I also don't like the spots all over the UK one or the fact that her bangs completely cover her right eye. The UK one has a better tagline, though.

WTF of the Week: Beer and Groping in Las Vegas - Angela Quarles
 Thoughts: The title alone qualifies this as a WTF of the week. However, what really makes this cover so hilariously awful is the blurb at the top. I can in no way fathom how a book with this title and cover image could ever appeal to fans of those things.

Outstanding Covers
of the Week:  
Reboot by Amy Tintera & Parallel by Lauren Miller