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A Reader of Fictions: December 2012

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Monday, December 31, 2012

Review: Everbound

Everneath, Book 2

Author: Brodi Ashton
Pages: 384
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: January 22, 2013
Source: Publisher for review

Description from Goodreads:
Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.

Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.

Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.

In this enthralling sequel to Everneath, Brodi Ashton tests the bonds of destiny and explores the lengths we’ll go to for the ones we love.

Series Up to This Book:
1: Everneath (review|Goodreads)

First Sentence: "Ancient Greeks called it the Underworld or Hades."

Goodness gracious, great balls of awesomeness! I really liked Everneath, but I had some reservations. With Everbound, Ashton really delivers, solidifying the elements that made Everneath so compelling and ramping up the action. Everything gets ten times better in Everbound. Pardon me while I applaud Brodi Ashton for defying second book syndrome utterly.

Take note that I'm assuming you intrepid review readers have already read Everneath or have no fear of spoilers for that book. As you know, at the end of book one, Jack went to the Tunnels instead of Nikki. This leaves her on the surface miserable and hated by the town for being the last person to have seen the missing golden boy. Given Jack and Nikki's incredibly strong connection and her guilt over his sacrifice, she will literally stop at nothing to get him back.

The first few chapters are a bit slow, but everything speeds up with the arrival of Cole back in town. Basically, Everneath alternated between awesome Everneath bits and flashbacks. In this installment, the flashbacks are greatly reduced and the plot has sustained forward momentum. While I did enjoy the flashbacks in the last book, they work to much greater effect here, and keep the reader from being thrown out of the present moment. The more linear storytelling fits this story perfectly.

Going into Everbound, I hoped to learn more about the Everneath and that is precisely what Ashton delivers. Her world building continues to be entirely excellent. Her fantasy world references so many different classic stories, mostly mythological in origin, though I felt some distinct shades of Alice in Wonderland in places, but still manages to be something entirely new and magical. I have some theories that I cannot wait to find out the correctness of in the next installment, particularly about Shades.

If you dread love triangles, have no fear because this one is awesome, and Ashton really doesn't rub it in your face. The feelings involved are complex, but Nikki knows what she's doing. She never questions herself or her actions, even though the reader does sometimes; her goals are set, and I love her dedication. Though I've never personally had a connection to Jack, I admire Nikki for not being the sort to be easily swayed, especially since it makes their love so much more believable.

Two things made Everbound absolutely incredible. The first is that, as they journey through the Everneath in an attempt to rescue Jack from the Tunnels, Ashton really digs in and develops Cole's character. He spends much of his time on the periphery of Everneath, remaining largely a mysterious figure, but here we get a much closer look at the real Cole. Getting to learn some of his past and try to parse his precise feelings for Nikki will keep you intrigued and unsure all the way through.

The second thing is the ending. As soon as I finished reading, I immediately had to message a friend to discuss what happened, because shit gets real. The ending totally caught me off guard and fits the story completely perfectly. I didn't see it coming, but as soon as it happened, I knew that it was precisely what needed to happen. Ashton brings various plot threads together to weave a gorgeous tapestry and to deftly set up the next book in the series.

Whether you loved Everneath or were on the fence, I urge you to give Everbound a try, because Ashton's work is just getting better. I have a lot of faith that the next book will be even more astounding, and I only wish I did not have to wait another year to read it.

Rating: 4.5/5 - for that ending!

Favorite Quote:
"'Whatever you think of me, I was honest with you. Just because you want to live the mortal life doesn't mean that my path is any less moral.'
     'You feed off of people,' I said.
     'But it's their choice.'
     'You sacrifice humans.'
     'But it's their choice.'"

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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sadie Hawkins Sunday Review #1: So You Want to Be a Wizard

So You Want to Be a Wizard
Young Wizards, Book 1

Author: Diane Duane
Pages: 386
Publisher: Graphia
Source: Own
Chosen by: Alexa Wang

Description from Goodreads:
Something stopped Nita's hand as it ran along the bookshelf. She looked and found that one of the books had a loose thread at the top of its spine. It was one of those So You Want to Be a . . . books, a series on careers. So You Want to Be a Pilot, and a Scientist . . . a Writer. But his one said, So You Want to Be a Wizard. I don't belive this, Nina thought. She shut the book and stood there holding it in her hand, confused, amazed, suspicious--and delighted. If it was a joke, it was a great one. If it wasn't . . . ?

First Sentence: "Part of the problem, Nita thought as she tore desperately down Rose Avenue, is that I can't keep my mouth shut."

Conveniently, the very first book chosen for me in my new regular posting series, Sadie Hawkins Sunday, just happened to be a book I already had in my personal collection. This series first came onto my radar when I was looking for readalikes for Harry Potter. I did enjoy this one (thanks Alexa!) and I'm glad I got a chance to dig into my massive collection of unread books.

The first thing that you should probably know is that this book was first published in 1983, long before Harry Potter. The book definitely does have quite a few similarities, and, those looking for Potter readalikes, might love this, but Duane was not one of the authors trying to ride Rowlings' success. I wonder if Rowling had read these, since certain things, like the villain being referred to as You-Know-Who were incredibly similar.

For all of that, though, So You Want to Be a Wizard reminds me much more heavily of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. There is a lot of complicated vocabulary and scientific terminology within the pages of this book that would probably be targeted to a middle grade audience today. I mean, do you know what a 'temporospatial claudication' is? I sure don't. The science-y weirdness and good versus evil messages conveyed in this novel had me thinking constantly of L'Engle's classic work. In fact, I think that if you love A Wrinkle in Time, you really ought to check this series out. I loved A Wrinkle in Time when I was younger, but was not charmed by it particularly when I reread it. Science just really is not my thing, so I cannot appreciate a lot of what happens in either.

My favorite aspects of the book center around the power of the written word and love of books. There are a bunch of amazing quotes to that effect (check my favorite quote for one example). Plus, the whole concept is great. Every library has tons of those "So You Want to Be..." books, and I love how Duane built fantasy knowledge into such a seemingly simple thing.

Unfortunately, this clever device also serves as a method for info-dumping the ways of wizardry on the reader. Nita takes the library book home and devours it, attention rapt, but I did not find her reading the book nearly so enticing. This goes on for chapters. Duane tries to draw the reader in by including Nita's reactions to her reading, but these sections still dragged for me. I also feel like both Nita and Kit pick up their magical knowledge too quickly and easily. They read through their books once and can do a number of powerful spells after just a bit of practice. Plus, the spells are supposed to leave them tired, but they spend literally the last half of the book running around and doing spell after spell, even though one wiped them out the afternoon before.

As a reader, I just really struggle with books that don't place a focus on characterization. I would have loved to know more about Nita and Kit, and their daily lives. They're both clearly smart kids, and have both suffered from bullying. Rather than watching them go on a mission to retrieve Nita's stolen pen, which is really the quest of the book though it does snowball, I would have liked to see them have more personal growth, rather than just magical.

I'm really glad to have read this, because I can see how influential it has been on young adult literature, and I admire Duane for her creativity and her diverse characters. However, I do not plan to continue with the series, since I do not think I'm the ideal audience for these books. If you love A Wrinkle in Time, though, seriously, I think you will love this.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Quote: "She loved any library, big or little; there was something about all that knowledge, all those facts waiting patiently to be found that never failed to give her a shiver. When friends couldn't be found, the books were always waiting with something new to tell."

Up Next:
The next Sadie Hawkins Sunday book will be Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson, chosen by Blythe Harris of Finding Bliss in Books!

Want to tell me what to read? Fill out THIS FORM with a book suggestion! For more details, check this post.

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Top Cuddles of 2012 Giveaway Hop!

I don't do many giveaway hops these days, but I make an exception for events hosted by Cuddlebuggery. I'll be offering winner's choice of a selection of my favorite books of the year. They will be purchased from TBD or Amazon, as needed, so the giveaway is international. Holla!

There will be THREE winners, and each will get to choose one shiny book! What books can you choose from, you ask? Click on the covers to check them out on Goodreads.

Obviously, the ones not yet published will be preorders. All you need to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form. And don't lie; it's tacky.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Now hop, hop, hop to the other blogs!


Saturday, December 29, 2012

On My New Arrivals Shelf (37)

Alright, I know I'm on a book buying ban, but I got some gift cards, so...whatever. Don't care. BOOKS. Also, Percy makes an appearance and I ramble a lot!

For Review:
Ice Forged (Ascendant Kingdoms #1) - Gail Z. Martin - unsolicited
Mila 2.0 (Mila 2.0 #1) - Debra Driza

Between the Lines (Between the Lines #1) - Tammara Webber
Where You Are (Between the Lines #2) - Tammara Webber
Good for You (Between the Lines #3) - Tammara Webber

*Thanks to Orbit and HarperCollins for the review copies!*


2012 Stats + Some 2013 Goals

After looking at some other blogger's charts to wrap up 2012, I decided to look at some of my own reading statistics. In 2012, I read 367 books. My definition of a book works as follows: a book (for any age group excluding picture books), graphic novel (individual or whole series), manga (individual or whole series), audiobook, or play.

Now here are some charts on my reading:

You can maybe see why I don't worry too much about children's books throwing off my book totals, since I only read four, and they weren't even ridiculously simple ones. I really thought I was a bit more balanced with YA and adult reading, but that might have been more true by time spent reading, since most adult books tend to go much slower.

2013 Goal: I'd like to keep YA to no more than half my total reading, but I guess I won't be that upset if it continues to dominate, because I do love YA. The important thing is to love what I'm reading. I would like to read more middle grade books, but I doubt I'll read much more childrens' fiction. I mostly just read classics within that genre.

Alright, I know this data isn't precisely accurate, since those numbers do not quite add up to the number of books that I read, but I've already spent a lot of time on this, so you'll just have to deal with it. Series books definitely won, though I did count companion novels as series books, and I know some might not have done so; using those calculations, it would probably be about even.

2013 Goal: I don't necessarily want to read less series, but I would like to stick to series more. If I read a book in a series and want to continue, if the other books are already out, I should go ahead and read them. I was a bit all over the place, and, with my memory, I end up having to reread books I didn't much like the first time so that I can read the sequel.

For those who are curious about the formatting on my books, they break down like this. Most of the ebooks were from the first 3/4 of the year, when I used NetGalley heavily. Most of the ARCs are from BEA. The majority of the hardbacks and paperbacks were finished review copies, followed by the library. I read very few of my owned books this year.

2013 Goal: Read more of those books you own, self! Why on earth do you keep buying them if you prefer books from the library? *waggles finger at self* The e-galley figure should fall quite a bit, because, even with all of those that I read, there are another hundred I did not get to. I've realized that I have no self-control as it comes to e-galleys, so they will be accepted sparingly and as needed, like for gym or travel reading.

Yikes, right? Almost three-quarters of the books I read this year were for review. This, right here, is why I end up begging for review copies of things I really want to read. Yes, I could buy them or get them from the library, but experience has shown me that I don't have much time for books that I'm not reviewing.

2013 Goal: I'm going to try to be more careful accepting review copies, and I will try to strike a better balance. The solution might just be to read MORE, but I don't know if I can. Of the books that I read that aren't for review, I would like to get to more of the ones I own but have been neglecting. The library has proved too tempting in the past.

This data goes off of every rating tag I have in blogger right now, which should be mostly 2012, since I only added ratings at the very end of 2011. There are a couple of scheduled 2013 posts in there too, but I think it's a pretty fair representation of 2012. Now, my ratings for this year are flawed for two reasons: 1) My rating system was new and it took a while for me to quite feel out what they mean. The 2.5 and 5 ratings have probably been most abused. 2) This won't change, but I review right when I finish a book, and hindsight often changes my opinion.

The rating spread is pretty good, and I'm not surprised the bulk of my reads have been from 3-4 stars. Basically, this means I've been doing a pretty good job choosing books to read in 2012. As much as I think about myself as a critical reviewer and tend to rate lower than the average person, I still try to find books I will enjoy, and, as you can see, don't have two many books that I give very low ratings to. Many of those low ratings were review copies I could not DNF for one reason or another.

2012 Goal: Basically just to have less ratings I later regret. Most of that was due to not knowing quite what I wanted my own personal rating scale to be. 5s will probably occur less, but I hope to see a good deal of 4s and 4.5s! Oh, I also hope to do a bit more DNFing, so that I don't waste my time on books I hate, though I feel bad DNFing review books, so that probably won't change.

That's it for this wrap up post on my readership habits. I'm planning to do another on my ratings broken down by publisher and imprint, something I'm really interested in, all in an affort to avoid books I probably will not like. Look for those in early 2013!


Review: The Dust of 100 Dogs

The Dust of 100 Dogs

Author: A.S. King
Pages: 336
Publisher: Flux
Source: Gifted by Kara of Great Imaginations

Description from Goodreads:
In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with "the dust of one hundred dogs," dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body-with her memories intact.

Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.

First Sentence: "With one last, almighty roar, the Frenchman fell to his knees and died."

What can I say about this book? I really do not know how I feel about the book I've just completed, and might not know until I reread it a couple of times in years to come. All I know entirely for sure is that my author-crush on A.S. King has gotten larger, and that I have never in my life encountered a book remotely like The Dust of 100 Dogs.

I've read two other novels by A.S. King, Everybody Sees the Ants and Ask the Passengers. As much as they differed from one another, The Dust of 100 Dogs is even further removed. Her other novels are contemporaries, but this one takes place in the seventeenth century and the 1990s. Her storytelling methods, the mature subject matter, and the settings highlight King's daring as an author.

Her love of history can also be felt in Everybody Sees the Ants, in which the main character's grandfather was a World War II veteran. Here, King goes all the way back to seventeeth century Ireland, in the era of Oliver Cromwell and English subjugation (well, one of many eras of that anyway). She unflinchingly depicts the brutality of the English through the eyes of eight-year-old Emer, who witnesses her mother's brave battle and her brother's death firsthand. Where she was once a weak, whiny creature with dreams of being admired for her beauty, Emer learns from this hard lessons about power and how to live.

Taken in by her abusive Uncle and his family, she loses herself in her grief for a while, retreating into herself and going mute by choice, since there is nothing worth talking about in her new life. This changes when she meets the love of her life, a boy similarly mute, Seanie Carroll. When she takes a stand against her cruel Uncle Martin, he ships her off to France to marry a wealthy, disgusting old man. Emer escapes and begins her wanderings around the world, eventually becoming the captain of a pirate vessel.

That's right! Thar be pirates here! These are the kinds of pirates one cannot help but root for, coming across almost as Robin Hoods, when compared to the slavers and the plundering Spanish. Emer, an honest, upright girl at heart, justifies her actions, her violence, with the knowledge that these colonizers do horrible things to the people whose land they are stealing. The comparisons drawn between the English in Ireland, the Spanish on the Atlantic Isles, and the manifest destiny of the Americans are brilliant.

King focuses on power and on colonization. Her tale is not a happy one. Lovers die, heroines are raped and stalked by the worst of men, and many people are held subjective to the whims of assholes with more will and more power. Even in Emer's modern life (as Saffron), this plays out through the abuses of her brother, a druggie, who steals and destroys everything her parents have, but whom they cannot begin to resist; they are willing victims. Emer, after her childhood experience, never allows anyone to make her into an easy victim; her suffering makes her strong.

The concept and execution completely awe me. King tells the story through shifting perspectives: Emer in third person, Saffron in first person, Fred Livingstone in third person, and notes about dogs. Emer's third person narration, with the exception of the prologue, follows her life chronologically. Saffron, blessed or cursed with Emer's memories still has her own distinct personality. She is a fascinating figure, a child with hundreds of years of memories, both human and hound. Fred may be one of the most creepy characters I have ever encountered, and I do not think I'll be forgetting him any time soon; he's like a rapist stalker combined with Gollum, which is just nightmarish. The notes about life as a dog and how best to raise them are typically King in their oddness. These include sharp insights into human nature, but do occasionally come across as a message from the humane society.

Much as I love the plot of this book and am wowed by King's bravery as an author to venture into such untrespassed lands of YA fiction, I do wish there had been more focus on characterization. My first priority for a book is characters I really connect with, and I did not really find that in Emer or Saffron. I like both of them, worry about both of them, and wish the best for both of them, but they did not capture my heart. With all that King had to accomplish narratively, this is not surprising, because the book would have had to be a good bit longer. If you do not read for character foremost, as I do, then this will likely not be a huge drawback.

If you are looking for a book unlike anything else in YA fiction, you cannot go wrong with A.S. King's The Dust of 100 Dogs. King writes beautifully and does not romanticize anything. Her books are honest and thought-provoking.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote: "If dogs ran the world, there would be endless food, water, walks, and humping, but not much conquering. Humans want to conquer everyone they can, and buy everything they see. I think this is because humans have forgotten how to be happy."

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Worst Dressed Covers of 2012: With Special Guests, Cuddlebuggery

Welcome to the home of Cover Snark for a discussion of the worst dressed YA covers published this year. Steph and Kat of Cuddlebuggery are here for a chat about these infamous cover designs. Make sure you don't miss out on the Best Dressed Covers, which are posted over at Cuddlebuggery.

For your information, self-pubs were not eligible for inclusion in this particular dubious award.

Stephanie Sinclair: 
 Kat and I are pleased to be visiting Christina to shudder at the worst dressed covers of 2012.
Kat Kennedy: 
Wait - we're what?
Stephanie Sinclair: 
Fair warning: someone might need to hold me.
Who invited you? How did you get into my house?
Kat Kennedy:
I thought we were going to Vegas, baby?
*checks locks*
Stephanie Sinclair:
How else could I get you to agree to this?
Kat Kennedy:
Gah. Work. FINE.
Stephanie Sinclair:
So first up is SACRIFICES.

Kat Kennedy:
Seriously makes my eyes bleed
Even though I don't think it's the absolute worst on this list.Just almost the worst.
I feel like I've stumbled into hell.
Stephanie Sinclair: 
 Prom dresses from hell and when they attack.
A hell populated by the worst Halloween costumes ever made.
Kat Kennedy: 
Sentient halloween costumes who want revenge
On the people who created them.
Kat Kennedy: 
I'm confused - who did come up with this list?
Did I miss a meeting?
I thought I had to make a list
You approved them.
Stephanie Sinclair: 
 You were supposed to.
You also approved of all of the vodka
Stephanie Sinclair:  
Did you have a list?
Kat Kennedy: 
I did jack shit!
 Stephanie Sinclair: And then there's this:

Stephanie Sinclair:  
Some people should not have full access to Photoshop.
Kat Kennedy: 
Oh god, that's hideous.
There should really be a test before they sell Photoshop to people.
Kat Kennedy: 
I think mostly what annoys me is how much like a Barbie she looks.
It's gone from weird into uncanny valley.
Those fonts are pretty awful, too.
Kat Kennedy: 
Truly uninspired
Stephanie Sinclair:
How is this for inspiration:
Check those wings out, baby!
Kat Kennedy: 
Okay, this is on the list as my worst
Stephanie Sinclair:  
Flap, flap.
Kat Kennedy:
 But it does look like she stole her wings from a dead, chronically-ill chicken.
It looks like she was next to a chicken when whatever happened in Julianna Baggott's PURE went down.
Stephanie Sinclair:  
It could always get worse.
Like say this:
Kat Kennedy: 
Honestly, I don't mind this one
At least I don't have a stomach ache anymore...
Stephanie Sinclair:  
Did it get rid of your diarrhea?
Stephanie Sinclair:  
It's like the designers decided all of the background wasn't enough pink, so the font should have pink all around it too, in a new shade.
Kat Kennedy: 
What is the tagline down there? "Becoming Wee..." I can't make it out.
There's a problem when you can't make out a tagline
"Becoming Weetzie." It must be a prequel to the Weetzie Bat books.
Kat Kennedy: 
See, I know you said words there. And that most of them are English.
But I'm still none the wiser!
They are crazy! Until you've read those, you haven't met crazy.
Kat Kennedy: 
Well, based on the cover, I'm willing to believe you.
Stephanie Sinclair: 
 Moving on:
Kat Kennedy:
Too. Much. Photoshop.
Stephanie Sinclair: 
 The tree needs work
Was this poorly illustrated or did they destroy a model to look like this?
Kat Kennedy: 
Gorgeous cover model and they did weird things to her face with the photo.
Stephanie Sinclair:  
Way too much retouching on her face.
Why couldn't they just let her be pretty? Her skin looks plastic.
Kat Kennedy: 
And the fonts are particularly bad.
The font for the author's name looks straight up Word Art.
Stephanie Sinclair:  
It's all bad, really.
Kat Kennedy: 
Bad word art!
And Poison Tree itself isn't great.
The green colour is really off.
Stephanie Sinclair: 
 Speaking of way off:
Stephanie Sinclair:
Too much green.
Kat Kennedy:
Yeah, once again, I don't have a problem with this one.
 I'm starting to get curious about what covers you don't like, Kat.
I do rather like that the detailing under the title looks like a fancy mustache.
Stephanie Sinclair: 
Wait... you like this?!
Kat Kennedy:
Well, I actually kind of do.
I wouldn't pick it up to buy it
Don't you think it's a bit Best Little Whorehouse in Texas or something?
Kat Kennedy:
But the font kicks ass
But it's supposed to be.
They're illusionists.
That's the point.
Stephanie Sinclair:
I don't know who you are anymore.
The point is for me to die laughing every time I look at this cover?
Kat Kennedy:
And it looks like they're period illusionists from the 20's or something.
Christina: If I die, I can't buy the book.
Kat Kennedy: 
What's the next one?
And I thought I was pale.
Kat Kennedy:
Stephanie Sinclair:
Where is her ear?
 I think they photoshopped out some of her ear.
Kat Kennedy:
And some of her humanity.
And some of my will to live.
Stephanie Sinclair:
Is that a cloud?
Kat Kennedy:
It looks like a nebula.
I think so. Below the green sun rays or something.
Stephanie Sinclair:
Don't you just love the way the word art shines?
Stephanie Sinclair:
But it took them a whole five minutes, Steph. RESPECT.
Kat Kennedy:
 I love the way it probably took 2 seconds on Photoshop to make it that tacky.
Stephanie Sinclair: 
I shall do no such thing, Christina!
In case you didn't get it, THE PIECES ARE BROKEN.
Kat Kennedy: 
No, I love it
You two are mad.
Well, I guess you should turn your work in on time.
Go to the shame corner!
Kat Kennedy:
Fine! *goes to the shame corner*
 But, seriously, what's the problem here?
Stephanie Sinclair:
Where to begin?
Well, the fonts are awful.
Kat Kennedy:
They're great fonts.
The concept is cool, but I don't think the execution works out at all.
Are we looking at the same cover?
Stephanie Sinclair:
I don't think we are.
I find the whole visual effect really off-putting: the colors, the title font, the differently-sized eyes.
I know what it's trying to do, but I don't think it succeeds.
Kat Kennedy:
  I can see that.
I guess my comment would be that this is not badly Photoshopped at all.
Stephanie Sinclair: 
It just doesn't look great
Also, why is the brunette's hair on the right wrapped around her neck?
Kat Kennedy:
In fact, that glass effect isn't easy.
I'm sure it's not easy, but if you take the time to get that right, why not make it look better?
Kat Kennedy:
Hmmm...Steph is messaging me in the background - telling me to behave.
Tally ho!
Stephanie Sinclair: 
 Well, check out this next cover:
Kat Kennedy:
Stephanie Sinclair:
I think she's competing with the statue.
And losing? I can't tell.
Actually, I always look at it and think the statue looks like her left arm.
Like's she's some sort of stone cyborg.
Kat Kennedy:
The designer has no skill at blending.
Stephanie Sinclair:
You know what I think?
Kat Kennedy:
Might not even know what blending is.
Stephanie Sinclair:
Oh, the lightning hits the statue and then runs up her head to her terrible hair. Maybe that IS her arm.
Kat Kennedy:
That detailing at the top is not only off center but it feels like it's hiding something.
Stephanie Sinclair:
Okay, well check out our last cover that's made the list:
Stephanie Sinclair:
Blessed? How about cursed?
Why God, WHY?
Kat Kennedy:
She looks dead inside.
Seriously, why are her eyes like that? Drugs?
Stephanie Sinclair: 
Her eyes haunt me.
I'm thinking LOTS of drugs.
She probably stores them in her crucifix like in Cruel Intentions.
Stephanie Sinclair:
Is the title supposed to be a halo effect?
Kat Kennedy:
I don't know.
Oh dear. I think so.
Kat Kennedy:
But whoever touched this up should have stopped 25 clicks and 5 effects earlier.
She looks like a washed out Amanda Seyfried, am I right?
Stephanie Sinclair:
"It's like I have ESPN or something."
If I saw this cover in a store, I would probably not only avoid it, but run away from that section entirely.
Kat Kennedy:
I would probably call a Priest for an exorcism.
Then burn the store down just to be safe.
Nuke the site from orbit.
Good plan. You can't be too careful.
Kat Kennedy:
Pretty sure if I stop looking at her, she's going to come through the screen and kill me
Speaking of leaving, thanks to Kat and Steph for stopping by, and make sure you check out our discussion of Best Dressed Covers over on Cuddlebuggery!

Review: Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities

Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities

Author: Mike Jung
Illustrator: Mike Maihack
Pages: 307
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine
Source: For review from YA Books Central

Description from Goodreads:
A SUPER funny, SUPER fast-paced, SUPER debut!

Can knowing the most superhero trivia in the whole school be considered a superpower?

If so, Vincent Wu is invincible.

If not (and let’s face it, it’s “not”), then Vincent and his pals Max and George don’t get any props for being the leaders (and, well, sole members) of the (unofficial) Captain Stupendous Fan Club.

But what happens when the Captain is hurt in an incident involving BOTH Professor Mayhem and his giant indestructible robot AND (mortifyingly) Polly Winnicott-Lee, the girl Vincent totally has a crush on?

The entire city is in danger, Vincent’s parents and his friends aren’t safe, the art teacher has disappeared, and talking to Polly is REALLY, REALLY AWKWARD.

Only Vincent Wu has what it takes to save the Captain, overcome Professor Mayhem, rally his friends, and figure out what to say to Polly. But will anyone take him seriously? Seriously. Anyone??

Find out in this action-packed super comedy debut.

First Sentence: "There are four Captain Stupendous fan clubs in Copperplate City, but ours is the only one that doesn't suck."

As a huge fan of superhero stories, I could not resist Mike Jung's debut novel, Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities. Yet again, my instincts for middle grade novels have served me well, because Jung's novel is every bit as stupendous as its main superhero.

Packed with superhero stunts and villainous mayhem, Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities will surely delight any and all superhero fans. The tone matches up well with the movie The Incredibles, fun, action-packed, focused on family, and with a little bit of romance on the side. For older readers, Jung throws in cute references to classics of the superhero genre. For example, I noticed a street named after Brian Michael Bendis.

Vincent Wu and his friends run their own (unofficial) fan club for the city's famed superhero Captain Stupendous. Vincent, Max and George are not remotely popular, but they have each other and can comfort themselves in the awareness of their superior knowledge of Stupendous' exploits. Their lives get changed for the more exciting when they learn the secret identity of Captain Stupendous...and he's not anyone they ever would have expected.

Vincent, Max, and George make such a convincing group of nerdy friends. They squabble, have their own sets of inside jokes, tease each other mercilessly, and, most importantly, have each others' backs when need arises. The inclusion of Polly is my favorite part, because she shows them how powerful girls can be, even though they have trouble believing that at first. Polly totally rocks, and I love the wonderful message that Jung sends about strength through her character.

Vincent's parents are largely absent during the book, divorced and both busy with their jobs, father as a genius inventor and mother as school superintendent. However, despite their lack of physical presence, there is no doubt of how much they care for their son. They call him and check on him, and do their best to protect him. Perhaps most touching is his relationship with his mother's boyfriend, Detective Carpenter. He treats Vincent with respect and honors his opinions in a way Vincent hasn't ever really felt from adults, which helps him open up in this new set of challenges.

Serious messages aside, this book is almost entirely hilarious. There's the awkwardness of first crushes, the superhero/villain banter, and plenty of gross scenes, including one rather spectacular one involving a lot of vomit. Young readers will no doubt love all of these things. To top it all off, there's a scary robot and a bunch of epic battles. What more could you ask for?

The supervillain plot follows well-tread lines, and will not be shocking to older readers. Really, though, the focus is not on the supervillain, so much on heroism and how size doesn't really matter when it comes to defeating the bad guy. Though a bit anticlimactic, the showdown with the villain is hilarious and fitting. Just know that this isn't one of those stories that ends with the defeat of the villain.

I highly recommend Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities for anyone who enjoys superhero tales, young and old alike. The book reads quickly, and comes with a bunch of perfectly-matched illustrations by Mike Maihack.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Quote: "We talked and talked and talked, and after twenty-four hours of non-stop Mom time, I was ready to hit myself in the face with a hammer."

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Cover Snark (38): In Which Series Are Milked for All Possible Money

Welcome to Cover Snark, where the people are snarky and the covers quiver in fear. Since I don't write many snarky book reviews here on A Reader of Fictions, Cover Snark is my outlet. If you click on the title of the book, where possible, I've linked to Goodreads. Clicking on the cover itself will show you the cover in a larger size, in most cases. Feel free to love covers I hate and vice versa. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Commenting pro tip: The easiest way to comment on such a long post is to open the post in two windows (really easy if you use Google Reader). Comment in one and scroll the covers in the other. That's actually how I comment on other people's reviews too. I can't remember all my comments by the time I get to the box!

This week's going to be a short one, because I've been busy with the holidays.

1. Insatiable (A Mermaid's Curse #1) - Daniele Lanzarotta
 Thoughts: So...the mermaid's curse is that she's a nymphomaniac? Or maybe it's her heavy hand with the blush? Or maybe it's that dress. Or the whole cover she's stuck on.

2.  Gated - Amy Christine Parker
 Thoughts: Meh. My favorite part of this is actually the tag line. I don't think the repetition of the title is really working out for this cover. I know they're trying to make it into a gate, but it's not working for me.

3. Where the Silence Ends - Jade Kerrion
Thoughts: They probably shouldn't have let this cover model eat so many carrots, because she's looking rather orange. Really, though, I think this is a pretty adorable self-pub.

4. Lucifer (Sons of Old Trilogy #1) - Annabell Cadiz
 Thoughts: "Sons of Old"? Okay then. "The line between love and hate. Revenge." Tag line, are you trying to say that revenge is the line between love and hate? Because I don't think so. Or, are you just stating that those two things are covered in this book? None of these cover elements fit together: illustrated winged creature, ginger face, or old creepy gate. Self-pub fail.

 5. The Circle (The Engelsfors Trilogy #1) - Sara B. Elfgren & Mats Strandberg
Thoughts: In a rare turn of events, the US has actually kept the same cover used in other countries. I haven't really seen that happen before. It's okay. *shrugs* Hard for me to get too excited about a bloody wreath with a feather headdress.

6. Valkyrie Symptoms (Valkyrie #0.5) - Ingrid Paulson
Thoughts: HarperTeen Impulse strikes again! This one's better than most, but sure doesn't look like much work went into it. I do like the background, but the floaty knife and ornate swirls below and above the title need to go.

7. Quick Fix (In a Fix #2) - Linda Grimes
 Thoughts: Oh dear. That is not a flattering outfit, at least not at this weird angle. The title font/color really isn't working either.

8. Angelopolis (Angelology #2) - Danielle Trussoni
Thoughts: Is that a Faberge egg? What does that have do with angels? This is lame.

9. Intuition (Transcendence #2) - C.J. Omololu
 Thoughts: Oooh, "past lives make the present a dangerous place." That's interesting. I like this well enough.

10. Shadow Falls: The Beginning (Shadow Falls #1-2) - C.C. Hunter
 Thoughts: I can't decide how I feel about all these omnibuses coming out now. Hmmm. Oh well. I don't like this cover as well as the individual ones, but it does have the feel of the series.

11. The Immortals: The Beginning (The Immortals #1-2) - Alyson Noel
 Thoughts: That cover is gross. It looks like an animated dancing flower. Or maybe like it will grow up to eat humans, preferably the characters in the book, like Audrey 2.

12. House of Night: The Beginning (House of Night #1-2) - P.C. Kast & Kristin Cast
 Thoughts: Is there anything the Casts won't do for money? I mean, this series is already 14 books long or something, with various between the novels bullshit and a crappy graphic novel series. Are omnibuses entirely necessary? No. They're not. Just stop.

13. A Kiss of Blood (Vamp City #2) - Pamela Palmer
 Thoughts: You know what's awesome for fighting? A leather miniskirt. Really allows for a full range of motion, especially if it's tight. There's nothing better for running and kicking.

14. Tarnished - Rhiannon Held
Thoughts: "Urban fantasy takes a walk on the wild side." UGH, get over your self.

15. Red Horse (White Horse #2) - Alex Adams
 Thoughts: I wish they'd stuck to the horse covers, but, from what I hear, there aren't actually horses in White Horse, so this might be fore the best. I like the ruined city, but the floating face with stringy hair is meh.

16. A Dark Grave (The Elysium Chronicles #0.5) - J A Souders
 Thoughts: *snorts*

17. Beauty's Beast (The Trackers #4) - Jenna Kernan
 Thoughts: Is he a birdman? Or are these birds just here to tell us that this is fantasy? BIRDS. "Used to be able to sit out on the stoop like a person."

18. This Wicked Magic (This Witchery #2) - Michele Hauf
 Thoughts: I'm getting more of a "this wicked chandelier" vibe.

19. Magic and Loss (Golgotham #3) - Nancy A. Collins
 Thoughts: Is she holding a blow torch? Is it ON? What is that? I suspect the loss will be her foot, since she's pointing whatever that is at it. Why is the title font orange? Blergh.

20. City of Bones: The Graphic Novel (The Mortal Instruments: Graphic Novel #1) - Mike Raicht
 Thoughts: When one graphic novel is just not enough graphic novels. MOOO! That's the sound of someone milking a cash cow!

21. Delirium Stories: Hana, Annabel, & Raven (Delirium #0.5, 1.5, 2.5) - Lauren Oliver
 Thoughts: I actually like when they package ebooks into physical books, because then I might be able to get the book from the library eventually. The cover is meh.

22. Ex-Heroes (Ex-Heroes #1) - Peter Clines 
Thoughts: This looks fun.I like the raggedy Batman look to the cape and the stance.

23. Pros and Cons (Nikki Glass #2.5) - Jenna Black
Thoughts: Seriously, she must have a lot more trust in tube tops than I do if she's going to go into battle in one. I always feel like they're trying to escape.

24. The Camp - Karice Bolton
Thoughts: It looks like they rolled her tank top up so it would look like a midriff-baring shirt. WEIRD. And, seriously, what is that font?

25. Her Knight in Black Leather - J.M. Stewart
 Thoughts: And people say romance is dead!

26. The Sixteenth Need (Partlow #1) - Celia Read
Thoughts: Needs itemized as follows: 1. Food, 2. Shelter, 3. Good health, 4. Rocking bod, 5. Internet, 6. Cell phone, 7. My cat, Mr. Meowington, 8. Lipstick, 9. Mascara, 10. Eye liner, 11. Bronzer, 12. Gym membership, 13. Tweezers, 14. Car, 15. Best friend, 16. Your hand off my face.

Thoughts: Pretty! Oh, historical fiction covers.

28. Strikeforce (Skyship Academy #3) - Nick James
 Thoughts: Meh. I've never been a big fan of these covers. The kid on the right looks like he's about to pee his pants.

Cover Battles:

1. A Matter of Blood (The Forgotten Gods #1) - Sarah Pinborough
 UK vs. US: Changing the series name to The Forgotten Gods was a GOOD call. I don't know why the US cover is upside down, but the fly on a pin is not something I ever want to look at. Winner: US.

2. Slayers (Slayers #1) - C.J. Hill
Hardback vs. Paperback: Now that's a good change. The paperback isn't perfect, but it's way more interesting and more appealing for the intended teen audience. I will never understand why she's fighting dragons in high heels and a tiny tube dress, and that dragon could look less hilarious, but whatever. Better than a dragon shaped into a tiny spaceship or whatever's happening on the hardcover. Winner: Paperback.

3. Rebirth (Aftertime #2) - Sophie Littlefield
Hardback vs. Paperback: Neither of these is awful and neither is great. I like the original cover style, though. It had it's own feel and fit the books really well. Plus, the lime green and watermelon red color combo doesn't really sell zombies, even with the barbed wire. Winner: Hardback

4. Horizon (Aftertime #3) - Sophie Littlefield
Hardback vs. Paperback: Apparently, they decided one illustrated bird was not enough, and raised them 10. This looks like it should be about a bird's surfing competition. No. Winner: Hardback

WTF of the Week: 
Wrecked (Clayton Falls #3) - Alyssa Rose Ivy
 Thoughts: Ew, ew, ew. Wrecked is right. These folks definitely win the awkward cover kiss award. Also, he's terrifying: his hair, his face. On top of all that, that title font and could hardly look worse with that backdrop.