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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: Revived by Cat Patrick

Revived by Cat Patrick
Amazon | Goodreads | Audible
Science Fiction, 336 pages
Published May 8th 2012 by Little, Brown BYR
As a little girl, Daisy Appleby was killed in a school bus crash. Moments after the accident, she was brought back to life.

A secret government agency has developed a drug called Revive that can bring people back from the dead, and Daisy Appleby, a test subject, has been Revived five times in fifteen years. Daisy takes extraordinary risks, knowing that she can beat death, but each new death also means a new name, a new city, and a new life. When she meets Matt McKean, Daisy begins to question the moral implications of Revive, and as she discovers the agency’s true goals, she realizes she’s at the center of something much larger—and more sinister—than she ever imagined.

When I first heard about this one, a lot of people were tossing around the word 'dystopia'; at the time I was reading Slated, which is a dystopia, and which is about a girl whose memory is wiped and she has to start over. When I heard about this I thought the concept was pretty similar, and I was curious to see how they'd play off of each other. But this is not dystopian after all. Nor do I think it was meant to be, and I think it's stronger for not taking that path. Revived takes place now, and is told in a way that makes it completely plausible for this type of thing - covert experiments on new drugs, somewhat shady government outfits, etc. - to be going on right under our noses. I think a lot of authors would have tried to make this a doom-and-gloom dystopia, and I think that's probably why so many people were tossing around that word. But I have to say, I'm really glad it's not. I appreciate that Cat Patrick didn't take that route, and instead made it a more insular, more relatable story. As contemporary science fiction, it works; as a dystopia, it would fall flat.

But because I had been anticipating a dystopian story, this didn't entirely go where I was expecting it to. And even once I started reading the story and realized that it wasn't dystopia, readjusted my perception and thought I had the story all figured out, it still didn't go exactly where I was expecting it to. And this was a good thing. I mean, it did go there in the end, it worked its way back to the shady covert sci-fi thing, but there was a detour through some much more human, relatable territory I wasn't expecting, and it made it more interesting and poignant as a result. Much more human and natural than it would otherwise have been. I don't want to risk giving anything away, but I was pleasantly surprised by the places Patrick took this and the way it sort of muddled genres into something realistic and authentic for Daisy, the MC.

And speaking of, Daisy was a really good main character, and she was surrounded by an excellent supporting cast. I really loved her relationships with other people in the book and how organic they felt; there could have been some risk of insta-lovey-ness, but this was one of those rare cases of the speed of things making absolute sense.  The relationships are a very believable level of gooey, and tempered by some darker, real-life things, which, coupled with the characters' reactions to those things, keeps the story safe from disgusting YA love levels. I also especially loved Daisy's relationship with her not-really-father/secret-agent, Mason. This was such a great dynamic and it really brought a lot of personal feel to the story, especially compared to most YA lit, where adult characters and parental figures are mostly dead, missing, or absentee.

I really loved the "God Project", the secret testing of the drug Revive. Patrick explores the murkiness of the morality in a thing like this, with how the project was dealt with, the shadowy megalomaniacal aspect, the carelessness with life that would come from being able to cheat death, etc. Daisy's realizations of the chances she's been given and how cavalier she has always been about death when she suddenly has to confront the finality of it was effective and well done, and it gave the book dimension I wasn't expecting. I did see the end and the villains coming a mile away, but in a dramatic irony/intentional way, not an obtuse, why-doesn't-she-get-it? way. And there were a couple of things that were revealed here and there - the depth of the conspiracy and the zealotry - that I wasn't expecting but was pleasantly pleased to find.

All in all, Revived was very quick, readable and entertaining. It's also a very rare stand-alone (woot woot!), which always makes me happy - I love when an author can give you just 1 complete novel and not be afraid to leave the ending just open enough that you can build your own idea of what will happen to the characters and what their futures will hold. And on a random note, I love the cover. It's one of those rare instances of a "pretty" cover actually meaning something to the book, but in an abstract, thoughtful way. Well done.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Coming Attraction: The Friday Society

For some reason, I'm craving some good ole-timey, steampunky goodness. This seems to fit the bill...

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress
Steampunk, 440 pages
Expected publication: December 6th 2012 by Dial
Be your own hero . . .

An action-packed tale of gowns, guys, guns—and the heroines who use them all.
Set in Edwardian London, The Friday Society follows the stories of three very intelligent and talented young women, all of whom are assistants to powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, Japanese fight assistant; and Nellie, magician’s assistant. The three young women’s lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.

It’s up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder—and the crimes they believe may be connected to it—without calling too much attention to themselves.

Told with Adrienne Kress’s sharp wit and a great deal of irreverence, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike—well, relatively ladylike—heroines poised for more dangerous adventures.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

TBR Tuesday: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

TBR Tuesday: Showcasing all the books that are currently staring at you from your "Why aren't you reading me?" pile....

On my TBR

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
343 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by Henry Holt and Company
Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak.
Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.
With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?

I've had this one on my wishlist for quite a while (I mean, that title. At first I was like, um, really? and then I just couldn't stop laughing about it. But in a good way. If it were a book that pretended to be serious, the title would never work, but if it's a book that doesn't take itself to seriously = perfect.)
All of the great reviews I kept hearing  AND the fact that it was a William C. Morris Award finalist meant that it got bumped up my wishlist, and then when I got the free novella (which takes place after the book, I think) - well, then I kind of had to get it. I mean, I can't have the novella and not the book itself, right?
At least, that's what I tell myself. 
So I finally broke down and bought a copy awhile back, but I have yet to have the time to pick it up, or the motivation to sneak it into the monthly TBR. (And here the 2nd book, Necromancing the Stone, is about to come out...)
So have you guys read this one?  What do you think?

And what's looking out at you with a pitiful expression from your TBR pile?

Monday, May 28, 2012

Trailer: The Great Gatsby


Ahem. Now that that's out of my system - anyone else a Gatsby fan? I've been waiting for this one for awhile, and now that the trailer is out, I'm really intrigued. Adaptations in the past seem to have gone the route of lazy linen decadence. But this one - well, you can definitely tell it's from the same peeps as Moulin Rouge. It looks like a very BIG, very gltizy, glamorous and explosive take on the tale. Can't wait to see it!
(Plus, I am in love with the idea of Carey Mulligan as Daisy. Perfect.)

So, who else is definitely seeing this one? Are you heading straight for the theaters or redboxing it?
And what do you think of the trailer?
Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cover Reveal/Coming Attraction: Days of Blood & Starlight

Ooh, I have been waiting for this one to have a cover so I could show you. You may recall I was a big fan of last year's Daughter of Smoke and Bone (I believe I sorta maybe asked Laini to marry me in my review) so needless to say I've been eagerly awaiting this one.
Any of you putting this straight on your wishlists?

(And if you haven't read DoSaB yet - what are you waiting for?)

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor 
(Daughter of Smoke and Bone #2)
Fantasy, 304 pages
Expected publication: November 6th 2012 by Little, Brown & Company
In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed "Daughter of Smoke and Bone," Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, mysteries and secrets, new characters and old favorites, Days of Blood and Starlight brings the richness, color and intensity of the first book to a brand new canvas.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone was declared a "must read" by Entertainment Weekly, was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon.com, and The New York Times called it "a breath-catching romantic fantasy."

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Face Off: Shadow and Bone

I just recently finished Leigh Bardugo's fantasy debut, Shadow and Bone (aka The Gathering Dark if you live in the UK). I'll be reviewing it for you soon, but I thought until then we could have ourselves a little Face Off between the two versions.  Below you'll find the US version (left) and the UK version (right), both of which are different from the ARC version I have.
This one is an interesting Face Off since they are completely different takes on the cover and have different titles for the same book - clearly each is going for something specific. So would you reach for either of these? Do they give you different impressions of what the story might be?
Which one did it better?

Last Week on FFO: Three books (The Treachery of Beautiful Things, Chosen and The Hedgewitch Queen) made use of the same pretty stock photo, with The Treachery of Beautiful Things coming out the clear winner, as predicted.
Now, I always try to save my comments until after the Face Off, or avoid giving them at all (don't want to bias anyone), but this time I wish I'd pointed out something I noticed - I really wanted to tell everyone to click on the photos and see them in a larger size, to really see the details. Gut instinct still makes Treachery seem the most appealing, what with the olivey skin and the edition of the flowers in the hair and on the dress. But something seemed off, and as I looked at it, it's because the editing has pretty much removed the models legs. She just fades out from about mid-calf, and the result is a little unsettling once you notice.  As all of the rest of the edits are good editions to the picture, I found this particular edit curious...
I still think there's a good chance Treachery would have won, but as no one else pointed this out, I thought I would...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

For Katie (& You): A Middle Grade Recommendations List

Earlier today I had a young girl named Katie (hi, Katie!) message me on Goodreads asking for recommendations. I get this request fairly frequently, and I'm always a little at a loss. I mean, where to begin? I'm sure there are books I'm going to forget, or genres that will be under-represented. And there are so many books I haven't read - what about all of those? Do I recommend them even though I haven't read them? And what about the ones I haven't even heard of?!?
So this time, I did something different: I asked everyone on Twitter and Facebook what their favorite Middle Grade/Juvenile reads were, and I put them together with mine, and made this EPIC LONG LIST that is really just the beginning.
So. The following list, for Katie and for everyone else, is compiled of books that I and people I trust recommend. They're loosely categorized where ever I saw fit, but if you see an error, let me know. Hope you find some good books to love on it!
[And I even linked it! Each link goes to the book's Goodreads page so you can find out more about it.]

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter (which is based on The Secret Garden, which I also recommend), and though I haven't read it, I'd also recommend The Kneebone Boy, which is also by Potter, and looks really good.
Chained by Lynne Kelly - This is a recent release set in India, and though I haven't read it, but a number of people recommended it and it looks outstanding. Not sure if it's contemporary or not, but looks good!
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon - This is a bit of a mystery, and has one of my favorite, most unique narrators.
A Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech - SO. GOOD.
The Outsiders, Tex and everything else by SE Hinton - The Outsiders is her most famous work, and credited with starting the YA genre, but Tex is my favorite book of hers, though I love all of them. (They can be a bit grown-up, though...)
Tangerine by Edward Bloor - This book took me by surprise; I didn't expect to like it, and I loved it.

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose - this book is told in verse, and I've heard nothing but good things about it!
With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo - I haven't read this, but it's high on my wishlist, and others mentioned it.
Fever: 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson - this is about a yellow fever epidemic in 1700's America. Really great historical.
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi - I read this book in school, and I was so against it in the beginning. I was convinced I wasn't going to like it for some reason, and I ended up loving it.
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly - this was an excellent historical read with a really strong, smart main character.
Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery, one of my all-time favorite books; I was 11 when I read it for the first time, and I've read it countless times since.
The Secret Garden, as I said, as well as A Little Princess, both by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson - this should probably be under Contemp/Realistic, but I think by now it can be called a classic, and a well-deserved one.
The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder - lots of people recommended this one, and I've read it more times than I can count.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, if you haven't read them. So  good. A lot of people love The Looking Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor, too, which is a spin on Carroll's classic.

Percy Jackson series - many of us recommended these! They're based on Greek mythology, which I love.
The Mapmaker and the Ghost by Sarvenaz Tash - I haven't read this, but this recent release was the most recommended book from the Tweeps!
Remarkable by Lizzie K Foley - Haven't read this one (it was recommended by author Zoraida Cordova, and it looks really good!)
Savvy & Scumble by Ingrid Law - I highly recommend these!! I'm putting them under adventure, but they are quirky fantasy  books, too.
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart - lots of people recommended this one
Heist Society by Ally Carter - this is a fun heist/almost-adventure-y story, and good contemporary read, too.
The Hero and the Crown, The Blue Sword and a number of other books by Robin McKinley - this was recommended by a few people, myself included!
The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch
39 Clues series which is written by a whole bunch of authors, a different one each book, and is a big puzzle.
Hatchet series by Gary Paulsen - this, too, is one I expected to hate and ended up loving.
The Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer - love these!
Gregor the Overlander series (Underland Chronicles) by Suzanne Collins <-- who wrote The Hunger Games! This is her lesser-known middle grade series, and I've heard nothing but good about it.

The Song of the Lioness series by Tamora Pierce, or anything else by her. If you read nothing else on the list, pick up something by Tamora Pierce. The first Alanna book (from the Song of the Lioness series) changed the way I read and the things I looked for in a female main character. Stellar.
The Graveyard Book  & Coraline, both by Neil Gaiman, who is fantastic.
Eyes Like Stars and the rest of the story, by Lisa Mantchev - this is a really inventive series that uses plays (especially Shakespeare - but never in a boring way! It's very, very fun!)
Plain Kate by Erin Bow - this is a really good fantasy with a historical feel and a great cast of characters.
Aurelia & Exile (both by Anne Osterlund) - I haven't read either of these (yet), but the both look excellent and come highly recommended. And I'm Goodreads friends with Anne, who has great taste in books and always recommends cool things!
Thirteenth Child by Patricia C Wrede (and a number of other things by her) - such an engaging fantasy!!!
Anything by Roald Dahl - lots of people recommended Roald Dahl books, so I figured you can't go wrong no matter what you pick (though can I put in a push for The Witches, James and the Giant Peach and Matilda!)
Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver - a bit of a ghost story, sounds really good and lots of people recommended it.
Anything by Lemony Snicket, Tony di Terlizzi, and anything age appropriate by Holly Black.
The Giver by Lois Lowry (anything by Lowry, actually) - This isn't really Sci-Fi, but I didn't know where else to put it - it's dystopian and I didn't want to start a category for that, but it's worth a read FOR SURE...
...and while I'm mentioning the few dystopian books that aren't too adult for middle graders, read the Chaos Walking trilogy (starts with The Knife of Never Letting Go) by Patrick Ness. I ADORE these books.

Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu - Based on The Snow Queen, this was one of my favorite reads of last year.
A Curse Dark as Gold  by Elizabeth C Bunce - neat retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, set during the Industrial Revolution.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer - This is a really interesting sci-fi take on Cinderella.
Juniper Berry by MP Kozlowsky - this reminded me a bit of Coraline. Not necessarily a fairy tale, but has that feel. Really good, and definitely a bit dark...
Princess Academy & the Books of Bayern (starts with The Goose Girl), or anything else for kids/teens by Shannon Hale, all of which are either based on fairy tales or have that feel.
Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow (one of my favorite fairy tale retellings!) The Princess of the Midnight Ball (and the rest of the series); Tuesdays at the Castle; the Dragon series (starts with Dragon Slippers) - all of these are by Jessica Day George, and they all come highly recommended by me and by a bunch of the people I asked.
The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy - this one is a fun twist on all of those "Princes Charming" we see popping up in fairy tales!
[Edited 7/10/13 to add] The Princess Curse and The Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell. I hadn't read anything by Haskell when I made this list, but now that I have, she is firmly on the list. INFACT, I'd name The Princess Curse among my favorite fairy tale retellings, period!

Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke - I absolutely adored this.
Rapunzel's Revenge and the rest of the series by Shannon Hale, who I mentioned above.
Robot Dreams and Bake Sale by Sarah Varon - these are nearly wordless/actually wordless, really inventive, and super awesome.
Shirley by Kaoru Mori - this is about a teenaged Victorian-era maid, and is super cute and well-detailed.
Giants Beware! by Jorge Aguirre - This was super fun with awesome characters, and I really need to get around to reviewing it already...

And there were so many other books people recommended that I haven't read and don't know too much about (and a couple I didn't like, though I know other people do), so I don't want to leave those out:
Septimus Heap
Ella Enchanted
The False Prince
The Books of Elsewhere
Tomorrow Girls
Cirque du Freak
Popularity Papers
At the Sign of the Sugared Plum
Ordinary Magic
Harriet the Spy
Dork Diaries
The Penderwicks
The Grimm Legacy
Monster High
The Girl Who Could Fly
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place
the Tillerman Saga
The Dark is Rising series
The Ranger's Apprentice series
The View from Saturday
Dead End in Norvelt

and anything by
Margaret Peterson Haddix
Sharon Creech
Gail Carson Levine
Rick Riordan
Jane Yolen
Judy Blume
Patrick Carman
and Mary Downing Hahn

Hope this helped (not just Katie, but any of you looking for good middle grade/juvenile reads), and if you have any you think must be on the list, PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENTS!! =)

Much thanks to Alexa, Amber, Ashley B., Ashley M., Ashley P., Candy, Cecelia, Christian, Daph, Dan, Emily, Jamie, Jenn, Joann, Kristen, Liz A., Liz V., Minda, Reads4tweens, Resa, Sara, Shannon, Vanessa and Zoraida!  I know I missed some, but you all were fabulous and enthusiastic suggesters, and I <3 you for it. =D

Review: The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi

The Drowned Cities by Paolo Bacigalupi
Amazon | Goodreads
439 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
In a dark future America where violence, terror, and grief touch everyone, young refugees Mahlia and Mouse have managed to leave behind the war-torn lands of the Drowned Cities by escaping into the jungle outskirts. But when they discover a wounded half-man--a bioengineered war beast named Tool--who is being hunted by a vengeful band of soldiers, their fragile existence quickly collapses. One is taken prisoner by merciless soldier boys, and the other is faced with an impossible decision: Risk everything to save a friend, or flee to a place where freedom might finally be possible.

This thrilling companion to Paolo Bacigalupi's highly acclaimed Ship Breaker is a haunting and powerful story of loyalty, survival, and heart-pounding adventure.

One of my biggest selling points in any book is tension. I talk a lot in my reviews about tension, and generally it's because I'm talking about the lack of it. But what I mean when I talk about tension is a lot of things, actually. It's not just the internal tension in the story, between characters, say, or two factions. That's only part of it. When I'm talking about tension, I'm also talking about the way your gut reacts to a story. The best stories have tension you can actually feel. They cause an actual physical reaction inside of you, making you sit up straighter or curl in on yourself, feel butterflies or feel terror. They make your heart race or give you chills. They making reading a sensory experience, make you feel like you're more in the story. I could feel this story; the tension was beautiful.

This companion novel to Ship Breaker* has a very dark and hopeless atmosphere and is almost unrelenting in that darkness except that there are these bright moments to balance it: trust, love, companionship, hope - things that somehow manage to live on against the odds in the face of child soldiers and fanaticism and all manner of unspeakable atrocities. Don't get me wrong, nothing here is sugar-coated; the story remains incredibly dark, but not so relentlessly grim that you just can't bear to read it.

And the storytelling - the writing and tactics and plot devices - were very well done. This is a great example of shifting narrators that actually worked for me. In the past, I've talked about how this can be hit or miss for me, but this time it was a big hit. It's also a great example of anti-heroic characters that work and that still remain sympathetic and rootforable. Bacigalupi juggles things well and shifts seamlessly, and weaves each character's storylines together to make them more meaningful than they would be on their own. There were so many things that I stopped to read over, not for clarity but for the sheer power of it. It was sometimes breathtaking, but not in the way of any kind of beauty, really. More in the way that a punch to the gut is breathtaking. I just sometimes had to set the book in my lap and just linger over some things, process them or prepare myself for what I knew was coming. I love a book that engages me on this level, because it's rare enough on its own, and rarer still to have that last the whole way through the book.

It's fascinating from the dystopian/post-apocalyptic aspect, and I think those who have gotten used to the watered-down dystopias and post-apocalyptic books flooding the market lately will appreciate the vitality of this. Everything felt very critical, very authentic and very tenuous, with that skin-crawling layer that comes with well thought out dystopias. Vital, truly disturbing dystopias rely on things that could happen and/or do happen, and  intelligently distill a future of what could be from what is. Good dystopias/PAs give you glimpses of insight into where everything went wrong, and then how they kept going wrong, and they shock your system with how easily it could all happen. Bacigalupi does this really well, sort of meditating on the choices we make and their snowball effects.

I don't know if there will be a third companion book, but there are loose ends in The Drowned Cities that could leave it open for one. I don't mention this as a drawback, however, as I think the loose ends were done in a good, believable way, and I like to have stories like this left up in the air a little bit. It gives something to discuss, something to think over and work out. This is not the type of book to have everything come together completely in the end, or to have a Happy Ever After for every character; it would have felt inauthentic if this had been the case, and a lot of the power of the story would have been lost as a result. As it is, the story is bittersweet, not bow-wrapped, and that's exactly as it should be.

*Note: To my understanding, The Drowned Cities is a loose companion to Ship Breaker, so if you haven't read Ship Breaker don't let that stop you - it didn't stop me! And I never felt like I was missing anything or not comprehending the scope of things; it definitely works well as a stand-alone, but makes me even more excited for when I finally do read Ship Breaker... Also, this is marketed to YA but there's no real YAness about it. It's just a book, well-written and as such I think will appeal as much or more to adults as to the teens it's marketed to.

Curious about The Drowned Cities? Read the first 11 chapters here for free! I doubt you'll want to put it down...

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Witch Song FREE ebook

I know some of you were curious about Witch Song back when I posted my review, but as my review wasn't completely positive, you weren't sure about actually picking up a copy.  To which I say, what better way to try something than FREE? ;D

To celebrate the upcoming release of the sequel, the ebook of Witch Song is going to be completely free on Amazon for the next few days.

So if you're so inclined, you can read my review here, but either way you can try out Witch Song for free right here!

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

TBR Tuesday: The Stolen One

TBR Tuesday: Showcasing all the books that are currently staring at you from your "Why aren't you reading me?" pile....

On my TBR

The Stolen One by Suzanne Crowley 
416 pages
Published by Greenwillow Books
When her adoptive mother dies, Katherine Bab takes the chance she has been waiting for her whole life: she moves from her country village to London, to uncover the secret of who she really is. Before long, Kat has become a favorite of Queen Elizabeth herself, and rumors are swirling - could fiery-haired Kat be the secret daughter of the Virgin Queen? Kat's got plenty of other things to figure out, as well . . . such as how to choose between her childhood love and two handsome men at court vying for her affection.
This smart, sensual novel drips with intrigue, period detail, and drama and will resonate with anyone who has ever longed to find his or her place in the world.

This cover caught my eye awhile back when I was in the mood for some historical intrigue, but I wasn't able to get my hands on a copy until fairly recently. But, though I look at this cover often and almost feel the same craving for historical intrigue, I just can't seem to muster it enough to want to bump something else to fit this into my schedule. I think mostly I just love her gigantic hair... Though if enough people were to tell me that it was excellent, compelling historical intrigue, I could maybe be convinced to bump it up...
Anyone read this one? Is it a keeper, or OFF WITH THEIR HEADS?

What's lurking at you from your TBR stack this week?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Coming Attraction: Eve & Adam

I came across this one recently and was immediately struck by a couple of things:

1. That's a cool freaking premise.
2. It's written by a husband and wife team, which intrigues me.
3. I'm sort of in love with this cover.

Now, I know many of you would look at the fact that Michael Grant is one of the authors, and that will be enough to put it on your lists. But I haven't read the Gone series, popular as it is. And I know many of you may look at the other name on the book and say, who?  But I actually have read a book by Katherine Applegate - a book I'd never heard of from a series I'd never heard of that I picked up on a whim when I was a teen and ended up reading multiple times (the first book of the Everworld series).

So yeah. I'm intrigued...
Eve & Adam by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant
Amazon | Goodreads
Sci-Fi, 304 pages
Expected publication: October 2nd 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
Sixteen-year-old Evening Spiker lives an affluent life in San Francisco with her mother, EmmaRose, a successful geneticist and owner of Spiker Biotech. Sure, Evening misses her father who died mysteriously, but she’s never really questioned it. Much like how she’s never stopped to think how off it is that she’s never been sick. That is, until she’s struck by a car and is exposed to extensive injuries. Injuries that seem to be healing faster than physically possible.

While recuperating in Spiker Biotech’s lush facilities, she meets Solo Plissken, a very attractive, if off-putting boy her age who spent his life at Spiker Biotech. Like Evening, he’s never questioned anything... until now. Solo drops hints to Evening that something isn’t right, and Emma-Rose may be behind it. Evening puts this out of her mind and begins her summer internship project: To simulate the creation of the perfect boy. With the help of Solo, Evening uncovers secrets so big they could change the world completely.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Trailer: Beauty and the Beast

I told you guys during Fairy Tale Fortnight about the glut of Beauty and the Beast projects that are going to be coming out within the next year or so.
Well, one of them - the CW reboot of the 80s BatB - recently had a sneak peek posted, so of course I figured you'd want to watch it with me.  Here's a couple minutes of the upcoming BatB, which stars Kristin Kreuk and is going to have a bit of a mystery/cop show feel to it, I guess?

I find it interesting that, even though the Beast is pretty beastly, they've kept him as attractive as they possibly could for a beast character, all sculpted jawline/bone structure and seething manliness. Can't have our beast too beastly, apparently. Too hard to see him as a love interest then... o_O

Anywho, check it out below and then let me know what you think! Will you be watching this one come Fall?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Review: When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen

When the Sea is Rising Red by Cat Hellisen
Amazon | Goodreads
Fantasy, 296 pages
Published February 28th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
After seventeen-year-old Felicita’s dearest friend, Ilven, kills herself to escape an arranged marriage, Felicita chooses freedom over privilege. She fakes her own death and leaves her sheltered life as one of Pelimburg’s magical elite behind. Living in the slums, scrubbing dishes for a living, she falls for charismatic Dash while also becoming fascinated with vampire Jannik. Then something shocking washes up on the beach: Ilven's death has called out of the sea a dangerous, wild magic. Felicita must decide whether her loyalties lie with the family she abandoned . . . or with those who would twist this dark power to destroy Pelimburg's caste system, and the whole city along with it.

When The Sea is Rising Red was a little bit of an odd reading experience for me. It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2012, so when I got my hands on it awhile back, I was super excited and maybe holding it to too-high a standard. I think it suffered a little for that, because it couldn't quite live up to my enthusiasm and was a little lackluster as a result. It grew on me but it wasn't as powerful or gripping as I was hoping for. There are times when I thought it was going to be, little moments that shined or things that Hellisen does well that made me almost fall for it, but there was something always holding me back just a bit.

Mostly, I think the thing holding me back was Felicita. As a protagonist, she is hard to like. She's spoiled and self-centered, and even though she does take this huge, admirable leap to take control of her fate and be strong, she's still very much a product of her upbringing throughout. Though I can't really fault her for that (or Hellisen; it is realistic, after all), it does make it hard to root for her. But she does grow considerably, and part of me knows that this was the point of her character, but it still was hard to cheer for her or want to read her story at times. It always made sense that she'd think the way she does, that she'd look down on people and be somewhat narrow-minded, but chances are it will put some readers off - those who are not fans of anti-heroes or aren't patient or willing to wait for things to come around and for her to get with it. But even beyond that, I couldn't help but feel that Felicita was sort of incidental at times, that she wasn't really needed; that she was just the gateway into the story, and that things probably would have happened exactly the same with or without* her.  This is not necessarily bad; it can be kind of intriguing, actually. But I didn't get as much out of her as I would have liked, other than that she brought me to these other characters that I loved. But she can be introspective and she is curious, so she does bring things to light and allow us to see this world through her eyes. I  was able to forgive her most things because of that.

[*I'm sorry if I just put Bono in your head...]

What made up for Felicita, though, was Pelimburg and the creatures who populated it. The world-building was excellent (for me, at least. I'm sure some will find it confusing and frustrating, but I ate it up.) Pelimburg was genuinely interesting and felt very lively and full. I liked Felicita's exploration of it, and her attempts to let go of "Felicita" and become "Firel" so that she could escape into something else (even though she can never seem to leave Felicita behind). The  rest of the characters are fun and I adored a number of them. They made me wish for a longer book because I wanted more pagetime for them; I wanted to get more of their stories, more of their thoughts and actions and how they came to be together (even though the slight mystery, always-has-been-ness of it all really worked). I also really liked the take on magic and folklore, with different cultures, backgrounds and superstitions adding a really nice layer to the story. And it all had a sort of desolate, dreary, hopeless feel to it, which I loved, and which kept me going where Felicita sometimes did not.

Another thing I absolutely did love was the treatment of love - or not so much even that, but attraction. Hellisen avoids a lot of the pitfalls of most YA, portraying attraction and romance in a much more realistic, muddled, confusing way. It's not the stereotypical YA romance, even though there is a love triangle(ish). What love is there, what romance and triangularness and flirtation and confusion, etc., felt more human and authentic in its treatment than you generally find; it's bumbling and cringe-worthy in that really good, awkward, realistic way, and (thankfully) completely ignores the idea of swooning, mushy lovestuff. This alone means that I'll be keeping an eye on what Hellisen does in the future.

But the fact remains, when I finished the last page and closed the book, I didn't feel the need to immediately tell someone about it or push it on anyone. I knew that any pushing I did do would be qualified ("Read this, it's neat, but...").  Again, I think part of this was just because of my own expectations and inexplicable excitement for the book, and that's not really fair of me. And there's part of me that wonders if I may appreciate it more on further readings. There is something there that lingered with me, and there is certainly a part of me that wants more of the world and its cast of characters. So it did sort of worm its way into me, and that's a plus in my book. (I mean, it stuck with me well enough that I'm able to review it and recall things months after reading it, which can be a rarity for me.)

As I said, it was an odd experience. In the end, I do recommend this, but with qualifiers - know yourself as a reader. If you aren't put off by the negatives I've listed, and are intrigued by the rest, definitely pick this up. But if you're easily confused or frustrated with complex, unusual world-building or oft-times frustrating MCs, or you like your romances immediate and swoony, you might want to skip it. As for me, I think I might read it again at some point, when I can come to it with fresh eyes. And I'll certainly be keeping a lookout for what Cat does next, since this was her debut and all; I'm intrigued to see what she'll do next and how she'll grow.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Coming Attraction: Eternally Yours

Now that this has a cover, I can share my excitement! I recently read and devoured books 1 (Immortal Beloved) and 2 (Darkness Falls)* and then proceeded to push them on errdamnbody. I had never read anything by Tiernan at this point, though I knew her to be popular. These books clearly demonstrated why - I was hooked.  Needless to say, I am eager indeed for this next installment.

*links to my reviews, wherein I gush a lot
Eternally Yours by Cate Tiernan (Immortal Beloved #3)
Expected publication: November 6th 2012 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
After 450 years of living, Nastasya Crowe should have more of a handle on this whole immortal thing.... After a deadly confrontation at the end of Darkness Falls, the second Immortal Beloved novel, Nastasya Crowe is, as she would put it, so over the drama. She fights back against the dark immortals with her own brand of kick-butt magick...but can she fight against true love? In the satisfying finale to the Immortal Beloved trilogy, ex-party-girl immortal Nastasya ends a 450-year-old feud and learns what "eternally yours" really means. Laced with historical flashbacks and laugh-out-loud dialogue, the Immortal Beloved trilogy is a fascinating and unique take on what it would mean to live forever.

Friday Face Off: The Treachery of Beautiful Things vs. Chosen

I spy with my little eye...
A very popular stock photo!!
So, as always, which one did it better?

Last Week (erm, two weeks ago) on FFO: The covers of Alethea Kontis' Enchanted and Gwen Hayes' Dreaming Awake went pretty dress-to-dress in a Face Off that used photos that were clearly from the same set, though not the same photo (and used to different effect).
The winner by far was Enchanted, which Enbrethiliel pointed out would get called early on America's Next Top Model, whereas Dreaming Awake would be in the bottom two... ;)
Winnah ------->

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder

Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder
Amazon |  Goodreads
Fantasy, 394 pages
Published December 20th 2011 by Mira
Laying hands upon the injured and dying, Avry of Kazan absorbs their wounds and diseases into herself. But rather than being honored for her skills, she is hunted. Healers like Avry are accused of spreading the plague that has decimated the Fifteen Realms, leaving the survivors in a state of chaos.
Stressed and tired from hiding, Avry is abducted by a band of rogues who, shockingly, value her gift above the golden bounty offered for her capture. Their leader, an enigmatic captor-protector with powers of his own, is unequivocal in his demands: Avry must heal a plague-stricken prince—leader of a campaign against her people. As they traverse the daunting Nine Mountains, beset by mercenaries and magical dangers, Avry must decide who is worth healing and what is worth dying for. Because the price of peace may well be her life...

I have this goal of taking notes on a book when I finish it, to make reviewing it easier. I know myself; I will jump straight into the next book, and things will get muddled, and then I'll forget half the things I want to say if I don't take notes. Sometimes my note-taking is really lax, but sometimes I love my nerdy, essay-writing self for being a note-taker, because then when I'm being a lazy ass and putting off writing a review (for no other reason than, say, a Firefly marathon. Again.), I'll at least have something to look over to refresh my memory and make me actually write the damn thing.

My review for Touch of Power is one of those, a thank-god-for-notes review. Why? Because I read it just before Christmas, all gung-ho about another Maria book and wanting to get up a review asap.  But I mean, hello? Christmas and New Years, it's not like I was going to get anything done. And, um...now it's May. So that's how that works out for me.

But it was funny to me a bit when I looked back over my notes. Sometimes things get a little crappier in hindsight, and sometimes they get a little rosier. I think Maria's books tend to get rosier for me, and that's because I always have issues with the beginnings of them. I mean, take Poison Study, her debut and one of my favorite books, period. A friend recommended it to me, and within the first 30 pages or so, I was emailing her and asking her whyyyyy and was about to take it back to the library, until suddenly - it clicked. And I loved it rabidly from then on out. And I look back on it now as nearly flawless. The bumpy beginning never even happened. Looking over my notes for Touch of Power, I'm discovering that I've done it again. Or Maria has. She's made me forget that in the beginning, I was writing myself notes like this:
 Maybe I've been watching too much Community, but Avry's narration is reminding me of Abed.  It feels...almost meta-fictiony, like a cheesy voice over.  It's not natural.
or this:
Maria said Poison Study took her about a decade, and I think it shows.  I think she needs that length of time to stew and perfect and produce something with depth and originality.  None of the others have come close to matching PS, and each seems to get farther from it...
God, I was a bitch fussy-pants. But here's the thing - the as-I-go notes stop after that. All the rest are post-book, and that's because I didn't put it down to make a note after that point. Like Poison Study, it clicked and suddenly everything was magic.  Now don't get me wrong, I think the decade Maria spent on PS still shows and it is my favorite of her works without a doubt. Touch of Power doesn't quite measure up to that, but I'm okay with that. I don't expect other books to measure up to my favorites. Poison Study was fresh to me, and this is never not predictable. It skews younger and simpler, but I don't necessarily find this a bad thing. I'm okay with a foregone conclusion because sometimes it just makes sense. This was still well told and engaging, even if you could see what was coming, and even if there was a bit of a mustache-twirler-type villain.

The simple fact is, Maria writes an engaging story with rootforable characters and engrossing world-building. Always. I shouldn't doubt that because she's shown me time and again that if I just quit being a bitch fussy-pants and give in, I will be entertained and I will be very eager for the next installment of whatever it is she's writing. Ever. Period. Her romances are stomach-fluttery and swoony without being sickening; her heroines are kick-ass by human. Her tension is - my god, it's tense. Everything is always so tense! I love it! I'm using exclamation points!

Maybe she's some kind of wizard. I really don't know. But whatever it is, she's got it, and even if it doesn't always shine as brightly as one may hope, it still always shines. She writes books that make you want to recommend them to people, books you talk about and push. That says a lot to a book-lover.
So if you haven't picked up one of her series yet, you should.
You just should.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A Whole Mess of Winners!

So, now that every giveaway has run its course, I can finally announce all of the winners from FTF (as well as a couple of post-FTF giveaways I had). Brace yourselves; this is a long one...

[Please note: there are giveaways that ran on Ashley's site as well; those will be chosen by her and announced separately.]





Bridget Howard!




Alysa (who would be a talking bed! 
Check out her fantastical description - this was one of my fave giveaways this year...)

Amy S.!





And for the non-FTF giveaways:
Jennifer S.! 


That's it!  Congrats everyone, and to those of you who participated in FTF but didn't win anything, I'm sorry but I hope you enjoyed yourself. I loved having you, and I LOVED the enthusiasm and fairy tale geekery all of you shared.  <3

Trailer: Struck by Jennifer Bosworth

Y'all, book trailers are getting SO GOOD.  I'm becoming a bit obsessed with them, so I'm going to share that obsession.
This one is for Struck by Jennifer Bosworth, which I thought sounded pretty neat. And then I saw this, and now it's on the Definite Read list. Wanna know what did it for me?  Creepy religion guy. Yeah, I want to know what that's all about...


Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
Amazon | Goodreads
373 pages
May 8th 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux BYR
Mia Price is a lightning addict. She's survived countless strikes, but her craving to connect to the energy in storms endangers her life and the lives of those around her.

Los Angeles, where lightning rarely strikes, is one of the few places Mia feels safe from her addiction. But when an earthquake devastates the city, her haven is transformed into a minefield of chaos and danger. The beaches become massive tent cities. Downtown is a crumbling wasteland, where a traveling party moves to a different empty building each night, the revelers drawn to the destruction by a force they cannot deny. Two warring cults rise to power, and both see Mia as the key to their opposing doomsday prophecies. They believe she has a connection to the freak electrical storm that caused the quake, and to the far more devastating storm that is yet to come.

Mia wants to trust the enigmatic and alluring Jeremy when he promises to protect her, but she fears he isn't who he claims to be. In the end, the passion and power that brought them together could be their downfall. When the final disaster strikes, Mia must risk unleashing the full horror of her strength to save the people she loves, or lose everything.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

TBR Tuesday: Terrier

TBR Tuesday: Showcasing all the books that are currently staring at you from your "Why aren't you reading me?" pile....

On my TBR

Terrier by Tamora Pierce
592 pages
Published October 24th 2006 by Random House Books for Young Readers
Tamora Pierce begins a new Tortall trilogy introducing Beka Cooper, an amazing young woman who lived 200 years before Pierce's popular Alanna character. For the first time, Pierce employs first-person narration in a novel, bringing readers even closer to a character that they will love for her unusual talents and tough personality.

Beka Cooper is a rookie with the law-enforcing Provost's Guard, and she's been assigned to the Lower City. It's a tough beat that's about to get tougher, as Beka's limited ability to communicate with the dead clues her in to an underworld conspiracy. Someone close to Beka is using dark magic to profit from the Lower City's criminal enterprises--and the result is a crime wave the likes of which the Provost's Guard has never seen before.

I'm a big Tamora Pierce fan. There are some authors you just trust inherently, and she is one for me; I will buy her books without even knowing what they're about. (When I can afford to, that is.)  So I bought Terrier - though not right away because, hello? Those original covers with the bands across are hideous - but I haven't picked it up yet.  Part of me is waiting for the whole series to be out because I know from my love of her writing and from what friends have said, that I'm going to want to devour the whole series at once.  But part of me also really likes anticipation and having time to get excited about the next book, so I keep getting these urges to pick it up. Even though it's like a bajillion pages long.  
Which is probably the only reason I haven't picked it up yet.  I mean, good lord, this thing is a doorstop.  But I know when I do pick it up, it will be a damn good doorstop...

So, any of you read this, or fans of Tamora?  And if you haven't heard of her or picked anything up by her, can I take this opportunity now to force you with the power of my mind and my winning personality to go DO IT, DO IT NOW.  

*sheepish grin*

What's creeping up your TBR mountain this week?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Book Haul: May 14th, 2012

New to my shelves since last time...


Coming Attractions: Vessel

I came across this one a while back and have been wanting to share it with you.  The synopsis is very, very brief - and 100% intriguing.  I'm definitely looking forward to this one; are you?
Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
320 pages
Expected publication: September 11th 2012 by Margaret K. McElderry
In a desert land where serpents made of unbreakable glass fly through the sky and wolves made of only sand hunt within storms, Liyana is destined to be a vessel, to sacrifice herself so that her clan’s goddess can inhabit her body... but her goddess never comes.

A Brief Note on Concussions

It's pretty common knowledge that you're not supposed to sleep a lot when you have a concussion.

I did. A lot.
Like, if I wasn't at work, I was asleep. Not the night of the concussion, mind, but for each successive night, lots and lots of sleep. It didn't help that I was working an event out of town that meant long, exhausting days.

My point is, for this last week, if I wasn't at work, I was sleeping off a concussion (again, NOT recommended), and as a result, nothing was posted.

So just wanted to give you a quick heads up, let you know I'm alive, and that I will be playing catch-up over the next few days, as well as finally drawing all of the winners for the various giveaways this week, once the voting for the Cover Contest and the JL Bryan series giveaway have both ended.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy
Amazon | Goodreads
419 pages
Published May 1st 2012 by Walden Pond Press
Enter a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never head of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as "Prince Charming." But all of this is about to change...

Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Guztav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other associated terrors to becom the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Not a lot of fairy tale retellings take on the men in fairy tales. Or at least that's the perception. So I was excited to see that an entire series was going to take on just that - the nameless Princes Charming and who they really were. And I have to say, Christopher Healy does a good job of taking their teensy little bits of fairy tale text (Prince: dances, notices shoes. Prince: doesn't have a thing to do with story until he kisses girl in coffin. Prince: climbs strangers hair... etc.) and uses those little bits + public perception of the them to extrapolate real personas for the characters. They're really more of caricatures, actually, very funny and over the top, and all very distinct from one another. And they come alive on the page in a way I think middle grade readers will really love.

And it's not just the Princes that are brought to life and made adorably eccentric/silly/zany, etc. It was a fun take on all of the characters; the Princes were a bit bumbling, and I went back and forth with who was my favorite, while the Princesses were more heroic and daring, but also impetuous and/or sometimes bratty. My favorite, though (and this always seems to be the case) was the silly side characters - I love a good side character, and this book had lots of them. Like the Princes and Princesses, I went back and forth on who was my favorite (I mean, there's an excellent Wicked Witch, a lovably doofy giant, a hilariously tyrannical 10 year old Bandit King, etc) until I came upon the trolls. The trolls win. They are my favorites, hands down. I mean, they're all named Troll.
"Troll's name is Troll," the troll said, flashing a toothy smile. "All trolls' name is Troll." He pointed to a number of other trolls in the crowd. "That's Troll. And that's Troll. And that's Troll... All Troll."
[Frederic said] "This will affect all you trolls. Yes, even you, Troll. And you, too, Troll."
Once troll in the crowd leaned over to its neighbor and said approvingly, "Personal touch is nice."
I mean, how can you not love that? I really liked Troll. (not the be confused with Troll. Or Troll.) And I liked the fact that they're not quite what you expect of them, actually being law-abiding (though odd) herbivores who are very upset by the human notion that they're brutish people-eaters.  It was so fun and memorable, which is a pretty good description of the book as a whole.

The storytelling itself is charming, very exuberant and enjoyably silly. It was like reading a Pixar/Disney film, if that makes any sense. In fact, I could actually see it in my head ala Pixar - the character movements, the voices, everything.  It was strange and neat, and made me thing the story would lend itself really well to film (and it's been optioned, so yay!) It's equal parts adventure and slapstick, and I think will appeal to a pretty wide MG readership because of that, especially where reluctant readers are concerned. The laughs and the antics will pull them along and make them keep reading what otherwise could be a dauntingly thick book for a MG reader. And what's nice is that it will appeal to both boys and girls almost equally, I think, and to parents, too, who want something adventurous but still wholesome for their kids.

Now this is not to say that everyone will be taken by it; I have a feeling it may not translate well for all adults. I mean, some will love it (most of my GR friends rated it 5 stars), but those that don't normally read middle grade may find it too middle grade. You have to either be a kid or easily slip into a kid-like frame of mind for it to work. It's very lighthearted, and some adults just aren't.  And there were times it was a little too easy to put down. I have a feeling this was mostly just my state of mind, because I liked it when I was reading it, but it didn't make me have to read it. Some books beg you to pick them up as soon as you have a free moment, and they want to be read all night. This one I could read a bit and put it down and go to sleep just fine, but I think it was just that I, myself, wasn't quite light-hearted enough to sustain a long reading session with it. But as a kid? I would have eaten this up. (And as an adult, there were plenty of times I actually LOLed...)

I think this one is a definite to-buy for those with middle grade children or students, or neighbors, nieces or nephews. It's a great summer reading book, a great feel good, fun book, and a very nice start to the series. And to top it off, it has fantastic artwork! =)

Make sure to check out my vlogged (!) interview with Chris and the excerpt & artwork sneak peek I posted!

You can find the rest of the Blog Tour stops for Hero's Guide here, and if you want to meet Chris IRL (and get a signed book for a kid in your life), come see him at one of his author book tour stops!

And check out this clip of the Hero's Guide audiobook!


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