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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wrap-Up: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken | #WednesdayYA [1.3.4]

Just a heads up before we get into what I thought of The Darkest Minds - our twitter discussion of the book is happening TONIGHT, so if you've read TDM and want to join in, please do! Follow along on twitter to the hashtag #WednesdayYA and chime in with your thoughts on the book! It promises to be an interesting discussion, as I liked the book but last time I spoke to Liz, she was not in a happy place with it...
So: Twitter. Tonight. 8:30 EST is when it's going down.  

Hope to see you there, but until then, here's what I thought of The Darkest Minds!

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Sci-Fi/Dystopia, 488 pages
Published December 18th 2012 by Disney Hyperion
When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something alarming enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government "rehabilitation camp." She might have survived the mysterious disease that's killed most of America's children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they cannot control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones.

When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. Now she's on the run, desperate to find the one safe haven left for kids like her-East River. She joins a group of kids who escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can't risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents.

When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at a life worth living.

***Because I am writing this wrap-up before the twitter chat, this will be a pretty quick blow by blow of my thoughts; I will come back in and add bits of our discussion later, for those of you who miss it.***

The Good:
I liked Ruby, and found her voice to be fairly authentic. It made sense to me, the way she reacts to people and to human touch, and how she thinks she's damaged and unlovable. And even though she seems fairly high-functioning and not as maladjusted as she should be, given her relative isolation (in the sense that, even though she's surrounded by people, they're rigidly controlled and kept from socializing and learning the way an adolescent brain needs to to thrive), I do like that there are attempts to explain this, and to reference how stunted her adolescence has been.
I also liked the other characters, and connected with them quite easily, feeling and worrying for them pretty readily. I think Ruby is a good 'in' to this, as she explores their dynamics, but I also just plain liked them, and rooted for them.
My last good thing, is I think Bracken has left herself a lot of room to brow the series, and questions that can be answered, while (I'm sure) new questions will arise. I think there's a lot of potential here for the series and the characters to go in very interesting directions (and judging by the excerpt of book 2 that was provided at the end of this book, we're going to get to explore some of the more uncomfortable areas, which intrigues me!).

The Bad:
I always take issue a bit with stories which hinge on the premise that some huge world-altering event, and then says it only affects people between the ages of 10 and 17, or something like that. Or, as in this case, a story that takes that very narrow range and pushes it one step further, but acting as if there's a magical switch flipped, biologically. You turn 10 and BOOM! mutant super-freak. I want to suspend my disbelief and get into your story, and it's one thing when the "magical age" is some form of tradition or initiation, but humans are vastly different when it comes to how and when their bodies react to something (whether it be a normal biological process like puberty, or an outside catalyst), and there are always going to be outliers. Leave some wiggle room, leave some ambiguity and some mystery, and I'm far more likely to just go with it than if you try to fill in the details with murky science and "facts" that just don't make sense.  Fortunately, this wasn't brought up too frequently, so I could mostly ignore it, but the story does hinge on this concept, and though I'm sure it will be explained more fully as the series goes

The Bears-Mentioning:
It can be slow moving, I'm not going to lie. But though it sometimes did feel every bit of its nearly 500 pages, I actually liked the pacing of it. Sometimes, for some readers, slow never works, but I think, if done well, as a nice slow-burn, developed story, slow can actually be kind of nice. In this case, it had enough peaks and valleys and moments of everything happening very quickly, that the otherwise slower pace of the story worked for me. It gave me a chance to really know the characters and decide who to root for. But it does bear mentioning.

And that's my thoughts on The Darkest Minds for now. If you're able, join us for the twitter chat tonight, and if you're not, come back here later for an amended review with some of the comments from the chat included. =)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Guest post from Lindsay Smith + giveaway of Sekret!! | Sekret blog tour

You guys probably already know how much I loved Lindsay Smith's debut, Sekret, as I've been talking about it for some time now. [You voted for a super-early review of it, which I was happy to provide, but that didn't keep me from bringing it up at every chance...] And you might as well get used to hearing about it, 'cause guess who's part of the Sekret Street Team? THAT'S RIGHT, THIS GUY.
Err. You know what I mean.

Anyway, I'm going to keep telling you all my sekrets (heh) over the next few weeks/months/lifetimes, but in the meantime, Lindsay has dropped in to tell us some of her own.
Check out her sekrets to bringing Yulia's story to heart-pounding life in the piece below, and then enter to win a shiny new copy of Sekret for yourself!
(And if you just can't to begin reading Sekret, you can download the first 5 chapters for free! Or, for more from the world of Sekret, check out this short story, Doppel!)

Weaving into the Tapestry of Russian History

Whether it’s historical fiction, fantasy, or even contemporary, a story never happens completely in a vacuum. So many tales and histories lie just beneath the surface of characters’ thoughts, informing their choices, coloring their perspectives, and even foreshadowing their future.

In Sekret, Yulia’s ability to read thoughts and memories by touching objects as well as people makes her a valuable tool for the KGB, the USSR’s spy agency and secret police. While the immediate past hovers closest to the surface, anything with strong emotion attached to it, like major events, resonate as well. Yulia’s power gives her glimpses of Russia’s tumultuous history, which echo patterns and themes about the Soviet Union and the Russian spirit that weave tightly around her present life, and loom large over the story as well as Russia as a whole.

Russia’s transition from a rigid caste system under imperial rule to the strict, managed economy of the Soviet Union was a bloody and frightening one. The nobility surrendered their homes and possessions, but most were sent to hard labor camps or executed. Some tried to stash their belongings in secret compartments in their homes, like the passage Yulia and her fellow psychics, but in the famine and chaos of the early Soviet days, the state confiscated and sold many priceless works of art and jewelry, leaving behind the stripped-down houses like the one in Sekret.

Under Josef Stalin, the ideological purges and swelling police state ingrained Russians with the fear and paranoia that permeated the rest of Soviet times. Though millions of Russians and non-Russian minorities living within the Soviet territories died under Stalin, Hitler’s betrayal of his non-aggression pact with the USSR altered the course of World War II (known as the Great Patriotic War in Russia) and sparked a major cultural touchstone for Russians that continues today. For all his cruelty, Stalin’s legacy is tempered in the national psyche by his defeat of the fascist betrayers. Millions of Russians gave their lives in the siege of Leningrad and on the battlefields of Eastern Europe, and their ghosts hung thick over the Cold War decades that followed.

Nikita Khruschev, the Soviet leader who followed Stalin, tried to acknowledge and apologize for Stalin’s atrocities, and took some steps to ease the tensions that had mounted between Russia and the West in the aftermath of World War II. But his erratic decisionmaking and infamous temper led to a number of stressful confrontations between the nuclear-armed states—the Cuban Missile Crisis, the U2 spy plane incident, the space race, and more. These recent histories, too, shadow Yulia’s search for truth, and spark an internal struggle between Stalinist old guard within the USSR’s leadership and the newer, gentler Communist Party elites that threatens the uneasy truce between Russia and the West.

History is never a single snapshot—so many threads run underneath, suggesting a pattern, offering up recurrent colors and shapes for us to weave together into something new. I love exploring the tapestry of history, and finding fresh ways to weave them together. For Yulia, too, the currents of the past just might offer hints of a future she hadn’t yet considered.

To celebrate the release of Seket, the awesome folks at Macmillan have offered up a finished copy of the book to one lucky winner! US/CAN only, ends Arpil 8th at midnight. Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter, and please do not leave any sensitive info or addresses (mailing, email or otherwise) in the comments.
Good luck!

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About the book
SEKRET by Lindsay Smith 
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Historical Thriller/Sci-Fi, 337 pages
Expected publication: April 1st 2014 by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan Children's
From debut author Lindsay Smith comes an espionage thriller with a dash of both history and dystopia.

Yulia's father always taught her that an empty mind is a safe mind. She has to hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia, especially because she seems to be able to read the minds of the people she touches. When she's captured by the KGB and forced to work as a psychic spy with a mission to undermine the U.S. space program, she's thrust into a world of suspicion, deceit, and horrifying power where she can trust no one.

She certainly can't trust Rostov, the cruel KGB operative running the psychic program. Or handsome Sergei who encourages her to cooperate with the KGB. Or brooding Valentin who tells her to rebel against them. And not the CIA, who have a psychic so powerful he can erase a person's mind with his own thoughts. Yulia quickly learns she must rely on her own wits and power to survive in this world where no SEKRET can stay hidden for long.

About the Author:
Lindsay Smith's love of Russian culture has taken her to Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and a reindeer festival in the middle of Siberia. She lives in Washington, DC, where she writes on foreign affairs. SEKRET is her first novel.

Find her on:

And make sure to catch her on the Fierce Reads Tour! 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Excerpt & Giveaway: Resisting Atlantis by Jamie Canosa | blog tour

We've had author Jamie Canosa on the blog before, when she shared an excerpt of her NA novel, Sink or Swim. Today Jamie is back with another excerpt — and another giveaway — but this time, it's of her latest fantasy novel, Resisting Atlantis!
Check out the excerpt below, and then enter on the Rafflecopter to win a signed copy!

“Scrub harder.”

“I’m trying.” My small hands burned with the bleach eating away at my skin. I wrung the sponge dry and continued my assault on the stained carpet. Who knew such a small bottle of ink could make such a big mess?

“Slob!” Rough hands gripped the collar of my shirt, dragging me to my feet. “You’ve splashed on my boots.”

The guard demoted to babysitting duties shook me like a wild animal would its prey. My neck screamed as my head ricocheted off my shoulder, but I sealed my lips, refusing to give him the satisfaction of my pain. I’d learned early on that they all wanted a reaction. Like any bully, if they didn’t get one, they’d soon grow bored and move on.

“Clean it!” My teeth rattled with the force of my knees hitting the thin carpeting.

I reached for a rag lying near the bucket, but the grip on the back of my neck forced me forward until my face practically touched the floor. A chunky, black boot filled my vision.

“Lick it.” A dark chuckle set my blood on fire. I tried to struggle, but he only clamped down harder, shoving my face against the dark leather.

Not a chance in hell. I’d die before I licked his damn boot. Or anyone else’s.

Craning my neck, I went for the only vulnerable spot available to me. I choked on cottony fabric as I latched onto his shin, just above the boot. The guard screamed and tried to shake me off, but I clamped down harder until the tangy taste of blood washed over my tongue. Even then I refused to release him, rabid with anger and defiance. Not until his free boot collided with the side of my head did I break my animalistic hold on him.

He fell to the hard floor, clutching his bloody shin and I ran like a bat out of hell. I couldn’t escape. There was no escape. And I’d undoubtedly pay for my actions later, but right then, right that moment, I felt free for the first time in months.

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Resisting Atlantis by Jamie Canosa
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What if everything you think you know . . . is wrong?

Cora is your average college freshman. Battling the evils of boring classes and noisy dorms, her greatest concern is how to attract the attention of the drool-worthy, party-god next door.

That is, until Kaden comes barging into her life, insisting everything she knows is false. The family and friends she grew up with don’t exist. Her entire past a carefully-crafted fabrication, created to replace the truth.

Her name isn’t Cora, it’s Cameron. And she isn’t from New York. She hails from Atlantis. Yeah, that Atlantis. Oh yeah, and she’s psychic.

Crazy, right?

Except, tall, dark, and out-of-his-ever-loving-mind doesn’t come alone. Trouble follows, thrusting Cameron back into a world she can’t remember and a life she must reclaim if they’re going to make it out alive.

Jamie Canosa is a full time author of YA literature, which she absolutely loves. When she’s not writing or spending time with her family, she can usually be found with her nose in a book. She currently resides in Ravena, NY with her wonderful husband and three crazy kids . . . plus the dog, the bird and the rabbit.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff | review

The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff
Get It | Add It
432 pages
Expected publication: March 25th 2014 by First Second
In The Undertaking of Lily Chen, Deshi, a young man struggling to make a life for himself in rural China, watches his life comes unhinged when he accidentally kills his older brother in a fight. His distraught parents send him on a hopeless journey to acquire a bride for his brother to marry posthumously so he doesn't enter the next world alone—an ancient Chinese tradition with many modern adherents. Eligible female corpses are in short supply, however. When Deshi falls into company with a beautiful, angry, and single young woman named Lily, he sees a solution to his problems. The only hitch is Lily is still very much alive. Danica Novgorodoff, author of Slow Storm and Refresh, Refresh, brings her distinctive voice and gorgeous, moody watercolors to this wry, beautiful, and surprising literary graphic novel.

I... I feel like I probably shouldn't like this the way I do. I mean, I feel like I should be conflicted, at least. A man accidentally kills his brother, then goes in search of a corpse bride (not that one) to "marry" to his dead brother, so he's not alone in the afterlife - and he's not opposed to creating one if no good candidates can be unearthed (hyuck hyuck hyuck). It's a pretty effed up concept, but frankly...

That's the thing with dark comedies. You have to be willing to just go with it, and say, 'Oh, that's so wrong,' while you laugh and laugh and laugh... You either like black comedy, or you don't (and I do). And make no mistake, The Undertaking of Lily Chen is black. But it's also playful. It's funny and cheeky. It's (dare I say it, I almost shudder to think it) romantic.

The characters pop. It's not a very wordy comic, but through the simplest little things — a head-tilt here, a squinty-eye there — the characters speaks volumes. Novgorodoff captures expression and personality really well, both in words and art, and the reader comes away with a fully realized picture of the characters and their thoughts and situations almost immediately. I mean, just take this simple little exchange where, after repeatedly getting under Deshi's skin, Lily tells him:
"You look like a pug when you're mad. It's cute"

That panel, those 4 simple frames with not a single word on them, says so much, and says it perfectly. The reader understands Deshi in that moment, sympathizes with him while laughing at him, and the progression of the emotions is captured perfectly. It was moments like this that made me connect with the characters and love them more, even though their actions don't always beg to be loved...moments like this that took me from liking this book, to loving it.

The story as a whole is just lots of fun, lots of over-the-top in the very best way. In Deshi and Lily's interactions, Novgorodoff walks that black comedy tightrope like an old circus pro, nudging the line of what's comfortable and playing with the reader's apprehensions about how this story - how these two hopeless kids - could possibly make everything come right in the end. There's a refreshing amount of slapstick silliness in the mix, to break up the heaviness that could come with Deshi's morally...questionable task. And the two are just so sassy! It's hard not to love Lily and questionable-Deshi as the two have a virtual sass-off up and down a mountainside...


But above all that, beyond the fact that it's funny and full of character, and just nails it as a black comedy, Novgorodoff's art is GORGE. I'm a sucker for watercolor anyway, but DAMN, DANICA. The entire book is just really, really beautiful and expressive and zomg I want it all as posters, just ALL OF IT ALL THE THINGS NOW PLEASE.

I mean, look at that. LOOK AT THAT. Ignore that it's a blurry-as-f*ck camera-phone pic and just — gah! This book is a beauty, and the soft prettiness of the visuals plays counterpoint to the potential darkness of the story, and basically it's just a knockout and you should get it.***

*** But, you know, obligatory trigger warning, 'cause this book is definitely not for everybody, and it may make some people uncomfortable. Me it made cackle with delight, but we all know my blackened little heart can't be trusted...

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Face Off: Charm & Strange

Earlier this week, I shared an excerpt with you of the recent William C. Morris award winner, Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn. I know I'm not the only one who's very intrigued by this book, but I'm just as intrigued by its covers! I'd be seriously hard-pressed to tell you which I prefer, because as much as I love the cover on my version, the US hardback (left), I equally love the UK hardback and paperback versions (middle and right, respectively); they're all a little dark, a little edgy, and a lot off, and each makes me curious about the story inside. So I think this is going to be a difficult one for us this week, but take a look at the 3 covers below, read the synopsis and listen to the excerpt if it helps you decide, and then let us know in the comments which one you prefer. Which do you think suits the book best? Which would you rather have on your shelves?
Which one did it better?

When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . .

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.

He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.

Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.

Last Week on FFO: Two striking versions of Patrick Ness' The Crane Wife went head to head, and though many of us liked both (or liked aspects of both), the whimsical paper-crafting style of the US edition won out.
Winner ------------>

Thursday, March 20, 2014

BOOK HAUL: March 2014, #2

As promised, here is the 2nd book haul of March, aka the BETTER WORLD BOOKS haul! It's a random mix, but at 40% off...can you blame me? ;P

Blood Magic | Tessa Gratton
The Blood Keeper | Tessa Gratton
The Year of the Beasts | Cecil Castellucci & Nate Powell
Team Human | Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan
Little Hands Clapping | Dan Rhodes
The Misadventures of Maude March | Audrey Couloumbis
Willful Impropriety | Various (anthology), ed. Ekaterina Sedia
All Good Children | Catherine Austen
Bad Hair Day | Carrie Harris
With a Name Like Love | Tess Hilmo

Also Mentioned:
Maggie Stiefvater
Brenna Yovanoff
Tin Star
Bad Taste in Boys

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Darkest Minds Twitter Chat MOVED

Just a heads up, WednesdayYA-ers: we've had to move this week's scheduled twitter chat of The Darkest Minds to next week.
Very sorry if this inconveniences anyone who was planning to join in tonight, but please, if you're read or are reading The Darkest Minds, stop by our twitter discussion of the book next Wednesday, March 26th at 8:30 EST!
Hope to see you there!

Until then, please enjoy this trailer for THE DARKEST MINDS:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Top Ten Books on my Spring 2014 TBR | #TopTenTuesday

Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish
This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt is the books that are sitting at the top of our Spring TBR pile. It could be wishlist books that are coming out in Spring that you really want to get your hands on, or books that you've been meaning to tackle and are determined to read this Spring. I went with the books that are at the top of my pile to read, like, yeterday, so most of mine are coming out in Spring or Summer, and are on my TBR as review books or for Fairy Tale Fortnight.

Okay, so I cheated and gave you 10 physical TBR books and a bonus ebook, because more books is always better, right? I mean, I kinda had to, as that "bonus" book is my most highly anticipated book of Spring, and it's sitting pretty in my phone waiting for me to read it as we "speak"... Hot damn, I can't tell you how tempting it is to disregard everything else I'm supposed to be doing right now, and just dive into Dreams of Gods and Monsters...

So here are my Top Ten Books on my Spring 2014 TBR! Check it out, let me know what you think, and then tell me some of yours in the comments!

From the top (except DoGaM, which is on the top of the pile figuratively, if not literally)
  1. Dreams of Gods and Monsters | Laini Taylor
    Why: Because. Laini. Taylor.
  2. The Summer Invitation | Charlotte Silver
    Why: Nostalgic feel, has summer in the title. Might be wishfulness on my part, but SUMMMMMER.
  3. Titan Magic: Body & Soul | Jodi Lamm
    Why: Lurved Titan Magic (book 1) something fierce.
  4. One Man Guy | Michael Barakiva
    Why: It sounds so cute and romanciful! Sometimes my shriveled little heart craves that.
  5. Stolen Songbird | Danielle L. Jensen
    Why:  TROLLS, Y'ALL.
  6. Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy | Karen Foxlee
    Why:  It's a retelling of the Snow Queen, which I almost typed "Snot Queen," which is not a story I want to read, ever. Nobody write that.
  7. The Kiss of Deception | Mary E. Pearson
    Why:  I mean... the real question is, why not? This book sounds AWESOME.
  8. The Truth About Alice | Jennifer Mathieu
    Why: This topic pushes a button for me, and I think I'm going to be very engaged.
  9. My Last Kiss | Bethany Neal
    Why: I love after-death thrillers like this, plus Bethany is a Michigander!
  10. This One Summer | Mariko & Jillian Tamaki
    Why: Jillian Tamaki's art.
  11. Love Letters to the Dead | Ava Dellaira
    Why: Comparisons to The Perks of Being a Wallflower are enough to sell me.
Of course, there are many, many more books on my TBR, and new ones are always being added. But these are the books that I'm most excited to read, and will read the soonest.
Any of these calling your name, or in your Spring TBR pile? 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn | excerpt

Story time!
I mentioned this one in my last book haul, and I couldn't wait to share a little excerpt with you guys. So here's a brief excerpt of CHARM & STRANGE by Stephanie Kuehn, the 2014 William C. Morris award winner!
Check it out, and let me know what you think in the comments!

Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
Get It | Add It
Contemporary/Thriller/Paranormal, 216 pages
Published June 11th 2013 by St. Martin's Griffin
When you’ve been kept caged in the dark, it’s impossible to see the forest for the trees. It’s impossible to see anything, really. Not without bars . . .

Andrew Winston Winters is at war with himself.

He’s part Win, the lonely teenager exiled to a remote Vermont boarding school in the wake of a family tragedy. The guy who shuts all his classmates out, no matter the cost.

He’s part Drew, the angry young boy with violent impulses that control him. The boy who spent a fateful, long-ago summer with his brother and teenage cousins, only to endure a secret so monstrous it led three children to do the unthinkable.

Over the course of one night, while stuck at a party deep in the New England woods, Andrew battles both the pain of his past and the isolation of his present.

Before the sun rises, he’ll either surrender his sanity to the wild darkness inside his mind or make peace with the most elemental of truths—that choosing to live can mean so much more than not dying.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

BOOK HAUL: March 2014, #1

So many books in March so far. SO. MANY. BOOKS.
Here's haul 1, with more on the way! Let me know what you think of the books, and if you want excerpts or teasers of any of them! =)

Sea of Shadows | Kelley Armstrong
The Summer Invitation | Charlotte Silver
Better Off Friends | Elizabeth Eulberg
Charm & Strange | Stephanie Kuehn
Cress | Marissa Meyer
Jane Austen cuff from Accessoreads

Also Mentioned:
Lunar Chronicles
Cress-themed giveaways
Prom & Prejudice
Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality
Take a Bow
Loki's Wolves

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Face Off: The Crane Wife

I love the story of the crane wife, and I love Patrick Ness' writing, so of course his retelling of the tale is on my wishlist. It's been bumped up the list recently, when I came across a second, delightfully whimsical cover for it. You see, I had originally come across the novel with its UK cover, which is nice enough but didn't really capture me. As it was being released later here in the States, it wasn't until much later that I came across the US version, which I just instantly connected with. (Not that I'm trying to bias you, or anything...)
So take a look at the two versions below, and have a gander at the synopsis, if that helps you make your decision, and then tell us in the comments, which you'd reach for on the store shelves? Which would you rather hold up while reading at the beach? In short,
Which one did it better? 

A magical novel, based on a Japanese folk tale, that imagines how the life of a broken-hearted man is transformed when he rescues an injured white crane that has landed in his backyard.

George Duncan is an American living and working in London. At forty-eight, he owns a small print shop, is divorced, and lonelier than he realizes. All of the women with whom he has relationships eventually leave him for being too nice. But one night he is woken by an astonishing sound—a terrific keening, which is coming from somewhere in his garden. When he investigates he finds a great white crane, a bird taller than even himself. It has been shot through the wing with an arrow. Moved more than he can say, George struggles to take out the arrow from the bird's wing, saving its life before it flies away into the night sky.

The next morning, a shaken George tries to go about his daily life, retreating to the back of his store and making cuttings from discarded books—a harmless, personal hobby—when through the front door of the shop a woman walks in. Her name is Kumiko, and she asks George to help her with her own artwork. George is dumbstruck by her beauty and her enigmatic nature, and begins to fall desperately in love with her. She seems to hold the potential to change his entire life, if he could only get her to reveal the secret of who she is and why she has brought her artwork to him.

Witty, magical, and romantic, The Crane Wife is a story of passion and sacrifice, that resonates on the level of dream and myth. It is a novel that celebrates the creative imagination, and the disruptive power of love.

Last Week on FFO: I got a little rant-y about last week's cover pairing: the one cover, Premeditated, is a cover I quite like. It's striking and original, and that's why the second cover, for a book called Broken Worlds, bothered me a bit — it was a total rip-off, and a poorly-done one at that! So no surprise, but...
winner ------->

Thursday, March 13, 2014

February Rewind: Mini Reviews of my February Reads! [2014]

You guys...February was a weird month for me...
Oh, and you can thank my friend Melissa for the weird intro. ;)

Here's what I thought of what I read in February, strange, eclectic little pile that it is... Let me know what you think of my reads, and any of your February stand-outs, in the comments!


(0:48) In the Age of Love and Chocolate | Gabrielle Zevin
(1:54) The Hollow Kingdom | Clare B. Dunkle
(3:37) Escorted | Claire Kent
 - Nameless | Claire Kent
 - Married for Christmas | Noelle Adams (REALLY, with this title?! What got into me?!)
 - A Negotiated Marriage | Noelle Adams
(6:54) Beauty | Nancy Ohlin
(8:38) Unspoken | Sarah Rees Brennan
(11:00) Plus One | Elizabeth Fama

Also Mentioned:
Allison @ The Allure of Books
Liz @ Consumed By Books
the Birthright series
Wednesday YA [March]
 - March pick: The Darkest Minds
Feb WYA Twitter rant

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Favorite Realistic Contemporary Reads! | Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke & the Bookish.

This week's prompt is our Top 10 favorite books in any given genre, and in a move that's surprising even to myself, I decide to talk about my favorite realistic contemporary books. I know, I know — this is a shocker. Every time I get a contemporary book, or wishlist a contemporary book, I talk about how I don't really read contemporary... Maybe it's actually a case of the lady doth protest too much, but for some reason, contemp book don't normally end up on my radar, or high on my wishlist, and I tend to think of them as all throwaway fluffy romances and books about Mean Girls being mean (which is absolutely not fair to the genre, which has some real stand-outs!). Because of that, I thought I'd talk about the ones I really, really do like, and remind myself how much I actually do (apparently) like contemporary, even if I don't always admit it...

10. The Summer I Turned Pretty and A Little Wanting Song
The first book in Jenny Han's Summer series was sent to me by Ksenia, who generally seems to share my antipathy towards fluffy romance; she assured me it would warm even the cockles of my blackened little heart, and she was right.
A Little Wanting Song just charmed me. It may have been the first realist contemp book I've truly liked, at least as an adult reader.

9. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight
A deep soul-connection in a 24 hour span? To some people, that sounds dreamily perfect, but to me it sounds so saccharine I can barely stand it. Fortunately, there's something about Statistical that just works, and it skillfully avoids being saccharine and cheesy. (Okay, it's a little cheesy. It has an acceptable amount of cheese.)

8. Heist Society
Proving that not all realistic contemporary has to be serious or heartbreaking, the Heist Society series is charming good fun. Okay, maybe a little less on the "realistic" side, since it's a crime family caper, but still. 

7. Something Real
I've talked pretty recently this book, and how pitch-perfect, affecting, funny and spot-on it is. And it shows just how ridiculous "reality" can be.

6. Anna and the French Kiss...

...which has the deadly combo of a cheesy title AND cover,* so it's a miracle I ever read this. What's not a miracle is how much I loved it — I chalk that up to Perkins' damn good writing.
*Well, not now. I actually really love the cover redesigns (above), but the original... Oof.

5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

Sherman Alexie, man... Sherman Alexie. He is a master of the funny-sad.

4. The DUFF
This book did things to me. I thought I'd like it, but damn. (Also, one of the few contemporaries I've reread, and know I will reread again in the years to come.)

3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
This book holds a special place in my heart, and I like to share it with people. 
[Which is why it is BEYOND AWESOME that I'll be giving it away this year for World Book Night!!]

2. basically anything by AS King
Now, this may be stretching it a bit, because there's always a magical realist slant to her books. But because they are by and large realist books with these little twists (things like imagining dancing ants talking to you, or that you're sending your love to strangers in the planes that pass overhead) that can be interpreted as hallucinations rather than magical realism, I think it's fine to include on this list.
So there.

and #1, without a doubt, is...
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta (or On the Jellicoe Road in countries that are not my own, so if you're not in the US, check under either title.)
And I can't even begin to tell you why, if you haven't read this book, you should. Soon. Now.

Okay, so that was technically more than 10. I also probably should have tried to work Looking for Alaska in there, somewhere... Now, since this is all realistic contemporary fiction, it doesn't include the other contemp-but-paranormalish books I love, like Before I Fall, or dystopia-tinged stories like How I Live Now, or the myriad magical realist books that I adore. And if I could have included Madapple, which seemed a little too odd a fit for this list, I absolutely would have. Love it.
Honorable mention to Austenland, which is a little too far-fetched for me to call realistic (are there people that obsessed with Jane Austen? Yes. *points to self* Do they really get a Darcy in the end? No. *sobs*)
But there you have it: a damn fine list.

What are your fave contemporary realist reads? And if you take part in Top Ten Tuesday, which genre did you pick, and what are some of your faves?


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