May 28, 2012

Review: Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edgehill

book cover of Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary EdghillTitle: Dead Reckoning [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Mercedes Lackey [Website|Twitter|Facebook] Rosemary Edgehill [Website]
Standing: Stand alone, but could be the beginning of a series.
Genre: Horror, Historical, Steampunk
Published: June 5th, 2012 by Bloomsbury USA
Format: Kindle edition; 336 pages
Source: ARC from publisher via NetGalley

Jett has seen them—the walking dead. She was there the night they attacked Alsop, and only escaped with her life through the dedication of her faithful steed. When after fleeing she comes upon Gibbons and White Fox, who are both investigating mysterious disappearances, they are hard pressed to believe her tale. However, they’ll learn soon enough that things are like good ol’ Sherlock said and “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sing of the Four).

Deep in the heart of Texas three young souls, each on their own mission, band together to battle (you guessed it) zombies.  Jett Gallatin is a young woman passing as a man, gambler, and sharpshooter as she scours the west looking for her twin brother who disappeared at the end of the war.  Honoria Gibbons is a headstrong woman with a scientific mind set out to investigate mysterious disturbances and whether or not they can be credited to the invisible air ships someone is attempting to sell her father.  White Fox (who for some reason isn’t even mentioned in the publisher’s blurb, he is a main character, see him there on the cover behind Jett and much more visible than Gibbons?) is a white man raised by natives, working as a civilian scout for the US Army set out to investigate what has happened to a soldier’s family. 

Is anyone else extremely turned off when books are pitched as ‘perfect for fans of _________’?  This almost always assures I won’t pick up a book.  I feel like I’m constantly thinking ‘oh, this is another dystopian that wants to be the next Hunger Games?  No, thank you.’  And Dead Reckoning fell into that pile for me when I read the lines “perfect for fans of Cowboys vs. Aliens and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.”, particularly since I have negative interest in either of those.  But still, I haven’t read any Mercedes Lackey yet this year, which is kind of a *gasp* moment for me since she’s one of my all-time favorite authors and I read through the Queens Own and Mage Winds trilogies on a frequent loop.  I’m not a huge fan of most of co-authored stuff, but I’d never read any of Lackey’s non-fantasy work, and since girls dressed as boys is a surefire trigger for my book sense, I had to give Dead Reckoning a go. 

Needless to say, Dead Reckoning did not disappoint, but it didn’t impress either.  The story of a zombie army being raised and controlled in the old west of Texas was interesting.  I really liked that because Jett was from New Orleans she was familiar with the notions of hoodoo, and found the notion quite hair raising, but that Gibbons insisted on a more scientific base for the creatures’ existence as well.  A crazed cult leader gone over the edge, spoiling his ingenious mind with notions of grandeur made me just uncomfortable enough to be on the edge of my seat through portions of our story.

Each of our three main characters had an interesting foundation.  Jett is a highborn lady of New Orleans whose family has been destroyed by the Yankees after they conquered the south in the Civil War.  She refuses to believe her brother, Philip, is dead, and sets out to find him.  Jett doesn’t put on her masquerade because she despises girly things, in fact, she longs to return to the days of petticoats and luxury.  Unfortunately, she knows that her disguise is the only thing that has kept her safe and alive in the west for the past two years.  Gibbons is a scientific mind, raised by a father with such tunnel vision into his scholarly pursuits that he hardly noticed she was a girl.  She is logical, intelligent, and bent on having an explanation for everything.  She refuses to be belittled because she is a woman, and is at times the envy of Jett who lives in hiding.  White Fox was raised from the time he was quite young by natives who took him in after his wagon train was destroyed and he was the only survivor.  Part of me wished he would have just been a native himself, but part of me also loves this storyline.  I was obsessed with Strawberry Girl by Lois Lenski and other stories of white children raised by native tribes as a child, so needless to say, I took a liking to White Fox.

Now, notice I said ‘good foundation’ back there.  On the surface, these characters and the story had a lot of potential, but in the end it all sort of fell flat for me.  I constantly felt as if I was being told the story, rather than shown it, and it was neither strong enough in plot or character development to make up for a lack of the other.  I just kept wishing for more depth.  I wanted to feel the developing friendships between Gibbons, Jett, and White Fox, I wanted to care about their pasts and potential futures.  I wanted to be afraid of the zombies, and feel chills across the back of my neck when the air got cold.  But I didn’t.  In fact, Dead Reckoning did so little to quench my gore craving, I wasn’t sure I cared if the things did destroy Texas.

The same lack of oomph goes to the whole steampunk element of this book.  I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure why it was there when it seemed unnecessary.  Other than the brief mention of air ships (which as far as we know, did not actually exist), and Gibbon’s auto, there wasn’t really anything steampunk here.  I’m not sure why a book can’t be set in the Victorian time period, have scientifically minded characters, and not be an attempt at steampunk, when in fact this time period was full of scientific pursuits and progress.  For example, I would have love to have seen more focus on the railroads or telegraph!  I feel like steampunk writers need to go big or go home, and in this case it needed to be ramped up quite a bit.  I did like that it was steampunk in the wild west, which was a fantastic and fresh idea, I just wasn’t digging the application.

All things considered, Dead Reckoning was a quick read with a new take on some old tropes.  There’s no romance, smart and strong women, zombies, and a bit of a cult.  If all these things appeal to you, I’d say it’s worth a shot!  Since my own review is underwhelming, please check out some of the more enthusiastic ones I’ve linked below.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  Eh, this wasn’t a bad read, but honestly if it weren’t for Mercedes Lackey’s name on the cover I wouldn’t have been willing to give it a shot.  I’m glad I did, but I’ll head back to Valdemar now, thank you.

Recommended for: Those interested in horror or steampunk in the old west (because hello, who wouldn’t be?), and fans of the authors.  I’m fairly certain this is being released as an adult novel, but it has definite crossover appeal for the YA crowd. This is a standalone but it was very not so subtly hinted that they would like to make it a series.  Bare that in mind if that sort of thing matters to you.

Get a second opinion:
Ageless Pages Reviews
Short and Sweet Reviews
Read My Mind

May 27, 2012

In My Mailbox (17)

IMM (17) Bunbury in the Stacks IMM (17) by Bunbury in the Stacks

In my mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi over at The Story Siren in which you share the books you added to your collection in the past week.

Hi friends! This week I totally busted my self-imposed library embargo in the attempt to secure reads that would satisfy my current reading cravings.  Plus I got a couple of bookish non-book related things!

First up was my Farenheit 451 shirt from Threadless.  This shirt first came out really early in Threadless history, something like 7 years ago.  I really wanted it at the time, but missed out.  Well, they finally reprinted it, so I had to splurge! 

With it is the start to my Margaret Dashwood Shawl, a pattern I’m working on from the new Jane Austen Knits magazine!  I don’t usually share my knitting on the blog, but since I picked up a whole slough of Jane Austen inspired patterns this week, I thought some of you Austen fans might like to see!  I think that at some point (like after I finish the 4 projects I’m currently working on), I’ll have to make the gorgeous Marianne’s Romantic Bookmark, and give it away on the blog!  I actually have the yarn for it on hand, but want to dye it first.


book cover of Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghillbook cover of Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stonebook cover of Cinderella: Fables Are Forever by Chris Robersonbook cover of The Return Man by V.M. Zitobook cover of Hexed by Ilona Andrewsbook cover of Outlander by Diana Gabaldonbook cover of Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybournbook cover of The Swan Kingdom by Zoë Marirott

For Review from NetGalley:

Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edgehill
So one of my all-time favorite authors writing alternate history old west with a girl who dresses as a boy, zombies, and steampunk?  How could I not sign up for that?! Actually finished this one already.  I had some issues, but still enjoyed the read, my review will be up tomorrow.  Thanks, Bloomsbury!

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
As many people probably know, girls dressing up as boys is only one of the things that’ll make me pick up a book.  One of the others?  Time travel!  This one sounds interesting, and potentially cute, and I’m excited to check it out!  Thanks Disney-Hyperion.  I’m thankful that as a librarian I have the opportunity to preview Hyperion books.

Shameful Library Binge:

Cinderella: Fables Are Forever by Chris Roberson
I have been waiting for this one for months to satiate my Fables craving. I’m a bit wary since Patrick Rothfuss was pretty meh about it, but I’m trying to go in without expectations. I did very much like the first installment, From Fabletown With Love.

The Return Man by V.M. Zito
This one sounded like a potentially good zombie read, featuring the man who returns to the lands abandoned after the zombie apocalypse in order to provide families with the opportunity to have closure and bury their loved ones.  I’ll be honest though, I likely won’t get to this one atm.  The hold came in at an awkward time, and I’m not sure I can do 3 zombie reads in a row, which I would have to do to fit this one in!  I can always pick it up again later though, if anyone’s read this and has thoughts, let me know!

Hexed by Ilona Andrews (and others)
Hexed is a collection of 4 novellas, but we all know why I got it—to read Magic Dreams by Ilona Andrews!  Totally excited for some Jim and Dali story. 

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I decided that even though I’m busy this summer, I’d sign up for the Outlander Read-a-long! Again…time travel. Not only time travel, but time travel involving Scotland and cute red headed boys.  Yes, please!

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn
I really don’t know much about this one other than it’s come highly recommended by Holly and Angie, and when it comes to this sort of thing, I take their word for it!  Think that this might be the perfect grown-up read to help me out of my YA funk.

Gifted

The Swan Kingdom by Zoë Marriott
Ever since I fell for her newest book, Shadows on the Moon, I’ve been dying to read Zoë Marriott’s backlog.  Debz, who loves fairy tale retellings quite possibly even more than I do, hosted a recent giveaway in which she offered a copy of one of the fairy tales she’s reviewed!  When I found out I won, it didn’t take me long to decide The Swan Kingdoms would be it for me.  Thanks so much again, Debz!

Two weeks of Bunburying

Magic Mourns by Ilona Andrews
Railsea by China Miéville
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
White Cat by Holly Black
Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty
The Prince Who Fell From the Sky by John Claude Bemis
The Fault in our Stars by John Green
Road to Avonlea

That’s it for me this week, what new reads have you picked up?  Who’s going to be at BEA? Find me and say hi!

May 26, 2012

Damn my love of gingers!

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon 20th Anniversary Edition

That’s right folks.  I’ve let myself be peer pressured into joining the Outlander Read-a-long.  Though, if you know me, you probably realize that I don’t give into peer pressure unless it’s something I actually kind of want to do anyway.

I’ve never participated in a read-a-long before.  I don’t like to feel pressured into meeting other people’s paces, particularly since June is crazy busy for me.  But, since these lovely hosts have decided to split the reading up over seven weeks, I think I can handle it!  That’s just 7 chapters to read each week, or, one a day.

As you may know, I’ve been looking for non-YA reads to get me out of a slump, and what better choice than Outlander?  I love so many of the bloggers who are hosting and participating, and I don’t want to feel all left out when they’re all fanning themselves over Jamie Fraser, so clearly I need to get in on this. 

Soooooo….if you too have a love of gingers, Scotland, historical fiction or really big books, you can join us!  Just visit any of the hosting blogs, like Into the Hall of Books to check out the reading schedule and sign up!

Also, you see that CD up there?  It contains songs from Outlander the Musical!  Who knew that was a thing?  Kind of excited to check that out once I’ve read…

May 25, 2012

Road to Avonlea aka ROAD TO MY HEART

Road to Avonlea

I know most of us grew up watching Anne of Avonlea, but I fear too many of you likely missed out on the wonderful television series, Road to Avonlea.  I used to watch this show every week with my mom, it was our thing, and I have since rewatched it as an adult.  I swear if I had $200 to spare, I would buy the entire box set.  Luckily for you, you can get the disks from NetFlix if you have the service, and I do so recommend it.  The show is set in our beloved Avonlea, and lasts for seven seasons and a movie, and you will certainly recognize a few names and faces:

Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla Cuthbert in Road to AvonleaPatricia Hamilton as Rachel Lynde in Road to Avonlea
  Kyle Labine as Davy Keith and Lindsay Murrel as Dora Keith in Road to AvonleaMarilyn Lightstone as Muriel Stacey in Road to Avonlea

That’s right!  Marilla Cuthbert, Rachel Lynde, and Muriel Stacy are each in Road to Avonlea, played by the same actresses as in the Anne movies!  Also, Davy and Dora Keith, who are in the Anne books, are in Road to Avonlea as well.  Some other familiar faces with different names would be:

Mag Ruffman as Alice Lawson in Anne of Green GablesMag Ruffman as Olivia King/Olivia Dale in Road to Avonlea
Mag Ruffman, who you may recognize as Alice Lawson, from Lawsons’ General Store, is transformed into the ever cheery and optimistic baby of the family, Olivia King.

Jacki Borroughs as Amelia Evans in Anne of Green GablesJacki Burroughs as Hettie King in Road to Avonlea
Jacki Burroughs, who played the professional dramatist in Anne of Green Gables is a strict school mistress and head of the King family in Road to Avonlea.

Cedric Smith as Reverend Allan in Anne of Green GablesCedric Smith as Alec King in Road to Avonlea
Cedric Smith, who plays Reverend Allan in Anne of Green Gables takes on the role of the middle child, only son, and head of the King farm in Road to Avonlea.

There are in fact many more doubles in Road to Avonlea that you may spot, and you can find a complete list at Avonelea Vignettes, here.  I have chosen these three because, as you may have surmised, Road to Avonlea largely surrounds the lives and times of the King family.  Now, there was once a fourth King sibling, another girl, but alas, she has perished most tragically.  When her husband is thrown in jail for something scandalous, their only daughter, the spoiled and haughty Sarah Stanley is sent to live with her Aunt Hettie in Avonlea.  There, she must deal with her most tragical of circumstances, particularly—cousins.

Sarah Stanley and the King Clan from Road to Avonlea

Of course they all hate each other, and there’s tons of drama to be had.  There’s even a scene that was considered too racey for television at the time, which had to be cut out (it involves cracking an egg on someone’s head and is rather laughable by today’s standards—don’t worry, it’s on the DVD).  Felicity King is just the worst when you first meet her, but you know what?  I end up adoring this girl—the eldest of the King children.  Why?  Well, in no small part, because of Gus Pike.

Felicity King and Gus Pike in Road to AvonleaFelicity King and Gus Pike in Road to AvonleaFelicity King and Gus Pike in Road to Avonlea

Oh friends, let me tell you.  You think that Anne and Gilbert have one of the all time greatest slow burn romances?  They’ve got nothing on Felicity and Gus.  Okay, okay, so it’s very nearly the same type of story, but in Road to Avonlea you get 6 seasons and a movie to bite your nails over this pair!  Of course, they’re totally in love, and totally hate each other for years.  It’s fantastic!

Here’s some things you ought to know about Gus Pike:Gus Pike playing the fiddle from Road to Avonlea

  • Mysterious past involving pirates and buried treasure.
  • Lives in the lighthouse—very spooky and intriguing!
  • A true seaman and wandering spirit.
  • Unwavering devotion to Felicity.  Even when she’s outright cruel to him.
  • Plays the fiddle…hot?
  • Fantastic accent.

In short, Gus Pike has held a piece of my heart for the past 20 years, and probably always will.  I adore Road to Avonlea, the town, the drama, the people…it’s all so wonderful.  Okay, okay, at the beginning they put ridiculous make-up on Sarah Stanley because it’s 1990, and the picture is often terrible, but please look past that.  This show has a heart of gold, and I’m not even kidding when I say I love it so much just the credit sequence can bring tears to my eyes:

If you call yourself a lover of Avonlea, you must find a way to watch this show.  And when you do, please oh please let me know what you think.  You can find out more information about Road to Avonlea at the official website, here. 

In addition to the blogs and posts already linked, character images may be credited to Share TV’s Road to Avonlea and Yet Another Period Drama Blog, both of which have lovely posts and information about the show!

May 24, 2012

Thank you for giving a bump to my slump!

To all of you who commiserated with me and cheered me through my whining about YA reads:

Fez That 70s Show gif

Special thanks to Asher, Ivan, Tatiana, Alyssa, Kyle, April, Angie, Maja, Vickie, Ashley, Anna, Catie, Short Latte, Gina, Flannery, and Holly!

You all helped cheer me up, brightened my day, and inspired me to go out and read.  I have determined that the first order of business in shaking the YA slump will be to read my copy of Daughter of the Forest, as there seems to be a general consensus that I will love it and it will solve all of my problems (well, maybe not all of them…it probably won’t get me a full time dream job).  Next up, I plan to give This Is Not a Test, and Seraphina a go.  I’ve heard great things about both of them, and am hoping they’ll make the cut.  Though I also have Dead Reckoning and The Return Man at the moment, which means it’s going to be a Very Zombie June for me (and yes, I am now inspired to make A Very Zombie June logo out of the A Very Brady Christmas cover).

book cover of Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillierbook cover of This Is Not a Test by Courtney Summersbook cover of Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Anyway, I’ll be sprinkling these three in with some other adult and middle grade reads as I get back into the flow of things.  With three gorgeous (and eerie) covers, of which I approve, how could I go wrong?  I’ll also be trying any number of other books recommended, like Gary D. Schmidt, Unspoken, The Curiosities!

Go forth and read!

May 23, 2012

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

book cover of The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenTitle: The Fault in Our Stars [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: John Green [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published: January 10th, 2012 by Dutton Books
Format: Hardcover; 313 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Challenge: Completely Contemp Challenge

You have a choice in this world, I believe, about how to tell sad stories, and we made the funny choice.

Did you know that there are, chemically speaking, two different stages of love? The first stage, the one where you’re falling and all dopey and basically unable to function because you can’t think of anything but that other person is the result of a chemical cocktail of adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin pouring through your brain. The second stage, the one where you’re committed and stay together potentially for life is because of two other chemicals, vasopressin and oxytocin. These are the ones that really bond you together, but the fact is, once you’re getting the vasopressin and oxytocin, you don’t get so much of the adrenaline, dopamine, and serotonin. And that, my friends, is probably the biggest reason that I (and quite probably you) love to read about falling in love. It gives me a bit of those chemicals (and feelings) back. That’s why after reading a book I love, I often can’t sleep, and I usually have a lot of energy. And I love it!

But here’s the thing. Reading can also make you feel not-so-good feelings that you don’t like and want to avoid like the plague. That, my friends, is why I did not really want to read The Fault in Our Stars. I drug my feet…a lot. Even while reading. A book that could have easily been read in one sitting, I read a third of, put down for two days, then read chapter by chapter for some time, getting up and doing something else constantly to try to keep myself from getting too involved. This behavior continued for about 2/3 of the book.  I knew what was coming, and I dreaded it. I kind of Monnicad this book. I didn’t want to get hurt, so I pushed it away, but it hurt anyway. But it also felt pretty good, falling in love with Augustus Waters.

This book doesn’t really need another review at this point (heck, I didn’t even bother to post a summary, please click the GoodReads link if you need one). Many/most of you have already read it, and to my knowledge, everyone’s loved it, so it seems silly to go on and on, and yet I’m not sure I can resist fawning a little. So here it goes:

I love Augustus. I love that he pushes this perfect boundary between being pushy and just plain attentive. I love that he doesn’t try to kiss Hazel, or call her too much, and I love that he reads her favorite book first thing, and really thinks about it.

I love that Hazel has a hard time standing much, and Augustus has a hard time sitting. Something about that whispers “star-crossed lovers” in your ear and breaks your heart.

I love that Hazel and Augustus both have wonderful families. Families who care about them and support them, and even hover a little, but the kids don’t resent them for it. They love them for it. There need to be more families like this in books (and maybe in real life).

I love that this book manages to include poetry that wasn’t at all cheesy, and did not once make me gag.

I love that this book made me laugh a lot more than it made me cry. I agree with Hazel and Augustus (and with Mr. John Green), you have a choice how to tell sad stories, and the funny choice? That’s the best one.

And I like my choices.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more: This was my second John Green, and I’m not going to lie, I am glad it wasn’t my first.  If it was my first, I’d probably think “wonderful book, but I’m not signing up for that again”.  Luckily, I remain very excited to read his other books, and plan on listening to the audio of Looking for Alaska somewhat soonish.  This guy’s made himself a must-read.

Recommended for:  The next time anyone says something degrading about the quality or value of YA lit, I’m going to slap them with The Fault in Our Stars and just dare them not to feel all the things.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  Only 2.25 tissues used! <—Unsure if this is a bragging point, or a sign that I am well and truly dead inside.

Get a second opinion:
The Readventurer
G Reads
Chachic’s Book Nook
Good Books and Good Wine (Audio)
Book Harbinger

May 22, 2012

I can’t take the angst!

Lately, every time I pick up a YA book I get about 20-30 pages and then I bail.

Bailing

I just feel like nothing’s grabbing me.  It’s frustrating to be honest.  I love YA, it’s my favorite age group to read for, and yet lately reading it kind of feels like banging my head against a dresser.

Dobby

I can’t take another love triangle.  I can’t take more insta-love.  I can’t take more angst.  And I really absolutely cannot take more descriptions of eyes AS GREEN AS THE FOREST or BLUE AND DEEP AS THE SEA, let alone hear about THE WAY HE SMELLS.  In fact, at this very moment, I feel like I can’t take teenagers anymore period!  They’re whiney.  They’re rash.  They always make stupid decisions, take way too long to figure stuff out, and find all sorts of ways to annoy me.  Am I saying I’m done with YA?  Certainly not!  But I am going to take a bit of a break for a bit.  Lately, it seems like every book I’m actually attracted to is either adult or middle grade.  I think this is a sign.  A sign to ease up, enjoy what I feel like, and don’t force the books that aren’t working for me at the moment.  The next time I pick up a YA book I don’t want to feel like this:

Kitty can't take it anymore.

I want to feel like this!

Stoked

This is kind of a new thing for me, since I’ve been reading significantly more in the past six months or so than I ever have before.  I’ve had series burn out, author burn out, and genre burn out, but I’ve never been so completely sick of a whole field of books.  I know everyone gets in reading slumps, but I don’t feel like I’m in a reading slump, I’m just in a YA slump. 

For you, this means that reviews on my blog may be skewing to adult and middle grade a bit more than usual.  I still have some YA reviews scheduled ahead, so it won’t be abandoned entirely, and you might not notice a difference at all! 

Do any of you ever have these feelings about YA or another group of books?  Any tips or tricks for getting over it?  My plan is to just steer clear for few books, or until something grabs me. 

What’s the most amazeballs YA read that might pick me up?  I’d love to hear suggestions. Here’s a list of ARCs I have sitting around, and here are books I own but haven’t read.

May 21, 2012

Review: The Prince Who Fell From the Sky by John Claude Bemis

book cover of The Prince Who Fell From the Sky by John Claude BemisTitle: The Prince Who Fell From the Sky [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: John Claude Bemis [Website|Facebook]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic
Published: May 22nd, 2012 by Random House
Format: Kindle edition; 272 pages
Source: ARC from publisher via NetGalley
Challenge: YA/MG Fantasy Challenge

In Casseomae's world, the wolves rule the Forest, and the Forest is everywhere. The animals tell stories of the Skinless Ones, whose cities and roads once covered the earth, but the Skinless disappeared long ago.

Casseomae is content to live alone, apart from the other bears in her tribe, until one of the ancients' sky vehicles crashes to the ground, and from it emerges a Skinless One, a child. Rather than turn him over to the wolves, Casseomae chooses to protect this human cub, to find someplace safe for him to live. But where among the animals will a human child be safe? And is Casseomae threatening the safety of the Forest and all its tribes by protecting him?

Middle-grade fans of postapocalyptic fiction are in for a treat with this fanciful and engaging animal story by the author of the Clockwork Dark trilogy.

Anyone who’s been reading my reviews for a while now has probably realized that I love when a book puts a spin on my traditional way of thinking.  I don’t always agree with the spin, but I like knowing it’s out there affecting the way people think about things.  The Prince Who Fell From the Sky was one of those books.  I was worried on more than one occasion that it would cross the line into ‘big message’ territory and make me groan, but it didn’t!  John Claude Bemis weaved his tale with a deft hand in a way that made me think without making me feel like I was being judged.  Not completely easy for a story about post-apocalyptic earth where the humans live no more and animals pass down stories of the Skinless Ones’ cruelty to the Forest.

The Prince Who Fell From the Sky was an interesting weave of native mythology, animal fantasy, and the currently popular post-apocalyptic setting.  The main character, Casseomae (or Cas for short), is an aging bear with the instincts and desire to be a mother.  Unfortunately, all of her cubs have been stillborn.  As a result, she feels very protective of all those in need, saving each member of the band repeatedly throughout.  When the Skinless Ones fall from the sky (presumably in some sort of space craft) and a child emerges, Cas refuses to let the hierarchy of the Forest kill him, despite the risk.  The only memories creatures of the forest have of the Skinless Ones are of killing and destruction. She sets off with the companionship of a somewhat knowledgeable rat, a Faithful dog, and the ‘cub’ in tow.

The Prince Who Fell From the Sky is the story of unlikely partnerships between animals of different standing and relation to humans.  It seems that each type of animal has their own stories and myths about humans, and I loved to see the alternate takes that the animals had.  The greatest humor of the book sprouted from Dumpster, the rat who begrudgingly journeys alongside Cas in search of his Mischief and the Havenlands.  He is the Memory for his Mischief, the one who is supposed to remember all of the stories and history.  As such, he considers himself the authority on all things human, but of course, at least half of his ideas are laughably ridiculous and nonsensical to our human minds.  For example, the idea that people had fire escapes on buildings so they could escape fire on the ground and run up to safety.

The relationship between Cas and the ‘cub’ is powerful.  Despite a language barrier (and I honestly loved that the human and animals couldn’t talk with one another), she manages to impart wisdom and respect for the Forest into him.  This, she hopes, will make him a part of the Forest and unlikely to cause the destruction that all of the animals fear he portends.  The ending of The Prince Who Fell From the Sky is unequivocally perfect.  It’s realistic, heartwarming, and sad all wrapped into one.  Plus I have to say, that I totally dig this cover.

While I obviously have many kind things to say about John Claude Bemis’s The Prince Who Fell From the Sky, I will admit that this story didn’t really grab me.  It was well done, unexpected, and made me think from a new perspective, but at the same time it was very easy to put down, and didn’t have me longing for more.  I feel descriptions of this one as a post-apocalyptic Jungle Book are fairly on the nose, though that is another story I was never enraptured by.  Personally, I could take it or leave it, but I do feel that it will be a better fit for many young readers.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  This was my first John Claude Bemis, and while I enjoyed it, I didn’t fall madly in love and am not sure I will be picking up the Clockwork Dark trilogy.

Recommended for: They’ve pitched this one more to fans of post-apocalyptic fiction, but I personally feel it’s a better fit for fans of animal fantasy such as Redwall, Wattership Down, The Jungle Book or the Warriors series.  Nice crossover appeal! 

Get a second opinion:
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May 19, 2012

With Bated Breath (1)

Hi friends!  So here’s the thing.  When I started my blog, I intended on doing some With Bated Breath posts and then I didn’t do them.  I’ve done them for new releases each month, but I meant it to be more fun than that.  I kind of let Waiting on Wednesday take its place, but I’ve never really felt like that meme was the right fit for me or my blog.  I don’t want to talk about just one book a week, and I don’t want to just talk about books that are upcoming.  I want to talk about any book that’s made its way onto my TBR in the last week or so, and let you know where I heard about it too, since this will give you the chance to see the wonderful reviews and posts that led me to said books.  With Bated Breath is part Waiting on Wednesday, part On the Smuggler’s Radar, but mostly it’s my own damn thing.  Enjoy!

graphic novel book cover of House of Mystery by Matthew Sturges and Bill WIllingham

House of Mystery by Matthew Sturges and Bill Willingham
January 1st, 2008 by Vertigo
[Amazon|GoodReads]

Matthew Sturges, writer of the Eisner-nominated JACK OF FABLES, and his JACK co-writer Bill Willingham, proudly unlock the doors to the HOUSE OF MYSTERY, a series that reinvents a classic DC Comics comic. HOUSE OF MYSTERY focuses on five characters trapped in a supernatural bar, trying to solve the mystery of how and why they're imprisoned there. Each one has a terrible past they'd like to forget, and with no books, newspapers or TV allowed in the House, they face an eternity of boredom. But stories become the new currency, and fortunately, the House attracts only the finest storytellers.

I came across this one last week while reading a fantabulous interview with one of my favorite authors, Bill Willingham, over at Omnivoracious.  Bill Willingham is the author of one of my all-time favorite graphic series, Fables, and even though I’ve never picked up Jack of Fables (because quite frankly he’s the Fables character I dislike most), I really want to check out this series that is set to complete this August.

Basically, it sounds like a No Exit type set up that can produce absolutely any kind of story imaginable.  Count me in!

book cover of The Billionaire's Curse by Richard Newsome

The Billionaire’s Curse by Richard Newsome
May 18th, 2010 by Walden Pond Press
[Amazon|GoodReads]

Hello, Gerald. I hope this isn’t too weird for you—a letter from beyond the grave! By now you are my heir and worth a good deal of money. I hope you don’t mind. . . . I expect you’ve figured out that I was murdered. I would like you to find out who did it.

Gerald Wilkins had only been hoping for a ski holiday, but plans change when a great aunt he’s never met leaves him her entire estate worth twenty billion pounds! Whisked by his parents to London, England, Gerald is given a letter and told not to open it until after the funeral.

Now he’s got a mystery to solve. With the help of his new friends, Sam and Ruby Valentine, Gerald follows the clues into secret passageways, a musty jumbled bookshop, an ancient crypt and a colossal cavern where the secret of a priceless treasure lies protected by deadly booby traps.

This series was originally published in Australia, but was picked up for publication in the U.S. by one of my favorite MG imprints—Walden Pond Press!  To celebrate the release of the third book in the trilogy this past week, The Billionaire’s Curse was free for one day only on Kindle.  I snagged it up, because Walden Pond Press has never steered me wrong with gems like Neversink and The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom.  Completely forgot to put this one in my last IMM, so had to feature it here!

book cover of Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

Dead Reckoning by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill
June 5th, 2012 by Bloomsbury USA
[Amazon|GoodReads]

Jett is a girl disguised as a boy, living as a gambler in the old West as she searches for her long-lost brother. Honoria Gibbons is a smart, self-sufficient young woman who also happens to be a fabulous inventor. Both young women travel the prairie alone – until they are brought together by a zombie invasion! As Jett and Honoria investigate, they soon learn that these zombies aren’t rising from the dead of their own accord … but who would want an undead army? And why? This gunslinging, hair-raising, zombie western mashup is perfect for fans of Cowboys vs. Aliens and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.

Okay, this is one of those where the ‘perfect for fans of list’ really turns me off, but I still totally broke my own rules about NetGalley requests for this one because Mercedes Lackey is one of my all time favorite authors, and if there’s one trope I can’t resist it’s freaking girls disguised as boys.  Thanks so so much to Misty of The Book Rat for bringing this one up in one of her Coming Attractions posts, or it would have flown right over my head.  As is I must have it.

book cover of Un Lun Dun by China Miéville

Un Lun Dun by China Miéville
February 13th, 2007 by Del Ray
[Amazon|GoodReads]

What is Un Lun Dun?

It is London through the looking glass, an urban Wonderland of strange delights where all the lost and broken things of London end up . . . and some of its lost and broken people, too–including Brokkenbroll, boss of the broken umbrellas; Obaday Fing, a tailor whose head is an enormous pin-cushion, and an empty milk carton called Curdle. Un Lun Dun is a place where words are alive, a jungle lurks behind the door of an ordinary house, carnivorous giraffes stalk the streets, and a dark cloud dreams of burning the world. It is a city awaiting its hero, whose coming was prophesied long ago, set down for all time in the pages of a talking book.

When twelve-year-old Zanna and her friend Deeba find a secret entrance leading out of London and into this strange city, it seems that the ancient prophecy is coming true at last. But then things begin to go shockingly wrong.

So this week I kind of fangirled all over China Miéville’s new YA book, Railsea.  Fell for his writing hard core.  And the lovely Catie of The Readventurer was kind enough to point out to me that if I enjoyed the quirkiness, I’ll probably especially enjoy his MG book, Un Lun Dun.  MG Miéville you say?  Sign me up!  If you need convincing, you should check out Catie’s review here.

book cover of Eve and Adam by Michaeol Grant and Katherine Applegate

Eve & Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate
October 2nd, 2012 by Feiwel & Friends
[Amazon|GoodReads]

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.

I’m honestly having a hard time coming up with where I first heard of Eve and Adam, but I know I decided pretty readily that I wanted to read it.  It may have been when perusing the BEA lists (because YES, this will be there), in an edition of On the Smuggler’s Radar over at The Book Smugglers, or browsing Macmillan’s fall catalog, but wherever it was I first heard of Eve and Adam, I know for certain I’ll be hearing a lot more. 

Side note: Why have I not yet read any Michael Grant?  Everything his name is on makes its way to my TBR, but I have yet to touch any of them.  Shame on me, maybe this will be my first? 

book cover of The Seven Tales of Trinket by Shelley Moore Thomas

The Seven Tales of Trinket by Shelley Moore Thomas
September 4th, 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
[Amazon|GoodReads]

Guided by a tattered map, accompanied by Thomas the Pig Boy, and inspired by the storyteller’s blood that thrums through her veins, eleven-year-old Trinket searches for the seven stories she needs to become a bard like her father, who disappeared years before. She befriends a fortune-telling gypsy girl; returns a child stolen by the selkies to his true mother; confronts a banshee and receives a message from a ghost; helps a village girl outwit—and out-dance—the Faerie Queen; travels beyond the grave to battle a dastardly undead Highwayman; and meets a hound so loyal he fights a wolf to the death to protect the baby prince left in his charge. All fine material for six tales, but it is the seventh tale, in which Trinket learns her father’s true fate, that changes her life forever.

This one I know I only found through Macmillan’s fall catalog, and I am so glad I did!  This looks exactly like the type of MG I love.  I love historical, fairy-tale like adventures, and I adore this cover that reminds me of Catherine Called Birdy.

This being my first issue, I could certainly go on, but I’m going to restrain myself so that I have some fodder for next time!  Let me know what books, new or old, you’ve added to your TBR as of late.

May 18, 2012

Review: Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty

Title: Sloppy Firsts [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Megan McCafferty [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: Book one in the Jessica Darling quintet.
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Published: August 28th, 2001 by Crown Publishing Group
Format: Kindle edition; 304 pages.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.

“My parents suck ass. Banning me from the phone and restricting my computer privileges are the most tyrannical parental gestures I can think of. Don’t they realize that Hope’s the only one who keeps me sane? ... I don’t see how things could get any worse.”

When her best friend, Hope Weaver, moves away from Pineville, New Jersey, hyperobservant sixteen-year-old Jessica Darling is devastated. A fish out of water at school and a stranger at home, Jessica feels more lost than ever now that the only person with whom she could really communicate has gone. How is she supposed to deal with the boy- and shopping-crazy girls at school, her dad’s obsession with her track meets, her mother salivating over big sister Bethany’s lavish wedding, and her nonexistent love life?

A fresh, funny, utterly compelling fiction debut by first-time novelist Megan McCafferty, Sloppy Firsts is an insightful, true-to-life look at Jessica’s predicament as she embarks on another year of teenage torment—from the dark days of Hope’s departure through her months as a type-A personality turned insomniac to her completely mixed-up feelings about Marcus Flutie, the intelligent and mysterious “Dreg” who works his way into her heart. Like a John Hughes for the twenty-first century, Megan McCafferty taps into the inherent humor and drama of the teen experience. This poignant, hilarious novel is sure to appeal to readers who are still going through it, as well as those who are grateful that they don’t have to go back and grow up all over again.
So I’m just going to lay it out there.  I have never been so sexually frustrated at the end of a book.  Ever.  Now maybe that’s a bit spoilery, but I don’t think it’s so bad considering this is a five book series and we know these things get drug out in a five book series.  But I’ve never read a contemporary series before; in the world of cliffhangers, Sloppy Firsts is far from the worst, but it was enough to make me die inside just a little and keep me up all night worrying about what’s going to happen to my new BFF Jessica.  Which brings me to my basic conclusion about Sloppy Firsts--I freaking loved it.

Now, I pretty much never read contemporary before this year.  Sure, maybe, if a book was renowned enough or I was required by some form of schooling, but I never really got into the genre.  I’m totally a fantasy girl, and spent the bulk of my library time growing up on the floor of that one aisle at my library combing through the Sci-Fi/Fantasy collection and ignoring all other forms of literature.  And I’m cool with that.  But just this once, I found myself wishing with every fiber of my being that I had read Sloppy Firsts as soon as it came out.  Not only can it easily be crowned my favorite contemporary YA ever, I just know this book would have spoken to teenage me like a lifeline of sanity (or mutual morbidity).

Dude, Jessica Darling is my homegirl.  And I would totally print that on a shirt and wear it.  Yeah she has her annoying quirks, like getting all giggly when she’s awkward or embarrassed, but for the most part she’s probably the fictional character I could most see myself being friends with in high school.  We both really hate weddings and just want to elope, we both didn’t bother buying yearbooks, we’re both phone phobic, goody-goody ‘smart’ kids, and we’re both pretty hyper aware of our own ridiculousness.  That doesn’t stop us from stressing to the point of physically harming our own bodies, being dramatic about our problems, and searching for pretty much any purchase in our home towns.  I love that Jessica is holding out for a guy who can be her best friend, that she so dutifully keeps up correspondence with Hope, and that she writes us her story in her journal.  Technically, that makes Sloppy Firsts an epistolary novel.  I like that, and felt that the journal entries were believable, but at the same time, it read more like a strait up novel to me than you often get with the epistolary format.

I got such a strong feel for all of the characters in this book.  Jessica struggles with relating to her parents, caring at all about her friends (whom she hates), dealing with her mad crush on senior who doesn’t know she exists, and a period that’s completely M.I.A. Of course my favorite character besides Jessica would have to be (you guessed it) Marcus Flutie.  I loved Marcus, because even though I’d seen people mention him before I read this book, he was so completely not what I expected.  In fact, more than anything, he reminds me of my own best guy friend from high school, right down to his woodsy-smoky smell, and I honest to God had ‘why was I just platonic with that guy again?’ thoughts.  Because, dear friends, Marcus Flutie is awesome.  Okay, he’s pretty weird and kind of a dick at times, but he’s also unexpected, quixotic, and pretty perfect for Jessica even if the world doesn’t see it.  

One of my favorite things about Sloppy Firsts was that the two most important and influential characters in Jessica’s life, Hope and Marcus, were more or less absent for the bulk of it.  In fact, Hope is physically nonexistence, and Jessica has a weird curiosity about Marcus that begins to border on an obsession she just can’t drop, so while he’s mentioned often, he’s not very frequent appearance-wise.  I found myself positively pining for more contact with this enigma of a character, while simultaneously loving how drawn out the relationship was.  Sloppy Firsts was, to me, an entirely realistic representation of life in high school, and I loved every agonizing second of it.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  Okay, let me tell you, if I had had Second Helpings on hand, or if I hadn’t had to put myself on a wait list for the Kindle edition from Overdrive, I would have started it immediately.  And it was 2:00 am.  And I had to work in the morning.  I call that a sure thing.

Recommended for:  Absolutely anyone and everyone who enjoys contemporary YA.  I have to thank Forever YA for picking this as the March book club pick, or I never would have read it.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  I have totally and irrevocably changed my opinion of contemporary YA.  It’s not that I haven't enjoyed contemporary since I’ve been pushing myself to read more this year, but this is the first time I’ve ever been completely riveted and dying for more.

Get a second opinion:

May 17, 2012

Audio Review: White Cat by Holly Black

audiobook cover of White Cat by Holly Black read by Jesse EisenbergTitle: White Cat [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Holly Black [Website|Twitter|Tumblr]
Standing: First book in the Curse Workers series.
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Published: May 11th, 2010 by Listening Library
Format: Audiobook; 6 hrs, 40 min. Read by Jesse Eisenberg
Source: Borrowed from my local library.

The first in a trilogy, this gritty, fast-paced fantasy is rife with the unexpected. Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn’t fit in at home or at school, so he’s used to feeling like an outsider. He’s also used to feeling guilty—he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago.

But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas—and a plan to con the conmen.

Sometimes I don’t really bother to figure out what a book is about before I pick it up.  When I decided to check out White Cat, by Holly Black, somewhat on a whim, it boiled down to 4 simple reasons: 1) It was available on Overdrive, 2) It wasn’t too long (I was burnt out from listening to 14-18 hour books) 3) It was by Holly Black, an author I’ve been wanting to read more of and 4) the series was wrapping up, so I could go through the whole thing without having to wait.  Needless to say, I was hoping White Cat would be decent, but didn’t expect it to be near as intriguing, original, or engrossing as it turned out to be!

Full disclosure: I’ve had a huge girl boner for con men ever since…well forever.  There’s something about grifters that is just undeniably sexy and alluring to me.  I blame my parents for glorifying The Music Man so much as a kid…you know that’s totes why I became a librarian, to meet my con man!  So…Cassel Sharpe?  Yeah, I’d hit it.  I probably wouldn’t even care if he were just using me as a means to an end (but he’d totally want to be strait with me because I’m the woman who would change his life).  I’ve never had a thing for Jesse Eisenberg before, and the second his voice came out of my headphones (yeah, I didn’t even read who the narrator was prior to checking this out), I had all sorts of thoughts flash through my head, most of which added up to: I don’t know how I feel about this.  But now?  After finishing?  I love me some Jesse Eisenberg.  I mean, I liked Zombieland a lot, but his other movies like Adventureland and Social Network were largely depressing views of the world and humanity, and since the kid comes across as a slightly less awkward and slightly more attractive version of Michael Cerra, I wasn’t exactly wringing out my panties for the guy.  But now I know that if I were to ever see him, I’d probably try to muster up the courage to tell him that I love his audiobooks: 1) Because it’s true, 2) Because I bet actors don’t get that a lot, and he’d totally want to have a night of splendor with me because of it, and 3) It’s cool, my boyfriend doesn’t read my blog.

Josh Holloway as Sawyer from LostWhere were we? Oh yeah, con men. Sexy magical con men. Sorry Sawyer, my heart was yours, but it’s been sold to another because you lack the literal magic touch.  Holly Black has created a world in which there are curse workers; humans who have the ability to change something with a single touch.  There are seven kinds of curse work: luck, dream, emotion, memory, death, transformation, and physical.  A curse worker has to touch you with their bare hands in order to work you, which is why everyone wears gloves all of the time, and a bare hand is terrifying to behold.  Working people is illegal, and has been for several generations.  People that were once held up, have now been cast down as lowlifes and criminals, the worst of the worst and the lowest of the low.  And for the most part, they’ve taken on this mantle.  Worker families have become the crime families of the world.  They can change your memories, change your emotions, make you believe what they want you to believe, and kill you with a single touch.  They are, suffice it to say, scary awesome.

Cassel’s family doesn’t run a crime ring, but they’re not too far off.  His mother is in prison for working men for money, his brother is working for one of the biggest crime bosses around, and him?  Well, he’s just trying to finish high school.  Cassel is the disappointing child, the one without the power to work.  Raised in a worker family, he knows all the tricks.  He knows how to work a mark, and can almost always manipulate those around him to get what he wants.  He’s haunted by his past, and the worst memory he has: killing his best friend, Lila, at age 14.  As Cassel struggles to find out what really happened to the girl he loved, he begins to uncover a reality that he’s almost better off not knowing. 

Cassel is one of those bad boys that you just can’t help but have a thing for…because he’s also kind of a good guy.  Cassel wants to do the right thing, it’s not his fault that doing right by someone often means doing wrong by someone else.  Seriously, if this book doesn’t sound intriguing to you, then I think you might be broken.  It’s cool, I’ll get Cassel’s mom to work you into feeling like you must read this series.  Because really, you should.

Likelihood that I'll be back for more:  I’m pretty sure there’s no question about that.  I’ve already checked the last two books out, and am most of the way through Red Glove as I write!

Recommended for: YA UF fans, chicks who dig con men, those who want a story that is dark and edgy with a male narrator—no fluff-n-stuff in White Cat!

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  Hey, did you guys know/notice that Jace Wayland from Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series makes an appearance in all three of these books?  Made my day in the “I spotted the pineapple in Psyche!” kind of way.

Get a second opinion:
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