Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty

Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 480
Series or Stand Alone: Book 4 in the Ashbury/Brookfield series
SummaryBestselling author Jaclyn Moriarty returns to Ashbury High for a story of romance, mysterious new classmates, and the terrors of making it through your final year of high school.This is the story of Amelia and Riley, bad kids from bad Brookfield High who have transferred to Ashbury High for their final year. They've been in love since they were fourteen, they go out dancing every night, and sleep through school all day. And Ashbury can't get enough of them.Everyone's trying to get their attention; even teachers are dressing differently, trying to make their classes more interesting. Everyone wants to be cooler, tougher, funnier, hoping to be invited into their cool, self-contained world.


Review:
I've been reading Jaclyn Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield series since my early high school years. I managed to read them in the wrong order (The Year of Secret Assignments, The Murder of Bindy McKenzie, Feeling Sorry for Celia, and The Ghosts of Ashbury High. That's 2, 3, 1, 4) but the good thing about Jaclyn Moriarty's books is that it doesn't matter; they each work as a stand alone novel. It's a series with recurring characters, but you don't need to know all the details of the books to follow their stories. That was awesome, considering I read The Murder of Bindy McKenzie over three years ago.
The Ghosts of Ashbury High once again follows Cass, Lyd, and Em, the protagonists of The Year of Secret Assignments (#2) as they meet new mysterious students Riley and Amelia. Em is attempting to prove that ghosts are wandering the halls at Ashbury, while Lyd attempts to get over Seb, the boyfriend from The Year of Secret Assignments that she broke up with. Riley and Amelia seem to have their own secret agenda going on, while some of the more annoying faculty members are campaigning against them.
Jaclyn Moriarty's books are so cool. She unravels her storylines through emails, school assignments, and personal correspondence rather than straight up narratives. Her technique allows her to avoid the tell-not-show problem.
Past characters were weaved in seamlessly--there was no long-winded explanation of past exposition for Em, Cass, and Lyd, only a few sentences here and there alluding to some past history they had. The same for more minor characters like Seb and Bindy.
Part of the novel includes the teens writing their own gothic stories for their English classes, making ghosts a recurring topic. This creates a big question: are Riley and Amelia real ghosts or metaphorical? At first, I was kind of confused about their storyline, which I'm sure is intentional to create the above question. My one complaint about this novel comes from the length--I think part of the reason I was getting confused was that it felt like a good long time before any actual information was revealed about the two of them. I would have preferred to get a little more information about them quicker than I did.
All and all, Jaclyn Moriarty created another winner in the Ashbury/Brookfield stories. The Ghosts of Ashbury High takes on old characters and new to create a cool mystery revealed through different assignments, blog posts, chat conversations, and other sundry documents. The voices of the characters are all wildly different, almost like different people are writing them (skills, Moriarty. That takes mad skills.) I recommend reading the entire Ashbury/Brookfield series, especially if you're looking for some reads for the Australian author challenge!

Rating: 4.5 - really good

Waiting on Wednesday (5)

The Book of Blood and Shadow by Robin Wasserman

It was like a nightmare, but there was no waking up.  When the night began, Nora had two best friends and an embarrassingly storybook one true love.  When it ended, she had nothing but blood on her hands and an echoing scream that stopped only when the tranquilizers pierced her veins and left her in the merciful dark. 
But the next morning, it was all still true: Chris was dead.  His girlfriend Adriane, Nora's best friend, was catatonic. And Max, Nora's sweet, smart, soft-spoken Prince Charming, was gone. He was also—according to the police, according to her parents, according to everyone—a murderer.
Desperate to prove his innocence, Nora follows the trail of blood, no matter where it leads. It ultimately brings her to the ancient streets of Prague, where she is drawn into a dark web of secret societies and shadowy conspirators, all driven by a mad desire to possess something that might not even exist. For buried in a centuries-old manuscript is the secret to ultimate knowledge and communion with the divine; it is said that he who controls the Lumen Dei controls the world. Unbeknownst to her, Nora now holds the crucial key to unlocking its secrets. Her night of blood is just one piece in a puzzle that spans continents and centuries. Solving it may be the only way she can save her own life.

Release date: April 10, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (9)

Top Ten Books I'd Give a Theme Song To:
1. WHITE CAT by Holly Black
"Everyone But You" by the Young Veins
She comes to me/When I dream/I'm tired of counting sheep to see her/I sleep because I need her
This song constantly reminds me of the Lila-related dreams Cassel had at the beginning of the story. Also, the sad tone of the song reminds me of Cassel's hardships and how he tries desperately to hide his feelings about things through the perfect combination of snarky sarcasm and deflection.

2. SECRET SISTERHOOD OF HEARTBREAKERS by Lynn Weingarten
"Unbreak My Heart" by Toni Braxton/"Unbreak My Heart" by Weezer (cover) (I feel that I should say right here and now that this is going to be quite the eclectic list, please bear with me)
Unbreak my heart/Say you love me again
The Sisterhood literally UNBREAKS Lucy's HEART. Plus, the chorus pretty much describes the way Lucy thinks. She is under the impression that getting Alex to fall in love with her again will be the solution to her problems (spoiler alert: it's not). Plus, it's a great 90s jam that I feel should cheer up anyone if you blast it loudly enough and sing along as ridiculously as you can.

3. CLOCKWORK PRINCE by Cassandra Clare
"Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)" by The Wombats
If you love me let me go/Down to that bar in Tokyo/Where the demons in my mind/Leave me in peace
This could be Will Herondale's theme song. Whether he's hiding his issues from others through lying about drunken exploits or actual inebriation, Will has secrets in his past that he would love to avoid.

4. GOING UNDERGROUND by Susan Vaught
"All These Things I've Done" by the Killers
Another head aches, another heart breaks/I'm so much older than I can take/And my affection, well it comes and goes/I need direction to perfection/No no no no/Help me out
Del's regret that pervades the entire novel is reason enough for this one. He previously had a perfect life, but now all he wants to do is try to live his life without getting in any more trouble.

5. OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon
"The Cave" by Mumford and Sons
It's empty in the valley of your heart/The sun it rises slowly as you walk/Away from all the fears/And all the faults you've left behind
To me, this song and OUTLANDER are perfectly matched. I'm not entirely sure why, they just seem to have a similar feel.

6. FRACTURE by Megan Miranda
"Bang the Doldrums" by Fall Out Boy
Best friends/Ex-friends to the end/Better off as lovers/And not the other way around
Listen, I know there's a whole lot more going on in this book than just the angst of a teenage relationship (i.e., Delaney's slightly paranormal ability to tell when someone is going to die, the idea of survivor's guilt, arguments for an against euthanasia) but I think Decker's and Delaney's relationship fits well with this song. They are best friends, but recently something changed and they cannot peaceably go back to the way they once were.


7. TEMPEST by Julie Cross
"Momentary Thing" by Something Happens (Okay, almost all of the videos I could find for this song were VMars fanvideos)
After all/Well isn't this just a momentary thing?/It's not like I expected/Any heavy thing
Besides being the soundtrack to the first kiss of one of the most awesome TV couples in existence (Veronica Mars and Logan Echols), this song is perfect for Julie Cross's debut. So little is permanent for Josh--many of his experiences are moments that he remembers, but once he time jumps back to his home base, no one else does.

8. AUDREY, WAIT! by Robin Benway
"I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor" by the Arctic Monkeys
I bet that you look good on the dance floor/I don't know if you're looking for romance or/I don't know what you're looking for/I said I bet that you look good on the dancefloor/Dancing to electropop like a robot from 1984/From 1984
I think Audrey would really enjoy this song. It's fun, it's loud, it's fast, and you could dance like crazy to it. Some of our music taste overlapped and I'd like to know if this would ever come up on one of Audrey's playlists.

9. EVERNEATH by Brodi Ashton
"Pain" by Jimmy Eat World
Anyone can make what I have built/Better now/Anyone can take the same white pills/It takes my pain away/It's a lie/I kiss with open eyes/And she's not breathing back/Anything but bother me
I almost assigned Placebo's "Post Blue" to this one. I thought that the bitter, obsessive attitude worked well for the complicated relationship between the protagonist, Nikki and Cole, the immortal who brought her down to Everneath. However, so much of this book centers around pain--absorbing it from another person, observing someone else's, trying to escape it--that I decided to go with my original choice instead. Nikki's attempt to escape her pain is what made her go to Everneath in the first place. Plus, the whole absorbing of emotions is looked at as a drug for both people involved.

10. THE FUTURE OF US by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler
"Stand" by R.E.M.
Stand in the place where you are/Stand in the place where you are/Your feet are going to be on the ground/Your head is there to move you around/So stand
I'm using this song in order to tell Emma to "LIVE IN THE NOW, OKAY? YOU LOOK LIKE DEBARGE." to quote Buffy Summers. Okay, so maybe the entirety of the quote doesn't apply here. But seriously, girl needed to chill out and not let facebook rule her life and future.

BONUS BECAUSE I THOUGHT TO ADD IT ON THE TRAIN HOME FROM WORK:
11. THE STATISTICAL PROBABILITY OF LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT by Jennifer E. Smith
"Pickin' Up the Pieces" by Fitz and the Tantrums
Felt like the stars fell down before us/In a dream of you and me/Then a storm came outta nowhere/Turned my peace to misery/Cause I've been running now for days/Pickin' up the pieces of love/I'm not so sure it'll go my way/That's just the price of love
One, I absolutely adore this song and this band. Two, I think it fits very well with the relationship between Hadley and Oliver.


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Monday, February 27, 2012

In My Mailbox (9)

LIBRARY:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
Everything You Need to Survive the Apocalypse by Lucas Klauss
The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
The Disenchantments by Nina Lacour
Everneath by Brodi Ashton
I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter
Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter
Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover by Ally Carter

Note: I didn't mean to bring home this many books! Several of them were backorders that just came in this week. And I decided that I had to take the opportunity while it was there to get A Wrinkle in Time and the Gallagher Girls books in anticipation of the fifth one coming out soon. Also, whatever, I have a book greed problem. I can work on it all I want, but it's never going away.

KINDLE:
Getting Caught by Mandy Hubbard and Cyn Balog
White Cat by Holly Black


IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Beautiful Chaos (Caster Chronicles #3) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 528
Series or Stand Alone: Book 3 in the Caster Chronicles series
SummaryEthan Wate thought he was getting used to the strange, impossible events happening in Gatlin, his small Southern town. But now that Ethan and Lena have returned home, strange and impossible have taken on new meanings. Swarms of locusts, record-breaking heat, and devastating storms ravage Gatlin as Ethan and Lena struggle to understand the impact of Lena's Claiming. Even Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals is affected - and their abilities begin to dangerously misfire. As time passes, one question becomes clear: What - or who - will need to be sacrificed to save Gatlin?
For Ethan, the chaos is a frightening but welcome distraction. He's being haunted in his dreams again, but this time it isn't by Lena - and whatever is haunting him is following him out of his dreams and into his everyday life. Even worse, Ethan is gradually losing pieces of himself - forgetting names, phone numbers, even memories. He doesn't know why, and most days he's too afraid to ask. 
Sometimes there isn't just one answer or one choice. Sometimes there's no going back. And this time there won't be a happy ending.


Review:
I was under the impression that this was the last book in the Caster Chronicles series, mostly through my own fault. I was miiighty annoyed when I realized that there was a fourth one coming out in ten months--especially since I only realized this after this one was complete. I sighed and added the fourth book, entitled Beautiful Redemption, to my to-read list. Rant over.
LOOKS LIKE WE GOT US AN APOCALYPSE! Ethan and Lena come back from battling and deferring on another Claiming to swarms of locusts, scary-ass storms, and deathly heat. Worse, the powers of Lena and the rest of the Duchannes family are going haywire. WORST, Ethan is ceasing to function as a normal human, losing pieces of his memory and being haunted in his dreams. Yikes. They weren't kidding when they titled this one "Chaos."
The end of days going down was excellent. The apocalypse was more of the classic variety, in which nature goes completely haywire. Ethan's character continued to impress me. He's so good because he's believable as a real person. The end of the world is knocking on his door and his life and memory are falling apart. He steps up and always does what he needs to do, but it doesn't mean he's not absolutely terrified. A normal guy that previously lived a normal life two years prior to the event wouldn't necessarily jump in entirely without 
One of the strong points was the side characters (mostly Liv and John Breed) gaining more backstory and storylines for themselves. They were no longer just around for helping Ethan and Lena obtain their goals (Ethan to find Lena, Lena to get away from Ethan and be all emo) but stand alone characters that have their own purposes. Unfortunately, this fleshing out only made me like Liv more and Lena less by comparison.
These books don't get higher ratings from me because I feel like they just don't flow as well as they should. The second one was much better than the first, but I felt like this one pulled back a tiny bit in that department. The action is not very consistent, instead doing a stopping and starting thing that doesn't make them go as quickly as they should. Still, they continue to keep up a great concept and the characters are developing nicely.

Rating: 3.5 - fair/good.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Beautiful Darkness (Caster Chronicles #2) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 512
Series or Stand Alone: Book 2 in the Caster Chronicles
SummaryEthan Wate used to think of Gatlin, the small Southern town he had always called home, as a place where nothing ever changed. Then he met mysterious newcomer Lena Duchannes, who revealed a secret world that had been hidden in plain sight all along. A Gatlin that harbored ancient secrets beneath its moss-covered oaks and cracked sidewalks. A Gatlin where a curse has marked Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals for generations. A Gatlin where impossible, magical, life-altering events happen.
Sometimes life-ending.
Together they can face anything Gatlin throws at them, but after suffering a tragic loss, Lena starts to pull away, keeping secrets that test their relationship. And now that Ethan's eyes have been opened to the darker side of Gatlin, there's no going back. Haunted by strange visions only he can see, Ethan is pulled deeper into his town's tangled history and finds himself caught up in the dangerous network of underground passageways endlessly crisscrossing the South, where nothing is as it seems.


Review:
The second book in the Caster Chronicles opens with a grieving Lena and a distraught Ethan. Lena ends up running away with her bad girl cousin Ridley and a mysterious stranger named John, sending Ethan and his best friend Link on a wild goose chase to find her. With the help of newcomer British librarian-in-training Liv, Ethan and Link track down Lena and Ridley and prevent them from going over the deep end.
I liked this one so much more than I did the first. The characters were more likable, the story was far more organized. In the first one it felt a little all over the place, like events occurred but weren't connected. The story followed a solid quest-kinda plot. And I found out how Lena gets less annoying: she disappears! YES!
The addition of Liv was a welcome one; she was a far less annoying character than Lena and less stereotyped than bad girl Ridley. She was well developed--she was a librarian in training, Marian the Librarian's protege. She missed home and wanted Ethan to introduce her to some points of American culture. Frankly, she had more chemistry with Ethan when they first met than Lena did in the entire first book. The entire time I wanted Ethan to ditch his thing with Lena ("thing," "love," whatever you want to call it) and just be happy with Liv, because they were so much better together.
Even though there's still no love lost between me and Lena's character, I enjoyed her characterization. Her acting out had a purpose and a source. She wasn't being shrew-like, she was grieving a didn't know what to do other than run away. Lena's grief made her far more sympathetic and understandable.
I liked Beautiful Darkness much more than I liked Beautiful Creatures. The characters were more developed and the plot was more complete than it was in the first one. The quest part (Ethan's search for Lena/Link's search for Ridley) had a bunch of action and conflicting emotions. I much preferred that to the exposition packed first book. I know that more exposition is necessary in a book with supernatural elements, but I felt like the exposition ended up taking precedence over the plot.

Rating: 3.75 - fair leaning towards good.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1) by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 592
Series or Stand Alone: Book 1 in the Caster Chronicles
SummaryLena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.
Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. WhenLena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.
In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.


Review:
I've wanted to read this book since it came out, but ended up putting it down because at the time I had just read Rosemary Clement-Moore's The Splendor Falls and didn't want to read two four hundred-plus page paranormal Southern gothic novels that close together. When I saw that the third installment, Beautiful Chaos, came out this past fall, I (mistakenly) assumed that the series was complete and went to work on the first book in the Caster Chronicles.
Beautiful Creatures tells the story of Ethan Wate, a small town Virginia boy whose life is thrown into disarray with the arrival of outcast Lena. Ethan goes against the entire town in order to find out about Lena's mysterious life and help her adjust to their extremely unwelcoming high school. What Ethan doesn't know is that getting close to Lena could be hazardous to his health--in more ways than one.
Dun dun duuunnn.
I really liked the setting in this book. The whole modern Southern gothic thing really appeal to me (see: Texas Gothic by Rosemary Clement-Moore) so having the creepy magic casters and incubi reside there really worked. The small town mentality may have been exaggerated at points, but it worked for all of the supernatural activity going on.
The greatest aspect of this story was that the usual paranormal romance elements got reversed. This time, the boy is inexplicably drawn (ready? I've decided the new drinking game is that whenever someone is "inexplicably drawn" to someone else, you drink. Drink!) to a supernatural girl. He is the one who has to figure out what is afoot and ends up in danger because of it.
However, I wasn't over the moon for this book. The reason is that I did not like Lena. I understood that she was supposed to be less than friendly from being judged for her weirdness all the time, but instead of making her sympathetic and snarky, it made her seem like a shrew that magicked first and thought second. Often when she used magic it was like she was throwing a tantrum. I liked Ethan way better. There were times, specifically when he was talking about Lena, where it was very obvious that a female was writing his voice (unlike Cassel Sharpe from Holly Black's Curseworkers series). Even so, he was a well-developed, likable character. Often I felt like he was a friend that was dating a girl I couldn't stand but wasn't able to say anything to him about it.
Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy Beautiful Creatures as much as I wanted to. Still, the book had a great supernatural premise and was a welcome change from a lot of the usual paranormal books. I'm continuing the series with the hope that Lena gets less annoying.

Rating: 2.5 - okay.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mostly Good Girls by Leila Sales

Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 347
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
SummaryThe higher you aim, the farther you fall....
It's Violet's junior year at the Westfield School. She thought she'd be focusing on getting straight As, editing the lit mag, and figuring out how to talk to boys without choking on her own saliva. Instead, she's just trying to hold it together in the face of cutthroat academics, her crush's new girlfriend, and the sense that things are going irreversibly wrong with her best friend, Katie. When Katie starts making choices that Violet can't even begin to fathom, Violet has no idea how to set things right between them. Westfield girls are trained for success--but how can Violet keep her junior year from being one huge, epic failure?


Review:
In my search for more great contemporary young adult reads, I came across the description of Leila Sales's most recent book, Past Perfect. If an author is on the newer side and only has a few books out, I try to read the earlier stuff before the later. I grabbed Mostly Good Girls off the library shelf. As a bonus, it counts for the Completely Contemporary Challenge. Hollaaaaa!
Violet is an above average student at her private all-girls school--but, then again, most of the other girls are as well. She spends her time studying, editing the literary magazine, and trying to stop the relationship with her best friend Katie from changing too much. When it appears that Katie is going off the deep end, Violet doesn't know quite what is going on with her or what to do about it.
The biggest strength of this book is its incredibly realistic portrayal of the friendship between Violet and Katie. They've been best friends since childhood and are comfortable around each other's families. They attempt first time teenager-y things together, like getting drunk and trying to gain attention from boys. Even though Mostly Good Girls has a private school setting, it is the most normal contemporary read ever.
Violet and Katie were realistic teenage characters. Violet has the true voice of a teenager, with all its self consciousness and sarcasm. Most of all, I was happy that both of them weren't merely nice and unassuming--they mocked their classmates behind their backs (much like real best friends do) and rolled their eyes at various aspects of their families I'm a big supporter of the "If you don't have anything nice to say, come sit next to me" mentality (which I was told was said by Alice Roosevelt, but I've never checked that). The most endearing thing about Violet and Katie is that they don't waste time pretending to be nice.
The only thing was that there wasn't too much of a plot--the story is more of a character/friendship study. Violet and Katie go through their days at school, hang out with one another, and attempt to gain boyfriends. The story is really about their friendship, so if you're strictly a plot person I don't advise picking this one up.
Leila Sales's Mostly Good Girls tells a great story about the changes that a friendship undergoes during a stressful time period. With its realistic characters and portrayal of a changing friendship, Sales created a good story for any high school girl.


Rating: 3 - fair.


Challenge: Completely Contemporary Challenge!



Waiting on Wednesday (4)

Black Heart by Holly Black

Cassel Sharpe knows he’s been used as an assassin, but he’s trying to put all that behind him. He’s trying to be good, even though he grew up in a family of con artists and cheating comes as easily as breathing to him. He’s trying to do the right thing, even though the girl he loves is inextricably connected with crime. And he’s trying to convince himself that working for the Feds is smart, even though he’s been raised to believe the government is the enemy. 
But with a mother on the lam, the girl he loves about to take her place in the Mob, and new secrets coming to light, the line between what’s right and what’s wrong becomes increasingly blurred. When the Feds ask Cassel to do the one thing he said he would never do again, he needs to sort out what’s a con and what’s truth. In a dangerous game and with his life on the line, Cassel may have to make his biggest gamble yet—this time on love.

Releases: April 3, 2012

Words cannot describe HOW EXCITED I am for this to come out.

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (8)

Top Ten Books I'd Save If My House Was Going to Be Abducted by Aliens:

Warning: I'm probably going to take some liberties while writing this list, meaning that I may count whole series as a single entity to save. Why? Because it's my blog and I have a greed problem when it comes to books.

1. All of my Harry Potter books
I own American copies. I own British copies. I still have my original Sorcerer's Stone copy that I read so many times that it's now missing a front cover, back cover, and is about to lose the first couple of lightly torn, crumbling pages. They're all coming with me. These books have become so ingrained in me that if anything were to happen to them, I'd bet some sort of weird pain would manifest itself on my person. We have a deep bond, me and these books. I'm usually only this weird when it comes to Harry Potter.

2. The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
I just don't see me not grabbing these, I just feel better when they are close by. My mother has my first book right now and I keep going, "Wait, I can't just read it whenever I want?" They're brilliantly written and entirely heartwrenching, a great combination when it comes to action-driven stories.

3. The Steig Larrson Millenium trilogy
My aunt bought me the gorgeous, hardcover, embossed copies for Christmas last year and that boxed set stands as one of my prized book possessions (listen, some people have jewelry, I have pretty books). I've only read the first one and definitely need to finish the series, so they're coming with me in case of alien attack/takeover.

4. The Mockingbirds/The Rivals by Daisy Whitney
I haven't read The Rivals yet (which is entirely shocking because I adored The Mockingbirds and it's now been a few months since I tracked down an ARC) but The Mockingbirds has to be one of my favorite YA books. I'm not a big fan of the new covers featuring actual people--I loved the old, simple cover far too much. So much that I went through great lengths to track down an ARC of The Rivals so that my copies would match. After putting so much effort into obtaining pretty copies, how could I leave them behind?

5. Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken
I obtained my copy from Book Expo and got it signed by the author! Bracken was a delight to meet and took time to hear me ramble about how new and different her fantasy debut was. I definitely need to keep my pretty signed copy nearby.

6. The Jessica Darling books by Megan McCafferty
I don't think I've ever identified more with the voice of a young adult heroine than I did with Jessica Darling. Her sarcastic wit and intense high school disillusionment made her the perfect companion for my high school years and beyond. These are coming with me.

7. Fracture by Megan Miranda, both my ARC and my hardcover
I absolutely LOVE this story. For some reason I'm really attached to my ARC of it, even though I also have a (SIGNED!) hardcover copy. I need them both, that way I can suggest that others read it and I maintain the opportunity to reread it whenever I want. I mentioned that I have a greed problem when it comes to books, right?

8. The Riverside Chaucer
I didn't learn how to read Middle English for nothing. Even in the event of aliens, I'd like to be able to check that I could still recite the first twenty lines of The Canterbury Tales from memory. One day I'd like to finish reading all of the tales and I might as well read them in their original form from a giant, pretty book, right? Plus, that book cost me a pretty penny and would look stunning on a set of shelves with a bunch of leatherbound classics. Which, you know, I would get once the alien problem was taken care of.

9. Clockwork Angel/Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare
This series. Hot damn, this series. I love it and I love my hardcover copies. Once again, British steampunk-ish Shadowhunter stories trump the original Mortal Instrument series. I own hardcover copies of all of the Cassandra Clare books, but if push came to shove, I'm taking the Infernal Devices over the Mortal Instruments. Plus, I need to be able to reread my copies right beforeClockwork Princess (the last book in the trilogy) comes out. Aliens aren't going to mess that up for me.

10. Princess Furball by Charlotte S. Huck
This is my favorite picture book/fairy tale story out there. The illustrations are different and gorgeous and I have good memories of reading this book over and over as a child. I recommend it to every parent that comes into the library looking for princess stories for their children, even if what they're really looking for are the Disney books.*

*Note: I do in fact work in a library, I'm not just some weirdo that sits around the children's and young adult sections suggesting books at unsuspecting parents. That'd be weird.



Also, no pictures this week because blogger isn't working and I've entirely lost patience with it. I'd rather lose the pictures than my sanity.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Monday, February 20, 2012

In My Mailbox (8)

LIBRARY:
Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley
The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
Never Eighteen by Megan Bostic

KINDLE:
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Also, the blog will be back to its regularly scheduled review postings this week! Hit a bump in the form of me not having my stuff together last week...

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (3)

Illuminate by Aimee Agresti

(from GoodReads)
Haven Terra is a brainy, shy high school outcast. But everything begins to change when she turns sixteen. Along with her best friend Dante and their quiet and brilliant classmate Lance, she is awarded a prestigious internship in the big city— Chicago—and is sent to live and work at a swanky and stylish hotel under the watchful eyes of a group of gorgeous and shockingly young-looking strangers: powerful and alluring hotel owner Aurelia Brown; her second-in-command, the dashing Lucian Grove; and their stunning but aloof staff of glamazons called The Outfit.
As Haven begins falling for Lucian, she discovers that these beautiful people are not quite what they seem. With the help of a mysterious book, she uncovers a network of secret passageways from the hotel’s jazz-age past that leads her to the heart of the evil agenda of Aurelia and company: they’re in the business of buying souls. Will they succeed in wooing Haven to join them in their recruitment efforts, or will she be able to thwart this devilish set’s plans to take the souls of her classmates on prom night at the hotel?
Illuminate is an exciting saga of a teen’s first taste of independence, her experience in the lap of luxury, and her discovery she may possess strength greater than she ever knew.

From: March 6, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday (7)

Top Ten Books That Broke Your Heart A Little Bit:
1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
On SO MANY DIFFERENT LEVELS. Every time someone died. Each time Ron and Hermione were still there for Harry. The part at the end where he asks the specters of his loved ones if death will be painful. That part at the end where "all is well." JUST. EFFING. EVERYTHING. The part that really killed me? Knowing that at the end, there wasn't going to be another book.

2. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
There's one very shocking part that's really sad in this one (I mean, a good amount of sadness occurs within The Hunger Games trilogy, but this stand out pretty well, even amongst its competition). In addition to being epically sad, it arguably makes Katniss's original journeys through the Games all for nothing. Bonus sad: when Katniss is trying to explain to Peeta who he used to be.

3. Going Underground by Susan Vaught
I said it before and I'll say it again: this is one of the saddest young adult books out there. Del's story is heartbreaking. He's a good kid that wants to have a regular life, but has a whole lot of legal boundaries in his way. His quiet hopelessness is awful (in a really well-written sort of way).


4. Between by Jessica Warman
The saddest part of this book is that Elizabeth Valchar has to watch life go on without her, flashing back to her own secret misery. She's a better person in the afterlife, but never gets to act on her newfound awareness because she is dead before the book even starts. Sigh. I suppose them's the breaks when you read Dead Girl lit.

5. The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta
Tom, one of the characters we first meet in Marchetta's Saving Francesca, has a story that is even sadder than Francesca's. The most devastating part of The Piper's Son is how real the situation is: Tom and his aunt Georgie are mourning the loss of Tom's uncle and Georgie's brother. They're trying to reconnect with the people they've cut ties to, including Tom's alcoholic father. It's real, and amazingly well-written, making their emotions poignant and devastating. Marchetta is a beautiful writer.

6. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Going along the same vein, Jill's grief over losing her father is so real it kills me. She describes waiting until no one is around, so she can put on music and silently cry without being bothered. I'm seeing a pattern here of "real explorations of grief make it on this list."

7. "Eleven Minutes" by Megan Miranda
I know that this is the tie-in short story to Fracture and not a full length novel, but this is my blog and I'll put a short story on my list if I want to. Reading about Delaney falling through the ice through Decker's eyes is astounding. He entirely blames himself. He tries to bargain. It's so clear that he'd do anything to save her--but it's a story that goes more on the realistic side, so all he can do is sit at the hospital and wait. People try to tell him it's hopeless, but he's desperate for it not to be true.

8. The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin & Nicola Kraus
So this probably isn't the type of book that would normally end up on a list like this, but for real, this book was so depressing for me. Nanny cares more about Grayer than his parents do! And she gets fired for no reason, therefore ensuring that Grayer ends up lacking the love and attention a child needs because his parents are selfish, self-centered morons! Gah.

9. A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs
This installment of Burroughs's memoirs centers around his memories of his father. His father was an alcoholic sociopath that had no love for his five year old son and continued to have no love for him until he was twelve and beyond. Anything that details a child being terrified of his own father (who killed his childhood pet and once attempted to kill him) for years is heartbreaking.

10. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Incredibly well-written and devastatingly sad, with the barest hint of hope demonstrated at the end. Reading this while commuting to and from work made for some somber train rides.













Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Monday, February 13, 2012

In My Mailbox (7)

BOUGHT:
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie
RECEIVED:
Bittersweet by Sarah Ockler

BORROWED:
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett

LIBRARY:
The Compound by S.A. Bodeen
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

KINDLE:
Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey

So...a bit of a big week. Not as much as the Christmas haul, but more than I thought I had acquired over the past week.

IMM is hosted by The Story Siren

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen



Publisher: Walker Children's
Pages: 286
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone?
SummaryMany readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance. Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in. It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.


Review
Even though I have almost no experience reading or watching Robin Hood-related things, I was very curious about Scarlet, a young adult retelling about Will Scarlet as a girl posing as a boy. I figured adding an asskicking girl to the mix could only make a retelling of a classic tale even better.
In A.C. Gaughen's Scarlet, Will Scarlet is the only female member of Robin Hood's band of thieves. To everyone else she is a wiry thief boy and she prefers to keep it that way. Having one girl in a band of guys is not simple however--feelings and jealousy complicate the way in which the band operates. As the Sheriff of Nottingham and a new danger increase the violence on the people and close in on Scarlet and her comrades, these feelings only complicate the danger surrounding them. Scarlet and the band must elude capture and put a stop to the danger threatening Sherwood and Nottingham.
Scarlet was a great protagonist, but not an entirely open one. We find out her true identity at the same time that Rob (Robin Hood) does, which I thought was cool. Scarlet was strong, clever, and a brilliant thief. To make it interesting, she also had a whole lot of angst--angst about her part in her sister's death, angst about the feelings her had for Rob and his confusing reactions to her, and later angst about the perceived relationship between herself and John Little. She's pretty complicated, has a total guilt complex, and still manages to be a total badass.
I also liked Rob's character. From what I know about Robin hood, he's usually shown as a happy, quip-slinging thief that robs from the rich and gives to the poor (just like the man they call Jayne) (I'll not apologize for Firefly references). It appears that Gaughen has made him a more complex, slightly crankier/angstier character. I like my characters complex and angsty--as long as they have an important reason to be that way. I'd say that having the mouths, livelihoods, and lives of the people in Sherwood and Nottingham resting on his shoulders is reason enough to have a person focus on their angst.
My only issue was that I felt a few of the conflicts were left totally open. By the end John Little knows that Scarlet and Robin have feelings for one another, but it doesn't seem like he has given up on his own feelings for Scarlet. Also, I'm not going to say what, but the big danger for Scarlet and Rob was still out there and after them. If this turns into a series, there is still plenty of conflict to work off of, otherwise I could have used slightly more closure.
The awesomeness of Scarlet may have wrecked my opportunity to read other Robin Hood works. I don't think I want to read about a Robin Hood that doesn't have such a badass girl by his side. Gaughen has a great concept and characters that make this young adult retelling worth reading.


Rating: 4 - good.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Pregnant Pause by Han Nolan

Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Pages: 352
Series or Stand Alone: Stand Alone
SummaryA thought-provoking and courageous new novel by National Book Award winner Han Nolan.
Nobody gets away with telling Eleanor Crowe what to do. But as a pregnant sixteenyear-old, her options are limited: move to Kenya with her missionary parents or marry the baby’s father and work at his family’s summer camp for overweight kids. Despite her initial reluctance to help out, Elly is surprised that she actually enjoys working with the campers. But a tragedy on the very day her baby is born starts a series of events that overwhelms Elly with unexpected emotions and difficult choices. Somehow, she must turn her usual obstinance in a direction that can ensure a future for herself—and for the new life she has created.

Review:
I've read almost all of Han Nolan's book, but I didn't keep up with them throughout college. When I saw that she had written a new one about a stubborn pregnant teenage girl, I picked it up. Nolan's books remain on the darker, depressing side, but this one seemed slightly lighter than its predecessor.
Han Nolan's Pregnant Pause is about Elly, a stubborn, pregnant sixteen year old that needs to decide what to do with her life. Married to the useless stoner father of her unborn child, the odds aren't looking good for their new family. Her parents want her to give the baby to her sister, while her in-laws want to keep the baby themselves, in order to replace their baby girl that died in infancy. Elly must make a decision for her baby, while working at her in-laws' weight camp. Working with the kids teaches her about who she can be and what she wants for her baby--along with what she definitely doesn't want.
I loved the portrayal of the relationships between Elly and her campers. After lying about her dance/craft experience, Elly assumed that she would be useless with the camp, but she turns out to connect with many of the girls. Nolan demonstrates how Elly draws on her own past experiences and own stubborn attitude to make these connections.
One of the most realistic points in the novel is how disappointing the people in Elly's life turn out to be. Elly doesn't think too much of herself--she ends up marrying Lam and deciding to have the baby out of pure stubbornness. Eventually she realizes that she does have worth, and that the people attempting to convince her of her incompetence are the ones severely lacking. Nolan very realistically shows this realization process. One of Elly's best characteristics is her willingness to admit that she is wrong--to herself, to the reader, even to those around her. She is a flawed character that recognizes her flaws and attempts to make good on them. 
I was thrilled that Ziggy, one of Elly's camp friends, does not end up being her knight in shining armor. It made Elly an even stronger character, forcing her to use determination and independence to try to start the life she wants for herself. YA needs more strong female leads. I wasn't expecting Elly to stand out as such, but she certainly did.
Pregnant Pause provided for the realistic portrayal of a pregnant teenage girl and the pressure she is put under from just about everyone in her life. Highly recommended, powerful book.


Rating: 4.5 - very good.