Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sweet Unrest



Lucy Aimes has always been practical. But try as she might, she can’t come up with a logical explanation for the recurring dreams that have always haunted her. Dark dreams. Dreams of a long-ago place filled with people she shouldn’t know…but does.

When her family moves to a New Orleans plantation, Lucy’s dreams become more intense, and her search for answers draws her reluctantly into the old city’s world of Voodoo and mysticism. There, Lucy finds Alex, a mysterious boy who behaves as if they’ve known each other forever. Lucy knows Alex is hiding something, and her rational side doesn’t want to be drawn to him. But she is.

As she tries to uncover Alex’s secrets, a killer strikes close to home, and Lucy finds herself ensnared in a century-old vendetta. With the lives of everyone she loves in danger, Lucy will have to unravel the mystery of her dreams before it all comes to a deadly finish.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3.5 Stars...
This book has a really cool premise and interesting narrative structure. Weaving past and present together in the form of dreams isn't necessarily new, but allows for creating a richer story. The old plantation/New Orleans setting helped enhance the weight of history on the current action of the plot. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that I guessed wrong as to the identity of the final villain. The plot was reasonably well executed, although it could have been tighter in parts. I was mildly frustrated with how long it took for Lucy to figure out some fairly obvious facts. With some information reveals a bit earlier (more in line with how long it takes the readers to put pieces together) the flow would have been much smoother. It also would have allowed for a little more time spent in the past to fully flesh out the characters and plotline there.

The biggest problem in the novel is the lack of development of the secondary characters. It's primarily Lucy's story and it shows in the flatness of everyone else. We get a slightly better picture of Alex than anyone else, but it takes until pretty far into the novel to really get anywhere with even him. The other characters severely lack depth and other interest, at least for me. I liked Lucy well enough, despite occasionally being a bit slow on the uptake. She did grow over the course of the novel, always a plus for the main character. I can't do too much more commenting about the characters because the others aren't worth it. The only other note is that the voodoo priestesses are quite fun and bring in a very different edge to the world.

Overall this is fun and well-timed coming close to Halloween. It's just enough spook for me to not freak out reading alone at night, but still compelling. If a bit of old school Creole voodoo and romance sound good to you I'd suggest giving it a whirl.
ebook from Netgalley

Monday, September 29, 2014

Of Scars and Stardust


Publication 10/8/2014

Claire knows they're after her. For two years, they've been hunting her.

Two years ago, Claire Graham ran away from her hometown and a tragedy that still haunts her, even in New York City. But when she learns that her sister, Ella, has gone missing, Claire decides to return to Amble, Ohio, and face what happened there. And her involvement in it.

Determined to find Ella, Claire turns to Grant Buchanan, the soft-spoken boy from her past who, like Claire, has secrets he guards closely. The two of them navigate their growing attraction while following clues that Ella left behind. Through a series of cryptic diary entries, Claire tries to unlock the keys to Ella's past - and her own - in order to prevent another tragedy. But not all things lost are meant to be found.
from amazon.com

Beth says 4 Stars...
This book intrigued me, despite being a fair bit off my normal path as far as genre is concerned. I guess that I initially thought that there would be a supernatural component with the wolves. Instead, it was much more of a psychological mystery/thriller. It starts off in Amble just before the initial tragedy strikes and then picks up two years later with Claire living in New York City and going about a different life.  Unfortunately for Claire, she can't escape the trauma and horror in Amble; it follows her to New York.  Upon her return to Amble, old and new mysteries combine and intertwine as Claire tries to prevent history repeating itself.  The plot kept me guessing and moved along at a good pace.  The reality of what happened is a complete mystery that I didn't guess in its entirety (I got part of it, though!).

Claire works well as a narrator, although her strong perspective colors everything that she sees. Throughout the book I was questioning if what Claire was seeing was real.  Claire had decent depth, but her instability and unreliability made her so much more compelling.  She reacted to different situations by either shutting down or lashing out and being inside her head allowed me to always know what she was thinking.  Ella (although physically absent for most of the book) plays such a huge role in shaping the plot.  Every appearance of hers adds a little light to the darkness that Claire carries with herself.  Of course, it wouldn't be complete review without mentioning the sweet, freckled Grant.  He brings out the best in Claire and helps her investigate while keeping her from losing her way.

I enjoyed this book despite having the wrong idea about its topic. The ending completely unexpectedly broke my heart and the mystery kept me guessing for the whole book.  If you're looking for something that's off-kilter, mysterious, and filled with creepy wolves pick this one up.
ebook from Netgalley

Monday, September 15, 2014

Wikedpedia



It's the return of Point Horror for the Internet generation! Don't open the door. Don't answer your phone. And whatever you do, DON'T turn on your computer...

Cole and Gavin love playing practical jokes through Wikipedia. They edit key articles and watch their classmates crash and burn giving oral reports on historical figures like Genghis Khan, the first female astronaut on Jupiter. So after the star soccer player steals Cole's girlfriend, the boys take their revenge by creating a Wikipedia page for him, an entry full of outlandish information including details about his bizarre death on the soccer field.

It's all in good fun, until the soccer player is killed in a freak accident... just as Cole and Gavin predicted. The uneasy boys vow to leave Wikipedia alone but someone continues to edit articles about classmates dying in gruesome ways... and those entries start to come true as well.

To his horror, Cole soon discovers that someone has created a Wikipedia page for him, and included a date of death. He has one week to figure out who's behind the murders, or else he's set to meet a pretty grisly end.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 2.5 Stars...
So I have to comment on two things first: I absolutely loathe the cover and the summary is flat-out wrong. It doesn't actually tell what happens in the book and gets key information completely wrong. Not really the best way to go about selling your book... As far as the plot goes, the concept is cool and put a new twist on the creepy death prediction subgenre. However, the actual execution of the idea was utterly off and really not very entertaining. The deaths were definitely a bit grisly, so it has that going for horror fans. The issue is that some of them were more than a little absurdly constructed. I'm pretty sure that giggles happened because of said ridiculousness. The whole reveal of the killer was poorly done, including the final scene of violence. The characters didn't react in any manner of a normal way and there are serious questions of plausibility. I totally get suspension of disbelief in novels, but it seemed like this was (for the most part) attempting to be realistic. I had an issue with the formatting as well, with the tweets featured in some chapters coming from most to least recent like in a news feed. However, that's not particularly helpful for someone trying to read a bit of narrative through them - they should have been chronologically arranged like what happens when you click on a thread of tweets.

None of the characters were compelling in the least. One of my favorite moments in the book was when we got a peek into the mind of the crotchety old teacher. Cole annoyed me with his utter obsession with Winnie, his ex-girlfriend, and by being incredibly uninteresting. Gavin, Winnie, and the other players weren't any better. All of them played their flat, one-dimensional roles with nothing extra. There really isn't much to say, except that the murderer is pretty obvious before too long.

Overall this is a book to skip. I did manage to get a little baking inspiration and some unintended laughs out of the novel, so it's not a total loss. However, when that's the best that can be said about a horror story it's obvious there's a problem somewhere.
ebook from Netgalley

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Bitter Kingdom

The champion must not waver.
The champion must not fear.
The gate of darkness closes.

Elisa is a fugitive.

Her enemies have stolen the man she loves, and they await her at the gate of darkness. Her country is on the brink of civil war, with her own soldiers ordered to kill her on sight.

Her Royal Majesty, Queen Lucero-Elisa ne Riqueza de Vega, bearer of the Godstone, will lead her three companions deep into the enemy's kingdom, a land of ice and snow and brutal magic, to rescue Hector and win back her throne. Her power grows with every step, and the shocking secrets she will uncover on this, her final journey, could change the course of history.

But that is not all. She has a larger destiny. She must become the champion the world has been waiting for.

Even of those who hate her most.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 5 Stars...
This series hits perfectly in my sweet spot of epic high fantasy. I adore the complexity of the universe, with the intense mythology, religious overtones, and games of power and politics. The Bitter Kingdom delivers on the promises of the other novels in the series, and then throws some more epicness on top of it just because it can. The pacing is pitch perfect; the action flows from one event to another without ever seeming rushed or boring. Moreover, the plot progress actually makes sense with the characters and their motivations. There's a logic to how everything unfolds that I thoroughly appreciated. Another joy of reading these books is Carson's writing; it's so enrapturing. I found myself sneaking a few pages in wherever I could because I didn't want to stop reading. The only issue I had with the book was that I wanted more! I do really wish that more of the history of Invierne had been included because the glimpses Carson provided into their culture were utterly fascinating.

The characters are beyond wonderfully written. All of them have layers that Carson exposes throughout the novel and the relationships between them are equally nuanced. Elisa grew by leaps and bounds from the beginning of the series to the end, starting as a naive, reasonably incompetent princess and becoming a strong and resourceful ruler. What's done so well is that you can see, in retrospect, that Elisa had those qualities in her and they were merely revealed by hardship, change, and allowing her a chance to explore herself. Another thing that's totally wonderful is the friendship between Elisa and Storm. There's love there, but it's completely platonic; no love triangles here (thank goodness). Unfortunately, it's rare to see a non-romantic or antagonistic relationship between a male and female character. Another smart thing about the book was how Carson didn't introduce a ton of new characters at the end. We meet a few new individuals, but they're all necessary to the plot and actually add to the story.

If you haven't read this series I'm not sure what I can do for you besides suggest you pick up Girl of Fire and Thorns and barricade yourself in a room for the rest of the day. Then, surface to pick up the rest of the series and devour them like I did.
book from library

Monday, September 8, 2014

All Those Broken Angels


Comforted by a shadow. Haunted by the truth.

Richard Anderson was the last person to see his friend Melanie alive. She vanished when they were six and while the police never found Melanie, a part of her remained - a living shadow that is now Richard's closest friend.

For ten years, Richard has never questioned the shadow that keeps him company... until a new girl moves into town, claiming to be Melanie. Desperate to prove the girl is a fake, the shadow leads Richard to the place where the killer buried her bones. But Richard finds skeletons from several different children... and evidence suggesting that perhaps the shadow isn't who she says she is.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 4 Stars...
This book definitely falls into the category of super creepy. I will say that I'm not a huge fan of the cover; I don't see the strong connection to the story, especially since Richard is a visual artist. There were so many other options that would make the initial sight of the book much more striking. I really enjoyed having a book set in Savannah, having just recently visited, because I could recognize some of the locations. The story also made a lot of sense in the context of the city, which claims to be one of the most haunted in America. The plot was definitely the highlight of the novel. It had a great combination of meandering moments and edge of your seat twists and turns. The ending was masterfully done, with the reveal of the killer happening in a subtle manner that still made me gasp. Authors take note; that's the way to begin the final unraveling of a mystery.

The characters themselves aren't the main draw of the book and really exist to serve the plot. Richard was fine as far as protagonists go, with the nice little addition of having a sentient shadow living inside him to make it more interesting. I did appreciate hearing about Melanie's previous trauma and how her reaction is different than the standard resilience. Her early experiences broke something inside her instead of strengthening it. There is some weird development with Richard, Melanie, and the shadow that I'm not entirely sure how to feel about. It might give a bit of an ick factor to some readers, especially when you put everything together at the end.

Overall this is a great read if you're looking for a murder mystery with a creepy supernatural twist. It's nice and atmospheric for the fall, with enough turns to keep you engaged. The ending is absolutely awesome and makes the book completely worth reading from cover to cover.
ebook from Netgalley

Friday, September 5, 2014

Faces of the Dead


When Marie-Therese, daughter of Marie Antoinette, slips into the streets of Paris at the height of the French Revolution, she finds a world much darker than what she's ever known.

When Marie-Therese Charlotte of France learns of the powerful rebellion sweeping her country, the sheltered princess is determined to see the revolution for herself. Switching places with a chambermaid, the princess sneaks out of the safety of the royal palace and into the heart of a city in strife.

Soon the princess is brushing shoulders with revolutionaries and activists. One boy in particular, Henri, befriends her and has her questioning the only life she's known. When the princess returns to the palace one night to find an angry mob storming its walls, she's forced into hiding in Paris. Henri brings her to the workshop of one Mademoiselle Grosholtz, whose wax figures seem to bring the famous back from the dead and who looks at Marie-Therese as if she can see all her secrets. There, the princess quickly discovers there's much more to the outside world - and to the mysterious woman's wax figures - than meets the eye.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3 Stars...
Sometimes a girl just wants to read about the lush world of an Old-World monarchy, even as it breaks down during a revolution. This book did a wonderful job of capturing the feeling of the end of the French monarchy at the hands of revolutionaries. The details were delightful and really rounded out a full picture of the time, from describing the luxury of the palace to the squalor of the streets. I think that has to be the book's greatest strength; the ability to transport the reader back to the end of the 18th century. Unfortunately, the plot fell extremely short of the lovely world it was supposed to fill with action. I already knew the basics of how it was going to end from my brushes with European history, so I wasn't really on the edge of my seat. The most disappointing part of the novel was the how the supernatural element was handled. There's a way to delicately add a bit of the strange and paranormal, and then there's just severely underwhelming writing. I expected so much more and just ended up disappointed with the result. I wanted some excitement, or for there to be some actual influence on the plot from it. There would be almost no difference in the book if it had been straight up historical fiction, and it probably would have been better.

Marie-Therese was a decent character, but not entirely believable in my mind. Her reactions are too calm and collected for someone brought up to be a well-mannered princess. I can't imagine that someone in her position would take a fall with such grace and ease. The rest of the royal family served their purpose to give Marie-Therese motivation to do various risky things that somehow worked out fairly well for her. Henri was a fairly standard love interest. A poor boy who could show her how the rest of the French lived and offer her a new perspective on the world, all with sweetness and kindness. There was nothing wrong with him, but he lacked a spark to bring him off the page. Most of the characters fell a bit flat, unfortunately.

Overall, I'd say this is one to skip. Lovers of paranormal stories won't find enough to interest them and it strays a bit too far from traditional historical fiction to appeal to fans of that genre. This is a case where less probably would have been more.
ebook from Netgalley

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tabula Rasa


Publication 9/23/2014

The Bourne Identity meets Divergent in this heart-pounding debut.

Sixteen-year-old Sarah has a rare chance at a new life. Or so the doctors tell her. She's been undergoing a cutting-edge procedure that will render her a tabula rasa - a blank slate. Memory by memory her troubled past is being taken away.

But when her final surgery is interrupted and a team of elite soldiers invades the isolated hospital under cover of massive blizzard, her fresh start could be her end.

Navigating familiar halls that have become a dangerous maze with the help of a teen computer hacker who's trying to bring the hospital down for his own reasons, Sarah starts to piece together who she is and why someone would want her erased. And she won't be silenced again.

A high-stakes thriller featuring a non-stop race for survival and a smart heroine who will risk everything, Tabula Rasa is, in short, unforgettable.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3.5 Stars...
The concept behind this book is absolutely fascinating and I love the idea of a breakneck story with this kind of intensity.  I enjoyed my reading, but definitely felt like there were some problems with the novel.  A major issue I had was with the setting.  For the attempted scope of the story, keeping everything located within the hospital ended up problematic.  The feeling of claustrophobia created by limiting the setting worked against the feeling of the book.  Enough intensity came from the plot; the extras were unnecessary and distracting.  The plot itself moved fairly quickly, but the information drops weren't particularly well timed.  All of the action did work in the book's favor with the battle sequences coming off as unpredictable and exciting.  I can totally see how they would pull action fans in, and it definitely made the book a page turner.

Sarah is fairly well characterized and interesting.  She's easy to root for, despite how little she knows about herself.  Her struggle to learn about her past is a bit mishandled, which goes back to my earlier note on the information pacing.  The other characters did certainly add to the narrative.  Thomas was particularly awesome with his snark and thoughtful attitude.  He didn't take undue risks, but wasn't afraid of going for it when necessary.  The only individual that I felt really lacked depth and that I was ambivalent to was the villain.  I think that's one of the reasons I didn't like this book as much.  It's hard to love something when the "evil" force in the story feels contrived and elicits no strong response.

Overall, I wanted more from the villain and better information reveals.  This book is for people who want a thrill ride or fast-paced adventure.  If you're looking for depth, look elsewhere.
ebook from Netgalley

Monday, September 1, 2014

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe


Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship-the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 5 Stars...
Increasing diversity in YA books has been at the center of a huge conversation and I admit to being guilty of not reading enough books by or about people of color. This book is one that proves we need diversity, because it is beautiful, complex, and different. This book wasn't trying to be diverse; it couldn't exist any other way. The fact that Ari and Dante are Mexican-American and that culture surrounds them is fundamental to the story and completely natural. There isn't much of a plot to the book, it's centered around little episodes in the characters' lives, but that doesn't really matter. It's so much more of a character study, examining the lives of these young men and those that surround them. What's also wonderful is Ari and Dante have such different life experiences, and the book highlights how they respond to the same events in, at times, opposite ways. All of this is helped by some absolutely beautiful prose. This book really isn't in my favorite genre, but I couldn't stop reading it because the words were so enchanting.

The characters are just wonderful. It's as if Ari, Dante, and their families could really exist and are probably still bowling, reading, and talking (or not, as the case may be). What's so brilliant is the depth given to all of the characters, Ari and Dante especially. Ari and Dante both have to come to terms with the fact that they're at the cusp of manhood and discovering their own identities. However, several other secondary characters, particularly the boys' parents, also get significant backstories. Ari's dad, never recovered from his time in the Vietnam war, grows and develops outside of his relationship with his son throughout the book. I don't know what else I can say except for these are some of the most wonderfully written characters I've read in a very long time.

All I can say is that this book is wonderful. It will make you think, feel, and appreciate the relationships around you. And maybe, just maybe, you'll be able to discover a few of the secrets of the universe yourself.
book from library

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cinderella's Dress

Being seventeen during World War II is tough. Finding out you're the next keeper of the real Cinderella's dresses is even tougher.
Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she's working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds the Cinderella's dresses, life gets complicated.
Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart, Johnny, stuck in the middle of battle, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it's too late.

After all, the descendants of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3 Stars...
This is one of those books where, after reading it, I have zero strong feelings about it. I really like the concept and thought that several things were very cleverly done, but for everything that made it lovely, there was something else that detracted the same amount. The idea that Cinderella could be real and a princess of a non-existent Eastern European country is a delightful one, and paired quite nicely with the World War II era setting. It was fun to have the department store be an important location, blending the old world fashion of Cinderella with New York City and the more modern setting. Getting a look at old-time department stores and window displays was one of the best parts of the book. The unique take on the Cinderella legend was also a delight, with the magic incorporated into the dresses she wore and intertwining a servant family with hers. The plot itself was a bit meandering and disjointed. Although the dress aspect clearly had a direction, too much focused on other bits of Kate's life that never fully came together.

Kate was just okay as a main character. Her personality felt underdeveloped, so she never became extremely compelling. It's not that I wished her ill, or was totally uninterested in her story, it's just that I didn't feel any urgency in her journey. My favorite character was Kate's great uncle Adalbert, an older man with a sense of reality whose primary goal was to protect his family. He also had to deal with the declining health of his wife Elsie, who flitted in and out of lucidity as the story progressed. Johnny, the leading man, was woefully underdeveloped. Thus, his connection with Kate appeared superficial and he came across as just a good guy with no complexity. I did really enjoy some of the individuals that came in very near the end of the book. They added a much-needed freshness.

Overall this is one that I could take or leave. It wasn't exactly bad, but it wasn't particularly good either. If you're ultra bored or have an obsession with mid-20th century department stores and Cinderella grab it. Otherwise, you won't miss anything spectacular by giving it a pass.
ebook from Netgalley

Monday, August 25, 2014

Midwinterblood


Have you ever had the feeling that you've lived another life? Been somewhere that has felt totally familiar, even though you've never been there before, or felt that you know someone well, even though you are meeting them for the first time? It happens. In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumor has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visiting journalist, Eric Seven, and a young local woman known as Mere are ritually slain. Their deaths echo a moment ten centuries before, when, in the dark of the moon, a king was slain, tragically torn from his queen. Their souls search to be reunited, and as mother and son, artist and child, forbidden lovers, victims of a vampire they come close to finding what they've lost. In a novel comprising seven parts, each influenced by a moon - the flower moon, the harvest moon, the hunter's moon, the blood moon - this is the story of Eric and Merle whose souls have been searching for each other since their untimely parting.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 5 Stars...
It seems like the Printz committee this year was really into dark stories, and I'm totally okay with that when it comes in such a beautiful form. The story itself is packaged in a weird form; a series of vignettes about the interactions and love between various reincarnations of two characters throughout time. Even more interesting is that instead of starting at their first life, the novel begins with their last and moves backwards until finally giving the full story. Some readers might find it disconcerting, but I absolutely loved it. What's more, Sedgewick can write like nobody's business. The prose is totally transporting and an absolute pleasure to read. The whole book is dark, brooding, and atmospheric with minor details repeating themselves. What's also wonderful is how the stories themselves are so different, with the main characters veering from doomed lovers to siblings to once when they never even meet.

The characters are hard to dissect, because Merle and Eric (or some variant thereof) change from story to story. What I will say is that the love between the two of them is both constant and ever-changing like the characters themselves. There are also a ton of secondary characters, some of which also repeat in their own special ways throughout the book, although none with the same consistency of the main two.

I loved this book full stop. Although I know it's not going to be everyone's cup of (special island) tea, I would highly recommend giving it a try. After being a bit disappointed in Sedgewick's other novel, I am so glad I picked this one up. If you're looking for something dark, different, and brilliantly written get your hot little hands on this book as soon as you can.
book from library

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Feuds


Publication 9/2/2014

In this breathless story of impossible love, perfection comes at a deadly cost.

For Davis Morrow, perfection is a daily reality. Like all Priors, Davis has spent her whole life primed to be smarter, stronger, and more graceful than the lowly Imperfects, or "Imps." A fiercely ambitious ballerina, Davis is only a few weeks away from qualifying for the Olympiads and finally living up to her mother's legacy when she meets Cole, a mysterious boy who leaves her with more questions each time he disappears.

Davis has no idea that Cole has his own agenda, or that he's a rising star in the FEUDS, an underground fighting ring where Priors gamble on Imps. Cole has every reason to hate Davis-her father's campaign hinges on total segregation of the Imps and Priors-but despite his best efforts, Cole finds himself as drawn to Davis as she is to him.

Then Narxis, a deadly virus, takes its hold--and Davis's friends start dying. When the Priors refuse to acknowledge the epidemic, Davis has no one to turn to but Cole. Falling in love was never part of their plan, but their love may be the only thing that can save her world...in Avery Hastings's Feuds.

Beth says 3.5 Stars...
The cover of this made me super happy, primarily because the background has a nice set of what appear to be chemical structures and I'm a giant science nerd. The initial concept is interesting, if a bit done, with the class difference defined by genetic engineering or a lack thereof. The biggest issue I had was in the world building. I know this is the start to a series (or at least the ending implies another book is on the way) and so I'm sure Hastings feels that she'll have ample time to explore the world of Feuds. However, so much was left undefined and only vaguely mentioned. Why are the Olympiads so important and what actually happens to the winners? Are the Imps prohibited from the genetic engineering by cost or other regulations and was it always that way? I felt that the book raised more questions than it answered, and not in a good way. The actual plot was fine, if a bit scattered and slow to get to the point. I couldn't have guessed a fair bit of the final direction from the way it began.

I quite liked Davis, for all that she inhabited a bubble of perfect privilege. Her passion for ballet immediately provided a slightly different side of her than expected of a dystopian heroine. Her willingness to just pretend that everything was just fine mirrored that of the Priors as a whole and was mildly annoying. At least the introduction of Cole into her world made her face some of the harsher realities. I quite liked Cole, who very definitely falls into the category of hot and broody. Again, though, the romance went too intense too quickly for my liking. They met a couple of times and all of a sudden are incapable of living without one another. I wish that we'd been able to see more of the secondary characters, but with Cole and Davis's lives having basically no overlap, all of the minor characters' appearances were quite brief.

If you're super into dystopian then this has the potential to get better. There were some revelations at the end that set up a next installment pretty nicely. Personally, I'm still a bit on the fence about whether to read a second book.
ebook from Netgalley

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Hunt Killers


What if the world's worst serial killer... was your dad?

Jasper "Jazz" Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could - from the criminal's point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo's Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret - could he be more like his father than anyone knows?
from goodreads.com

Beth says 4 Stars...
On occasion I have the urge to read a twisty thrill-ride type of mystery novel.  This book had exactly what I wanted in spades. Importantly, the mystery is wonderfully done and the ending was a shocker.  The pace flowed smoothly and kept me engaged; I read this book obsessively. The crimes unfold with a well-balanced mix of suspense and gore that doesn't go too far to the gross direction. Jazz embarks upon his own investigation that sometimes overlaps with the police's and other times goes into different directions.  His relationship with the police officials is a bit odd, but works well in the story. The occasional flash from the perspective of the killer adds another dimension to the narrative.

Jazz is a wonderful narrator to take you to the dark and weird places inside the mind of a serial killer. He's conflicted, but doesn't let everything get too intense all the time. There's a constant internal grappling with Jazz balancing his desire to hurt instilled by his father and the inherent good in his nature. He has a great sense of humor that's enhanced by his best friend Howie, a hemophiliac whose presence reminds Jazz of how easily he could do harm. Howie's a good foil for Jazz, with his fragility and good-hearted resilience bringing out the best in Jazz. The specter of Jazz's father hangs over the whole book, infiltrating the story with its menacing presence.

Overall, this is a really nice start to a new series that fills an unusual niche. The obvious comparison is to Dexter, but it isn't quite accurate. When you see through Jazz's eyes, you see the conflict that comes from his experiences as a serial killer-in-training. Get ready for the funniest book you'll read about serial killings.
Book Purchased

Monday, August 4, 2014

Amity

Publication 8/26/2014 

Inspired by a true-crime story of supernatural happenings and gory murders, Amity spans two generations and beyond to weave an overlapping, interconnected tale of terror, insanity, danger, and death.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 4 Stars...
Based on the cover one would expect this book to be creepy and it certainly was.  Start off with a creepy house with a history, a couple of desperate families moving in ten years apart, add a dash of psychological damage, and you have the perfect set up for a horror story.  The narrative alternates between the first person accounts of Connor and Gwen, which kept me from getting bored with one of them.  It also allowed Ostow to delve into two similar, yet different accounts of the house's horrors.  The plot moved quickly and consistently forward with both stories adding information and occasionally giving different perspectives on the same thing.  I'll admit that I scare easily, but I had serious problems with this as bedtime reading.  Although there's some grossness, most of the fear comes from the psychological games Amity plays with everyone who comes into contact with her.  That's right, I'm talking about the evil magic house like it's sentient.  Amity plays the biggest role in moving the action forward and acts as the core of the book.

The characters serve the purpose of Amity and act as vessels for or antagonists towards her power.  What I found so interesting was how the two main characters could have such different reactions to Amity.  It's unsettling to be in either Gwen or Connor's head for opposite reasons.  Gwen's constantly questioning her sanity and thus ends up ignoring all of her instincts.  Not only that, but everyone around her also refuses to believe her since she's supposedly unstable.  On the other hand, Connor is terrifying in his psychopathy and love of Amity.  He embraces and enjoys the darkness and evil that permeates the house, which is a super creepy head space to inhabit for however brief a time.  The siblings of the main characters fill their roles nicely.  Honestly, the characters are only really there to be vehicles of the story and it works.

This book is one for horror fans that don't want an overabundance of gore, but still want something to unsettle them.  There isn't much productive character development because the plot is the major focus.  I know this isn't going to be for everyone.  I found it a nice, albeit scary, change of pace.
ebook from publisher

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Shattered Veil


When everything that defines you is stripped away, who do you become?

War has invaded Atalanta's quiet villages and lush woodlands, igniting whispered worries in its glittering capitol. Far from the front lines, 18-year-old Aris Haan, a talented wingjet flyer, has little cause for concern. Until her beloved Calix is thrust into the fray, and a stranger makes her an impossible offer: the chance to join a secret army of women embedded within the all-male military.

Aris's choice to follow Calix to war will do more than put her in physical danger; it will make her question everything she believes about herself. When she and her enigmatic commander uncover a deadly conspiracy, her expert flying might be the only hope for her dominion's survival...and her own.

It's Mulan meets Battlestar Galactica, with a heroine who is strong enough to save a nation...but only if she's willing to sacrifice everything, even the one promise she swore she'd never break.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 5 Stars...
When a book bills itself as Mulan meets Battlestar Galactica it a) is immediately interesting to me and b) has very high expectations to live up to, especially when coupled with a lovely cover.  I was a bit worried going into this since I've been burned recently by a bunch of books.  Luckily for me, this book is all manner of awesome!  I absolutely devoured it and could barely put it down once I started.  The world is complex, complete with a dystopian style job selection process.  Although I generally dislike books that switch between different perspectives, it felt right with this narrative.  It allowed the scope of the book to widen, encompassing some of the politics behind the war as well as what was happening on the front lines.  The threads of the story all came together at the end in a satisfactory manner, complete with a little twist or two.  The plotting was tightly paced and keeps interest throughout the whole book.

Aris was fragile and strong, depending on the situation.  Constantly underestimated by those who know her and coddled because of a childhood illness, nobody expected her to do anything save stay in her small town.  After Calix is unexpectedly placed in a military position, she accepts the challenges that come with having to hide who she is because of joining the all-male military.  Her response to various stresses throughout the book showed growth as she began to believe in herself and her abilities.  By the end, Aris grew into her own and started to develop her own reasons for moving forward.  The supporting characters, particularly having Galena's perspective, added to the story without being placeholders.  Everyone served some purpose, or at least there was a hint of one to come later on in the series.

Overall, this book was wonderful and completely fulfilled my expectations. The world was well drawn and the society outlined just enough to feel interesting and leave room for growth.  I can't wait to see more of this series and will grab the next one as soon as I can.
ebook from Netgalley

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Rose Under Fire


While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that's in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

from goodreads.com

Beth says 4.5 Stars...
In what appears to be a common sentiment, I was both excited and nervous to read this book.  I absolutely adored Code Name Verity and have since made it one of my top books to recommend to both lovers and naysayers of YA.  I was worried that this follow-up would be disappointing and leave me wanting.  Although not as good as its predecessor, I wasn't left wanting.  It takes a bit to get to the main action of the plot, with the beginning acting as an introduction telling of Rose's life pre-capture.  There's then a brief interlude where we hear of Rose's disappearance from other characters via letters and notes.  The plot itself doesn't move aggressively forward, but instead meanders while detailing various episodes from the camp.  As with any well-written Holocaust book, your heart will break in a million different ways during reading.  The book feels like a memoir rather than a novel, which gives even more of an emotional impact.  I would be remiss if I didn't mention the poetry that Rose writes that peppers the novel.  Although I'm not a huge poetry fan, I liked how it added another layer to the story.

Rose is a well drawn character and I enjoyed seeing the world though her eyes.  Hearing about the struggles of those in the camps and getting glimpses into the heartbreak of those they left behind was really powerful.  The Rabbits were something that it's shocking to know was true and it's appalling to consider what happened to real people in the name of "science."  All of the girls/women were different and brought their own stories to the overarching structure of the novel.  Roza in particular, with her specific brand of fiery resistance, provided a great deal of emotional impact.  Her life in the camp defined her entire existence and her courage in the face of absolute evil creates a fascinating character.  I particularly love how the book placed good in the most dire of places and unexpected of characters.

Overall, this is a wonderful companion to Code Name Verity.  When taken on its own it becomes even better, with a complex cast of characters that will pull on your heartstrings.  For a different view on the horrors of concentration camps, pick up both this book and a box of tissues.
book from library

Monday, July 7, 2014

She Is Not Invisible





Laureth Peak's father has taught her to look for recurring events, patterns, and numbers--a skill at which she's remarkably talented. Her secret: She is blind. But when her father goes missing, Laureth and her 7-year-old brother Benjamin are thrust into a mystery that takes them to New York City where surviving will take all her skill at spotting the amazing, shocking, and sometimes dangerous connections in a world full of darkness. She Is Not Invisible is an intricate puzzle of a novel that sheds a light on the delicate ties that bind people to each other.

from goodreads.com 

Beth says 3.5 Stars...
I've heard lots of good things recently about Marcus Sedgwick and decided to grab this one when I saw it at the library.  I didn't really pay attention to what the story was actually about and went in without much knowledge at all.  The plot definitely veers widely away from the typical romances and that at the very least made it enjoyable.  However, the mystery ended up as not particularly captivating and oddly paced.  For a book where an obession with coincidence plays a major role the significance of things wasn't always well-described.  I did adore the formatting of the book.  Bits of Laureth's dad's journal are interspersed throughout the novel and add nicely to the story.  They provide a window into the mind of the disappeared and serve as potential clues to his whereabouts.  I must say that Sedgwick's writing is quite nice and a pleasure to read.

Laureth (in posession of a supremely awesome name) had the potential to be super cool, but fell a short of the goal.  Although I assume that being blind would be a huge part of someone's identity, it seemed to be Laureth's primary defining charactaristic.  The she constantly equated letting people know she's blind with weakness was highly irritating.  Some situations would have been so much simpler had she just been honest at the outset.  There were some lovely moments, though, that had me thinking about what trying to navigate an unfamiliar city would be like if I was blind.  The secondary characters were definitely different and a change of pace from the expected.  Not all were fully realiyed, but none of them felt like stock placeholders either.

Although there are definitely some problems with the book, it's a decent read.  I'm planning on reading some of Sedgwick's other books since they're evidently darker and a bit better.  If you want something that's different and contemporary go ahead and pick this up.
book from library

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Carnelian





Everyone has a past, but for most it isn’t as long ago as Seth Sangre. His past is literally thousands of years ago. Seth’s life led him to the present seeking something that might help him save his country from destruction. He has been in the present for over three years now and just found exactly what he has been looking for.

Mari had dreams that college will be a fresh start, one where she would start over and not fall for the good looking player like high school. Unfortunately for her, that’s exactly what ends up falling into her lap on the first day she moves into the dorms. Now she has to hold to her promise to herself and not fall for the handsome Seth. But he doesn’t plan to make it easy for her. Seth has already marked her as his next conquest. As the semester progresses, Mari learns that Seth might just have a life of his own that’s actually from the past. Suddenly Mari finds her future along with her past put into question. She’s connected to Seth far more than she ever wanted to be and maybe the player isn’t who she thought he was. If Mari can trust her heart enough to follow him, Seth will lead Mari on an adventure of a lifetime and reveal family secrets she never knew existed.
 
from goodreads.com 

Beth says 1.5 Stars...
There are some moments where a pretty cover gets the better of me.  This book is certainly an example of my weakness.  The plot had me interested, but I just couldn't resist when I saw the stunning image.  Unfortunately, nothing about the novel lived up to expectations.  The only good part was that the plot was fast paced.  There wasn't that much waiting around for the action.  Besides that, everything else was rather bad.  The plot itself wavered between predictable and totally absurd, with many questions left completely unanswered.  At the end of the book it seemed as though no progress had been made towards reaching the main goal of the story.  Either that or the author just forgot to enlighten the readers.  The writing was also sub par.  Information was repeated constantly.  I now have an aversion to the number 23, which is evidently the number of girls dated by the totally amazing Seth Sangre.

Mari was a great big nothing as a character.  Her motives, like her characterization, never gained significant depth.  Her obsession with putting people in nice little boxes got wearying quite quickly, especially since the first bit of the book consisted primarily of talking about how Seth seemed like a player and she was done dating players.  As the novel progresses her identity becomes increasingly wrapped up in that of another individual.  Instead of being her own person, she's defined by her position as part of a pair, thus hitting straight on another one of my pet peeves.  Seth ended up as too perfect; some flaws make for a much more interesting character.  The only non-stock individual was Ty.  More page time for him might have helped the book a bit.

Overall, this isn't worth your time.  It's a shame to waste such a pretty cover, but sometimes looks are deceiving. 
ebook from Netgalley

Monday, June 30, 2014

Necromancing the Stone





With the defeat of the evil Douglas behind him, Sam LaCroix is getting used to his new life. Okay, so he hadn't exactly planned on being a powerful necromancer with a seat on the local magical council and a capricious werewolf sort-of-girlfriend, but things are going fine, right?

Well . . . not really. He's pretty tired of getting beat up by everyone and their mother, for one thing, and he can't help but feel that his new house hates him. His best friend is a werebear, someone is threatening his sister, and while Sam realizes that he himself has a lot of power at his fingertips, he's not exactly sure how to "use "it. Which, he has to admit, is a bit disconcerting.

But when everything starts falling apart, he decides it's time to step up and take control. His attempts to do so just bring up more questions, though, the most important of which is more than a little alarming: Is Douglas really dead?


from goodreads.com

Beth says 5 Stars...
I read Hold Me Closer, Necromancer last year and absolutely fell in love with the world McBride created.  It's absurdly clever and filled with sarcastic individuals that make weird references constantly.  At the outset of the book it appears as though things are going pretty well for Sam and his band of misfits.  Unfortunately, in order to have a decent plot for a novel, things go downhill relatively quickly.  Something I can't say enough about this series is how astoundingly funny it is.  Don't read it in public unless cackling to yourself is something you find acceptable.  I spent at least half of the time I was reading this book in some sort of laughter, ranging from giggles to near hysterics.  The plot itself is the weakest part of the book and didn't have me on the edge of my seat.  However, because I kept falling out of it due to uncontrollable laughter I'm willing to give it a pass.  This isn't to say the plot is bad, it's just not spectacular.

Sam just gets better and better.  He tries to develop his necromancy skills while growing into the role thrust upon him as the necromancer of the Seattle area.  He's still sensitive, hilarious, and not quite sure what he managed to get himself into with this supernatural gig.  What makes the book, though, are the secondary characters and the interactions between everyone.  How can you not love the fact that Sam's best friend has been turned into a werebear?  Brid becomes even more bad-ass than I thought possible, despite making some decisions that I didn't quite agree with.  Douglas's house has some amazing quirks, including some highly aggressive garden gnomes that have names like Twinkle the Destroyer and Gnoman Polanski.  The dialogue crackles with quick wit and I could read the conversations that happen between McBride's characters all day long.

If you haven't read this or the first book yet, go buy them immediately.  They're perfect summer reading; light and funny without lowering your IQ.  Be ready for one of the most fun reading experiences you'll ever have.
book from library

Friday, June 27, 2014

Followers

To tweet or not to tweet... what a deadly question.

When Briana loses out on a starring role in the school's production of Hamlet, she reluctantly agrees to be the drama department's "social media director" and starts tweeting half-hearted updates. She barely has any followers, so when someone hacks her twitter account, Briana can't muster the energy to stop it. After all, tweets like "Something's rotten in the state of Denmark... and a body's rotting in the theater" are obviously a joke.

But then a body IS discovered in the theater: Briana's rival. Suddenly, what seemed like a prank turns deadly serious. To everyone's horror, the grisly tweets continue... and the body count starts to rise.

There's no other explaination; someone is live-tweeting murders on campus.

With the school in chaos and the police unable to find the culprit, it's up to Briana to unmask the psycho-tweeter before the carnage reaches Shakespearian proportions... or she becomes the next victim.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 2 Stars...
As a high school theater kid and someone who still loves plays, I was super excited to read this book.  Taking the backdrop of a production of Hamlet and putting a social media twist on it is quite clever.  Shakespearian tragedy blends the ordinary with the epic, potentially providing a nice foil for the action going on in the world of the novel.  Unfortunately, the plot didn't live up to the set up.  Although it was meant to feel high-stakes, I couldn't muster up the energy to feel strongly about the murders.  The live-tweeting bit in the summary is misleading, because the murders are merely foreshadowed rather than graphically described.  The mystery wasn't that enthralling either.  I expected more murders, more drama, and just more interest.  The pacing felt weird, with Bree serving as a roadblock to the resolution of the action rather than helpling things forward.

I must confess that I thoroughly loathed Bree/Briana as the main character.  I understand wanting flaws in a character to make him or her relatable, but Bree was just annoying.  She wouldn't listen to anyone and thought that her ideas and instincts were always right.  While she did grow and develop by the end of the book, she still didn't turn into a compelling person.  The other characters were all totally flat and couldn't pick up the slack left by Bree's lack of an interesting personality.  The private school vs public school kids bit didn't help things feel fresh and new at all, something that could have been a saving grace.

Overall, don't bother with this one.  I wish I could recommend it based on the interesting idea and my desire to like it, but it wasn't to be.  Many things are rotten in this novel.
ebook from Netgalley

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Chaos of Stars


Isadora's family is seriously screwed up - which comes with the territory when you're the human daughter of the ancient Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris. Isadora is tired of living with crazy relatives who think she's only worth of a passing glance - so when she gets the chance to more to California with her brother, she jumps on it. But her new life comes with plenty of its own dramatic - and dangerous - complications... and Isadora quickly learns there's no such thing as a clean break from family.

Blending Ally Carter's humor and the romance of Cynthia Hand's Unearthly, The Chaos of Stars takes readers on an unforgettable journey halfway across the world and back, and proves there's no place like home.

Beth says 2.5 Stars...
I have some very conflicting feelings about this book.  I've read several of White's other novels and thoroughly enjoyed them, so I was looking forward to this one.  The cover immediately pulls you in because it's just flat out gorgeous and by then end of the book does connect back to the story, something that doesn't always happen when the image is so striking.  The plot isn't that bad and I really like the idea of the story.  Imagine that the gods and goddesses of yesteryear are still among us and very much keeping their traditions alive.  It's a similar basis than Gaiman's American Gods had, but this book isn't quite as well realized.  The mysterious plot is highly underdeveloped and the pieces don't fall into some semblance of a place until the very last second.  The little interludes (I call them that because I'm still not sure whether or not they were entirely flashbacks or dreams) at the beginning of each chapter didn't really serve a point.  Most of the plot was spent with Isadora doing nothing of consequence and it dragged.

My biggest issue was in connecting with Isadora, as in I found it impossible.  I found her beyond irritating.  She's entitled, refuses to listen to others, and in general acts like an angsty spoiled brat.  Not who I want to read about.  Of course being sheltered all her life she doesn't realize that she's absolutely gorgeous, although she spurns all advances because of the impermanence of mortal life.  Enter the love interest, Ry, who tries to convince Isadora that she's wrong about love and life.  I liked his character and would have much rather spent time inside his head.  The problem is that everything is filtered through Isadora and her annoyingly pessimistic worldview.  She can't handle happiness and must find problems (or potential problems) in every situation.  I wish that the other characters had more time because I think more deeply developed secondary characters could have significantly improved the novel.

The worst part is that the idea for this book is so fantastic.  I love the thought and would give a book told from a different character's perspective (Ry, perhaps) a chance because I still think there's potential here.  Unfortunately, this didn't live up to my expectations.  Despite the pretty cover, this one's a pass.
ebook from library

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Uncommon Criminals


Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners. 

There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed.

Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend—the gorgeous Hale—and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time.

Which means, this time, Katarina Bishop is making up her own rules.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 4.5 Stars...
I picked up the first book in this series last summer because it was on sale and sounded fun.  I consider that a very good decision, because thus far the books have been an absolute blast to read.  I like to think of the series as Ocean's Eleven with the pop culture sensibilities of shows like Gilmore Girls or Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  There's all of the heist action, but constantly peppered with witty banter and one-liners.  The process of planning and going through the mental lists of different cons and tricks took up most of the book, with the actual action limited to a few scenes.  Luckily, the planning is as delightful as the various robberies.  There were a couple of plot twists, one of which was a bit more obvious because of the action that had occurred and the length of the book.  The ending worked wonderfully and had me giving a little satisfied fist pump at the book.

Kat's dealing with rather a lot from all directions.  She starts out the book having decided to lone wolf things for various re-acquisitions.  I'm not saying thefts because she's only stealing already stolen items and returning them to their rightful owners.  Using her skills for good!  However, the crew that was assembled in Heist Society is concerned that she's taking too many risks.  We get Hale and Gabriella being their generally awesome selves starting from almost the beginning of the book.  It takes a bit for the rest to join in, but it's worth the wait.  I love the relationship between Kat and Hale.  Yes, there's the romantic tension, but their priority is making sure that they can still be friends and get the job done.  Granted, that does come with lots of wonderfully quick banter.  The characters do develop some, but the main draw here is the brilliant heist and the rest of the breakneck plot.  Don't look too deeply; let yourself enjoy the ride.

This is a delightful entry in a series I'm thoroughly enjoying.  I definitely want to get my hands on the next book, which I'm sure I'll devour as rapidly as this one.  If you're into globe-trotting adventures with wit and serious capers then go out and buy these books immediately.
ebook from library

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Unbreakable



I never believed in ghosts. Until one tried to kill me.When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

Suspense, romance, and the paranormal meet in this chilling urban fantasy, the first book in a new series from Kami Garcia, bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures novels.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3.5 Stars...
I was excited to see that Kami Garcia had a book of her own and I managed to find it right when I wanted a bit of adventure.  Although it generally doesn't take much to creep me out, this book didn't scare me and I appreciated that.  Yes, there are ghosts and evil spirit type creatures that haunt with varying levels of aggression that might scare some people.  It isn't that bad, so don't worry if you're someone who's easily scared.  The idea behind the book is super cool with secret societies, horror type entities, and complex familial ties.  However, the plot had some issues, especially at the beginning.  I understand the need for time to set up the world of a series, but it took quite a bit of time to finally get to the point where the plot moved forward smoothly.  The background was also rather spotty, but perhaps the information will come in other books.

A strength of the book was the young members of the Legion.  Kennedy had a few issues adjusting to her new life, but eventually works out her place among the group.  She's a perfectly serviceable heroine, but her tendencies to play things close to the chest and constant self-doubt did get annoying at times.  Although Kennedy is obviously the main character, the others received their own time and space to develop.  They all had distinct personalities and strengths that brought the group together.  My favorite has to be Priest, the delightfully quirky inventor extraordinaire.  His presence made my little nerd heart happy.

Overall I think this is a promising start to the series.  There were problems for sure, but the premise is interesting and the set-up solid.  The ending in particular plays directly into the next book which I think will be better.  I'd suggest giving this a try based on its potential.
book from library

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Diamond Thief


No one performs on the circus trapeze like 16-year-old Rémy Brunel. But Rémy also leads another life, prowling through the backstreets of Victorian London as a jewel thief. When she is forced to steal one of the world’s most valuable diamonds, she uncovers a world of treachery and fiendish plots.

Meanwhile, young detective Thaddeus Rec is determined to find the jewel and clear his name. Will Thaddeus manage to rescue the jewel? Or is it really Rémy that he needs to save?

from goodreads.com

Beth says 4 Stars...
The summary fails to mention that there's a delightful little steampunk element to this story that makes it a bit more than a Victorian mystery.  The set up is a bit odd initially, but soon works itself out and the storylines connect in a more logical way.  Gosling gets a bit ambitious with the scope of the novel and tries to bring in tons of elements.  They eventually coalesce after some time and kinks.  Occasionally some ideas didn't receive the full explanation I would have liked to see, especially some of the oddities mentioned closer to the end of the book.  Despite all this, the plot had a nice flow to it and drew me in slowly.  The mystery unveils gradually with a few moments that accelerate the plot forward.

I quite liked Rémy as a character.  She was a little off in the best possible way, mysterious and suspicious.  Everything in her world wasn't shiny and happy, but she always survived in the best way she knew how.  Her specific skill set often proved useful and she knew when to accept help when things were too far outside of her experience.  Her interactions with Thaddeus were delightful, ranging from verbal sparring to emotional upheaval.  Thaddeus made me smile with his uncanny instincts, propensity for being ignored, and love of technology.  Having chapters that followed both him and Rémy made both of them seem more real and offered insights into the similarities and disparities between their worlds.  In an utterly not shocking turn of events, I particularly enjoyed the Professor with his offbeat scientist/inventor ways.  Although he was a bit stereotypical, the mad scientist archetype is always fun for me to read.

Overall this was a fun, quirky little novel.  I certainly enjoyed it.  If an adventure featuring a circus, a diamond, and a dash of romance sounds good then this is for you.
ebook from Publisher

Monday, June 2, 2014

Nihal of the Land of the Wind



Nihal lives in one of the many towers of the Land of the Wind. There is nobody like her in the Overworld: big violet eyes, pointed ears, and blue hair. She is an expert in swordplay and the leader of a handful of friends that includes Sennar the wizard. She has no parents; brought up by an armorer and a sorceress, Nihal seems to be from nowhere.

Things suddenly change when the Tyrant takes charge. Nihal finds herself forced to take action when she is faced with the most difficult mission a girl her age could imagine.

Fierce, strong, and armed with her black crystal sword, Nihal sets out to become a real warrior. Readers will be riveted as she forges her powerful path of resistance.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3.5 Stars...
So this year I decided to make a bookish New Years Resolution and it's been the only one I've ever kept going this long.  A part of that was to read more books from outside the Anglophone world and that's the main reason I was interested in Nihal, which was translated from Italian.  Well, that and the awesome cover/summary.  The plot takes a bit to get going because it's an introduction to a whole new high fantasy world, but is totally fascinating.  I really liked the world building and want to know more about the lands of the Overworld.  The Tyrant makes an excellent unseen enemy and I quite like the idea of his development into an evil powerhouse.  There is a big problem with the book: the writing.  It's hard, however, to discuss fully because this is a translation and quite often issues not present in the original bubble up in a new language.  The prose doesn't flow as smoothly as it should and tends to get unwieldy.  It's impossible to know if the issues stem from the translation or are inherent in Troisi's original writing, so I'm trying to give her the benefit of the doubt.

For some reason I found Nihal palatable despite the fact that she has some qualities I rather dislike.  She's obsessive, thoughtless, and constantly disregards advice she should listen to.  However, by the end of the book she has grown quite a bit and begins to recognize her weaknesses.  Sennar is a better character by far.  He's interesting, thoughful, and compelling.  Although the first time we meet him he's obnoxious, he grows to become Nihal's biggest supporter and a powerful crusader for peace.  I really would like to have a book from his perspective!  A strength of the book is its supporting characters, who have depth and offer a range of ideas and experiences.  The fascinating politics of the Overworld form an undercurrent with many of the characters involved in one major political entity or another.  I hope that the next books explore this further.

The series is promising and I can see reasons it would be a best seller in Italy.  It's one that serious fans of high fantasy should definitely give a try.  The world is fascinating and there's serious potential for the story during the rest of the series.  I know that I'll keep going to see what happens in the Overworld.
ebook from publisher

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Shadow in the North

When one of Sally’s clients loses a large sum of money in the unexpected collapse of a British shipping firm, Sally sets out to investigate. But as she delves deeper into the identity of a wealthy and elusive industrialist, she uncovers a plot so diabolical, it could subvert the entire civilized world.
from amazon.com

Beth says 4.5 Stars...
I've been a fan of Philip Pullman since I read the astounding His Dark Materials trilogy.  I picked up the first of the Sally Lockhart mysteries years ago and just never got any farther.  That's my mistake because I inadvertently missed this delightful little book.  Pullman is a master of connecting complex plot threads without dropping any of them.  There are two mysteries that at first appear only tangentially related, but that intertwine in unexpected ways revealed throughout the book.  The story weaves in and out of performance halls, back alleys, and estates without losing its flow.  I got so excited because this book (finally) has excellent pacing when it comes to the central mystery!  The language is designed to take you back in time which might be a distraction to some readers.  It occasionally feels stilted, but is rather brilliant in general.

Sally is flat out awesome.  I like my heroines fierce and feisty and she fits the bill.  However, what's so admirable is her struggle for independence on her own terms in a society that thinks her sex renders her useless.  Running a financial consulting agency might not sound thrilling, but juxtaposing it with the action of detective work adds depth to the book.  She also knows her limits and will admit when she needs help or isn't good at something rather than forcing her way through.  Fred and Jim are delightful as male leads.  The tension between Fred and Sally brings forth a nice little spark that ensures the relationships aren't overly light.  The characters behave like real people and all have some lovely three-dimensonality.  I do have to warn about the end because I didn't expect it at all and then some serious feelings happened.

If you have a historical mystery itch, then this will scratch it perfectly.  I would recommend reading the first book before picking this one up, but it isn't a necessity.  For some adventure and mystery with a dash of romance befriend Sally Lockhart and go back in time.  You won't regret it.
book from library

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

High & Dry

Framed for a stranger's near-fatal overdose at a party, blackmailed into finding a mysterious flash drive everyone in school seems anxious to suppress, and pressured by his shady best friend to throw an upcoming game, high school soccer player Charlie Dixon spends a frantic week trying to clear his name, win back the girl of his dreams, and escape a past that may be responsible for all his current problems.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3 Stars...
I like the idea of this book quite a bit more than its execution.  The story plays out in a community where performance-based teaching fully controls the school system.  Not only that, but the high school cliques are like Mean Girls on steroids; the groups protect one another and upperclassmen can't speak with an underclassman without permission from the group leader.  This is the high pressure world where the action unfolds.  The book tries to frame itself as an intense mystery with a dash of thriller and does it somewhat successfully.  Again, I had a problem with the pacing of the plot.  Beginning with a bit more information about the flash drive and why it's so important would really have helped.  It's hard to care when the players and the main driving force are kept mostly secret.  Another issue was the intricacy of the plot.  It felt like Skilton tried to do far too much within the story and tied herself up with various plot threads.  Keeping with one main problem and applying more effort to centering the the book on it would have helped with the pacing and made it better.  There were definitely clever moments that hinted at potential for a better written mystery in the future.

I didn't particularly like Charlie or find him a compelling character.  I've read about characters I loathed, but if they're complex and interesting likability becomes secondary.  Charlie didn't capture my imagination, especially because he alternated between aggressive and whiny, with brief flashes of wit and fun.  The best part was when he let his inner nerd shine and made a few references that got a smile from me.  The secondary characters were just as bad or worse than Charlie.  The irritating Saint Ellie could do no wrong in Charlie's eyes and lacked all dimension.  She existed primarily as a projection of her perfection from Charlie's mind.  The bad boy friend, Ryder, was perhaps the most interesting of the characters in the book.  I wanted more from him because he felt more complex than anyone else.  Instead of being confused and a pawn in the game, he had layers of motivations.

Overall, the book suffered from an overabundance of ambition and a less-than-stellar main character/narrator.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly good either.  It's fine for someone who really enjoys high school mysteries, but if this isn't your prefered genre I'd skip it.
ebook from Publisher

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Hollow City


The extraordinary journey that began in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children continues as Jacob Portman and his newfound friends journey to London the peculiar capital of the world. But in this war-torn city, hideous surprises lurk around every corner. Like its predecessor, this second novel in the Peculiar Children series blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reacting experience.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 5 Stars...
I loved the first book when I read it a while back and was super excited to get my hands on this one.  What's fantastic about this series is that it embraces being different.  Peculiar doesn't just describe the characters, it's a fitting adjective for the story itself.  The overall structure is familiar since the children have to go on what is in essence a quest to find assistance unavailable except in one specific place.  Said place just happens to be located both far(ish) away and in a dangerous area, in this case London in the midst of WWII.  The journey and search for aid for Miss Peregrine comprises the majority of the story.  The plot moves at a nice, consistent pace save the ending in which all hell breaks (metaphorically) loose.  The vintage photographs add a unique and interesting level to the story and serve to bring readers even deeper into the world of the book.  They give striking and atmospheric visuals to make imagining what's going on even easier.

The cast of characters is so delightfully odd.  Throughout the book the peculiar abilities of the children grow stronger and show new facets.  The ending of the last novel marked all of the children and this book allows the development to shine.  The relationship between Emma and Jacob is a delight because it's sweet, relatively normal, and not the central focus of the book.  It's an important factor in some of the actions the characters take, but it doesn't dominate the story.  Most of the individuals the group meets flutter in and out of the story, adding something for the brief time they're important.  They find a few more peculiars with different abilities and I'm enjoying the various types of special talents.  It takes quite a bit of creativity to keep coming up with them!

I can't recommend this series highly enough.  Hollow City is just as good of a second novel as the first book was series opener.  The ensemble of characters, brilliant use of vintage photos, and unabashed oddness make it a breath of fresh air.  If you're looking for something different, delightful, and highly readable grab this book/series.  You shan't regret it.
ebook from Library

Monday, May 19, 2014

Til Death


Sixteen-year old Selena Fallon is a dreamer. Not a day-dreamer, but an I-see-the-future kind of dreamer. Normally this is not a problem as she has gotten pretty good at keeping her weird card hidden from everyone in her small town. Except from her best friend Kyle and her grandparents, of course. But when Selena dreams of her own rather bloody death, things get a little too freaky even for her.

Enter Dillan Sloan. Selena has seen the new guy in a different dream, and he is even more droolworthy in person. Beyond the piercing blue eyes and tousled dark hair, there is something else that draws her to him. Something…electric. Unfortunately, Dillan makes it more than clear that he does not feel the same. They just met, so why would he act like he hates her?

When Dillan and Selena are forced together one weekend to work on a school project, Selena prepares to be ignored as usual. But when she stumbles across a few undead in the backyard, Dillan comes to her rescue and reveals a whole lot more. Not only is he part of a society that hunts otherworldly creatures…she is too. And she is being targeted by a force bigger and darker than anything she ever imagined. Despite her death dream, Selena is not going to give up easy, especially when she discovers that Dillan might not actually hate her after all.
from goodreads.com

Beth says 3.5 Stars...
I just have to start off by mentioning the cover... how absurdly gorgeous is that?  After reading the book I'm not entirely sure what it has to do with the plot, but I'll take the pretty where I can.  We first meet Dillan as he's on his way to live with his uncle after some sort of mission.  As the book goes on we learn about the strongly hierarchical society of world protectors he's grown up in, although it does take a while to get a decent explanation.  The pacing of the book is a significant problem because information isn't distributed in a logical manner.  Some things that would be important to know at the beginning of the novel aren't revealed until halfway through or even later.  The action also clusters around certain events, moving the plot rapidly forward at sporadic intervals.  A lot of the in between bits felt like filler and did nothing to advance character development or enhance the story.  Of the two major reveals in the book I was able to easily guess one and in hindsight should have figured out the other.  The mystery wasn't that intense; I was more interested in getting information about the supernatural society.

The synopsis is a bit misleading as this is as much Dillan's book as it is Selena's.  The narrative alternates between their two perspectives, although Dillan's is told from a third person narrator while Selena's is in the first person.  I found that a bit odd and it took a little while to get used to, but after the initial transition period it wasn't too bad.  I enjoyed the way the relationship between the two of them built up.  The constant bickering and vexation reminded me of a scenario in my own life and made me smile.  It shows that often those who push and challenge you most can be a good partner.  However, the magical (and unexplained) electric shock-like sensation that the two have when they touch each other is a bit too convenient.  They literally have a physical spark between them.  The secondary characters had promising starts and will hopefully have time to mature over the course of the series.

This is a fairly standard entry into the paranormal romance genre.  The end was quite exciting and sets up the next book pretty solidly.  In fact, it rather cut off in the middle of an intense scene and is certainly a cliffhanger.  You might pick this up if you're really into paranormal romance as this has a bit of a different slant on the paranormal side of things, but doesn't diverge too greatly from the usual.
ebook from Publisher

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Allegiant

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

from goodreads.com

Beth says 4 Stars...
If you're unaware of this series at this point then I'm actually rather impressed.  I know this came out a little while ago, but I was waiting until I could check it out from the library instead of buying it.  Although that might seem odd, I knew the reactions from fans were super mixed and I didn't want to purchase something I thought I'd have a substantial chance of disliking.  Luckily for me I quite enjoyed the book, although I do see what made people upset.  Roth was extremely bold in this novel because she made some significant alterations to the overarching plot of the series and moved in unexpected directions.  Going into the book there's no way I would have guessed the ending or even most of the middle and I really appreciated the surprise.  Yes, there are some plot holes and everything doesn't make perfect sense.  However, the whole series requires a certain suspension of disbelief and Allegiant didn't take it too much farther.  The book was compulsively readable and totally sucked me in.  I found the experience worth it solely for the pure escapism of the story.  The alternating perspectives in the chapters worked well and added another layer of complexity.

There were definitely issues with character development, or a lack thereof, during the course of the novel.  Neither Tris nor Four grew significantly or revealed a new side of their personality.  I don't really hold it against the book because the main focus was definitely the plot.  Of course, some new characters enter into the mix, but none of them were particularly remarkable.  The major novelty was the introduction of another society that encompassed the previous world.  I'm a sucker for world within a world stories, so this hit right in a sweet spot for me. 

Although I understand the anger and disappointment of many fans, I think that Roth made interesting choices that took the book away from predictability.  I'm attempting to do this without major spoilers, which is proving quite difficult.  Suffice it to say that the book will go somewhere different from the rest of the series and whether or not that's a good thing is up to you to decide.
book from library