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.

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


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.

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


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 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?

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


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.

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