Friday, August 22, 2014

OMG! Have You Seen This Cover?! Magic and Kitties.

Lots of incredible covers this week.  I picked two that I loved, but for very different reasons.

The Gifted Dead by Jenna Black
Release Date: September 23rd, 2014

Politics and magic make dangerous bedfellows.

Deep within the Order, the seeds of corruption have taken root. While younger generations of the Gifted have embraced modern democratic values, a secret society of old-guard zealots seek a return to the past, when only European men of distinguished bloodlines held power.

Now, three venerable European families and a maverick American each plot to seize control of the Order and shape it to their will. A cutthroat game of political intrigue will decide the winner; and the stakes couldn't be higher, for ruling the Order carries with it the power to grant—or deny—an afterlife.

What begins as a battle of wills could turn into an all-out war. And magic could prove deadlier than any missile.


I love the cloth look of this cover and I can't help staring at the edges.  Is that dirt? Mold?  Has it been buried, or uncovered in a mysterious way?  The ouroboros (infinity snake) image is equally mysterious and I like how it looks to be printed on the cloth.  If the physical cover has some texture to it, I may just swoon in the bookstore. 


The Girl and the Clockwork Cat
Release Date: September 2nd, 2014

Feisty teenage thief Maeko and her maybe-more-than-friend Chaff have scraped out an existence in Victorian London’s gritty streets, but after a near-disastrous heist leads her to a mysterious clockwork cat and two dead bodies, she’s thrust into a murder mystery that may cost her everything she holds dear.

Her only allies are Chaff, the cat, and Ash, the son of the only murder suspect, who offers her enough money to finally get off the streets if she’ll help him find the real killer.

What starts as a simple search ultimately reveals a conspiracy stretching across the entire city. And as Maeko and Chaff discover feelings for each other neither was prepared to admit, she’s forced to choose whether she’ll stay with him or finally escape the life of a street rat. But with danger closing in around them, the only way any of them will get out of this alive is if all of them work together.


 Whereas the first cover was beautiful in its simplicity, this one has so many gorgeous details that it keeps your eye roving across the image.  The glowing city in the background is lovely, as is the girl's coat and even the texture on her tights.  But the real star of the show (as they should always be) is the cat.  I think my favorite part is the determined look on the cat's face.  Clockwork kitty doesn't need your pity, clockwork kitty is getting shit done.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Publisher:
Delacorte Press
Release Date:
May 13, 2014
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: Nothing that I would ever pick off a shelf.  The colors are muted and a little bland.  I really dislike when covers use all lower case font, but that is my own personal issue. 

The Gist:
 

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.


- Goodreads.com

Review: 

We Were Liars is far more unique than I ever anticipated.  Lockhart certainly has a writing style that is all her own, but one that I feel is dividing readers.  I loved it.  But, I can see where it would annoy others.  It opens with short, choppy sentences that are more statements of fact than storytelling, but it is incredibly effective.  The story is told from Cady's point of view who suffers from memory loss, migraines and is forced to use pain killers to cope.  These facts left me wondering about her reliability as a narrator and questioning everything that she tells the reader.  It also features variations on the the three princesses fairy tale which add charm and depth to the story.

I will admit, there was a point about halfway through where this felt like just another rich girl, whining about her problems.  It certainly took patience to begin to piece the clues together and see that there was a really important story to be told.  There are a lot of characters to get straight and a lot of home names to put into place.  There are actually three group of players on the island: the Liars (the older children), the Aunts and Grandfather, and the Littles.  The Liars are the main characters, teens who have run of the island each summer.  The Aunts constantly fight each other for the Grandfather's attention and bicker over belongings and homes.  The Littles do not play a major role, but, when the book was over, I found myself thinking back to some of their actions in light of the new information which added some great depth and enjoyment.  In fact, by the end, the reader realizes that there were clues from the very first page, we were just unable to see them in context without more information.

To be honest, this review is really difficult to write without giving away too much of the story, so I will probably stop there.  We Were Liars is a beautiful, melancholy mystery that is beautiful in it's style and storytelling.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age:
13 and up
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Death by Fire
Inappropriate Language: Bastard, Bullshit, Fuck
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Maplecroft by Cherie Priest


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.
This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is: Maplecroft by Cherie Priest which is due to be released on Sept 2nd

 Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one....

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe.


I don't really know anything about the whole Lizzie Borden story but I find it intriguing.  I was really hoping to snag a review copy of this one, but no luck.  Can't wait for it to come out!

Monday, August 18, 2014

How to Fall by Jane Casey

Title: How to Fall
Author: Jane Casey
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Rating: 1/5

Cover Impressions: 
Pretty but predictable.  I love the colors and the stormy sea.

The Gist:
Jess Tennant has been dragged to her mother's hometown while she recovers from her recent divorce.  Jess quickly realizes that she bears a remarkable resemblance to her cousin Freya, who died a year ago of an apparent suicide.  Something about Freya's death doesn't seem right and Jess throws herself into the investigation.  Everyone is a suspect and Jess begins to learn that Port Sentinel is not the sleepy little town that she had expected. 

Review:

Wow, I was really disappointed in this book.  I'm actually pretty surprised.  I was excited by the premise, I was in the mood for a good, grabbing mystery, it had pretty decent ratings on Goodreads... I just didn't like it.

First of all, the main character annoyed the heck out of me.  She had a particularly bland personality with some boring facts (like a bad breakup and being the child of divorce) thrown in in a futile attempt to give her some depth.  She was meant to be determined and committed, but she came off as stubborn and irritating.  Her only investigative tool was to ask incessant questions until the person she was interrogating got angry.  Eventually she came up with a dumbass, dangerous plan that would never have worked in real life and would and resulted in her getting killed.

To be honest, there weren't really any characters in this novel that I enjoyed.  The mother basically disappears, only emerging in order to look have some angsty scene with a married man that leaves her looking desperate, idiotic and pathetic.  The police officer/mom's love interest seriously skeeved me out and neither of the main character's love interests were particularly appealing.   

The mystery isn't so much of a mystery and there wasn't nearly as much action as I was hoping.  I think I would have been more invested in the story if we had been given an opportunity to get to know Freya as she seems like a much more interesting character than Jess.  The ending was particularly drawn out and boring.  Once the main mystery was uncovered, there were pages and pages of angsty crap while we sorted out things that were very obviously going to happen.  I was even more disappointed to see a sneak peak at the end of this book, meaning that the author seems to have found a way to toss another mystery in Jess' path and more time to devote to her incessant questioning.  I, for one, will not be signing on for that story.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age: 
13 and up
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Falling from a cliff
Inappropriate Language: Slut, Bitch, Bastard
Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Audio Book Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cress
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: MacMillan Audio
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Rating: 3/5

Review:

I thought I would do a quick review for Cress as a) most people who are interested have probably read it already and b) it took me SO LONG to get through this audio book that I have completely forgotten most of the details.

First of all: I don't really blame this book for my taking months to finish it.  I think it was more about my personal life: while I was listening to this I found out that I am pregnant with my second child and that threw my reading life into a complete tailspin.  

I did have some trouble connecting with Cress the way that I did with Cinder and Scarlet in the two previous books but I did enjoy Cress and Thorne together.  I am hoping that Meyer will throw a wrench into the oh-so-predictable pairings by making sure that Jason is not a love interest for Snow.  I also didn't find the plot of this novel as compelling as the previous ones.  I realize that a lot of actions had to happen to pull these characters together, but I would have preferred some more forward momentum in the whole overthrow-the-evil-queen plot. 

I'm fairly certain I will be back in for Winter but, at the same time, I am hoping that the series isn't planned to go on much longer than that. 


Monday, August 11, 2014

ARC Book Review: I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora

Title: I Kill the Mockingbird
Author: Paul Acampora
Publisher: Macmillin
Release Date: May 20th, 2014
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions: 
Super cute and I love the colors.

Review:

To Kill A Mockingbird is a staple on any summer reading list.  Despite this, it is rarely read or enjoyed by Lucy, Elena and Michael's peers.  They set out to change that by hiding copies of the book in every bookstore that they can.  They also set up a website: Ikillthemockingbird.com and leave their flyers in every place that they strike.  They begin to see an uptake in interest in the book and, very quickly, their little scheme takes on a mind of its own when others get involved and the movement starts to spread across the country.

The characters in I Kill the Mockingbird are extremely cute.  I wish I had friends like this when I was a kid.  They are quirky and well read, but have a tendency to come off as a little overly precocious.  I teach kids they age that these characters are supposed to be and can't imagine any of my students quoting classic novels in everyday conversation!  There is also a "romantic" element between two of the characters that feels forced and unnecessary.  I would much rather have spent more plot time on the post-cancer family dynamic.

The plot point that really worked for me was the relationship between Lucy and her parents in the wake of her mother's cancer treatment.  I could relate to Lucy doing whatever she could to try and alleviate the pressure on her parents. She also tried to take on a more mothering role, which naturally caused a great deal of stress for her and her mother.  These sections of the book were where I could really settle in and enjoy the characters.  Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the whole ikillthemockingbird plot.  There was no real sense of conflict as the kids aren't technically doing anything illegal and, despite some pretty clear clues that they were behind the endeavor, no one really tries to stop them.  The ending and wrap up is rather anti-climactic.  Overall, the book has a cute premise and is well written, but it didn't really blow me away. 


Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age: 
10 and up
Sex: One Kiss
Violence: None
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse:
None

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Welcome the the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Title: Welcome to the Dark House
Author: Laure Faria Stolarz
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: July 22, 2014
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions: 
The title and background image don't seem to go together and I hate that font.  It doesn't have the creep factor that I would expect from this type of book.

The Gist:
A group of teens is brought together by a mysterious contest.  Write an essay about your greatest nightmare and win an all expenses paid trip of a lifetime to meet a directing legend.  As they reach The Dark House, each person starts to realize that a weekend reliving their greatest fears may be more than they bargained for and the danger may be more than they realized. 

Review:


Welcome to the Dark House feels like a super campy, straight to video, horror movie.  With villains torn from a fictional series of movies who spout the cheesiest lines and terrible rhymes who often felt more like comic relief than a real source of danger.  It features a plethora of characters who are rather static and a bit boring.  I cared more for some characters (why wasn't Natalie the main character?) than others.  For example, I did not care one bit for Garth and, frankly, didn't give a damn what happened to him.  It also seemed very strange that we never even got to meet one of the contest winners and were expected to actually care when she disappeared.  I have a sneaking suspicion her scenes got the chop when Stolarz's editor felt the book was too long. 

The narrative switches perspectives between these characters and there were simply too many to keep track of.  There was very little change in the voice of the narrators which made following the switches difficult and I had to keep going back and reminding myself of who was speaking (until I stopped caring and gave up).  The plot is fairly fast paced and doesn't feature too much lag in between creepy happenings but gave way to quite a bit of explanation of the fictional films and their characters - of which there were MANY.  I almost wish (and I'm fairly certain this would infringe on copyright and therefore wouldn't be possible) that it could have been based on a real franchise like Halloween or Scream. 

Some of the scenes were pretty disturbing (I kept cringing at the whole eels in a tank scene) and I really enjoyed watching each character encounter their own fears (though it might have been more effective if there had been a little bit of mystery around what each one was afraid of).  However, I had some trouble as I kept questioning whether or not this was supposed to include some element of the supernatural or if it was some elaborate scheme set up by a real murderer.  I kept being distracted by nagging questions like how was this guy in so many places at once?  How did he set up an amusment park filled with cameras in the middle of the woods with no one taking notice?  Whose name was on the electric bill?  Why were there no work orders or witnesses to the construction?  What about purchase info for some of those pretty much priceless guitars and manuscripts in the house? 
 
In the end, I was sincerely hoping for a twist that would make this all worthwhile (this was all a shared psychosis or was set up by their therapists as a form of extreme therapy or it actually was set up by the murderer or Ivy's parents and he had somehow had a hand in each child's trauma)  But, I was disappointed.  It seemed to leave some room for a sequel, but I don't think I will bother if that is the case. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age: 
15 and up
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Violent murders by various means (buried alive, choking, stabbing)
Inappropriate Language: Piss, Shit
Substance Use/Abuse: None