Monday, November 16, 2015

The Girl with the Wrong Name by Barnabas Miller

Title: The Girl with the Wrong Name
Author: Barnabas Miller
Soho Teen
Release Date:
Nov 3, 2015

The Gist: 
Seventeen-year-old Theo Lane has been hiding half of her face from the public ever since “The Night In Question,” a night that left her with a long, disfiguring scar, an unquiet mind, and no memory of what happened. An aspiring documentary maker, she uses her camera to keep the world at a safe distance, shooting hours of secret footage with a hidden button cam on her jacket collar. But when Andy Reese, a forlorn and mysterious “Lost Boy,” wanders into her frame, he becomes the unknowing star of her latest project. Her unhealthy obsession with him tears her from that sheltered life behind the camera, pulling her into a perilous, mind-bending journey through Andy’s world. But is it really Andy’s world she’s investigating? Or is it her own?

Two months ago, on "The Night In Question" something horrible happened to Theo Lane, leaving her with a long jagged scar down the side of her face.  No one seems to talk about it and even Theo doesn't seem to know what happened.  Having distanced herself from her friends, Theo begins obsessing over a mysterious boy at a coffee shop, the subject of her new project.  Breaking the first rule of documentary film making, she involves herself in her subject matter when she is unable to ignore Andy's sadness any longer.  The two set out to find the mysterious Sarah, the love of Andy's life who never showed up to meet him.  As locating her becomes more and more difficult, Theo and Andy fear that something terrible may have happened and as the coincidences between Sarah and Theo's life compound, she begins to fear that she may be more involved than she ever expected. 

I was really surprised how many twists there were in this novel.  It was slow going at first, and I actually contemplated tossing it on the DNF pile as it seemed to be just another "search for the elusive 'perfect' girl leads boy to see what was right in front of him all along" story.  However, I'm very glad I didn't as this is definitely NOT that kind of story.  As more and more secrets are revealed we find that there is something far more sinister going on here and Theo is smack in the middle of it.  Along with her, we question what we are seeing and what the truth really is.  This leads to a very suspenseful and exciting conclusion and while some plot twists were easy to ascertain, it also held some genuine surprises.  
One place where this novel fell off was in characterization.  Theo was defined almost solely by The Night In Question and, by the end, there was a real question about how much of her personality was her own and how much was borrowed from somebody else.  Andy was harder to pin down.  At times he seemed like a typical lovesick teenager and at other times he became something darker, and more sinister.  The minor cast featured Theo's mother, stepfather, and her friends Lou and Max.  They were less interesting and mostly served as Theo's sounding board.

Bottom Line: The Girl With The Wrong Name is a suspenseful thriller that will appeal to any mystery fan. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Rape, Murder by fire, 
Inappropriate Language: Shit, Slut, Bitch, Fuck,
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Prescription Drug Abuse

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Need by Joelle Charbonneau

Title: Need
Author: Joelle Charbonneau
HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date:
Nov 3, 2015

The Gist:
"No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better."

Teenagers at Wisconsin's Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

Need is a website that promised Nottawa High School students their heart's desire in exchange for completing the tasks that it sets forth.  At first, this involves sending invites to other students, then a simple task like delivering a box of cookies.  Very quickly, however, things turn sinister as these tasks lead to the very real deaths of students and adults and Kaylee must find out who is behind the website, before it frames her for murder.
Need has an interesting premise, but it is based in a couple of unrealistic assumptions:
1) Teenagers are selfish idiots who are willing to do anything to get what they want, regardless of the consequences.  In order for Need to work, the students have to be willing to complete tasks.  That they would do this is somewhat believable when the payoff outweighs the cost.  However, once they are able to see that these seemingly inconsequential tasks are actually leading to the death of other people, it is just not realistic to expect that they would continue.  IF this plotline had lasted a little longer, with the kids completing assignments that didn't REALLY hurt anyone and got them what they wanted, it would have been a much more enjoyable plot
2) Adults and people in positions of authority never believe students.  Kaylee's mother gives her NO credit and believes she is making up everything.  I get it, she has a history, but you can't tell me that none of the other kids tell their parents and none of those parents believe them either.  Also, a website leaves footprints, even when it is taken down for a short time.  There would be a way to trace it back.  Finally, there is no way that police would not investigate claims of a website setting up murders, especially when MULTIPLE people have died and MULTIPLE kids are telling them the website exists. 
Need just wasn't realistic in its treatment of teenagers.  One thing that bothered me to no end is that the kids seem to have no idea how to take screenshots.  I would expect every kid over the age of 10 knows how to take screenshots.
There was also a problem of too many narrators.  We changed POV constantly and most of the characters just didn't have unique enough voices for this approach.  I found myself constantly trying to figure out which character I was following - is this the one who wants the concert tickets, or the one with the over-protective parents, and was that the same love interest the last guy was talking about or is that someone completely different? - it was exhausting.  While the plot was suspenseful, the multiple narrators kept removing me from the plot and the ending was just silly.    

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Last Ever After by Soman Chainani

Title: The Last Ever After
Author: Soman Chainani
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date:
July 21, 2015

The Gist:

In the epic conclusion to Soman Chainani’s New York Times bestselling series, The School for Good and Evil, everything old is new again as Sophie and Agatha fight the past as well as the present to find the perfect end to their story.

As A World Without Princes closed, the end was written and former best friends Sophie and Agatha went their separate ways. Agatha was whisked back to Gavaldon with Tedros and Sophie stayed behind with the beautiful young School Master.

But as they settle into their new lives, their story begs to be re-written, and this time, theirs isn’t the only one. With the girls apart, Evil has taken over and the villains of the past have come back to change their tales and turn the world of Good and Evil upside down.

Readers around the world are eagerly awaiting the third book in The School for Good and Evil series, The Last Ever After. This extraordinary conclusion delivers more action, adventure, laughter, romance and fairy tale twists and turns than you could ever dream of!

I have adored this series from the very first book.  The world is lush and detailed with classic fairy tale characters who pop up unexpectedly and add an extra layer of whimsy.  It is also a world that can be dark and scary and where there are real consequences (ie. characters dying) that you don't often find in middle grade novels.  I really just want more of this series and would probably do unspeakable things in order to get a spin off featuring Hester, Anadil, and Dot.

In The Last Ever After, Sophie, Agatha, and Tedros must find a way to win their Happily Ever After and close their storybook for good.  While Agatha and Tedros try to find a way to be happy with one another, Sophie struggles to decide between fighting for Tedros, the boy who may never love her, and Rafel, the evil school master who claims that he always will.  Ultimately though, it is a story of two friends.  Sophie and Agatha must choose a world where they each find love, or a world where they find each other. 

The one detriment to this series, in my eyes, has been Tedros.  At the beginning of this novel he continues to be spoiled and insufferable.  However, there is a great deal of growth for him in these pages and, by the end, he is at least tolerable.  Sophie and Agatha continue to be wonderful, complex, and well-rounded characters.  Each is equal in this fairy tale, with their own desires and insecurities.  We also get to meet a plethora of classic fairy tale characters in this book, both heros and villains.  I won't say WHO because Spoilers, but I loved seeing how their lives ended up after their Happily Ever After and the role that they still played in this world. 

I loved seeing the school under the Rafel's control.  In each book it has taken a physical transformation as the management has changed and this is the darkest theme yet.  With the School for New and the School for Old we see Evers and Nevers learning evil side by side, or suffering the consequences.  I did miss some of the humor of the previous books that came from seeing the students interacting in the schools and in classes but I was quite glad to see the coven at work again - though, as I said, it will just never be enough for my taste!

There is no shortage of excitement in The Last Ever After.  We have some terrifying villains, some great twists and turns and there was not any point where I really felt I knew how this plot was going to turn out.  We finally get answers to the great mysteries of this series and the threads hiding just below the surface that tie past and present together and teach our characters more about themselves than they ever expected.  This allows for some fantastic character development and lends to the theme of Old and New that runs through this final book. 

The ending is satisfying and heartwarming, despite the very real loss that occurs in this book.  It is one of those conclusions that leaves the reader thinking about those characters and where life might take them, long after the book has been closed.  Thank you Soman Chainani for such a rich and wonderful series.  Now, what's next?! 

Bottom Line: A fantastic conclusion to a fantastic series. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

10 and up
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Swordplay, Death by Axe
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: None

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon - The Debrief

What I Learned:

1) My children suck.  Well, not really, but they do make reading REALLY HARD.  Since the Husband is away, all the needs of the Heir and the Spare fall to me.  And boy, were they ever needy.  The Heir was constantly complaining about food and toys and the Spare decided it was the perfect day to rebel against all naps.

2) Choose shorter books.  I started with Uprooted by Naomi Novik because it has been on my TBR list for the longest and I was really excited to read it.  BUT it is over 400 pages and I started to get discouraged when I saw other people posting that they had finished one or two books already before I was even halfway through.  Next time, I will check page counts before compiling my list so that I can feel like I accomplished more. 

3) Choose different books.  I saw lots of people reading graphic novels like Nimona and I think next time I will take the readathon as an opportunity to add a little spice to my reading life with something that doesn't make up the bulk of my normal reading (YA, Fiction).

4) Buy books.  I read a lot of ebooks, mostly because that is the format I usually get review copies and it is just so damn convenient to carry an entire library in my purse.  BUT there is something so satisfying about closing the cover on a physical copy or just in being able to see how far you have gotten.  I also think, since I normally purchase ebooks, it would be nice to make the readathon extra special by buying books that will sit on my shelf and remind me of that great day.

5) Plan better food.  I came to the readathon late (I found out about it just a couple days ago) so I didn't take as much time as I could in planning meals and snacks.  Around lunchtime I found myself distracted from my book thinking about what to feed my children that would take the least amount of time.  I usually meal plan dinner, but I ended up throwing the plan out the window and went to pick up a pizza (which the heir didn't mind at all!)

All in all, it was a really fun experience.  I loved interacting with people on Twitter and completing some of the challenges.  I can't wait for the next one in April and I REALLY hope that the Husband is home then so I can do a better job of ignoring my children! 

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon - Closing Survey

Which hour was most daunting for you?

Hour 14.  Since I have kids who rise at the crack of dawn and my husband is away, I had to pack it in to get some sleep

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I saw someone reading The Thirteenth Tale.  It is a great mystery and the way the narrator talks about books will really speak to the type of person who would participate in a readathon

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Maybe provide some Gifs and Banners to add to our own blog posts.  And I think it would be great if we had a way to connect people who will be reading the same books.  Perhaps through Goodreads?  That way we could be reading/discussing at the same time - like the ultimate book club!

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

The twitter presence was so much fun and I loved having lots of challenges across many social media platforms.

How many books did you read?

Just one, over 400 pages

What were the names of the books you read?

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?


And my own question:

What would you, personally, change next time?

I think my biggest challenge was the fact that I was single parenting.  I tried to involve the kids, but they are too young for any sustained reading time and it seemed like they were EXTRA NEEDY.  I'm really hoping the Husband will be home for the next one so I can hide away with my books.

I also think I will buy physical copies of the books I plan to read.  I usually buy ebooks and I think spending the extra money to have physical copies will make it a little more special and every time I look at the book on my shelf I will remember the readathon

I also need to plan snacks better.  I found out about the Readathon a little late and didn't get to the snack side of things but now I can see how important they are!  I usually do meal planning for the week, but I ended up scrapping the dinner plan yesterday and just ordered pizza because I didn't want to take time out to cook.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Readathon: Mid-Event Survey:

Mid-Event Survey:

1. What are you reading right now?

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

2. How many books have you read so far?

Still working on the one - my children have taken more than their fair share of my time today.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall by Katie Alender.  I love Alender's books and saved this one as a spooky October read

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

So. Many. Interruptions.  The Heir kept coming to me with demands (usually for food) and the Spare decided that naps just weren't for him today.  

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

How much I would love for my husband to be here so that I could pawn the children off on him and go hide with my book.

Readathon Mini Challenge: Cover Escape!

Readathon Mini Challenge: Cover Escape!

The Challenge

Dig through your shelves and share with us a book cover you'd like to escape into! Doesn't matter if the subject, plot, or genre isn't typically your thing; in this case, we're totally judging the book by its cover!

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is probably the first book I ever really escaped into.  I always loved this amazing world that C.S. Lewis had created and I re-read this book at least once a year.