Sunday, March 31, 2013

In Anticipation of April

I love the turning of the seasons.  Winter has held hard and fast this year and I think we are all ready for Spring to reclaim us.  This month I also have some highly anticipated titles to look forward to.  I narrowed it down to my three top picks.

Dark Triumph is the second in the His Fair Assassin series.  I enjoyed Grave Mercy but wasn't really sold on the main character.  Luckily, one of the characters that stood on the periphery, Sybella, is the lead in this book.  I loved the mystery behind Sybella and she seemed much more kick-ass than Ismae did.  I can't wait to read her story!  Release Date: April 2nd

A Corner of White wasn't actually on my radar until I recieved my latest review package from Scholastic.  Even though the cover looks like a typical contemporary romance, A Corner of White seems to meld genres and looks to involve an interesting breach in the barriers between two worlds.  Can't wait to see how that all plays out.  Release Date: April 1st

I LOVE the cover of this one.  The background is just so magical with the smattering of stars and the lights of the circus.  In That Time I Joined the Circus, Lexi Ryan sets to to track down her mother, rumored to be performing in a travelling circus.  She creates a place for herself reading tarot cards (I LOVE books that involve tarot) and finds that love and magic still exist under the dazzling lights.  Release Date: April 1st

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (15)

Stacking The Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  It is all about sharing the books you are adding to your shelves, may it be physical or virtual. This means you can include books you buy in physical store or online, books you borrow from friends or the library, review books, gifts and of course ebooks!





I both love and hate the big haul weeks.  Love because, YAY NEW BOOKS! But hate because now my TBR list has grown ridiculously long and I am feeling the pressure to spend all my free time reading (instead of mindlessly surfing the internet or watching tv). 

I have already started both Fingersmith (which I am loving - the audiobook narrator is FANTASTIC) and Eleanor & Park (which is sweet so far but I am really hoping for some more depth to the story by the end). 

A few of those with far away release dates (like Afterglow) I will be holding off on until much later.  For that particular title, I am hoping to do a re-read of the first two books.  I am also considering doing a giveaway of The Summer Prince.  I read and EARC and it wasn't my cup of tea and I don't really feel it is appropriate for my classroom library....

Monday, March 25, 2013

ARC Book Review: If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Title: If You Find Me
Author: Emily Murdoch
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Rating: 5/5

Cover Impressions:
The cover is not particularly attractive and I don't feel it will stand out on a shelf.  This is unfortunate, because the story that is held within it's pages would never blend in and deserves to be highlighted appropriately.

The Gist:
As a child, Carey was spirited away by her meth addicted mother to a camper in the woods.  Suffering abuse, mal-nutrition and the ever-aching cold, she manages to carve out an existance for herself and her sister, Jenessa.  When two strangers enter the woods and claim that their mother has left them for good, the two girls are brought back to society and must learn a whole new way of life.  As the girls attempt to put the past behind them, Carey finds she cannot escape not only what was done to her, but the horrific things that she has done.


In If You Find Me, we are introduced to Carey and Janessa.  Carey has spent most of her life attempting to survive in the most awful of circumstances and raising Janessa in the absence of their mother.  Carey has one of the most incredible voices that I have encountered in quite a while.  As the narrator, Carey's speech patterns are authentic, using colloquialisms and speech patterns, without becoming gimmicky and distracting.  Her sister also plays a very important role in the narrative.  Neglected and suffering from selective mute-ism, Janessa still manages to steal the hearts of everyone that she encounters - readers included.  Though, I must admit, I found it a little hard to believe that a child born and raised in the woods would not find this new world at least a little overwhelming.  Rounding out the cast are Carey's father, his wife, Melissa and her daughter, Delaney.  The relationships of the entire family are well written and realistic.  Carey and Delaney certainly do not get along right away and there are some moments where I wanted to strangle the spoiled princess, but, eventually, we do get a glimpse of the situation through Delaney's eyes and are able to see how Carey's kidnapping has impacted the lives of all of those left behind. 

Carey and Janessa's story is a heartbreaking one that is often difficult to read.  Having had a child, I find these books hit me much harder now than they ever did before.  They also remind me to think about the secret struggles that my own students might be dealing with at home.  The book begins with the girls "rescue" and their history is only revealed through references and flashbacks.  I found this style very effective as it starkly compares the struggles of Carey's new life (trying to fit it, bullying and homesickness) with those from her old life.  I was very glad that the author chose to portray Carey's longing for the woods and her desire to run back there as a result of the human condition to find beauty in almost any situation and the fact that it was the only home Carey had known for such a long period of her life.  

If You Find Me is not an easy read, but it is one worth the effort.  If you are considering it for a younger audience, please take note below - this novel contains some disturbing descriptions of child abuse and rape and needs to be read with a certain level of maturity. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Sex between teenagers
Violence: Child Abuse (physical, emotional and sexual), Neglect, Kidnapping, Rape, Gunplay.
Inappropriate Language: Ass, Shit. Bitch
Substance Use/Abuse: Meth use, Underage Drinking, Smoking

Monday, March 4, 2013

ARC Book Review: The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

Title: The Nightmare Affair
Author: Mindee Arnett
Publisher: Tor Teen
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions:
I love the black silhouettes against the purple background and the white elements stand out beautifully.  I hope they keep the same general feel with other books in the series, perhaps changing the color each time...

During my childhood I was surrounded by the stories of my culture - of ghosts that walked the shores, fairies that would steal babies from their cribs and the Old Hag who was the cause of debilitating nightmares.  In college, while studying folklore, I discovered research that had linked the experiences of The Old Hag (believing to be awake, a feeling of pressure on the chest, inability to move) to traditions from many different cultures.  I have always found this particular phenomenon to be fascinating.  Needless to say, upon discovering that The Nightmare Affair featured a take on this belief, I was intrigued.

Dusty Everhart is a Nightmare.  She is compelled by the mysterious Will that governs all supernatural creatures, to break into people's homes and invade their dreams.  This involves the awkward practice of balancing on their chest and has led to some embarassing situations.  When she explores the dreams of the oh-so-hot Eli Booker, she uncovers clues to a murder she didn't know had happened yet and the pair are sent on the search for a killer.

Arnett has created a very interesting world that could be expanded in any number of ways as she continues on in this series.  She seems to concentrate more on the lesser known supernatural characters (Nightmares and Sirens being chief among them) rather than the been there, done that Witches, Warlocks and Vampires (though those creatures certainly exist).  That being said, I would have preferred a little more development particularly in the explanation of The Will.  I feel like I never really understood the rules or how certain characters had found ways around them.

There were some interesting characters in The Nightmare Affair that could have used some fleshing out.  Most of them came across as a little two dimensional.  My favorite character was Selene, Dusty's best friend, who has the potential for greatness, but needs a little boost in the humor department if she is to cement the sidekick role.  Both love interests were fairly bland and I didn't feel a whole lot of chemistry between any of them.  There were a number of adult characters that didn't seem to serve much of a purpose and I feel like they could have been cut so that we could spend more time getting to know the more important people. 

The plot was fun and well paced.  While certain events/villains were fairly predictable, I did not figure out the whole story until it was revealed and resolved.  I enjoyed how the ending set up this series for further mischief and mayhem to come in future novels. 

The Nightmare Affair is a solid start to a new series and I look forward to more obscure folklore and, hopefully, further character development.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, PG-13 makeout sessions
Violence: Murder, Removal of a hand/fingers, Swordplay,
Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Jackass, Pissed
Substance Use/Abuse: None

Saturday, March 2, 2013

First Lines: February 2013

The first words you read can often set the tone for the entire story.  I thought it would be fun to keep track of the first lines of the books I read each month and share them with you.  Below are the first lines for all the books I read in February. 

 The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson
"When I was eight, my papai took me to the park to watch a king die."

The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett
"Breaking and entering wasn't as easy as it looked in the movies."

The Giver by Lois Lowry
"It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened."

Wow, was that ever a slow month in the reading world.  To be honest, I hated The Summer Prince so much that I took a break from reading for a while.  So, I guess The Giver wins best first line this month by default.