Thursday, August 29, 2013

ARC Book Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

Title: The Dream Thieves
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: 
I love love LOVE the artwork for this series and I am so glad that the publishers decided to continue with this color scheme.  The Dream Thieves is not quite as drool-worthy as The Raven Boys but we still have the stunning brushwork that makes me just want to touch it.  I can't wait to see this one all decked out in the finished copy.

The Gist:
Adam's sacrifice at the end of The Raven Boys has had further reaching repercussions than any of the boys realized.  Adam is haunted by an inexplicable "otherness", Gansey is struggling to piece together the clues on his quest and Rowan is falling deeper and deeper into the dream world.  Dangerous elements have been awoken and the someone, or something, is hunting in the dark, putting everyone at risk.


The Dream Thieves is a solid addition to this surprisingly interesting series.  I am the first to admit, I LOATHED Shiver, and I thought after that debacle, I would never pick up another Stiefvater book again.  When Scholastic sent me The Raven Boys for review, I had thought, at the least, I would get a ranty, gif filled review out of it.  But, I am also the first to admit that I was whole-heartedly wrong.  I loved The Raven Boys and thoroughly enjoyed The Dream Thieves.  While TRB started out a little slow and then gained momentum towards the middle of the book, TDT has a much more steady pace.  It is a slow burn in which the story unravels leisurely and we get to see much more of the characters than in the previous novel.  I do wish there was more forward action on the over-all plot.  We see quite a bit of character development and many events are put into place for the action of the third book, but mostly the problems that are solved are new ones, not the lingering questions from The Raven Boys.

One of the strengths in this series lies with the character development.  Each of the boys (and Blue) have their own issues and their own, distinct, voice.  We get to follow inside each character's head for a while, which allows the reader to build deep and meaningful connections.  I do wish that there weren't quite as many peripheral characters as it became difficult to keep track.  We have 4 main characters, then each of their families, then friends and enemies, which adds up to a lot.  There also isn't a whole lot of detail provided to jog your memory.  I, for one, have read a LOT of YA novels in between TRB and this book and find it difficult to recall certain characters or aspects of the storyline.  For example, at one point a chapter opens with Helen operating a helicopter.  There is no preamble describing who Helen is and she has not been mentioned up to this point.  It took me AGES to remember that she was Gansey's sister and my confusion took my attention away from that particular section of the plot.

It is very interesting to read a series in which we knew the ending, from the very beginning.  Blue's vision shows us that Gansey is to die and the prophecy about her first kiss tells us a lot about where their relationship eventually leads.  Nonetheless, I continue to watch, breathlessly, for the plot to get there.  All the while, hoping for a loophole that will lead to a different eventuality.  Either way, I will certainly be hanging in there for the next two books!

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Knifeplay, Gunplay, Kidnapping
Inappropriate Language: Dick, Fag, Bastard, Fucking, Shit, Jesus Christ,
Substance Use/Abuse: Cocaine use, Underage Drinking
Other Issues: Child abuse

Monday, August 26, 2013

ARC Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: September 10, 2013
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: 
Adorable.  This cover was the first thing that drew me in.  I love the simplicity of Rainbow Rowell's covers and the fact that Cath is ignoring the boy for her fictional characters speaks volumes about her without saying a word.  This was clearly a girl I needed to get to know.

The Gist:
Cath and her twin sister Wren are embarking on their first year of college.  While Wren is taking the campus by storm, Cath is left behind struggling to deal with the unfamiliarity of a new environment and her often crippling fear of socializing with strangers.  In real life, that is.  In the world of facfiction, Cath is a star.  She is incredibly popular for writing stories in which two of the literary world's most beloved characters are actually in love with one another.  Along with the pressures of surviving her first year of classes and finishing her own "Simon and Baz" story before the author finishes the series and puts them to rest, Cath faces family troubles, boy troubles and her own internal debate about what she wants in life, and what she can actually have.


I loved Cath from the minute I saw the cover of Fangirl.  The character inside the pages does not disappoint either.  She is fun, sweet and quirky.  Just weird enough to be interesting.  Her whole experience the first few weeks dealing with living with strangers and not knowing where anything is or how it works reminded me why I NEVER wanted to live in  dorm.  It is incredibly easy to feel and empathize with Cath's anxiety at being in a new place and dealing with new people.  Cath also gets to have this experience while watching her twin sister appear to thrive in their new environment in a way Cath could never even dream of.  But don't get me wrong, this is not your typical "girl learns to stand on her own two feet" story.  Cath is also dealing with the fact that her mother abandoned the girls when they were still children and their father who has issues of his own. 

On top of her familial and scholarly obligations.  Cath is dedicated to her fans, of which she has A LOT.  She is huge in the fanfiction community with her stories about the Simon Snow Series.  The fictional set of books is about a boy who finds out he is a wizard, attends a magical school and makes an enemy in the form of his roommate, Baz.  The story pretty closely mirrors that of Harry Potter, but Cath turns it on its head by making the two enemies into love interests.  Her dedication to the characters is something to which I am sure any reader can relate and her compulsive need to finish her take on the series before the final book is released adds a sense of urgency.  It also, compels the teacher in me to scream in frustration at Cath for neglecting her ACTUAL schoolwork for her personal project.  But, I loved her enough to forgive her .... eventually.  The story of Fangirl is also sprinkled with excerpts from both the official Simon Snow books and Cath's fanfiction, Carry On.  These breaks aid the pacing and give interesting insight into the world that Cath has made her own.

Rainbow Rowell really knows her characters.  Cath is not the only one that I loved.  Regan and Levi are both awesome in the own right.  Regan got some of the best lines and Levi was just so damn loveable that no one could resist his charm.  I also really liked being able to see the dicotomy between Cath and Wren.  So often, twins are written as complete opposites: one shy, one outgoing, one nerdy, one popular - to the point where it becomes cliche.  But here we have a much more realistic portrayal.  The girls have clear differences, but they have a lot in common as well.  They compete with one another, but they also complement.  The love interest was also adorable and so genuine.  It really showcased Cath's insecurities about herself, her experience level and being the less popular twin.  I also love that even though this book features college age characters, the sexual activity is kept to a minimum and doesn't overtake the story.

Having read Eleanor & Park and now Fangirl, I am officially signing on for anything and everything that Rainbow Rowell will write in the future!

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Gender: 15 and up
Sex: Kissing, Discussion of sex between teens
Violence: Fist Fighting
Inappropriate Language: Fuck, Jesus Christ, Asshole, Bitch, Shit, Dick
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Stacking The Shelves (20)

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!



While on my mini-honeymoon in St. John's I went to a second hand bookstore that I used to love when I lived there.  I got Skeleton Creek for my classroom and the first book in the Circle of Three series for myself.  I am hoping that I can slowly collect all of these as it is the series I wish I had found when I was a kid but only discovered in my mid-twenties. 

On another second-hand mission I managed to find Splendor and the sequel to last week's find with Ghost in the Machine.

Here are all the titles that I have gotten for my classroom over the summer.  Still searching for the 1st and 3rd books in the Luxe series and the 1st in the Gemma Doyle series.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

ARC Book Review: The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen

Title: The Wishing Thread
Author: Lisa Van Allen
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: September 3rd, 2013

Cover Impressions: This cover has that beautiful, magical feeling that keeps me coming back to this genre.  I love the natural background and the simplicity of the barefeet.  The yarn adds a wonderful pop of color and the tendrils on the font give it just that little extra detail.

The Gist:
The Van Ripper women have always been strange.  Living in The Stitchery - a run down home in Tarrytown, New York, they walk the line between the modern world and the realm of magic.  The women in the family have the ability to knit spells, an ability they share with the people of the community - at a cost.  Holding the town's secrets sets the Van Ripper women apart, sometimes even from each other.  When the death of the family matriarch brings the three sisters home once more, they must learn to live with one another and with impact their decisions will have on the family for generations to come.


Every now and then, I feel the need to leave behind the world of YA and jump into an "adult" book.  Usually when I am enticed to do this, it is by a book in the Magical Realism sphere like this one.  The Wishing Thread is a wonderful story of three sisters and what home truly means.  I loved the world of these women.  The Stitchery had that run down feeling where magic can bury itself deep in the walls and permeate the very existance of each person who steps foot there.  The sisters are all strong and unique characters with their own strengths and weaknesses.  I loved getting to know each one of them and watching as they embraced what their hearts had known all along. 
There is a touch of romance in The Wishing Thread but it never overpowers the main story.  The love interest is a kind and gentle man, willing to support Audrey in her endeavors and never balks at the idea of magic.  I really enjoyed how the women weave their spells in a very subtle but powerful way.  This is the kind of magic I love reading about - the everyday magic that takes work and sacrifice but reinforces the strength of the women who wield it. 
The Wishing Thread is beautifully written.  Lisa Van Allen has a wonderful majesty over language and weaves the story together seamlessly.  I will be looking forward to whatever works she is planning in the future.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (19)

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!



Monday, August 5, 2013

ARC Book Review: A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison

Title: A Wounded Name
Author: Dot Hutchison
Publisher: Lerner Publishing
Release Date: September 1st, 2013
Rating: 1/5

Cover Impressions: 
Very pretty.  I love how she is leaping into the water, rather than falling as is common in a lot of YA covers. 

The Gist:
A re-telling of Shakespeare's Hamlet through the eyes of Ophelia.

I have been seriously procrastinating on writing this review.  THis is a direct result of the annoyance I felt while reading this book.  I chose A Wounded Name as one of the books to read while I was staying with my parents, preparing for my wedding.  I was hoping for a book to drag me away and give me a moment of to of respite from the insanity of wedding planning.  However, A Wounded Name ended up being the ONLY book I read because reading another page was the LAST thing that I wanted to do.  Bring on the crazy relatives, just don't make me read any more of Ophelia's tortured world!

A Wounded Name has the distinction of being the only book I can recall reading in which I hated ALL of the characters.  Every. Single. One.  I realize that this follows the plot of Hamlet pretty damn closely, but I could have done with some characterization to at least make one of two people appealing.  Dane is an ass.  Ophelia has no spine whatsoever.  Her brother and father are duel control freaks and, frankly, the character the reader is meant to truly hate, is the only one who behaves decently throughout the whole book!

The relationships in this novel are creepy at best, downright scary at worst.  Ophelia appears to have feelings for Dane but never takes any control and allows herself to be lead wherever he wishes.  Where he wishes, also tends to include physical abuse, which she endures in order to show her love.  THE FUCK OPHELIA??? She is constantly hiding the bruises, engaging in dangerous activities at his behest and making excuses for his actions.  Speaking of bruises - the author is OBSESSED!  Nearly every page mentions actual bruises, past bruises, bruise colored objects and on and on and on.  It has gotten to the point where I will never again be able to read that word without cringing inwardly. 

Ophelia's relationship with her father and brother is not much more healthy than that with Dane.  Both men are incredibly controlling and treat Ophelia like an invalid.  The family also seems to be distant and uncaring, while overly familiar with each other's private lives.  At one point, Ophelia describes her brother's sexual activities in a way that made me want to call child services. 

To compound on the horrible characters, there was a great deal of confusion about the time frame.  There are modern conveniences, such as cell phones, but antiquated ideas about women's roles.  The females are the school are raised to be obedient wives and the administration fights against any suggestion that they should change.  The language also got more and more annoying as the book went on.  I was looking for a re-telling of a Shakespearean masterpiece, but that doesn't mean I wanted to read someone else's version of Shakespearean language.  Every time the teens started speaking this way, it immediately jolted me from the story and made me question the author's choices.

A Wounded Name is merely a butchered classic that fell far short of expectations.  I do not think I will be anxiously awaiting any more of Hutchison's books.   

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Sex: Kissing, Sex among teenagers
Violence: Physical Abuse, Gunplay, Poisoning
Inappropriate Language: Whore, Prick, Bastard, Crude language regarding sex and masturbation
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Smoking

First Lines: July 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 July.

 Legacy by C.J. Daugherty
" 'Isabelle, I need help!' "

 Asylum by Madeleine Roux
"They built it out of stone - dark gray stone, pried loose from the unforgiving mountains."

The Wishing Thread by Lisa Van Allen
"Mariah Van Ripper had never done things in life on anyone else's time line, and dying had been no exception."

 A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison
 "The sky is blue today."