Thursday, January 31, 2013

ARC Book Review: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Title: The Runaway King
Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: March 1, 2013
Rating: 5/5

Cover Impressions:
I enjoy the covers in this series, they are clean and simple.  The font works very well and I love the colors (blue, now green, hopefully red for number 3?).  My only complaint is that they don't see to stand out as much - in my classroom, I don't see The False Prince getting chosen very often unless it is because of my recommendation. 

The Gist:
Jaron has barely warmed his new throne when an assassination attempt alerts him to the danger that his kingdom is in.  The murder of his family has left him with a council that harbors deceit and an army that is ill prepared for any attack.  In order to secure the safety of his people, Jaron must abandon the throne and seek out this new threat head on.  In returning to the world as Sage, he must ask if he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to save his kingdom.

Review: 

I loved loved LOVED The False Prince.  See my review and my Top Books of 2012.  So there were some pretty high expectations for The Runaway King.  I was not disappointed.  I recently had a favorite student of mine as for a book recommendation.  I handed her The False Prince and told her that "You will love Sage and want to strangle him all at the same time - that is what makes him such a wonderful character".  This remains true in The Runaway King.  I am 100% behind Sage, and because of this, I often cringe, shout or throw an all out temper tantrum to rival my 1 1/2 year old, whenever he makes a decision that I feel will put him in more danger.  Sage never takes the easy way out.  He is always willing to throw himself off a cliff (often quite literally) in order to do what is right for others.  Now, that is not to say that he is completely selfless.  The boy is one of the most arrogant characters I have ever read and he will often make grandiose statements that only seem to garner him more trouble.  But, this is what makes him all the more likeable and enjoyable to read about.  Sage is kind, clever, witty and stubborn.  He captivates the reader and is easily one of my favorite characters in any series.

I was a little worried about where this book was going when Imogen left the storyline.  I always loved the connection between her and Sage and was disappointed to see her disappear so early.  But have faith ladies and gentlemen, she re-emerges!  The tension between these two characters adds an extra element to the storyline without delving into the romance sphere.  I enjoyed the fact that both of them are faced with a very difficult decision and that there is no easy way out.

In this novel, we also saw the expansion of some old characters and the addition of some interesting new ones.  Jennifer Nielsen just doesn't do bland, one dimensional characters and each person that we meet, adds a little something special to the plot.  Oftentimes, the characters that we might have overlooked or dismissed at first - turn out to be the most important in the end. 

This author continues to astound with her ability to seamlessly weave details together to create a plot that is rich and full of surprises.  Having many years of reading experience under my belt, it is often all to easy for me to notice the foreshadowing of what is to come.  Things that seem obvious to me (I am discovering) my students have often overlooked - leading to them being surprised at the plot twist and me having figured it out from the 5th page.  This is the one series where I can depend on my being just as surprised as my students.  In both books, I have been taken aback by the way pieces that appeared to come from several different puzzles finally dropped into place to create one complete, and beautifully detailed, picture.

Yet again I need to commend Jennifer Nielsen for creating a series that contains enough danger and suspense to keep readers of all ages interested, but without approaching the issues of violence that would be inappropriate for a younger reader.  Teachers and parents take note: THIS IS A BOOK THAT APPEALS TO BOTH GIRLS AND BOYS!  Let's get those (sometimes reluctant) boys reading!

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age:
12 and up (though there are no real issues with giving this book to a younger reader if they can handle the reading level)
Gender: Both
Sex: None
Violence: Swordplay, Knifeplay, Whipping
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: None

Monday, January 28, 2013

Audio Book Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder
Author:
Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Macmillan Young Listeners
Release Date: January 3, 2012
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions:
Definitely interesting.  Stands out from the typical YA cover.  Love the font and the red shoe.  Will fit nicely with the cover for Scarlet, can't wait to see the covers for the two after that.

The Gist:
In this updated re-telling of the classic Cinderella story, Cinder, a cyborg, lives with her horrid adoptive mother and two sisters.  Her city of New Bejing has been decimated by a mysterious plague and no one can find a cure.  When a chance encounter with the sought after Prince Kai and a brush with the plague brings Cinder under scrutiny, she begins to learn about who she was before her surgery and the important role that she may play in the country's security.

Review: 

I don't normally go in for Sci Fi novels.  Which will explain why I didn't get around to this book until a year after the release date.  I was finally tempted by the great reviews and the fairy tale aspect.

The character of Cinder is interesting, if occasionally infuriating.  She refuses to believe that she is anything special and has a lot of difficulty standing up for herself.  She has a tendency to talk herself out of taking any action and this often drove me to distraction.  At the same time, she is clearly a caring individual (in a world seeming to be populated with the most unfeeling of citizens) and with wonderfully sarcastic wit.  Her step-mother, Audrey was cold and calculating, but at times came off as bit too cartoonish in her hatred.  I loved the addition of a sympathetic sister and cheered Marissa Meyer on in being able to make some difficult choices as to the fate of her characters.  I truly enjoyed Prince Kai and could feel a real spark between him and Cinder.  I really was rooting for them to finally get it together (ie for Cinder to stop fighting the inevitable) and was horrified by the unwanted advances of Queen Levana. 

The plot was fairly predictable and I really hope that Meyer didn't intend the final big revelation to actually be a big revelation for the reader.  I did enjoy the unexpected twists on the Cinderella story and the reversal of the plot (ending with the ball instead of starting with it).  It allowed the book to be based on the fairy tale, but with enough originality to be given its own life.  I especially liked the tidbits that alluded to future characters and allowed me to wonder where this might lead in future novels. 

The ending was a little unsatisfying.  I kept seeing the minutes tick away and thinking "she can't possibly end it without more resolution".  I guess I was hoping for some emotional or romantic payoff - all that chemistry for nothing!  I can deal with the cliffhanger ending this time, but I really hope Meyer doesn't make it a habit. 

For those interesting in the audiobook, it is voiced by Rebecca Soler, who is wonderful.  Her pacing is good, her voice is fantastic and she is able to pull of a number of accents throughout the book. 

Bring on Scarlet!

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age:
12 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Mind Control, Gunplay
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: Drinking
Other Issues: Descriptions of Medical Procedures

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Stacking the Shelves (14)

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!

EARCS I Got This Week:



BOOKS I Got This Week from SCHOLASTIC:

 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

ARC Book Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

Title: Pivot Point
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: February 12th, 2013
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions:
Very nice though not particularly exciting.  Love the Bokeh effect separating one reality from another.  the colors are muted, but pretty.

The Gist:
Addison is a Searcher.  She has the ability to pinpoint any decision and see the separate paths that would result from her choice.  When her parents decide to divorce, Addie must use her power to decide whether to stay in the compound with her mother and all the other paranormal teens, or venture into the "Norm" world with her father and hide who she really is. 

Review:
In Pivot Point, Kasie West weaves two plotlines together.  In one reality, Addie has remained inside the compound and becomes the love interest of the popular and charming Duke - who just happens to be the quarterback of the school's football team.  In the other reality she leaves for the "norm" world to live with her father and becomes the love interest of the popular and charming Trevor - who just happens to be the former quarterback of the school's football team.  Despite their similarities in circumstance, the two boys are very different.  While Addie's relationship with Duke is slightly unsettling and more than a little smothering, she connects with Trevor on a much deeper level and their relationship seems sweet and genuine.  That being said, I did not have particularly strong feelings toward either love interest.  I understand that I was meant to dislike Duke and to love Trevor - but I just couldn't be bothered to care about either one of them. 

Addie and Laila were much stronger characters.  They were fun and outspoken with a real sense of self.  The scenes that strongly featured the two girls were some of my favorites in the novel.  I do wish that the other characters had been more than just plot carriers.  Her parents and both boyfriends' friends were bland at best, predictable caricatures at worst.  

Despite the strong start in the paranormal world, Pivot Point quickly gets bogged down in the mundane.  Because of the nature of the book, we only see Addie perform one search and, unfortunately, we do not see many of the other characters use their powers either.  Much of the plot centers around the first steps on a new relationship on one side and the trials and tribulations of moving to a new school on the other side.  In an attempt the add some drama, there was a subplot involving the intentional injuring of football players by Addie's old school.  This, however, required that much of action center around football and talk of football.  When this coincides with real life in which football currently invades my home for an unfathomable amount of time each week -  I cannot even explain how much I do not care to read about fictional football.  A little more than halfway through the book, the plot picked up and the increased action made for a much less tedious read.  Despite this, I didn't feel any real sense of danger, perhaps because I knew that this was all a search and that things could be changed.  

I was a little worried that the weaving of two potential futures into one storyline would get messy and confusing, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked.  The narrative flowed easily between the two streams and, once the action kicked in, the change from one timeline to another made for some stronger chapter endings and added some suspense.  I especially enjoyed those moments when events would overlap in both stories, even if those were as simple as a phone call. 

In the end, I was left unsatisfied.  It seemed that Addie would not have to make any real sacrifices as, when everything finally worked out, she would get the best of both worlds.  I would have much preferred if both paths had tragic consequences and Addie had to find a way to prevent the worst, or choose the timeline that she felt she could live with. 
 
Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age:
12 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Knifeplay, Murder, Mind Control
Inappropriate Language: Prick
Substance Use/Abuse: None

Monday, January 21, 2013

ARC Book Review: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Out of the Easy
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publisher: Philomel
Release Date: Feb 12, 2013
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions:
Pretty Pretty.  Love the antique birdcage and the imagery of Josie peeking out from behind/within.

The Gist:
Josie Moraine is the daughter of a prostitute.  She has lived her life in the shadow of the most popular brothel in New Orleans.  Josie is determined to escape The Big Easy and to make a life for her herself beyond the grasp of her greedy and conniving mother.  When a murder in the quarter threatens that dream, Josie must find a way to hold on to her dreams without compromising her morals. 

Review: 


Out of the Easy is a very character driven novel.  Which is great, because it has great characters.  Josie is the daughter of a prostitute the *almost ward of a madam and has been cared for by a cast wonderful cast of well written characters.  She is strong willed, but is very vulnerable.  Josie is constantly being tossed into difficult situations and it is compelling to watch as she tries to dig herself out and emerge with her dignity intact.  Her mother is a truly despicable character who selfishly preys on anyone whom she feels she can exploit - including her daughter.  As a mother, I found her actions all the more deplorable but could understand Josie's feelings of obligation towards her.  The other characters, the ones who truly cared for Josie, were fun and interesting.  Willie was easy to imagine as the tough as nails madam who is generous and loyal to those who deserve it.  Cokie's love felt kind and genuine and the prostitutes added some comic relief. 

The novel did have it's faults.  The mystery is not particularly strong.  It was easy to tell who was behind the murder and the big reveal was more than a little predictable.  There were also a few elements with one of the love interests that came as no surprise and I was only able to convince myself that Josie was honestly not able to see the truth by remembering the time period in which this was set and the difference in societal ideals.  Towards the end of the novel, an additional problem was introduced which interrupted the flow of the storyline and the resolution was a little too clean and easy. 

Overall, Out of the Easy was a fun read and a fast one.  Sepetys paints a beautiful picture of New Orleans and writes with rich detail that will draw in any reader. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age:
16 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing, Prostitution
Violence: Gunplay, Knifeplay, Self-Harm
Inappropriate Language: Whore, Asshole, Bitch, Queer
Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking, Drinking,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

Title: Nevermore
Author: Kelly Creagh
Publisher: Atheneum
Release Date: August 31, 2010
Rating:
  1/5

Cover Impressions: Ok, the font is nice and I like the overlay of writing.  HOWEVER - the emo dude on the cover ruined ANY chance of my having warm feelings for Varen.

The Gist:
Vapid cheerleader is paired up with (gasp!) dark, emo dude for a school project on Edgar Allan Poe.  Despite the fact that the partners were chosen by the teacher, her friends take this as a personal insult and threaten goth boy for breathing the same air as cheerleader girl.  She finds his contempt for the world enticing and leaves her friends for him.  Out of left field, she discovers a weird world where Varen (and Poe's) writing comes to life and Isobel is the only super special snowflake who can save Varen from himself.

Review: 
This book (and its sequel) have been on my TBR list for quite a while.  A lot of the reviewers that I follow have loved it and I had such high hopes that I saved it to be my last read of 2012.  What. A. Mistake.  Here were some of my issues:

1) The characters were stereotypical and irritating.  Isobel = the vapid cheerleader and Varen = the moody, emo teenager she falls in love with. 
2) Isobel didn't even LIKE Varen.  She was constantly hating on the goths and when she had her little fantasy sequence - he was there, but as a prep who was NOTHING like the real character.  For his part, Varen was a jerk.  He treated Isobel like crap and she kept coming back for more.  I read a lot of review that praised the romantic angle, but I just didn't get it.  Their connection didn't feel real and Isobel was more than a little pathetic.
3) At least 1/2 the plot revolves around a homework assignment.  That's right folks, Isobel loses all her friends and Varen gets pulverized OVER HOMEWORK!  I kept waiting for the supernatural elements to kick in, but they took FOREVER.  All this teen angst over homework was boring and irritating.
4) Speaking of homework, why were her parents so bent out of shape that she had to sneak out of the house in order to work on a project?  What kind of parent doesn't make allowances so that their kid can pass a class?
5) Also speaking of homework, despite at least half of the book centering around a homework project, and despite sneaking out to meet Varen to work on said project, Isobel spent her time avoiding doing any of the actual reading or research.  At the last minute, she threw together some flashy presentation meant to mask the fact that she didn't do any actual work.
6) When we were finally thrown into the supernatural element it was with very little explanation.  Isobel basically wandered around searching for Varen.  She had no plan and no information.  None of the other characters felt the need to explain anything that was going on and the whole Dreamworld seemed like one convoluted mess.
7) This book was supposed to be strongly tied to Poe - a master of suspense and horror.  This story does not do him justice and I am appalled that his name was invoked at all.  

I have NO desire to read any further in this series and, quite frankly, I hope one of the creepy ass bird kids eats Isobel for lunch.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age: 16 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Fist Fighting, Bullying
Inappropriate Language: Faggot, Christ, Piss, Pussy
Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Wonder by R.J. Palacio



Title: Wonder
Author: R.J. Palacio
Publisher:
Knopf Books
Release Date: Feb 14, 2012
Rating:
4/5 

Cover Impressions: I love the mysterious nature of the image here and the incorporation of the title. 

The Gist:
August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that invites stares and begs questions whenever he goes out in public.  Having been home-schooled for most of his life, Auggie is about to embark on his first year of middle school.  Wonder chronicles his year as a fifth grader as he tries to show is classmates that he is just an average kid, despite his appearance

Review:

Wonder is honest and thought provoking.  For a book that follows a fifth grader, albeit a very unique fifth grader, it has a remarkable level of depth.  It presents emotional moments, but in a way that is palatable for a general audience.  Perhaps my main criticism is that it did not go quite far enough.  I was waiting for the heart wrenching moment that would cement Wonder in my mind, but it never happened.  It was a sweet novel, with some sad moments and some insight into the world of a child that is just trying to fit it - but I don't really feel that I will remember this book in a year's time.

The novel was written in sections, each one from the perspective of a different character.  I enjoyed this, particularly when the sections over-lapped and was able to see the same actions through a different point of view.  The one caveat, was the section from Justin, Via's boyfriend.  There was a distinct lack of punctuation that I found frustrating (is the boy allergic to capital letters?) and distracting.  It left me wondering why his section was given this treatment when the chapters from the fifth grader's POVs were perfectly written?

To be honest, even despite these few flaws, Wonder was well on its way to a 5 star rating until I hit the ending.  In the last 1/4 of the novel, an incident occurs in which August's bullies come to his aid.  From this point on, everyone loves him (in a very patronizing, pat on the head kind of way).  Even his main tormenter is suddenly made unpopular and eventually changes schools.  It all seemed a little too sunshiney for me.   

No tears here, but I do admit it was a sweet, touching book that may convince the reader to take a look at how they can show kindness every day, and what a difference that kindness can make.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age:
12 and up
Gender:  Both
Sex:  None
Violence:  Kid Fighting:  Shoving, Punching
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse: Smoking

Notable Quotables:

When discussing whether or not they should be dating: "'Yeah, I agree,' said August. 'Which is kind of a shame, you know, what with all those babes who keep throwing themselves at me and stuff?'"

"Shall we make a new rule of life ... always to try to be a little kinder than necessary?"

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

Title: Looking for Alaska
Author: John Green
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: December 28, 2006
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions:
Meh. Not something that would ever grab my attention except for the name John Green.

The Gist:
During his first day at Culver Creek Boarding School Miles "Pudge" Halter meets the strange in enigmatic Alaska Young and nothing will ever be the same. 

Review: 

Looking for Alaska is split into Before and After some mysterious event.  It is difficult to discuss this, and difficult to write a review without giving away the big event - so I will try to discuss other factors.

I had some issues with this novel.  I loved The Fault In Our Stars and was looking for the same type of connection with the characters.  However, I didn't find it here.  I found the characters to be generally unlikeable.  They were not particularly friendly or caring.  They drank a lot, smoked a lot and swore a lot.  They didn't really seem to DO anything.  The teen angst dial was a little too high and I found it difficult to feel anything for the characters or their situation.

This is not the novel for a reader who wishes for a great deal of action - there is very little.  What you will get is page upon page of teenagers waxing philosophically and asking big questions about life.  I will admit, I kept waiting for the big reveal - for some piece of evidence that would answer one of the main questions that the plot poses, but I guess that is much of the point.  There are never adequate answers in these types of situations and the living must simply attempt to go on living.

Perhaps as a teenager, this would have more resonance.  However, as a jaded 30 year old teacher - it falls flat.

A note on content:  this is another book that I find frustrating in that the language/sexual content prevents me from recommending to my students.     

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age:
16 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Petting, Talk of Masturbation, Vulgar Sexual Language
Violence: Death by car accident
Inappropriate Language: Shit, Christ, Fuck, Ass, Bastard, Piss, Bitch, Dick, Pissed
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Smoking, Marijuana Use
Other Issues: Suicide, Child Abuse

Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Brown Books
Release Date: September 18, 2012
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions:
Not quite sure on this one.  It certainly didn't attract me upon the release.  I only put this one on my list after reading several rave reviews.  I like the purple background of the city, but the image in front doesn't quite seem to fit with it.

The Gist:
On the heels of an incident involving a wealthy playboy and a little too much honesty, Evie O'Neill has been sent to New York to live with her uncle and aid him in the running of his museum.  When a murderer starts depositing bodies around the city bearing mysterious markings, The Museum of Creepy Crawlies is thrust into the limelight and Evie embarks on a dangerous investigation that will bring her further into the occult, and into danger, than she ever thought possible.

Review: 

The Diviners is set in the 1920s.  The setting plays such a strong role that it begins to behave as another character - a character that hogs spotlight and spouts and endless stream of dialogue.  In the beginning, it is a charming and useful means of orientation.  However, as the novel continues, and the slang and explanations or 20s customs begin slow the plot, it becomes incredibly tedious.  As I got further and further into the book (and begin to note the sheer girth of the novel) I began to question whether 90% of it was necessary. 

In addition to the wordiness of the author there was an issue with the size of the cast.  Evie is a fun character, as were her friends, Mabel and Theta.  I think I would have much preferred if the novel has simply followed them through this mystery.  Instead, however, it jumps through countless characters and scenes in what soon becomes a dizzying game of "where the heck are we now?"  I kept waiting for the characters to find one another and form new superhero group who takes on demons and ghosts but SPOILER ALERT they never do!

The mystery was solid and the deaths were scary to read.  These scenes were among the most enjoyable for me (at least in a cringeworthy way).  I was a little disappointed when the big baddie didn't turn out to have manifested or possessed a real person, but I could easily have gotten over that if there has been a few more answered questions.  The Diviners ends, the bad guy is gone (ish), but there are many plot lines left hanging.  I am as yet unsure whether or not I will return for the next in this series.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age:
15 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Sex
Violence: Gunplay, Murder, Dismemberment
Inappropriate Language: Whore, Bitch
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Marijuana Use
Other Issues: Abortion, Suicide, Spousal Abuse

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Book Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt Company
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions:
The cover is beautiful.  I love the colors and the interplay of the ribbons with the antlers. 

The Gist:
Alina Starkov is an orphan training as a mapmaker in the King's Army.  When she and her best friend are attacked by a monstrous beast, Alina discovers a power that she never knew she had.  The land's strongest Grisha, the Darkling, takes claim of her and begins training her to banish the darkness of The Fold and save the land.  However, everyone seems to have their own wishes for Alina's power and she must decide carefully where to place her trust. 

Review: 

Admittedly, I have never been a big fantasy fan.  Shadow and Bone is one of those books that kept popping up on my radar but I never gave in to reading it until my Christmas vacation (lots of time at home/v.little to do).  It took me a while to fall into the world of Ravka, as it usually does with fantasy novels, but I soon found the world building to be rich and beautiful.  This is a land of contrasts, great beauty with great darkness, strong magic with overwhelming poverty.  In telling the story through the eyes of an orphan, we are able to see both sides of the country.

I had some difficulty connecting with Alina.  I found her to be weak and whiny.  I was annoyed by her obsession with beauty and her incessant need to be rescued.  The whole "transformation" from sick and spindly orphan to strong and gorgeous Grisha was clich├Ęd and reinforced the stereotype that only attractive people can be heroines.  I could get past the fact that her super special power remained hidden for most of her life and even the fact that she was suddenly the most super special Grisha alive.  But she couldn't be satisfied with being this special?  She still had to whine about not being pretty enough?  Dude, you can command light and you are whining about your complexion?

The other characters were a bit one dimensional.  There was the "I won't notice you until you are super special and gorgeous" love interest.  The "I'm dark and mysterious and can see the power under your ugliness" love interest.  The "I'm totally gorgeous but totally humble at the same time" BFF.  The "I'm only mean because I can see your potential" trainer and the "I'm also totally gorgeous and a jealous bitch" rival.  Neither of the love interests felt quite genuine or passionate to me and the friends didn't play any important role - though I hope they get some fleshing out in the next book.

The plot moved steadily except for a bit of lag in the middle as Alina worked with her power and learned to fight in what transformed in my head to an 80s movie montage set to the sound of "Eye of the Tiger".  The writing was beautiful and the ending was strong enough to make me come back for the second installment Siege and Storm in June.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

Age:
13 and up
Gender: Female
Sex: Kissing
Violence: Knifeplay, Gunplay, Death of an animal, Deaths by magic/magical creatures
Inappropriate Language: Ass, Bitch
Substance Use/Abuse: Drinking

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

My Most Anticipated Books of 2013

On the cusp of a new year I am already thinking about all the great books that I am going to get to read in 2013.  It is my sincere hope that (despite being back to work full time and no longer on maternity leave) I can keep up my level of reading and that my student book club will continue to supply me with new books to try.

In order of release date, here are the books that I am most excited for in the coming year.

Prodigy by Marie Lu

June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.

It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.

But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

In this highly-anticipated sequel, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.


The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd
 
 In the darkest places, even love is deadly.

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father's gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father's handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father's madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island's inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father's dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it's too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father's genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells's classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman's Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we'll do anything to know and the truths we'll go to any lengths to protect.


 The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen


 A kingdom teetering on the brink of destruction. A king gone missing. Who will survive? Find out in the highly anticipated sequel to Jennifer A. Nielsen's blockbuster THE FALSE PRINCE!

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly situation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The stunning second installment of The Ascendance Trilogy takes readers on a roller-coaster ride of treason and murder, thrills and peril, as they journey with the Runaway King!


The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett 


 Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.

Literally.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.

Then Eli's dream comes true.

Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.


MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza 


 Mila 2.0 is the first book in an electrifying sci-fi thriller series about a teenage girl who discovers that she is an experiment in artificial intelligence.

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past —that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

Mila 2.0 is Debra Driza’s bold debut and the first book in a Bourne Identity–style trilogy that combines heart-pounding action with a riveting exploration of what it really means to be human. Fans of I Am Number Four will love Mila for who she is and what she longs to be—and a cliffhanger ending will leave them breathlessly awaiting the sequel.


Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers 


Sybella arrives at the convent’s doorstep half mad with grief and despair. Those that serve Death are only too happy to offer her refuge—but at a price. Naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, the convent views Sybella as one of their most dangerous weapons.

But those assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. And while Sybella is a weapon of justice wrought by the god of Death himself, He must give her a reason to live. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

This heart-pounding sequel to Grave Mercy serves betrayal, treachery, and danger in equal measure, bringing readers back to fifteenth century Brittany and will keep them on the edge of their seats.


Dare You To by Katie McGarry 
 
 "I dare you..."

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all....


Seige and Storm by Leigh Bardugo 
 
 Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can't outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling's game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.


Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton 


 I can’t weep. I can’t fear. I’ve grown talented at pretending.

Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions . . . she sees them. Longing, Shame, and Courage materialize around her classmates. Fury and Resentment appear in her dysfunctional home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, save one—Fear. He’s intrigued by her, as desperate to understand the accident that changed Elizabeth’s life as she is herself.

Elizabeth and Fear both sense that the key to her past is hidden in the dream paintings she hides in the family barn. But a shadowy menace has begun to stalk her, and try as she might, Elizabeth can barely avoid the brutality of her life long enough to uncover the truth about herself. When it matters most, will she be able to rely on Fear to save her?


Antigoddess by Kendare Blake 
 
 Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning.

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out.

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin
.


The Dollhouse Asylum by Mary Gray 

 A virus that had once been contained has returned, and soon no place will be left untouched by its destruction. But when seventeen-year-old Cheyenne wakes up in Elysian Fields--a subdivision cut off from the world and its monster-creating virus--she is thrilled to have a chance at survival.

At first, Elysian Fields,with its beautiful houses and manicured lawns, is perfect. Teo Richardson, the older man who stole Cheyenne's heart, built it so they could be together. But when Teo tells Cheyenne there are tests that she and seven other couples must pass to be worthy of salvation, Cheyenne begins to question the perfection of his world.

The people they were before are gone. Cheyenne is now "Persephone," and each couple has been re-named to reflect the most tragic romances ever told. Everyone is fighting to pass the test, to remain in Elysian Fields. Teo dresses them up, tells them when to move and how to act, and in order to pass the test, they must play along.

If they play it right, then they'll be safe.

But if they play it wrong, they'll die.


Afterglow by Karsten Knight 
 
 No Synopsis Available