Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times

"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: Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne which is due to be released on May 13th.

Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London.

Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones.

Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack.

Jack’s wonder at the magic and steam-powered marvels in Londinium lasts until he learns he is the pawn in a very dangerous game. The consequences are deadly, and his only hope of escape, of returning home, lies with a legendary clockwork bird.

The Gearwing grants wishes. Or it did, before it was broken. Before it was killed.

But some things don’t stay dead forever.

OK, what is NOT perfect about this book?  First of all, the cover.  OMG SQUEEEE!!! The steampunk, the detail, the whispy ghost?  It is fantastic.  Then there is the title.  It begs you to open up and see what is inside AND IT RHYMES!  Even the author's name sounds like a J.K Rowling character.  I have never been a fan of Steampunk, but this book may just be the one that I finally love.  

In Anticipation: May 2014

Time to leave the rainy April behind and get the lounge chair ready for those warm spring mornings reading on the deck.  There are lots of great titles being released this month.  Here are just a few of the ones that I am highly anticipating.

A Creature of Moonlight - Rebecca Hahn
A stunning debut novel about a girl who is half dragon, half human, and wholly herself.

As the only heir to the throne, Marni should have been surrounded by wealth and privilege, not living in exile-but now the time has come when she must choose between claiming her birthright as princess of a realm whose king wants her dead, and life with the father she has never known: a wild dragon who is sending his magical woods to capture her.

Fans of Bitterblue and Seraphina will be captured by A Creature of Moonlight, with its richly layered storytelling and the powerful choices its strong heroine must make.

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times - Emma Trevayne
Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London.

Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones.

Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack.

Jack’s wonder at the magic and steam-powered marvels in Londinium lasts until he learns he is the pawn in a very dangerous game. The consequences are deadly, and his only hope of escape, of returning home, lies with a legendary clockwork bird.

The Gearwing grants wishes. Or it did, before it was broken. Before it was killed.

But some things don’t stay dead forever.

I Kill the Mockingbird - Paul Acampora
When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.” Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini revolution in the name of books.

Oblivion - Sasha Dawn
Lisa McMann's Dead to You meets Kate Ellison's The Butterfly Clues in a psychological thriller full of romance, intrigue, and mystery.

One year ago, Callie was found in an abandoned apartment, scrawling words on the wall: "I KILLED HIM. His blood is on my hands. His heart is in my soul. I KILLED HIM." But she remembers nothing of that night or of the previous thirty-six hours. All she knows is that her father, the reverend at the Church of the Holy Promise, is missing, as is Hannah, a young girl from the parish. Their disappearances have to be connected and Callie knows that her father was not a righteous man.

Since that fateful night, she's been plagued by graphomania -- an unending and debilitating compulsion to write. The words that flow from Callie's mind and through her pen don't seem to make sense -- until now.

As the anniversary of Hannah's vanishing approaches, more words and memories bubble to the surface and a new guy in school might be the key to Callie putting together the puzzle. But digging up the secrets she's buried for so long might be her biggest mistake.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

New Releases: April 29, 2014

It's Release Day!!  Here are some of the new books that I am excited about this week!

SLEEP NO MORE - Aprilynne Pike
My Review
The blockbuster film Inception meets Lisa McMann's Wake trilogy in this dark paranormal thriller from #1 New York Times bestselling author Aprilynne Pike. This novel is also perfect for fans of Kelley Armstrong, Alyson Noel, and Kimberly Derting.

Charlotte Westing has a gift. She is an Oracle and has the ability to tell the future. But it doesn't do her much good. Instead of using their miraculous power, modern-day Oracles are told to fight their visions—to refrain from interfering. And Charlotte knows the price of breaking the rules. She sees it every day in her wheelchair-bound mother and the absence of her father. But when a premonition of a classmate's death is too strong for her to ignore, Charlotte is forced to make an impossible decision: continue following the rules or risk everything—even her sanity—to stop the serial killer who is stalking her town.

A TIME TO DANCE - Padma Venkatraman
 Padma Venkatraman’s inspiring story of a young girl’s struggle to regain her passion and find a new peace is told lyrically through verse that captures the beauty and mystery of India and the ancient bharatanatyam dance form. This is a stunning novel about spiritual awakening, the power of art, and above all, the courage and resilience of the human spirit.

Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. Then Veda meets Govinda, a young man who approaches dance as a spiritual pursuit. As their relationship deepens, Veda reconnects with the world around her, and begins to discover who she is and what dance truly means to her.

THE TAKING - Kimberly Derting
When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day.

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men.

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

Monday, April 28, 2014

ARC Book Review: Life By Committee by Corey Ann Haydu

Title: Life By Committee
Author: Corey Ann Haydu
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Release Date: May 13th, 2014
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions: 
Cute, I like that the image connects so well with the pictures that members of the Life By Committee website post.  The blue of the font is a nice contrast but I wish the shoes were another character - they blend a little too well with the background color.

The Gist:
Tabitha kissed another girl's boyfriend.  The secret is eating her up inside.  She can't tell anyone who knows her but she can tell the Life by Committee - a website dedicated to those who have secrets to tell.  As a member, she must share a secret and then receive an assignment.  At first, having the LBC make her decisions for her is freeing and she is doing things she never thought she would.  Soon, however, the assignments take a dark turn and Tabitha must decide if keeping her secrets is worth the fallout that the assignments will bring.


I chose this book for review because I was really interested in the premise.  I have to say, I was a little disappointed that (after searching) there was no Life By Committee website - holy missed marketing opportunity Batman!

One of the downfalls of this novel came in the form of the main character.  Tabitha was really difficult to relate to.  I could understand her being swept up in the forbidden romance of her flirtations with Joe.  Chatting well into the night, trading secrets has a secret allure that makes it exciting.  However, it was her actions with regard to her family and her friend Elise that made her rather unlikeable.  It is understandable that she be shell shocked, having been abruptly ditched by the people she thought where her friends but, throughout the novel, she comes across as whiny and self centered.  She doesn't seem to understand her role in her situation and makes decisions that negatively impact her family and friends.

I found the other characters and, in particular, Tabitha's school, rather weird.  As a teacher, I always find it rather difficult to believe that crunchy granola, feeling circle, kind of schools actually exist.  There are several instances where the actions of the teachers and the school in general are really unrealistic and prevented me from staying absorbed in the plot.  I was immensely annoyed with the actions of the guidance counselor, and the things that she was saying made me question the honesty of Tabitha as a narrator.  I also had a hard time with the portrayal of the other students.  Even in a very progressive, new agey school, I am not sure that Sasha could have gotten away with some of the stuff she pulled.

There was a great deal of slut shaming and, though Tabitha was on the receiving end and it was completely undeserved, I am not sure the lesson was made clear that this is NOT how to treat a person.  Despite having been ditched by her friends for suddenly growing boobs, Tabitha still wants them back and is willing to put up with their abuse rather than stand up for herself.  There is also a rather creepy character who touches girls without their permission and never gets any comeuppance - this bothered me.          

As the plot goes on, the things that the LBC group are asked to do get more and more outlandish. Zed starts to come across as more and more pretentious

ZED: it's a moral obligation to have us ALL live our best lives.  There's doing the right thing and there's doing the best thing.  They're not always the same thing.  The best thing is a challenge, the right thing is often a submission.

 I felt like he was some asshole pulling the strings of all these gullible young people, laughing as they took on his outlandish dares and never took any risks himself.  At one point, when one of the other members is revealed, it takes on the feel of a cult mentality - the character is unable to decide on any actions on her own and must check with Zed first.  This all led to a rather lackluster ending.  It was a little to Mean Girls, a little too unbelievable and didn't provide the big reveal didn't provide the shock value that I think it intended.  

Not sure if I will check back in on this author, guess it depends on the premise of the next story and whether or not I can expect the same level of slut shaming.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Sex: Kissing
Violence: None
Inappropriate Language: Fuck, Whore, Shit, Bitch, Slut, Piss, Dick
Substance Use/Abuse: Marijuana Use

Friday, April 25, 2014

OMG! Have You Seen This Cover?! The Nature Kicks Ass Edition

Lots of incredible covers this week.  I was especially struck by how many fantastically creepy images have made it onto what sounds like some amazingly scary books.

 Beautiful greens and blues on the covers this week.  I love the colors in all three of these covers but I am so excited about Blue Lily, Lily Blue.  The Raven Cycle series features the artwork of Adam S. Doyle.  It want to frame all of these covers and I can't wait to see the physical copy of this one, with it's brush marks and whorls. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Life By Committee

"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: Life by Committee by Corey Ann Haydu which is due to be released on May 13th.

Some secrets are too good to keep.

Tabitha might be the only girl in the history of the world who actually gets less popular when she gets hot. But her so-called friends say she’s changed, and they’ve dropped her flat.

Now Tab has no one to tell about the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her: Joe, who spills his most intimate secrets to her in their nightly online chats. Joe, whose touch is so electric, it makes Tab wonder if she could survive an actual kiss. Joe, who has Tabitha brimming with the restless energy of falling in love. Joe, who is someone else’s boyfriend.

Just when Tab is afraid she’ll burst from keeping the secret of Joe inside, she finds Life by Committee. The rules of LBC are simple: tell a secret, receive an assignment. Complete the assignment to keep your secret safe.

Tab likes it that the assignments push her to her limits, empowering her to live boldly and go further than she’d ever go on her own.

But in the name of truth and bravery, how far is too far to go?

I was really intrigued by the premise behind this book.  The thought of having someone else make all of your decisions for you is at once liberating and terrifying.  I can't wait to see how it plays out for these characters.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

New Releases: April 22, 2014

It's Release Day!!  Here are some of the new books that I am excited about this week!

 To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister's ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

 I have read a couple of Jenny Han's books before and I enjoy her take on the teenage experience.  The whole idea of having to deal with all the crushes from your past is both intriguing and terrifying.  I can't wait to see how this turns out for Lara Jean

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

I have never really heard of a book being written from this premise before.  It would be interesting to examine such well known events from the point of view of someone so close to Hitler.  I really hope that Blankman has done her research and is able to get the facts right.  I have a cousin who adores historical fiction about this time period and I am really excited to see if this is something that I can recommend to her. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

ARC Book Review: Feather Bound by Sarah Raughley

Title: Feather Bound
Author: Sarah Raughley
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Rating: 1/5

Cover Impressions: 
Who is this cover artist and where can I buy this print?  This is just stunning.  I love the colors, the feathers and the bird imagery.  I can't wait to see this one in hardcover. 

The Gist:
Becoming a Swan means being under constant threat from someone trying to control you.  Literally.  If they hold your feathers (coat?), they control your every move.  Having newly discovered that she is a Swan, Deanna wants nothing more than to pretend nothing has changed.  But, with the recent return from the dead of her wealthy friend, Hyde, Deanna is now in the perfect position to be blackmailed.  Ruin Hyde and keep her secret, or reveal her secret and risk losing everything. 

Oh Feather Bound.  Dear, dear, Feather Bound.  You had so much potential.  A kick ass cover, a unique premise, connections to a haunting fairy tale but you just couldn't pull it together could you?  Forgot all about the world building didn't you?  Got stuck on a lame main character and a lackluster romantic entanglement didn't you?  Disappointed all the people who signed on because of an incredible cover and the promise of a story we hadn't heard a thousand times didn't you? Yes, Feather Bounds, yes you did.

Where to start with this book?  Well, the whole swan thing felt unnecessary and I feel like the plot would have been exactly the same if it had revolved around blackmail for some other, more realistic, reason.  It was very difficult to reconcile the modern setting with the age old fairy tale.  They were not well incorporated and we got no explanation for how this whole thing works.  Have swans always existed?  Were they recently discovered and thus became a hot commodity for human trafficking?  Do people have power over a swan if they get a hold of just one feather or do they need the entire "coat"?  How easy is it for these coats to be removed if regular (non-surgical) humans can take them by force?  Why is there such a stigma attached to being a swan?  How often do they sprout wings?  Do they have to?  I could ask questions for days but the bottom line is, without some worldbuilding to explain how these magical creatures came to be and what rules govern them, most readers will lose the plot entirely and begin to skim, as I did at about the halfway mark.

The entire plot is built around the idea of stealing a Swan's feathers and thereby controlling his or her will.  The entire concept is really disturbing, as is the way that this seems to have permeated the darker sectors of this world.  Swans have become the ultimate sexual plaything for bored, rich, white men who have tired of their regular perversions.  This leads to some downright stomach turning scenes in which Swans are sexually exploited by the people who have either stolen or paid for this type of total control.  By the time the first "Bad Guy" is revealed in a seedy bar that allows for the drugging and kidnapping of young women, I was pretty much done.  There couldn't possibly be enough comeuppance in store for this person to satisfy my bloodlust following that scene.

Even the romantic elements within Feather Bound are at best, lackluster and at worst, creepy.  The first time Hyde sees Dee after he returns from the dead, she begins to walk away and he grabs her arm.  She has no idea who he is and he grabs her without permission.  This is not cool.  There continues to be some strange type of relationship where she rejects him and he forces his attention on her.  Hyde showers her with gifts but doesn't seem to show any real emotional connection.  He doesn't now anything about her and shows very little interest in finding out.  Instead, he makes meaningless, generic gestures that are supposed to work on any woman rather than finding out what might actually make Dee happy.  Which, doesn't surprise me as she is a pretty one sided character who doesn't seem to have any interests of her own.  Hyde also reeks of condescension.  Take for example this exchange:

I took the glass, but set it down.  "Sorry, I don't drink." 
"For religious reasons?"
"For legal reasons.  I'm underage." A pause.  "You are too."
Hyde laughed. "And you are adorable." He sipped.

UGH! Are you kidding me.  "Oh Dee, you are so cute with your plebeian values like obeying the law. Us rich folks have no need of such childish ideals." (my words, not the books, though they would fit pretty well.)    

In the end, things are wrapped up in a pretty bow as Dee manages to break into a mansion (that apparently has no security system and only one lock) and the villains engage in a dialogue that allows each of them to confess everything and, as a bonus, includes a skeevy sex scene that just put the cherry on this disturbing sundae. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

16 and up
Sex: Kissing, Sex (disturbing for who it involves, not the graphic nature)
Violence: Rape, Fighting, Drugging, Kidnapping, Human Trafficking,
Inappropriate Language: Shit, Fuck, Bitch, Whore, Bastard, Tit, Pissed, Slut
Substance Use/Abuse:

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Stacking The Shelves (30)


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!



Just two lonely books this week, but they both look amazing.  The Girl from the Well has a very "The Ring" feel to it and promises to be extra creepy.

I also snagged the audio book of The Thousand Dollar Tan Line of Veronica Mars fame and read by Kristen Bell herself.

Friday, April 18, 2014

OMG! Have You Seen This Cover: The Creeptastic Edition

Lots of incredible covers this week.  I was especially struck by how many fantastically creepy images have made it onto what sounds like some amazingly scary books.

I love all of these covers.  Lets start with The Cure for Dreaming.  I love how all of the elements of this cover work together.  It has a wonderfully old fashioned feel and the font is perfect.  The image of the levitating girl completely drew me in and I want to know more about this story.

The Lesser Dead cover is incredible with the hand drenched in blood that is ALMOST touching the girl's lips.  The dark scratches on the cover are an interesting touch that I haven't seen before and really adds some nice texture.

The Evil Librarian cover is such an interesting concept!  Any person who would draw on a library book would HAVE to be evil, right?!  I love the little details like the library sticker on the side and really hope that they will be wrapped around the physical copy. 

Say Her Name has an awesome creepy feel.  Who hasn't heard the Bloody Mary story or even tried it out themselves?  If this were the result of those teenage dares, no one would ever try it again!  I love how nearly everything is white with elements of red that pop.  I also appreciate the ethereal glowing of the author's name. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

ARC Review: A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn

Title: A Creature of Moonlight
Author: Rebecca Hahn
Publisher: HMH Books/Houghton Mifflin
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Rating: 4/5

Cover Impressions: 
Just breathtaking.  I love everything about this cover.  The silhouette of the dragon is gorgeous against the full moon.  The font fits perfectly with the title and the magical feel of the book.  I want to frame it and hang it on my wall.


Marnie has spent her entire life hidden in plain sight.  The daughter of a runaway princess and a mystical dragon, she enjoys a quiet life tending flowers on the periphery of her uncle's kingdom.  But the forest has started to creep into her world and, for the first time in a generation, it is not receding.  Panic strikes the kingdom and they look to someone to blame.  That someone was once Marnie's mother, now that she is gone - the blame falls to Marnie herself.  It is time for her to decide where her destiny lies, with her Uncle who killed her mother and left her an orphan, or with the mysterious creatures of the forest and a father she has never known.

A Creature of Moonlight is a beautifully written debut novel.  It features some of the most unique worldbuilding that I have ever seen.  The forest has a mind of its own, claiming territory overnight and swallowing up peoples' homes and fields.  It is filled with magical creatures who call to those seeking to escape.  Once in a while, a young girl will be claimed by the forest, never to return.  Marnie hears this call, but she alone is able to resist the siren song, spending long hours swallowed up in its embrace but always returning to her grandfather, the former king and the only person who keeps her anchored to her world.  I love the idea of a forest where the very trees are controlled by a dragon lord and one that encroaches and retreats, ebbing and flowing much like the tide.  This dark and mysterious element starts strong and only gets better as the book goes on and Marnie explores more and more of her father's world.

Despite the strong start and wonderful setting, the story is a little slow.  It takes a patient reader to stick with Marnie despite there not being a great deal of action.  There is no real sense of urgency and only a few points of real excitement.  Don't get me wrong, it is a wonderful read for those who like a slow burning story, but personally, I would have preferred a slightly faster pace.  It was also beautifully written.  Rebecca Hahn has a wonderful mastery of language and creates a narrative that is rich and decadent.  However this type of writing style, combined with the slower plot means that, while it is completely appropriate for a middle grade audience, it will not necessarily appeal to very young readers while more mature middle schoolers and many other YA readers will be captivated by this unique story.

I am convinced and signing on for anything Rebecca Hahn has in store for the future.  

Teaching/Parental Notes:

12 and up
Sex:  Kissing
Violence: Swordplay, Attempted poisoning
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Use/Abuse:None

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: A Creature of Moonlight

"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: A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn which is due to be released on May 6th.

A stunning debut novel about a girl who is half dragon, half human, and wholly herself.

As the only heir to the throne, Marni should have been surrounded by wealth and privilege, not living in exile-but now the time has come when she must choose between claiming her birthright as princess of a realm whose king wants her dead, and life with the father she has never known: a wild dragon who is sending his magical woods to capture her.

Fans of Bitterblue and Seraphina will be captured by A Creature of Moonlight, with its richly layered storytelling and the powerful choices its strong heroine must make.

I am not a fan of Bitterblue, but I am a fan of Seraphina and as the release date for Shadow Scale seems oh so far away, I am hoping Creature of Moonlight can help satisfy my dragon needs until then.  I also have a student who LOVES dragons and I am hoping that this will be a book that I can recommend to her.  

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Releases: April 15, 2014

It's Release Day!!  Here are some of the new books that I am excited about this week!

See My Review

Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

I really enjoyed this book's take on magic and sacrifice.  It had a fast paced plot and featured a great teenage friendship.

See My Review

When Agatha secretly wishes she’d chosen a different happy ending, she reopens the gates to the School for Good and Evil. But the world she and Sophie once knew has changed.

Witches and princesses, warlocks and princes are no longer enemies. New bonds are forming; old bonds are being shattered. But underneath this uneasy arrangement, a war is brewing and a dangerous enemy rises. As Agatha and Sophie battle to restore peace, an unexpected threat could destroy everything, and everyone, they love—and this time, it comes from within.

Soman Chainani has created a spectacular world that Newbery Medal-winning author Ann M. Martin calls, “a fairy tale like no other, complete with romance, magic, and humor that will keep you turning pages until the end.”

I love this series.  The worldbuilding is incredible and I love that the story features two really strong female characters.  The covers are absolutely incredible and this is the type of series that I NEED to own, just so my shelf can be even prettier.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Book Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: December 9, 2003
Rating: 2.5/5

Cover Impressions: 
There appears to be a bit of a corset obsession going on with this series.  There is nothing wrong with this cover, but there isn't anything exciting about it either.  It seems like another pretty girl in a pretty dress cover, though I understand it may have been released closer to the beginning of that trend.

The Gist:

Sixteen-year-old Gemma has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother's death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence, a girls' academy with a mysterious burned-out East Wing. There Gemma is snubbed by powerful Felicity, beautiful Pippa, and even her own dumpy roommate Ann, until she blackmails herself and Ann into the treacherous clique. Gemma is distressed to find that she has been followed from India by Kartik, a beautiful young man who warns her to fight off the visions. Nevertheless, they continue, and one night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. The clique soon finds a way to accompany Gemma to the other-world realms of her visions "for a bit of fun" and to taste the power they will never have as Victorian wives, but they discover that the delights of the realms are overwhelmed by a menace they cannot control. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order. (Goodreads)


Throughout my time as a blogger, I have encountered this series over and over again.  It tends to get lumped in with the type of romantic frou frou books that I don't particularly enjoy.
movie animated GIF
However, it was chosen as the first book for a new book club that I have joined, so here we are.

There wasn't anything that I loathed about this book, but then there wasn't anything that I really loved either.  It lives in the eternal land of "Meh"  So much so that it has taken me a week or two to actually sit down and write this review.
idk animated GIF
I found the characters very difficult to relate to.  I didn't actually LIKE any of them.  They seemed like bland characters who were flat and boring.  The only time that they were actually interesting, was because they were being petulant and childish.  Even the main character, despite having lost her mother in a horrific manner, seemed shallow.  I really disliked how Gemma started out disliking Felicity and Pippa for being mean and spiteful bullies but quickly joined in with them and started proclaiming that the two ousted girls were the actually the "mean girls".        
frustrated animated GIF
I really started to lose interest in this book when I got to the "you are a special snowflake that is more special than all the rest" part of the book.  Despite a big secret being revealed, there was no real explanation of why Gemma was supposed to be the savior of the order nor why this did not have any impact on her life whatsoever until her mother died.  The magic itself was interesting, but without answer to explain the rules, I stopped caring.  In fact, by the end, I cared so little that instead of being tempted to read the other books to find out who Circe was, I found the answer online and was not the least bit surprised to find it was exactly who I suspected.  This was a running theme as all of the supposed plot twists were things that I had figured out long before the characters.  This led to long periods of boredom while I waited for the other characters to catch up.
bored animated GIF

Eventually, I finished for the sake of finishing, though I didn't really enjoy it at all.  I will not be checking out the next two in this series.

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Girls
Sex: Kissing, Sexual Dream
Violence: Murder of a child, Brutal killing of an animal,
Inappropriate Language: Whore, Slut, Bastard
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking

Thursday, April 10, 2014

ARC Book Review: The Break Up Artist by Philip Siegel

Title: The Break Up Artist
Author: Philip Siegel
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: April 29, 2014
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions: 
Cute and unique.  The artistic style is really interesting and I like the colors though I am a little confused about some of the elements in the background...


Becca Williamson has a unique part-time job.  She recieves requests from jilted friends and then sets out to break up the relationship that caused the issue.  She has an excellent track record and few people even know that she exists.  Backed up by her sister, a young woman who is suffering bitterly from her own break up, Becca sees herself as freeing her school from the clutches of tyrannical rule of the couples.  Poised to embark on her biggest mission yet - to break up the school's most noteworthy power couple, and her former best friend - Becca must step out of the shadows if she hopes to succeed.  But, her talents were not hidden as well as she had hoped and devastated ex-girlfriends are well on their way to discovering the identity of the Break Up Artist.

I was really excited to read The Break Up Artist because of its interesting premise.  I can certainly relate to the teenage girl feeling like everyone had paired off, leaving the single girls an object of pity and ridicule.  It is so easy as a teenager in a relationship to make that the be-all, end-all of your existence and I loved the thought of one girl fighting back.  The Break Up Artist delivered on the teenage drama, if not quite on the espionage.  The novel was paced well enough to keep me interested, with Becca moving further and further into Huxley's sphere of influence while still attempting to ruin her prom queen life.  I wasn't all that keen on the writing style, much of it seemed superficial and I would have liked to see what was going on beneath the surface, but it didn't distract a great deal from the plot.

As a character, it is clear that Becca is dealing with some issues.  Watching her sister fall apart after being dumped on her wedding day changed everything that she believed about the possibility of love and she began questioning every relationship that she saw.  It is clear that Becca cares about her sister and her work as the Break Up Artist gives an outlet for some of their collective anger.  This sets us up for a character who, despite having a rather flexible set of morals, is loyal to a fault.  This led to some anger issues in myself, as a reader, when Becca makes the choice to betray someone that she cared about - for a boy.  This choice by the author undermined everything that he had already told us about the character.  The supporting characters in this story are rather flat and boring.  Her best friend is obsessed with finding a boyfriend - any boyfriend and, despite their seemingly strong bond, I don't see any real connection between her a Becca.  Huxley is clearly a Regina George clone and, once she began to have a real part in the story, brought a Mean Girl's vibe to the rest of the plot.  The one character I did want more of was Becca's sister. Dianne was clearly suffering from some serious emotional trauma and I liked that the story followed her to some degree.

One of the major issues that I had with this book was the apparent views of the author.  Having never BEEN a teenage girl, perhaps Mr. Siegel should have chosen a less demanding subject.  He seemed to believe that all teenage girls think about is relationships.  That every move made, every club joined and every word spoken is part of a calculated plan to snag a man.  He also seems to think that any boy will do and that the boys have the upper hand.  They choose a girl, and she goes along for the ride.  This left me angry.  I teach teenage girls and yes, boys take up a large part of their time, but they are not looking for ANY boy, and they are not sitting around waiting to be chosen.  Give them some credit.  I also found the boys in this story to be completely unrealistic.  The huge romantic gestures were laughable and the thought that any teenage boy would do something so public without the least amount of ribbing (or far worse) from their peers is ridiculous.  And, as a more petty side note, teenagers do not use email.  They text, they snap chat, they tweet but they do not use email outside of emailing a school project to themselves.  EVERY DAMN TIME HE MENTIONED EMAIL (which is a lot) I WANTED TO QUIT READING THE BOOK.          

Despite the issues in this novel, it was redeemed slightly by the ending.  A new bad guy is revealed and receives his comeuppance (though another one goes completely scott-free).  Becca learns how much her "profession" was hurting people and may possibly embark on a new, more moral friendly, though just as manipulative, career.  

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Sex: Kissing
Violence: None
Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Piss, Flamer (referring to homosexuality), Slut
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Feather Bound

"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: Feather Bound by Sarah Raughley which is due to be released on May 6th.

When Deanna's missing friend Hyde turns up at his father's funeral to claim his corporate empire and inheritance, she is swept into his glittering world of paparazzi and wealth.

But re-kindling her friendship and the dizzying new emotions along for the ride are the least of her concerns. Because Deanna has a secret – and somebody knows. Someone who is out to get Hyde. And if she doesn't play along, and help the enemy destroy him…she will be sold to the highest bidder in the black market for human swans.

Now Deanna is struggling to break free from the gilded cage that would trap her forever…

Feather Bound is a dark debut reminiscent of Gabriel García Márquez's A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, and the twisted truth behind the fairy tale of Cinderella.

I was drawn to this novel the minute that I saw the cover.  I love twisted fairy tales and The Swan Princess was one of my favorites as a child.  I can't wait to read this new take on an old classic.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

ARC Book Review: Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike

Title: Sleep No More
Author: Aprilynne Pike
Publisher: HarperTeen (Harper Collins)
Release Date: April 29th, 2014
Rating: 3/5

Cover Impressions:
Love the color, but I feel like the cover model must be choking on her own hair.  The tagline is decent and the fonts work fairly well.  There isn't much else to say as there isn't much more to it.


Charlotte learned the hard way not to interfere with the future.  As an oracle, she has always seen glimpses of what is to come - usually boring and insignificant events but occasionally a terrifying vision will break through.  As a child, Charlotte saw the death of her aunt, Sierra and, in trying to prevent it, brought about the events leading to her father's death and the crippling of her mother.  Now, Charlotte listens to Sierra's teachings and blocks every vision that she can.  On the day she finally fails, she sees the murder of a classmate and, when the body is found, she is wracked with guilt about not having prevented it.  As more visions come, she is approached by a stranger claiming that he can help her take control of her visions and catch the murderer, but it means betraying everything that Oracles believe in and putting herself in the crosshairs of a killer. 

Sleep No More was an enjoyable, exciting novel but I felt it suffered slightly from a lack of substance.  The plot was fast paced and suspenseful.  I even found myself skimming some of the dialogue because I was genuinely excited by the action in the story.  My most constant reading time is just before bed and I found, in reading this one, that it was actually hard to get to sleep.  This pace continued until about 3/4th of the way in, when things got a little strange.  At this point, the action of the plot mostly occurred on Charlotte's "Supernatural Plane".  The rules in this realm were difficult to understand and, just when I thought I had a handle on them, they would change.  I found this slowed down the plot a little and, in order to move forward, I had to just let go of trying to understand how that world worked and just go with it. 

I think this novel could have benefited from some more interesting and compelling characters.  Charlotte was boring, but seemed intelligent enough.  I was surprised at how easily she allowed herself to be manipulated and how little she did to inform herself of how her power worked.  To be fair, a large part of this came from the choice by the author to have Sierra act as a complete stonewall.  She refuses to give Charlotte any information about her gift (or curse) and even goes so far as to deny her access to any books - locking them in her room whenever she leaves the house.  I really despised this aspect to her character as she left Charlotte with no resources and without the sense of trust that would have sent her to ask Sierra for help when she was clearly in over her head.  The last character that really needs discussing is Linden.  Naturally, we cannot simply have a YA paranormal mystery, we have got to have a love interest.  I did not feel any sparks or excitement when it came to their romance and it made me feel sorry for Charlotte, having pined away for this boy for years.  The one positive thing I will say about the romance is that it ended very well.  I was happy to see my suspicions confirmed and that we did not go down the typical lovecanovercomeallodds route. 

 The big reveal of the murderer wasn't much of a reveal at all.  It didn't have the impact that I expected it to and was pretty easily predicted.  I think I would have much preferred if he had turned out to be a plain ol', albeit evil, human.  Once the killer was out in the open, the book slowed down considerably for me.  I knew where it would be going, but it seemed to take a very roundabout route to get there.  Before and after the climax, we are told quite a bit of information regarding the murderer's past and motivation that could have been much more effective were we shown it through the plot rather than told after the fact through wind-down dialogue.     

Sleep No More features some particularly brutal murders, including choking, stabbing and even dismemberment.  These scenes might be disturbing for some readers and I had a hard time getting through one or two of them.  

This was my first foray into Aprilynne Pike's work and I am not sure that there was enough that was unique about this book to bring me back to her work in the future.   

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Sex: Kissing, Light Petting - Non-Graphic
Violence:Violent Murders, Gunplay, Knifeplay, Choking
Inappropriate Language: Bastard, Shit, Bitch
Substance Use/Abuse: Marijuana Use

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Book Gendering

There has been a lot of controversey lately around the practice of assigning gender to books.
A petition has been formed to stop publishers from labeling children's books  and publishers have shot back claiming that these books are published because they sell

Just a cursory search on the Chapters website brought me to these two gems:

Here's an exciting book packed with facts about nature, ideas for outdoor activities, and fun-to-do crafts projects that will keep boys interested and busy all year around. It's filled with color illustrations and diagrams that teach kids--
  • How to recognize different kinds of insects and observe their activities
  • How to identify different kinds of rocks
  • How to read a topographic map
  • How to construct a camper's backpack
  • How to tie sailors' knots
  • How to build a periscope . . . and much more
Girls who take pleasure in crafts activities, and who enjoy the outdoors and nature will love this activity book. It''s packed with color illustrations, things to make and do, and ideas for outdoor activities. Instructions, tips, and information on some of the book''s many topics include--
  • How to identify seasonal fruits, vegetables, and herbs
  • How to take professional-looking photos and create good-looking photo albums
  • How to make paper jewelry
  • How to make herbal teas and delicious fruit desserts
  • How to dress and pack for hiking and camping activities
  • How to construct imaginative musical instruments
  • How to weave containers and baskets
The more I look at these book descriptions, the more angry I become.  Even putting the stereotypical coloring and design of the covers aside, boys are instructed in Entomology, Geology and Geography while girls are taught Cooking (not "real" cooking, but just tea and desserts so you are prepared for those kids bakesales and tupperware parties that are sure to be a huge part of your future), Jewelry Making and Basket Weaving?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  Would girls not benefit from learning to tie knots or read a map?  Are they destined for a life of reliance on a man to rescue them from bugs?  When preparing for a camping trip should their main concern be FASHION?!  The thing that strikes me the most is that a book on enjoying the outdoors DOESN'T NEED TO BE SEGREGATED BY SEX!  This is completely unnecessary.  Many girls would love to build a periscope and many boys would have fun making an instrument.  Why do these activities have to be clearly separated into "Girl" fun and "Boy" fun.   

This entire issue has actually made me question my own practices.  In my reviews, you may have noticed, I add a list of the bottom of notes for Teachers, Parents or any other readers concerned with content.  This includes my own Age Recommendation as well as notes on Sex, Violence, Inappropriate Language, and Drug Use/Abuse.  It has also, up until now, included Gender.

I assure you, I did have a reason for including such a category.  As a teacher, I often encounter teens that actually do fit with the stereotypes when it comes to their reading.  These action-loving boys and romance-loving girls are often some of the harder students to recommend books to.  Traditionally, the boys are the more difficult group, preferring shorter books with intense, action-packed plots.  They also tend to be the more reluctant reader and leave many teachers and parents searching for something to get them engaged.  I created this category of Gender in an attempt to help teachers and parents reach those particular groups, not as a way to marginalize students into them.

In my own classroom, I have always tried to pair books to students preference based on things like genre, amount of action, amount of romance, setting, type of main character etc.  I have also found many books that seem to transcend any stereotypes and preferences and are loved by almost all of my students - books like The Hunger Games and The False Prince.  But, I will admit, on those rough days or when I am particularly stuck, I do fall back on the standard sports books for boys and romances for girls.   

However, given the fact that this issue has come to the forefront in recent weeks (even though the arguement is usually geared towards children's books) I have started to re-think the way that I have approached gender in reading.

It may very well be that these particular teens have fallen into those groups BECAUSE of book gendering and BECAUSE they were always given "BOY" or "GIRL" books.  With constant reinforcement it is no wonder that these kids come to believe that this is actually the only type of book that they like because it is the only type of book that has been offered. 

It may also be that the reason that I (and other teachers and parents) are placing those books and those students into these narrow categories is due to my own subconscious notions of gender - learned from years of being an active member of a society that does the same.  As humans, we like categories, we like things to fit into neat little boxes and never venture outside, but, as humans, we simply don't fit into one box.  It is time for us, as parents, educators and as human beings, to start opening our minds and allowing and encouraging the youth we encounter to make choices without gender bias.

As such, I will no longer be adding Gender to my book reviews and I will endeavor, within my own classroom, to broaden my own horizons when it comes to recommending books.

Friday, April 4, 2014


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Thursday, April 3, 2014

ARC Book Review: Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Don't Look Back
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: April 15th, 2014
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions: 
The English teacher in me hates that the title is all lower case letters.

The Gist:
Sam wakes up in a strange place with no memory of her former life other than fuzzy recollections of rocks and blood.  As she rejoins her family she discovers that she wasn't alone when she disappeared, her best friend, Cassie was with her and Cassie has not come home.  As Sam tries desperately to remember what happened to her, and Cassie, she starts to realize that her former self was not someone she wants to be anymore.  As the truth begins to unravel, Samantha discovers that she may not be able to trust anyone - including herself.


Don't Look Back is one of those mystery books where it is very difficult to write a review without giving away major plot spoilers, in this case: the identity of the murderer.

The premise behind this novel was interesting and there were some real elements of suspense and excitement.  However, it was carried by characters who were bland and uninspiring.  Samantha does not seem to have anything interesting about her, other than the fact that she has suffered a tragedy and is dealing with amnesia.  Pre-amnesia Sam was a mean and cruel young girl who tortured her friends and classmates, but at least she was interesting.  The rest of Sam's friends and family are equally boring with very little compassion for the fact that she has suffered a horrible event and Cassie is still missing.

The only one who seemed the least bit concerned with her welfare was Carson but Sam's lusting, which often bordered on obsession, left me annoyed whenever he was around and I was unable to warm up to him as a character.  This novel featured a sort-of love triangle between Des, Sam's boyfriend in her pre-amnesia days and Carson, the boy childhood friend that she left behind.  While I was happy to see Sam in what seemed to be a much more healthy relationship, her constant descriptions of him became more than a little nauseating and distracted from the plot. 

I was particularly annoyed by Samantha's attitude towards seeing a psychologist.  She had been through a crippling situation and clearly suffered from issues with amnesia and hallucinations.  Even without these circumstances there would be no shame in her seeking help and even less so seeing what she had to deal with.  She balked whenever anyone mentioned her seeing a doctor and her comments were a clear example of the unfortunate attitudes that many people hold towards those dealing with mental health issues.

The entire plot was built around Sam having amnesia and her memory resurfacing in bits and pieces.  I am not exactly sure how realistic this type of diagnosis is and was more than a little surprised that the murderer didn't try a little harder to prevent her from remembering what happened.  I was really disappointed in the identity of the murderer.   It was an interesting twist, but one that I feel like I have read/heard/seen before. So much so that I had figured out the ending within the first 30 pages and spent the rest of the book hoping that I was wrong and that the author would go in another direction.  Is anyone else with me?  Has this story been told before?

I enjoyed the level of excitement in this plot, but the predictability of the plot and the bland and boring characters allowed the book to fall flat.    

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Gender: Both
Sex: Kissing, Sex between teenagers (not explicit)
Violence: Murder by blunt force trauma, Gunplay
Inappropriate Language: Piss, Shit, Bitch, Dick, Fuck
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking, Alcoholism

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Sleep No More

"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: Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike which is due to be released on April 29th.

Oracles see the future but are never supposed to interfere. Charlotte learned that the hard way. If she hadn't tried to change one of her childhood visions, her father would still be alive. Since the accident, Charlotte has suppressed her visions to avoid making the same mistake. But when she receives a premonition of a classmate's murder, she can no longer ignore her powerful gift.

Then Charlotte meets someone who not only knows her secret but who also has a way for her to stop the killer. He offers to teach her how to manipulate her visions to change the future. But doing so will put Charlotte in the path of the murderer.…

Aprilynne Pike's bestselling Wings series was called "remarkable" by Stephenie Meyer, bestselling author of the Twilight Saga. And her most recent novel, Life After Theft, was cheered as a "whirlwind adventure" by School Library Journal. Now Aprilynne returns with this exhilarating departure from her previous novels. Sleep No More is a psychological thrill ride that is sure to keep readers' hearts racing until the very end.

I have never actually read anything by Aprilynne Pike, but I have always heard great things about this author and wanted to give her work a try.  I am intrigued by the notion of an Oracle who can not only see the future, but manipulate it as well. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

First Lines: March 2014

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 March.
"Just call me Ethan."


Far From You by Tess Sharpe
"It doesn't start here."


Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong
"After three days of tramping across endless lava fields, Ronan quickened his steps at the sight of the forest."

A World Without Princes by Soman Chainani
"There is an uneasiness that remains after your best friend tries to kill you."


House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple
"They say a witch lives in the old house under the interstate bridge."


Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout
"I didn't recognize the name on the street sign."

Sleep No More by Aprilynne Pike
"I sit on the itchy couch and stare at Mommy's eyes, wishing for them to open."

My favorite first line this month came from A World Without Princes.  It was the perfect way to re-introduce the reader to the story while also keeping that sense of other-worldliness that makes this series so wonderful.  My least favorite line was probably from Vigilante Poets.  It just didn't have any zing and that theme continued through the rest of the novel.