Monday, January 26, 2015

Tear You Apart by Sarah Cross

Title: Tear You Apart
Author: Sarah Cross
Release Date: January 27, 2015
Rating: 5/5 

Cover Impressions: Love the image of the bloodied apple - perfect for an even darker adaptation of Snow White.  I wish they had chosen a more sustantial title font and perhaps changed the background color to make the apple stand out a little more. 

I am officially adding Sarah Cross to the list of authors that I want to chain in my basement in order to make her write faster.  In Beau Rivage she has created a world that beautifully blends classic fairy tales with a modern world.  I loved the introduction in Kill Me Softly and was thrilled to find out that this follow up would feature Viv - one of the awesome side characters in the first book.  I love when authors stay in the same world but expand on the stories of interesting characters and am seriously hoping that there will be more novels that do the same (fingers crossed for Jewel and Freddie!)

Twisted fairy tales are a real love of mine.  Sarah Cross has a wonderfully unique take on them.  In Beau Rivage children and teens are cursed to play out their role in a fairy tale.  Sometimes they know who the other players are, sometimes they don't.  In Tear You Apart, Viv is the Snow White Princess just waiting for her not-always evil stepmother to order her death.  Viv has spent her entire life preparing for the inevitable strike.  What she was not prepared for, however, was for her best friend and boyfriend, Henley to be chosen to play the role of the Hunter.  With her fate left in his hands as she waits for him to choose whether or not to carve her heart from her chest, Viv pushes him away and seeks any means of escape, even if that escape comes in the form of a dark underworld and mysterious prince.

I enjoyed Viv's tough exterior in Kiss Me Softly and loved getting to see behind that facade in Tear You Apart.  The relationship between Viv and Regina was wonderfully complex and we got to see the real motivation behind not only the heroine but also the villianess.  The one thing that really bothered me was the constant bickering between Viv and Henley.  They were constantly seeking out new means to hurt one another despite clearly being in love and it was difficult to watch Viv push away the one person who really loved her.

Tear You Apart expertly weaves three fairy tales together while giving them a modern twist.  The plot moves at a steady pace and holds one or two surprising twists.  There are also a few scenes that are downright difficult to read due to their cruel brutality.  This is not a story for the faint of heart or someone without an understanding of the nature of the original (non-disneyfied) fairy tales.
As soon as I finished Tear You Apart, I immediately went to Sarah Cross' website to read After the Ball as well as downloading her novella Twin Roses.  

Teaching/Parental Notes:

15 and up
Sex:  Kissing, Veiled references to sex between teenagers
Violence: Beheading, Knifeplay, Several very violent deaths
Inappropriate Language: Bitch, Shit, Bastard, Whore, Slut
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
Author: Holly Black
Little Brown
Release Date: January 13, 2015
Rating: 4/5 

Cover Impressions: Pretty, pretty, pretty.  The appearance of moss and leaves taking over the cover is very fitting for this novel.  I love how the title is almost carved out of the greenery. 

The Gist:
Hazel and her brother, Ben, grew up fighting fairies.  The creatures that inhabit the woods in Fairfold are not the gentle sprightly creatures of Disney fame but the much darker versions who are more likely to drag you to your death than to sprinkle you with fairy dust.  The tourists who flock there to see the horned boy in the glass coffin have always been fair game for the folk but they have mostly left the native inhabitants alone - until now.  When Hazel wakes one morning covered in mud and glass she learns that the boy has finally awoken and, with no memory of the preceding evening, she must discover her role in his disappearance and why a dark and sinister force is now terrorizing the town. 

To borrow a phrase from BookRiot, this is total genre kryptonite.  I have a real weakness for books that feature towns that are a little bit magical.  I especially love with the townsfolk behave as if everything is normal.  The fairies in this novel are very similar to the ones I learned about growing up in Newfoundland.  Those good folk were not to be trifled with.  They were tricksters who could offer you the world but would ask a price you would soon regret.  There were to beings to be respected at all costs.  In fact, when berrypicking back home I still carry bread in my pockets and avoid liminal times like dusk in order to prevent being fairy led.  The fairies in The Darkest Part of the Forest skate that thin line between magical and terrifying (some landing more on one side than the other). 

There are a myriad of magical and non-magical characters who are interesting and complex.  Hazel is a great main character who puts on a strong facade but is beautifully broken underneath.  She is headstrong and independent, never relying on somebody else to save her.  I loved her brother, Ben and was especially happy that while the girl in this situation was the fearless fighter while the boy was the more emotional of the two.  There are also some great side characters who have their own dark secrets.  

The novel features flashbacks that explains more about her life growing up in this strange and often terrifying town with parents who barely noticed that she or her brother were alive.  The novel features a good story but, unfortunately, there is nothing really surprising or mind-blowing.  I would have loved to have a few surprises in the plot. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:

13 and up
Sex:  Kissing
Violence:  Swordplay, Knifeplay, Death by supernatural means
Inappropriate Language: Bastard, Piss
Substance Use/Abuse: Underage Drinking
Other Issues: Neglectful Parents

Monday, January 19, 2015

Another Bite at The Apple by Dana Bate

Title: Another Bite At The Apple
Author: Dana Bate
Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: November 25th, 2014

Cover Impressions: Super cute cover. Love the color combination of the red background and the green apple.  I would like the font to be a little more substantial, but overall it is a nice design.
I'm not sure what the title has to do with the book.  I get it, Sydney is starting over but there is a bigger connection to bread in the plot than to apples.   


Sydney has always dreamed of writing about food.  Her first love are human interest stories that feature the people behind the food.  But, food writing is an exclusive club and after any unsuccessful attempt at breaking in, she takes a job that while not exactly fulfilling, pays the bills.  That is, until budget cuts leave her out in the cold.  Picking up the pieces, she begins working at a local farmer's market, writing for the newsletter and blogging again.  When she throws her dating hat back in the ring (years after a terrible break up) Sydney suddenly finds herself with a story that could allow her to land a job at any newspaper - IF she is willing to risk losing her new friends and her new romance in the process. 

The major problem that I had with Another Bite at the Apple was Sydney.  She was irritating, self-deprecating to the extreme and very judgemental.  With the exception of finding herself unemployed, every problem in the book is one of Sydney's own making.  She was overly naive for a woman her age and either had no idea of the consequences of her actions or didn't care enough to consider how other people would be impacted.  She was completely bitchy to her eventual love interest and was so difficult on each of their dates I started to assume that he must have been a serious sucker for punishment to keep coming back for more.  She spent most of the book whining about how her sister was more popular and pretty than she was and was spoiled by her parents.  Sydney appears to be an expert at pointing out other people's flaws but is completely unable to see those same flaws in herself. 

The storyline itself is lackluster.  It takes a long time to get going and, when it does, becomes a cringefest while the reader waits for everything to blow up in Sydney's face. And boy does it ever!  All of Sydney's terrible decisions come to light in a 24-48 hr period of "Oh my God, there is no way this could all happen to one person."  After that, there is the inevitable warp up with ends just a little too cleanly.  True, Sydney has fixed some relationships and learned some valuable lessons, but I hated how all the consequences of her actions were wiped away.  No one suffered any negative effects of the plot and Sydney got the ultimate happy ending. 

Admittedly, this book was not my usual fare.  I thought the connections to food and a sweet romance would hold my interest (as they have in other women's fiction titles - see Sarah Addison Allen), but they just didn't cut it.  I don't think I will be signing up for any more of Dana Bate's novels.

Monday, January 12, 2015

An Update

I'm not sure how many people there are out there who actually read my blog but, even if it is just one, I feel I owe you an explanation for my continued absence.  On Dec 19th, 2014 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. 

The pregnancy was considerably more taxing this time around.  I wasn't simply that my body was being taken over by a severely demanding parasite, I was also teaching a demanding workload and dealing with a demanding three year old. 

As such, my reading life took a real toll.  I had always enjoyed getting approved for new books, reading them and then sharing my thoughts in review form, but, suddenly I could barely stand to pick up a book and the thought of actually writing about one when I finished was enough to exhaust me completely.  Instead, I spent my meager free time the last few months binge watching TV. 

But, I don't think it was just exhaustion.  A lot of it came from me burning out on reviewing.  I started to dread finishing a book because it meant I would have to sit down and attempt to write a review when all I really wanted was to start a new book.  I also found myself wanting to re-read an old favorite or try a series that had been published for a while but I felt guilty about neglecting my to-be-reviewed pile.

All of this led to a 4 or 5 month reading slump in which I barely picked up a book and had no desire to review anything.

I am now back at home, settling into life as the mother of two boys and have finally started to feel the desire to read again.  It is my hope that I will soon be able to get back to reviewing and updating.  But, at the same time, I feel like I need to make some changes. 

1) I will try to be much more picky about which books I request for review.  I am determined to only request if I already had my eye on that book and/or it has a phenomenal synopsis/unique idea.

2) I will throw some older titles in with the new reviews.  There are lots of already released books that I want to read and series that I would like to start but I have been putting those aside in order to review new books.  No more!

3) If I want to re-read an old favorite I will.  TBR list be damned!

4) If I don't feel like writing a review (or a full review) I won't.

With these new rules (or non-rules) in mind, I should be able to balance reviewing with the sheer enjoyment that I used to get from reading anything and everything.