Sunday, April 29, 2012

DNF: Castle of Shadows by Ellen Renner

Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Read pages: 115 of 400

I was really torn about DNF-ing this book because it has SO much potential and I really wanted to love it. I felt invested in the idea of it and I had a real hard time accepting that the reality didn't exactly mesh up with my expectations.

Just take a look at all of these awesome points:

  • An adorable cover
  • A princess
  • A mysteriously missing queen who, we later learn, was up to all sorts of secret things.
  • A mad king mourning his missing wife
  • A kingdom on the cusp of revolt
  • Political intrigue!
  • A gardener boy who accompanies the princess on her quest to find her mother and save the kingdom

Doesn't that sound great?!, the princess, while nice enough, was mostly "stock cute orphan" mixed with "stock precocious girl" and I was never able to connect with her or even care about her. The mad king was more the pathetic king and I couldn't care less about the missing queen. Actually, I kind of hated her and I don't even know why considering I never even got to meet her.

The gardener boy had the most personality and potential, but he didn't have much page time. Charlie takes a bratty approach to dealing with him. I wanted her to hurry up and get to the burgeoning crush kind of MG boy-girl relationship, which I'm sure happened eventually. Or, barring that, I wanted her to at least be nice to him.

I guess I could have overlooked all that if the plot were interesting, but it was sooo sloooow. This book is massive at 400 pages long, but almost nothing important happened in the 115 pages I read. I only got a tiny smattering of rumors regarding the revolt, but there was no sense of imminent danger and the political intrigue bits were practically non-existent.

By the time I DNF-ed, Princess Charlie had only just managed to break into her mother's locked room of secrets. I need a more intrepid MC than one who takes over a quarter of the book just to figure out how to snoop.

The story was nice enough and maybe at that point things would have finally started happening and Charlie would have finally grown a personality, but I was so mired in a a sludge of meh that I could not force myself to find out.

Bookworm1858 explained my feelings perfectly when she said, "...this book did not [have magic]. Not magic as in a plot point but as in casting a spell on me while I was reading."

And that's it exactly. No magic. 


Friday, April 27, 2012

Small News: Moving!

Moving to Texas!

I'm hitting the road again for another road trip to Texas (but this time I'm bringing all my stuff along with me). I'll be on the road until May 2nd. At that point I'm hoping to get my internet connection set up ASAP, but I've heard horror stories of it taking up to a month! I hope that doesn't happen! 

Which is all to say that I'll be sans internet for an indeterminate amount of time. I'm sure I'll be able to find free wireless connections here and there, though, so I'll be able to pop in and read all of your comments (which will considerably brighten my no doubt happy-but-stress-filled-moving-days). 

But don't despair! I've scheduled posts to appear for a few weeks while I am away, so you can still get your Small Review fix. I have some reviews, a few DNF-explanations, an If I Like This feature, Cover First Impressions, some author interviews, giveaways, a blog tour stop, and some very cool letters. I hope you enjoy!*

*I've noticed Blogger's schedule feature has been a little wonky the past week or so. Perfect timing? Of course. Hopefully it will work while I am away, but if it does not, rest assured there will be posts as soon as I have internet access!   

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Author Interview: P. G. Kain

Please Welcome P. G. Kain!

P. G. Kain writes books for tweens that look absolutely adorable! The first series begins with a girl trying to get her boyfriend to dump her. I love stories that turn the expected on its head like that. The second series began this March and the sequel is already coming out in June. Yay for No More Waiting! I haven't read either series yet, but both sound fun are going on my "screen for library girls" TBR.

P. G. Kain was nice enough to stop by today and answer some of my very important questions about his books.

Q: Which one of your characters do you most want to slap or give a verbal tongue lashing to?

A: The main character in "Famous for Thirty Seconds," Brit is a bit of a brat. She booked her first commercial when she was six months old and has seen her face on everything from candy bars to juice boxes. When she returns from a year living abroad and finds out that she is no longer at the top of the heap in the commercial world, her reaction is less than gracious. Brit is determined to get her place back. Determination itself is not bad but, like most people, when you are overly focused on a goal you miss all the other opportunity coming your way. For Brit this opportunity comes in the form of a very cute boy named Liam.

Q: If you were transported into your book, which scene would you most want to reenact?

A: In the first two books of COMMERCIAL BREAKS each character books a spot at an amusement park. They shut down the park in order to film the commercial and they get to ride the rides over and over again without waiting in line.

Q: Which one of your character’s brains would you want to pick the most?

A: In "Dumped by Popular Demand" my first book for tweens, Dorie Dilts uses scientific principles to solve her social problems at school. She finds the scientific formula for achieving popularity and even though things don't go exactly as planned she is still the smartest character I have ever written. Dorie is way smarter than I am which creates a bit of a problem when you have to write her dialogue.

Q: Which scene do you think will surprise readers the most?

A: I think readers will be surprised to find out how much work goes into booking a commercial. You have to go on so many auditions just to get a callback. Once you book a part it's a lot of fun but it's also a lot of hard work. The girls in COMMERCIAL BREAKS are amazing professionals. They know their lines, hit their mark and arrive on time. Sure it's fun to go to a wardrobe fitting and try on scads of sparkly new dresses but when you are in that sparkly new dress filming the same scene over and over, the glitter looses a bit of its shine.

Readers should add Famous for Thirty Seconds to their To Be Read list if they like...

Books about:
   Professional acting, modeling, TV, commercials, behind-the-scene scenes, romance, friendship, friendly competition and insider secrets 

Books/movies like:
     Smash, Glee, A Chorus Line, Violet on the Runway.

About Famous for Thirty Seconds:

Brittany Rush is the face of Gotta Have It candy bars, the hands of Write On pencils, the hair of Knot Me Not detangle spray and the voice of Mom, It’s Delicious! soups. Brittany has been appearing in commercials and print ads since her backside was the official derriere of Simply Dry Diapers. When Brittany showed up at a callback some girls would actually just get up and go home since they knew it was almost impossible to compete with her. 

However, a month after her twelfth birthday, Brittany’s mother tells her that the entire family is moving to Hong Kong for a year. Brittany is forced to take a brief but agonizing break from her commercial career. After a year of being just an anonymous kid in a foreign country, Brittany is more than ready to return stateside to her steady diet of go-see’s, auditions, callbacks and bookings in NYC. 

Within 48 hours of landing at JFK Brittany’s agent Judith Lister of the A Lister’s Agency has three go-see’s for Brittany. When she shows up to the first go-see, she expects the spotlight to start shining on her again but instead she finds that, in the year that she has been gone, she has changed from being the cute kid to watch out for to just one of the many pretty girls waiting her turn. Will Brittany be able to steal back her spotlight? Or will she discover there's more to life than being a commercial success?

About Dumped by Popular Demand:

Dorie has just moved from California to New Jersey. For most kids this would be horrendous, but for Dorie it's the chance to conduct the most important scientific research of her young life. She is determined to pour all of her scientific abilities into an experiment that will, once and for all, make her popular.

Dorie calculates the trends, habits and attitudes of the most popular girls at school but finally has her eureka moment when she discovers that the three most popular girls at school, aka "The Holly Trinity," have each dated and been dumped by the cutest boy at school, Grant Bradish. All scientific data points to the solution that Dorie has to get Grant to date her and dump her in order to secure her desired popularity. It's an impossible yet hilarious task for girl scientist, Dorie Dilts.

Thank you so much for stopping by, P.G. Kain!

I love "behind the scenes" books like that! The Commercial Breaks series reminds me a little of the Secrets of My Hollywood Life series, which is a very good thing. I'm also really curious to find out how Dorie is going to go about putting her plan into action. What about you?

Have you read any of P.G. Kain's books?
How would you answer these questions?
(Remember, no spoilers please!)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Book Review: The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats

The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats
Release Date: April 17, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 352
Received: ARC from publisher, via NetGalley
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.

Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.

While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.


Why I considered DNF-ing

The beginning of this book is so slow. Not much happens, and I'm very impatient. It's all written with a bunch of old-timey words thrown in and while this definitely did help establish the historical backdrop, sometimes I had absolutely no clue what was being said.

The book opens with Cecily's first person POV, and she is a complete brat. She's always thinking something awful about the people around her, she pouts, throws fits, and seriously needs someone to shove her off her high horse. She isn't even nice to her father (though, to be fair, he isn't all that great himself).

Then, without warning, the narrative switched in the next chapter to Gwinny's POV. And she's worse than Cecily! Her sentences are fragmented and weird. I imagine this is to reflect her lack of fluency in English? (She's Welsh). Or maybe not? I'm not sure, but it turned me off because it made her sound dumb. Her barely contained RAGE made it very uncomfortable being in her head.

So why didn't I DNF?

Despite all that, I found myself sucked into the book. I hesitate to say "story," because this isn't the kind of book where there is a neat plot-problem-resolution. Usually I prefer clearly structured books over the looser "slice of life" approach of The Wicked and the Just, but J. Anderson Coats' writing was so vivid that I was completely absorbed in even the mundane day-to-day events.

Little things like how parents related to their children, the social structures, clothing, chores, laws, and on and on were all described in great detail. There was a flood of information, but it never once felt like a lesson. There weren't long lectures about any of this stuff. Instead, J. Anderson Coats really throws the reader into the middle of life back then and expects you to sink or swim.

I imagine non-historical fiction fans might be bored stiff, but I was entranced. The Wicked and the Just is everything I hope for when reading historical fiction. This really is a gem of a book for fans of Historical fiction with a capital H.

I learned a ton of things about the late 1200s and the relations between the recently conquered Welsh and the conquering English. Events are seen from both sides through the contrasting narrators, and in the end I can sympathize equally with the Welsh and the English.

Also, those characters I didn't like at first?

They grew on me. I can't say that I like them in that "I want to be friends" kind of way (though Cecily is definitely sitting at my lunch table so we can have a wicked gossip session), but I respect, sympathize, and care very much about them. They truly came alive off the page and I cheered along with their triumphs while their sorrows stabbed me in the gut.

Gwinny's narrative did smooth out as the book went on, and though it was never entirely "normal," I didn't have any trouble connecting with her. I liked seeing her dance around a maybe-friendship-maybe-not with Cecily and the love she had for her brother was achingly bittersweet.

Cecily's chapters remained my favorites. I loved being in her awful little head and she made me laugh out loud a number of times at the brilliantly hilarious thoughts she related. She may not be nice, but she is brutally honest and I always find that refreshing in a character. She also has a strict sense of justice that I appreciated immensely.

What about the body count?

One of the big things that grabbed my attention was the promise of a body count. Is it just me, or does the prospect of a body count instantly make things more interesting? I interpreted that to mean there would be a killer on the loose and there would be some sort of mystery to solve. I'm not really sure where I got that idea from, and really it couldn't be further from the truth.

There IS a body count, and it is gruesomely high, but it has nothing to do with any serial killings or mysteries. Even though I was disappointed I didn't get a murder mystery, that disappointment was soon forgotten because what did happen made my jaw drop to the ground in shock. Which is definitely a good thing.

But you're going to have to wait until after page 300 for the explosions of death to start. (Not literal explosions.) Oh, and a warning to animal lovers: a dog dies.

A note on that title

Aside from taking a look at an event in history, I wondered what the point of this book really was. If you want to get really analytical, then there's a ton of fodder here in the form of explorations of relationships, social class, war, subjugation, and so on.

But at its root, I think the title really sums it up perfectly: this book is about justice and the wickedness in life that warrants it.

I really liked how this theme was integrated throughout the book. It gave the whole story a spine of steel and made me give out major respect points to various characters. It also helped highlight how harsh the times were and how horrible people can be to one another.

Bottom line

I can't wait to read another book by J. Anderson Coats! The Wicked and the Just is a standalone (though there could easily be a sequel, and I would so read that!), but I'm crossing my fingers she writes another book soon, preferably another historical fiction. This is a book worth noting.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The Wicked and the Just that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Check out my interview with J. Anderson Coats!

Add it to Goodreads!
Buy it from Amazon!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cover Review: First Impressions (3)

Moving is totally stressful. So instead of facing more boxes, calling more utilities companies, or even considering my review pile, I'm going to procrastinate by playing guessing games! Want to join me?

Soulbound: Legacy of Tril by Heather Brewer

First Impressions:

This doesn't look like a book that takes itself too seriously. It's all about looking totally cool while actually being filled with lots of campiness and gigantic stretches of the imagination. I'm fully expecting action-filled fun times.

Just look at the way she's holding that sword! No real swordswoman would even think of holding a sword like that (is she trying to awkwardly slice open her shoulder?). But in her defense, her masochistic pose might be a result of the fact that she can't see anything due to the "I'm so skilled that I don't need to see!" blindfold.

But doesn't she look badass? The random black ribbon on her arm is worth at least 10 cool points alone! Plus, there's magical glowy light coming out of the series title! You can never go wrong with magical glowy light.

Basically, what I'm getting from this cover is that Joss Whedon decided he was tired of his TV shows getting canceled so he is bringing his tiny female killing machines to the world of books. Yay!

Reality (from Goodreads):

"What's worse than being blackmailed to attend a hidden school where you're treated like a second-class citizen? How about nearly getting eaten by a monster when you arrive? Or learning that your soulmate was killed in a centuries-old secret war? And then there's the evil king who's determined to rule the world unless you can stop him...

Meet Kaya, a young woman with the power to heal and the determination to fight. But struggle as she will, she remains tied to three very different men: a hero who has forsaken glory, a tyrannical ruler who wants to use Kaya, and a warrior who's stolen her heart. Kaya learns the hard way that some ties can't be broken...and blood is the strongest bond of all."

Do they match?

Yep, pretty much Buffy. Could I have finally found something to fill the gaping Scooby-Gang void in my heart (other than my annual seasons 1-7 marathon)? *fingers crossed*

Blessed by Tonya Hurley

First Impressions:

Did Amanda Seyfried die and then come back as a demon-possessed zombie with a penchant for prayer? 'Cause that's what it looks like. I wouldn't be at all surprised by scenes of animal sacrifices and soul-pledging to Satan.

I'm expecting a black comedy that will make me feel kind of skin-crawley and ick-ed out. And maybe a little bored, too (doesn't she look bored? She's making me feel bored.)

I know I shouldn't let a bad cover stop me from reading a book, but I don't think I want to touch that book (she looks like she might give me pink eye) and I'm positive I don't want anyone seeing me reading a book with that cover.

I'm also pretty sure 1995 called and wants its style-challenged cover back. All she needs is a black choker and the look would be complete.

(And, ok, yes, 1995 wants its insult back, too. But in my defense, at least I'm actually from the '90s. What's this cover's excuse, hmm?)

Reality (from Goodreads):

A "re-imagined redemption remix", following three teenage girls in Brooklyn and drawing on the martyrdom legends of St Lucy, St Cecelia and St Agnes.

Do they match?

So no zombies but a strong likelihood of dead girls. I'm not really sure how a "re-imagined redemption remix" with saints will work, but if that cover is any indication, it will be weird and maybe not for me. Also, she looks more anti-christ than saintly.

What do you think? Do these covers make you want to read the book? What would you think these books were about if all you saw was the cover? 

Can anyone come up with funny blurbs or taglines for the books based on their covers alone?

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Guest Posting at Woven Myst!

I'm interviewed today over at Woven Myst!

Click HERE to learn more about me, 
including really important things like which side of the zombie vs. unicorn debate I fall and whether I prefer vampires or werewolves!

I'd love to know how YOU would answer those questions! Some were really tough!

Woven Myst is a new YA magazine that includes a ton of author interviews, blogger interviews, reviews, giveaways, and more! (Seriously, they have a TON of giveaways going on right now!)


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Book Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
#1 in the Seven Realms series
Release Date: October 1, 2008
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 471
Received: Own
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight—she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change. She never expects to become Po’s friend. She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away... a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.


Katsa, oh Katsa. Where do I begin?

If this were the kind of book where I was expected to get behind Katsa and view her as a paragon of awesomeness, I'd probably upchuck. So, it's pretty lucky that I didn't view Katsa as a character I should agree with 100% of the time.

Here's the deal with Katsa: She grew up in her jerkface uncle's custody and spent most of her life there completely ignored by him. Occasionally he'd send her off on a mission when he needed her to go torture or kill some upstart in his kingdom. Pretty messed up, right? Of course it is, and now, also obviously, so is Katsa. You just don't go and have an upbringing like that and expect to come out A-okay.

So Katsa's about 12 kinds of weird mixed with a heavy dose of "she just ain't right," but that's ok and expected. Her background and development also make her an interesting and sometimes even sympathetic character. But you know what it also makes her?


*sigh* Sometimes I felt like I had stumbled into the medieval fantasy version of an issues book. I wanted to see more amazing fighting and hear less whining indecision. But fine, if we're going to explore her wounded psyche, then someone seriously needs to teach Katsa how to express her feelings in healthy, constructive ways.

Look, I get why people in her court probably never wanted to say "no" to her (probably because of the whole "she can kill you with her pinky" thing), but the girl needs to learn some manners. I wanted to tell her to shove it every time she barked out some impulsive and inane command.

If Katsa ever found the Internet, she would totally be one of those people who expects you to be able to Google anything. Find me the name of the book I was thinking about two weeks ago! WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU NEED MORE INFORMATION?! DOOOO IIIITTTT NOOOOOWWWW!!!

She would also write everything IN CAPS LOCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111111

But, just like encounters with those people, I never really took her to heart. I mean, the girl's messed up. But, like, seriously, she's not right in the head. I pretty much just rolled my eyes at her and gave her the literary equivalent to that whole shoulder pat "Ok honey, whatever you say, uh huh..." response.

Also, I would love it if Katsa could stop being such a grade-A jerk when it came to the treatment of her horses. Seriously, lay off. 

What about the rest of it?

The rest of it is much better. I'm a fantasy fanatic, so I'm admittedly biased, but I liked Kristin Cashore's fictional world a whole lot. The idea of being graced is a lot like having X-Men super powers, which is always a Give Me That Book! feature for me.

I liked unraveling the mystery about Katsa and Po's graces (they're not what you're first led to believe), but the reality of them was mixed for me (a let down for Katsa's, but I thought Po's was pretty cool). I also liked the mystery surrounding the kidnapping, but the coolest parts centered around the villain and their past.

My only real complaint about all of this is that the pacing is more moderate than fast, and I'm the kind of reader who thinks "frenetic" is "just right." So I was a little antsy at certain points. Still, for a book that's almost 500 pages, it didn't feel that long at all.

When all was said and done, though, I have to admit that I felt a little disappointed. Kinda like, that's it? For me, Graceling was a good, solid book, but I was hoping for greatness.

There were a lot of "almosts" for me here—the world building was almost there, but there was a roughness that led to some holes. The supporting characters were almost perfect, but they didn't have enough development or pagetime. The mystery was almost fantastic, but I felt let down with the swiftness of the resolution and the villain's motivation. So, almost, but not quite.

Less Katsa, more everyone else, please!

Aside from Katsa, the other characters were all pretty likable, but none are particularly well developed. Part of that is because this is Katsa's story though, and most characters only appear sporadically. I do like them all enough that I want to learn more about them and I'm hoping at least some will appear in the other books in the series (Fire, a prequel, so probably pretty slim odds and Bitterblue a sequel in which I know at least one character will reappear!)

The only other character of note that I can talk about without giving away spoilers would be Prince Po, and I sort of have to say his name with a swoony sigh. He's the kind of guy who leans. He's all casual cool and he can totally hold his own. He's also not afraid to call Katsa on her less attractive qualities, thankfully.

Not only that, but he's one of those rare guys who I think would satisfy readers who like alpha men AND readers who like, um, there has to be a better description than sissy boys—sensitive guys? Peeta-like? (sorry, you can tell which side *I'm* on). I'd put Po in a category with guys like Wayland North (TOTAL swoon) from Brightly Woven and Howl from Howl's Moving Castle.

The writing makes me cringe a little

The writing is...serviceable. I mean, you can read it just fine and it doesn't get bogged down with flowery adjectives everywhere. But it's rough. There are a lot of weird repetitions ("Turning when it was time to turn...") that seemed like really lazy writing/editing. Not a deal breaker for me, but it did make my eye twitch a little.

Bottom line

I mostly avoided a lot of hype and, thankfully, one of my early introductions to Graceling was through Krystle's far from glowing review. Had I been sucked in by the hype I think I would have been massively disappointed, but luckily my expectations were pretty low already so I was pleasantly surprised.

I liked it enough that I am going to read the two other books in the series, but I don't feel the need to beg, borrow, bribe, and steal for them. Graceling ends as if it were a standalone, so while I will read the other books at some point, I can comfortably push them a little further down my TBR for now.

Oh, and a warning for those who want a warning: There's sex. Not graphic, but it's there, and it's of the "no strings attached" variety.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Graceling that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Have you read Graceling? How did you like Katsa? What were your thoughts overall?

Add it to Goodreads
Buy it on Amazon

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Author Interview: J. Anderson Coats

Please Welcome J. Anderson Coats!

J. Anderson Coats debuts today with her historical fiction book The Wicked and the Just. Her book is described as, "YA historical fiction chockful of name-calling and violence." How cool does that sound?! Sure in real life I'm all about niceness, but in books? Bring on the backstabbing—literally and figuratively!

J was kind enough to stop by today to answer all of my very important questions

Q: Which one of your characters would you most want to kiss?

A: Dafydd, because he knows when to fish and when to cut bait, although Gruffydd is a close second because he’s loyal and pragmatic.

Q: Which one of your characters do you most want to slap or give a verbal tongue lashing to?

A: Definitely Cecily. She’s used to getting her own way, and sometimes she just needs to shut her piehole.

Q: If you were transported into your book, which scene would you most want to reenact?

A: The first Michaelmas fair. It would be something else to see a town-wide party. Of course, this is assuming I was English.

Q: Which one of your character’s brains would you want to pick the most?

A: Mistress Tipley. I’d like to know how she got through the first ten years in north Wales after the English showed up.

Q: Which scene do you think will surprise readers the most?

A: The second Michaelmas fair.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give your main character?

A: It will get better.

Readers should add The Wicked and the Just to their To Be Read list if they like...

Books about:
     Snarky girls, power struggles, justice, cruelty, comeuppance, and a body count.

Books/movies like:
     Books like BLOODY JACK by L.A. Meyer, THE SECRET DIARY OF ADRIAN MOLE, AGED 13-3/4 by Sue Townsend, and CATHERINE, CALLED BIRDY by Karen Cushman.

     Movies/TV shows like Horrible Histories, Braveheart, The Messenger, Gone with the Wind, and the Cadfael mystery series.

Main characters like:
     Emer Morrisey in A.S. King’s THE DUST OF 100 DOGS or Nell in THE MINISTER’S DAUGHTER by Julie Hearn.

About The Wicked and the Just:

Cecily’s father has ruined her life. He’s moving them to occupied Wales, where the king needs good strong Englishmen to keep down the vicious Welshmen. At least Cecily will finally be the lady of the house.

Gwenhwyfar knows all about that house. Once she dreamed of being the lady there herself, until the English destroyed the lives of everyone she knows. Now she must wait hand and foot on this bratty English girl.

While Cecily struggles to find her place amongst the snobby English landowners, Gwenhwyfar struggles just to survive. And outside the city walls, tensions are rising ever higher—until finally they must reach the breaking point.

Author bio:

J. Anderson Coats has dug for crystals, held Lewis and Clark’s original hand-written journal and been a mile underground. She has a cool surgery scar unrelated to childbirth, she reads Latin, and she's been given the curse of Cromwell on a back-road in Connemara. On a clear day, she can see the Olympic mountains from her front window. On the foggy ones, she can smell the Puget Sound.

J writes historical fiction set in the middle ages that routinely includes too much violence, name-calling and petty vandalism perpetrated by badly-behaved young people.

Thank you so much for stopping by, J!

Ha, yes Cecily totally needs a good slapping (but ssshh, don't tell her because it will only inflate her ego, but it's fun being in her wicked little head!) I, too, would love to sit down and have a good long chat with Mistress Tipley. I imagine she has a lot of useful bits of wisdom stored up.

Now, of course, I cannot wait to get to both Michaelmas fair scenes! And if that wasn't motivation enough to read faster, J's answer to the "Books about..." section seals the deal. I LOVE all of those things!

Have you read The Wicked and the Just?
How would you answer these questions?
(Remember, no spoilers please!)

The Wicked and the Just is released today!
Add it to your Goodreads!
Buy it on Amazon! 

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

In My Mailbox (35)

In My Mailbox is a meme started by Kristi at The Story Siren with some inspiration from Alea of Pop Culture Junkie where we get to post about the books we receive each week through publishers/authors, our own purchases, contests won, and libraries.

This mailbox is for the past month or so. Since I'm moving soon, I've actually had to start showing some restraint. I think I've done a pretty, erm, ok job. Most are e-books though, so there's that. 

Sorry for the lack of actual book photos. Most of the physical books are packed already!

For Review

The Immortal Rules
by Julie Kagawa

Release Date: April 24, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 485
Goodreads Page

Julie Kagawa surprised me with her Iron Fey series (I usually do not like fairies) and early reviews seem to indicate that she now manages to breathe new life into vampires. Since I actually like vampires, I'm curious to see what she does with them.

Requested and received via NetGalley.

by Meagan Spooner

Release Date: October 1, 2012
Publisher: Carolrhoda Lab
Pages: 344
Goodreads Page

I mostly want to read this because Sarah J. Maas and Susan Dennard are always saying fabulous things about Meagan Spooner.

Requested and received via NetGalley.

The Wicked and the Just
by J. Anderson Coats

Release Date: April 17, 2012
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Pages: 352
Goodreads Page

It's historical fiction! It's gossipy! There's a body count! Yay! Reading this now.

by Daniel Marks

Release Date: October 9, 2012
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 464
Goodreads Page

Those people look like they're dead. Which, I guess they kind of are. Velveteen was murdered and now, stuck in purgatory, she's vowed to haunt her killer as a form of torture. In the words of the blurb, "It'll be brutal . . . and awesome." How can I say no to that? I'm always on board for a good revenge story!
Requested and received via NetGalley.

by Juliet Marillier

Release Date: September 11, 2012
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Pages: 416
Goodreads Page

I was a Juliet Marillier holdout for a really long time, but I finally caved when Ruby publicly challenged me to read Wildwood Dancing (and then she sent me a copy to make sure I'd feel really guilty if I didn't read it).

Soon after, I did read the book and proceeded to kick myself repeatedly for having waited so long. I'm now a full on Juliet Marillier convert and I squeaked out loud when I saw her latest book available on NetGalley.

Requested and received via NetGalley.

The Hunt
by Andrew Fukuda

Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 304
Goodreads Page

Oh wow. I read thi no, scratch that, I devoured this book and now I can't wait for more!

If I am Legend had a sequel and that sequel had a baby with The Hunger Games the result of that glorious union would be The Hunt.

Requested and received via NetGalley.

Dark Frost
(Mythos Academy #3)
by Jennifer Estep

Release Date: May 29, 2012
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 336
Goodreads Page

Yay! I can't wait to read the next installment in this series! This is the third book, but there's going to be one more. I love how the cover artist included Gwen's necklace. I appreciate it when covers really reflect the story, and seeing that necklace makes me sigh with swoony contentment.

Requested and received from the author and publisher.

Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo

Release Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 368
Goodreads Page

Get. This. Book. NOW! Seriously, if your taste in books is anything like mine, get your bribes ready because you are going to love this book!

It's a fantasy set in a Tsarist-Russia-like fictional land and it's chock full of court intrigue, swoony guys, kickbutt ladies, action, questing, and a scene that is SO awesomely scary. I've read it, I've hugged it, I've reread my favorite parts, and I've placed it firmly on my Special Shelf!

Requested and received from the publisher/author.

The Book of Madness and Cures
by Regina O'Melveny

Release Date: April 10, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 336
Goodreads Page

I hate this cover, but I'm really digging the blurb! The year is 1590 and Gabriella practices medicine under the guidance of her father. But, when her father goes missing, her position as a doctor becomes shaky (and, um, I imagine she's worried about where he went... right?) so she sets out to find him.

Lucky for her, he left clues! Lucky for me, most of these clues are within old letters (I love books with clue-filled old letters!) This leads her on a quest all over Europe as she pieces together these hints and hopefully discovers something utterly shocking. I can't wait to find out!

I'm pretty sure I entered for a copy through Shelf Awareness.

Glamorous Illusions
by Lisa T. Bergren

Release Date: June 1, 2012
Publisher: David C. Cook
Pages: 416
Goodreads Page

EEEEEEEeeeeepppp! It's not a River of Time book, but it's the start of a new historical fiction series set in 1913 about a girl who travels, well, almost everywhere it seems! But it doesn't really matter what it's about because it's LISA T. BERGREN'S NEW BOOK! And, really, that's all I need to hear.

Requested and received through NetGalley (look under the publisher!)

What did you get this week? Are you interested in reading any of these books? What did you think of them if you've read them already?

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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Book Review: Fetching by Kiera Stewart

Fetching Kiera Stewart
Fetching by Kiera Stewart
Release Date: November 8, 2011
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 296
Received: Review copy from publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Olivia has just about had it with the popular kids at school. She and her friends have done nothing to deserve evil pranks and awful name-calling, but that doesn't stop queen bee Brynne from humiliating them on a daily basis. If only Olivia's classmates were more like the adorable dogs she helps her grandmother train--poorly behaved, but improvable. Wait...what if her tormentors' behavior actually could be modified using the same type of training that works on dogs? Olivia and her friends are desperate enough to give it a try. But is it really possible that the underdogs of Hubert C. Frost Middle School could make it to head of the pack?


Wait, there's no magic here??

I know I don't usually read contemporary books, but I have a not-so-secret weakness for funny contemporary books, especially when they deal with Lite Issues like zits and dating and stuff. As soon as I saw the blurb, I knew I had to read Fetching. Plus, there's behaviorism (!), and for those who don't know, I'm a big fan of behaviorism.

(In the case of Fetching, behaviorism is never mentioned by name but is used through the dog training methods Olivia employs on her peers.)

Middle school is a battlefield

Narrator Olivia is a pretty cool girl and definitely someone I'd sit with at lunch. She's very "generic teen" in that her personality isn't all that different from your average teen in a book like this, but that's ok. She freezes up when popular people talk to her, she tries to guess the color of the M&M in her mouth, and she wishes her hair was glossy and not frizzy. I get her. It's Olivia's "generic-ness" that made me like her so much because it was super easy to imagine myself in her shoes.

And, ugh, what horrible shoes she's filling. The book opens with Olivia suffering the embarrassment of wearing one-size-fits-all school pants. You know, the kind of pants no one in their right mind would ever wear but schools keep on hand as some sort of salt in the wound extra for kids whose pants are for whatever reason rendered unsuitable for wear.

(I had to wear a pair of school provided purple corduroy pants one time because Amy Grover spilled apple juice all over my own pants. Thankfully I was in pre-K and so most of my peers were more concerned with nap time and paint tasting, but I have still never forgiven Amy. The shame of wearing school provided pants is just not something you overlook).

And why is Olivia subjected to the torment of school provided pants? Because mean girl Brynne secretly put a ketchup stain on the seat of Olivia's pants and the whole school pointed and laughed at Olivia's "feminine accident." Ouch.

At that point I knew I had to read the rest of the book. I needed to see Olivia get revenge on Brynne. And thankfully, she does. Big time.

Ugh, did you say mean girls?

I know, I know, the mean girl story is totally played out. And even though I'm like that little kid with a blankie refusing to throw it out even though it's worn and old and totally disgusting and, really, at this point no longer looks even remotely blanket-shaped and is pretty much a tiny knotted ball of string (which is to say, I don't like letting things go), even *I'm* kind of tired of the mean girl plot.

But Fetching breathes new life into the story by arming Olivia and her friends with dog training techniques of revenge. Not only is it funny, but it was fascinating seeing how Olivia took the lessons she learned from her dog trainer grandmother and applied them to her peers. The best part is, those techniques totally work and Kiera Stewart described the results of Olivia's efforts exactly as they would happen if this were a real life experiment.

(And, yeah, there's a Don't Try This At Home, Kids! warning toward the end, but seriously, you should totally try this at home. Ok, I don't mean you should train your peers to shun someone, but if you're having trouble getting your kids to focus on their homework or you want your boyfriend to take out the trash, then you should definitely try applying some dog training techniques. It works.)

The rest of the pack

The side characters were a mixed bag for me. I had a hard time distinguishing Olivia's friends and they never really rose to Full Character Status for me. Every time one of them spoke I had to remind myself "Oh yeah, she's the one with the marker lips" or "She's the one with the acne" or "She's the other one." The most distinctive of Olivia's friends was her guy friend Johnny, but that's because he's incredibly annoying and I hated him (also, he's a guy, so that's a fairly notable trait).

There's a little romantic potential, but it never fully develops. Both potential guys are crush worthy (though one, I thought, MUCH more than the other), but neither play a big part. The shadow of Olivia's mother (currently residing in a mental institution) is cast over everything Olivia does, but even with my strong dislike of the Mentally Ill Mother ploy, I actually wasn't bothered at all. Olivia's handling of the situation was just one more thing that made me like her. Olivia's grandmother was sweet, but she's also pretty "generic grandma."

I'd give this book a cookie

The plot moves along pretty well as Olivia introduces new steps in her Behavior Modification Plan for Middle School Domination. Breaking up that narrative are little aside scenes here and there where Olivia trains actual dogs (cute and very funny!) and talks with her therapist Moncherie (yes, that's actually her name, and I love her).

About three quarters of the way through, Olivia has the inevitable falling out with her friends and emotional look at the softer side of the mean girl. It's all very been-there-done-that predictable, but my positive feelings toward Olivia kept my interest and I even grudgingly started to...well, "like" isn't exactly the right word, but I started to sympathize with Brynne.

Even with the dip in action, Fetching gets points from me because when I wasn't reading it I was thinking about it and trying to rationalize pushing off necessary things like chores and tv shows in favor of reading (though Fetching did not manage to distract me from eating).

Bottom line

I kind of wish a kid would come into my library complaining about bullies and mean girls because I really want to provide a "Life Changing Moment" by handing them this book. But Fetching has already been making its rounds among my library kids (I'm late to the party on this one), so it looks like my thunder has been stolen. But that's ok.

Other things to note: This is a MG book, but I think YA readers should enjoy it, too. It's written on the upper end of MG and while it takes place in middle school, it easily could take place in high school. Fetching is a standalone.

This is Kiera Stewart's debut, and I am definitely keeping my eye out for whatever she writes next. I'm also maybe secretly hoping the Disney decides to turn this into a Disney Channel Original Movie (or, um, based on a book movie).

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Fetching that I haven't addressed?
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Add it on Goodreads!
Buy it on Amazon!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 
Babe in BoylandDitched Robin Mellom

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guest Posting at Ruby's Reads

This week kicks off Ruby's epic birthday celebration, and guess what? 

I brought gifts! 

Book-related, of course. Actually, I've made a huge sacrifice and loaned Ruby some of my absolute favorite book boyfriends in a Spotlight List of Hotness

Curious to see who they are?  
While you're there, tell me about YOUR favorite book boyfriends, and whether or not you're willing to share them!

(I really suck at self-promotion, so I keep forgetting to add this button. But, erm, better late than never?)

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book Review: Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis

  • Renegade Magic by Stephanie Burgis
  • #2 in the Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson series
  • Release Date: April 3, 2012
  • Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers
  • Pages:336
  • Received: ARC from publisher
  • Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This is the second book in a series! 

There are NO spoilers in this review for the first book 
(but if I mention a name, then you kind of know they didn't die in the first book!)

Still worried? Read my Kat, Incorrigible review instead!


Kat Stephenson is back to cause more chaos! Stepmama drags the family to Bath to find Kat's sister a new suitor. But, unknown to most of its gossipy visitors, Bath is full of wild magic. When Kat uncovers a plot to harness this magic in the Roman Baths, she finds her brother Charles is unwittingly involved. Kat must risk her newfound magical powers as she defies the Order of the Guardians to foil the plot and clear her brother's name. -Goodreads


It is so good to be back with Kat!

Kat is as lovable as ever, but it's clear my little girl is growing up. With responsible big sister Elissa MIA for pretty much all of the story, it's up to Kat to rein in her flaky brother Charles and impulsive sister Angeline. (And much as I love Elissa, it was kind of fun being so unsupervised!)

To say Kat has her work cut out for her is a massive understatement. Plus, Kat also has to contend with her own Guardian problems (and, ugh, Lady Fotherington is SO annoying! But she totally gets hers in the end *cackle*). Kat of course rises to the occasion with pluck and determination.

The deal

After Angeline's fiance's mother arrives on the scene as a new Woman to Loathe and announces that her son will NEVER marry a witch like Angeline (seriously, I mean an actual magical witch), Stepmama whisks Angeline off to Bath to find a replacement man.

Angeline, heartbroken and hellbent on marrying the man she loves, concocts a half-baked plan of ruination that provides fodder for lots of unladylike snickering. I wanted to strangle her because her plan was SO CLEARLY A BAD IDEA. I felt very close to Kat whenever she sighed and moaned about Angeline.

And then there's Charles. Irrepressible gambler, it takes him about two seconds after arriving in Bath to sneak off and get himself into trouble. The imagery created by his oblivious escapades had me laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all. Sadly though, while he's around more often than the first book, I still didn't get to know him nearly as much as I wanted.

The biggest surprises came from Stepmama and Kat's father. While neither play a central part in the story, both pop in and out to provide a ton of laughs and even a few aaaww-inducing moments. In the first book Stepmama filled the role of Woman to Loathe, but I actually loved her in Renegade Magic. I don't know if she's softening, or if Kat's new maturity is presenting Stepmama in a new light, but she was so cool she actually made me fist pump her awesomeness.

I noticed the writing

Just like Kat, Incorrigible, Kat again narrates, though I think her voice is slightly more mature. I'm not complaining either way here, but the first book had more I-want-to-pinch-your-cheeks-you're-so-cute kind of charm. It was the kind of writing where every sentence is carefully constructed for optimal awww-ness.

I love this, but it's also somewhat exhausting after a while. My internal quoter ends up working overtime and I'm so focused on the brilliance of the sentences that I end up getting pulled out of the story. The writing in Renegade Magic is still very clearly Kat's voice, but it's a smidgen less overtly adorable and a little easier to sink into.

Although, that said, there's one line that is one of my favorite sentences I think I've ever read. (When Charles admires his father's stealthy exit).

Bottom line

Throughout the whole book a part of my brain was busy writing up sleepover party invitations for Kat and Theodosia (those two NEED to meet!). I love Kat and hope to read many, many, many more adventures with her.

This is a strong follow up that should please fans of the first book. I very rarely buy a book before reading it and making absolutely sure I want to spend my hard-earned money on it, but Stephanie Burgis has earned herself a spot on my very tiny auto-buy list. I'm already counting down the days for the release of the third book!

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Renegade Magic that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

Add it on Goodreads!

Buy it on Amazon!

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews.

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