Saturday, September 29, 2012

Book Review: The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray 
Pages: 400
Received: ARC from publisher, via Edelweiss
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Given the chance, fifteen-year-old Peregrine “Perry” Eckert would dedicate every waking moment to Creatures & Caverns, an epic role-playing game rich with magical creatures, spell casting, and deadly weapons. The world of C&C is where he feels most comfortable in his own skin, so when his parents ship him off to summer camp Perry is sure he’s in for the worst summer of his life.

Everything changes, however, when Perry gets to camp and stumbles into the World of the Other Normals. Perry’s new otherworldly friends need his help to save their princess and prevent mass violence. As they embark on their quest together, Perry realizes that his nerdy childhood has uniquely prepared him to be a great warrior in this world, and maybe even a hero.


This book is weird

And that's kind of a good thing, but it's also kind of a bad thing. The weirdness made me feel giddy like when I've stayed awake too long and I've gone past tired and into the slightly deranged giggly mode where everything seems funny in a loopy sort of way. Which is fun, if you can let loose enough to just go with it and not over think things.

But it's also sort of annoying.

I wanted character depth and a plot I could sink deep into. I wanted something a little less superficial. I wanted to vicariously fulfill my dreams of getting to dive into my favorite fantasy books.  I wanted maybe even a smidgen of romance. And I didn't get any of that.

(Ok, there WAS a smidge of romance, but it did nothing for me.)

There was also this weird racial sub-plot running through the camp parts of the book that I didn't really get. Perry is the only white kid at a camp made up of mostly black kids who are basically described as gang members and delinquents.

Every time this was brought up, which was often, it felt like when someone makes a really awkward off-color joke in a place like work or church or some other Not Okay venue and you sort of laugh awkwardly while wishing you were anywhere but there.

WHERE is Gandalf?!

What really sold me on the idea of this book was the chance to see a normal real-world kid get to dive into a fantasy book world. It would be like the fantasy equivalent to how time travel puts a fun spin on historical fiction. I totally wanted to follow this kid as he brings his mix of modern knowledge into a world of fantasy he adores while also maybe good-naturedly poking fun at the genre.

Perry is all about his RPG Creatures & Caverns, which, based on the blurb, sounded to me a lot like every typical Lord of the Rings-rip fantasy land. And I wanted that! I didn't want some made up fantasy world! The creatures in Perry's game-turned-reality aren't like anything I've ever read about before.

There are half man half dog/frog/octopus/horse-ish creatures and other totally unique beings. Normally creativity like that would be great and all, but the whole reason I wanted to read The Other Normals was because I was hoping for the traditional. So, BIG disappointment.

And fine, usually I would still give some brownie points for coming up with unique beings despite my disappointment, but I didn't even like these creatures. Some seemed so similar to humans that I didn't see the point to them while others were just so weird they kind of made my skin crawl. None of them had depth. The world building was also too flimsy.

And then there's Perry

I did not like him. At all. He's not that unpopular guy who plays his fantasy RPG and is actually nice and fun to hang around. No, Perry is straight up weird. His characterization is over the top, and while I guess that goes along with the whole over the top tongue in cheek vibe of the book, it also made him come off as poorly developed.

He's a big whiner verging on trantrum-thrower and he's impulsive in a completely non-endearing way. At one point he does something so embarrassingly awful that it was painful to read. He went off the deep end and into "I'm slowly backing away from you now" territory. Maybe MG boys would relate with him more? I don't know. I obviously didn't.

As the book goes on and Perry gains confidence in himself he starts to lose his whiny do-nothing approach and take charge. I think this was supposed to be part of his "journey to manhood," but it seemed to me more like he was going off the rails. He struck me as less confident daredevil and more manic, impulsive, immature, and insane. 
Why didn't I DNF?

Because despite all that it was funny. I have to give it that. It was also very easy to read and I flew through it (was it really 400 pages?! That's a shock). The chapters are super tiny, so it's really easy to say, "Just one more chapter" and realize you've read four more chapters than you originally intended to read.

Also, I was curious to see what would happen and if things got any better. I don't think they did. If anything, I liked the first half where it was mostly set-up in the real world more than the second half where all the ridiculous adventuring sets in.

Who is this book for?

I'm not really sure. I would say it would appeal most strongly to middle grade boys, but I could see some parents getting angry with me if I actually gave it to their MG son. There are more curses than I would have expected and Perry is going through puberty so sex is often on his mind, though neither of these things are probably new to middle grade boys.

There is one scene where two disturbing things happen that I thought were pretty extreme for a middle grade audience. Maybe MG boys would be fine with it, but *I* wasn't even totally fine with it so I'd feel a little uncomfortable giving The Other Normals to them.

One of the juvenile dog creatures lures Perry and his friends into a trap so his pack can kill and eat them. When the pack arrives, the dog-kid wants to keep Perry as a pet and his pack murders and eats the dog-kid in response. They then murder and eat one of Perry's friends as they are running away. It was brutal. 

So I'm not really sure who I'd give it to. YA boys would probably find it too juvenile and I think girls might be turned off by the puberty guy-ishness. Or not. Maybe they'd appreciate the zaniness of it all more than I did. I rarely like zany.  

Bottom line

Erm, yeah, not for me.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about The Other Normals 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 pictures to go to Goodreads and my reviews.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Book Review: Claws by Mike Grinti and Rachel Grinti

Claws by Mike Grinti and Rachel Grinti
Release Date: September 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic 
Pages: 256
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

In a contemporary fairytale as irresistible as catnip, one girl discovers that some magic cuts deep... Emma's sister is missing. Her parents have spent all their savings on the search. And now the family has no choice but to live in a ramshackle trailer park on the edge of the forest, next door to down-and-out harpies, hags, and trolls. Emma wonders if she'll ever see Helena, and if she'll ever feel happy, again.
Then she makes a friend. A smooth-talking, dirty-furred cat named Jack. He's got a razor-sharp plan to rescue Emma's sister. He just wants one small favor in return...


This is a talking cat book

And I love talking cat books! Fictional cats are almost always arrogant, swaggering, sarcastic and, on the surface, kinda shaky on their trustworthiness. Thinking on it, I guess that also describes most of the fictional guys I like, but without the swoon. Because they're cats.

The cat in this book is no exception. His name is Jack (and that name is like auto cool points. Seriously, can you think of a fictional Jack who isn't at least a little awesome?), he's definitely keeping secrets and he has Cat Attitude with capital letters.

One of my favorite lines wasn't even in the book, but rather on the back cover (why wasn't it in the book?? I hope it made it in the final version) where Emma, our heroine, is trying to empathize with Jack's loss of cat magic by sharing that she has lost something too: her sister (who has disappeared thus sparking the quest part of the book). Jack replies:

"Oh, please. We're talking about cat magic, the most powerful magic in the world. What good is a sister?"

And that's only the start.

Emma gets ALL the friendship bracelets

Emma is one of my absolute favorite type of characters. She isn't particularly strong or kick butt or anything like that, and she has a meek streak I can totally relate with. But she's the type of girl who will rise to a challenge, even if she's maybe trembling in fear a little and would rather be doing something else. When push comes to shove, Emma does what needs to be done and she's spurred on by the love she has for her family and friends.

Part of Jack's sneaky plan includes changing Emma in ways I found most unexpected but entirely fun. I loved tagging along with her transformation and seeing how she learned to use her new abilities. Jack's, erm, interesting teaching methods made for some situations that were both perilously tense and straight up fun.

Best of all, I didn't see many of them coming.

I haven't read that before!

The world Mike and Rachel Grinti created was both comfortingly familiar and totally unique. It's set in our world in modern times, but in their version faeries, hags, talking magical cats, harpies, and other magical creatures exist openly and mingle with humans.

While all of these creatures were familiar, they were all given a new spin that made them feel fresh and different. I had just as much fun meeting all the creatures as I did following along as Emma tried to find her sister. I guessed early on what had happened to her sister (probably because of a particular prejudice I have about a certain VERY BAD type of creature), but the journey was filled with so many surprises (the rats!) and cleverness (everything cat magic-related, eye-puppets) that it didn't even matter.

Plus, there was Emma and Jack, and those two alone could carry the book for me. The harpy was another completely amusing and totally unexpected addition to Emma's questing party. Ooh, and the Borg-like rats! They were SO surprising and cool. I also have to mention the other cats. Yes, there are more and they are all fantastic. The first thing they do whenever they get a drop of magic is turn themselves into giant wild cats. Hilarious!

Bottom line

I had high hopes for Claws and it met every single one of them (except, a tiny bit of romance would have been nice, though I guess Emma is a little young for that...*grumble*).  

Claws is a middle grade book, and while it has the sweetness and age-appropriateness that makes it a perfect middle grade read, it is inventive enough to hold the attention of older readers as well. The plot moves along briskly but not overly fast and the characters are well-developed and not too "young" for older readers. Emma is, obviously, a girl, but I think middle grade boys might enjoy her adventure too (though probably not so much YA boys). Vivian Vande Velde fans should most definitely take note.

I am so getting a copy for myself because I can see myself rereading Claws when I'm looking for a nice comfort read. I'm also ordering a copy for the library and pushing it on all my middle grade and YA readers who like books with magic, adventure, and friendship. I'm also totally keeping an eye out for what these authors write next!

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Claws 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 pictures to go to my reviews.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Small News

Well, 2012 really isn't my blogging year! Yes, that picture does indicate yet another small hiatus. There has been a somewhat sudden death in my family and I'll be flying back to New York for a little while. I have a post scheduled for 9/26 (for a book I loved) and I should also be back by then. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review: Shift by Kim Curran

Shift by Kim Curran
Release Date: September 4, 2012
Publisher: Strange Chemistry 
Pages: 416
Received: ARC from publisher
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

When your average, 16-year old loser, Scott Tyler, meets the beautiful and mysterious Aubrey Jones, he learns he's not so average after all. He's a 'Shifter'. And that means he has the power to undo any decision he's ever made. At first, he thinks the power to shift is pretty cool. But as his world starts to unravel around him he realises that each time he uses his power, it has consequences; terrible unforeseen consequences. Shifting is going to get him killed. In a world where everything can change with a thought, Scott has to decide where he stands.


It's bad when the best word I can come up with to describe the characters is "cardboard"

It's even worse when I want to attach the word "annoying" to that description. Which is pretty much where I'm at with all of the characters in Shift. They're boring. They don't have depth. They're caricatures. They felt unfinished. Whatever little bit of history they have doesn't do anything to make me feel for them.

Even better, they jump to conclusions, do stupid things, and they don't act in ways that are internally consistent. Scott, the narrator, is kind of uselessly, stupidly there while also being The One for no believable reason. Aubrey, Scott's romantic interest was...extremely grating. She's arrogant, quirky, totally independent, stunning, and nurturing a secret hurt. She gave me a massive eyeroll sprain.  

I also had a hard time believing any of these characters were teenagers.

We need to re-write that blurb

I hate it when blurbs mislead me. Shifting doesn't have Terrible Consequences. Not really, and at least not in ways that are the focus of the plot.

I would try to give a better blurb now, but I'm not even sure where to begin. There are so many different things going on in this book. Murders, mysteries, separate mysteries, secret experiments, political units, different murders, fighting's kind of a lot.

Oh, and boring "getting to know your gift" denials and training. And excruciating info dumping (and I usually like info dumping). For, like, half the book. 

On one hand, though, I did like the plot. It's pretty slow in the beginning, but the second half shoots off like a racehorse with barely a second to catch your breath. The crazy twists are what kept me reading because, though I didn't really care about the characters, I was curious about what was going on and how all of the different threads were going to tie together.

Except, they didn't really tie together. Not entirely coherently, at least. I'm also not really sure what the point of some of them were. I mean, I understand it and everything, but it seems very, "So what?" if you know what I mean. Like, why bother adding that plot point if that's all you're going to do with it.

The eventual reveals were very cackling evil villain all for the sake of evil villainyness, which was doubly disappointing because, well, that type of thing is always disappointing, but also because there was so much more potential there. The plot threads were zany and a little hard to swallow, but they were fun and they were leading toward conspiracies with murders and all that good stuff. It could have been so much more.

Also, despite all the info dumping, the world building leaves a lot to be desired. The rules had slapdash explanations and there was far too much time spent on talking about their abilities and not enough time actually using them. A lot of the plot relied on a big conspiracy about evil adults using shifting abilities(shifting is just for kids, btw. It disappears when you get older), but this whole concept wasn't developed enough AT ALL. 

As it was, everything was "not enough" for me. It all felt like it needed to go back to the drawing board for some major fleshing out and maybe even some re-thinking because "half-baked" is only a good thing if you're talking about cookies.

If just one part had been strong—the characters, the plot, something—then I think I would have at least bumped this up to a three if not a three and a half, but as it stands, eh, I feel like I'm being fair to generous with a two.

The writing

It's very British, and I don't mean whimsical or charming British speak like Downton Abbey or Harry Potter, either. It's more the slangy type of modern British English. I know some people love it and will probably love it here, but I don't like that.

I'm the type of person who wishes there were English subtitles on modern British TV shows. It's tiring reading a book where I need to mentally translate every British slang into American English. I'm lazy, so the whole thing was just one big frustrating experience.

Bottom line

It wasn't a total wash for me, and I did read to the end, but after getting to the end I'm not sure it was really worth it. My copy had only 290-something pages, so it didn't feel very long. The finished version is supposed to have over four hundred pages, and I don't think I would have pushed through to the end if I was reading that version.

I'm not sure what accounts for the difference in page counts though. Is the finished  version more fleshed out? Because that would be a very good thing. Or does the finished version just have larger margins and stuff?

At least this was a standalone, though there is certainly the opening left for future installments. I won't be reading them. While I can see a few of my library kids enjoying this book well enough (more the boys than the girls), I don't see it having the lasting power or generating enough interest to warrant a budget expenditure in our library.  

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Shift 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 picture to go to Goodreads.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Books I got this week (7)

It's been established so clearly that I can't even lie about it: I have no self-control when it comes to books. I acquire them at a much faster rate than I can actually read and review them, but hopefully these posts will help those books get some exposure NOW instead of waiting until I actually manage to find time to, you know, read them.

This post is for the past week.

For Review

Princess of the Silver Woods
by Jessica Day George

I LOVE Jessica Day George! I've been waiting for this book for SO long and I can't even begin to describe how happy I am to be reading this now! It was a turbulent journey to get to this point, too.

First I requested long, long ago for a print copy and didn't hear anything back. Then I saw it was up on NetGalley and so I requested it there. Twice. I swear my finger slipped on the mouse and that's why I clicked request twice directly in a row (overeager? My unconscious somehow thinking double requesting will work extra well?). Then the waiting began. THEN, oh man, then I got an email telling me the title has been archived and I should try requesting a print copy. So I did that.

But then I saw I also got an email saying I was approved for the e-galley! Yay! I would have downloaded it right then and there but I had to go out. And then when I came hold later and tried to download it? ARCHIVED! Or, even weirder, the title was greyed out on my screen so I couldn't click it. AAaahhh, I tell you, I was plunged into the depths of despair when that happened. So of course I re-requested it through NetGalley. And got approved! I downloaded it super quick then and started reading right away. And, finally, the next day I got an email reply from my very first request months and months ago with a link to the e-galley.

So, yes, that was my emotionally turbulent experience. I'm all wrung out, so it's especially good that I now have a fluffy JDG comfort read to make everything better again. I'm about 50 pages in and so far it's classic JDG and should please her fans.

Something Red
by Douglas Nicholas

I have been dying to read this book ever since I read the blurb and saw that creepy cover. It sounds like it's got a little bit historical fantasy, a little bit folktale, and a whole lot of scary! Sort of like an adult My Swordhand is Singing, but with...could that be werewolves??

This is an adult book. Received as part of Atria's Galley Alley.

The Secret Keeper
by Kate Morton

Someday, I swear it, I WILL read a Kate Morton book (I own, um, a few). She's one of those authors who writes books where the plot goes back in time and ties present and past, usually with a mystery of some sort that unfolds across the story. I LOVE books like that!

So why haven't I read any of her books yet? Erm, because they're big. This one has something like 480 pages. So, yeah, that's why I give all her books to my library patrons and make them read them and tell me how good they were. It's like a combination of torture, guilt, self-book-pushering, and vicarious reading. I need to just read one of her books already.

This is an adult book. Received as part of Atria's Galley Alley.

The Ruins of Lace
by Jessica Day George

Who knew lace was ever considered contraband? I didn't. This is an adult historical fiction that follows a few characters as they smuggle, trade, and deal with illegal lace, all while scheming behind the scenes, of course.

Silver: Return to Treasure Island
by Andrew Motion

I received a copy for review/library consideration this week and I'm also hosting a giveaway (which you can still enter!). I love the original Treasure Island with all of the deals, schemes, and doubles crosses. I hope the sequel has the same!

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?


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Giveaway: Silver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion

Silver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion

A rip-roaring sequel to Treasure Island—Robert Louis Stevenson’s beloved classic—about two young friends and their high-seas adventure with dangerous pirates and long-lost treasure.

It's almost forty years after the events of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island:  Jim Hawkins now runs an inn called the Hispaniola on the English coast with his son, Jim, and Long John Silver has returned to England to live in obscurity with his daughter, Natty. Their lives are quiet and unremarkable; their adventures have seemingly ended.
      But for Jim and Natty, the adventure is just beginning. One night, Natty approaches young Jim with a proposition: return to Treasure Island and find the remaining treasure that their fathers left behind so many years before. As Jim and Natty set sail in their fathers' footsteps, they quickly learn that this journey will not be easy.  Immediately, they come up against murderous pirates, long-held grudges, and greed and deception lurking in every corner. And when they arrive on Treasure Island, they find terrible scenes awaiting them—difficulties which require all their wit as well as their courage.  Nor does the adventure end there, since they have to sail homeward again...


Info for the giveaway:
  • What you can win: A finished hardcover of Silver: Return to Treasure Island by Andrew Motion
  • As always, you do NOT have to be a follower
  • This giveaway is US only
  • You must be 13 years of age or older
  • One entry per person
  • I will contact the winner through email and the winner will have 24 hours to reply before a new winner is chosen 
  • This giveaway closes on September 30th 

I have SUCH high hopes for this book! I've already talked about how much I love Treasure Island, and the idea of a sequel sounds fantastic! I hope there are a lot of double crosses like there were in the original. Added bonus, this one looks like it has the potential for a little romance! Plus, I'm so unaccountably in love with that cover (in person it's all shiny and embossed and it's printed on really thick nice paper).

Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Have you read the original Treasure Island?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Books I got this week (6)

It's been established so clearly that I can't even lie about it: I have no self-control when it comes to books. I acquire them at a much faster rate than I can actually read and review them, but hopefully these posts will help those books get some exposure NOW instead of waiting until I actually manage to find time to, you know, read them.

This post is for the past four weeks.

For Review

The Key of Amatahns
by Elisabeth Wheatley

Release Date: June 30, 2011
Publisher: Chengalera Press
Pages: 306
Goodreads Page

I received the first two books in this series. I don't usually accept self/indie published books, but something about this one looked good. It's epic fantasy and I have a soft spot for that genre. After reading the previews on Amazon, I decided to give them a shot.

Author requested review.


by A. C. Gaughen

Release Date: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Walker Children's
Pages: 292
Goodreads Page

I'm always so on the fence about the Robin Hood story. On one hand, I don't really love the idea of stealing from people, so I have a hard time getting on board with Robin and co. But, I have such fond memories of Disney's Robin, I'm torn.

This version is supposed to have a romance that's up my alley, and that's really what tipped the scales for me in favor of Scarlet. 

by Rachel Hartman

Release Date: July 10, 2012
Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers
Pages: 467
Goodreads Page

I was so tempted to request this book when it was up on NetGalley, but that 467 page count and the fact that I read my e-galleys on my computer totally turned me off.

I was fine with this, AND THEN. Then I kept reading review after review singing Seraphina's praises and describing it as basically the perfect fantasy book for me. So I wept. And then I added it to my wishlist for trading. And then someone was kind enough to trade with me and save me from a life of Seraphina-less misery!


I finally got a library card for my new library system! And, of course, I over-indulged. I've really missed the process of browsing through the shelves, pulling off treasures, bringing home my big stack, and then diving in with no pressure to review. Here's what I got:

by Catherine Fisher

Release Date: January 26, 2010
Publisher: Dial
Pages: 422
Goodreads Page

I had this book on my TBR for soooo long that it really was getting embarrassing. I had no excuses, either, because the sequel Sapphique has been published for a while now. So when I saw it on the shelf I decided to rectify the situation.

And oh my gosh. I'm so glad I did! I'll be reading the sequel ASAP.

White Cat
by Holly Black

Release Date: May 4, 2010
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pages: 310
Goodreads Page

This is another series that I've had on my TBR for a really, really long time. In my defense, I was waiting for this whole series to be published before starting, and now they are. I love male MC books, but they're rare and finding one that's actually good and has That Voice is even rarer. I'm hoping Cassel hits the mark!

The Squire's Tale
by Gerald Morris

Pages: 200-ish
Goodreads Page

Another one I've been meaning to read for a while. But, I won't be able to take it off my TBR just yet because I'm DNF-ing it for now. It's not that I don't like it, because I do, it's just that I'm not feeling it at the moment. It's a little too King Arthury for me right now and that's just not where my reading mood is taking me at the moment.

 The Black Cauldron
by Lloyd Alexander

Pages: 200-ish
Goodreads Page

And ANOTHER that's been on my list forever. I've heard such good things about this series and I really want to love it, but eeeh I don't know. I'm not loving it so far. I've put it on hold (which is like a short term DNF) but I'm not ready to return it to the library yet. I want to love it and I want to love it NOW, so I'm going to try to pick it up again.

I think vague flashbacks to the Disney movie are clouding my judgment too, and I know that's not something I should allow given how much the movie changed and sucked in comparison.

The Princetta
by Anne-Laure Bondoux 

Release Date: August 8, 2008
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 430
Goodreads Page

I really, really, really wanted to love this book! Some of my favorite bloggers adore it and I was so excited to see my library had a copy and I totally fell in love with it when I read the letter the princess leaves for her father explaining why she's running away.

And then. Then I started to not like it very much. The chapters switch between the princess's POV and the perspective of a pirate's son and though I really liked the events, I kind of didn't like both of the characters at all. So now I don't know what to do, but I've DNF-ed it for now.

by Alethea Kontis

Release Date: May 8, 2012
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Pages: 305
Goodreads Page

I love fairy tale retellings! I had originally thought this was just about the Frog Prince, but then all the reviews I read mentioned there were a ton of other fairy tales referenced. Double score! Also, they had pretty great things to say about the book overall, so I was really excited to see a copy at my library.

The Seer and the Sword
by Victoria Hanley

Release Date: April 8, 2003
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 352
Goodreads Page

I've had my eye on this one for a while, but I keep hearing mixed reviews so I'm not sure. It's high fantasy though, so I think I just have to give it a try and see for myself. For the longest time I thought it was a standalone, but apparently it's the first book in a trilogy (of course!). I haven't heard much buzz about the other books though...


The Last Knight
by Hilari Bell 

Release Date: August 28, 2007
Publisher: Eos (HarperCollins)
Pages: 368
Goodreads Page

I've already read and loved this book, so when I saw it for sale on Amazon for $3.60 I decided to buy it (even though it's a paperback and the sequel I already own is a hardcover...). It's a fantasy series about two guys who go around solving mysteries in a fictional, hm, it's a little more modern than medieval but that's a close enough setting.

by Susan Ee

Release Date: February 14, 2012
Publisher: Feral Dream/Amazon
Pages: 254
Goodreads Page

I've heard so many good things about this book! I read the preview on Amazon and I was pretty much hooked instantly. I'd tossed around the idea of buying the e-book (it's so cheap), but I really wanted a print copy. Finally, Amazon has released a print version!

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?


Friday, September 7, 2012

Discussion: When to post a review

This post is not going to make me look good. I'm admitting fatal flaws, the deadly sins of book people. You know nice Small? Yeah, this is my Tiny Terror side.

So, way back when I got my very first ARCs, courtesy of NetGalley, I was, to put it bluntly, very impressed with the fact that I was reading books, like, MONTHS before everyone else on the planet got to read them. I was freaking awesome!

Delusions of grandeur? Who, me?

So, of course, I felt it was my sworn duty to bring word of these books to the unwashed masses. Publication date in ten months from now? Pfft, you need to know NOW, and *I* need to be the one to tell you. God forbid SOMEONE ELSE beats me to the punch.

Move aside, lady, I have books I need to share with the world!

But then I realized something. As a reader, I really kind of hate reading reviews for books that are MONTHS away from publication. And let's not even talk about how long I'd have to wait for a copy to come into the library (and don't get me started on hold lists).

I'm an impatient AND forgetful person, so it doesn't really work for me when I read a review about a book that's TOTALLY AWESOME AND EVERYONE SHOULD READ IT!!!!!!!....when it comes out FIVE YEARS FROM NOW. 

Waiting does NOT fill me with happy feelings

So this is why I no longer post reviews for books until AFTER the book has been published (usually. I don't account for time zone differences and foreign sales. Also, sometimes scheduling conflicts come up. But I do TRY).

This way, when I write a spectacular review and you're all GIVE ME THAT BOOK RIGHT NOW!! you can actually get that book RIGHT NOW!

Rarely do I even manage to COOK half the batch, let alone wait for them to cool. Especially when it comes to cookie dough...


What about you? Do you care if a book is available NOW when you read a review? Do you mind if you have to wait? What is the earliest you like to read reviews? Does it bother you that I wait until after a book has been published (am I SO yesterday?) If you're a blogger, how early do you post your reviews?


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Book Review: Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake

Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
#2 in the Anna series 
Release Date: August 7, 2012
Publisher: Tor Teen 
Pages: 336
Received: Review copy from publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

WARNING! This is a review for a sequel, so there are some small spoilers for the first book.


From Goodreads:

It's been months since the ghost of Anna Korlov opened a door to Hell in her basement and disappeared into it, but ghost-hunter Cas Lowood can't move on.

His friends remind him that Anna sacrificed herself so that Cas could live—not walk around half dead. He knows they're right, but in Cas's eyes, no living girl he meets can compare to the dead girl he fell in love with.

Now he's seeing Anna everywhere: sometimes when he's asleep and sometimes in waking nightmares. But something is very wrong...these aren't just daydreams. Anna seems tortured, torn apart in new and ever more gruesome ways every time she appears.

Cas doesn't know what happened to Anna when she disappeared into Hell, but he knows she doesn't deserve whatever is happening to her now. Anna saved Cas more than once, and it's time for him to return the favor.


Cas is back!

And so are Carmel and Thomas, Cas's mom, and even Anna! It was so nice to hang out with the gang again. This sequel is more character driven than the first book and while that slowed the plot down a little, I appreciated getting to see them all grapple with the emotional fallout of previous events.

Cas's humor is just as dry and off-beat as ever (I particularly loved how he messed with his fellow students). Thomas is steadfast and a pretty kick-butt friend all around, so it was especially harrowing to see him go through so much heartache.

And Carmel, I think I have an auto-soft spot for her because she reminds me a little of Alona from The Ghost and the Goth series. And she, like Alona, managed to make me love her and sympathize with her despite her sometimes appalling behavior (you'll want to slap her AND hug her).

It's like a Supernatural-Buffy hybrid!

Remember in Buffy when the Watchers' Council made her jump through a million dangerous "tests" to prove her slayerness? And then remember how Buffy responded?

The whole second half of the book reminded me of that Buffy episode. But not in a ripoff way. I mean, ok, maybe once or twice I wanted to picture the New Girl speaking like Kendra and whipping out Mr. Pointy, but the New Girl is really totally different.

Erm, I feel like I'm digging myself into a hole here. What I mean to say is, Kendare Blake's books remind me VERY strongly of a lot of my favorite shows and books (Buffy, Supernatural, The Ghost and the Goth, etc), but at the same time they feel completely fresh and new.

So her books are more like "If you like cheesecake, then you'll LOVE chocolate cheesecake!" as opposed to "Avatar is like Dances with Wolves in space." See, one is a copy of an original that is changed enough to make TWO awesome desserts and thus vastly improving the world, and the other is just a copy.

But wait, what about the FIRST half of the book?

The first half is a lot slower than the second half and it kind of felt a little unnecessarily stretched. I was reading along, totally happily, mind you, because I do love these characters and Kendare Blake has an easy-breezy way of writing that just makes me fly through the pages. But a tiny part of me was wondering, where is this book going??

Cas spends a lot of the first part of the book being depressed and kind of mopey about Anna being cast into hell and Thomas and Carmel are pretty much exercising the Willow and Cordelia methods of comfort, respectively, while worrying about him going off the deep end. Which is nice and all, but, eh, I wanted Dean-and-Sam-shotguns-of-salt-style ghost busting.

BUT WAIT. Because that definitely happens, and Kendare Blake still has the ability to scare the ever loving crap out of me. Now, granted, we all know I'm a big wimp, but come on, I defy you not to be at least a little wigged out over the spectacular combination of psychological mind-twistingly horrifying Anna scenes and the classic horror show hauntings Kendare Blake cooked up. I mean, there's a super scary barn scene and they trek through a suicide forest for crying out loud!

Books like this are tough for wimps like me because on one hand, I'd totally want to issue the Don't Read This In Public warning because you might scream out loud and that can cause all sorts of problems if you're on, say, a train. But, what wimp wants to read a scary book ALONE?

So, yeah, pick your poison.

Wait just a minute, I thought this was a trilogy?!

I know, I know, I'm always all whiny and "Why does this have to be a trilogy???" because I hate waiting and my memory is bad and it's worth saying again that I'm very impatient. But I feel a little blindsided that this is THE END. A part of me is still sort of holding out hope that there will be another book in this series

(like, when Gandalf the Grey "died" and I was all NOOOOO but secretly I wasn't convinced he was really dead because fantasy wizards like that always defy death and come back better than ever (someone please send J.K. Rowling this memo, stat!). But, yeah, so part of me is still holding out hope that Kendare Blake will decide to make a fifty nine book series because I would totally read fifty nine Cas books).

But, fine, if this IS the end, then it's a pretty darn good one. Everything is wrapped up all nicely and I have closure on a much more mature level than I was expecting (even though Ms. Blake, you ripped my bleeding heart out!)

Why no 5 stars or Special Shelf?

I don't know...I've toyed with the idea of five stars, but eeehh, as much as I really do love these characters, I don't LOVE THEM love them. That spark is missing. I don't know, maybe it really is because they're SO close to Buffy and Co. but kinda just falling a little short? Or maybe I just haven't spent enough time with them yet (*hint, hint*). Whatever the reason, we're not THERE yet, though I do like them a whole lot.

Bottom line

Readers who liked the first book will probably be just as happy with the sequel. You definitely DO need to read the first book first, because the whole entire plot of this book is one big continuation and follow up.

I'm very glad I have a personal copy and I've ordered one for my library as well (great for boys AND girls!). Do I need to say it again? I HIGHLY recommend this series.  

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Girl of Nightmares 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 pictures to go to my reviews.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Book Review: Defiance by C. J. Redwine

Defiance by C. J. Redwine
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray 
Pages: 416
Received: ARC from publisher, via Edelweiss
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars


From Goodreads:

Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.


Two people talking!

Mostly this was ok. It was nice getting to see the story from both points of view, and given how events transpire, I really appreciated that I wasn't cut out of the action like I would have been if there was only one POV. I also can't really choose whose voice I would want to see cut, because I liked having both of them there.

Buutt, how did it score on the Who's Talking Test? Eh, ok. Logan runs a lot of "best case/worst case scenarios" in his head, and while that kind of got a little annoying after a while, it was a great indicator that he was the narrator in that scene (which, really, that's not the best indicator).

Their voices were pretty similar but there was something about their personalities that mostly came through even if they were using similar words. Still though, there were a few times were I couldn't tell who was speaking without plot clues to help me out.

Although, if the character was doing something stupid, that was a clear sign that it was Rachel I was reading about.

Rachel is Dawn

Remember in Buffy season seven (or was it six?) when the tv show people briefly tried to convince us that Dawn wasn't an annoying Skipper doll anymore and she was now a full-fledged Barbie, complete with awesomely blown-out hair and trendy clothes?

Well, I wasn't buying it. And, ok, maybe once or twice I thought to myself that I wish my hair had bounce like Dawn's, but I never admitted that out loud and as soon as she opened her whiny kid-sister mouth the illusion was shattered and she went straight back to the land of the flat-footed Skipper.

That's Rachel. 

Look, I totally GET where she's coming from with wanting to find her missing dad and all. And on an emotional level, I've got her back. But reading about her? Oh please, her schtick got old quick.

She kept rushing head-long into these really impulsive, boneheaded decisions and I'm not sure if I was supposed to see her as "strong and intrepid," but I pretty much just saw her as bratty Dawn trying to do things best left to the smarter Scooby Gang.

Even more annoying was the constant reminder that I'm supposed to be impressed by her. She's an awesome fighter! She's...I don't know, other cool things! Logan's swooning! Yeah, I wasn't buying it. Especially since Rachel totally chokes under pressure. Yay.

There was a lot of talk about Rachel and what she was (badass, hardened warrior, heart of stone), but nothing about her characterization actually backed any of this up, so it was even more annoying to read over and over and over again.

I want to shower with him!

Ok, that's what I *thought* I had written in my notes, but they actually said "I want to shower him with cool points!" And, unfortunately, only the latter is a statement I can stand behind. Because much as Logan is filled to the brim with awesome, that certain spark of something was missing for me.

But back to the coolness for a sec. Logan is, oh my, he's a total dreamboat. He's SMART. Like, crazy, super, genius smart in that always-creating-cool-gadgets-and-master-plans kind of smart. I could always count on Logan to have a plan and I never had to mentally scold him for doing something dumb. He even surprised me a few times with how clever he turned out to be. I give him ALL the gold stars.

Except, what about the swoon? I don't know what went wrong here. Everything about Logan adds up to be amazing and I should be falling all over myself for him, but, but, I really wasn't. Maybe it was Rachel? Because she's totally unworthy. But, no, I should have still swooned. So I'm really not sure what the problem was.

I think part of it was that I was all primed for a hate-turned-love romance with lots of romantic tension, and that didn't really happen. I mean, I did, but it also kind of didn't. They start out at kinda hate (though hate is too strong a word), but they jump toward the love side of things a bit too quickly for my tastes and so the tension was never really there. At least they jump there because of mutual respect though, so that was nice.

And there weren't any love triangles. Whew. 

Readjust your expectations

I'm so tired of blurbs lying to me. What really happened isn't bad at all, actually, it's pretty great. But it took me a long time to warm up to what was actually happening and stop pining after what I was expecting to happen and that seriously lowered my enjoyment. So what actually happened?

Based on the blurb I was expecting Logan and Rachel to leave the safety of their village pretty early on and venture outside the wall together. NOT EVEN CLOSE. It takes more than half the book for anyone to leave, and when they do, they don't leave together.

For the longest time I was getting real antsy wondering when in the world they were going to leave and get with the questing part of the book. So needless to say I wasn't exactly taking the time to enjoy the slower unraveling of the story. Which isn't to say it's SLOW, because it's not. Lots of stuff happens during this time and the author did a great job setting up the world.

I really grew to hate the commander (he reminded me of President Snow) on a level I wouldn't have if the author had just quickly told me he was a bad man and moved on. I got to know Logan and Rachel more this way and see how they fit in with their world. I also now see how this section was essential in setting up the events that will happen in the sequel. I appreciated all the time spent here and I wish I could have enjoyed it more at the time (which I totally would have if it hadn't have been for that stupid blurb).

Also, this is a dragon book! I didn't see that coming at all! (Though, I couldn't help giggling every single time the dragon was referred to as The Cursed One. Oh noes!!) 

My new favorite genre!

So, it's not new new, because I've already fallen in love with it before, but I am still completely in love with this new fantasy-dystopia trend! And, you know what, despite my great love for vague medieval-ish fantasy villages, I can totally buy that they harbor a dystopian hell hole (peasantry for the win! Erm, NOOOOO). So, it works.

It also works because there are already swords and rabble and stuff, so it's practically begging for an uprising. And the medieval jail cell? The medieval village overseer? Gah, how did people not think of combining these genres sooner?!

Also, dragons. 

Oh, and you know what I REALLY super appreciated? This isn't a dystopian trilogy where the first part is the boring "slow awakening" where the MC spends eternity figuring out that their land sucks. Thankfully, C. J. Redwine doesn't keep with that mold at all. It's more like The Hunger Games where Katniss always knew things were messed up, but she slowly became more empowered to actually do something about changing the system instead of just subverting it. 

C. J. Redwine amps the coolness up a notch more by adding whiz-bang technology and while I don't really understand how it works in this world, it's still pretty cool. I mean, there are no toaster ovens, but there are electronic tracking devices?? I would maybe buy the lack of toaster strudel-heating devices as an example of the despotic government, but they had tasty cakes in their world (like big sticky buns of awesome), so this just isn't adding up.

But, yes, it is cool. Mostly because Logan is a whiz-bang technology genius. A character might think to themselves, gee, wouldn't it be great if I had magnetic suction thingies so I could scale that wall? And Logan's all like, MADE THAT, pssshhaw. Only, you know, he's cool about it (not like me, I'd totally brag. And probably end up in jail. But Logan is not thwarted by mere jail cell walls). And what is it about a guy and controlled explosions that's so attractive? Because I think I swooned the most for Logan when he was blowing stuff up.

So, in conclusion, I might have wondered a little about how these gadgets were actually supposed to work and why if they were present, why weren't other things present....but really what commanded my attention was how these inventions made my heart flutter for Logan.

Bottom line

This isn't a perfect book, but I liked it enough that I toyed with giving it four stars (Rachel's Dawn-ness and the emo quirky tree people squelched that urge, but, but Logan, and dragons, and FANTASY DYSTOPIA!).

The book ends at a good point, but it's totally the middle of the story. A few questions were answered (and a few of them were, like, DUH FINALLY!) but for the most part there are a lot more questions introduced. Also, the end leaves our heroes in a whole lot of WTH and they need to figure out how they're going to deal with the massive load of Oh Crap they've just been handed. But they're up for it (at least, Logan is) and I'm definitely tagging along for part two. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about Defiance 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 pictures to go to my reviews.
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