Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Review: Assassin by Lady Grace Cavendish (Patricia Finney)

Assassin (The Grace Mysteries #1), by Lady Grace Cavendish, aka Patricia Finney
Release Date: September 28, 2004
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Pages: 194
Received: Library book
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Amazon Page
Serving as a lady's maid for Queen Elizabeth I, Lady Grace is grudgingly faced with the task of choosing a husband out of three possible candidates selected by the Queen. The seemingly simple task is complicated when one of Grace's suitors is found murdered, another suitor is suspected, and her third suitor begins behaving in ways most strange. With the implicit permission of the Queen, Grace joins forces with a maid and a jester and sets out to solve the mysteries surrounding her suitors.


While this is the first book in a series, the story is complete and can easily be read as a standalone. Told in diary entries, the reader gets to know Grace well. Spunky and clever, Grace is sweet and interesting enough to engage older teens, but her emotional dilemmas will also resonate with younger readers. While everything comes together perhaps a little too neatly in the end, the mystery is sufficiently interesting (if not overly suspenseful) and the characters are engaging enough to overlook the saccharine ending.

A glossary of terms will help younger readers learn about objects, customs, events, and sayings of the time without dragging down the story with distracting historical explanations. While educative in this regard, the behavior of the characters is more modern, making the book less historically accurate, but probably more interesting for modern young readers. This is a good pick for pre-teens, some teens, and classroom shelves. I will probably pick up the series again at some point, but I'm not in a rush. The new cover for the bind up edition (books one and two) is pretty and seems aimed to attract a teen audience (whereas the old cover seems pretty clearly tween).

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key  

Missing Comments

I decided to delete the new commenting system I had installed. I didn't like a bunch of things about it, most notably that it removed your avatars, looked jumbled, and was starting to do some really wonky things. I did like the feature where we could reply directly to posts, but the bad outweighed the good.

Unfortunately, in the process of removing intense debate, I also lost all of your comments. I thought that might happen, so I copied all of your comments into a Word document. Is that terribly silly? I'm sure there's some super easy "Import All Comments" feature, but I'm not tech savvy enough to have figured that one out. So I did it a long way, but hopefully this will work.

I'm going to comment all of your comments back onto the appropriate posts. This way I won't lose your words (which mean a lot to me) and you won't lose all of the links you took the time to leave here.

Well, you live and learn!

Cover Review (3) The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Cover Crazy is a weekly meme hosted by Tawni at The Book Worms where a beautiful cover is featured each week for all of us to admire. I am going to use my Cover Crazy posts as an opportunity to review a book cover I love or review any cover (even the ones I don't love) from a book I've read. This week's Cover Crazy is for a cover I both love and have read the book: The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

I find both covers for this book to be incredibly striking. Both conjure a number of questions, making me want to open the book and find out the answers. From a design standpoint, I applaud the people who designed these covers. I’m terrible in that I almost 100% judge a book by its cover. In this case, the designers created two covers that are both visually pleasing and make me really curious about the story. Already I have positive impressions of the book and I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy and start reading. That is exactly what a book cover should do. 

The cover on the left is the US hardcover and the first to be published here. The dominant color that catches my eye is a vivid blue from the butterfly. My first question arises: What is the significance of the butterfly? Butterflies are beautiful, but they are also fragile. Do these qualities reflect something about Jenna Fox? Butterflies also represent metamorphosis, though they are the final stage of that change. If this butterfly somehow represents Jenna, then what change did she go through? Will her final form be as fleeting as a butterfly?

The hand underneath the butterfly further connects these images to Jenna Fox by showing a tangible connection between the butterfly and the person. The hand rests under the butterfly, however, and it is mostly obscured. As I read the story, I discovered the significance of the butterfly encompasses these metaphors, but it also represents something much more integral to the story that I never would have guessed. This something else makes the prominent placement of the butterfly over the hand have so much more meaning. I bet you’re curious now, huh?

The final part of this cover that stood out to me was the tagline: "How far would you go to save someone you love?" On its own, that is a powerful question that demands an answer. But the answer can’t ever be a simple one, can it? How far would you go? I wondered how the characters would be faced with this question and what their answers would be.  Would I agree with them?

The second cover is the US paperback edition, which came out a year after the hardcover edition. This cover offers more of a direction to the story, but it still brings to mind a host of questions.

The tagline here says something very different from the hardcover edition. Here it reads: "She wasn’t supposed to survive the accident. But she did." Now we know there is an accident involved somehow, and apparently a very bad one. The first question that springs to my mind is how did she survive? Did something shady happen? Did something paranormal intervene? I had no clue, but I really wanted to find out. I also wondered about the nature of the accident, because we know something pretty horrific must have happened.

The puzzle pieces underscore the sense of mystery here. I have so many questions just from looking at the cover alone, and here the cover is almost toying with me by saying, “Why yes, this is a mystery for you to figure out!” Gee thanks, but, you know what? I now really, really want to know what’s going on.

The final part of this cover that stood out to me was the color blue. The cover is almost devoid of all color, but that bright blue really pops out. It sits under her skin almost glowing. The pattern looks almost like something I would associate with a computer or a cell under a microscope. What is the significance? Why is it under the puzzle pieces of her face? Does it mean something, or did the cover designer just think it looked cool and paranormal?

The blue color seems extra important when put in context with the bright blue butterfly on the hardcover edition. At this point, I’m thinking the color blue must have some kind of significance here, though the contrast between the organic butterfly and the almost electronic blue under the puzzle pieces make for a strange and intriguing contrast.

So how badly are you dying to know the answers to these questions? You can read my The Adoration of Jenna Fox review, but don't count on me spilling all the beans! You’ll just have to read the book to find out. 

What do you think when you see these covers? Do you like one more than the other?  Do these covers make you want to read the book, or do they turn you off? 

Interested in covers? Be sure to check out another Cover Crazy post by Gina at her blog My Precious.

In My Mailbox (3)

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.
The cute IMM button comes from Bewitched Bookworms.
Here's what I have from the library (I still have a bunch from last week, too): 

(Click on the image to make it larger)

 For Review (from Simon and Schuster):

I need to get a handle on my book ordering! I still have a bunch of books from last week's library haul. Anyone read any of these books? What were your thoughts? 

What did you get in your mailbox (or on your library card or credit card)? Feel free to add your IMM links in your comments.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Recap: 11/21 to 11/27

In case you missed anything, here's a recap of what was posted during the week of Sunday, November 21st through Saturday, November 27th:




I also installed a new way to leave comments and subscribe to replies. Let me know how you like it or if you prefer the old system. If you run No Script, then you will have to allow

What's Your Status? Is a new meme created by Zakiya from Butterfly Feet Walking on Books where we recap our reading week. Here's how my week went:


 The Education of Bet, by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Currently Reading: 

Wildwing, by Emily Whitman

Tyger Tyger, by Kersten Hamilton

Decided Not to Finish:

You Wish, by Mandy Hubbard

Book Review: The House of Dead Maids by Clare B. Dunkle

The House of Dead Maids, by Clare B. Dunkle
Release Date: September 14, 2010
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 146
Received: Library book
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author's Page
Amazon Page

Book Trailer

Young Tabby Aykroyd has just been employed as a maid in the spooky Seldom House. The house is empty, understaffed, and lacking a proper employer. Soon after her arrival, however, the master of the house returns with a boy for Tabby to care for. This boy, known to Tabby only as “Himself” is an immoral imp ruled by his own selfish whims. As Tabby and Himself form a shaky relationship, both children begin to notice ghostly occurrences in the forms of young maids and masters whose urgency seems to increase with each encounter. What are the ghosts trying to tell them? Why have so many maids and masters died? Most importantly, can Tabby unravel the truth before she becomes the next dead maid? 


The House of Dead Maids is written as a prequel to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, which is no small task. Equally haunting and atmospheric, THoDM is more than worthy to stand up against Bronte’s classic. I loved Wuthering Heights, but I’ve always had two nagging questions: Where did Heathcliff originally come from, and where did he go when Catherine first spurned him? Dunkle’s THoDM not only answers both of those questions, but it does so in a way that is completely and totally satisfying. I really can believe that Himself would grow up to become the horrible Heathcliff and I can completely believe Heathcliff would be the type of person to partake in the awful secret of Seldom House (if you couldn’t tell, I’m NOT one of the people who finds Heathcliff dreamy. I thought he was a raving, though entertaining, lunatic).

THoDM works beautifully as a prequel, but it also manages to stand out as an engrossing story in its own right. I don’t know how frightening the story would be to a horror aficionado, but I am a wimp and I was totally scared. Even the cover creeped me out and I had to turn the book over so the cover was facing down when I went to sleep at night (sad, yes, I know, but there’s also a really creepy scene with a ghost at night in a bed). These ghosts aren’t benevolent ghosts the main character will counsel and possibly fall in love with. Oh no, these ghosts are more like zombie wraiths (and not the kind of zombie the main character will counsel and possibly fall in love with).

The ghosts weren’t the only scary part of the book. The living people were just as scary as the ghosts (maybe even scarier) and behaved just as crazily as Bronte’s nutty characters (minus the overwrought speeches and love). As Tabby begins to uncover the mystery of the dead maids, she discovers the real reason she was brought to Seldom House. For such a slim novel, Dunkle did a truly excellent job of dropping hints in a way that kept me reading rapidly to discover more clues but didn’t feel like she just dumped it all on me all at once.

The final clever twist of this story was the way Dunkle wove in actual fact. Not only did she tie her story in with Wuthering Heights, but she also made references to Bronte’s own servant: A woman named Tabby who is said to have told the Bronte children dark and scary stories, much to young Emily’s delight.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this short prequel and I’m very, very happy I decided to pick it up. If you haven’t read Wuthering Heights, don’t worry. It’s not necessary to have read the original to understand this story, and this story doesn’t give away any spoilers for the original. Fans of Gothic fiction, Wuthering Heights, and The Woman in Black by Susan Hill should be sure to check out this most excellent book.

 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Spotlight List: Classics that are Actually Fun to Read

Right or wrong, love them or hate them, there’s no denying there’s a certain air of intelligence that goes along with reading classics. It’s because of this (and all those years of nagging English teachers, really, I did love them) that makes me feel I should read classics. But do I want to? Well, yes and no. Some just seem so boring and with all the exciting books on my TBR, I’m not really jumping at the opportunity to read a book I have no interest in and am going to be bored to tears as I struggle through them.

But not all classics are a chore. Some are actually really great. Forget all the literary things your English teachers taught you when reading classics. Forget character studies or deep analyses of why the author had the character use a pen instead of a pencil and what that might signify, blah, blah, blah. Don’t get me wrong, those things are all important and great and often even totally interesting. But sometimes you just want to sit back, turn off the school part of your brain, and just read a good story, you know?

The following classics are books that are just plain great stories. They’re romances, murder mysteries, revenge stories, adventuring tales. Their heroes are just as exciting, mysterious, dangerous, and hot as the best YA heroes. Most of these books are pretty short, too.  So next time you’re looking for that “air of intelligence” or just looking for a darn good story, consider picking up one of the following:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Publication Date: 1847
Pages: About 290 depending on your edition

Often described as THE ultimate love story, Catherine and Heathcliff’s romance is, to me, far from the ideal love. Instead, I’ve always thought of WH as one of the best revenge stories. Selfish and, I think, downright loony, Catherine callously spurns Heathcliff’s love early on and spends the rest of the novel paying for her cruel rejection. Heathcliff, equally crazy, doesn’t limit his wrath to just Catherine. Oh no, he sets his sights on destroying everyone and everything Catherine ever knew. How’s that for a love story? WH is also a prime example of Gothic fiction, so tempers flare, emotions run to exaggerated highs (I can’t help but giggle at the level of absurdity), the atmosphere is dark and brooding, and the story spins out like an insane soap opera.

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Publication Date:  1910
Pages: About 300

Think you know the story because you’ve seen the play and sung along to the music? Think again. The play is pretty much a sweet story about a talented girl, the guy she falls in love with, and a sympathetically tragic guy with a mask. The book has those elements, but the Phantom isn’t the mostly nice guy of the play. Leroux’s Phantom is downright in-freaking-sane. He spends his time threatening the theater staff with violence in order to get what he wants, but he becomes increasingly tyrannical once he begins to fall in love with Christine. He captures her, torments her, threatens her life, threatens suicide, tortures her lover, and that’s only part of it. Somehow, along the way he still manages to be a sympathetic character and every time I read the book I switch between loathing him and actually almost kind of hoping he gets what he wants.

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Publication Date: 1901-1902
Pages: About 165

Do I really need to explain the awesomeness that is Sherlock Holmes? I could have picked any of his books or stories, they’re all superb, but this one takes the detective hero to the moody moors of Gothic fiction and I just love Gothic fiction. Holmes is approached by a young man with a generational family curse. Can Holmes solve the mystery of the curse before his client becomes the next victim? If you have any faith in Holmes, you know the answer to that question, but following along as the world’s greatest detective unravels the clues in the most ingenious ways is a ton of fun. How many clues can you catch?

King Solomon’s Mines, by H. Rider Haggard
Publication Date: 1885
Pages: About 230
Adventurer Allan Quatermain is approached by two English gentlemen with a request to help escort them through the wilds of Africa in search of a lost comrade. A hunt in search of the fabled treasure hidden in King Solomon’s Mines is added to sweeten the deal, and so the three set off on their quest. African game hunts, tribal warfare, and battles for guarded treasure ensue in this wild adventure through untamed Africa. Totally not politically correct, King Solomon’s Mines is filled with laugh out loud scenes and edge-of-your-seat escapades. Gagool completely creeped me out and remains one of the strangest, funniest, and most unsettling literary characters I’ve come across.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen 
Publication Date: Written in 1803, published in 1817
Pages: About 200 

Everyone always talks about Pride and Prejudice, but my favorite Austen is this hilarious little novel that is both a parody of and homage to Gothic fiction. Catherine Morland is an adorably naïve girl with a heart of gold. We follow her as she first makes friends in Bath and then goes to stay with one in their family’s abbey. Upon arriving at the abbey, Catherine immediately begins conjuring ideas of locked away wives, mysterious chests, hidden letters, and dangerous men. It’s really funny, but also totally relatable (wouldn’t you kind of hope for some kind of Gothic excitement if you stayed in a spooky castle? I would.) Austen uses her signature wit to make funny asides to the reader and good naturedly poke fun at Catherine’s naiveté and Gothic fiction, all while also skewering social conventions and hypocrisies. The romance is super sweet and has a much funnier and nicer man than Mr. Darcy (gasp!). I spent most of the book roaring with laughter and will forever hold a special place in my heart for Catherine Morland.

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier 
Publication Date: 1938
Pages: About 400 

Never has a place come alive as powerfully as Manderley in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Manderley is the estate of the troubled Mr. De Winter and his second wife (the nameless narrator of the story). As the second Mrs. De Winter, a shy and insecure young woman, adjusts to her new life as a wife, she slowly begins to uncover something very wrong at Manderley. The specter of Rebecca, the first Mrs. De Winter, permeates every inch of Manderley, and the sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers seems determined to make sure Rebecca is never replaced. I never would have thought a character that is dead for the entire story could have such a profound and powerful presence as Rebecca had. She dominated, and now I can never look at the name Rebecca without immediately thinking of Rebecca De Winter. The story meanders in the beginning, wrapping the reader in the heavy atmosphere of Manderley’s beauty and secrets, and then builds steadily to a haunting and truly startling climax. Alfred Hitchcock made an equally excellent movie version that you should definitely check out, but do so only after reading the book.

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Publication Date: 1905
Pages: About 270

Les Miserables isn’t the only classic that deals with the French Revolution, and quite frankly I think The Scarlet Pimpernel is unfairly overlooked. There aren’t any singing children or lamentations of the poor in Orczy’s adventure romance. Instead we get feisty Marguerite, frustrated with her frilly air-head of a husband and captivated by the daring escapades of the anonymous Scarlet Pimpernel. Heads are rolling across France, but excitement runs high in England as the Scarlet Pimpernel uses his wiles and disguises to smuggle French aristocrats into the safety of England in the most ingenious and humorous ways. Speculations abound about the Scarlet Pimpernel’s true identity, and the slimy French envoy Chauvelin is determined to unravel the mystery and capture our hero. In a list of “dashing heroes” the Scarlet Pimpernel surely must rank highly. He’s suave, slick, hilariously irreverent, and smart. Marguerite’s heart isn’t the only one the masked hero makes off with.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
Publication Date: 1886
Pages: About 90

Strange happenings are occurring across London and Mr. Utterson intends to ferret out their source. His investigations lead him to a kindly but distressed Dr. Jekyll and set him on the path of a depraved Mr. Hyde. What do these two men have in common, and can Mr. Utterson figure out what is going on before it’s too late? At this point, there probably aren’t too many people left who don’t know the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, so the tension of the mystery isn’t as nail-biting as it probably was when it was first published (though there are a bunch of plot points and a surprise I didn’t know about). Still, following Mr. Utterson as he pieces together the mystery is exciting and well worth the experience. This is storytelling at its finest, with an ending that leaves the reader haunted.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Publication Date: 1883
Pages: About 200 

Did you like the high seas adventure, treasure seeking, and rampant switching allegiances of Pirates of the Caribbean? If so, then Treasure Island is the book for you. Long before Jack Sparrow sailed the seas, Jim Hawkins sought his fortune and wrestled with pirates. After discovering a treasure map, Jim teams up with the honorable Dr. Livesey and Squire Trelawney to hunt down the treasure. Trelawney hires a ship and crew, but he’s a little dense and doesn’t realize he’s actually hired the notorious pirate Long John Silver! Silver has no intention of playing by the rules set by Livesey and Trelawney, and it is up to Jim to catch and stop Silver before he makes off with the treasure—or worse! But as Silver begins to take Jim under his wing, the life of a pirate seems increasingly appealing. Allegiances form and break, but only half are genuine. A climatic battle between the pirates and the loyal crew adds edge-of-your-seat suspense and makes for a whooping good time.

Carmilla, by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Publication Date: 1872
Pages: About 100

Living in the isolated wilds of Austria with her father as her only companion, Laura longs for a friend her own age. Laura is overjoyed when she receives news that her father’s friend is to visit with his daughter, but her excitement is quickly dashed when the young girl dies under mysterious circumstances. Fortune favors Laura, however, when a freak carriage accident occurs on their property and the beautiful girl riding inside is injured. The girl is introduced as Carmilla, and when her mother begs Laura’s father to accept Carmilla into his home so she may recuperate, Laura’s father happily agrees. All seems perfect at first, but odd events—some even bordering on the paranormal—begin to occur, and Carmilla’s behavior becomes increasingly strange. When an old portrait exactly resembling Carmilla is discovered, Laura realizes that the secrets of the past and the events of the present may be more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Creepy and absorbing, Carmilla is one of the best stories of the genre (and one of the first!)

What are some of your favorite classics? What do you think about reading classics? Do you ever feel like you should read classics? Were you ever surprised at liking a classic more than you thought you would?

Book Blogger Hop (1)

Book Blogger Hop is a weekly meme hosted by Crazy-for-Books where book bloggers answer the weekly question and hop around to other blogs and see what other bloggers have to say. The goal is to discover new blogs, "connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books!"

This week's question is:
"What is your favorite book cover?"

This question is right up my alley, as I'm a sucker for a good cover. Given that, though, I can't pick just one! Recently I stumbled upon this gorgeous cover for a book called Forgiven by Janet Fox (there's something about a beautiful dress and gorgeous hair blowing that makes me instantly love a cover). After looking into it further, it looks like this will be a June 2011 release and a sequel following Fox's May 2010 release Faithful. So now I have two new books for the TBR pile all because of a pretty cover.  

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Book Review: Repossessed by A. M. Jenkins

Repossessed, by A. M. Jenkins
Release Date: May 29, 2007
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 224
Received: Library book
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Author's Page
Amazon Page
Kiriel is bored with his job as a tormentor in Hell so when he sees an opportunity to possess the body of a teen boy, he jumps on it. Kiriel, now Shaun, finally gets to experience all of the things he's only ever heard about. Corporeal sensations take precedence at first, allowing for both interesting and humorous scenes as Kiriel seeks out new experiences with various tastes, textures, and sexual sensations. Also new to Kiriel, however, are human relationships, and as Shaun now, he has a number of damaged relationships to deal with. While Kiriel explores what it means to be human, he can't help but worry his time in Shaun's body will be cut short when his absence in Hell is noted, and he is determined to leave his mark in the world before that happens.


There are certain books that strike a chord with me in such a way that I am pretty much left speechless. Not the OHMYGODTHISBOOKWASAWESOME! kind of speechless that comes with a book I had a ton of fun with, but a kind of speechless that occurs because the book touched some inexplicable something deep in my heart. It's a quieter, subtler reaction where I sort of sit back and whisper, "Woah." Usually this happens when a book speaks to me, personally, on some level. It forces me to look inwards at myself, my life, and my approach to the world around me. Does that make much sense? I'm not sure, but, in my defense, I am saying I'm left speechless, after all.

In the US, today is Thanksgiving, and that is a large part of why I chose to review Repossessed today. Kiriel's perspective on what it means to be human is insightful, sensitive, hilarious, and touching. Many things we take for granted are highlighted and appreciated by Kiriel, giving us readers new appreciation for what it means to be alive. I found myself looking at even the most mundane things, like tasting ketchup or someone simply noticing when you feel down, through Kiriel's eyes and suddenly they didn't seem so mundane. I know it may sound corny, but I even found myself getting a little misty eyed at the beauty of these simple moments as Kiriel discovered them and I reflected on my own experiences.

The cover and jacket description make this book seem like a light comedy. While the book is very funny (I laughed out loud a number of times due both to Kiriel's hilarious observations and humorous antics), it definitely isn't light. The depth and poignancy of Kiriel's relationships, observations, and morality struggles make this book well deserving of the Michael L. Printz Award nomination it received. Despite the weightier plot, Repossessed is compulsively readable due to Kiriel's easy narration style and numerous laugh out loud moments and commentary. While the main character may be possessing the body of a teenager, this book speaks to feelings that defy age. Highly recommended, to both teens and adults. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key  

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday (2)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we all feature upcoming books we're eagerly anticipating. 

The cute WoW button comes from Bewitched Bookworms.

This week, my Waiting on Wednesday books are Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach and Deadly by Julie Chibbaro.

Deadly, by Julie Chibbaro
Release Date: February 22, 2011
Pages: 304
(Above publication information from Amazon)
Author's Page
Amazon Page

 Product Description:
A mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York.
Could the city’s future rest with its most unlikely scientist?
If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement and charm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn’t like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails.
With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential cause of the disease. But there’s no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn’t been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?
Prudence is determined to find out. In a time when science is for men, she’ll have to prove to the city, and to herself, that she can help solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century.

I love medical mysteries, strong female leads, and turn of the 20th century stories. This one looks like it will be good.

Wake Unto Me, by Lisa Cach
Release Date: March 31, 2011
Publisher: Speak
Pages: 304
(Above publication information from Amazon)
Author's Page
Amazon Page

Product Description:

Caitlyn Monahan knows she belongs somewhere else. It's what her dead mother's note suggested, and it's what her recurring nightmares allude to.

Desperate to flee these terrifying dreams--and her small town--she accepts a spot at a boarding school in France. Only, when she arrives, her nightmares get worse.

But then there are her amazing dreams, so vivid and so real, with visits from an alluring, mysterious, and gorgeous Italian boy from the 1500s. Caitlyn knows they are soul mates, but how can she be in love with someone who exists only in her dreams?

Then, as her reality and dream world collide, Caitlyn searches for the real reason why she was brought to this school. And what she discovers will change her life forever. 
 Back Cover Description: 

I see him in my dreams, this mysterious boy.
He comes from
a different time,
a different place,
a different reality.

But there is something that connects us.
We are supposed to be together--bound by the heart of another.
But that's not possible... or is it? 

Oooh, strange dreams, boarding schools, family secrets, and a hot ghost guy? I can't wait! Although Lisa has written adult fiction before, it looks like Wake Unto Me is her first YA title, making it eligible for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool by Margaret Gray

The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool, by Margaret Gray
Release Date: October 1, 2002
Publisher: Henry Holt and co.
Pages: 176
Received: Library book
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Amazon Page
Everyone knows that the third and youngest princess is the most beautiful, so you can imagine the surprise of the kingdom of Couscous when the third princess Rose turns out, well, rather ugly. Rose and the kingdom adjust to this anomaly, but when a strikingly handsome prince comes looking for a beautiful princess to fall in love with, Rose begs her fairy godmother for beauty. Her distracted godmother complies and the wish goes predictably awry. Apparently, you can't just wish wishes away (the fairy godmother council frowns upon such things), but there are quests and such to help undo unwanted wishes. Helping her along the way is a charming and funny wise man in disguise (the king outlawed wise men, they made him nervous). 


I adore this author! I hope she writes more, and SOON! The Ugly Princess and the Wise Fool is an absolutely hilarious fractured fairy tale. Margaret Gray pokes fun at all kinds of fairy tale stereotypes and common occurrences in a way that is just laugh out loud funny. What I also really appreciated is that, while she is poking fun at fairy tale conventions, she isn't doing it with malice. Instead, all of her fun is good-natured ribbing.

The lessons she includes are sweet and unobtrusive. They're good, easy to digest, and don't beat you over the head with morality. I find that stories for tweens are sometimes a little too obvious and pedantic for adults to really enjoy. This isn't the case at all here. There also isn't just one moral in this story. There are several, and each is deftly handled so the point hits home but doesn't feel at all tiresome. I'm far outside the target age group, but I still loved the story and found value in the messages.

There is a laugh to be had on almost every page (actually, I think this is probably one of the funniest books I've read), but the story's moral makes this more than just a funny book. While perfectly suitable for tweens, young adults and adults can find much to like here. I highly, highly recommend this book to all ages.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key   

Cover Review (2): The Twin's Daughter

Cover Crazy is a weekly meme hosted by Tawni at The Book Worms where a beautiful cover is featured each week for all of us to admire. I am going to use my Cover Crazy posts as an opportunity to review a book cover I love or review any cover (even the ones I don't love) from a book I've read. This week's Cover Crazy is for a cover I both love and have read the book: The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. (My review of the book).

The Twin's Daughter is a tale of deception, murder, and, of course, twins. It is only fitting, then, that the cover features elements representing each of these features. 

The twins face off against one another in a way that could be both friendly and adversarial. The fact that they are silhouettes and so we cannot see their true faces helps to obscure whether their intentions are friendly or malicious. This plays upon the deception between the characters that is a key focus of the novel. 

Their silhouettes create a dagger shape between them, again underscoring a more malevolent relationship between the sisters. However, the fact that the dagger isn't actually drawn but instead is created by the negative space between the characters further drives home the feelings of mystery and deception: It is there, but it is subtle and only visible upon close inspection. The apostrophe in the title serves double duty as both an apostrophe and a drop of blood falling off the knife. Just like many events in the book, the apostrophe serves as something innocuous and easy to overlook, yet closer inspection reveals something much more sinister. 

The swooping font used for "Daughter" compliments the feminine and innocent narrator (the daughter), whereas the hard and stark white lettering used for "Twin's" perfectly reflects the relationship and mystery between those two characters. In many ways, the daughter and her relationships serve as polar opposite examples to the relationships the twins have with others and one another. The opposing fonts used here to represent the three characters mirrors this contrast.

Without knowing anything about the book, I was drawn to the cover's hot pink background contrasted with the striking black silhouettes. The color combination was eye-catching, and the very modern pink stood out against the more Edwardian-era figures and curlicues. The curling script in the title seemed enticing, and the contrast between the two fonts piqued my interest. I like stories about twins, and I was curious how the violent images worked in the story with the feminine characters, font, and color. I love hidden pictures, so I also got a kick out of the girls/knife illusion.

This was one of those lucky instances where I loved both the cover and the book.

The Twin's Daughter is a standalone book.

My first award!

I have a *HUGE* thank you to give to Alice from The Reader Room! This is the first blogger award I've received and it totally made my day! I started this blog as a way to give back and pay forward all of the awesome book suggestions I've gotten from the book blogging community, and I'm so happy to see that I'm beginning to accomplish that.

To accept this award you must:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

Here we go!

1. Big, big, big thank you to Alice from The Reader Room! Anyone unfamiliar with Alice's blog should go right over and check it out. If I could give the award back to her I definitely would. Her blog rocks. 

2. Seven things, hmm...
  • I love baking. 
  • I am a gigantic fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • I went to an all-girls boarding school for high school and reading all these paranormal books set in boarding schools brings back memories (except for the paranormal parts....and the romance).
  • I adore parentheses.
  • I am a complete sucker for puns. The cornier, the better.
  • I'm 5 feet and 1 and 1/2 inches tall, hence the "small" in Small Review (when you're this short, you must count the half inches. Though sometimes, when I feel particularly tall, I round up and say I'm 5'2").
  • I have an adorable white German Shepherd who always manages to steal my pillow and sit on my book whenever I decide to read in her presence. Meet Snowball: 

And in the process of pillow stealing:

3. Fifteen fantastic bloggers I am passing the award to (in no particular order): 

Thanks for the awesome blogs!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Wide-Awake Princess by E. D. Baker

The Wide-Awake Princess, by E. D. Baker
Release Date: May 11, 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 272
Received: Library book
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Author's Page
Amazon Page
We all know the story of Gwen: When she was born, her parents made a little mistake with the guest list, which led to the ticking off of a bad fairy, which led to the prick-her-finger-on-a-spinning-wheel-and-sleep-for-100-years curse. Such a curse adds a lot of stress, not to mention all the work involved in keeping a kingdom spinning-wheel free. So when Annie was born, her parents begged a good fairy to find a way to protect their second daughter from similar curses. With a wave of her wand, the good fairy makes Annie immune to magic. Since this also has the effect of dampening all magic used around Annie, her parents are a little put out when their own magically-enhanced beauty and charms fade whenever Annie is around. Still, she's safe, and as long as she stands far away from her family, Annie's gift has little effect.

Life is fairly ho-hum for Annie until Gwen manages to get her hands on a spinning wheel on her 16th birthday and the kingdom-sleeps-for-100-years curse is set in motion. Everyone in the castle drops instantly into sleep, all except, of course, Annie. Never one to wait around for someone else to fix things for her, Annie sets out on a mission to find a prince to kiss her sister and end the curse. But which prince is her sister's true love? There's no way of knowing, so Annie sends every prince she finds back to her family's castle. Every prince she finds, however, seems to already be embroiled in his own quest or sticky situation, so Annie must first help with these various deeds and debacles.


I really enjoyed this story! Annie is a great character from start to finish and would make a good role model for the intended audience. She's kind, has a good sense of humor, does things for herself, is smart, and is still girly. Too often authors seem to think that the only way to make a strong female character is to make her this tough, hard-hearted warrior or tomboy. Annie manages to be a strong girl while still remaining feminine and harboring a crush on her body guard/companion.

Liam (the bodyguard) is also a strong and admirable character in his own right. This is appreciated, as another pitfall authors often fall into when making strong female characters is diminishing the male characters to accomplish a false strength-by-comparison. He's also a pretty likable guy. The other characters were less fleshed out and more caricatures, but they were appropriately humorous, likable, despicable, annoying, etc.

As a fairy tale retelling, The Wide-Awake Princess excels. The original elements of a number of fairy tales are woven together in a way that both pays homage to the original tales while also turning them on their heads in fun an inventive ways. Annie's ability to deflect and dampen magic is an ingenious twist that made for countless entertaining scenes and possibilities. Given how pervasive magic is in fantasy and fairy tale stories, these scenes felt especially fresh and humorous. For fans of humorous fractured fairy tales, fairy tale retellings, off-beat princesses, and light fantasy, The Wide-Awake Princess is a must have on the To Be Read list. 

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key  

In My Mailbox (2)

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.
The cute IMM button comes from Bewitched Bookworms.  
Here's what I have from the library: 

They all sound so good, and they look so pretty in person (a lot less yellow than my crappy photo). Now the only question is, can I read them all before they're due back? 

What did you get in your mailbox (or on your library card or credit card)? Feel free to add your IMM links in your comments.
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