Sunday, November 25, 2012

Stacking the Shelves (12)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by the amazing Tynga @Tynga's Reviews

For Review:
Thanks Strange Chemistry!

All You Never Wanted Reached (Matched, #3)
Big thanks to Random Buzzers and Shelf Awareness!

Ghost Town (The Morganville Vampires, #9) Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely, #1) The Summoning (Darkest Powers, #1)
City of Ashes (The Mortal Instruments, #2) City of Glass (The Mortal Instruments, #3)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Review: Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown

Picture the DeadAuthor: Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown
Genre: Paranormal
Pages: 262
Published: May 1, 2010
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Rating: 3/5 Stars

"Jennie Lovell's life is the very picture of love and loss. First she is orphaned and forced to live at the mercy of her stingy, indifferent relatives. Then her fiancé falls on the battlefield, leaving her heartbroken and alone. Jennie struggles to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, but is haunted by a mysterious figure that refuses to let her bury the past." ~Goodreads

 I'll be very honest and say that I had some preconceived notions about how awesome this book was going to be because it had three of my favorite things: ghosts, the civil war and PICTURES!  Yes, I'll admit that I'm basically 12 at heart and love illustrations to go along with a story.  I'm a very visual person so the right illustrations can really enhance my reading enjoyment.  Many people scoff at such things but I welcome pictures in novels!  Ghosts and the Civil War kind of go hand in hand for me so if a book has both, it is a must read.  Throw in an author like Adele Griffin and a super spooky plot and I expect nothing less than awesome.  Picture the Dead  mostly lived up to this expectation.  Mostly.

  • Scrapbooks:  Not only was this book beautifully illustrated, the illustrations were done as a scrapbook.  They included letters and drawings as well as photos.  Each scrapbook page pulled you farther into the story and helped to move it along at an exciting pace.  The only problem with this is that I did catch myself cheating and jumping ahead to see what pictures were next.  Bad!
  • Twists and turns:  I thought at one point that I new exactly what the "twist" was going to be and I was feeling pretty smug about the whole then.  Then the story did a one-eighty and I was completely at a loss.  I just didn't see the end coming and It hit me hard.  I love it when a story surprised me.
  • Jennie:  Jennie was a genuinely likeable character with a lot of spunk, especially for a nineteenth century girl.  I really felt for her and cared about her plight.  She pulled me into the story and made it very real.

  • Kissing cousins, no seriously:  First off let me say that I understand that it was common practice until fairly recently (in the grand scheme of things) for people to marry cousins.  That being said, it still creeps me right out.  For whatever reason I just can't put it in the context of "that was then, this is now".  This is probably because I grew up being very close to my cousins.  They were like my siblings so the idea of being romantically involved with one of them makes me want to heave.  Jennie isn't just involved with one, but two cousins, with whom she has lived for the past several years after the deaths of her parents.  This is probably the thing that bothered me most about the book.
  • It could have been scarier:  I was looking forward to a scary read and, while spooky, I wouldn't call this book scary.  It really read more like an historical fiction with some ghostly elements.  I would have like to have seen a bit more creepiness. 
  • Jennie's Uncle:  This character really didn't add much to the story except to underline Jennie's desperate situation.  I wish he would have been developed a bit more.

When all is said and done, Picture the Dead is exactly what it claims to be: a spooky, romantic story with some really great twists and turns.  The illustrations and the scrapbook idea only adds to the story and the overall ambiance of the tale.  This is a quick, fun read that is sure to keep the reader guessing.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron

The Dark UnwindingAuthor: Sharon Cameron
Genre:  Steampunk, Historical Fiction
Pages: 318
Published: September 1, 2012
Publisher: Scholastic
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Source:  I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

"When Katharine Tulman's inheritance is called into question by the rumor that her eccentric uncle is squandering away the family fortune, she is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of rules, who employs a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London.
Katharine is now torn between protecting her own inheritance and preserving the peculiar community she grows to care for deeply. And her choices are made even more complicated by a handsome apprentice, a secretive student, and fears for her own sanity.
As the mysteries of the estate begin to unravel, it is clear that not only is her uncle's world at stake, but also the state of England as Katharine knows it. With twists and turns at every corner, this heart-racing adventure will captivate readers with its intrigue, thrills, and romance."~Goodreads

 When The Dark Unwinding was first introduced to me it was described as having a Jane Eyre feel.  This is a highly dangerous thing to say to me as Jane Eyre and I have a long-standing love affair going back at least 15 years.  Bronte's novel is my hands-down favorite book of all time, the book I would pick if I could only read one for the rest of my life.  The story is very special to me, so when someone tells me that a book is like Jane Eyre I am immediately cynical and sometimes snarky.  Still, the plot for this new Gothic novel was similar and it sounded quite interesting so I decided to give it a go.  While it, of course, could never live up to Miss Eyre's story for me, I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I loved The Dark Unwinding.  

  • Amazing characters - This story is very much driven by the characters.  In fact, I don't think the book would have been anything really special without such amazing character development.  Each one, including minor players, is eloquently and lovingly crafted.  They each have their own voice and the reader can easily feel for each character and understand them on a personal level.  This is one of those instances where I really felt a loss when the book was over because I had come to know the characters so deeply.
  • Katharine is not your normal heroine - In much of YA literature our heroines are pretty predictable.  They follow certain guidelines.  While they may not all be the same type of heroine there are standards they must meet.  Even the shy, quiet, sort of awkward girl has a certain je ne sais quois that pulls at least one special guy into her orbit.  Katharine does not have this.  She is strange, reserved, and altogether off-putting to the other characters for much of the first half of the book.  They really have to get to know her before they trust her, or even like her a little bit.  I found this to be much more realistic and thus, much more satisfying.
  • Mr. Tully's "madness" - We are told at the beginning of the story that Katharine's uncle is mad.  The author doesn't go into why he is mad or what this madness is.  Katharine quickly realizes that Mr. Tully is very different than other men his age.  He is child-like, innocent, rigid in his routine and incredibly sweet.  It becomes clear very early on that Mr. Tully is more like mentally challenged than insane.  This creates a huge dilemma for our main character as she gets to know and love her uncle.  She realizes he needs to be taken care of but she also sees how important his home and his friends are in his life.  Mr. Tully's character is an amazing tool for this story.  He tugs relentlessly on your heartstrings while also providing a quirky sort of comedy.  The reader doesn't laugh at Mr. Tully but with him.  There is always a feeling that he knows more than anyone else and that he sometimes lets them in on the secret.
  • An abundance of heart - With the mix of Mr. Tully, Katharine (an unloved orphan) and an entire town full of residents pulled from work houses, the author had a huge opportunity to craft a heartfelt story of love and overcoming obstacles.  She completely capitalized on that opportunity.

  • Predictable plot points (somewhat) -   Okay, I'm not sure I can really say this is a dislike because this book is supposed to be like a good, old-fashioned Gothic novel.  And it is.  The only problem with this is that it is rather easy to see some of the major twists coming from a mile away.  So instead of being shocked, it's more of a smug "called it" feeling.  Of course smugness brings it's own joys so...
  • Pacing changes from chapter to chapter -  Sometimes the story flies by at an alarming speed while other times it crawls.  The fast-paced chapters are tons of fun, but the slower chapters make the story feel somewhat awkward.  I think this is why it took me a little longer than anticipated to move through the book.
  • Lane's mood swings, dear lord - Lane is, obviously, a loveable character, but his changeable moods gave me a major headache.  One second he is spinning around the ballroom with Katharine or opening up to her and the next he's distrustful of her and wants nothing to do with her.  Make up your mind already, sir!  It's exhausting.

In the end it was the characters that made the book.  While the story was somewhat formulaic, the astounding characters brought it to life with their unique voices and captivating personalities.  There is such love in this story, not just romantic love, but the love of the author for her creations.  This is certainly a story that will stay with me for a long, long time and I highly recommend it!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Review: The Devouring by Simon Holt

The Devouring (The Devouring, #1)Author: Simon Holt
Genre: Paranormal, Horror
Pages: 231
Published: September 1, 2008
Publisher: Little Brown
Rating: 4/5 Stars

"The Vours: Evil, demonic beings that inhabit human bodies on Sorry Night, the darkest hours of the winter solstice. When Reggie reads about the Vours in a mysterious old journal, she assumes they are just the musings of an anonymous lunatic. But when her little brother, Henry, begins to act strangely, it's clear that these creatures exist beyond a madwoman's imagination, and Reggie finds out what happens when fears come to life.
To save the people she loves, Reggie must learn to survive in a world of nightmares. Can she devour her own fears before they devour her?" ~Goodreads
 October was supposed to be a month of spooky reads.  I set it all up ahead of time and had everything planned out for maximum scariness.  Unfortunately, most of the books I read in October lacked in horror, gore and basic spine-tingliness.  That is, until I read The Devouring.  I picked it up on a whim from the bookstore.  I hadn't heard a lot about it but what I had heard had been positive so I decided to go for it.  I pushed the rest of the TBR pile aside and dug right in.  It was the best decision I could have made.  Simon Holt managed to take the concept of our own fear and use it against us in the best possible way.  The story was unpredictable, fun and absolutely terrifying.  It is a tale of how we let our own fear control us and hold us prisoner.  

  • Horror that is actually horrifying: I find that in a lot of YA horror there isn't much, well, horror.  This book had it all though.  It was both psychological and gory and it worked beautifully.  In case you don't believe me let me set the stage for you.  Killer, hatchet-handed clowns in a mirror maze.  I was beside myself at around 2 AM and couldn't shake the creepiness.  If clowns aren't really your thing, it also has spiders, zombies, ghosts, demon babies and possessed Christmas carolers.  If that isn't enough for you, then I can't make you happy.
  • Great protagonist: Reggie was great.  She's a teenage girl who's taking care of her little brother after her mom skips town.  She is incredibly loving and self-sacrificing but she's far from one-dimensional.  When called upon Regina Halloway is not someone you want to mess with.  She is tough as nails and more than willing to fight for the people she loves.
  • Wonderfully spooky imagery:  Holt creates a world that is instantly recognizable which is what makes it so terrifying.  He has a way of making the vours seem so realistic.  More like people with severe psychosis than actual monsters.  In the fearscape things get even creepier.  Holt's nightmare world is incredibly imaginative and the way he describes it is at once enticing and horrifying.
  • No cheesy romance (or any romance for that matter): I like a little romance in most books, but when I want to read really great horror the last thing on my mind is the awkwardness of first love.  It just doesn't usually add much to the plot.  In fact, most of the time it detracts from it and seems like a time-filler.  There is none of that in this book.  Reggie and Aaron are friends who are on a mission.  They don't have time to make out in the back seat or make googly eyes at one another.  There are ass kickings to be distributed.

  • Unanswered questions:  There were some things that went unanswered.  I was really hoping to find out more about Reggie and Henry's mom and what the deal with Eben was.  Fortunately there are two more books so I'm guessing these questions will be answered.  Not really counting this as a dislike since it's mainly just me being impatient.
  • Aaron could get a bit annoying:  I really liked Aaron, don't get me wrong, but sometime he was so obnoxious.  He was either playing captain obvious, being skeptical when there was clearly no more reason to be or generally offering up pretty useless information about 50% of the time.  However, he was pretty loveable and he did man up eventually so I'll give him that much.

I'm so happy that I decided to give this book a chance.  It was just the right mix of kooky and scary and it really helped me end the month with a bang.  I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the trilogy!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I got to meet David Levithan and Rachel Cohn! You get a giveaway!

Whoop!  That's right all you awesome people, I just got back from a fabulous book signing where I got to meet David and Rachel of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Dash and Lily's Book of Dares and Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List fame.  They each read from their new books and then did a joint reading of Nick and Norah (iknowright?!).

 Rachel's new book, Beta, came out in October and is about a clone named Elysia who is supposed to be the perfect servant with no personality or free will.  David came out with his latest solo work, Every Day, in August which is about a person named "A" who jumps into a different body and life each day.  You can check out my review of Every Day here!  Rachel made a great point that her book is about a body without a soul, while Levithan's is about a soul without a body.  Lots of laughing and mind exploding happened at this point as the room realized that although they had not worked on these books together, they are still writing complementary works.  The two of them were hilarious and fun  was had by all.

Oh ya, we're tight.

I had them sign a bunch of books for me as well as some gifts for certain family members who shall remain nameless and I'm sure their hands were tired, but don't think I forgot about you guys.  Since I recently purchased a finished copy of David's most recent book, Everyday, that means that I have a beautiful, brand-new looking ARC that I need to find a home for.  So, I had Mr. Levithan slap his signature on the title page and now I'm giving it away to one lucky reader.  All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter below and you're entered.  I'll be drawing a winner on December 2nd.  Because I'm mailing this one myself, this giveaway will be US only.  Don't worry all you international readers though, I'll be having another giveaway soon that will be international.  So make sure you are 18 (or have a parent's permission) and fill out that Rafflecopter!