Monday, May 23, 2016

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

I know it is hard to accept, but there are agencies other than human in our cities, and they require certain special abilities to contain. Our abilities. For centuries Reclaimers had worked alone, but Mr. Fielding drew our kind into one group: the Dark Days Club..."

Lady Helen starts The Dark Days Club preparing for her presentation before Queen Charlotte. Her parents both died ten years earlier, so she lives under the care of her aunt and uncle. Her aunt is nice, but overbearing. Her uncle sucks. Seriously, he tells her that if the Queen asks about her mother, who everyone believes to have been a traitor to the British government, to say that her mother's death was for the best. His intimidation actually spurs Helen to bring a miniature (A little portrait, if you didn't know) of her mother to the presentation attached to her fan.

Helen is surprised to encounter the notorious Lord Carlston at the palace. Carlston is rumored to have murdered his wife, then suspiciously vanished from society. He is also distantly related to Helen. After a strange encounter, Helen is upset to realize that Carlston stole her miniature. To add to the peculiarity, the Queen does ask after her mother, then tells her, "Don't believe everything you hear."

To get her mother's portrait back, Helen arranges for a visit from Carlston. She is incredibly surprised when he ends up forcefully throwing it at her...and she catches it. Her newly discovered reflexes are bad enough, but one day at the park she nearly ruins her prospects with a potential suitor by starting to chase a runaway horse. The odd part was that she somehow knew exactly what the horse would do before it did it. Carlston eventually reveals the truth: she is a Reclaimer, like her mother before her.

Reclaimers seek out Deceivers, demonic creatures in human form, which they can see through a special lens but only after the Deceiver has fed. There are several different types of Deceivers, all of which feed on sin and vice. The Dark Days Club is the collective group of Reclaimers in England, of which there are very few compared to the thousands of Deceivers. Carlston wants to train Helen to fight the Deceivers after she gains her Receiver strength. Yet there are things he keeps from her, important revelations about her mother that Helen ends up finding out for herself. So she ends up with a big decision on whether to become a Reclaimer or to give up her legacy and possibly herself.

I really liked the regency era setting of the book. It's like Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Pride and Prejudice. Everything was way more difficult for Helen given that she had to adhere to such strict rules of conduct as an upper class and unmarried young lady. The story did get weighed down a bit by exposition, but I understand how that can happen with a first book. I'm still looking forward to reading more of the Lady Helen series to see how her story unfolds after the big changes at the end of this book.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

"Newbloods, silverbloods, redbloods, it's all the same, all over again. Some who are special, some who are better than the rest, and the ones who still have nothing at all..."

You can read my review of the first book in the series, Red Queen, here.

Red Queen introduced us to a world separated by blood. Those with silver blood have incredible abilities and rule over the ordinary people with red blood. Mare was an ordinary Red who ended up having powers. Because of this, the royal family forces her to pretend to be Silver, dealing with all the intrigue and betrayals of palace life. Meanwhile, Mare joins the Red Guard, an army of Reds who are fighting against Silver rule.

Glass Sword takes place right after the events at the end of Red Queen. Highlight for spoilers: Maven betrayed Mare and is super evil and the Queen made Prince Cal kill his father, and they blamed it all on Mare. 

So, Mare and Cal were on the run with the Red Guard. Among them was Mare's (presumed) dead brother, who also has abilities. They make their way to a stronghold on an island. Soon, a new leader arrives. He and Mare don't agree on the future direction of the Red Guard. She ends up leaving to hunt the Reds with powers of Silvers like her, or New Bloods as they call them. 

 The problem is that Maven also has the list, and Maven is also fudging nutso. He plays a cat and mouse game with Mare, almost always a step ahead of her. She finds notes from him trying to get her to give up, saying that he will stop killing New Bloods if she will return to his side. I was very sad in Red Queen because I liked Maven, and he seemed nice and sweet. I still hoped he might be redeemable, but now he's going around killing babies. 

I really tried to lighten up a bit on Mare this book. In the first book, she seemed like some sort of Katniss retread. Here, she was a little annoying with her constant reminders that she is special and more important than everyone else. I decided that I wasn't being completely fair. Overall, I liked Mare and this book better once it got going. There was a heck of an ending, so I'm interested in seeing what happens next.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

"Is this the moment I'm supposed to realize Gideon's actually a shitty person who just happens to have excellent taste in comedy? Or is this the moment I realize I'm too judgmental and living in my own weird cerebral universe and have unrealistic standards for boys, or just for life?"

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here is largely about internet fandom and fanfiction, so there is a great deal about tumblrs and netspeak and such. FYI. Scarlett is a BNF (Big Name Fan) of Lycanthrope High. It's a television show about teenagers at a boarding school and werewolves and other supernatural stuff. The book opens with a letter from the show's creator announcing its cancellation. Scarlett and the other BNFs aren't sure what to do. Should they keep going with Lycanthrope High fics using their own OCs (Original Characters) or should they join another fandom, such as the show Imaginary Detectives? They decide to try and write their own stuff, and Scarlett starts it all with a story based on characters from her own life.

When they were kids, Gideon's mother used to watch Scarlett after school. They bonded over stand up comedy, though that all changed when she urged him to try it out himself. Gideon's mother refused to watch Scarlett and the two drifted apart. Still, Scarlett can't help feeling that Gideon is her destiny. They are two kindred misfit elves who will be together in the end. The trouble arises when Scarlett tries to bond with Gideon over their shared misfit status, only to find that he isn't such a misfit anymore. Gideon is sort of dating the popular, but fake, Ashley and hanging out with some a-hole boys.

Scarlett's first story is about a boy named Gideon who is given a robot girlfriend named Ashbot. She continues by adding in her best friend Avery, Ashley's sister, and the boy she has just started dating, Mike. Scarlett thinks that Mike is a dumb jock, but Avery is smitten. Finally, she adds in herself as a heroine and true love for Gideon, and as her friends call her out on, a Mary Sue.

In the real world, Scarlett's father finally gets his novel published. She doesn't have a bad word to say against him and often wishes that she could move to New York with him and his new wife and baby. Predictably, the book is based on her father's life pre-divorce and contains some devastating stuff about Scarlett. If all that wasn't enough, her only other friend is the elderly neighbor across the street. Scarlett helps her garden and buys her pot. She finds out that Ruth has cancer and has to deal with the grief of her death.

Basically, Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here is a fully loaded book. It's also really good. I liked Scarlett a lot, even with her tendencies to be judgmental and hipsteresque. She learns some stuff through the book, so it's not so bad. Also, as I've said before, I'm also a sucker for a happy ending.

I received my copy of Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here from Edelweiss, courtesy of Razorbill. It's available for purchase April 19th.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Revenge & the Wild by Michelle Modesto

When Westie was a child, her family traveled westward with a caravan. Her younger brother had been ill, so the family lagged behind the rest of the group. They stopped to rest at a cabin where a kind family offered hospitality. Appearances can be deceiving, and the family turned out to be cannibals. Only Westie escaped, leaving the rest of her family behind.

She was rescued and adopted by Nigel, an inventor. He created the machine that replaced the arm she lost to the cannibals. Together, they saved Alistair, who had also been attacked by cannibals. Nigel created the mask that allows him to speak again.

Rogue City is a strange place where magical creatures live alongside humans, though not always happily. The native people created a barrier around the city to protect the people from the creatures, including a stipulation that if they kill a human, they will die. The magic has been slowly fading away as the land is being stripped of resources. The barrier is getting weaker and the creatures are getting sick.

Nigel invented a machine that will produce magic from gold. It has the potential to save everyone. He only needs money to get the gold. The mayor gets Nigel in touch with a wealthy family to invest. Westie is dumbfounded when the Fairfields look exactly like the cannibals who ate her family.

Westie is an interesting character. She is rude and coarse and she used to have a drinking problem. It can sometimes be difficult to like her, but you get the feeling that she wouldn't care either way. Apparently she is pretty, pretty enough to attract Alistair, the Fairfields' cousin James, and vampire Costin, as well as other young men. Yet, she is always a mess, running around in messy clothes and focused on seeking vengeance for her family.

I liked Revenge & the Wild a lot. The wild west mixed with supernatural is unique. There was a twist that I guessed pretty early on, but I dismissed it as improbable. Wouldn't you know that I was right?

I received my copy of Revenge & the Wild from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Bray. It's available for purchase now.

Three months down...

So, I haven't been great with posting reviews this year. I think about writing reviews, I tell myself that I am going to write reviews, then I end up not writing reviews. I stare at the screen for a bit, then distract myself with internets or I get too tired to function or I hit a wall with writing and give up until tomorrow. It's getting really difficult and I keep falling further behind. Tonight, I wanted to focus on publishing a review before April...but my nephew decided to spend the night and demands my computer. It's always that way, isn't it?

I'm going to try to be better, try to catch up. In the meantime, the only thing I can think to publish right now are pictures of the pretty copy of The Rest of Us Just Live Here.

The pretty under the cover


Monday, February 29, 2016

Owl Crate February 2016 Unboxing

This is my Owlcrate, yet to be opened.

I heard about Owlcrate a while ago. It sounded like something I might like, and I hoped to try it some day. It's a subscription service that sends out a box containing a Young Adult novel plus related goodies.

The February theme was announced as "Sci-Fi Love," and I was VERY interested. The Owlcrate Facebook page gave hints that the box would contain a Doctor Who item and a Lunar Chronicles item, both of which I love. Purely for the sake of science, I decided to try to figure out what the book would be.

The uneducated part is in case I am wrong...I HATE being wrong. That's why that hyphen makes me anxious.

The Love That Split the World

I liked my guess a lot, and it made me really want the box. Part of me was nervous that I was wrong, that the book would be something else, that I wouldn't like the items or that I already had too much stuff as it is. Eventually, I decided to take the plunge and order. The February box actually sold out, so I was lucky to get one. It arrived last week, but I haven't had time to post about it until now.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Calvin by Martine Leavitt

"Now I was seventeen and a tiger was talking to me and I wasn't scared of the monsters under the bed. I was scared of the monster in the bed, which was me..."

Calvin was born on the day that the last Calvin & Hobbes comic was published. He was actually named for John Calvin, but his grandfather gave him a stuffed tiger called Hobbes and essentially renamed him. As a child, Calvin went on adventures with Hobbes and his neighbor Susie. One day, Hobbes went into the washing machine and "died." So, it's all the weirder when Hobbes starts to talk to a teenage Calvin.

After an outburst at school, Calvin is sent to the hospital. The doctor diagnoses him with schizophrenia. Calvin decides that the way to get back to normal is to pay a visit to Bill Watterson, the author of Calvin & Hobbes. He thinks he can convince him to write a new comic, a comic where Calvin is grown up and Hobbes-free.

How will he get there? Don't worry, he has a plan: walking across the frozen Lake Erie. He is joined by Susie, who threatened to tell on him if he didn't let her go. The quest isn't exactly parent or doctor approved. Calvin is never sure what is real and what is his mental illness. The biggest question mark is Susie. They drifted apart a while ago. She is pretty and popular, while Calvin is a weird loner. It doesn't make any sense that she would accompany him, and he is hearing and seeing a dead stuffed tiger...

The premise of the book sounded really appealing to me. I'm not especially into Calvin & Hobbes, I was more interested in the psychological aspects. I was also excited to see how the story ended. It is a tad disappointing, but I liked it all the same.

I received my copy of Calvin from Edelweiss, courtesy of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. It's available for purchase now.