Monday, March 9, 2015

Caitlin's CBR VII #6: Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

"The truth is like the waiting jaws of a monster, a more menacing monster than I'll ever be. It yawns beneath your feet, and you can't escape it, and as soon as you drop it chews you to pieces..."

Bones & All tells the story of a very different young woman. When Maren gets close to someone, she gets the overwhelming urge to eat them. The first time was when she was too young to remember and ate her babysitter. Over the years, there were many boys and young men. After every time, Maren's mother packed their things and they moved away. She had to protect her daughter from what she did, what she was.

The day after Maren turned 16, her mother left. The note read: "I'm your mother and I love you but I can't do this anymore." Maren packed up only her things, took the money her mother left her, and set off to try to find her father. She's never met him. Her mother never talked about him, but Maren has a strong feeling that he shares her secret.

On her journey, she meets people like her. There is an old man named Sully who only eats dead people. She also meets Lee, a young man who helps her, protects her, and also eats anyone who offends him. It's about being on your own for the first time, about finding out that you aren't as alone as you thought you were, and about figuring out who you can trust.

I was a little afraid to read Bones & All, but it turned out to be surprisingly free of blood and gore given the subject matter. I liked Maren. Any girl who liked books as much as her can't be all bad. I can see how you can form a lot of metaphors and such from the book, but I'm really not in a philosophical mood at the moment. Maybe a girl who eats anyone who gets too close is exploring the power of her sexuality, or maybe she's just a really hungry girl. I'd like to just see it as a book about a girl who sometimes eats people. It really is a good book. In fact, I ate it right up. (It's okay, I'll see myself out)

I was invited to be a part of the Bones & All Street Team on the Goodreads website. I received an ARC and tote bag from St. Martin's Press. The book will be available for purchase March 10, 2015.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Caitlin's CBR VII #5: Tear You Apart by Sarah Cross

"If your heart is too big, everyone can see it. They know exactly what will hurt you, and they'll do it, because it gives them power over you. Power. That's what you need. Not love. Love depends on somebody else. Power you can get by yourself..."

You can read my review of Kill Me Softly here.

Kill Me Softly was an introduction to the world of Beau Rivage. Newcomer Mira visits the town where she was born and discovers the strange truth about the inhabitants and herself. Certain people have marks that identify them as cursed. Some are cursed at birth, some are cursed later on in life. The cursed live out a version of the fairy tale that corresponds to their mark. 

In Tear You Apart, we focus on Viv, the cranky girl with the Snow White curse. She was featured in Kill Me Softly, where we saw a little bit of her relationship with her ex-boyfriend, now huntsman, Henley. They are very dysfunctional, constantly fighting. Viv is always pushing him away, then pulling him back in. She can't be around the boy who may one day kill her, but she can't give him up either.

Recently, it seems as though Regina, Viv's wicked stepmother, is speeding the tale along. She has meetings with Henley, and even hires an experienced huntsman to kill Viv if Henley can't get the job done. Henley is at a crossroads. If he lets Viv go, she will eventually end up with her prince. Killing her is selfish, but it is the only way he can keep her heart.

Meanwhile, Viv receives an invitation to a night club in the underworld. There, she encounters Jasper,  her prince. He grew tired of waiting for her to slip into a coma and wanted to meet her. Jasper offers to let her hide from Regina in the underworld. The only problem is that once you stay there, Jasper's father won't let you leave.

I really liked getting the chance to know more characters from Kill Me Softly. In addition to Snow White, we got some 12 Dancing Princesses and Rumpelstiltskin. What really gets me about the book is how twisted the fairy tales get. Princes prefer their Snow Whites and Sleeping Beauties asleep and keep them drugged up. If you've read the Brothers Grimm, you also know how Snow White ends, and I was surprised to see this story end that same way. I liked hearing Regina's side of the story, how she used to think she was the Snow White of her story. Hearing how Viv and Regina used to be really close was also nice, but really sad. I enjoyed the happy ending, though with some reservations of how happy it really is. Maybe that's true for all fairy tales, though.

I received my copy of Tear You Apart from Netgalley, courtesy of EgmontUSA. It's available for purchase now.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Caitlin's CBR VII #4: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

"If we stop helping people because we're afraid, or ambivalent or whatever, then we lose. Let them do evil. I'll stop them..."

 You can read my review of Steelheart here.

Previously, in Steelheart, we were introduced to the city of Newcago (Formerly Chicago). A star rose into the sky called Calamity, and suddenly normal people developed extraordinary powers. They were known as Epics, and the most powerful of them was called Steelheart. Unfortunately, the Epics were corrupted by their powers. They used them to oppress the powerless, rather than help them.

A group of powerless people fought back. They called themselves the Reckoners. David sought them out, hoping to join their ranks. Years ago, Steelheart had killed David's father in front of him. He wanted the Reckoners to help take down Steelheart and avenge his father's death.

Anyways, long story short (There be spoilers here!):
The Reckoners kill Steelheart. On the way, we find out that Megan, David's love interest, was actually an Epic named Firefight. Also, the leader of the Reckoners, Prof, is an Epic. He is able to transfer some of his abilities to others, which explains most of the Reckoner's fancy technology.
End spoilers

There was also a novella titled Mitosis where the Reckoners fight the titled Epic. It's mentioned in the book, but isn't necessary to understand the story. 

Now, on to Firefight!

What is there to do now that your biggest enemy is defeated? The Reckoners have managed to keep Newcago safe from Epics hoping to take over for Steelheart. Recently, David has started to feel that killing the Epics might be wrong. Prof is an Epic and also a really good person, and despite evidence to the contrary, David is convinced that Megan is also a good person. He starts to wonder if they could turn Epics normal again if they could get them to stop using their powers. Prof dismisses this. He knows firsthand how the powers corrupt, tempt Epics to use them, tempt them to conquer and destroy. According to Prof, killing the Epics is showing them a mercy.

The Reckoners start to notice that several Epics they defeated recently have been sent from Babilar (Formerly Manhattan). The Epic in charge there is called Regalia. She used to be friends with Prof, and now she is calling him out. He thinks that she is provoking him to kill her.

Prof invites David to go out to Babilar with him and Tia (His girlfriend/surveillance person). They meet the other branch of Reckoners: Val, who is crabby (but probably because Sam, her boyfriend/husband just died), Exel, who is plus-sized and doesn't leave much of an impression, and Mizzy, who is bubbly and enthusiastic. Mizzy is pretty intent upon getting revenge for Sam's murder. He was killed by...Firefight, Megan. Things get complicated when David is stalking some local Epics and encounters Megan. He is definitely happy to see her, and he doesn't believe that she would kill anyone. He never gets around to asking about it, though.

Meanwhile, Regalia has brought in Obliteration, an Epic who has leveled entire cities. The Reckoners need to come up with a plan to destroy her, and fast. Of course, things aren't always what they seem when it comes to Regalia, or the Reckoners, or basically anything. There's some twists and turns, betrayals on all sides.

I loved this sequel even more than the first book. It was exciting and there was a ton of action. I liked how David was the same nerdy guy as last time, with his weirdo metaphors all the time. I also really loved this moment:
"You know," she said, "you're not actually bad at metaphors..."
"...because most of the things you say are similes. Those are really what you're bad at."
Seriously, that bugged me throughout the first book. Similes use "like" or "as," metaphors don't, David!

I wasn't sure where they were going to go with the series after the death of Steelheart, but I really liked the questions the book raised about Epics. Not to get into spoilers, but there were some really awesome and exciting revelations here. And, omigod, that ending! I am super stoked for Calamity, and super impatient to read it next year.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Caitlin's CBR VII #3: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

"In school, we learned about the world before ours, about the angels and gods that lived in the sky, ruling the earth with kind and loving hands. Some say those are just stories, but I don't believe that.
The gods rule us still. They have come down from the stars. And they are no longer kind..."

Red Queen tells of a world divided by blood, between Silvers and Reds. Silver blood gives the Silvers special abilities. They can read minds, control people, move metal, control fire or water, or do one of many other extraordinary things. Because of these powers, they rule over the Reds. The purpose of Reds is to serve the Silvers. Silvers get the best of life, while the Reds struggle just to survive. When they reach the age of 17, if they aren't apprenticed, Reds are sent off to fight in the endless war the country is waging to gain more territory.

Mare Barrow is a Red who hates Silvers, and expresses that sentiment often. Seriously, it gets annoying. To help her family, she often steals from the rich, though her parents and sister wish she would stop. Her three older brother are already off at war, and she will follow on her next birthday. The great hope of the Barrow family is her younger sister, Gisa. Gisa creates beautiful embroideries, and will likely own a successful shop once she finishes her apprenticeship. Then she will be able to provide jobs to save her siblings from the war.

Mare's best friend, Kilorn, the Gale to her Katniss, was on track to become a fisherman. Unexpectedly, his mentor dies. Mare is desperate to keep Kilorn from being conscripted, so she seeks help from acquaintances who bought her stolen goods. A young woman named Marley offers to help them disappear...for a very high price. The sisters come up with a plan to steal enough money, but are interrupted by an attack from a group called the Red Guard. As a last ditch effort, Gisa attempts to pick a man's pocket, gets caught, and has her hand smashed by a guard. The family's only hope is now destroyed.

Unable to face her parents, a guilty Mare runs off to a tavern. She eventually tries to steal from a young man. He catches her and they start to talk. Soon, she is telling him all about her misfortunes, from Kilorn's conscription to her sister's broken hand. The next day, she is offered a job serving at the royal palace.

Despite her dislike for Silvers, Mare throws herself into her new job. She figures that the boy she met was another servant, and she is thankful to be able to provide for her family. The palace is holding a big event that day, the Queenstrial. The daughters of the top Silver families demonstrate their skills for a chance to marry the heir to the throne and one day become Queen. This is when Mare finds out that the young man who helped her get a job is the heir apparent, Prince Cal. Soon after, she discovers something even more amazing.

While serving drinks, Mare falls into the arena. She actually falls through an electrified barrier that should have killed her. After that, she ends up throwing lightning bolts around. Reds like her aren't supposed to have powers. Too many people saw her to just kill her. What they need is a good lie.

"I cannot slip. Not now, not ever. I'm one of them. I'm special.I'm an accident. I'm a lie. And my life depends on maintaining that illusion..."

Mare Barrow becomes Lady Mareena Titanos, long-lost daughter of a respected Silver family. She is engaged to the younger son, Prince Maven (Though she obviously has a thing for Cal). Her very life and the lives of her family depend on her ability to convince everyone that she is a Silver. If that isn't difficult enough, there is also the added challenge of a palace full of possible enemies. Things are further complicated when Mare enlists with the Red Guard to work against the Silvers and royal family on the inside. She grows close with Cal, then with Maven, and also with her tutor Julian. The recurring theme of the book is: "Anyone can betray anyone," and believe me, there is some major betrayal.

This was one of those books that I wasn't into at first, then I kept seeing it around the web, and suddenly I absolutely had to read it. It was pretty good, but a smidge disappointing. Mare really annoyed me in the beginning. I kept thinking of her as Katniss Everdeen mixed with an idealistic college freshman. She just sees things so black and white, where the Silvers are only the enemy. I felt badly because I constantly felt the need to tell our poor, oppressed heroine to shut up about the Silvers. By the end, I did feel a great deal of fondness for her, so she does grow on you. Despite predicting that it would happen, I was very upset by the big plot twist. So very upset, like almost crying while waiting for a table at Olive Garden upset. Sometimes you just know something will end a certain way, but then you think that maybe it will flip your expectations and not end that way, but then it does end that way and you get really upset because you don't want that ending at you know what I mean? Your experience may differ, but I thought Red Queen was good, but not as great as I was hoping. I'm still interested to see what happens in the second book, as we are left with some major plot developments that could be very exciting.

I received my copy of Red Queen from Edelweiss, courtesy of Orion. It's available for purchase now.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Caitlin's CBR VII #2: Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke

My review of the first book in this series, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, is here.

In Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, River came to Violet's door to answer an advertisement seeking a boarder. He was handsome and rich, but also scary. River has the ability to make other people see things and do things, what they call his glow. While he seems like he has good intentions, some of the things that River does with his glow are pretty bad. Things like making a man cut his own throat. The man had been abusing his young son, but what River did isn't exactly good either. At the end of the book, we find out that River and his brother Neely have a half-brother in town named Brodie. A lot of the terrible things that they attributed to River were really Brodie. He ended up confronting River and cutting Violet's wrists. They stabbed him, but Brodie got away. River chases after him, but still hopes to return to Violet some day.

Now, it's been a long time since either Violet or Neely have heard from River. They have been listening to a late night radio show where people around the country call in with strange paranormal happenings. One night, they hear about a tiny mountain town where a red-haired boy has been visiting young girls in their bedrooms. It sounds like Brodie, so Violet, her brother Luke, Neely, and their neighbor Sunshine pack up to investigate. They find a town where the people are on edge, willing to lynch a young boy who has lived in the town for years. Violet and company rescue the boy and plan to take him back to the Citizen Kane. Then they decide to split up. Luke and Sunshine head home. Violet, Neely, and the boy head for a small island where they reported sightings of a mad sea king.

Once they get there, they find River, but he isn't the same River. He has gone mad from his powers, and the whole thing is very sad. Neely loves Violet and Violet loves Neely, but Violet also still loves River, but not what River does. The whole time, there is still the question of where Brodie is and what he is planning. It's complicated, you guys.

Between the Spark and the Burn was almost as good as Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. The writing was just as dreamy, but I wanted more of Violet and River. The conclusion to the series bummed me out a little, but it was also sort of beautiful in its way.

I received my copy of Between the Spark and the Burn from Edelweiss, courtesy of Dial. It's available for purchase now.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Caitlin's CBR VII #1: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

"I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it. I learned that not everyone is disappointing, including me, and that a 1,257-foor bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you're standing next to the right person..."

My 2015 reading started off with a crying session. All the Bright Places really brought the emotions. I was a little bit afraid to read it, but I'm very glad that I did.

The book begins when the two main characters meet on their school's bell tower. Theodore Finch is the troubled outcast, so it seems perfectly natural that he is up there. Violet Markey dated the golden boy and socialized with the popular kids. Her life seems perfect. Finch ends up talking her down off the ledge. He also lets her take credit for saving him so that nobody knows the real reason she was up there.

It's been almost a year since the car accident that killed Violet's sister, Eleanor. She is afraid to drive or even ride in a car. She refuses to write again, afraid that she is betraying the webzine she made with her sister.

Their Geography teacher assigns them a project to visit the unique sites in their home state of Indiana. Finch immediately picks Violet as his partner. Throughout the beginning of the book, she doesn't really like him much. He is trying to insert himself into her life, but she is resistant because of what her classmates might think and because she wants to forget about the bell tower incident.

Finch is very persistent and persuasive. He sets up a Facebook for the sole purpose of befriending Violet, and they end up exchanging Virginia Woolf quotes. They go on wanderings for their project, and Finch ends up getting her to ride in his van, even gets her to write their project journal. In return, she made Finch want to be better and try harder to control himself, to be good enough for her.

Theodore Finch really is a troubled young man. His mother works two jobs and doesn't pay enough attention to him or his sisters. His father is busy with the new family he abandoned them for, and he is also an abusive asshole. Finch changes his personality every now and then, from badass Finch to homeless Finch to nerd Finch. He is a liar and has very violent outbursts (Thankfully never around Violet). Throughout the book, he is afraid of going to sleep again. Not actual sleep, but the sleep-like state he had been in before the events of the book. As Finch himself said:

"But I'm not a compilation of symptoms. Not a casualty of shitty parents and an even shittier chemical makeup. Not a problem. Not a diagnosis. Not an illness. Not something to be rescued. I'm a person..."

Finch was also very endearing. He did such sweet things like wash the dishes for his tired mother and run three miles in the snow to get flowers for Violet. He was funny and charming, and I loved him. At first, I was terrified that Violet was going to hurt him. Then I realized that he might hurt her just as much. I just wanted both of those kids to be together and happy.

I have never been so afraid to read the ending to a book before. This isn't a horror story, but it is absolutely terrifying. You definitely need a box of tissues.

I received my copy of All the Bright Places from Edelweiss, courtesy of Knopf. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Caitlin's CBR VI #26: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

"I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth..."

The story starts during a staging of King Lear. Famous actor Arthur Leander has a heart attack during the production. He is attended to by a paramedic named Jeevan. Unfortunately, Arthur doesn't survive. Soon afterwards, civilization ends.

A very contagious flu has infected the world. Once infected, the victims die within days. Soon, the majority of the world's population is dead. Society collapses, and modern technology ceases to exist.

The Traveling Symphony (Motto: "Because survival is insufficient") is a group of musicians and actors. They visit cities and put on concerts and perform Shakespeare for other survivors. Kirsten had played one of King Lear's daughters so many years ago. Now, she performs with the Symphony, her only real family.

The Symphony revisits the city of St. Deborah By the Water. They hope to reconnect with members who stayed in the city, but they find the place has changed. A prophet has taken control, one of those maniacal religious leaders who inspires his followers to do anything he says, even kill. The Symphony leaves St. Deborah By the Water heading towards the Museum of Civilization at the former airport. As they travel, they are followed by the prophet and his men. A young girl stowed away on their caravan, a girl who was supposed to marry the prophet. He will not stop until he gets the girl back.

What is really cool about Station Eleven is how the characters are all connected. There are flashbacks that seem unrelated to the present, but it all circles back and links together. An example is how Arthur's ex-wife created a comic book series that she then published and gave to him, and he gave it to young Kirsten. Kirsten now cherishes the books, but she doesn't remember where they came from. There's more, but I'm going to leave that to you to discover.

Station Eleven was beautifully written and very well told. It was a little slow-moving for an apocalyptic book, but not boring. I initially wanted to read it because I saw rave reviews, and I was not disappointed.

I received my copy of Station Eleven from Edelweiss, courtesy of Knopf. It's available for purchase now.