Saturday, April 28, 2012

Life Is But a Dream by Brian James

The last time I read a book from the point of view of a young woman with a psychological disorder, the story veered in a strange way. (Ultraviolet, reviewed here). Now, we get the real deal.

Sabrina is our narrator. She is in an institution, supposedly because she suffers from schizophrenia. One day, a new boy is admitted, Alec. Sabrina feels as though she already knows him, and they hit it off instantly. Alec believes that he and Sabrina are the only normal people at the institution. He convinces her that she doesn't need her medications, that she is okay the way she is.

It's a little bit discomforting to hear everything in Sabrina's voice, because the reader can easily see that Sabrina is anything but fine. We get Sabrina's childhood memories and memories of the events that lead to her being institutionalized. At the extreme, Sabrina's mind gets to be a very scary place.

I'm having a difficult time deciding how exactly I feel about this book. I'm definitely siding towards positive, but it was a very difficult subject and an intense read. Seeing everything from her point of view gives a great insight into the character. By the end, I really cared about Sabrina and I wanted her to have a happy ending.

I received my copy of Life Is But a Dream from Netgalley by way of Feiwel & Friends. It's available now.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Ruthless by Sara Shepard

As always, I'm going to be slinging the spoilers around fast and hard, so beware.

When we last left off in Twisted, our pretty little liars had just gotten into a very large amount of trouble in Jamaica. Namely, they pushed a girl off a rooftop deck because they though she was Alison and she was attacking them. Since then, they have been having lots more stalker A issues.

Immediately, we find out the big secret that got Spencer into Princeton. While at a summer prep course, she started taking study aid pills called Easy A with her friend Kelsey. They got caught, and Spencer framed Kelsey. She runs into her former friend and decides that Kelsey must be A, as revenge for ruining her future.

Hanna has recovered from her blackmailing last time. She confesses to her father that she stole money from his campaign, which had resulted in him firing his assistant. After such a serious crime, her father punishes her by doing pretty much nothing at all. This lack of parenting is why Hanna is such a horrible person. She meets a boy at a political rally, but he turns out to be the son of her father's political rival. It's very Romeo and Juliet.

Emily hangs out with her oldest sister and thinks a lot about feeling guilty about being pregnant and lying to everyone. She meets a girl named Kay at a party, who turns out to be Kelsey. Everyone gets all up in Emily's business because she hangs out with Kelsey even after they tell her their suspicions. Poor Emily ends up getting burned in the end (Thankfully not literally, because you never know with these books).

Aria, that delightfully special snowflake, is dismissed by Noel Kahn. If you remember, last time she accused his foreign exchange student of trying to have sex with him and then pushed the girl off of a ski lift. She starts thinking about how much she misses her old statutory rapist, I mean boyfriend and English teacher, Mr. Ezra Fitz. One text later, and the man himself is back in her life. Soon, Aria is making plans to graduate early and move to New York and be smelly hippies or snotty hipsters or some combination of the two. Unfortunately, a sudden roadblock appears when he has her read his manuscript...and she is slightly less than brimming with praise. Ezra Fitz kind of sucks.

The girls visit that psychiatric center that Hanna's dad sent her to a long time ago. (Kelsey goes nutso, she's majorly using the Easy A, but she's probably not actually A the stalker) They find a park bench dedicated to Tabitha, who had been a patient as well. Her birthday is the exact same day as Alison and Courtney's! If she was also at the hospital, would she have met Alison and/or Courtney? Was she their TRIPLET?

*End Spoiler*
This series will probably go on forever until everyone ever has had a turn being A and stalking these poor children. A seems less motivated than he/she used to be. I really don't think they used to end things with "mwah" all the time, but I don't like it. A also uses the term "bitches" a lot less, and I miss that.

Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross

Mira's godmothers have a lot of rules. She never broke them, until just before her sixteenth birthday. She will visit the town of Beau Rivage. That was where she was born, and where her parents died. Her godmothers refuse to let her return, and they might have a good reason.

Several of the residents of Beau Rivage are cursed. They live their lives knowing that some day they will fulfill a fairy tale destiny. One day, they might fall into an enchanted sleep or be rescued by a mermaid, be the hero or the villain. It's something that they are born with, or something that pops up unexpectedly after a run in with a fairy. It's also inevitable, because you can't fight destiny forever. I didn't expect a teen book about fairy tale curses to bring up so many philosophical issues, whether choices matter or if everything is already planned out, the usual free will vs. fate.

I really enjoyed the world of Kill Me Softly. It's a fairy tale mishmash, with lots of attitude. The characters are surly and very funny about their curses. They joke about things like choking on the apple for the Snow White character and tease the girl who will end up breaking the Beast's spell. (Though, opposite of that, my favorite character was the sincere and wholesome Henry, the Prince Charming who had birds and squirrels follow him everywhere. He's just adorable.)

I know the basic fairy tales, but I'm sure there were some references that I completely missed. Everything in Mira's fairy tale story does get wrapped up in the end, but there are possibilities for a sequel. Honestly, I'd really like to see more with Mira, and/or follow some other characters through their fairy tales. There are plenty of options for lots of sequels, and I'd be on board with more visits to the world of Beau Rivage.

I received my copy of Kill Me Softly through Netgalley, courtesy of EgmontUSA. It is available for purchase now.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Selection by Kiera Cass

This was the book that I wanted to read more than anything this year. I have been requesting advanced copies from Netgalley and we occasionally still get hard copies at the bookstore. Still, the days and months moved on, but The Selection wasn't available from my sources. I thought that I might have to actually wait until the publication date and then purchase or borrow the book from the library or my work. You can imagine my ecstatic surprise at finding the book on what I had considered a secondary source for ebooks. There was quite a lot of squealing, as befits a book junkie and nerd of my stature.

The Selection is a book about an event called the Selection. Every time the Prince of Illea comes of age, they hold a contest for all young ladies between the ages of 16 and 20. A group of 35 is chosen and sent to the palace to get to know the Prince, then one is chosen as the future queen. Illea is strictly separated by a class system, Ones being at the top and Eights being the lowest, basically homeless. Being chosen for the Selection would give a girl the chance to change her status and her life. Unfortunately, it's not what our protagonist wants.

America is in love with her neighbor, Aspen. The main problem is that she's a Five, a musician, but he's a Six. She only enters the Selection because Aspen doesn't want her to have any regrets. To her surprise, she is chosen to move to the palace. Even more surprising, America finds herself actually liking Prince Maxon. She still loves Aspen, but she's also growing closer with Maxon. I really enjoyed the progression of their relationship, and Maxon was funny and amusingly dim around the ladies. To add a little action to what is otherwise a fluffy royal version of The Bachelor, the palace sometimes sustains attacks from groups of rebels who are constantly searching for some mysterious item. We don't find out much about them, but it adds some intrigue.

After all my anticipation, I was worried that The Selection wouldn't live up to my expectations. Fortunately, I loved reading this book. I loved the descriptions of the girls' dresses and the fancy food that they ate at the palace. It made it seem like a fairy tale. My one complaint is that it was too short and I'm going to have to wait even longer to read the sequel and find out who wins the Selection.

I received my miraculous copy of The Selection from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperCollins. It will be published April 24th.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Grave Mercy: His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers

Grave Mercy presents its readers with the question: Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf? Consider the sheep; it's a herd animal that spends its days doing what the shepherd tells it to, and it's constantly vulnerable to attacks from predators. The wolf is strong. It is a hunter, and it is a more successful hunter when it relies on itself. Hold on to this information, it will be reappearing later.

Ismae was sold into an arranged marriage by her abusive father. Her husband beat her on their wedding day, but then she was rescued. The Sisters of Mortain saved her because she is one of them. Ismae's mother tried to kill her before she was born, but she survived because she was the daughter of Death himself.

Now Ismae and other daughters if Mortain are trained to fight, charm, and kill. The Sisters hand out assignments, and the girls carry out the orders. Brittany is under attack by the French, and traitors to the Duchess are everywhere. Soon, she is sent on an assignment with the Duchess' bastard half brother, Duval. They have that instant intensely heated banter that makes you just know that they will be falling in love.

Throughout the book, Ismae shows complete faith in her convent. She blindly follows all orders, much as the sheep follows its shepherd. Eventually, little clouds of doubt spring up, and it all builds into a great big rain storm. Ismae had always been abused, hated for what she was. The convent was the greatest thing that had ever happened to her. She acted as the wolf, but in actuality was the sheep all along, until she started to think for herself.

So, come for the teenaged assassin nuns, stay for the 15th century political intrigue! It was refreshing how the book was aimed at a younger audience, but it didn't dumb down the historical or political plots. I love a strong female character, and I liked Ismae because she's a fighter. She survived her upbringing and her short marriage, and she learned to fight and kill. Duval is another young adult novel crush to add to my collection. He's gruff and harsh at first, but also very funny. I'm also excited because the sequel will be focusing on a different character (Sybella, a second nun who was off on some mysterious mission for most of this book). Even more amazing, this book is over 500 pages long and kept me absorbed through action scenes and political meetings, and political meetings that turned into action scenes. I started it expecting good things, and I was not disappointed. This book will surprise any anti-young adult readers.

I received my copy of Grave Mercy from Netgalley courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It will be available April 3rd.