Friday, June 28, 2013

Born of Illusion by Teri Brown

"It is not difficult to convince people who have recently suffered bereavement of the possibility of communicating with their loved ones. To me, the poor suffering followers, eagerly searching for relief from the heart-pain that follows the passing on of a dear one, are a sacrifice to the scavengers who make money from them..."

Anna Van Housen and her mother are performers. Anna does magic, her mother is a medium. They are least one of them is. Anna's mother claims she is the illegitimate daughter of Harry Houdini, which is where she gets her talent for illusions, and possibly her talents of communicating with the dead, reading emotions, and visions of the future.

The pair seem to have finally gone legit. Their new agent gives them an apartment, a real home. Anna doesn't have to worry about hoarding money or breaking her mother out of prison. She could almost be content, if not for a recurring nightmare. Both she and her mother are in danger, but Anna doesn't know who to fear.

I loved the historical aspects to this book. Anna also has to deal with a society for paranormal research, which was based on one founded by Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. The 1920s seems like such an exciting time, at least the speakeasies and vaudeville shows depicted in this book sound exciting. The book gave great descriptions of how Anna did her magic, which was really interesting. This is supposed to be the first in a series, linked by the society depicted in the book. I'm interested to see if we continue to follow Anna or if there are new characters in the next book, also how the story might change through the years. It's definitely intriguing.

I received my copy of Born of Illusion from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer & Bray. It's available for purchase now.

Rush by Eve Silver

Miki died, then she woke up in the Lobby. There was a group of other teenagers, one of whom goes to her school. Luka was also there when she was hit and killed by the truck. Their group will be sent to a location, where they have to kill alien creatures called the Drau.

By killing the aliens, they earn points. It is said that once you reach a thousand points, you are free to go. If you die in the game, if your health dips to red, then you die for real. You are dead from the moment you originally died, as if the time you were living since then never happened.

Miki gets some answers from Luka, but most from Jackson Tate. He is the alluring leader of their squadron, and he is sort of a stalker. Jackson's also pretty noble, in that he tries to put his squadron before himself, and he lets them get all the points.

I wasn't all that into Rush, to be honest. The story was a little hard to follow. It seemed like there was a romantic triangle, then possibly a rectangle, then not. There isn't as much action as I would have preferred. I really wanted to like it, but it was only okay.

I received my copy of The Game from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen books. It's available for purchase now.

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Sophronia is a teenage girl with a dreadful curtsy. Her main hobby is making mischief, to the horror of her mother who had hoped she would be more like her sisters. In order to refine her coarser details, Sophronia is sent away to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Mademoiselle Geraldine's teaches refinement and manners, but also poisons and espionage. It's killing with kindness, except literally.

On the way to school, Sophronia makes friends with Dimity, whose family is a legacy at Mademoiselle Geraldine's. Unfortunately, Dimity is terrible at being villainous. She even faints at the sight of blood, which makes being an assassin somewhat tricky. Sophronia, on the other hand, is a natural. Soon enough, she is climbing across balconies to visit the ship's coal room, spying on battles with air pirates and keeping a contraband mechanical dachshund (Named Bumbersnoot, which is the cutest name ever).

The girls uncover a conspiracy and set out to save their school. It's all very exciting, and very funny. I have been meaning to read Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series for a long time. The Finishing School books seemed like a good place to start. They are set in the same universe. There are also vampires, werewolves, and steampunk. I loved Etiquette & Espionage very much, so I see no reason why I wouldn't enjoy the adult series as well.

I received a copy of Etiquette & Espionage from Edelweiss, courtesy of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. It's available for purchase now.

In the After by Demitria Lunetta

   "This is how I think of time: the past is Before, and the present is the After. Before was reality; the After, a nightmare..."

In the After is another entry in what seems to be the year of the alien invasion. Thankfully, it is also an awesome and riveting book.

The invasion started with spaceships, then came the arrival of Them. They are green and vaguely similar to humans in shape, but with sharp teeth. These teeth are used to tear humans apart limb for limb, eating them alive while they are still screaming.

Amy is a teenage girl who was in her house during the arrival. Her father was a hippie and her mother worker for the government. Therefore, Amy's house is equipped with solar panels and a rooftop garden, as well as a gun and impenetrable electric fence.

The aliens have very sensitive hearing, but poor eyesight at night. Amy sneaks out at night to get food and other necessities. One night, she finds a young girl in the store she names Baby. Amy and Baby develop a form of sign language to communicate without attracting the aliens. They become as close as sisters, forming routines to help them survive.

Eventually, they have to leave the house (It would probably be a pretty boring book otherwise). It seems like in every zombie/alien/dystopian book, there is a point where the main character(s) are taken to a safe place. They think that they can finally rest...but it's not as it seems. The safety is just an illusion. So it is in this book, not to give too much away. I am a little embarrassed that it took me this long to recognize the pattern.

In conclusion, In the After was a very good read. It's narrative flows really well, so much that I was compelled to keep flipping the pages. It was also full of suspense and a pleasing amount of gore from the aliens. I am definitely excited to read the next book in this series.

I received my copy of In the After from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

   "But there's a crazy little hope-squirrel running around inside my head, chattering, what if it's real? What if it's important? and it won't shut up no matter what I do..."

This was such a strange book, yet again, but I ended up liking it. Yet again as well. Kiri's parents are out of town, and she has definite plans. She will practice the piano so she can succeed at her upcoming showcase and get into an elite workshop. Together with her best friend Lukas, their band will win Battle of the Bands. Lukas will finally take her out of the friend zone. She will also remember to water the azaleas. One phone call changes these plans.

A man calls and tells Kiri that he has her sister's things. Kiri's sister was killed in a car accident five years ago. She sets off to get Sukey's things, and everything explodes from there. She finds out secrets that her parents had been hiding from here. There is a nice guy named Skunk who helps her fix her bike, a guy who also has a secret. Everything gets crazy, including the already kind of crazy Kiri. She's the one who talked about the hope-squirrel, and by the end of the book, she was taking a lot of drugs and I was worried about how she would end up.

I really liked Kiri as a character. From the beginning, she was a little crazy. Her time was taken up by piano and her and Lukas' band, and also getting Lukas to like her back. It was pretty disturbing to see her self destruct throughout the book. The saving grace is that she was always very funny. Wild Awake was funny and heartbreaking. This is definitely what I'm looking for in non-paranormal YA lit.

I received my copy of Wild Awake from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen books. It's available for purchase now.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined) by Chuck Klosterman

   So this, I suspect, is where we really begin: In any situation, the villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least...

Read this book. It's Chuck Klosterman. The end.

Okay, fine, I'll give you a little more. I Wear the Black Hat is an exploration into villains. What makes a villain? What actions or characteristics make one villain better or worse than another? What does it mean to be a villain? 

These arguments are made in typical Chuck Klosterman style. He talks about Joe Paterno, WikiLeaks, Andrew Dice Clay, and even Adolf Hitler. There is a chapter listing musicians that he hated at one point in his life. It's really essays on a vast array of subjects centered around the main theme of villains.

As usually happens when I read Klosterman's work, I had a lot of fascinating stuff to ponder. I learned new things and new sides to things I already knew. His writing style can move so swiftly from one subject to another, but I sort of love it. It's almost like stream-of-consciousness, and it makes me think I'd like to hang out with him and hear his take on everything. I dig his writing style, so I was already planning to love I Wear the Black Hat. It helps that the new book is excellent.

   We do not want to see goodness and badness as things we decide , because those are terms we need to be decided by someone else...

I received my copy of I Wear the Black Hat from Edelweiss, courtesy of Scribner and Simon & Schuster. It will be available for purchase July 9th, 2013. Because this was an unedited advanced edition, all quotes are not finalized (I promise to make sure that they are in the final book when it is printed).

Friday, June 21, 2013

Transparent by Natalie Whipple

"I'm invisible. I can be whoever I want. Why in the world would I want to be myself?"

The back story of Transparent is actually more interesting than the book. This drug was developed that had a strange side effect on the children of those who took it: they developed powers. Now, the drug is an illegal substance, sold by illegal organizations to those hoping to strengthen their powers.

One unlucky benefactor of the powers is Fiona. She was born invisible, so nobody, not even her, knows what she looks like. Her father is the head of a large crime syndicate and uses her as a weapon. He has super-woman-attraction powers, which he uses to compel his many wives and daughters into doing his bidding. Fiona's mother ran away with her many times in the past. After she is assigned to kill a rival drug lord's young daughters, Fiona's mother tries again. After so many half-hearted attempts, Fiona doubts that they will be gone for long.

The pair flee to a small town in the rival's territory, predicting that her father would never look for them there. They actually buy a house, and Fiona even enrolls in school. Most of the kids treat her as a freak, but she ends up making friends with other kids with powers. For the first time, the invisible girl has an actual life.

Transparent was a pretty good story. It made me think of invisibility in a new light, like how Fiona couldn't shave her legs or underarms because she couldn't see them. (Now that I'm thinking about it, she probably had a unibrow as well.) She could seriously annoy me a lot, but I understand where she is coming from. Fiona was naturally suspicious of people, especially her mother and brother. Given what has happened to her in the past, I understand why. Basically, it had potential, but I thought it was just okay.

I received my copy of Transparent from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

You can read my review of Masque of the Red Death here

I cannot speak enough of how much I LOVE these books! They are very atmospheric, to the point that I got lost in the world and didn't want to come back. To recap, this is a world where people are dying from a very infectious disease, a disease that is mutating into an even deadlier disease. It's also a place where an evil Prince prepares for a massive party while the world outside dies, and an evil man plots against him in the sewers. It's dark and Gothic and completely gorgeous.

Spoilery spoilers of the first book follow! Elliott, my pretend boyfriend, is preparing to overthrow his uncle and take over the city. He needs Araby at his side for this. She supports overthrowing Prospero, but she isn't sure that she wants to be with Elliott. Despite his betrayal in the last book, Will is difficult for her to shake. Elliott is just as damaged as her, if not more. She still has to tell him how his father isn't really dead, but is actually the creepy sewer-dwelling Reverend Malcontent. I hate when you have to have the old "Your uncle was really bad at slitting throats and *surprise,* your dad is still alive and-he-tried-to-kill-you" talk. Hallmark just doesn't have a card for those moments. Will is, unsurprisingly, much less complicated.

Unfortunately, the other best character, April, is dying of the plague. She is still really funny and obsessed with makeup and the fun parts of life. April saved Araby's life when she was so close to killing herself. To repay her best friend, Araby hunts down her father, who is rumored to have a cure to the disease he created. The second option is to give herself to Malcontent, who will definitely kill her to punish her father.

Everything eventually comes down to the masquerade ball thrown by Prince Prospero, just like in Edgar Allen Poe's original story. Shit gets real. I am torn that this is the conclusion to the series. I dislike having to wait for sequels/conclusions, as I have said eleventy-bajillion times. Still, I am sad to leave the amazing world of these books. I am especially sad to leave Elliott, because he made being a warped, kinda evil dude hot.

I received my copy of Dance of the Red Death from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperCollins and Greenwillow Books. It's available for purchase now.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Elite by Kiera Cass

My review for the first book in this series, The Selection can be read here. Quick recap: America was owned by China because of debt and stuff, but they said, "Screw 'dat," and revolted. Then society was all broken down, so they made a caste system. Ones are the top of society, eights are the lowest. To improve morale, they also instituted the Selection. Every Prince gets to choose from a pool of eligible young ladies to be his future Queen. It's all the appeal of The Bachelor and fairy tale romance like Cinderella or Kate Middleton.

Or, you can watch this pretty funny video:

In The Elite, the girls are down to six. Celeste is the bitchy one, but she is still around because she's a model and rich and famous. Marlee is the most popular with the people, but she has some mysterious secret keeping her around. Elise is mostly around for her political connections to New Asia. Natalie is a bit of an airhead, but she is the King's favorite. Kriss is Maxon's second favorite. His number one choice, though least popular with the masses, is America Singer. She's the lowest caste left in the Selection. In The Elite, she becomes incredibly tiresome, constantly obsessing about her caste. In book one, America struck an agreement with Prince Maxon to help him choose one of the other girls. Maxon ended up liking America, and America liked him back. Then, America's ex-boyfriend Aspen was assigned to the castle as a guard, and stuff gets complicated.

Most of the second book is America going back and forth between her two suitors. It gets very old, very fast. I understand her objections to Maxon. He starts spending a lot of time with the other girls, which sucks when you're used to being his favorite. Maxon does have to pick a wife, and America still won't make up her damn mind, so he has to try his other options. Also, she pretty much only picks Aspen when she has some crisis about Maxon or being Queen. This makes me think he is really her backup, and I wish Aspen would get a little more self-worth than that. This triangle doesn't get resolved here, otherwise there wouldn't be room for a third installment.

Those pesky rebel forces are also back. Too bad Maxon can't vote them off! (That was horrible, please don't judge me too harshly. It's late and a smoke alarm is blaring at me) Last time, America deducted that they were searching for something. Now, she realizes that it's a book! It seems as though they are looking to destroy the whole caste system, Maxon and his father go off to war, and things are getting interesting.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The End Games by T. Michael Martin

"People say they have hope for the future, but no they don't. Because hope wasn't about the future, not truly. Hope was: make me feel better now. Hope was: tell me, this second, that I'll be all right. Hope was: tell me I don't have to be different, but things will be. Hope made you feel better by letting you feel a false future..."

This book basically knocked my socks off. The End Games is set during a zombie apocalypse. Teenaged Michael and his five-year-old brother Patrick have been running from zombies since Halloween, weeks ago, when everything started. For the brothers, the zombies are like living in a video game. They follow the instructions of the Game Master, earning points for finding supplies and weapons. Too bad it isn't really a game.

Michael made the "game" up to protect his brother. Patrick has a mental impairment that makes it hard for him to face extreme situations. When things become overwhelming, he starts to hurt himself and can even shut down completely. Patrick doesn't actually believe that they are in danger at any point.

So the brothers play the "game," doing their best to survive hordes of zombies, or Bellows. Bellows is Michael's term for the zombies, so-called because they parrot back whatever is said around them. Just when I thought zombies couldn't get any creepier, this happens. To make matters worse, they get on the bad side of a religious cult that worships the Bellows. The cult wants to sacrifice Michael for killing one of their precious "angels." Fortunately, the boys are rescued and taken to a secure fortress. After all of the running, the "game," they are finally safe...or are they?

The End Games made me happy because it gave me the good, old-fashioned zombie story I have been wanting. It's pretty intense, with loads of action and thrilling scenes. The story also mixes in some drama in Michael and Patrick's backstory. There's also some humor and a very sweet story of love between two brothers. The year is only a little over halfway through, but I am calling this as one of my top reads of 2013.

I received my copy of The End Games from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperCollins. It's available for purchase now.