Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

"But that’s me. I’m fat. It’s not a cuss word. It’s not an insult. At least it’s not when I say it. So I always figure why not get it out of the way?"

Willowdean Dickson, Will to her friends, Dumplin' to her mother, has lived her entire life in the shadow of the Miss Clover City pageant. Her mother won when she was younger, and now she runs the show every year. The pageant takes over both of their lives as her mother works with contestants, prepares for the show, and diets to fit into her old pageant dress.

Will isn't like her mother at all. She's fat, but also accepting of herself and her body (At least in theory). Unfortunately, she can tell that other people aren't as accepting, especially her mother. They are already a bit tense after Aunt Lucy died last year. Lucy, her mother's sister, had lived with them. She had been morbidly obese and suffered a heart attack. Will loved her aunt as a second, sometimes only, mother. Will sees her mother's disapproval as a disapproval of Lucy and fear that Will will end up just like her.

At her fast food job, Will bonds with the good-looking Bo. She doesn't tell anyone, not even her best friend Ellen. She is surprised when he seems to like her back, and even more so when they kiss. When Bo ends up transferring to Will's high school, she breaks things off because she fears that other kids will laugh about the fat girl dating the hot basketball player.

Eventually, Will decides to join the pageant. Unwittingly, she inspires fellow misfits Millie (Also fat), Amanda (Has uneven legs), and Hannah (Has "horse teeth"), as well as her traditionally pretty best friend Ellen. Will sees the pageant as a way to get back at her mom through the thing she loves most, but her friends think she is bravely challenging beauty standards.

I liked the message behind Dumplin'. The representation of a fat female protagonist was nice. She didn't constantly eat everything in sight or transform like a butterfly by the end of the book. My biggest complaint is that there wasn't much pageant in the book. It wasn't a big part of the story, but was the main reason I was reading. I wanted to get more costumes and rehearsals, I wanted Will to actually care about it. We don't even get to find out who wins! I can't help feeling a bit disappointed.

I received my copy of Dumplin' from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Brey. It's available for purchase now.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

“Being temporary doesn't make something matter any less, because the point isn't how long, the point is that it happened...”

Years after an effective vaccine was developed for tuberculosis, a new strain has evolved. This version is resistant to drugs and highly contagious. As the book begins, our main character, Lane, is being sent to Latham House, a sanatorium where teenagers with drug-resistant TB are quarantined so they can focus on getting well.

The first kids he meets are friendly and religious. They are obviously the goody goodies and must be shunned. Among the cooler residents of Latham is Sadie. Lane and Sadie attended the same camp when they were younger, though Sadie is angry at Lane for some old affront. Back then, she had been quiet and kept to herself. At Latham, she and her friends are the popular kids, the group that Lane wishes he could join.

At first, Lane spends all of his time keeping up with his AP work. He stays up late doing the extra work and thinks that he will still be able to recover in time for the SATs and early admission to college. The long hours of studying take their toll and he gets sicker and sicker. Eventually, his lung x-rays give him away. His books and studying materials are confiscated, and Lane is forced to focus on getting well.

After he saves them from punishment, Sadie and her friends take Lane under their wing. They do things like dress up for movies night in fancy dresses and tuxedos while everyone else is wearing pajamas. Sadie has a contact in the nearby town who brings contraband food, books, whatever the kids want. They are the ones who know how to sneak out of the dorms, and they sometimes leave to visit Starbucks in the nearby town. It's all about pretending that they are normal, pretending that they aren't all close to death.

One day, the whole of Latham House is gathered and receives some big news. A drug called protocillin was developed that will cure drug-resistant TB. It's great news for everyone except Sadie.

Latham was my Hogwarts, and protocillin was the cure for my magic. It would turn me into a Muggle again, one who had to worry about standardized testing and mean girls and tardy slips...

It seems unbelievable that she isn't super happy, but it does make sense when you think about it. She has been at Latham for years. The education isn't fantastic, and since the kids die a lot, there isn't much concern for the future. Sadie will have to repeat several grades and then figure out what to do with the rest of her life. Latham House is life on pause. Sadie and Lane and everyone else could break rules and make trouble and it didn't really count towards real life. Of course, real life eventually catches up.

Extraordinary Means had a lot of good points, but also some annoying parts. It's very selfish of people with a very contagious disease to leave quarantine and risk infecting others. Also, the ending is effective, but when I thought it over a little bit, I felt manipulated. Overall, I liked the book well enough. It's really well written. The premise is interesting, especially with so many diseases coming back from the dead recently, anti-vaxxers and all that awfulness. I just hope that the story stays fictional.

I received my copy of Extraordinary Means from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books. It's available for purchase now.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Made You Up by Francesca Zappia

"I don't have the luxury of taking reality for granted. And I wouldn't say I hated people who did, because that's just about everyone. I didn't hate them. They didn't live in my world.
But that never stopped me from wishing I lived in theirs..."

When she was younger, Alex once met a boy at Meijer's. She didn't know his name, but she called him Blue Eyes. He helped her free the lobsters from their tank. Now a senior in high school, Alex knows that the boy wasn't real. She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and she doesn't always know if what she sees is real. To help tell the difference, she carries a camera to take pictures of anything suspicious. If anything in the photo disappears, Alex knows that it's all in her head.

Because of an incident at her old school, namely spray-painting "Communists" on the gym floor, she ends up transferring for her senior year. Alex really wants to do well and get into college. She knows that if she messes up again, her mother will send her to a mental hospital.

Her therapist, who she calls the Gravedigger, also recommended that she get a job. She works at a restaurant called Finnegan's with the nerdy Tucker. He attends her new school and tells her that everyone there is insane. He also advises her to stay away from Miles, a particularly prickly regular customer. Alex messes up her first interaction with Miles by spilling water on him. In Alex's defense, she was distracted because Miles bears a resemblance to Blue Eyes: freckles, sandy hair, and blue eyes, and anyone would freak out if their imaginary friend appeared out of the blue. 

Being the new girl at school isn't fun, but Alex copes as well as she can. As community service, Alex has to join Miles' club, a group that sets up for sporting events and sells concessions. She has a strange relationship with Miles. She thinks that he hates her, but you can tell that he really, really doesn't.

Miles has a lot of power at the school, even though kids tease him and call him a Nazi for his German accent. Students pay him to do things, get revenge or play pranks. He plays some jokes on Alex, and she plays some jokes on him. Their relationship changes when the girl who has a crush on Miles throws a party, and he refuses to attend unless she invites Alex. Alex ends up having an episode and Miles figures out that she has schizophrenia. In turn, he tells her about his mother, who is locked inside an asylum. They are completely untraditional and very cute.

Unfortunately, and there always has to be an unfortunately, Alex's illness catches up with her. Her classmates find out about it. Miles, desperate for money, starts to take humiliating jobs. Everything spirals out of control. The ending was a little sad, but also not. I don't know how to explain it better, you'd just have to read it.   

I was a huge fan of Made You Up. I completely love Alex, who was flawed but totally awesome and funny. Her mental illness makes her unreliable as a narrator, but also really interesting as a character. She understands when she is being irrational, but she also still has moments where she has to check her food for Communist chips. It was an interesting experience to see the world from Alex's perspective, and very scary to think of having to live like that and not being able to control it. As we find out, not being able to tell the difference between imagination and reality can hurt you. I highly recommend this amazing book.  

I received my copy of Made You Up from Edelweiss, courtesy of Greenwillow Books. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

"The rain on her dress and his shirt would stick them to each other, dissolve the skin between them, until their veins tangled like roots, and they breathed together, one scaled and dark-feathered thing..."

The Weight of Feathers is very similar to Romeo and Juliet. It’s a story of two star-crossed lovers from rival families. Thankfully, the ending isn’t such a bummer, not to spoil it or anything.

The Palomas and Corbeaus both travel the country and put on shows to entertain tourists. They mostly stay out of each other’s way, except when it comes to the yearly show at Almendro. In spite of the bad history in that town- it was where each family lost a member, and where the Corbeau’s grandfather was fired from his job at the local adhesive plant because of the Palomas- both families return every year for the Blackberry Festival and the ticket sales it provides.

The reasons behind the feud are various, spread over years and generations. There were the deaths; a flood caused a Paloma uncle to drown, but also caused a Corbeau in-law to fall to her death. Both families believe that the other performs black magic. They also agree that one should not touch a member of the rival family. The only exception to that is hitting and fighting, which is not only okay, but encouraged.

The Corbeaus are identified by the feathers that grow on their necks, feathers that the Palomas burn to keep from being cursed. Palomas are identified by their escalas, birth marks that shimmer like scales. Fittingly, the Corbeaus’ show involves men and women wearing feathery wings and performing tricks high up in tree branches. The Palomas’ young women wear mermaid tails and put on a swimming show. Sometimes the rivalry bleeds over into the show, with the Corbeaus slipping on greased branches and Palomas nearly drowning because of nylon nets.

Our protagonists and narrators are Lace Paloma and Cluck Corbeau. Lace is one of the mermaids, but is relegated to the background because she isn’t as skinny as the others. She knows that her grandmother favors her male cousins, in spite of Lace’s unfailing loyalty. Cluck is the black sheep of his family. His mother hates him and his brother abuses him. He is called names, such as little demon and bastard, even his feathers are different, black tinted with red. Thankfully, he is very close with his grandfather, who teaches him to sew the wings and encourages him to use his left hand even though it is taboo and it has three fingers that broke and never healed properly. 

The kids meet at a convenience store. Lace saves Cluck from being beaten by her cousins. She assumes that he is a local, and Cluck assumes the same about her. The next time that they meet is after an accident at the plant. Without Cluck’s grandfather there to push for safety measures, disaster struck. A toxic cloud of chemicals was released upon the town. Lace just finished her first show as a featured mermaid, but when she exited the lake she was caught in a net, a net. The net made it so she was out in the open when the burning rain falls. Cluck goes towards the Paloma’s side of the lake to find his missing cousin. He also finds poor Lace, huddled under a bare tree and burning in her cotton dress. Cluck gets her out of the dress (Cotton burns faster when exposed to the chemicals) and takes her to the hospital.

The next time she wakes up, Lace has a large heart-shaped scar on her face, as well as a feather-shaped scar on her arm, among other burns and scars. She finds out that her savior is a Corbeau and kicks him out. Her family sees the scar and knows that a Corbeau saved her. They believe she is now cursed so they banish her. Lace decides that the feather means she is being punished for being rude to Cluck after he saved her life. In order to earn his forgiveness and get rid of the scar, she takes a job doing makeup for the Corbeaus.

The more time that Lace spends around Cluck, the more she starts to care for him. Cluck cares for her back, there's just one problem. He still has no idea she is a Paloma. Will he still feel the same when he finds out who she is?

I found The Weight of Feathers to be charming and magical. It was easy for me to fall in love with the characters, even with that whole silly teenage romance factor. The book just clicked with me, and it gave me the whole spectrum of emotions, what kids these days refer to as "the feels." It's swoon-worthy and dreamy, and it made me heave a big sigh during the happy moments, as corny as that makes me sound. There are some difficult parts, abuse and meanness, but the good parts made up for it.

I received my copy of The Weight of Feathers from Edelweiss, courtesy of Thomas Dunne. It's available for purchase now.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Leveller by Julia Durango

"I understand the temptation, I really do. But here's what happens. You get used to looking like a million bucks in the MEEP, and then...BAM! Game over. You're backslapped to reality and wake up with your same old blemishes, bedhead, and ratty sweatpants. All of a sudden you can't stand yourself. You've seen what your perfect self looks like in the MEEP, so when you look in the mirror now, all you see are your flaws.
You're just a sad, sorry replica of your pretend self.

Phoenix "Nixy" Bauer is a Leveller. Parents hire her to retrieve their children from the MEEP, a virtual reality gaming world. Gameplay is supposed to be limited, but cheats are available to play longer. When kids get too absorbed in the game, their parents sometimes need help getting them out. Nixy is just a lot cheaper than official Levellers. The job makes her unpopular with kids her age, but she has earned a good reputation among the parents. Her business motto is "Nixy Bauer, Home in an Hour."

Both of Nixy's parents work for the company that created the MEEP. The game's developer contacts Nixy in need of her skills. His son Wyn is lost in the game. Even worse, he left behind a suicide note. Many highly trained experts tried to get to him, but they all failed. Nixy is the last resort. If she doesn't get Wyn out, they will reset the system. Anybody using illegal codes could be physically affected, possibly resulting in brain damage or coma.

Nixy works her way through the maze between her and Wyn. It takes a long time and some clever strategy. Eventually, she finds Wyn only to realize that he is being held captive. To make matters worse, Nixy is now trapped as well. They have to figure out who is holding them and why in order to escape. 

The Leveller was pretty fun. It's got a lot of video game action, and there's a nice little romance between Nixy and Wyn. I liked Nixy, even though her name is kind of silly. She was funny and I like how hardcore she is. It will be interesting to see what new adventures await in the yet unnamed sequel.

I received my copy of The Leveller from Edelweiss, courtesy of Harper Collins. It's available for purchase now.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer

"Ideas could be changed. Theories could be modified. But beliefs were hard-core. They were solid. They were something that the believers took very, very seriously. And the notion that Devon, Markus, and the others believed in something I expected to encounter only on late-night TV scared the hell out of me. Not because the monsters might exist- really. But because my friends might be on their side..."

Stephen's mother has been sick for a while, worried about dark creatures with wings. She was institutionalized. After his father lost his job, the cost drains all their savings. They are forced to move to his father's hometown, Spencer, Michigan, where people get stuck. Dad plans to find a job in a neighboring town and transfer mom to a hospital close by. Until they get back on their feet, they move in with his mother, Stephen's grandmother, who is not really the cuddly cookie-baking type. Spencer is a very small town, the type of place with old-fashioned diners, corner stores, and judgmental neighbors.

After making a bad impression with a football player, Stephen befriends twins Cara and Devon. Cara is an intriguing punk girl and they...want to do teenagery boy and girl things. It gets awkward because the twins' mother is the town's fanatical religious crazy person and she ends up catching them together. Devon doesn't approve of the pairing either. He wants Stephen to be part of his group of friends. They sneak into the movie theater after close and hang out at the Playground, the local cemetery. Devon is also freakishly obsessed with loyalty, kind of in a culty way.

Then, weird stuff happens. People in Spencer talk about something called the Winged Ones. The town has been suffering through "bad times." If they make a sacrifice to the creatures, their luck will turn around. Stephen thinks those stories are just stories, that none of it could possibly be true. It doesn't really matter what Stephen thinks, because his friends believe in the stories. They believe enough to kill.

The Cemetery Boys showed what most of us fear about small towns. There are gangs of teenagers loitering in cemeteries, religious fanaticals hanging around outside of diners, and creepy monsters with wings who want to eat you. I read this a while ago, and I can't remember a lot of the story (Except a scene that made me crave Doritos), but I definitely remember the ending. It was completely surprising. I quite liked the suspense building in the book, how everything built from "Nice town" to "Well, that's a little weird" to "Thanks for being born in such a messed up town, dad, enjoy paying for my future therapy." It's creepy fun.

I received my copy of The Cemetery Boys from Edelweiss, courtesy of Harper Collins. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Jubilee Manor by Bethany Hagen

"We were both searching for our grails, knights on an impossible quest, because this grail didn't exist. There was no shining castle at the end of the road. There was no amount of compassion or aid or wealth that I could bestow that would erase my own beginnings in a place of privilege while others had been born in a place of suffering at the margins of society..."

You can read my review of the first book in the series, Landry Park here.

Landry Park was about a future where the former United States has converted to nuclear energy to power their homes. The charges that keep everything running have to be changed every year, and that job goes to the Rootless. The Rootless are the lowest class, a sickly and weak people. The upper class, the Gentry, believe that the Rootless must be punished for what their ancestors did, or rather failed to do.

The plot of the book centered on Madeline Landry, descendant of Jacob Landry, the man who is responsible for the domestication of nuclear power. Her friend Cara is attacked, and everyone thinks the assailant was one of the Rootless, everyone but Madeline. The Gentry, especially her father, use the attack as an excuse to further persecute the Rootless. Meanwhile, Madeline falls for the new guy in town, David, though it seems like he is already set on Cara.

It turns out that David and Cara were pretending to be together. She is actually in love with a Rootless boy, Ewan. David actually likes Madeline and they get together. Cara wasn't attacked by a Rootless, but by her mother who disapproved of her daughter's relationship. In a shocking twist, the leader of the Rootless, Jack, turned out to be Stephen, Madeline's long-lost and presumed dead uncle. Jack/Stephen kicks her father out of Landry Park. The Rootless punish him by feeding him food laced with radioactive waste.
*End spoilers*

As Jubilee Manor opens, Madeline and her uncle are throwing a party at Landry Park. They want to bring the Rootless and Gentry together and get the Gentry to give the Rootless more aid and treat them like people. The entire party is ruined when they find a dead body. If I had a nickel, amirite?

Marianne Wilder was the daughter of one of the Gentry, and the killer positioned her on top of a crossed out Landry symbol. It's obviously a message against her family and against their attempts to help the Rootless. Madeline suspects a particularly cranky member of the Rootless named Smith. She doesn't actually have any evidence, it's basically because she doesn't like him because he was mean to her.

Baseless accusations aside, in order to sway the Gentry to help the Rootless, Madeline and Jack bring her father back from exile. They are both surprised by the changes in Alexander Landry. He is nicer, even apologizing to little Charlie, who he was going to execute ("Sorry I almost had you eat radioactive waste, though I never would have done it if I knew you were my nephew"). Most surprising is that he is almost completely healed, with only a few scars remaining.

Cousin Jamie, who is a doctor, notices his rapid healing, combined with Jack's longevity when compared to the other Rootless, and forms a theory that the Landrys are immune to radioactive material. He even believes that their blood may be used to come up with a vaccination to protect the Rootless, even cure them.

Unfortunately, more Gentry heirs are murdered. Just like in the first book, the police are harsh on the Rootless because the Gentry are pushing for results. They go so far as to burn down the Rootless' homes. Madeline and her family take in as many as they can at Landry Park. Everything is a huge mess. Most of the Gentry don't want to mess with the way things are. The Rootless are afraid of punishment, and they start to become wary of Jack after finding out about the Landry immunity. Certain members even break off and start to negotiate with the East (Enemies from Asia). Once again, it's up to Madeline to find the killer and stop the persecution.

I was disappointed in Madeline in this book. She is utterly convinced that Smith is the killer, even though her uncle and David tell her she's wrong. I was torn between believing that there was no way she was right and thinking that it was so obvious that she wasn't right that she actually might be right. It's kind of funny how she is acting as narrow-minded as the police when it comes to Smith, though at least she isn't as cruel. 

Jubilee Manor ended the series on a good note. I wished there was more romance, namely between Madeline and David, and Cara and Ewan. Regretfully, it is hard to fit those kinds of plots in with brutal murder and class warfare. In the end, the murders do get solved, the warfare is on its way to being resolved, and Madeline finally gets to go to university. We are left with the potential hope of happily ever after for everyone.

I received my copy of Jubilee Manor from Edelweiss, courtesy of Dial Books. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

But that's neither here or there in the darkness. This particular darkness, anyway, the one you and I find ourselves denizens of. We are here because we're the sanest people in this establishment, so they put us down here as the bedrock on which to gain a foothold for the wanderings of their own minds. They call us insane, then feed their own insanities on our flesh, for we are now less than human. Heedson and Croomes are but examples of the greater world, love. They work their discreet types of madness on us, power and pain, and we hold to our truths in the dark..."

I really loved Mindy McGinnis' post-apocalyptic book Not a Drop to Drink, as you can see in my review here. A Madness So Discreet is a lot different, but it's got a lot of elements that I enjoy.

Grace Mae was the pretty daughter of a senator. Now, Grace is no longer a Mae. Her father had her committed for getting pregnant out of wedlock. I know this will come as no surprise, but the asylum is terrible, worse than terrible. The patients have to fight to get the small amount of food they are given. There is an awful nurse, Croomes, who takes pleasure in tormenting her, and the treatments are barbaric. Grace only survives by retreating inside herself, something she already learned at home.

Her fellow patient, Mrs. Clay, tries to help even though Grace never speaks a word to her. She was committed by her husband, a real gem who later divorced her, took her land and her kids, then married the lawyer's sister. Nobody can save Grace when she attacks the asylum's doctor, Heedson, (In her defense, he deserved it) and receives a  punishment that causes her to lose the baby. After attacking Heedson a second time, he moves her into the hospital's basement to rot away in the dark.

Thankfully, the basement contains a peculiar patient who knows everything that goes on upstairs. Falsteed is a great comfort to Grace, and he introduces her to Dr. Thornhollow. The doctor is there to perform lobotomies on particularly difficult patients. Grace begs him to take away her memories, to make it so she won't have to feel ever again. Thornhollow notices that she has a bright mind, and instead offers her a proposal. He will help her escape, and she will assist him with his special project: finding murderers.

Thornhollow is studying a new technique for creating a profile of the killer based on clues from the scene of the crime, and using the profile to find the killer. The pair move to Ohio and into a new asylum, but a really nice one. It's much more humane than the other hospital in Boston, and the patients have a lot more freedom. Grace pretends to be the doctor's assistant, and that she cannot speak. She makes friends with fellow patients Nell, who has syphilis, and Elizabeth, who believes that an invisible string sits by her shoulder and tells her secrets.

Grace is called upon to assist the doctor when a dead body is found. Her job is to observe the scene, looking for clues that the doctor might miss. Because she appears to be a mute patient, people speak freely in front of her. After two dead girls are found, both with hands folded as if they are still alive, they realize that they are looking for a serial killer.  

I really liked A Madness So Discreet. The beginning was very upsetting. I absolutely hated that nurse and doctor. It would have been nice to see them receive some sort of punishment, a little karma. Asylums at that time were really scary. It is absolutely terrifying to think that at one point a woman could have been locked away just because a male relative signed a statement. I was much happier when Grace moved on to the better asylum, which was based on a real asylum that is featured on Mindy McGinnis' Pinterest (I'm sorry, you can't see it if you don't have a Pinterest as well; You can see the building here, and look at more images in those archives). Grace was very strong and smart, but also a bit scary. You do not want to get on her bad side. I'm not sure if there is going to be a sequel, but I would be interested in reading more adventures of Grace and Thornhollow.

I received my copy of A Madness So Discreet from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

"And even if there's no one in my family or my circle of friends who's going to be the Chosen One or the Beacon of Peace or whatever the hell it's going to be next time around, I reckon there are a lot more people like me than there are indie kids with unusual names and capital-D Destinies..."

I love, love, love Patrick Ness. The Knife of Letting Go was amazing to the extremest levels. I have been wanting to read more of him for so long. I read The Ask and the Answer, but I never finished Monsters of Men because of dumb reasons (Anxiety over too many books too read, reading going slowly, and wanting to reread the entire series). I have also planned and failed to read A Monster Calls and More Than This, which is just shameful because both are award winners. On the upside, my failures have led me to make sure that I actually read his newest novel, The Rest of Us Just Live Here. I'm glad that I did because it's a great, unique story.

It's four months until they graduate from high school. Mikey has to deal with his unrequited invisible love for Henna, as well as a relapse of OCD and anxiety. His sister Mel, who is a year older than the others, is finally graduating after losing a year to her struggle with anorexia. Jared, Mike's best friend, is gay and part god (God of cats, actually, which makes me jealous of him). He has been sneaking around and Mike knows he is keeping secrets. Henna is dealing with conflicts over her feelings for Mike and for new boy Nathan, issues that are made worse by her upcoming mission trip to war-torn Africa. Nathan is somewhat mysterious, having moved to town so close to graduation. Mike dislikes Nathan because of the Henna issue and because he seems suspicious, but mostly because of Henna.

At the beginning of every chapter, there is a short recap of what is going on with the indie kids. They have names like Satchel, Kerouac, and Finn (There are a lot of Finns, actually), they use card catalogs instead of computers, and they read poetry and listen to jazz. The indie kids are the ones who have to face zombies, vampires, or whatever is happening now, with the blue lights. They often end up dying and/or blowing up the school. They deal with big, apocalyptic things that have the potential to effect all of the characters, but Mike and his friends don't really focus on them much because they can't do anything about them.

As Mike said,
"The rest of us just have to live here, hovering around the edges, left out of it all, for the most part."

It's like the book is written by the background characters in a YA science fiction/fantasy novel. Their struggles are more relatable and their names are less obnoxious. I loved hearing a different side of the typical story. I laughed and I cried and I cried some more. I wrote down pages of quotes and now have a wrist cramp. When I get some money together, I am going to purchase my own physical copy of the book so I can read it again and again (Bonus: the cover glows in the dark!).  
I received my copy of The Rest of Us Just Live Here from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

"You could shout truth into the air forever, and spend your life doing it, if someone didn’t come and listen..."

The kingdom of Polnya has always been plagued by the Wood. The Wood is full of dangerous creatures. It can take a person and contaminate them. It forces them to go mad and to kill. It plants seeds inside people, and as those seeds sprout, the Wood grows further.

Nieshka’s small village is under protection of the Dragon. He isn’t actually a dragon, but a powerful wizard who oversees a group of villages near his tower. Every ten years, the villages offer the young ladies who have come of age. The Dragon chooses one girl to stay in his tower for ten years. Nobody knows what happens in the tower, but the girls always come back changed. They always end up leaving their village.

This year, Nieshka is one of the girls. She isn’t concerned about being chosen because everyone knows he will pick Kasia. Kasia is Nieshka’s best friend. She is the prettiest, the cleverest, and the bravest. If anyone was a fairy tale heroine, it’s Kasia. Nieshka is somewhat gawky in appearance, and has an uncanny ability to attract dirt and tears to her clothing. Therefore, it comes as a great surprise that the Dragon picks Nieshka.

Nieshka’s stay at the tower is something of a disaster. She busies herself cooking and cleaning for the Dragon, who mostly grumbles and insults her. Things change when he gets her to recite a spell with him. Days go by with Nieshka cooking breakfast, the Dragon forcing her to perform spells, and her collapsing in exhaustion.

Everything changes when the Dragon must travel to the capital to help with a monster situation. All alone, Nieshka is supposed to basically sit still and not touch anything. When her village sends up a signal for help, she escapes the tower to save her loved ones.

A pack of wolves from the Wood attacked some cows. These cows became infected, fierce and insane. The farmer hadn’t killed them in time, so the cows spread the disease to more cows, and then the farmer. Nieshka does her best to help with the potions she took, though she ends up angering the Dragon. She also saves his life after he is bitten by a wolf, so it balances out. This situation also makes him realize that Nieshka is inclined towards healing magic, and she finds a spell book that she can understand. She learns how to work through spells in a way she can understand. 

The next big event occurs when a walker (I picture them like Groot, though they are meaner) abducts Kasia. Despite Dragon’s objections, Nieshka must enter the Wood and rescue her friend. Taking her out of the hearttree (Powerful trees that feed from the person and give power to the Wood) is only the first step. Kasia might never be herself again, and Dragon tries to convince Nieshka that killing her is the most humane thing to do. Of course, Nieshka refuses, and begs Dragon to give her time to save Kasia. Eventually, months later, they succeed in driving the Wood out of Nieshka's friend. 

Their feat doesn’t go unnoticed. Rumors have reached the palace that the Dragon has been harboring a contaminated girl, and that he cured her. Decades ago, Queen Hanna ran off with the crown prince of rival kingdom Rosya. They went off into the woods, never to be seen again. The kingdoms have been at war ever since. Prince Marek, the spare and celebrated hero, wants the Dragon to help rescue and cure his mother.

The Dragon refuses this mission, knowing how hopeless it is and how unlikely any of the Queen is left to rescue. Nieshka would refuse as well, but Marek and his pet wizard Falcon threaten to have Kasia killed. So Nieshka is on board, Dragon goes to help her, and Kasia goes because she is a loyal friend. Their trip through the Wood is action-packed. Soldiers and horses drop like flies, they are attacked by Walkers and giant praying mantises, and it turns out that getting out of the Wood is only half the battle. The situation ends up being much worse than anyone expected, and there's lots more death and destruction to come before the end. 

I heard really good things about Uprooted, so I was excited to read it. At first I was a little nervous. I wondered if the entire book was going to be the Dragon insulting Nieshka. It gets a lot better, obviously (and thankfully). The book was completely terrifying at times, and I think it gave me a very frightening nightmare. It was too easy to become absorbed in the book's world, and I both wanted to hurry up and finish it and also take my time and keep reading forever. What was the complete icing on the cake, Uprooted had an incredibly satisfying ending. It made me so very happy. All the recommendations for Uprooted.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Deadpool Killogy by Cullen Bunn

The Deadpool Killogy is comprised of three graphic novels. The first, Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe, starts when Professor Charles Xavier has Deadpool committed to Ravenscroft Asylum. What he doesn't know is that the famous Dr. Benjamin Brighton who heads the hospital is really Psycho-Man. The supervillain plans to brainwash Deadpool, hoping to form a super army, but it doesn't work out like he planned. He ends up making Deadpool's  subconscious stronger.

It's true that Deadpool has always had voices in his head, but now there is just the one very loud voice. That voice makes him see the truth: everyone in his universe doesn't really exist. They are just entertainment, not really alive. So it's up to Deadpool to put them out of their misery.

"Well, whoever they are--those little peeping toms out there in Never-Never Land--they're gonna want to keep their eyes peeled. They're gonna want to see what's next. They're gonna want to watch this world burn!"
Deadpool sees us see him

So, he kills them all. We see Deadpool fighting multiple heroes and villains. He shoots Spider-Man, blows up the Avengers, even kills Thor with his own hammer. They all end up dead or otherwise incapacitated. The book ends with Deadpool creeping up on the writers as they are brainstorming the ending:
Is it wrong that I'm scared?

"I kill and I kill and I kill...but it's never enough. There's always another Spider-Man...another Captain America...another Ms. Marvel..."

Deadpool killed the entire Marvel Universe, but it didn't help. In Deadpool Killustrated, he enters the ideaverse. You know how every story is the same story over and over? The characters in classic literature are the "inspirational building blocks" for the Marvel characters. If you kill the inspiration, they will cease to exist. 

Therefore, Deadpool has to become "metacidal." The majority of the book is Deadpool encountering, then murdering, characters from Captain Ahab and Moby Dick to the Little Women to Don Quixote. The characters start to morph into equivalent heroes as they die, indicating that the ideaverse is falling apart.

Eventually, Sherlock Holmes puts together a task force to track Deadpool down and stop him. The new subconscious is put into Frankenstein's monster at one point, which is kind of cool. I didn't really understand the voice when I was reading the book because I read the second book first, before I realized it was a trilogy.  

"At long last, he came to a conclusion. If he --if Deadpool was the only one who realized the world was fictional...then perhaps Deadpool was the source...and all the fragments of the multiverse were his dreams made real. This, of course, did not mean his search for nothingness would end. Quite the opposite, in fact. If all the worlds were to die, so too must all Deadpools..."

The third installment, Deadpool Kills Deadpool shows that Deadpool still hasn't been able to destroy the universe. We start with a Deadpool who is fighting a giant robot (Okay, we actually open with someone throwing Headpool in a microwave). He is attacked by another Deadpool, an evil one. The Deadpool Corps helps the good, at least better, Deadpool and fills him in.

There are versions of Deadpool all over the multiverse, and now Evil Deadpool is on a mission to take them all out. Since Deadpool is the origin of everything, according to Watcher (Guy with large head, omnipotent, traditionally watches but doesn't intervene), who is now a Deadpool fanboy, if Evil Deadpool succeeds in killing them all, the universe will cease to exist.

The Deadpools all choose sides. The versions of Deadpool are entertaining, such as Dogpool, Kidpool, Grootpool(!), Beardofbeespool, and my personal favorite: Pandapool!
"The species that endangers you!"
There were lots more that didn't get names. The tone of the third book is a lot different from the first two. I think it's because the Deadpool we focus on isn't the same one who was narrating before. Honestly, all three are basically the same: existential crisis, kill, kill, kill. The hundreds of Deadpools made the book entertaining enough, so overall I was satisfied with the conclusion.

I have enjoyed reading about Deadpool. I expected violence and snarkiness, but I didn't expect him to be sympathetic. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, maybe I'm like those women who write letters to serial killers or whoever makes that weird Creepypasta pin where they feel bad for Jeff the Killer even though he is fictional and gross, but I saw some real pain in Deadpool. In a weird way, killing everyone is his way of saving them, being a hero. I hope I'm not misinterpreting this horribly. It makes the character seem a lot more complex and interesting.

The reason I decided to read this series is that I was intrigued by Deadpool Killustrated while I worked at the bookstore. I requested it from the library, then realized that it was the second book in a trilogy and decided to read one and three as well. The meta stuff is right up my alley. I'm not going to pretend that I don't see some flaws in Deadpool's logic, but I'm willing to suspend my disbelief.

It's a bit gimmicky, or like someone's fanfic, but in a good way. What would happen if Deadpool fought the Fantastic Four? The Three Musketeers? A million versions of Deadpool? (Answer to every question: blood, death, dismemberment.) Overall, the Killogy was entertaining and had a lot more philosophy than I expected. It was a pretty good intro to the Merc with a Mouth, though I'm sure there are lots of things I didn't understand. 


Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Cost of All Things by Maggie Lehrman

"I wanted to be a predictable set of reactions to a finite set of situations; I wanted to know that I was a girl who would always make the same choices she'd made before. The thought of changing suddenly and randomly scared me down to my marrow..."

The Cost of All Things is about a world where a magic called Hekame exists. The practitioners, Hekamists, create spells for money. These spells always come with a cost, a cost that grows exponentially if spells are combined.

Ari goes to the Hekamist to forget her boyfriend Win. The pain of losing him is overwhelming. The spell ends up ruining her dancing abilities and her future plans of moving to New York for a dance scholarship. She also can't tell her friends that while they were mourning Win, she doesn't remember anything.

Win, before his untimely passing, narrates chapters about his chronic depression. He befriends the Hekamist's daughter, Echo. She creates a spell to help him even though he can't pay. The two grow close, and Win is her only friend. After his death, Echo ends up blackmailing Ari for the money Win owed.

Diana is Ari's best friend, though they drifted apart when Ari and Win started dating. She has always been passive around Ari, but starts to come into her own. This means dying her hair bright red and getting close to Markos, against Ari's warnings. 

Markos was Win's best friend, youngest of a family of brothers who have reputations as man whores. He finds himself falling hard for Diana. He also finds out that his mother was paying the Hekamist for spells for one of his brothers. Then he ends up messing up both of these things.

Finally, Kay became Diana's friend while Ari was busy with Win. She has major abandonment issues stemming from when her sister, who had just recovered from cancer, spent a year traveling the world and left her behind. As a result, Kay bought a spell that keeps her friends close. Ari and Diana have to stay within a certain distance from Kay and cannot be apart from Kay more than a few days. When they try to leave, bad things happen. Kay was by far my least favorite character. I felt a little bad for her at first, but when your issues start to hurt other people, you seriously need to reexamine your choices. Also, don't make your cancer survivor sister's stuff be all about you, and maybe talk to her instead of freaking out that she left you behind. 

The description calls this Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets We Were Liars, so I was definitely there. I was definitely surprised by the magic aspect. It took a little while to adjust to that idea. I did like the book. It's very emotional, and there's plenty of chances to exclaim over the teenager's poor decision making skills. The moral of the story: maybe don't use magic to solve your problems?

I received my copy of The Cost of All Things from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Brey. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I'll Have What She's Having by Rebecca Harrington

"So, are you what you eat? Well, it's hard to say. I think you can gain tremendous understanding and almost an odd compassion for someone when you eat like them. You learn their vulnerabilities and little oddities and obsessions. You fully enter their world and you don't judge it. So, no but yes, as with most things..."

Go Fug Yourself often included Rebecca Harrington's articles on trying celebrity diets in their Friday links. They were always interesting and amusing to me, so I was excited to read her whole book. They are a mix of previously published articles, which made me a little sad, but also new chapters.

The celebrity diets in the book range from Elizabeth Taylor to Marilyn Monroe to Gwyneth Paltrow. I am always interested in reading descriptions of food, which is probably why this was so fascinating to me. There is also some level of schadenfreude in that I sort of want these diets to be weird and difficult. This is why the success of Gwyneth Paltrow's diet disappoints me, although I do get some satisfaction from how unreasonably expensive it is. On some petty level, I want to think that the only difference between current me and fabulous, movie star me is a depriving diet that makes me feel like I'm starving.

Throughout the book, Harrington ends up eating many odd things, from quail eggs to sea vegetables to a hunk of liver. She tries to drink ten Diet Cokes in a day to emulate Karl Lagerfeld, does bust-firming exercise to emulate Marilyn Monroe, and becomes condescending to emulate Paltrow. In the end, it's an entertaining book about how celebrities sometimes ate/eat weird stuff and us normal people probably shouldn't try to be too much like them.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge

"This story begins with endless night and infinite forest; with two orphaned children, and two swords made of broken bone.
It has not ended yet."

Yet another gorgeous cover. Like Ms. Hodge's previous book, Cruel Beauty, Crimson Bound is also a fairy tale retelling. However, it is not a sequel and isn't actually in the same universe. It's based a lot on Little Red Riding Hood, but there are also aspects of other fairy tales. Everything comes together quite nicely and makes a truly original book that sounds like it should have been written by the Brothers Grimm.

The book begins when Rachelle meets a forestborn, basically a creeper who hangs out to catch unsuspecting people. She is training to become a woodwife (They cast spells and protect people from the Forest), but she is also young and thinks she is invincible. Because of this, Rachelle lowers her guard around the forestborn, she takes off her cloak with the protective charms, and she is marked.

Once a forestborn marks you, you have three days to kill someone or you will die yourself. After you kill, you become a bloodbound. Eventually, your human heart will burn out and you become a forestborn. After resisting for three days, Rachelle kills her Aunt Leonie, the woodwife who was training her and the person she loved most.

Because of the guilt, she fled to the city of Rocamadour and joined the King's band of bloodbounds. While at the castle one day, Rachelle saves a young man from assassins. She is disgusted to find out that she saved Armand, one of the King's bastard children. Armand was marked by a forestborn but refused to kill anyone. After the three days, he didn't die. The forestborn cut of his hands but let him live. The people see him as a saint, someone who resisted the temptations of the Forest. Rachelle resents the implication that she didn't have to kill her aunt after all, that if she had been stronger she could have kept from becoming a bloodbound. She also detests his decadent silver hands and the saintly image that she sees as tricking the people. Imagine how upset she becomes when the King appoints her to guard the saint.

Meanwhile, the forestborn who marked Rachelle informs her that the Devourer (Master of forestborns, once ate the sun and the moon, will plunge the world into eternal darkness) will return soon. She has to hurry and find Joyeuse (A legendary sword made from the bone of a prince who once slayed the Devourer) before that happens.

The more time that Rachelle spends with Armand, the less she hates him. She starts to see the ways his father uses him as a pawn, how uncomfortable he is with his saint title. She also sees him answer her insults with a smile and they become friendly. Poor Rachelle is used to people resenting her for being a bloodborn, and used to feeling as though she deserves it for what she did. Armand and her friend Amelie (A young girl whose father was a bloodborn; she helps Rachelle with clothes and makeup while Rachelle guards Armand) don't treat her like a bloodborn. They notice how she does her best to save as many people as possible and see the good in her.

Can Rachelle find Joyeuse in time? Will she be able to defeat the Devourer? What is going on between her and Armand? Will she have the strength to defeat the Devourer if it means losing him?

I'm sorry if my review is confusing. It really is a great book, though the various characters and things make it a little hard to describe succinctly. I particularly liked the story of Tyr and Zisa, the last ones to fight the Devourer, woven in with the main story. Rachelle was an awesome, ass-kicking heroine.   Rosamund Hodge's books seem to just get better and better. I can't wait for the next one.

I received my copy of Crimson Bound from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Bray. It's available for purchase now.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

"It's me in this body, thank you, snarled and screwed up and not going to make it; let's not go on about things we can't revise. I'm an edited version of a real live girl, or at least, that's what I say when I want to tell you something and I would rather not talk about it but have to get it out of the way so we can move on to better topics..."

Aza Ray has a "history of hospitals." She suffers from a rare lung disease, so rare that they named it after her. Despite all the hospital visits and new drugs and treatments, Aza is still dying, unable to breath properly.

Aza spends her days with her best friend Jason. They visit rare book galleries and watch videos of giant squids, normal teenager stuff. They are pretty adorable, and Jason obviously loves her, though she doesn't think it's possible.

Things take a turn for the weird when Aza sees a ship in the clouds. She thinks it's just hallucinations, that her brain is finally starting to fail. Jason tells her about Magonia, which is a legendary city in the clouds. There are stories of ships in the sky, sailors who drown on land.

Soon after, a bird flies down Aza's throat (I know, it sounds weird) and her lungs give out. During the ride to the hospital, a lot of action takes place. Icy roads, a helicopter crash, and then Aza dies...and she also doesn't. Jason and her family go through the process of burying Aza. Meanwhile, she wakes up in Magonia.

 The beginning of Magonia was fantastic. I love Aza and how cynical she is, and I really love Aza and Jason's relationship. After Aza dies, even though I knew we were going to hear more from her, I cried. I thought it was a really good choice to switch to Jason's perspective. It really broke my heart, especially his alligator suit. The Magonia stuff is a little weird for me so I didn't like it as much as the beginning and the Jason chapters. Aza was taken away from her mother years ago and placed on earth to die. Now that she is in her true home, Aza must fulfill her destiny by saving Magonia from starvation.

Despite that, Magonia is a great story. It's very The Fault in Our Stars with a fantasy twist. I have heard that there will be a sequel, and I am definitely curious to read about the further adventures of Aza and Jason. I am predicting another great story in their future. 

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

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Third Twin by C.J. Omololu

When they were younger, identical twins Lexi and Ava made Alicia up to get out of trouble. If something was broken, Alicia did it. As they got older, the girls used Alicia as sort of a safety net for dating wilder boys. Ava only dates boys with potential and money, while Lexi is too focused on school to date, but Alicia has less standards. 

One night, Lexi as Alicia goes on a date with a boy who Ava as Alicia has dated before. He tries to rape her, she fights him off and escapes. Just one day later, that boy turns up dead. It seems like just a meaningless tragedy, then other strange things start to happen. They get sent speeding tickets for Alicia, and receive phone calls for hair appointments for Alicia. Alicia's Facebook page is full of pictures that neither twin took. Someone ends up changing the password and locking them out. Then another of Alicia's dates ends up dead.

Police want to arrest both of the twins, but Lexi takes the blame. They still need to find the killer. Lexi starts to suspect that it might be Ava. After all, Alicia isn't real...or is she?

The Third Twin was a pretty exciting mystery. It's an intriguing concept that kept me guessing through the whole book. Part of me wanted to just flip ahead, but I managed to resist the urge and read the whole thing. It was a fast-paced thriller, and a nice change of pace from what I usually read.

I received my copy of The Third Twin from Netgalley and Edelweiss, courtesy of Delacorte Books for Young Readers. It's available for purchase now.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Red by Alison Cherry

Red is set in the town of Scarletville. In the future, redheads have become incredibly rare because of genetics and stuff. Scarletville is a haven for carrot tops. Anyone with red hair is given preference over blondes and brunettes, even strawberry blondes ("Strawbies," as they call them).

Felicity St. John is one of the most popular redheads at her school. Her mom has been pushing her to win the Miss Scarlet pageant, in fact her family's financial future depends on it. But Felicity has a deep, dark secret. She is really...a strawbie! Her mom has been having her hair dyed at this secret underground salon since she was a toddler.

Her future is jeopardized when Gabby, outspoken brunette and daughter of Felicity's hairdresser, blackmails her. Gabby wants to shake up the ginger hierarchy, so her first demand is a nomination for prom queen. After everyone loses their mind, Gabby demands that Felicity's boyfriend take her instead.

Gabby isn't in the right by blackmailing Felicity, but Felicity is WAY out of line for her retaliation scheme. She plans to reveal the location of Gabby's mom's salon, just destroying her life and Gabby's entire family's lives, including that of Gabby's cute little sister who looks up to her. It's worth it if you win a pageant though, right?

There's also a little side plot where Felicity falls the brown-haired school newspaper editor. He takes her out of town and she sees that the rest of the world isn't like Scarletville, and that might not be a bad thing.

The premise of Red is interesting from a genetics standpoint. The story is really more about using rare hair color as an excuse to be jerks to other people. It's hard to dislike Gabby for what she does, and she is pretty annoying on her own. Felicity, again, really needed to get her priorities straight with what she was doing. It made me really hate her. Red seems as though it should have been fun and bubbly, but it was full of social injustice and inequality. At least it was something to think (and rage) about?

I received my copy of Red from Netgalley, courtesy of Delacorte Books for Young Readers. It's available for purchase now.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A Brief Interruption...

A brief interruption from book reviews to post some pictures of my cats with books:
Miss Gypsy

Mr. Tiger

That concludes this interruption. Thank you. You may proceed with your regularly scheduled business.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

"Imagine knowing everyone in your life would one day have to stop calling you by your name and honor you as their sovereign. It's impossible for that not to erect walls, even subconsciously. But with me that wasn't an issue, and I enjoyed letting Nick be- for perhaps the first time in his life- unremarkable..."

Marrying the prince and living happily ever after seems like a dream. In reality, a relationship with royalty is far more complicated. The Royal We opens on the day before the wedding between ordinary American Rebecca and Prince Nicholas, future King of Great Britain. Our main character, Rebecca, or Bex as she prefers, is being harassed by threatening messages. Her twin sister Lacey bursts in to confess to a mistake, then we flash back to the beginning.

Bex first met Nick when he opened the door for her at Oxford. She left Cornell and her family to study art. She is immediately a part of Nick's circle of friends, but they aren't very close at first. Nick and Bex bond when they run into each other early one morning. Before you know it, they start spending time together in her dorm room, eating Twinkies and Cracker Jacks and watching the American TV show Devour (It sounds like Passions meets Vampire Diaries). They become really close friends, then Bex starts to realize that she actually likes him more than that.

It seems impossible that Nick, future sovereign of Great Britain, could like her back. His ex-girlfriends, and possibly not-so-ex-girlfriends are gorgeous and put together, and everything Bex isn't. His father, Richard, is scary and withholding, and his grandmother is the reigning Queen. Yet, it turns out that he does reciprocate her feelings. Unfortunately, relationships with princes aren't easy. He isn't allowed to tell anyone about their relationship, so they can't be seen together in public. There are still cameras tracking Nick everywhere, and soon tracking Bex too. It only gets worse when Lacey moves to England, supposedly to support Bex. She takes up with Nick's brother Freddie, who never met a girl he didn't want to shag. At first, private moments are enough, but all the tabloid stories, paparazzi, and pictures with old girlfriends make Bex insecure. They are unhappy and they break up.

Bex doesn't react well. She spirals out of control, partying, drinking, and general debauchery. It culminates with her waking up in Paris with her ex-boyfriend Clive, and realizing that she has to get herself together. Bex throws herself into her job, creating a program for underprivileged children called Paint Britain. There's no more late nights out, instead real dates with respectable men. Still, deep down, Bex misses Nick. Maybe, after all this time, Nick is ready to actually be with her.

I love reading Go Fug Yourself and the Fug Girls' books. There are so many shout-outs and inside jokes that it feels like you are in a super special club. The Royal We is (of course) inspired by the courtship of Prince William and Kate Middleton. It provided a lot of insight into what such a high profile relationship must be like. (I don't think that I would be able to take all the scrutiny, but I am always up for a challenge, eligible princes!) Of course, the book is very funny, entertaining, romantic, fun, and all the good things a book like this should be, but it also has some serious moments. It made me cry a lot, but also laugh and squeal in delight. It's just a really good book, it would be a great summer read or beach book, and I hope there's a sequel, maybe with a royal baby?    

I received my copy of The Royal We from Edelweiss, courtesy of Grand Central Publishing. It's available for purchase now.

Monday, March 9, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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.