Friday, December 30, 2016

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

"Stuff and nonsense," he whispered, the words cracking. "Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?"

We all know the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. She has a temper and dislikes white roses. Her husband is tiny and ineffective. Her favorite phrase is, "Off with their heads!"

Heartless gives us a look at her origin story. The Queen was once a young girl named Catherine. She is a Lady, daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove. Her passion in life is baking, and she dreams of opening a bakery with her maid Mary Ann.

Catherine's parents don't approve of her baking. They think it isn't a fitting hobby for a Lady, but it catches the King's attention. He is her biggest fan, and everyone believes that he will propose to Catherine any day. Her parents pressure her into accepting the proposal, but it isn't what she wants. She doesn't love the King, but her mother threatens to fire Mary Ann if she doesn't agree to marry him.

Everything becomes complicated when the King hires a new jester. His name is Jest, and Catherine falls hard for him. They have a moment together in the palace gardens, then Jest invites her out to Hatta's mad tea party. Catherine performs a story for them, impressing them with her rose macarons. The party is broken up by an attack from the jabberwocky, a horrible monster.

After that perfect night, Catherine plans to cut Jest out of her life completely. It isn't proper for a young lady to love a jester, especially not a young lady who is being courted by the King. Yet she can't stop thinking about the handsome young man with the golden eyes. Is it possible for her to get her happily ever after? Honestly, we already know the answer, but it's always good to see how we get there.

I loved Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. Therefore, I was excited to read her new book. Heartless  doesn't have the extra twist that the other books did, by which I mean that it is basically a straightforward reimagining. It's still really great. Catherine was a great character, and I really sympathized with the choices she faced (To an extent...she kind of sucked at the end. I'd say more, but there's some major spoilers involved). It's interesting to read a standalone (I believe?) novel in a new series by Ms. Meyer, and I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

I received my copy of Heartless from Edelweiss, courtesy of Feiwel & Friends. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Unmentionable by Therese Oneill

"Remember, the center of a woman is her uterus. Her crazy, crazy uterus..."

The fabulous Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess, recommended Unmentionable. It sounded really interesting and funny, and I do occasionally read books that aren't kept in the YA section, so I asked my library to add it to their collection. They did, because I have some pull there. Not to brag or anything, but I'm a card-carrying member. (Banter is fun, and I may have been watching too much Gilmore Girls this weekend, because it makes me all babbley.)

Unmentionable promises to tell the dirty secrets behind the scenes of Victorian life. Movies and novels make it seem like a carefree jaunt full of gentlemen callers, dances, feasts, and flattering empire-waisted dresses. The reality was somewhat of a shock, full of crotchless undergarments, chamber pots, and poop in the streets.

Oneill uses excerpts from medical journals and instructional books to show how a well-off Victorian woman lived. These men, women, and men pretending to be women mused upon all aspects of daily life. There was advice on grooming, romance, even that special lady time of the month. It's funny, interesting, and a little bit scary at times. The author's summaries, captions, and comments were always hilarious.

It really does show how far life has progressed. The majority of medical advice back then was that having a uterus was evil, and the only thing to be done for it was to fill it with babies made in wedlock. It was fun to read about grooming and dressing, and the fun of flirtation. The chapter on menstruation was just as awkward as the actual subject, and mostly focused on those evil uteri again. Because if you have difficult periods, you must be an evil sinner. Obviously. The least fun of the chapters was on hysteria, that crazy women disease that comes with having that old uterus (again). Women were locked away in asylums. They had to undergo barbaric treatments and shock therapy, and the symptoms of "hysteria" were actually quite broad and could cover any number of actual maladies.

It can be fun to imagine living in another time, maybe trading in the complications of modern life for a simpler time. Whenever I think of that, though, I remember the freedom that comes from living in modern time that wouldn't have been available to me then. I like being able to vote and go places without a chaperone. I want to wear pants and not be thrown in an asylum! There are a million things to feel lucky for that wouldn't have been possible then. However, I know that there is still a long, long way left to go. It's going to be difficult with our future president, a decidedly anti-feminist political party in control, and a culture that still doesn't seem to understand concepts such as no means no. Maybe there is a little light at the end of the tunnel in the very fact that women went through so much and still persevered? That we have come so far in the time since then? I hope so, and I definitely hope that years from now, we will also be able to look back and marvel at how far we have come. Hopefully, it won't be very many years.

Sorry for so much digression! I highly recommend Unmentionable. It's great as a historical book, and even better as a humor book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

"I know what you're thinking- if you hate it so much and it's such a burden, just lose the weight, and then that job will go away. But I'm comfortable where I am. I may lose more weight. I may not. But why should what I weigh affect other people? I mean, unless I'm sitting on them, who cares?"

Jennifer Niven's All the Bright Places was the first book I read last year, and it was totally fantastic. It also made me sob and cry so much. So. Much. Crying. I can still think of the book even now and start to tear up. Granted, I cry very easily and am experiencing an attack of hormones at the moment, but still. The book resonates.

This brings us to Niven's newest book, Holding Up the Universe. It's alternately narrated by two teenagers, Libby and Jack. Libby used to be the world's fattest teenager. The tipping point came when she had a panic attack and the paramedics had to destroy her house to get her out. Now, she has lost half of her body weight and is about to attend regular school for the first time in years.

Jack seems normal, but he recently realized that he has prosopagnosia. This is a condition where a person cannot recognize faces, even faces of family and friends. This condition caused him to hook up with his girlfriend's cousin (They are physically very similar). If that wasn't enough, Jack also recently discovered that his dad is cheating on his mom with one of the teachers at his school.

Libby's return to school doesn't go very well. She reunited with her old friend Bailey, and befriends fellow large girl Iris. Most of the other kids stare, point, and laugh. Even though Libby isn't as fat as she was, she's still the fattest girl in school. She dreams of being accepted, of joining the school's dance team. A cruel prank puts her in Jack's path, and leads to the two of them being forced to attend detention/counseling. Libby and Jack start to bond. They even sort of like-like each other! He even tells her about his prosopagnosia, and she encourages him to seek help. Their relationship is really sweet and adorable, though there are some challenges and rocky times before the end.

Holding Up the Universe was very good, pretty much just as good as All the Bright Things. Thankfully, it was less emotionally devastating. That isn't to say that I didn't cry, because I almost always cry. I also laughed and swooned a fair bit. As a fellow big girl, it was nice to read about an overweight character. Libby was bold and extroverted, basically the opposite of me. I love her positive attitude and her fearlessness. Jack sometimes acted like a dumb guy, but was really sweet. He was great with his younger brother. There was a little subplot where the brother used to carry a purse to school, and some kids broke the strap. Jack was just so sweet and supportive. It's a nice story about accepting other people and their differences, about bullying and how we should not do that, and also a sweet and funny romance. So, you should read it.

I received my copy of Holding Up the Universe from Edelweiss, courtesy of Knopf Books for Young Readers. It's available for purchase now.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

"I wanted to see behind the masks and see their true expressions, their true beliefs, their true selves. Not just endless lies..."

These Vicious Masks takes place about the same time as one of my previous reads, The Dark Days Club. This one veers more towards Pride and Prejudice meets the X-Men. After reading so much of rules and propriety in the other book, Evelyn's behavior in this book was shocking indeed!

Evelyn and her sister Rose are skilled at nursing the sick and wounded. It's not a proper occupation for a young lady, though their mother tells everyone it is for charity. Rose desperately wants to go to medical school and become a proper doctor. Evelyn just wants to explore the continent.

After a scuffle at a party, the family awakens to find Rose's bed empty. Evelyn is sure that she was kidnapped, pointing out errors in the note she left behind. Her parents don't believe her, admitting that the family is poor. All they have left is their reputation, and Rose most likely doesn't have that anymore. Evelyn sets off to London on her own to confront the man she is convinced has taken Rose.

Thankfully, Evelyn meets up with Mr. Kent, an acquaintance. He snarks with her at dinners on occasion, and seems smitten with her. Kent lets her stay with his stepmother (Who hates her) and sister Lauren (Who loves her). After Evelyn admits the situation, Kent offers his services as a detective to help find Rose. He was kind of weird, but I really loved Mr. Kent. I also loved the boy-crazy, pyromaniac Lauren.

Evelyn also gets assistance from the gothic, glowery Mr. Braddock. He claims that Rose was taken because she has special powers, powers to literally heal. He also thinks that Evelyn has these powers. She doesn't believe him until she sees the evidence before her own eyes.

These Vicious Masks was fairly intriguing. I liked the idea of people in the proper Regency era hiding secret powers from their friends and relatives. I wasn't joking when I mentioned that Evelyn's rule-breaking was a shock. One can have an adventure and simultaneously adhere to the rules of society...though I guess that didn't end up working in Dark Days Club either. This is the first in a series, so it will be interesting to see where the story goes after the way the first book ended. I didn't really care for the ending myself, but I will probably read the next book to see how the story progresses.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

"You deserve this," he continued. "People are evil to the core. That's what the Epics prove. That's why you're dying out..."

In Steelheart, we were introduced to the Reckoners. They are the sole resistance to the Epics, normal people who developed super powers after the appearance of a star called Calamity. David joined the Reckoners to kill Steelheart, the Epic who killed his father.

The second book, Firefight, brought new revelations about the Epics. David encounters Megan again, AKA Firefight. Prof, the leader of the Epics (And also an Epic), is completely overtaken by his powers. David meets Calamity, and it turns out that Calamity isn't a star, but an Epic. There is a whole plan to turn David into an Epic by throwing him at Calamity in hopes that his initial transform will lead him to killing a bunch of people, but he ends up resisting. Megan was almost killed after being confronted with her weakness, but they figured out that by confronting the fear she could overcome it. 

Calamity shows the Reckoners after the devastating events at the end of Firefight. Quick, spoilery recap: Prof went full-on Epic. The remaining Reckoners keep on keeping on. David takes Tia's recon position (Tia was Prof's girlfriend, they haven't heard from her and assume she is dead) as they raid a weapons factory. The factory is run by Prof's old friend Knighthawk, who ends up helping them. Prof, now calling himself Limelight, has taken over a city made of salt that constantly moves around, collapsing and rebuilding itself.

David and the Reckoners plan to confront Limelight with his fears to get Prof back. Knighthawk manufactures tech that can replicate Epic powers through DNA. The Reckoners simply have to get Limelight's DNA, send it to Knighthawk, wait for him to create the tech, then use Limelight's powers against him. Since Prof was most afraid of using his powers and being overwhelmed, he should hypothetically stop being an Epic jerk and turn back into Prof.

They get an unexpected ally when the  Epic Larcener shows up at their hideout. Limelight has been looking for him because of his power to steal abilities and make Epics ordinary again. Limelight doesn't want to make friends, if you catch my drift.

There are, as always, some twists and turns along the way. Overall, I found Calamity to be a pretty satisfying conclusion to the series. Steelheart hooked me from the first sentence, and I've enjoyed my time in the world of the Reckoners.

I received my copy of Calamity from Edelweiss, courtesy of Delacorte Press. It's available for purchase now.

Wax by Gina Damico

"The town of Paraffin smelled of everything.
At the same time. All of the time..."

Paraffin, Vermont is the home of the Grosholtz Candle Company. Because of them, the town smells like a little bit of everything all at once. There are lots of urban legends around the factory, especially about the Hollow Ones. The Hollow Ones are living people made of wax with a flame inside.

Poppy was the pride of Paraffin. She was a hit on the talent show Triple Threat until some misplaced pie and pudding en flambe took her down during a rendition of "The Hills Are Alive." She performed the song with a bleeding head wound and passed out, becoming a laughingstock instead. Now, she is the president of the Giddy Committee, a theater club, and pushing to perfect the Club's Broadway revue.

After a visit to the candle factory, Poppy encounters a strange old woman. Madam Grosholtz was the one who sculpted all the wax figures in the factory's museum, and she warns Poppy of the danger that is coming. She also offers to send someone as protection. Then there is a fire at the factory, in the older parts where Madame Grosholtz worked. She didn't make it out.

Poppy is also surprised when she opens the trunk of her car and finds a very alive, very naked wax figure of a teenage boy. Dud is a lot like a newborn baby. He doesn't understand a lot of things, and he is always learning. Poppy convinces her parents that he is a foreign exchange student that she forgot to tell them about.

Soon, Poppy has to figure out how to save the town. The factory's new owners have been making limited edition candles based on the citizens of Paraffin. Two scents are released a day, and the people each scent is based on are turned into a strange, waxen facsimile of themselves. It happens to the mayor and her son, as well as Poppy's nemesis Blake. Poppy and the Giddy Committee decide to out the revue on hold in order to defeat the wax army and save their town.

I have wanted to read one of Gina Damico's books for a while now, and I'm glad that I finally did. Wax was a lot of fun, and so incredibly funny. I loved the innocent Dud, chipper Poppy, and Poppy's sarcastic bestie Jill. Basically the entire Giddy Committee was fantastic, especially the fact that they are called the Giddy Committee. I love rhymes. If you're looking for a read that will make you laugh out loud, and don't mind some mild horror, then I would highly recommend Wax.

I received my copy of Wax from Edelweiss, courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

“You know it's going to be one of those nights when you start it with moving a body...”

Zoe and her mother moved to a small town after her parents divorced. However, she doesn't plan to stay very long. Her goal is to get into Princeton, and in order to get into Princeton, she plans to transfer to the fancy boarding school near her father's house. A complication messes everything up. The complication is in the form of a boy, though not in the way you'd expect.

Digby just shows up on Zoe's doorstep one day. He's a weird boy and Zoe dislikes him immediately. He seems to pop up wherever she goes, almost getting her into trouble at school. Digby reminded me a lot of Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock. He makes all kinds of deductions about people, all with the same lack of tact. Digby convinces Zoe to partner with him for a special independent project, but they never really do any work. Obviously, this freaks Zoe out to no end because: Princeton.

Instead, Digby wants to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl, Marina Miller. Zoe finds out that Digby's sister, Alice, disappeared years earlier. The entire family was under suspicion, including Digby. The officer who worked on their case now works at their school. He uses his position of authority to harass Digby, and it seems really immoral and possibly illegal. When she learns his entire story, Zoe becomes more sympathetic and helpful. She sees that Digby wants to be known for something other than having a sister who was kidnapped.  

Before I read the book, it had been featured on lists that extolled its humor. I was expecting to laugh out loud, and I really did. I ended up liking Digby a lot, and Zoe was cool in her own type-A way. It was a fun mystery, and I am excited to read the next book in the series, Trouble Makes a Comeback.

I received my copy of Trouble Is a Friend of Mine from Edelweiss, courtesy of Kathy Dawson Books. It's available for purchase now.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

"You see it in all animals- the female of the species is more deadly than the male..."

The Female of the Species is such a great, fantastic book. However, it is not the easiest read. I'm just going to put that out there first thing. It deals with murder, animal abuse, rape, and a little bit of poverty. There are some heavy, aching, soul-crushing moments. Through some sort of writing sorcery, there are also uplifting, sweet, and hopeful moments. I was nervous because I had been on a bright and cheery run, and this one is pretty much the opposite. I read it anyways because I love Mindy McGinnis and because it brings up a lot of important issues.

Alex is best known because her sister was murdered. Other than that, she is mostly invisible. What her classmates don't know is that she killed her sister's murderer. He wasn't convicted, so she took justice into her own hands. She doesn't feel bad about it. There is a darkness inside of her, a darkness she inherited from her father.

Then Alex is pulled out of the dark. The first person to get close to her is Peekay. Peekay, P.K. for Preacher's Kid, has a reputation as a good girl because she is the daughter of the preacher. She works hard to shed the reputation, drinking and committing general debauchery. Alex and Peekay both take a class elective at the animal shelter. They bond over a bag of dead puppies.

The second person is Jack. Jack and Alex are salutatorian and valedictorian of their class. He needs to be valedictorian so that he can get a scholarship, get into college, and get out of their small town. She doesn't care either way because she doesn't plan to go to college. Despite hooking up with his childhood friend, who is now the hottest girl in school, Jack becomes obsessed with Alex. He helps pull her car out of a ditch, and they end up in a relationship.

Unfortunately, Alex can't help her nature. When one of Jack's friends grabs her in fun, she hits him where it counts. At a party, some druggie older kids are about to rape Peekay. Thankfully, Alex is keeping an eye on her friend. She stops them, then proceeds to attack the main perpetrator. Jack doesn't quite realize how bad it is until she shows up at his house, smelling like smoke. One of Peekay's friends just found out that her uncle had been molesting her sister. Then his house was on fire...with him in it. This puts a strain on their relationship, understatement of the century.

On to the difficult's hard to come up with a good seque that leads into these things. There's a bunch of stuff dealing with animals at the shelter and at Jack's after school job where he slaughters cows (I personally have difficulty reading about animal abuse and death, so I have this mantra where I repeat "It's not real, it's not real" over and over to myself. It's effective, though I still cry a bunch). The kids attend an assembly where a police officer talks about rape. There are two attempted rapes depicted in the book. It's hard to read, but important. There's some cool parts about gender equality. At one point, Alex observes some male classmates pretending to fornicate with a ball in gym class. Nobody bats an eye. She speculates what would happen if she were to do the same, and predicts that it would not be dismissed as easily.

But boys will be boys, our favorite phrase that excuses so many things, while the only thing we have for the opposite gender is women, said with disdain and punctuated with an eyeroll...

I always feel as though I do a poor job explaining these things, but I want to emphasize that this book has a lot of importance. It seems like another YA read about a sociopath murderer, but there is so much more to it. You can read an excellent article where the author talks about her reasons for writing the book and including so many difficult topics here.

I received my copy of The Female of the Species from Edelweiss, courtesy of Katherine Tegen Books. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl Gretchen McNeil

"Women are not on this planet exclusively to inspire men and make them happy. We have our own dreams and needs, our own shit to get done. We run companies, countries, international organizations. We're not props, and we're certainly not here to cater to men's egos..."

I wanted to read this book because it sounded cute. Beatrice is about to start her senior year of high school. She is optimistic that everything will be better this year. People will learn her actual name instead of calling her Math Girl. Her friends, the gay comic book loving Gabe and artist Spencer, won't be bullied and beaten up by the jocks. It's also the first time that Beatrice has a boyfriend, Jesse.

Despite such high hopes, senior year starts out the same as every other year. Then she arrives. Toile is weird. She dresses in mismatchy clothes with dumb hats, says weird things, and becomes inexplicably popular. The last straw for Beatrice is when Jesse breaks up with her...and starts dating a girl named after fabric.

Beatrice has been trying to come up with a project on applied mathematics to get into M.I.T. She creates The Formula, a way for her and her friends to succeed at high school. She turns Gabe into Gabriel, a gay stereotype who wears bow ties and suspenders and spouts a catchphrase. Spencer becomes the tortured artist and gets on the radar of the most popular girl in school (Even though he obviously is in love with Beatrice).

Beatrice decides to beat Toile at her own game. She changes her hair and clothes, always wearing two different shoes because that is her "thing." Now she goes by Trixie, and she studies a bunch of movies to learn how to act. Basically, she says loopy things and never acts embarrassed. There is a definite reaction to her new look and attitude. Trixie makes more friends than Beatrice ever did, and they actually know her name. Jesse also pays attention, dropping Toile for Trixie as fast as he dropped Beatrice for Toile.

Despite my hopes, I wasn't all that into this book. Beatrice was kind of slow to realize so many things. She barely talked to anyone else, but complained that they didn't talk to her. She didn't know that Spencer was in love with her even though Gabe kept singing, "Why can't I find a woman like that?" right in front of her. Finally, she didn't know that Jesse was a jerk who was looking for someone to focus on him instead of an actual relationship, and I didn't care for how much Beatrice blamed Toile for her problems when Jesse was the one she should be mad at, and he was so not worth making yourself over for. Toile and Trixie's manic pixie routines were legitimately funny, though, and I would have liked more of that.

I received my copy of I'm Not Your Manic Pixie Dream Girl from Edelweiss, courtesy of Balzer + Bray. It will be available October 18th.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

iZOMBIE 1-4 by Chris Roberson

I am a HUGE fan of the iZombie television show. Before the show premiered, I read an article (Though I cannot remember what it was) that listed the differences between the show and the graphic novels of the same name. Even so, I wanted to read the series myself.

It turns out that the show didn't take much from the graphic novels, aside from a title and the concept of a zombie who eats brains and gains the memories from the brains' owner. There are far more differences, such as:
  • The main character's name: Gwendolyn Price/Gwen Dylan in the comic, Olivia "Liv" Moore in the show
  • Gwen works and lives at a graveyard, obtaining brains from the corpses. My concern had been that the formaldehyde used in preservation would make the brains inedible, but it's actually an organic cemetery that doesn't preserve bodies, which seems odd. Is that an actual thing? She paints the memories she gains. Liv works at the coroner's office and obtains brains there. When Liv eats a brain, she gains talents and personality traits as well as memories.   
  • The universe of the comics contains many supernatural creatures besides zombies, such as vampires, werecreatures, ghosts, mummies, etc. The TV show wisely focuses solely on zombies, though part of me would appreciate the chaos of multiple monsters. 
  • In the comics, Gwen is friends with a ghost named Ellie and a wereterrier named Scott. They were both wisely omitted from the show. Liv's friends from the show: Peyton, ex fiance Major, and coworkers Ravi and Clive are not featured in the comics, but for a reason.
  •  The reason is that Gwen doesn't retain many memories from being alive. Her family and friends believe she is dead, and she doesn't remember them anyways. Liv remembers everything from her former life, and none of her friends and family (Save her boss Ravi...this was written a while ago because now a lot more people know as of the completed second season) know that she died and became a zombie. 
The first book, Dead to the World, introduced the characters. Gwen, Scott, and Ellie were trick-or-treating when they encountered a mysterious man.
You have to appreciate Gwen's Shaun of the Dead

Gwen eats a brain later and discovers that the mysterious man murdered the brain's owner in some sort of ceremony. The man turns out to be a mummy named John Amon who teaches Gwen the nature of zombies. See, there's this whole oversoul and undersoul thing.  Oversoul is the brain: "thoughts, memories, and personality." Undersoul is the heart: "appetites, emotions, and fears." Ghosts are bodiless oversouls. A bodiless undersoul is a poltergeist. Vampires have an oversoul, but drink blood because they lack an undersoul. The opposite, having the undersoul but seeking the memories of the oversoul is the zombie.

Meanwhile, a pair of hunters comes to town and starts to take out the local vampire population. One of them, Horatio, asks out Gwen. This is somewhat distressing to Scott, the wereterrier friend who has a crush on Gwen. I'm going to admit that I don't remember everything that happened and in which book. At some point, Gwen remembers her younger brother. Scott the wereterrier meets him and falls in love with him. The brother makes a pact with a comic book writer to be possessed with the spirit of his character, who is actually real and kind of homophobic, which messes up their relationship (That old cliche again!) Ellie the ghost makes friends with a Frankenstein monster and they end up falling in love. The mummy guy turns out to be kind of evil and a zombie. Also, his former friend has been working on a plan to summon a big bad entity that will destroy the world.

Out of the two, I definitely prefer the TV show. It's more streamlined and funny, though I would probably be super stoked if Rob Thomas brought on a wereterrier. The novels were not completely without their own charms. However, the lack of Ravi was unforgivable.  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

"You may think you know the story. It goes like this: once upon a time, there was a sixteen-year-old girl named Jane Grey, who was forced to marry a complete stranger (Lord Guildford or Gilford or Gifford-something-or-other), and shortly thereafter found herself ruler of a country, She was queen for nine days. Then she quite literally lost her head....
We have a different story to tell...."
My Lady Jane is a VERY loose account of Lady Jane Grey's nine day reign as Queen of England. In real life, Henry VIII had been King, he married Catherine of Aragon, she gave birth to a daughter, Mary. Henry was not pleased with the lack of a male heir, so he decided to put a ring on his mistress, Anne Boleyn. Unfortunately, England was a Catholic nation and divorce wasn't allowed. Ever the resourceful once, Henry decided to start his own church and have all the divorces he wanted. Poor Anne only gave him one daughter, Elizabeth, before losing her head. His third wife finally gave him a son, Edward. After a few more wives, Henry dies and leaves Edward in charge.

Edward grew ill, and it was soon discovered that he would die. To keep England from falling under Catholic control, Edward changed the line of succession. Instead of going to Mary, the crown would go to his cousin Jane. Mary doesn't take it well, raises an army, and takes the throne back. Jane and her husband Guilford end up losing their heads.

My Lady Jane is, somewhat surprisingly, a comedy. Less surprisingly, it accomplishes this by taking a lot of liberties with the actual history. The main players are all the same. The religious war has been replaced with a battle over shapeshifters. E∂ians are humans who can change into animals. There is a party that opposes them, that believes they should all be killed. King Henry VIII surprised his country by turning into a lion to maul an unfortunate messenger. Unfortunately, he has passed away and left the country to his only son Edward. Edward has recently found out that he is ill with the Affliction, and it's getting worse. His chief advisor urges him to name a successor.

The country would normally go to Edward's oldest sister Mary, but she is strongly against E∂ians. His advisor Lord Dudley's solution is to leave the throne to Edward's sensible cousin Jane. Jane would marry the advisor's son Gifford, and the throne would pass to any male heirs that they produce.

Lady Jane Grey is not well known at court. She has a profound love of reading, and a dislike for parties. She's a girl after my own heart. Jane has been engaged several times, and her fiance always fell into some misfortune. She doesn't think that the new engagement will be any different, but the wedding is scheduled to take place in only a couple of days.

Her fiance, Gifford (He prefers G, but I don't), is also not well known at court. He has a pretty good reason, though: he is an E∂ian and spends his days, from sunrise to sundown, as a horse. Unlike other shapeshifters, he can't control his changes. Gifford is in love with Jane from the moment he sets eyes on her, but she thinks that he finds her ugly. Jane is offended by Gifford's "hobbies." He has worked hard to maintain a reputation as a lady's man in court, but it's a front to cover up his terrible secret: Gifford writes poetry which he reads in taverns.

In spite of being prepared for the "special hug" that comes after marriage, Jane and Gifford do not consummate their marriage. Instead, they live together rather tensely. He makes fun of her books, she makes fun of the fact that he is a horse. They bond on their Honeymoon by taking food and supplies to a village that was attacked by rogue E∂ians. When they finally start to like like each other, they find out that Edward has died. Jane is now the Queen of England.

As it turns out, Edward isn't actually dead. His favorite dog, Pet (Short for Petunia) turns out to actually be the daughter of one of the stablehands. Pet informs Edward that Dudley has been poisoning him in order to make him appear ill. Edward manages to escape the turning into a falcon and flying away.

Jane is advised to pass the throne to Gifford, but she refuses. This makes Gifford's father angry and hurts G's feelings a bit. Unfortunately, as Jane is being crowned Queen, Mary is gathering an army to fight her. Soon enough, Jane and Gifford are thrown in the Tower of London waiting to get their heads cut off, and Dudley is at Mary's side. This is basically where the real story ends. Fortunately, this one has a happier ending. 

I really loved My Lady Jane. It's really very funny, and I loved the anachronistic humor (There were constant jokes about things not being invented yet). Jane and Gifford were super cute together, even when they were being kind of infuriating. I may have spent the majority of the book wanting them to just kiss already. At least they fared better than their real counterparts. There was a part where they were locked in the Tower, and Gifford carves Jane's name in the wall of his cell, and I was Googling the real story, and...
I'm not going to lie, this made me sob a little. Aww, poor Gifford/Guildford! Poor Jane. Thankfully, as I said, we get a much happier ending here. My History degree is crying a little bit, but the rest of me is satisfied.

Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat, Volume 1: Hooked on a Feline by Kate Leth and Brittney Williams

I knew Patsy Walker best in the form of Trish on Jessica Jones. Trish is actually really awesome, but I was a little skeptical about the comic. I don't know why I was, because it was absolutely delightful.

The plot involves Patsy putting her life back together after spending some time in Hell. While she was otherwise occupied, Patsy's frenemy Hedy has republished the old comics based on Patsy and her friends. Patsy's mother gave her the rights to the series, and Patsy hasn't gotten any money from the deal.

She could really use the money as She-Hulk had to let her go from her detective agency, and she also has to stop living in the supply closet. Patsy manages to bounce back, befriending a telekinetic almost-villain named Ian and moving in as his roommate. As Hellcat, she manages to fight and then befriend people with powers. This gives her the idea to open a job agency to pair people with powers with employers. It's a good solution, as lots of people with powers don't want to fight or commit crime, they just want to make a living.

It turns out that the people that Hellcat has been fighting are being recruited. A mysterious person has been seeking out people with powers on the internet. They have to prove that they are bad by committing a crime, then they can join the group. This person promises them anything that they need: a car, money for student loans, etc. It's up to Hellcat to stop this villain's evil plot!

Patsy/Hellcat is such a spunky and enthusiastic character, so I loved her. My immediate thought was that I wanted her to hang out with Squirrel Girl. Lo and behold:

I want to hang out with that squad. Hellcat was just as good as my beloved Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and made me laugh just as much. I love the lightness they bring, and I'm definitely excited to have another series to read. I'm also very excited to read the next issues because:
Jessica Jones!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

"I know it can be empowering to some, but I hate that word in all its forms. Survive. Survival. Survivor. Blah! So temporary and meaningless. 'Congratulations! You didn't die! At least not yet! But you will! Oh, trust us, you most certainly will!"

Spontaneous is a book that starts with a bang...literally. A member of the senior class explodes during pre-calc, just bursts into blood and little pieces. A second senior explodes soon after, then a third. The FBI gets involved, and theories of terrorist activity are thrown around. It's all a dead end because the kids have nothing in common. Boys or girls, all different races and body types, the only common denominator is that they were members of the senior class.

Our main character, Mara, is present for several of the explosions. She gets a mysterious text early in the crisis that reads:
You were there for both of them. That must have been invigorating.

So weird, right? The text turns out to have been from Dylan, a fellow senior with a serious reputation. There are two rumors about him: 1. He burned down the local convenience store and 2. He impregnated his ex-girlfriend with triplets. Mara and Dylan start to date; he clears up the rumors and takes her around in his dead father's ice cream truck. They are fairly cute together, though weirdly so.

After so many explosions, no one is any closer to figuring out why the seniors are exploding or how to stop it. The government gathers them all in a tent to do experiments, even hunting down any seniors who skipped town, as well as kids who would have been in their class who moved away. The school had shut down permanently, with intentions to destroy the building. Classes were to resume in a vacant mall nearby, but the seniors weren't invited. Mara decides to take some initiative and set up a school so that her class can graduate. Her parents always phrased it like once they get their diplomas, the explosions will just stop. They manage to get some funding, hire a couple teachers, a lunch lady, and a janitor, and school is back in session.

Even the laziest seniors start to realize that attending school is better than staying home all day. The classes are fun and interesting, the food is gourmet, and the class has become internet sensations. Explosions even stop...until they don't.

This book was pretty funny, pretty weird, and pretty darn difficult for me to write about! Mara was funny and weird, but I thought she was sort of ridiculous when she decided that she caused the explosions. Her best friend was a cool, level-headed girl and I really liked her. I'm probably a terrible person, but the explosions were both really gross to read about and also kind of funny. The ending is more open than I would have preferred, and there were some lulls in the book that lost my attention, but it was still a stellar read.

I received my copy of Spontaneous from Edelweiss, courtesy of Dutton Books for Young Readers. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash

"When you live for stories, when you spend so much of your time immersed in careful constructs of three and five acts, it sometimes feels like you're just stumbling through the rest of life, trying to divine meaningful narrative threads from the chaos. Which, as I learned the hard way this weekend, can be painfully fruitless. Fiction is there when real life fails you. But it's not a substitute..."

Graham and Roxy are best friends. They have been best friends since Graham moved in next door when they were eight. She asked him what Hogwarts house he would be in (Ravenclaw) and he loved her ever since. Now, Graham and Roxy are sixteen. They moved from Harry Potter to comics, especially The Chronicles of Althena*. The two also created their own comic, which Graham writes and Roxy draws, called The Misfits of Mage High.

Graham has decided that he will tell Roxy how he feels at the upcoming New York Comic Con. It seems like fate when it is announced that the author of Althena, Robert Zinc, will be on a panel for the movie adaptation of his series. All Graham has to do is camp out overnight with his friend Casey, convince Casey to give him his ticket for Roxy, then get Roxy to skip school on Friday for the panel. So easy, right?

Unfortunately, Graham's plans implode. After spending the night on the street, the ticket line turns into a mad rush when it opens. Graham and Casey leave empty-handed. Thankfully, they still get to spend time at Comic Con with Roxy and her friend Felicia. It's Felicia's idea to take part in speed dating (A teens session, don't worry). Graham makes friends with a fellow Athena fan (Who managed to get into the panel) named Amelia. To Graham's horror, Roxy meets a handsome British guy named Devin, and they are acting a little too friendly for his comfort.

Poor Graham's Robert Zinc plan fell through, and now he has to witness Roxy flirting with another guy. He expects that things will turn around Saturday, when he planned to surprise Roxy with a John Hughes panel (Graham's deceased mother was a huge John Hughes fan, and Roxy and Graham watched her old movies). It's just his luck that Devin is also there on Saturday, and again sticking to Roxy's side. Our boy then decides that the perfect demonstration of his love is to purchase an original page from Althena from the auction for $500. It's at this point where I started to worry about the kid. Oh, honey, no.

Graham was okay, but sometimes ventured over into "nice guy" territory. He and Roxy have a lot in common, they have been friends for years, and he wants to explore something more. The problem is that he never thought that Roxy might not want that, not to spoil anything. He was also kind of grating when he was upset about Devin. I can't imagine that he had any fun at Comic Con with that attitude, and he really did it to himself.

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love is mostly nerdy fun. I really wish that The Chronicles of Althena was real, because it sounds awesome. I expected that the book would be cute and sweet, full of geeky love. It's much more complicated than that, but in a good way. There's a happy ending, but maybe not the one that you might expect.

*The Chronicles of Althena is a comic series about an alien named Althena whose only knowledge of Earth is what she saw in 80s science fiction films. She often shapeshifts into characters from the movies, though she can't change her earlobe, which is always green. On their first day at the con, Roxy dresses up as Althena as Pris from Blade Runner, and Graham dresses as Althena as Mad Max. 

I received my copy of The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love from Sarvenaz Tash as part of the Spring Young Adult Scavenger Hunt. It's available for sale now.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Down With the Shine by Kate Karyus Quinn

"May all your wishes come true, or at least just this one..."

Lennie Cash has dealt with a lot in her life. Her father is Leonard Cash, the infamous criminal who took her along as he robbed toy stores and Chuck E. Cheeses. Now, teenage Lennie lives with her mentally unbalanced mother and her uncles. The uncles are well known for brewing moonshine, the family business. Because of this, Lennie doesn't have a great reputation at school. Also, if that isn't enough, her best friend was just murdered.

Dylan's murder inspires Lennie to rebel just once. She drugs her uncles and steals three jars of shine to take to the popular Michaela's party. The kids all drink, and Lennie gets them to make the traditional wish. It's all good fun, or so she thought.

It turns out that the wishes, all of the silly, harmless wishes, came true. Her uncles thought that they told her years ago about the powers her family possess (It turns out that there was a silly misunderstanding; her uncle tried to tell her, she thought it was the Sex Talk and said that her other uncle already told her). When they perform the wishing ritual with the moonshine, the wishes actually come true. Because Lennie granted more than three wishes, the powers passed on to her.

Now, everything is a mess. Michaela's party is still going because she wished that it would never stop. Anyone who tries to leave becomes terribly ill. It's a battleground in there. There are gangs of teenagers at war with each other. Most of the wishes were harmless, such as the girl who wanted to be a cat or the boy who wanted to be a sexy old man (Seriously). Then there is the guy who wished to be a giant bat monster, and the surprisingly dangerous boy who wished that everything he touched turned into Cheetos.

Lennie is also dealing with the fallout of two other wishes. Dylan's twin brother Smith made a wish against her, along the lines of wishing that she would get what is coming to her because he blames her for Dylan's death. Lennie told him that he could lead her into Hell hand in hand. Now, Smith has an uncontrollable, painful desire to hold Lennie's hand, and once he does, they are stuck. Meanwhile, Lennie wished that Dylan were alive and safe in her bed. It's up to Lennie, Smith, undead Dylan, and the horribly awesome W2 (Who wished for brass balls and she talked him into steel ones) to save the day and reverse the wishes.

I am a big fan of Kate Kyrus Quinn's books, and Down With the Shine did not disappoint. My favorite part connected the book with her other two:

And then there were his obsessions. The ones he knew of, but couldn't find. A girl who stayed forever seventeen by making a cruel bargain with other girls so she could steal their bodies and their lives, a boy with the power to absorb bullets and magically heal, A girl who grants wishes through moonshine...

Down With the Shine was an inventive fairy tale of a story. I remember mentioning in a review that teenagers probably shouldn't be trusted with magic, and I stand by that statement. At least it's very entertaining to read about the crazy wishes. The story takes a crazy turn towards the end, but I kind of liked it.

I received my copy of Down With the Shine from Edelweiss, courtesy of HarperTeen. It's available for purchase now.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson

"This was so much bigger than the monkey bars. This was the Rebels versus the Empire. This was the Doctor versus the Daleks. This was Ripley versus the Xenomorphs.
This was a real, true, full-scale war..."

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You ended up surprising me. At first, it sort of annoyed me. It's based on Much Ado About Nothing, and the Beatrice (Here, she goes by Trixie) and Benedick (Ben) characters are savage. Every interaction explodes into a fight. In my opinion, it's mostly Trixie's fault. She takes every little comment as an insult and shoots back twice as hard, often going for very personal stuff (His mom leaving his family, his friends turning on him). I'm not saying that Ben is innocent in all this. He keeps up his side of the fight. They just can't seem to get along, they are too different...or too similar.

The kids in the story attend a school for geniuses called Messina Prep, or the Mess. It's highly competitive to the point that the school posts rankings every week. Ben's best friend Cornell is number one, Trixie's best friend Harper is two, Ben is three, and Trixie is four. She vows to change that by the end of the year so that she graduates in third place and can rub her victory in Ben's face. Their rivalry started when he pushed her off the monkey bars and broke her arm, and Trixie will not rest until she wins. 

Things start to change when Harper and Cornell finally get together. They have been dancing around each other for a long time, and he finally asked her to the Harvest Festival. The only thing in the way of their adorable, nerdy love is Ben and Trixie's inability to get along.

At the festival, Harper and Cornell are having such a good time that they end up forgetting about Trixie. She ends up alone in the surprisingly scary haunted house and has a panic attack. Thankfully, a kindly axe-wielding clown escorts her to safety. She actually became attached to her rescuer, to the point that she considers seeking him out as a possible romantic prospect. Imagine her surprise when she finds out that the clown was Ben, and she had been insulting him to his masked face. After that, Ben and Trixie no longer fight. He just ignores her, and vice versa.

In a moment of Shakesperian hijinks, Trixie overhears Harper and their other friend Meg discussing her. They lament how tragic it is that some poor young man is in love with her. There is no way she would ever return the sentiments, she would likely end up mocking him. It could be tragic...he might even kill himself! Who is this poor, lovelorn young man? None other than Ben!

Before, Ben couldn't say a word to Trixie without getting his head ripped off, but now she is civil, even nice. She lets him share her Spiderman umbrella when they walk to class in the rain. She lends him her Buffy comics and he introduces her to Saga. When they were arguing, they got on my nerves, but they made me squee a bit with geek cuteness.

Trixie still isn't ready to tell her friends, or, God forbid, her parents, about her new friendship. Ben buys her a ticket to the Winter Ball and it seems like they might actually be a couple. She buys a new dress, geeks it up, then all hell breaks loose.

Throughout the year, students have been put on academic probation for cheating. It was a couple of athletes and a D&D kid, nobody that they knew well. The Mess is a demanding school, so it's not too surprising. When Jack, twin brother of the class president, is suspended, everyone starts to pay attention. At the dance, Trixie finds out that everything was pinned on Harper. It looks like she framed her classmates for cheating. She is expelled, and Cornell doesn't stand up for her. (This is definitely a better scenario than the one from the play, which involved the Harper character being framed for having sex with a guy who wasn't her fiance. An update was definitely required.) It lands on Trixie to solve the mystery and clear Harper's good name.

Like I said, the book grated me at first, like an episode of  The Big Bang Theory. It's all smart people, Doctor Who, comic books, banter, blah. After I really got into the book, and Trixie and Ben chilled a little, I really loved the story. There were full on smiles and giggles on my end and, of course, happy tears. It's really cute and funny and led to me binge-reading the Saga graphic novels. I highly recommend it!

I received my copy of The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You through the Goodreads First Reads program in exchange for an honest review. It's available for purchase now.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

Stars Above was the final title in my Lunar Chronicles marathon...kind of. I read about half the stories along the way, then finished my project with the remaining stories. The book is a bunch of short stories that don't have a lot of effect on the main series. They're fun, but not strictly necessary.

The stories are:

1. The Little Android
This is a retelling of The Little Mermaid where an android falls in love with a human after saving his life. There is a short appearance by Cinder. This was previously released online.
2. Glitches
We see Cinder first arriving at her new home. I would have liked to have seen more of this, honestly. This story was in the back of my paperback copy of Cinder.
3. The Queen's Army
This one shows Wolf taken from his family to train for Levana's army. The story was in the back of my paperback copy of Scarlet.
4. Carswell's Guide to Being Lucky
Cress asked him about this story, where a young Carswell defends a girl being picked on at school. She thought it showed how good he truly is, but he had ulterior motives. You could get the story by subscribing to Marissa Meyer's newsletter.
5. The Keeper
A new story that shows a little of Scarlet's grandmother, Michelle Benoit, and how she became Cinder's guardian.
6. After Sunshine Passes By
Another new story, it shows a little of Cress' time with the other shells before she is placed on her satellite. 
7. The Princess and the Guard
New, we get to see Winter and Jacin growing up together. We also get to see the sad events that made Winter decide not to use her gifts anymore.
8. The Mechanic
New, it shows Cinder and Kai meeting from Kai's perspective. It's tragically short.
9. Something Old, Something New
A brand-new story that shows a little of what happens after Winter. Someone's getting married!

With this book, the Lunar Chronicles is complete. I really do like these books, and I enjoyed spending a couple months reading them all. 

Winter by Marissa Meyer

“And they all lived happily to the end of their days...”

Finally, we come to the end (Other than Stars Above). You can read the rest of the series here: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Fairest.

Winter is Levana's stepdaughter, cousin to Cinder/Princess Selene. Many Lunars believe that she is the legitimate heir to the throne, and the people love her, so Levana hates her. Winter doesn't use her Lunar gift so she is slowly going mad. In order to get her to break, Levana manipulated her into cutting her face. Winter didn't break, and she still has the scars on her face.

Winter is in love with her childhood friend Jacin Clay. He joined Team Cinder last book, betrayed them at the end, but is kinda on their side anyways. His true allegiance lies with Winter. Winter asks for Scarlet as a pet, and gets to keep the poor girl. They form a strange friendship.

Meanwhile, Team Cinder decides to return Kai. Their new plan is to change the wedding venue to Luna. They will then sneak onto the planet and rally the poor, working class Lunars into fighting Levana. What they don't count on is an outbreak of Letumosis, which we just found out in Cress can infect Lunars now.

So the whole gang is on Luna, reuniting as the story goes. There's some angsty stuff about how far you can go before becoming like your enemy, how much you should sacrifice for the greater good, all that good stuff. We do have a lot of characters at the end, and a lot of plotlines to cover, but I think they are handled well. It was a satisfying conclusion for me, and I'll miss the characters I've come to know.

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Continuing my Lunar Chronicles marathon, I read Fairest. It tells Queen Levana's origin story. We knew about most of the events in the book, we just get to read about them happening first hand.

The book starts just after Levana's parents died and her older sister, Channery, became Queen. Channery was cruel and spiteful. She used her Lunar gifts to hurt others, including her younger sister. Levana always uses a glamor to cover up her appearance, which is covered in scars from a childhood accident. Her sister mocks her, exposes her true self, is generally a bitch.

Levana is still a teenager when she falls in love with a guard. Unfortunately, he is married and his wife is about to have his baby. She dies after childbirth, and Levana uses her gifts to get the guard to fall in love with her. They marry, and his daughter becomes hers.

Not to be outdone, Channery becomes pregnant and gives birth to a girl named Selene, who we come to know as Cinder. Selene and Levana's stepdaughter Winter grow up together. Channery dies from a mysterious illness, leaving Luna for Selene to rule when she is old enough. Levana serves as regent and starts to think that maybe it would be for the best if she was Queen permanently. There's only the problem of her pesky niece in the way...

I hope that Fairest wasn't supposed to make me feel sympathy for Levana, because I didn't. A lot of terrible things were done to her by her sister, but she ended up doing just as many terrible things, if not more. The book did make me wonder about the Lunar powers. Levana saw herself as good, as knowing what's best for those around her. What if she wasn't just controlling those around her, but was also manipulating herself to act worse and worse, to believe that the horrible things were all for the best? I don't know if this has any basis, it just intrigued me.

Cress by Marissa Meyer

At the end of 2015, I challenged myself to read the entire Lunar Chronicles series, according to Marissa Meyer's recommendations. I had hoped to finish the series by the end of the year, but came a little short. I reread Cinder and Scarlet, as well as the novellas in between the books, and managed to finish Cress just after the new year.

You can read my reviews of Cinder and Scarlet through the links. I am somewhat ashamed that it took me so long to read Cress, but that's the way books are: too many titles, too little time.

The Lunar Chronicles is a fairy tale-science fiction mash-up. Cinderella is part cyborg and Red Riding Hood is in love with a genetically modified super soldier. The earth is being decimated by plague and the only salvation is from Lunar (As in from the moon) Queen Levana, who is evil. In the third installment, we meet our Rapunzel, Cress.

Cress is a Lunar, but she doesn't have any powers. (Normally, Lunars can control other people with their minds.) Since Cress can't control or be controlled, she is labelled a shell. Shells are traditionally rounded up and killed, but Cress ended up being sent to live on a satellite. She has all kinds of technological training and hacking skills and she does lots of secret work for her Mistress, Sybil, the head Thaumaturge/bodyguard for Levana.

All Cress thinks about is the world outside her tiny satellite. She watches videos, looks at pictures, and listens to music from earth, dreaming that she might experience earth firsthand. She also develops a huge crush on Carswell Thorne, the cocky criminal who escaped from prison with Cinder. She read about his various crimes through the years and considers him to be misunderstood.

Thorne, Cinder, Scarlet, and Wolf are all traveling on his (stolen) ship the Rampion when they contact Cress to get some hard evidence of Levana's plans (At the end of the first book, Cress had been the girl in the android's file who warned Cinder about Levana's bad intentions towards earth). They decide to rescue the stranded girl, but are interrupted by Sybil. Team Cinder escapes, but Sybil captures Scarlet and takes her back to Luna. They also end up with Jacin Clay, Sybil's pilot. Unfortunately, Sybil sends the satellite plummeting to earth...with Thorne and Cress still on board!

Fortunately, Cress was able to slow their landing, and the pair end up wandering through the desert. Thorne can't see because of the crash, and they have a terrible time between the hunger, thirst, and foot pain. They eventually come across a caravan of helpful people who escort them to a city. Thorne ends up disappointing Cress by gambling and flirting with an android escort, which gives their rescuers the chance to kidnap Cress and sell her to someone buying Lunars.

Meanwhile, the Rampion crew heads to Africa to meet up with Dr. Erland, the secret Lunar. Erland ends up being the guy buying Lunars, and he is also Cress' father. Team Cinder decides to stop the wedding and save earth by kidnapping Kai. There's some minor betrayal, but it all goes off without a hitch otherwise.

I remember the first time that I read Scarlet, it was sometimes hard to follow the story because I had trouble keeping track of whether the narrator was Scarlet or Cinder. It was easier the second read, but I have a bit more trouble with Cinder/Cress here. I am still a fan of Cress and Carswell Thorne is fantastic, so I love this book. We even get a glimpse of Miss Winter towards the end to gear us up for the last book.


Monday, May 23, 2016

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 25, 2016

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 18, 2016

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Revenge & the Wild by Michelle Modesto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three months down...

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

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

The pretty under the cover


Monday, February 29, 2016

Owl Crate February 2016 Unboxing

This is my Owlcrate, yet to be opened.

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

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

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

The Love That Split the World

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

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Calvin by Martine Leavitt

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

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

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

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

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

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