Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Nightshifted

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature at Breaking the Spine.

My pick this week is the upcoming book Nightshifted by Cassie Alexander. This will be released on May 22, 2012.

Summary: Nursing school prepared Edie Spence for a lot of things. Burn victims? No problem. Severed limbs? Piece of cake. Vampires? No way in hell. But as the newest nurse on Y4, the secret ward hidden in the bowels of County Hospital, Edie has her hands full with every paranormal patient you can imagine--from vamps and were-things to zombies and beyond...

Edie's just trying to learn the ropes so she can get through her latest shift unscathed. But when a vampire servant turns to dust under her watch, all hell breaks loose. Now she's haunted by the man's dying words--"Save Anna"--and before she knows it, she's on a mission to rescue some poor girl from the undead. Which involves crashing a vampire den, falling for a zombie, and fighting for her soul. "Grey's Anatomy" was never like this...

Why I picked it: I've never read any Urban Fantasy, but I've wanted to get into it for a while. This one seems a little cheesy, but I'm intrigued by the idea!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Book Review: Laika

Author and Illustrator: Nick Abadzis
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Release Date: September 4, 2007
Pages: 208
Source: Borrowed from the library
Why I read it: I wanted to read more about Laika and the Soviet Space Program.

What I thought: This book had popped up as a recommended book on Goodreads a while ago, but I ignored it, and maybe I should have, because learning about Laika has been very heartbreaking for me.

I first learned about Laika this week and scoured the internet to find all the information I could about her. There's not much, unfortunately, but I thought I would read this book, since I heard it was well researched, even if not everything in the book was true. She was the first dog and first living creature put into space/orbit. Unfortunately, because of political pressure, the engineers in the program didn't have enough time to formulate a plan to bring her home and she died in space after a few hours. This book is about Laika, her fictionalized keeper, Yelena, Korolev, the chief designer of the Soviet Space Program and Gazenko, one of the scientists involved with Laika.

Laika gets a back story, and while this is obviously speculation, we can never imagine Laika's life before she was in the space program, these scenes were really tearjerkers for me. I thought I would not like the back story, but I think it added something to the overall story. Because there is not a lot of information on Laika, there has to be some speculation. I liked the scenes where she flew in people's dreams. Like she was already ready to meet her destiny. Not to say that I enjoyed her death, but I thought the scenes of her flying, in dreams and in space were beautifully rendered and captured her spirit.

The character of Yelena and her relationship with the dogs was a big tearjerker for me, too. I like how Abadzis didn't anthropomorphize Laika, but had Yelena speaking for her. All animal lovers do this to an extent and I read an interview with Abadzis where he made this point as well, that we as humans project their emotions and experiences on animals. The trust between her and Laika was heartbreaking, as well. I think the afterword put it best, "the personal stories, both canine and human, that bring Laika alive as a meditation on the meaning of destiny and the fragile beauty of trust." That, to me, is what the book was about. Korolev and Laika both had a destiny and Laika trusted her keepers and they sent her on a one-way ticket to space. Not to criticize the scientists, as at least one of them, Gazenko, regretted the experiment. They really were doing something they believed was for the good of science, but I think the book shows how they grappled with it, that maybe it wasn't an easy decision for them.

As stated before, I liked the depiction of her flying into space, while it was sad, I think it also depicted that she finally had a sort freedom as she flew into oblivion. And when she and Sputnik II returned to earth, she left a mark. I thought ending with the blackness was beautiful and it contrasted nicely with the opening all in white.

Overall, this book was amazing. I think Abadzis captured all the conflicting emotions about Laika and the Soviet space program. I cried through most of the book.

A quote from Gazenko captures everything best: "Work with animals is a source of suffering to all of us. We treat them like babies who cannot speak. The more time passes, the more I'm sorry about it. We shouldn't have done it... We did not learn enough from this mission to justify the death of the dog."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Book Review: Freedom! (Miss Annie)

Author: Frank Le Gall
Illustrator: Flore Balthazar
Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
Release Date: March 1, 2012
Pages: 48
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Why I read it: I love cats.

What I thought: When I first saw this pop up on NetGalley, I knew I had to read it right away. I don't like to make comparisons to other books, but it made me think immediately of Binky the Space Cat. I loved that book, and thought I would like this one, too. Unfortunately, it wasn't as great as I had hoped.

The book is a short graphic novel following the adventures of Miss Annie, who wants so badly to go outside.

I looked up this book and author and it looks like this was previously published in France in 2010. I don't know if something was lost in translation, but the dialogue fell a little flat for me. I would have liked it better if it was written in 3rd person rather than 1st person. The plot was almost non-existent. Miss Annie wants to go outside, meets a mouse, goes outside and then comes back. It could have been a little meatier. The relationship between Miss Annie and the mouse could have been explored more, and what Miss Annie learns when she goes outside. And maybe more suspenseful, with all of the dangers lurking outside. At one point, when Miss Annie is outside, she is chased by a ferocious looking dog, but there was no suspense or sense of danger! I also didn't really like the family. Yes, I have cats, and sometimes they are annoying, but Miss Annie's family didn't seem to like her very much at all.

However, after all that negativity, I thought the illustrations were adorable. Obviously the illustrator is great at capturing felines and is most likely a cat lover. I thought the illustrations of the people weren't as well done, but were made up in the illustrations of the animals. When I first read the book, I didn't realize it was originally published in France, and I wished that could have been illustrated more in the book.

Overall, I thought the illustrations were very cute, but the plot and execution were lacking. I give this book 2 stars: It was OK.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Blackbirds

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly feature at Breaking the Spine.

My pick this week is the upcoming book Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig. This will be released on April 24, 2012.

Summary: Miriam Black knows when you will die. She’s foreseen hundreds of car crashes, heart attacks, strokes, and suicides.

But when Miriam hitches a ride with Louis Darling and shakes his hand, she sees that in thirty days Louis will be murdered while he calls her name. Louis will die because he met her, and she will be the next victim.

No matter what she does she can’t save Louis. But if she wants to stay alive, she’ll have to try.

Why I picked it: Wow, what can I say, I LOVE the cover. And the description is pretty compelling, too, but that cover! WOW!