Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Poltergeeks

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

My pick this week is Poltergeek by Sean Cummings. This will be released in October 2012. This is from the new Young Adult imprint by Angry Robots, Strange Chemistry. Ever since I read Zoo City, I have been enamored by Angry Robots and I'm glad they will be publishing Young Adult novels soon. I also think they do a great job with their covers! Of all the YA books coming out from Strange Chemistry, I think this is the one I'm most excited about. 

Summary from Goodreads: 15-year-old Julie Richardson is about to learn that being the daughter of a witch isn't all it's cracked up to be. When she and her best friend, Marcus, witness an elderly lady jettisoned out the front door of her home, it's pretty obvious to Julie there's a supernatural connection.

In fact, there's a whisper of menace behind increasing levels of poltergeist activity all over town. After a large-scale paranormal assault on Julie's high school, her mother falls victim to the spell Endless Night. Now it's a race against time to find out who is responsible or Julie won't just lose her mother's soul, she'll lose her mother's life.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Review: The Year of the Beasts

Author: Cecil Castellucci
Illustrator: Nate Powell
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Pages: 192
Source: Library
Why I read it: Saw this recommended on Clear Eyes Full Shelves' Book Matchmaker and wanted to read it right away. Luckily the library had a copy.
Summary: (from Goodreads)
Every summer the trucks roll in, bringing the carnival and its infinite possibilities to town. This year Tessa and her younger sister Lulu are un-chaperoned and want to be first in line to experience the rides, the food... and the boys. Except this summer, jealousy will invade their relationship for the first time, setting in motion a course of events that can only end in tragedy, putting everyone's love and friendship to the test.

Alternating chapters of prose and comics are interwoven in this extraordinary novel that will break your heart and crack it wide open at the same time.

As stated before, I saw this on another blog and was instantly drawn into the book because of the cover. The cover is amazing. The expression on the girl's face shows her distaste with having snakes for hair and she looks intense and angry. From the blog posting and the cover, it seemed like this book is based on mythology, specifically, Medusa. However, after reading it, that is both true and not true. Spoilers are below!

Tessa and her younger sister, Lulu, find that jealousy begins ripping them apart after Lulu begins dating Tessa's crush. Tessa becomes very jealous and feels like she is losing her best friend and the boy she liked and also sees her sister blossoming into a young adult and gaining attention. At the same time, Tessa is falling for a boy that everyone else thinks is weird and she hides this from her sister and friends. The story culminates in Lulu being killed after they go swimming in the flooded river and the aftermath. The plot was pretty heart wrenching, although I saw it coming once Tessa, Lulu and their friends went swimming.

The book is both graphic novel and prose. It goes back and forth, and the illustrations mirror what is happening in the story. The graphic novel solely focuses on the Medusa story, except Medusa is a high school student. I had trouble figuring out how the graphic novel matched the story, but then towards the end of the book, the illustrations reflect how Tessa feels about herself and her sister. The illustrations also appear to "begin" towards the middle of the prose. Once I understood how the Medusa plot line tied in with the main plot line, it became an effective way to tell the story, but it was a little confusing at first.

I was expecting a little more Medusa and mythology from the book, so I think the cover is a little misleading. The story is mostly Tessa and her feelings, especially her jealousy of her sister and is a coming of age story, albeit, a very tragic one. I did appreciate how Tessa does not really solve any of her problems and is still grieving over her sister at the end. The ending is open ended and the reader does not know what happens to Tessa after her sister dies and after her secret boyfriend rejects her. This can be tied into the myth of Medusa, as Medusa does not have a happy ending either. However, I wish the mythology had been more apparent in the prose.

Overall, I liked the use of Medusa as an exploration of a teen's coming of age, but I feel like this wasn't utilized as well as it could have been. The cover was misleading, not only in the plot, but I was also expecting only a graphic novel.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

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

My pick this week is The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand and illustrated by Sarah Watts. I want to read this book for the same reasons I want to read the book I picked last week, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy. The books seem similar with the creepy schools and the mysteries, but this one seems more old fashioned, especially the cover. Honestly, I can't wait to read both. 

Summary from Goodreads: Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster—lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does, too.)

But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that Mrs. Cavendish’s children’s home is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out . . . different, or they don’t come out at all.

If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria, even if it means getting a little messy.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: A Local Habitation & An Artificial Night

I was going to do separate reviews for these books, but as I read them in quick succession, I am combining the reviews. These books are the second and third books in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. There are 5 so far, and I'm already starting on the 4th one.

A Local Habitation is the second book in the series. It revolves around October Daye trying to solve a series of murders at the county of Tamed Lightning. An Artificial Night is the third book and this one involves Toby going up against one of the "first born" Blind Michael in order to stop him from stealing both human and fae children.

I do like the series so far. I think McGuire does an excellent job of world building. However, I feel like Toby repeats herself too much, especially by the third book, when I have a pretty good grounding of the world so far. Toby remarks several times that in the world of Fae, one must never thank anyone, and that she doesn't want to be a hero. I understand that Toby doesn't want to be a hero, and I think it's a compelling part of the books. She's a reluctant hero and just does what she thinks needs to be done. But the character mentions it too much. I don't dislike her, but she can be frustrating. She goes on suicidal missions with her friends and family worried about her. I understand that she is compelled to go on these missions, but she does it at the expense of her friends and family.

My favorite part of the books is the characterization. I love so many of the characters, especially the Luidaeg, May and Tybalt. Oh and of course Spike, the rose goblin. I have to admit that when Spike accompanied Toby to Blind Michael’s lands in An Artificial Night, I was worried more about Spike than I was Toby. I had to flip to the back of the book and skim quickly to make sure the rose goblin survived! As for Luidaeg, I like her relationship with Toby, but she seemed like more of a hero than Toby did. She was the one helping Toby make it to Blind Michael’s lands and back. And of course, Tybalt! The series needs more Tybalt! He is becoming less of a foe of Toby's and their relationship definitely hints at something else. I've heard he features more and more into the series as it progresses. And I really like May, and developing her own personality beyond Toby's.

I liked An Artificial Night a little more than A Local Habitation. However, I know very little of the mythology behind Tam Lin and the hunt, and had to look up the legend of Tam Lin and I had a better grasp of the book. I do love how McGuire incorporates legend and fairy tales to create her own world.

While the series isn't perfect, I am enjoying it so far and will continue to read it.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy

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

My pick this week is The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy by Nikki Loftin. This will be published on August 21, 2012. I love the description and the cover. They both hint at a creepy mystery. I don't really have much else to write about this as I think the cover says it all. 

Summary from Goodreads: When Lorelei's old school mysteriously burns down, a new one appears practically overnight: Splendid Academy. Rock-climbing walls on the playground and golden bowls of candy on every desk? Gourmet meals in the cafeteria, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? It's every kids's dream.

But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are pretty sure it's too good to be true. Together they uncover a sinister mystery, one with their teacher, the beautiful Ms. Morrigan, at the very center.

Then Andrew disappears. Lorelei has to save him, even if that means facing a past she'd like to forget – and taking on a teacher who's a real witch.

What Lorelei and Andrew discover chills their bones – and might even pick them clean!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Will Sparrow's Road

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

My pick this week is Will Sparrow's Road by Karen Cushman. This will be coming out November 6, 2012, which seems so far away now! Cushman wrote one of my favorite books, Catherine Called Birdy and I'm so excited about this new book and it will be a graphic novel as well! Unfortunately, the cover is a little weird, which is disappointing, considering that I love the cover of Catherine Called Birdy. 

Summary from Goodreads: In his thirteenth year, Will Sparrow, liar and thief, becomes a runaway. On the road, he encounters a series of con artists—a pickpocket, a tooth puller, a pig trainer, a conjurer—and learns that others are more adept than he at lying and thieving. Then he reluctantly joins a traveling troupe of "oddities," including a dwarf and a cat-faced girl, holding himself apart from the "monsters" and resolving to be on guard against further deceptions. At last Will is forced to understand that appearances are misleading and that  he has been his own worst deceiver. The rowdy world of market fairs in Elizabethan England is the colorful backdrop for Newbery medalist Cushman's new comic masterpiece.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday Rewind

This is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish. 

This week is a "Rewind" meaning I can pick any topic I want. I chose Top Ten Childhood Favorites. These books are in no particular order! I like revisiting this topic, as I've always loved to read and my parents even used to punish me when I was a child by not letting me read before bedtime.

The Nina Tanleven series by Bruce Coville - I think my favorite was The Ghost Wore Gray, but I loved all of these books. They center around a girl who can see ghosts and she solves the mysteries surrounding them and their deaths. 

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I did read some of the later ones, but this was always my favorite. I used to pretend to be Laura and and make mud pies. Growing up in West Texas, I think the fact that she lived in a huge woods always appealed to me. And now I live not far from where this book takes place!

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis - I think I read some other books in the series, but I never liked any of them as much as I liked this one. I know a lot of people poo poo this book now because it's a Christian allegory, but when I was little, I didn't realize this and I loved Narnia.

D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'aulaire - I read this book so much when I was a child that my copy is falling apart. I loved the illustrations! I was also very visual, so I actually remember some of my childhood books by the illustrations rather than the plot.

The Monster at the End of this Book by Jon Stone - I was pretty little when this was my favorite, but I would beg my parents over and over to read this to me. I loved it so much! Well, still do!

Are You There God? It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume - My favorite Judy Blume book. I probably read it when I was a little too young, and I think I read the outdated version, so needless to say, when puberty started for me, I was very confused by the "belts!"

The Witches by Roald Dahl - While I've read many of Dahl's books, this was always my favorite. My copy is also completely worn out, I read it so much.

Wise Child  and Juniper by Monica Furlong - I loved the world that Furlong created. It made me want to be a witch like Juniper. I also loved the medieval and British Isles setting. This book probably fueled my love for all thing medieval when I was younger.

Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman - Loved (and still love!) this book about a girl living in the 13th century.

Anything by Shel Silverstein - I especially loved his two books of just poetry, even if I didn't really understand some of them until I was older.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Links Roundup

Thanks to all the book blogs I've been reading, I'm getting overwhelmed with links to click on. I'm going to start posting the most interesting links I find. Some might be old, but are still worth a look.

Upcoming Trends in YA from YALSA's The Hub - I think the idea of a YA Game of Thrones the most interesting.

10 Ways to Support Authors You Love from Jody Hedlund's blog - Some interesting ideas that I hadn't thought of.

Fantasy by Women Who Broke Away from Europe from The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf & Book Review - Wow, this list is so expansive, and since I've been getting into speculative fiction, I like the idea of settings that aren't Europe.

A rant from Stacia Kane on book reviewers and authors. I've read a lot about this topic recently, and as a new book reviewer, I sometimes worry about an author reacting negatively to one of my reviews.

Book Borrowing Etiquette from Literary Exploration. I have trouble lending out my books, because of these kinds of issues.

On not judging book choices from Clear Eyes Full Shelf. I know I have been bad in the past for judging people for what they read, but since I've discovered genre fiction, I've loosened up considerably. And I don't call any of the books I read "guilty pleasures" anymore.

This post from Readventurer about adult book series the bloggers made me realize how I need to get on reading Native Star. And glad I only read the first Sookie Stackhouse book.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Retro Friday: Rosemary and Rue

Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc. Everyone is welcome to join in at any time! (From Angieville)

Summary from Goodreads: October "Toby" Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a "normal" life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas...

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening's dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening's killer.

This book isn't maybe the oldest or most under the radar books I could have chose, but I chose it anyway. I first heard about this author and this series on the Black Phoenix Alchemy forum. Seanan McGuire is a member over there and there is a whole thread dedicated to her books. I have been getting into sci fi/fantasy recently and have yet to read an urban fantasy. From all the glowing recommendations over at the BPAL forum, plus good reviews for the series on blogs like Fantasy Book Cafe, I thought I would give it a try.

The description on the back of the book made it hard for me to want to read it at first, however. I find that faeries have been watered down so much, that reading about faeries doesn't really appeal to me. I was hoping that McGuire went down the route of the traditional faeries, before they became like Tinkerbell. I wanted the faeries to have some edge and not just be light and happy pixies.

The story follows October (Toby) Daye, a half fairy, half human changeling. She was a private investigator for a member of the fairy nobility, and due to the drawbacks of a position like this, she was exiled in a pond as a fish for 14 years. The book begins not long after she has been transformed back into herself. Toby wants nothing to do with the faerie world, not surprising considering her past experiences. However, she is drawn back into the world, when an acquaintance/friend, Countess Evening Winterrose is murdered and Toby is the last person she calls. Toby is forced to investigate the crime and find the culprit, otherwise her own life may be in danger.

I had mixed feelings about the book. I did enjoy it, but there was a lot of info dumping from Toby and explanations of how the world worked. McGuire did a good job creating the world, but over half of the book felt like explanations of how the world functioned. The book is in first person, and it seems a little odd that Toby would be explaining things that are second nature to her, but I realize that McGuire has to set up the world. It wasn't until the end of the book that the action really started. There is a lot of build up and not enough action. I did like the world building, despite the info dumping. I loved all the little details that McGuire added, such as cats being in tune with the faerie world and the rose goblins. I really want a rose goblin after reading this book!

However, I have heard that the later books are excellent, so of course, I picked up the sequel, and I'm liking it so far, especially now that all the exposition on the world is mostly over.

I loved the characterization. Toby isn't a perfect character and even though she is a half faerie, she struggles with magic to the point that it can be crippling. My other favorite character is Tybalt. I have heard he features even more into the later books and I can't wait! Even Dare, a very minor character that dies, was well developed and I felt a little twinge of sadness when I realized she wasn't going to make it to the next book. I also liked how San Francisco was a character.

As said before, I'm on the second book and I can't wait to see where McGuire goes with these characters. Again, I love her characterization in the second book, and the ability McGuire has to make "monsters" likeable.