February 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: House of Shadows and The Lost Girl

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's picks:

House of Shadows by Rachel Neumeier

Goodreads' description:

"Orphaned, two sisters are left to find their own fortunes.

Sweet and proper, Karah's future seems secure at a glamorous Flower House. She could be pampered for the rest of her life... if she agrees to play their game.

Nemienne, neither sweet nor proper, has fewer choices. Left with no alternative, she accepts a mysterious mage's offer of an apprenticeship. Agreeing means a home and survival, but can Nemienne trust the mage?

With the arrival of a foreign bard into the quiet city, dangerous secrets are unearthed, and both sisters find themselves at the center of a plot that threatens not only to upset their newly found lives, but also to destroy their kingdom."

Bards, mages, dangerous secrets and a pair of orphaned sisters? Sounds like my kind of read! (It looks like this one is an adult, not YA, fantasy, by the way.)

The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

Goodreads' description:

"Eva's life is not her own. She is a creation, an abomination - an echo. Made by the Weavers as a copy of someone else, she is expected to replace a girl named Amarra, her 'other', if she ever died. Eva studies what Amarra does, what she eats, what it's like to kiss her boyfriend, Ray. So when Amarra is killed in a car crash, Eva should be ready.

But fifteen years of studying never prepared her for this.

Now she must abandon everything she's ever known - the guardians who raised her, the boy she's forbidden to love - to move to India and convince the world that Amarra is still alive.

I featured The Lost Girl on the blog back when it had no cover or official synopsis. Now we have a more detailed description and a cover! The Frankensteinian element to this one should make things interesting. Plus, it's set in India, thus filling one of my gaps in YA!

What books are you waiting for?

February 28, 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight: A Snapshot


"Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. She's stuck at JFK, late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon to be step-mother that Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's in seat 18C. Hadley's in 18A.

Twists of fate and quirks of timing play out in this thoughtful novel about family connections, second chances and first loves. Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.
" (from Goodreads)
The subject: a chance meeting at an airport, which turns into something more. The cuteness of Hadley and Oliver's interactions will make you smile, but prepare yourself for a good dose of wish fulfillment. Oliver seems a lot like he's constructed to be the dream guy for female contemporary YA readers, right down to the crooked smile. The story unfolds a lot like a fluffy rom-com movie would, complete with (somewhat contrived) meet-cute and misunderstanding.

The setting: the first little bit is set in the airport, the next is set on the plane, and then a good chunk of it is set in London. There's a real truth in how their interactions on the airplane are depicted. I completely agree about flights breaking down inhibitions between strangers; it can feel as though you're in a different world when you're so far above the ground.

Shutter speed: rather slow. It all takes place in the span of 24 hours (a good part of the book's hook, really) and so it moves quite sluggishly. There are a lot of flashbacks padding the real-time plot and unfortunately killing the momentum without adding that much.

What's in the background? Family issues for both Hadley and Oliver. I have the feeling these were at least partly introduced in an effort to give a bit more "depth" to the characters and the storyline. The attempt is somewhat more successful in Oliver's case — his strained relationship with his father entices the reader to want to know more — than Hadley's, whose anger over her parents' divorce and her father's remarriage feels pretty generic and cliché.

Zoom in on: England! Seriously, it's set in London so why not showcase the British atmosphere more? A dollop of British culture would definitely help the story come to life. (Admittedly, Hadley does spend less than 24 hours there, but still.)

Anything out of focus?  The writing style of 3rd-person present tense was very unusual. I don't know that I've read a book in that combination of POV and tense, and it was rather distracting. Maybe this is just me?

Also, I wish there'd been at least one character who remained unapologetically reprehensible in some way. They all end up being nice, "good guys," and there's no one with a really strong personality. Overall it ends up feeling too happily-ever-after, with not enough substance to keep it from being a rosy version of reality.

Ready? Say... "Awwww..."

Click! 3 shooting stars. This book is cute, yeah, but not really much more than cute. Still, Smith has a way of capturing life's small moments or reflections in a relatable way that makes you go, "Yes, that's exactly what it feels like" or "I completely understand what she means here." Overall, though, it just feels a bit bland...it needs something extra to push it to another level and make it shine.

Disclaimer: I received this book for review from the publisher.

This book counts towards my goal for the Just Contemporary reading challenge

February 26, 2012

In My Mailbox (47)

In this meme, hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, we share the books we've received, bought or taken out from the library. This post covers the past couple weeks.

For review:

A Witch in Winter by Ruth Warburton – thanks to Hachette Books UK (especially for sending a second copy when the first one never reached me!)

 Thief's Covenant by Ari Marmell — thanks to Prometheus Books!

From the library:

Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception by Pamela Meyer (yes, I do very occasionally read non-fiction books — particularly those relating to psychology in some way)

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

February 24, 2012

Picture the Dead: A Panoramic Review (Blog Tour)

"A ghost will find his way home.

Jennie Lovell's life is the very picture of love and loss. First she is orphaned and forced to live at the mercy of her stingy, indifferent relatives. Then her fiancé falls on the battlefield, leaving her heartbroken and alone. Jennie struggles to pick up the pieces of her shattered life, but is haunted by a mysterious figure that refuses to let her bury the past." (from Goodreads)

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin, illustrations by Lisa Brown

One sentence sum-up: an absorbing Gothic mystery that immerses you in its pages.

My reaction: I really enjoyed Picture the Dead. I'd been having a bit of a reading slump and this book made me go, "Yes! This is the kind of writing and thoughtful plotting I've been looking for!" 

The heart of this book is not a romance, it's a mystery. Now, I was reading extremely carefully and actively trying to solve it (which included flipping back to previous pages and double-checking information...no, I am not above doing that!), so I actually was able to guess the important secrets. I felt pretty vindicated about that because I didn't used to be particularly good at figuring out mysteries! In the case of Picture the Dead, though, I think if you weren't trying very hard to piece everything together, you probably would be surprised by the ending.

I thought the characterization was quite distinctive overall, helped along by the portraits we are given in the illustrations. Jennie is a sympathetic heroine, naïve but fairly practical (except for the whole believing-in-ghosts thing) and sometimes even cynical. She doesn't show a lot of emotion outwardly but it's clear that she loved Will. I liked her inquisitive nature because it didn't seem forced on the reader. Some authors like to make their characters curious in an in-your-face kind of way, but Jennie wasn't like that; she was pretty clever in how she went about gathering information, rather than doing something stupid just to be "inquisitive." Even though her naïveté bothered me at times, she's genuinely a good person and I really wanted her to discover the truth. 

Quinn's entrance back into Jennie's life is really what sets the story going. He presents quite the fascinating character — apparently suffering from emotional trauma related to the war (he's got the whole wounded-with-a-tragic-past thing down cold) and very angsty. The awkward tension between him and Jennie from the beginning, coupled with her mourning of his brother, her fiancé, makes the whole situation feel very Gothic. 

Also, the aunt is really annoying in a funny kind of way; she's so ridiculous, so horrible and self-centered that she's almost one of those characters you love to hate. I wish we'd seen more of Toby and Will, to get a stronger sense of their personalities and their relationships with Jennie. We don't get any sense of closure with either of them, unfortunately. And Toby in particular didn't seem to really play much of a role in the story at all, despite the fact that Jennie was convinced from the start that he was "haunting" her.

There's a real coming-of-age at the end, which was gratifying to see. Spoilers, highlight to read: I like that Jennie finally takes a stand for herself at the end, becoming independent of her aunt and uncle and beginning to live her life on her own terms. Even though there's no romantic happily-ever-after, Jennie does in a sense get her happily-ever-after by escaping her family.

Best aspect: the mystery plot. It plays on an assumption a casual reader probably wouldn't think to question, and I love that it's crafted like that right from the start, rather than haphazardly thrown together as the story progresses. It's well-paced, the pieces gradually coming together, with a kind of creepy mood...you end up feeling like you can't trust anyone! Towards the end it does seem like it's getting dragged out, but I think that was partly just because I was frustrated because I wanted to know the truth.

The snippets we're shown of "photos" and letters also add a lot to the reading experience and flavour of the story, making it stand out and feel more real. The pictures really helped enhance the Southern Gothic atmosphere. I wasn't a fan of the illustration style at the beginning (and originally I thought there would actually be vintage photos, so I was a bit disappointed about that) but I grew to quite like the tritone effect. Interestingly, the art manages to convey both a historical and a modern feel in a way. I found that the illustrations were occasionally misleading, as they don't always match the text 100%, but a word to the wise: if you're anxious to solve the mystery, don't underestimate the importance of some of these "extras."

If I could change something...  The major thing that niggled at me with this book was the way the paranormal element was portrayed. It didn't really seem to fit with the rest of this historical, factually-based story. We aren't given any rules or limitations to the supernatural, and the uncertainty surrounding the hints of ghosts was frustrating for me. This might be more a matter of personal taste than the actual story, I don't know, but I thought using the supernatural to explain certain clues just seemed too easy. Spoilers, highlight to read: I wanted there to be a rational explanation for all the hints, that did not involve any actions on the part of spirits from the beyond. We never actually get to meet Will or Toby, so we're not at all privy to their intentions or motivations, and their existence is never actually proven. Rather, we have to take it on faith just like Jennie does — and I wasn't buying it.

This also contributed to an unsatisfying climactic scene, since there is a vague paranormal element involved that plays a crucial role. To me it felt like a cop-out, too convenient a solution after the big build-up. I really wish we'd had a bit more explanation here! I wanted to see Jennie play a more active part in saving herself. 

Just one more thing I want to mention: I like that it's different from many other YA books set in this time period because it takes place in the U.S. rather than England. However, I had trouble remembering that this was the setting and kept thinking the soldiers were fighting in WWI in Europe. Had to keep reminding myself that it was the American Civil War instead! A few more city names and war details might have helped ground me in the time and place a bit more (also, a map would have been nice).

Read if: you enjoy intelligent mysteries, twisted love triangles, photography mediums, Gothic atmosphere, and ghostly signs.


I take the print hungrily and resolve to add it to my collection once Uncle Henry is out at his office. Will looks so alive that I cannot believe he isn't anymore. I remember precisely the expression on his face when he used to kiss me, the way his eyes had searched mine, those lips on my skin, his fingers tracing the outline of my chin and neck, sketching my body. Even the memories can turn my insides molten.


Final verdict: 4 shooting stars. This is the second Adele Griffin book I've reviewed, and although I'm giving it the same rating as I did Tighter, in terms of the actual reading experience I preferred Picture the Dead.

Disclaimer: I received this book for review from the publisher.

February 22, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Waiting Sky and Zoe Letting Go

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's picks both have a psychological element to them (and could possibly work for my Psychtember event!)

The Waiting Sky by Lara Zielin

Goodreads' description:

"Seventeen-year-old Jane can’t quite face her mother’s alcoholism even though it sucks to spend all her time and energy keeping them afloat—making sure her mom gets to work, that the bills are paid when there’s money to pay them, and that no one knows her mom is so messed up. But when Jane’s mom drives drunk almost killing both them and Jane’s best friend, Jane can no longer deny her mom is spiraling out of control. Jane has only one place to turn: her older brother Ethan, who left years ago to go to college. A summer away with him and his tornado chasing buddies may just provide the time and space she needs to figure out whether her life still includes her mother."

A book about stormchasers? Awesome! And I love the richness of the blue in the cover.

Zoe Letting Go by Nora Price


Goodreads' description: 

"While at a clinic receiving treatment for anorexia, Zoe is instructed to write letters. Through letters, she tells her mother and brother about the clinic; the doctors, the food, her struggle to get better. But she tells her best friend Elise about the strange goings on around her, the shady relationships, the dark mysteries. When the lights go out, the place turns into someplace else.

While her mother and brother write back, their letters filled with cheerful encouragement—Zoe’s letters to Elise remain unanswered. As Zoe struggles to understand why her best friend would cut her off, she must unravel the secrets that surround her in the clinic.

It sounds like there's a bit of a mystery to this one as well as the anorexia storyline. Shady relationships and strange goings-on? Kinda creepy...
What books are you waiting for?

February 21, 2012

The Glass Demon: A Snapshot

The Glass Demon by Helen Grant

"The first death: Seventeen-year-old Lin Fox finds a body in an orchard. As she backs away in horror, she steps on broken glass. The second death: Then blood appears on her doorstep – blood, and broken glass. The third death: Something terrible is found in the cemetery. Shards of broken glass lie by a grave. Who will be next? 

As the attacks become more sinister, Lin doesn’t know who to trust. She’s getting closer to the truth behind these chilling discoveries, but with each move the danger deepens. Because someone wants Lin gone – and won’t give up until he’s got rid of her and her family. Forever." (from Goodreads)
The subject: a set of stained-glass windows that seem to be connected with a series of deaths and the rumor of a demon...

The setting: a small village in Germany in the present-day. (Points for a setting outside the U.S. or Britain!) Some of it feels Gothic, though — in the best sense.

Shutter speed: steady. It's not a thrilling page-flipper, but the mystery builds continually as one creepy event after another occurs. The pattern of events turns out to be pretty neat in a disturbing kind of way.

What's in the background? The characterization of Lin. She's not the most likeable character, but she's got a great voice with a snarky sense of humor that brought a much-needed lightness at times. Lin also manages to keep a cool head in a crisis, which I admire since I would totally panic in some of the situations she faces. However, she's very self-centered and hypocritical; she blames her father for breaking a promise, but she does the same thing more than once. What I really couldn't respect about her was her manipulative and opportunistic treatment of Michel (it takes her the whole book to come to her senses and realize his value). 

Zoom in on: the interpersonal problems within Lin's family, particularly her relationships with her sister and father. I would've liked to have seen more of Polly and the story behind her anorexia; it seems like it may have been mainly used as a plot device.

Anything out of focus? The villain reveal and climactic scene. I was suspecting someone else through most of the story but wasn't wowed by the actual villain, and the climax became too over-the-top to be realistically scary, resulting in something more farcical in nature than I think was intended.

Ready? Say...  "Bonschariant!"

Click! 3.5 shooting stars, and a warning: if you get spooked easily, don't read this book late at night!

Note: there is a bit of mature language in this one.

This book counts towards my goal for the Just Contemporary reading challenge.

February 18, 2012

Cross My Palm: Paranormal YA

This is a series of posts I'm doing discussing current trends in YA genres and what might be in store for the future. This is just based on my own observations of books and what I've seen publishers/authors/other bloggers talking about.

This week, it's paranormal YA. (For the previous posts on contemporary, sci-fi/dystopian, and historical YA, go here.) I was originally considering combining this with YA fantasy, since there is a lot of overlap and paranormal is arguably a sub-genre of fantasy. But this post would be absolutely mega-huge if that happened, so I'm doing the more paranormal side of things in this post, and the next post will be for other aspects of fantasy.

  • Books with a multitude of different kinds of paranormal beings are gaining steam. The Hex Hall and Paranormalcy series, both of which have done very well, are prime examples. There's also the Shadow Falls series by C. C. Hunter and the Winterhaven series by Kristi Cook. (Boarding schools definitely seem to be a fad here too — a convenient way to get a bunch of different paranormal beings all in the same place at the same time!)

  • Vampires and werewolves are still holding steady. Unfortunately. The genre is saturated with poor Twilight knock-offs (and Twilight is not exactly the highest quality literature...) This is not to say there aren't some well-written vampire/werewolf stories to be found, but rather, that there are enough, period. But they seem to keep on coming. 2012 releases include The Savage Grace by Bree Despain, Taken by Storm by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa, The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead, Stolen Nights by Rebecca Maizel, and Rivals and Retribution by Shannon Delany.

  • Angels and demons are battling...for the most shelf space. Be it pure angels, "dark" or "fallen" angels, demons, or a mixture, books featuring these messengers of good and evil are obviously being snatched up by readers. Angels are really "hot" right now, more so than vampires or werewolves, I'd say. We've got these 2012 releases to anticipate: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand, Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick, A Want So Wicked by Suzanne Young, Wings of the Wicked by Courtney Allison Moulton, Angel Fever by L. A. Weatherley, The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff, and Last Rite by Lisa Desrochers. Plus, Australian author Jessica Shirvington's Embrace is being released this year in North America.

  • Ghosts are kind of like jeans: tried and true. While they're not "trending" most of the time, there always seem to be a few ghostly stories you can pick up if that's what you're looking for. Upcoming releases include Arise by Tara Hudson, Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake, Glimmer by Phoebe Kitanidis, and The Vanishing Game by Kate Kae Myers.

  • Mermaids and sirens are doing just swimmingly (sorry, couldn't resist!) I think these have a similar draw for readers that angels do, but instead of floating around in the celestial heavens, they're submerged in deep waters. We're talking books like Of Poseidon by Anna Banks, Just For Fins by Tera Lynn Childs, The Vicious Deep by
  • Quoth the raven, "There'll be more." All right, so I'm paraphrasing a little. Nevertheless, Edgar Allen Poe seems to be the next literary great whose poems authors are retelling or incorporating into their YA paranormal stories. The second of Kelly Creagh's Nevermore series, Enshadowed, is releasing this year, as is Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin. Annabel by Mary Lindsey is scheduled to be published in 2013. Obviously we're still just at the beginning of a potential trend, but I think given the penchant for dark, creepy paranormal elements many YA readers currently have, that Poe will fit in very nicely here.

Just generally, paranormal YA is thriving. I'd say it's probably equal to dystopian YA in popularity, and certainly more so than the other categories — historical and contemporary YA — that I discussed in previous posts. It was difficult to pick out trends in this genre simply because there is so much of everything being offered right now.

What are your thoughts on trends in paranormal YA? Do you think the demise of vampire/werewolf stories will happen anytime soon? Will mermaids take over for angels? Are these Poe books just a fluke, or do you think they are the start of something big?

February 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Guitar Notes

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's pick:

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

"A heartwarming story about an unlikely friendship forged between a straight-A, classical musician and a bad-boy guitar player told through notes, lyrics, texts, and narration."

I sing and play guitar, so I'm often interested in books that feature musicians. The format sounds quirky, and I admit to sometimes being a sucker for a fictional good girl–bad boy romance :D

What books are you waiting for?

February 13, 2012

"New Adult" Niche: Guest Post by Jessica Lawlor

To tie in with the "New Adult" challenge I'm running throughout the year, I'm asking some bloggers to guest post about issues relating to this category/reading demographic. Thanks very much to Jessica from Cover to Cover for being my first guest blogger!

JessThis post by Jessica Lawlor originally appeared on Cover to Cover on July 26, 2011. It has been edited for this blog post. The original post can be found here.

In the midst of all of the great YA and adult books I’ve been reading lately, for some reason, I’ve felt a nagging feeling that something was missing. Of course, I’m enjoying the books I’m reading, but I’ve been longing for a book that I can’t seem to find…a genre of books that I’m not even sure exists at the moment. And if it does, it’s certainly not getting the attention it deserves. Finally I figured it out. I want to read a book about someone who I can 100 percent relate to. I want to read a book about a girl in her 20′s trying to figure out where she fits in in the world. This got me thinking, where are all the books for twenty-somethings?

While I love YA books and adult books, I can’t help but feel like an entire demographic is missing. I’ve yet to come across a really great book about someone in their 20′s dealing with the issues twenty-somethings deal with; their first couple of years out of college, starting their first real jobs, finding an apartment, dealing with issues of drifting friendships, relationships starting to get serious…the list goes on and on.

Of course, I’m clearly sensitive to this issue since I am 23 years old. Smack in the middle of YA books and adult books. Not quite in high school anymore, but not quite ready to get married and have babies. In most of the books I’ve read lately, the characters are either in high school or are in their late 20′s, early 30′s or even 40′s. Where are the people in their 20′s? Hiding out until their 30′s?

I can name exactly ONE book that I’ve read where the main character was a college student (and I won’t even name the book because I couldn’t finish it). This is a problem. Many of us turn to books because we’re looking to relate to someone, anyone, who we can relate to. An entire group of people (a group notoriously in the news for never wanting to grow up) is being neglected. We could probably benefit from books about people like us.

Since originally writing about this topic in the summer of 2011, some things have changed. The term 'new adult' has been thrown around by publishing houses and book bloggers alike. More and more, readers are expressing the fact that they WANT to read books about people like them. I've read a few more books with characters in their twenty's and fellow readers posted awesome book recommendations in the comments section of my post of other books that twenty-something's can relate to. But, in my opinion, it's still not enough.

I still think there’s a huge opportunity for publishing companies and authors to reach a new target audience. A target audience who likely has time to read for pleasure and money to spend on books! When I was in college, I definitely read for pleasure, but I find myself reading way more now that I don’t have required reading for school or textbooks to sift through each night. I also find many of my friends asking me for more book recommendations now than when we were in college. It could be a great opportunity to invest in a different audience with unique interests, goals and personalities.

What do you think we can we do as book bloggers and passionate readers to keep moving this issue forward?

Related Posts with Thumbnails