Review: Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier

Sunday, September 30, 2012
Title: Shadowfell
Author: Juliet Marillier
Genre: fantasy
Series: Shadowfell #1
Pages: 416 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: September 11 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

Sixteen-year-old Neryn is alone in the land of Alban, where the oppressive king has ordered anyone with magical strengths captured and brought before him. Eager to hide her own canny skill—a uniquely powerful ability to communicate with the fairy-like Good Folk—Neryn sets out for the legendary Shadowfell, a home and training ground for a secret rebel group determined to overthrow the evil King Keldec.

During her dangerous journey, she receives aid from the Good Folk, who tell her she must pass a series of tests in order to recognize her full potential. She also finds help from a handsome young man, Flint, who rescues her from certain death—but whose motives in doing so remain unclear. Neryn struggles to trust her only allies. They both hint that she alone may be the key to Alban’s release from Keldec’s rule.

Homeless, unsure of who to trust, and trapped in an empire determined to crush her, Neryn must make it to Shadowfell not only to save herself, but to save Alban.

My first Juliet Marillier novel, and I am already considering myself a fan. Though primarily known and loved as a gifted  fantasy writer for adults, this prolific and beloved Australian writer extends herself easily into the growing YA fantasy genre with the first in her new series about the oppressed magical land of Alban. Though rife with well-known and often overdone fantasy tropes - the "chosen one", the slow realization of virtues of the protagonist, usually during the long long quest filled with some few adventures and then more walking, the medieval feel to the country and culture - Marillier manages to infuse these often used conventions and make them exciting, fun, and emotional. Boasting a well-rounded cast operating on a lively stage, Shadowfell is occasionally formulaic but still manages to shine and involve readers in Neryn's journey for safety in a land wracked by distrust, suspicion, and fear. Combining fey legends ("The Good Folk") with pieces of Celtic lore, Marillier builds a novel that enchants and entertains all at the same time. 

Neryn is the likable, kind, and also incredibly naive protagonist of Shadowfell. It's both easy to like the canny girl and root for her on her trek, but also to become increasingly frustrated with the character's guileless attitude as the tension increasingly grows and her awareness of who to trust, what to do in these situations does not. I liked the character, she's easy to empathize with early on, but often enough her reactions would be silly, too trusting and thus lead to contrived, frustrating situations with her secondary protagonist and obvious love interest, Flint. The book is more internal and personal struggle-driven than moved by action or adventure - though there are incidences of both throughout - and Neryn's wide-eyed acceptance of whatever is most recently told to her can get a bit wearying. Her inner  monologue and thoughts are very readable and easily engrossing, but I do think that a more skeptical eye, a more discerning look at what she sees and hears, would clear up a lot of unnecessary conflicts that pop up more than once with Flint.  

Flint is a character of contradictions as well. His is a dangerous world without the benefit of neryn's black and white morality, and the role he is forced to play shows a clear hand at the author's ability to evoke pathos from her readers. Flint's relationship with the young girl is delicate balance (just like his with the King), full of equal amounts of cautious trust, doubt, and attraction (hopefully, unlike his interactions with the King). Like Neryn, he is more than he seems and is wonderfully fleshed out as the story progresses and more of his character is revealed. He's also a great love interest, outside of the "do what I tell you because I can't give you any pertinent information." It's an obvious ploy to cause drama between the two, and I must admit that it got old after a while. I did get frustrated with the lack of communication between the two, but I still came out of reading this pretty enamored with Flint. The slow burning mutual attraction and connection between Flint and Neryn are core parts of the story, but romance is not what drives the plot forward. Neryn's quest(s) for safety, knowledge, and self-awareness do the heavy lifting.

Shadowfell clocks in at a respectable 416 pages, but the characters, setting, and even the message at the heart of everything (though non too subtle) make for a fast-engrossing, easy, and fun read. It's a fantasy novel with two interesting characters wrestling with their future roles in the fight to free Alban, their mutual growing attraction to one another, their independent wants and hopes, which makes for a cast of well-rounded, distinct people with a well-crafted plot to keep interest high and the pages turning with alacrity. This was a one-day read, and I found myself severely jonesing for the next in the series as soon as I finished. Juliet Marillier has impressed me, and I won't be waiting long to try my hand at her more well-known and widely loved adult fantasy titles.

Review: The Listeners by Harrison Demchick

Saturday, September 29, 2012
Title: The Listeners
Author: Harrison Demchick
Genre: horror, zombies, post-apocalyptic
Series: N/A
Pages: 288 (ARC edition)
Published: expected December 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 5/5

 Before the plague, and the quarantine, fourteen-year-old Daniel Raymond had only heard of the Listeners. They were a gang, or at least that's what his best friend Katie's police officer father had said. They were criminals, thieves, monsters--deadly men clearly identifiable by the removal of their right ears.

That's what Daniel had heard. But he didn't know. He didn't know much in those early days. He didn't know how the plague began, but then, no one did. The doctors and emergency medical personnel said it was airborne, and highly contagious. They said those infected became distorted both inside and out, and very, very dangerous.

Then the helicopters came and took the doctors away, and no one said much of anything after that. Except the police officers. They said they'd provide food and order, in exchange for guns and, ultimately, anything else they felt like taking.

Daniel's mother went out for toilet paper. She never came back. He hasn't heard from Katie since the phones went dead. And with his real family gone and surrogate family unreachable, Daniel, scared and alone, has nothing except the walls of his apartment, the window shattered, the poisonous air seeping in.

That's when the Listeners arrive. Derek, the one-eared man with the big, soulful eyes, promises protection, and hope, and the choice not to sit alone and wait to die in some horrific way. He offers a brotherhood under the watch of their leader, the prophet Adam. He offers a place in the world to come.

A harrowing work of literary horror, Harrison Demchick's electrifying debut, is a dark and terrifying journey into loneliness, desperation, and the devastating experience of one young boy in a world gone mad.

Reviewed by Danielle.

 I'm sitting here with my hand over my mouth trying to process one of the most incredibly poetic, haunting novels I have read. And it's about a zombie plague. Try and picture that for a moment. Harrison Demchick has written a beautiful and disgusting, wonderful and horrifying book with a strong voice and lyrical quality and it's about the Apocalypse.

14-year-old Daniel is living in an unnamed borough, (it's Manhattan,) that has recently become victim of a plague that causes the victim to rot inside and out. Outwardly, the disease manifests as red, pus-filled boils. Inwardly, with a violent dementia and decline in mental faculties. So it's zombies, but not the way you generally think of them. These "sickos" can talk, use weapons, even be reasoned with...right up until they can't. Right off the bat, that's a whole lot scarier than the usual genre.

I'd like to start out that this review is purposefully vague, because The Listeners is hard to describe. It's far less about the plot, (although there is a good, solid one,) and more about a slow decent into insanity. Large portions take place entirely in imagination and Demchick lets Daniel's mental state dictate the actual writing. As the Listeners exert control and the horror of the situation beats him down, the pace gets frantic with repeated words, asides, and violent imagery. This style will be very polarizing, but I found it effective and affecting. A scene when Daniel is inducted into the Listeners is particularly beautiful while being utterly tragic.

Daniel's mom goes out for supplies and never comes home. Three days later, corrupt cops show up to extort him for anything of value in the house in exchange for protection and a promise of food. They are followed by the Listeners, a cult that wants to take the city back from the police. They convince Daniel to come with them and join their ranks.

The Listeners are fishy from the start. Their prophet, Adam, is the only one with two ears. Everyone else cuts off their right in an initiation ceremony, to better hear the truth and not hear the lies. The live in an underground bunker that someone built under a supermarket. Like most cults, their morals are black and white, and they regard all cops as evil enemies to be destroyed. Daniel is conflicted, as his best friend Katie's father is in the police and he trusts him. Through isolation and manipulation, the Listeners convince Daniel, only 14 remember, that theirs is the only right way.

This is NOT a happy book. Just when you think you have the ending pinned down, another twist is thrown out. People die, graphically, and the people left don't have anyone else's best interests at heart. Maybe the people gone didn't either. The story is broken into two parts, each with a gut-wrenching climax. Part one is Daniel's ascension to Listener, with little in the way of action and sickos. Part two is more on daily life in the city, as he goes on patrol and searches for answers raised in part one. These parts are punctuated with "respites", chapters following other characters around the city. They give a welcome depth to the world. Despite following a vast range of people: a business man outside the quarantine, a family man inside, two police officers, an infected brother, an abandoned nurse, and a mother/reporter, all the respites explore the same themes of insanity and survival.

I have two issues with the book, though they're not enough to downrate it. First, on an island of a million people, even after a deadly plague, everyone seems to come together too nicely. Any character introduced, Daniel will run into later. On one hand, it adds to the isolated feeling. On the other, of course the newspaper writer mentioned in the first respite, the baby, and the homeless man, will all end up at the same place 20 chapters later. It's convenient. My second issue is I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS and the author doesn't say if this is a planned series or a one off! If it is a one off, I will be so mad, because I need to know:

<SPOILERS AHOY!! Beware this entire PARAGRAPH> Is the homeless man the business exec from the first respite and how did he make it across the quarantine?
How did the newspaper/prophet jingle make it in? The military's obviously not letting people through. this is the twist ending. Don't spoil it for yourself! [Really, don't do it.] Even though THE OTHER SIDE OF THE QUARANTINE IS INFECTED!
Why is the baby zombie repellent? Does the government know about her or was the "someone the sick avoid" line a throw away?
Speaking of, why does the military man look familiar? Long lost father? TV personality?
Did Ant make it through the sewers?

The Listeners is moving and powerful in a way I've never known a horror story to be. It's not traditionally scary, building far more on dread than boos, but I found it creeping into my thoughts after dark. It brings up a lot of questions regarding who the monsters are and the morality of survival. It must be experienced.

Book Tour Review: Wake of the Bloody Angel by Alex Bledsoe

Friday, September 28, 2012
Title: Wake of the Bloody Angel
Author: Alex Bledsoe
Genre: mystery, fantasy
Series: Eddie LaCrosse #4
Pages: 350 (paperback edition)
Published: July 2012
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
Rating: 5/5

Twenty years ago, a barmaid in a harbor town fell for a young sailor who turned pirate to make his fortune. But what truly became of Black Edward Tew remains a mystery—one that has just fallen into the lap of freelance sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse.

For years, Eddie has kept his office above Angelina’s tavern, so when Angelina herself asks him to find out what happened to the dashing pirate who stole her heart, he can hardly say no—even though the trail is two decades old. Some say Black Edward and his ship, The Bloody Angel, went to bottom of the sea, taking with it a king’s fortune in treasure. Others say he rules a wealthy, secret pirate kingdom. And a few believe he still sails under a ghostly flag with a crew of the damned.

To find the truth, and earn his twenty-five gold pieces a day, Eddie must take to sea in the company of a former pirate queen in search of the infamous Black Edward Tew…and his even more legendary treasure.

Wake of the Bloody Angel is the best Eddie LaCrosse novel to date - hands down, no questions asked. I never guessed the outcome, never saw the twists coming, never wanted to put this down. The end came way too fast - this is another gem by Alex Bledsoe that reads so easily and so well, it's remarkably easy to get caught up in the world, story, and mystery at work here. After the minor stumble with Dark Jenny's execution and resolution, Eddie is back and better than ever here in the fourth installment in this fun and thoroughly entertaining series. Though less fantastical, for the most part, than the previous two in the sequence, Wake of the Bloody Angel is no less awesome, twisted, awful, creative or funny. Interweaving Eddie's life with a new mystery and with pirates and ex-pirates, this is a winner from the first chapter. From new revelations about old character staples to new spins on pirates and privateers, Alex Bledsoe once again proves that no one can mix such different genres as ably as he can - and does.

More action-packed than the last adventure, Eddie ventures once again out of his familiar territory and onto the high seas. Tackling a cold case from twenty years back, complete with a new dangerous, female companion to watch his back, Eddie finds himself in uncharted waters, chasing a ghost and a legend. Noticeably  Eddie does less actual detecting here in than in the first three novels, so the slowly uncovered mystery takes an occasional backseat to some amusing tertiary and secondary characters. I really enjoyed the introduction to the characters of Jane Argo and Suhonen - they have more life and fire to them than some of the series' past background cast. Wake of the Bloody Angel is another light, fast read, but the action and sea battles shown are really top notch. The fights and swordplay are at their best here; they popped off the page and had me anxious for my favorites and eager to see how it worked out, all at the same time. 

This is a prime example how of amusing, charming and rousing these novels can be and almost always are for the duration. Though this is rather tongue-in-cheek (and quite humorously cynical) rollicking pirate story, Bledsoe is not afraid, and often tend sto go to darker places with his story. Family abandonment, rape, animal abuse, obsession, the murder of children - all are part and parcel to the easily envisioned world crafted and shown. Three hundred and fifty pages have rarely ever seemed so short - I could've kept sailing with Jane, Eddie, Clift, and Dorsal for a hundred more. This novel, easily the best of the series so far, plays to the strengths of both Eddie, and the author. Eddie continues to grow, but happily, so do the other, familiar characters of Eddie's life. While the whole 'lookalike women' idea has been plundered (ha) quite often by the author (seriously, nearly novel so far has one set. The Sword-Edged Blonde: Cathy/Liz. Dark Jenny: Jennifer/Jenny. And here: Barbara/Angelina. But I digress), it's used in a new way for this fourth novel that doesn't feel too reminiscent of past territory. 

Wake of the Bloody Angel is a damn good time - a fast, funny, imaginative, involving read populated with one of my favorite PIs. A fast-paced plot, intriguingly flawed characters, pirates and monsters, and a unique blend of genres and ideas all serve to further entrench me as a die-hard fan. Characters previously left undeveloped are fleshed out (and used as a nod to a popular song), Eddie experiences all manner of new antagonists (Cherish and Abigail being huge hits with me!), and even ghosts pop in to keep the supernatural element firmly in play. Unlike any of the previous three, Wake of the Bloody Angel is sure to keep the fans eager for more. I know I am not alone in eagerly  anticipating a fifth Eddie LaCrosse novel - it honestly can't come fast enough. 

Many, many thanks to TLC for providing me this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Review: The Shadow Society by Marie Rutkoski

Thursday, September 27, 2012
Title: The Shadow Society
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Genre: young-adult, supernatural fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 416 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: expected October 16, 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 2/5

Darcy Jones doesn’t remember anything before the day she was abandoned as a child outside a Chicago firehouse. She has never really belonged anywhere—but she couldn’t have guessed that she comes from an alternate world where the Great Chicago Fire didn’t happen and deadly creatures called Shades terrorize the human population.

Memories begin to haunt Darcy when a new boy arrives at her high school, and he makes her feel both desire and desired in a way she hadn’t thought possible. But Conn’s interest in her is confusing. It doesn’t line up with the way he first looked at her.

As if she were his enemy.

When Conn betrays Darcy, she realizes that she can’t rely on anything—not herself, not the laws of nature, and certainly not him. Darcy decides to infiltrate the Shadow Society and uncover the Shades’ latest terrorist plot. What she finds out will change her world forever . . .

So many good ideas and golden opportunities were wasted or ignored over the course this supernatural story set in Chicago. I had high hopes for this - I own the first two books in the author's Kronos Chronicles series and have been meaning to get to them for months - but The Shadow Society never lived up to its blurb and my expectations. Promising originality, suspense and intrigue, the book I read delivered nothing of the sort. Instead I got the same old cliched approaches and ideas so generic in the young-adult genre: the oh so attractive though antagonistic love interest, the sketchy and unfulfilled world-building glossed over in favor to focus on a romance with the lonely girl who feels out of place, etc. It's certainly very a readable novel - I will give it that, this is a book that is hard to put down - but that doesn't necessarily translate into it being a good book. 

Despite starting out with a bang in a well-done and intriguing prologue, the novel falters soon out of the gate and never really regains the initial excitement. Formulaic, and occasionally predictable the author fails to make the most of good ideas and themes touched upon too rarely in The Shadow Society. The concept of the novel is strong and noteworthy, but the execution of various plotlines AND of the cast of characters is rough, clumsy, and often unengaging. Or just disappointing - the climax particularly stands out as massively anticlimactic and not worth sloughing through 400+ pages to reach. The Shadow Society moves along at a decent clip, so it's never boring, though it is a bit short in the action department for the majority of the narrative.

Darcy is mostly drawn well, but also caused problems with my involvement with the novel. Subject to some of my least favorite tropes of the genre (the love triangle, the fact that 3 boys love her oh so much, her inability to make smart decisions), they end up detracting from her better traits. I liked that despite the views from both sides of the human/Shade conflict, nothing was as black and white as it appeared. There is some depth to the conflict Rutkoski creates for the novel, but it feels entirely shortchanged by how easily the author chose to conclude everything. It's too neat, too simple of an ending for the scenario that has been use up over the course of the book. The secondary characters mostly shine - especially the spunky Lily and the earnest and hilarious Jims - but they're not given enough screen time to make up for the lack of tension, atmosphere or world-building. 

So much unnecessary filler, so many failed opportunities, so much left superficial, a cop-out of an ending, and a cloying romance made for a less than enthusiastic read. I finished the novel, but more out of a feeling of duty than of want. If this were a series rather than a standalone, it would not be one that I chose to pursue past this first novel. Too generic and undeveloped for my taste, I will read Rutkoski's first series and try to forget about this one.

Blog Watch Wednesday

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Reviews Posted:

Fun Stuff:

 Please, please, register to vote. Before it's too late.

A literary insult for every occasion. I am not denying I will be using this for reference in the future. 

If you need some cheer in your life (and have heard about the predicted pork shortage in 2013), don't miss Nick Offerman (Ron Swanson)'s slam poem to bacon.

And have a Parks and Rec gag reel for season 4 to go with that Ron Swanson goodness.

You know how I love an infographic - here's one that charts the Skywalker storyline

And another one, this one from the Guardian about the first nonPotterverse novel from the beloved author.

13 best zombie movies ever made. I love that Death Becomes Her gets a nod. That move is so damn funny.

2012 Emmy Superlatives -- as according to the hilarious Fug Girls. (Titles include: Best Breakup Cleavage, and Saddest Hair. Need I say more?)

Bad Lip Reading returns! Not as hilarious as the Twilight one, but this interpretation of the Hunger Games is pretty entertaining.

The best of The Office from season eight. I do love me some Groban and he was hilarious.

If you're a dog lover/dog owner, this cartoon from the Oatmeal is for you.

Adele confirmed to sing the next Bond theme song. That might be enough to make me see the movie. Might.

This is some awesome and insane video of a volcano erupting.

An actor from M*A*S*H to guest star on Supernatural! Normally I don't post itty bitty news like that, but MASH is my all-time favorite show and I loooove me some Supernatural. I am excited.

Review: Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Title: Unspoken
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Genre: young-adult, supernatural, mystery, Gothic
Series: The Lynburn Legacy #1
Pages: 377 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: September 11, 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4.5/5

Kami Glass is in love with someone she’s never met—a boy she’s talked to in her head since she was born. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. Her life seems to be in order, until disturbing events begin to occur. There has been screaming in the woods and the manor overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years . . .

The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. Now Kami can see that the town she has known and loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets—and a murderer. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is real, and definitely and deliciously dangerous.

I loved this book from the start. It is good. No, it's great. It's Gothic and sassy and funny and clever and thisclose to being perfect. I love it to pieces. I stayed up til nearly one in the morning to finish it, on a night where I had to get up at 4 the next morning. If that isn't a clear enough picture of how thoroughly entertaining and engrossing this gem of a book is, I don't know what to tell you. A surefire winner. Unspoken is unique, it's fun, it's populated with amazingly real, fleshed out characters operating with a strong plot about magic, and secrets, and history. It's a breath of fresh air in a genre that tends to stick to the same ideas and themes and plots. Even when Unspoken does veer into well-tread territory for YA, it ends up being the exception to the rule. The first novel I've ever read from Irish young-adult author Sarah Rees Brennan, it left me eager for more and unwilling to close the cover. The first in a new Gothic and paranormal series, despite a few flaws and missteps, the premier novel in the Lynburn Legacy sets a high bar for any of the other novels to live up to. It can be creepy, genuinely funny, and completely real - all often on the same page. A promising start to begin a new trilogy, I finished this impressed and anxious for more. This was my first Brennan, but it  most definitely won't be my last.  

It's always a pleasure when an author takes the time to create and develop a character with as much depth and personality as Kami Glass. It's easy to self-identify with can-do and hilarious Kami (even if I recognize I lack her original and hilarious way with words): she's a strong character with wants and desires all her own, she isn't defined by who she likes, but what she does, and she grows and learns as she works her way to the bottom of the twisty mystery and aura around the feared Lynburns. Diversity and wit are another two things sorely lacking in a lot of novels geared towards a young-adult audience, but that is not the case here. Kami's Japanese heritage is important to her, and the slight xenophobia shown towards her in her firmly English village help reinforce her uniqueness. I just loved Kami and reading about her. Even with the third person POV distancing her a bit from the audience, this is a perfect example of a well-written, realistic, concrete character. There were so many quotes from this girl that I either laughed at, or giggled at, or just plain amused me. Kami is one character that will stick out in my memory as wonderfully executed and developed.

Kami isn't the only standout character from Unspoken, amazingly enough. The secondary cast of characters are also distinct and well characterized. Kami's hilarious dad takes the award for second-funniest, but really, from sleepy, world-hating best friend Angela to creepy, remote Rosalind, this is a novel with a strong core of characters that all pop from the page. Even when I didn't like certain characters (Ash, etc.) I could appreciate the variety and originality they brought to the novel. Not just in tune with her friends, I loved the interactions of Kami's family - they aren't set pieces created for Kami to gloss over, but important and meaningful parts of her everyday life. Her mother is especially important to the plot of the novel, and the stumbles in the relationship between protective mom and curious Kami strike a delicate, but compelling, balance. Happily minus a lot of the tropes in YA used to get characters to operate autonomously, there are no Missing Parent Syndrome or abused/ignored/lonely kid ideas here; Brennan is too smart to fall for those overused plot devices.

The plot is strong, the dialogue pitch-perfect, and the mystery well-crafted, but there are certain sections of the novel where the tension seems to flag as the kids uncover more and more clues without any meaningful revelations. I didn't mind overmuch, because when the atmosphere matters, it's done well... and I always enjoyed the side trips and adventures Kami cooked up for her friends to get into. It cannot be denied that Unspoken is an entertaining and engrossing novel. The Lynburn family, once they come into play a bit more, supply a lot of the tension with the unexplained acrimonious interplay between the Lynburn cousins, Ash and Jared. I am most definitely not a fan of the love triangle, but as it is used here, I found it at least palatable. Kami doesn't fall into the trap of instalove - even though she's "known" and maybe loved Jared for years before meeting him, and she doesn't bounce back and forth between the cousins just to foment melodrama instead of plot momentum.

I did have a few problems with Unspoken as I progressed through its nearly 400 page length. Most notably: the end. A lot of reviewers have been disappointed with the way and place Brennan chose to end her story, and I am certainly one of them. It's a hell of a cliffhanger, and though I don't buy Jared's final words and attitude for a minute, Brennan certainly knows how to leave her readers wanting more. The plot extends eaily to book two, but  it was an abrupt end to such a slow burn mystery. I also felt that the magic aspect could use some strengthening. What is explained is interesting, but I couldn't get a firm grasp a few parts of the mythology. A little more time and paragraphs to explore those elements would've been appreciated, but there at least will be two more novels to expand on what's been laid down here in the first novel.

From even pacing to creative plot to wonderful, zing-filled dialogue, Unspoken is a book I most definitely will be buying and rereading. Carried by a complex and brave protagonist, coupled with a thoroughly well-done Gothic vibe, there is much more to love about this novel than to lament. I for one, will be counting the months until the arrival in the next book of the series. Brennan has impressed me, and I can't wait to see what she does with the foundation she has laid down.

So Many Books, Way Too Little Time

Sunday, September 23, 2012
I've been crazy busy the last few weeks between doctor's visits, physical therapy, work, family problems, etc. I've neglected the blog AND reviewing, but I hope to fix that issue here soon. It helps that I have a ton of new books I am super stoked to read and talk about to get me back into the game!

First, my upcoming blog tour novels have arrived!

From the fabulous people over at TLC Book Tours:

Ironskin by Tina Connolly (Ironskin #1)

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.


Wake of the Bloody Angel by Alex Bledsoe (Eddie LaCrosse #4)

Twenty years ago, a barmaid in a harbor town fell for a young sailor who turned pirate to make his fortune. But what truly became of Black Edward Tew remains a mystery—one that has just fallen into the lap of freelance sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse.

For years, Eddie has kept his office above Angelina’s tavern, so when Angelina herself asks him to find out what happened to the dashing pirate who stole her heart, he can hardly say no—even though the trail is two decades old. Some say Black Edward and his ship, The Bloody Angel, went to bottom of the sea, taking with it a king’s fortune in treasure. Others say he rules a wealthy, secret pirate kingdom. And a few believe he still sails under a ghostly flag with a crew of the damned.

To find the truth, and earn his twenty-five gold pieces a day, Eddie must take to sea in the company of a former pirate queen in search of the infamous Black Edward Tew…and his even more legendary treasure.

From the amazing Passages to the Past Book Tours:

Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow by Juliet Grey (Marie Antoinette #2) 

A captivating novel of rich spectacle and royal scandal, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow spans fifteen years in the fateful reign of Marie Antoinette, France’s most legendary and notorious queen.

Paris, 1774. At the tender age of eighteen, Marie Antoinette ascends to the French throne alongside her husband, Louis XVI. But behind the extravagance of the young queen’s elaborate silk gowns and dizzyingly high coiffures, she harbors deeper fears for her future and that of the Bourbon dynasty.

From the early growing pains of marriage to the joy of conceiving a child, from her passion for Swedish military attaché Axel von Fersen to the devastating Affair of the Diamond Necklace, Marie Antoinette tries to rise above the gossip and rivalries that encircle her. But as revolution blossoms in America, a much larger threat looms beyond the gilded gates of Versailles—one that could sweep away the French monarchy forever.


 Cambridge, England: 1905. Jane Porter is hardly a typical woman of her time. The only female student in Cambridge University’s medical program, she is far more comfortable in a lab coat, dissecting corpses, than she is in a corset and gown, sipping afternoon tea. A budding paleoanthropologist, Jane dreams of travelling the globe in search of fossils that will prove the evolutionary theories of her scientific hero, Charles Darwin.

When dashing American explorer Ral Conrath invites Jane and her father on an expedition deep into West Africa, she can hardly believe her luck. Rising to the challenge, Jane finds an Africa that is every bit exotic and fascinating as she has always imagined. But she quickly learns that the lush jungle is full of secrets—and so is Ral Conrath. When danger strikes, Jane finds her hero, the key to humanity’s past, and an all-consuming love in one extraordinary man: Tarzan of the Apes.

Jane is the first version of the Tarzan story written by a woman and authorized by the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate. Its 2012 publication will mark the centennial of the publication of the original Tarzan of the Apes.
Actually still waiting for this one in the mail and am so excited to start when it arrives!

Received for Review/Won:

Enchantments by Thaisa Frank (won from Serena over at Savvy Verse & Wit)

The short fiction of Thaisa Frank has captivated readers for two decades, and now many of those pieces are collected in one volume, along with several new stories. In the title story, a lonely mother and housewife orders an enchanted man from a website called The Wondrous Traveler, who arrives with instructions for use and a list of frequently asked questions about enchantment. 

In "Thread,” two circus performers who pass through the eye of a needle become undone by a complicated love triangle. In "Henna,” a young writing teacher must contend with an exotic student who will not write, her hands covered in dye and her fingers sprouting innumerable gardens.” And in "The Loneliness of the Midwestern Vampire,” the undead descend upon the heartland of the country and become accustomed to its friendlier way of life, attending barn raisings and feasting on cattle in an attempt to normalize their darker passions.

These are vibrant, compelling stories that examine the distance between imagination and reality, and how characters bridge that gap in their attempt to reach one another.

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.

The Devil's Metal by Karina Halle (received from author for review)

It’s the summer of 1974 and 21-year old Dawn Emerson has only three things she wants to do: compete one last time in the Ellensburg Rodeo, win back her ex-boyfriend Ryan, and become the best damn music journalist at Central Washington University. But all her plans are left in the dust when she’s contacted by Creem magazine to go on the road with one of her favorite groups, the up-and-coming metal band, Hybrid.

At first the assignment reads like a dream come true. Not only will Dawn land some much-needed credibility as a female music journalist, but she’ll finally get to experience life from the other side of the stage, and maybe crack the drunken, enigmatic code that is guitarist Sage Knightly. Instead, Dawn finds herself on an aging tour bus filled with ego-maniacs, band politics and a whole lot of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. When monsters start showing up in dressing rooms and some of Sage’s groupies become increasingly strange and dangerous, Dawn discovers the band is not only going places – they’re going straight to Hell.

And Dawn has a backstage pass.

The Devil's Metal is the first book in a two-part New Adult Horror/Paranormal Romance and very (very!) loosely based on the author's exploits as a music journalist. Hell comes in different forms.

And, now, for when my self-control went entirely missing, the books I bought

It’s the end of the world. Six students have taken cover in Cortege High but shelter is little comfort when the dead outside won’t stop pounding on the doors. One bite is all it takes to kill a person and bring them back as a monstrous version of their former self.

To Sloane Price, that doesn’t sound so bad. Six months ago, her world collapsed and since then, she’s failed to find a reason to keep going. Now seems like the perfect time to give up. As Sloane eagerly waits for the barricades to fall, she’s forced to witness the apocalypse through the eyes of five people who actually want to live.

But as the days crawl by, the motivations for survival change in startling ways and soon the group’s fate is determined less and less by what’s happening outside and more and more by the unpredictable and violent bids for life—and death—inside.

When everything is gone, what do you hold on to?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (for bookclub) 

One of the most critically acclaimed suspense writers of our time, New York Times bestseller Gillian Flynn takes that statement to its darkest place in this unputdownable masterpiece about a marriage gone terribly, terribly wrong. The Chicago Tribune proclaimed that her work “draws you in and keeps you reading with the force of a pure but nasty addiction.” Gone Girl’s toxic mix of sharp-edged wit and deliciously chilling prose creates a nerve-fraying thriller that confounds you at every turn.

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around.

The Diviners by Libba Bray (Diviners #1)

 It's 1920s New York City. It's flappers and Follies, jazz and gin. It's after the war but before the depression. And for certain group of bright young things it's the opportunity to party like never before.

For Evie O'Neill, it's escape. She's never fit in in small town Ohio and when she causes yet another scandal, she's shipped off to stay with an uncle in the big city. But far from being exile, this is exactly what she's always wanted: the chance to show how thoroughly modern and incredibly daring she can be.

But New York City isn't about just jazz babies and follies girls. It has a darker side. Young women are being murdered across the city. And these aren't crimes of passion. They're gruesome. They're planned. They bear a strange resemblance to an obscure group of tarot cards. And the New York City police can't solve them alone.

Evie wasn't just escaping the stifling life of Ohio, she was running from the knowledge of what she could do. She has a secret. A mysterious power that could help catch the killer - if he doesn't catch her first.

Also because I am a cover junkie and it's gorgeous - the UK cover:

The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna

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.

What Eva finds is a grief-stricken family; parents unsure how to handle this echo they thought they wanted; and Ray, who knew every detail, every contour of Amarra. And when Eva is unexpectedly dealt a fatal blow that will change her existence forever, she is forced to choose: Stay and live out her years as a copy or leave and risk it all for the freedom to be an original. To be Eva.

From debut novelist Sangu Mandanna comes the dazzling story of a girl who was always told what she had to be—until she found the strength to decide for herself.

Blood Red Road by Moira Young (Dustlands #1)

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back. 

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

and, finally, one I have already read but loved to pieces and needed my own copy:

 Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

Review: Every Day by David Levithan

Friday, September 21, 2012
Title: Every Day
Author: David Levithan
Genre: young-adult, supernatural
Series: N/A
Pages: 336 (Nook ARC edition)
Published: August 28 2012
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4.25/5

A has no friends. No parents. No family. No possessions. No home, even. Because every day, A wakes up in the body of a different person. Every morning, a different bed. A different room. A different house. A different life. A is able to access each person's memory, enough to be able to get through the day without parents, friends, and teachers realizing this is not their child, not their friend, not their student. Because it isn't. It's A. Inhabiting each person's body. Seeing the world through their eyes. Thinking with their brain. Speaking with their voice.

It's a lonely existence--until, one day, it isn't. A meets a girl named Rhiannon. And, in an instant, A falls for her, after a perfect day together. But when night falls, it's over. Because A can never be the same person twice. But yet, A can't stop thinking about her. She becomes A's reason for existing. So each day, in different bodies--of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, walks of life--A tries to get back to her. And convince her of their love. But can their love transcend such an obstacle?

Every Day is another remarkable novel from a very talented and thankfully prolific author. Just when I start to feel again that YA sticks to and retreads the same trends, ideas, themes,  constantly, Mr. Levithan publishes such a starkly original and thoroughly readable novel. Unlike anything else I've read (though I can see slight shades of both The Time Traveler's Wife and Quantum Leap in components of Every Day), this is a thought-provoking and emotional novel that stands firmly on its own two feet. Levithan has proved himself as more than capable of creating unique scenarios, compelled characters, along with completely original plots and themes, and he is at his best here with this latest, engrossing novel. While Every Day may not be perfect - the ending and a few other issues I had preclude me from anything higher than that 4.25 - I absolutely loved reading this novel every chance I got to sit down and devour it.

This is a novel that made me feel, that made me really think about life, love, and relationships. Those kinds of books are rare -especially in a genre that, unfortunately, tends to romanticize alpha males and submissive female characters - and I appreciate Every Day all the more for its fresh take on love, gender, religion, and even society. It is centered more on love and a relationship than anything else - A's drive to see Rhiannon and make it work drives the narrative - but it's not cloying or saccharine. I didn't read his instant connection with her as instalove - more as a desperate need to connect with somebody, anybody, who might be able to accept him as he was.While the social commentary aspect is prevalent throughout the short-ish 336 page length, it can come across as occasionally heavy-handed (and is one of the very few reasons this book is not a 5-star read for me). But, happily, for the most part it's meshed within the overall plot quite well and with aplomb. A may not be perfect and occasionally judgmental and preachy, and his/her views are certainly their own, but this starkly original journey through grief, first love, loneliness is one that will resonate with many, many readers.

Once again, Levithan exhibits the same talents I have come to expect and treasure from such an able writer. No one can write like he can. If I could, I would quote from nearly every chapter in this touching novel. Levithan is that good. Every Day is alternatively bittersweet, creepy, aching, interesting, and compelling. For once, this is a book where the execution of the book itself matches the high level of the idea behind the plot. With Levithan's beautiful, thoroughly readable way with words leading the way, the novel's wandering through philosophical questions about life, identity, human nature are explored maturely and with appropriate emotion. Under a different hand, Every Day could have easily been an overwrought, melodramatic angsty mess, but it never is. What it is, is a wholly genuine and wonderful book that explores so many of the prevalent issues that kids of this age have to deal with.

Every Day is a book about possibilities. It's not one for definitive answers or for totally complete resolutions. If you as a reader can suspend your disbelief enough to buy into the premise - a body jumping "person" - then the rest of this lovely novel will be an evocative treat. Give this one a chance - I highly doubt you will be sorry that you did.

"I don't have the heart to tell him that's the wrong way to think about the world. There will always be more questions. Every answer leads to more questions.
The only way to survive is to let some of them go." 

"If you stare at the center of the universe, there is a coldness there. A blankness. Ultimately, the universe doesn't care about us. Time doesn't care about us.
That's why we have to care about each other."
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