Monday, September 1, 2014

Book Review: Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

I didn't really get much of a horrified feeling from Of Monsters and Madness, but I did enjoy the book.

The main characters are Annabel Lee and Allan Poe. Sound familiar? Annabel has lived in Siam most of her life with her mother. Now that her mother passed away, she has come to Philadelphia to live with her father and grandfather. This is quite an adjustment in cultures for Annabel.

She makes good friends with her maid, and her grandfather is very kind. But, her father is grumpy most of the time and makes Annabel feel like he doesn't approve. She also meets Allan and an immediate attraction is apparent. Almost too immediate.

There are a lot of secrets in this house. And Annabel has some of her own. She meets Allan's cousin, Edgar, who also works for her father. But no one will admit he even exists. Her father has a lab in the basement, and Annabel's curiosity and interest in science compels her to investigate. There are mysterious murders happening in Philadelphia.

You can probably see where this is going. It really didn't seem that scary. Kind of a classic horror feel, a la Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,  which is OK. I enjoyed the references to Poe's work. Allan reads passages from The Tell-Tale Heart, The Raven, and of course Annabel Lee to Annabel as if he's just writing them.

The ending leaves much unresolved since this is the first in a series. Of Monsters and Madness kept my attention easily. The plot moves steadily and is easy to follow. I liked it enough to want to read more in the series. Annabel is a likable character, although she frustrated me at times by making some risky decisions.

Poe fans and lovers of gothic horror will find Of Monsters and Madness very appealing.

Published by EgmontUSA, September 9, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
288 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Books You Can Read in a Day - August Update

Epic fail. Here's the books I added in August to my BYCRID Challenge:

NONE

It seems going back to school really cut down on my reading time, so even books that are short are still taking me more than a day! I think I'll finish a book today that I just started last night, so hopefully I'll at least have that one for September.

Here's a list of all the books I've read in a day, and also where I keep track of my other challenges.

I'm moving slowly this year, but still making some progress.  I have 9 more books to reach my goal and 4 months. I still think I can do it! How about you? Have you read any books in ONE DAY? Give me some suggestions.

If you are participating, please leave a link to your post, or just list your books in the comments. Hope you are having fun with these "little gems."




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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - Again, Only One

Another long week -- although I did get more reading done. I'm getting into a bit of a routine, at least sometimes. The house is filthy. That's today's task....

For Review:
Creed, by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie, from NetGalley
Thought this one looked interesting. From some new authors.

So, what happened with you this week? Leave me a link so I can check it out. Thanks for visiting and please stop by our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Happy reading!




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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Book Review: The Jewel, by Amy Ewing @amyewingbooks

I thoroughly enjoyed The Jewel. There are aspects that reminded me of other books, but The Jewel has enough uniqueness that I found it very compelling.

Violet is a surrogate. At the age of 12 she was taken from her family to be trained until she is put up for auction to have babies for some royal family. This world is comprised of rings. Violet, and all surrogates, come from the outer ring, the Marsh, which is also the poorest. Life gets better the closer you get to the center of the ring, the Jewel, where all the royals live.

Violet, who is now known as #197, ends up being purchased by one of the most prestigious duchesses, and lives a life of luxury, mostly. But in reality, she is only there to have a baby. For some reason the royals are unable to bear their own children. This part of the book is vaguely explained, but it didn't really bother me that we don't get many details. I figure more is coming in future books.

Lucien, who prepared Violet for her auction, makes contact with her, and tells her that he will help her escape the Jewel. Violet also meets Ash, who is also under the Duchess' control but in a different way. These two begin a very dangerous clandestine relationship.

Violet also occasionally sees other surrogates that she knows from her training. One of them is her best friend who doesn't seem to be faring well at all. Violet is desperate to keep contact with her.

So, between the escape, the romance, and trying to help someone she is forbidden to talk to, you can see that Violet is heading down a slippery slope. And the ending is quite explosive.

I really enjoyed the characters. Violet was so confused, understandably, but she very quickly become stronger, braver, and more determined. I really liked the nasty characters like the Duchess too. The world is very interesting, and although still not explained in as much detail as I would like, I'm satisfied with this first installment.

I loved the descriptions of the dresses, hair, and jewelry, and this book cover is stunning. Right up there with my favorites, The Luxe and The Selection. (Can you tell I like covers with beautiful dresses?)

I did feel there were some slow spots in the middle, but not to the point of frustration. I think I was just so excited to see how it all turned out I was impatient. And, although I suspected the big twist at the end, I loved it. Can't wait to see where we go from here.

I'll be recommending The Jewel widely to my teens. I think girls, in particular, will find a lot to like.

Published by HarperTeen, September 2, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
368 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

DNF Book Review: A New Darkness by Joseph Delaney

I gave A New Darkness a good chance, but after reading 45% of the book, I was ready for the story to start, and it still had not.

Tom Ward is the main character, and I understand this is a character from Delaney's The Last Apprentice series. I haven't read those books, but everything I've read says it isn't necessary in order to enjoy A New Darkness.

Tom, a Spook, hunts ghosts and boggarts and other evil creatures and keeps the world (or at least his county) safe. A girl name Jenny convinces Tom to take her on as an apprentice, since she is a 7th daughter of a 7th daughter. It isn't customary for girls to be a Spook, but Tom agrees to give her a chance.

The first half of the book that I read isn't boring. There are some dangerous situations, and we get to know Jenny pretty well. But after reading that much, I think the main plot should be moving along a bit more. It seems the story is supposed to be about these evil creatures from the north called the Kobalos are taking over. Some young girls have disappeared and Tom and Jenny encounter one of the Kobalos mages and have quite a dangerous and almost deadly encounter.

Tom enlists the help of Grimalkin, who I understand is also a character from the previous series, to help figure out what's going on.

That's it. The rest is all background and character development. I also understand this book ends in a big cliffhanger, so obviously it must get more exciting at the end. But I just couldn't wait. You have to grab me and keep my attention better than Delaney did in the first half of A New Darkness. Please feel free to link your more positive reviews in the comments.

Published by Greenwillow Books, September 2, 2014
eARC obtained from Edelweiss
155 (of 352) pages

Rating: DNF




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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Book Review: Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire is a great book, and if you've already started the series, you don't want to miss it. I did have some problems, but mostly they were personal problems, not really anything wrong with the book.

I had a hard time getting into the book at first. Heir of Fire is long, at close to 600 pages. I started work (school) this week, and because I could only read a few minutes at a time, I think this was the problem. I've been reading this book ALL WEEK, and was still only 50% finished. So I sat down and finished the last half all in one day.

Heir of Fire is really exciting, especially at the end. I don't want to say too much, though. There are several different perspectives that go back and forth, hence my problems with keeping track at the beginning.

Heir of Fire relies much more on the fantasy elements. I will always say that fantasy is one of my least favorite genres, however, I absolutely devoured Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight and loved the four novellas that are part of this series. (I also claim to not enjoy novellas -- usually.) But.....Heir of Fire really tested me. I like a lot of "real human life" along with my fantasy, and this one has very little of that. I liked the "assassin" part of Celaena's character, and there wasn't much of that in Heir of Fire. But the plot is so compelling! The bad guys are so bad, and Celaena, as always, is such a strong main character fighting impossible odds. I loved the new character, Rowan, and all of the story lines are exciting in their own way.

So Heir of Fire was not my favorite of the series, but there's no way I'm going to stop reading it. I still love these characters, and Maas really knows how to write. If you are a big fantasy fan, then this series is just getting better.

Published by Bloomsbury USA, September 2, 2014
eARC obtained from Netgalley
576 pages

Rating: 4/5





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Monday, August 25, 2014

Book Review: The Secret Sky, by Atia Abawi

The Secret Sky broke my heart and literally made me sick.

We are in current day Afghanistan. Sami is Pashtun and a member of the land owner’s family. Fatima is Hazara, and her family works the land. They begin sneaking around seeing each other alone, which is strictly forbidden. Even though they have barely touched each other, when Sami’s cousin Rashid sees them together, his misguided beliefs about religion and the influence of the Taliban cause him to report what he has seen to the powerful leader, Mullah Latif. Rashid wants the two of them properly punished, but what happens causes much violence and begins an avalanche of events that threaten everyone involved. Rashid, now disillusioned with his beloved Taliban, becomes wrapped up in the violence and sees no way out. Fatima and Sami have no choice but to sacrifice everything.

If The Secret Sky doesn't invoke some powerful emotions in the reader, I don't know what will. I felt angry, and literally sick to my stomach at times. And always sympathetic. Living under constant threats, knowing that at any minute your life can be completely changed, or even taken from you, is too hard for me to relate to. But The Secret Sky does a good job giving you a taste of what life is like for many people in Afghanistan.

And, while the religious zealots were scary, nothing shocked me more than the behavior of Fatima's mother. I AM a mother, and I totally cannot fathom.....

Abawi does a good job of depicting Afghanistan as a beautiful place with many different peoples who are very kind and just want to live their lives as they see fit. The pacing is brisk, and there's never a dull moment.

The Secret Sky is a classic story of young people rebelling against their arranged marriages, but the consequences are deeply disturbing. Teens who enjoy these types of stories won't want to miss The Secret Sky.

Published by Philomel, September 2, 2014
ARC obtained from Library Media Connection Magazine
300 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Stacking the Shelves - New Authors

I got one book for review this week. I know these are popular authors, but they are new to me, so I'm excited.

For Review:
Blue Labyrinth, by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child from NetGalley

How about you? What's new on your book shelf? Make sure you visit our hosts, Team Tynga's Reviews. Thanks for stopping by.




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Friday, August 22, 2014

Feature & Follow Friday: Books to TV Series

Alison Can Read Feature & Follow
Happy Friday! I'ts been a looooong week for me. Going "back to school" has really kicked my butt. I'm getting used to yet another budget cut. I've lost my library assistant and now am the only one in the library. With all the technology changes, trying to get students used to a new operating system, I've been hopping.

Anyway, enough complaining. Here's this week's question from Parajunkee  and Alison:

Question of the Week: What book/series do you think would make a better TV show than a movie?

I've narrowed it down to two:


The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen. I think these girls could make quite a stir for several seasons of TV!

The Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley. And, it appears it IS going to be a TV series! Not yet released. So, I can't wait. I love this character and think she would transfer well to the TV screen.

How about you? I can think of a lot of series that I think would make great TV. Can't wait to see your answers. Enjoy your weekend and come back and see me soon.





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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review: Mary: The Summoning by Hillary Monahan

Mary: The Summoning was one of the most creepy, gory, chilling books I've ever read. And that's pretty much all it is.

Shauna is our narrator, and her best friend, Jess, has convinced Shauna and two other friends that they should try to summon Bloody Mary to come into the mirror at one of their houses. Jess has done a lot of research, and believes they can do it. They are much too successful, and not only does Mary appear, she attacks Shauna and then haunts her no matter where Shauna goes!

Once this happens, very early in the book, the rest is just one encounter after another. Each time the girls must come up with a different way to get rid of Mary. Monahan isn't afraid to maim and kill her characters either! It's truly frightening.

If you like really scary situations with a lot of slime and gore, Mary: The Summoning is the book for you! I know there are supposed to be themes of friendship and changing relationships, but these girls are under so much stress that those themes kind of get lost in the terror.

Pick out your kids who can't get enough horror -- this one is non-stop -- and give them Mary: The Summoning.

Published by Disney-Hyperion, September 2, 2014
eARC obtained from NetGalley
256 pages

Rating: 3/5





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