Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna #1) 
By Kendare Blake
****
“Move, hunt, kill. Like lather, rinse, and repeat.” 
― Kendare BlakeAnna Dressed in Blood

From Goodreads: 


Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas's life.



From Me:

I read this book for this month's FYA Book Club selection. It was described to me as a cross between Supernatural and Scooby Doo, which I can totally see. Cas (come on, Cas?!) is very Dean-like, if Dean's mom lived instead of his dad, and he had no Sammy to hunt with him. Cas is cool. I like Cas. Anna's pretty cool, too, for a BAMF dead girl from the fifties. I love how she changed from ghost-girl to ghost-hulk depending on the situation - it made her a really fascinating character.

Blake pulls no punches when it comes to violence, like for reals. If you have a weak stomach and are easily squicked out, you may want to skim some of these sections. Things get pretty darn gruesome from time to time, and they're hard to stomach. But, as always with me, it's the horrible things that people do that cause me more trouble than the things the monsters do.

Great Halloween option for weenies like me who don't like straight-up horror. Spooky, creepy, eerie: yes; gross, violent: sometimes; scare me into putting the book in the freezer: no.

Book Review: Jackaby

Jackaby (Jackaby #1) 
By William Ritter
****
“Hell of a sight. She let out a scream and just fell to pieces. Can't say I blame her. Like I said, this sort of thing is not for the female temperament." He directed that last sentiment at me, making eye contact for the first time.

"I dare say you're right, sir," I conceded, meeting his gaze. "Out of curiosity, though, is there someone whose temperament you do find suited to this sort of thing? I think I would be most unnerved to meet a man who found it pleasant.” 

― William RitterJackaby

Jackaby is a detective mystery set in the 1890s in the New England area. Jackaby is a detective with some very Sherlockian attributes: he's more focused on *what* he's seeing than *who* he's seeing; he has no real idea of the correct way to interact with others, which often makes him come across as rude; and he wears a funny hat. Ways in which Jackaby is different from Sherlock? Well first off, he doesn't see all the minute details of a situation - the ordinary things others would overlook despite their significance - and leaves that to our narrator, Abigail Rook. Also, he's a seer. He sees the impossible like kobolds and banshees and the like, which the people of Ritter's world do not know about nor believe in. 

Abigail Rook is like Sherlock's Watson; she acts as our narrator and she assists Jackaby in his investigation. She finds a job with Jackaby after newly arriving in the States. She's originally from England, the daughter of a scholar and archaeologist, who wanted nothing more than to join her father in his adventures, but was told that wasn't a place for women. She ran away from school to join a dig for dinosaurs, but the experience wasn't what she was hoping for. Rather than giving up on her own adventures, though, she stuck out her time on the dig, then got on a boat to America. 

The action of the story only takes place over the course of a couple days. There's a murder, one that Jackaby concludes was committed by a supernatural villain. Jackaby and Abigail follow the clues to the big reveal at the end. And I must admit, I actually guessed the culprit pretty early, but since that never happens to me, I assumed I was wrong. Does it count if I figure out the whodunit if I don't believe I figured it out?

Jackaby was a fun story, and lighter than the gorgeous yet dark cover art would lead you to believe. It had it's dark moments, of course; it is a murder investigation after all, but overall the tone was light and often humorous. There were multiple interesting supporting characters, with a decent mix of males and females. All in all, I really enjoyed this book and look forward to more stories in this world. 

Recommended.

**I received Jackaby as an Advanced eGalley from Net Galley**

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Audio Book Review: Grasshopper Jungle

Grasshopper Jungle   

By Andrew Smith
Narrated by Philip Church
Story: *****
Narration: *****

“History provides a compelling argument that every scientist who tinkers around with unstoppable shit needs a reliable flamethrower.” 
― Andrew SmithGrasshopper Jungle

From Goodreads: 
Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the story of how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.


From Me: 
Umm...sooo this book. It's, well...how do I?... Huh.

Let's try this again. Grasshopper Jungle is unlike any book I've read...EVER. The story is completely bonkers. BUT IN A GOOD WAY. 

I'm not going to go into what the story's about - it's impossible for me to describe and you can read the official synopsis above. That being said, this world is both familiar and bizarre and the boys go through normal teenage stuff as well as events that are wackadoo. The story was at times hilarious, touching, and gross. Austin's "history" was fascinating, especially the way Andrew Smith had everything circle back to itself. I found myself completely enthralled. You know what I mean.

If you're easily offended by mature-immature content (and by that I mean the thoughts, words, and actions common to pubescent teenagers - and if you think they aren't, then you're probably deluding yourself) then this book probably isn't for you. But if you like the strange and bizarre, if you like stories about growing up and trying to understand yourself, if you like books about friendship and love and family, then this book is for you. And if you know a teen who thinks reading is boring or dumb or a waste of time, give them this book - I'm pretty sure they'll have a difficult time putting it down...or getting their eyes to pop back into their heads. BUT IN A GOOD WAY.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review - In Your Dreams

In Your Dreams (Blue Heron #4)  
By Kristan Higgins
*** 1/2
"Nothing kicked off Emmaline Neal's weekend like using a Taser." --In Your Dreams, Kristan Higgins
Emmaline is a small town cop who needs a date to her ex's wedding. Jack, scion of a wine dynasty, is known for being happy to help women who have need of dates for various life events - just a good guy doing a nice thing, no strings, no romance. In the process, they find they like each other more than a little, but complications back home make getting together difficult, if not impossible.

One of the interesting things about this story is the long looks at what went on in Jack and Emmaline's pasts prior to the current action. We get to see both of their past relationships in great detail. This added a lot of depth to the story and fleshed out what made Jack and Emmaline the people they are today, but I couldn't help wanting to get back to their presents rather than spending so much time in their pasts. This is the main reason I didn't rate this book higher; I was much more engaged in their *now* than I was in their *then.*

There's a lot of great humor (though I could do with out all many the embarrassing moments - I don't know, I may have too much empathy or something, but I *hate* reading/watching/seeing/doing humiliating things), and while you have to suspend reality to believe in the adorable small town atmosphere, the situations were believable. Mixed in with the flirting and cute relationship stuff were some fairly intense situations, including the aftermath of a horrible car accident and subsequent PTSD, family drama, and bullying. This book may look like a light-hearted romp at first glance, but there are parts that give the story weight, as well.

In Your Dreams is the 4th book in the Blue Heron series. I wasn't aware of that prior to reading (I hate coming into a series late), but it didn't affect the story - it can very much be read as a standalone. I never felt like I was missing any important details; rather, knowing that the supporting characters likely get more page-time in other books made me more interested in reading the rest.

Kristan Higgins is incredibly popular at my library, and I have no doubt that this book will please those fans, as well as lovers of contemporary romance and stories of relationships and character growth.

*FYI - the cover art is wintery, but this is not a holiday title.

**I received In Your Dreams as an Advanced eGalley from Net Galley**

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review: Magic Breaks

Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7)   
By Ilona Andrews
*****
“Fortune favors the brave," I told her. It also kills the stupid, but I decided to keep that fact to myself.” 
― Ilona AndrewsMagic Breaks
Another great entry in the Kate Daniels series! I'd heard rumors that this was the final book, which made me incredibly sad, but that's not quite the case. According the the author's note, while this entry does sort of complete the 7 book arc, the books aren't over yet (there will be 3 more!). Roland turned out to be too big to wrap up in one book. I'm glad - I'm not ready to be done with Kate and Curran's world (even though I'm also enjoying Andrea's spin-off series, I want them BOTH).

A note on the cover art - I'm super pleased that this series finally got a hardcover edition! Up until recently, the print books were only released as mass market paperbacks. I don't care what format the book's in, as long as it's good, but some people are picky (or snooty) and won't try a mass market for whatever reason. Also, there's a bit of "a book has made it if it's hardcover" and it's about bloody time this series was given that particular "honor." That being said, as much as I think this is a great looking cover, and the cover model is gorgeous, I don't think she has the mature look that the last model had. I'm sure this lady could kick some ass, but I'd believe it more on a YA novel - she just looks too young for Kate. The woman on the old covers looked like she could not only kick your ass, but she'd enjoy it, too.

So, back to the story. I'm going to try to be spoiler free here... Kate and the crew are back in Atlanta after an exciting trip overseas and are now waiting for the inevitable attack. Which comes, but not how they were expecting it. Hugh does a thing and Kate has to scurry to keep everything from blowing up on her own since Curran is out of town. Bad stuff happens, people are hurt, Pack politics make things even harder, and eventually Kate gets a face-to-face with Roland. 

The face-to-face was not at all what I was expecting, but in a good way. Kate has to make some hard choices, but they make complete sense and suit how the character has grown over the course of the series. And Roland was more than the baddest-baddy-to-ever-bad. He was interesting, even a little quirky, for all that we know he's an evil bastard. He's actually fairly charming, and that last little bit in the epilogue? That was kinda priceless. I'm really excited to see what happens next!

A final note: at the end of the book is a short story written from Julie's perspective that takes place before the action in this book. Kate takes her to a new school, one for kids with magic, and Julie doesn't want to go - she wants to stay with Kate. But to Julie's surprise, the school is hiring her to help find a missing girl and Julie's intrigued enough to take the job. And so Julie get's her own baby-mystery and I LOVED IT. I would read the hell out of a Julie-centric YA series. It would be AMAZING. According to Ilona Andrews's Goodreads page, someone asked if they'd be writing more, and it sounds like we could maybe possibly hopefully get more Julie short stories. Finger's crossed!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Book List: YA Horror for Halloween

Book List: YA Horror for Halloween 
Current and upcoming YA titles that put the OoooOOooo in spooky!

I don't know what it is about autumn that makes readers reach for eerie novels, probably something to do with the colder days and longer nights, plus that weirdest of holidays: Halloween, but that time is right around the corner. In preparation, I've created a book list of teen novels and series starters that are either straight-up horror or just moderately creepy and are currently available or coming soon:


Ghost House, by Alexandra Adornetto (published 8/26/14)
Famous Last Words, by Katie Alender (9/30/14)
Bad Girls Don't Die, by Katie Alender (available now)
Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake (available now)
“Move, hunt, kill. Like lather, rinse, and repeat.” ― Kendare BlakeAnna Dressed in Blood
The Diviners, by Libba Bray (available now)
Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll (7/15/14)
Servants of the Storm, by Delilah Dawson (8/5/14)



Of Metal and Wishes, by Sarah Fine (8/5/14)
Into the Grey, By Celine Kiernan (8/26/14)
I Hunt Killers, By Barry Lyga (available now)
“A river of images and thoughts and feelings, dirtied and polluted so that no one could drink from it without gagging.” 
― Barry LygaI Hunt Killers
Ten, by Gretchen McNeil (available now)
Mary: The Summoning, by Hillary Monahan (9/2/14)
Amity, by Micol Ostow (8/26/14)
Asylum, by Madeleine Roux (available now)
“It was a house for those who could not take care of themselves, for those who heard voices, who had strange thoughts and did strange things. The house was meant to keep them in. Once they came, they never left.” 
― Madeleine RouxAsylum
Feral, by Holly Schindler (8/26/14)
Party Games: A Fear Street Novel, by R. L. Stine (9/30/14)
Welcome to the Dark House, by Laurie Faria Stolarz (7/22/14)


Of Monsters and Madness, by Jessica Verday (9/9/14)
Fiendish, by Brenna Yovanoff (8/14/14)
The Replacement, by Brenna Yovanoff (available now)
“You presume to name those who have no name. We are pandemonium and disaster. We are the dancing, gibbering horror of the world.” 
― Brenna YovanoffThe Replacement

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Movie Review: If I Stay

If I Stay
Starring ChloĆ« Grace Moretz and Jamie Blackley
Based on the novel by Gayle Forman

My Forever Young Adult book club had the opportunity to see the pre-screening of If I Stay on Monday. I don’t do sad movies, as a life rule, but I broke it *justthisonce*. So I had to prepare myself: waterproof eyeliner and mascara were required. A bottle of water for when I needed to swallow the pain. And a box of Puffs Plus with Lotion (shown below).
All my preparations did little to disguise my red nose and bloodshot eyes when the movie was over. Nor did it keep my co-book club members from laughing at my expense (I’m looking at you, Noelle!). Seriously, I’m a sympathetic cryer - if someone’s crying, I am, too. Doesn't matter if it’s a real life situation, a book or movie, or that one time I binge watched Long Island Medium (don’t judge).

So about the movie: there will be tears. Unless you’re a robot. The rest of the review will hopefully be spoiler free, but read at your own risk.
Noelle, Rachel (me), and Jamie...and my Puffs
There were the usual complaints about things in the movie not matching the book (which I haven’t read, but the others told me about). Like Mia and Adam’s relationship issues were more pronounced in the movie. And the wreck scene wasn't as gory as it was in the book. But the biggest complaint had to do with a thing that Adam says at the end of the book that he doesn't say at the end of the movie.
CGM is of course a delight (though her perfect salon-styled hair made me a little crazy - I miss 90s teen movie hair, it was much more realistic), and I adored each of the minor characters: Mia’s parents were amazing, her lil bro was completely adorbs, and Kim is a damn fine friend even though we didn't see much of her. The actor playing Adam was appropriately dreamy (I thought) and if that was actually Mr. Blackley singing, then the kid’s got skills. He also had the cheesiest lines in the movie. I asked if it was that bad in the book, and apparently it just comes off better in print. Oh, and Gramps didn’t just make me cry, he made me ugly cry.
Like I said before, I hadn't read the book, but I was familiar with the story and knew where it was headed. However, some of the poor folk in the audience clearly didn't - the screen went black and there was an audible gasp from the audience, the kind that states, “this can’t be the end!” Then the credits started rolling and there was a lot of betrayed groaning noises. Hopefully it’ll prompt them to read the book! #TeamBooks #YAForever
Oh, and they were giving away a few swag bags, and because Jamie knew that CGM starred with Jim Carrey in Kickass 2, she won one!

Thanks to the lovely FYA crew for providing us with the tickets for the screening (and PenguinTeen who provided FYA with the tickets!); we had a great night!
The review was originally posted to our FYA book club tumblr page and can be found at: http://fyaorlandonorth.tumblr.com/ 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review: Murder of Crows

Murder of Crows (The Others #2)  
By Anne Bishop
****
“Are there weapons in a bookstore?'
'It's a store full of books, which are objects that can be thrown as well as read,' Monty replied blandly.
The Crows cocked his head. 'I had no idea you humans lived with so much danger.”

― Anne BishopMurder of Crows
I am finding myself completely involved in this series. In this sequel (to Written in Red), Meg is a little more settled in the Courtyard, and the terra indigene (the Others) welcome her as their own, but where the conflict began in the first book, we now take the next step.

In most stories, I find myself rooting for the underdog; I think most people do. In this series, the terra indigene, though they can die, are far stronger than the humans (and elementals are off-the-charts BAMFs - do not tick off an elemental or their ponies!). The terra indigene had the "Americas" first - they just let humans rent space. And the humans are expected to follow certain rules (like don't pollute the water) or else they won't receive the natural resources they need OR they'll be evicted off the land OR they'll be eaten. 

In this world, even though the terra indigene are clearly NOT the underdogs, I'm still totally rooting for them. While not all humans are bad, and in fact, many are doing good things to pave the way for a more balanced relationship with the Others, there are some nasty pieces of work among the human element. These particular humans do some truly heinous things that were a little difficult to read - the text didn't get particularly graphic, but it only takes a few words to get a horrible mental image of what they're doing. So I was definitely cheering on the Wolves and Others as they tried to figure out who and where these problem people were. I love me some comeuppance, and the Others can certainly dish it out.

In addition to this main story arc, we are introduced to a new people group, the Intuits, and we get a little more detail into the Humans First and Last movement. We also see a relationship developing between Meg and Simon, though neither of them have any idea about how relationships work in general, so that was fun to read - it added a little lightness to some of the darker elements of the story.

Highly recommended.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Book Review: Grave Mercy

Grave Mercy (His Fair Assassin #1)  
By Robin LaFevers
****
“Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?” 
― R.L. LaFeversGrave Mercy
I enjoy learning about history, particularly British and European history, but the time period of Grave Mercy is one that I'm not terribly familiar with. The story takes place in the late 1400s in Brittany. The country is struggling to maintain its independence against the French, while dealing with turmoil and infighting within its ranks. Ismae is a young woman who was raised by an abusive father and finds a better life when she's spirited away from her new husband and brought to a convent. At the convent, she discovers what it means to be the daughter of Mortain - one of the old gods given the title Saint to allow them to continue worshipping him in the Christian world. Mortain is Death, and Ismae is one of Death's Handmaidens, and she learns to be an assassin at the convent.

Grave Mercy was different in tone and voice from other YA novels I've read. The story is very politically minded; the major plot line is the struggle to make Anne a duchess of Brittany and keep her from the hands of scheming suitors, as well as the French. Poor Anne is only 12 or 13, and it's difficult reading about her situation when you remember her age. 

There is a romance subplot, but the romance feeds the overall story and Ismae's journey, rather than being the focal point. And it's not full of teenage angst; these characters have more important things to think about. So while these feelings are disconcerting to our heroine, they don't pull focus when it's time to deal with the fate of the country, and overall, they're dealt with maturely. 

I really enjoyed this book, particularly the historical elements, and the paranormal element was new and intriguing. I'd recommend this series to anyone looking to dig in to a YA book.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Book Review: Written in Red

Written in Red (The Others #1) 
By Anne Bishop
****
“There would be a spike in the number of girls who went out for a walk in the woods and were never heard from again. There always were when stories came out portraying the terra indigene as furry humans who just wanted to be loved.

Most of the terra indigene didn't want to love humans; they wanted to eat them. Why did humans have such a hard time understanding that?” 

― Anne BishopWritten in Red

This book is a little hard to categorize. I was expecting a typical urban fantasy, but this was anything but typical. It was more like a fantasy world built on top of ours. TVs and cars were still a thing, but the names of the week, countries, and cities were all different. The background to the story is that when the humans were created, the Others were created, too. The humans were kept separate so they could thrive, but when they started venturing out, they discovered that they weren't alone. While it's not explicitly said that it was early American colonists who met with the Others, Bishop describes colonists coming to the New World and getting eaten by the natives/Others before a smart leader decided to trade shiny baubles and ask for permission to use the land. 


In the present day, the Others (which are a people group that are able to change shape and can choose to take human form) are basically running things - they control all the natural resources (considering that elementals are included among their numbers, this makes sense - that having Water around means they control the water supply, and so forth), and they're far more powerful than the humans and could easily wipe out humanity, but they like human inventions, so there's a sort of truce in place among the Others and the humans. Enter Meg, a human on the run from some shadowy group, who finds shelter among the Others. And considering the fact that the Others look at humans as Meat, finding herself feeling safer among them than the humans she's running from makes for an interesting story.


I love what Bishop did with the characterizations. Many of the others have an animal form - one they took on for themselves a very long time ago - and because they've had this form for so long, they've taken on many of the attributes of that animal. So the crows like shiny things, wolves occasionally sniff crotches, and the horses like sugar lumps. 


The mystery of Meg, what she was, who she was running from, and what she could do, was intriguing. And like Kaylin Neya of the Chronicles of Elantra series, she finds herself being liked by and under the care of some very powerful creatures, creatures who normally have little patience and even less respect for humans.


I found myself fascinated with Bishop's world and her characters, and I can't wait to read the next book in the series, Murder of Crows.