Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SOULLESS by Gail Carriger: My First Steampunk

I've been wanting to read this one since I enjoyed Gail Carriger on a Sci/Fi panel at ALA a few years back. I loved it! I really didn't know what to expect. I've been searching for a Steampunk novel to read for a while, but haven't really stumbled upon anything that intrigued me. So, I went back to this one, since it's been on my list for a while anyway, having made the the Alex Award list in 2010.

Let me begin with your quickie synopsis:
Alexia Tarabotti, a woman without a soul who is viewed as unable to marry, works with werewolf Lord Conall Maccon to clear her name after she accidentally kills a vampire and is suspected of the disappearances of other undead members of high society.

In case you were a little confused by the mention of vampires and werewolves, let me give you some background on Gail Carriger's version of Steampunk.
See now? And it totally works! Throwing vampires and werewolves into proper Victorian high society works brilliantly in the hands of Gail Carriger. 
Alexia Tarabotti is a spinster at the ripe old age of 26 (yikes!). She's got quite a brain on her, so she inserts herself into investigations and other activities of the local law enforcement. Although the investigation in this story begins not by her own busybody-ness but after a vampire attacks her. The fallout from the attack starts a domino of events that leads to a discovery of a secret society with sinister goals.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! At first, it felt a little slow for me and I wasn't sure I would continue. But the beautiful language and the depth of the main character kept me going. I'm glad I did. As I read, I highlighted passage after passage of highly entertaining writing and witty banter. I concluded wishing the story would continue. It really is wickedly funny. Alexia Tarabotti is now one of my all-time favorite characters!

I would be remiss if I neglected to tell you that Gail Garriger now has a teen series set in this world called The Finishing School series. I haven't read it, but from the reviews I've seen, it's appropriate for middle school readers. Whereas this book, as an Alex Award book, is an adult book appropriate for older teens.

I don't have a trailer, but you should really visit Gail Carriger's website. It's chock-full of so many goodies!

Read this one, if you haven't yet! You'll love it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Action-Packed Science Fiction Love Story by Claudia Gray in A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU

Imagine there were unlimited versions of you in an unlimited number of dimensions. Imagine that each choice you make spurs off a different course for your life. But somehow there are certain people you always encounter in each dimension. You and this other person find each other no matter what. This is A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU. Although other people would argue it's an action book, with a dash of love.

I adored this book. I'm a sucker for great relationships, and Gray delivers some really meaningful, deep relationships. She actually pulls off a greater feat than that, since these relationships occur in different dimensions, so the characters have to be nuanced across worlds. I can't explain more without divulging too much, but seriously, that is an amazing feat. (Sorta like Orphan Black, but not really...)

Since I haven't given a summary yet, let me do that. Here is your one sentence summary:
When eighteen-year-old Marguerite Caine's father is killed, she must leap into different dimensions and versions of herself to catch her father's killer and avenge his murder.

Not only did I enjoy the characters and relationships, but the premise was intriguing. I think it's interesting that they travel through dimensions, but not time. So when Marguerite travels it's the same exact period of time. Here's what seemed really cool to me - some dimensions were ahead of us technologically, whereas others were behind. One dimension had just invented the telephone. How cool is that to think about. What forces stalled their advances or propelled ours?

Additionally, it was interesting to see the differences between people in different dimensions. Marguerite's mother was a genius in her dimensions, as well as others, of course, but the way it manifested in each dimension was fun to see play out. It makes you think about how different we all might be after making different decisions in the course of our lives.

Overall, this is a lovely combination of science fiction and love, with tons of action. The plot keeps moving all the way to the end. I truly appreciate the author's ability to combine these elements in such a fulfilling way. As much as I am tired of trilogies, I'm so glad that this story will continue, because I want more!

I could not locate a book trailer, so instead, I'm bringing you an exclusive interview with the author from the Novel Novice website. Click below to read. (There are no spoilers!)

Friday, November 7, 2014

SIX MONTHS LATER by Natalie D. Richards

In the mood for a mystery?

Here's your quickie synopsis:

Chloe didn't think about it much when she nodded off in study hall on that sleepy summer day. But when she wakes up, snow is on the ground and she can't remember the last six months of her life. Before, she'd been a mediocre student. Now, she's on track for valedictorian and being recruited by Ivy League schools. Before, she never had a chance with super jock Blake. Now he's her boyfriend. Before, she and Maggie were inseparable. Now her best friend won't speak to her. What happened to her? And why can't she remember?

I was intrigued by this premise of losing your memory for six months. The mystery kept me going, and I enjoyed the Chloe's journey to figure out what happened. When she wakes up and things are so different, she wonders what kind of person she turned into to create this completely different life. Her mom is thrilled with her now that she's being courted by Ivy League schools and getting top grades. But what was the cost for her mom's approval? Her boyfriend is the boy she's always dreamed of, but why does he repulse her?

You'll enjoy this if you love a good mystery.

Other books I recommend about memory loss:
For a completely, totally original take on memory, check out Forgotten by Cat Patrick.
Also, Mercy by Rebeccas Lim throws angels into her amnesia tale.
And last, but definitely not least, one of my favorites of the year, so far - We Were Liars by E. Lockart.

Now I leave you with a book trailer:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Amy Zhang's Haunting Debut, FALLING INTO PLACE

“She is human and bound by the same laws of nature—gravity, in particular—as everyone else. Try as she might, she will never grow wings.”

Liz Emerson has decided that the world would be better off without her. She gives herself a week to plan her departure and to give the world one last shot at convincing her to stay. The story is told from a unique perspective, multiple time periods, and through snapshots of Liz’s childhood. On paper that sounds like it would be confusing. But it’s not. In fact, it makes the story that much more interesting. Add to that perceptive, completely beautiful writing and you have a winner. I loved this book.

The author walks a very fine line with the Liz's character. She’s so hurtful and deliberate in her actions towards her friends and students who cross her. But being inside Liz’s head, you feel where she’s coming from, and somehow I rooted for her. It’s a delicate balance that the author pulls off smoothly. If I don’t like the main character, I’ll easily put a book down. What’s the point of reading someone’s story if you don’t care about them. It was important to see the growth from where Liz was as a child and the journey that led her to now.

The unique narration and flashbacks made the story more intriguing. The writing is lovely. It’s perceptive and feels authentic. The relationships are what really wrenched my heart.The way Liz’s mom neglects her hits hard, but then we still feel for her mom, since we know she’s in pain. Also, the way Liz hurts her loyal friends when she really just wants to support them.

The book is beautiful, haunting, and thoughtful.

I couldn't locate a book trailer, but I'll refer you to Epic Reads "20 Elegant Quotes from Falling into Place."  They put together their favorite quotes from the book, many with striking images. That should give you an idea of how lovely Zhang's writing is in Falling into Place.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Yes, I finally read THE MAZE RUNNER by James Dashner

Yes, I'm the last person on the planet to read The Maze Runner. I have no excuse. It's been on my list forever. People have told me to read it. But it took my student book club to pick it for me to finally get to it! I'm glad I did, especially since it's now a movie. I enjoyed it! It also led to the biggest book club meeting we've had. It's quite popular with teens and adults.

Your quickie summary: Sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up with no memory in the middle of a maze and realizes he must work with the community in which he finds himself if he is to escape.

The mystery hooked me right away. I'm fascinated with how our memory works. Whether it's from trauma or by human's fiddling with the brain, as in typical science fiction fashion, memory loss is intriguing. The maze idea is original. Yes, The Maze Runner pre-dates a lot of other dystopians. But even so, reading it now, after having read more than my fair share of dystopians, it feels original. The writing is wonderful. The characters are unique and realistic.

I really appreciated the use of original slang. I was curious about it from the beginning. I wondered if Dashner used it to depict a future society where our language would naturally evolve or whether he used it so the kids could swear and it wouldn't be so harsh for readers. I found this great interview with the author and it answers some questions about the language. It appears to be a little bit of both. (That's a great interview, by the way. Go check it out.)

There is so much cool stuff online about The Maze Runner:
The author's website
The official site for the book
Videos and interviews

How could I not leave you with the trailer!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Revisiting the Salem Witch Trials Hysteria in CONVERSION by Katherine Howe

CONVERSION is a unique combination of historical fiction dealing with the Salem witch trials and news story from today's headlines about a mystery illness at a boarding school.

Your quickie synopsis:
When girls start experiencing strange tics and other mysterious symptoms at Colleen's high school, her small town of Danvers, Massachusetts, falls victim to rumors that lead to full-blown panic, and only Colleen connects their fate to the ill-fated Salem Village, where another group of girls suffered from a similarly bizarre epidemic three centuries ago.

I enjoyed the alternating narration between the late seventeenth century teen girl in Salem Village and the current day boarding school teen Colleen. The voices were authentic to the respective time periods. I didn't remember the details of the witch trials from studying The Crucible in high school, so it was fun to watch them unfold here. The author expertly wove together a lot here with not only the two time periods, but also the use of The Crucible. The writing is fabulous. My highlighter kept busy highlighting many beautifully descriptive paragraphs. There were a lot of characters, and I did lose track of some of them. But the main characters were well done. Even though the book felt long, it did keep me interested until the end. I have some questions about the end, but I won't spoil it here. I'll just say that I'm not all together satisfied with the ending. Overall, though, I think weaving together these two ideas was brilliant and made for a great story.

Check out the Katherine Howe's for more on this book. It appears that doing this research led to another to write another book called The Penguin Book of Witches. It's looks fascinating. Oh, and the author is a direct descendant of three accused Salem witches. (How's that for street cred?)

If you're interested in the Salem witch trials, this book will fascinate you. I became enthralled.

Check out the brief book trailer:

Monday, August 4, 2014

E. Lockart's Riveting WE WERE LIARS

"Be a little kinder than you have to."

"Always do what you're afraid to do."

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks is one of my all-time favorite books. I also really loved Dramarama. Actually, I loved everything I've read by E. Lockhart. So I grabbed We Were Liars and began reading without so much as a glance at the book jacket.

But I'll give you the benefit of a quickie synopsis:
Spending the summers on her family's private island off the coast of Massachusetts with her cousins and a special boy named Gat, teenaged Cadence struggles to remember what happened during her fifteenth summer.

Cadence (Cady) wakes up after an accident with no memory of what caused her to hit her head. She doesn't remember much of the summer before the accident either. But before she begins to investigate what happened that summer, we're taken on a journey through the lives of her intriguing family, the Sinclairs.

Their family owns an island with several homes on it. Each home belongs to a different daughter and her family. Cady and the other cousins have been spending their summers on the island every year. Cady and the other two of the older cousins, Johnny and Mirren, are the best of friends. Another boy named Gat, who is not related to Cady, begins joining the threesome one year. The four become inseparable.

The the accident occurs and things change. When Cady is well enough to return to the island two summers later, she's determined to find out what happened. She's frustrated that everyone seems to be hiding the truth from her. What she discovers is unforgettable.

I loved this moving, emotional, riveting book. Lockhart has a way of evoking a completely unique mood and atmosphere for each of her books. This one of spellbinding. The story has rich characters and an amazing setting. It also makes you think about class, family, and what it means to be an outsider. I can't even speak about the ending without giving anything away. But it is incredible. Also, the writing! I was highlighting right and left at all the beautiful phrases and imagery. Wow!

Seriously. This is one you won't want to miss out on. I wish I had a book trailer to share. (I've been saying that a lot lately. Perhaps I should start making them myself...) But I do have an interview with the author about the book. There are no spoilers, but you still may want to wait to watch it until after you read the book.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

ALL OUR YESTERDAYS is a Thrilling Time Travel Ride by Cristin Terrill

As you may have noticed, I'm a sucker for time travel books. But I really like them to be well thought out, plotted well, and have characters I care about. This one has all of those requirements and much more.

Here is your quickie synopsis:
Em must travel back in time to prevent a catastrophic time machine from ever being invented, while Marina battles to prevent the murder of the boy she loves.

This is one of those books where spoilers can ruin the experience, so I'll tread lightly. The book begins with Em in a prison cell for unknown reasons, next door to an unknown boy with whom she has daily conversations in between being interrogated and tortured. Right away, the plot sucked me in. Em breaks out with the boy, Finn, in the cell next to her. They go back in time to murder a man who is apparently responsible for making the world a horrifying mess.

The story is told masterfully in two time periods concurrently. This is one of those types of novels that can become a mess really easily. In other books, I get bored by one of the narrators and flip ahead or skip big sections. Not here. both points of view are so intriguing, I did not want to miss a word of it. The author did a brilliant job of keeping the plot tight, clear, and action-packed. There were scenes so brilliantly written that I felt I was watching an action movie.

As much as the plot stood out, the characters are wonderful too. Em and her friend have gone back in time over and over to try to prevent the villain from ruining the world. They are faced with an emotional decision for this last attempt. I felt Em's anguish. I felt her confusing love for two very different guys. All of the main characters are rich and complete.

This is one of the best books I've read this year! You should read this one as soon as you can get your hands on it. You won't be disappointed.

If this is Cristin Terrill's first novel, as it appears to be, I'm truly looking forward to more from her! Check out the book trailer below:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Enjoy Some Summer Fun with TALES FROM MY CLOSET by Jennifer Anne Moses

Like clothes? Like drama? Are you a teen girl? Then I have THE book for you! Seriously, this is a great summer read. Well, actually it's a great read for anytime, but I'm trying to illustrate that it's not a real deep book. And frankly, sometimes that's exactly what I'm in the mood for. (Although, I'm not sure you needed all of that. You could probably tell from the title what type of book this is.)

Your quickie synopsis:
Justine and her friends Bianca, Becka, Polly, and Anne, living in West Falls, New Jersey, are high school girls dealing with different fashion issues.

The book is told from the points of view of five different girls. The voices aren't strikingly different, so it took me a minute to keep them straight, but stick it out, because it's worth it. Justine has moved to a suburb of New Jersey just in time for school to begin. She wears her most fashionable dress to school, which elicits ridicule from several students. She resorts to wearing lame/boring clothes to try to blend into the background the following day. 

The other girls are all dealing with their own issues. Each one portrays a certain facade, but is feeling differently on the inside. The funny thing is - not a one of them can see how much they all have in common. They all have a passion for clothes. Through various ups and downs, they end up connecting with each other to become good friends. 

The book's strengths are in the way the characters overlap through fashion. I enjoyed it. Like I said, it's great for reading by the pool or at the beach. It also will make you want to clean out you closet and go shopping. Or reinvent your style. 

If you enjoyed SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS, this is right up your alley. 

This book is crying out for a fun-fashionista style book trailer, but I couldn't find one. Darn. Anyway, enjoy this fun-filled, fashion-focused, friendship book. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

THE HERE AND NOW is a Hopeful, Sci-Fi Adventure from Ann Brashares

If you're like me, your mind will probably immediately go to SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS when you hear the name Ann Brashares. My interest piqued when I heard about a different kind of traveling. Time traveling. Yep, this is quite the departure from SISTERHOOD.

Here is your quickie synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Prenna, an immigrant who moved to New York when she was twelve, came from another time and she and the other travelers must follow strict rules to avoid destroying the new life they have worked so hard to get, as well as the one person Prenna is desperate to protect.

Prenna traveled to 2010 from about 60 years in the future where the world was (is/will be) crashing down around her from a blood plague. Literally everyone is dying. The world is hot and wet, and the mosquito are feasting. Prenna and this group have traveled back in time to before this destruction to escape. They live by strict rules like: you can't interfere with the sequence of time, you must avoid inclusion in the historical record, and above all - no getting emotionally or physically intimate with a "time native."

So, my first thought was, if they escaped to this earlier time, how could they resist attempting to change this awful future? But they have a strict rule against it. Puzzling right? And why would they only take this small group of people? Questions, so many questions.

Back to Prenna. She has a friendship with this boy, Ethan, and would love to get closer to him, but she has to hide so much from time natives that it strains their relationship. After meeting this strange, but oddly familiar homeless man, Ethan and Prenna begin on an investigative journey that throws them much closer together, despite the "rules" of her community.

I enjoyed this book. Not only did I enjoy the thinking about the time path and possible forks in the road. But there were some sections about memory that I loved. The community gave the people fictional histories as their new lives, so they could fit in with the new time period. In the begining, Prenna is remembering the people who died in the future, including loved ones. People in her community talk, but they don't really communicate.
Sometimes I only hear what we don't say. I only think the things I shouldn't think and I remember what I should forget. I hear the ghosts in the room, all the people we lost in our old life who are crying out to be remembered. But we never do remember them. The whispers of things we feel and don't say - I hear them too.
It made me really sad. If you no longer speak of these people, are they erased completely? Anyway, that was just one section that really spoke to me.

Here is a book trailer, of sorts. It doesn't say much about the book itself, but with SNLer Ana Gasteyer as the host, it's worth watching.