Saturday, November 30, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (80)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

I won NaNoWriMo, yay! And it wasn't a total struggle this year, yay! ;) Now to get back to it on Monday and actually finish the first draft.

On Tuesday my 300th book review went up. Wow. It doesn't really feel like 300, but then it also doesn't feel like 3 years since my first post went up. I'd love to redo those first few reviews, they're probably terrible now but I thought they were good then.

I'm still compiling titles for the underrated YA of 2013 post. Feel free to leave your suggestions either in the comment box or on Twitter or through e-mail. :)

Reviews going up this week will feature These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner (Tuesday) and The Lost Sun by Tessa Gratton (Friday). :)
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier (borrowed from the library)
Loki's Wolves by Kelley Armstrong & Melissa Marr (borrowed from the library)
Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney (borrowed from the library)
Saga #16 by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples

Friday, November 29, 2013

Me on The Madness Underneath

Title: The Madness Underneath
Author: Maureen Johnson
Release Date: February 26, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin imprint)

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Deveaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory's brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she's become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades, the city's secret ghost-fighting police, are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it's too late.

The Madness Underneath is what I've come to expect from Maureen Johnson in a good way. There's mystery, ghosts, murders, high school, teen romance confusion, and teen angst in general, and it all comes together in the best way. This book is back to Rory attempting to juggle all the part of her life, a life that sees London's ghostly past mixed with Rory's own odd and unique way of thinking. After being attacked by a ghost masquerading as Jack the Ripper, will returning to Wexford really be that easy?

Rory is quirky, eccentric, and sometimes just plain weird, but she's also curious and rather compelling. As I read this book I was fascinated with how Rory saw events play out, with her point of view. She's an intriguing kind of heroine for a ghostly murder mystery, seeing the world from a different angle. Sometimes it's like she's looking at it from the side, and it's clear that she'll be the one to decide what she'll do next as opposed to someone else. She's back to her school and her complicated possible thing with Jerome, back to her ghostly adventures with her team of Stephen, Callum, and Boo, and she's back to helping people. I think that's the biggest or at least the most important part of her personality. For all her weird stories and eccentricities, all Rory wants to do is help people with whatever problem they have. It's just unfortunate that it leans more toward the paranormal and death-centric side of things.

But it's not just Rory or Stephen or Jerome or the rest of the characters, it's also the setting that makes this book. The haunting streets and basements of London. The book is set right in the heart of hundreds of years of history, of war and bloodshed. Taking into account all those who've died in London since it was first settled, there are bound to be more than a few ghosts wandering around, and there are bound to be some angry and resentful ones. Will this be the time for Rory to put her new ability into action?

There's a definite mix of Rory's real/school like and her new dangerous ghost life. It's so interesting, watching them twist and twine around each other, how when they finally do intersect one will complicate the other in impossible ways. Rory now has to find a way to balance these two lives of hers, but it doesn't look like it's going to be easy.

This is Rory's return to where it all began, but what's to come? What's next for her? And will she be able to cope? She's part-dealing with the aftermath of old danger and part-walking into some new danger. One of the bigger changes for Rory now is her new ability, the one that goes beyond just seeing ghosts, but is that all there is now? Just ghost searching and stopping the evil ones from hurting innocent people? Or is there something more out there, more that she realized? I knew going in that the ending would be shocking and it was, even if I'd already guessed what it could be, but that doesn't mean I wasn't left yelling at the book once I was done, wondering when the next one will be out.

(I own a finished copy of this book.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (155)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Author: Leslye Walton
Release Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick Press

From Goodreads:

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

This sounds like a wonderfully magical book. :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Me on Pawn

Title: Pawn
Author: Aimée Carter
Release Date: November 29, 2013
Publisher: HarlequinTeen

For Kitty Doe, it seems like an easy choice. She can either spend her life as a III in misery, looked down upon by the higher ranks and forced to leave the people she loves, or she can become a VII and join the most powerful family in the country. If she says yes, Kitty will be Masked - surgically transformed into Lila Hart, the Prime Minister's niece, who died under mysterious circumstances. As a member of the Hart family, she will be famous. She will be adored. And for the first time, she will matter. But there's a catch. There always is. Faced with threats, conspiracies and a life that's not her own, she must decide which path to choose and learn how to become more than a pawn in a twisted game she's only beginning to understand.

Pawn is a glimpse into a certain kind of future, one where an all-powerful family reigns, where secrets and conspiracies are born and die daily, where young people are tested on what their future worth to society will be and how those low scorers will never have the chance to advance. Where people are not always valued or treated like people. Except for one girl. She's been given the chance to be someone important, to actually BE someone, but the price she must pay is a dangerous one. It means being a pawn in someone's scheme, and it means her deciding if she will be that pawn or if she will rise up and speak out.

Kitty has resigned herself to a dismal future, one where she'll be barely taken care of by society because her score was so low. She's a bit street smart but she can't read very well, her learning disability impacts her test score and so she's deemed to be not worth having a semi-privileged life, meaning a warm home, a good job, and one day marrying her boyfriend. Her new life as Lila Hart sounds glamourous, but she knows there's a catch. There's always a catch. Kitty just never expected this kind of catch, never expected a life of secrets, lies, and backstabbing, a life of near-constant power battles and the lengths some will go to in order to win.

The book is set in a dystopian future where the United States thrives because of one family, a family that picked it up from ruin and saved it. It's a society that takes care of all its citizens as long as you give it everything you have, as long as you work as hard as you can. Study, train, push yourself to the limit, and only then will you get the chance to be part of the elite. If you don't give as much, if you give the bare minimum, no one will help you. This society rewards the overachievers and punishes the weak, but the system is flawed. When only one kind of intelligence is tested, when only certain skills are desired, only a certain type of person will move on. And that type isn't always the best type.

Kitty is very much a pawn throughout the book. She never makes her own decisions, except for the first one, the one that starts everything. Once she's Masked, once she becomes Lila, she does what she's told when she's told. She's the Hart family's newest puppet, but she has good reason to be. It's play the role or be killed. It's play the role or her boyfriend will be killed. It's play the role or everyone she's ever cared about will be killed. And so she plays the role, but other plots and plans are still happening around her. She will be pushed to make a choice, the choice to continue the role or to fight back and realize she's not worthless after all.

Considering the large number of dystopian YA novels and series that have been published, I found the premise of this book to be intriguing. I was impressed at what Carter was able to pull off with Kitty. There are some overall similarities to other series, but it's the characters, the world-building, and other little details that set it apart. Every misstep could mean death. Everyone could be part of a secret group trying to change the world. Everyone has a hidden agenda. I'm curious as to what will happen next, which secrets are still to be revealed, and who the next person to use Kitty will be.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from HarlequinTeen through NetGalley.)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (79)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

Even more writing! I'm so looking forward to December when I can get back to reading more. I'm not going to stop writing altogether, I'd like to finish a draft for the first time in years, but I'm going to balance it out more. Read one day, write the next, and so on. Not sure how the weekend writing is going to go, I've had a weird headache all Friday and it seems to want to linger.

New Doctor Who today. Yay! :) I'll be wearing my 'The Angels have the Phone Box' shirt while watching the new episode. I find it interesting that they started the show to draw in adults and kids, to make it interesting but also educational, and now it's turned into this huge thing.

Catching Fire came out but it'll be a while before I see it, maybe another week or so. My sister's been working hard in grad school and once her semester ends we'll be seeing it. :) It sounds like it's faithful to the book, so that's good. I don't know how I feel about Mockingjay being two movies, though.

The regular review schedule is back! This week will feature Pawn by Aimée Carter (Tuesday) and The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson (Friday). :)
The Inventor's Secret by Andrea Cremer (from Penguin Canada)
Landry Park by Bethany Hagen (from Penguin Canada)
Half Bad by Sally Green (from Penguin Canada) (took me until now there's a face in profile in the red)
Dangerous by Shannon Hale (from Penguin Canada)
Blues for Zoey by Robert Paul Weston (from Penguin Canada) (yay for more Canadian YA)
This Star Won't Go Out by Esther Earl sampler (from Penguin Canada) (I think I'm going to cry if I read this, and it's just a sampler.)
The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston (from Carolrhoda Lab through NetGalley)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (154)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Promise of Shadows
Author: Justina Ireland
Release Date: March 11, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

From Goodreads:

Zephyr Mourning has never been very good at being a Harpy. She’d rather watch reality TV than learn forty-seven ways to kill a man, and she pretty much sucks at wielding magic. Zephyr was ready for a future pretending to be a normal human instead of a half-god assassin. But all that changes when her sister is murdered—and she uses a forbidden dark power to save herself from the same fate.

Zephyr is on the run from a punishment worse than death when an unexpected reunion with a childhood friend (a surprisingly HOT friend) changes everything. Because it seems like Zephyr might just be the Nyx, a dark goddess made flesh that is prophesied to change the power balance. For hundreds of years the half-gods have lived in fear, and Zephyr is supposed to change that.

But how is she supposed to save everyone when she can’t even save herself?

Yay, a Greek mythology YA that isn't all Persephone or Cassandra. ;) (Seriously, there are so many weird myths and characters that should be retold, don't just focus on the same two.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Me on Cracked

Title: Cracked
Author: Eliza Crewe
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Strange Chemistry

Meet Meda. She eats people. Well, technically, she eats their soul. But she totally promises to only go for people who deserve it. She's special. It’s not her fault she enjoys it. She can't help being a bad guy. Besides, what else can she do? Her mother was killed and it's not like there are any other "soul-eaters" around to show her how to be different. That is, until the three men in suits show up. They can do what she can do. They're like her. Meda might finally have a chance to figure out what she is. The problem? They kind of want to kill her. Before they get the chance Meda is rescued by crusaders, members of an elite group dedicated to wiping out Meda's kind. This is her chance! Play along with the “good guys” and she’ll finally figure out what, exactly, her 'kind' is. Be careful what you wish for. Playing capture the flag with her mortal enemies, babysitting a teenage boy with a hero complex, and trying to keep one step ahead of a too-clever girl are bad enough. But the Hunger is gaining on her. The more she learns, the worse it gets. And when Meda uncovers a shocking secret about her mother, her past, and her destiny, she may finally give into it.

Cracked is smart, quick, and funny, all while being a dangerous race to discover the truth and not get found out or killed in the process. Anchored by a snarky heroine, this book is a twist on the classic good vs evil battle, it's about destiny, what we're born to do battling against what we're meant to do, because the two are not always the same.

Meda is the best part of the entire book. She's so funny. Filled with sass and attitude, her internal monologue/voice is so clever. She fills each page with lightning fast shots and jabs at everyone around her. Plus, there's the whole soul-eating part of her, a part she can't deny no matter what. It makes her slightly more villainous than heroic, but who said heroes couldn't eat souls? Villains are the heroes of their own stories, and this is Meda's story. She is rather manipulative, batting her eyelashes and lying her way into the 'good guys' camp so she can learn more about what she is and what she just happened to fall into, but it only adds to her snarky charm.

Now, Meda may eat souls, but she also has her morals and her own feelings about it, which is why she only eats the souls people people who deserve it, like murderers. She's not a typical heroine, but she's still compelling. She eats souls, but only those from evil people. She's manipulative and a liar, but because she wants to know the truth. She may not be the most sympathetic heroine, but she's flawed, she has good and bad traits, and what I want out of a heroine is someone with both good and bad traits. Paragons of virtue aren't interesting. Meda is.

This book is very much Meda's journey towards discovering the truth about what she is. She knows nothing about why she can eat souls, and neither does the reader. Both are in the dark about what she really is and what she's capable of, and both end up on the journey together, Meda an active participant and the reader more passive, waiting for the final reveal to strike and everything to be revealed. Even if what's revealed is something Meda never wanted to be exposed.

Meda, through some fault of her own, ends up in the middle of a classic 'good vs evil' kind of battle. The background battle of demons against their human hunters was intriguing. Both sides had their reasons for wanting Meda, for using Meda, for needing Meda to pick them. Of course, it was far more fun to see Meda manipulate the 'good' side and get into their complex. She doesn't necessarily respect them at the beginning, merely sees them as a way to get answers, and once she has her answers, she's perfectly fine with leaving them.

When the book started with Meda playing pretend in an insane asylum, when it started with her getting revenge and following through on her plan to only eat souls from the worst kinds of people because she has her standards, I knew it would be interesting. I knew the book would be fast-paced and rather quick. I didn't know that I would enjoy it so much.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Strange Chemistry through NetGalley.)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (78)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

More rain! More writing! Some reading. ;) Taking Sunday off writing again to get some reading done.

One last day to enter the 3 Years of Me on Books giveaway! Or just a few hours. It ends soon so hurry!

New Doctor Who next week! So excited. Also, does it bug anyone else when there's a Doctor Who reference in a book and they call it 'Dr. Who?' It drives me insane. He's not Dr, Who, PhD. He's the Doctor, the show is called Doctor Who. Also, Doctor Kawaii is the best. :)

The other day I asked on Twitter what I should read first between These Broken Stars (which I've had an e-galley of for a while) and Cress (which I just got an e-galley of on Wednesday), and a few people said Cress. It's not like I was unhappy, I really like the series. Now, if you're waiting to read Cress, or if you've already read it and now kicking yourself for not waiting so the wait for Winter wouldn't be as painful, I suggesting popping over to YouTube to check out RWBY (pronounced ruby). Yes, it's anime, but it's in English (done in the US) so no subtitles for people who hate subtitles. There are a lot of interesting characters, there's some good vs. evil fighting going on, and there are really cool fight scenes with girls kicking butt. And there's some fairy tale crossover for you retelling fans. ;) (try to start with the 4 preview trailers, not the volume 1 trailer)

This week will be the last one review a week week, so check back on Tuesday for a review of Cracked by Elisa Crewe. :)
Cress by Marissa Meyer (from Macmillan through Raincoast Books)
Flame by Amy Kathleen Ryan (from Macmillan through Raincoast Books)
The Nightmare Dilemma by Mindee Arnett (from Raincoast Books)
Necromancing the Stone by Lish McBride (paperback from Raincoast Books)
Her Dark Curiosity by Megan Shepherd (from HarperCollins Canada)
Game Slaves by Gard Skinner (from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt through NetGalley)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (153)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Her Dark Curiosity
Author: Megan Shepherd
Release Date: January 28, 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins imprint)

From Goodreads:

To defeat the darkness, she must first embrace it.

Months have passed since Juliet Moreau returned to civilization after escaping her father's island—and the secrets she left behind. Now, back in London once more, she is rebuilding the life she once knew and trying to forget Dr. Moreau’s horrific legacy—though someone, or something, hasn’t forgotten her.

As people close to Juliet fall victim one by one to a murderer who leaves a macabre calling card of three clawlike slashes, Juliet fears one of her father’s creations may have also escaped the island. She is determined to find the killer before Scotland Yard does, though it means awakening sides of herself she had thought long banished, and facing loves from her past she never expected to see again.

As Juliet strives to stop a killer while searching for a serum to cure her own worsening illness, she finds herself once more in the midst of a world of scandal and danger. Her heart torn in two, past bubbling to the surface, life threatened by an obsessive killer—Juliet will be lucky to escape alive.

With inspiration from Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, this is a tantalizing mystery about the hidden natures of those we love and how far we’ll go to save them from themselves.

I loved the first book, it was so creepy and kept with the same tone and creepiness of the original. I have to admit I'm not totally sold on the Jekyll and Hyde addition to the series, but we'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Me on Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer

Title: Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer
Author: Katie Alender
Release Date: September 24, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic Press

Colette Iselin is excited to go to Paris on a class trip. She'll get to soak up the beauty and culture, and maybe even learn something about her family's French roots. But a series of gruesome murders are taking place across the city, putting everyone on edge. And as she tours museums and palaces, Colette keeps seeing a strange vision: a pale woman in a ball gown and powdered wig, who looks suspiciously like Marie Antoinette. Colette knows her popular, status-obsessed friends won’t believe her, so she seeks out the help of a charming French boy. Together, they uncover a shocking secret involving a dark, hidden history. When Colette realizes she herself may hold the key to the mystery, her own life is suddenly in danger.

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer is an entertaining journey across Paris, shining light on its famous landmarks, giving glimpses of a possible murderous ghost wandering along the cobbled streets. Both the city and the mystery keep the book exciting, but Colette's reliance on her shallow friends and their own terrible personalities bring everything down

Colette is in Paris to sight-see, to take in the history and the culture and the sensation of being the city. And she does, but she never expects to find herself involved in a string of murders. It's certainly something that would cause caution, being told right after landing in a foreign that young people are being murdered, their heads sliced from their bodies. As scared as Colette is when she sees the ghost of what looks to be Marie Antoinette following her, she's just as serious about looking back into the past to see what secrets were covered up during the Revolution.

The best part of the book is Paris itself, the history surrounding the city, the landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Palace at Versailles. The city's past is so well-known, a past glittering with royalty and drenched in suffering and blood. The sights and sounds of the European city come across so well on the page.

As I read on, I wondered what purpose Colette's friends served beyond filling the 'friend' role, because they don't seem like friends. Colette's using them to remember what her life used to be like before her parents split, when they had money and weren't living in a small apartment, but they're also using Colette. She needs them to make herself look good, and so she'll go along with almost any plan of theirs to party or sneak away from the tour. I wondered if her friends were supposed to look like modern-day versions of French aristocracy, the influential figures that wasted money on clothing, jewelry, and exotic food.

The city of Paris and the dangerous ghost story kept me reading, but I was constantly annoyed by Colette's vapid and self-centered friends. I thought this would be an interesting ghost story, and it was, but it also turns into more of a chance for Colette to 'learn the lesson of friendship,' that real friends wouldn't care about your wealth or status and that they would care about you for you. It felt a little more like a middle grade book issue than a young adult book issue, but I suppose figuring out who your true friends are happens at any age.

(I received an advance copy of this title from Scholastic Canada.)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (77)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

The 3 Years of Me on Books Giveaway is still going on until November 17! Hurry and enter for a chance to win!

More writing! Less blogging! Sad face. I'm at about 16,000 words as I write this up and still going strong. Sort of. I'll be taking Sunday off writing in order to outline it (because it's sort of half complete) and write up some reviews and read a bunch of library books that have to go back soon. I took every Saturday off NaNo last year (except the first one) and I liked it. I liked that there was a day where I didn't have to write words but I was free to outline and plot out things. And to catch up on reading and reviews. :)

Only one review again for the coming week, so come back on Tuesday if you're interested in my review of Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender. :)
Borrowed from the library:
Pantomime by Laura Lam
The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (152)

Waiting on Wednesday is a bunch of weekly fun hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. :)

Title: Dorothy Must Die
Author: Danielle Paige
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen

From Goodreads:

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

This just sounds awesome. :)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Me on Curtsies & Conspiracies

Title: Curtsies & Conspiracies
Author: Gail Carriger
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group imprint)

Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won't Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a school trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot, one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.

Curtsies & Conspiracies is an entertaining, intelligent, adventurous hodgepodge of spies, evil geniuses, and steam-powered mechanical little dogs. There is just as much suspicion and intrigue as the first book, and with plots and schemes constantly afoot, one girl in particular must keep her eye on everything she can.

Sophronia's intelligence will get her far, as will her knack for observation and her direct approach, but she can be too direct, too blunt, and sometimes without guile when she needs to keep her cards closer to her. It's one thing for the teachers to suspect she's watching them (if most girls in the school weren't watching them, I'd be surprised, but it's quite another for her friends to know that. While it comes natural, why she sees it as keeping an eye on everything, like she's been taught as a future intelligencer, it makes her appear suspicious and unable to trust anything anyone says unless she sees it with her own eyes. It's unfortunate, really. Sophronia is the best friend to have at the school.

A return to this series is a return to creative and inventive world-building. The dirigible that pretends to be a finishing school for young ladies of good quality, the new inventions and various apparatuses that function because of advances in steam technology, the boys school of future evil geniuses, the packs of werewolves and the vampire hives. So much in the alternate England is familiar, but so much isn't, and that's part of the adventure of this series.

This series still seems to be an exploration of the class structure, of how the upper and lower classes know of each other but never mingle. There is polite society, the lords and their ladies, the young gentleman and the young misses, and then there is the working class, the tradespeople and the Sooties. As Sophronia watches everything, she is in contact with both the upper and lower class. It's not that she doesn't see the distinction, she does, she just takes every opportunity she can to gather information. She can see the true worth of some people, and sometimes intelligence doesn't come from classroom instruction.

Romance on the horizon for Sophronia? Heaven forbid, she's only fourteen, but that doesn't stop a boy or two from making an advance or two. I do hope that the romance doesn't take over the next two books. Considering how there wasn't any in the first book, I have hopes that the series will continue to be about adventure and schemes and secret codes without a lot of romance.

The series still straddles the line between serious and silly. The names of some characters and of the different tools and weapons are so foolish, but Carriger still runs with it. While the names and terms sometimes border on the outrageous, the tone of the book is rather serious. In this alternate version of England, at some point in the 1800's, everything is taken rather seriously. And so it should be, the young ladies are students at a very well-known school, looking very important and practical skills that they will, God willing, put into practice in the future, and use them successfully, but that doesn't stop me from laughing every few pages.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Hachette Book Group Canada.)

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Me on This Week's Book Week (76)

This Week's Book Week is rather similar to Stacking the Shelves hosted by Tynga's Reviews only with far more rambling and a less witty title. ;)

It's November, which means it's NaNoWriMo. I'm going to seriously seriously try and finish my idea this year, not just the 50,000 words but an entire crappy first draft. I've stopped at 50,000 the last 2 years and left those drafts unfinished. If only for the happiness adrenaline boost at the end, I need to finish the draft.

This also means reviews might taper off a bit and I won't be around as much. No worries, though. I have a list of books to read and hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in some reading time around writing.

Because of NaNo, reviews will be posted on Tuesdays instead of the usual Tuesday/Friday until the beginning of December. This Tuesday's review will feature Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger. :)
Saga #15 by Bryan K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples (bought)
The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard (from Strange Chemistry through NetGalley)
Shadowplay by Laura Lam (from Strange Chemistry through NetGalley)
Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong (from Random House Canada through NetGalley)
Fates by Lanie Bross (from Random House Children's Books through NetGalley)
Delirium by Lauren Oliver (won from a HarperTeen EpicReads #teatime)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Me on The Naturals

Title: The Naturals
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release Date: November 5, 2013
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Seventeen-year-old Cassie is a natural at reading people. Piecing together the tiniest details, she can tell you who you are and what you want. But it's not a skill that she's ever taken seriously. That is, until the FBI come knocking: they've begun a classified program that uses exceptional teenagers to crack infamous cold cases, and they need Cassie. What Cassie doesn't realize is that there's more at risk than a few unsolved homicides, especially when she's sent to live with a group of teens whose gifts are as unusual as her own. Sarcastic, privileged Michael has a knack for reading emotions, which he uses to get inside Cassie's head, and under her skin. Brooding Dean shares Cassie's gift for profiling, but keeps her at arm's length. Soon, it becomes clear that no one in the Naturals program is what they seem. And when a new killer strikes, danger looms closer than Cassie could ever have imagined. Caught in a lethal game of cat and mouse with a killer, the Naturals are going to have to use all of their gifts just to survive.

The Naturals is a modern murder mystery, a book that pushes teens to get into the minds of killers in order to understand why they commit crimes, and so it's an intriguing and curious sort of book. As clues are uncovered and secrets are revealed, as the killer gets closer and closer to their target, the tension builds and the reader is forced to question everyone's motives constantly.

Cassie may be a natural at reading people, at profiling them, at predicting what they might or might not do, but that doesn't mean she won't get carried away when it comes to certain things. Certain very personal things. She's intelligent, and she's gifted, but there's a huge chip on her shoulder. But, after she gets picked up by the FBI, she discovers she's not the only one. Like most characters in similar books, she wants to solve the mystery and keep everyone around her safe, but keeping things to herself puts her in danger.

It feels like a different sort of murder mystery, exploring more of the psychology of profiling and crime scene examination. Looking at why the killer does for what purpose and predicting what actions will be taken next. Again, it seems like a more modern and scientific approach as opposed to following clues and talking to witnesses like in an older police drama one would find on TV in the 1990's. The modern techniques and present day setting provide a kind of realism, they add a kind of believability and relevance.

The Naturals sort of straddle the line between paranormal and incredibly intelligent and perceptive. Once I got past the outrageous idea that the FBI would willingly recruit teens for a secret project, I warmed to the five teens that could see patterns and spot social cues that other adults couldn't, that they could see crimes from different sides. They did feel a little like stock characters, the stoic brooding one and the joking but also serious one and the intelligent one and the liar and the (almost) orphan, but I enjoyed the moments when all five were together and their different personalities would clash.

The separate 'You' chapters serve to provide glimpses of the killer's actions and thoughts, but also that something is going on in the background while Cassie starts this new stage of her life in the foreground. When the book started, I figured anyone could be the killer.

It's easy to picture this as the start of a series, there's some clear definition in what the bigger overall story will include and what was mostly wrapped up in the single story of the book, but looking back I wonder how much was really revealed. We don't really learn much about the other Naturals, or about the program in its entirely (or how many secrets it really keeps), or even everything about Cassie. So much is there waiting to be revealed, explored, and even manipulated. The fast pace, while I found it fit with the immediacy of the killings, leaves no room for extra knowledge about the characters, and I want to know more about them. Hopefully, they will be explored more as the series goes on.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Disney Book Group through NetGalley.)