Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (246)

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

Title: Ravenous
Author: MarcyKate Connolly
Release Date: February 9, 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books

From Goodreads:

A witch has come to the city of Bryre. She travels in a hut that has chicken feet, and is ravenous for children. And once she gets what she desires, she never lets it go.

But when the witch captures Hans, Greta's little brother, Greta refuses to let her have him. The two strike up a bargain. Greta will retrieve something the witch desires in exchange for her brother's freedom.

To get the prize Greta must travel to Belladoma—a city where she was once held captive—which brings back terrible memories. With the help of a new friend, Dalen, a magical half-boy and half-horse, Greta embarks on the journey and tries to overcome both foes and her own weaknesses.

For fans of Monstrous and new readers alike comes the story of an epic quest and a heroine who will stop at nothing to save the one she loves most.

I'm so intrigued by this! I read Monstrous earlier this year and had no idea there was going to be another book set in the same world. I'm so curious as to what this book will bring, what characters will be introduced.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Me on A Madness So Discreet

Title: A Madness So Discreet
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins imprint)

Grace Mae knows madness. She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum. When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

A Madness So Discreet is a haunting tale of sorrow and finding the power to escape the darkness. Grace must find herself, find her voice, if she wants to return to the light. Return to the world.

Grace is broken and beaten down, lost. Life in the asylum, living with the baby inside her and how it came to be there, has made her mute. Less than who she was. Until she shatters in a fit of hot rage and finds her voice. She finds herself in the darkness of the asylum cellar, refusing to let anyone hurt her again. It's almost unfortunate that it's in a cellar of filth and despair where she finds her voice, but there are some intriguing characters down there. Like a visiting doctor who, once he knows how insane she isn't, once he knows how intelligent she is, agrees to help her escape. What follows is Grace learning about crime, learning about motivation and means of committing acts of treachery and murder. What follows is Grace learning how to confront the devil in her past.

What's so striking is the treatment of the women in the asylum in Boston, the first one Grace is in. Their practices and "treatments" would now be considered cruel torture. They are dangerous, horrific practices that would only fracture the mind further instead of help it. The diagnoses would be made on presumptions of the women's thoughts and actions, believing their anger and rage at their husbands or others would be signs of madness and a need for them to be controlled. What passed for science then is almost completely considered garbage now. Science has progressed. The women considered mad in those days, young women like Grace, would now be considered women in need of help and support. Nowhere near insane. Compared to the asylum in Boston, the one in Ohio is almost like paradise.

How do we define madness? What is it that makes a person sane or insane? Is it their actions, their words, their preferences? At the point in time in which this book is set, is a woman mad for not wanting a husband, for wanting an education, to be a doctor or lawyer? Is a man mad for listening to flowers and caring for them? Is a person mad for wanting to exact revenge on those who harmed them?

I enjoyed the conflicts and clever banter between Grace and the doctor who takes her to Ohio. They're colleagues, in a way, that don't agree on certain topics, but they work well together when it matters. There were some twists I hadn't expected. It is about Grace and the doctor solving crimes but to me, it seems to be more about Grace coming to terms with a number of things. With life and loss. With madness, how those thought to be mad are the sanest of us. With the ability to continue on and not suffer in darkness.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from HarperCollins Canada.)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Me on This Week's Book Week (173)

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 lawn mowing returned. *sobbing into a pillow* But considering how it's now fall (HOW?!?) and the rain is coming, there won't be a lot of mowing done. Every so often between now and November.

During the week I was thinking about all the books I've meant to read over the years that I haven't gotten around to reading yet. Books like Sarah Rees Brennan's Lynburn series (although I have read book 1), Claudia Gray's new time travel series, books 2 and 3 of Jessica Spotswood's Cahill witch sisters series, the 3rd Mara Dyer book, the 3rd The Darkest Minds book, Of Metal and Wishes. It's strange, remembering wanting to read these books so much and then not, either because of excitement over other books taking over or reviews I've read or other reasons. There don't seem to be a lot of book that I'm interested in coming out up until the end of the year. Maybe I'll just post reviews of books that are already out. Why not? They'll still interested readers, no matter how long they've been out. I think I need to do that more, review more books that have been out for more than 6 months.

Reviews going up this coming week will feature A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis (Tuesday) and Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith (Friday). :)
Lumberjanes Volume 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, & Brooke A. Allen (borrowed from the library)
Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani (borrowed from the library)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Me on A Thousand Nights

Title: A Thousand Nights
Author: E.K. Johnston
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next. And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong. Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air. Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

A Thousand Nights is mystical, lyrical, and enchanting. It's a story of sorrow and magic, of power and craft, of language and words. It's a story of love, how you can love someone so much you would do anything for them.

The narrator is complex. Kind-hearted, selfless, passionate. She will do whatever it takes to keep her sister alive, to keep her from being yet another dead wife. And so she puts herself in front of Lo-Melkhiin's gaze. And so she draws his attention. And so she rides off, not knowing how much longer she will live, believing that she will die. She doesn't realize that there's something different about her, something that keeps her alive, night after night. She doesn't sit around forever, waiting, and instead tries to learn about this new world she lives in. Tries to learn about the man who has taken her to wife. She tries to save everyone.

In some ways, this is a bit of a love story, but not in a grand epic romance sort of way. The narrator and her sister are as close as can be. Raised together, taught together. It's not often that this kind of relationship is highlighted. Sometimes characters aren't motivated by romantic feelings. Sometimes it's those close to them, those they've spent their entire lives with, that they'd do anything for. And it's not that she's in love with her sister. She's always known that one day her sister would marry, as would she. But not like this.

There is such power in words, in storytelling, in the storytellers. It's them who recount the events, who tell the tales, who choose which words to use and pass on to those who would listen. How intriguing, that the narrator uses barely any names beyond that of Lo-Melkhiin and some of his close guards. There is power in names, but also in the nameless. In those who are everywhere, who could be anyone. The narrator could be any daughter with any sister from any village in any desert. And yet she sounds like a specific daughter with a specific sister from a specific village in a specific desert. She is everyone and she is only herself. What power she has.

This book left me in awe of storytellers, how they weave words together, how they then burn inside me with the need to share them with another. This is a book for lovers of stories, for tellers and sharers, for sisters and daughters. For those who haven't yet discovered the power inside themselves, because it is there, waiting, like a copper fire.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Me on Six of Crows

Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. Books for Young Readers (Macmillain imprint)

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone. A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums. A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

Six of Crows is high stakes, high tension, and full of twists. There's danger at every turn. Danger at their backs, waiting around the corner, staring them square in the face. Danger inside themselves, waiting for the right moment.

Kaz, Nina, Inej, Wylan, Matthias, Jesper. Each of the six has qualities that make them compelling, interesting. Each one has flaws. Each one has a reason for doing what they do, for saying yes to this impossible mission. Each Their personalities rub against each other and clash constantly, sometimes getting along and sometimes preparing for battle like cats in an alleyway. Their interactions and reactions, their comments and movements, make for amusing banter and frustrating conversations.

Heists are complex. They're nearly impossible to get away with, and being able to predict each and every action and decision of those you're planning on stealing from is just as impossible. But there has to be a way. It's up to the author to know all the ways is could go right or wrong, or even horribly wrong, and make sure the reader is always guessing. It's like it has to be both possible and impossible at the same time. There are moments where, because of certain characters' motivations or actions, or because of the setting, or because of the room they're breaking into, you're never quite sure if everything will work out. If Kaz and the others will pull it off or if they'll fail in a blaze of glory and foolishness.

There's much more world-building that goes beyond what was introduced in the previous series. Post war, post Darkling, the Second Army is slowly rebuilding. But times are hard. Other lands, other countries, are pushing back in this new time. Countries like Fjerda and Kerch, pushing back at Ravka and its Grisha army, pushing for their time, for their customs and beliefs to be told. For their fears and desires to be in the forefront.

This feels so much like a fantasy version of Ocean's Eleven, except the stakes are far higher. It's life and death for some of them. This is a thrilling mix of plot-driven stories and character-driven adventure. A combination of plots and plans and tricks. Each character has a reason for agreeing, each one has memories and moments that made them who they are now. Knowing how this book ends, knowing what happens to certain characters, I can't wait for the second book.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (245)

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

Title: Manners & Mutiny
Author: Gail Carriger
Release Date: November 3, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Book Group imprint)

From Goodreads:

When a dastardly Pickleman plot comes to fruition, only Sophronia can save her friends, her school, and all of London...but at what cost? Our proper young heroine puts her training and skills to the test in this highly anticipated conclusion of the rousing, intriguing, and always polished New York Times bestselling Finishing School series!

This series has been fun and quirky and exciting and I'm so sad to see it ending, but at the same time I'm so curious as to what will happen next with Sophronia and her friends. They're a rather intriguing cast of characters.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Me on Ungodly

Title: Ungodly
Author: Kendare Blake
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: TorTeen

For the Goddess of Wisdom, what Athena didn't know could fill a book. That's what Ares said. So she was wrong about some things. So the assault on Olympus left them beaten and scattered and possibly dead. So they have to fight the Fates themselves, who, it turns out, are the source of the gods' illness. And sure, Athena is stuck in the underworld, holding the body of the only hero she has ever loved. But Hermes is still topside, trying to power up Andie and Henry before he runs out of time and dies, or the Fates arrive to eat their faces. And Cassandra is up there somewhere too. On a quest for death. With the god of death. Just because things haven't gone exactly according to plan, it doesn't mean they've lost. They've only mostly lost. And there's a big difference.

Ungodly is a conclusion, one hard-fought over. One full of pain, suffering, and death. The tension has built up, the intensity is thick in the air, and now Athena, Cassandra, and the others are racing towards the end. But will it be certain death? Or will some of them actually survive?

Everyone's voice, everyone's tone is rich with desperation. Frustration. Exhaustion. Anger. Sorrow. Fear. But there's a whisper of hope in the air. Of course there is hope. After all this time. After all the fighting, all the suffering, all the dying. Of course there's still talk of survival, of living. Why else would they continue their battle against the Fates, against fate? Athena. Hermes. Cassandra. Odysseus. Henry. Andie. They don't want to die.

The relationship between Athena and Cassandra will always be complicated, layered with shaky trust, skepticism, and dislike. From the start, they weren't friends. They were never going to be friends. Athena was too much like general looking for troops, Cassandra a wary teen girl who didn't want anything that wasn't her normal life. If they ever really became friends, it would ruin everything. Some characters become close, become friends, become more, because they need to. Because of the situation, because of their personalities, it works better that Athena and Cassandra are allies that dislike each other. Just because they're working towards a common goal doesn't mean they have to be friends. I do think they respect the other in some way, but become friends? Nope.

It's hard to review this without giving anything away beyond that fact that's the end. It's finally here. The ending. The conclusion to the sudden mortality that's struck seemingly immortal gods and goddesses. This is a trilogy of Greek mythology, of survival and betrayal, of angry girls kicking butt and defying fate. Making their own plans. Doing what they think needs to be done. A must-read for fans of action, complications, strong characters, and mythological twists.

(I received an e-galley of this title to review from Macmillan through Raincoast Books.)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Me on This Week's Book Week (172)

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. ;)

Fall has basically hit. There are leaves and bits all over the ground, and when it rains everything smells of wet puppy.

I've hit the point in time where there'll be some 3 reviews a week weeks because of so many books having the same release date. The upside? Lots of reading to do and lots of posts going up. The downside? So much reading to do. Plus I have no idea what I'll be reviewing in November and December. There aren't a lot of books coming out in those months, or at least ones I'm interested in reading. I might be filling those weeks with library reads or comics. Unless you can suggest some November and December releases for me to check out.

Reviews going up next week will feature Ungodly by Kendare Blake (Monday), Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (Wednesday), and A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston (Friday). :)
Lost Stars by Claudia Gray (Bought)
Slasher Girls & Monster Boys anthology (Bought)

Friday, September 18, 2015

Me on Walk on Earth A Stranger

Title: Walk on Earth A Stranger
Author: Rae Carson
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins imprint)

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

Walk on Earth a Stranger is a story of perseverance and hope, of secrets and survival. On the long journey from Georgia to California, will Lee be able to find a safe place? Will she be able to figure out who she is along the way?

Lee is a quiet girl, a hard-working girl. A girl who knows how to hunt. She's rough from years of helping her father do chores and hunt for gold. She's not a typical girl for the time period. It's made her stronger, sharper, than most. After her parents are killed, after a man shows up with ideas of controlling her, controlling her gold sense gift, Lee is frightened. So she runs, heads off to California and the booming gold rush. But will it be enough? Will she be able to travel without being spotted?

The news of gold in California sent many moving across the country, from the east coast to the west, in search of fame and fortune. It's the American dream, to strike it rich, to make your own fortune. But the news of gold gets everyone moving. Families, immigrants, thieves and murderers. Not everyone is looking for gold. Some are looking for opportunities along the way. The chance to cheat someone out of their savings. Excitement can blind people. Gold can blind them even more. It's a time of hope, but also of caution.

There's a lot to be said about Lee's traveling on her own, masquerading as a boy. She wouldn't be able to get far if she stayed a girl, if she was a young girl on her own. A young boy? A runaway. There are plenty like him. As a boy Lee sees things she wouldn't normally see, is treated how she wouldn't normally be treated. She's grabbed hold of the chance to have some independence in her life, some freedom. There's a fair amount of honest talk about the expected roles and qualities of men and women for the time period here. Men are expected to be strong, to provide. Women are expected to listen, to marry and have children. But few do what's expected of them.

I was intrigued by Lee's gold sense. It overwhelms her when it appears, like an addiction or a compulsion. I was hoping it would appear more often that it did, though. But I can see why it wouldn't. How much gold would she come across traveling across the country? I found this book to be what I'd heard, an exciting, smart, feminist adventure across America. It did drag in parts, I took it to mirror those slow days on the trail for Lee, the dry, endless days of riding across the country. I'm curious about the rest of the series, what will happen next for Lee and the people she meets along the way. For western fans, those who enjoyed Vengeance Road, I'd recommend this.

(I downloaded an e-galley of this title from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (244)

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

Title: See How They Run
Author: Ally Carter
Release Date: December 22, 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press

From Goodreads:

Inside every secret, there's a world of trouble. Get ready for the second book in this new series of global proportions--from master of intrigue, New York Times bestselling author Ally Carter. 

Grace's past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down. 

The twists get twistier and the turns get even more shocking in the second thrilling installment of Embassy Row.

I was very intrigued by the first book, by Grace and her questions, her mental health, the people around her. More than a few people know the truth about what happened to her those years ago, about what was really going on, and Grace has to search them out. She also has to make sure she doesn't send any countries to war because of a misstep. It's complicated, wanting to know the truth but knowing that revealing it will ruin people, even countries.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Me on The Scorpion Rules

Title: The Scorpion Rules
Author: Erin Bow
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (Simon & Schuster imprint)

Greta is the Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, a superpower formed of modern-day Canada. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. The hostages are Talis's strategy to keep the peace: if her country enters a war, Greta dies. The system has worked for centuries. Parents don't want to see their children murdered. Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elián arrives at the Precepture. He's a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. Greta is furious that Elián has disrupted their quiet, structured world. But slowly, his rebellion opens her eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power. Then Elián's country declares war on Greta's and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to mete out punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elián will be killed... unless Greta can think of a way to save them.

The Scorpion Rules is powerful and intriguing, a world of power plays, of fear and death, of hidden things. Of hidden meaning. Of hidden words and feelings. Of power and control, of who has it, who wants it, and who ends up with it.

Greta's voice is compelling. Soft, intelligent, cautious. Knowing. She's lived her life as a hostage, a Child of Peace. She's always known that one day, if her home country goes to war, she would die. And she's not alone in this way of thinking, this upbringing. Until Elián arrives. Until he doesn't act like everyone else. Until he doesn't grasp the severity of his new situation. Until Greta understands what's coming, what needs to be done. It's never dawned on her that there could be another way, until it does. Until there is. Until Greta becomes the Greta she was meant to be.

The premise, the world-building, is genius. What a world where war could happen at any point. What a world where there would be such a real consequence for going to war. What would a leader rather risk: the lives of their people or the life of their child?

Talis is intriguing. Amoral, controlling, and witty. He's an evil artificial intelligence with layers, with a complicated past. Like with most characters, there's something about them that makes them stand out. Good or evil. Talis has reasons for his rules. They're based on human history, the fact that humans consistently screw up. Maybe now, with Talis in charge, with Talis taking their children, those in charge won't screw up so much.

Power. This book is about power. Who holds it, who wants it, who will push to take it, and who will use it. Talis has power. Of course he does. He's levelled cities. Destroyed countries. Killed thousands, perhaps millions. He's in charge. But. But. Talis isn't the only one with power.

More than anything, I wanted to understand this book. In some ways I think I do. This book says a lot about power, about rulers and rules, about decisions, about morality and mortality. The world-building is creative and inventive, the characters are flawed and rich with humanity. It's so rare that a book about international relations and politics and so many other complicated things like love and goats can be so human. Do not be fooled by the description, events will not unfold in ways you expect them to. Read this if you're looking for something smart and human, something unexpected.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Simon & Schuster Canada.)

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Me on This Week's Book Week (171)

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. ;)

Hi all! Fall is slowly on its way, sort of. I think the hot summer dried out a lot of trees so the leaves have changed rather quickly on some trees. But the recent rain means that lawmowing must continue. *sobs in a corner*

On Saturday I went to the preview event that Raincoast Books was hosting, which was great. I know the Toronto book bloggers get together a lot at signings and events, but the ones out in Vancouver don't as much, so this was a chance to see everyone and to meet some new people. And to talk about all the books coming out over the winter and in the spring. So thanks to Raincoast for the ARCs and the swag I didn't take pictures of (buttons and bookmarks and a tote bag and cookies). :)

Reviews going up this coming week will feature The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (Tuesday) and Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson (Friday). :)
Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith (ARC from Nafiza)
This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (ARC from Raincoast Books)
Flawed by Cecelia Ahern (ARC from Raincoast Books)
The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie (e-galley from Flux Books via NetGalley)
A Pocket Full of Murder by R.J. Anderson (borrowed from the library)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Me on This Monstrous Thing

Title: This Monstrous Thing
Author: Mackenzi Lee
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins imprint)

In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch's life shattered to bits. His brother, Oliver—dead. His sweetheart, Mary—gone. His chance to break free of Geneva—lost. Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: he brings Oliver back from the dead. But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair's horror further damages the already troubled relationship. Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

This Monstrous Thing has the feel of a gothic novel. It's full of shadow and mystery, it's dreary and searching. It's the exploration of the impossible and the supernatural, the battle between scientific exploration and morality, and the regrets that drip from a path paved with good intentions.

Alasdair has a secret in his past. One he keeps locked away. His days are spent working with his father, making secret clockwork limbs for those who need them. Sometimes he sneaks away to visit the brother he brought back from the dead. Alasdair is torn apart, wanting his brother to be like he was before he died. Wanting to have his life back, a life where he doesn't spend his days worrying about Oliver or in fear of the police coming to arrest him and his parents. But will he be able to escape his guilt and regrets? How? They hang over him like weights ready to fall.

There's some intriguing world-building in this book. There's a practicality in the people with mechanical/clockwork limbs, a reason for them. After the Napoleonic Wars, soldiers returned home across Europe with missing limbs, some blow off or lost to disease or injury. Factories were consistently unsafe, leaving workers with serious injuries. They would need new limbs to replace the ones they lost if they still wanted to work, still wanted to move around. Still wanted to be like everyone else. Plus the inspiration from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the man brought back to life, the hopes and regrets of his creator. The fear in the eyes of the townsfolk. I found how the author worked this in to be rather clever.

As much as this is a book of the impossible, it's a book of regret. A book of secrets and mistakes, of lies and stories. Alasdair brought his brother back to life using gears, clockwork, and pure luck, yes, but this is about what happens after. This is the aftermath, the repercussions. This is when Alasdair has to make a difficult decision. I imagine that fans of Frankenstein retellings and Megan Shepherd's The Madman's Daughter trilogy will enjoy reading this.

(I downloaded an e-galley of this title from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (243)

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

Title: The Dark Days Club
Author: Alison Goodman
Release Date: January 26, 2016
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers (Penguin imprint)

From Goodreads:

New York Times bestseller Alison Goodman's eagerly awaited new project: a Regency adventure starring a stylish and intrepid demon-hunter!

London, April 1812. On the eve of eighteen-year-old Lady Helen Wrexhall's presentation to the queen, one of her family's housemaids disappears-and Helen is drawn into the shadows of Regency London. There, she meets Lord Carlston, one of the few who can stop the perpetrators: a cabal of demons infiltrating every level of society. Dare she ask for his help, when his reputation is almost as black as his lingering eyes? And will her intelligence and headstrong curiosity wind up leading them into a death trap?

I love this time period in terms of romance novels and I'm starting to love it in terms of YA. Because of the values and the perceptions and the laws of the time period, it's a bit tricky for female characters to have agency, to have money of their own and own property and navigate social circles on their own. I'm curious to see how it goes here, how much freedom Lady Helen will have as she tries her hand at demon hunting.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Me on Dreamland

Title: Dreamland
Author: Robert L. Anderson
Release Date: September 22, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen (HarperCollins imprint)

Odea Donahue has been able to travel through people's dreams since she was six years old. Her mother taught her the three rules of walking: Never interfere. Never be seen. Never walk the same person's dream more than once. Dea has never questioned her mother, not about the rules, not about the clocks or the mirrors, not about moving from place to place to be one step ahead of the unseen monsters that Dea's mother is certain are right behind them. Then a mysterious new boy, Connor, comes to town and Dea finally starts to feel normal. As Connor breaks down the walls that she's had up for so long, he gets closer to learning her secret. For the first time she wonders if that's so bad. But when Dea breaks the rules, the boundary between worlds begins to deteriorate. How can she know what's real and what's not?

Dreamland is mysterious and dangerous, a story of rules and secrets, of hidden monsters, of ticking clocks and broken mirrors. Of the truth behind dreams.

Dea is an outsider, constantly on the move with her mother. Few of her peers treat her with respect, the rest falling back on stereotypical name-calling, nasty rumours told behind her back, or keeping their distance from her. Acting like she doesn't matter. But she does. Dea is tired of moving around so much, tired of not knowing the truth. Dea wants a normal teenage life, even though she has to walk in people's dreams in order to keep living. When Connor moves to town, when his bright and friendly personality draw her in, Dea feels normal. Finally. She feels like a real teenage girl with a crush. But there are still rules to the dream walking. And Connor's appeal to Dea is the breaking point. After that, after someone goes missing, what will Dea do next? How far will she have to run?

The dream walking is some intriguing world-building. The different ways they shift and move around Dea as she walks. The ways they let her in or attempt to keep her out. In this book it's not all about the dreams having meaning, dreams holding the secrets to our hopes and fears. There is some of that, Dea can't escape that with Connor, but there's a bigger picture to find in dreams. What if there was a world beyond dreams? What if Dea and her mother weren't the only walkers?

There are a number of layers here, a number of mysteries and secrets combined to make up the book as a whole. The secret past of Dea and her mother. The secrets of Connor. The broken mirrors. The monsters in the nightmares. The dream world. I can see where some might find it a bit clunky or confusing with so much going on, the book is part mystery/thriller part paranormal/magical realism, but stick with it. I found it interesting, I wanted to know what would happen to Dea, where she would go, what the secrets of the dream world were. It vaguely reminds me of Magonia, how there's an ending but it could very well continue into another book. For fans of paranormal mysteries with a twist.

(I downloaded an e-galley of this title from HarperCollins through Edelweiss.)

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Me on This Week's Book Week (170)

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 was nice and cool this week, but because of the rain the smell of wet dog filled everyone's noses. Also, because of the weekend wind storm, the power was knocked out and didn't come back on for 2 days. I think we would've fared better if we had a full propane tank in the BBQ. It ran out as we tried to cook Saturday evening, and because everything was closed due to the lack of power, we had to improvise terribly.

Now, you'd think I got a lot of reading done over those 2 days of no power. Well, I did... they just weren't all review books. *head-desk* I know, but I was in a mood. Sometimes I get in reading moods that tell review books to go away. I'm slowly getting back on track, though. (Very slowly.)

Reviews going up next week will feature Dreamland by Robert L. Anderson (Tuesday) and This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee (Friday). :)
The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig (downloaded from HarperCollins/Edelweiss)
The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine (downloaded from HarperCollins/Edelweiss)
A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (downloaded from HarperCollins/Edelweiss)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Me on Tonight the Streets Are Ours

Title: Tonight the Streets Are Ours
Author: Lelia Sales
Release Date: September 15, 2015
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (Macmillan imprint)

Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she's tired of being loyal to people who don't appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom. Arden finds comfort in a blog she stumbles upon called "Tonight the Streets Are Ours," the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him. During one crazy night out in NYC filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn't exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn't exactly who she thought she was, either.

Tonight the Streets Are Ours is insight into a teenage mind, into her thoughts and opinions, the way she sees the world and the people around her. It's a look at truth, that what's on the surface isn't the same as what's inside someone, that the line between truth and fiction can blur so well you can't tell one from the other.

Arden is kind and loyal to those she holds close. But there aren't as many people in her corner as corners she's in. Her family? Distant. Her best friend? Keeping secrets. Her boyfriend? Too focused on his dream. No one's really there for her 100%. They are there, but not as much. And she doesn't necessarily call them out on it. She just waits, hoping they'll get the picture, that they'll stop and listen to what she wants and needs, but they don't. She's a bit of a doormat when it comes to certain people. Which is why Peter's blog resonated with her. In him she sees someone who also isn't as appreciated or cared for. Like her. Or rather, in his stories posted online, she sees someone like her. When they meet, things aren't what Arden thought they'd be like, and Peter isn't the person she thought he was.

There's a line that separates truth and fiction. That line can be so easily blurred, for example, when it comes to blogging. How does the reader know that what's posted, what's claimed to be true, is actually true? Why do we trust so quickly, so easily? Can we be swayed so easily by words that sound heartfelt and honest when they could very easily be complete fabrications? We all choose what to believe in, who to believe, but perhaps we shouldn't be so quick with handing our trust over in some cases. Especially when it comes to people we 'meet' or 'know' online.

As a fan of the author's previous book This Song Will Save Your Life but not a big reader of contemporary YA, I was somewhat interested in this. I'm on the fence when it comes to this book. I liked Arden's journey, how she figured things out about herself as well as other people. I think what I didn't like is something that I imagine most are guilty of, and that is being self-centered as a teen. A number of chaaracters, like Arden and her friends, seem like they don't care about anything that doesn't involve them. Which is typical for many teens. I'm certainly guilty of caring more about what someone could do for me or what was happening to me than what was happening to a friend or classmate. Maybe it's because a number of side characters didn't seem, to me, to have much substance, and so I just wanted to know what happened to Arden. I don't think this book and I really got along well. But if you are a fan of contemporary YA books like this one, one that seems rather true to teens and their opinions, their ways of thinking and acting, then feel free to give this one a read.

(I received and e-galley of this title to review from Macmillan through Raincoast Books.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Me on Waiting on Wednesday (242)

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

Title: Behold the Bones
Author: Natalie C. Parker
Release Date: February 23, 2016
Publisher: HarperTeen (HarperCollins imprint)

From Goodreads:

Candace “Candy” Pickens has been obsessed with the swamp lore of her tiny Louisiana town for . . . forever. Name any ghostly swamp figure and Candy will recite the entire tale in a way that will curl your toes and send chills up your spine.

That doesn’t mean Candy’s a believer, however. Even though she and her friends entered the swamp at the start of summer and left it changed, Candy’s the only one who can’t see or feel the magical swamp Shine. She’s also the only one who can’t see the ghosts that have been showing up and spooking everyone in town ever since. So Candy concentrates on other things—real things. Like fighting with her mother and plotting her escape from her crazy town.

But ghosts aren’t the only newcomers in Sticks, Louisiana. The King family arrives like a hurricane: in a blur and unwanted—at least by Candy. Mr. King is intent on filming the rumored ghostly activity for his hit TV show, Local Haunts. And while Candy can’t ignore how attracted she is to eighteen-year-old Gage King and how much his sister, Nova, wants to be friends, she’s still suspicious of the King family.

As Candy tries to figure out why the Kings are really in town and why the swamp that had previously cast her aside now seems to be invading every crack in her logical, cynical mind, she stumbles across the one piece of swamp lore she didn’t know. It’s a tale that’s more truth than myth, and may have all the answers . . . and its roots are in Candy’s own family tree.

I rather enjoyed Natalie's first book Beware the Wild. Very creepy, very swampy, very mysterious and secretive. And Candy was an interesting character. I'm intrigued to see how she'll carry this book as the main character and what ghosts will come up out of the swamp this time around.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Me on Storm

Title: Storm
Author: Amanda Sun
Release Date: June 30, 2015
Publisher: Harlequin Teen (Harlequin imprint)

After almost a year in Japan, Katie Greene has finally unearthed the terrible secret behind her boyfriend Tomohiro's deadly ability to bring drawings to life—not only is he descended from Kami, the ancient Japanese gods, but he is the heir to a tragedy that occurred long ago, a tragedy that is about to repeat. Even as the blood of a vengeful god rages inside Tomo, Katie is determined to put his dark powers to sleep. In order to do so, she and Tomo must journey to find the three Imperial Treasures of Japan. Gifts from the goddess Amaterasu herself, these treasures could unlock all of the secrets about Tomo's volatile ancestry and quell the ink's lust for destruction. But in order to complete their quest, Tomo and Katie must confront out-of-control Kami and former friend Jun, who has begun his own quest of revenge against those he believes have wronged him. To save the world, and themselves, Katie and Tomo will be up against one of the darkest Kami creations they've ever encountered—and they may not make it out alive.

Storm is weaving its way to a conclusion, one predicted to end in betrayal, heartbreak, and death. But will it? Or will the ink take hold, refusing to let go?

Katie's determination is at an all-time high here. She's focused on finding a way to save Tomo from the battle inside him, to quiet the raging ink running through his veins. He's not the only one suffering now, Katie's dreams are becoming more intense, more dangerous and important, but Tomo's definitely in more pain than Katie. Katie's ability is diluted, she isn't under a constant barrage of voices, urges, and ink dripping from her fingers. Because she has some ability, because she can see the goddess Amaterasu in her dreams, she's able to help Tomo search. But will she be the one to save him when those in previous lives never could?

I'd said that with the second book it felt like the romance took over in some spots. Here it all clicked for me. The romance, the searching, the danger the ink presents for Tomo's sanity and survival. There are moments of real life, moments of homework and school time, of Katie hanging out with Yuki, of kendo practice, but there are more pressing matters at hand.

This book goes even deeper into Japanese mythology, into the myth of Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, Tsukiyomi, the god of the moon, and Susano, the god of storms and the sea. Into their origin, their relationships, and their tragedies. The stories are darker than I'd imagined, filled with betrayal, jealousy, love, rage, and twisted emotions. As Katie and Tomo travel to different shrines and temples looking for the three Imperial Treasures of Japan, I was intrigued by how spiritual Japanese people are, how it's something they continue to hold close in the 21st century. Their point of view is different to my own Western/North American one that isn't as spiritual or religious. This is something that books do well, then the author has done their due diligence with research. They portray/share lives, beliefs, and points of view that differ from those of the reader.

I've said before that I've enjoyed the books in this trilogy, that this darkly magical twist to Japanese mythology is something I've grabbed hold of with both hands and devoured. As always, I do hope the author's gotten everything right. The mythology, the sights and sounds of Japan, the language and the customs. For those looking for a now complete trilogy heavy with romance, teen angst and confusion, and Japan's rich history and mythology, give this a read.

(I won a copy of this title through Goodreads First Reads.)