Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Sweet Far Thing- Libba Bray

Yes, there is yet another fabulous corset on the cover of this book. I feel a bit jealous of Victoria women's posture now.

Yes, the final Gemma Doyle book is rather long, but it's worth it, I swear!
In this volume, Gemma is still trying to sort out the magic of the realms while becoming a young Victorian woman. She still has her two friends, Felicity and Ann, while beautiful Pippa remains only in the realms.

Her father is still an addict, her mother is still dead, and the girls are almost ready for their 'debut,' which is a weird Victorian tradition in which a young rich teenage girl is dressed up and presented to the Queen and at which point is supposedly a proper young woman ready for marriage.

Of course, Gemma and her friends aren't quite sure they're into this marriage thing.
Gemma, of course, still harbors attraction for Kartik, who she clearly is not supposed to marry according to society, and Ann loves singing so much she wants to do that, even though she's plain (Victorian for 'ugly,' poor thing). Felicity it turns out isn't really into men  . . . especially the type she's supposed to marry, and really considers herself to be more of a masculine character (Victorian for 'likes to lead and boss people around').

So amid all that crap (because honestly, I'm glad we don't have to deal with Victoria nonsense in this day and age), they're still trying to find the mysterious temple, restore a balance, and figure out what to do about these dead people they keep visiting.

The final volume is a story of sacrifice and trying to make a place for yourself.  It ends on a  . . . oh wait! I can't say anything about the ending!  That would be a spolier!

But I will say this:  you will miss Gemma Doyle once you finish.  I promise.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dreaming Anastasia- Joy Preble

Deranged Relatives- Next on Dr Phil!
Yup, you've got to love the Romanovs (and yes, the Dr Phil quote is really in the book).
People have been rumoring for almost a century that Anastasia Romanov did not die with her family and was somehow saved from the their fate of being shot down and thrown in a pit in Russia.  But no one has ever come up with a theory like this.
In Dreaming Anastasia, Anne Michaelson, a modern day girl, has this connection with Anastasia.  In her dreams, she is Anastasia, and she's in a hut with a witch (Baba Yaga).It turns out that this is, in fact, actually happening. 
Other main character, Ethan, a 100+ year-old teenager, has been trying to save Anastasia from Baba Yaga's hut ever since the Romanov slaughter.  Because of him and an illegitimate offspring of Tsar Nicholas, Baba Yaga scooped up Anastasia and has kept her safe (but lonely and scared) in her hut for almost a century.
So that is the premise.
I like Anne as a character.  Her mother was a little obsessed with the Romanovs (like mine), really enjoyed antiques (like mine), and well, Anne's name is the same as MY name!
Ethan is also a great character, seeing as through him, you can learn Russian.  This is exciting because now I know how that if I meet a Russian guy who is a jerk, I can call him a zalupa, and he will be insulted.
If only I had known that in high school.  It would have been helpful.
Ah, well.
Anne and Ethan are both first person narrators, and through them the story is told.  There are a few excerpts from Anastasia, but mostly it's Anne and Ethan. Anne doesn't like Ethan at first, even though best friend Tess thinks he's hot (this is despite the fact that he appears to be stalking Anne, which Anne at least finds creepy). Ethan and Anne are trying to get poor Anastasia out of that damn hut, but there is all sorts of conflict, as Nicholas' illegitimate offspring is a zalupa and no one can seem to figure out which side he's on, as well as a bunch of other zalupas who are also stuck in weird immortality like Ethan is. And of course, Baba Yaga is a fearsome metal toothed witch from Russian folklore, so she is also a duplicitous character.
So as you can see, this is a twist on the tale of Anastasia Romanov that you've in all likelihood never come across before.  I know I haven't, and I've read a lot about the Romanovs due to my mother's small obsession with them.
What I really like, besides the fact that it's unique, is that the story uses Russian folklore as an important element.  Most of the time, the only Slavic myth you come across in contemporary fiction is that of the vampire (which is silly because there are SO MANY other things to choose from!  People need to get with it and pick other mythical elements! PLEASE!).
I also like the Anne is not all love-at-first-site with Ethan.  That happens WAY too much.  As in, 'hey I'm immortal and I'm stalking you' 'OMG that is so hot!' which really has gotten old.  In fact, Anne is turned off by his immortality and it takes her some time to learn to trust this zalupa who follows her around.
And honestly, that's much more realistic.
Joy Preble recently released a sequel to this book, Haunted, which deals with the aftermath.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rebel Angels- Libba Bray

I think this is my favorite of the Gemma Doyle trilogy.
The second book by Libba Bray, this fabulous novels continues the story of Gemma Doyle and her friends in Victorian England and of course, the realms.
With one friend dead, and threats all over, Gemma's second exploit continues her lust for Kartik, the boy from India, while complicating it with another, Simon.  Simon, of course, is the 'excellent suitor material' character, though of course he's got his flaws such as getting all the girls drunk on the green fairy.  So classy of him.
Felicity, however, despises his mother and uses her powers to humiliate her. Gemma's father is like a Victorian heroin addict, only since they didn't have heroin back then he uses laudanum, the opiate that came before heroin and morphine. 
Ahh, the classic of the narcotics; laudanum.  I first learned about laudanum in Outlander, which of course takes place long before Victorian times, but I've never seen it in a YA novel before.  Neither have I seen absinthe in a YA novel. So this novel I think is somewhat groundbreaking when it comes to the lives of Victorian teenage girls in a YA novel. Not only do they not want to marry who they're supposed to, they deal with drug abuse! AWESOME!
Of course, there is quite a bit more going on than the lust and drug abuse; they have to 'save the world,' you know.  Plus there are still Gemma's visions, all kinds of teenage angst, Victorian men being jerks, etc.
Overall, it rocks.  You should definitely read A Great and Terrible Beauty first, but you'll probably like Rebel Angels even more.  And so you will certainly not be able to wait to get your hands on:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Great and Terrible Beauty- Libba Bray

I first picked up this book because of the cover. I mean, she's got a freaking awesome corset.
I read the back, looked at the cover, and said to myself; "hey self, you'll like this book!  i guarantee it!"
And when my self guarantees things to myself, it is usually right.
This is Libba Bray's first novel.  And it's excellent.  The first in a trilogy of novels about this cool Victoria chick who has some special power and an unusual group of girlfriends, A Great and Terrible Beauty makes you want more. 
Gemma Doyle leaves India and gets put in a boarding school in England, but no, this is not Sara Crewe's boarding school.  There is a guy she likes, but he's Indian, which in Victorian England is a no-no.  She makes friends with a few girls, one who is really pretty, one who is a strong leader, and one who is just a nice poor girl with a few hidden talents.  And together, they find a special realm that most people cannot go to.
Throughout the book, their time in the special realms and their time in the actual world conflict with each other.  In the realms, they can do whatever they want.  In the actual world . . . not so much.  They may be in a swotty boarding school, but there are plenty of limitations on what can and cannot be done.  Which makes being a teenage girl a lot harder. Getting mixed up in this witchcraft-like Order doesn't ALWAYS make things easier.  Having visions, trying to keep them at bay, trying not to look like some sort of freak, and also dealing with her friends' issues (such as being told to marry an old man or else), is quite a lot for a sixteen year old girl.
It's hard to say what exactly made this book so good.  I mean, people have written about Victorian girls who don't want to do what they're supposed to and they've written about young people finding special places no one else can find.  But somehow, Bray makes this book fascinating and impossible to put down and completely original.  Good thing there are two more in the series (and yes, I read those and loved them too).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Raising the Dead- Mara Purnhagen

You know how some books have that first line that makes you laugh but then after that you get kind of 'erlaccccccccgggggggggggaaaaaaaaaaaaa?'

This was one of those books.

Mind you, it did have some good parts.  I mean, it's about this hurricane that flooded a cemetary and the coffins went floating all over town!  That's how the dead were raised; not because they were zombies.

No, there is nothing wrong with zombies. But this was not about zombies.  Though they are mentioned.

I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I had read Past Midnight .  Charlotte kept refering to some mishap with a dead girl in a pink dress which I of course had no knowledge of.

I think it was also more of a teaser.  Some stuff happened, but you don't really know WHY everything was the way it was, an at the end, you're kind of like, 'erm, wha? What's up with Jeremiah?'

I also did not like that the characters had little to no personality. Here's a summary of a conversation between Charlotte and her best friend:  "Oh, so you think I should get over Noah?" "Yes, you should move on." "Oh, okay.  I guess." And most of their conversations went about like that.

I could tell she was irritated with her parents, of course, and their weird obsession with cemetaries and things.  I have to say, my mother dragged me to so many cemetaries as a child, I grew bored of them as well.  Of course, those cemetaries had people whose coffins were not floating around town.  They were in the ground as they were supposed to be.

And I did agree with Charlotte on the matter of disrespect to dead people.  It was mentioned that what was going on in the cemetary had 'archeological significance,' and as an anthropology major I had to learn about that stuff.  But it just drove me insane that people were running around digging up other people's graves just to see what kind of arrows they used.  I mean, if I end up buried instead of cremated, I would like everyone to leave me well enough alone and not dig me up to see what was used to fix my hair 'for science.'

Basically, I kind of felt that this book could have been better than it was.  It has a good premise.  But it just didn't grab me. 

Ah well.  At least it was free!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sleepless- Cyn Balog

Do you like your romantic heroes Edwardian (as in, Edward Cullen-esque)?  Well, then you'll probably like this book.
Eron is a sandman.  He has three charges, and every night, he uses sand and his so-called 'seduction' to put them to sleep.  He's been doing this for 100 years.  Before then, he was a poor Italian immigrant from Ellis Island who died in a factory incident.
Julia is one of his charges.  Every night since she was born, he put her to sleep.  Meaning, yes, he would watch her sleep like Edward did with Bella. Only this time, he only did it because it was his job, not because he was naturally stalkerish and creepy. But after 100 years, sandmen can go back to being human if they manage to train another sandman to take their place. In this case, Eron has to train Julia's dead boyfriend.
Yes, total recipe for disaster.  Griffin (said boyfriend) doesn't want to believe he's dead and wants Julia still and he doesn't want to just help her sleep at night with no talking and no touching. He wants her all the way, whereas Eron, though he feels protective of her, wants her to move on because Eron is not a douchebag.  He's gentlemanly and well-behaved, though he is often shocked at what people wear in this modern age as well as their looser ethics.
As he becomes more human and Griffin becomes more sandman, there is a developing love, erm, square?(Griffin's friend is also in on it) with Julia the object of affection. 
While there are resemblances to Twilight, what with everyone liking the same girl, and the girl managing to hurt herself pretty often, and guys watching her sleep, it's quite a different story.  The whole idea of sandmen being in a paranormal romance is not something I personally have come across before. Also, there are alternating first person points of view which is probably my favorite format in fiction. It's also a much shorter book; there aren't repeated and exaggerated descriptions of achingly beautiful wealthy teenage boys, and Julia is slightly creeped about the sandman thing (everyone has one, you know, and they put you to sleep and watch you EVERY NIGHT).  Eron is genuinely confused about how life works in this day and age and he is not all-powerful.  He has no money, hardly any education, doesn't understand the changes in society, yet he still manages to overcome some of this and be a person who others genuinely like.  He actually cares about people and is concerned about pretty much everyone. He has no contempt for anyone, has excellent manners, and actually has interests in common with Julia.
Overall, the story is light and sweet with a little paranormality mixed in.  It exhibits the changes in society over 100 years, yet also highlights the similarities. It has hints of time travel and ghost stories, yet it isn't either of those. It's an original.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Treasure Map of Boys- E. Lockhart

A Frog Laden with Meaning.

All of these terms pop up in the third book about Ruby Oliver, the Seattle teen who can't stop thinking about boys.
In the third adventure of the delightfully neurotic teenager, Ruby starts out with:
One (1) male friend who she might like
Two (2) female friends
One (1) annoying ex-boyfriend
Multiple ex-friends, one (1) of which is Japanese
One (1) slightly better reputation
And of course, one (1) internship at the Zoo.

But wherever Ruby goes, something bad seems to happen.  While she has already gone through the stage of mocha latte (a euphemism for puberty, which just doesn't sound nice), she is currently in the state of Noboyfriend.
That is NOT where Ruby wants to be.
But there are boys EVERYWHERE!  Her ex, Jackson Clarke, douchebag extraodinaire and definite disloyal bastard, has dumped the girl he dumped Ruby for and is getting all up in her business again.  Of course, Kim, the ex-friend, who dated the infamous Jackson Clarke, still hates her with a fiery passion (personally, I would think that they'd kind of see that they were both PLAYED BY THE SAME JERK, and that should bring them together again, but this is preppy high school, so clearly I have no jurisdiction in the area). Her good friend Noel she thinks she likes, and he likes her, but Nora likes him, and Nora would never ever forgive Roo if she made a  move on him, is becoming a natural part of her chemistry class, where they learn all about emulsions and orange bras.
Meghan is on the prowl, thinking it might be fun to date a cute sophomore.  Roo is cofused and panicking out all the time due to things such as:
1. Kim being a nasty ex-friend
2. Jackson being . .  himself
3. The possibility of her and Nora both liking the same boy which is just not alllowed
4. Deadbeat dads who put their two year olds on top of animals at the zoo
5. Really disgusting feet belonging to someone who calls Roo's shrink 'Schmoopie"
6.  A bake sale that she must find people to volunteer-bake for, even though the old bake sale girls were more interested in making creatures out of marshmallows instead of food that tastes good (Roo does not like food that tastes bad, and would prefer to sell tasty baked goods that people will actually enjoy eating, preferably baked by boys)
7. Should I go on?  I don't know; there's just so much Ruby Oliver going around . .

Amid all this mess, Roo's life picks itself up and falls apart again, and while she does gain a Great Dane named Polka-Dot due to a lie she told her mother about what her shrink said (whoops!), she loses some other things.
Not EVERYTHING, however, though it does feel like it.

If you need more persuasion to read this book, here are a few choice quotes:

"I want to hear more about your hooters."

"Nothing is hotter than a boy who can feed me."

"Did your mother raise all her children to be sexist or did she single you out?"


I think that pretty much sums it up.

Oh, and there are marshmallow Jesuses.

Don't forget--there's still Ruby Oliver #4 all nice and ready for reading too!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Matched- Ally Condie

You know how there's all these books set in the future in which the world is horrible?  And the main character realizes the world is awful and feels powerless to change it right from the start?  For example, Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Hunger Games feature these kind of main characters. Winston and Katniss were not happy.
Matched is different. In this future world gone wrong, Cassia is quite happy living her life the same as everyone else, doing whatever she's told to do, just like everyone else is.
That's how the Society works. The Society contains officials who sort and control everything, such as your career, your spouse, your home, what you eat, what you do in your spare time, and so on. So when Cassia goes to her Matching, where her spouse is chosen for her, she's a happy, excited teenage girl.  Especially when she finds out that her Match is her handsome best friend, Xander.
But then something weird happens, and after she's been daydreaming about her future life with Xander, she's looking at his information, and for a minute, someone else shows up.  Someone who's not supposed to be there.  His name is Ky.
An official informs her that this is a mistake and Ky wasn't even supposed to be in the match pool anyway.  But of course, like any teenage girl, she finds herself suddenly more interested in Ky.
This is one of those books that could end up with 'teams,' you know, like 'Team Edward' and 'Team Jacob,' and all those other ones which keep cropping up in YA love triangle fandom.  Thus far, however, I have not seen either 'Team Xander' or 'Team Ky,' which makes me happy.
The important thing, however, is not who she's in love with.  It's the effect this mistake has on her preception of the Society.
She realizes throughout the book that she wants to make her own choices. She doesn't want them to tell her what she should do anymore.
I read this book quickly, but it is a slow progression.  It doesn't have a lot of action scenes.  It's mostly the social interactions between the characters that make up the story and the plot.  There is a sense of urgency and the feeling that something bad is going to happen throughout the book which makes you want to keep reading.  It's also interesting to see how things unfold.  The writing is excellent and flows well and she never bores you with details you don't need.  Cassia is extremely likeable as are the other characters with of course the exception of most of the Officials. You enjoy hating them.
What makes this book stand out is really how Cassia changes throughout the story as she uncovers more and more hidden pieces of Society.  She goes from total acceptance to confusion and rebellion in less than 400 pages and it's completely believable.
A plethora of popular YA authors have praised this book, so if you don't believe me, you can just see what they had to say.

Oh, and there will be sequels!  Yippie!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hare Moon - Carrie Ryan

Yes, I read another story in this anthology!  And since they're all different stories, I think they need to be reviewed individually.
So this one is of Hare Moon, Carrie Ryan's contribution to the anthology.  You may recognize her from books such as The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves (Forest of Hands and Teeth).  This story is set in the same zombie-infested world as these two.
After I read The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I had a lot of questions about the whole layout of the world.  How did they build all these gates when there were zombies attacking from every angle? Why did they separate all the villages?

This story helped me understand better how all these zombies got shut behind the gates, and how the villages were built. In that way, I was very satisfied with the story, because I really did wonder about that.
The main plot of the story is not about how the zombies were blocked off, however.  It's a love story.  A sad one. Tabitha lives in one of these villages.  She meets Patrick through a fence.  He's from another village, but no one else knows about him.  Tabitha, of course, falls in love with him, since he's not the same 35 people she sees everyday (yes there were probably more than 35 people in the village, but you get my drift) and he's good looking and well, she isn't SUPPOSED to have him, so of course she wants to.
Then she doesn't see him for a while and is forced to become a nun (a fate worse than death for sure) since she doesn't want to marry anyone else.
Of course, the nuns are a bunch of bitches, and the higher up ones know all the details about the zombie apocolypse and why and how but they don't want anyone else to know so that they can completely control the population. Of course.
Tabitha eventually sees Patrick again, and he tells her his village was wiped out by a virus and he and his brother have to move to her village (suspicious, hmm).
Since no one is allowed in the village from the outside for fear of spreading the 'Unconsecrated' curse upon them all, she has to hide them.
Without spoiling the story, I'll just let you know that it doesn't end well.  There is a reason this anthology is called Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.  There's, you know, death.
I would definitely reccommend that anyone who has read any of Carrie Ryan's books to read this short story.  It really does make the series make more sense, and it's bittersweet and emotional as well as satisfying.
Plus, it's not very long.  We're talking easy for the commitment-phobia. Seriously.