September 30, 2013

Review: Sky Jumpers

Sky Jumpers Book one in a series
By Peggy Eddleman
Available now from Random House BFYR
Review copy

This was a surprisingly charming book.  SKY JUMPERS is set post-WWIII, on an Earth that has been decimated by "green" bombs.  Technology is all but gone, because the magnetic fields are messed up, and sections of the world are permanently toxic.

Hope's community, White Rock, is one of the best to live in.  They're in a valley, naturally defended by the mountains and the ring of deadly Bomb's Breath around them.  The town's founders included a man with quite the library, enough to help them get started inventing new technology and medicine.  In fact, everyone in the town invents things.  But Hope's inventions never turn out quite right.

Then the town is invaded for its antibiotics, and it's up to Hope and her best friends to go get help.  Their journey is rather harrowing, but still age appropriate.  In fact, since their worst enemy is the cold, I can see this being a good bridge into speculative fiction for young historical fiction fans.

SKY JUMPERS was an original take on the devastated future world.  The town council isn't always right, but they aren't sinister either.  There's a sense that the people in this world aren't doomed survivors, but that their world will keep growing and eventually flourish again.  Now, young readers are likely to be less tired of dystopias and might not be as concerned with that.  But they will enjoy the characters. 

Hope has her own strengths, and she must believe in them if she's going to save White Rock.  Her strengths are complimented by those of her friends', who go on the dangerous journey with her.  There's a lot to appeal in this story for both boys and girls.  (And how much do I love that it's one of the boys charged with caring for his younger sister?)

I didn't know what to expect when I started SKY JUMPERS.  But whatever expectations I had were certainly exceeded.  It's a wonderful debut for Peggy Eddleman.  I'm curious about this being the beginning of a series, since the story came to a satisfying conclusion.  But it is an interesting world, so I'd be willing to spend more time in it.

September 27, 2013

Review: Steelheart

Steelheart First in a series
By Brandon Sanderson
Available now from Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)
Review copy

The day I read this book I was very, very into reading it.  This is not an unusual occurrence, but  I was notably reluctant to do such things as put down my book and eat food.  (Eating is an activity widely recognized as good for continuing to live.)  This led to the following bit with my dad:
Me: So you know how it's a common premise in stuff for something to happen and people suddenly have superpowers?
Him: Yeah.
Me: What if something happened, and there were just supervillains?
Him: No superheroes?
Me: No superheroes.
Basically, STEELHEART is about the world in which Superman is a bad guy, running the place, and there is no Batman with a Kryptonite-laced plan to stop him.  The only person who has any inkling of how to stop the invulnerable Steelheart is David, an eighteen year old living in Newcago who saw Steelheart bleed on the day he killed David's father ten years ago.  (This happens in the chilling prologue that sets the tone for how impossible it is to put STEELHEART down.) Now David is trying to team up with the Reckoners, the only non-Epics who fight back, to try to stop Steelheart's rule.

STEELHEART is a fantastic book, whether you're into comic book-style stories or not.  It's got great, memorable characters.  Best of all, their physical abilities are second to their smarts.  How else do you take down someone who has superpowers?  David, in particular, is a massive nerd.  And it's up to the nerds to save the world.  The ratio of male to female main characters isn't perfect, but I do love that the love interest Megan is extremely competent and laughs at the hero when he absolutely and totally fails to be smooth.

I loved the plot, which keeps things rolling, but throws several curveballs into the seemingly perfect plan and has enough breathing room for the characters to question what they are doing and why.  In fact, I never thought much about some of their motivations until the book brought it up.  I might've questioned them after finishing, when my brain shifted back to pure analysis, but no need since they're addressed on the page.

Brandon Sanderson is a talented science fiction and fantasy author, and I am quite happy he's writing some YA now as well.  Especially when that YA is as good as STEELHEART!  And let me tell you, I wish I did not have to wait for the next book.  If I had a superpower, it would be to will sequels into existence faster.

September 26, 2013

Review: Sasquatch in the Paint

Sasquatch in the Paint Book One of the Streetball Crew
By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld (click carefully - I'm getting a virus warning for his site)
Available now from Disney-Hyperion
Review copy

I grew up in Houston, and even though I don't like sports, I have fond memories of the Rockets of my childhood.  And while celebrities writing books - even with the help of a ghostwriter - often elicits groans, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar seems like a smart guy with an interest in pop culture, from the little I know of him.   It's not like a story about a kid playing basketball is a massive stretch for the guy.  (There's a height joke lurking somewhere in there, but I'll refrain from actually making it.)

So how does Abdul-Jabbar fare in the dog-dies-for-a-life-lesson world of kid lit?  Pretty well.  I think SASQUATCH IN THE PAINT tries to tackle a bit too much.  It touches on bullying, racism, religious tolerance, that one cousin you can't stand.  At the same time, it's not like kids aren't dealing with those issues, often all at once.  And it reflects the conflict in protagonist Theo Rollins' personal life.  He's on the basketball team, mostly due to his massive growth spurt, and on the school's academic quiz team.  He's having trouble balancing practice for both activities.  It's two teams that he might let down if he can't manage to get up to snuff.

One aspect of SASQUATCH IN THE PAINT that I really enjoyed was the range of basketball displayed.  If it's going to be a big part of the book, why not truly feature the sport?  There's the school basketball team, full of rules and following the coach's strategy.  There's a game between friends, no stakes, just hanging out.  There's a pick-up game with no rules, elbows flying, and one with lots of rules and impatience for people holding the game back.

Theo is an easy to empathize with kid.  He's uncomfortable in his body, unsure of what he's actually good at, and afraid of looking like an idiot.  His mom died recently and he and his dad are still carving out a new routine.  In addition to his male best friend, male cousin, and male teammates, there are some interesting female characters to round out the mostly male cast.  I liked minor character Brooke, from the Aca-lympics, who is rich, unfriendly, and competitive.  She's a pretty standard mean girl, but there are hints of depths.  Rain, the main female character, starts off with shades of Manic Pixie Dreamgirl syndrome.  Fortunately, she isn't interested in fixing Theo.

I can see lots of parents who were teens at the height of Abdul-Jabbar's career buying this for their kids.  It's not a bad move.  This is a book with appeal for sports fans and geeks, with lots of good social messages.  There are a few mini-mysteries, which keep the plot moving forward and keep it from becoming too predictable.  I'm curious as to how the Streetball Crew will develop as a series, since SASQUATCH IN THE PAINT has a nice contained character arc, but this is certainly a good start.

September 25, 2013

Review: Battle Magic

Battle Magic Set between The Circle Opens and The Will of the Empress
By Tamora Pierce
Available now from Scholastic Press
Review copy
Read my review of Melting Stones

Tamora Pierce has been one of my favorite authors for a long time, ever since I was a little nine-year-old reading SANDRY'S BOOK on the way to Georgia.  I haven't loved her most recent releases.  The most recent book in the Emelan universe, MELTING STONES, was lacking in the plot department and felt detached, even for a side book.  Each book in her Provost's Dog series was wonderful as a standalone, but failed to congeal as a trilogy.  But man, BATTLE MAGIC reminded me why I've been a fan of Pierce for more than a decade.

BATTLE MAGIC fills in one of the gaps between the end of The Circle Opens quartet and THE WILL OF THE EMPRESS.  Briar, his teacher Rosethorn, and his student Evvy are almost done traveling the world when the end up in the middle of a war.  They must help defend Gyongxe (fantasy Tibet) against the Emperor (of fantasy China).  It's a set up for much action and pain, but the war setting also allows for an exploration of each of their true characters.

There are several new faces, many of them memorable.  I can't be the only one who finishes BATTLE MAGIC and hopes that Parahan, a slave of the Emperor, shows up in future books.  There's lots of fun magic, not just the academic and ambient types that Pierce has developed through the ten previous books in this setting.  And the relationships are heart wrenching.  They are far more than teacher-student pairs.  Rosethorn, Briar, and Evvy are family - family far from home.

That being said, BATTLE MAGIC does have its flaws.  There's very little new strategy or skill on display from the familiar trio.  Expect many vine bombs (which are awesome, admittedly).  I'm not sure the characters would work as well for someone picking up this novel who is unfamiliar with the world.  BATTLE MAGIC is more plot driven than most of the Emelan novels.  (I say that, but thinking back, they mostly have strong plots, especially the mysteries.  Perhaps I'm just so fond of the characters that their personal journeys always seem like the highlight to me?)

I think BATTLE MAGIC is essential for Tamora Pierce fans.  I also think that if you aren't a Pierce fan, you should be.  This is a book full of fierce mages, tough women, and a noble cause.  There are scenes that will break your heart and others that will make you cheer.  It also caused me to reread most of Pierce's backlist, which I hadn't been planning on.

September 24, 2013

Review: Where the Stars Still Shine

Where the Stars Still Shine By Trish Doller
Available now from Bloomsbury
Review copy

Callie grew up on the road with her mother, picking up and moving every time she got scared.  But when they get stopped by the police and Callie is sent to live with her father, it turns out she had a loving, stable family waiting for her.  Callie struggles with her past and her future, where and who she wants to be.

WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE deals with some very difficult subjects.  Trish Doller's writing, however, kept me turning the pages instead of weeping.  It's not that molestation and the slow death of a parent aren't treated like terrible things.  But when I read them, I knew that her characters could make it through.  I felt very hopeful, reading WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE.

There were times when I wanted to shake Callie.  She makes some terrible decisions.  It's not even always that she doesn't know they're terrible at the time.  And it's not that I didn't understand why she was making those decisions; Doller is terrific at showing what's going on inside Callie's head.  It's just that I wanted Callie to have her happily ever after.  But it can be hard to admit that you deserve to be happy and to do what you need to in order to be happy.

Then there's Alex, the older guy who Callie has an instant lust for.  Major props to Doller for portraying that the character's initial attraction is not love and developing both their attraction and their emotional attachment.  Their relationship is hot (WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE is aimed at more mature YA readers) and sweet.  Alex is exactly the guy Callie needs - one who respects her boundaries and talks to her when things go wrong.  And she's who he needs - willing to push his boundaries before he makes a mistake he might regret.  His confidence in his dreams, and his distance from them, is a nice foil to Callie's uncertainty about what she wants.

And how great is the setting?  It's a port town that attracts tourists, full of Greek people who are almost always somehow related to Callie.  It's an intimate community, which is a big change for someone who grew up on the edges of society.  I liked the difficulty of it all.  And Callie's cousin, who wants to be her best friend but keeps messing it up, was great.  Romantic relationships aren't the only tricky ones to navigate.

SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL marked Doller as an author to watch, and WHERE THE STARS STILL SHINE confirms it.  This is contemporary fiction done well.  It's romantic, feminist, and hopeful.  I don't know about you, but I'm up for round three.

September 23, 2013

Confessions: The Private School Murders Giveaway

Confessions The sequel to CONFESSIONS OF A MURDER SUSPECT comes out October 7th!  To celebrate CONFESSIONS: THE PRIVATE SCHOOL MURDERS by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro, I'm giving away a T-shirt and a copy of the book courtesy of Little, Brown.

I'll admit that James Patterson's books don't always work for me, but I admire his dedication to literacy.  Plus, his books tend to be good candy for traveling.

About the book:
Confessions: The Private School Murders is the gripping second installment in James Patterson’s #1 New York Times bestselling new teen detective series!
Wealthy young women are being murdered, and the police are looking for all the right answers in all the wrong places.  And Tandy Angel wants to know who’s really responsible.
In the meantime, Tandy’s brother Matthew is on trial for the murder of his pregnant girlfriend, actress Tamara Gee, and Tandy is delving deeper into the Angel family closet to uncover the mysteries of her scandalous family
As the victims continue to pile up, can Tandy untangle the mysteries in time?  Or will she be the next victim?
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To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter below.
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Doctor Who Series 3 Volume 1: The Hypothetical Gentleman

The Hypothetical Gentleman "The Hypothetical Gentleman" by Andy Diggle and Mark Buckingham (artist)
"The Nurse and the Doctor" by Brandon Seifer and Philip Bond (artist)
Available now from IDW Publishing
Review copy

I thought I was downloading Doctor Who Series 1: Winter's Dawn, Season's End from Netgalley, but the book that downloaded was Doctor Who Series 3 Volume 1: THE HYPOTHETICAL GENTLEMAN.  No problem.  It was just the eleventh Doctor instead of the tenth, and a partial comic book season instead of a full one.

THE HYPOTHETICAL GENTLEMAN contains two stories.  The first is the eponymous "The Hypothetical Gentleman," wherein the TARDIS takes the Doctor, Amy, and Rory to Victorian times.  The story involves con artists, a machine to the other side, and a few strange turns.  It's fairly similar to an episode of the series.  I wasn't a huge fan of Mark Buckingham's art.  He's a fine comics illustrator, but he just seemed to be trying to hard to match the appearance of the actors.  He did fine with the Doctor and Amy, but his Amy was never quite right.  And all the close-ups of the Doctor felt similar, instead of offering distinct emotion.

"The Nurse and the Doctor" involves a forced guys' night out, which turns into quite the adventure through time.  Meanwhile, Amy gets stuck in the Great Beer Flood.  I liked that Philip Bond went with a more cartoon-inspired style, like something from Young Justice.  It wasn't my favorite look, but I wasn't distracted by it.  This is a fairly lightweight story, a little mini-adventure that would never make it to the screen.  It was fun to visit the characters again, but nothing overly exciting.

All in all, this graphic novel will entertain fans between seasons, but certainly doesn't stand on its own.  Even for fans, it isn't essential reading.  I recommend just checking it out from the library if you're interested in it.

September 22, 2013

Weekend Cooking: Pamela's Products Sugar Cookie Mix

Sugar Cookie Mix I have meant to participate in Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking for years.  Finally I am remembering on the weekend and writing something.

I love baking and sharing the results with others.  A couple of people in my office are gluten-free, so I wanted to bake something they could enjoy too.  When Pamela's Products Sugar Cookie Mix popped up in the Amazon Vine Last Harvest, I thought it was perfect.  Here I could try gluten-free with training wheels!

First, I gathered my ingredients.  I decided to add gluten-free chocolate chips, one of the suggestions on the back of the back, as well as some sanding sugar.  I also added a small smash of vanilla because I am very fond of vanilla.

I started using a whisk, because the recipe said to use a stand mixer.  But I quickly switched to a wooden spoon because I found it easier to use.  The mixture was obviously too dry, so I added another egg.  Below is a picture of the dough with two eggs.

I then rolled the dough into a log and chilled it.  The bag suggested chilling for 30 minutes to an hour.  I chilled the dough for 45 minutes.  I might've waited longer, but I wanted cookies!

I lined my cookie sheets with parchment paper.  I cut the log into 1/4 inch slices, which resulted in fifteen cookies.  Finally, I baked the cookies for the minimum time listed on the package, because I like my cookies a bit soft.  They came out of the oven looking rather nice.

Unfortunately, they were terrible cookies.  The taste was fine, but the texture was all wrong.  Dry like the Sahara.  My dad agreed that the texture was terrible.  I took some to work and shared them with my boss, who also bakes.  (I didn't inflict them on the rest of the office.)  She thought they were fine, but I'm sure she was just being polite. 

No stars for this mix from me.  I may try gluten-free again, but Pamela's Products Sugar Cookie Mix was most definitely not a success.

September 21, 2013

Review: The Time Fetch

The Time Fetch By Amy Herrick
Available now from Algonquin Young Readers (Workman)
Review copy

Amy Herrick's middle grade debut involves many classic elements, twisted around to something new.  Classmates Edward, Feenix, Danton, and Brigit barely know each other.  Edward doesn't like action and prefers to keep to himself.  Feenix is head mean girl.  Danton is sporty.  Brigit doesn't speak.  But it's up to them to save the world, because they all touched the Fetch.

The Fetch is full of Foragers, who take time from our world.  Since Edward picked it up, thinking it was just a pretty rock, the normal process was interrupted and the Foragers are stealing time at an accelerated pace.  Luckily Edward's New Age-y aunt turns out to be less daffy and more full of good advice.

I liked that Herrick took a particular risk with Feenix.  I would say that she gets the most focus of the four teenagers, and she's the least sympathetic.  She wants adventure, which is understandable; however, she doesn't really comprehend that the way she acts doesn't just provoke people, but also wounds them.  Her empathy is sorely lacking.  But almost all of the main characters need to grow and learn to connect to others and be confident in themselves.  Danton has perhaps the least need to change, which is probably why he's in the story the least.

I also liked that THE TIME FETCH combined science and magic.  No, nothing happening around the Fetch is related to science.  But the kids' science teacher is one of the most important adults, and his lectures are relevant to what's happening.  And Edward's aunt might be basing more of her knowledge on the explainable than he knows.

THE TIME FETCH is a quick, fun adventure that throws a lot into the melting pot for something that feels familiar but still magical.  This is great reading for children who like fantasy.

September 20, 2013

Review: Frozen

Frozen First book in the Heart of Dread series
By Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
Available now from Putnam Juvenile (Penguin Random House)
Review copy
Check out my Melissa de la Cruz tag for reviews, interviews, and guest blogs

Melissa de la Cruz was an author I soured on for a bit.  It seemed like she just kept starting new series and then nothing.  The Blue Bloods series hit a few low notes.  But she's finished off a couple recently, and I enjoyed how she finished Blue Bloods.  Thus, I was ready to give a new de la Cruz book a chance.  She co-wrote this one with her husband Michael Johnston, but it doesn't read much differently than her older books.

Natasha Kestel is a black jack dealer in New Vegas, and Ryan Wesson is the mercenary she hires to get her out of the Remaining States of America.  At first it looks like the book will alternate between their points of view, but that's not the case.  Once they're in the same place, FROZEN stops shifting focus.

The premise of FROZEN is pretty cool.  A series of environmental disasters lead to a new ice age, plus the emergence of some mythological creatures.  I enjoyed the setting, particularly the way that the land was coming back to life on the fringes, in spite of humans.  Even if humans die out, other life will find a way to evolve and survive.

It's a harsh world, and one that makes a good background for a road trip.  FROZEN is basically a dystopian road trip novel plus pirates and dragons.  I think the ending was a touch abrupt, and interrupted the flow of the book.  There has to be a lead in to the next book in the Heart of Dread series, of course, but it felt like things ended just as FROZEN was realizing its true potential.

I was unhappy with one moment that I feel violated the rules of magic that the world had set up.  At the same time, there's not much knowledge about how the magic works, so de la Cruz and Johnston do have some wiggle room.  If you've read the book, how did you feel about it?  (I think you know what I'm talking about.)

I found a lot to like about FROZEN.  It's pretty predictable, but de la Cruz has a smooth, readable style and her characters are pretty charming.  The romance was rote but sweet.  At the same time, there are some clever, memorable moments, like inventive lining for jackets in a world where supplies are short.  It's a quick, fun read and throwing in some traditional fantasy tropes livens up the dystopian trappings.

September 19, 2013

The Secret Side of Empty Blog Tour: Guest Post and Giveaway by Maria Andreu

THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY will be available March 11, 2014 and can be preordered now. 

Maria’s writing has appeared in Newsweek, The Washington Post and the Star Ledger.  Her debut novel, THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY, is the story of an “illegal” high school senior.  It was inspired by Maria’s own experiences as an undocumented teen.  Since becoming a citizen, Maria has run her own business and has become a soccer mom. She lives with her 13-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son in northern New Jersey.

ABOUT The Secret Side of Empty

It's the story of a teen girl that is American in every way except for in one very important way: on paper. She was brought to the U.S. as a baby without proper documentation, so she's "illegal." As the end of the safe haven of her high school days draw near, she faces an uncertain future. Full of humor and frustration and love, THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY speaks to the part in all of us that has felt excluded or has had a secret too scary to share. What M.T., the main character, finally discovers is the strength of the human spirit and the power that's unleashed when you finally live the truth.

After the guest post are details on the HUGE giveaway.


Ten Things I Learned While Writing A YA Novel About an Illegal Immigrant

1. I hate the word “illegal.” I far prefer “undocumented. I mean, can a human being be illegal?

2. A lot of people think that, yes, a human being can be illegal. When my book was sold, I was profiled in the New York Daily News. I shared my own story about being brought over the U.S. as a baby and overstaying my visitor’s visa (unbeknownst to me, of course. I was too busy discovering my fingers). Someone posted a comment suggesting I should be subject to the Son of Sam law, the law that prevents people from profiting from their “crimes.” You know, like the guy who killed 6 people.

3. Most people are really nice.

4. When writing a book about an “issue” like immigration, you’ve got to forget about the issue and just write a story that is fun to read and makes people feel things.

5. Telling a big secret about yourself (like the fact that you were once undocumented) is terrifying.

6. Telling a big secret about yourself is incredibly freeing.

7. M.T., the main character of my book, is a girl in the same predicament I was, but is entirely different than I was. She’s got better calves (she bikes everywhere) and better business sense. Also, she’s braver than I am because she gets the courage to share who she really is way sooner than I did.

8. Writing a love story is fun.

9. Getting an agent is an excruciating process but its glorious when it finally happens.

10. Sometimes when the “worst” happens it’s the best. I had my heart set on another title for the book for all the years I was pitching it and writing it, only to have it get taken by another book in my genre toward the tail end of my journey. I was heart-broken. Then I came up with the title: The Secret Side of Empty and I fell in love instantly. Now I couldn’t imagine it being called anything else.  


Maria is giving away two separate prizes on her tour, a $250 Amazon Gift Card AND a Kindle Fire.

1)      For a chance to win the $250 Amazon gift card, OR the Kindle Fire leave a comment on her blog post for that day. Winners will be randomly selected on September 30th.

In other words, all you have to do is comment below!  (Please leave a way for Maria to contact you in case you're one of the two lucky winners.)

September 18, 2013

Review: Boston Jacky

Boston Jacky Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Taking Care of Business
Book Eleven of the Bloody Jack Adventures
By L.A. Meyer
Available now from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt BFYR
Review copy
Read my review of Viva Jacquelina!

Jacky Faber has returned to Boston, this time to discover that her shipping business is losing money, the Irish are becoming unwelcome in Boston, and that Jaimy Fletcher hasn't made it back yet.  The first bit of BOSTON JACKY feels very same old, same old, and the new elements introduced never go as far as they might.  The various extortionary fire companies are introduced, but I can only remember one fire in the book - and it's not a particularly big fire.

I did like the introduction of women's suffrage and the Temperance Union to the series.  Jacky, of course, is all for women's suffrage.  But she's not for the cause when the women behind it are also calling for alcohol to be banned.  As always, Jacky's truest loyalty lies with her purse and her wellbeing.  There's also a good development that means the series might get a true villain.  However, her machinations mostly succeed because Jacky and Jaimy both make some very dumb moves.

Indeed, my biggest problem with BOSTON JACKY is that I hated Jaimy in this book.  He acts like a complete jerk to Jacky, thinks terrible things about her, and ignores all past evidence that she's never been unfaithful . . . despite the fact that he has.  His language about her is just gross and unbecoming of a character who is supposed to be the romantic hero.  If he doesn't seriously repent and grovel for forgiveness in the next book, then Jacky better kick him to the curb.  BOSTON JACKY just about killed my interest in the romantic storyline.

There's a lot to like about this series.  Jacky is at a low point, but she's clever and tough enough to start turning things around.  But I doubt I'll read BOSTON JACKY again.  This is definitely a low point in the series.

September 17, 2013

Review: The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves Book Two of the Raven Cycle
By Maggie Stiefvater
Available now from Scholastic Press
Review copy
Visit the Maggie Stiefvater tag for more

I've been debating how to approach this review for awhile.  I want to gush about it, but I fear that everything I want to gush about would spoil the small, wonderful surprises of THE DREAM THIEVES.

The characterization in this series continues to be almost perfect.  If there's a flaw, it's that previously barely mentioned characters are super important.  Blue's growing affection for Gansey is so well done, as is her growing to desire to kiss and be kissed despite her knowledge of the consequences.  Her family of psychic women becomes more important, including a strange romance for her mother.  Adam, who now has some power of his own, is growing ever more resentful of Gansey's money and privilege.  Noah keeps disappearing, a worrying development.  But THE DREAM THIEVES is really Ronan's story.

Ronan is a tough guy to like, but I tend to like him because the story openly admits that fact.  In THE DREAM THIEVES, he faces his antagonist/foil, the drugged up and wild Kavinsky.  Ronan has secrets, and Kavinsky thinks he knows what those secrets are, but he's often ever so slightly wrong.  Meanwhile, there's also more focus on Ronan and Gansey's relationship, the two of them siblings by choice.  It's terrific.

The plot of THE DREAM THIEVES meanders, and very little of it seems to have anything to do with the hunt for Glendower.  At the same time, everything feels like it has to do with Glendower.  Maggie Stiefvater is excellent at creating a portentous atmosphere and making every other thing that happens seem like it could be symbolic of things to come.  I can't wait to see how this series plays out.

Okay, I did it.  I think I made it through this review without any spoilers.  Now go read the book so that we can spoil it up in the comments!

September 16, 2013

Review: The Edge of Normal

The Edge of Normal By Carla Norton
Available now from Minotaur Books (Macmillan)
Review copy
Royal Palm Literary Award winner

This review was supposed to go up Friday, but I felt that it wasn't done yet.  I've felt like my reviews feel very same-y lately, which isn't what I want.  I need to burst out of my rut!

THE EDGE OF NORMAL is a thriller, a genre I've been reading more of this year.  I blame GONE GIRL.  It's not that I loved GONE GIRL (I just liked it), but that publishers are giving their thrillers more of a push.  And why not?  Thrillers have a wide ranging appeal.  They're fast, but have to be clever to deliver twists.  They're driven by plot, but often require psychological depth.

Reeve LeClaire was held captive for three years.  Her kidnapper was caught only because of a freak car accident.  Six years later, she's still recovering when her therapist asks her to travel across the country and speak to young girl, Tilly, who was recently rescued from her kidnapper.  He thinks it will help both Reeve and Tilly.  It does, but it soon becomes apparent that there's more going on in Tilly's case, and that it isn't as open and shut as it seemed.  There's two other missing girls, Abby and Hannah, and Tilly could be the key to finding them in time.

THE EDGE OF NORMAL switches between points of view, and it's a rare example of villain point of view done well.  The passages narrated by the villain reveal how he keeps staying one step ahead, when otherwise the plotting might fall apart.  The passages are also careful not to reveal his real name.  You know he's in other scenes, but it's often hard to guess which person he might be.

I also liked that the book wasn't overly sensational.  This is Carla Norton's fiction debut, but she has a background in true crime writing.  Reeve and Tilly have been through terrible things, but the focus on them is not that terrible things happened, but how they're moving on.  Reeve keeps a secret for Tilly perhaps longer than she should, but it's clear she wants the girl to have as much control and trust as possible.

I also like that unlike many thriller heroines, Reeve goes to the police pretty quickly.  (She's laughed off, because the plot wouldn't work otherwise, but I like that she went to the authorities like a normal person.)  Reeve gets a couple of potential romantic storylines, but they don't go very far since they aren't about perfunctory romance, but Reeve opening up to chance.

THE EDGE OF NORMAL will leave you at the edge of your seat.  I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and hope Norton keeps on with this fiction thing.  THE EDGE OF NORMAL has fascinating, complex characters, a twisting, fast-paced plot, and it lingers in the mind afterwards.  It's everything a good thriller should be.


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