February 28, 2013

Weekend Challenge: Read Outside Your Comfort Zone

Let's Pretend this Never Happened One of my goals for 2013 is to read more nonfiction.  I've started by reading several memoirs.  (No, this is not an invitation to send me a review request for a memoir.  I already get about five a day and that's when I haven't invited them at all.)  Why not start with a genre that skirts the line between fiction and nonfiction?  The latest is LET'S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess), which is even subtitled A Mostly True Memoir.  I prefer her blog, although the two are very similar.  It just works better for me in bite-sized blog form.

It's been easy to pick up memoirs, as Harper Perennial at least almost always has them on sale.  (And I can't help but notice them because I love the Harper Perennial tumblr.)  That also made it an easy place to start.  Then there's the fact that memoirs are just plain popular.  There has to be a reason.  But while I do enjoy a good graphic memoir, so far I am not clicking with the prose memoirs I've picked up.  (On the graphic side, I highly recommend recent Cybils finalists DARKROOM by Lila Quintero Weaver and LITTLE WHITE DUCK by Na Liu and illustrated by Andres Vera Martinez.)

Even if my foray into memoirs hasn't been successful so far, I'm enjoying trying.  And I just know I'll find the one that works for me eventually and be able to find some more good titles from there.  (I've been saving LIFE by Keith Richards and JUST KIDS by Patti Smith for the end of my memoir reading because I'll be bereft if I don't enjoy those.)

I've also got some non-memoir nonfiction in my TBR now, like STIFF by Mary Roach.

My challenge for you, this weekend, is to start a book that's outside of your comfort zone.  It doesn't have to be really far outside.  Love the softer side of science fiction?  Try something harder.  Really into urban fantasy?  Try a paranormal romance.  But if you want to go farther, why not?  Pick up a manga - or an American superhero comic.  Check out some short stories.  Venture into the mystery section.  Experiment with a super serious literary or classic author that you're intimidated by.  I've heard CRIME AND PUNISHMENT is a real page turner.  (Yes, it is on my TBR!)

I'm willing to help.  If you've got an idea of what type of book you want to try but don't have a specific title in mind, I'm willing to give you suggestions.  I'm pretty widely read . . . as long as you aren't looking for a nonfiction recommendation.  Even then, I might surprise you.

Review: Starting from Here

Starting from Here By Lisa Jenn Bigelow
Available now from Amazon Children's
Review copy
2013 Rainbow List Top Ten

Lisa Jenn Bigelow's debut is the story of Colby Bingham, an independent senior high school student struggling to connect to her family, friends, and girlfriends.  She's still reeling from the death of her mother, two years ago, and doesn't feel like she can talk to her father, a trucker who is rarely home.

She has people in her life who would love to help her.  There's her best friend, Van, who is practically her brother.  The teacher in charge of the school's GSA often tries to check in with her.  When she takes in a stray, the local vet takes Colby under her wing.  But Colby can't seem to keep herself from pushing her people away instead of just letting them care for her.

STARTING FROM HERE is the type of story that can easily get frustrating.  But Bigelow writes Colby with a great deal of empathy.  You can see what she's thinking and why.  Colby's decisions are reasonable from her point of view, even when they're remarkably stupid decisions.  And honestly, what teenager hasn't made stupid decisions, especially in the absence of adult supervision.

The romance is integral to the story, but those just looking for romance might be disappointed in STARTING FROM HERE.  The book begins with Colby's closeted girlfriend Rachel dumping her - and immediately palling around school with her new boyfriend.  Colby's hurt, insulted, and unfortunately still in love.  When she meets someone new who is definitely interested, she's not sure if she's ready for another relationship - particularly since her crush isn't out to her (religious) parents.  Of course, Colby may be out and proud and school but she's not out to her father either.

I really enjoyed STARTING FROM HERE.  It's a fantastic contemporary that delves deep into the life of its protagonist.  It deals with grief and heartbreak, but it's ultimately optimistic - if you can't tell from the title.  It tackles complicated issues in complicated ways, and throws in a sweet three-legged dog for good measure.  I suspect it will appeal to fans of Laurie Halse Anderson.

February 27, 2013

Review: Who Done It?

Who Done It? Edited by Jon Scieszka
Stories by J.R. and Kate Angelella, Mac Barnett, Jennifer Belle, Judy Blundell, Elizabeth Braswell, Libba Bray, Steven Brezenoff, Elise Broach, Peter Brown, Jen Calonita, Patrick Carman, Susane Colasanti, Elizabeth Craft, Melissa de la Cruz, Julia DeVilliers and Paige Pooler, Larry Doyle, Sarah Beth Durst, Dave Eggers, Daniel Ehrenhaft, Elizabeth Eulberg, Helen Fitzgerald, Gayle Forman, Aimee Friedman, Margaux Froley, Claudia Gabel, Michelle Gagnon, Adam Gidwitz, Anna Godbersen, John Green, Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown, Lev Grossman, Janet Gurtler, F. Bowman Hastie III and Tillamook Cheddar, Geoff Herbach, Joanna Hershon, Mandy Hubbard, Emily Jenkins, Maureen Johnson, Lindsey Kelk, Jo Knowles, Gordon Korman, David Levithan, Sarah Darer Littman, Barry Lyga, Adam Mansbach and Ricardo Cortes, Leslie Margolis, Julia Mayer, Barnabas Miller, Jacquelyn Mitchard, Sarah Mlynowski and Courtney Sheinmel, Lauren Myracle, Greg Neri, Jen Nielsen and Lisa Sandell, Michael Northrop, Lauren Oliver, David Ostow, Micol Ostow, Ali Pace, Joy Preble, Margo Rabb, Marie Rutkoski, Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg, Kieran Scott (occasionally Kate Brian), Alyssa B. Sheinmel, Sara Shepard, Jennifer E. Smith, Lemony Snicket, Jordan Sonnenblick, Natalie Standiford, Rebecca Stead, Todd Strasser, Heather Terrell, Ned Vizzini, Adrienne Maria Vrettos, Melissa Walker, Robin Wasserman, Lynn Weingarten, Kiersten White, Mo Willems, Rita Williams-Garcia, Maryrose Wood, Jennifer Ziegler, and Michelle Zink
Available now from Soho Teen (Soho Press)
Review copy
20% of sales benefit 826NYC

WHO DONE IT? is a hilarious anthology of murder most foul.   Odious, pickle-loving editor Herman Mildew has been murdered and the suspects most offer their alibis.  And the suspects are a veritable who's who of young adult and children's literature - these people know how to write an alibi.  Some will throw others under the bus, some will protest that they liked Mildew, but one of them is guilty.

My personal favorite were the entries wherein authors outlined their plans for murdering Mildew and expressed regret that someone else got their first.  But although many of the alibis followed predictable patterns, there was a great deal of variety.  And I don't just mean the fact that many alibis were illustrated or told in comic form.  Each entry has a strong, unique voice.  I read all of the alibis in one sitting and didn't get bored.

I recommend WHO DONE IT? to fans of humorous and light mysteries.  If you like just one of the many, many authors who contributed, the anthology is worth it.  Best of all, WHO DONE IT? supports 826NYC, a nonprofit organization begun by contributor Dave Eggers that helps students develop their writing skills.  It not only supports the program monetarily, but - as readers will find out - demonstrates how the program works.

In the end, I was disappointed by Soho Teen's first title (WHAT WE SAW AT NIGHT), but WHO DONE IT? is delightful from beginning to end.  I've still got high hopes for this imprint of young adult crime/thriller/mystery fiction.

February 26, 2013

Review: The Madness Underneath

The Madness Underneath Book 2 of the Shades of London
By Maureen Johnson
Available now from Putnam (Penguin)
Review copy

Warning: There are major spoilers for book one in this review.  I advise you to read it first.

In THE NAME OF THE STAR, book one of the Shades of London series, American exchange student Rory discovered that she could see ghosts.  Her ability got her mixed up with the Shades - Boo, Callum, and Stephen - and their hunt for a man copying the Jack the Ripper murders.  Rory's trying to recover mentally from her stabbing, but she's having trouble.  It doesn't help that she's been turned into a human terminus and any time she touches a ghost they blast off into the unknown.

I loved the character development in THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH.  All of the relationships from THE NAME OF THE STAR have changed, mostly because Rory has changed.  This is not a series where the heroine easily bounces back.  Rory needs therapy and support, and she mostly gets it, but she's blocked off from a great deal of help by the fact that she can't tell people she was attacked by a murderous ghost.

Plus Rory's voice is irresistible.  Maureen Johnson manages to inject a great deal of humor into a creepy, morbid series.  Rory may not instantly be better, but neither is she depressed and nonfunctioning.  She's fighting and part of that is holding on tight to her sense of humor.  I've mentioned that Rory changed, but the charming narrator of the first book is most definitely not gone.

The plot of THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH meanders a bit more than THE NAME OF THE STAR.  There is a murder in a bar, there is a murder of a psychic, there is a case but it's not as cohesive as it was last time.  Things don't really start to pull together until the end, and just when it looks like resolution is coming Johnson flings out a major gamechanger.  I sure hope there isn't a gap between THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH and book three as there was between THE NAME OF THE STAR and book two.  Everyone is going to be talking about this ending.

If you loved THE NAME OF THE STAR, then I believe THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH will meet your expectations.  If you haven't read THE NAME OF THE STAR, I recommend starting there.  Much of THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH is about consequences and I don't think it will have the full impact if you're unfamiliar with the many characters.  This series is a great choice for people who love ghost stories, London, and young people who fight crime.

February 25, 2013

Movie Monday: A Good Day to Die Hard

A Good Day to Die Hard I've neglected Movie Monday for weeks.  It was a combination of things, but it all boils down to I was busy and not watching movies.  Thus, I neither had time to write the posts nor the time to see anything to write about.  But how can I not post a Movie Monday the day after the Oscars?

This weekend my mother and I went to see A Good Day to Die HardI've mentioned before that she's a big fan of the original Die Hard, so it didn't surprise me that she wanted to go out to see the fifth one.  The first remains the best and the third (Die Hard with a Vengeance) remains the second best.

But A Good Day to Die Hard was definitely a Die Hard movie, even if Die Hard movies have changed.  It was extremely violent, frequently funny, and it was more than once utterly preposterous that John McClane (Bruce Willis) and his son Jack (Jai Courtney) weren't killed.  The worst was a scene were the action stopped to allow father and son to have a bonding talk.  The slowness allowed the stupidity to seep through, and McClane simply yanking a piece of rebar out of his son's abdomen was the cherry on the whole idiotic scene.  (At least the chemical spray that instantly made Chernobyl non-radioactive came in a scene where things were moving along.)

The movie begins with McClane traveling to Russia to attend his son's trial.  But it turns out Jack is there with the CIA to get political prisoner Komarov (Sebastian Koch) out of the country, along with his file on the misdeeds of a prominent political figure.  From there it's basically one big action scene, starting with a fantastically filmed car chase that's disturbing for an instant when it makes the ill-advised decision to call attention to the fact that the hero is heedlessly plowing through cars full of civilians.  The villains aren't all that memorable, and Yuliya Snigir was unfortunately forced to be sexy in an eye-rolling way.  She's a gorgeous woman, she doesn't have to unzip her jacket and flash her garters to command attention.

Honestly though, I enjoyed A Good Day to Die Hard.  It was an action film and it delivered plenty of action and enough laughs to make me happy.  Some of the callbacks to the original worked; some didn't.  McClane and his son using glass as a weapon was terrific.  Attempting to replicate Hans Gruber's death wasn't.  If you're not into the Die Hard films you might wait for video, but the explosions are pretty fun on a big screen.

February 24, 2013

Strands of Bronze and Gold Manicure

Strands of Bronze and Gold Are you familiar with Random Buzzers?  It's a program run by Random House and I've been a member for years.  Every week they feature a different Random House teen title and you can interact directly with the author.  It's a great way to get insider information and win books.  If you aren't a member, you might consider joining.  (It would be nice if you said that Liviania referred you!)  In fact, I have a limited number of referral codes that come with enough points for a free book.  Just note in the comments if you'd like me to hook you up.

My Ambuzzador package - a letter, two ARCs, and referral codes
Anyway, approximately three times a year they chose members to be "Ambuzzadors" for some of their biggest titles of the season.  I am currently an Ambuzzador for STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD by Jane Nickerson.  It's a retelling of "Bluebeard" set in pre-Civil War Mississippi.  Ya'll know I'm a sucker for fairytale retellings.  I've been trying to think of nifty ways to get people interested in the story and I ended up designing a manicure inspired by the book!

This doesn't do justice to the shiny, sadly.
You'll need China Glaze Harvest Moon (bronze foil metallic) and OPI Goldeneye (clear base with gold glitter) to complete this look, in addition to your preferred base and top coat.  My technique was inspired by All Lacquered Up's ombre/gradation manicure done with jelly polish.

1.  Prep.  Cut and file your nails to your desired shape.  Wash nails well with soap or wipe with a bit of nail polish remover to get rid of excess oils.  Apply a thin layer of base coat.  (I used Seche Vite.)  Wait for base coat to dry.  You'll know it's dry when it's no longer tacky to touch.

2.  Apply a layer of China Glaze Harvest Moon to the entire nail.  I've had good luck getting one coat coverage with this polish, but if your first coat isn't opaque you will need a second coat.  Wait till dry.

3.  Apply a thin layer of OPI Goldeneye beginning about 1/3 up from the base of the nail.  Wait till dry.  Then apply another thin layer of Goldeneye, this time to the top third of the nail only.  Wait till dry.

4.  Apply a generous layer of top coat.  (I used Seche Vite.)  Wait till dry.  For best results, reapply top coat once a day.  I am far too lazy to do this and have so far gone 48 hours without chipping.

Obviously, you can substitute other bronze and gold polishes, but I highly recommend picking up a bottle of Goldeneye off eBay or a polish swap site if you can.  It's possibly the best polish I own.  It's like dipping your fingers into molten gold.  It wears well and you will get complimented on it.

What's the significance of bronze and gold, you ask?  It's the color of Sophia Petheram's hair.  And, as it turns out, all of her godfather's former wives had red hair as well.  As Monsieur Bernard de Cressac's new ward, she is curious about his past and the banished memory of those women who so resembled her.  Sadly, I'm a brunette, but I can have bronze and gold nails.  I think Sophia would approve of the spirit of my manicure, but she'd probably think it horribly flashy and gaudy.  It's a bit more Monsieur Bernard's style.

Feel free to ask me questions about the book or how to replicate the nail art for yourself.

February 22, 2013

Review: City of a Thousand Dolls

City of a Thousand Dolls By Miriam Forster
Available now from HarperTeen (HarperCollins)
Review copy

Miriam Forster's debut novel is glorious.  Nisha is a resident of the City of a Thousand Dolls.  The city is a walled-off district for unwanted female babies, where they are raised to be skilled members of society then sold to be wives, mistresses, apprentices, and more.  It's not a perfect solution, but it's better than exposure - so says the Matron, Nisha's mistress.

Nisha is more unwanted than most.  She came to the city not as a baby, but a child.  She has no caste.  The Matron took her on as an assistant, but as she comes of age her position is quite precarious.  Plus, she's carrying on an affair with a noble boy, Devan.  If the affair is discovered it could cost Nisha her life.  But when several girls commit suicide, Nisha is suspicious of something more sinister and begins to investigate.  Along the way she discovers many things about the cities dark corners and her own past.

Fittingly, since the novel is called CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS, the setting is quite elaborate.  Forster goes for a pan-Asian feel.  There are touches of Chinese and Indian history and culture, among others, and the vast majority of the girls are described as having South Asian features.  But Forster wisely doesn't make it an analog of a single place.  And certain touches, such as the city itself, are pure fantasy.  I hated that characters kept going, "Well, the City of a Thousand Dolls isn't perfect, but things could be worse," and easily dismissing reform.  Nisha addressing her home's problems was as cheering as her own growth.

I enjoyed the mystery aspect as well.  I don't think Nisha has a real future as a detective, but she did the best she could and kept asking questions and trusting her gut that something was wrong.  I liked that Nisha was in a good position to investigate because she had connections to all the Houses.  CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS showcases a variety of feminine strengths.  (Not even the girls of the House of Beauty are defenseless.)

Also, Nisha can talk to cats.  I'll give you a moment to be jealous.

CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS tackles tough sociology issues in a lush setting with a resilient heroine and an interesting supporting cast.  I was breathless through the climax and quite happy that Forster leaves a few open threads to hopefully be explored in future books.  This is the best sort of vibrant, exciting adventure that fantasy is capable of.

February 21, 2013

Review and Giveaway: Easter Bunny Murder

Easter Bunny Murder A Lucy Stone Mystery
By Leslie Meier
Available now from Kensington
Review copy

My mom instilled me with a love of cozy mysteries.  I venture into more hardcore thrillers at times, but often find the violence and other crimes too grotesque and gratuitous.  I mean, if you read my reviews, you know that I love me a violent book.  But there's something particularly ugly about the ways bodies are described in certain mysteries.  However, you can trust a cozy mystery to be light on the gore and heavy on the gossip.

Lucy Stone is a reporter for the Pennysaver.  She's not on duty when she goes to Vivian Van Vorst's annual Easter Egg Hunt, but she certainly switches over to investigative mode due to the events of that day.  Nothing was as usual - the grounds not prepared, the gate not open, no parking attendants - and, oh yeah, a man dressed as the Easter Bunny dropped dead in front of a number of traumatized children.

VV is in her nineties and the richest woman in town.  She's controlled the purse strings of her descendants for decades.  Now her health and control are failing.  Something is wrong in her mansion, but few can bring themselves to be bothered about an extremely rich woman reaping what she sowed.  Lucy feels that a crime is a crime and keeps poking around to find out what is going on behind those gates.

I felt disconnected from the series elements.  There are more than twenty Lucy Stone Mysteries, but this is the first one I've read.  When the mystery part briefly stops dead for Lucy to tend to her ailing daughter, I didn't really care since her daughter wasn't relevant to the plot.  Tinker's Cove, Maine is your typical cozy mystery small town so I could relate to characters by their archetypes, but I wasn't clued into the relationships I assume Meier has been building and there wasn't enough in EASTER BUNNY MURDER to make me care.

The mystery did hold my attention.  It's not too complicated, so Meier wisely stacks a couple of crimes on top of each other.  The momentum really gets going just when you think everything has been solved.  I felt the court scenes went on for a little bit too long, but that's my main quibble with the actual mystery.

As far as cozy mysteries go, I prefer Joanna Fluke's more humorous style.  I'm sure Meier's homey Lucy Stone has a wide appeal among cozy mystery readers though. 

I have one hardcover to giveaway courtesy of BookTrib.  I'm not going to bother with a Rafflecopter since I already have THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH giveaway going on.  Just comment on this post with an email address within the next twenty-four hours.  US address only; must be over 13 to win.  You can also enter to win a basket from BookTrib and Kensington.

February 20, 2013

Review: Firebrand

Firebrand Book One of Rebel Angels
By Gillian Philip
Available now from Tor (Macmillan)
Review copy

I'll admit: I almost didn't read FIREBRAND because Gillian Philip spells the word Sithe instead of Sidhe.  I feared she might be a cupcake.  I am so happy I ignored that twinge of fear and chose to read FIREBRAND anyway.

The blurb says that FIREBRAND is an urban fantasy, but it's not.  It's part historical fantasy and part high fantasy, all portal fantasy.  Perhaps there is something to that discussion last year that portal fantasy is unpopular.  But FIREBRAND doesn't follow the typical portal fantasy model.  Seth MacGregor and his brother Conal are Sithe, living in their own world, and cross the portal into our world.  (For the value of "our world" meaning "historical Scotland.")  Then they cross back into their own world . . . and it certainly doesn't live up to the criticism that portal fantasy is unpopular because the real world isn't at stake.  Both worlds are at stake, as are the lives of Seth, his brother, and basically everyone in the novel.

Kate NicNiven is the queen of the Sithe, by her people's consent.  The MacGregors are her most powerful opponents, but she's canny about keeping control and preventing rebellion.  This, despite the fact that she want to destroy the Veil the separates the world of the Sithe from the humans and keeps both sides safe.

Philip's worldbuilding is top notch.  The Sithe are not human.  They have an alien way of thinking, as well as different culture and politics.  She carefully builds her fantasy land and then she brings Scotland into the mix.  Her Scotland seems no less fully realized.

But what really sells FIREBRAND is Seth himself.  He's not only the younger son, but also a bastard.  Yet he loves his brother and has many dear friends, no matter that he took awhile to develop any connections.  He spent his youngest years neglected, but he loves deeply and is loved in return.  He's fiercely loyal, and he may not be the most moral person around, but he knows when to make a stand for what's right.

Right now, I hate everyone in the UK, because they already have books two and three in the Rebel Angels series.  Meanwhile, all of us in the US are stuck waiting for more.  But based on the reviews, the wait will be worth it.

February 19, 2013

Review: Mind Games

Mind Games First in a series
By Kiersten White
Available now from HarperTeen (HarperCollins)
Review copy

I've never read Kiersten White's popular Paranormalcy series, but I wanted to read MIND GAMES based on her reputation as well as the interesting premise.  Fia and Annie are two sisters who will do anything for each other and that's their downfall.

In the world of MIND GAMES, there are some women with psychic abilities.  Annie is a Seer - one of the few who can begin to predict Fia's actions.  There isn't a name for Fia, but she has an amazingly accurate intuition.  They've fallen into the hands of an evil organization that trained Fia as an assassin and keep Annie hostage to ensure she follows orders.  Then Fia decides to save nineteen-year-old Adam because he helps a puppy right before she's supposed to kill him.

MIND GAMES alternates between Fia and Annie's point of view.  This helps puzzle together various characters' motivations and plans, because the two girls are rarely allowed to communicate.  Therefore, they each have a totally different idea of what is happening.  Often, they end up messing up each other's plans for freedom because they don't even know if the other is planning something.  Annie's chapters are told in a straightforward manner, but Fia's voice might annoy some readers.  She's been damaged by her childhood, and often repeats phrases and does things without thinking about them first.  Think River Tam from Firefly-style crazy, rather than any real world mental illness.

A lot of MIND GAMES worked for me.  I liked the slow reveal of the evil conspiracy and how it managed to get a hold of the sisters.  I liked how the story reveals that Fia might have killed three people, but she's definitely not a cold-blooded assassin.  I liked James - the son of the man behind the conspiracy - and his relationship with the sisters.  He's bad news, and both girls know it, but Fia feels an affinity with him. 

Adam, on the other hand, is almost completely extraneous.  He's supposedly important, but he gets shuffled to the side for flashbacks and such.  I wouldn't call it insta-love, but Fia is attracted to him and instantly concerned about his safety and well-being for no real reason.  When he keeps dropping out of the narrative, it's hard to care much about him.  I suppose he (and his research) could be more important in the next book, but he felt like a footnote who kept being treated as a main character the few times he actually showed up.

I wouldn't call MIND GAMES a thriller though that is how it is being branded.  It's a bit too meandering to be a thriller.  The structure was interesting and useful to understanding the characters, but it sometimes killed the pace.  After all, we know that the boarding school is sinister from the start considering the present, so the flashbacks to Fia and Annie figuring it out are pretty useless, aside from showing that Annie can be dense. 

Aside from that, MIND GAMES just doesn't feel very developed.  Annie and Fia are developed as characters, but the world feels half-formed.  Why are only women psychic?  Why is Adam, a student, the first person to really notice anything?  What happened to the aunt?  Why aren't there more consequences from James' drunken confessions?  Keane is very sinister because he's awful to the women under his control, but he's much lamer than he should be.  There's no hint of his plan and thus no raising of the stakes.  An evil conspiracy should threaten something!

I read MIND GAMES quickly, and enjoyed it quite a bit, but when I finished I felt disappointed.  MIND GAMES has some interesting ideas, but it never does anything with them.

February 16, 2013

Review: Afternoon of the Elves

Afternoon of the Elves By Janet Taylor Lisle
Available now from Open Road Media
Review copy
A Newbery Honor Book

It's hard for me to be objective about AFTERNOON OF THE ELVES.  I first read it as a child, when the Apple Signature edition came out.  I was entranced by the cover, of two girls playing with a small carnival, the title, and the fact that "Apple Signature" sure sounded fancy.

Reading it as an adult, it's a very simple story, but it introduces complex ideas in a way that's easy for kids to understand.  Hillary makes friends with school outcast Sara-Kate Connelly when Sara-Kate invites her to see the elves in her backyard.  Their afternoons together cause Hillary to rethink the way Sara-Kate is treated at school.  At the same time, she discovers the secret behind Sara-Kate's strange clothes and food.  Hillary has to decide what to do with her new knowledge.  It's a story of personal responsibility, as well as knowing when to involve an adult.

I wanted to review the Open Road edition because it promised new bonus material - a personal history, including photos and documents, by Janet Taylor Lisle.  The history covers more of her life and career than AFTERNOON OF THE ELVES and may appeal to fans of her other works.  However, it's probably of limited interest to the youngest readers of the book.  

AFTERNOON OF THE ELVES is a classic, so I am happy that it's been released in a nice ebook edition.  It's nice to know that a new generation will have access to a title I loved so much.

February 15, 2013

Review: Pivot Point

Pivot Point By Kasie West
Available now from HarperTeen (HarperCollins)
Review copy

Addison Coleman lives in a compound with other people like her who have psychic abilities.  But when her parents decide to divorce, she must choose who to live with.  And when Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future to help guide her way.  Should she leave the compound and live with her father, or stay with her mom and the world she's always known?

If there was one thing I'd change about PIVOT POINT, it would be to see less of the branching paths and more of the outcome.  This isn't a book with many surprises.  But there is quite a bit of pleasure in the journey.

I particularly liked seeing Addie's adjustment to our world in the NORM sections.  (The chapters alternate, PARA and NORM, laying out her two possible lives.)  She's trying to learn to use older technology and tell everyone a fake story about her life and it makes moving more stressful than it already is.  Some bits of the world didn't make much sense - apparently the compound has high-tech bathroom locks.  Look, there's a reason bathroom lock technology hasn't changed in ages.  It's because no one needs an electronic bathroom lock, not unless they're Tony Stark.  But most of the time the worldbuilding was top notch.  If I had a quibble with something, it was addressed later in PIVOT POINT.

Addie's choice is a difficult one.  In one life she is much, much happier - but bad things happen to the people she cares about.  There is a boy in each life.  There is Trevor, who is just a normal guy, and Duke, who is the head jock and someone Addie never thought she'd fall for.  There's only one best friend, Laila, because best friends are irreplaceable.  Laila's not always the best friend, but she has her own home issues.  Her father is a drug addict - trying to control his telepathy - and her mom's a nonentity.  Plus, his dealer keeps coming around and being a total creeper.

The thing I loved most about the contrast between Addie's lives is how each one revealed not only more about what was happening in the background of the other timeline, but about how restrictive life is in the compound.  In both, Addie comes to question things she took for granted, like paras being better than norms and that authority figures would always have her best interests in mind.  And I liked that there was a point to the government being shady and that it had more to do with Addie's life than she thought.

PIVOT POINT is a terrific debut and a great choice for readers who like a little science fiction in their fantasy or a little contemporary in their dystopia.  It drags a touch in the middle, but it's worth it for the genuinely terrifying climax.  I had to keep telling myself that Addie couldn't actually get hurt in a psychic vision.  Unfortunately, she can get hurt after she makes her choice.

Now go make your choice to read this book.

February 14, 2013

Review: Out of the Easy

Out of the Easy Out of the Easy
By Ruta Sepetys
Available now from Philomel (Penguin)
Review copy

Ruta Sepetys burst onto the YA scene with BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY, which basically won all of the awards and got confused with an infamous erotic trilogy.  OUT OF THE EASY proves that Sepetys is no one-hit wonder.  Set in 1950 New Orleans, OUT OF THE EASY is the story of clever, determined Josie Moraine and her journey out of the Easy.

In most novels, Jo would be that doggedly self-sufficient girl never accepting any help from anybody because of her pride.  Jo has plenty of pride, albeit battered and wounded, but she relies on and trusts her friends, even asking for help when she needs it.  And she has needed help.  She's smart and ambitious, but she started from nothing.  Her mother is mean, a prostitute and thief with no time for child.  Jo moved into her own apartment as a child, trading work for a small apartment in a bookshop with a kindly owner.

Don't worry about OUT OF THE EASY being about the evils of prostitution.  Several of the women at the brother are great people, and the madam is one of the most heroic characters in the story.  Willie Woodley is no saint, don't get me wrong.  She puts her own interests at number one.  But that doesn't mean she doesn't have the heart to help the people she cares about.  Nope, Jo's mother is a bad person because she specifically is a bad person - even if Jo would prefer not to face that truth.

Jo has always wanted to leave New Orleans, but her dreams take concrete shape when she meets two well-to-do customers.  Forrest Hearne mistakes her for a college girl and treats her with respect.  Charlotte Gates, a Smith student, tells Jo all about the college and encourages her to apply.  Jo knew she was smart enough for college, but didn't have the money.  But because of those two people she's inspired to go to Smith and raise the tuition, somehow.

OUT OF THE EASY is a tapestry of a novel.  There's a murder mystery here, a love story (or two) there, a tragedy playing out down the street, and one girl trying not just to stay afloat, but to rise above.  Sepetys brings Jo's world to life.  She shows the music and the soul of New Orleans, the class divisions and the geography.  The characters feel like they go on to have their own stories when they aren't interacting with Jo.  There are hints of their histories and futures, their faults and dreams.  There are hundreds of potential stories in OUT OF THE EASY; Sepetys just chose to tell us Jo's.

And what a story it is.  Love and death and everything in between.  I dare you not to fall in love with Jo, who loves books and longs for elegance and has no time for boys.  Even if you hate historical fiction, give OUT OF THE EASY a chance to take you in.

(This book is my valentine.)

February 13, 2013

Giveaway: The Madness Underneath

The Madness Underneath Maureen Johnson is one of the leading ladies of young adult fiction.  Her newest novel, the second in the Shades of London series, comes out on February 26th.  THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH is creepy, exciting, romantic, and heartbreaking.  It's just as good as THE NAME OF THE STAR.  If you like ghosts, London, boarding schools, and/or realistic depictions of trauma, you'll love it.  If you don't believe me, here's your chance to win a copy and try it out for free.

I have one ARC to giveaway to someone over 13 with a US address.

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Review: A Tangle of Knots

A Tangle of Knots By Lisa Graff
Available now from Philomel (Penguin)
Review copy

A TANGLE OF KNOTS is a story told in bits and pieces, where every little bit connects and creates a whole that is lovely and magical.  What at first seems random is interconnected, people moving in and out of each other's lives in the most unexpected ways.

Cady is an orphan with a Talent for baking cakes.  That's talent with a capital T.  The world of A TANGLE OF KNOTS is much like ours except for the fact that most people have Talents.  It can take awhile to find yours, and it may not be impressive, but it's something special that you're very, very good at.  Those who are Fair and have no Talent can still be successful, like the woman who owned the world's best peanut butter factory.

Cady's gone an exceptionally long time without being adopted.  Miss Mallory knows exactly who the perfect parents for her charges are, so the process is often quite quick.  Then the perfect father walks into her life.  A TANGLE OF KNOTS is told from many points of view and at first I disliked how short each chapter was.  I felt like I would get a sense of the new narrator then be whisked away.  Then I got into the rhythm of the story and liked how it alternated, every section slotting perfectly into place.

Although A TANGLE OF KNOTS is a sort of gentle and innocent fantasy, it does have an excellent villain and some hints of darkness.  The Owner is incredibly creepy, although his past does evoke some pity.  The Talents, while treasured by their owners, can also be troublesome.  One character found her Talent very late in life and misses the career she had as a Fair - the career she never would've advanced in because she wasn't Talented.  The magic is joyous to the child characters, but the adult narrators have a more nuanced view.

I think A TANGLE OF KNOTS will appeal to fans of Roald Dahl and Richard Peck.  It has the same sense of wonder as Dahl and the warmth of Peck.  It's domestic, but still contains an amazing adventure, a long-lost legacy, and a woman without words.  Best of all, it contains recipes for Cady's mouthwatering cakes (and a pie).

February 12, 2013

Review: The Indigo Spell

The Indigo Spell Book Three of the Bloodlines series
By Richelle Mead
Available now from Razorbill (Penguin)
Review copy
Read my review of THE GOLDEN LILY

I've heard a lot of people say that they don't like the Bloodlines series because of Sydney.  She's not Rose.  She hates vampires.  But I implore anyone who disliked Sydney at first to give her another chance.  No, she hasn't morphed into Rose.  But there's more than one type of leading lady, and I love Sydney's journey.

She's basically a cult member.  She grew up knowing she would be an Alchemist, going to Alchemist church, hanging out with fellow future Alchemists, Alchemist, Alchemist, Alchemist.  Now, she's spent several months in the company of vampires and dhampirs with no other Alchemists in sight.  She's on her own, making her life decisions for the first time, confronted with the fact that the people she's been raised hating are just people.  People she might, in fact, like better than the bigots she was raised with.

And the Alchemists do not tolerate dissent.  Sydney has to decide, like all teenagers, who she's going to be.  Her decision could cut her off from her family, forever.  It could get her killed.  When she discovers Marcus Finch, she discovers that others have left the Alchemists successfully.  She must decide whether she's going to follow the trail created by others or blaze her own.  Even for a rogue Alchemist, falling for a vampire is liberal.

That's right, o people who have loved Sydney from the beginning, in THE INDIGO SPELL she must finally face Adrian's feelings for her and figure out how she feels in return.  Anyone who has been frustrated by Sydney's complete lack of awareness of the romance she is starring in will devour THE INDIGO SPELL.

I know I said Sydney still isn't Rose, but she is definitely becoming more of an action hero.  In one scene, she could be Sydney Bristow rather than Sydney Sage.  She also learns to throw fireballs, which is one of those magic powers that is never not awesome.  It's a good thing she's becoming better at confrontation, because there's a big bad witch come to town.  That's right - an epic romance, potential rebellion, and a mystery.  It's no wonder Sydney's getting tired of being the responsible one.

THE INDIGO SPELL is just as fast paced as its predecessors and just as layered.  Richelle Mead tackles big issues and wraps them up in monsters, but they're still there.  THE INDIGO SPELL is no disappointment and I cannot wait for book four.

I leave you with a quote from Adrian (page 28, ARC): "You're not as much of a lost cause as she was.  I mean, with her, I had to overcome her deep, epic love with a Russian warlord.  You and I just have to overcome hundreds of years' worth of deeply ingrained prejudice and taboo between our two races.  Easy."

February 11, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 15)

The Indigo SpellThe newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th.  For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

You can make your guesses about just what the indigo spell is or what it does below.  Commenting gets you another chance to win THE INDIGO SPELL after all!  And believe me, you want to read this book - it's a good one.  Unless you don't like magic or kissing or deadly showdowns.

This is your last day to enter to win.  Come back tomorrow to read my review and find out who won!

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February 10, 2013

Con or Bust Auctions

Con or Bust is a cool program that helps fans of color attend SF/F conventions.  You may or may not agree with their mission, but February is their big fundraising auction.  And there are lots of cool goodies up for bid.

There are a ton of books of course - signed, ARCs, first editions, all sorts! - as well as crafty goods, critiques, and a bit of personal shopping.  Most items are currently at the very affordable level, so I'd be sure to check it out and make a few bids if I were you.

February 9, 2013

Review: Lies and Prophecy

Lies and Prophecy Book One in the Wilders series
By Marie Brennan
Available now from Book View Cafe
Review copy

I love Marie Brennan.  She's the author of the duology WARRIOR and WITCH, two of the first books I ever mentioned on In Bed With Books.  She's also the author of the Onyx Court series, which has both Queen Elizabeth and magic.  LIES AND PROPHECY is the first book in a series that may never have any more books, but it's quite satisfying on its own.  I still want more, but I'm not crushed by a terrible cliffhanger of evil doom.  And here's why you should read it and convince Brennan to write more: magic college.

Kim is a student specializing in divination at Welton University.  But this year she's decided to focus more on Ceremonial Magic and other subjects she's neglected.  Much of what she's been divining lately focuses on Julian, the only wilder at the university.  He's definitely in danger, and Kim might be too.  She doesn't have long to prepare.  Soon enough, they're attacked and Samhain and shortly after Julian disappears.

LIES AND PROPHECY successfully combines college hijinks with magical intrigue and battles for autonomy.  I liked how important Kim and Julian's roommates, Liesel and Robert, were to their lives and the story.  A good roommate is the best friend.  I also liked how detailed the world was.  There are theories about why some humans have magic, and a medical test to determine magical aptitude.  While little narrative time is spent in classes, there's a sense of the curriculum.  I love when authors use a practical, scientific approach to magic.  And, though there are twists, none of the twists violate what the reader has been told of how magic functions in the world.

There's also a love story.  I liked how it developed in a slow burn, though some readers might be disappointed by the fact it remains fairly chaste.  (Hey, they've got a world in danger to worry about.)  At first, it's just lingering looks and small tells, like who Kim always runs to first.  It's complicated, given that Julian is so full of magic that just looking at him is hard, but she wants to make it work because it's what she feels.  Kate is terrifically emotional and stubborn, and those qualities prove to be a saving grace.

The only thing I didn't like about LIES AND PROPHECY was that it switched between first and third person.  Much of the book is through Kim's point of view, but other times it's told in third person even if she's present.  There's not a good structural or plot reason for the book to be written this way, so I wish Brennan had picked one.  I'm not one of those people who hates first or third, but they so rarely belong in the same book.

I would recommend LIES AND PROPHECY to Harry Potter fans who are looking for something more grown up as well as to fans of THE MAGICIANS who want something less grimdark.  It's a little YA, a little New Adult, and a lot of having your friends at your side as you face down things you don't understand but know you have to fight anyway.

You can read a prequel novella for free on Brennan's site.

February 8, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 14)

The Indigo SpellMarcus Finch wants what?  But the real question is does Sydney want to challenge the Alchemists.  What do you think?

The newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th.  For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

Best of all, you can win a copy by filling out the Rafflecopter form below.

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Review: Insane City

Insane City By Dave Barry
Available now from Putnam (Penguin)
Review copy

INSANE CITY lives up to its title.  Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry  pens a comic tale involving a professional Tweeter, Haitian illegal immigrants, an orangutan, an Escalade, pot brownies, a very large wedding, and more.  And it all starts when Seth and his groomsmen arrive in Miami and fail to find their hotel, decide to get drunk, and lose their luggage - including the ring.

What really makes INSANE CITY hold together is that Seth is a genuinely decent guy.  He has no ambition, he's not that talented, but he's loyal and compassionate.  As the proceedings spin more and more out of control, I wanted him to somehow make it work and end up happy, because a guy who is willing to go to insane lengths to both help a group of strangers who he can't even talk to and ensure his wedding goes according to his fiancĂ©e's wishes is a guy who deserves a good ending.  At the point where he accidentally robs a convenience story with what he thinks is a gorilla, I was insanely curious to see how Barry could plot a way out of the whole mess for Seth.

This is an extremely busy novel.  There's a massive cast full of people who are all doing their own thing and have basically no clue about what everyone else is doing.  But everyone's actions are interconnected.  Despite the sprawl, I had very little trouble following what was happening or who was who.  The characters are mostly outsized stereotypes, but it's easy to the differentiate the personalities.  The events proceed in - I hesitate to call it logical - an order, so that no matter how implausible the story gets, there's still a sense of cause-and-effect.

I don't know what it is about Florida that lends itself so well to dark comedy.  I've only been to Florida once and that was to go to Disney World, where order is carefully maintained.  But I believe in the twisted funhouse state found in INSANE CITY, as well as works by Carl Hiaasen and Tim Dorsey.  There's something irresistible about madcap Florida satire/adventure novels.

I loved INSANE CITY.  It's a great balance of utterly bonkers plot and genuine emotional core.  I highly recommend it to fans of Barry, Elmore Leonard, Christopher Moore, and the other two aforementioned authors.  It's less gruesome than most novels by those other authors, for those wondering.  INSANE CITY is a great pick for anyone who needs a laugh.

February 7, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 13)

The Indigo SpellThe newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th.  For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

You could win a copy of THE INDIGO SPELL by entering below!  You know you want to know more about rogue Alchemists and fancy tattoos and shabby apartments.  Best of all, you don't have to do anything to enter and getting extra entries is super easy.

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Review: Stranded

Stranded First in the Stranded series
By Jeff Probst and Chris Tebbetts
Available now from Puffin (Penguin)
Review copy

If you're like my mom and me, then you took a look at this cover and went, "Jeff Probst?  Like Survivor?"  Yes, the host of Survivor has written a middle grade book with the help of Chris Tebbetts.  Unsurprisingly, it involves people stuck on an island.

Vanessa and Buzz Diaz's father married Carter and Jane Benson's mother, making them all siblings.  As a gift, their Uncle Dexter offered to take the kids on a cruise during the honeymoon, giving them time to bond.  While Buzz and Carter are the same age, they're very different.  Carter is more athletic and active, whereas Buzz prefers to stay belowdecks.  Jane is cute, but too young to be interested in the same things as the others, whereas Vanessa is too old.

Then the kids are forced to work together when the boat runs aground during a large storm and they're separated from Uncle Dex and his first mate.  Because the boat changed directions several times trying to outrun the storm, the authorities only have a general idea where the kids are.  It could be a long time before help arrives.

STRANDED is a terrific high interest, low effort novel.  The kids keep barely escaping total disaster, which keeps the pages turning.  Plus they represent a range of personalities, somewhat shallowly drawn but easily identified with.  I particularly like Jane, who contributes to their survival just as much as the others by being observant and thoughtful.

I felt STRANDED was a bit short.  It's nearly two hundred pages long, but the print is large.  Just when things really got going, it ended.  I suppose that's the way of this sort of adventure series for young readers.  I think kids who like this one will be eager to read TRIAL BY FIRE in June in order to figure out how the kids face the dangers of the island.

STRANDED doesn't have much to interest older readers, but it's a good choice for younger, reluctant readers.  It's easy to read and exciting.

February 6, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 12)

The Indigo SpellThe newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th.  For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

Enter to win you own hardcover, fresh off the presses copy of THE INDIGO SPELL below!  The "Who is Marcus Finch?" event is almost over . . . only three clues to go.  Have your theories changed since the beginning?  If he doesn't share the Alchemist's beliefs, he should be a good guy, don't you think?

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Review: The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs

Love and Supper Clubs By Dana Bate
Available now from Hyperion (Disney)
Review copy

Hannah Sugarman, like many chick lit heroines, is dissatisfied with her life.  She hates her boring job at a think tank, which her parents got for her, and her long-term relationship ended in an ugly and public manner.  Her stress cooking is the best part of her life.  Then her best friend comes up with an idea: Why not start an underground supper club?

Supper clubs, basically, are unlicensed restaurants run out of people's homes.  That would be one of the major complications of Hannah's: she's borrowing her landlord's home, while he's out of town, and he's running for an office with a platform that promises to crack down on supper clubs.  I liked that THE GIRLS' GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS was very clear about why they're illegal - no health inspections, unfair competition with licensed restaurants, etc.  What Hannah does seems harmless, but there are repercussions.

Despite all those consequences - and there are consequences - THE GIRLS' GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS is a great deal of fun.  This is not weepy chick lit, where the heroine cycles into despair as her life implodes.  In fact, I think THE GIRLS' GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS is as much a New Adult novel as chick lit.  It's about Hannah learning to take control of her life.  Not what her parents or her boyfriend want for her life, but figuring out what she wants and how to achieve that goal without becoming imprisoned or impoverished.

I love cleansing my palate with bubbly novels like this one.  It's very optimistic, in the end, and sweet.  There's a little romance, a little character growth, and some happily ever after.  THE GIRLS' GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS will put a smile on your face and make you crave a nice bit of braised pork belly.  Thankfully, some of the recipes are included at the back.

February 5, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 11)

The Indigo SpellDun dun DUN!  The plot thickens.  And you can find out more in the newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, coming out on February 12th.  (To hold you over till then, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.  Or just keep coming back to IBWB for more clues.)

I bet you really want to win that hardcover of THE INDIGO SPELL now!  All you have to do is enter below.

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Review: Pantomime

Pantomime By Laura Lam
Available now from Strange Chemistry (Angry Robot)
Review copy

Micah Grey runs away from his life as a privileged aristocrat and joins R.H. Ragona's Circus of Magic.  He wants the chance to discover who he is, rather than who his parents expect him to be, especially after learning something rather unexpected about his past and unwelcome about his future right before running.

He doesn't fit into the circus immediately.  He might be an outsider and an outcast, but he has to endure the other performers' hazing in order to prove it.  He must work hard at grunt work and train to be an aerialist.  He starts a relationship with Aenea Harper, one of the circus's experienced aerialists, and feels a strange attraction to Drystan, the circus's head clown.  But it's difficult for Micah to keep his secrets and gain the trust of the performers.

PANTOMIME is also the story of Iphigenia Laurus, who wants to be called Gene, though only her brother bothers.  She's old enough to make her debut, but she's not interested in courting and being a lady.  She'd rather climb trees and hang with her brother's friends, just like she did as a little kid.  She chafes under society's expectations and lives in fear of being married off to some dolt, because a clever man would discover her secrets rather quickly.

The fantasy elements of PANTOMIME are subtle.  Most of Ellada's magic is relics, rare and losing power.  But not all magic is gone.  Micah might have a connection to those vanished Civilizations, though he's often too busy trying to conceal it than to bother trying to discover how.

I rather enjoyed PANTOMIME and its examination of class, society, and gender combined with the classic stories of a boy running away to join the circus and a girl avoiding an unpleasant marriage.  Some of the story's reveals are obvious, but other twists are very surprising.  And it all builds to a sudden, violent conclusion.  PANTOMIME is only the beginning of the story.  It's a lovely, quiet story but I expect the sequel will be more explosive, given everything that happens.

I recommend PANTOMIME for fantasy fans looking for something slightly offbeat and full of subtle magics, as well as for people looking for something to follow the bestselling THE NIGHT CIRCUS.  It's a magical, romantic tale and I think Laura Lam is an author to watch.

February 4, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 10)

The Indigo SpellThe newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL, comes out on February 12th.  For more information, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

Wanna bet that he's been going by "Max Power"?  Or perhaps he's not a Simpsons fan . . . surely that's not possible.  But you can make some guesses below and enter to win a hardcover copy of THE INDIGO SPELL!  Or you can just post something random.  I'm not fussy.

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February 1, 2013

Who is Marcus Finch? (Day 9)

The Indigo SpellThe fabulously fantastic giveaway of the newest Bloodlines novel by Richelle Mead, THE INDIGO SPELL (Feb 12), continues.  For more information about the book, check out the Facebook page, the book trailer, or this excerpt of the first three chapters of THE INDIGO SPELL.

When you reach this scene in the book, just remember: I totally agree with Sydney's assessment of CATCHER IN THE RYE and boys who treasure it.  Ugh.  Beware guys who are really into Charles Bukowski too.

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Review: The Twelve-Fingered Boy

Twelve-Fingered Boy First in a trilogy
By John Hornor Jacobs
Available now from Carolrhoda LAB (Lerner)
Review copy

I have got to stop assuming that books are standalones.  When I reached the end of THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY, I couldn't believe it.   I was relieved to learn that two more books were coming and that the story would continue, but all the open threads were a bit of a shock.

The twelve-fingered boy in question is Jack Graves, the new kid as Casimir Pulaski Juvenile Detention Center.  The narrator is his roommate Shreveport "Shreve" Cannon, the biggest candy dealer in all four blocks.  Soon after Jack arrives, a man named Mr. Quincrux shows up to interview him.  Shreve eavesdrops because he has a bad feeling about the man and his interest in Jack - a feeling that turns out to be very prescient.  Soon the two boys are busting out of juvie and desperately running across the country to protect themselves. 

THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY will appeal to fans of the X-Men and Spider-man.  Jack has special abilities, and their encounters with Mr. Quincrux awaken a power in Shreve.  Although they're concerned with keeping themselves alive and safe at first, they start to realize that they might have extra responsibilities due to their extraordinary capabilities.  That's not a thought that comes easily to Shreve, whose short life has taught him that it is acceptable to hurt others to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

John Hornor Jacobs imbues Shreve with a unique, absorbing voice.  His morality is slightly skewed, and he has the potential to grow up to be a good person - or a really bad one.  And his relationship with Jack, who reminds him of his younger brother, is quite sweet.  Their journey across America is harrowing, not just because of who is chasing them and what they might run into, but because the corner they're backed into might turn them into what they're running from.

I'm not enamored with the ending of THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY.  While Shreve and Jack to manage to accomplish something important, because the ending made the entire novel seem somewhat pointless.  I'm certainly curious about what will happen next, and at least next time I'll know that the end isn't really the end. 


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