Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin
Publication: October 4th
Nell Crane has always been an outsider. In a city devastated by an epidemic, where survivors are all missing parts—an arm, a leg, an eye—her father is the famed scientist who created the biomechanical limbs everyone now uses. But Nell is the only one whose mechanical piece is on the inside: her heart. Since the childhood operation, she has ticked. Like a clock, like a bomb. As her community rebuilds, everyone is expected to contribute to the society’s good . . . but how can Nell live up to her father’s revolutionary idea when she has none of her own?
Then she finds a mannequin hand while salvaging on the beach—the first boy’s hand she’s ever held—and inspiration strikes. Can Nell build her own companion in a world that fears advanced technology? The deeper she sinks into this plan, the more she learns about her city—and her father, who is hiding secret experiments of his own.
Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
Publication: October 4th
Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?
Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.
But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
Publication: October 4th
When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the best friend he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.
To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.
But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
Beast by Brie Spangler
Publication: October 11th
A witty, wise, and heart-wrenching novel that will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan.
Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.
Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality. As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends. But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?
A Darkly Beating Heart by Lindsay Smith
Publication: October 25th
A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.
No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.
Glitter by Aprilynne Pike
Publication: October 25th
Outside the palace of Versailles, it’s modern day. Inside, the people dress, eat, and act like it’s the eighteenth century—with the added bonus of technology to make court life lavish, privileged, and frivolous. The palace has every indulgence, but for one pretty young thing, it’s about to become a very beautiful prison.
When Danica witnesses an act of murder by the young king, her mother makes a cruel power play . . . blackmailing the king into making Dani his queen. When she turns eighteen, Dani will marry the most ruthless and dangerous man of the court. She has six months to escape her terrifying destiny. Six months to raise enough money to disappear into the real world beyond the palace gates.
Her ticket out? Glitter. A drug so powerful that a tiny pinch mixed into a pot of rouge or lip gloss can make the wearer hopelessly addicted. Addicted to a drug Dani can sell for more money than she ever dreamed.
But in Versailles, secrets are impossible to keep. And the most dangerous secret—falling for a drug dealer outside the palace walls—is one risk she has to take.
So many fantastic books coming out in October. I could have gone on but these are the more popular books coming out next month. Just in time for a Halloween Read-a-thon!
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
Published: Published July 14th 2015 by Disney•Hyperion
Format: Paper Book
Length: 299 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Mystery, Paranormal
Rating: 3.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate. There’s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate’s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember.
But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is: a terrifying man in a black cloak who stalks Biltmore’s corridors at night. Following her own harrowing escape, Serafina risks everything by joining forces with Braeden Vanderbilt, the young nephew of the Biltmore’s owners. Braeden and Serafina must uncover the Man in the Black Cloak’s true identity . . . before all of the children vanish one by one.
Serafina’s hunt leads her into the very forest that she has been taught to fear. There she discovers a forgotten legacy of magic, one that is bound to her own identity. In order to save the children of Biltmore, Serafina must seek the answers that will unlock the puzzle of her past.
There was a lot of excited chatter when Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty came out this summer. Frist of all, gorgeous cover. This is one of my favorite covers from this year. Second of all, the story is set at Biltmore Estate, in North Carolina. I love that place. I’ve only visited once when I was a little kid but I wish I could go back as an adult so I could appreciate it probably. It’s a gorgeous house and land. This isn’t a complicated story and it’s fairly predictable but it is cute and fun. There are some pacing problems and a fair amount of “special snowflake syndrome” but this might not matter to a younger reader. I do have one massive problem with Serafina and the Black Cloak but I’ll save that for last.
Serafina and the Black Cloak is a mix of fantasy and mystery. Children are disappearing at the Biltmore Estate and an evil man in a black cloak is prowling the grounds. Thankfully, the evildoer is not the only one on the prowl. Serafina’s secret was obvious and I felt like I could have stopped reading in the middle and not missed a thing. I started skimming parts and for a shorter book, this is not good. If you’ve got a short book then you want to make every single part important and gripping. Serafina gets lost in the woods in the first half and that takes up more pages than it should. Then the plot is sort of meandering after that.
I found myself growing impatient. I could see where everything was going, guessed the secrets by about the halfway point, and was pretty much done by that stage. I finished reading that book in case the author wished to surprise us with something different but no such luck. There is a haunting and ominous atmosphere to the setting that I found enjoyable. The characters fill pretty standard roles and feel a little plastic, although some of Serafina’s thoughts on good and evil are well done. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty has a charming and nostalgic feel to it from books I read as a child but falls short of being really great as an adult.
My biggest issue with this book is the beginning. Trigger Warning! I don’t know why some proofreader or editor didn’t turn to Beatty and say “You know your beginning sounds like a pedophile rape scene, right?” Because it totally does. Serafina and the Black Cloak is published by a Disney company and you can’t tell me nobody bought a clue reading that. That scene would seriously trigger a rape survivor. It even made me uncomfortable reading it. A little blond girl being dragged through a dark basement (Please, sir, we aren’t supposed to be down here!), a man with a raspy voice (I won’t hurt you, little darling.), and just everything (The man wraps his arms around the little girl and pulls her to his chest and then shudders.). I seriously can’t believe someone didn’t Nope that hard.
Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
Published: February 3rd 2015 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Format: Paper Book
Length: 208 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Magic, Fairytale, Beauty and the Beast
Rating: 3.5 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.
When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.
Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.
Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen is a beautiful, simple read that takes the Beauty and the Beast tale and twists the characters and events into a new story that delves deeper into the nature of curses and three generations of a family caught in the snare of magic, pride, and jealousy. Beastkeeper is a small book. It barely cracks 200 pages long. While I like stories that don’t overreach themselves and become rambling and unfocused, I do feel as if Beastkeeper could have been a little bigger. There are so many interesting characters that we learn so little of, that I wish the book had been longer just so they could have been fleshed out more. It’s a tease and we end up wanting more with no hope of getting it.
I liked Sarah as a character. She feels true to her age; as in there is a lot of crying when she feels overwhelmed and moments where she wants to give up and leave but the story won’t let her and she’s forced to grow up a little and deal with everything. Beastkeeper is dark for a children’s story. The ending is less a happy ending and more a balanced ending. The dead stay dead and the characters move on and deal with their fates for the most part. This is not your everyday fairytale revision. Hellisen creates an atmosphere with her writing that perfectly matches her story. From the cold in the forest to the twisting maze of the tower, her writing is magical and sets the tone for beasts and witches alike.
I found Beastkeeper in the young adult section of my library but the story is much better suited to a middle grade genre. The age of the main character and the tone of the romance angle are better aimed toward younger audiences (and adults like me who just like middle grade books for the stories they offer). Plus, there is the absolutely gorgeous cover. I’m seriously in love with it. I spent several minutes picking the hidden creatures out of the trees. I highly recommend Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen for anyone who enjoys stories based in folklore and fairytales that have a touch of darkness to them.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published: October 6th 2015 by St. Martin’s Griffin
Format: Paper Book
Length: 522 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, GLBT, Paranormal, Magic
Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads | Amazon
Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.
That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.
Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.
I am unbelievably torn with Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. On one hand, I adore fanfiction. I read fanfiction and I write it. For me, the Simon Snow fanfiction bits of Fangirl were the bright spots among what turned out to be a rather slow and boring book. So when Rainbow Rowell announced she was going to write a proper book using the Simon Snow characters and world we caught little glances of in Fangirl, I was super excited. I wasn’t even put off by the 522 page count. But then I eagerly cracked my new copy of Carry On open and my heart sank. Rainbow Rowell had committed one of my biggest peeves; the changing POV. Every chapter, and sometimes ‘chapters’ were a couple of sentences long, was told from a different character’s point of view. I almost threw the book out the window. No. Just, no.
I’m not fond of first person narrative either. Add in the changing POV and I was incredibly annoyed. Each chapter would backtrack to retell the events that had just happened from another character’s point of view. So, we were getting each scene from a different person two or three times depending on who was there. Redundant and pointless. The length of the book was starting to make sense. I was about ready to pull my hair out. But, I’m a dedicated fanfiction shipper and I pushed through and read the whole book. (I don’t know why some person, an editor or proofreader, didn’t point out how much people dislike first person narrative and changing POV. They’re the number one and two criticisms on fanfiction or books in general. Why, Rainbow!? Why!?)
Being a fangirl and shipper often means that you are willing to read utter crap as long as it has your fandom and the characters you like. You have to wade through a lot of mediocrity to find those hidden gems in fanfiction. I’m used to it but I was disappointed to find it in a proper published book. If Rainbow’s goal in writing Carry On was to keep the fanfiction feel of the story, she accomplished that. But she accomplished it by keeping the worst traits of fanfiction, the stuff I personally have to look past to be able to enjoy a story. References to events before this book, in earlier school years, are sprinkled around the book and since we have no way to read those earlier books, this is just madness inducing. The plot was a bit muddled and could be confusing in places. It is also slow and meandering in the first half and a little rushed in the second half. The magic system is very creative and the details of Simon’s past and how the Insidious Humdrum was created are fantastic. In all, I loved the story and the characters of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell but the manner it was written in was not my cup of tea.
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Published: January 13th 2015 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Paper Book
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Fantasy, Fairytale, Magic, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult
Goodreads | Amazon
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?
Fairfold has a fairy problem. The citizens of this town have lived side by side with the Folk of the woods, maybe not completely peacefully, but at least successfully. Obey the rules and don’t act like a tourist and you’ll be fine. But something has upset the balance and now Fairfold finds itself under attack. I was really excited to read The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. I was ambivalent about her Curse Workers series but adore The Spiderwick Chronicles. (Yes, I’m an adult and I read The Spiderwick Chronicles in my 20’s.) So I knew I had a 50/50 chance of liking The Darkest Part of the Forest. Anything with fairies is an attention grabber for me. I was ready for a good old romp in an unspecified medieval European setting and was very pleased to find that The Darkest Part of the Forest was set in modern times, complete with cellphones and IPods. It makes the setting and characters easier to identify with. The characters were amazing but the pacing of events was a little frustrating.
The world-building and storytelling were delightful. The way in which Fairfold and the forest are crafted with modern and fairytale elements is fascinating. People of Fairfold drive cars and use cellphones but at the same time follow a set of fairytale rules like a Grimm story, wearing Ronan wood charms and carrying oatmeal and iron nails in their pockets. It’s an interesting amalgamation of two very different themes and I loved it. It took me a while to get into the characters. Hazel, the main female character, started off as a character I didn’t much like, kissing boys like it was a game and breaking hearts right and left with no remorse, but this quickly falls to the wayside as the story progresses and she gets less annoying and more interesting. We get a bit of a fake out with the horned boy. For as much significance placed on him in the beginning, it’s actually another fairy boy who features more in the story. But that would be telling…
I must congratulate Holly Black on a masterful use of a homosexual character, Ben. Why do I call it masterful? Because it’s not thrust into your face, like the author is crowing that she included a homosexual character in her book. Ben is an important character; his sexuality is kind of secondary to the chaos that is going on. In fact, Ben ends up with the fairy prince and it’s done without fanfare. I want to hug Holly Black for not making Ben a joke or holding him up as an oddity to be gawked at. Not a single aspect of Ben as a gay man is trivialized by some ignorant stereotype. Nothing unusual to see here, people. Move along.
I did have problems with the pacing of events and there was a lot of information bumping. I know it’s hard to get information out there in a fairytale because a lot of the information is oral, told through spoken stories. It’s not like anybody wrote down the fairy prince’s story for Hazel to find but it’s always a little disappointing when information is just dumped into your lap. It’s anticlimactic. The pacing of events was very uneven. Things would start happening and I would think the book was finally picking up steam only for it to flag again. It was frustrating being jerked around like that. Kind of like running into a wall when you’re trying to sprint.
The Darkest Part of the Forest is a creepy and sinister fairytale. There is no Tinkerbell here, people. The Folk are creatures unlike any cute, childhood story you may remember. I liked that. The Fey are nothing to joke around with and it’s nice that Holly Black didn’t shy away from the darker creatures that are cruel and murderous. There are a couple of tropes that made me roll my eyes a little and I felt like the secondary characters could have used a bit more fleshing out. The fairy prince and the monster at the heart of the forest were kind of left in the dust. Maybe there were simply too many characters and too much focus on Hazel being a special snowflake. The romances were rushed, dull and, it felt, stuck on there just for appearances sake. The atmosphere of the story was incredible but the plot was chaotic and kept me from really loving it. The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black has fantastic world-building but fails in the execution a little.
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.
Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.
The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.
But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.
I won an ARC of Uprooted by Naomi Novik from Goodreads and, to be honest, I put off reading it because of its size. It is 435 pages long. I’m the type of person that believes if you can’t tell a story in under or close to 350 pages, then you need to edit down. Longer books tend to be slow or rambling and drive me crazy. I end up losing my patience and giving up waiting for something interesting to bloody happen. But I was reading such good things from other reviewers that Uprooted piqued my interest and I gave in. And, man, am I glad I did! While Uprooted was a bit slow in places and the Dragon is a jerk without any redeemable characteristics, it wasn’t enough to completely put me off because the rest of the book is just that awesome in my opinion.
You have to understand that my taste for romance in books has soured over the years. So much so that I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a letter opener than read one more young adult book where the male is an asshole for mysterious brooding reasons and the female is a twit merely because of her gender. I’m sick of it. It’s completely put me off of YA books as a whole. But it is also very hard to find the stories that I find entertaining in the adult genre, where the romance is a little more palatable in my opinion. That’s why I was doubly pleased to find that Uprooted was being marketed as an adult genre novel. I saw the light of hope at the end of the dark, annoying romance tunnel.
Agnieszka and the Dragon are complete opposites and while a type of halting, grudging romance does develop between them, it does not take over the book or hinder Agnieszka in any way. The romance between them falls to the background and the main plot with the Wood and the history of the valley and its people takes center stage. There is more focus on the sisterly relationship and loyalty between Agnieszka and Kasia then the budding feelings between Agnieszka and the Dragon. In short, I don’t end up simmering in frustration and impatience because the main female character is so focused on the main male character being a jerk to her that the story stalls while we waste time on poorly contrived emotional angst. Agnieszka does not spend time pining for the Dragon but rather gets on with things. Thank god…
My peeves with this story are that the Dragon (who does have a name but that isn’t revealed until late in the book and so I won’t use it here) is a big old jerk. He has reasons for being a jerk but that just makes him fall into my loathed ‘asshole for mysterious brooding reasons’ category. If the Dragon was more of a driving force in the story, I probably would have liked it less. The beginning interactions between Agnieszka and the Dragon are also a little long and could be tightened up so the pace doesn’t slag. Same thing with Agnieszka and the royal palace and other mages. We all get that something fishy was happening under the surface of political intrigue and court maneuverings but that part could have sped up as well. Uprooted could have gotten a little more editing and been better off for it.
The fantasy genre has been growing by leaps and bounds the past couple of years. All you need to do is browse through a list of popular novels and TV shows to see that fantasy is becoming mainstream. And I am so thankful for that. Uprooted is firmly in the fairytale-esque tradition, playing off the whole ‘dragon kidnaps a princess for evil purposes’ story so familiar to us from childhood. But the story is so much more than that. It is so refreshing to see a capable, tenacious heroine in Agnieszka and a story rich in history, detail, and imagery. The malevolent Wood seems to have a life of its own within the story and the sense of creepy, malicious awareness reaches out to send cold chills up the reader’s spine. Everything in Uprooted is so vivid that putting down the book at the end of the day was a physical pain.
Uprooted by Naomi Novik captivated me. It was a touch slow but once the characters returned to the valley to confront the Wood and its far-reaching, evil manipulations and sorrowful past, the story picked up and I could hardly turn pages fast enough. The Wood is a character in itself in the book, much more than the flimsy creations in other fairytale novels. I was amazed by every detail and twist. The story telling in Uprooted is masterful and weaves a brilliant tale with excellent world-building and interesting characters. If you are looking for romance, you might be disappointed. But if you are looking for a fantasy fairytale novel suited toward adults, then Uprooted is definitely for you. Uprooted sinks its teeth into you and doesn’t let go until the end. Despite its failings, I completely enjoyed it.
Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
Published: November 2013 by Hachette Little, Brown & Co
Format: Paper Book
Length: 310 pages
Genre: Steampunk, Spy, Espionage, Paranormal, Young Adult, AU Historical
Goodreads | Amazon
Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests?
Sophronia’s first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy (won’t Mumsy be surprised?). Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners.
Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers’ quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship’s boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot–one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card.
I have no idea why I like Curtsies & Conspiracies so much when nothing really happens. I had the same problem with this book’s predecessor, Etiquette & Espionage. The first book of the Finishing School Series felt like set up with a little bit of action thrown in at the end. The second book, Curtsies & Conspiracies, is a hunt for clues with a little bit of action thrown in at the end. And yet, I enjoyed it a lot. It is cleverly written, quirky, and amusing. It was interesting to watch Sophronia navigate her lessons as an intelligencer, move about the dirigible at night, and piece together a conspiracy plot while taking tea. It’s entertaining and I couldn’t put the book down but I kept waiting for things to come together, for that big climax. Instead, we’re left with a bit of a mess.
It would probably be correct to say that if you like spy novels and steampunk worlds, you’ll like the Finishing School Series. The steampunk setting adds a nice flavor to the book. I really like all the little funny names for the machines. (Like the oddgob.) It’s a little like the Disney Little Mermaid song Part of Your World – “I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty; I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore”. The toys, as they say, are awesome. The world building is vivid. I especially like the mechanical maids and robots and the fact that the school is a huge dirigible. The characters are varied and unique but the cast may suffer from overpopulation. Some of the characters don’t really add anything to the story and just prove to be confusing with an already large cast to keep track of.
But the big draw for the Finishing School Series is that it is funny. There is widespread ridiculousness with everything from the names of objects to the names of people, the lessons the girl’s take, and the tongue in cheek foolery between the visiting Bunson’s evil genius boys and Mademoiselle Geraldine’s young ladies of quality. There is a steam powered metal sausage dog named Bumbersnoot, for heaven’s sake. Curtsies & Conspiracies is hilarious.
It is that humor and absurdity that saves the book. I’ve read both the first and second book of the Finishing School Series and have yet to see a cohesive plot the entire time. We don’t know what the mystery is and there is no plot resolution at the end of the books. Our characters are just mucking about in pretty dresses and being overly clever for 15 year old girls. We are presented with facts and events but with no ability to arrange them into a pattern and very little is really settled or revealed at the end of the books. About 3/4 of Curtsies & Conspiracies is Sophronia going about being ‘very special indeed’ and more than a bit of a Mary Sue perfect girl. Curtsies & Conspiracies was a witty, funny, and quick read. But that’s about it.
They Said It Was An Accident…
Sawyer Dodd is a star athlete, a straight-A student, and the envy of every other girl who wants to date Kevin Anderson. When Kevin dies in a tragic car crash, Sawyer is stunned. Then she opens her locker to find a note:
Someone saw what he did to her. Someone knows that Sawyer and Kevin weren’t the perfect couple they seemed to be. And that someone—a killer—is now shadowing Sawyer’s every move…
Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne is a murder mystery. It is a whodunit and as more people die one after the other, it is a who-is-doing-it. I don’t care who you are, when you pick up a murder mystery we are all transformed into Sherlock Holmes. When I read a mystery I build and discard theories. That’s half the fun! You have to look at what clues the author is giving you and also think about what mystery clichés the author might be using. ? Is it an evil twin? The once childhood friend turned enemy? The confidant? The seemingly betrayer? What pattern is the author using to build their story? Nobody and nothing are what they seem. As my theories come and go, I try to pay attention to everything. Nothing pleases me more than getting to the end of a murder mystery and having my theory proven right. Unless, of course, I’m proven very wrong in a very original way.
What I Liked
I went through several theories while reading Truly, Madly, Deadly. About half way through, I settled on one theory that persisted all through the rest of the book. I was sure I knew what was going on. I was all pleased with myself for figuring it out. But when I reached the end, I was dead wrong. (Oh, look. A pun.) The killer turned out to be someone I wasn’t even considering and that is a mark of a great murder mystery.
Truly, Madly, Deadly is well crafted. I loved Sawyer and the rest of the characters. Sawyer’s voice and how she reacted to events were believable. Some people might see Sawyer as a bit of a wimp but you have to remember that she’s a kid. Sawyer is confused, doesn’t know what’s happening to her, if she’s losing her mind or not, has no support, and I think she reacts appropriately to events. That is, she freaks out and makes things worse.
This book is creepy. I felt the rush of anxiety as the notes kept coming and Sawyer didn’t know what was happening. I felt the fear as Sawyer was chased while out running and wonders who is watching her every move. Truly, Madly, Deadly is at its heart a stalker story and as a woman, I find that very upsetting and unnerving.
What I Didn’t Like
There was one point where I nearly threw the book across the room in disgust. Near the beginning, Sawyer gets talked into going to a party by Chloe and while there, mind you this is soon after her boyfriend dying and just after finding the note implying he was murdered and not killed by accident, she meets a boy she hasn’t given two looks at before and, suddenly unable to control herself, kisses him and has a lovely make out session in the backyard of the party house. You have got to be kidding me! This is what annoys me about the characters in YA books. Scenes like that make it seem like nobody can control themselves and just want to f*ck all the time. It’s ridiculous.
I have to express my righteous fury for how Sawyer’s parents deal with her depression. Tear a teenager’s whole life and family apart, her mother abandoning her and moving half way across the country, and popping down some stranger as her new mommy? Just buy her a new car and give her a bedroom with her own private bath! Kid still not acting like everything is hunky-dory? She must be broken! Send her to the shrink and put her on sleeping pills. Yeah, that’s A+ parenting there! Assholes. No wonder Sawyer has rock bottom self-esteem. Her parents are treating her like some sort of failed experiment whose existence is now nothing more than an inconvenience.
I would have liked some more explanation on how the killer accomplished what they did. How did they get into the house, into Sawyer’s locker, kill Kevin and the teacher? Details were a little thin on that. And I think with one of the murders, quite impossible for the killer to do.
I felt like some of the secondary characters were just there to give us other people to suspect as the murderer. They really don’t add anything to the story. They are merely functional. There are also a lot of high school character troupes in use. It made the book feel like the author had used a checklist for the characters.
This was a creepy and fun read. It was super quick. I read it in a day and really enjoyed it. It had a few problems and I was left with some confusion after the end but I still liked it. The romance between Cooper and Sawyer added nothing to the book and was actually slightly irritating. The messages to Sawyer really made the creep factor for me and I think it was what made the story so unsettling. I probably would have died on the spot if I found the ‘You’re Welcome’ message in my locker. As the deaths pile up, it seems like everyone is in danger and nobody is safe and all the evidence is pointing right to Sawyer. The reader is kept on their toes. Truly, Madly, Deadly by Hannah Jayne was a good murder mystery but just an okay YA book.
Leo never imagined that time travel might really be possible, or that the objects in H. G. Wells’ science fiction novels might actually exist. And when a miniature time machine appears in Leo’s bedroom, he has no idea who the tiny, beautiful girl is riding it. But in the few moments before it vanishes, returning to wherever—and whenever—it came from, he recognizes the other tiny rider: himself!
His search for the time machine, the girl, and his fate leads him to the New-York Circulating Material Repository, a magical library that lends out objects instead of books. Hidden away in the Repository basement is the Wells Bequest, a secret collection of powerful objects straight out of classic science fiction novels: robots, rockets, submarines, a shrink ray—and one very famous time machine. And when Leo’s adventure of a lifetime suddenly turns deadly, he must attempt a journey to 1895 to warn real-life scientist Nikola Tesla about a dangerous invention. A race for time is on!
In this grand time-travel adventure full of paradoxes and humor, Polly Shulman gives readers a taste of how fascinating science can be, deftly blending classic science fiction elements with the contemporary fantasy world readers fell in love with in The Grimm Legacy.
I thought it only fitting that I review the sequel to one of the first books I ever reviewed on Lady with Books, The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman, during my second year blogiversary. But instead of fairy tale artifacts and relics, we get science fiction machines and contraptions in The Wells Bequest. We get to see a grown up Jaya, who you will remember as the little sister of Anjali in The Grimm Legacy, and a new host of characters who are introduced to the wonders of the New York Circulating Material Repository for the first time. Of course, you can’t mentions science fiction and H.G. Wells without recalling his famous time machine.
The Wells Bequest fits nicely as the sequel to The Grimm Legacy. Jaya is the perfect feisty heroine and ruler of the pages at the repository. She’s bossy and capable and isn’t a damsel in distress. It’s nice also to see a boy, Leo, as the character who bumbles into the adventure by accident. It’s usually a girl who plays that role. We are immediately introduced to Leo and the time machine, which is kind of jarring. There is very little lead-in to the story and it all happens very quickly. I liked how all of the artifacts in the different repositories obeyed the laws set down for them in their source books. I enjoyed the trips with the artifacts, when Jaya and Leo were disassembled to London and then the return trip across the Atlantic in the Terror, and the trip into the past with the time machine. It was interesting to meet Tesla and Mark Twain. Fans of science fiction books will enjoy seeing all their favorite machines mentioned in The Wells Bequest. It’s kind of like playing science fiction bingo.
The story can get a bit bogged down with information overload. There are several times where we have to slow down and explain things; such as how imaginary items from fiction books could possibly exist in the real world, how the items came to be at the repository, trying to explain how the oversized artifact storage area could fit into normal space. It may drive nerdy and logical Leo nuts to not understand how but it just confuses readers. Working with science fiction artifacts in The Wells Bequest ended up more unwieldy than working with fairy tale artifacts proved to be in The Grimm Legacy. Let’s talk a minute about our villain in this book, Simon, who is apparently so in love with Jaya that he feels his only course of action is to hold the world hostage with what may or may not be one of Tesla’s death rays and demand the use of H.G. Wells’ time machine in order to stop his past self being a douchebag and making Jaya hate him. This, is pathetic. Simon is the most uninspiring villain I’ve seen in some time and I agree with Leo that the world was better off with the little snot not existing. He’s cartoonish and a buffoon.
The Wells Bequest is a nice sequel. I enjoyed the refreshing way that the adults in the book treated the teens. The adults weren’t blind fools and they didn’t treat the teens like stupid inferiors. It’s nice to see the adults and teens working together when so many other books have the teens having to work around the adults to accomplish anything. Science fiction fans will enjoy the many literary nuggets sprinkled through the book. We see Captain Nemo’s submarine The Nautilus in the stacks, although see it is all that happens. Those types of tidbits are all through the book. The Well’s Bequest by Polly Shulman was an amazingly fun read. I do suggest reading The Grimm Legacy beforehand. You won’t be totally lost if you don’t but you will miss a bit of the atmosphere and some background, like the big deal with the moving windows and why Jaya keeps going on about her sister. I adored The Grimm Legacy and liked The Wells Bequest and suggest both books.
Before Peter Pan belonged to Wendy, he belonged to the girl with the crow feather in her hair. . . .
Fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily doesn’t believe in love stories or happy endings. Then she meets the alluring teenage Peter Pan in the forbidden woods of Neverland and immediately falls under his spell.
Peter is unlike anyone she’s ever known. Impetuous and brave, he both scares and enthralls her. As the leader of the Lost Boys, the most fearsome of Neverland’s inhabitants, Peter is an unthinkable match for Tiger Lily. Soon, she is risking everything—her family, her future—to be with him. When she is faced with marriage to a terrible man in her own tribe, she must choose between the life she’s always known and running away to an uncertain future with Peter.
With enemies threatening to tear them apart, the lovers seem doomed. But it’s the arrival of Wendy Darling, an English girl who’s everything Tiger Lily is not, that leads Tiger Lily to discover that the most dangerous enemies can live inside even the most loyal and loving heart.
I always enjoy retellings that focus on secondary characters. I confess I haven’t read Peter Pan but I had seen the Disney movie when I was a child and Tiger Lily was a favorite of mine. So I was curious to see what Jodi Lynn Anderson had done with the Indian princess’s story in her book Tiger Lily. On a whole, I was underwhelmed. The book was slow and uneventful. Nothing much happened. There was no tension or excitement in Tiger Lily and although I enjoyed seeing Neverland fleshed out and a new side to the familiar characters of Peter Pan and Tiger Lily, the rest of it felt very flat.
What I Liked
Tik Tok. Full stop. He’s probably the best character in the whole book. I think this is the first transgendered character I’ve ever seen in young adult fiction before. I loved how the village people just accepted Tik Tok as he was made and then it broke my heart when Phillip and the other missionaries turned their opinion against Tik Tok, after everything the medicine man had done for them. I had a little sniffle when they chopped off his hair.
Pine Sap and Moon Eye. In fact, there were a lot of awesome secondary characters in this book. It’s great to see characters that aren’t perfect physically but are still determined and steadfast. Pine Sap might have a spinal deformity but that only seems to make him an old soul. It was especially poignant when he was dealing with his abusive mother. “I don’t know what else to do but be patient with her.” As if his mother was a whining child and he the adult. I love that. I also love that delicate, shy little Moon Eye got her revenge in the end.
The story is told from the point of view of Tinkerbell, the fairy. It’s very odd but gusty move to make the narrator not one of the main characters. Tinkerbell herself professes to be unimportant and unnoticed by most of the other characters. This makes the times that characters do notice her especially powerful and those times when nothing she does changes the course of events even sadder.
It was awesome to see Neverland fleshed out and presented as an actual place. It’s a magical but logical location. I love reading all the details about the fairies and other Neverland creatures as well as the tribes and pirates.
What I Didn’t Like
The plot. Tiger Lily had all the makings of something awesome; great setting, fantastic characters, but we’re let down with a plot that never really does anything. There could have been adventure and excitement but instead we just have Tiger Lily and Peter being awkward with each other. The book seemed to drag and it’s not even that big of a book.
We really don’t learn a lot about Tiger Lily. While Tinkerbell can sort of see into the minds of other people, we don’t get much explanation for why Tiger Lily acts and feels the ways she does. We never learn where she came from besides Tik Tok finding her in the forest. Yes, we’re told Tiger Lily was bullied and that she’s not like other children but we really don’t have a lot of insight into her. The same goes for Peter. He has the strangest moods but we never get any deeper into him. We’re never given the chance to understand. We’re just left with this little boy who wants his mommy and may be more than a little insane.
Tiger Lily has some of the most diverse and powerful characters I’ve ever seen. It has a readymade setting for all sorts of mayhem and thrills. But we’re left with a flat plot and very little action. It was interesting to see Peter and Tiger Lily kind of grownup a little, into teens in this book. There are no thimble kisses here, folks. Peter smooches Tiger Lily and Wendy on the cheeks and lips several times. This is a less innocent Neverland. The more sexual aspects may upset some people and I’m hearing a few complaints about the narration. It was a little jarring to have Tinkerbell suddenly speaking up in first person in the middle of an otherwise third person narration. In all, I liked Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson but I just couldn’t bring myself to love it.