Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Confessions!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, the participating bloggers answer a top ten list to a specific topic.

This week's Top Ten: Bookish Confessions. Here are mine, in no particular order.

  1. I always read when I'm eating. Always. Unless there are other people (besides family, my mum always reads while she eats too) around or I'm not at home. It's like a break or down time. Some people might consider it rude or weird, but I just like it. What I dislike is watching TV while I eat.
  2. My book editions must match. Same publisher, same height, same format (paperback/hardcover). Even if that means I have to wait. I hate it when the publisher changes the format or cover style in the middle of a series - it drives me nuts.
  3. I never break the spine. None of my paperbacks have those (in my opinion) ugly lines on their backs from opening them too much. I also take care not to bend the edges etc. Only exception: when I buy used books. They're usually well-worn anyway, and I like it. I like the old-book-smell, and I love it when I find notes by the previous owner in them.
  4. I can usually take a break reading a book at any time. Middle of a sentence or page - doesn't matter. Sometimes I get the strange urge to put it aside at the most suspenseful point (like, the graveyard scene in Harry Potter 4). It's not because I don't like the book or that it's boring. I don't really know why this happens sometimes.
  5. Even though I'm Swiss and my first language is German (though Swiss German is quite different from standard German) I nearly never read German books. I hate translations. So much gets lost, and the wording is often awkward. When I realized I was translating the translations back into English in my head, I knew it was time to stop buying German books unless they're by German authors.
  6. I don't have a library card for non-scholarly libraries. The books I want, they only have in German, and the English selection is often small. No way am I paying a yearly fee for that. Besides, I want those books for my collection and would probably end up buying them anyway even though I've already read them. Downside: I spend tons of money on books.
  7. Whenever I go to England, I buy tons of books because they're way cheaper there than here. It makes me so mad to see $6.99 printed on the back of a paperback book but here they're sold for the Swiss equivalent of around 18 or 19 dollars. It makes me feel that I'm getting ripped off, which is sad because I like actually physically browsing books at bookstores. But I buy mostly online.
  8. Sometimes I despair at the amount of great books there is out there. I will never get around to reading them all in this lifetime, and that makes me sad. I have more than 200 books on my to read shelf on goodreads and they're online getting more. On the other hand, it's a sign of the human genius that we can come up with so many different stories!
  9. I really like poetry. I know a lot of people don't really know what to do with it, but I love it. I love many different styles - anything from Early Modern sonnets (Sidney, Wyatt, Shakespeare...), the Romantitcs (especially Keats), T.S. Eliot, Milton, Stephen Crane, but also more modern(ist) poetry like William Carlos Williams, E.E. Cummings, Frank O'Hara, Ginsberg... I could go on and on and on. I like flowery metaphoric poems as well as short, terse, raw ones. Rhyme or no rhyme, it doesn't matter. It just has to reach me on some level.
  10. I find it very very hard to give books away, so my bookshelves are often crammed. I admire people who can just give dozens of books away when they're moving because I could never do that. Also, I organize them in an intuitive way - not by color, not alphabetically. I keep all books by an author together and sometimes it depends on the height of a book, but not always. I usually put those next to each other that I think would... get along? ^^'' Um yeah. I probably sound like a crazy lady just now >.<
Alrighty, now let's hear your comments (do we share some quirks?) and please link me up to your own posts! I'm really curious to read about all your confessions :D

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stacking the Shelves & blog update

Stacking the Shelves is a feature hosted by Tynga's Reviews to show off new additions to our reading piles. I'm also using it as a general blog update about what's going on and what I'm reading at the moment.

I got accepted or these two books on Netgalley (click the cover to get to goodreads):

I've already read Andy Squared and I'll post my review in the next couple days. After looking at the release dates of all my Netgalley books, I've had to do a bit of rescheduling and move Ironskin back a little.
I didn't buy any other books this week. But! I'm going to be part of a blog tour for the first time!
So now I'm reading (and then reviewing) this book:

It's been a while since I've read Urban Fantasy (I think part of it is set in the past too) and I'm enjoying it so far. It's the second in a series but that hasn't caused me any problems until now. I don't know when my stop on the tour will be yet and what other content will be provided, but yeah. First blog tour! I'm excited :D

I haven't had time to continue with Rachel Vincent's Stray, unfortunately. At the moment I'm also reading The Devil's Graveyard, the third book in the Bourbon Kid series. Seriously, if you're up for something wacky, funny, and gory that cannot possibly be fit into a genre and was written by an anonymous author... give that series a shot! (Don't read if you have a problem with loads of swearing and death or no sense of irony).

I've also recently finished Passion by Lauren Kate, the third book in the Fallen series. I'm not sure whether I'll review it yet because I have conflicted thoughts. Maybe I'll do a book thoughts thing on the whole series so far instead of a regular review, but I'm not sure yet.

That's it... and of course you can still enter my Pushing The Limits giveaway! After that, I'll have a larger giveaway to belatedly celebrate having more than 200 followers and that I've been blogging for 3 months already! Can't believe it's been that long...

Anyway, feel free to comment on the books I added and link me to your own book haul :)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Review & Giveaway: Pushing The Limits, by Katie McGarry

Published: August 3, 2012
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Format: Paperback, 392 pages

Goodreads description:
No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth of that horrible night. All she knows is that she wants everything to go back to normal. But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his tough attitude and surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common. And with the secrets they both keep, being together is pretty much impossible.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can push the limits and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her how to love again.

The following review is a bit different from how I usually write them. I wanted to try a slightly more concise way of reviewing where I combine my assessment with some personal thoughts, but can still keep it spoiler-free. Not sure I succeeded with trying to keep it short though :P Do you like this type of review or do you prefer my usual one? I'll probably keep using both in the future depending on what suits the book, but I'm curious.

My review is based on a copy provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Review (no spoilers):
This is definitely the best contemporary YA novel I’ve read all year. I was unable to stop and finished it in a day.

The story is told alternately from Echo’s and Noah’s point of view, which gives you a diverse perspective of both of them as well as the secondary characters. Noah and Echo come from very different backgrounds but both of them are damaged in similar ways, derailed from what they wanted in life and branded as outcasts.

I could really empathize with how maddening Echo found her situation. Her arms are scarred, something her fellow students think she did to herself but which she knows was actually done to her by a person she trusted. The problem? She cannot remember a single thing about the entire day when it happened.
But her father, his new pregnant wife, and her therapist can. It’s all right there in her thick file, lying tauntingly in front of her on the therapist’s desk. So when said therapist groups her together with Noah Hutchins so she can tutor him, they strike up a deal and make plans for one of them to steal or at least have a peek at both their files.

Noah hasn’t always been a bad boy. However, after his parents died and he got separated from his two younger brothers in the foster system and is now rarely allowed to even see them, he has been slacking off. He used to be a star athlete. Now he’s a stoner with a reputation of only using girls for one night stands (he’s upfront with them about that). However, what he wants most is to take care of his brothers and save them from what happened to him in the system. He wants his family back together. And Echo might be able to help him with that.

The chemistry between Echo and Noah was amazing right off the bat. It was clear they both wanted each other. However, they also both had reasons to try and stay away from the other. I loved to see their relationship develop and how they learned to become better people and stand up for themselves and their goals. Especially for Echo, this involved going against the wishes of many people close to her who were hanging on to an image of what they thought she should be like.

Not only the main characters but also many of the supporting ones where very well fleshed out. I always knew exactly who was who, how they ticked, what they wanted. They didn’t fall flat for me and they weren’t all the same. I especially liked the therapist, Mrs Collins. She truly had the backs of Noah and Echo and tried her best to help them. There are many novels out there where the ‘shrinks’ are portrayed in a negative light and I’m sure there are those kinds of therapists around, but I really liked that this one was different and really had her clients’ (not the system’s, not the parents’) best interests in mind. She was understanding. She pushed. She listened. She tried to help them so they could help themselves and heal.

I also had a big place in my heart for Isaiah and Beth, Noah’s best friends. They’ve had it rough but the three of them really stick together no matter what, unlike some of Echo’s ‘friends’ like Grace, who will only acknowledge her if she goes back to dating Luke, her idiot but socially acceptable ex. Beth will also be a protagonist in Dare You To, which will be out next year. I've read the snippet attached to my Negalley version and I'm excited to read the rest!

Both Noah and Echo were such strong characters, good people trying to be better than their flaws and face down their fears. To discover themselves and their true potential instead of taking the easiest road. This book was so much more than just a romance. It was an exploration of love, friendship, family, and being true to what you really want. It was a story of heartbreak and how it can be mended. It was a story about how to deal with the death of a beloved person and how nothing is ever the same afterwards. It was real and gritty and didn’t gloss over the hurtful parts. I felt involved with the characters and cried more than just once. The ending was different from what I’d expected but perfect for the book. It leaves room for a sequel but can also stand on its own.

Pushing The Limits is a fast-paced, raw and honest story about teens with real problems. It’s not a light read, but there’s nevertheless a share of humor in there, mostly in Noah’s well-placed comments and the banter between him and Echo. I’d recommend the story to a more mature YA audience, especially those about to finish highschool who are faced with the question of what they really want out of life and what comes next.

Connect with Katie McGarry on twitter or facebook.

Have you read Pushing The Limits? Post your thoughts about the book and/or my review of it below! I love to hear from you guys :)

Annnnd... because I loved this book so much, I've decided give away one UK version paperback or kindle copy - winner's choice (this giveaway is not sponsored by the publisher). Just fill out the rafflecopter form to enter. And yes, it's INTERNATIONAL. See below for the rest of the rules.

  • open internationally provided The Book Depository ships to you
  • you must be at least 13 years old
  • only one entry per person / household
  • the first entry is free but you have to follow me to unlock the rest
  • giveaway ends on August 30, 12:01 a.m.
  • the winner will be contacted by email and has 48 hours to respond, otherwise I'll pick someone else 
  • I reserve the right to change entry options or end the giveaway early
  • I'm not liable for what happens to your book once The Book Depository has shipped it 
  • cheaters will be DISQUALIFIED, meaning I'll delete all their entries and not just the cheating one 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cover Reveal: Timeless, by Michelle Madow

Gorgeous, isn't it? I love how it continues the mask-theme of the other two books. I haven't read the trilogy yet, but the goodreads description of the first book, Remembrance, sounds intriguing! A girl reincarnated from Regency era England? I'm on board!

What's more, there's an amazing prize pack GIVEAWAY going on at Hippies, Beauty, and Books... Oh My! Click the banner below to be taken to the post.

You can also connect with the author on her website or on twitter. Good luck! Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the cover or share your reading experience of the previous books :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Splintered, by A.G. Howard

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme by Breaking The Spine to showcase books we are eagerly anticipating.

My selection this week is:

Splintered, by A.G. Howard
This stunning debut captures the grotesque madness of a mystical under-land, as well as a girl’s pangs of first love and independence. Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family. She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

 Doesn't it sound awesome? Click the cover to add it on Goodreads. I've read a very short excerpt that was printed on the back of a bookmark I won in a swag giveaway and that was enough to make me crave the whole book! I'm a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and this sounds intriguing. I'm curious how the story is linked to Carroll's Alice and how Morpheus fits into it all.

What are you waiting for this Wednesday?

Monday, August 20, 2012

General blog update & Stacking the Shelves

Stacking the Shelves is a feature by Tynga's reviews to showcase books we have bought or received and generally update followers, share reading progress, etc.

So... I've been quite these past two weeks. Bad blogger-me >.< But! I've been thinking a lot, about what I want to do with this blog, how I want to handle things etc. Why?

BECAUSE I NOW HAVE OVER 200 FOLLOWERS!!! 200, YOU GUYS!! I never expected this, and I'm grateful for every single one of you. Every one who takes the time to read one of my reviews or other posts. I get excited about every single comment. And I am definitely going to host another GIVEAWAY to celebrate this, as well as my 3 month-blogoversary at the end of the month. I'm planning something special with either book bundles or several winners or both! I might even throw in some of what little swag I possess. I'm not quite sure how to do this yet (and how much I can afford) but I will definitely keep you guys posted!

I'm also fiddling around with my blog theme and design. I like the new one a lot better, but it's still not quite what I have in mind. Do you guys like it?

Also, I've been approved for my first advance copies on Netgalley!! Getting to read awesome books early is a new and amazing experience for me. So here's what's on my Negalley pile at the moment. Click the images to get to the goodreads page of the books.

Other than that, I resisted the urge to buy more books.

Here's what I recently finished and am planning to review:

Both books really blew my mind!
As concerns reviews, I'm also thinking about coming up with a second review format for me. One that is more concise and integrates the objective with some of my more personal thoughts without being spoilery. I'd use the two formats alongside one another depending on the book. I just feel that the way I want to write the reviews sometimes puts a strain on what I really want to say and how I want to say it with some books, and that annoys me. I think The White Forest will be the first book review with the new format, and it will go online in the next couple days.

Finally, my current reads:

I'm almost finished with Pushing The Limits (Negalley copy) and it's really as awesome as everyone is saying!!!! I think I'll finish tonight before I go to sleep. I'll be slower with the others because I really need to tackle those Negalley books I still have left before they 'disappear' on me.

Finally, the book I'd do pretty much ANYTHING to get an ARC of because I can't possibly wait until November to read it:
Seriously. This is one of those books that just call out to me. I know it's gonna be awesome. It's a 'me' book. I need need need it. There's not a day I don't think about it, and it's even my phone background >.< Yes, this sounds way obsessed. I've read the first 4 or so chapters in the free sample of Penguin's Breathless Reads and I'll be damned if I'm not craving it even more since then. Seriously. If anyone reading this is done with an ARC they're lucky enough to own and don't want anymore, I'd offer a Book Depository book of your choice that covers the postage if you'd be willing to send it to me. I'd offer to trade an ARC of my own, but I don't receive any at this point. And I don't quite know how to go about requesting a Black City ARC from the publisher and I'd probably be denied anyway >.< I'm just pining and kinda desperate ^^''
Ahem. You probably best ignore this paragraph.

Okay, so today started out really really shitty with my whole plans rescheduled and hours of valuable time wasted plus other bad news.
But. I had something pretty in the mail that I had ordered but wasn't expecting to arrive yet. That brightened my day quite a bit :)
I've been meaning to read Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel for quite a while but was waiting for the pretty paperback edition I now got. Even if the post office could have treated the book a bit more kindly...
Also, I'm a huge fan of Stephen Crane's poetry and I've read this book online at least twice. One poem after the other, the whole collection of them. But I needed them in print too. This is a reprint of the original book, but if I ever find an old copy in a used bookstore I'll have to buy that one.

Anyway, what books did you guys buy/receive recently? What are you reading? Have you heard of some of the books on my pile or have them on your own? Tell me in the comments, and leave me links to your own posts :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Review: Witch Eyes, by Scott Tracey

Released: September 8, 2011 
Publisher: Flux
Format: Paperback, 330 pages

From the back of the book:
A boy who can see the world’s secrets and unravel spells with just a glance.
Braden’s witch eyes give him an enormous power. A mere look causes a kaleidoscopic explosion of emotions, memories, darkness, and magic. But this rare gift is also his biggest curse.

Compelled to learn about his shadowed past and the family he never knew, Braden is drawn to the city of Belle Dam, where he is soon caught between two feuding witch dynasties. Sworn rivals Catherine Lansing and Jason Thorpe will use anything – lies, manipulation, illusion, and even murder – to seize control of Braden’s powers. To stop an ancient evil from destroying the town, Braden must master his gift, even through the shocking discovery that Jason is his father. While his feelings for an enigmatic boy named Trey grow deeper, Braden realizes a terrible truth: Trey is Catherine Lansing’s son… and Braden may be destined to kill him.

Review (no spoilers):
From the intriguing opening to the final showdown, this book was a thrilling ride with a guessing game that kept me sorting through the possibilities to figure out what was happening.
Braden’s gift is unique – unless he wears heavily tinted sunglasses to focus his attention, he sees through all the layers of the world around him, resulting in sensory overload, nosebleed, and heavy migraines. The perks? He can work out and unravel any spell, unveil the memories attached to a place, widen his gaze to encompass whole cities and even see the dominant forces that make up the character of a person. Basically, there are few limitations to what he could do and the full scope of his gift is unknown as of yet.

For Jason Thorpe and Catherine Lansing, the two most powerful witches in the town of Belle Dam and sworn enemies, he is the perfect weapon to tip the scales in their conflict. As soon as Braden arrives in town, still clueless about the feud he has just stumbled into, everyone he meets keeps their own secrets and everyone has an agenda. While Braden struggles with the revelation that Jason Thorpe is his father and that his best friend Jade and his love interest, Trey, have turned out to be Catherine Lansing’s children, he also discovers that there is something foul going on in Belle Dam that no one else seems to be fully aware of.

Witch Eyes was a thrill-ride of plot twists and unique magic combined with the coming-of-age story of a boy who still has to master his powers and grow comfortable in his skin. Belle Dam is Braden’s first experience of highschool (he was homeschooled by his uncle in a remote area) and I enjoyed seeing him try to keep up with his normal life while trying to retain his independence as both his father and his new friends and their mother, Catherine, try to get him on their side of the feud. Does he tell his maybe-boyfriend the truth about his father and risk losing him? Or does he continue the lie and risk being exposed anyway?

Also, there is an ancestor of the Lansings who apparently had the same gift Braden does. Just what did she do to the town, and what does Lucien Fallon, Thorpe’s lawyer, have to do with all the goings-on? In a town where everyone is picking sides, can Braden pursue his own goals or has he been someone’s pawn all along?
If you’re looking for a paranormal read that is different and has an edge, as well as great writing and well-drawn characters driven by a plot full of intrigues, Witch Eyes should definitely go on your shelf! I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for Trey and Braden in the sequel, Demon Eyes, which will be released on October 8.

Personal thoughts (contains spoilers):
About half a year ago, everyone was raving about this book. Sometimes that makes me a bit wary – what if I don’t like it even though everyone else does? But the prospect of what appeared to be unique story combined with the chance to read a gay protagonist (this kind of diversity is still WAY too rare in YA. There might be a gay minor character but rarely a main one) convinced me that I had to read this novel.

Braden’s voice was very authentic and I liked that he was confident and proactive despite being thrown in the middle of a conflict without much information to go on and not sure who he could trust. The question which characters know how much, who is lying and who is simply deceived themselves always hovers over the book. In Belle Dam, no one does anything without a reason.

I loved how the magic worked in this book! Especially the concept of weaving it into the geometry and architecture of a place, but also the more traditional elements of summoning circles, drawing energy from nature and using focusing objects. I’m still not quite sure that we as readers know everything about Grace Lansing and what exactly she did at the end of the book. What exactly is the relation between her and Lucien? I think there are still pieces missing when it comes to her history and their bargain. I’m also curious about the hints at the greater supernatural world ‘out there’ that we’ve gotten so far. There are not just witches but also demons, vampires, and shifters, and I’m curious to know more about those.

Then of course, there’s Trey and Braden. Though Trey went on my nerves sometimes with how set he was on ‘protecting’ Braden and how blind when it came to his own mother, I’m still hoping the best for him and Braden. I liked the way their romance was handled. It was present and woven throughout the story, but it didn’t consume everything else that was going on and become the main focus. I’d really like to know more about Trey to understand him better, and I also think that both he and Jade will turn out to have some kind of power. I don’t know, it just doesn’t seem likely that they would inherit none of their mother’s gift.
And of course, I’m curious to see what Braden will do with his gift, and how he will handle the feud now that most everyone knows whose son he is. Basically, I want the sequel right now ^^’’

Have you read Witch Eyes? What was your impression? Can you recommend any other YA novels with gay/queer characters? Does this sound like the type of book you’d enjoy? As always, let me know in the comments :)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Demon Eyes, by Scott Tracey

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My choice this week is:

Demon Eyes, by Scott Tracey

Expected publication: October 8, 2012
Publisher: Flux
Format: Paperback, 395 pages

Goodreads description:
Book 2 in the dazzling Witch Eyes series

Braden thought he had destroyed Lucien, a calculating demon trapped for centuries in a human body. But he's haunted by disturbing visions of the undead demon promising to return and a terrible warning: The feud between Belle Dam's two witch dynasties--ruled by Catherine Lansing and Braden's father--is about to get unimaginably worse. As young girls start disappearing from town, Braden knows Lucien's diabolical scheme has been set in motion. Forced to explore the unknown powers of his witch eyes, Braden becomes the ultimate weapon in a deadly magical war.

I'm reading Witch Eyes at the moment, and even though I'm only about halfway through I already know that I'm going to be pining for the sequel! I just spoilered myself reading the blurb though >_< Oh well.

Have you read Witch Eyes? What are you waiting for this Wednesday?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Dance of Shadows, by Yelena Black

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, which spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

My pick this week is:

Dance of Shadows, by Yelena Black

Expected publication: December 24, 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury/Walker Books
Format: 304 pages

Goodreads description:
Curtains up on a deliciously dark new YA trilogy!

Vanessa Adler isn’t so sure she really belongs at the School of American Ballet. But dance runs in her family. It’s been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Her grandmother and mother were prima ballerinas, and her older sister Margaret was, too. That is, until Margaret mysteriously disappeared from school three years ago. Vanessa is heir to the family’s gift and the only person who can fulfill her sister’s destiny. She has no choice.

But she never could have guessed how dangerous the school is. The infamous choreographer, Josef, isn’t just ruthless with his pupils, he guards a sinister secret, one in which the school’s dancers—prized for their beauty, grace, and discipline—become pawns in a world of dark, deadly demons.

Isn't the cover gorgeous? Click it to add the book on goodreads. I heard about this one on the last YA Scavenger Hunt and the blurb had me hooked. Ballerinas, dark gifts, and demons! The bording school-esque feel and the ballet theme remind me a little of the movie Suspiria (you know, that really creepy 70s horror classic). I'm curious to see how Vanessa will deal with her gift and the pressure put on her, whether she will discover what happened to her sister, and what this sinister Josef is up to!

Have you heard of this book before? Do you think it sounds interesting? Tell me in the comments, and leave a link to what you are waiting for this Wednesday :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: Confessions of an Angry Girl, by Louise Rozett

add it on goodreads
Publishing date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin
Format: Paperback, 304 pages

Goodreads description:
Rose Zarelli, self-proclaimed word geek and angry girl, has some CONFESSIONS to make... #1: I'm livid all the time. Why? My dad died. My mom barely talks. My brother abandoned us. I think I'm allowed to be irate, don't you?

#2: I make people furious regularly. Want an example? I kissed Jamie Forta, a badass guy who "might" be dating a cheerleader. She is now enraged and out for blood. Mine.

#3: High school might as well be Mars. My best friend has been replaced by an alien, and I see red all the time. (Mars is red and "seeing red" means being angry-get it?)

Here are some other vocab words that describe my life: Inadequate. Insufferable. Intolerable.

(Don't know what they mean? Look them up yourself.) (Sorry. That was rude.)

Review (spoilerfree):
The following review is based on a Netgalley copy the publisher was kind enough to provide for me. (This is my first time reading a book before it comes out! Yay :D *feelssurreal*) 

Rose Zarelli has it tough. She is 14 and just starting highschool, her father died in Iraq over the summer, her brother left for college, and she doesn’t get along very well with her therapist mother. On top of that, she is steadily growing apart from her best friend, Tracy, who is suddenly more interested in dating a jock, making the cheerleader squad and debating when to best lose her virginity. Rose herself is still reeling from her recent loss and trying to regain her footing in everyday life. She wants to fit in, but not to the point that she is ready to lose her own identity and pretend to be someone she isn’t. Resisting the peer pressure to drink and have sex isn’t easy, and I admired her for how she handled it.

Rose feels very confused and left behind. She isn’t seriously thinking about sex – she hasn’t even figured out kissing yet. I was somewhat surprised at the beginning of the book by how easily embarrassed and quiet Rose was; my expectation from the title was for her to be much more outwardly angry and aggressive (this picks up over the course of the book). However, once she’s had enough and speaks her mind, she’s on a roll and unable to stop, often saying things she knows she shouldn’t even though they are true. What she blurted out often made me laugh, even though it was frequently awkward for her – she is smart and her comments hit the mark.

The book is written in the first person and I found Rose’s voice to be very authentic. She is extremely perceptive in some respects but completely clueless and naïve in others. There were a few instances when she came across as bitchy and whiny, but because she was usually aware of that and also berated herself for it, I didn’t mind (she’s 14, after all). I really enjoyed watching her crush on Jamie Forta, a Junior with a somewhat dubious reputation. I loved their sometimes awkward interactions as they were trying to figure each other out. However, I was a little bothered by the age difference between them, and though I liked Jamie he also remained somewhat elusive during the whole novel.

The problem with her crush? Jamie has a girlfriend. Sort of (it’s never quite cleared up what exactly they are to each other). Regina is a real bitch and instantly jealous of Rose even when Jamie does nothing but speak to her. Her bullying and harassment of Rose really made me despise her. Why Jamie is/was with her in the first place is beyond me. However, even though Regina is horrible, the author avoided the ‘all cheerleaders are evil witches’ cliché by making their leader, Michelle, a genuinely warm-hearted and nice person.

A character I felt really sorry for is Robert, Rose’s best guy friend who’s had a crush on her forever and refuses to get it through his head that she doesn’t like him back. He was a really nice guy and Rose should have treated him better sometimes. However, I was glad that it was clear from the beginning that she didn’t see him as a romantic interest and the love triangle was thus avoided.

Overall I really enjoyed the book; it was a very entertaining, quick read and I liked the mixture of funny, lighthearted scenes and more serious themes. However, there are two minor points of criticism I have to make: some of the minor characters fell a bit flat for me and could have been given more depth. Another thing is that the ending of the book is really abrupt – the plot arc is not quite finished, in my opinion. I know this is the case because of the sequel, but I think the novel would have benefited from an additional chapter or an epilogue. I would recommend Confessions of an Angry Girl to anyone going through highschool or wanting to relive those days of confusing early teenager-dom.

Personal thoughts (spoilery):
I didn’t quite know what to expect going into the book. It had been a while since I’d read a novel with a character who is almost ten years younger than I am, and I was unsure whether I’d be able to empathize with Rose. However, simultaneous pride and embarrassment of her smarts (and her vocabulary) reminded me of myself at that age.

Other parts I found it hard to read through are the many petty ways in which Regina makes Rose’s life hell. I was torn between admiring her for going through it without going to the principal (which would probably just have made things worse) and wishing she would stand up for herself more. Not just to Regina but also to Tracy. However, I can also understand her fear of losing her best (and only) friend. Yet there were still moments when I thought Tracy was actually treating Rose worse than Regina did, though not in the same way. I can’t say that I felt very sorry for Tracy when she got what she’d had coming for a while.

There are some hints in the novel that I’m curious to see the outcome of in the sequel: Rose’s love for the opera, Jamie’s talent for drawing/architecture, Robert’s playacting. I’d also like to see how Rose wants to get back at Regina, and whether the reconciliation between Rose and Tracy holds up in the future. Then there is Rose’s own family. How will her mum and brother react to the memorial website she’s been building for her father? Will they mend their relationships and grow closer again?

Of course what I want to know most is whether Jamie and Rose will ever manage to be an official couple. I’ll definitely need to pick up the sequel, Confessions of an Almost-Girlfriend, when it comes out in May 2013!

Louise Rozett's homepage, Facebook and Twitter.

What do you guys think about Confessions of an Angry Girl? Does it sound like something you think you'd enjoy? Have you had a chance to read it early? I'd love to hear about it in the comments :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Review: Something Strange and Deadly, by Susan Dennard

Publication date: July 24th, 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Format: Hardcover, 388 pages

Goodreads description:
The year is 1876, and there’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia…

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about. Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper—

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor…from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including their maddeningly stubborn yet handsome inventor, Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

Review (spoiler free):
I was really anxious to get my hands on this book! I love steampunk, but have read few stories set in the US so far. Also, I was curious to see how the author would combine the historical/steampunk setting with zombies. Well, I was not disappointed!

I really enjoyed how Susan Dennard managed to write a strong heroine like Eleanor and still make her believable in a 19th century setting. She is not strong in a way that makes her seem out of context or as if transplanted in 1876 Philadelphia from the present day, but neither is she a vapid high-society girl only concerned with fashion and gossip. She is smart, and she can kick some ass- err, incapacitate the Dead with well-placed blows of her sturdy parasol. All of that while wearing a suffocating corset and heavy skirts and gloves in the summer heat (for once, the gorgeous dress on the cover is actually relevant to the book). The frequent mention on dresses and dressing procedure might appear weird to some people, but do your research – those corsets kept more in line than just young ladies’ figures. If you can’t move your body or even breathe freely, how are you going to think? How break out of confinement and the role assigned to you by society?

However, that’s what Eleanor needs to do if she wants to save her brother from whoever is controlling the Dead and uncover the mystery of her father’s death and her family’s financial ruin. Preferably before her mother spends the rest of their meager funds on trying to keep up with society’s expectations so that she can marry Eleanor off to the first rich man that comes along, which appear to be Clarence Wilcox, son of a man who used to be her father’s friend. But what exactly are Clarence’s reasons to show interest in Eleanor?

Eleanor needs help, and information. What better place to go than the Spirit Hunters, hired by the city to improve security during the Centennial Exhibition? An unusual amount of walking Dead have been sighted in the cemeteries around Philadelphia, and unless the Spirit Hunters can come up with a smart solution, they might turn Hungry and overrun the city at any time.

The Spirit Hunters were different from what I thought – I had expected a large organization, with secrets and hierarchies and funds. Instead, there are only three of them. Joseph, the Creole gentleman from New Orleans who used to study under a voodoo queen. Daniel, the rude inventor who loves to tease Eleanor. Oh Daniel. You got on my nerves as much as on Eleanor’s at the beginning, but you turned out to be one of my favorite characters in the book. And Jie, the Chinese girl who wears trousers and inspires a new way of thinking about gender roles in Eleanor. Jie is nothing if not tough, pragmatic, and realistic.
However, the city mistrusts the Spirit Hunters despite hiring them, and their evasiveness about certain issues also rouses Eleanor’s suspicions.

Just whom can she trust? Her family? The Spirit Hunters? Clarence Wilcox? No one but herself? I really enjoyed seeing Eleanor grow into her true potential despite the tremendous odds she is facing at times. The pace of the book was great, picking up as things went along and always a good mixture of action scenes and smart deductions and revelations about the sinister plot behind the actions of Philadelphia’s elite. There’s was also humor thrown in, especially in the dialogues between Eleanor and Daniel.

The love interests in this book couldn’t be more different from one another. On the one hand, Clarence Wilcox is the man every girl in society pines over: handsome, rich, accomplished, about to run for the city council. On the other hand, Daniel is poor, at times rude and infuriating, but also a very talented inventor and someone who really cares about his surrogate-family of Spirit Hunters. He and Eleanor have more in common than is obvious at first sight. I loved watching their relationship evolve. Who knew what rolled up shirt sleeves could do to a girl not used to being touched without gloves (another realistic 19th century part I really enjoyed – effects of dress etiquette). Another thing I enjoyed? The romance aspect didn’t hijack the story but it did enrich it without being dominant.

The final showdown was surprisingly graphic but nothing if not realistic. I admit that I could see part of the revelation of the mystery coming, but not the whole extent of it or Eleanor’s entire involvement. No matter what, the fallout from it all was unexpected in its severity and the ending doesn’t sugarcoat anything, which I liked even though it broke my heart a little. Overall, I can’t wait to see Eleanor face the consequences of what she did and the decisions she’s made. What an amazing debut and killer start to a new series!

Personal thoughts (spoilery):
For once, I don’t have that much to add. I loved how realistic the setting was (down to all the uncomfortable parts like the stink, having to get by on little money while pretending affluence, having to bribe your maid), and I could go and on about how important those dresses were to the way women could move and behave and express themselves – or more like, couldn’t. Seeing Eleanor go from being shocked at Jie’s wearing trousers to doing it herself was awesome. She didn’t grow up to be an adventurer, but she definitely picked up courage and learned to hold her own in a fight – especially once the lack of breath in that corset didn’t leave her in danger of fainting anymore.

What I didn’t expect, but thought was great? That the price she pays is her hand. I expected it to be saved somehow, but it wasn’t. There had to be payment for her breaching of norms and laws, and this is it. Don’t get me wrong, I hurt for her and I shudder at something similar happening to myself. But I’m glad the author didn’t ‘chicken out’ and come up with an unrealistic miracle. I’m curious to see the consequences of this – no way for her mother to marry her off now, even if the damage to her reputation could be undone. I hope Daniel makes a really great artificial hand for her in the sequel ^^’’ Yes, I really did like the dynamics between them that much. Their exchanges were also very amusing, and that kiss… *sigh* let’s just say, I wish my first kiss had been like that.

A note on the zombies: I’m not usually a fan of zombies. Unlike vampires, they just gross me out. I only knew them from a few movies though and had never read a zombie-book, even though there are so many coming out right now. I had actually planned for my first zombie read to be Dearly, Departed, but I haven’t gotten round to that one yet. I read in one review that the blogger thought there was not enough mention of zombies/importance given to the issue in Something Strange and Deadly, but I can’t agree with that. The Dead come up all the time, and there are plenty of attacks. The final showdown was quite graphic but in that, erm, slightly pleasant, liking-to-be-grossed-out way. (We have a word for that feeling in Swiss German but I can’t come up with an English translation.)

I wanted to keep this short but there I am, rambling on again… one last note on the women characters. I liked Eleanor for her fierceness and her loyalty, as well as her realism. She keeps the finances of the household in check and runs errands while her mother stays at home doing… whatever. Having tea, probably. Yet while Eleanor is strong in her person, the author also made her limitations (and those of all women) clear. She and her mother have no male provider and protector, and they need money. While her mother deludes herself and pretends affluence and fawns over marrying her daughter off like so much cattle, which I found sickening, it is also a show of realism in her character. If they want to keep their high-society status, Eleanor can’t work outside the home. Her mother is probably too old to remarry, so finding a husband for her daughter, to her, is worth spending all that money if it pays out in the end. Eleanor’s age would not have been an issue at the time, nor were her wishes. I also liked that Dennard brought in characters from all classes – spoilt daughters for whom money was no issue, Eleanor caught somewhere in the middle, as well as servant girls such as her maid Mary. I thought she was greedy and petty at first, but she’s also just trying to get by on what is probably little to no wage apart from food and housing. The jealousy among women, as well as the occasional moments of companionship, again made the time and setting come alive to me rather than just having it there as a sort of theatre scenery.

To wrap it up: great and diverse characters, well-rendered scenery and world-building, compelling writing, interesting plot, as well as just the right amount of fighting and action scenes. One of my favorite books this year so far, and a piece of shelf-candy for greater merits than just a beautiful cover.

But as always, I’m interested in what you guys think. Have you read it? Do you want to?

There’s also a book trailer, as well as a beautifully done website.
Susan Dennard also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.