Category Archives: Fiction

“Waiting” on Wednesday: You Are My Only

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine. The purpose is to spotlight upcoming releases that we are excited for.

You Are My Only by Beth Kephart

Hardcover: 256 pages
Publication date: October 25, 2011
Publisher: EgmontUSA

Emmy Rane is married at nineteen, a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with a husband she no longer loves, Baby is her only joy. Then one sunny day in September, Emmy takes a few fateful steps away from her baby and returns to find her missing. All that is left behind is a yellow sock.

Fourteen years later, Sophie, a homeschooled, reclusive teenage girl is forced to move frequently and abruptly from place to place, perpetually running from what her mother calls the “No Good.” One afternoon, Sophie breaks the rules, ventures out, and meets Joey and his two aunts. It is this loving family that gives Sophie the courage to look into her past. What she discovers changes her world forever. . . .

Not really my norm. Which is nice. There’s a certain mystery to this that I can’t wait to see unravel. I’m excited to see where Kephart takes this.

Add on Goodreads.

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Angel Burn, by Lee Weatherly

Publisher: Candlewick (May 24, 2011)
Kindle: 464 pages / 801 KB
Rating: of 5 stars

Review: Angel Burn actually turned out to be a lot better than I expected it to be. The jacket summary of the book was a little cringe worthy, and it certainly wasn’t a monument of literature, but I found the story and characters to be very engaging. The premise also was very immaginative. As the title suggests, the story is about angels, but in this case, the angels are not heavenly beings sent from God to grant miracles, they are soul sucking fiends from another dimension.

The angels’ world is collapsing, and they have realized the only way to survive is to come to our world and feed off the life force of humans. They can disguise themselves in human form, but when they feed, they become giant, beautiful beings built of light and energy. They latch onto a human’s aura and suck them dry. The humans don’t die instantly, but are left with lasting physical, metal and emotional scarring–they develop cancer, MS, depression, Schizophrenia…the list goes on. The scariest part is that the humans are left feeling nothing but bliss after their encounter. They never make the connection between their future illnesses and the day when they were touched by an Angel. The plague of the angels has become so wide spread that a cult-like church, Church of Angels, has spring up and attracted thousands of devotees nationwide. The members of the church are sick, some of them dying, but they think that the angels are saving them and giving them peace, when actually the angels are destroying them.

Sounds cool right? Indeed. There is a small band of “AKs,” Angel Killers, who know the truth. The travel around the country trying to take down angels when they can. This works okay, but the angels are planning something big. maybe too big for the AKs.

The book is about a young girl named Willow who gets pulled into the thick of it after giving a psychic reading to a highschool friend, Beth. She doesn’t know the truth about the angels, but she sees horrible things in Beth’s future–and that these things are linked with the angels. Beth is considering dropping out and joining the Church of Angels after one feeds on her. willow just wants to go to the church to talk some sense into beth, convince her the angels are bad. It all goes awry, and leaves willow on the run with Alex without even getting a chance to say goodbye to her family.

It’s pretty action packed and engaging story, but it definitely has some faults. Willow is a bit of a Mary Sue, and some of the “reveals” of the story are painfully obvious (I won’t spoil them here!). The love story between Alex/Willow is well done at first but gains so much momentum that it reads like a Melodrama toward the end. However, it is still a very entertaining tale. There is a sequel, Angel Fire, and I found this book to be intriguing enough to pick up the second one.

Un Lun Dun, By China Miéville

Publisher: Del Rey (February 13, 2007)
Kindle: 448 pages / 1504 KB
Rating: of 5 stars

I just finished reading Un Lun Dun, By China Miéville, and I found it to be very much fantastic. It definitely reminded me of the whimsical style of The Phantom Tollbooth, and made me want to pick up that book again.

Un Lun Dun is a story about two cities—London, and its “abcity,” UnLondon—in the midst of a brewing war with a foreboding enemy: The Smog. No, not Smaug, the Dragon. Smog the substance, sentient smoke that can rain down deadly chemicals, raise the dead, and essentially raise holy hell. Two Londoners, unaware of the existence of the abcity, mistakenly stumble into UnLondon and are forced to participate in the battle against Smog. Their coming, apparently, was long foretold in a persnickety old book—who is quite a character—by a group of Prophets. Zanna (short for Susanna) & Deeba must take up arms against the Smog and help the UnLondoners, lest the Smog makes its way across the “odd” and into London itself.

Anyone who read and loved The Phantom Tollbooth will adore this book. I suppose it’s technically a YA or even independent reader story, but it’s an awesome one nonetheless. It’s the kind of book you really just want to lose yourself in. My reading (read: devouring) of this story reminded me of the pull I felt when a new Harry Potter had just come out. It’s the kind of pull you feel when you’re reading in the bathtub and suddenly realized that a few hours have slipped away without you even noticing.

This is the first book I’ve read by Miéville but it will most certainly not be my last—the man seems to have so much fun with words. There’s a certain je ne sais quoi to the storytelling that really ensnared me—the characters were batty and imperfect and wonderful, and the adventure put a really amusing twist on the classic “chosen one” style of fantasy quest story. The chosen one in this novel is referred to as The Shwazzy (think: the French choisir: to choose).

This book is hilarious, sparkling, dry, fanciful, youthful, sad—and at times legitimately terrifying. For instance, one of the creatures the protagonist encounters in UnLondon is called a Black Window—and it is indeed a window spindly spider legs. This in itself isn’t very scary, but each window opens up into a small world, and the spider traps you by making you forget you want to leave. And then you’re gone. Legit terrifying.

I don’t want to give too much away but seriously, how can you go wrong with a story that has Spider windows, predatory giraffes, sentient garbage, ghosts & flying busses? You’re right. You can’t.


“Waiting on” Wednesday: Crossed

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine. The purpose is to spotlight upcoming releases that we are excited for.

Crossed by Ally Condie

Hardcover: ??? pages
Publication date: November 1, 2011
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile

From Amazon.com:

In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky–taken by the Society to his certain death-only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia’s quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander-who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia’s heart–change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.


In My Mailbox (01)

My first In My Mailbox post! Hosted by The Story Siren, In My Mailbox is a chance to showcase new books, ones checked out from the library, bought, won or received for review. All summaries taken from either Goodreads or Amazon.

Touching Silver by Jamie Craig

The chase of the Silver Maiden continues in this second of the series . . . A young woman reappears five years after being kidnapped and cold-case detective Olivia Wright reopens the investigation. The dangerous Gabriel de los Rios appears to be involved so Olivia turns to Isaac McGuire, the LAPD detective who knows Gabriel all too well. Gabrial wants to gain the supernatural power of the Silver Maiden coin and kidnapping is not the only crime he is willing to commit in order to possess it. Olivia and Isaac hope to stop Gabriel before he can do more harm, but Olivia’s single-minded professionalism is derailed by the highly distracting Isaac . . .

Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos

When Martin Grace enters the hip Philadelphia coffee shop Cornelia Brown manages, her life changes forever. Charming and debonair, the spitting image of Cary Grant, Martin sweeps Cornelia off her feet, but, as it turns out, Martin Grace is more the harbinger of change than the change itself.” Meanwhile, on the other side of town, eleven-year-old Clare Hobbes must learn to fend for herself after her increasingly unstable mother has a breakdown and disappears. Taking inspiration from famous orphans (Anne Shirley, Sara Crewe, Mary Lennox, and even Harry Potter) Clare musters the courage to seek out her estranged father. When the two of them show up at Cornelia’s cafe, Cornelia and Clare form a bond as unlikely as it is deep. Together, they face difficult choices and discover that knowing what you love and why is as real as life gets.

Somewhere Inside by Laura & Lisa Ling

In 2009, Laura Ling, a reporter with Current TV, traveled with a film crew to the region of China that bordered on North Korea to report on defections, particularly of women who were later forced into arranged marriages or sex slavery. The crew momentarily crossed into North Korea, and Ling and Euna Lee, her editor and translator, were captured. Given the hostilities between North Korea and China and a recent critical documentary on North Korea by Laura’s sister, journalist Lisa Ling, the women knew they were in for an ordeal. Laura was beaten during the capture, and the women were held in isolation and faced meager meals, cold, and little medical treatment. In the U.S., Lisa and her family prayed and called on powerful contacts, including Al Gore and Bill Richardson, to win the women’s release. During the time of their captivity, North Korea conducted a nuclear test and fired off missiles, increasing tensions with the U.S. and UN. The women were eventually tried for attempting to overthrow the government and sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp, but through behind-the-scenes maneuvering and negotiations with prickly North Korea, they were finally released after five months in captivity. This memoir alternates between the sisters, with Laura recalling the escalating peril of her capture and imprisonment and Lisa recalling heightened worries as weeks dragged into months. A riveting story of captivity and the enduring faith, determination, and love of two sisters.

Two Moon Princess by Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban

In this coming-of-age story set in a medieval kingdom, Andrea is a headstrong princess longing to be a knight who finds her way to modern-day California. But her accidental return to her family’s kingdom and a disastrous romance brings war, along with her discovery of some dark family secrets. Readers will love this mix of traditional fantasy elements with unique twists and will identify with Andrea and her difficult choices between duty and desire.


Stay by Deb Caletti

Publisher: Simon Pulse (April 5, 2011)
Kindle: 352 pages / 670 KB
Source: Galley Grab
Ratings: 5 of 5 stars

Clara’s relationship with Christian is intense from the start, and like nothing she’s ever experienced before. But what starts as devotion quickly becomes obsession, and it’s almost too late before Clara realizes how far gone Christian is–and what he’s willing to do to make her stay.Now Clara has left the city—and Christian—behind. No one back home has any idea where she is, but she still struggles to shake off her fear. She knows Christian won’t let her go that easily, and that no matter how far she runs, it may not be far enough…

Review:

This is my first Deb Caletti book, and I was simply blown away by it. Normally I’d stick with YA science fiction & fantasy, but for books like this one, I’d gladly try other YA contemporary fiction novels.

Masterfully written, Caletti finds a balance in her novel that could easily have come out poorly. Alternating chapters helps the reader to learn of what was happening to Clara now, and her relationship with Christian from the beginning. With books that switch back and forth that way, I traditionally find myself preferring one time frame, and impatiently reading/skimming through the other section. That wasn’t the case with Stay however. Caletti’s writing was flawless and kept me enchanted and engaged, even when the darkness in Christian started to make itself more known.

I realized, as I was writing this review, that I wanted to start off a lot of my points with a “normally I don’t” or a “usually I wouldn’t”. This entire book is outside of my norm, yet isn’t. Caletti has this way with words that I can’t get enough. Her metaphors are dead on, and her language brings this novel to life. The idea isn’t unusual in itself, but it’s the way Caletti takes it and makes it her own that makes Stay as good a read as I found it to be.

Caletti was able to take a dark and serious topic, and wrote it in such a gripping way that it is not only relevant to the YA target audience, but to an older audience as well. Definitely a recommendation for anyone remotely interested.


Waiting on Wednesday

These “Waiting on Wednesday” posts are a little odd to me. I’m more the type to browse the bookstore or amazon and find books randomly, or find one author I like and read everything by him or her, or to take recommendations from people I know. However, Kim suggested we do some Waiting on Wednesday posts to talk about books coming out soon, so I figured I’d give it a try!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted here at Breaking the Spine.

The upcoming title by Amos Oz, Scenes From Village Life, looked super interesting to me. I have always had an odd attraction to jewish culture (though I am not jewish), and love reading books by jewish authors. I have requested a galley for this book, and hopefully I’ll be able to read and review it here before it comes out. If not, I’ll get it when it’s released, and then review it here =]

Here’s the review from Amazon:

Amos Oz’s novel-in-stories is a brilliant, unsettling glimpse of what goes on beneath the surface of everyday life.Scenes from Village Lifeis a parable for Israel, and for all of us. In the village of Tel Ilan, something is off kilter. An elderly man complains to his daughter that he hears the sound of digging under his house at night. Could it be his tenant, a young Arab? But then the tenant hears the mysterious digging sounds too. The mayor receives a note from his wife: “Don’t worry about me.” He looks all over, no sign of her. The veneer of new wealth around the village—gourmet restaurants and art galleries, a winery—cannot conceal abandoned outbuildings, disused air raid shelters, rusting farm tools, and trucks left wherever they stopped.

Amos Oz’s novel-in-stories is a brilliant, unsettling glimpse of what goes on beneath the surface of everyday life.Scenes from Village Lifeis a parable for Israel, and for all of us.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson

Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 23, 2009)
Paperback: 664 pages
Series: Millenium #1
Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch – and there’s always a catch – is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.

Review:

Let me start by saying, I’m probably one of the few people who didn’t immediately fall in love with this book (if at all). I’ll admit though, Larsson had an interesting idea. Partly because of my aunt’s recommendation and to be able to watch the movies guilt-free, I forged through and read the book.

Set in Sweden, it was interesting to read about a foreign place. The story circles aroudn the two main charachters: Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who recent lost a major libel case, and Lisbeth Salander, a brilliant but largely misunderstood girl who is considered legally incompetent in the eyes of the Swedish law. Then we throw Henry Vanger into the mix, the elderly former CEO of Vanger Enterprises. Vanger is obsessive over the cold case, and now, in his old age, wants to try one last time to put it all to rest.

Definitely an interesting plot, and a great set of well developed, flawed characters to keep us interested. But maybe in part due to my lack of understanding for Swedish society, there were times when it felt like the story dragged. More often then not, I found myself skimming through quite a few information centered sections, and the story didn’t progress as swiftly as I would have liked.

Again, I mostly read this book for the movie. There were several topics that made me quite uncomfortable (because I have the sensibilities of a maiden aunt). There were things like adultery, rape and corruption in the system. One particular scene involved Lisbeth and the scum ball social worker (or whatever they’re called in Sweden), who makes his appearance again in the next book so I wasn’t allowed to forget his existence easily. I’m inclined to believe people love these books for a reason, so I tentatively recommend this book in hopes you all find something redeeming that I missed. It’s a slow start, but for others (just not myself) it does pick up as you get into the book.


Great House, By Nicole Krauss

I was introduced to Nicole Krauss (Not to be confused with Nicola Krauss) via one of my creative writing professors, Jon Papernick—also a writer, whose books I’ll be reviewing in the coming weeks—because I had professed my undying love of Jonathan Safran Foer. The two are incidentally married, and incidentally extraordinarily talented writers.

I first read The History of Love, which I totally recommend, and just recently finished her latest novel, Great House. Great House gets its title from Jewish folklore, and if you love stories about jews, or that have jews in them, like I do, you should definitely pick up this book. However, I don’t know if this book is for everyone. Both Foer and his lovely wife Nicole Krauss often use a fractured style of story telling, where different character’s stories run parallel to each other, and are often only connected in subtle ways (at least at first, the intertwinedness usually becomes more relevant toward the end). For example, at the start of Great House, the only connection is a huge writing desk that is described to be almost like a supernatural force.

It’s large, old, shrouded in the mystery of its origins, with rows and rows of tiny drawers and a fairly ominous presence. I tend to like this style, but for some who don’t necessarily care for hearing four or five different stories in one novel, it may seem too fragmented. The book is broken down into sections, all told from first person and like somewhat of a confessional of sorts. Some of the characters’ voices intrigued me more than others, for instance that of an older, ailing Israeli father addressing a son to whom he’s nearly always been estranged.

The one thing I wasn’t crazy about with this book is that it seemed unfairly weighted toward some of the characters. Some characters got two or three “chapters” and others got only one. The last chapter even introduced a whole new voice; and I wasn’t sure if I liked that or not. This is almost more of a testament to Krauss’ skill than it is a criticism—I felt so attached to each character that I just wanted more chapters from his or her point of view.

Krauss offers a really textured portrait of each person, both by having the characters examine themselves and by portraying each through the eyes of others. Her style is very economical—there isn’t any flab to her writing. This book is also achingly sad. Not in the tear-jerking style of Jodi Piccoult, but far more subtle. There are, yes, overtly sad portions of the novel, but there are other parts that may not be something to which you as a reader can relate, but the emotions expressed by each character are so real and raw that you can’t help but feel them too.

The ending also really resonated with me. I won’t give it away here because that would be really lame of me, but the way in which the ending was handled/written in such a way that it echoed the sentiments expressed therein perfectly—that will make sense when you actually read it. Overall, if you’re interested in books that are written in really interesting ways and still tell a really good story, I would recommend Great House. However, I understand how it may not be for everyone. Feel free to leave any contesting thoughts, reviews, or feelings in the comments.


“Waiting on” Wednesday: Vanish in Plain Sight

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted at Breaking the Spine. The purpose is to spotlight upcoming releases that we are excited for.

Vanish in Plain Sight by Marta Perry

Paperback: 384 pages
Publication date: May 24, 2011
Publisher: Harlequin

From Netgalley.com:

Since she was a little girl, Marisa Angelo has been haunted by the image of her mother walking away, suitcase in hand, to return to her Amish roots.

Marisa and her “Englischer” father never saw or heard from her again. Now Marisa has received a shocking call from police. Her mother’s bloodstained suitcase was found hidden inside the wall of an Amish farmhouse.

Desperate for answers, Marisa heads to Lancaster County. But no one—not the police or Marisa’s tight-lipped Amish relatives—can explain what happened to her mother.
Only one man is as determined as Marisa to unravel the mystery— Link Morgan, the handsome ex-military loner who found the suitcase in the house he inherited from his uncle. Because both Link’s and Marisa’s family members are implicated in the decades-old disappearance.

The secret lies somewhere in the quaint Amish settlements. But someone will do anything to ensure the truth remains hidden forever.