Saturday, June 30, 2012

Review: The Last Song

The Last Song
by Eva Wiseman

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 225
Publisher: Tundra
Publication date: April 10, 2012
Suggested tags: middle grade, historical fiction, 15th century, Spain

From Goodreads:
"Spain had been one of the world’s most tolerant societies for eight hundred years, but that way of life was wiped out by the Inquisition. Isabel’s family feels safe from the terrors, torture, and burnings. After all, her father is a respected physician in the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Isabel was raised as a Catholic and doesn’t know that her family’s Jewish roots may be a death sentence. When her father is arrested by Torquemada, the Grand Inquisitor, she makes a desperate plan to save his life – and her own.

Once again, master storyteller Eva Wiseman brings history to life in this riveting and tragic novel.

I received this as an ebook from NetGalley.

The Last Song is centered around the Spanish Inquisition, so I expected it to deal with some serious issues and explore the emotions of the characters, especially Isabel's. While it did have a meaningful plot, overall the book just felt kind of bland.

I've read some amazing middle grade novels that really get into the characters' heads, where they share their thoughts with you and you feel their emotions right along with them, without it getting too deep or mature to the point where its target audience wouldn't appreciate it. And that's what I expected for The Last Song, but unfortunately it didn't come across that way to me. Isabel faces many serious situations and crucial decisions, but her thoughts and feelings are never really explored. She speaks and acts and reacts, but it all feels a little shallow and unsatisfying.

Readers who are looking for a "this happened, then this happened" type of book that doesn't focus too much on the characters' thoughts or feelings may really enjoy The Last Song. Unfortunately, for me, this book was just ok - not a bad book by any means, but not anything I can rave about. It took on an ambitious setting and plot, but it didn't deliver on that the way I was hoping.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Friday, June 29, 2012

Freebie Alert: Seasons of the Moon, Books 1-3

Books 1-3 of the Seasons of the Moon series by S. M. Reine are currently available for free on AmazonBe sure to double-check the price before you download!

Friday Freebies: June 29, 2012

Click on each title to go to the Amazon Kindle edition listing. Be sure to double-check the price before you download!

Dark Matter Heart
by Nathan Wrann

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 193 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Dalton Gang Press
Publication date: May 11, 2011
Suggested tags: young adult, paranormal, vampires

First in the Cor Griffin Bloodsuckers series. From Amazon:
"A new town. A new school. A new beginning. Seventeen year-old Cordell Griffin and his mother move from Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest to deal with his 'allergies,' and start a healthier new life. Cor has one goal: To blend in and be invisible. Unfortunately for him, no matter how far he goes, he can't run away from his secrets. Secrets about who he is. Secrets about why he's sick. And secrets about why so many people he meets end up dead, drained of blood.

In 'Dark Matter Heart', the origin novel in the 'Cor Griffin Bloodsuckers' Young Adult Paranormal Thriller series from filmmaker and author Nathan Wrann, Cor must uncover the mysteries of his past and conquer the secrets of the present in order to protect the girl of his future, and save himself.

The Fallen Star
by Jessica Sorensen

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 419 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Createspace
Publication date: September 11, 2011
Suggested tags: young adult, paranormal

First in the Fallen Star series. From Amazon:
"For eighteen year-old Gemma, life has never been normal. Up until recently, she has been incapable of feeling emotion. And when she’s around Alex, the gorgeous new guy at school, she can feel electricity that makes her skin buzz. Not to mention the monsters that haunt her nightmares have crossed over into real-life.

But with Alex seeming to hate her and secrets popping up everywhere, Gemma’s life is turning into a chaotic mess. Things that shouldn’t be real suddenly seem to exist. And as her world falls apart, figuring out the secrets of her past becomes a matter of life and death.

The Fate of Destiny
by Danielle Bourdon

Available as: Kindle edition
Pages: 225
Publisher: Wildbloom Press
Publication date: March 9, 2012
Suggested tags: young adult, paranormal

First in the Fates series. From Amazon:
"Up until three days before her eighteenth birthday, Farris Landry's life fit neatly into three categories: consuming, troublesome and downright tricky.

Consuming because of the unnatural passion (obsession) she had for writing 'stories'.

Troublesome for the mother who descended into the realm of the insane right before her eyes.

Tricky when she found herself on her own, forced to carve out an existence by the skin of her teeth.

Farris quickly discovers that consuming-troubling-tricky is nothing compared to the Chaos that ensues after a visit to her grandmother. Determined to go on with her life, Farris finds out the hard way that sometimes, Fate has other ideas. In the blink of an eye, her life gets turned upside down: a tornado rips through town, her loft catches fire, and an explosion decimates her workplace.

A stranger, Emerson Ferrera, inserts himself into the violence, becoming guardian and protector. Farris begins to suspect her grandmother's warning of impending death might more serious than she thought.

Tragedy and betrayal follow, throwing Farris into a tailspin. Will she be able to trust the stranger she's become close to, or will his deception tear them apart?

by Veronica Blade

Available as: Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 23
Publisher: Crush Publishing
Publication date: April 9, 2012
Suggested tags: young adult, romance, short stories

Book 1 in the Single Girls series. From Amazon:

Alex single-handedly takes down a bully. A safer school has its perks, but what else did the years of martial arts training get her? Not a prom date, that’s for sure. With only a few weeks left before the big day, can she stop the tough act long enough for the boy of her dreams to see she’s still just a girl?

Friday Finds #16

Friday Finds is hosted by Should Be Reading. Each Friday, you share the great books you heard about or discovered over the past week: "books you were told about, books you discovered while browsing blogs/bookstores online, or books that you actually purchased."

As You Wish
by Jackson Pearce

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 304
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication date: August 25, 2009
Suggested tags: young adult, paranormal, romance

From Goodreads:
"A brokenhearted Viola inadvertently summons a genie into her world. Jinn agrees to stay until Viola makes three wishes, but she's afraid she won't wish for the right thing. Jinn can't deny that he's falling for Viola, and only after she makes her first wish does Viola realize she's in love with Jinn."

Climbing the Stairs
by Padma Venkatraman

Available as: hardcover, paperback, ebook
Pages: 272
Publisher: Speak
Publication date: May 1, 2008
Suggested tags: young adult, historical fiction, 20th century

From Goodreads:
"Fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of going to college— an unusual aspiration for a girl living in British occupied India during World War II. Then tragedy strikes, and Vidya and her brother are forced to move into a traditional household with their extended family, where women are meant to be married, not educated. Breaking the rules, Vidya finds refuge in her grandfather’s library. But then her brother does something unthinkable, and Vidya’s life becomes a whirlwind of political and personal complications. The question is, will she be strong enough to survive?"

The Lost Children
by Carolyn Cohagan

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 320
Publisher: Aladdin
Publication date: February 9, 2010
Suggested tags: middle grade, fantasy

From Goodreads:
"Josephine Russing owns 387 pairs of gloves. She's given a new pair every week by her father, a sullen man known best for his insistence that the citizens in town wear gloves at all times.
A world away, the children of Gulm have been taken. No one knows where they might be, except the mysterious and terrifying leader of the land: The Master. He rules with an iron fist, using two grotesque creatures to enforce his terrible reign.

When a peculiar boy named Fargus shows up on Josephine's property and then disappears soon afterward, she follows him without a second thought and finds herself magically transported to Gulm.

After Fargus introduces her to his tough-as-nails friend Ida, the three of them set off on an adventure that will test everything Josephine has ever thought about the rules of the universe, leading to a revelation about the truth of the land of Gulm, and of Josephine's own life back home.

Saving Juliet
by Suzanne Selfors

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 256
Publisher: Walker & Company
Publication date: January 22, 2008
Suggested tags: young adult, time travel, fantasy

From Goodreads:
"Manhattan meets Verona in this time-bending twist on Shakespeare.

When Mimi is magically thrust into the middle of Shakespeare’s Verona, she must find a way to help Juliet fight for her future happiness. Will she be able to give this classic tragedy a happy ending?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

YA Fairy Tale & Retelling Discoveries

I recently read and reviewed Kill Me Softly by Sarah Cross, which I really enjoyed, and that got me thinking about other YA fairy tales & retellings that I had on my to-read list. I did a little investigating (or "discovering," if you will... wink wink) on Goodreads and came up with a whole list of YA fairy tales & retellings that look amazing, including the Once Upon a Time series which retells a whole treasury's worth of fairy tales, all with beautiful matching covers.

I hope you enjoy the books I've discovered, and I'd love to hear about any YA fairy tales & retellings that you've discovered too! :)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Kill Me Softly

Kill Me Softly
by Sarah Cross

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 314
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Release date: April 10, 2012
Suggested tags: young adult, fantasy, fairy tales

From Goodreads:
"Mirabelle's past is shrouded in secrecy, from her parents' tragic deaths to her guardians' half-truths about why she can't return to her birthplace, Beau Rivage. Desperate to see the town, Mira runs away a week before her sixteenth birthday—and discovers a world she never could have imagined.

In Beau Rivage, nothing is what it seems—the strangely pale girl with a morbid interest in apples, the obnoxious playboy who's a beast to everyone he meets, and the chivalrous guy who has a thing for damsels in distress. Here, fairy tales come to life, curses are awakened, and ancient stories are played out again and again.

But fairy tales aren't pretty things, and they don't always end in happily ever after. Mira has a role to play, a fairy tale destiny to embrace or resist. As she struggles to take control of her fate, Mira is drawn into the lives of two brothers with fairy tale curses of their own . . . brothers who share a dark secret. And she'll find that love, just like fairy tales, can have sharp edges and hidden thorns.

I received this as an ebook from NetGalley.

I love fairy tale retellings, so I was really excited to get my hands on Kill Me Softly. It sounded like it was going to be a blend of a few different fairy tales, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was so much more than that.

Cross has created a world in Beau Rivage where everyone has a fairy tale that is their destiny, their curse. The fairy tales take on a dark edge where not everyone finds their one true love and not everything ends happily ever after. As Mira starts learning more about Beau Rivage and the fairy tales that are played out there, she slowly begins to learn what her role in it all will be.

Beau Rivage was a spectacular world to get lost in. Each time a character is introduced, I was trying to pay attention to the clues and figure out which fairy tale they were a part of. Some of them were from the original Grimm's fairy tales which I'm not very familiar with, but they definitely piqued my interest (and now I have Grimm's at the top of my to-read list). Meeting the other teens in Beau Rivage kept the story moving quickly, and each of her new friends had fantastic personalities and fairy tales that made me eager to keep reading to learn more about them. Although Mira sometimes made choices that made me roll my eyes, I thought she acted appropriate to her own personality based on how she was raised (a little sheltered, and thus some of her decisions were a little naive).

I loved Cross's style. Her writing is a blend of smart, witty, humorous, elegant, descriptive, and lyrical, coming together to form a beautifully crafted story with a YA edge that is sarcastic and snarky at all the right moments. The flashbacks of Blue's story that she inserted between chapters were absolutely beautiful and made it clear that fairy tales in Beau Rivage can be dark and deadly.

Kill Me Softly wraps up in an ending that could stand on its own, but I hope there will be other books to continue the stories in Beau Rivage, maybe focusing on other characters' fairy tales. There were some aspects of the ending that left it feeling a little rushed and a little too convenient. (SPOILER - highlight to read: Mira's curse playing out in Felix's secret room was wonderfully done and it kept me riveted, but then it was over and Felix pretty much disappeared. And yet it's made clear that he will come back for Mira since she knows his secret. I guess this is maybe just setting up for a sequel, since everyone seems to forget all about Felix once Mira is free? And then Mira's fairy godmothers very conveniently debut powers that do exactly what she and Blue need them to do. To the point where they can reverse time in order to make things turn out just so. I don't know, that just made the wrap-up too neat for me.). But overall, Kill Me Softly was an amazing book, one that I would not hesitate to read again. I would definitely pick up another book by Cross, especially if it's a Kill Me Softly sequel continuing another character's story!

Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Release Round-Up: June 25-July 1, 2012

Young Adult

Dust Girl
by Sarah Zettel

Release date: June 26, 2012
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 304
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Suggested tags: young adult, fantasy, historical fiction

First in The American Fairy Trilogy. From Goodreads:
"Callie LeRoux lives in Slow Run, Kansas, helping her mother run their small hotel and trying not to think about the father she’s never met. Lately all of her energy is spent battling the constant storms plaguing the Dust Bowl and their effects on her health. Callie is left alone when her mother goes missing in a dust storm. Her only hope comes from a mysterious man offering a few clues about her destiny and the path she must take to find her parents in "the golden hills of the west": California.

Along the way she meets Jack, a young hobo boy who is happy to keep her company — there are dangerous, desperate people at every turn. And there’s also an otherworldly threat to Callie. Warring fae factions, attached to the creative communities of American society, are very much aware of the role this half-mortal, half-fae teenage girl plays in their fate.

Secret Letters
by Leah Scheier

Release date: June 26, 2012
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 336
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Suggested tags: young adult, historical fiction, mystery

From Goodreads:
"Inquisitive and observant, Dora dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes. So when she learns that the legendary detective might be her biological father, Dora jumps on the opportunity to travel to London and enlist his help in solving the mystery of her cousin's ransomed love letters. But Dora arrives in London to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. Her dreams dashed, Dora is left to rely on her wits--and the assistance of an attractive yet enigmatic young detective--to save her cousin's reputation and help rescue a kidnapped heiress along the way.

Steeped in Victorian atmosphere and intrigue, this gripping novel heralds the arrival of a fresh new voice in young adult literature.

Other YA new releases for this week:

Middle Grade

Rebel McKenzie
by Candice Ransom

Release date: June 26, 2012
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 288
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Suggested tags: middle grade, realistic fiction, contemporary

From Goodreads:
"Rebel McKenzie wants to spend her summer attending the Ice Age Kids' Dig and Safari, a camp where kids discover prehistoric bones, right alongside real paleontologists. But digs cost money, and Rebel is broker than four o'clock. When she finds out her annoying neighbor Bambi Lovering won five hundred dollars by playing a ukulele behind her head in a beauty contest, Rebel decides to win the Frog Level Volunteer Fire Department's beauty pageant. Rebel may not be a typical pageant contestant, but how hard can it be? Rebel's dramatic reading about life is the Pleistocene era is sure to blow away the competition. It turns out that winning a beauty pageant is harder than it looks. By the end of the summer, Rebel has learned a thing or two about her true calling that will surprise everyone--most of all, herself."

Flying the Dragon
by Natalie Dias Lorenzi

Release date: July 1, 2012
Available as: hardcover
Pages: 240
Publisher: Charlesbridge
Suggested tags: middle grade, realistic fiction, contemporary

From Goodreads:
"American-born Skye knows very little of her Japanese heritage. Her father taught her to speak the language, but when their estranged Japanese family, including Skye's grandfather, suddenly move to the United States, Skye must be prepared to give up her All-Star soccer dreams to take Japanese lessons and to help her cousin, Hiroshi adapt to a new school. Hiroshi, likewise, must give up his home and his hopes of winning the rokkaku kite-fighting championship with Grandfather. Faced with language barriers, culture clashes and cousin rivalry, Skye and Hiroshi have a rocky start. But a greater shared loss brings them together. They learn to communicate, not only through language, but through a common heritage and sense of family honor. At the rokkaku contest at the annual Washington Cherry Blossom Festival, Hiroshi and Skye must work as a team in order to compete with the best."

Other Middle Grade new releases for this week: