Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays: April 30, 2013

Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Each Tuesday, you grab the book you're reading, open to a random page, and share 2 teaser sentences from anywhere on the page.
NO SPOILERS - make sure the sentences you pick don't give too much away!

The Slither Sisters by Charles Gilman

After tucking Pip and Squeak into their shoe box, Robert got into bed and fell asleep immediately; all the exercise had made him very tired. That night, he had another dream, and for once it wasn't a nightmare.

{hardcover, page 91}

The Slither Sisters
by Charles Gilman

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 174
Publisher: Quirk Books
Publication date: January 15, 2013
Suggested tags: middle grade, paranormal

Second in the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series. From Goodreads:
"This second novel in the Tales from Lovecraft Middle School series begins right where Professor Gargoyle ended. Seventh-grader Robert Arthur has discovered that two of his classmates are actually sinister snake-women in disguise. Even worse, his new middle school is full of “gates” to a terrifying alternate dimension – a haunted mansion full of strange spirits and monstrous beasts. For Robert to protect his teachers and classmates, he'll need to return to this haunted dimension with his best friends Glenn and Karina. Can they uncover the secrets of Lovecraft Middle School before it's too late?

The Slither Sisters features more bizarre beasts, more strange mysteries, and more adventure. It's perfect for readers ages 10 and up. Best of all, the cover features a state-of-the-art “morphing” photo portrait – so you can personally witness the sisters transforming into their slithering alter egos. You won't believe your eyes!"

Monday, April 29, 2013

New Release Round-Up: April 29-May 5, 2013

Young Adult

The Program
by Suzanne Young

Release date: April 30, 2013
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 416
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Suggested tags: young adult, dystopia, romance

First in the Program series. From Goodreads:
"In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.

The Ward
by Jordana Frankel

Release date: April 30, 2013
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 480
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Suggested tags: young adult, dystopia

First in The Ward series. From Goodreads:
"Sixteen-year-old Ren is a daredevil mobile racer who will risk everything to survive in the Ward, what remains of a water-logged Manhattan. To save her sister, who is suffering from a deadly illness thought to be caused by years of pollution, Ren accepts a secret mission from the government: to search for a freshwater source in the Ward, with the hope of it leading to a cure.

However, she never expects that her search will lead to dangerous encounters with a passionate young scientist; a web of deceit and lies; and an earth-shattering mystery that’s lurking deep beneath the water’s rippling surface.

Other YA new releases for this week:

Middle Grade

The Forbidden Castle
by Edward Packard

Release date: April 30, 2013
Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 192
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Suggested tags: middle grade, adventure

Part of the U-Ventures series (updated version of the Choose Your Own Adventure series). From Goodreads:
"Choose your fate—and multiple endings—as you quest for medieval gold in this custom-made adventure.

One of the most popular book formats of the 1980s and 1990s is back and better than ever in the form of U-Ventures, updated versions of the classic Choose Your Own Adventure™ tales that put readers in the driver’s seat. Also available from the iTunes Store in app form, these exciting explorations provide a firsthand sense of involvement where action is always just a page-turn away.

The Forbidden Castle, The Cave of Time has brought you back to medieval England. Can you solve the riddle of the Forbidden Castle? Riches await, but the king wants the fortune for himself—and his army is right behind you. Will you be able to get away? Or should you stay for the gold? In the U-Ventures series, you decide how the story ends. And the more choices you make, the more endings there can be!"

The Girl from Felony Bay
by J.E. Thompson

Release date: April 30, 2013
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 384
Publisher: Walden Pond Press
Suggested tags: middle grade, mystery

From Goodreads:
"The last year has been rougher than sandpaper for Abbey Force and her dad. He's in a coma after his accident a year back, wherein he was framed for a terrible crime he didn't commit. And their home, Reward Plantation, an idyllic spot on the eastern coast of South Carolina, had to be sold to pay off his debt to society. Abbey is stuck living with her uncle Charlie, who, even in the few hours a day when he's sober, ain't exactly your ideal parental role model.

But it turns out the new family that moved into Abbey's old house has a daughter named Bee. And she's just as curious about all the No Trespassing signs and holes being dug out by Felony Bay, in the corner of what used to be Abbey's home. It appears someone's been poking around a mystery that dates all the way back to the Civil War--and it just might be the same someone who framed Abbey's dad.

Other Middle Grade new releases for this week:

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Review: Last Kiss In Venice by Martin Chu Shui

Last Kiss In Venice
by Martin Chu Shui

Available as: Kindle edition
Pages: 233
Publication date: July 11, 2012
Publisher: unknown
Suggested tags: young adult, paranormal

First in the Legend of the White Snake series. From Goodreads:
"Beside a bridge over a canal in Venice, Charlie is spellbound not only by Caitlin’s absolute beauty but also by what seems like a mythical bond between them. The more he knows about her, the more mysterious she becomes. As they finally admit their love to each other in Paris, then move to settle down in Australia together, it looks like the start of Happily Ever After. But neither of them realizes that this is just the start of a heart-wrenching journey.

After a lifetime of searching, Caitlin finally finds her true love, settles down in the beautiful rolling countryside of outback Australia, and starts to raise a family, but her enemy is never far away. She loves Charlie deeply and is certain he is her soul mate, but she knows she can never reveal her secret; he must never know who she really is, and that is her downfall. Information in the hands of her enemy brings her life crashing down around her. To save all she has worked for, she must fight for her love and the right to survive.

“Last Kiss in Venice” is a reinterpretation of one of China’s most famous love stories, ‘Legend of the White Snake’. It is a supernatural love epic that encompasses both eastern and western culture to tell a story of love and hate, loyalty and betrayal, revenge and justice. This cocktail of oriental magic, vampires, and sword fights is a legend not easily forgotten.

Last Kiss in Venice is a retelling of a story that is popular in China, based on the love of two soulmates who search throughout the world and over hundreds of years to reunite. The synopsis sounded pretty interesting, so I downloaded it to my Kindle for free and gave it a try.

The story itself was pretty good, but there were so many issues that an editor could have fixed (or should have fixed, if there was an editor). Errors in punctuation and sentence structure were distracting but could be overlooked. However, there were a lot of larger issues that needed to be reworked. Transitions were rough and awkward. The character's dialogues were stilted or even unrealistic, in the sense that no casual conversation would be carried out that way. For example, when discussing the legend that is at the heart of the plot, this is how two characters introduce the topic:
     " 'Have you heard about the 'White Cloud Immortal Sister'?' one old man said while holding a teacup.
     'No, I haven't,' the younger man answered. 'Could you please tell me something about this immortal sister; it sounds like she knows about magic.'
If that sort of dialogue and structure doesn't bother you, you may really enjoy this book. However, this sort of thing makes me cringe, so I found it more of a struggle to get through it.

Plot-wise, a few elements of this book were kind of puzzling. Most startling to me was that Caitlin and Charlie's relationship develops at lightning speed. The meet, they fall in love at first sight (which I'm willing to go along with for the sake of the original story), and then they are married in what seems to be a matter of days. Caitlin and her friend Alice tell a very long and complicated lie to the priest at Notre Dame in Paris to get Charlie and Caitlin married there on short notice. And then a very short time later Caitlin is pregnant. It was all just very, very quick.

Also rather puzzling is what seems to be a focus on alcohol consumption, and the attitude seems to shift between "drinking is bad!" to "everyone gets drunk to have fun!" Caitlin makes Charlie promise her that he will never drink again, but then he does (a few times), and Caitlin is perfectly fine with it and makes excuses for him. Then, when Caitlin is pregnant, Charlie has her drink also. ... Yes. Drinking alcohol while pregnant. Nine months pregnant, I believe. Now, having Caitlin's character drink at that moment in the story may be a key part of the original Chinese story (because it is kind of a key part of the plot), but I'd be curious to know whether Caitlin's character was pregnant in the original story or not. Caitlin also gets on a plane and flies very, very late in her pregnancy. Oh, and since Caitlin practices traditional Chinese medicine, she's also treating hundreds of patients for a deadly ancient disease that is destroying the world's population. And she's doing this while pregnant also, apparently with no concern about the disease transferring to her or her unborn child.

Aside from this epidemic (and the fact that Caitlin has decided that Charlie can never know she really is, and that she must hide the supernatural powers she possesses from her husband), Charlie and Caitlin's love is also tested by a supernatural enforcement agency that has been following Caitlin for some time. One of their agents, James, gets to know Charlie and teaches him all about their weapons, including the Magic Gun (or MG) and the Magic Dynamite (or MD). And yes, those are the actual names of the weapons. James is seeking revenge for his murdered wife, and later the head of the agency, Mr. Bevis, is seeking revenge of his own. There are also vampires. There is just kind of a lot going on here all at once.

But there were some parts of the book that I did enjoy. I thought the prologue was quite well done. It read like a fable, like an ancient myth told and retold over centuries. I was hooked there. And some parts of the final fight scene with Caitlin and Alice up against the supernatural agency's men were pretty exciting and read kind of like an epic battle scene. I kind of wish the whole story had been set in the past, so that the author's talents with writing historical scenes and fantastic battle scenes could have been used a little more strongly and a little more often throughout the book.

I've read that English is not the author's first language. If this is true, I think the author did a great job of essentially translating a story that is very well known and important in his own culture into a story for an audience with a very different language and culture. He states in the author's notes at the end:
"Due to my literary ability, this attempt may only be able to present a fraction of the original legend's charm; however, I do hope it will open a window to let readers having a glimpse of Chinese culture."
I may have been frustrated with grammatical and structural issues and with some aspects of the plot, but in this, in presenting readers with a glimpse of Chinese culture, I think the author succeeded. I had never heard of this story before so I'm glad that I was introduced to it, and I am interested in reading the original or traditional version of it to see what the author changed or recreated for Last Kiss in Venice.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Last Kiss in Venice is currently available for free on Amazon
Be sure to double-check the price before you download!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

New Release Round-Up: April 22-28, 2013

Young Adult

by Josin L. McQuein

Release date: April 23, 2013
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 400
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Suggested tags: young adult, dystopia, thriller

First in the Arclight series. From Goodreads:
"No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be.

The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it.

When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?

The Rules
by Stacey Kade

Release date: April 23, 2013
Available as: hardcover, ebook
Pages: 416
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Suggested tags: young adult, science fiction, aliens

First in the Project Paper Doll series. From Goodreads:
"1. Never trust anyone.

2. Remember they are always searching.

3. Don’t get involved.

4. Keep your head down.

5. Don’t fall in love.

Five simple rules. Ariane Tucker has followed them since the night she escaped from the genetics lab where she was created, the result of combining human and extraterrestrial DNA. Ariane’s survival—and that of her adoptive father—depends on her ability to blend in among the full-blooded humans in a small Wisconsin town, to hide in plain sight at her high school from those who seek to recover their lost (and expensive) “project.”

But when a cruel prank at school goes awry, it puts her in the path of Zane Bradshaw, the police chief’s son and someone who sees too much. Someone who really sees her. After years of trying to be invisible, Ariane finds the attention frightening—and utterly intoxicating. Suddenly, nothing is simple anymore, especially not the rules...

Other YA new releases for this week:

Middle Grade

House of Secrets
by Chris Columbus & Ned Vizzini

Release date: April 23, 2013
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 496
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Suggested tags: middle grade, fantasy

First in the House of Secrets series. From Goodreads:
"The Walker kids had it all: loving parents, a big house in San Francisco, all the latest video games . . . but everything changed when their father lost his job as a result of an inexplicable transgression. Now the family is moving into Kristoff House, a mysterious place built nearly a century earlier by Denver Kristoff, a troubled writer with a penchant for the occult.

Suddenly the siblings find themselves launched on an epic journey into a mash-up world born of Kristoff’s dangerous imagination, to retrieve a dark book of untold power, uncover the Walker family’s secret history and save their parents . . . and maybe even the world.

Other Middle Grade new releases for this week: