Sunday, June 29, 2014

In My Mailbox (72)

Bought from
Nana Cracks the Case!
by Kathleen Lane, Cabell Harris & Sarah Horne

Nana is not your ordinary grandma. She never wears cloppy shoes, drinks prune juice, or worries about slippery surfaces. Eufala and Bog's nana would much rather join the circus, work as a backhoe operator, or maybe become a detective. Which is exactly what happens in this very funny chapter book. When Nana answers an ad in the local newspaper for a detective, she arrives at the police department just in time to investigate the theft of one entire case of delicious Yumdums candy. Can one little old lady find a way to save the day and stop the candy thief from striking again?

Freebie from
The Deepest Cut
by J. A. Templeton

Sixteen-year-old Riley Williams has been able to see ghosts since the car crash that took her mother’s life and shattered her family. Guilt-ridden over the belief that she’s somehow responsible for her mom’s death, Riley is desperate to see her mother’s elusive spirit to gain her forgiveness.

When her father moves the family to Scotland so they can all start over, Riley believes her life couldn’t get worse––that is until the ghost of nineteen-year-old Ian MacKinnon catches her purposely cutting herself. An uneasy truce quickly turns into friendship, and soon Riley’s falling hard for Ian.

Riley believes her gift could help Ian end the curse that has kept him tied to the land for centuries, but that would mean letting him go forever and she’s not sure she is strong enough to do that. As if her life wasn’t complicated enough, the spirit of the woman who killed Ian returns and she’ll stop at nothing to keep Riley from helping Ian find eternal peace.

Freebie from Kobo:
Wool Omnibus (Silo #1-5)
by Hugh Howey

This is the story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.

Freebie from SYNC AudioFile:
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
by Matthew Quick

How would you spend your birthday if you knew it would be your last?

Eighteen-year-old Leonard Peacock knows exactly what he'll do. He'll say goodbye.

Not to his mum - who he calls Linda because it annoys her - who's moved out and left him to fend for himself. Nor to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing the unthinkable. But to his four friends: a Humphrey-Bogart-obsessed neighbour, a teenage violin virtuoso, a pastor's daughter and a teacher.

Most of the time, Leonard believes he's weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he's not. He wants to thank them, and say goodbye.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?  Let me know in the comments!

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Weekly Recap - June 22-28, 2014

Here's what I blogged about over the last seven days:

Sunday - I shared what I got In My Mailbox.  I got one e-book and a couple of audiobook freebies.

Tuesday - I participated in the Top Ten Tuesday meme.  This week was all about trends on book covers.  I might have gone a little overboard with the pictures...

Thursday - I went Booking Through Thursday.  This week's topic was anticipation.

Also on Thursday, I finally gave up and officially rated Splintered by A. G. Howard as a DNF.  It just wasn't the book for me.  I have too many other books I want to read to spend time struggling with something I'm just not enjoying!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review - Splintered (DNF)

Splintered (Splintered #1)
by A. G. Howard
Date: 2013
Publisher: Amulet
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 384
Format: e-book

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.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is not a book that I expected to DNF.  But here we are.  I realized it was just not going to work between me and Splintered when I'd spent days avoiding my e-reading app just so I wouldn't have to read any more of the book.  The way things were going, my rating probably would have been one ladybug... two, tops.  I know that this is book has generally been well received.  But I just didn't get it.

There are a few good things about Splintered.  First, it has an amazing cover that accurately portrays the mood of the story.  And the girl actually looks like the main character!  Second, the writing itself isn't uniformly terrible.  It didn't trip me up with clumsy phrases and grammatical errors.  And I really liked the opening paragraph:

I've been collecting bugs since I was ten; it's the only way I can stop their whispers.  Sticking a pin through the gut of an insect shuts it up pretty quick.

That hooked me right away and made me want to keep reading.  Unfortunately, it kind of went downhill from there.  We're introduced to Alyssa's weepy father, her insane mother (and her unrealistic asylum), her bitchy nemesis, and her next-door neighbour, Jeb.  I had problems with Jeb.  I think readers are supposed to find him hot.  He's a reformed bad-boy turned artist.  Unfortunately, he's also extremely controlling, to the point that he seems to think he's Alyssa's second father... and she still manages to crush on him.  I'm sorry, but protective friend is one thing; controlling father figure is another.  And it's not hot.

Then there was the editing.  Homophone slip-ups are bordering on excusable ("Yeah, he's been on a real role lately.") but outright misspellings ("theif") are definitely not.  Seriously?  It was published in 2013 and it's an e-book.  How hard is it to run it through a spellchecker?  (Apparently, pretty hard.)

The beginning of the end for me was when Alyssa, desperate to get to London, steals a wad of cash from her enemy's purse... with barely a hint of regret or guilt.  The message seemed to be that it's okay because Taelor is a bitch.  Somehow, I don't think that excuse would hold up in court.

Things had just started to pick up when I stopped at 25%, but the damage was already done.  I just don't care what happens.  I don't care about the mysterious winged boy (who's probably some other potential love interest, introduced so that there can be a love triangle and Alyssa can make some more bad and/or morally questionable decisions).  I don't really care if Alyssa breaks the curse and saves her mother from having her brain fried with ECT.  When a book makes you stop caring... it's time to quit.

So, in the final analysis, the reasons why I didn't finish Splintered are as follows:
  • typos
  • unlikeable main character
  • controlling father love interest
  • boredom

Booking Through Thursday (31)

Booking Through Thursday asks:

Do you still get excited about new books as you did when you were little? In general? New books in particular, like from a favorite author? Or do you look at all new, unread books with the same level of anticipation?

If I'm being perfectly honest, I don't really get excited about new books at all anymore.  I mean, I'm excited when I get them, because it's always nice to have new things to read... but I don't really go crazy with anticipation or fangirlish glee.  I've been disappointed too many times, and often with books I was really looking forward to... so I guess I've gotten a bit jaded.

When I was younger, I read a lot of series books (e.g., The Baby-Sitters Club, Sleepover Friends, Sweet Valley Twins, etc.).  New installments were released regularly.  It was cool to be able to have something to look forward to.  Plus, you pretty much knew that you were going to like the book (because they were all kind of the same)!  Even then, though, I don't remember getting overly anticipatory.  If you missed one, you could always pick it up later and not have missed anything.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Cover Elements I Like/Dislike

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Cover Elements I Like/Dislike:

Girls in Pretty Dresses
  Die For Me by Amy Plum
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

Sometimes this type of cover works for me, and sometimes it doesn't.  In general, I like these covers better if the girl is facing me.  I don't find staring at someone's back (even if they are wearing a really pretty dress) very engaging.  Other examples of these pretty-dress covers include Dragonswood by Janet Lee Carey, Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, The Luxe by Anna Godbersen, and Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George.

Illustrated & Painted Covers

100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson
The Raging Quiet by Sherryl Jordan
Savvy by Ingrid Law
Wrapped by Jennifer Bradbury

I don't see an awful lot of this type of cover in YA, which is a shame.  There are so many styles a cover artist could choose from.  Here, we've got everything from what looks like Romanticism (The Raging Quiet) to stylized Impressionism (Savvy) and even one that could be right out of a comic book (Wrapped).  Other examples of illustrated covers include The Dust of 100 Dogs by A. S. King, The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, The Remarkable & Very True Story of Lucy & Snowcap by H. M. Bouwman, and A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine.

Holding Hands
The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong
I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

I like this element on book covers.  Often, the hands are holding and highlighting an object that's important to the story.  Other times, the hands are more symbolic and they might not be holding anything at all.  As much as I dislike Twilight as a novel, I do have to admit that it has a beautiful and striking cover; it's what led me to pick up the book in the library in the first place!  For some other "handy" covers, check out The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black, Gossamer by Lois Lowry, The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle, and Miss Spitfire by Sarah Miller.

Partial Faces
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
Crewel by Gennifer Albin
The Other Side of the Island by Allegra Goodman
The Reckoning by Kelley Armstrong

This style of cover is used a lot, especially in YA.  I think we may be nearing the time when people are going to be getting tired of it.  I had plenty more of these covers to choose from, and it was difficult to pick just four as an example!  A few others are Breathless by Lurlene McDaniel, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, The Good Braider by Terry Farish, and The Lost Crown by Sarah Miller.  Personally, I don't have a strong opinion either way.  Sometimes I like these... sometimes I don't.

Legs & Feet
11 Birthdays by Wendy Mass
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes
Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

Now that I think about it, this is kind of a strange one.  Why are there so many books with legs and feet on the covers?  With books like Cinder (or any retelling of "Cinderella", for that matter) it makes sense.  But for the rest of them?  It's kind of weird.  And these aren't the only books with leggy covers.  Some other examples include Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez, The Dark Divine by Bree Despain, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, and Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff.

Part of the Story
A Certain Slant of Light by Laura Whitcomb
Odette's Secrets by Maryann Macdonald
Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson
Surrender by Sonya Hartnett

These covers provide a snapshot of what happened in the book.  Not every book so prominently displays part of its plot on the front cover.  It's kind of nice to find books that do.  A few others are Jolted: Newton Starker's Rules for Survival by Arthur Slade, The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas, Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore, and You Wish by Mandy Hubbard.

Character Covers
The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson
Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

These covers can work really well... if they're accurate.  As pretty as the cover for The Explosionist is, the girl looks nothing like Sophie (if I recall correctly, she had straight hair that was cut in a short bob).  The covers for the other three are pretty accurate, though; you can tell that effort was put into representing the characters correctly.  Some other nice covers that incorporate visual portrayals of main or major characters are Coffeehouse Angel by Suzanne Selfors, Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, The Lake and the Library by S. M. Beiko, and Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin

The Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

I've always liked silhouettes, so why wouldn't I like them on book covers?  I think they work best when silhouettes of people are used.  For that reason, the cover for The Girl with Glass Feet leaves me kind of cold; there were so many weird things going on in that story that just using weeds and a bird seems kind of boring.  Many of the books that use silhouettes on their covers seem to have paranormal elements (Maggie Stiefvater's Wolves of Mercy Falls series is another example).  But there are a few exceptions, like Richard Castle's Nikki Heat series, which are mysteries.  A couple of other books that use silhouettes on their covers are The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly and The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted.

Absent by Katie Williams
Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Stolen by Lucy Christopher
World After by Susan Ee

With the popularity of angels in fiction right now, I'm surprised I didn't come across more winged covers.  Actually, out of the four covers shown here, only one book, World After, deals with angels.  It's interesting to see the similarities between some of the covers, even if the subject matter is entirely different.  Other winged examples include The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson, Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire, Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog, and Wings by Aprilynne Pike.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
More Than This by Patrick Ness
Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

I think this one is quite telling about how books are marketed to readers.  With the exception of The Hunger Games, the other three books are written by male authors and have male main characters.  Three of the four are dystopian or post-apocalyptic fiction.  All take place in gritty settings.  I'm guessing that most male readers aren't going to pick up a book with a frilly dress on the cover... and so we get covers like this.  Other examples in the same vein include The Always War by Margaret Peterson Haddix, The Compound by S. A. Bodeen, Enclave by Ann Aguirre, and Salt by Maurice Gee.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

In My Mailbox (71)

Bought from
Nobody's Secret
by Michaela MacColl

One day, fifteen-year-old Emily Dickinson meets a mysterious, handsome young man. Surprisingly, he doesn't seem to know who she or her family is. And even more surprisingly, he playfully refuses to divulge his name. Emily enjoys her secret flirtation with Mr. "Nobody" until he turns up dead in her family's pond. She's stricken with guilt. Only Emily can discover who this enigmatic stranger was before he's condemned to be buried in an anonymous grave. Her investigation takes her deep into town secrets, blossoming romance, and deadly danger. Exquisitely written and meticulously researched, this novel celebrates Emily Dickinson's intellect and spunk in a page-turner of a book that will excite fans of mystery, romance, and poetry alike.

Freebie from SYNC AudioFile:
Anne of Green Gables
by L. M. Montgomery

This is a delightful recording of the classic novel, Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, narrated by Colleen Winton. Anne, a young orphan from the fictional community of Bolingbroke, Nova Scotia (based upon the real community of New London), is sent to Prince Edward Island after a childhood spent in strangers' homes and orphanages. Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, siblings in their fifties and sixties, had decided to adopt a boy from the orphanage to help Matthew run their farm. They live at Green Gables, their Avonlea farmhouse on Prince Edward Island. Through a misunderstanding, the orphanage sends Anne Shirley.

Anne is described as bright and quick, eager to please, talkative, and extremely imaginative. She has a pale face with freckles and usually braids her red hair. When asked her name, Anne tells Marilla to call her Cordelia, which Marilla refuses; Anne then insists that if she is to be called Anne, it must be spelled with an e, as that spelling is "so much more distinguished." Marilla at first says the girl must return to the orphanage, but after a few days she decides to let her stay. Marilla feels that she could be a good influence on the girl and had also overheard that another disagreeable woman in town might take Anne in instead.

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You
by Ally Carter

The Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women is a fairly typical all-girls school - that is, it would be if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses, but it's really a school for spies. Cammie Morgan is a second-generation Gallagher Girl, and by her sophomore year she's already fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways (one of which involves a piece of uncooked spaghetti). But the one thing the Gallagher Academy hasn't prepared her for is what to do when she falls for a boy who thinks she's an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, and track him through town without his ever being the wiser - but can she have a relationship with a regular boy who can never know the truth about her? Cammie may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, she's beginning her most dangerous mission - falling in love.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?  Let me know in the comments!

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Weekly Recap - Jun 15-21, 2014

Here's what I blogged about over the last seven days:

Sunday - I shared what I got In My Mailbox.  I got one free audiobook this week.

I also reviewed The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare by M. G. Buehrlen and gave it four ladybugs.  I'm looking forward to the sequel!

With that book, I also completed the 2014 Reading Challenge I set for myself.  I guess I should have been a bit more ambitious!

Tuesday - I participated in the Top Ten Tuesday meme.  This week we listed the top ten books on our TBR lists.  I have way more than ten books in my TBR pile; it was hard to choose!

It was also my birthday, and my sister gave me a gift card to Indigo.  So the TBR pile will probably be growing again...

Thursday - I went Booking Through Thursday.  This week, we discussed our favourite book format(s).

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Booking Through Thursday (30)

Booking Through Thursday asks:

All other things being equal, what is your favorite format for reading? Hardcover? Paperback? New book? Old book? Leather-bound first edition? E-book?

A few years ago, I probably would have said that a new hardcover was my favourite format for reading... as long as it didn't have deckle edges; I really dislike those.

Now, though, my favourite format is e-book in PDF, with its page-to-page equivalence to printed books.  I'm not crazy about how most Kindle and EPUB books are formatted, with "locations" or a certain number of characters determining the page count.  It's something I still haven't gotten used to.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR List

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Books On My Summer TBR List.  Ahh, the good ol' TBR list.  Mine has gotten away from me as of late, with so many freebies and discounted titles filling up my e-reader.  But there are some that I definitely want to get to sooner rather than later.  I doubt I'll get through ten books this summer (I've only read thirteen books so far this year), but these are the ones that are at the top of my list:

Days of Blood & Starlight and Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor - I don't actually have these books, but the library does.  I'm hoping to get my hands on them sometime this summer.  I really want to finish this series!

Feed by M. T. Anderson - It's an award winner, and I've had pretty good luck with those lately.  It sounds a bit different from what I usually choose to read, but interesting nonetheless.

Fracture by Megan Miranda - I'd never heard of it, but the story sounds pretty interesting.  The blurb says it's for fans of Before I Fall (which I loved) and If I Stay (which I hated)... so we'll see!

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout - I picked this up on a recommendation from Amanda (from Of Spectacles and Books).  The giggle-worthy cover always made me ignore the book whenever I saw it, but the story sounds like it might actually be fun.  I haven't read anything with aliens in a long time...

Plain Kate by Erin Bow - This book has been sitting on my e-reader forever.  I keep hearing how good it is, and yet it keeps getting pushed to the bottom of my TBR pile.  I'm hoping I'll get a chance to read it this summer.

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani - I've read mixed reviews about this one, though on the whole it seems to be pretty well received.  I want to read more than just YA this summer, so a little MG won't hurt.

The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors - I have to have at least one fairytale retelling this summer!  I know Suzanne Selfors is a fairly solid writer, so I'm hoping to enjoy this story (which is apparently a take on "The Ugly Duckling").

A Tale Dark & Grimm by Adam Gidwitz - Here's one more MG title, and it also takes its inspiration from fairytales.  I've heard good things about this one, too.

Timebound by Rysa Walker - I recently read a time travel novel that I enjoyed, so I thought, Why not go for another?  This one hasn't been in my TBR pile for very long, but it looks interesting enough that I want to read it soon!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Review - The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare

The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare (Alex Wayfare #1)
by M. G. Buehrlen
Date: 2014
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 416
Format: e-book

For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she's really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World's Fair.

But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can't explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal's office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.

It isn't until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren't really visions. Alex is a Descender - capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.

Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn't want Alex to travel again. Ever.

And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from this one.  Time travel and reincarnation can be done right... or they can be done disastrously.  This book fell somewhere in the middle.  I think part of that boiled down to the fact that there are still a lot of unanswered questions... especially about the reincarnation aspect.

I liked the characters, for the most part.  Alex is a bit different from the typical YA heroine, in that she's not annoyingly beautiful and perfect (while insisting that she's not with false modesty).  Alex is kind of a withdrawn nerd, with no friends to speak of, who cares more about her family than her social life.  At the beginning of the book, she's not doing too well at school, but it's not because she isn't smart.  She's actually kind of a tech whiz.  I thought that was different and refreshing.  The other characters are intriguing, too.  I really liked Blue (the blue-eyed boy mentioned in the synopsis), even though he was almost too perfect at times... though his adorableness does help set up the star-crossed love thing rather nicely, and the reader can fall in love with him along with Alex, leading to some painful heartstring tugging.

My main complaint with this book (other than the dismal Kindle edition with no italics in a book that has characters speaking in a foreign language at times) was that it had a number of historical inaccuracies.  When Alex traveled back in time to 1927, she ended up hiding in a Dumpster (which wasn't invented until 1935) and watching someone use paper napkins (which also didn't come into use in the U.S. until the 1930s).  When she traveled back to Ohio in 1961, she ran across a sign at a restaurant that pointed to entrances for "whites" and "coloreds" (despite the fact that the Ohio Civil Rights Act of 1959 prohibited discriminating based on race in public places).  I'm not a huge history buff, so I didn't know these things off the top of my head, but they struck me as odd so I Googled them.  I found it annoying that I could find these discrepancies in a few seconds, but the author couldn't make sure her facts were right.

Overall, though, I couldn't put this book down.  I was sucked in by the story, so I was able to overlook some clunky (or just plain incorrect) bits of writing.  It took some suspension of disbelief to get past the time travel and reincarnation aspects of the story, but I'm hoping some of those things will have more explanation in future books.  And, okay, I just have to say it.  That ending... seriously?  Seriously?  (Spoiler alert: it's a cliffhanger.  I was expecting a lot more answers and resolution than what we were actually given.  I wanted to see if my hunches and suspicions were right.  Now I have to wait until 2015 to find out!)

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 3/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.57 out of 5

In My Mailbox (70)

Freebie from SYNC AudioFile:
Code Name Verity
by Elizabeth Wein

Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.

When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

Harrowing and beautifully written, Elizabeth Wein creates a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other. Code Name Verity is an outstanding novel that will stick with you long after the last page.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?  Let me know in the comments!

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Weekly Recap - June 8-14, 2014

Here's what I blogged about over the last seven days:

Sunday - I shared what I got In My Mailbox.  I got one e-book and one free audiobook this week.

Tuesday - I participated in the Top Ten Tuesday meme and shared the top ten four books I've read so far this year.

Wednesday - I reviewed Neverland by Anna Katmore and gave it one ladybug.

Thursday - I participated in the Booking Through Thursday meme.  This week's topic was about explicit details.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Booking Through Thursday (29)

Booking Through Thursday asks:

How do you feel about explicit detail in your reading? Whether language, sex, violence, situations and so on … does it bother you? Faze you at all? Or do you just read everything without it bothering you?

R-rated stuff (language, sex, violence, situations, etc.) doesn't usually bother me.  If it's really extreme, I might put the book down; I do have my limits (especially when it comes to gore).  But it's not like I'll go out of my way to avoid a book just because I've heard it has bad language or violent scenes.

That said, it does bother me when these R-rated things appear in places where it's not appropriate or where I'm not expecting it (because of the genre or reading level of the book).  For example, the last book I read had lots of kissing and an implied sexual encounter... in a retelling of Peter Pan with a cute cover that might attract middle-grade readers.  That's the sort of situation where explicit details bother me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Review - Neverland

Neverland (Adventures in Neverland #1)
by Anna Katmore
Date: 2014
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 299
Format: e-book

Why is there a boy who doesn’t want to grow up? How can an apple start the sweetest romance in fairytale history? And what does a ruthless pirate have to do with it all?

Angelina McFarland loves reading fairytales. But she never dreamed of falling right into one herself. That’s exactly what happens when she slips on her balcony and a flying Peter Pan catches her mid-fall.

Ending up in Neverland where no one seems to age and laws of nature are out of control, Angel has no idea how to get home. Worse, the ruthless Captain Hook captures her and keeps her trapped on his ship, the Jolly Roger, where she gets caught between the lines of a timeless battle. But the more time Angel spends with the captain, the more she sees beneath his ruthless façade.

As Angel desperately tries to find a way to return to her real life, she discovers a train ticket to London in her pocket. It won’t be any help in getting off the island, but as her memory fades away the longer she stays, this is all she has left to remind her of her former life and why she can’t give up trying.

Or is staying in Neverland forever the better choice after all?

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Foiled by a Goodreads rating again!  I really wanted to like this Peter Pan retelling, and I thought I would.  The reviews are, for the most part, good.  But, once again, I'm left scratching my head and wondering if I missed something.  How can something this bad generate so much praise?

First, I have to give credit where credit is due.  The author had the nugget of a good idea here.  She switched things up a little and gave Peter and Hook a bit of a different relationship than what we're used to seeing.  It could have been a really interesting dynamic... but some of her other choices really didn't work.

In this version of the story, we've got a nineteen-year-old Captain Hook (presumably so he can be a suitable insta-love interest for the seventeen-year-old heroine).  I found that pretty unbelievable.  And then, to make matters worse, Hook isn't even the ruthless one-handed pirate we all know and love.  He's a watered-down, touchy-feely teenager who's so sexy that Angel can't stop thinking about him.  Why bother using these characters as a basis for the story if you're going to strip them of everything that makes them who they are?

After the first few chapters from Angel's point of view, we're treated to switching points of view between Angel and Hook.  The problem is that they both speak exactly the same way, down to using similar metaphors.  The only difference is that Hook swears constantly.  And these are not the swears you'd expect from a pirate.  These are full-on, can't-air-during-primetime swears that sound more like they're coming out of a 21st-century teenager's mouth than a 19th-century pirate's.  I found it to be a pretty lazy way of differentiating the characters, and when Hook wasn't swearing, I kept forgetting whose point of view I was reading; that's how similar they were.

There were also so many, many problems with... well, everything.  Angel is supposed to have lived in London, England all her life... but she talks about eating fries and wearing tennis shoes and a sweater.  I'm not English, but I'm pretty sure she would've been talking about chips, trainers, and a jumper.  The Lost Boys have things like zippers (is there a zipper factory in Neverland?) and Peter Pan even wears a t-shirt with a pocket on the chest (maybe they have The Gap, too).  Then there were the things that just didn't make physical sense... like when Angel steals a knife and hides it in her pocket:

I don't take another minute to think, just a moment to hide the silver dagger in the side pocket of my dress.  It's too long and the tip of the blade stands out, so I cover it by sliding my hand into the pocket, too.

No, she didn't cut her hand to ribbons.  I really don't know how she managed not to unintentionally kill herself since she tried to stow a knife in her pocket with the blade facing out and then stuck her hand in there as well!

The author is Austrian, and the writing is actually not all that bad in places (especially considering English might not be her first language).  But there were a few slip-ups, such as when Angel looked simultaneously forlorn and full of hope.  I'm not sure if that's even possible.  The writing was also very, very casual in places.  At times, I felt like I was reading something like a blog rather than a book.  I don't like seeing the word "helluva" in fiction unless the character's unique voice calls for it; this particular one's didn't.

My biggest complaint, however, was that for much of the last quarter of the book, it's nothing but making out.  Angel and Hook can't keep their hands off each other.  It's tongues and fingers and touching and groping and nestling and nuzzling, all culminating in something much more adult than the cute little cover suggests.  I didn't find it romantic or titillating.  Actually, I found it all pretty awkward because I felt like I was reading a fantasy that someone had written in their diary.

While the spark for a really interesting Peter Pan retelling was there, it was, unfortunately, just that: a spark.  Weak writing, weak characters, and a weak plot left me frustrated.  Even the cliffhanger ending doesn't make me want to read more.

Plot: 1/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 1/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 2/5
Originality: 1/5
Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.43 out of 5

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Four Books I've Read So Far This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's topic is Top Ten Books I've Read So Far This Year.  I've barely read more than ten books since the beginning of the year!  A couple of them have been real stinkers, so I'm not about to include them in a top ten list.  Instead, I've listed the four books that have come out on top.  Two of them are historical novels written in free verse.  The other two are contemporary novels set in Australia.  I certainly surprised myself; I thought I wasn't a huge fan of historical or contemporary!  Here are my top three reads of 2014 (so far):

Surrender by Sonya Hartnett

I gave this novel, told in flashbacks, 4 ladybugs out of 5.
Read my review here.

The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle

I gave this historical novel about a Cuban poet, written in free verse, 4.14 ladybugs out of 5.
Read my review here.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

I gave this historical novel about the Dust Bowl, written in free verse, 4.43 ladybugs out of 5.
Read my review here.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

I gave this novel, written in epistolary format, 4.57 ladybugs out of 5.
Read my review here.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

In My Mailbox (69)

Bought from
by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Starting over sucks.

When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I'd pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring... until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.

And then he opened his mouth.

Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something... unexpected happens.

The hot alien living next door marks me.

You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon's touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I'm getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.

If I don't kill him first, that is.

Freebie from SYNC AudioFile:
All Our Yesterdays
by Cristin Terrill

What would you change?

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend, James, since they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it... at least, not as the girl she once was. Em and Marina are in a race against time that only one of them can win.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

What was in your "mailbox" this week?  Let me know in the comments!

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Weekly Recap - June 1-7, 2014

Here's what I blogged about over the last seven days:

Thursday - I participated in the Booking Through Thursday meme, where we discussed to what lengths we'd go to obtain a book!

Saturday - I reviewed The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater and gave it three ladybugs.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Review - The Dream Thieves

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2)
by Maggie Stiefvater
Date: 2013
Publisher: Scholastic
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 360
Format: e-book
Source: library

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This is the second installment in The Raven Cycle.  After finishing the first book, I sort of wanted to keep reading.  After finishing the second book, I sort of don't.  Can someone just let me know if Gansey bites the dust in the end?  (I jest, of course.  I hate spoilers as much as the next reader!)

Reading this book was a weird experience.  It was almost like the opposite of déjà vu.  I couldn't remember half of what went on in The Raven Boys, so continued references to events from that book just had me confused.  In addition to that, there were references within The Dream Thieves to events that had previously occurred in that very book... and it was like I hadn't read them at all.  I'm not sure if it's because of the style of writing in the book; it's technically sound and quite pretty, but it's also rather detached because it's multiple third-person limited-omnicient... so we bounce around between most of the characters and nearly get literary whiplash.  I almost wish that Stiefvater had limited herself to one character point of view per book... but then, I'm not sure she could have told this particular story, since it's so complex.

It also seemed like I was reading about entirely different characters than those in the first book.  I don't remember Blue being so annoying in The Raven Boys, or Gansey so childish, or Adam so mean.  Ronan was different, too, though in a better way (since I really disliked him in the first book and now I only sort of dislike him).

Overall, the impression I got from reading this book was that it was an exercise in character building.  The story is complex, but the pacing is slow for much of the book, which makes it seem like there isn't much of a plot.  Like The Raven Boys, the story is pretty heavily weighted toward the back end; in fact, I almost gave up numerous times throughout the first quarter of the book.  But I kept going and stuff started happening and then the action stopped just as we're hit with a shocking revelation that will be relevant in the next book.  I think I'm seeing a pattern here...

I was not terribly impressed with The Dream Thieves as far as the story went.  It seemed like a lot of stuff happened, complete with convenient contrivances and mentions of so many characters I could never keep them all straight (who the heck is Jimi?).  However, Maggie Stiefvater is a decent writer and when I'm reading one of her books I can usually let the snarky little editor in my head put down her red pen and take a nap.  Sometimes things do get a little overly wordy, but at least there's no incorrect grammar to make me want to tear the book into tiny little shreds.

Despite what I said before, I might keep reading this series... if I can manage to remember what happened in The Dream Thieves by the time Blue Lily, Lily Blue is released.  The books aren't particularly bad, especially if you don't mind a leisurely pace and a story that takes many installments to tell.  At the moment, though, I'm craving something that has a beginning, a middle, and an end that doesn't require thousands of pages and years of waiting to get through!

Plot: 2/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing: 4/5
Editing: 5/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Booking Through Thursday (28)

Booking Through Thursday asks:

What’s the furthest you’ve ever gone to get something to read? (Think extremes as well as miles—wrangling a ride from a stranger to a distant bookstore just to get the newest book from a favorite author?) If your absolute favorite author (living or dead) was coming out with a brand new book tomorrow, how far would you go, what would you do to get a copy?

I don't think I'd go very far at all.  I don't have to be the first person to read something, so I'm usually content to wait until I can easily access a book.  Putting books on my wish list and reserving them at the library... that's about the extent of it.

That said, I have bought books from overseas sites (because the books weren't available in North America at that time).  But that's about as "extreme" as I've gotten.  I didn't actually go to England or Australia to pick the books up; now that would have been extreme!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Weekly Recap - May 25-31, 2014

Here's what I blogged about over the last seven days:

Sunday - I posted the contents of my "mailbox".  I got four new books this week, including three from the library.  I really hope I get a chance to finish them before they're due back!

I also participated in the Tea Party Blog Tag that is being hosted by The Notebook Sisters in celebration of their third blogoversary.

Tuesday - I participated in the Top Ten Tuesday meme.  This week was a freebie, which meant we got to pick our own topic.  I chose to list the top ten dirty old men; it's not like there's a shortage of them in YA!

Thursday - I reviewed Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse and gave it four ladybugs.