Monday, June 30, 2014

Hedgie's Must Reads: June 2014

It's that time of the month again: wrap-up time! June was a terrific month for reading; I got a lot done on my TBR list, and it makes me so happy! I was prepared for the author event on June 19 in time, and I read a bunch of other books I wanted to read, and then some, and yes - I'm very proud of myself for everything I read. Oddly enough, I had no "worst reads of the month" this time through! It was, overall, a very good reading month!

June Reading Wrap-Up

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne (3/5)
Book #1 in a trilogy. When a massive hailstorm hits, a school bus full of high schoolers and middle graders is forced to take refuge in a super store. And as disaster after disaster piles up, turning the world in to an apocalyptic landscape, the teens must learn how to survive, while still battling old high school grudges. While I didn't come to care for any of the characters, I did enjoy the overall story. I wanted to know what would happen next. It focuses a bit too much on teen angst and other high school stuff, but overall it was a quick, relatively enjoyable weekend read. Guy-read, eighteen-and-up, fans of post-apocalyptic fiction will probably enjoy this.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (3/5)
On a privately owned island, four very privileged teens have spent every summer together. They are the Liars. But one summer, something happens. Something that will change everything. I can't say much more about this book, because it really is one that you just have to go into not knowing anything about it. I didn't become attached to any characters, but this was a book totally made by the plot twist and the narration style. It's a very quick read, and it will have you hooked the moment you read it, because you will have to know what's going on! Not usually a contemporary reader, I found this one entertaining. Girl-read, sixteen-and-up, fans of contemporary with a twist.

The Stolen Herd by K. Madill (3/5)
Book #1 in a series. Mandamus is the last of his herd, the others having been enslaved by the queen's army. Now, he must travel far to fulfill an ancient prophecy, before the queen destroys everyone. This is a really fun Middle Grade/Early Teen animal fiction/fantasy read. The side characters are probably my favorites, though the protagonists are definitely likable as well. The world is interesting, though it's hard to tell what sort of time period it is supposed to be patterned after. And this being Book #1, there's a lot of setup for Book #2. Girl-and-boy read, ten-and-up, great for fans of horse fiction and fantasy.

Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne (3/5)
Book #2 in the Monument 14 trilogy. The kids of Monument 14 have split up. Niko and a large group, including Alex, are traveling to Denver Airport, where people are being evacuated. And Dean and Astrid have stayed behind, worried that the toxic air outside will turn them against their companions. Neither decision is without its consequences. Sky on Fire is more exciting than Monument 14, but I also wish it had been longer; that more had happened. I liked Alex well enough, but I didn't care about anyone else. Guy-read, eighteen-and-up, fans of post-apocalyptic and disaster stories will love this one.

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu (3/5)
Everyone knows that Alice slept with two guys in one night at Elaine's party. It's also a well-known fact that the star quarterback died in a car crash because he was sexting Alice. But is it really the truth? Four high school students - Elaine herself, Alice's former best friend, the next-door neighbor boy, and the survivor of the crash - tell all they know about Alice. But Alice is the only one who knows the truth about herself. If it hadn't ended the way it did, I wouldn't have cared for this book all that much. But it was short, it covered some interesting things, and in the end, I felt bad for Alice. Girl-read, eighteen-and-up, fans of contemporary that discuss important issues and it's all bubbles and gum.

June's Best Reads

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (4/5)
Book #2 in The Grisha trilogy. With the Darkling still determinedly on her heels, Alina and Mal are forced to return to Ravka and ally themselves with Nikolai, the younger prince who has his country's interests at heart, but may not be entirely trustworthy. And when Alina learns that the Darkling can now wield a new and terrible power, she must search out the companion amplifiers to her one, so that she can defeat him. But her quest may come at a price. I loved this one even more than the first, except for Mal. Mal was annoying. But I loved Nikolai, the world building is still awesome, and Alina becomes a stronger protagonist. Girl-read, seventeen-and-up, fans of fantasy!

Jackaby by William Ritter (5/5)
The first in a planned series. Abigail Rook has always longed for adventure, so when she packs her bags and leaves her home in England, she's determined to find it at all costs. Her travels take her to New England, where she meets the peculiar and brilliant R. F. Jackaby - investigator of the supernatural, magical, and paranormal. Abigail has no time to settle in as his assistant before they're odd investigating a very peculiar murder - one that Jackaby is convinced wasn't committed by entirely human hands. My new favorite book - and consequently my new favorite series! Sherlock meets Doctor Who - no more need be said! Except that Abigail is awesome! Girl-and-guy read, fourteen-and-up, great for fans of the above!

The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove (4/5)
Book #1 in The Mapmakers Trilogy. It is 1891 and the continents of the world have been flung far and wide by the Great Disruption. Not only that, but each continent has also landed itself in another time period! When Sophia's renowned cartologist uncle Shadrack is kidnapped by strange men with grappling hooks and scars on their faces - called Sandmen - she and a boy she hardly knows, Theo, set out to find him. But the villains are also after Sophia; she has something they want. I just absolutely loved this book. The world is amazing, though it didn't always make sense. The characters were great, and the world building was blended in very well with the story telling. Girl-and-guy read, thirteen-and-up, fans of fantasy, alternate reality, and just weird worlds will love this!

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (4/5)
Laurel is given an assignment for her high school English class: write a letter to a dead famous person. But Laurel doesn't choose someone like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln; she chooses Kurt Cobain, because her dead sister May loved him. Soon, Laurel finds herself writing several letters to more than just Kurt Cobain. And as she details her life in these letters, she finds she can't turn any of them in. Until, finally, Laurel faces the tragedy that took her sister away - and why she can't forgive May. I didn't dislike this book, but it unsettled me. It talked about a lot of very heavy issues, and it wasn't until the end that I started to really feel rather bad for Laurel. Girl-read, nineteen-and-up, fans of hard contemporary.

The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson (4/5)
A retelling of Tam Lin. Violet Dancey has lost her twin brother to the Civil War, and now her father has joined up, leaving her with her new stepfamily and two troublesome cousins. And then Violet finds a wounded Union soldier in an abandoned lodge. She knows she should hate him, but she can't. But she's not the only one visiting Thomas. Someone has been tending his wounds. But it isn't out of kindness. This is second-best retelling of Tam Lin I have read. The characters are wonderful, the setting is wonderful, and the writing is just magical. Mostly a girl-read, seventeen-and-up, great for fans of Tam Lin, fairy tale retellings, and historical fantasy.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 2014 Book Haul

Book haul time! I was actually, surprisingly good this month - compared to the others. Yes, I bought some unplanned buys, but overall I did really well! Once I bought all of my planned buys, I didn't buy any more books! So proud of myself! That being said, I still bought quite a few. . . . .24, to be exact.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Guest Post: Interpreting Love Triangles

In the world of YA and teen romance, love triangles are a given. Find a YA book that doesn't have a love triangle - or something similar - and I will admit defeat. To be fair, I have read a few YA that don't have love triangles, but I can't think of what they were. ;-) So, with love triangles peppering literature nowadays, how do you go about figuring out how it will turn out for the characters? I've asked my friends Katherine and Hazel to join on this topic! This was very interesting to do, to see the differing opinions - and agreeing ones!

Katherine's Method

I don't abhor all love triangles. If done right, they can add something to the story. But sometimes, the love triangles can be utterly ridiculous (like The Hunger Games. I thought the love triangle was not only stupid, she picked the wrong guy. Peeta's a wuss!!)

I look for a connection between the characters. More than the usual "oh, he's so hot" type of connection. I find that the connection seems to be stronger if the two love interests are childhood friends. Example: Tag and Lucia from Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii and Montgomery and Juliet from The Madman's Daughter. Since there's already an emotional tie between them, the romance tends to flow rather nicely.

There always seems to be two types of boys vying for the heroine's heart: the good boy and the bad boy. Most of the time when I'm reading a book, the angelic guy will win (Peeta from The Hunger Games, Maxon from The Selection). These heroines probably go for the good guy because he is a source of stability, is trustworthy, and is generally a good influence on them.

But psychologically, women tend to go towards the men that are a little bit dangerous (this is what happens when both of your parents majored and minored in psychology and sociology). We like the idea of defying society's expectations by falling in love who is less than savory. This could backfire on the heroine if she's looking for a future with this person. Since he probably is not the most savory of characters, a long lasting romance is not likely to happen.

Hazel's Method

Love Triangles. One of the more famous tropes in YA fiction nowadays. Sometimes it's incredibly hard to find a book without them. Despite popularity and popular belief of the publishers, I know very few readers who actually enjoy a love triangle, apart from readers of sparkly vampire fiction. Today, I'm going to talk about how to spot one. How do you know when a love triangle is going to pop up?

Have you ever picked up a really great sounding book from the library or bookstore, and couldn't wait to read it, only to find that fifty, or even worse, a hundred pages in, you find yourself smack dab in the middle of a raging love triangle? You flip through the book, trying to find out how much this is actually going to effect the plot, check the blurb again to see if there's any indication, and then, when it becomes too much, give up on the book, or just simply finish it and give it a bad review. The worst part is always going into it blind. Not realizing what you're getting into. Sometimes, it's plain enough; it will clearly state that Heroine of the Day meets Boy One and then equally has mixed feelings for Boy Two. Ugh, half the time I will not even pick up a book that has this scenario in the blurb, unless it promises more to the story, or I trust the author not to make it stupid. Unfortunately, sometimes, even my favorite authors do love triangles really badly.

Another indication if a typical love triangle scenario is the childhood sweetheart. Almost never do heroines end up with their childhood sweetheart. Funnily enough, male characters sometimes do, but it's very rare with females. I kind of like the idea of childhood sweethearts myself, because a lot of times their relationship has been built on friendship and not just attraction. I'm one of those people who do not believe that lust and physical attraction do not equal true love and respect. Call me old-fashioned. So often the heroine will be happily dating Boy One, her best friend who has become more over the years, and then all of a sudden comes along Boy Two, the hot bad boy who is so "drop dead gorgeous" they just want to snog all the time. Then that leads to jealousy, and friend problems and nothing good. And that's the part I hate most about love triangle scenarios. Now, sometimes, it will be the opposite. Maybe Bad Boy Two ends up being even too much for the Heroine, and she runs back to Boy One to make it all better. And that's when I have no respect for Boy One anymore because he should know better than to take that girl back.

And then of course there are those books that you know a love triangle is going to serve a purpose. And those I sometimes hate even more because you understand that it is inevitable and you're going to have to go through it to get to the plot but you still hate the thought of having to sit through a whole book of it.

And leading from that, you've got the whole pretend love triangle, too. Maybe the hero or heroine will have to pretend to be in love with someone else, though they really aren't. But you know what will inevitably happen then, right? Just because the hero or heroine doesn't really harbor feelings for this person (or maybe they do??) they significant other obviously doesn't believe it. There's always that moment where it causes drama. And as I said before, the drama is why I hate love triangles so much. And while this kind might serve some sort of purpose, they are still sometimes annoying. Thankfully, though, these always serve some purpose to the plot and can sometimes also be hilarious if done right. If I have to read about any kind of love triangle, this is the one I would choose. It's pretty easy to spot this kind. They usually come about in historical fiction or fairy tale-like stories where the prince or princess or noble person loves someone under their station and are forced to pretend to like or court someone else that their parents etc. choose for them.

Typically if more than two guys show up in a book with a female protagonist and one of them is not her brother, there's going to be a love triangle. This is not always the case, some people are still able to write actual friendship stories without the romance and drama, but it doesn't happen a lot, unfortunately. Most of my examples are with female protagonists. That's because the typical love triangle is with the girl and two guys. Usually the girl doesn't even warrant anyone chasing her, she's such a ditz, but for whatever reason the guys love her. I don't know. Yes, it happens with male protagonists, too, but not so often, and usually they end up choosing the better girl in the end anyway, while the girls sometimes pick the stupid guy.

It's kind of interesting trying to predict how a love triangle will turn out. You can usually tell pretty much by the middle of the book. If Boy One just isn't as awesome as we once thought, then it's probably going to be Boy Two, but sometimes it's Boy Two who goes off the reservation of then you can pretty much tell that even if they end on good terms, they probably won't end up together. Sometimes the heroine is smart and she realizes that she has someone better than Boy Two waiting for her. Sometimes she doesn't.

In any case, while love triangles are often annoying, they can also be entertaining to make fun of and trying to predict how they will turn out.

The Reading Hedgehog's Method

In Young Adult literature nowadays, love triangles are inevitable; they are the relationship norm. With the exception of a handful of titles, I can't think of many YA books that don't have love triangles. So, when you are faced with the traditional "which boy will she pick," how do you go about interpreting the final outcome? Believe it or not, it can be a bit of a process, and my process especially is a very thorough one. There are clues and hints I keep my eye out for, to see who the girl will end up with. I don't, as a general rule, care, but it's still fun to deduce what one can from the clues laid out before the Reader.

The first thing I try to establish is who the Rugged Love Interest and who the Angelic Love Interest is. The Rugged Love Interest (or RLI for short) can mean several things: they can be the bad boy; they can be the "manly" male - the one who has no real social graces, wears Carharts or leather, or is generally rough around the edges; he also usually has a tragic backstory where he was abused by someone and therefore explains his mood swings and sometimes violent rages. Generally, the RLI has black hair, dark eyes, and sometimes a five o'clock shadow. They're the interesting guy; the one that makes the girl feel like she's on fire, that makes her feel scared and intrigued at the same time. The RLI is rarely synonymous with safe - or moral, for that matter. The ALI (Angelic Love Interest) will usually be fair-haired, refined, have a rich and sophisticated upbringing, and sensitive and a gentleman. He's safe, he's dependable.

99% of the time, the girl will choose the RLI. Bad boy is in; rough is in; dangerous and reckless is in. If a guy makes a girl feel this way, that's sexy. That's desirable. Dependable is boring.

Hold on, though; there's lots of examples of RLIs who are not chosen! This is when you have to go into the next stage of analysis. If an RLI is a childhood friend (like Gale from The Hunger Games, or Aspen from The Selection - or even Jacob from Twilight), forget it - the ALI will win. If they knew each other as kids, if there is a romantic attachment established between them before the "new guy" is introduced, the dude has no chance. Yes, there are a few exceptions to this analysis - I never said my method was foolproof. But it's pretty rare.

Another telltale is who does the girl spend the most time with? Let's pull in an example: Maxon, America, and Aspen from The Selection. Maxon is a pretty classic ALI - fair-haired, gentlemanly, rich, sophisticated. Aspen is the RLI - rough around the edges, makes America feel wild and hungry, and Aspen has a bit of a bad boy attitude. However, Aspen is also a childhood friend and "pre-story" established love interest - hence why he doesn't have a chance, even if she is the RLI. Here's another telltale with this love interest: as soon as America gets swept away to become the next princess, she starts to have "moments" with Maxon. You know what I'm talking about: there's that magical "we get each other" moment between the girl and one of the love interests that sends them head over heels in love with each other. This moment comes to define their relationship. If the girl has a "moment" with someone, that pretty much seals who she'll end up with. If she has more than one, oh yes, he's the winner.

An even bigger telltale is if the girl begins her relationship hating one of the guys. America is pretty indifferent to Maxon at first; that changes, of course. Sorry, Aspen; your chances are looking slimmer and slimmer. We meet Aspen at the beginning, an iconic RLI, then suddenly their relationship is torn asunder by America's going to the palace and meeting Prince Maxon. Aspen is pretty much forgotten from this moment onward. And then he reappears - after America and Maxon have had several "moments." The odds are not looking good for Aspen.

So, establish who the RLI and the ALI are. Always remember that whoever is most like the bad boy, he's the RLI. Then, look to see who the childhood friend is. Whether RLI or ALI, he has a less-than-40% chance of winning the girl. Look for "the moment," and look for who the girl spends the most time with. Which love interest do we Readers get to know best? Which love interest makes the girl feel hungry, and which makes her feel safe? The safe one will never win, unless the girl starts the relationship off hating him.

Follow these guidelines and you'll be able to interpret the outcome of the love triangle pretty darn accutaetly. Forget trying to choose a "Team So-and-So." Just look for the clues and sit back and wait to tell everyone, "I knew she would choose him!"

Friday, June 27, 2014

Review: The Mirk and Midnight Hour - Jane Nickerson

The Mirk and Midnight Hour by Jane Nickerson
Genre: YA, fairy tale retelling
Published on March 11, 2014
Published by Knopf
Pages: 384
Read From: 6.15.14 - 6.25.14

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey is left at home in Mississippi while her father fights in the war against the North - a war that has already claimed her twin brother. Grieving and adjusting to life with a new family - a love-crazed stepsister, laudanum-addicted stepmother, and two cousins she doesn't quite know how to handle - Violet feels like a stranger on Scuppernong Farm. 
When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned, vine-shrouded lodge, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy - one of the men who might have killed her own brother - and yet she's drawn to him; their time together, deep in the wild forest, feels enchanted. 
But there's an uneasiness, too: Violet isn't Thomas's only visitor. Someone has been tending to his wounds - keeping him alive - and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn't been out of compassion. Against the dangers of war and the ominous powers of voodoo, Violet fights to protect her home, her family, and the man she's begun to love.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I love, love, love the cover! It sets the right ambiance; all mysterious and surreal and dreamlike.

Characters: I loved Violet. She was sensible and intelligent and practical and just so very relatable. I never once got frustrated with her. She was an awesome protagonist. Her initial dislike for her stepsister Sunny and laudanum-addicted stepmother made absolute sense; it took me awhile to warm up to Sunny. And I appreciated her perceptiveness when it came to Dorian's true character. The other characters were all equally amazing. Like I said, it took me awhile to warm up to Sunny; she was pushy and kind of rude and jealous of Violet at first. But as the story progressed, Sunny showed her better nature, and like Violet I was able to take her as she was. I was intensely suspicious of Dorian the moment he stepped into the story. He was too charming, too apt at slipping into whatever persona he needed depending on what company he kept, and too quick to accept what Violet said about his behavior towards Seeley. I enjoyed hating him. Seeley was an adorable, shy, curious kid; I immediately loved him. Then there's Thomas, the wounded Union soldier. There was nothing to not like about him. Also intelligent, kind, and sensible, I loved him the moment he came into the story. The Mirk and Midnight Hour kind of lacks a villain. There are people with harmful intent, but they're not exactly evil. Even so, they were scary.

The Romance: Violet and Thomas fall in love with each other. In terms of page-length, it doesn't take very long. But a fair amount of time is supposed to have passed in the book, the romance isn't completely rushed. I loved Violet and Thomas together, and I loved their relationship. It felt genuine, deep, and heartfelt. The romance was the weak point in Strands of Bronze and Gold, but it is the strong point in The Mirk and Midnight Hour.

Plot: Violet Dancey lost her twin brother to the War Between the States. And now her father is off to join the rebels, too, leaving her at Scuppernong Farm in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and prim stepsister whom she didn't like as a child. Then her young cousin Seeley comes to live with them, taking Violet's brother's place, and with him comes their older cousin Dorian. Charming, handsome, eligible. Violet doesn't want this new family, but over time she begins to accept them. But then she and Seeley find a wounded Union soldier in an abandoned hunting lodge in the woods. Violet knows she should hate Thomas - he might have very well killed her brother - but as she furthers her acquaintanceship, she finds that she can't. And then it becomes very apparent that she and Seeley are not the only visitors Thomas has. Someone has been healing his wound. But it isn't out of kindness. This is a retelling of the Scottish ballad Tam Lin, which splashes of Cinderella. Tam Lin was never one of my favorite ballads. I liked it well enough, but could never rank it among my favvies. I've read a lot of retellings of it, some good and some rather lame. The Perilous Gard is the best, but The Mirk and Midnight Hour now sits as a strong rival on my list. It was awesome! The Civil War setting worked astonishingly well, and replacing the Fey with voodoo actually added a much, much creepier feel to the whole thing. Let's face it - voodoo is creepy! In a totally awesome way, of course, but it's got to be some of the scariest stuff ever. My biggest complaint with the plot was that it took a little too long for Violet and Seeley to find Thomas. The Author spent a good portion of the book's beginning setting up dynamics with Sunny and Violet, and then the situation with Dorian and Seeley. It all worked in the end; all of this setup fleshed out the characters, the world, the situations. But I did spend a long time just wanting Thomas to show up. This is probably my own impatience and anticipation getting the better of me. And it will probably happen to all of you. But I can't fault the Author for taking the time to let her Readers know her characters and the world. Once we meet Thomas, things really start to pick up with everything. No one is as they seem, things become quite perilous, and so on and so forth. I didn't get bored, even when I was wishing it would introduce Thomas sooner.

Believability: Not really applicable, though the Author's historical details were done quite well.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. Jane Nickerson is a really good writer. She can conjure up vivid images with her stunning descriptions. I was totally swept away by her writing. This book pulsed with voodoo ambiance and richness.

Content: Violet and Thomas almost do it (sort of; it would be a bit of a spoiler if I explained what really happened). But no details are given.

Conclusion: Strands of Bronze and Gold is, so far, my favorite Jane Nickerson book simply because it was so creepy and so vivid. But this is my favorite Tam Lin retelling, and it's just as wonderful as Strands of Bronze and Gold. I have found my new favorite author, without a doubt!

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, seventeen-and-up, fans of fairy tale retellings, Tam Lin, and historical fantasy.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
Genre: YA, contemporary
Published on June 3, 2014
Published by Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 199
Read From: 6.13.14 - 6.14.14

Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party.  
But did you know Alice was sexting Brandon when he crashed his car?  
It's true. Ask anybody! 
Rumor has it Alice Franklin is a slut. It's written all over the bathroom stall at Healy High for everyone to see. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumors start to spiral out of control. 
In this remarkable debut novel, four Healy High students - the girl who had the infamous party, the car accident survivor, the former best friend, and the boy next door - tell all they know. 
But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end, there's only one person to ask: Alice herself.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I do like the cover art. It scream contemporary (which it is), but I like it. It caught my attention, for whatever reason, and held it.

Characters: I really did not feel sorry for anyone in this book. Elaine is a typical popular girl; the only reason I did not dislike more than the others is because she didn't really start any of the rumors; she took what everyone else was saying and spreading it. Yes, that's as bad as being the perpetrator, but at least she didn't know what she was saying wasn't true. I still didn't like her, though, because I simply found nothing sympathetic about her. I was fairly indifferent to Josh, the survivor of the car crash and Brandon's best friend. He was responsible for one part of the nasty rumors, true, but I mostly ignored him. I disliked Kelsie the most. She's the former best friend who threw her friendship with Alice away simply so she could be accepted by the popular girls. As a person who suffered from peer pressure myself, and didn't give in, I have a hard time feeling bad for anyone who does. Especially if it makes one throw away one's friends. Keslie is also responsible for one of the worst rumors, not to mention a lot of bad decisions she herself makes. More on that later. I liked Kurt, the next-door neighbor boy, pretty well. He was nice to Alice, genuinely cared about her, made the most sensible decisions. As for Alice herself . . . I was divided. Alice certainly didn't deserve the rumors that were started up about her - not at all. But she wasn't exactly a total innocent. She did things that made it easy to believe that she would sleep with two guys in one night. It was a case of "I feel sorry for you in this particular situation, but you kind of set yourself up for it." Call that cold-hearted, but that's how I felt.

The Romance: There is no real romance in this; just lots of teen angst and lust. Kurt's feelings for Alice are the only things that felt even slightly genuine.

Plot: When Elaine has a crazy party at her house one night, it's the beginning of some vicious rumors - that may or may not be true. Alice Franklin has always been one of those girls that was considered popular without being an actual part of the popular crowd. She's done crazy things, has a head for style, and just has a way about her. But then it comes out that Alice slept with two guys at Elaine's party. Suddenly she's labeled as a slut, and when Brandon gets into a car crash because he was supposedly sexting Alice, that just puts Alice's reputation totally over the edge. Soon Healy High is swirling with rumors about Alice. But what is the truth? Only Alice knows. This is a book totally filled with teen angst, characters you really don't feel sorry for, and other high school drama. It also tackles a lot of serious topics, and no, it doesn't really have a huge, big overall point. However, it's a very short book and it does get you thinking. What motives people to start nasty rumors about others? How is it that rumors spiral out of control? What damaging effect can rumors have?

Believability: No complaints.

Writing Style: First person, past tense. There's dueling narrations between four people: Elaine, the popular girl who had the party; Kelsie, Alice's former best friend; Josh, Brandon's friend and the survivor of the car crash; Kurt, the nerdy boy who has always had a crush on Alice. And then, finally, the very last chapter is told from Alice's point of view. The dueling narrations were very interesting. We got to see events from various points of view, we got to know their motivations, and we got to see how hypocritical they really were. The style itself wasn't bad. Everyone had a fairly distinctive narrative voice, though Kelsie and Elaine did sometimes blend together. Kurt's narration had some very odd similes, examples of which I have put below:

I remember catching a glimpse of her knees as she knelt down. They were like two peach-flavored candies. (pg. 35) 
Her full lips looked like two fresh strawberries, one sitting on top of the other. (pg. 83) 
Her cheeks - her perfect cheeks- pinked up like two bowls of strawberry ice cream. (pg. 87)

No, the entire writing isn't like that; I think Kurt just has some very weird obsession with food - and strawberries.

Content: 17 s-words, 3 f-words. Sex is talked about a lot - Kelsie has sex with someone, Kelsie talks about how Alice did a "blow job" on a guy once, et cetera. [Spoiler] Kelsie has an abortion. This is what made me dislike her so much. Yes, her mother is somewhat at fault; she's the one who takes Kelsie to the abortion clinic and tells her to do it. But I'm pretty darn sure that no one - not even your parents - can actually legally force you to have an abortion. I could not like Kelsie even a little bit after she murdered her child. I don't care if she was scared or confused; she slept with a guy and got pregnant and then killed it. It's inexcusable. [End spoiler] It's also hinted at that Josh is gay, but the Author never actually says it outright.

Conclusion: I picked this book up because I had a suspicion about the "truth about Alice." And I was right. It totally made this book worth reading, even if I didn't really like anyone. But I'm not convinced that you are supposed to like anyone; they are all hypocrites, after all, except maybe Kurt. For a contemporary, I found it interesting; much like Love Letters to the Dead. It was a short read, made me think, and wiled away a few hours.

Recommended Audience: Girl-read, eighteen-and-up, for people who like very serious, non-fluffy contemporary novels.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday #52 + WWW Wednesday #22

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.
It's a weekly meme about upcoming books we're excited about!

Slaves of Socorro
(Brotherband Chronicles #4)
by John Flanagan
Publication Date: July 15, 2014

From Goodreads:

Hal and his fellow Herons have returned home to Skandia after defeating the pirate captain Zavac and reclaiming Skandia's most prized artifact, the Andomal. With their honor restored, the Herons turn to a new mission: tracking down an old rival turned bitter enemy. Tursgud - leader of the Shark Brotherhood and Hal's constant opponent - has turned from a bullying youth into a pirate and slave trader. After Tursgud captures twelve Araluen villagers to sell as slaves, the Heron crew sails into action. . . .with the help of one of Araluen's finest Rangers!

Why I'm Excited

It's the fourth book in the Brotherband Chronicles!! That's reason enough to be excited! Despite a lot of flaws, I do really and truly love John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice series - and the Brotherband Chronicles has been equally enjoyable. I do hope he never stops writing any time soon, because I will always love his books. Even if he makes mistakes like putting a female Ranger into the mix. ;-)

The Kiss of Deception
(The Remnant Chronicles #1)
by Mary E. Pearson
Publication Date: July 8, 2014

From Goodreads:

In a society steeped in tradition, Princess Lia's life follows a preordained course. As First Daughter, she is expected to have the revered gift of sight - but she doesn't - and she knows her parents are perpetrating a sham when they arrange her marriage to secure an alliance with a neighboring kingdom - to a prince she has never met.

On the morning of her wedding, Lia flees to a distant village. She settles into a new life, hopeful when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive - and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deception abounds, and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets - even as she finds herself falling in love.

Why I'm Excited

It sounds interesting and fairy tale-ish. Two things that I always love. Yes, it sounds like it will mostly focus on romance, but I kind of get the feeling that maybe in this book, I'll be fine with it.

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Should Be Reading
What are you currently reading?

In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies. . . .a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. In Independent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas - and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government's murderous programs put her - and her loved ones - in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her

I literally just started reading this book, so I'm not very far in and therefore cannot say much about my impression of it. Other than it should be fun, like it predecessor. I only hope Tomas and Cia don't start fighting all of the time.

What have you read recently?

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war - a war that has already claimed her twin brother.

When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy - one of the men who might have killed her own brother - and yet she's drawn to him. But Violet isn't Thomas's only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds - keeping him alive - and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn't been out of compassion.

Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves.

I gave this book 4/5 strawberries. Strands of Bronze and Gold - a retelling of the Bluebeard fairy tale - is my favorite out of the books Jane Nickerson has written, simply because the world was so vibrant and the villain was soooooooooo creepy. But The Mirk and Midnight Hour is my favorite retelling of Tam Lin. Unlike a lot of people, Tam Lin has actually never been my favorite ballad. I like it well enough, but wouldn't rank it among one of my favvies. But this retelling was just so awesome. The Author blended the traditional elements of the ballad together so well, and the voodoo was creepy, and it was just amazing.

What do you plan on reading next?

Nancy Kington, daughter of a rich merchant, suddenly orphaned when her father dies, is sent to live on her family's plantation in Jamaica. Disgusted by the treatment of the slaves and her brother's willingness to marry her off, she and one of the slaves, Minerva, run away and join a band of pirates. For both girls the pirate life is their only chance for freedom in a society where both are treated like property, rather than individuals. Together they go in search of adventure, love, and a new life that breaks all restrictions of gender, race, and position. Told through Nancy's writings, their adventures will appeal to readers across the spectrum and around the world.

This will actually be a re-read for me. I first read this when it came out, a long, long time ago, it seems. I hated it. I bought it for $1.00 a few months back, so I decided that I needed to read it again soon, and see if my opinion has changed. This is my TBR jar pick for this month! 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday #50 + Teaser Tuesday #11

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish 

This week's Top Ten Tuesday topic: Top 10 Cover Themes I Love. Okay, so I actually couldn't think of that many, and I was too lazy to come up with an extra five that I dislike. So, this is actually Top 6 Cover Themes I Love.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Should Be Reading

- Grab the book you are currently reading.
- Flip to a random page.
- Share two sentences from that page!

More than once, I stop myself from moving around to keep warm or glancing out the window to see if Tomas is coming. Instead, I close my eyes and think about the happiness I felt when I first arrived at the University and saw this building. It was a week after The Testing. The sun was hot on my skin and I couldn't stop smiling. I had made it through the Testing. I was living my dream of following in my father's footsteps. Everything was possible, especially with Tomas holding my hand firmly in his. I hadn't known then how precious that happiness was. How free I felt or how quickly I would realize that nothing about my life was as I thought. That I was trapped.Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau (pg. 173)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Author Visit: Leigh Bardugo, Emmy Laybourne, Ava Dellaira, Jennifer Mathieu

On June 19, 2014, The Reading Hedgehog got to meet YA authors Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone), Emmy Laybourne (Monument 14), Ava Dellaira (Love Letters to the Dead), and Jennifer Mathieu (The Truth About Alice) at the University of Washington Bookstore! We got our books signed, listened to other people ask questions (because I totally forgot), took pictures (remembered this time!), and overall had a lot of fun. Enjoy the pictures and mini video below!


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Stacking the Shelves #53

Stacking the Shelves is a meme hosted by Tynga's Review


Inland by Kat Rosenfield
After nine years spent suffocating in the arid expanses of the Midwest, far from the sea where her mother drowned, Callie Morgan and her father are returning to the coast. And miraculously, Callie can finally breathe easily. No more sudden, clawing attacks and weeklong hospital stays.

But something is calling to her from the river behind their house and from the ocean miles away. Just as her life begins to feel like her own, and the potential for romance is blossoming, the intoxicating pull of the dark water seeps into her mind, filling her with doubt and revealing family secrets. Is it madness, or is there a voice, beckoning her to come to the sea? To answer the call of the dark waves. To come home.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction - and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she's fighting for.

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas
Celaena Sardothien is her kingdom's most feared assassin. Though she works for the powerful and ruthless Assassins' Guild, she yields to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam.

When Celaena's scheming master, Arobynn Hamel, dispatches her on missions that take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, she finds herself acting independently of his wishes - and questioning her allegiance. Along the way, she makes friends and enemies alike, and discovers that she feels far more for Sam than just friendship. But by defying Arobynn's orders, Celaena risks unimaginable punishment, and with Sam by her side, he is in danger, too. They will have to risk it all if they hope to escape Arobynn's clutches - and if they fail, they'll lose not just a chance at freedom but their lives. . .

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
From the throne of glass rules a king with a first of iron and a soul black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiance - not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then, one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena's world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and more all where her true loyalties lie. . . .and to whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga
Jazz is a likable teenager. A charmer, some might say.

But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, "Take Your Son to Work Day" was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could - form the criminal's point of view.

And now, even though Dad has been in jail for years, bodies are piling up in the sleepy town of Lobo's Nod. Again.

In an effort to prove murder doesn't run in the family, Jazz joins the police in the hunt for this new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret - could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

The Stepsister's Tale by Tracy Barrett
Jane Montjoy is tired of being a lady. She's tired of pretending to live up to the standards of her mother's noble family - especially now that the family's wealth is gone and their stately mansion has fallen to ruin. It's hard enough that she must tend to the animals and find a way to feed her mother and her little sister each day. Jane's burden only gets worse after her mother returns from a trip to town with a new stepfather and stepsister in tow. Despite the family's struggle to prepare for the long winter ahead, Jane's stepfather remains determined to give his beautiful but spoiled child her every desire.

When her stepfather suddenly dies, leaving nothing but debts and a bereaved daughter behind, it seems to Jane that her family is destined for eternal unhappiness. But a mysterious boy from the woods and an invitation to a royal ball are certain to change her fate. . . .

Beth's Story, 1914
Meet Lady Beth of of Chatswood Manor, a grand English country estate with more rooms than you can count and more secrets than you can imagine. Lady Beth is about to celebrate a very special birthday and receive the heirloom Elizbaeth necklace that has been handed down from her great-grandmother, the original Elizabeth Chatswood. But then a scandal breaks out inside the manor that threatens to ruin Beth's birthday celebration . . . and the first of many family secrets is revealed. 

This Week, On The Reading Hedgehog........

June 16, 2014 - Monday
June 17, 2014 - Tuesday
June 18, 2014 - Wednesday
June 19, 2014 - Thursday
June 20, 2014 - Friday
June 21, 2014 - Saturday

Next Week, On The Reading Hedgehog...........

June 23, 2014 - Monday
Author Visit: Leigh Bardugo, Emmy Laybourne, Ava Dellaira, Jennifer Mathieu
June 24, 2014 - Tuesday
Top Ten Tuesday #50: Top 10 Cover Trends I Like/Dislike
Teaser Tuesday #11
June 25, 2014
Waiting on Wednesday #52 + WWW Wednesday #22
June 26, 2014 - Thursday
Review: The Truth About Alice - Jennifer Mathieu
June 27, 2014 - Friday
Review: The Mirk and Midnight Hour - Jane Nickerson
June 28, 2014 - Saturday
Guest Post: Interpreting Love Triangles

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hedgehog Life: June 2014

I hope you are all having a nice, lovely summer! If your weather is anything like mine is, you'll be hitting the beaches and lakes and rivers! I haven't been doing any of that, mostly because I've been too busy reading, working, and seeing movies! But Hedgie and I have been reading outside in the sun, so we haven't been total recluses.

June has been pretty fun. Earlier in the month, I went and saw Maleficent and The Fault in Our Stars. I loved the first movie - it will always be my favorite retelling of Sleeping Beauty. I'm pretty indifferent to Angelina Jolie as an actress, but she was brilliant as Maleficent, and I loved the twists in it. The Fault in Our Stars . . . well, you can read my full opinion of it here, but to sum it up: I did surprisingly enjoy it, but I had issues with some of the cast (namely, Augustus).

A friend and I also made a trip down to Powell's City of Books! I really, honestly didn't need to do that this month. My pocket book took a bit of a pounding in May, and June hasn't been much more merciful. But we had to fit our summer trip down at some point, and I knew we were going to go back in May, so I should have exercised discipline and not bought so much last month. I tried to be good at Powell's, but the bottom line is when one goes to Powell's, one simply can't not spend money - and lots of it. So expect a looooong book haul this month. Lots of titles to show you!

I also got to meet authors Leigh Bardugo, Emmy Laybourne, Ava Dellaira, and Jennifer Mathieu on June 19th! Pictures and the like will be up on Monday! It was a ton of fun meeting all four of these lovely ladies. Thank you so much, girls, for signing my books to Bilbo the Reading Hedgehog and I! It was super awesome meeting you!!

Other June activities have involved rewatching pretty much all of my favorite BBC shows (and some new ones!), as a build up for marathoning Sherlock. And now that I've rewatched all of Sherlock, I can now safely say that I am past my exhaustion and am starting to feel the wait for Season 4. My BBC-a-thon was fun, though. I rewatched all of Downton AbbeyLittle DorritBleak HouseNicholas Nickleby, and Merlin. I also introduced myself to Robin Hood (which I'm having immense fun watching), and the mini series called The Hollow Crown, which consists of Shakespeare's four plays Richard IIHenry IV Part 1Henry IV Part 2, and Henry V. If you haven't seen it, you really must. It is a spectacular series. Henry V has always been my second-favorite Shakespeare play, but now I love it more than ever (the fact that Tom Hiddleston plays Henry has nothing to do with it. Okay, yes, it does, because he was a spectacular Henry!). I also finally saw all of North and South, which was a lot of fun. I intend to go on my Jane Austen marathon in July, because I should.

All of this BBC has reawakened my need to write, so I've actually been working on stories! I finished some needed changes to The Birthright, and while I'm waiting for feedback on that, I have actually started working on what I am temporarily calling "Arabella's Story." It is - sort of - a prequel, but not really. It is the story of one of the other characters in The Birthright. And I'm not just casually working on this novel; I'm actually working on it with steadfast earnestness. And I've made progress! I finally have a beginning that I'm genuinely happy with, and while I have yet to figure out what the mystery is, I have everything else more or less mapped out. Arabella's Story is an absolute blast; it's made me realize just how much I truly love a lot of more minor characters in The Birthright, now that I'm getting to know their backgrounds better.

In more distant news, June has also marked the beginnings of my plans to go to BEA and BookCon next year. I saw so many blogger and book tubers talking about how awesome it was, and yes, I am rather jealous, so I've determined to start saving for it now so I can go next year! And I'm also going to start saving for my future trip to England. There's no time like the present! Now that I've settled into the new path my life took, I'm ready to start making future plans and get some traveling under my belt before I'm too old and have other things I have to pay for.

Have a happy beginning of the summer, friends!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: Sky on Fire - Emmy Laybourne

Sky on Fire by Emmy Laybourne
Series: Monument 14 #2
Genre: YA, post-apocalyptic
Published on May 28, 2014
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 212
Read From: 6.6.14 - 6.12.14

Trapped in a superstore by a series of escalating disasters, including a monster hailstorm and terrifying chemical weapons spill, brothers Dean and Alex learned how to survive, and worked together with twelve other kids to build a refuge from the chaos. But then strangers appeared, destroying their fragile peace, and bringing both fresh disaster and a glimmer of hope. 
Knowing that the chemical weapons saturating the air outside will turn him into a bloodthirsty rage monster, Dean decides to stay in the safety of the store with Astrid and some of the younger kids. But their sanctuary has already been breached once. . . . 
Meanwhile, Alex, determined to find their parents, heads out into the darkness and devastation with Niko and some others in a recently repaired school bus. If they can get to Denver International Airport, they might be evacuated to safety. But the outside world is even worse than they expected. . . .


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Post-apocalyptic-y (that should be an actual word), dark sky, fire, beat-up school bus - yeah, I like it well enough. It's intriguing.

Characters: I am still not attached to anyone, except maybe Alex, Dean's younger brother. Dean just spends too much time pining after Astrid, and then he loses his honor (more on that later), so what small attachment I had for him kind of vanished. Astrid is just a bitch, and a bit of a two-player. Chloe desperately needed to be used as an alternative source of food; I wanted to smack her so badly. Sahalia actually gets a little better, but I still don't like her. Niko kind of becomes a broken-down wreck, which was just sad; I wanted to wrap him in a blanket, but not necessarily because I liked him. He was just that miserable. Alex is the intelligent one here; the one who actually keeps his cool and all that, so I guess I liked him. But I still didn't become super attached.

The Romance: Dean still likes Astrid. Astrid is a pill; I don't know what he sees in her. [Spoiler] Jake turns up again, and Astrid pretty much starts playing both of them. Seriously, Dean, just move on. [End spoiler] Alex also starts developing a crush on Sahalia. What's with the guys falling all over themselves for slutty girls? Neither romances take up a ton of time.

Plot: Most of the kids have left the superstore in Monument 14 and are now making their way to Denver Airport, where people are being evacuated to Alaska and Canada. Alex, Dean's brother, is among the kids. But Dean and Astrid have stayed behind, along with Chloe and the twins, because if they are exposed to the chemicals outside, they will turn into bloodthirsty killers. Dean decided it was safer for them to stay behind, and for the others to send out a rescue party once they reach Denver Airport. Outside, Alex's group faces a nightmarish landscape with hostiles everywhere and no food or clean water. And back at the superstore, De and Astrid struggle to survive, as the power is slowly drained, and other hostiles try to break in. Sky on Fire was a very short read; shorter than it probably should have been. A lot happens, but not as much as I was expecting. For the most part, the encounters Alex's group has with outsiders are pretty quick. Dean and Astrid continue to try and make the superstore safe, then it gets breached, and they have to fight them off, et cetera. I wasn't bored; the book was too short for that to happen. But I did feel like a lot more could have happened.

Believability: No complaints.

Writing Style: First person, present tense. The chapters alternate between Dean and Alex's narrations, and they both have a very distinctive voice. I didn't enjoy Dean's narration as much because fewer things happened beyond his pining for Astrid. But overall, I never found myself dreading a narration switch.

Content: Astrid and Dean sleep together, but there are no details.

Conclusion: In some ways, the setup for a third book felt a little forced. The Author could have made this one longer and put everything that no doubt will be in the third book in this one. But I'll stop complaining now. Sky on Fire was too short to drag, and this is a plot-driven book; not so much character-driven. With the kids split up, there is less high school drama, less whining. So overall, I did enjoy this installment more.

Recommended Audience: Guy-read, eighteen-and-up, fans of post-apocalyptic.

Others in This Trilogy:
1)Monument 14
2)Sky on Fire
3)Savage Drift