Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Hedgie's Must Reads: October 2012

The month of falling leaves and pumpkins is coming to an end, and I thought that it would be fun to start having a Best Reads for every month. So here's October's, along with a little blurb on why Hedgie and I thought it was so awesome, and a link to my full review.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Review: The Dark Unwinding - Sharon Cameron

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron
Series: Dark Unwinding #1
Genre: YA, historical fiction, mystery, steampunk
Published on August 27, 2012
Published by Scholastic Press
Pages: 318
Read From: 10.22.12 - 10.24.12
Final Rating: 5/5 strawberries

When a rumor that her uncle is squandering away the family fortune surfaces, Katharine Tulman is sent to his estate to have him committed to an asylum. But instead of a lunatic, Katharine discovers a genius inventor with his own set of childlike rules, who is employing a village of nine hundred people rescued from the workhouses of London. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Carnival of Secrets - Melissa Marr

Carnival of Secrets by Melissa Marr
Series: Untamed City #1
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on September 4, 2012
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 306
Read From: 10.21.12 - 10.21.12
Final Rating: 3/5 strawberries

In a city of daimons, rigid class lines separate the powerful from the power-hungry. And at the heart of The City is the Carnival of Souls, where both murder and pleasure are offered up for sale. Once in a generation, the carnival hosts a deadly competition that allows every daimon a chance to join the ruling elite. Without the competition, Aya and Kaleb would both face bleak futures - if for different reasons. For each of them, fighting for the death is the only way to try to live. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review: Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone - Dene Low

Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone by Dene Low
Series: The Entomology Tales of Augustus T. Percival #1
Genre: YA, historical fiction, satire, comedy
Published on June 1, 2009
Published by HMH Books
Pages: 208
Read From: 10.18.12 - 10.19.12
Final Rating: 4/5 strawberries

You would think Petronella's sixteenth birthday would be cause for celebration. After all, fashionable friends are arriving at her country estate near London, teas are being served, and her coming out party promises to be a resplendent affair. Everything is falling nicely into place until suddenly - it isn't. For Petronella discovers that her guardian, Uncle Augustus T. Percival, has developed a most unVictorian compulsion: He must eat bugs. Worse still, because he is her guardian, Uncle Augustus is to attend her soiree, and his current state will most definitely be an embarrassment. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Review: Cassandra's Sister - Veronica Bennett

Cassandra's Sister by Veronica Bennett
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on August 14, 2007
Published by Candlewick
Pages: 230
Read From: 10.15.12 - 10.18.12

Young Jane - or Jenny, as she is called - is a girl with a head full of questions that no one seems able to answer. Surrounded by her busy parents and brothers, Jenny finds a place for her thoughts in the steady companionship of her older sister, Cassandra. Jenny's country life is a series of balls and visits, where conversation centers on one topic: marriage. But the arrival of her worldly-wise cousin Eliza disrupts everything, bringing answers to some of Jenny's questions and providing a gem of an idea.


Cover Blurb: I like its classiness, and being a person who is drawn to classy stories, the cover did a good job of catching my attention.

What I Liked: I like how the Author portrayed Jane and Cassandra’s close relationship, and I absolutely adored Tom Lefroy; it made me so sad knowing how things turned out between him and Jane! I felt Cassandra’s pain when she received the letter about her fiancĂ©, and I loved all of the real-life parallels for Jane’s novels.

What I Disliked: I didn’t get much of a sense of the closeness between Jane and her brother Henry, who was Jane’s favorite brother. And though I understood the purpose behind calling Jane “Jenny,” I personally found that it made it difficult to think of her as the Jane Austen. This probably won’t bother other people; this is just a personal preference complaint, and it makes sense that Jane probably had a nickname when she was younger.

Believability: The Author brings Jane Austen’s world to life with superb historical detail and dialogue. I have nothing to complain about in this area. She allowed her imagination to fill in a lot of holes in Jane Austen’s life, and she filled them in believable ways.

Writing Style: As noted above, the dialogue is very good, and the Author has pleasing descriptions, and her writing flowed very nicely. However, I felt that her portrayal of Jane Austen herself was lacking, compared to other Authors’ portrayals. In I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend, Cora Harrison displayed Jane’s snappy humor and easy wit at every chance she got, and it painted a very believable picture of a young Jane Austen. Veronica Bennett’s Jane Austen doesn’t have that ready sarcasm which I, personally, believe Jane possessed not only in her writing, but in her personal life as well.

Content: None.

Conclusion: If you know anything about Jane Austen’s romantic pursuits, you’ll know that this story has a predictably bittersweet ending. Despite the fact that I felt this Jane Austen was lacking in areas, I did really enjoy the story. It was well-written, an interesting look into what Jane’s life might have been like, and equal parts funny and tragic.

Recommended Audience: Historical fiction fans, Austeneers, girl-read, any age.

Overall Rating: 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: The Mark of Athena - Rick Riordan

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
Series: The Heroes of Olympus #3
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on October 2, 2012
Published by Hyperion
Pages: 574
Read From: 10.11.12 - 10.17.12
Final Rating: 3/5 strawberries

Annabeth is terrified. Just when she's about to be reunited with Percy - after six months of being apart, thanks to Hera - it looks like Camp Jupiter is preparing for war. As Annabeth and her friends Jason, Piper, and Leo fly in on the Argo II, she can't blame the Roman demigods for thinking the ship is a Greek weapon. With its steaming bronze dragon figurehead, Leo's fantastical creation doesn't appear friendly. Annabeth hopes that the sight of their praetor Jason on deck will reassure the Romans that the visitors from Camp Half-Blood are coming in peace. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Review: The Ever-After Bird - Ann Rinaldi

The Ever-After Bird by Ann Rinaldi
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on November 1, 2007
Published by HMH Books
Pages: 240
Read From: 10.13.12 - 10.15.12
Final Rating: 4/5 strawberries

After her father dies, CeCe McGill can only wonder why he risked his life to help the ragged slaves who came to their door in the dead of night. How could he have cared so much about them when he was so cruel and coldhearted toward his only daughter? 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Review: Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow - Jessica Day George

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George
Genre: YA, fairy tale retelling
Published on January 8, 2008
Published by Bloomsbury
Pages: 336
Read From: 10.9.12 - 10.13.12
Final Rating: 4/5 strawberries

When a woodcutter's daughter known simply as "the lass" agrees to accompany a great white bear to his castle, he believes she has made a wise decision. After all, the bear has promised her family untold riches in exchange for a year of the lass's company. Although she is given every luxury, the lass feels more a prisoner than a guest, and it's not long before

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review: The Raven Boys - Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #1
Genre: YA, adventure, fantasy, supernatural
Published on September 18, 2012
Published by Scholastic Press
Pages: 409
Read From: 10.6.12 - 10.9.12

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue never sees them - until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks to her. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: Once - Anna Carey

Once by Anna Carey
Series: Eve Trilogy #2
Genre: YA, dystopian, romance
Published on July 3, 2012
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 354
Read From: 10.5.12 - 10.6.12

For the first time since she escaped from her school many months ago, Eve can sleep soundly. She's living in Califia, a haven for women, protected from the terrifying fate that awaits orphaned girls in The New America. But her safety came at a price. She was forced to abandon Caleb, the boy she loves, wounded and alone, at the city gates. When Eve gets word that Caleb is in trouble, she sets out into the wild again to rescue him, only to be captured and brought to the City of Sand, the capital of The New America. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Choosing That Next Great Book

Finding that next good book is like finding a new friend; you find out a little bit about them (the synopsis), talk to acquaintances (reviews), and then spend time with them (reading it for yourself). The personality, opinions, behavior, and common interests will determine whether or not it is a lasting friendship (a book that ends up on the Top 10 list), or one that quickly falls apart (i.e., I never want to see this book again!). Just like a friend, you’re going to be spending quite a bit of time with this book, so you want to make sure it’s worth it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review: Dark Inside - Jeyn Roberts

Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts
Series: Dark Inside #1
Genre: YA, post-apocalyptic
Published on November 1, 2011
Published by Simon & Schuster
Pages: 329
Read From: 10.4.12 - 10.5.12
Final Rating: 4/5 strawberries

An ancient evil has been unleashed, and it's turning friends into murderous strangers. For those who survive the brutal earthquakes and the first wave of the killing, the world is a different, deadlier place. Society has fallen

Monday, October 15, 2012

Review: Troubadour - Mary Hoffman

Troubadour by Mary Hoffman
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on August 18, 2009
Published by Bloomsbury
Pages: 304
Read From: 10.2.12 - 10.4.12
Final Rating: 4/5 strawberries

When a young noblewoman named Elinor learns that she's to marry a much older man, she flees her comfortable home for the hard life of a troubadour. It's not just escape that appeals to Elinor. She's also got her eye on kind, handsome Bertran, another wandering poet whom she sets out to find. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Review: A World Away - Nancy Grossman

A World Away by Nancy Grossman
Genre: YA, contemporary, romance
Published on July 17, 2012
Published by Hyperion
Pages: 400
Read From: 9.30.12 - 10.2.12
Final Rating: 3/5 strawberries

Sixteen-year-old Eliza Miller has never made a phone call, never tried on a pair of jeans, never sat in a darkened theater waiting for a movie to start. She's never even talked to someone her age who isn't Amish, like her. 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Review: The Redheaded Princess - Ann Rinaldi

The Redheaded Princess by Ann Rinaldi
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on January 29, 2008
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 214
Read From: 9.28.12 - 9.30.12
Final Rating: 4/5 strawberries

Growing up, Elizabeth fears she can never be Queen. Although she is the King's daughter, no woman can ever hope to rule over men in England, especially when her mother has been executed for treason. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Review: Ivy - Julie Hearn

Ivy by Julie Hearn
Genre: YA, historical fiction, comedy
Published on June 17, 2008
Published by Atheneum Books
Pages: 368
Read From: 9.26.12 - 9.28.12
Final Rating: 3/5 strawberries

Ivy is used to being overlooked. The youngest in a family of thieves, scoundrels, and roustabouts, the girl with the flame-colored hair and odd-colored eyes is declared useless by her father from the day she is born. But that's only if you look at her but don't see. For Ivy has a quality that makes people take notice. It's more than beauty - and it draws people toward her. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review: Cloaked - Alex Flinn

Cloaked by Alex Flinn
Genre: YA, fairy tale retelling
Published on February 8, 2011
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 341
Read From: 9.21.12 - 9.26.12

I'm not your average hero. I actually wasn't your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all. It all started with a curse. And a frog-napping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Review: Envy - Gregg Olsen

Envy by Gregg Olsen
Series: Empty Coffin #1
Genre: YA, mystery, thriller
Published on August 23, 2011
Published by Splinter
Pages: 285
Read From: 9.15.12 - 9.18.12
Final Rating: Special Awfulness Award

Evil comes in all sorts of flavors. Some bitter. Some deceptively sweet. That's what Katelyn discovers on the day she dies. One minute she's a depressed teen with a loser life. The next, she's lying on a stainless steel slab, eyes glassy, skin frosted over, and very, very dead. Was it suicide? Murder? Who's to blame? 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review: Secret Letters - Leah Scheier

Secret Letters by Leah Scheier
Genre: YA, historical fiction, mystery, romance, Sherlockian fiction
Published on June 26, 2012
Published by Hyperion
Pages: 336
Read From: 9.18.12 - 9.20.12
Final Rating: 3/5 strawberries
Sherlockian Rating: 2/5 deerstalker caps

Inquisitive and observant Dora Joyce dreams of escaping her aristocratic country life to solve mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes, who just might be her biological father. So when her beloved cousin's love letters are held for ransom by an unknown thief, Dora jumps at the opportunity to travel to London to enlist the legendary detective's help in saving her cousin from scandal. But Dora arrives at his doorstep to devastating news: Sherlock Holmes is dead. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Review: City of Swords - Mary Hoffman

City of Swords by Mary Hoffman
Series: Stravaganza #6
Genre: YA, alternate reality
Published on August 12, 2012
Published by Bloomsbury
Pages: 368
Read From: 9.13.12 - 9.18.12
Final Rating: 4/5 strawberries

Laura is a member of a special group. She's a Stravagante, a person who can travel through time and space. One day she finds a mysterious silver sword that acts as her talisman. It enables her to stravagate to sixteenth-century Fortezza in Italy, where she meets a swordswmith named Fabio. Laura also meets the charming and attractive Ludo, and they instantly fall

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Review: The Selection - Kiera Cass

The Selection by Kiera Cass
Series: Selection Trilogy #1
Genre: YA, futuristic, romance
Published on April 24, 2012
Published by Harper Teen
Pages: 336
Read From: 9.13.12 - 9.15.12

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the change of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Review: Courtship & Curses - Marissa Doyle

Courtship & Curses by Marissa Doyle
Series: Leland Sisters Trilogy #3
Genre: YA, historical fantasy, romance
Published on August 7, 2012
Published by Henry Holt & Co.
Pages: 352
Read From: 9.11.12 - 9.13.12

Sophie's entrance into London society isn't what she thought it would be. Mama isn't there to guide her. Papa is buried in his work fighting Napoleon. And worst of all, the illness that left her with a limp, unable to dance at the Season's balls, also took away her magic. When the dashing Lord Woodbridge starts showing and interest in Sophie, she wants to believe it's genuine, but she can't be sure he's feeling anything more than pity. 
Sophie's problems escalate when someone uses magic to attack Papa at the Whistons' ball, and it soon becomes clear that all the members of the War Office are being targeted. Can Sophie regain her own powers, find her balance, make a match - and save England?


Cover Blurb: I like the colors and the classic look of it, but I must admit that I wish it took after Betraying Season more. I like books in a series to follow a pattern, and while Courtship & Curses can technically work as a stand-alone from the other two Leland Sisters books, it still ties in and therefore ought to fit the theme cover-wise.

What I Liked: Sophie is a sensible protagonist; her self-pity is, thank goodness, only annoying sometimes, and she stops pitying herself fairly quickly. There’s a very wide range of characters, and they were all fantastic. Peregrine Woodbridge was a kind and honorable love interest; Persephone Hardcastle a perfect companion character wish a very big personality; Underwood a wonderful cad - and Sophie thankfully dealt with him the way she ought, which I enjoyed immensely. I was afraid Sophie’s two aunts would grow wearisome, but the Author kept their appearances in the story at a reasonably low number, so they maintained their hilarity.

What I Disliked: I was not a fan of Peregrine’s name, and even less so when shortened to “Perry.” Why can’t any of her characters have more normal names?

Believability: As with her other two books, the Author has managed to make witches and warlocks fit into the Napoleonic era very smoothly.

Writing Style: There was a good amount of mystery surrounding the “accidents” to keep me guessing. But after a short while, the villain’s identity became painfully obvious, and I grew frustrated with the characters for not realizing it quicker - especially when Sophie accuses the wrong person. And since the Author has explored the difficulties of hiding magical abilities from “those closest to you” in her other two books, this plot device just served to irk me. Because we Readers know how it will turn out in the end: Peregrine will find out about Sophie’s magic and he will eventually come to terms with it. One thing I did appreciate, though: when Sophie and Peregrine have their inevitable falling-out (happens in every love story), it is a rather minor falling-out, it is over an issue that is actually important, rather than something trivial, and their reconciliation is blessedly swift.

Content: None.

Conclusion: The ending was exciting, but not overly dramatic. This book had as many pros as cons, and in comparison to Bewitching Season and Betraying Season, this one was my favorite. There was a wider range of characters, Sophie didn’t cause any of her own problems, and the number of annoying names was significantly less.

Recommended Audience: Fans of the Leland Sisters series, and those people who like historical fiction with a dash of magic. A girl-read, appropriate for Readers as young as middle-grade.

Others in the Leland Sisters Trilogy:
1)Bewitching Season
2)Betraying Season
3)Courtship & Curses

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review: The House of Silk - Anthony Horowitz

The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
Genre: Adult, historical fiction, mystery, Sherlockian fiction
Published on November 1, 2011
Published by Mulholland Books
Pages: 294
Read From: 9.9.12 - 9.13.12

Cover Blurb: Nothing exciting about it, to be honest. The only thing about it that caught my attention was the declaration that it was a Sherlock Holmes novel; other than that, I probably wouldn’t have paid it any mind.

What I Liked: What’s not to like? Two awesome cases that seem unconnected to one another at first, murder, the dark streets of London, the criminal underworld, a conspiracy involving some of the oldest families in England, Sherlock accused of murder - it’s all good. I really loved it. I especially loved the scene between Watson and the “mysterious gentleman.” Sherlockians will know immediately who the mysterious gentleman is, and I did think the Author actually handled it very cleverly, and I liked that he never actually said who the mysterious gentleman was until the very, very end. It would have been even better if he never had.

What I Disliked: The first chapter does rather feel like it was taken from the beginning of The Cardboard Box, and at times the Author would take a couple of famous Holmesian quotes and reword them so they sounded “new.” It didn’t feel “new” to me; it felt like flimsy attempts to show off his knowledge of the Canon. But this only occurs a couple of times, thank goodness.

Believability: Overall believability was good. The size of the conspiracy and range of the scandal was all convincingly realistic. A revelation of the kind that the story deals with, involving aristocrats, would definitely bring about catastrophe to family names.

Writing Style: The Author does an amazingly superb job in imitating Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing style; I was thoroughly shocked at how well he did it, and I cannot applaud him enough for it. The pacing of the story is fast and engaging, with lots of wonderful twists that get tied up nicely in the end.

Content: [Spoiler] The House of Silk is revealed to be a high-end place of debauchery, where men may come and molest little boys. [End spoiler] The Author reveals this very carefully; with no graphic details, while still conveying to the Reader exactly what the House of Silk is. While I do believe the Author could have come up with a different twist, he handled it with extreme delicacy, and it didn’t lessen the story in any way.

Conclusion: The case with the House of Silk and the case with the Flat Cap Gang all get tied together in a very satisfactory manner, and the realistic ending is quite fitting. I did not have high expectations for this book; there are very few Sherlock Holmes spin-off books that are any good. But Anthony Horowitz surprised me, and I must say that I enjoyed this story just as much as I do any of the originals.

Recommended Audience: Hardcore Sherlockians; it will not disappoint. Guy-and-girl read; better for a more mature audience due to the nature of the House of Silk. While no full-out details are given, it’s a mature theme.