Sunday, January 26, 2014

Not From Around Here: The Rules

The Rules by Stacey Kade (Project Paper Doll #1)
Disney-Hyperion, 2013

*ARC won from Literary Lushes - Thank you!*

The residents of Wingate, Wisconsin have no idea that their sleepy little small town is the home of one of the world's biggest secrets, and Ariane would like to keep it that way. Because Ariane is no ordinary girl, she's a genetic experiment - half human, half alien - who must live by the carefully crafted rules established by her adoptive father, the man who helped her escape from the lab she came from. She's biding her time until she's 18 and can leave town without suspicion, but when a school prank goes awry Ariane goes from being able to disappear in a crowd to being the center of attention. And when the police chief's son Zane notices her, she finds that the rule she never paid much attention to before may be the one that one that makes everything she's built fall apart: Don't fall in love.

My journey into to the science fiction genre has been a gradual one. With slow steps, I've warmed up to stories with fantastical and paranormal elements, but with Kade's novel I finally hit a story that is directly about the aspect of the genre I've been most skeptical about: aliens. And I'll admit it, I was pleasantly surprised. The premise here is an interesting one about an experiment who must hide in plain sight and how her carefully constructed world comes crashing down. The internal war between Ariane's human and alien natures was well thought out and then displayed. I even liked the dual narrators of Ariane and Zane as it gives readers a look at her camouflage from both sides (though after reading multiple books with multiple narrators lately, I need a break).

Where this book left me scratching my head was in the third act. Since this is the first book in a series (I believe it's a planned trilogy, but don't quote me on that), of course not all of the loose ends will be tied up here, but some of the characters' choices left me absolutely flummoxed. Without spoiling anything, there were at least a few times where I found myself thinking "uhh...really?" Not that I was confused, just had a hard time believing it.

All that being said, the Project Paper Doll series is off to an interesting start. I'll probably pick up sequels at my library in time. To those in the mood for a contemporary story with an extra-terrestrial twist, The Rules may be for you.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Stacey Kade's Website
Stacey Kade on Twitter

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Lady Thief

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week I'm waiting on: Lady Thief by A.C. Gaughen (Scarlet #2)
From Goodreads:
Scarlet’s true identity has been revealed, but her future is uncertain. Her forced marriage to Lord Gisbourne threatens Robin and Scarlet’s love, and as the royal court descends upon Nottingham for the appointment of a new Sheriff, the people of Nottingham hope that Prince John will appoint their beloved Robin Hood. But Prince John has different plans for Nottingham that revolve around a fateful secret from Scarlet’s past even she isn’t yet aware of. Forced to participate at court alongside her ruthless husband, Scarlet must bide her time and act the part of a noblewoman—a worthy sacrifice if it means helping Robin’s cause and a chance at a future with the man she loves. With a fresh line of intrigue and as much passion as ever, the next chapter in Scarlet’s tale will have readers talking once again.

Back when I read the first book in this series in 2012, I was pleasantly surprised by this retelling of Robin Hood in which Will Scarlet is actually a young woman in disguise and a member of the Merry Men. I got really into it, but sequels hadn't yet been announced so I was afraid of not getting to find out what happened next! Lucky for me, book 2 in this planned trilogy is due out in February.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Just Keep Swinging: The Art of Fielding

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Little, Brown, 2011

*Paperback AND shirt for the book sent to me by the publisher - thank you so much!!*

There's something truly magical about when a book comes into your life at just the right time, and such was the case for me when I started reading The Art of Fielding. At Westish College, a small liberal arts school in Wisconsin on the coast of Lake Michigan, the worlds of five individuals are forever changed by a baseball season. When Henry Skrimshander, an unassuming looking guy who is actually a brilliant shortstop destined for the big leagues, makes a routine throw that has disastrous results, events unfold and lives become intertwined in ways so much bigger than they could have anticipated.

Though this time of year is resolution season rather than baseball season, now is a fitting time to pick up this novel. Goals are great, of course, but this book looks down the path that so many of us end up walking down despite are refusal to acknowledge it. It starts with Henry and what do you do when your confidence is shaken? Other characters are faced with equally daunting questions, sometimes overlapping. What do you do when your plans don't work out? Is it possible to live your life as one person only to realize that's not really you at all? How much are we willing to pay or sacrifice for the things we want, or thought we wanted?

I felt a certain kinship with a few of these characters due to their ages. While I adore YA for a lot of reasons, there's something about being in your 20s and college that brings about a certain kind of panic that teenagers can't fully appreciate. It's a constant state of confusion in how some days you can feel so grown up, and most days you feel like someone made a mistake because there's no way you're ready for this.

While I liked this book, it isn't for everyone. At times, especially in the second half of the novel, I felt like I couldn't understand the responses characters were having in some situations, and one story line's conclusion was a bit too convenient for my taste. Also, considering Mr. Harbach is from Wisconsin, I was surprised at some vocabulary choices. I have family and friends in the state, actually not far from fictional Westish, and upon asking them, they said they'd never heard of a "gut course" (what I've always known as a blow-off class) or people in the area who referred to people in their first year of college as 'freshpersons' rather than 'freshmen.' However, none of these criticisms would be enough to stop me from recommending this story. Maybe just read it along side something a bit lighter for balance. I was rooting for Henry and empathized with him deeply every step of the way, and this novel is deserving of the praise it's received over the years.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

TBR Throw Back Thursday: The Alchemist

TBR Throw Back Thursday is a weekly post hosted by me that looks at my TBR pile and spotlights books that have already come out - some recently, some centuries ago - that I keep meaning to read (or reread).

This week, I'm throwing it back to: The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
Publication: 1993
On Goodreads:
Paulo Coelho's enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts.

This novel was required reading at the high school where I did my student teaching. It's less than 200 pages so I really have no excuse for not getting this one read soon!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Spit Second

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm waiting on: Split Second by Kasie West (Pivot Point #2)
From Goodreads:
Life can change in a split second. 

Addie hardly recognizes her life since her parents divorced. Her boyfriend used her. Her best friend betrayed her. She can’t believe this is the future she chose. On top of that, her ability is acting up. She’s always been able to Search the future when presented with a choice. Now she can manipulate and slow down time, too . . . but not without a price. 

When Addie’s dad invites her to spend her winter break with him, she jumps at the chance to escape into the Norm world of Dallas, Texas. There she meets the handsome and achingly familiar Trevor. He’s a virtual stranger to her, so why does her heart do a funny flip every time she sees him? But after witnessing secrets that were supposed to stay hidden, Trevor quickly seems more suspicious of Addie than interested in her. And she has an inexplicable desire to change that. 

Meanwhile, her best friend, Laila, has a secret of her own: she can restore Addie’s memories . . . once she learns how. But there are powerful people who don’t want to see this happen. Desperate, Laila tries to manipulate Connor, a brooding bad boy from school—but he seems to be the only boy in the Compound immune to her charms. And the only one who can help her. 

As Addie and Laila frantically attempt to retrieve the lost memories, Addie must piece together a world she thought she knew before she loses the love she nearly forgot . . . and a future that could change everything.

This series by Kasie West is great science fiction for contemporary fans and I have been absolutely dying to get my hands on this ever since I read an ARC of Pivot Point back at the start of 2013. Thankfully the wait is almost over!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Cuts to the Core: The Impossible Knife of Memory

The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
Viking Juvenille, 2014

*'Original Unedited Manuscript' provided by the publisher at ALA 2013 - Thank You!!*

For the last five years, Hayley has been traveling the country with her dad, Andy, a former soldier who served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. They'd never settle in any one place long as he was chased by his demons and plagued by the devil they never talked about: PTSD. But now they are "home," in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school and have a "normal" life. It seems almost possible sometimes as she makes a few friends and even starts a relationship with Finn, a smart and amazing guy who clearly likes her, but has secrets of his own. Andy's war wounds are still wide open, though, as much as he'd like to ignore them. Can this family find peace, or will memories, pain, drugs and PTSD finally claim him?

Anderson has an absolute gift for capturing an authentic teenage voice that's relatable and totally new. Hayley is a girl I don't personally have a ton in common with on the surface, but so many parts of her hit home. She is smart, smart-mouthed, raw, honest, and at the same time can make dumb decisions, say the absolute wrong thing, and be full of total bull. She loves her father and wants to protect him from something she sees but can never fully understand, but that doesn't mean she always likes him. She likes Finn more than she'd like to admit because the people she cares about in her life never seem to stick around or care all that much in return.

Supporting characters are just as multi-dimensional, being new and probably reminding readers of someone they already know. As a reader, I came to care about Andy deeply in the way that Hayley does. Best friend Gracie's life has its own unfortunate roller coaster happening which was never distracting, but instead an authentic representation of how while Hayley's problems are awful, they aren't the only ones. Hayley's bias against Trish, a woman from her past, was obvious to me, but it made sense given the walls Hayley has had to build to protect herself, the result of not being able to trust the people she should have always been able to count on.

Now one thing that I actually really liked about this book that I'm not sure is the same in the final edition is the ending. I've heard rumors that it has been changed since I got this manuscript back in June, so I am anxious to see if that is in fact the case. As for what I read, I applaud that not every single question is answered by the time I reached the last page because in life things are never that simple, so why should they be in a book like this one.

LHA and me at ALA 2013
Favorite Moment of the Conference
Speak is a book that changed my life in more ways than I can ever thank Laurie Halse Anderson for, though I tried when I met her at ALA. (She hugged me three times and signed my copy from when I was 13. It was amazing, of course, because so is she). I have no doubt that The Impossible Knife of Memory can be that book for teens today. Anderson has hit it out of the park with this story about the difference between forgetting and trying not to remember. If you're a fan of books that give an honest look at the world we live in, then this is a must-read for you.

Laurie Halse Anderson's Website
Laurie Halse Anderson on Twitter
Laurie Halse Anderson on Tumblr

Thursday, January 9, 2014

TBR Throw Back Thursday: The Night Circus

TBR Throw Back Thursday is a weekly post hosted by me that looks at my TBR pile and spotlights books that have already come out - some recently, some centuries ago - that I keep meaning to read (or reread).

This week, I'm throwing it back to: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Publication: 2011

From Goodreads:
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.

Ever since this book came out back in 2011, I've never heard anyone say anything bad about it. As a lifelong lover of fantasy stories, I'm sad I still haven't picked this one up.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: The Impossible Knife of Memory

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm waiting on: The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson
From Goodreads:
For the past five years, Hayley Kincaid and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own.

Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? The Impossible Knife of Memory is Laurie Halse Anderson at her finest: compelling, surprising, and impossible to put down.

Doing this post a day early! Happy Book Birthday to this latest work by Laurie Halse Anderson - I was lucky enough to meet Laurie and get a copy of this at ALA and my review will be going up this weekend.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Favorite Books From 2013

Top Ten lists are always very tough for me. There are just so many great books and writers out there! So I cheated a little bit, making separate lists for series and stand alone novels that were published in 2013.

Stand Alone Books:

Series Books:

Can't wait to see what 2014 has in store!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

TBR Throw Back Thursday: A Breath of Eyre

TBR Throw Back Thursday is a weekly post hosted by me that looks at my TBR pile and spotlights books that have already come out - some recently, some centuries ago - that I keep meaning to read (or reread).

This week, I'm throwing it back to: A Breath of Eyre by Eve Marie Mont (Unbound #1)
Publication: 2012
From Goodreads:

Emma Townsend has always believed in stories - the ones she reads voraciously, and the ones she creates in her head. Perhaps it's because she feels like an outsider at her exclusive prep school, or because her stepmother doesn't come close to filling the void left by her mother's death. And her only romantic prospect - apart from a crush on her English teacher - is Gray Newman, a long-time friend who just adds to Emma's confusion. But escape soon arrives in an old leather-bound copy of Jane Eyre...

Reading of Jane's isolation sparks a deep sense of kinship. Then fate takes things a leap further when a lightning storm catapults Emma right into Jane's body and her nineteenth century world. As governess at Thornfield, Emma has a sense of belonging she's never known - and an attraction to the brooding Mr. Rochester. Now, moving between her two realities and uncovering secrets in both, Emma must decide whether her destiny lies in the pages of Jane's story, or in the unwritten chapters of her own...

So many things about this sounds great to me, a book for book lovers! I love it when YA reaches into some classic literary roots both as a reader and someone with an English degree who firmly believes there's a reason stories like Jane Eyre's have stood the test of time.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday: Cress

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week, I'm waiting on: Cress by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles #3)
From Goodreads:
Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard. 

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

Okay, so I was actually lucky enough to get an ARC of this at ALA back in June 2013, so I've already read this book. I completely loved it, and I'm anxious for this one to be out in the world so everyone can get their hands on it!

New Year, New Changes!

Hello and Happy 2014! As those of you who regularly read The Fuma Files may have noticed, I ended up taking a bit of a hiatus for the second half of December. It wasn't planned, but simply put, I was getting burnt out. My blog is small so it sounds hard to believe, but I think the pressure of trying to write a book review a week got to be too much. In 2013, I found myself falling behind because while I wanted to post a review every Sunday, I do not write negative reviews as a general rule. So what to do if I didn't love whatever I read that week?

Put that on top of work, life commitments, trying to squeeze in even more reading I could say nice things about, usually forgetting to write Wednesday Word posts until Wednesday nights, and my own writing goals, and suddenly the blog which had started out as something fun had turned into a chore.

And so with the new year, there will be some new changes here! So, my new year blogging resolutions:

  • Try to post a review every Sunday, but I won't sweat it if I don't.
  • Participate in more weekly event posts like Top Ten Tuesday and Waiting on Wednesday, but again, don't sweat it if I'm just not feeling it that week.
  • Only write Wednesday Word posts if I actually have something to say.
  • Starting my own (mostly) weekly post: TBR Throw Back Thursdays! (#TBRtbt) Unlike Waiting on Wednesday which is about books we're all waiting to come out, I'll share books that are already out that I keep meaning to get to.
  • Enter less giveaways/don't request ARCs unless it's something I'm truly desperate to read until I can get caught up on the massive piles of books I already have in my possession that I need to read.
  • Be better at commenting on other people's blogs and be more active in the greater blogging community.
So... yeah! I really want to be a better blogger and see The Fuma Files grow, and I'm hoping this will be a step in the right direction. I also want to thank Brittany at The Book Addict's Guide and Liza at WhoRU Blog for their constant support as I try to figure this all out - you ladies rock! So please comment, follow, subscribe, share, and let's spread the awesomeness that comes with reading and books!