Sunday, October 26, 2014

Poppies and Politics: Across a Star-Swept Sea

Across a Star-Swept Sea (For Darkness Shows the Stars, #2)Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund
Balzer & Bray, 2013

Centuries after the wars that wiped out most of the world's civilizations, the lone survivors of New Pacifica remain deeply divided. Both the island nations of Galatea and Albion bear the long term effects of the Reduction generations before, but handle it in much different ways. On Galatea, a revolution is rising up against the aristocracy they blame for their ancestors' suffering. Not only are people dying, but the upper class is being Reduced themselves. Except some are being rescued by the mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy. Meanwhile on Albion, a young princess-regent struggles to maintain order in a court that limits her power. Luckily she has supportive friends, like Persis Blake, even if that girl is a spoiled and silly socialite. Except she isn't - Persis is the Poppy and far more clever than she can let on to keep her cover safe. When Persis's path crosses with that of Justen, a young Galatean medic seeking to distance himself from the revolution for more than a few reasons, he becomes her most important mission, but will all of their combined secrets cost her her country, her heart, or both?

This companion to For Darkness Shows the Stars is much more intricate than its predecessor. A retelling of the classic story The Scarlet Pimpernel, this tale is one not just of relationships, but of complicated political circumstances. As such, I had to read this book more slowly than the first. There's a lot to keep track of here - readers get in the heads of many different characters on both sides of this conflict, they all have secrets, and there's also the world building and science fiction aspects to keep straight.

The world Peterfreund has built here is a luscious and rich one, with layers of thought and intrigue. At times I did find it a bit overwhelming, but I eventually got the hang of it. The characters are what kept me engaged here. Persis is a remarkably smart girl and an adept spy in a nation that tells her because she is a woman - despite her aristo rank - she's not important. Her struggle with maintaining a facade as a stupid, silly thing was heartbreaking, especially in front of her parents who know how brilliant she really is. Justen too is at war in himself, feeling guilty over something he discovered and trusted to the wrong people.

While readers do not need to read Peterfreund's first book in this"series," I highly recommend that they do so - things will make much more sense if they do. (That book can stand on its own, whereas with this one, several prominent ccharactersfrom that novel come back in more than just a mere cameo appearance.) While Peterfreund confirmed to me on Twitter that there are no plans for a third book, I sincerely hope she changes her mind. I'm intrigued in this world and how it continues to evolve, and the ending of this novel certainly lends itself to more adventures.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Diana Peterfreund's Website
Diana Peterfreund on Twitter

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, Behind the Red Door

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: Behind the Red Door
Author: Caitlin Kittredge
Summary: The first time Jo goes up to the abandoned Ash House, it's on a dare during a hot summer day in their boring small town, but in the months that follow, she finds herself drawn back again and again by a ghost with a secret.
Thoughts: This story! This story was well crafted and delightfully creepy! I had no idea where it was heading and got completely wrapped up in it. I'm usually a huge pansy when it comes to ghost stories (though I'm also fascinated by well-told ones), but this one had me completely engaged. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for other works by this writer.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

More Magic and Mystery: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (Raven Cycle #3)
Scholastic, Expected Release Date: October 21, 2014

*e-Galley provided by the publisher via NetGalley - Thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

*Since this is the third book in a series, there may be minor spoilers ahead for books 1 and 2 - you have been warned!*

Blue Sargent never could have guessed how much her world in Henrietta, Virginia was going to change when she met Gansey, Adam, Ronan, and Noah - the Raven Boys - a few months ago. But now, parts of her world are unrecognizable. Their combined quest for Glendower continues as they try to understand what the mysterious Cabeswater wants from them. Now autumn, school is back in session bringing with it concerns about real-world expectations and what comes next. Because nothing about any of their lives is certain anymore.

In the newest installment of her Raven Cycle series, Stiefvater continues to keep readers guessing. Nothing lasts forever, stories can be misleading, and some answers only lead to more questions. While I'd say that The Raven Boys is mostly Gansey's and Adam's book and The Dream Thieves is mostly Ronan's, Blue Lily, Lily Blue gives much more focus to Blue's story. Life at 300 Fox Way has never been normal, but things are so much more complicated and harder now than they were even a few months ago when she was "just" the daughter of a psychic.

I particularly loved seeing all of the various relationships in her life become more complex. She's no longer a child in this house full of women, but very much becoming a woman in her own right. And she walks an interesting path with each of the boys. Before this book, I never really realized how much she has in common with Ronan. Through Blue, readers see a different side of Noah. Adam and Blue continue to dance around each other, trying to figure out how to move forward given their past. And then there's Gansey. Heavens above was the tension here turned up to 11! Sa-woon!

All in all, I was happy with this book. Well, by happy I mean I was hanging on every word and the wait for the finale of this series will be excruciating and unbearable. This is what happened when I finished it:

Fans of the series have a lot to look forward to when Blue Lily, Lily Blue hits shelves on October 21st.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, Dungeons of Langeais

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: Dungeons of Langeais: A Hush, Hush Story
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Summary: Angry with the Angel who occupies his body for two weeks each year, Chauncey concocts a plan which he hopes will free him of the foolish oath he made once and for all.
Thoughts: As I have never read Fitzpatrick's Hush, Hush series, this story didn't do anything for me. Though I'm sure readers and fans of those books will be able to make sense of this, I was lost as to what was going on with the Angel, a gentleman, and two girls caught in the middle.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bring on the Mistletoe: My True Love Gave to Me

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins
St. Martin's Press, Expected Release Date: October 14, 2014

*E-Galley provided by the publisher via NetGalley - Thank you! This in no way impacted my opinions of this book.*

Is October a bit early to be talking about Christmas and the holiday season? In my opinion, yes. However I actually read this book back in August during the dog days of summer, and even though I usually like to save my holiday cheer for the right time of year, this book left me smiling from ear to ear.

See? It even makes me rhyme!

In this collection of twelve stories by some of the most prominent and popular young adult authors at the moment, readers will be gripping these pages in one hand and a mug of hot chocolate in the other. Each tale incorporates romance to various degrees, but the focus here is not always about romantic love, but love in its many forms. Between parents and children. Between friends. Between total strangers. Some of these stories will make you swoon, others may leave you drying your eyes, but almost all of them will leave you thinking.

For readers like me who have started to make re-reading Let it Snow and Dash & Lily's Book of Dares an annual holiday tradition, My True Love Gave to Me is another worthy addition. Ordinarily I'd say more than this about a book I enjoyed so much, but I'll actually be posting mini-reviews of each of these stories in my Short Story Saturday segment, but in an extended edition, posted in the 12 days leading up to Christmas!

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Video: Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, The Spy Who Never Grew Up

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: The Spy Who Never Grew Up
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Summary: In need of a spy with special talents, Her Majesty recruits none other than Peter Pan who still refuses to grow up and requires an unusual form of payment for his services.
Thoughts: Confession: I've never read the original story Peter Pan. Sure I've seen the Disney version. I've even visited the statue honoring the character in Hyde Park in London! Yet despite this gross misstep which needs to be remedied, I'm a sucker for retellings of this tale, and Brennan did not disappoint. Peter is as immature as ever, yet in some ways manages to be wise and open-minded (perhaps because children often are in ways that adults unfortunately are not). The tension between him and Ashley was so fun and I really enjoyed this story.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The End of the World as We Know It: Glory O'Brien's History of the Future

Glory O'Brien's History of the Future by A.S. King
Little, Brown, Expected Release Date: October 14, 2014

*E-Galley provided by the publisher via Edelweiss - this in no way impacts my thoughts on this book*

Glory O'Brien should be excited, right? After all, she's finally graduating from high school. She can finally do what ever she wants. Only she doesn't know what she wants. She has no plans. No college she's heading off to in the fall. No friends besides Jasmine who lives on the weird hippie commune next door. No family pressuring her to do anything - her mother committed suicide when she was four and her father never recovered. But then again, neither has Glory, who has always wondered if she's destined for the same thing especially once the visions start. One extraordinary night, Glory begins to see transmissions anytime she looks at people, a harrowing look into the future. A future where any rights women have left vanish, another civil war breaks out, young girls are sold, and Glory can't see a future for herself at all. So begins Glory's quest to document the history of the future, but can one 17 year old girl stop the end of the world, even before it starts?

When I first heard about the premise for this book back in 2013, I was immediately intrigued. King is a loud and proud feminist, passionate about women's rights, yet it's not a topic that has ever been at the center of her previous works. What I got was a surprising story, well crafted and imaginative, and the most reminiscent of King's literary idol, Kurt Vonnegut. King has an incredible ability to paint a picture with her words while still being sparse. She's not one for flowery language or lush description, and it is in that way that her prose can be poetic - every word packs a punch.

It took me a while to get into this story. The novel, divided into smaller books, had a slower pace to start. It wasn't until page 50 that readers actually get to the experience that grants Glory her extraordinary ability. Once this happens, things get much more interesting very quickly. This was also the first of King's novels I've read in which I found myself a bit taken aback by the language and situations in the story. Don't get me wrong, I have no problem with swearing or strong language in YA books, but sometimes I did find myself thinking "did she have to say it like that?" Of course, every word helps shape the story into what it is, so in some ways the answer is "yes, she did," however I will say that as a librarian, it is something I will keep in mind when talking about this book to students and will be upfront with them about it from the start. I don't believe in censoring, and with that comes being honest with my students and staff, speaking as one reader to another.

Did this book speak to me as strongly as some of King's other books? Not quite. However, just because I didn't connect with some aspects of it doesn't mean others won't. I can still recognize that this is a fantastic work and I know many people are going to devour this book and its message. Let us all hope that Glory's visions never come true, but for that to happen, we must all work on reshaping the history of the future today.

Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!

A.S. King's Website
A.S. King's Blog
A.S. King on Twitter

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Short Story Saturday: Kiss Me Deadly, Lost

Welcome to Short Story Saturday! Each week, I'll talk about a different story from the collection I'm working my way through and offer up some thoughts. I'm currently reading Kiss Me Deadly: 13 Tales of Paranormal Love.

Story: Lost
Author: Justine Musk
Summary: Sasha has always had a knack for finding lost things, but when she's the one lost while her best friend Josh lies in a hospital in a coma, a mysterious new neighbor opens her eyes and teaches her to see.
Thoughts: This story started out strong and had an interesting middle as well, but when the dramatic "twist" was revealed towards the end, I was sort of let down. Though I wasn't a fan of that, I did like Sasha's inquisitive nature and I easily followed her, beat for beat.