Monday, October 31, 2016

And the Trees Crept In ~ Dawn Kurtagich (audio) review [@dawnkurtagich @lbkids]

And the Trees Crept In
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
September 06, 2016
352 pages
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Stay away from the woods…

When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the manor is cursed. The endless creaking of the house at night and the eerie stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too—questions that Silla can’t ignore: Why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer? Who is the beautiful boy who’s appeared from the woods? And who is the tall man with no eyes who Nori plays with in the basement at night… a man no one else can see?

Prior to actually reading, well listening to, And the Trees Crept In, I thought that the US title was a definite downgrade in comparison to the UK title, The Creeper Man.  That cover and title seemed to be . . . creepier than the US version. After reading the book, though, And the Trees Crept In, is a pretty perfect title. I don't think I have ever been happier to be not surrounded by trees as when I read this book.

This novel is fantastically creepy and weird and frightening and kind of gross and mystifying and strange. Starting from the girls' journey to La Buame, the manor house where their aunt lives to their arrival there and life with  their aunt, the edict that they must not go into Python Woods, the woods surrounding the house, it's all kind of off, weird and unsettling, somehow.

There are several mediums used in telling the story - flashbacks, journal entries, epigraphs, and the main narrative - that keep the story moving, add in new developments that sometimes make things more confusing and also help keep that sort of 'horror' feeling.

I listened to And the Trees Crept In and I definitely think that helped to enhance the creepy, spooky, scary aspects and overall mood. The sound effects, the voices, and all of the different effects used really made it into a scary story. This is a book that I absolutely recommend listening to, if at all possible.

The ending of this novel was not one I saw coming, even as we got right up to it, but things all fell together perfectly. It made earlier parts of the story make more sense and made for a good conclusion. There were a few relationships in the book that I had been somewhat unsure of before (their progression or if there was really anything there) but the ending made them fit much better. The ending was a surprise, but not a bad one.

While I wouldn't recommend listening to (or reading) this book in a densely wooded area, it would make a great Halloween read/listen.





Friday, October 28, 2016

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill ~ Megan Shepherd (earc) review [@DelacortePress @megan_shepherd]

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
October 11, 2016
240 pages
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There are winged horses that live in the mirrors of Briar Hill hospital. In the mirrors that line its grand hallways, which once belonged to a princess. In those that reflect the elegant rooms, now filled with sick children. It is her secret.

One morning, when Emmaline climbs over the wall of the hospital’s abandoned gardens, she discovers something incredible: a white horse with broken wings has left the mirror-world and entered her own.

Tucked into the garden’s once-gleaming sundial, Emmaline finds a letter from the Horse Lord. He is hiding the wounded white horse, named Foxfire, from a dark and sinister force—a Black Horse who hunts by colorless moonlight. If Emmaline is to keep the Black Horse from finding her new friend, she must collect colorful objects with which to blind him. But where can Emmaline find color when her world is filled with gray?

In her author's note at the end of the book, Megan Shepherd mentions books like The Secret Garden, "which combined reality with dreams, history with fantasy, darkness with heart, and,  most of all, contained true magic." It is what she has created with The Secret Horses of Briar Hill.

Emmaline, Briar Hill hospital, the other children, the nuns, Thomas, and the World War II setting combine to form this magical, fantastical, but also realistic and identifiable world. The winged horses Emmaline sees in the hospital's mirrors are that final bit of (perfect) magic.

The book has enough basis in fact - with the children at a remote mansion turned into a hospital during the war - that it's recognizable and something you can identify with. I loved Emmaline's character from her love of horses (those in the real world and those in the mirror world), how she couldn't be contained by the Sister's rules and the house but needed the outdoors, even with the danger that posed, but most of all I loved her heart. Her love for Anna, her belief in the horses, even if no one else believes, and her refusal to give up or give in make her a truly endearing character.

I love the way that magic and fantasy blend with reality and fact - and that it is not always clear where, or even if, there is a line between the two. The juxtaposition of wartime Britain with its air raids and gas masks with Emmaline's winged horses in the mirrors, of the gray with rainbows of color was brilliantly done.

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill is another wonderfully written book by Megan Shepherd full of real magic, heartfelt characters and a world you won't forget.







digital review copy received, via NetGalley, thanks to publisher

Thursday, October 27, 2016

My Unscripted Life ~ Lauren Morrill (eac) review [@laurenemorrill @DelacortePress]

My Unscripted Life
Delacorte
October 11, 2016
288 pages
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Perfect for fans of Jennifer E. Smith and Huntley Fitzpatrick, you'll love this funny and sweet contemporary romance about a Southern girl ready for a ho-hum summer until she meets the boy of her dreams who happens to be an international pop star.

Sometimes love stories go off script.

Another sultry Georgia summer is about to get a lot hotter. Dee Wilkie is still licking her wounds after getting rejected by the precollege fine arts program of her dreams. But if she'd gone away, she wouldn't have been around to say yes to an unbelievable opportunity: working on the set of a movie filming in her small Southern town that just happens to be starring Milo Ritter, the famous pop star Dee (along with the rest of the world) has had a crush since eighth grade.

It's not like Dee will be sharing any screen time with Milo—she's just a lowly PA. And Milo is so disappointingly rude that Dee is eager to stay far away from him. Except after a few chance meetings, she begins to wonder if just maybe there's a reason for his offensive attitude, and if there's more to Milo than his good looks and above-it-all Hollywood pedigree. Can a relationship with a guy like Milo ever work out for a girl like Dee? Never say never. . .

Novels with 'celebrity' characters can be some of my favorites. I like when we get to see the more 'normal' side to them while mixing in the aspects of whatever it is that makes them famous. In My Unscripted Life I really liked that Milo Ritter, a pop star, was starring in his first movie and that Dee, our not famous character, found herself working on that movie. It was something new for them both and they were doing that something new because of a recent failing (or not-quite-success) with the medium they loved.

Dee's rejection from the Governor's School summer fine art program gave her a unique reason for wanting to work on the movie set. She wasn't there because of a love of film or desire to see famous people (though there was some of that), rather she was there to escape that she wasn't going to Savannah for the program. I liked where she was starting from.

The relationship between Milo and Dee develops very quickly. The lead up to it was good and their seeming dislike of each other worked. Once they moved past that, though, it seemed to just happen. (Dee was calling him her boyfriend, without any questioning, after what seemed like a few days.)

The main issue I had with Milo and Dee and their relationship was the lack of communication. They had some serious issues to consider and work through - his recent breakup, her aversion to the notoriety that comes with dating Milo Ritter, the impending geographic separation, etc - but they never seemed to talk about it. At least not with each other.

If you don't get all think-y about it, My Unscripted Life is a cute, fun summer romance (in October). I enjoyed the depiction of Dee's life in small-town Georgia and that her work on the movie set was truly a part of the story and seemed realistic not glossed over or imagined, it added something to the story.








digital review copy received, via NetGalley, from the publisher

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Waiting On Wednesday [@Writeinbk @KatherineTegen @epicreads]

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

My pick for this week:



ALLEGEDLY by Tiffany D. Jackson

Mary B. Addison killed a baby.

Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a church-going black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

In this gritty and haunting debut, Tiffany D. Jackson explores the grey areas in our understanding of justice, family, and truth, and acknowledges the light and darkness alive in all of us.



published January 24th by Katherine Tegen Books

add to your Goodreads shelf // pre-order from Book Depo // or Amazon


Why?

I really like the whole idea of this book - that there is this horrible, tragic event but that it may not have happened exactly as everyone believes. That Mary was only a nine-year-old at the time and what it says about her mother (". . . the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma.") makes me really curious not only about what did happen but about Mary and her mother's relationship, too.

It sounds as though there is not only a lot for Mary to deal with (her past, where 'baby jail' left her, the group home and now Ted and her baby) but with a lot of complicating factors - her past, Momma, the state, etc.

I am really looking forward to discovering this story and hope it is as good as it sounds like it could be!



That's my pick for this week, what's yours? Tell me in the comments and/or link me to your own post!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Last Seen Leaving ~ Caleb Roehrig (earc) review [@MikalebRoehrig @FierceReads]

Last Seen Leaving
Feiwel and Friends
October 04, 2016
336 pages
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Flynn's girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn's girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can't answer, and her friends are telling stories that don't add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January's boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January's disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

The first person narration of Last Seen Leaving felt a bit off, to me, as a reader. The Flynn that we saw through his actions, his dialogue and his reasoning did not seem to fit with Narrator Flynn. The word choice and sentence structure - a lot of metaphors, referencing things like Torquemada and thumbscrews, words like credulous - didn't match up to the fifteen-year-old who could seem naive and immature. I do recognize that some of his thought processes could be justified by a desperation to find answers, to know the truth but they still created a disconnect between the narration and who Flynn otherwise seemed to be.

The mystery part of the novel was very predictable and seemed to follow similar themes to several other mystery/thrillers I have read recently. (Though, that could just be that I've been reading a lot of them so similarities were inevitable and if you don't read many you won't recognize things.) I did like that there were several characters you had reason to doubt, question and wonder about.

Flynn was not my favorite character when it came to being an amateur detective (he jumped to too many conclusions and many of his decisions seemed rash and not terribly logical) but I did like the sort of coming-of-age side of the story with his character. There was some nice balance with him trying to uncover the truth of what happened to January while also trying to figure out how truthful he could be about - and with - himself. It was an interesting and unique side to the story.

I'm not sure how I feel about exactly how the mystery all came together and if some things really made sense but for the different characters involved it was an eventful and satisfactory resolution.

Though the mystery felt formulaic and not as suspenseful as I would have liked and Flynn's character didn't quite match the narration (by Flynn's character), Last Seen Leaving is an enjoyable read that kept me reading. I appreciated the diversity of the author's characters, racially, sexually, economically, etc and how some of that played out in different parts of the book.







digital copy received, for review, thanks to publisher via NetGalley

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

One Was Lost ~ Natalie D Richards (earc) review [@SourcebooksFire @NatDRichards]

One Was Lost
Sourcebooks Fire
October 04, 2016
320 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Are they labels or a warning? The answer could cost Sera everything.

Murder, justice, and revenge were so not a part of the plan when Sera set out on her senior camping trip. After all, hiking through the woods is supposed to be safe and uneventful.

Then one morning the group wakes up groggy, confused, and with words scrawled on their wrists: Damaged. Deceptive. Dangerous. Darling. Their supplies? Destroyed. Half their group? Gone. Their chaperone? Unconscious. Worst of all, they find four dolls acting out a murder—dolls dressed just like them.

Suddenly it's clear; they're being hunted. And with the only positive word on her wrist, Sera falls under suspicion…

Well, here is one book you really don't want to take on a camping or hiking in the woods trip, that's for sure. The three previous books by Natalie D Richards were brilliant mystery thrillers and this one was, as well. Her novels are full of twists and turns they keep you guessing right up to the end and the premisses themselves are completely original and imaginative.

What still, somehow, surprised me about One Was Lost though (and that I also liked in the other books, hence the 'somehow') was how well the characters were written, how easy it was to relate to them and how much I came to care about them, their relationships and their lives. Even in the midst of this horror-thriller, all of the mystery and the danger, the author lets us get to know the characters.

Even as they are in fear for their lives, trying to piece together what's happened and who could possibly be doing all of this to them, we learn more about Sera and her fellow campers. There are things from their past that the others know about, or at least know of, then there are the secrets they're keeping.  The pieces we learn about them only add to the mystery - and to our desire to see them (or at least some of them) rescued.

One Was Lost is an incredibly compelling mystery with captivating characters full of the unexpected and unpredictable. This is the fourth book I have read by Natalie D Richards and I am absolutely anticipating her fifth (and more)!








review copy received thanks to publisher, via NetGalley 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Cloud and Wallfish ~ Anne Nesbet (earc) review [@annenesbet @Candlewick]

Cloud and Wallfish
Candlewick Press
October 04, 2016
400 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depository/or Amazon

Slip behind the Iron Curtain into a world of smoke, secrets, and lies in this stunning novel where someone is always listening and nothing is as it seems.


Noah Keller has a pretty normal life, until one wild afternoon when his parents pick him up from school and head straight for the airport, telling him on the ride that his name isn’t really Noah and he didn’t really just turn eleven in March. And he can’t even ask them why — not because of his Astonishing Stutter, but because asking questions is against the newly instated rules. (Rule Number Two: Don’t talk about serious things indoors, because Rule Number One: They will always be listening). As Noah—now "Jonah Brown"—and his parents head behind the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, the rules and secrets begin to pile up so quickly that he can hardly keep track of the questions bubbling up inside him: Who, exactly, is listening — and why? When did his mother become fluent in so many languages? And what really happened to the parents of his only friend, Cloud-Claudia, the lonely girl who lives downstairs? In an intricately plotted novel full of espionage and intrigue, friendship and family, Anne Nesbet cracks history wide open and gets right to the heart of what it feels like to be an outsider in a world that’s impossible to understand.

I don't think I realized how little I knew about the Iron Curtain, East and West Berlin before reading Anne Nesbet's Cloud and Wallfish. I have read a couple of other books set in or around there but I think they focused more on the characters than where or how they lived.  I had not, before, gogten such a full look at, in particular, life in East Berlin.

Cloud and Wallfish is a Middle Grade book but one that absolutely should appeal to older readers, as well. Noah is the ideal main character for this story. The perspective that his age gives him  - along with the facts he is or is not aware of, what he knows of history and how he sees people and the world around him is perfect for the story. He and his character are a great fit not only for MG readers but those of us who aren't full educated on the time or facts. The understandable naivete on some things that his age gives him really lets readers be introduced to new information while also seeing things in an unexpected but realistic way.

Noah's stutter (his Astonishing Stutter) also makes his character any interesting one for the center of this story. From the social trouble it causes him - both in the US and now in East Berlin - to how, in 1989, it is viewed by those there. It brought out several aspects of East German life I don't think would have otherwise been known.

I really loved Noah and Cloud-Claudia, their relationship, the struggles they faced and how the author used it all to show us life in East Berlin in 1989 while still making it very much about Noah and Cloud. There's a fantastic balance between fiction and nonfiction in Cloud and Wallfish. (The inclusion of the Secret Files at the end of the chapters that give you real, historical insight without needing the characters to be aware of those facts is a great addition both for readers' education and for how we view the characters' lives.)







 thank you to the publisher for my review copy, via NetGalley

. . . and I'm Back

It seems I went on a bit of an unannounced (and unplanned) temporary hiatus these last few weeks. Please forgive me; hurricane preparation, the actual hurricane (Matthew, in this case) and then the clean up doesn't leave much time (or sometimes electricity) for blog-y or bookish things.

Everything's good (or getting there) now and I'm back, though. (Hopefully without any other hurricanes to come for a long, long time. If ever.)

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