Saturday, August 31, 2013

Book Haul (11), or the one with the HARRY POTTER SPECIAL EDITION


Best. Book. Haul. Week. EVER. Not only did I get a review book I was dying for (KINSLAYER!!!), but I decided to indulge myself and get... the Harry Potter Special Edition! Scholastic JUST released the boxed set this week, and because I have no willpower, I had to buy it. I'll give you a full tour of the books in my vlog this week, so you can all pretend you have it too.



Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff (thank you, St. Martin's Griffin!)
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Note: for every copy purchased before Sept. 10, David Levithan will donate $2 to the Trevor Project. So go buy!!
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (thank you, Scholastic!)
Indelible by Dawn Metcalf (thank you, Harlequin Teen!)
Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (thank you, Balzer + Bray!)
HARRY FREAKIN' POTTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Review: Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston


Review: Frozen by Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston
Goodreads 
Release date: September 17th, 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Series: #1 in the Heart of Dread series
Source: ARC from BEA
Rating:

15850937

From New York Times bestselling author Melissa de la Cruz and Michael Johnston comes this remarkable first book in a spellbinding new series about the dawn of a new kind of magic.

Welcome to New Vegas, a city once covered in bling, now blanketed in ice. Like much of the destroyed planet, the place knows only one temperature—freezing. But some things never change. The diamond in the ice desert is still a 24-hour hedonistic playground and nothing keeps the crowds away from the casino floors, never mind the rumors about sinister sorcery in its shadows.

At the heart of this city is Natasha Kestal, a young blackjack dealer looking for a way out. Like many, she's heard of a mythical land simply called “the Blue.” They say it’s a paradise, where the sun still shines and the waters are turquoise. More importantly, it’s a place where Nat won’t be persecuted, even if her darkest secret comes to light.

But passage to the Blue is treacherous, if not impossible, and her only shot is to bet on a ragtag crew of mercenaries led by a cocky runner named Ryan Wesson to take her there. Danger and deceit await on every corner, even as Nat and Wes find themselves inexorably drawn to each other. But can true love survive the lies? Fiery hearts collide in this fantastic tale of the evil men do and the awesome power within us all.


There's no beating around the bush. Frozen is a bad book. It's a bottom-of-the-slush-pile, never-gonna-happen, mish-mash-mess of a book you'd expect from someone who just woke up one day and decided to be a novelist. It is stupefying and fascinating in its awfulness. It contains poor grammar, poor plodding plotting, flat characters, and world-building that's entirely without focus. Is it a fantasy? Is it dystopian? Who knows? And, more important, who cares?

Why did I finish this book? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps it reached such a high level of hilarribad that I was physically incapable of looking away from it. Maybe I wanted the book to deliver on its promise so much, even though I knew it wouldn't, that I had to give it a chance.

Vague plot overview that can't be more specific because I didn't understand anything but this:

Nat is a "Marked", which means she has freaky eyes and hears a voice in her head and has weird powers. One day, she escapes from... prison? A hospital? A secret evil governmental place?... and goes to New Vegas to become a dealer. The world is frozen and post-apocalyptic-y, which means everybody is poor and the government is totalitarian like every other book I've ever read. The voice in Nat's head  tells her she must go find "the Blue", which apparently is the one place on Earth that's not all frozen over, because that is exactly how meteorology works. To do this, she hires Wes, the leader of the least exciting crew of teenage mercenaries in literature, to ferry her across the frozen nuclear wasteland to the frozen nuclear sea. Then there's a polar bear. For some reason.

Why was this book the worst thing to happen to me since that time I stepped on a Lego? Several reasons, the key ones being:

1. Grammar

Or, more accurately, a complete and total lack of it. This book makes the English language cry and my inner copy editor rage. When reading an ARC, you're guaranteed to run into the odd typo or grammatical error. I've come to expect this in ARCs every now and then, and I can tell what's accidental. But the writing in this book is not accidental. When almost every sentence is a run-on mess, or has errant commas and semi colons just hanging around wherever they please, or switches POV for a couple of words, it's not an accident. It's style. It's TACKY STYLE.



All quotes are taken from an uncorrected advance proof. I understand this, but STILL.

"Wes carried one because he had to, but he'd never killed anyone with it, he'd threatened many, of course, he'd waved it around, and shot drones and trucks and who knew what else, but his hands were clean, and so were his boys'."



HOW ON EARTH IS THAT ONE SENTENCE

"He smiled and she smiled back, and for a moment they were just an ordinary boy and girl in a car, neither runner and client, or mercenary and thief, and Nat saw a glimpse of how normal things could be."

Gillian's edit: He smiled, and she smiled back. For a moment, they were just an ordinary boy and girl in a car, neither runner and client NOR mercenary and thief, and Nat saw a glimpse of how normal things could be.

"Neither" is followed by "nor". "Either" is followed by "or". Periods go at the end of complete sentences. I... I can't.



"They will find their own way, the voice murmured, but Nat felt her stomach twist, here she was, in the safety of the truck, while outside, her friends--her friends were dying. People like her, hunted and killed. "

Gillian's edit: They will find their own way, the voice murmured, but Nat felt her stomach twist. Here she was in the safety of the truck while outside, her friends were dying. People like her were being hunted and killed.

(I'm such a bitch for doing this, but I CANNOT HELP MYSELF.)

"Wes was visibly trembling, and, more than once, he would ask Nat if it was day or night, his eyes were bothering him."

Gillian's edit: Wes was visibly trembling, and, more than once, he asked Nat if was day or night. His eyes were bothering him.

"Shakes--just plow through the fence--look there's a hole over there--we'll just rip through," Wes ordered.

Gillian's edit: "Shakes, just plow through the fence. Look, there's a hole over there! We'll just rip through!" Wes ordered.

Now, doesn't that look better? Still not great, but better?

"She realized he wasn't trying to wriggle out of the job; he was simply being decent; and she felt another rush of affection for this impulsive, good-looking boy."

TWO; SEMI; COLONS; IN; ONE; SENTENCE.

 

 "She joined him in laughter, but they both froze, as the sound of the wailer broke over the waves again--that awful, horrible scream--the sound of broken grief--a keening--echoing over the water--filling the air with its mournful cries..." [SIC SIC EVERYTHING SIC IT MAKES ME SICK]

What--do you-- think you are-- doing--exactly--here...



2. World-building

Everything but the kitchen sink. Absolutely no logic whatsoever. Crammed, crowded, and defying logic. Fragments that emulate the tacky writing style. Nothing but fragments and run-ons. Apparently there was a big Flood but also a Freeze and the government took over for some reason but there are battles being fought in places and population control for some reason but there are also magical Marked people with dragon tattoos and voices in their heads and light eyes and nobody has money or warmth but everybody has full tanks of gas and boats and Hummers and nobody can read but some people speak in texts and none of it makes a DAMN LICK OF SENSE.

No, seriously, this book includes: a frozen, post-apocalyptic wasteland; "Marked", magical people; sylphs or something (?); smallmen (?!?!); psychic dragons; polar bears; and even some things called thrillers, which are, hilariously, wonderfully, zombies.



Literacy and English are a thing of the past. All information is conveyed in either images and sounds or an "amalgam of symbols" called TEXTLISH. YES. TEXTLISH. That sound you just heard was the booming of a mushroom cloud where my brain used to be. A very popular "Reading-Based Entertainment" is called XCLNT <3 LULZ. Oh, but Korean still exists, because they go to K-Town and all the signs are in Korean and "textlish".

The true tragedy of this is how many good ideas are squandered. A bleak and frozen future? A toxic sea dotted with "trash-bergs", aka huge heaps of garbage comprised of the remnants of the past? These are all elements that could be amazing! Things really pick up once they make it to sea, both plot-wise and world-building-wise. There's actually a nice-ish twist regarding a messed-up protection spell that's almost immediately ruined. The few glimmers of promise are drowned in an icy and interminable flood of stupid.

"But there were very few scientists these days, and the only books that remained were the physical ones that dated until the early twenty-first century."

WHY? Why are there no scientists or books?! I am a thousand percent positive the frozen apocalyptic future would have both. ESPECIALLY SCIENTISTS. THERE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SCIENTISTS. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE SCIENTISTS. You are using futuristic technology, dolts. Therefore, there are scientists. And early twenty-first century, how clever. In the frozen future, all the little kidlets will be sitting around reading... Frozen! It will be the only book left! NO WONDER NOBODY CAN READ.

It was after curfew, when the only vehicles allowed in the streets were the Willie Winkie patrols...



OKAY. YOU CANNOT BRING UP SOMETHING AS ABSURD AS WILLIE WINKIE PATROLS AND THEN NOT EXPLAIN WHAT, PRECISELY, THAT IS.

There is a lack of water, and most people can't afford to drink it, and get by on a crap substitute called Nutri. HEY. PSST. GUYS. YOU LIVE IN A FUCKING FROZEN TUNDRA. YOU ARE SURROUNDED BY FUCKING SNOW AND ICE. DO YOU KNOW WHAT SNOW AND ICE ARE? THEY. ARE. WATER. JUST. MELT. IT. YOU..


"It's Bacon Fruit. Tastes like fruit, looks like bacon.

Giselle warned me about this, but no amount of warning could have prepared me for this. I laughed so hard I choked on my own tongue. Bacon Fruit. There is a thing called Bacon Fruit. They use it a jacket insulation. To keep warm. But it's edible. Why the everloving fuck would you need or want such a thing? Why on earth wasn't it mentioned BEFORE it was used to miraculously save the day? Why didn't the editor ALSO choke on her own tongue and immediately strike this from the manuscript?

But logic is not at all present in Frozen. Somehow, on their journey from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, the characters pass through Phoenix. *checks handy US map* Um. No. There's also the part where Wes implies to Nat that he can't read and then... reads the title of her book over her shoulder. And then there's the part where the engine on the boat stops working, and then later the book references someone "turn(ing) the wheel and power(ing) the engines." Also, WHY did the frozen apocalypse happen? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

3. Characters:

Everybody in this book is bland and floats around doing whatever stupid thing they're supposed to be doing at the moment, whether it be racing cars, jumping out of buildings, or standing perfectly stock still while a polar bear charges at their face. Mind you, that exhilarating car race TO THE DEATH lasts... three paragraphs. Thank you, Wes. That was thrilling. You sure showed me what an adrenaline junkie you are! Wes and Nat have the strangest flirtation going on through most of the book, and it's totally forced and awkward. INSERT ROMANTICAL FEELINGS HERE! BANTER, PUPPETS!

"We're not sticking around after that. Got it?"
"Who says I want you to stick around," [sic] she said tartly. [WHEN YOU ASK A QUESTION, USE A DAMN QUESTION MARK.] [Tartly. Honestly.]
His dark eyes sparkled. [Just say 'darkled' and be done with it.] "Careful, you might change your mind about that once you get to know me."
"Doubt it," she said, even as her cheeks flushed a little.



Also, this is the second time they've ever spoken. Why are they flirting? Why do they like each other? Wait, all of a sudden they're in the most tepid "true love" ever? Who are these people? Oh, God, is that a dragon? WHERE THE SHIT DID A DRAGON COME FROM? WHY?

4. "Plot"

Yep, this book suddenly becomes a high fantasy adventure right at the very end. Just when I thought, "Hey, wait a second, that was maybe not so terrible", BOOM! The book erupts with lunacy. In the last 20 pages we FINALLY learn what Nat's powers are and what the hell anything is. It's all so very deus ex machina, too. I couldn't understand the world-building or anybody's motivations or the "love" story. The adventure part should totally be entertaining, but its not. Nat is using a jewel necklace as a map to the Blue. How? How do you find a location using a necklace? HECK IF I KNOW. The navigating part is mostly just:

 

It's the same deal with the voice in Nat's head. Nat goes on this whole quest just because the voice tells her to. And then she special-snowflakes all over the place and yaaaawn. So much narrative cheating at the end, so much "twu wuv saves the day and brings people back to life" and vommmmm.

This book is a train-wreck. No, it's a plane crash-landing on a boat that takes out a bridge that explodes a train that wrecks thirty cars. DON'T READ THIS BOOK. That's all I have to say. DON'T, DON'T, DON'T.

OR THE THRILLERS WILL GET YOU.

 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater


Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
Goodreads 
Release date: September 17th, 2013
Publisher: Scholastic
Series: #2 in the Raven Cycle
Source: Borrowed from Carina, then e-ARC from Netgalley
(good timing on that one, Netgalley)
Rating: A gorgeously written sequel that ups the ante and develops all the major characters

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The second installment in the all-new series from the masterful, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater!

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after..


My review of The Raven Boys

Warning: there WILL be spoilers for The Raven Boys, so proceed with caution.

The cover: OH HAI RONAN. You look so sexy, all pensive and surly and surrounded by dream ravens. Also, I don't mean to alarm you, but your heart might literally be exploding. You're still gorgeous, dear. Don't worry.

The cover: You might remember that Stiefvater dropped a WHOPPER of a cliff hanger in the last sentence of The Raven Boys. Basically, abrasive, confrontational Ronan revealed that he can bring things out of his dreams, like his adorable raven, Chainsaw. Also, Adam did something I still don't really understand on the ley lines, Gansey is still determined to track down Glendower, the buried Welsh king of legend, Noah is really most sincerely dead, and Blue is officially one of the gang.

Plot-wise, this is an easier read than The Raven Boys. We spend less time establishing the characters and the story and more time living it. It's still not a fast-paced book, laced as it is with evocative imagery and spellbinding character moments, but things start happening for quickly. Something is seriously wrong with Cabeswater. A classmate of the boys is up to strange, troublesome things, and his motives are murky. A gray, mysterious man has come to town, and he will do anything he can to find what he came to find... even if it endagers every one of the Lynch brothers. (Who we meet! I loved meeting Ronan's sweet younger brother, Matthew, and even seeing more of Declan, who plays a bigger role in this book.)

 Adam. Oh Adam. *Pets the baby Adam* He had a really rough go of it in TRB, and I'm sorry to say things are even rougher for him in TDT. He and Blue are still edging around each other romantically, and there's tension still between him and Gansey. WHICH SADDENS ME SO MUCH, because of one my favorite parts of this story is the strength and loyalty of the friendships between the Raven boys (and their Raven girl, the belligerent Blue). He's going through some serious changes. Something is rotten in the state of Adam-mark after his sacrifice at the end of TRB. He's hearing voices, and a mysterious force is moving through him, and somehow, it's connected to Cabeswater. He's a bit of a pill in this book, but the guy is going through some tough and very heartbreaking things, which leads to... you guessed it... more heartbreak.

As adorable and tentative and sweet as Blue and Adam are, my ship of choice is Gansey and Blue. GLUE. BLANSEY? Whatever they are, I ship them something fierce. Okay, I'm going with Glue. Because Blue and Gansey are kind of the ones who hold the whole Fellowship of the Cabeswater together, and I want them to be stuck together like glue. Don't argue.


Gansey is as wonderful and complicated as ever, full of unflagging enthusiasm and loyalty. He's still pretty clueless about a lot of things, but he always tries to hard, both to help and to do what's right. And Blue's my girl. Prickly, spiky, confused Blue, fighting so hard against fate and losing. That girl has the worst prophecies ever hanging over her head, and it's so interesting to see just how wrong and how right they are, and if Blue let's them determine her life or not.

The magic in this book continues to be one of the most original I've read about. The true extent of dream-theivery, and the repercussions that has in Ronan's relationships with his family, with Gansey, with Adam, with himself... It was so wonderful to be in Ronan's head. His third person POV is the most dominant one in TDT, and I could not have been happier about it. It's hard to say what I love best about his book: the lyrical writing, the mythology, or the characters.

Actually, it's not that hard. It's most DEFINITELY the characters. They remain themselves consistently, but it's fascinating to watch them battle against themselves and their circumstances. My beloved Gansey, still hell-bent on his quest for so many reasons, is the linchpin of the group. Or maybe Blue is, with her pluck and not-so-charming charm. (Seriously, watching Blue and Gansey bicker and play off each other fills my heart with FEELS. JUST JUMP EACH OTHER'S BONES, GUYS. Um. Except don't, obviously, because of Blue's curse).

I also love the relationship that Blue and Noah have. It's so sweet and sincere. Each character is just so distinct. You get the feeling Stiefvater knows them all the way down to their socks. I once heard a really great writing teacher describe characterization like that: "You want to know your character so well that you'll know which socks they'll put on for the best and worst and more ordinary days of their lives."

I know every characters' socks. AND I LOVE THEM.

The things you find when you Google image search sock gifs.

Book Three, why you so far away? Why why why?!

Just because.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Top Ten Most Memorable Secondary Characters


http://www.perpetualpageturner.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/toptentuesss1.jpg
Hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Ten? Just ten? Hahahahahahahahahahaha!

No.

Here are... more than ten of my favorite secondary characters of all time. Also, I count secondary characters as, well, not MAIN characters. If they're not the main character, or one OF the main characters, or, generally, the love interest, then they're secondary. It's not an exact science, obviously. For example, I wouldn't include Ron and Hermione on this list, since they count as primary for me.

Related: Top Ten Sidekick Best Friends

1. Everybody from Harry Potter

 Seriously, can I write that? Can I just say everybody from Harry Potter? Because honestly... everybody from Harry Potter. This topic could easily have been renamed "Top Ten Side Characters from the Harry Potter series". Neville, Luna, the Weasley twins, Draco, Ginny, McGonagall, Snape, Lee Jordan, Lupin, Tonks, Sirius, Hedwig... seriously, stop me before I name EVERYBODY.

2. Orma from Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This book has TONS of great side characters, including Glisselda and the adorable Loud Lad, but Orma is by far my favorite. He's cold and distant, like any good dragon-in-human-shape should be, but of course Seraphina brings out all the mushy feels in him, much to his horror. Seraphina loves him to pieces and describes him as being a like a cat that, the more dismissive it is of you, the more you love it. AND YES. I LOVE ORMA.

3. Toby from The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Switching genres here, but I just HAD to give a shout-out to Toby, possibly the best character in a witty contemporary that was packed with awesome characters. Toby is a loyal friend who doesn't hold grudges, has a way with puns, and doesn't let a little thing like catching a severed head while riding a roller coaster hold him back. Plus, he's an awesome drunk. But more important, he's an awesome friend.

4. Nehemia from Throne of Glass/Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

Nehemia is just the kind of bad-ass bitch that bad-ass bitch Celaena needs around. Nehemia is a brilliant princess on a mission to save her kingdom and her people, and together, she and C are like girl power to the max.



5. David from Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
(At this point, I'd classify Sturmhond as a primary character, but if he's not, THEN I VOTE STURMHOND ALWAYS FOR EVERYTHING)

David is so adorkable and clueless that I can't help but love him. He's like that science nerd who's secretly hot, if only he'd just take off his glasses for a second. Genya, most beautiful girl alive, is madly in love with him, and with good reason. He's just so CUTE! And of course Sturmhond should leave Ravka behind and come live with me and together we shall drink many, many bottles of kvas and do unspeakable things.

6. Faithful the cat from the Alanna series by Tamora Pierce

When I was a child, I wanted a black cat  not because of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but because of Alanna and Faithful. Faithful truly earns his name. He saves Alanna's life about a hundred times, and is always there to make a perfectly timed snide comment.

7. Storm from The Crown of Embers/The Bitter Kingdom and Mula from The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson

One is a haughty Invierno who doesn't understand emotions or lies. The other is an adorable and hilarious little urchin. Together, they make secondary character MAGIC, and by magic, I mean they make me giggle, even when seriously epic things are going down.

8. Iko from Cinder and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Iko the android is so awesome, she made it onto my list of best best friends, even though she isn't even a live. She'd a glitchy android with a fabulous personality and sense of style, and she's always there for her girl Cinder, even when she's as fat as a space (because she's, you know, actually a space ship. Iko, not Cinder). Honorable mention to Thorne, my favorite character from Scarlet, but he's not going to be secondary for very much longer.

9. Kenji from Shatter Me/Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi

 

Kenji is that hilarious get-a-grip friend that all emo YA heroines need. He is Edna Mode with a newspaper bellowing, "PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER!" He is the light in the dark in Unravel Me. He's the one who balances every tear with a laugh.



10. Reagan from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Reagan is outspoken, brash, and rude, which means she'd normally be a nightmare roommate for wallflower Cath. But for some reason, the two girls hit it off beautifully. There's something super
charming and sincere about how abrasive and blunt Reagan is. You just can't help but love her.

11. The entire Garrett family from My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

The Garretts are a huge, loud, and loving family with a SUBLIME sense of humor. Can I be invited to their next family dinner, pretty pretty please? I promise to babysit George, with his adorably serious doomsday predictions. In fact, I'd be happy to. Or Tim, Sam's best friend's brother! He was my other favorite character.

12. Finnick. No, Cinna. No, Boggs. No, Finnick. Effie? ARGH!
Everybody from The Hunger Games
Not everyone everyone. I'd like to give President Snow a swift kick in the pants, and many other people, but the rest I want to pull into my arms and hug forever.

13. Buruu from Stormdancer
I'd definitely call Buruu, the hilarious, loyal, ferocious thunder tiger, a primary character, but sod it, I wanted him on this list. SO HERE HE IS. 

I'M SURE I FORGOT SO MANY. As I remember them, I'll add them here in my...

Honorable mentions:

Diana Barry from Anne of Green Gables, Mr. Tumnus from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Michi from Stormdancer, Mia's entire family in If I Stay, especially Teddy, Tina and Boris from The Princess Diaries.

Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill


Review: All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Goodreads 
Release date: September 3rd, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Series: YES. #1 in the Cassandra Chronicles
Source: Purchased through jet-setting wizardry
Rating: Wibbley-wobbley, timey-wimey WONDERFUL

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"You have to kill him." Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.

Only Em can complete the final instruction. She’s tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.

Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of America’s most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, James’s life crumbles apart, and with it, Marina’s hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.

All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.



The cover: MILES better than my hideous UK cover. This book went through a lot of versions, but ultimately I like the one they settled on. It's arresting and implies timey wimey stuff with the clock.

The story: I knew I was getting into some time-traveling craziness with this one. What I didn't expect was how this book would make me feel. I felt all the things while reading this, even when I was confused, and even more so when all the puzzle pieces click together to form one horrifying picture.

We first meet Em, a tough-as-nails girl, imprisoned in a cell and routinely tortured. She's locked up next to a boy, Finn, whom she cares about immensely and who cares about her. Em has a strange feeling about the drain in her cell, and once she cracks it open, she finds a crumpled piece of notebook paper with fourteen crossed out lines written in her handwriting. Only the last line is not crossed out:

You have to kill him.

 

The crossed-out lines were left by fourteen other versions of Em, who went back in time and failed every time to stop the advent of time travel. This time, Em and Finn have to go back four years and kill the doctor--the evil madman who has imprisoned them--before he develops the machine that will doom the world. But it just so happens that "the doctor" is someone they knew and loved four years ago... and someone their four-years-ago selves will do anything to protect.



This is a difficult book to talk about, since I don't want to spoil ANYTHING. Part of the wonderfulness of this book is slowly accumulating all the bits of information you need to make this circular plot fit together, where time isn't linear and events are bent and characters become entirely different people because of the experiences they may or may not have. Your brain will hurt, but it will all make sense.

Em and Finn go back in time to kill the doctor, and then the narrative adds another first person voice: Marina, aka Em four years ago. Marina is a difficult character. She's sheltered, insecure, and madly in love with her best friend, James. She's cruel to four-years-ago Finn, who I love more than life, so that was tough to take. (Seriously, Finn is the best character in the whole book. Also, is there a law that all YA books need boys named Finn in them?) What makes you truly love Marina is Em's feelings for her. Em sees her younger self almost like a younger sister. She wants to protect her and keep her from feeling any more pain. More than anything, she wants to alter the past to spare her the horrific future that's in store for her. She wants to make it so Marina never becomes Em.

Still following?

Em and Future-Finn are joining the list of my ultimate fictional ships. Also, by extension, Marina and Past-Finn. Finn and Em give me all the feels ever. And James is exactly the fascinating, intellectual mystery of a boy he's meant to be, both endearing and unnerving. The plot never lets up. I've heard some books described as a "thriller" that never really thrilled, but boy, does All Our Yesterdays thrill. I spent so much of this book going, "Eeeeeeep!" The plot is tight and action-packed, but never zooms so fast that it loses your or the relationships. Perhaps Marina figures a few things out a little too easily, but whatever, she's a smart girl, and I'm willing to go with it because the rest of the writing was just so wonderful.

There's something both heartbreaking and glorious, both satisfying and unsatisfying, about books where certain realities get erased. What did happen, and what didn't? Did all those fourteen Ems and Finns really exist? Did the love they feel really happen? SOBS EVERYWHERE, you guys. JUST SOBS. To see the Em that Marina becomes, strong and fiery and passionate... would she still become that person if Em and Finn succeed? So many questions! So many thoughts! So much PAIN for me! There's a melancholy, almost bittersweet strain throughout this book, because to save the world, Em and Finn have to destroy two of the things that are the most important to them. And most of all, they have to devastate their younger, more innocent selves. Oh, crap, I'm crying again.

I am curious about the fact that there will be a sequel. Now, when I read this, I thought it was a standalone, and it certainly reads like one. I'm actually extremely confused about how there can be a sequel. The story wrapped up extremely well. I mean, I'll be glad to see certain characters again, that's for sure. But I prefer knowing going in that a book is going to be part of a series.

Ugh, this book. I needed a book to savage my soul, and this one did that brilliantly. If you're dubious about time travell-y stuff, I'd recommend giving AOY a shot.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Review: Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger


Review: Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger
Goodreads 
Release date: October 2nd, 2012
Publisher: Aladdin
Series: #1 Keeper of the Lost Cities
Source: ARCycling
Rating: Though I nearly DNFed in the beginning (they're ELVES?! She's HARRY FREAKING POTTER?! THEY'RE ELVES?!?!), ultimately I was charmed by this middle grade fantasy.

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Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has a secret. She’s a Telepath—someone who hears the thoughts of everyone around her. It’s a talent she’s never known how to explain.

Everything changes the day she meets Fitz, a mysterious boy who appears out of nowhere and also reads minds. She discovers there’s a place she does belong, and that staying with her family will place her in grave danger. In the blink of an eye, Sophie is forced to leave behind everything and start a new life in a place that is vastly different from anything she has ever known.

Sophie has new rules to learn and new skills to master, and not everyone is thrilled that she has come “home.”
There are secrets buried deep in Sophie’s memory—secrets about who she really is and why she was hidden among humans—that other people desperately want. Would even kill for.

In this page-turning debut, Shannon Messenger creates a riveting story where one girl must figure out why she is the key to her brand-new world, before the wrong person finds the answer first.



The cover: 99% of the reason I wanted this. LOOOOK at it! And at Sophie's oh-so-glorious middle grade hair. Let's pretend I looked like that at age 12.

The story: I came so close to giving up on this one. I thought the beginning was a MESS. Normal-but-not-normal preteen girl suddenly discovers she is part of a magical world she never knew existed. Yeah, we've all read it before, but it's possible to pull this conceit off in a pretty original matter. Instead, for most of the beginning, I was rolling my eyes and saying, "Harry Potter. Ooh, that was Twilight-esque. OH MY GOD, THEY ARE *NOT* GOING TO A MAGICAL SHOPPING STREET AND INTO A MAGICAL POTIONS STORE CALLED SLURPS AND BURPS."

Sophie is your average twelve-year-old high school senior who can read minds (bwahahahahaha). One day, on a school field trip, a hot fourteen-year-old boy comes up and tells her she doesn't belong in the human world. Sophie begs and begs to know why, and eventually Fitz, hottie extraordinaire despite the fact that he is named Fitz, tells her: she is an elf.

Nope...

Not quite...

YEP THAT'S THE ONE

I don't know why I snickered every time the world "elf" was on the page, but I did. It was so silly. Anyway, the world-building from this point on isn't bad, though it is, again, a little silly. The elves sequestered themselves away from the doomed, dirty humans a couple thousand years ago, retreating into the "lost" cities of Atlantis, Shangri-La, etcetera. Elves kind of suck for this. Anyway, Fitz shows up to find Sophie in the human world, and he's all:



Because it turns out Sophie is the specialest little snowflake that you ever did see. Anything an elf can do, Sophie can do better. No, best. Sophie can do it backwards and upside down and with her eyes closed and when she was a fetus. It was quite exahausting to spend the whole beginning of the book discovering all ninety-thousand of Sophie's mystical gifts. "No elf in a thousand years has had THAT ability! No elf has ever had BROWN eyes! No elf has EVER made me want to commit suicide before!"

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Oops, I angered the pretty.

Aw, I kid, Legolas, really. It wasn't that bad. I was just feeling grumpy, and the book wasn't working for me. We spend a LOT of time establishing the world and Sophie's awesomeness. Messenger actually broke my heart when Sophie had to say goodbye to her human family forever... but then she skips right past it, and Sophie, while thinking of her family every now and then, never feels that pain again.

But then, things get better. Things pick up once Sophie finds a tentative, surrogate family, makes it past the Wizengamot elf council (which features one council memeber whose entire life mission is, inexplicably, to get Sophie exiled) and goes off to elfing school.

"Elfing school? REALLY?"

Yeah. Really, Legolas. But still, this is the point where the book gains a really delightful sense of humor. Sophie becomes less of an assortment of cool abilities and more of a sweet, earnest person, desperate to fit in somewhere and desperate to have a family. The friends she makes are what really sold the book for me. Dex the best friend is absolutely wonderful, even if he is one of 654323 male characters in love with Sophie. Keefe, who could be a Weasley triplet, is hilarious, and Fitz is pretty swoony for a pre-pubescent elf.

"DAMN STRAIGHT. WE ELVES BE FINE"

Never doubted it for a second, Legolas. And even though some Harry Potter parallels remain (oh, so you're known for getting sent to the hospital wing a lot, are you, Sophie?), the book becomes its own by the time big things are going down. All lot of the magical world-building feels dense  and original and plausible. You learn WHY Sophie is the best elf in the history of elves, and it actually makes sense. There was a twist I didn't see coming at all. And the mystery is pretty engrossing.

Mostly, this book overcame it's rocky start by winning my heart (that sounds like a country song). Everything in the latter half of the book was completely adorable. Sophie gets a cute little animal sidekick, bonds with the bitchy mean girl, and has a couple really sad moments with her foster parents. Suddenly, I found myself caring. Also, jokes! This book makes funnies! I like funnies.

I really want to read the sequel so I can find out if all my inappropriate ships come to light. This book was such a bizarre journey for me, from open disgust to total adoration. HOW DID YOU DO THIS, BOOK? I DON'T UNDERSTAND THIS WITCHCRAFT ELFCRAFT. You win this one, adorable little elf-people. You win.

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Stop looking so smug, you gorgeous creature.

ETA: I forgot about Sophie's habit of PULLING OUT HER EYELASHES when she's nervous! Who does that? That is horrifying. That better be significant later on, because as a personality quirk, it is DISTURBING.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Book Haul Vlog (10)


I'M HOME! Sadly, that means I will not be featuring glorious foreign locals** on my videos, but at least I--hey, where are you going! Come back! There's a cute dog in the vlog! There you go.

 If you think I look a little sleepy, it's because I am. JET-LAG, MAN. It's no joke.


Books mentioned:

All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry (thanks, Lili!)
The Eye of Minds by James Dashner (thanks, Lili!)
Icons by Margaret Stohl (thanks ARCycling!)
Jane by April Lindner
A Darkness Strange and Lovely by Susan Dennard

**I'm leaving this typo in, because it made me giggle. I meant "locales", since sadly I did not feature any gorgeous Brits or Spaniards in my video.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Baking the Books: Crown of Midnight Chocolate Cupcakes




Welcome to Baking the Books, where I bake things inspired by my favorite novels! Since I do a lot of reading and a lot of baking, it was only a matter of time before the two things overlapped. It's just part of my evil plot to get books involved in every single aspect of my life.

Previously on Baking the Books: Cinder fortune cookies.

It's no secret that I crazy-love the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. If you need proof, check out my less-than-coherent review of the latest installment, Crown of Midnight, here. That book caused me both extreme joy and extreme heartbreak. It broke my soul and forever ruined my capacity to feel. I'm like one of those Romanian orphans Monica saw on 60 Minutes who have been so neglected they are incapable of love. Crown of Midnight neglected me to the point of emotional damage.

But obviously you should all read it.

A lot of my love for those books comes from my love for Celaena, a badass assassin girl who truly loves nothing more than to curl up with a book and an entire chocolate cake to herself.

I can relate to this.

SEE WHAT I DID IT'S ON A THRONE OF GLASS

One of my favorite (NON-SPOILERY) exchanges from Crown of Midnight is about Celaena and her love of chocolate cake:

"Is that... chocolate cake?"
"I thought you might need some."
"Need, not want?"
A ghost of a smile was on her lips, and he almost sagged in relief as he said: "For you, I'd say chocolate cake is most definitely a need."

MOST DEFINITELY. 

So, in honor of this most glorious of sequels coming out in less than a week (!!!), I'm going to whip up some devil's food cupcakes. You know, because Celaena's a little dark, and the king is up to some very devilish things in this installment. Also because it's DELICIOUS and I can fantasize about feeding them to Chaol and earning his everlasting love. I mean... um, or something else. Something more normal.

Ingredients:

Batter:
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cake flour plus 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
OR just use regular flour for both amounts
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder (optional)
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoon brown sugar
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cocoa Whipped Cream:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prep muffin tin with liners.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk 3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder with 2 tablespoons warm water into a crumbly paste. Set aside.


 In another, larger bowl, sift together 3/4 cup cake flour, 2/3 cup all-purpose flour, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon espresso powder. Set aside.


In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar with 5 tablespoons room temperature butter until it's completely smooth an combined, from this:


...to this:


 Add the cocoa paste mixture, scraping with your spatula to make sure every drop of chocolatey goodness makes it in.

Combine until smooth and all mixed in. Add 1 egg and 1 egg yolk, mix until just combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.


Mix 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract with 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk in a measuring cup. BAKING TIP: If you don't have buttermilk (like I didn't), you can cheat by adding 1 tablespoon white vinegar to every 1 cup of milk. So, for this recipe, add half a tablespoon to 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoon regular milk, and let it sit for five minutes while it curdles. It sounds gross, but it's not, really.

In three additions each, add the buttermilk mixture, alternating with the flour mixture. Mix until smooth.


Divide the batter evenly into the cupcake wells, filling them until they're about 3/4 of the way full.


Bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove and let cool completely.


 Whipped cream time! Don't start this until you cakes are COMPLETELY COOLED, or you will have a sad melted mess on your hands. It will be delicious, and you can lick it off said hands and be happy, but it won't be as gorgeous as you want it to be.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a bowl while using a handheld mixer), beat 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, and 2 tablespoons cocoa powder until mixture holds soft peaks, about 4 minutes. (Soft peaks means, when you lift the whisk, the whipped cream vaguely holds it's shape. If you make little peaks by lifting the whisk, they'll flop over, or be "soft".)


I demonstrated while making Butterbeer Cupcakes how to make a homemade pastry-bag using a regular Ziploc. Using that technique, fill your bag with the whipped cream...


...snip the corner, and pipe it on to your cupcakes! And VOILA! You are done! I added a little dash of sifted cocoa powder on top, just to keep things pretty, but this is totally not necessary.


 Look at the pretties. So gorgeous. Time for them to make their modeling debuts.







Remember, kids, eat responsibly, and wait at least thirty minutes after finishing dessert before  assassinating.